Chapter 10

Chapter 10

A Chapter by Iron K. Tager
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The tenth chapter.

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The sun was already behind the horizon when Ruoiu and Jeremy arrived back at the village.  The villagers were lighting their lamps on either side of the road, giving the buildings a dim glow.  Some of the villagers were starting to move in the same direction: a small roof extension in front of the now-lit dojo that Jeremy had stopped in front of before.  People were crowding around a large, bulky figure that was slouched over to fit under the small roof extension.
            Ruoiu thought out loud as she looked into the sky with her hands locked behind her head.  “I was almost sure it wasn’t this late,” she shook her head at the ground; “I guess time flies when you’re havin’ fun.”  She shrugged her shoulders, laughing ironically, and then looked up to notice the bulky figure.  “Ahh, there’s the main event himself,” she pointed out. 

They walked up to the outside of the crowd, and Jeremy could barely make out the Rhino’s appearance.  He could identify their short, spiky white hair, and noticed he was wearing a white shirt, but it just looked like a white hill with many people congregated around it. 

“So, you said you knew this guy, right?” Ruu asked.
            “Yeah, a day or two ago,” Jeremy talked and the figure rose, but he did not notice, “though I’m not sure if he remembers me or not.”
            “Little human?” the unbelievably deep and overpowering voice of Rhino came from the figure that was slowly drudging through the crowd towards where Jeremy was.  It was obvious that the crowd around him was not exactly for him.  He stood up straight once he was through the crowd and out from the extended roof.  His square face and his full attire were now visible.  He was in a white tunic with white pants and a black belt, like those in karate; but, of course, it looked like it was custom made for his size.  “You did survive!” he jeered and lightly nudged his fist on Jeremy’s shoulder, grinning.  “Nice for you to come here and watch.”
            Jeremy stood still smiling uncomfortably, still intimidated by Rhino’s big size.  Ruoiu spoke for him: “yeah, he really wanted to come here and see his friend in action, I guess.” She smiled.
            A bell rang inside, and Rhino looked towards the entrance.  “Be sure to cheer the others on,” he laughed back at them, and hunched over to go under the extended roof and into the dojo building.

“I’ll be sure to!”  Ruoiu responded.
            “O-ok,” Jeremy managed to say, shaking off the discomfort her felt.
            Ruoiu sighed.  “Well it won’t be too different.  He always wins anyway,” she shrugged.  They both began to walk in with the rest of the crowd through the entrance doorway, to the right, and then a U-turn around back to the other side of the wall they went around, which had simple black and white tapestries on either side.
            Jeremy surveyed the large room for as long as he could without being an obstruction.  On either side of a slightly raised ring in the center made of packed dirt, maybe a foot above the ground, were what look like wooden bleachers, mostly filled with men and some women, and rose to as high as they it could go without hitting the spectator’s heads on the ceiling.  He was being pushed from behind by the increasing crowd, so he followed Ruoiu to the right of the entrance-way.
            “Well now!  Didn’t expect to see you two here,” Soro called from the other side of the stands.  He was surrounded by two or three other men of varying ages, who all seemed to be having fun with their conversation.  “Come here for a slice of culture, I wonder?” he asked.
            “Yeah,” Jeremy said, not sure.  “Something like that.”  He was still set on looking around the room at all of the commotion.  The more he looked, the more he noticed that groups were being formed out of the attendees.
            “He just wanted to see a friend’s all,” Ruoiu responded.  “And I doubt you could call this culture,” she said shadily.
            “Ah-Haha!  Girls like you wouldn’t know the sophistication of a sport between men,” Soro huffed teasing Ruu.  “Then again...” he leaned towards her jestingly.
            “Quiet, old man,” Ruoiu responded.  “I actually like this kind of stuff a little.”
            Soro put up his hands.  ”Sorry, sorry.  So you know Badak do you?” Soro turned to Jeremy.  “I do wonder were you’ve been...  Oh!  Where are my manners?” he questioned himself.  “Jeremy, these are some buffoons from town.”  The men cheered and laughed.  “Buffoons, this is Jeremy.  He just recently moved here.”  They all exchanged very brief welcomes, and Jeremy and Ruoiu sat down between Soro and the far wall from the entrance.
            One of the men tapped Jeremy on the shoulder.  “So kid, were ya from?”
            “Eh.  A-America,” Jeremy said again, hoping the same ignorance will save him twice.
            “Hmm?  Never heard of it,” he responded, “where would that be?”
            Jeremy looked around for an answer, trying to come up with one.  Again, he gave a false answer:  “I sort of lost my direction coming here, so I don’t really know.”  He pretended to make a forgetful face.  It wasn’t a complete lie, since he didn’t know any direction of this place to begin with.
            “Really?  Huh, never mind then,” the man concluded, satisfied with this answer, and then turned back around to rejoin the group.
            Ruoiu glared at Jeremy, who turned to her and suddenly, surprised by the close attention she is giving him.  “Wh-what is it?”
            “You know...” she said suspiciously, “you haven’t said one thing solid since you got here... and you’re always acting weird, like you’re hiding something.”  Her eyelids squinted more, and Jeremy felt like he was being seen right through.
            “Well, umm... you see...” he stuttered out, “really, I-” Soro noticed Jeremy and then hopped around to look at them from his seat. 

