After some satisfying refreshments, Dimitri took me to the tourney hall*. There, the knights and Sasha were waiting for us there as if he had contacted them in advance.
[ T/N: The word the author used was ‘’, which literally meant tourney hall, though you could imagine it like a gymnasium! ]
I read an unusual atmosphere.
Dimitri said, glancing around at the knights with Sasha beside him.
“Is there anyone willing to compete with this one in hand-to-hand combat?”
At those words, Sasha clenched her fists with a dignified face as if she realized what Dimitri was trying to do.
“Bring it on! I’m going to give you a very bitter feeling!”
…Even though she skipped meals, where did she get that energy from?
Forgetting that she was hungry, Sasha swung her fist in the air enthusiastically. In the meanwhile, the knights were hesitant to step forward as the little black girl shouted loudly at them.
Of course, they weren’t intimidated by Sasha…
‘Whether they win or lose, it’s something the knights won’t even be able to overcome, so who wants to step up?’
Needless to say, the idea of ‘competing’ with a child who hadn’t learned martial arts would be unthinkable for a normal adult. In addition, it seemed as though it was serious enough for Dimitri to step forward and judge, but from the point of view of the knights, figuring out what Dimitri intended to do would be the first priority.
Indeed, as I looked at the knights’ expressions, I could see the question on their faces as if asking, ‘Does he mean to tell us to lose to that young shapeshifter?’
He must have noticed their thoughts as well, so he started wielding his words.
“I’ll reward the one who fights with all their might and wins. I’ll bet as much as one month’s wages as a reward.”
Sasha then raised her hand in the air, bravely recognizing the words reward and prize.
“Me! What about me? What if I win?”
Dimitri glanced at Sasha, who was bouncing up and down, and this time he looked at me as if to say, ‘What would be a good reward for Sasha?’
I rolled my eyes inwardly.
‘Dimitri’s knights are skilled and experienced in battle. Besides, they followed him because they admire the strong without preconceived notions.’
Could Sasha, who had been playing the role of a children’s alley leader, win against such people?
‘Besides, since she’s in a human form, her movements would be slower than when she would be in her true form.’
I eventually drew a conclusion in my mind and made a slightly sleazy suggestion.
“If Sasha wins, I’ll let her make a contract with the devil.”
Sasha’s piercing blue eyes sparkled visibly with life. When I saw that, I felt remorse though I didn’t hesitate to look away.
‘If this can get Sasha to give up…’
If I could get Sasha to give up something dangerous, I could overcome my conscience.
And so, blinded by the prize, one knight and Sasha stood in the center of the fighting sand arena. Dressed in thin t-shirts and comfortable pants, the two were given nothing but leather gloves.
“There are no rules. You can do whatever you want, as long as you win.”
Dimitri solemnly declared.
“If you lose thinking about trivial chivalry or pride, each of you will either become a laughingstock for your colleagues or you won’t be able to accomplish what you want.”
He meant fighting properly.
The knight and Sasha stood facing each other with their fists clenched.
Even if he was pretending, the knight’s fist-clenched posture and standing posture seemed solid and unflinching. Conversely, everything about Sasha was loose and full of gaps. Although she looked excited, her eyes were quite fierce.
When Dimitri waved a small flag the size of his palm, the fight began.
While the knight was wary of Sasha without recklessly approaching her, Sasha opened his eyes and charged at the opponent with great vigour. Dashing swiftly, she turned lightly and jumped high, dodging the knight’s outstretched hand as he tried to subdue her before she swung her fist into his head like she was taking out his liver*.
[ T/N: It’s an idiom that means ‘to take advantage of someone in a very difficult situation.’ ]
The knight ducked to avoid Sasha’s mischievous attack and put some distance between them. He then lunged straight down towards Sasha’s waist.
Sasha evaded the knight with very agile movements.
At that moment, in a very fluid motion, the child stabilized her center of gravity and leaped lightly with one foot on the ground. Her body spun halfway in the air, grabbing the knight by the hair from behind as if in slow motion, and kicked with all her might, aiming for the knight’s throat as though she were about to do a cat ‘back foot’…
Just before her ambitious attack, Dimitri waved his flag again in an X-shape.
Instead of kicking, Sasha protested while wrapping her legs around the knight’s neck and clinging to the back of his head.
“Why! Why! Whyyy?!”
“That’s enough. You win.”
