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The Duel

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This short story was contributed by guest writer Dauntless Jacobson

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“. . . And then I knocked his sword aside and bopped him on the head with my foil,” Luke laughed as he recounted the duel with exaggerated hand and feet movements. “I can’t believe he thought he could beat me.” The other club members laughed at the antics of Luke. Kai, watching from a little way off, found the only emotion he could invoke was annoyance. “They’re idiots,” was all he could think. Luke was just a jerk who happened to be good at fencing. Leo, the man Luke had been fencing in the story, stared dejectedly at the ground.

Why are they laughing? Kai asked himself. But he knew the answer. It was the day before Luke left the fencing club for college, and this was his going-away party, which meant no one wanted to spoil his good mood. However, they should. Someone should call him out, but no one seemed to agree with Kai’s sentiment that Luke was a jerk, and he did not want to make a scene. On the contrary, most of the other members seemed to be fine tolerating him. This was because even though he often mocked you when he fenced you, he would advise you on improving and how to beat him next time. Nevertheless, he always ended those comments with a laugh and something along the lines of, “like that will ever happen.”

Kai had only shown up at the park because everyone else in the club was going to, and it would have been evident that he was acting petty. Plus, he found showing up to the party celebrating Luke’s departure amusing. So why shouldn’t he celebrate? The fencing club would finally rid themselves of the nuisance.

“. . . Isn’t that right, Kai?”

“What?” Kai’s head shot up.

“I said,” Luke spoke slowly like he was talking to a child, “my victory yesterday brings our total to 133 wins for me and 23 for you, isn’t that, right?”

“Yup,” Kai said curtly. “Now, how about you stop been a jerk and stop making fun of Leo.”

“Ah, common Kai, don’t be a downer.” Devin’s placating voice only ticked Kai off more.

“I know, why don’t you shut up Devin,” he shot back.

“Shut yourself up,” Luke said as he pushed Kai. “If you are not going to join in and have fun at my party, why don’t you leave? I do not want losers like you and Leo here anyway.” He pointed back toward the parking lot.

Kai met Luke’s eyes, and he stepped forward. Luke sighed and turned away. He did not need this, not today. “I bet I can beat you right here and now.” Kai snapped before he could think about it.

Luke paused, then shook his head, “you and Leo are the most pathetic fencers I have ever dueled. I have better things to do, especially today.”

“Care to back that up?” Kai tried to sound confident, but the hesitation in his voice betrayed him. He didn’t care that he was being insulted. Kai was not a great fighter and knew it. However, Leo tried harder than any of them, and he was getting steadily better. Plus, he was one of Kai’s friends, and he would not stand for anyone to call his friend a loser or kick him out.

Luke yawned, today was his going away celebration, and he did not want to spoil it fencing Kai. He turned and started walking back toward the one picnic table they had found in the park.

The anger stemming from Kai was palpable. His jaw was clenched so tight the muscles in his neck bulged visibly. He drew back his hand, preparing to smack Luke in the back of the head. But instead, Devin stepped in front of him and said in a steady voice while staring into Kai’s eyes, “I bet you fifty that Kai wins.”

Luke stopped walking away. “I am always open to free money,” he turned back “anyone bring a pair of foils?

“I think we left ours in the trunk,” Leo said hesitantly, turning to Cilia, who nodded. “Great, I’ll be right back then,” he said as he took off toward the parking lot.

Kai’s gaze fell to the ground. “Sorry, Devin, I shouldn’t have told you to shut up or challenged him to a fight. I was mad and wasn’t thinking about what I was saying.”

“No problem” Devin strode forward and patted Kai on the shoulder. “We all lose our tempers now and then, no harm done.”

“You shouldn’t have bet fifty dollars,” Kai said as he started doing some stretches.

“I wasn’t interested in a fistfight starting,” Devin replied, “plus, I don’t care about the money I am paying for the slight chance you’ll beat him and give him a little humility.

“Thanks,” Kai said, and he meant it. Leo came running back with a fencing foil in each hand. “How many points are we playing to?” he asked Luke. Club rules stated that a challenged party had the right to decide what number of hits they would play to. The goal of a duel was not to see who could land the most hits. Instead, it was a demonstration of one’s ability to handle a foil. This is why they did not use gear. If a dueler hurt the other with his hit, he automatically lost. No one ever changed it from first to ten, but Luke always gave himself an advantage.

“Best of three hits,” he said without hesitation.

Kai had been prepared for this, but still felt his stomach drop. He had never won a first to three. He shook his head. That did not matter. It was time someone gave Luke some humility, and if it had to be him, then so be it. He accepted the foil from Leo and walked a little way from the picnic table to a flatter area.

“Hey.” Leo called. “If Devin is putting up fifty if Kai loses, what does Luke have to put up if Kai wins?”

Luke raised his eyebrows in surprise. “I don’t have to put up nothing. It was Kai who started this silly duel.”

Kai felt his heart rate increase as Luke came to a stop in front of him. Kai’s knuckles were white around the hilt of his foil. Luke’s hung loosely in his hand. Devin’s calm voice cut through the tension. “Now, Luke, let’s be fair. How about if you lose, you have to apologize for making fun of Leo and Kai?”

Luke cracked his neck. “If I lose to Kai, they deserve an apology. Sounds like a deal.” He made eye contact with Kai and smiled, “now, if you’re ready, let’s duel.”

They stood six feet apart, with their swords extended, the tips touching. With a flick of his blade, Luke knocked aside Kai’s and lunged. Kai stepped back and parried. The blunt tip of Luke’s foil only just missed touching his chest. Seeing an opening, Kai flicked his foil up. Off-balance, Luke was unable to parry, and the blunt tip hit his stomach.

They both straightened in surprise. Kai did his best not to let his excitement get the better of him. He was ahead and winning on the first point.

“Square up,” Luke snapped, irritation plain in his voice. Kai readied himself, and they touched blades. Then, Luke’s foil moved with blinding speed. With a twitch, he had knocked Kai’s aside. He lunged forward, the end of his sword smacking into Kai’s chest.

There was silence. Kai blinked, dazed by what had just happened. He had not even had time to move his sword. The irritated expression had left Luke replaced by a look of calm determination.

They squared up again and touched blades. Luke, not even trying to knock aside Kai’s sword, thrust forward, only to find that Kai stepped back in anticipation of the lunge. Kai fainted left. Luke brought his sword around to stop the incoming foil, only to find it was not there. The end of Kai’s blade tapped Luke’s chest.

The others, silent till now, let out a cheer and swarmed Kai giving him high fives and congratulating him on his victory. Once the congratulations were over, Luke walked up to Kai and reached out his hand. “I’m sorry for mocking you and Leo. You are a fine fencer.”

Kai stared at the outstretched hand, then took it and shook it firmly.

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Copyright by Dauntless Jacobson 2021 All Rights Reserved

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~Dauntless Jacobson

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