Chapter 33 = The Assassin fails
Disclaimer: Although all characters here are of my own invention, the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
Xenly heard the cheers from below her as she tiptoed along the rafters, looking down every so often when she heard a sudden surge in the volume of the crowd. Two teams that she didn’t know the identities of were fighting, but she put them out of her mind and concentrated, keeping her balance like she had trained for. The rafters were slightly wider than her feet, but they were sturdy enough for her to walk along without making them creak or break.
It was far too dark up where she was for anyone to see her, as there were no skylights and the only windows were down near the bottom of the hall. Stepping around a beam that was in her path, she continued until she reached a spot where two rafters crossed, and she lay down on her front to watch.
Reaching carefully into her saddlebags, she removed a small silver tube and a poison-tipped dart, before loading the dart into the blowpipe and taking aim as she saw Visali walking onto the platform…
“We can do this, Dave, we can do this!” Visali said encouragingly as he jumped up onto the platform and stood in the corner, while Dave took up his position just behind him on the other side of the ropes.
Xenly inhaled deeply and raised the blowpipe to her lips, her hands steady. She only had one shot… one shot, and that was it… she had to make this count…
“Just do your best, Dave. We’ll win for sure!” Visali continued, bracing himself for the start of the match.
“Hey, who are you?”
Xenly heard the voice from behind her and jumped to her feet, landing on the support beam acrobatically, before pivoting around and firing the dart into the nose of a black Yoshi, who cried out and stumbled, falling off of the rafter beam and plummeting down to the ground. As he started to fall, she whipped out with her tongue with lightning reflexes and pulled the dart out of his nose, leaving his body to continue on its fall…
Just as Visali saw the blue Birdo reaching out for the bell, a black Yoshi fell from above him and slammed into the ring, bouncing once before coming to a stop. Silence fell over the entire hall, and after a few moments of stunned silence, Visali and his opponent stepped forward to the body, and the red-orange Yoshi took its pulse.
“He’s dead.” He announced after a few seconds, and Marcel knelt down by the corpse.
“Who is he, anyway?” Marcel asked, but nobody answered as two humans came and dragged the body off of the platform, over to the medical students.
“L…ladies and gentlemen,” the blue Birdo announced, “please wait for a few moments while we sort out this turn of events… Vocita Minima.”
“What’s going on?” She asked, her voice back at normal level.
“Damned if I know.” Visali muttered, standing back up and watching Sira and the others check the body.
Swearing under her breath as she ran, Xenly hopped from rafter to rafter with fluid and graceful jumps, crossing all the way back to the edge of the hall in barely any time. Scrambling down the access ladder, she arrived back in the storage cupboard next to the hall, on the second floor, near the access to the spectator stands. She opened the door a fraction to check for any students, shutting it as she heard footsteps, then sprinting back down the corridor away from them, down two flights of stairs, through the entryway and locker rooms, stopping and catching her breath before walking nonchalantly back into the participant’s stands. She took the seat next to Shiala and sat down, asking, “I’m back, what did I miss?”
The red feral pointed towards the black Yoshi, and Xenly put on a tone of shock. “Oh my…” she said, “What happened?”
“He fell from the rafters…” Shiala gave by way of an answer, and Xenly pretended to stare in amazement while they carried his body off out of the hall.
“We don’t know what happened to him.” Sira said from the ringside. “We’re going to take a better look at him later, but we can’t do that here…”
“Where’s my wand… ah, there we are… Vocita Maxima. Ladies and gentlemen,” the blue Birdo shouted, “We will be resuming shortly. Sorry for the delay.”
Visali exhaled slowly as he leant back against the ropes, watching Sira as she went back to the other magi-medicine students and sat down, collecting himself and concentrating once more on his opponent for the few seconds he had before the blue Birdo hit the bell.
Before its tone had even finished, Marcel whipped his chakrata at Visali, and he barely managed to block it with his spear, seeing the chakrata go back to its owner on the end of some study string. Swinging another chakrata attached to his other hand, Marcel got a successful hit on Visali, and the red-orange Yoshi winced as the gold-plated ring smashed into his nose, but he ignored the pain and immediately split his quadra spear shafts, figuring that if his opponent had two weapons, so should he.
