Saturday, March 17, 2018

Page 1599

((The 17 pages of St. Patrick's Day + Triple Saturday -- Page 3 of 20))
Such was the essence of life. Unfairness. That was a lesson he had somehow refused to learn as a child, despite being confronted with all the evidence in the world.

Even now, a part of him still wanted to refuse. It didn’t care how impossible the feat was or how drained he felt or even how close to dying he’d come on several occasions now.

That part of him was telling him that, sure, maybe he couldn’t beat the Senmurai, but maybe he could still outwit him. Maybe the Senmurai didn’t have what it took to be truly merciless in this tournament. Maybe he could just refuse to surrender, to force the Senmurai to make a choice of either killing him in cold blood or losing the tournament.

That was the one rule that Malast had specified, after all. Victory was achieved when one’s opponent either died or surrendered.

It was a foolish plan, to be sure, but that part of him was telling Royo to try it, anyway. To be bold and unrelenting. To be himself.

But there were at least two major problems with that plan that Royo could think of. The first was, of course, what if Hector really did just kill him? While it was true that Royo’s instinct was telling him that the young surface-dweller wouldn’t be able to do it, he also didn’t really know him well enough to gamble with his own life so confidently.

The second problem was that--even if Royo’s instinct was correct and Hector couldn’t bring himself to kill him--the choice was a false dichotomy. Hector wouldn’t actually HAVE to surrender to Royo. The fight could simply become an indefinite stalemate.

And the Senmurai was immortal, while Royo was not.

If Hector really wanted to, he could just wait Royo out, even if it took years. More likely, though, it would only take until Royo starved to death in this godforsaken place.

So, yes. Royo could no longer see a realistic path to victory in this game they were playing.

“Well?” came the voice of the Idle God. “Hidden One? Are you going to fight the Iron One or not? I may be the most patient being in all of Creation, but if you plan on surrendering, then there’s no need to draw things out.”

Royo was having a hard time just keeping his eyes open. Every muscle in his body ached. The cut on his chest that he’d received from Seyos was just an extra helping of pain, as was the freezing burn that he’d received accidentally from the one called Zeff a couple days ago. And really, he just wanted to go to sleep. To let his weary mind rest.

He had about a thousand reasons to surrender, right now. It would’ve been so easy.

And yet, he couldn’t bring himself to say the words.

Instead, he was thinking that this game was all wrong. Surely, if there was no means by which a player could achieve the proposed objective, then that was no game at all, was it? It was a foregone conclusion. Rigged.

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