“Y’know,” he slouched his head in front of himself, drawing himself closer to both of them, which caused both Ruoiu and Jeremy to look at him oddly.  He looked over at Ruu, “you should really be nice.”
            “I got it I got it, just don’t get so close,” she dropped the original thought.  “It’s weird.”  She turned forward again towards the ring, and Soro turned to Jeremy and gave him a trusting wink.
            After a few minutes, a man dressed in the same, but smaller version of Rhino’s white sparring outfit walked out from what looked like an entrance to a back room and onto the ring.  Slowly, silence fell over the audience, and the man in the ring raised his right fist into the air.  “May any combatants, come forward!”
            “You’re up,” Ruoiu slapped Jeremy on the back.  “Make me proud,” she grinned and winked at him.
            “W-wait, what?” Jeremy asked surprised, “I don’t remember signing up for this.”
            “You don’t need to sign up, it’s a walk-in deal,” she said, standing up and grabbing Jeremy’s arm.  “Now go!” she demanded as she used her momentum to swing him up from his seat and towards a line of people. He ran the man in the back of the line, but the man does not budge, or seem to even notice.  Jeremy looked back at Ruoiu, who had her thumb up, and Soro, who was just smiling at the scene, almost in sarcastic innocence.
            “Do you think he’ll do ok?” Soro asked Ruu.
            “No.  He’s already beaten,” she shrugged and pointed at the line of men Jeremy was in, which all of them were much larger than he was.  “Unless he can miraculously get a foot taller and grow some muscle in the next two minutes, I think he’s out.  It just looked like it was going to be boring,” she explained half-heartedly, sitting back down with her arms crossed.
            The line moved forward rather quickly, and in only another minute Jeremy was at the front.  The man who was in the center of the ring earlier was now writing on a clipboard-like item, and looked up at Jeremy.  He smiled a little and huffs, “how long you think you’re gonna last?”
            “I’m… not too sure of that myself,” Jeremy responded, scratching the back of his head and trying to make it seem funny.  “I’ll do my best?”
            The man wrote a few things down on his clipboard and then took a numbered ticket from a small table against the wall.  “Here ya go,” he handed the ticket to Jeremy.  “Good Luck.”
            Jeremy thanked the man, and then took the ticket and walked back over to where Soro and Ruu were sitting. 

