While You Studied the Blade

“While you studied the blade, I was partying for raids.”

“Aww geez, do you really have to-“

“While you mastered the blockchain, I was battling platinum players.”

“Natalie, this is embarrassing.”

“While you cultivated inner strength, I pursued combo perfection.”

“Look, I’m sorry alright-“

“So, now that finals are coming and the teachers are breathing down your neck, you have the audacity to come to me for help?”

“Well, I was until you gave me that tirade. Ugh, I knew I shouldn’t have asked.”

Natalie crossed her arms and looked at the other girl. She was tall and slim yet had a duelist’s physique of tight muscle that came from years of swordsmanship. Despite her cute face, well rounded hips and perky breasts packed into a trendy leotard, her most noticeable features were the green scales that covered her arms and legs, terminating into claws hands and feet reminiscent of a large lizard. The large, reptilian tail sprouting from her backside completed the picture of, and declared her as, a Lizardman- just like Natalie.

Of course this girl, a few years younger than Natalie herself, was far, far more attractive. Natalie’s brown hair was kept in an unorganized mess of a ponytail compared to the neat order of the other girl’s and her face was devoid of make-up, bags under her eyes from staying up too late a few too many times. While she wasn’t overweight by any means, she lacked the attractive musculature of the other Lizardman though it was hard to tell thanks to the loose, comfortable clothing she wore. Getting dressed up like this other girl was… too much effort.

“Listen, if you’re not going to help then I’m going to just go.” The other Lizardman said. “I’ve got sword practice later and want to find a few guys in the kendo club to duel. I just need some help on my math homework.”

“Fine, fine.” Natalie sighed, holding out her hand. “You have the payment, right?”

The other girl looked uncomfortable as she touched her bag. “Y-yeah, though it’s really embarrassing.” Natalie merely gestured and the girl groaned. Looking about for anyone who might be watching, she quickly reached into her bag and pulled out a box before shoving it into Natalie’s hands.

Natalie’s clawed hand held up the box in full view as she inspected it. “Ahhh, the Doki-Doki Kobold Ranger #4. Excellent condition too.” With a nod of her head, she tucked it away into a bag at her side before taking a sheaf of papers from the girl. Flicking through the papers she clacked her tongue and said, “You really have difficulty with this?”

“Look, some of us actually follow the Lizardman way of life and do shit other than stay indoors all day and play video games or watch nerd shit, okay?”

“It’s not nerd shit it’s- ugh.” Natalie stifled another lecture. She’d gotten used to it by now. When people first started finding her to help with their school assignments she’d often inform them that her way of life was far more preferable than the stuffy swordplay her mother and all the other Lizardmen lived by. These days it wasn’t worth the effort. Really though, what was so important about being good with a sword anyway?

Sighing, Natalie started powering through the work, doing even advanced calculations without using a calculator. The other Lizardman stared on in surprise at the speed of her work. “Wow. You really are all that.”

“What, you think they’d lie to you about me?”

“I mean, I guess not.” She tapped her chin. “It’s weird though, why would you drop out of college if you’re this good at math and stuff?”

“That’s none of your business.” Natalie said, frown appearing on her face. This was another topic she stopped bothering to talk about.

“Fine, fine. Whatever.” The other girl said, drawing and inspecting her sword. A good piece of steel, though it seemed a poor fit for her- not that Natalie was the best judge of these things. She hadn’t touched a sword in ages.

Natalie worked a few minutes longer before clicking her pencil closed and handing the papers back to the girl. “There, it’s done. I included a sheet of formulae you really ought to know before your test. High chances these are the important ones.”

“Huh, cool.” The girl said, taking her papers back and leafing through them. “You’re sure this is all correct, right?”

“Yes, now get out of here.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice.” The girl said before shaking her head. “You’re a weirdo, you know that?”

“So I’ve been told.” Natalie said, picking up her bag and shouldering it. Without another word she left the pretty young Lizardman behind and headed out of the cafe where their meeting took place. Clawed feet clicking on the pavement, she moved quickly through the people on the sidewalk with her head down low. Most people ignored her, which was just as well- she didn’t have the stomach for more interactions today.

