Carpathia III: Episode 33 - The Second Trial


Mirage: Big day for you today, Chaos.

Jaze's eyes fluttered open just in time to catch a glimpse of Mirage leaning close to him. Mirage gave him a quick kiss before going to Jaze's clothes and started rummaging through them.

Jaze: You stayed all night?

Mirage picked up the cleanest shirt from Jaze's pile and tossed it over to him.

Mirage: I didn't think you'd mind. I didn't feel like walking back to my room.

Mirage found his cleanest pants and tossed them over to Jaze's bed.

Mirage: Your second trial is today. Go ahead and put those on. We'll practice a bit before then. We'll be up against four komodo.

Jaze expected a tougher workout than the one he received. Mostly, Mirage spent his time reviewing the basics of swordplay. Besides that, they proceeded through the next few hours taking it easy. They had a meal in the cafeteria and walked around the sparring area.

When the time came for the trial, a small crowd gathered, nekos on one side, komodo on the other.

Jump: Good luck!

Jaze: Thanks, Jump.

Mirage and Jaze walked together with their wooden swords to the end of the sparring area where the other nekos were. They looked to the other end where they could see the four komodos they were going to be facing.

Mirage: It's the two of us against four of them. What's your strategy?

Jaze thought for a moment, cradling his chin in his hand.

Jaze: First thing we should do is even the odds. I say we take out the weakest ones first.

Mirage nodded.

Mirage: Okay, that sounds good. Which one do you think is the weakest?

Jaze spent more time studying their opponents.

Jaze: The big one. He looks strong, but he's nervous. He keeps dropping his sword and I think his knees are shaking a little.

Mirage: Strategy?

Jaze: You're the faster one. You should circle around behind them while I attack from the front. I'll block his attack and you hit him.

Mirage: Assuming your plan works, then what?

Again, Jaze stopped to think. A myriad of possibilities unfolded in his mind, none of which he could give precedence for a prediction.

Jaze: By that time, there's no way of knowing what's going to happen next. We'll still be outnumbered three to two, and I think the only chance we will have of success is sticking together. We should prioritize defense if we are separated and offense if we're together.

Mirage nodded.

Mirage: Okay, that's what we're going to go with then. Jump! Bring the paint!

Jump: Yes sir!

Jump ran off towards a bucket while Mirage stayed to have a few last private words with Jaze before the fight.

Mirage: Okay, so you remember the rules? All you need to do is score a hit. The white paint on our swords and theirs will be proof that a hit was scored. Once that happens, that person is out. Last team standing is the winner. Razor, from the humans, will be officiating as a neutral party. Got it?

Jaze: Sounds simple enough.

Mirage: Well, it won't be simple, so keep your guard up.

Jump returned, struggling to carry a large bucket full of paint. He let it drop to the ground close to them.

Mirage: Hey, careful with that! If you splash us, we have to forfeit!

Jump: Sorry!

Mirage: Go ahead and coat our swords.

Mirage held out his sword as Jump grabbed an old rag and dipped it into the paint. He wiped the paint onto Mirage's sword thoroughly. When he was finished, Jaze held out his sword and Jump did the same to his. Mirage tapped his sword gently on the ground to shake the drips off the end. Jaze followed his lead and did the same.

They returned to the fighting area and could see the komodo at the other end tapping their swords on the ground as well. Everyone seemed to be ready. Slowly, Jaze and Mirage walked towards the center of the sparring area. The komodo did the same. They stopped several yards away from each other as Razor walked between them carrying a stick with a piece of old cloth tied to it.

Mirage: Ready?

Jaze simply nodded, keeping his glare fixed on the large komodo he planned to target first, his idea being to make him even more nervous than he already seemed to be. Jaze did his best to hide any nervousness he had as well, but he felt as though everyone could see his heart beating through his chest.

Razor raised the stick in the air and glanced at both sides. He quickly waved the stick once and backed quickly out of the zone.

Razor: Begin!

Jaze and Mirage charged immediately, as did the komodo. Jaze ran directly towards the target he indicated as Mirage split off to circle around. The komodo spread out, seemingly in an attempt to encircle them. Mirage was too fast for them, however, and slipped quickly between two of them and then immediately circled around towards their target.

