Chapter 14 – A breadth’s hair away from death
by lemuel moo
“Brother! I can’t believe you allowed your lady classmate into our house to stay tonight and you leave me alone with her?!”
“I’m sorry, Raine! This is really important! I have to help Zeel out! Could you just entertain Jacinta and I promise I will make it up to you!”
Raine paused for a moment before replying.
“…I want a date.”
“A date! D-A-T-E! Just you and me!”
“Why do you want a date with your brother?! There is a multitude of guys who like you in middle school?!”
“I just want a date with you! Or are your words empty lies?!”
Gale sighed and gave in to Raine’s demands.
“Alright alright! We will have a date together, is that okay?”
“…Yes. That’s okay. I will see you soon, okay?”
After Gale ended the call, Zeel turned to Gale with a question.
“What’s so bad about a date with your sister? I can’t even get Sunny to go shopping with me alone!”
“… It isn’t bad. I just think there are other good guys in middle school that she should hang out with.”
“Really?! I will be upset if Sunny goes out with another guy! Except for you, of course!”
“…We are just polar opposites, Zeel!”
Zeel and Gale were riding a motorbike together toward Babel Square. It was late at night, and the streets were empty. Gale pillion rode behind Zeel, and he took a moment to savor the beautify city lights across the horizon as the motorcycle coasted on the bridge which led to Babel Square.
As they approached the gated entrance of the offshore island, police officers stopped the motorbike, and one of them approached Zeel for a question.
“… I recognize you. You are one of the participants for tonight’s match, but who is that on your back?”
“He is my manager.”
“I see. It makes sense to have a manager who can stop the match because you are up against ‘The Gambling Swordsman’. However, best of luck! Thus far, no manager could successfully stop the match before their fighter’s head was rolling on the floor!”
Zeel gulped in response, and Gale was secretly glad he didn’t bring Clere along. If the police were guarding Babel Square, Gale could not imagine how he was going to guard both Clere and Zeel if some corrupt organization laid their eyes on her.
“Alright, you are free to go. When you register your attendance at the counter, you can register your manager with you.”
As Zeel drove the motorbike into Babel Square, Gale saw that the abandoned industrial island had transformed itself into an island of festivities! There were food trucks at the sides, and scores of people were drinking and eating at the island! Gale could not believe what he was seeing!
“…This is crazy! Some years back, I came here to destroy a drug syndicate’s production facilities, and now this place became a carnival for illegal fighting matches!”
“Yeah. It must be some overtly corrupt politician that allowed this to happen.”
Zeel stopped his motorbike in front of a large warehouse in the middle of Babel Square. It was a myriad of people, where some looked like hooligans with their leather jackets and jeans while others who wore suits looked like they come from a professional criminal syndicate.
There was a table where participants and their managers could register their attendance. Thus Zeel led Gale to it. A lady with tattoos on her arms and chest attended to Zeel.
“…Zeel the Electric Eel? Okay, I have indicated your attendance. What’s your manager’s name?”
“Gale? This must be your first time here. I don’t see you in our records.
It doesn’t matter. Remember the rules. You are not to interfere in the match directly from the sidelines, and you can only tend to your fighter when there is a break. The first aid box is provided at your corner.
Throw in your towel to forfeit the match, and if your fighter is killed, you are responsible for the disposal of his body. Are you clear on these rules?”
Gale was unhappy when he heard how this lady spoke of disposing of a fighter’s body so easily and he clenched his fists tightly in response, but Zeel looked into Gale’s eyes and the latter relented.
“Right, I understand.”
At that moment, a man with a suit with a beautiful girl drew near to greet Zeel and Gale.
“Ah, Zeel! Welcome to your fourth match! I see you brought a manager with you today! That’s pretty good!
I am Dylan. Nice to meet you.”
“Gale, nice to meet you.”
After Gale and Dylan exchanged handshakes, Dylan turned to Zeel and snickered as he looked at the cast on his left arm.
“Are you feeling up to it with your broken arm? Or do you want to postpone the match?”
“…You know there is no way to postpone the match. The lynchpins will not allow it.”
Dylan laughed and pretended to apologize.
“Right right, silly me! How can I forget?
