The next fight’s winner has a guaranteed spot in the semi-final, and I am matched up against an Amanin martial artist. We stand at either end of the pit, he appears calm – a contrast to my previous opponents. Although quite tall at standing height, the Amani’s legs are actually fairly short. As the bell rings he immediately drops and curls into a ball, charging me from across the pit – with little time to get into defensive position, the Amani knocks me back into the wall. Impressive. While his initial attack was strong, his hand to hand combat is not as powerful. After a series of blows I manage to step behind him and elbow him back into the wall – he does not get up. Victory is mine.
These fighters have been hitting hard, and while the adrenaline may have been softening the blows for me during the fights, I am starting to feel the aftermath of the hits now that I am not in the pit. At most I have two fights to go before the end, it is time for the semi-final.
Entering the arena slightly bruised, I see before me a Mantellian Savrip – an impressively large beast. The crowd is roaring, they are looking forward to one of us going down – I must not let that be me. The Savrip approaches slowly meeting me halfway in the pit, lucky for me his attacks are just as slow and I am able to evade most of his attacks – the impact of his giant arms hitting the ground where I once stood shakes the earth around me. His natural armour is not easy to penetrate, and his ability to react to my movement is very impressive. It is a lengthy battle in which he throws me around the arena quite a number of times, but my elbow finally penetrates his neck, bringing him to a crawl, allowing me to deliver the victory blow. My body tingles and feels numb from the adrenaline – I bow and head back to the locker room.
As the sound of the crowd and adrenaline subside, my head begins to spin slightly – I lie down and rest. I close my eyes and fully relax my body. Darkness. Peace. Serenity. I sense my body’s natural chemicals attending to every injured muscle around my body – a warm sensation. My rest is suddenly interrupted by a presence in the room, at first I assume it is grandmaster Worgf, it certainly is too quiet for it to be technician Manco. I sleepily open my eyes to find the figure of Black Claw standing only meters from my bed. My body tenses for a moment, but I notice his body language is not aggressive. What is he doing here? All I can think of at this moment is how much rest my body needs before the next fight.
“What do you want?” I ask him as I rest my eyes once more. If he wanted to attack me he could have easily done it moments ago, I can sense he has something to say, but his timing is not great – for I am really in no mood. I have to stay focused on the tournament. Despite my obvious uninterested tone, he proceeds to tell me a story about some mobster named Gatto Nix – a slaver on the Twi’lek homeworld of Ryloth. Without much choice in the matter, I half listen to his tale, which mostly sounds like an attempt to justify the wrong doings of the gangster against the enslaved Twi’leks. While the story does sound interesting, something perhaps to learn more about in the future, I find myself wondering why he would share this with me now. My seemingly lack of interest prompts him to leave, to which I am glad – as I have only a short while before the final fight of the tournament begins.
This is it. The final showdown. While I have never met my opponent before, I am no stranger to his reputation. Iza Ghuul. A brutal and dirty fighter. Here we stand facing each other, the crowd giving us a sensational welcome to the arena, and for one of us they will give a heroic ovation. We stare each other down and with a ring of the bell, the final match begins. A burst of adrenaline shoots through my body as we both hover towards each other, eyes locked, I feel myself clenching my fists perhaps a little too tight. But it pays off, as he makes the first attack leaping foot first through the air at me, I bring my arms up and push back his kick with a forward lunge. He seems a little shocked and for a split second I see him struggle to regain his footing – without hesitation I continue my lunge with a series of deceivingly soft strikes followed by a quick hard elbow to his side throwing him to the ground. That was a great move Arri, and the crowd knows it, the noise level more than doubles.
The fact that I noticed the crowd’s response was perhaps the first tell that sometime was not right – I should only be focused on one thing; Iza. I try and bring myself down on his prone position, but he is able to fight me off with footwork even at his apparent disadvantage. My continued attempts to strike at him when he is down prove unsuccessful, and somewhat frustrating – something he had clearly noticed in my form, and subsequently reacted to with a well timed scissor kick which sent me crashing to the ground beside him. Again I could hear the crowd burst into a roar, again wishing I had not. We both know the first one to get back up will attain a great advantage over the other. For what seems like forever, we both brawl with each other on our sides, each trying to get up while at the same time making sure the other’s attempt is not successful. His feet catch my arms in a series of precise blocks, until he suddenly uses one of my attacks to push himself away from me and in a split second, he flips himself up into standing position again.
I use the moment to try and get myself up but in a burst of speed he moves in and strikes me down back into prone position. My head bounces off the ground and as I look back up to check his position, it is already too late. He has already come in to follow through with a second swing, and the last thing I remember is the crowd’s immense roar and then… silence. Darkness. Peace. Serenity.