Natalie chose that cafe for her meetings due to the proximity to her apartment and the excellent lattes they served. Her encounters there were as brief as she could make them however, especially whenever a certain handsome barista named Drake was working. He had a habit of smiling at her whenever she ordered her drink and frankly it ruined the rest of her day whenever he did so. It was rather hard to concentrate afterward with her embarrassment, so thankfully he wasn’t present today. It wouldn’t have been the first time she made some mistakes on someone’s paper because of it.

Closing the door to her apartment behind her, she sighed in relief at the hot air that washed over her. One benefit to being cold blooded is that she didn’t have to pay for air conditioning in the summer and in the winter the heat generated from her electronics in the confined space was enough to keep her warm. While the late May heat was nice outside, it was positively sweltering in here- just the way she liked it.

With a sigh she set her bag on the table and removed her sweater exposing pale skin and a plain, yet functional bra. Her pants went next until she was in her underclothing. Tossing the clothing to the side, she rummaged through her bag and pulled out the figurine. Yes, it was a fine figure and one she’d wanted for some time to complete her collection. The only trouble was, the best place to get it was a store in the mall and she’d rather not go there. A smirk crossed her face however at the thought of that Lizardman girl like her walking into a store like that though.

“Ehehe,” she chuckled while moving through her small apartment. Stopping at a particular shelf, she tapped her chin before shifting a few figurines aside and placing this new one with the others in the collection. Finally, she had all five of the Doki-Doki Kobold Rangers! Her enjoyment was short lived- this felt lacking somehow. Shaking her head, she turned around and caught a glimpse of something half hidden in dirty clothes and pizza boxes.

Frowning, she pushed the clutter to the side. Sitting on an old, dust covered stand was a sheathed bastard sword. Despite layers of dust, the red of the sheath showed through, as well as an engraved symbol of a heart. Her eyes lingered on the sword for a few moments and she felt her hand twitching as if to reach out and grab it. She caught herself before grabbing it however and cursed, turning about and stalking over to her desk. She had better things to do.

With a practiced motion she flipped on her computer with her tail as she passed before clicking on a few fans. Just because she could take the heat didn’t mean her rig could. Flopping down into a chair that let her tail through she groaned and leaned back, staring at the ceiling. Just her luck that she had to spy that old relic after talking with another Lizardman. Why couldn’t she have been hired by a Kikimora? They don’t ask questions!

Mood foul, she flipped through her routine websites. Her normal rounds took her through her artist watch lists, trading post forums, and finally image boards. Some people say that not being in education, employment, or training was boring and you didn’t do anything, but it was almost a full time job to keep up with all these updates! Being the early afternoon however meant there was really little she hadn’t already seen in the morning, so she completed her rounds quickly. Clacking her tongue, she reached over to a mini fridge and pulled out a can of mountain dew. Just as she opened it with a satisfying hiss, a message popped up her screen.

Thorblade47: “Yo, you actually here? It’s hard to tell since you’re ALWAYS online.”

Natalie blinked a few times before smirking and pulled up to her computer, clawed fingers typing in response.

Scalegal: “That’s rude as fuck, you know?”
Thorblade47: “Yeah, sure, but it’s true.”
Scalegal: “Fair enough. What’s up?”
Thorblade47: “I’m off work today, bored as fuck. You wanna get in some WW3?
Scalegal: “What, so I can kick your ass again?”
Thorblade47: “Har, har. Is that a yes?”
She chuckled at this. Thorblade was someone she’d met a few years back while playing an MMO and since then they’d kept in touch playing various other games. Their current game was Wizard Wars 3, a fighting game based on a popular series. She always found it amusing that he kept insisting on playing despite the fact that he always lost to her.

Scalegal: Very well, if you insist. I accept your offer for a duel.
Thorblade47: Ooo, look at you. It’s like you’re a Lizardman or something. I’m afraid if I ever beat you I’d never hear the end of marriage proposals!