Before you go for your match today, do you want to meet my sister?”
“Dinah? Where is Dinah?!”
“She’s in the container over there. By the way, that is our private quarters. Feel free to eat or drink anything there, it’s on me.
As this could be your last match, I figured I should be kind and let you see my sister for a while. Go on and don’t waste my kindness!”
Gale was trying hard to keep his anger in. He wanted to sink his fists into Dylan’s face so badly, but he knew this wasn’t a time to do so.
Zeel wasted no time, and the both of them went straight to the container that Dylan had indicated. Before he opened the door, Gale stopped and indicated that he preferred to stay outside the container.
“What’s wrong, Gale?”
“Don’t you want private time with her?”
“No. I want you to come along.”
Zeel was adamant that Gale should accompany him, so the latter relented. A lady dressed in a beautiful crimson dress, with black hair and a rose brooch, turned towards Zeel.
“Zeel! Nice to see you here. Tonight is your match with ‘The Gambling Swordsman’. Are you ready for it?”
“Dinah, you still haven’t answered me. What is your motive for wanting me to participate in this tournament? If you want a shop, Dylan could build one at any time with his money. Just what are you after?”
Dinah did not respond, and she grabbed a few glasses to pour out wine for both Zeel and Gale.
“Care for a drink?”
Gale inspected the wine and saw there was nothing amiss in it. Dinah laughed at Gale’s behavior.
“Your manager is very careful, Zeel! What’s your name?”
“I see. Nice to meet you, Gale!”
Dinah raised her hands for a handshake, but Gale did not respond back. Thus she brought her hand down and turned towards Zeel.
“…You must hate me don’t you, Zeel?”
“I don’t! I just want to know why are you doing this? The Dinah that I know was a kind girl who supported me and was my pillar of strength in my darkest moments!”
“… Well, I can be that Dinah if you win the tournament. I did promise to date you if you win, correct?”
“…I will not date you even if I win the tournament. I want to know what had happened to you.”
Dinah sipped on her wine and gave a cracked smile.
“That hurts, Zeel. I was willing to date you if you win though.”
“You are willing to date me, but why are you willing to endanger my life and hurt me?! Besides, this tournament is downright shady and illegal! How did you even get involved in this tournament in the first place?!”
“How can it be illegal when the police themselves are guarding this area?”
Zeel dropped his shoulders in disappointment. It was evident that Dinah wasn’t going to answer Zeel seriously, and he had some tears in his eyes.
“Dinah… you know I obviously have feelings for you. However, I need to prioritize Sunny and my workers at the moment, as they need me during this critical time. When you are ready, I will definitely hear you out.”
“…Are you confident that you will win tonight?”
“…I will at least make it out alive tonight. With Gale’s help.”
Zeel turned and walked towards the exit without another word. Gale followed after, leaving Dinah who stared through a window with a glass of wine.
“Are you alright, Zeel?”
Zeel and Gale were waiting in the waiting room for the announcer to introduce Zeel into the fighting arena. Zeel was prepared with his chains, and Gale took the chance to give Zeel a power boost.
Gale used his fingers and transmitted his energy into various acupuncture points on Zeel’s back. Zeel began to feel power welling up within him, and he was surprised at his growth within a short period of time.
“The pill that Aunt Agatha gave us certainly helps. It eased the flow of [qi] and increased our strength! I have unblocked your energy channels within your body, and you should be at least two to three times stronger in your energy and stamina.
I have two blue pills which I took from my aunt’s locker. Take them now as these are energy boosters.”
Zeel immediately ate them and used his [qi] to digest those pills speedily.
“I wish I have more time with you to prepare for this match, but increasing your [qi] is the fastest way we can boost your fighting prowess at this point.
If that Yan Kun is so skilled in his swordplay, he wouldn’t need to use those ‘Pandora Dice’ to supplement his skills in the first place. Be on the attack and see if you can force him not to use those dice with your chains.”
At that moment, Zeel intensely looked into the eyes of Gale. His face was a mixture of determination and worries, and Gale knew instinctively what Zeel wanted to say next.
“If anything happens to me, I want you to take care of Sunny for life.”
