Chapter 103

The concrete crunched under the forceful impact of Roy’s substantial form crashing against it.

“Getting tired?” Roy croaked from his prone position on the ground. “That last one lacked your usual flair.”

“Did it?” Chad asked. “I’ll be sure to make up the difference on this one.”

“I appreciate it,” Roy said, pulling himself vertical. “I’m not here for the B course after all.”

Chad did something then that Roy hadn’t seen from him so far, something to his knowledge no one had witnessed.

Chad laughed.

“You know, for all of your flaws, you’ve got tenacity,” Chad said, chuckling to himself. “It’s refreshing, even after all these weeks. I’d started thinking there was no one who could take my strength and keep coming.”

“And all this from the guy who wasn’t even worthy to fight you,” Roy said, smiling as he tried to get his feet steady.

“Indeed,” Chad said. “It almost makes me wish you were on my level. I think fighting someone with your resolve at a higher talent level would benefit me greatly.”

“Then you take this as a Roy Daniels promise: when I’m stronger than you, I’ll still be your sparring partner.”

“I appreciate the intent,” Chad said, taking a stance as he prepared to bring Roy down again. “You do know that you’ll never be better than I am, though, don’t you?”

“I know that you think that,” Roy said. He charged forward, left arm swinging around at Chad’s head. Chad easily stepped to the side, caught Roy’s arm, and wrenched it around to his back.

“With moves like that, you’ll lucky to even land a blow on me before the year’s end,” Chad said. He expected Roy to make another witty comment before Chad swept his legs out from under him and deposited him on the ground. What met his ears was something entirely different.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAH!” Roy released a gut wrenching scream, one that tore at his very vocal chords. Chad was taken by surprise. He was behind Roy, pulling Roy’s left arm to his back against Roy’s considerable struggling, ready to send him sprawling. It should have hurt him, yes, but not nearly enough for a reaction like that. Fleetingly Chad wondered if his continuous beatings had somehow left lasting nerve damage that the healers hadn’t gotten. It was only a half second of doubt and confusion, yet almost instantly Chad realized what had cost him.

The fingers of Roy’s right hand wrapped around Chad’s left bicep. Chad felt the arm in his grip dangle weightlessly, his hold no longer effective as Roy turned around to face him.

“You... ripped your entire left arm out of socket?”

“And screamed loud enough to distract you while I did it,” Roy said. “See, for guys with our kind of strength, it’s hard to tell the difference between regular struggling and bone-shattering effort. It all feels the same weighed against our power.”

He was right. Chad had felt him bucking against his grip, but Chad had assumed it was merely his usual boisterous escape attempts.

“A good point,” Chad said. “Now what, though? Your left arm is useless and you know I’ll break that grip you have on me in no time. You still can’t win.”

“Newsflash, Blondie,” Roy said, gritting his teeth through the pain that his left arm was broadcasting. “I’m not trying to win.” In one motion Roy jerked Chad forward, digging his hand deep into the arm and pulling forward with all his weight. Chad braced himself for a throw, reaching out for Roy’s shoulder to reverse it before he was airborne. That was to his detriment, because too late he realized the meaning of Roy’s words.

“Dodge, fucker,” Roy said, slamming his head directly into Chad’s temple. The world dissolved into static and Chad’s head swam in pain. He wasn’t so far gone that he forgot his years of experience, and by the time his vision cleared he had placed Roy back onto the concrete with considerable force.

“You lose, yet again,” Chad said, his vision clearing to reveal a badly-battered Roy coughing up blood from the ground.

“Yeah, I do,” Roy said, his voice ragged. “But I hit you.”

Chad felt a soft trickle of blood run down his cheek. He sealed the cut on the side of his head immediately, but there was no denying the damage that had been dealt.

“You tore your arm out of socket and sacrificed every advantage in our confrontation just to land one blow?”

“Damn right,” Roy said, pushing himself up with his right arm. It took him a moment to get standing, but he made it eventually. He faced Chad once more, right arm pulled into a fighting position, left arm dangling uselessly at his side.

“That was an insane gamble,” Chad remarked.

“It wasn’t just some gamble. I’ve paid to attention to your favorite moves in response to how I come at you. I’ve watched your style all these weeks, and I knew if I ran at you dumbly, you’d put me in a lock before dropping me. I had a feeling you’d defend against a throw over a headbutt, too.”

“What made you assume that?”

“Because you fight with polish and tactics, and you always go for the win. People like you defend like the other guy has the same thing in mind. It would never occur to you that I’d be going for a head-butt instead of trying to toss you out of the circle and win,” Roy explained.

“Because it’s ludicrous,” Chad pointed out.

It was Roy’s turn to laugh. “Yeah, yeah it is. But it worked.”

Chad shook his head. “I suppose it did. So you finally hit me, Roy. Now what?”

“Now I go for two,” Roy said, flexing his right hand and cracking the knuckles.

One minute ago Chad would have dismissed such a notion as sheer foolishness. Now, he merely nodded and took his own stance. Roy Daniels was lacking in training, refinement, and overall skill, but he had determination in spades. Chad knew firsthand how dangerous that particular quality could be. He wouldn’t be underestimating his opponent again.

“Whenever you’re ready,” Chad said.