Jaze charged at the large komodo, who seemed surprised that Jaze was concentrating on him. Jaze raised his sword high above his head and the komodo prepared to swing as well. Just before they clashed, Jaze lowered his sword to a defensive position and deflected his blow. Quickly, he spun away the confused komodo as Mirage swung and hit him in the side from behind.

Razor: Komodo out!

The nekos cheered as the large komodo threw his sword down in frustration and stomped out of the sparring area.

At the same time, the other komodo quickly realized their strategy of surrounding Jaze and Mirage had failed. Two of the komodo charged at Jaze and the other at Mirage, who had become separated. Mirage was able to hold his own, blocking attack after attack from the single komodo. Jaze was having trouble dealing with two komodo at the same time. He did his best to use his speed as an advantage, circling around them as much as he could so that only one at a time was in striking distance.

It was a strategy that he knew couldn't last forever. He was already getting tired from moving so quickly. It was all he could do to keep up and he couldn't break his concentration for a moment to see where Mirage was. He kept circling and dodging each blow as the komodo he was facing became more and more frustrated with him with each passing moment. Suddenly and unexpectedly, one of the komodo he was facing cried out in pain and fell to his knees. As he did, Jaze spotted Mirage behind him.

Human: Komodo out!

The other komodo turned quickly and caught a glimpse of his fallen comrade. Jaze took the opportunity to swing, but the komodo regained his composure just in time to leap back and dodge Jaze's attack. The komodo fled and rejoined his other companion that Mirage had eluded seconds before.

There was a momentary lull in the battle as the remaining opponents sized each other up. Mirage and Jaze stood with their backs pressed against each other as the remaining two komodos spread out and faced each one individually. Jaze turned until he could see Mirage in the corner of one eye while he kept the komodo facing him in sight.

Jaze: The odds are even.

Mirage: Yes, they are.

Jaze smiled devilishly.

Jaze: Offense?

Mirage: Sounds like fun.

Jaze: Follow me.

With that, Jaze charged at the komodo facing him as Mirage turned and followed. Jaze met the komodo's attack with a strong defensive block that sent the komodo back pedaling. Jaze took the offensive, keeping the komodo moving backwards as Mirage attempted to circle around in an echo of their initial attack at the beginning of the match. Jaze struck blow after blow, continuing to keep the komodo moving backwards. He wondered what was taking Mirage so long.

Human: Nekohuman out!

Jaze didn't dare break his focus or look to see what happened, though he desperately wanted to know and to keep away from the now unencumbered komodo who was undoubtedly coming for him next. Jaze swung his sword hard. The komodo blocked, but stumbled a little when he did. Jaze thrust his sword and struck the komodo in his ribs and he tumbled to the ground.

Razor: Komodo out!

Jaze didn't hesitate to spin around to see where the other komodo was. He was almost on top of him when he turned, and Jaze dropped to the ground just as the komodo swung his sword. The komodo, caught off guard by Jaze's desperate tactic, overswung his sword and staggered off balance. Jaze, having just dropped to the ground in a panic, was not in a good position to counterattack, but he swung clumsily at the komodo anyway. The komodo leapt over his sword and staggered another short distance before regaining his composure. Jaze leaped up from the ground and they faced each other.

Jaze didn't need time to think and he didn't want to give the komodo the luxury either. He charged at the last remaining komodo, who answered with a charge of his own. Jaze gambled that the komodo would expect him to use the same tactic when he charged his friend. This time, when the komodo swung his sword, he did not block. Instead, he quickly spun away, dodging the blow as he extended his own sword. As he spun back around, he could see the back of the komodo, struggling to reverse direction to face Jaze again. Before he could do so, Jaze completed his spin and his sword connected with the komodo's back. The world seemed to move in slow motion in his triumph as he watched the paint from the end of his sword leave a long, white mark across the komodo's back. He watched in disbelief as the komodo dropped to his knees

Razor: Komodo out! Nekohumans win!

All the nekohumans broke out in to cheers and quickly surrounded Jaze. Mirage pushed his way through the crowd and hugged him.

Jaze: What happened?

Mirage: He got me. I was trying to get to you, but he was faster than I expected. But you... I thought it was over, but you beat them, Chaos. Great job!

Jaze looked around at the smiling faces of the the happy nekos, basking in the glow of his victory.

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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