“…I will not let you die, even if it kills me! However, I promise.”
“Don’t be stupid! If you die, then who is going to take care of Sunny?! Leave peacefully if everything goes wrong, and tell Sunny that I’m sorry.”
Gale knew that Sunny would hate him for life for not mentioning anything to her about this match. Yet, Gale looked at his [Five Elemental Sword], his ace in the hole and he strengthened his resolve that he would do whatever it takes to make sure that Zeel comes out alive.
“I looked through the tournament’s rulebook, and I didn’t find any mention of breaks, outside of the fact that if a break is called for, I will be allowed to tend to you at our corner. Are there any unwritten rules about this?”
“Breaks are not meant for the fighters, but for the people who bet in the match. If they want their fighter to win, they can pay extra money to pause the match and recollect themselves. It is rare that a break is called out though since the ones who could afford it are millionaires themselves.”
Gale clenched his fists and crushed the instructional booklet that he was reading.
“This is a sick tournament. If Aunt Agatha has a mission to crush this, I will be the first to sign up!”
At that moment, Zeel and Gale could hear a roar from the audience and an announcer’s voice permeating through the sound system.
“Welcome to the Babel Square tournament! Today’s matchup is pretty exciting! We have ‘The Electric Eel’, Zeel, versus ‘The Gambling Swordsman’, Yan Kun! Let’s give it up for today’s match!”
The audience roared even louder with anticipation, but Gale was so disgusted with the tournament that every round of applause or cheer was making him angrier.
“With further delay, let’s welcome ‘The Electric Eel’, Zeel!”
Zeel got up and walked towards the exit with Gale following behind. A spotlight shined on Zeel as he walked towards the fighting arena. Gale could hear a mixture of cheers and boos from the audience.
The underground arena was capable of seating five thousand people strong. Many of the lynchpins were in the VIP box which overlooked the arena, and Gale could spot Dylan and Dinah within that box. As Gale was well-trained as an assassin, he immediately looked around to inspect the arena to see if there are traps or ambushes around the area.
In the midst of the arena, there was an open floor that spanned a kilometer in length and width. A corner was allocated for Gale while the opposite corner was allocated for Yan Kun’s team. Gale took his corner while Zeel went onto the fighting floor.
“And now, we welcome the other opponent, ‘The Gambling Swordsman’, Yan Kun!”
Cheers and applause erupted throughout the arena. It was evident that Yan Kun was more popular than Zeel as Yan Kun had won his previous seven rounds. Yan Kun emerged from his waiting room with a teenage girl behind him.
Yan Kun was a frail and skinny old man with long grey hair which covered most of his face, and he had a long sword on his hip. The teenage girl had plaited brown hair, and she held a sword on her hips too. Both of them took their respective places, and Zeel found himself staring at Yan Kun, and the latter was correctly facing Zeel even though he was blind.
“…You’re pretty young for a competitor. How old are you?”
“Why are you here? Shouldn’t kids your age be studying?”
“…I didn’t want to be here.”
Yan Kun then gave a sympathetic look as he turned away to face the crowd.
“I see… Me either.”
The announcer then continued with his introduction.
“Alright, here is the moment we are waiting for. The rules for this match are simple. If you fall out of the fighting floor, you lose. Fight until somebody gives up or drops dead. These are conditions for the fight, and I will pass it on to the referee to begin the match!”
A lady wearing a bunny girl suit then came into the ring to check if both fighters are ready. Cat calls and whistles were directed to the lady, who gave a wink and a flying kiss back to the audience.
All these happenings were so nauseating to Gale, he had to practice his [Serenity Within Rage Technique] to calm himself down. It was a technique that allows bottle up his anger and keeps a calm mind. The bottled up anger could be used for the battle to increase the strength of his techniques, and the angrier he got, the stronger he became.
The referee was certain that both fighters were ready, and she promptly left the fighting floor. A countdown began for three seconds on a huge monitor screen, and the fight began.
Zeel began to output a huge amount of electricity all over his body and threw his chains toward Yan Kun for a long-range attack. Yan Kun dodged all of the chains and closed the distance between them, but the chains latched onto the ground and began pulling the concrete beneath Yan Kun.
