“Wha-do-i-do?! Wha-do-i-do?! Wha-do-i-do?!” I asked her panicking.
“First off, relax! It’s hard to focus when you’re screaming at me. Second of all… Uhh… I have to try and remember to how activate the sync rings.”
“Are you serious?! He’s coming for me!” I looked around for anything that could help me but there was nothing in sight. There was no point in running; he could cut me off at any angle.
“Rei, do you remember what that thug said on Epsilon about activating the sync rings?”
“What?” I asked, but apparently she was talking to someone else who was with her because I heard a girl’s faint voice in the background.
“Yeah, he said to touch the middle part of your left pinky with your thumb. Are you ready?”
“Just a sec” came Akiko’s voice.
I froze as the Quwallie stopped right in front of me. I wanted to move, but I couldn’t bring myself to. Somehow I was able to take a step back, but that was the wrong move because the Quwallie was fast and as soon as he saw movement, he grabbed me by the neck and lifted me high in the air.
Blood was gushing to my head, and I thought it was going to pop off. I guess this is it, the end of my life.
Akiko’s voice was drifting away, “I can see, turning on the sync rings now and activating.” My arms that were gripping the Quwallie’s arm tingled. Then they started twitching.
“I got this, just relax.” She said.
All of a sudden my arms moved on their own, and quickly. I punch the inside of his forearm next to his elbow and it unlocked, then two more consecutive hits released his grip from my neck.
I think everyone in the stands was just as surprised as I was. When I hit the ground I didn’t fall, instead I took on a defensive stance.
“What is this?” I whispered to myself.
The Quwallie shook his arm with an angry look on his face before charging at me. My instincts took over again and I blocked my face from getting hit.
Akiko’s voice rang in my ear, “Don’t do that! I can’t see!”
This time my legs tingled and moved just enough to barely dodge a deadly punch. This aggravated him even more and he started coming at me faster. My body moved around awkwardly dodging his blows.
“Just relax. I’m using the sync rings to control your arms and legs,” it sounded like Akiko was moving around as well. “But I can’t control your other body parts so you need to keep your eyes on him.”
I jumped and ducked without knowing it.
“You can see me?”
“No, I can see through your eyes.” I blocked a punch and counter attacked, shifting his weight and causing him to stumble to the ground. The crowd loved it but I think I was in just as much pain. My muscles strained at every attack. “There’s only so much I can do with your body, but we have to hold up a little longer. I heard Vaughan is coming up now.”
I was too out of breath to respond and my arms and legs were throbbing.
“Once Vaughan’s up, we’ll finish it.”
Finish it? There wasn’t much time to think. The Quwallie obviously underestimated me at first because he was starting to get serious and that meant he was getting stronger and faster. He came at me with a right hook, I saw it coming so I was able to (or rather Akiko was able to) put my arm up to block but I couldn’t hold my ground and I was sent flying across the arena.
Akiko cursed, “dammit, snap out of it kid!” my energy level was already almost at empty. “Rei how much longer?!”
The other girl’s voice came through my earpiece. “He just sat down at his booth.”
“Good. I’m going to end it here.” The Quwallie slowly made his way over to me, lifting his arms for the crowd to cheer.
“I’m gonna need you to muster everything you have left.” She warned, “When he attacks I’m not stopping until he’s down.”
“Right,” I grunted, “do what you need to.”
I don’t know how, but I was able to make it on my feet. I wasn’t sure if we could defeat him but we were doing way better than I had ever expected. I put my faith in Akiko. She was the only one who could help me beat him, and she had the confidence that she could. That’s all I needed.
I took a deep breath and tried to relax my muscles to let her take over. I took on a different stance to prepare for his strike. He noticed this, scoffed, and then he took on a stance of his own.
The crowd became silent, like it was the first time the Quwallie had taken a challenge this seriously and they watched intently.
The suns’ rays beat down hard on us. Sweat was dripping from every pore in my body and I was breathing just as fast as my heart was racing. I ignored the pain as we stood there, locked in a mind battle to see who moves first. I kept eye contact with him. That was my only job.
My lead foot pivoted away from me, and then not a moment later, he struck. He was waiting for some sort of movement before attacking. The force he expelled was tremendous, but Akiko and I were ready for it and she had a plan. We exchanged blows and blocks and when she attacked, she struck areas that I would never think of hitting, using either the point of three fingers or the knuckles of two. Whenever he attacked I wouldn’t block a direct hit anymore, instead I dodged every move or used his weight against him. After multiple strikes in certain areas of his arms, they went limp and Akiko instantly went to focus on his legs.
Before I knew it he was on his knees and I had him in a choke hold. The crowd went crazy again. He still couldn’t move his arms so he was left strangling in mine. That was it, I had won. I actually won.
The crowd at first was in mixed feelings, but soon they all began chanting, “Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!”
I couldn’t believe it, less than an hour ago he was everyone’s favorite champion and now they all chanted in unison to kill him. It was sickening.
I wasn’t sure if Akiko was still in control but I wasn’t going to let myself kill a now defenseless man. My arms and legs burned but I forced myself to let go of his neck and step back. He fell face-down on the dirt ground, unable to move.
Everyone booed and threw their trash at me. I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to take a man’s life for their entertainment, for their satisfaction.
Soon an army of guards wearing protective gear and helmets came out. I didn’t bother resisting. Apparently I was being summoned by Vaughan again. I was circled by at least 10 guards who all held electrified clubs this time.
Once again I was handcuffed and I was getting pretty used to it. We made our way to a ramp that led directly to Vaughan’s fortified booth at the top.
What happened to Akiko? I hadn’t heard from her since we last spoke and it seemed like I was back in control of my body. I wanted to find out, but there was no way I could try to contact her in front of all the guards. Wasn’t she supposed to ambush Vaughan while he was in his booth?
There was nothing I could do and I had no choice but to relinquish myself to the guards who stayed in a circle formation as we ascended up the arena wall. I didn’t know what to expect.
“Well well well, that was an interesting spectacle” Vaughan applauded. He was sitting in a comfy looking chair, facing the glass wall that had an amazing view of the arena. Smoke filled the air around him from the puffer that was sticking out of his mouth.
The guards all lined up neatly forming a semi-circle and blocking the only exit.
“So tell me,” asked Vaughan. I could see his reflection in the mirror as he blew smoke from his nostrils. “Who was on the other side of your sync rings?”
What?! Was it that obvious? No, I didn’t think so. Maybe in the beginning of the fight but after I got used to it I let Akiko take over my body and we were able to work pretty well together, or so I thought.
I couldn’t respond.
“If you won’t tell me then I have no use for you.” He turned to a man in the corner of the room. “Kill him.”
I never even noticed the man in black clothing. A cloth covering his face, leaving only his green eyes exposed. “Did you really think I’d let you fight my Quwallie in the open? Nothing gets passed his eyes.”
Some guards behind me shoved me on my knees which gave out rather easily after the battle with the fake Quwallie. Two of the guards held down my shoulders but I was already too weak to fight back.
The real Quwallie walked up to me, unsheathed his sword and held it high to take a swing at my head. I closed my eyes, hoping it would shut out any pain.