Akira, Varbu, and Mileena sat at an old stained and scared wooden table in the rundown inn they were staying at. They were eating a meager vegetable soup that had more broth than vegetables.
While Akira and Mileena had been fighting to enter the tournament Varbu had searched for a place to stay for the duration of the tournament and rented the only two somewhat decent rooms he could find due to the massive influx of tourist filling the city’s inns.
“So, did you find her?” asked Varbu.
“No,” said Akira shaking his head, “The only people that I saw were all teams of fighters that had registered to fight in the tournament.”
“We’ll definitely be able to find her when the tournament starts. I heard that the arenas will be using their gladiators to entertain the crowds in between some of the later fights,” said Mileena with total conviction.
“What are the odds of you two winning any of the battles?” asked Varbu.
“If there are anymore more people like the ones we had to fight today then the first few battles shouldn’t be too bad,” said Akira confidently.
“I was lucky to be able to find someone selling a ticket. The seat sucks and the seller tried to rip me off but I knocked some sense into him so he decided to sell it for a reasonable price. With the ticket, I can keep an eye out for your sister while the two of you continue to search for her in between your fights. You should hold out until I can confirm she is here,” said Varbu.
“Agreed,” said Akira while slurping the spicy broth.
Akira and Mileena stood with 600 other tournament contestants in the same large building from the day before. They were all waiting for Khepri and the judges to enter and begin the process of getting the tournament rolling.
Akira let out a loud yawn that drew a few unfriendly gazes from the people near him.
Slam! The doors of the room burst open as Khepri and the elderly monks walked into the room.
Behind them, several muscular men carried a large round circular wooden barrel that was placed inside of an even larger wooden frame that had a metal crank on its side.
The wooden contraption was carried to and set down next to the platform that had been erected for the old monks.
Everyone stopped talking and looked at the Monks waiting for them to speak.
“Listen up! In order to start the tournament, we need to pair you guys up. So in order to do that fairly, one person from each team will place half of the identification coin into this barrel. No need to worry about losing half of the coin as both halves have your number on it. When all the coins have been added, the barrel will be turned several times to make sure that they are thoroughly mixed. The team member that did not place the coin into the barrel will step up to the barrel, crank it once, and then draw one coin. You may begin!” said the oldest monk who was also the leader of the judges.
Akira turned to Mileena and quietly asked, “How’s your luck on these types of things?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never done it before but I can try it if you want me to,” said Mileena.
“Alright, I’ll leave it to you to pick an easy opponent,” said Akira as he walked forward with half of the identification coin in his hand to the front of the large room where a line was forming.
The line moved quickly as the 300 team members tossed their half coin into the barrel.
Mileena lined up and waited for her turn to draw a coin. The line thinned out fast due to the fact that when a teams number was pulled out both teams had to leave the line.
A large chalkboard was set up where the judges began to write down the results using their team numbers.
Mileena stepped up to the barrel and cranked it once. The sound of coins rattling inside stopped before she was able to reach her hand inside and pull out a half coin. She handed it to the judge without looking at it.
“Number 1000 vs Number 1,” shouted the old judge.
“You sure know how to pick them,” said Akira when Mileena had returned.
“I guess I have good luck like that,” said Mileena with a smile.
Akira didn’t know if it was good luck or bad since he had no clue who team number 1 was. But he did know that whoever they were they must be a pair of extreme people to be the first team to register. They most likely had some skill if they were able to pass the elimination round, but that wasn’t saying much when he remembered his own match.
Several more minutes passed before the brackets were fully filled and Khepri stepped onto the stage.
“The tournament starts in two hours. You must be at the arena half an hour before it starts. Otherwise…” Khepri made a fist and slammed it into his other hand, “…you will be punished.”
Akira and Mileena meet up with Varbu who had been waiting for them in the large line in front of the arenas gates. Several thousands of people were already lining up eager to enter the arena. The arenas gates had just opened so the line was only just starting to move.
“Do you want to come with us while we check out the surrounding area near the arena?” asked Akira.
“Look behind you,” said Varbu pointing to the long line of people behind him crowding the desert city’s street the line was so long that it disappeared around a distant corner that could barely be seen.
“I’m not giving up this spot otherwise I don’t know when I’ll be able to get into the arena,” said Varbu.
“Well then, I guess we’ll see you again later tonight. Make sure you keep an eye out for Mileena’s sister,” said Akira.
“She uses a bow and has glasses,” said Mileena making sure to give enough details for him to recognize her sister.
The two left Varbu and circled the arena searching for any extra entrances that gladiators might be ushered through, but only found the back entrance that they would have to use when the time came for them to enter the arena.
There were several large buildings with tall walls near the arena and none of them had a sign or any type of signature to tell if they were the places that the gladiators were held or if they were just some rich person’s house.
The waiting room under the large arena was dark, hot, and stuffy from all the people that were impatiently waiting for their turn to fight.
There were two separate large waiting rooms on either side of the arena to keep the competing teams away from each other until they were to fight in the arena. This was done to stop any hotheads from fighting each other before their match in the arena.
Akira still didn’t know who the people were that they had been matched up to fight against.
In order to make sure the tournament didn’t drag on the arena was hosting two fights at once to quickly cut the three hundred teams in half.
The battles happened in the order that they had been in line to receive a number in the morning.
So Mileena and Akira were forced to wait for several hours since Mileena had been in the middle of the line.
It was just past noon when their number was called.
“Number 1000 you’re up! Head to fighting ring number #2,” shouted Khepri at the entrance of the waiting room.
