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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 1: Hastings 173
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Lauren was surprised by how quickly her opponents surrounded her. There were five of them, but she had no weapons or armor and so was going to have to do this entirely from Raiden’s training. She readied herself for the attack.
The attackers hesitated. Quickly Lauren analyzed the situation, and realized that they had been trained primarily in defensive techniques; they were waiting for her to make the first move.
“Come, ladies,” she said. “Are we going to fight or dance?”
One moved from her left. She easily countered the incoming kick with an arm block, but was not ready for the strike that came from her right. She moved out of the way, putting the attacker off balance, but did not have a lot of room. She decided maybe it was time to dance, and leapt high into a flip over the head of the one directly in front of her, tagging the back of that opponent with both hands as she managed to bring her feet under her.
“Ketty, you’re out,” Derek’s voice called.
There was a string of some kind of complaint in another language, and Derek responded, “Come on, you know I know what you’re saying. If Lauren wasn’t pulling her punches, you would have been severely wounded by that strike.”
Well before he had finished saying this, though, the other four girls had regrouped and surrounded her again, and this time they were circling her, making it more difficult to keep all four in view even with her focused reaction training.
One of them lunged from the right; she grabbed the attacker and pushed her to the left, knocking another on the floor. While they were scrambling for their feet, she spun and kicked the girl behind her.
“Sorry, Vash, you’re out.”
A backflip carried her over the head of the one who had been in front of her, and as she landed she struck her in the back.
“And that’s Rath, game over.”
“We’re still alive,” one of the two finding their feet said.
“True,” Derek answered, “but by the time you found your feet, Lauren had taken out the Calipha, and could easily have made her escape.”
“You’re good,” one of the girls said.
“Well,” Lauren answered, “you’re all rather impressive yourselves--and although I usually fight with weapons, it counts for something that I was trained by a master and have been doing this for longer than anyone you know has been alive.”
“Including Derek?” Some asked incredulously.
She laughed. “Yes,” she answered. “Including Derek. But you were definitely a challenge, and a good workout, and I think we can probably improve your skills significantly with some training and practice.”
“Not me, I’m afraid,” one of the girls said; Lauren recognized her as the first one she had put out of the match.
“Ketty, right?” Lauren waited for a nod. “Don’t count yourself a poor fighter just because I hit you first. I could have taken any one of you; you just happened to be in the wrong place.”
“No, it’s not that,” Ketty answered. “My father has sent word that he’s coming to take me home. He says it’s because he wants to see to finding me a suitable husband, but everyone knows it’s really because he’s worried something will happen to me, after that whole mess with rescuing the kidnapped Calipha.”
Lauren shrugged. “Well, fathers do worry about daughters.”
“Sure. But I’m going to miss being here. Even with Sch’hery gone to see to her family estates and Ley already called home, this has been home and friends for several years now, and I’m going to miss everyone. I don’t really have anyone at home but my older brother, and he mostly picks on me.”
Lauren nodded sympathetically. “I’m told older brothers tend to do that to little sisters. It’s an expression of affection in a context in which the boy is uncomfortable about his feelings for the girl. You can bet if you were ever threatened, he would be there to protect you.”
“I guess. But I’m probably going to wind up married to one of his icky friends.”
“And you might discover that his friends aren’t all icky. After all, if they’re your brother’s friends, he must see some value in them. Perhaps you should spend some time with your brother and his friends. You might discover that there’s one you particularly like, and you might be able to persuade your father that he’s the right choice.
“So, are you girls up for another round?”
Derek answered. “I was hoping to get some practice in myself. But I’m not sure how to divide the sides, and we would need a referee.”
“I’ll referee,” one of the girls said, the one they called Haddy. “I’d like to see Derek fighting Lauren.”
“Make it interesting,” Vash said. “Lauren gets Calipha Rathi and has to protect her, Rathi is allowed to fight, too, and the rest of us are trying to take out Rathi.”
“Sounds good to me,” Lauren answered. “No objections? Good. You’re Rathi, right?”
The Calipha smiled.
“Then let’s show them what we can do.”
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #319: Quiet Worlds. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
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