Ken and Anna walked down the stairs to the tavern below. There were a few patrons enjoying a pleasant afternoon drink or meal, but most were gathered around a table in the middle of the tavern, and in the center of it all were Asuna and Zander.

"Way to go Asuna!" Clapped Arturia, "You got this!"

"Come on Zander, I bet five gold on this with the halfling over there!" Shouted Sebastian in his ear.

The two were arm wrestling.

"You did what? We need that!" Zander said as he strained his arm.

"Then win, dumbass!"

"I'm not gonna let a little tiefling take me out." He winced.

"Yeah well a little whatever you said is about to kick your ass." Said Asuna, smug and unwavering.

"Wait, you don't-" his arm slammed to the table. Asuna won.

The spectators cheered, "Last round! Last round!"

Ken leaned over to the elven barmaid, "How long have they been going at this?"

She giggled, "They're doing first to win ten. Evenly tied now at nine each." The woman held up a chalkboard with tally marks and bets that had been placed.

"Fascinating…" Ken watched the two take a brief moment to rest.

Asuna removed the top of her gi, going down to the black tank top she wore underneath, then used it to wipe the sweat away from her brow before tossing it to the side. Arturia reached up and caught it from the air.

Zander grinned, the first time any of them had seen him smile. "So, guess the warmup is over huh?" He unbuckled the straps of his leather armor and let it clunk to the floor.

Asuna grinned in return, "Show's about to start, gramps."

"Gramps? How old do you think I am!?"

"I dunno. Fourty?"

"I'm twenty six!"

"Whatever, let's get to it."

The two sat back down at the table and clasped their hands together.

Their eyes met, each scooting in their seat to get comfortable. Their palms were sweaty, making it hard to get a decent grip.

"Our bet still on?"

"Oh HELL yeah."

"Hang on!" Said Ken, "You two have your own bet? How much?"

"It's not for money." Said Zander.

"I'm fresh out of that anyway. It's something deeper."

"Then what is it?"

The two gave him a side eye, "It's a secret."

Sebastian put his hand to his face and winced, "I'm getting a migraine from these buffoons. Just GO already!"

The table splintered and cracked as the two instantly gave their all. Ken watched in amazement, and beside him Anna took a seat on a stool.

"You were holding back!" Winced Asuna.

"Didn't wanna embarrass you." Zander let out a strained chuckle.

The two were locked in a total stalemate, trembling as their muscles flexed to the maximum. Asuna's hand started to heat up and smoke arose from between her fingers. Zander gritted his teeth.

"Ah! Not that tiefling bullshit!"

"Well this tee fooling bullshit is gonna burn your hand if you don't give up!"

"You seriously don't know what a tiefling is, huh?"

"Don't matter to me."

"You've got devil blood in you, kid." Zander said as his hand burned and turned red.


"Tell ya what," He said as the two remained deadlocked, "If you win I'll teach ya all about them. If I win then you have to be my new training partner."

"That wasn't the-"

"Yeah well I'm changing the deal."


The table shattered and the two fell to the floor.

The crowd murmured amongst themselves, and the two shakily got back to their feet. They eyed each other viciously, and grabbed their hands together again. There was a pause, and they started to laugh.

"Rematch sometime?"

"You got it old timer."

The two put their arms around each others shoulders and limped over to the corner booth where they soon collapsed, utterly exhausted.

"Hey! What about my bets!" Shouted a patron.

"Now now, hold on a moment!" Said Sebastian squeemishly, "We'll just return your gold and you can bet again next time! Fair?"

As Sebastian argued with the man in the background Ken put his hand lightly on Anna's shoulder, "Well that was a show and a half! Ready to head out now?"

"Head out? To where?"

"Well you can't see the Duke looking like that!" He pointed to her dress.

She looked down, she'd hardly thought about it. It was a simple light green dress that had once been very pretty. But now it was ill fitting and tattered, caked in mud and a few dried specks of blood. Her shoes, a pair of soft black flats, were also falling to pieces and caked in filth.

"Mira said she'll help you pick something out at the local seamstress shop, she knows women's fashion better than I." He smiled and laughed.

"Mira said that?"

"Of course, girls help other girls, as she said."

Anna's frown softened a little. The two left the tavern together to start their day of shopping.

Back inside, Sebastian had finished his disagreement with the patron and was now helping the barmaid clean up the shattered remnants of the wooden table.

"Oh my," she said picking up one of the legs, "it looks like someone forgot to put all the screws in here! No wonder the damn thing broke."

"How unfortunate! I wonder how that could've happened?" Said Sebastian, smiling ear to ear.

Back - Next