The two stood up and exited the room into a long hallway that led to a set of stairs that stopped at a pair of opened iron gates.
Akira raised his hand to block the sun from his eyes after spending several hours in the dark underbelly of the arena, it was blinding even with his full face mask on.
When his eyes adjusted to the daylight he took a quick look around the arena.
The arena was huge!
The ground was filled with nothing but sand some of it dyed a rust red from past bloody battles.
In the middle of the large arena, there were two large square platforms that had been built to make the continuous fights proceed faster.
The noise of the cheering crowd was deafening and it didn’t help that the place was almost fully enclosed which made the echoing cheers and voices of the crowd even louder.
Akira and Mileena climbed into the empty square ring that he guessed was 100 x 100 yards and waited for their opponents to enter from the opposite side.
The wait seemed like forever until two men hurriedly rushed out of the entrance one of them tripping over his feet and falling face first into the sand.
The crowd roared with laughter at the man’s misfortune.
His teammate helped him back up and they quickly ran to the ring and entered it.
“Battle #76 team #1 vs #1000!” shouted the announcer from a high position in the front of the stands towering over the regular folk who were at or near ground level.
“On the right, we have the Lewd Wolf and the Majestic Cat with their exotic masks vs Arm 1 and Arm 2. Are you ready to see some blood?!” shouted the announcer pausing for the crowd to respond.
“YEAH!” came the roar of over fifty thousand voices.
“Let the fight begin!” shouted the judge.
Akira had to admit fighting in front of such a massive crowd was intimidating. It was like a whole city of people were staring at him.
He shook his head once to clear it and blocked out the noise of the crowd and focused on the two men across from him.
They looked almost identical in every way from their age to their skinny tanned physical looks, and even the leather armor and weapons they used.
Their choice of weapons intrigued Akira slightly, they were both holding onto two thick iron crowbars one in each hand.
“We are the…”
“Arm twins. Number one and…”
“Number two! Prepare to get…”
“Your butt handed to you!” said the two finishing each other’s sentences.
Akira found the way they spoke rather annoying.
With those words, the two separated and started running to attack Akira and Mileena each from a different side.
Akira kept his guard up watching them closely.
“Mileena you may have to hold off one of them while I take care of the other,” said Akira loud enough for her to hear over the roar of the crowd.
“Understood!” said Mileena.
Seeing as his original plan had been to divide and conquer he didn’t have to worry about how to accomplish the first part of the plan since their opponents had already done it themselves. So he wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and dashed forward with Mileena right by his side to support him.
Seeing that their plan to attack from both sides had put them in a bad position the two brothers decided to retreat.
Before Arm one could escape he was forced to trade a few blows with Akira before successfully disengaging and dodging Mileena’s deadly daggers that had swiped in front of his face.
Not wanting them to get away Akira used his skill [Shield Slam] and rocketed forward aiming at Arm one who had stopped to braced himself and guard against the incoming attack.
Arm 1 closed his eyes shut, and clenched his teeth while he waited for the impact.
Nothing happened, all he felt was wind rush by.
‘Oops, I overshot’ thought Akira sheepishly as he hurriedly tried to cancel the skill and slow down before he ran out of the arena and was disqualified.
‘Let’s try this again!’
‘Damn it! How am I missing so badly! I was able to use it so easily back in the dungeon and now I keep messing up,’ thought Akira angrily.
“Ahhh… It appears Lewd wolf may be having trouble landing a hit due to his amazing speed. What a shame,” said the announcer over the loud roars of the crowd.
“What are you doing? You almost ran into me last time,” asked Mileena grouchily, “you’re making us look like fools.”
“It is as she…”
“Said. You are an…”
“Idiot,” said the two brothers with mock smiles.
Akira was breathing hard but his anger from missing multiple times and the two mocking him boiled into a wave of calm white anger.
“I’ll knock that smile off your face and out of this ring!” shouted Akira.
He again charged forward at a slower speed than before but the two brothers did not move as they were sure he would miss them again for the fourth time.
They were wrong!
Akira held out both his arms and close lined them knocking them off their feet where they laid gagging for air.
The crowd let out a roar of approval at the totally unexpected attack.
Akira grabbed one of the brothers (he couldn’t tell which one it was) by the neck and his sword belt before charging towards the edge of the arena where the unceremoniously threw him into the air allowing him to gracefully land face first in the hard dirt.
The second brother had managed to get back up on his feet and turned towards Akira and began watching him closely so he could escape the next charge.
He must have forgotten that this was a team fight and was kicked in his back with both feet by Mileena, knocking him forward right into Akira’s grasp.
He tried to struggle and get out of Akira’s grip but got whopped in the head causing him to see stars.
Akira dragged him to the edge of the arena and kicked him like a ball out of the arena.
Another roar of approval sounded out as the fight ended in such an enjoyable and humiliating way.
“We have a winner–! Lewd wolf and Majestic cat! You all saw it! What an odd fight! Who would have thought that you would see something interesting like that, am I right? I sorta feel sad for the Arm brothers due to the way they lost…Okay not really. There’s still plenty more battles left so don’t get too excited!” shouted the announcer.
The crowd let out another roar.
“Get out of the ring!” shouted the gruff old monk that had refereed their match.
The two left the open arena and went back underground they were going to return to the waiting room but were stopped by Khepri.
“Congratulations grunts you passed the first day you can go back to your lodging and get some rest. You are to be here the same time as today If you are late…” said Khepri clenching his fist.
“We will be punished,” said Akira finishing his sentence.