Ducking another chakrata coming his way, Visali rolled to one side before knocking away a second attack with the half of the spear in his left hand. It fell to the floor but it suddenly ran back up the string, pulled back by something inside of it winding up the cord. Forced to parry a rapid succession of attacks, Visali was pinned to the spot where he stood, concentrating on knocking away every last attack as they came at him from his left, right, left, right, left, right…
In desperation, he leapt up into the air but felt a sudden stab of pain as a chakrata hit his underside, and he landed on his front on the floor, gasping for breath, trying but failing to will his body to move.
“One!” the blue Birdo shouted, counting him out. “Two! Three!”
“Come on man, get up!” Dave said encouragingly, and Visali made an attempt, but fell back down again, his chest heaving as he tried to take in more air…
“Four! Five! Six! Seven!”
“Don’t fail me, Visali, come on…”
Visali struggled one final time, pushing up against the floor, but fell back down again onto his side and gasped, his vision going fuzzy…
“Ten! Visali, counted out!”
The crowd cheered as Sira and someone else came up and carried him off, desperately trying to stay conscious, the two halves of his quadra spear still firmly in his grip. Dave sighed in despair as he stepped over the ropes, his hands shaking, and he took up his position as the bell rang again, signalling the next part of the match.
Dave wasn’t entirely unprepared; having studied his opponent while he was fighting Visali, he was as ready as he ever would be. As soon as a chakrata came his way, Dave sidestepped it, dropping the angle his spear was at and sidestepping the next attack, bringing the spearhead up and through the centre of the chakrata. He pulled hard and brought Marcel forward, before kicking him in the chest and sending him back, pulling him again by the bindings around his wrist. Dave then split his spear into two and used the other one to attack his opponent, driving the spearhead into his side and prompting a sudden flow of blood.
Marcel fell to the floor, and the bell rang, barely audible over the combined sound of all five magi-medicine students simultaneously casting various healing spells on the fallen combatant, whose wounds healed in the blink of an eye. Sadly, he plucked his chakrata off the end of Dave’s spear and left the stage, a little unsteady due to the sudden injury and healing, to the sound of hundreds of cheers from the audience.
Dave then concentrated on his new opponent while he caught his breath; a purple female Birdo with a smallish pink bow on the back of her head, also carrying two chakratas, but he was sure he wouldn’t be able to pull the same trick twice. She took the corner opposite him, and Dave spared a glace down to the sidelines, where a disoriented Visali was leaning on Sira for support, watching Dave sadly.
The bell rang to signal the final round, and for a moment, neither Raysa nor Dave made a move, each expecting the other to make the first strike, and then Dave took a cautious step forward, holding his quadra spear halves ready. Raysa faked a throw to get Dave’s guard up, throwing the other chakrata and skimming his arm as it sailed past his spear, before quickly retracting it. Dave ignored the hit and pressed onwards, dodging and ducking her attacks as he tried to get close enough to attack, but she kept stepping away as she attacked, throwing the chakratas at different angles so Dave wouldn’t be able to hook them like he had done with Marcel.
Desperate, he flicked catches on the sides of the spears, releasing the spearheads on the ends of chains, holding one of them out in front of him and rotating it in a full circle to block any attacks from his opponent. He saw Raysa pause, unsure of what to make of this, before throwing a chakrata at him experimentally in an attempt to see if she could get past his guard. However, the chakrata hit one of the spearheads and flew far up into the air, and as she turned to watch it, Dave lunged forward and whipped her with the other spearhead on the second spear half, slashing a large cut open and causing blood to run down her side from the open wound.
She pulled away from him and tried to stay standing, but fell to her knees for a moment, and was healed by the magi-medicine students as the bell rang to signify the end of the round. Dave let out a loud cry of triumph, striking a pose on the ring, before leaping over the ropes and down to Visali, who was also cheering.