Natalie blushed. In Lizardman culture, duels were the most important facet of life. Always striving for the best possible mate, a Lizardman was raised from birth for martial combat in order to find a man stronger than herself. In doing so, their child would be even stronger than her mother, and the cycle would continue. It was almost a joke among other races of Monsters, especially their fiery cousins, the Salamanders, that all you had to do was defeat a willful Lizardman and she’d be putty in your hands.

She stared at the screen for a moment, trying to decipher what she’d read. Her eyes drifted back to the sword in the corner for a moment before she turned back. Pushing down her embarrassment, she replied,

Scalegal: I suppose you’d have to beat me first, which is never going to happen anyway.
Thorblade47: Ouch, my pride. Whatever, booting the game up now.

She rolled her eyes and opened the game before plugging in her arcade stick. Some scrubs used controllers, but she as a cut above the chaff. Video games were, after all, serious business.

Accepting the game invite from Thorblade, she scrolled through the various fighters until she found her favorite. She knew it was probably wrong on a certain level, but she chose Tabitha, a cyborg Lizardman who fought with a sword. The character was difficult to play and took a great amount of skill to something properly. This was something which took months to learn but she was very, very powerful when used right. Even though Natalie didn’t swordfight in the real world, it didn’t mean that she forwent ALL Lizardmen traditions. Perhaps that was just an excuse to ease some of her guilt.

Her opponent chose his fighter: a massive, burly warrior named Bearson. He carried a wicked axe and was regarded as one of the middle of the road characters. Strong, durable, and complete with easier combos, he was a solid choice for beginners and those getting into later stages of the game. He was not, as Natalie kept telling Thorblade, for advanced players.

Thorblade47: You ready for this?
Scalegal: Bearson? Again? Yeah, I’m ready to kick your ass, sure.
Thorblade47: You mock him, but I’m telling you, he’s the most powerful character in this game. You’ll see.
Scalegal: Hasn’t been the case any of the times we’ve played.
Thorblade47: I’ve been practicing against the best. Anyway, game on!

They decided on a map and the game began. Though he put up a valiant effort Natalie won the first round and the second round handily. He had gotten better, but not enough to win, not by a longshot.

Thorblade47: GAAAHHH. That overcharge kick combo is broken as hell!
Scalegal: No, it just takes skill to pull off.
Thorblade47: Not all of us have the time to practice that stuff every day.
Scalegal: That’s what you get wageslaving.
Thorblade47: It’s not like I even make that much, ugh. How can you just do this all the time?
Scalegal: Various odd jobs, buying and selling things, enough. But it looks like you’re just fishing for excuses as to why you’re bad at this game.
Thorblade47: Bah. Honestly, if you’re so good, why don’t you play in a tournament? I hear there’s one in your area soon.

Natalie groaned. She may have let it slip as to the city she lived in once. Thankfully he never really made mention of it, but she knew it would come back to bite her at some point.

Scalegal: I don’t think so. It’s not really my thing to play this stuff in public.
Thorblade47: Aww come on, it’s not like it isn’t just another big group of nerds anyway. You’d be in good company.
Scalegal: Not worth it.
Thorblade47: Did I mention that the prize was $2000 and a limited edition Selene?

Fuck. Natalie turned about and stared at one of her shelves where a line of figures sat. Various characters from the Wizard Wars setting sat there, all but one: Selene. She’d been eyeing that one for a long time but was unable to find any that people would be willing to part with for anything less than an arm and a leg.

Scalegal: Bastard
Thorblade47: Ehehe.
Scalegal: Fucking, fuck, why would you do this to me?
Thorblade47: Because I think you’d kick some ass, that’s why. Show the world your skills.
Scalegal: Ugghhhh, fiiiiine.

