The nine gathered in front of us in two rows, five in front and four behind them. The middle one of the five was the slightly taller one, looking buff and not as stupid as I'd hoped. He probably was a very good fighter. The ones standing directly next to him did most of the talking. For a moment I wondered if they had names for each other.
I was reminded, for a moment, of a music clip from a long time ago, where two groups of people were battling each other, break-dance-style. The tension, the rest of the group just cheering on those in the middle. I'd never really seen people fighting like we were now.
A thought came into my head. "So, we are fighting for rule over the city. The one who loses leaves and takes their group with him, or her."
The two on either side of the fighter nodded to each other. "Only the two in the middle fight. No weapons, only the body."
I nodded. "And the others are to bear witness to the defeat or victory."
They all nodded in unison. They stepped back, a bit disorderly, to make a half-circle around their fighter. He was almost a head taller than me and quite broad shouldered. In school I always hated the type. Jocks... No brain, all game. Fortunately I wasn't in their usual scope of prey. The look of the guy was even worth of being called disdainful.
I just smiled.
"I guess this is it."
The guy nodded and spoke in a surprisingly proper voice. "Yes it is. I won't go easy on you, you've bothered us enough."
I blinked, then smiled. "Ah, so you do have some intelligence in you."
He shrugged. "Are you going to talk me to death?"
I smiled. "If it works, sure. Words are the best weapons sometimes. I presume we fight until someone gives up?"
He nodded. "That is how it will be."
For a moment I presumed he was going to remove his shirt or something and strike a dramatic fighting pose. But he just waited to see what I was going to do. I guess he really was smarter than I gave him credit for. Maybe he could even give me a challenge.
The others stepped back further to give us more space. We walked around in a circle, facing each other, trying to judge the strength of the opponent. To my surprise, everyone kept silent and just watched. Were they planning something or did they really went all-out on this one guy.
What would happen if I lost?
Would the others be able to go through with the plan? Would they be able to burn the others, even if I was still here?
If I wasn't able to prevail here, a lot would be lost. But I guess that is the risk you sometimes play with. I felt like a spore in a pond, fighting for survival against the hostile world around me. But the world wasn't that hostile, friends and a new family surrounded me. I had something to fight for, something to live for.
Something in me made me look up, time slowed down.
The guy made use of my mental distraction to attack. A punch was heading my way. Purely on instinct my body responded, but I was aware of it. A little like when I was crossing the street, I felt how some movements were possible. I raised my hand and caught his fist in it.
And that should have been it.
But my hand didn't capture the full energy of his blow. I was pushed back almost to the point of falling over. I steadied myself but I really hadn't expected his first punch to have this much of an effect.
He was looking at me in surprise of my reactions, but then grinned at the effect of his punch. He'd seen the surprise in my eyes as well. This was not good.
It wasn't going to be an easy fight.