84 Monkey Steals Peaches - Headed by a Snake
Tycon cracked his neck left and right and began stretching his back, "Young Lady, this will be the last event in the contest. As I'm sure you are aware, the young Pale has improved the most amongst the 3 of you."
Taree clenched her tiny fist, "Yes, Boss. I'm aware."
"And thusly, you have decided to challenge one of Guild Invictus' members to a duel, in order to show your skills. To prevent a conflict of interest, I will disallow you from choosing your brother for this contest."
"O-okay, that's fair," Taree's plan had been seen through by Tycon. She gazed at Tamaki longingly and in response, he flashed her a clueless smile and an upward thumb of approval.
When she looked back, Tycon had ratcheted back his hand-crossbow's lever, loading a bolt, "I advise you to choose your opponent wisely. I won't tell you there's a correct answer..."
Tycon grinned, "But there are wrong answers."
Taree grit her teeth as an icy chill ran down her spine. She was so worried, she was sweating. She looked over to Pale for support, who was making an X with his hands while pointing at Tycon.
Taree's decided to scrap her second plan on challenging Tycon in order to impress him. She glanced over at the rest of Guild Invictus.
Dragan? Nope. He'd crush her.
Maximus? Nope. He'd zap her into oblivion.
Wroe? Nope. She saw him die! Even looking at him gave her the creeps.
Pale? Oh, Pale... Gah! She would be too distracted to fight him!
"I choose... the Chosen One!!"
Lone pointed to himself, "You choose me?"
Tycon chuckled as he unloaded his crossbow. In a flash, he removed two wooden swords from his spatial ring.
"Don't hold back," He advised Lone. "Treat her as she's wearing armor around her whole body-- I'm certain you've experienced it before."
Lone stepped forward, spinning the two weapons in a comfortable flourish, testing their weight, "Oh, you don't have to tell me that, Boss."
Tycon revealed a worried look, "I'm... pretty sure I did."
"Okay. That's fair." Lone smiled weakly.
"Pale!" Tycon called out as he began walking back, "Stop the fight when there's a clear winner."
Lone jumped up, spinning in a 720-degree circle. He thrashed his swords about nonsensically, their randomness managing to catch Taree off guard, smashing her nose in for her trouble.
Taree leapt back and wiped her bloodied nose.
"Taree's not doing so great. Should we stop the fight?" Wroe observed with a concerned face.
Maximus shook his head, "Neither has landed a decisive blow. It's still anyone's match."
"What'cha think, Boss?" Dragan was paying more attention to doing sit-ups than the fight.
Tycon was sharpening and oiling some of the extra weapons in storage, "Lone's controlled the fight, thus far. He's attacking quickly, but safely-- I see a bit of your sword technique in his defensive assault. Also, the large windows he leaves with his wider attacks have been considerably reduced."
Dragan snickered, "Yeah. He musta got tired of gettin' hit."
"However he's learned it, he's improved since Nice," Tycon nodded in approval.
"What about Taree?" Wroe asked.
Tycon frowned, "The girl's scared of something. She won't commit to her attacks like something's holding her back. I think she's realized it."
Dragan flopped his body around into a stretch, "Realized what, Boss?"
"That the defensive style of her Stone Body art doesn't fit her personality. One of the biggest flaws of the martialist sects is that they only tend to teach one main style. She may have talent, but her Completion Rate is utter trash."
Maximus rubbed his chin thoughtfully, "I have spoken to some of the Ivory Judge sect. They begin training from an even younger age, so girl has a few years of formal training."
Tycon rolled his eyes, "No different from in the Holy Country, you humble braggart. Whatever factors, be it the amount of functional training, knowledge, or talent, the end result is lacking."
Maximus smiled but remained silent.
"If all that's true, why are we still letting them fight?" Wroe asked, genuinely curious.
"To see if she can realize something else she's missing."
"What would you do, Boss? To win?" Dragan asked.
"Same as you, Mister Dragan. Break the status quo. If the enemy doesn't make mistakes, then we must force the enemy to make them. Unbalance. Disorient. Confuse. Intimidate. Feint. If Taree remains passive, she will lose."
Dragan chortled at Tycon's judgment while the others watched the fight in silence.
Taree grabbed onto the sides of Lone's head.
Lone grabbed her with his arm and slammed her hard against a tree, disrupting her skill. He reached back and slammed her again before tossing her. She tumbled on the ground and regained her balance, combat-rolling back to a standing position.
It was the first time she'd fought such a heavy opponent. With Lone's muscle and armored weight, each time she grappled him, he'd pull her off with brute force and would take a gravity-assisted slam. She had taken 3 thus far and she felt her consciousness threatening to fade.
Her fight with Lone had been pathetic and cowardly. Scared of losing, she relied on the defensive orthodoxy that her father taught her. She had never lost before, relying on those defensive stances and techniques. But she had never dueled a single opponent that wasn't scared of her fists.
She was beginning to grow desperate. She would lose at the rate she was going.
But there was one thing she hadn't tried.
Her mother had passed her a forbidden technique, its origin lost to the ages.
She was told never to unseal it. As for when she could, her mother told her she'd know in her heart.
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She hated losing. Seeing how fast Pale and Lone grew stronger and how she couldn't even learn a movement technique pissed her off more than anything in the world.
She would unseal it.
If Guild Invictus hated her for it, she'd fight them.
If the world hated her, she'd fight the world.
If the heavens themselves cursed her, she'd fight against heaven until her bones turned to dust.
She screamed in a final burst of power, rushing forward. Lone, seeing her low dash, began sweeping his blades down in a vicious cross. The damage would be immense if she were even a millisecond too slow.
Unsealing the technique, she reached out with eagle-claw hands.
And she tightly gripped Lone's crotch.
Lone's blades stopped a hair's edge away from smashing into Taree's skull.
"Choose your fate, Chosen One!!" Taree screamed so hard, her throat hurt.
"Whoa whoa whoa. Let's just calm down," Lone dropped his weapons and reached his palms forward slowly.
Taree readjusted her grip, making Lone squeal, "Hiiiieee!"
"Do what I want or I squeeze!!" Taree threatened.
"Don't squeeze! Don't squee-hee-hee-heeeeeze!!" Lone begged.
Tycon called out from amongst the observers, "Pale!"
With a gentle touch, Pale placed his hand on Taree's.
"That's enough, Taree." He smiled, "You've won."