She huffed and searched for the details of the tournament. Just as he said, prize support was quite lavish though it was suspected to be quite the turnout for something this scale. She hesitated for a long time, hand gripping tight on the mouse. Getting in front of all those people to battle… what if she made a fool of herself again?
“Because I think you’d kick some ass, that’s why.”
Thorblade’s words echoed in her mind as she stared at the Limited Edition figure. With a heavy sigh, she opened the registration form and began to fill in her information. Here goes nothing…

———————————————-

Pulling the hood down tight over her head, Natalie took a deep breath and opened the door. At once the pungent odor of unwashed males and the cloying feeling of too many bodies washed over her, nearly staggering her from the impact. The heat she didn’t mind, but the smell… well it’s not like she wasn’t used to going without bathing when a particular raid was occurring, but she was still a Monster. Male scent, even that of fat, sweaty nerds was a little much to her senses. Still, she had to soldier on!

As she made her way to the registration desk she noticed some eyes on her. She wasn’t the only Monster in the room, but with her tail and legs it was impossible to hide what she was. Thankfully her unattractive clothing and hunched bearing made the male observers turn to the other, more interesting spectacles of Monsters who were either there to support their lovers or the few Anubis who were there to play and potentially find a mate. Chances were that their singular drive (basically autism) would keep them from even noticing the men staring at their rather ample cleavage.

After pressing through a distressing number of people she reached the table. She set her controller down for inspection while a man read through and found her card.

“Ah, the Wizard Wars 3 tournament, right? Your name is… ‘Scalegal?'”

“Uhm… yeah.” Natalie said, feeling embarrassed about her handle being said by someone else. Ugh, she should have used a different name.

Nodding his head, the official handed her a badge with her name on it and directed her over the area where the tournament would be held. Taking her controller back, she hurried over as fast she could and sat as much in the corner. It wasn’t that she was AFRAID of people, it’s just… a little overwhelming is all. Besides, that stench was just intoxicating in the worst way.

Her nose twitched as a more fragrant smell, that of blessed deodorant and possibly cologne. Out of curiosity, she turned her head to see a surprise. Sitting next to her was DRAKE, the barista from the cafe! Her eyes went wide as she looked at him. While most people here wore loose T-shirts or clothing not quite large enough for their bulk, Drake wore a light polo shirt and well-kept jeans that completed his tall and slim, if not muscular physique. He smiled at her the way he always did and brushed his short brown hair back, a move that accentuated his blue eyes.

“Hey, do I know you?”

Natalie looked down, heart hammering in her chest. Of all the people to be here, it had to be HIM. Ohhh damnit, she was already having a hard time concentrating as it was, but now THIS?

Drake rubbed his chin and snapped his fingers. “Oh hey, you’re that Lizardman who orders the low fat cafe mocha with no whipped cream, right? Yeah, I’d recognize that tail anywhere.”

Oh no. Natalie unconsciously tried to hide her tail away but the man laughed, holding up a hand. “Woah, woah, sorry about it, spoke without thinking. I’m a little bit freer with my speech here than at work.” He looked over at her fight stick and held up his own. Hers had a detail of Tabitha on it while his had Sylphie- an okay fighter but prime waifu material, though she really wasn’t to Natalie’s tastes.

“You’re here to play too, eh?”

Natalie fidgeted and mumbled, “Uhm, yeah.”

“Ah well good luck then. If we play against each other I won’t go easy on you. I’ve trained with the best player there is online and frankly I doubt any of them could compare.”

“Sure, whatever you say fucker.” The moment she said this her eyes went wide and she looked at the man with horror. Why did she say that? She’d never tell that to a stranger and yet she felt somewhat like she already knew him. Ugh, he just makes her coffee and now she insulted him!

He merely blinked twice before a smirk came to his lips. “Oh, it’s on. I look forward to seeing you in the finals.” He paused a moment then and began to ask before being interrupted, “What’s your handle anyw-“

A squeal of feedback came over the speakers, causing both of them to cover their ears as the announcer came on the microphone. “Alright, let’s get this started. Round one pairings are up, find your opponent and go to the designated station to await the beginning of the first round.”

Natalie took this as a good cue to run away as fast as she could from Drake and find her opponent. A quick scan of the list revealed the location and she was off again before he could arrive. Making her way over to the station, she began to plug in her fight stick when her opponent arrived.

