”Help. Help me! ”
”Im trying, Im trying. Hey, Rei, ” I heard her shout. ”How dyou activate this? ”
She didn even have the sync rings activated yet? I was going to die. ”Have you tried turning it off and on again? ” I suggested.
”Shut up. You
e not helping. ”
”No, no … don worry about me, Im not panicking. ”
The Quwallie picked up his pace. I turned to my right and ran, making the crowd boo. When I looked over my shoulder the Quwallie was jogging behind me lazily. I think he was smiling. Hard to tell on his stupid face.
”What was that, Rei? ” said Akiko.
”Have you still not worked out how to turn them on!? ” I asked.
”Is that it? The middle part of my left pinky? Are you sure? Okay, Ill try it. ”
In a single moment, the strangest tingling raced through my spine, down to the ends of my fingers and to the tips of my toes. Suddenly it was like trying to run in a sand pit. The more I forced my limbs to move forward, the more resistant they became until I eventually slowed to a stop.
I was stuck in place, right when the Quwallie reached me. He towered over me, easily blocking both suns, and smiled at the terror in my eyes, revealing his rotting teeth.
He took a step back to wind up, and I yelled loudly as my wrists shot forward. My ankles pivoted and leaped on their own, and my helpless body was dragged across the sand with them. A fist the size of a child breezed past my head.
”What was that? ” Akikos voice crackled in my ear. ”Do you want to die? ”
”Did you just try and rip off my limbs? ” I mumbled.
e resisting the sync rings. Relax and let me take control. Support yourself. ”
”What? Which one?! ”
”Keep it down! If they see you talking theyll get suspicious. Hes coming. ”
My limbs dove away from me just in time to avoid another full-body attack.
I grumbled under my breath,
e going to pull my arms off. Is that your plan? Rip off my arm and beat him to death with it? ”
She sighed, ”Do we have to save this guy, Rei? ”
Through the ear-piece I heard someone chortle.
When the Quwallie approached this time, I was ready for it. I tensed my limbs, preparing to receive whatever action the girl was doing on the other end.
”Can you see me? ” I asked, backing away from the Quwallie.
”No, I can see through your eyes. ”
”You can … what? How— ”
”You want me to explain this now or stop you from being squished? ”
”Not squished, please. ”
”Good choice. ”
My limbs jerked, and I was only just prepared for the movement that would course through me. The Quwallies fist came down as I leaped, but he was prepared for the dodge, and with a surprising burst of agility his foot lashed out, catching me in the chest. I flew back and landed sprawled in the sand. It tasted of blood.
If the crowd cheered I didn hear it. I had zoned them all out.
Akiko groaned, sounding like she was in pain. Surprisingly, I wasn . I felt our sync rings disconnect as I thumped on the hot sand. I scrambled to get back on my feet and off the burning sand and leapt back, away from The Quwallie, making sure not to take my eyes off him. I checked my ribcage, patting myself down.
”I took most of the pain, if thats what you
e wondering, ” she wheezed. ”Altered the settings, so your nervous system is transferring pain to me. ”
”Thats handy. ” The tingle in my limbs returned as our sync rings reconnected.
”Screw you. Lets go on the offensive. Hes slow; you
e much faster. Get inside his attacks, well target his weak spots. ”
I was already losing energy and trying to catch my breath. I hadn been this exposed to the suns in a long time. Even with my thin long-sleeved shirt, the two suns were merciless, boiling me from the inside-out. Not only was I burning from the top, the heat radiating from the sand alone sapped my energy faster than usual.
My breathing was almost back to normal. I watched through the heat waves trembling on the sand as the Quwallie aroused the crowd into a frenzy with wailing arms and a howl so hardy that it cut through the constant buzz of the masses.
”That sounds like a terrible idea. Does he even have any weak spots? Im pretty sure hes all muscle … or rock … maybe both. ”
Fueled by his own fervor, the Quwallie picked up a large rock and slammed it on top of his bald head, crumbling it to pieces with a mighty roar before setting his sights on me again.
”Definitely both. Ow, geez. That was pointless! Im pretty sure his brains a rock. How do you plan on beating that? I can do that! ”
”Just trust me. Relax and give me full control of the sync rings. ”
”Okay, I don know what your preference is, but just so you know my preference is to have all my blood inside my body. ”
”That depends on how much you want to cooperate. ”
The Quwallie was on me again. He swung down with his fist, and I felt the fifth ring ignite, moving my upper body as my wrist pulled me to the side. I side-stepped his punch.
Then my fist curled up, pulled back, and sprung at his face like a bullet, faster than I should ever have been able to swing. It collided with his nose, and his head swung back with a spray of blood. Pain flared in my hand just as I heard my knuckle crack.
I yelled out.
”Im taking 80 percent of your pain right now, so you don get to complain. ”
I had no words to retort as the sync rings pulled me back and I retreated. Enraged, the Quwallie reared himself up to his full and considerable height, spitting blood towards me.
”Lucky strike, ” he said.
He lunged for me, but Akiko was ready. I back-stepped so his fist was inches from crushing my skull. I caught his ribcage with an uppercut, and with a duck-and-step I was at his side, landing one more blow to his kidney, which sent him roaring forward, clutching his back in pain.
It was working.
I didn know how. I was barely feeling pain or fatigue, I was moving lightning fast, and my reactions were so perfectly timed he was never very far from hitting me, which meant I was never very far from being able to strike him. I didn know who this girl was, but she was amazing. Despite taking on both our aches and pains and our fatigue, she wasn stopping; despite my inability to give her full control of my muscles, which must have been slowing her down, she still moved like a bullet. I shuddered to think how fast she must be unhindered. I got the sense she was exceptional at what she did. Her movements were almost like poetry.
I dodged the Quwallie again, leaping back when I couldn get in a hit or stepping inside his range and attacking where I could. I could see him tiring, see the blood swelling from his nose and lip and brow. I could barely feel the heat anymore. Whatever theyd done to modify that fifth ring made it amazing. The girl must have been boiling though. But she never slowed or tired or made any mistakes. Eventually, just as the Quwallie began to falter, I began enjoying myself. I was picking up on how the girl was fighting and her reactions, and I started to move with the sync rings. We got faster and deadlier as we worked together, and I got a better feel for fighting than I ever thought I could. Impressive for someone who had avoided every single fight of his life up until now.
Then we were done.
The Quwallie fell to his knees. I looked down at him, nearly stunned from disbelief, unsure if Akiko was done on the other end of the sync rings. She wasn . My hand stretched out to bend the Quwallies head to the side and delivered one last blow to his neck, just to make sure he was out. When he hit the sand, he didn stir.
The arena was silent.
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