            With hands locked together, two opposing forces tried to move each-other out of the ring.  Tensed muscles, sweat, burly voices grunted out mocking words, and forces so large that those in the room could practically feel their struggle; all this came from either side until one was able to move the other out and emerge victorious.  Once the match was over, each combatant shook the other’s hand and the crowd would cheer in spite or respect.  Jeremy watched uncomfortably as men much larger than him forced all of their strength on each other.  Finally it was his turn to go up.
            The room again fell silent as his opponent entered the ring.  A few snide comments followed Jeremy’s entering the ring, but that held not weight, as he could only focus on their difference in size, trying to not make it seem so bad.  The man was not too much larger than him, but Jeremy could tell he was going to lose.  He could feel the eyes around him zone in on his inferior stature and he tried to calm down.  Two drums signified the beginning of the match, so Jeremy and the other man forcefully locked hands and began to push on one another, and the crowd began to cheer and jeer at one opponent or the other.  As with the usual beginning of the match, neither was moving very far.  Though Jeremy could feel himself losing ground already, his opponent’s decision to force himself down while out helped Jeremy hold on.
            “He’s actually lasting longer than I thought he would,” Ruoiu laughed to Soro, but noticed he wasn’t laughing, just looking and smiling.  “What?” she asked.
            “Look.” He pointed to Jeremy’s feet. 
            She looked at his feet.  ”I don’t see anything special,” she said skeptically.  “Just some shaking.  You sure that trainin’ of yours is good?”
            “Shh.  Wait for the next time one of his feet slide.”  They both stared at Jeremy’s feet for the slightest bit of movement.  Then Jeremy’s right foot slid slightly across the ground, causing a very faint, almost unnoticeable spark to come from it before the foot caught itself. 

“See?” Soro pointed out.
            Ruoiu looked at him with one of her eyebrows arched.  “And, what’s all that mean?” she asked him.
            “He’s really trying to win, I guess,” he responded, and then looked at Jeremy and added, more to himself, “that’s it... every last challenge will make him stronger.  Every last push will unlock more.”  Soro grinned as everyone else continued to cheer and yell at the continuing match.  “Even though he’s much younger than the others here, he’s fine.  He’s even got that drive still in em.”
            Ruoiu looked back at Jeremy and laughed a little, “oh yeah, you did tell me he has good whatever.”  She shrugged, “but, he’s no match for me.”  She locked her hands behind her head and leaned back, ignoring the noise around her. 

            Jeremy lost his round after only a few minutes, and returned to his seat with another odd smile and his head hung slightly.  His back was what hurt the most, and even his legs were feeling some strain.  A light dabbing of sweat tried to cool him off, but the room was already humid with it.

The matches went forward without anything different happening, but the numbers of combatants were being whittled down until it was only the final two left.  Their match went like any other: continuous force upon one-another to push their opponent out of the ring.  When one emerged victorious, and the other one was picking themselves off the ground; the room cheered, and then grew silent as they all looked towards the back room.
            Deep steps could be heard slowly growing louder as the Rhino moved towards the door, one of his large hands moved the cloth covering of the doorway to the side and shifted sideways to enter the room.  The room’s roof was high, so he was able to stand up straight and look at the crowd before him.
            The man who had announced the beginning and have given the numbers came up to him with the winner of the competition.  “This man will face you,” he said, presenting the victorious man, who looked about half the size of Rhino.
            “I will be your opponent, Badak,” Said the winner.
            “I accept,” The Rhino said in response, and they both moved to the ring.
            “Badak?” Jeremy whispered to Soro.
            “That’s his real name,” Soro responded, “he just goes by ‘Rhino’ as a nickname, sort of.”
            Badak and the man both bowed to each-other, stance their legs apart, and then hunch down in the same way every other match went.  Two drums pounded, and the round began.  Badak and the man locked hands and started to push on each-other.
            “The end,” Ruoiu whispered to herself, chuckling.
            “You’re a good one, human,” complimented Badak as he continued to push on the strong man.  “But you’re still no match,” he leaned back, taking a pause, “for me!”  Badak pushed the winner of the competition completely out of the ring in one single motion.  The man fell backwards and onto the ground, making a loud pounding sound.  The Rhino walked up to him and said, “Good luck next time.  I look forward to facing you again.”  He bowed and walked away. 