He was a slim, rather muscular black man with a strong jaw and handsome features. He looked her up and down as he approached and she noticed the entourage of about five other men all dressed in Dragonball Z shirts. Blinking in confusion, she looked back to her opponent who merely shook his head and said, “Damn, I guess I’m lucky. Round one is going to be easy.”

Despite the acrid stench about her and the thoughts of Drake drifting in her head, at this asshole’s words her heart rate began to slow down. A surprising calm washed over Natalie and her focus narrowed down solely upon this man. His words were a challenge and if there was one thing any Lizardman, herself included, could not refuse, it was a CHALLENGE.

Pushing back her hood to reveal her yellow, reptilian eyes, she stared at him and in a calm voice said, “You’re right fuckface, this is going to be easy. For me.”

His face went flat as his entourage began to laugh and slap his shoulders shouting, “Daaaaayyuuuum,” until he slapped them away. Focusing back on her, he grit his teeth and said, “Oh, I was going to go easy on you too. Fine, I hear you Monsters love a good ass beating anyway.”

“Only sore ass I see here is yours.”

The five other men began up again but stopped as an official came by and checked the machines before giving them the green light to begin. Both players took up their controllers and the game began. Natalie chose Tabitha while her opponent picked Veronica. An interesting pick. Veronica was a holy Paladin character rarely seen outside of the first game when she was much more balanced. As it stood, her current incarnation was a little janky but in the right hands could be devastating. Was he an idiot, or a championship player? Guess she was about to find out.

The stage was set and the game began. Her opponent charged at her, entering into the ascendant combo. It was difficult to block, did tons of damage, and could be chained. A solid choice that would catch most players off guard. Unfortunately for him, she was not most players. Hands moving with skill borne of years of practice, she deftly blocked the combo and moved into a counter attack.

The man’s eyes widened as he realized he was on the backfoot, not expecting her to be so skilled. His mistake for underestimating his opponent. Silently, she drove into him, demolishing all of his attempts to gain a combo and dropped his character to the ground to win the first of the game rounds.

He grit his teeth as his group starting whooping and she could see a rage build inside him. The second round began and he went in for a different combo but she blocked that as well. At this he cried, “Aww that’s fucking bullshit, fuck this Tabitha bullshit!” She paid his whining no mind and focused solely on her art- that of beating him into the dirt. It was over in moments and his character crashed onto the floor once more, the words, “TABITHA WINS” appearing on the screen.
The man cried out as if physically struck while his entourage laughed at slapped his shoulders again. He stood up and sniffed, tears coming from his eyes before running out of the room, a string of profanities trailing behind him. The lookers on blinked in surprise before turning to her. She merely shrugged and said,

“It’s what he gets for being a little bitch.”

She felt disappointed somehow by the match. Usually she felt somewhat alive when she played but this wasn’t a challenge at all. A thirst for combat she tried to keep hidden for some time welled up in her and she had to take a deep breath to keep it down. It was easier to do so when facing faceless, online foes, but in person her baser instincts were apparently harder to control.

There was a thought that maybe she just didn’t want to keep it under control…

That thought brought her back to the sword in her room and she sobered up quickly. “Right, just focus on the tournament.” She muttered to herself. Still, if her next opponents were a little more of a challenge that wouldn’t be so bad, right?

Sadly they were not. She was utterly dumfounded at how pathetic these players were. The only player who gave her any sort of challenge was one who used Ebe, a Gandharva bard widely regarded as prime waifu bait, but a terrible character. Perhaps Natalie failed her own advice and underestimated her opponent which almost cost her a round as the man pulled off Ebe’s ultimate combo. Despite heavy damage, in the end Tabitha won- a fact her dejected opponent muttered as he wiped away tears of regret. Ebefags were good natured, if unfortunate people.

The higher she ascended in the tournament, the more and more people came to watch her games. She was surprised when at the end of a match she’d hear people cheering for her and would look around in amazement and embarrassment. During the match she would be so focused she didn’t notice but afterward was another matter.

