Phillip nervously sat down in a seat assigned to him. "So this is the arena…it seems like I traveled back in time to Rome and the gladiators."
Maurice sat next to him. "That's basically what this is, the gladiator arena reborn. Of course, we don't have lions here for you to fight."
"Maurice. I didn't expect to see you until tomorrow."
"Well, I figured that since this is your first time watching the fights, your master should be here to point out what you should be looking for next week. Better to have two sets of eyes scouting than one."
Maurice sighed. "They'll be starting soon. How was Barry when you last talked with him today?"
"You know I talked with him?"
Maurice smirked. "There are a lot of eyes and ears watching and listening. I managed to overhear a couple of guards talk about you two talking."
Phillip sighed. "He's scared to death, and I don't blame him. This is something that no teenager should go through, having to fight for your life just so you can entertain some twisted organization."
"Well, only a few people from the Machoa even watch the fights in group one, unless they hear of a fighter with potential to quickly rise through the ranks. Only the lowest ranking officials regularly attend the group one fights, so you're not providing much entertainment at all."
"Then why not just send us to our deaths in groups two or three? Or just merge all of them together?"
"You ever watch baseball?"
"A couple games, why?"
"Well, each baseball team has a minor league system. All their draft picks head there first before being sent to the majors. In the minor league, they fine tune their talents and techniques. If they were sent to the majors, they would have been destroyed. Group one is essentially the minor league for the Machoa. Fighters get their first taste of action here, so when they move up to group two, there's less chance of them…well…you know…dying."
"So it's not just a sick, twisted game, it's a very organized, sick, twisted game. Got it."
Phillip stared back out into the sandy arena. Looking out, he spotted a few unfamiliar men and women standing at the railings, talking. "Who are they?"
"Spectators. This isn't just reserved for the highest ranking officials you know."
"You just told me we don't provide much entertainment because we're in group one."
"And yet people still attend minor league games."
A voice boomed through the arena. "Ladies and gentlemen! Thank you all for making time out of your busy schedule and come watch some riveting entertainment. Who's ready to watch some fights?!"
The few people in the audience clapped and cheered. "Let's not keep you waiting then! For the first fight of the night, we have the two time winner Marcus Neal Losen!"
Phillip sighed and looked to the side, where a lanky, white skinned and blue eyed teenager walked into the arena. "Gary came here only three weeks ago, yet has shown promise to be a keeper in the other two groups! Now, for his opponent! Newcomer Barry Lee Vernard!"
Phillip looked at the other end of the arena and saw Barry slowly walk into the arena. Even from a distance, Phillip could tell Barry was trembling with fear. "You know the rules. You each fight until the other one relents or is sadly killed in combat. The winner gets rewarded with a hot meal. The loser, if he survives the fight, gets nothing at all, not even food, for the rest of the day. There is no surrender either. This is a non-lethal match, meaning that when the other person is defeated, there is no choice whether they live or die. You understand the rules?"
Marcus nodded his head. "I understand."
Barry, breathing heavily, nodded. "I—I understand…"
"Okay! Let's get this started in three! Two! One!"
Phillip heard a ding sound through the arena, as both Marcus and Barry unsheathed their swords.
Phillip leaned forward. I don't see any shields with them.
Marcus charged at Barry who dodged to the left. Barry lifted his sword, putting the sword with the pointed end facing Marcus. "G-go easy on me."
Marcus sighed. "I can't do that. If I go easy on you, you'll never know what it's like to survive." Marcus again charged forward, swinging his sword to the right. Barry parried the blow, but Marcus immediately swung to the left. Barry again countered.
Marcus walked slowly back. "Not bad. You're able to block basic attacks. Now, let's show you a trick I learned. Marcus stepped forward and again swung to the left, close to Barry's head. Barry flinched and parried the blow. Instead of moving back to strike again, Marcus instead moved the sword down, deeply cutting Barry's fingers in the process. Barry yelped in pain and jumped backwards.
"Neat, isn't it? It's only a basic trick from what my master told me. However, it did its job well." Marcus again charged forward, rapidly swinging his sword. Barry desperately tried to block the attacks.
Phillip stood up. "Barry is moving slower than he used to!"
"That's because Marcus has him concerned about that trick. The natural human reaction to pain is to avoid repeating it. Whether he's consciously or unconsciously worrying about that trick, it slows him down."
"A computer is built to be fast, but has a set limit to how much it can process at once. The more it processes, the slower it becomes. With Barry thinking about that trick, it's slowing his reaction time. It's a neat trick, designed to slow down the other opponent. However, it usually only works on newcomers like him."
Phillip looked back at the fight, with Marcus overwhelming Barry. After parrying another blow, Barry staggered backwards, blood pouring from several cuts. Marcus smirked. "It's over." Running, Marcus stopped right before Barry and swung his sword from the ground up. Barry parried the blow, but was knocked on his back.
Marcus stood over Barry, sword pointed at his head. A horn sounded, followed by the voice. "Another thrilling victory by Marcus. Three fights. Three wins. He has talent folks. Will he do well in the other groups when the time comes? Only time will tell. Now, Marcus, you know where to go for the hot meal. Good work today. Barry, for your first fight, you did well, but sadly, the rules are the rules. You will not have any dinner today, or snacks, but you will be allowed to drink water to rehydrate. Now, go to the medical room and get treated for your wounds."
Barry slowly stood up. Marcus extended his hand. "Get better Barry. Your next fight will hopefully be a lot easier from the lessons you learned today."
Barry took his hand and shook it. Releasing his grip, Barry hobbled out of the arena.
Maurice looked at Phillip. "Now you know what a real fight looks like. You have an advantage here. Barry didn't want to see the fights. He had no idea what to expect walking into the arena. You do. You don't always have to learn the hard way. Use the lessons Barry learned and keep them for yourself."
Phillip didn't respond or look at Maurice. His gaze was frozen on the arena. I…I have to win! I don't want to be on the losing end like Barry!ns 18.104.22.168da2