“You did it Dave, you did it!” He cried, giving Dave a pat on the back. “I can’t believe you did it… I’m so sorry that I lost, I thought we were out of it.”
“Hey, if you hadn’t gone first, I wouldn’t have seen their strategy… you helped a lot, man.” Dave replied encouragingly.
“Thanks… but I’m not going down so quickly in the next round!”
Sira cut in, “You’d better not! I don’t want people to think my boyfriend can’t hold his own in a fight for more than a minute…”
Visali moved over to her and said, “Aw, what does it matter what they think? You know I can last; I’ve beaten a lot of people before.”
“You’ve still got a vow to carry out.” She reminded him, giving him a gentle poke.
“Yes, well…” he murmured, “I’ll fulfil it one day… and if we win this tournament and prove the effectiveness of the quadra spear, that day could be sooner than you think.”
After Dave and Visali returned to the stands, Marcus watched only with mild interest as the matches continued, listening only to the matchups and weapons, and watching the first minute or so of the match before redirecting his attention to Shiala. Some of the more interesting competitors featured a pair of Yoshies using double-ended swords, eventually losing after having the blades forced back their way; two humans using a sword that had a complete U-shaped curve to the blade that defeated a Yoshi and a Birdo fighting with halberd spears; and two Yoshies fighting with swords that had V-shaped chunks taken out of the blade edge, defeating their opponents by default when the human team-mate on the outside of the ring attempted to intervene by throwing a dagger at his opponent, and subsequently resulting in a disqualification.
After about nine matches in total, Marcus heard the announcer call out again and looked away from Shiala. “Our next match is between two non-university teams. The first team is a pair of female Yoshies, comprised of a white assassin and a red feral, ‘Xenly’ and Shiala Filassa, fighting with a pair of samurai swords and a dragon’s tooth blade respectively. They are up against another two male Yoshies, one red and one yellow, brothers, Siver and Djigo Traverra respectively, both fighting with longswords.”
“I was wondering what you were fighting with.” Marcus said after he finished translating. “I didn’t think they’d let you use Laen’s bow…”
“Hah, I could take them down with just my muscles if I wanted.” She remarked, standing up and heading down to the ring with Xenly, who stood on the inside of the ring while Shiala stayed on the outside.
“Don’t get hurt…” Marcus muttered under his breath as he watched her.
Xenly drew her swords with flourish, performing several attacks, counterattacks and parry moves against an imaginary adversary while her opponents clambered up and took their positions. She was going to be facing the yellow one first, Djigo, who drew his sword and, not to be outdone, also began to practice while he waited for the bell to ring.
The white Yoshi eyed him up, watching his technique before snorting in distaste, knowing he’d be easy to take down. Finishing her warm up and standing ready to begin, she tensed her legs and sprung forward as soon as the bell rang, making a series of rapid yet weak strikes that would suppress him rather than defeat him. Surprisingly, he deftly moved his sword in such a way that he was able to deflect every one before making a counter-swipe, though Xenly caught it on one of her blades before jumping backwards.
“Tag me, tag me!” Shiala cried, but Xenly ignored her and struck again, swinging with both swords at different angles, amazed at how easily her adversary blocked one and dodged the other. She’d clearly underestimated him…
Pulling one of her more practiced moves, she brought her swords together to form a cross before swinging them in that fashion, pressing up against his blade and attempting to push it towards him, but he pushed back against her and they stayed locked together for a moment before Xenly kicked him in the stomach, catching him off guard and winding him. In this moment of weakness, Xenly kicked him again square in the jaw, before planting a kick on his chest and sending him backwards, and he stumbled, falling onto the floor and groaning.
“One!” The blue Birdo shouted. “Two! Three! Four!”
Then, Djigo managed to get up to his knees to a sudden burst of cheers, and got to his feet unsteadily, stepping backwards while keeping his sword up. Xenly attacked him once more, making her swings as powerful as she could, but he soon managed to jump away and high-four his team-mate’s outstretched hand, and the two of them switched positions.