Dropping her opponent in the semi-finals, Natalie let out a quiet sigh of relief which was drowned out by the roar of applause around her. Her opponent, a level headed asian kid, bowed to her before leaving. She gave him a halfhearted wave as the announcer appeared, microphone pressed too close to his lips.

“And that was the semi-finals! Let’s hear it for Scalegal!”

The crowd roared at this though it just made Natalie sink farther into her seat. Ugghh, she just wanted this to be over with.

“The final round will be set up on the main stage! Ten minutes until the ultimate showdown between Scalegal and ThorsBlade74!”

Natalie’s head snapped up to the announcer, her eyes going wide. “W-wait, who did you say?”

The man cupped the microphone and leaned over. “Thorsblade74… I think.”

Her shoulders slumped in relief. For a moment there she thought that- nah, that would be crazy. What would be the chances that he’d be here AND have made it to the final round? The guy isn’t even that good at this game.” Shaking her head she took her controller and walked over to the main stage, conscious of the many eyes locked onto her rather than the buxom Monsters glaring daggers at her. Serves them right for being thots after all.

An attendant helped her get set up and handed her a glass of water, which she drank eagerly. She noticed movement out of the corner of her eye and almost spit the water out as Drake walked up onto the stage and stared at her in surprise.

“Well shit, I guess we really did meet in the finals.”

“H-How? But you…?”

“Uh, well if I’m here at the finals it means I’m good at the game. Shocking, I know.” The man shook his head and chuckled. “Listen, let’s have a good match, alright?” He held out his hand and she stared at it before gingerly reaching out and grabbing his. Despite the stuffy heat of the room, his hand was warm to the touch and it sent tingles over her body.

“Y-Yeah.” She replied, pulling her hand back. Great, her heart was racing again.

“Everyone gather round the main stage!” The announcer came on again. “It’s time to start the final round!” Large screens displaying the waiting menu for the game turned on, catching the attention of the audience. Both players looked out over the sea of people and Natalie began to feel incredibly nervous while Drake merely waved back.

“In this corner we have Scalegal, the Lizardman with unparalleled skill!” The announcer waved at her before turning to Drake. “And in this corner, it’s Thorsblade74, the rough and tumble brute who takes down all challengers with sheer might!”

“Actually.” Drake said, holding up a hand. “It’s Thorsblade47.”

Natalie’s heart jumped in her throat while the announcer rolled his eyes and continued speaking about the match. Her eyes locked onto the man and he gave her that smile of his, though it held an almost malicious touch now. He mouthed the words, “Game on,” as the announcer stepped back and gave the signal to begin character selection.

As before, she selected Tabitha while he selected Bearson. Confusion set hold in her at this. She’d always beaten Bearson every time they played. Was he throwing the match for her? He did know how much she wanted that Selene figure after all. However, the thought of purposely throwing a match made her blood begin to boil. After all the bullshit she put up with, all the shitty matches and uninteresting games, he would have the audacity to do this to her?

She narrowed her eyes and entered the zone as a quiet rage built within her. Feeling her shackles on the competitive edge slip away under this simmering fury, she decided it was finally time to let it free. So what if she messed up before? She had to fight now with everything she had to show him that she was no joke, that her skill in games rather than swords was worth acknowledging. The stage was set and with a count of three, the battle began.

He began with a powerful combo, but it was one she was used to seeing from him. Contempt welled up in her as she blocked the strike and retaliated. As she moved into the penultimate strike however something different occurred. His big, burly character DODGED out of the way of her attack.

Shock built up in her at this and she tried to dodge herself but it was no use. Bearson grappled Tabitha and began the great chain which she was powerless to escape. She tried her best to recuperate but in the end Tabitha lay on the floor at the end of round one. A roar of applause came from the crowd as Natalie stared at Drake. Wiping sweat from his brow, he said, “I told you I’ve been practicing.”

Even though she lost, a smile crept onto her face as her heat began to beat faster. This little fucker right here had managed to beat her! Having already opened herself up to the Lizardman’s lust for competition she couldn’t help but grin like an idiot, her tail swishing back and forth. She almost felt giddy at the prospect of facing a worthy foe! Grabbing hold of her stick, she locked onto the screen before her and prepared for the second round.