Dimitri calmly declared her victory. On the other hand, the knight stared at him in disbelief, as if he couldn’t understand what was happening behind him because he hadn’t even seen it.
“Any more, and Sasha would have broken your neck.”
Leaving behind him with his mouth agape, Dimitri lectured the knights as if this was a good opportunity.
“You’ve all seen it, right? It’s the way the cat shapeshifters attack, aiming for the throat like that. They don’t have as much jaw strength when they’re in a human form as they do when they’re in a cat form, so instead of just sinking their teeth in like they do when they’re cats, they would go for the neck and try to break the collarbone with their hind legs. Be aware.”
The knights nodded their heads in bewilderment.
“They all have an uncomfortable expression on their faces now.”
Dimitri asked Sasha, furrowing his brow.
“Do you want to fight one more time?”
“Mm! Yes, I want more! This is so much fun!”
“Alright. Then, one more person come out.”
The second round started as planned.
The opponent who came out this time was the one who was moved by Sasha’s movements. Judging from the enthusiastic reactions of the knights, it seemed that they had won quite a few victories in hand-to-hand combat of his own.
I, too, was a bit relieved since I was thinking that the previous fight had ended so futilely.
‘…I certainly hope Sasha loses this time.’
Clasping my hands together, I watched the fight with a prayerful heart. Sasha moved so effortlessly, like water flowing, even in what looked like a very flimsy position.
“She looks really slow, but why can’t he catch her? Surely the knight wasn’t going easy on her?”
As I whispered to Dimitri while looking at the floundering knight worriedly, Dimitri gave a low laugh.
“It’s because she’s not actually slow. She just looks slow because her posture is stable and flexible. Imagine, Rowaine, if you could move like that yourself.”
Even if I imagined it in my head, it didn’t seem that hard to move like Sasha so I tried to sneak up behind Dimitri and do what Sasha had done, which was to jump up and change positions in midair.
‘Wow, is that possible?’
My thoughts changed in an instant. It was more difficult than I thought to take a certain posture without panicking in the air.
‘I can’t even jump that high…’
Sasha jumped lightly to my shoulder level, but I couldn’t get that high no matter what I did.
‘I’ve been training my lower body a lot with horseback riding these days, but it’s not even helping.’
It was like watching an Olympic Games video and realizing that the athletes were making it look so effortless though every single movement was incredibly challenging.
I focused on Sasha’s fighting again. Unlike the previous fight, where I assumed Sasha was going to lose, this time, I watched the fight in earnest.
Seeing the look in Sasha’s eyes, my jaw dropped.
It was behind those terrifyingly fierce blue eyes that sharpened execution and judgment. She was taking the fight more seriously than I thought.
‘It’s not the eyes of a child.’
I unknowingly swallowed dry saliva. Certainly, anyone who saw it would have thought the same thing I did. Even I, who wanted Sasha to be defeated, was marveled at how a child could have such a look in her eyes like that.
Needless to say, Sasha again won the victory without difficulty.
As Dimitri swung his flag a little too late, the knight was unable to avoid Sasha’s neck-breaking attack and was kicked once. He immediately fell to the ground before tumbling with nausea.
“Ouch. Like I told you, you need to watch your neck.”
The voice that came out of Dimitri’s mouth was with little emotion. Perhaps the delay in waving the flag was on purpose. In the previous fight, it seemed that everyone felt that it was worthless if someone didn’t get knocked out, so that was what they did.
Dimitri took Sasha’s hand as he left the knight, who hadn’t been able to get up in a while and was coughing with a red face.
“Haha! Now, how do you guys like the taste of my fist?! Don’t mess around with me, mwiss, you’ll all die!”
As Sasha jumped up and down with excitement, Dimitri came up to me and whispered softly.
“Humans have coming-of-age ceremonies based on the number of years they’ve lived, but that’s not the standard for shapeshifters. Sasha isn’t a child.”
At that moment, Coco, in the form of a cat, appeared from nowhere with his head poking around. And after spotting me, he jumped brightly into my arms.
“Hehe, aAngel! Here you are! Let’s play hunting!”
Dimitri, who was looking down disapprovingly at Coco, who was rubbing his dusty body against me, grabbed him by the back and threw Coco down as if tossing him on the floor. Then, he stomped his foot and threatened Coco to drive her away, annoyed.
“You brat! When are you going to class?”
The words came from Dimitri, who was adamant that Sasha wasn’t a child.
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