Days, no, weeks, have passed since that event that forced me to change how I perceive this world. Little by little, a line between before and after has formed, one so marked that it has led me to miss the time before my first fight.
I now think that I really should have faked my defeat against that boy, as it would have prevented me from drawing too much attention to myself.
In fact, it is a lie to say it all started that day, for despite what happened then was the trigger that would generate my future problems, that night was quiet. Although, after eating, I hid to avoid being found by the old man and his henchmen, besides wanting my leg to heal without inconvenience, no one looked for me.
That was not due to chance since, even though I stayed hidden for three days, no one tried to find me. Therefore, considering their interest in me was not as great as I thought, I went back outside to continue my daily training routines.
During that time, little changed. The only difference from before was that I got slightly more attention and caution from the other guys. Once I realized that, I figured things would stay that way until the old man came up with a new fighting tournament.
Needless to say, I was wrong.
Approximately two weeks after the incident, just as I returned from training on the hill, I looked at the armored giant surrounded by groups of beasts smaller than him.
Under the shade of the trees, he stood silently with his arms folded across his chest.
It is worth noting that his appearance was a very unusual event because, until then, I had only seen him come out of the cave on a few occasions. In fact, that was the third time I did.
So, knowing that his presence there did not bode well, I moved carefully and quietly toward the cave entrance in search of that day’s dinner, trying to avoid entering his radar. However, none of it was of any help, for despite the little noise I made, he still noticed me, and the instant he did, with a subdued roar, he signaled me to join the group.
I didn’t want to do it. I was genuinely reluctant to do it because I had a bad feeling, but I couldn’t refuse to obey his instructions once he had seen me. So, following what he asked me to do, I walked towards them, specifically towards the side where the boys my age were.
Having reached the point of no return, instead of feeling regret for appearing in front of him and not hiding in the trees, I began to wonder what he wanted from me. After all, I didn’t think he was calling me to fight. It was too late to do so, as it was only a few minutes before sunset.
Also, unlike usual, the group around me was clean and uninjured, making it evident that they had not fought each other throughout the day.
Details like that prevented me from reaching a clear conclusion. So, with concern and a hint of curiosity, I waited for what would happen. However, that last emotion vanished when I saw the giant’s hand move toward my neck.
Before his touch reached me, I instinctively prepared myself to be thrown through the air as he had done to me before. Without even wondering why, I sharpened my senses and adjusted my posture to withstand the fall without much damage, but to my surprise, he did not lift me.
His hand, which was bigger than my head, stopped before it reached my neck, to be precise, it did so on my shoulder, and with a not-so-gentle pat on it, he called my attention as he pointed with his other towards the front, towards the clearing where I once fought.
Surprised, practically dazed, with a nod of my head that came without thinking, I advanced to where he pointed.
When I got there, initially, I didn’t know what would happen, let alone what he wanted. However, as I watched him throw one of the boys in the air, I understood that the time for my second fight had come.
Why? Taking advantage of the fact that my brain was working at full speed, as well as the period it would take for his fall and recovery, I began to think about those questions that bothered me so much.
Why me? Why didn’t he throw me away? Why is he the only one here? Where is the old man, or didn’t he send him here? What does he want from me?
Unfortunately, the lack of time prevented me from considering sufficiently such questions that seemed easy to answer, for before I could do so, the boy, my opponent, excited about the fight, rushed towards me.
Because I was distracted, I was about to receive a few blows to the face, but just before he reached my side, I managed to cover myself with my defensive posture.
His punches rained down on my body. These were the same as the previous ones or even heavier due to the time and experience we had gained since then. However, his attacks did not hurt me as much, for after having gone through such a terrible first experience, this one seemed minor.
Thus, I confidently held on until, without waiting for him to make a big mistake, I threw a power punch toward his head with my right hand, which he dodged.
Now that I have plenty of time to think about it carefully, I consider that at that moment, it should have seemed strange to me that he had dodged it because, before that, I did not believe that they could learn so quickly. At the end of the day, they understood that my blows were powerful and had to dodge them after they saw their dead companion.
Even so, due to my previous fight and not having the right mental state to think about everything, I accepted that he would dodge me as if it was normal. No, actually, I not only did not accept it, but I also expected it, which is why, after he threw a punch to the head, with my left hand I grabbed his arm in the air and pulled him back from me.
The movement I made turned out just as I had planned. So, without delay, I proceeded to do the next thing I had in mind.
With my opponent behind me, I raised both arms bent to bring my elbows to the level of my head and, after firmly planting my left foot on the ground, with the other in the air, I turned around at full speed to hit him with a spinning kick to his stomach.
Regrettably, since he was out of my line of sight, I couldn’t see his position in time. Besides, added to the fact that my aim was not the best of all, my hit ended up missing its target miserably.
I didn’t fail badly, or maybe I did, but at least, not for me, but for him, because the kick that I threw with almost all my strength hit him directly in his neck, which was lower than usual after he lost his balance after I pulled him.
I don’t think there is any need to remember the result that followed that blow. Nor do I wish to do so. But in short, what came next was him clutching the damaged area with both hands while blood gushed out of his mouth, in which his loud aspirations could be heard since he was desperate due to lack of air.
What a big lie is to say that things become easier to bear when they happen twice. Ultimately, I, who had resolved never to make a mistake that would kill someone again, still did it again, even more effectively than before, which made me feel like an asshole.
Worst of all, I am sure that if the boy had received first aid, he probably could have stayed alive long enough for his wound to heal. However, no one helped him. No one did, for in that place, there were just savages who only knew how to fight and kill but not how to help. Including me, of course.
My second opponent also died. He did so amidst applause, roars of euphoria, and surprised looks.
When my fight was over, having calmed the beasts who were eager to be the next to fight, the giant walked over to where I was standing and, after giving me a couple of pats on the shoulder in apparent praise or congratulations for my victory, he returned to the cave where he had come from.
The storm that had come so suddenly disappeared just as abruptly. However, at that moment, I understood that it could return whenever it wanted, so I had to be prepared to withstand its hurricane-force winds.
So, in subsequent days, with much effort, I prepared myself with training focused on practicing non-lethal attacks and overcoming my fear of getting hurt. All this I did so that no one else would die because of me, but… I failed. I couldn’t help it.
When my third fight took place, another death occurred.