Macedon Date: 03-06-17
By: Chris Newton / Editor: Matt Viviani
“Sly McCormick,” the young woman growled fiercely from beneath her visor, across the dirt arena. She exhaled sharply. “I was hoping to run into you. I knew if I won enough matches, I’d eventually find you.”
‘Oh boy, another fan…’ Sylvester thought as he rubbed powder on his wooden sword hilt. Looking up to his competitor, he queried, “To whom do I owe the honor this round?”
“Don’t act like you don’t recognize me you jerk!”
“Well, you are 30 meters away, wearing a helmet. My eyes aren’t what they used to be.” He patted his hands together, causing excess dust to flutter about.
With a snarl, the warrior tore her helmet off and threw it to the ground with a clank. “Tonnie Russel!” She shouted across the arena to the applause of the crowd–they loved the drama.
“Russel… Russel… Did your dad come through here a few years ago?” Sly was genuinely curious, his sharp eyes taking in every detail.
“Of course he did! That’s why I’m here… I’ve trained very hard and now it’s payback time McCormick. Now you get yours!” Her gauntleted hand jabbed a finger toward him.
Sly chuckled softly as he tested the weight of his sword. Lighter than most blades, but almost three times as heavy as his katana. “Did he ever recover from that back strain?”
“Back strain?!” She nearly screamed the words. “You slashed him across the back…”
Sly bobbled his head back and forth, finishing her sentence, “…with a blunted wooden blade across his… armor-plated back. Just like you are wearing.” His mimic of her voice caused the judge to laugh. Sly threw him a look that brought silence.
The blood drained from Tonnie’s face and Sly knew she was ready. To prove his point, she drew her blade. Sly noticed her press a button on the handle, causing several small spines to poke out of the weapon’s blade.
“And here I thought that you had come to learn from the best. In reality, you are just here to be embarrassed like your daddy before you.”
Tonnie gritted her teeth and loosed a wild scream before sprinting forward with her blade high in the air. With an inward nod, Sly walked forward to finish the fight.
The brash young woman brought her blade down with a powerful chop that Sly deflected to the side with ease, knocking off a couple of the spines. Her return slash was deflected upward with equal ease, knocking off the rest.
He stepped backward out of reach. “Tonnie, before you get yourself embarrassed, I am going to give you one quick lesson.”
“Save it!” She lunged forward with a menacing jab. Sly took a quick step to his left and pirouetted, bumping her blade safely to the side and allowing her to continue forward carelessly. When she gathered herself and turned to face him, her cheek bumped into a stationary blade that was halted just before contact.
Her eyes widened in shock.
“Do you concede?”
She took an abrupt step away from the blade. “Never. You will taste the dirt this day.”
With a sigh, the bearded man waved her in with his free hand, his extended blade never moved.
Tonnie circled around him, his eyes followed, but his blade didn’t. Completing the circle, she attacked from behind. Her sword cleaved the air where his head was, but swung freely with no impact.
A moment later she lay prone on the ground. Sly had tucked low under the attack, spinning and hooking her legs with his blade.
Again she found his blade touching her cheek followed by the words, “Do you concede?”
Sly thought for a moment. Rolling his eyes he took a step backward and beckoned her to get up. The crowd frenzied as Sly seemingly toyed with his prey. ‘She just doesn’t give up. Interesting…’
Leaving her sword on the ground, the young girl sprung forward, attempting to pounce on Sly. He spun, giving his blade a wide berth so that it could catch her hard in the ribs, toppling her to the ground.
“Look. I am not going to ask you to concede, since you are just going to say ‘no’ again and we have to keep going through this until either I knock you out or time expires.”
Tonnie rose again, this time holding her ribs as she tried to fill her lungs.
Sly continued quickly, “Instead…” He held his blade up, point extended toward her face. “Instead, I will give you the lesson that you should have come for in the first place. Really, revenge is for the pitiful. It never provides any satisfaction. Trust me, I know.”
Tonnie snatched at Sly’s blade only to have the back of her hand smacked roughly with it. ‘She doesn’t learn fast, that’s for sure.’ The crowd chuckled in the background, amidst cries to ‘finish ‘er off!’.
“Two minutes!” Shouted the time-keeper.
“Ms. Russel, information and awareness are the most important aspects of a fight. Not strength or speed or agility. You were defeated today because you didn’t have any information that was factual and you certainly were not prepared for this fight.”
“Shut up!” Her eyes reflected Sly’s face with tears of frustration.
“The next time you fight someone, I want you to look at your opponent and really look. You should have noticed that I was not wearing armor, yet every other combatant in this arena does.”
Tonnie hesitated in her circling of Sly. ‘She’s starting to understand.’
Sly stood upright, dropping his guard. “Why do you think I don’t wear armor in the arena, Tonnie?”
“You’re a fool!” She lunged at him again. A partial step to the side sent Tonnie tripping over his extended foot. To the dirt she tumbled again, her armor sounding loudly as she rolled. Sly’s sword slapped against her backside, to the delight of the onlookers.
“I don’t need armor because I don’t get hit. Also, it would mess up my fabulous hair,” he said, striking a modeling pose. The crowd laughed on as the clownish antics continued.
He stood over her with an extended hand. She refused. He continued, “You also didn’t notice that in your initial attacks, I broke the spines from your blade with two slices along the edge. Even if you had hit me, you wouldn’t have poisoned me.” The crowd took a turn at the allegation, dark murmurs breaking out.
His hand remained extended and she looked off into the distance. ‘That a girl, rewind the battle and see the motions.’
He knelt and whispered to her. “You also told me who your dad was before the fight. Since I battled him, I knew his fighting style. I correctly assumed that he had trained you, therefore I knew your fighting style before you even moved.”
Her eyes met his. ‘Now you get it.’
The Prince of Grime Alley stood up and raised his voice again so the crowd could hear. “You aren’t fighting a hunk of muscle with a sword!” He flexed his exposed bicep to the cheer of the crowd. His smile dropped suddenly as he tapped the side of his head with his grit-covered fingers. “You’re fighting this.”
Sly leaned back close to her, putting his hand on her shoulder. She tensed, almost enough to shrug it off, but let his hand stay as she relaxed into it. “If you had done any homework about my arena at all, you would have known that I participate in every tournament, have never lost a battle, and have never won a tournament. Why?”
Her eyes quivered slightly as she studied his eyes. “Because you aren’t trying to win the tournament.”
He winked at her. “I fight people to keep my skills sharp, but I am also trying to find raw talent to recruit into my gang.”
Tonnie’s eyes widened. “What?”
He stood and extended his hand again.
“Want a job?”