I stifle my laughter just long enough to draw my Great-sword.
My opponent has a rice pot for a helmet and small frying pan lids for shin, and elbow guards while my armor glitters as it was forged in the sun’s corona using minerals from the far side of the moon– armor I received from my uncle at my recent birthday. My opponent looks more like the town beggar than an actual warrior.
We were yards from the rogue village. I can see into the empty town from the empty road– our battleground. I can almost see their eyes peeking from the cracks in their window shutters.
They will watch me break their champion. Slaughtering their village was unnecessary because defeating their champion will break their spirits. They’ll beg to be folded back into the kingdom. They’ll have the privilege to bow to us once again.
I turn my attention back to the opponent before me.
He was wheezing heavily. My opponent’s mouth is buried beneath his coal and ash peppered beard. He is diminutive and frail and has yet to show he can lift his spear.
I am amused, but also disrespected by the champion the village sent forward to face me. Of all This will be easy.
“Surrender,” I command.
The broken old man lifts his spear.
“Is there nobody else?!” I call towards the village.
The old man grunts.
I lift my sword. “Alright then.”
His crudely made armor will shatter easily, but not on first impact. His armor was made of old pots, but they were metal nonetheless. They’ll require one or two strikes before I’m able to cleave through his bones. His neck was unprotected, so I figure two strikes and I will have his head.
I lower my helmet and and take small steps towards my opponent.
I want to punish the feeble old man for wasting my time and tricking me into donning my new armor.
My opponent backs way from me.
I pause. “You won’t outrun me.”
My opponent raises their spear and pauses.
I’ll easily overwhelm him. I’m stronger. Faster. Younger.
I raise my sword. “Goodbye, sir..”
I rush my opponent and bring my sword down on his head.
My sword strikes dirt.
My opponent’s spear pierces the side of the knee, beneath the hinge. He withdrew just out of my reach before I could counterstrike with a slash of my sword.
I’m bleeding through my armor. My armor is stained in blood red and dirt brown.
I stalk my opponent and follow him off-road and into the dirt.
My opponent circles back towards the road but remains within striking range. His spear is raised but he’s leaving his whole right side open.
I swing at his right side.
He parries and throws his body into my chest, knocking me off balance.
I slash again but fail to connect because my opponent has already retreated to outside of my range.
I am blind for a moment. I’m rattled.
I couldn’t see the hit coming.
I shake it off and start applying more pressure to my opponent.
I’m faster but none of my attacks are connecting. The harder I push the more I’m fumbling over myself.
The old man is moving blindingly swift in his armor made of rusted pots and pans.
I’m moving like cement in my celestial armor.
I attack with all my might. All my speed.
I’m hoping to tire him out but I’m taking brain rattling hits to the head and stabs to the tender spots in my armor.
I’m striking where he’s standing and either meeting resistance or empty air.
It’s not as if he’s moving very fast either. The old man just seems to know where to be like a magician. Like he has precognition.
“Enough,” I say as I fall to my knees from exhaustion and all the blows I took to my helmet. “You win.”
The old man staggers towards me and steps on my sword.
My sword is too heavy to lift, especially from beneath my opponents tattered boots.
“Nice armor.” The old man removes my helmet with the blunt end of his spear. “Is it yours.”
I don’t answer.
“How did I beat you?:” He asked.
“You tired me out,” I say.
“You tired yourself out,” He replies.
My head was pounding and I was starting to feel pain in all of my joints from stab wounds, and from small punctures and incisions from the old man’s spear.
He takes a seat besides me and lights a pipe.
I could smother him where he sat. My armor would be too heavy for him to push me off. I could finish this-
“Relying too much on your advantages was your greatest disadvantage,” He says.
I release my blade. “I don’t understand.”
“If you’re lucky, you’ll live to be a broken old man like me,” He exhaled a smoke ring. “Then what will be without your speed, strength, and youth?”
I recognize the sweet scent of smoke. It was the sweet scent of Jane flower. It was often used by peasants as an opiate to calm the body or suppress pain. His hand trembled as he extended the pipe to me.
I take a quick pull of the old man’s pipe.
The pain quickly disappears and all my regret and disappointment is replaced with a blissful emptiness and clarity.
“Know your weaknesses better than anyone,” The old man stands and returns to the road. “You understand?”
I stand and nod.
Two arrows strike the old man in the back.
I look over my shoulder.
An Imperial archer aiming another arrow at the old man.
I stagger towards the bleeding old man and turn him on his side. “I didn’t order this.”
The old man laughs and gags on his own blood. “I guess my weakness is mercy.”
The old man’s head rolls back and so does his eyes.
An imperial army materializes behind the archer.