A Novel By William Louison
After the fight, Kharma painfully walked back down the short, stone hallway under the seats of the Arena. She had to lean into the wooden door at the end of the hall to open it, and nearly collapsed when she stepped through. As Kharma entered the room, she was met with cheers and claps from other combatants.
Kharma managed to make it to a stone bench, but once she sat down she wasn’t sure if she would be able to get back up. Two attendants pushed their way through the crowd. One was carrying a bucket of water and the other had several towels. Even as the attendants were working on removing her armour, wiping off the blood and cleaning her wounds, many combatants came up to personally congratulate her, as well as comment on how good she had fought.
It only took the attendants a few minutes to clean Kharma off. When they were done, they helped her walk through a few hallways to a room Kharma had never been to. In the center was a fairly large sized stone bath tub. There was already water in the tub. A bar of soap, a towel and a fresh change of clothes sat on a table beside the tub.
The attendants waited patiently outside while she bathed. It took about an hour before Kharma walked out the door, wearing a very fine and expensive looking skirt that was the colour of a deep blue ocean. The skirt came all the way down to her feet, which had on a beautiful pair of black shoes that shimmered in the light. The blouse she had on was a combination of several shades of blue, with gold trim and white lace. It was a long sleeved blouse that frilled out at the wrists, while the high collar covered half of her neck.
Kharma was quite a sight to see. She had all these fancy clothes, dressed like royalty, yet they seemed uncomfortable to her. She felt as if she was too fancy and wished she had been given something a little more plain. Her skin was now clean, so the wounds she had suffered stood out greatly. Kharma’s neck was bruised in several spots all around. She had a nasty gash on the left side of her face, and a few smaller ones on the right.
“Pierce would like to see you now,” one of the attendants told her. “Will you need any assistance?”
Kharma shook her head. “I don’t think so,” Kharma told him. The warm water had soothed her muscles. It was still painful to walk, but she managed it. Besides, Kharma wanted to do it by herself. She was not used to anybody helping her with anything.
It took Kharma considerably longer to reach the Arena Manager’s office, but she made it there nonetheless. She was glad, though, to sit down once again. At the moment, it was her back that was hurting more than anything.
“Look at you,” Pierce said from his desk when she walked in. “I knew there was a real woman hiding under all that strength and anger.”
“I’m glad you think so,” Kharma told him. She reached one of the luxurious looking couches and practically fell into its cushions.
Warren was standing beside Pierce, smiling. “So,” he said to Kharma, “how does it feel to be our new champion?”
Kharma let out a breathy laugh. “It hurts.”
“That was a good fight, though,” Pierce told her. “You should just be glad you can walk away from it.”
“I knew I’d win,” Kharma said arrogantly. “I’ll be healed and healthy in a few days.”
Pierce chuckled and folded his arms across his chest. “Will you then be ready to fight again?”
“My readiness to fight,” Kharma told him cleverly, “will depend on how much you’re offering.”
Pierce smiled as he rose from the chair. He walked out to stand in front of his desk and pulled out a leather purse. “Now there’s an attitude,” he said, opening the purse and reaching inside. “For this fight, you will earn the most that you ever have and ever will again. I can, however, for future fights insure at least twice of what your other fights were.”
Kharma’s face lit up. “A half crown each time?”
“At the smallest amount,” Pierce told her, his face also alive at the talk of money. “It could very well be a lot more, depending on how much money people bet and how many bets are placed.”
“And how much do I get for beating your champion?” she asked impatiently.
Pierce pulled his hand out of his purse, counted the coins in his hand and then reached in to grab another one. He tucked the purse back into his coat. Kharma saw the glitter of gold between his fingers but was not surprised. She expected no less.
“Because you fought so good,” Pierce was saying, walking towards Kharma, “and the entertainment was quite good.” He held out his hand and spilled the gold into Kharma’s cupped palms. “That’s ten gold crowns.”
Kharma knew that it was a large and very generous sum of money. However, she didn’t want to show that she was surprised or even thankful for the money. During her life in crime, she had learned that if she showed gratitude, her employers would think that she was happy with what they were giving her. If she appeared happy and content, they would never see a need to increase her pay. Kharma assumed that by seeming not happy with the money, her employers would become nervous that she might quit. Kharma had learned long ago that in order to survive she had to be able to manipulate, intimidate and take advantage of anybody, regardless of if they were paying her or not.
Kharma took the money, as if it was just an average, everyday occurrence for her to get such a grand sum. “Thank you for your time,” she said in plain voice. “And for the opportunity.”
Pierce was just a little disappointed. He had hoped to see just a little bit of emotion from Kharma, but he had learned quickly that in financial and monetary matters, a stone showed more emotion than she did. “The opportunity was mine,” he said meaningfully. “You have an arena full of fans now, which will keep coming back every time you fight. That’s more business for me.”
“I’m glad I could help then,” Kharma said with a light smile. An expression of pain distorted her face when she tried to rise from the couch.
Pierce’s hands were at her side in an instant. “Do you need a hand?” he asked.
Kharma shook her head and tried to smile. “My back was just cramping,” she lied, forcing herself to stand straight.
Pierce could see that she was in immense pain and wanted desperately to tell her that she should not walk for at least a day. He didn’t want to hurt Kharma’s pride, though, so he decided on something else to say. “All the facilities the Arena has to offer are yours now. Feel free to use any as you please. I hope to see you fight again soon.”
“I’m sure you do,” Kharma said with a suddenly exerted voice. Once she had sat down for a few minutes, her wounds and bruises felt even more painful. Her entire body felt sore, and it was all she could do to just walk out of the room.
Pierce watched her go, without anymore offerings of help. When the door closed behind her, Pierce turned to Warren. “Somehow, her victory feels a little hollow to me. I should be happy for her.”
“She got what she wanted,” Warren said with a shrug. “I guess that’s all that matters to her.”
Pierce was nodding in agreement. He walked back over to his desk and sat down, letting out a long sigh. “She’s a stubborn girl.” There was a hint of annoyance in his voice. “She could be so much greater if she didn’t have such attitude.”
“It’s the life she’s lived,” Warren suggested. “I think she’s had a hard life.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Pierce said, a little sharper than he intended. “She needs to clean her act up. One of these days, that attitude of hers is going to get her in a lot of trouble.”
Not The End
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