Chapter 9 (An extended break)
Kkaj rested in one of the large white chairs in the waiting room, glad the king’s healers were so skilled. I’ll just close my eyes for —
Lorboj walked around the drink counter in the center of the room and approached Kkaj. The soft carpet swished under each of Lorboj’s dragging steps, and his clenched jaw reminded Kkaj of a wild horse who had just been captured. What was his problem?
Kkaj rolled his neck, digging his head deeper into the soft cushion of the chair.
The liquor-burning lamps swayed back and forth.
His muscles relaxed. His eyes slid shut until the stink of a rose perfume climbed into his nose. He groaned. “What do you want, Lorboj? Can’t you just wait to say it to me in the ring?”
Lorboj spat on the blue carpet and knocked over the purple lamp on the small table beside Kkaj. Shatter! The liquor spread across the carpet, and it caught fire. Black smoke filled the room, and a brief moment later, officials rushed into the room to put it out. They glanced between Kkaj and Lorboj as if they had been fighting.
Kkaj pointed at Lorboj. “He did it. I have nothing to do with his foolishness.”
A balding official narrowed his eyes while glaring at Lorboj. “Please stop bothering the active participants.”
“Kkaj arched an eyebrow.
“I’m not bothering anyone.” A deep frown tugged Lorboj’s lips to his jaw line. “I’m only trying to have a friendly conversation with him.”
“Friendly?” the official asked.
“I bumped into the lamp.”
The officials finished cleaning then left the waiting room.
Kkaj stretched. “So, I’m fighting Yazar in the finals? That’s a surprise.”
Lorboj shook his head. “No. She also lost.”
Kkaj’s brow furrowed.
A deflating sigh slumped Lorboj’s shoulders. “Did you not watch any of the other matches?”
Lorboj slapped himself in the forehead. “Why? Don’t you care what techniques your opponents use?”
“This time, yes.”
“Because Merkaej is a monster.”
Kkaj looked up and to the left. “I swear I’ve heard that name before.”
“It’s the one-armed man, you fool!”
“That’s it.” Kkaj slapped his fist into his palm. “I knew his name sounded familiar.”
“You have to be —”
“Was one beating not enough for you?” a gravelly voice asked.
“Merkaej moved up beside Lorboj and patted him on the back. “You’re just lucky that I —”
“Not you, too.” A groan sprang through Kkaj’s pursed lips. “Why is everyone coming over here to bother me?” He threw his hands in the air and closed his eyes.
Markaej made a smacking sound. “I’m going to crush you in —”
“Go away. Both of you.”
One set of feet shuffled away.
Sleep crept up from the sides.
“I’m not finished speaking yet,” Markaej said. “You need to know —”
“Shut your damn mouth and get out of my sight before I have the officials disqualify you for disturbing an opponent.”
Markaej made a grunting noise as if someone had hit him in the gut, but he didn’t make another sound.
Kkaj relaxed and allowed sleep to trample him.
Next: Chapter 10