            Outside of the dojo, the stars had long since come out, and night had completely taken over.  Many people were going home, and some lamps were beginning to get put out as they went straight to bed.  The dojo slowly grew darker, and off to the side of its entrance Jeremy and Ruoiu sat and waited for Soro to finish the conversation he was having with a few of the villagers who also saw the competition.  Jeremy heard large, heavy footsteps come up behind him, and turned to see Badak smiling at him, if only half-heartedly.
            “You did well for how little you are, human,” the Rhino commented, “I hope to face you next.”  He reached his arm around and slapped Jeremy on his back, which made Jeremy loose his balance for a second.  Badak walked away laughing hard at the apparent joke he just made.
            “Heh, that’s a good one,” Ruoiu started laughing.  “Not to sound mean or anything, but I doubt you’ll ever get even half as strong as ‘em,” she nudged Jeremy and laughed a little more.

“Yeah…” Jeremy responded, again laughing uneasily. 

 

            Jeremy and Lance were in the kitchen, cleaning up after having a late dinner.  Jeremy was washing the dishes while Lance was dried and putting them away.  Neither were very tired, which seemed odd to both considering how late it had become.  The small candles around the kitchen were beginning to get alarmingly short, but nothing needed to be done to them until they actually burnt out.

            Trying to focus on those things did not seem to deter a persistent thought in Jeremy’s head.  It was one he had since the beginning of dinner, but did not seem to find the right time to ask it.  Quickly, before the thought escaped him, he stopped washing and looked straight ahead.

            “Lance?” he asked.

            “Yes, Jeremy?”  Lance placed the plate he was cleaning on a stack of them he had made on the counter.

            “Are you sure it’s fine?”  Jeremy began.  “You know, for you to have me here?”

            “What do you mean?  Of course it is.”  Lance smiled his usual smile at Jeremy.  “It’s a pleasure to have you here, and I’m sure Lucia enjoys the company too, no matter what she might say.”

            “No, I mean… money-wise.”  Jeremy seemed a little embarrassed that he had actually brought it up.

            Lance chuckled a little and went back to drying.  “I know it might not seem like I make a lot, but it’s plenty, trust me.”  He took the stack of plates he had made to the other side of the kitchen and put them in a lower cabinet.  “Lucia isn’t going through her growth spurt yet, and I am fully grown, so we don’t need that much between the two of us.”  Lance came back over to Jeremy and put his hand on his shoulder.  “Don’t worry about it.”

            “Ok.”  Jeremy went back to cleaning the dishes.

            The rest of the cleaning did not take much time, but seemed to last much longer due to the silence that had made its way into the kitchen.  As Lance put the last of the dishes away and dumped the washing water out, Jeremy blew out most of the candles on the first floor.  When he blew out the candle near the door, he was reminded of something that had happened earlier that day.  Another question that he had to ask, and did once Lance placed the wash basin back.

            “Hey, Lance,” Jeremy began, and waited until Lance had come into view before going on, “what do you know about ghosts?”

            “Ghosts?” Lance asked.  “Why do you ask?”

            “It just… came to mind.”  Jeremy put out the second to last candle in the shop, leaving the last one for Lucia.

            “I’m afraid I don’t know too much.  Soro would be the one to ask.”  Lance leaned against the wall just outside of the kitchen as he was suddenly hit by the sleepiness he was expecting moments before.  “But if I remember, ghosts are usually the souls of people who died unfulfilled.”  He looked at Jeremy, who seemed as equally puzzled as he had before.  “As in, they died still having something they felt they had to do.  I think that’s it, though I have never seen or heard of a ghost before.”

            “Oh, ok.  Thanks,” Jeremy said as he made his way towards the stairs.

            “Anything to help,” Lance stated happily, as he turned around to head up the stairs ahead of Jeremy. 



© 2013 Iron K. Tager


Author's Note

Iron K. Tager
This is where a few big changes have started happening in relation to my revising (such as writing in new parts or swapping scenes for new ones), so it might take longer for the next few chapters to be published on here.

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Added on September 14, 2013
Last Updated on September 25, 2013
Tags: Break Down the Unknown, Jeremy, Soro, Ruoiu, Lance, Rhino, Jay, Ruu, Badak, spirits, contest, ghosts


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Iron K. Tager
Iron K. Tager

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Hello! I'm not really that good of a writer at all, but I do enjoy writing. I tend to only write things when I feel like it, so sometimes I go long stretches without putting anything down. I wrote .. more..

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