No longer underestimating him, she began to attack in earnest, pulling out a strong combo right out the gate. He managed to keep her from chaining it and struck back, landing a wicked attack with his axe that did some massive damage. Still, it wasn’t enough to keep her down and she struck with relish, delivering a blazing blade combo that struck down his last legs, dropping Bearson to the ground in a heap.

“It’s one to one! A tied game! This is the kind of battle we’ve been waiting for!” The announcer said to the roar of the crowd. Natalie drunk it all in, allowing the thrill of combat to beat in her chest. Here, now, under the bright stage lights she allowed herself to relish the feeling as opposed to locking it away when she put away her sword. She was terrible at the blade and her focus on scholarship was a shame to her family, but this… this she was good at. This was something she could hold her head up high with, this was something she could proudly call herself a Lizardman by- damned be what everyone else thought.

She flashed a shit-eating grin to Drake who returned the expression. This fucker knew this would happen, knew that by studying her fighting patterns he’d be able to use it against her someday. He said he didn’t have the time to practice eh? Should have known he was lying since the fucker played MMO’s.

A thought occurred to her in the back of her mind then. Did he know who she was before this tournament? And if so, for how long?

Her attention was drawn back to the screen as the game cried out, “Final Round!” Taking her stick in her hand, she allowed the battle focus to sing in her veins as the fight began.

Both fighters charged at each other, trading glancing blows here and there, neither of them doing any significant damage. It was perplexing in a fighting game to have such a stalemate of a battle but the crowd ate it up, cheering all around. She ignored them and focused on the fight, now cognizant of the ticking timer on the top of the screen. Usually irrelevant, it began to sink to a point she’d never seen before. Time was running out to decide a victor.

Well, fortune favors the bold after all. Preparing herself, she dodged one of his blows and moved in with the necessary combo to bring in one of Tabitha’s ultimate attacks- the overcharged kick. It was a move that he’d never been able to deal with and was regarded as one of the most powerful combos in the game. Committing to the action, she pushed in for the final sequence. The screen flashed as the action commenced, the kick flying out and-

He blocked it.

The blow was instantly cancelled by the action and in one fell swoop he struck back, dealing enough damage that the fight was a foregone conclusion. She battled back bravely but it was over. Tabitha’s loss sequence played on the screen as she knelt before her opponent and declared him worthy of her. Bearson merely chuckled and held up his axe, cheering in time with his player who leapt up and threw his hands in the air.

The crowd went wild cheering for Drake’s victory. Natalie, on the other hand, sat there with a stunned expression as she tried to process her emotions. She knew she should feel disappointment, shame, embarrassment, and yet all she could feel was… joy? It was a confusing emotion to her but placing her clawed hand to her chest she could feel her heart racing faster than it ever had before. With this loss to this man she felt better than she ever had in her whole life. She had fought a worthy opponent and found someone stronger than herself in an art she excelled at. So that means this emotion was… Love?

She gasped in surprise as Drake held out a hand to her, smile on his face. Even though the audience was screaming she could hear his words clear as day. “So, where’s the marriage proposal?”

“I…uh… you ah…” She stammered, not quite certain how to respond. He just chuckled in response.

“Well, how about just a date then? I think I know what kind of coffee you like.”

Natalie, heart thundering in her chest, took his warm hand. She didn’t understand until that very moment that she was still a Lizardman at heart. Her fight stick was her sword and she wielded it well enough to find a man she was proud to lose to. A smile of pure joy came to her face then as she said,

“Game on.”

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9 thoughts on “While You Studied the Blade”

      1. Fluff is a type of story tone. It basically just means there’s no bad feels in here. When you’re done reading, you realize that there were no worries about how anything’s going to turn out, even if there’s some intrigue or drama to make it interesting. I quite like fluff myself, so when Drake showed up at the tournament, I instantly went “Aw dude, it’s him! Thorblade!” To be honest, I’m glad I was correct.

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