“Tag me!” Shiala cried out for a second time, but Xenly put her out of her mind again and took a quick look at Siver; he was a red Yoshi with the same general look as Djigo, except that he was slightly smaller. He already had his sword drawn, and as soon as he was over the ropes he found himself under an onslaught of attacks from Xenly, striking without any pattern at all; left, right, right, right, left, left, right, left, left…
He was much less skilled than his brother, and Xenly was easily able to force him backwards, pushing him around the arena, constantly shifting the position of his sword to block her attacks only slightly slower than they came. He was panting heavily and starting to sweat as he was kept on the defensive, allowing Xenly to suddenly stop attacking him, jump to her side, and bring her left sword up to his neck, stopping less than an inch away from the surface of his skin, before giving a malicious whisper of, “Surrender if you enjoy being in one piece…”
Without hesitation, he dropped his sword and put two shaking hands in the air, before getting to his knees at her feet and dipping his head. After a few moments, he took his sword and left the platform, waiting by the ringside while his brother climbed back over the ropes.
“Come on, tag me!” Shiala cried, and Xenly gave an exasperated sigh, turning back to her and reluctantly slapping Shiala’s outstretched hand, switching places with her. The red feral then drew her knife and stood opposite Djigo, who was looking at her with interest, before he spoke to her in Yoshian.
“You’re mighty brave to come here, feral, but if I were you I’d stay out of the public eye in the future. That, or take some heavy protection around with me…”
“I don’t need any extra protection.” She snapped back. “I’m strong enough to take care of myself.”
“Then prove it!” he cried, lunging forwards. She easily dodged a vertical sword swipe with a nifty side step, ducked a horizontal slash, and jumped over a diagonal swipe. She laughed gaily as he took a stab at her and she bent her back out of the way, rolled away from another vertical attack, and kicked away a sword slap.
“Come and get me!” she said teasingly, jumping out of the way of a frenzied slash and backflipping to avoid a forward stab. Djigo gave an enraged cry and jumped at her, slashing in midair, but she brought up the dagger and caught the sword blade on it, letting him hold it there for a moment before he drew back.
When she spun in the air to dodge another swipe, landing on a corner post and jumping off of it before landing on her toes and turning around on the very point of her blood-red shoes, Marcus, watching from the stands, rolled his eyes in exasperation. “Okay,” Manny said to him, “Now she’s just showing off.”
Back in the ring, Djigo was having a continual streak of zero success; every time he tried to attack or hurt her, she simply wasn’t where the blade of his sword was. When she wasn’t doing various gymnastic manoeuvres to escape his slashes, she would block his attack with her dagger and force his sword back in his direction. Within a few minutes the crowd was cheering for her, chanting her name as she remained unscathed, making Djigo more and more furious with every failed attack.
Finally, she brought an end to the fight; she cartwheeled off to one side, sprung off of her hands and flipped upright in midair, jumped off of the ropes, and lunged feet-first for him. She wrapped her feet around his neck and brought him to the floor, sitting firmly on his chest and holding down his sword arm with one hand.
“I’m sure there are less embarrassing ways to lose…” Djigo panted, “But I can’t think of any right now. I surrender. Care to release me?”
She stepped off of him to an almost deafening roar from the crowd as the bell rang, and Xenly stepped over the ropes to congratulate her. Djigo got to his feet once more and nodded in Shiala’s direction, saying, “Hey, you’re pretty good… how’d you like a date with me?”
“Heh… thanks, but no thanks, mister. I don’t think my boyfriend would appreciate it much… and besides, I only go for the strong ones.” She replied, giving a sly wink and a sweep of her hips before putting the dagger back in its sheath and heading off of the ring, leaving a slightly stunned and bemused Djigo to stare at her retreating form.
As soon as Shiala got back to the stands, she strolled up to Marcus and said proudly, “You see?”
“Yes, I see.” Marcus confirmed. “I’m sorry I doubted you.”
“I accept your apology.” She said softly, leaning down to him and kissing him on the nose, before sitting back down next to him and putting an arm around him as the next fight started…
To be continued…