Or, something close to it.
For now. I feel like I can breathe. I started back smoking with Fisher and Tann. We drink and talk for a bit. We were sitting one night. We sat around a campfire, laughing after I told the story about my tournament exploits.
"Wait," Kyle puts his hands up, chuckling like a fool. "You telling me you lost after all that?"
I shrug as I took a huff of the cancer stick. "The woman was overpowered. She could kill anybody in there. If that wasn't the rule, I would be dead. Most likely."
Sam decided to chime in. "Tell me the last part, bro. That was the best part."
"So, here we are, kicking each other's asses, right? I was on the floor, then I get this sudden burst of life. We fought and struggled some more. I had her in this chokehold..."
"Kinky-" Fisher joked. The group had a good chuckle.
"Shut up! As I was saying, I was choking her out, but I was so low on strength and blood, I passed out. I was gone. She won."
Tann took my cig and popped it into his mouth. "Shame, shame. You know, that's a good idea. We should do that, just not as bloody."
I nodded and laugh. "There's has to be a prize. Like a nice clock."
"Something better than a clock." Fisher passed a nice unopened pack of cigars. We all looked at it with shock. "Pre. War. Cigars." Since every single man and woman in the camp is a chronic smoker. They would get in on this in a heartbeat.
I hold the pack in my hands. "Perfect."
Tann agreed. "I'll get some rounds ready tomorrow."
We eventually head back since it was late. I was drinking a bit of water when Mox followed me. "Hey, Dopeman."
"Yo. Need something?"
"Yeah. I was overhearing the conversation..."
"You want the cigars, don't you?"
"Of course! I haven't had those in years. The wonderful tobacco...Geez..."
I chuckle. "Oh relax, boss. What did you need?"
Mox adjusts her feet as we reached the front of my tent. "We're you planning on joining the tournament?"
I shake my head. "I had my fair share of tournaments already. I'm not stepping foot in any other."
"That sounds good. then you wouldn't mind helping me fight a bit, yeah?"
"Hm? I thought the NRF taught you pretty well on close-quarters combat."
Mox made a bit of a face. "Eh, well I can assume we're fighting in the crowd, yeah?"
I nod. I can assume the tournament will have a few eyes on it.
"That's the problem, I'm not a huge fan of crowds and performances. You have. I want to know how did you do that."
I mean, it wasn't terribly late. I can throw her a few pointers before I went to bed. "Sure. Let's go on open land." I finish my drink and walk with her to an open piece of desert.
"Now," I start as I remove my had and sand cape. "I want you to picture something for me. Close your eyes for me."
She does so, shutting her eyes slowly.
"I want you to picture us, in that circle. I'm in front of you, just like now. I looked focused, in the zone. What do you hear right now?"
"Wrong. You hear the chanting of the crowd. The men and women surround you. They're drunk, loud. It's been hours. They've been cooking in the hot sun watching fights and bloodshed. They've seen both our rallies and victories. These animals are half and half on who's gonna win. Sure, half cheer and help you on, but the other half boo you, want you dead. They want you on the ground, knocked out. You know what you should do?"
She shakes her head. She looks panicked by her thoughts.
"Ignore it all. Even the positive ones. I want you to think back to this moment. This moment of silence. This moment of loneliness. This technique makes you block out everyone. The only thing you will see is him and yourself. I call this..The age of loneliness. Now open your eyes."
She snaps up, panting a bit. "The age of loneliness?"
"The age of loneliness. It's basically saying it's just you and your opponent. I only hear them before the fight, and during they might as well be dead."
Mox smiles, thinking of the concept. "I like it...I think I can do this."
"The only real way you can get the technique is to try it out on the battlefield."
"Thanks, Dopeman. Now, did you wanna spar?"
I shrug and smile. "Why not, let's get a couple of hits in."
She charges at me instantly. She used her legs almost exclusively. I blocked all I could, even dodging a few. She caught me quick in the jaw after a bit. I turn and sweep the legs, getting on top and doing a few soft hits to the face. We both laugh as I help her up. "Nice kicking, Mox."
We head back to the campsite. "How did you get so good at fighting, Dopeman?"
"I'm not a good fighter. I just learned to fight my way."
"What is your way?"
"Cheating." I joked and laughed. "But that's my last advice. Before you do anything, you make sure to do it your way."
"I'll keep that in mind." She kissed my cheek. "Night, Dopeman."
I wave and head back into the tent to sleep.
The next day Kyle calls out the group. "Listen up. After everything that's happened, I know you folks need a break and relax, so I got a little competition. Combat!" He pulled out leather pads. The soldiers smile and joke. "The prize is a nice bar of cigars. Not just any, pre-war!" The crowd oohs and ahhs. "We need sixteen people. Any takers?"
The spots got filled pretty quickly, with Mox included. I gathered with the people, watching the crowd as we drank booze, getting drunk quickly. I was becoming a stronger drinker. I saw my girl beat all the competition with her mighty legs. She kicked her way to the finals. As I said earlier, I yelled out what I said last night in my state of drunkness. "THE AGE! THE AGE!!"
She closed her eyes and huffed. Once she opened them, she was in the zone. She soon won the tournament, to our pleasure.
Now I need to snag a cigar.