As Yan Kun didn’t have much to stand on, thus he launched forward and attempted to strike at Zeel’s kidneys with his sword, but Zeel had he chains ready, and he blocked the sword. Zeel had increased his speed dramatically with his electricity, and he punched Yan Kun with his right fist, who parried the blow.
“My granddaughter told me about your previous three matches, but you are much stronger than I have expected. How did you get so strong?”
“A good buddy of mine lent me his support, and he’s now my manager.”
Yan Kun pushed himself away from Zeel, and he began taking up an offensive stance. Suddenly, Zeel felt his skin tingle as he senses a thick killing aura emanating from Yan Kun. Gale suddenly perked himself up as he gaped at Yan Kun’s technique.
“That…that is the [No-Eyes Swordsplay]!”
Yan Kun heard Gale’s words and snickered at his remark.
“It’s rare that someone could recognize my technique. You must be quite skilled yourself, young man!”
Yan Kun reached into his pocket and took out his pair of ‘Pandora Dice’. When Zeel saw his dice, he immediately sent his chains crashing toward Yan Kun to stop him from using it.
Yan Kun parried most of the chains, but one of the chains wrapped around his sword and Zeel immediately unleashed as much electricity as he possibly could toward the old man.
Yan Kun was electrocuted, and a smell of burning flesh came from Yan Kun as he screamed.
The girl at the other end of the corner screamed with concern. Zeel felt sorry in his heart, but he could not relax his resolve because he knew his workers and Sunny were at stake as well.
However, Yan Kun picked himself up in the middle of experiencing the electrocution, and he tossed his ‘Pandora Dice’. His dice showed two threes – six, and suddenly Yan Kun stood tall as though he was not affected by the electricity.
Zeel was shocked, and he sent more chains toward Yan Kun in response, but he parried them all and shook the chains that wrapped around his sword away.
“Gale, those ‘Pandora Dice’ is really mind-boggling! My electrical attacks suddenly don’t work now!”
“I know! I don’t understand it either!”
If Gale didn’t know what was happening, Zeel knew he was on his own. Agatha had mentioned that Yan Kun only used his ‘Pandora Dice’ on his own martial art techniques and not to cast magic, so he suddenly realized something.
“…Old man, you have a martial art technique that can boost your defenses, is it?”
“…Somebody told you about these ‘Pandora Dice’ or my techniques?”
“I guess I am right on the money.”
Yan Kun laughed at Zeel’s naivety and answered.
“Two threes equal to six. My defense technique was strengthened by six-fold. Your electricity which hurt previously became a slight irritation to me.”
As Yan Kun unleashed his menacing aura, he extended his palms, and the ‘Pandora Dice’ floated back into his hand as though they had invisible strings attached to it. He then tossed his ‘Pandora Dice’ again.
The dice rolled two fours – eight, and suddenly Yan Kun’s killing aura was increased by eight-fold! Everyone in the vicinity could feel the sudden change in the intensity of his killing aura.
Gale suddenly screamed at the top of his lungs.
“Stop him from tossing the dice! If he rolls one more time and increases the accuracy of his techniques, you will die!”
Zeel was shaken by Gale’s outburst, and he immediately threw some chains into the ground while the rest of the chains were thrown toward Yan Kun in the air. Yan Kun quickly unleashed a few sword projectiles from his blade to parry the chains that were approaching him through the air, but the chains beneath the ground dug through the concrete and emerged at where Yan Kun was standing.
The chains then wrapped around Yan Kun’s arms and legs and the old man was pulled into the ground. However, the ‘Pandora Dice’ floated back into Yan Kun’s hands, and he released the dice again. The dice rolled a two and a three — five, and Yan Kun suddenly disappeared from where he was standing despite being wrapped by chains.
At that moment, Gale immediately threw the towel in the air and Zeel screamed at Gale!
“What are you doing?! I can still fight!”
“Shut up! If Yan Kun gets to you, you will die before I can even throw the towel!”
However, before the towel could land on the floor, the towel was thrown back towards Gale! Yan Kun changed his trajectory and used his sword to push the towel back into Gale’s hand!
“Why did you do that, old man?! We admit defeat!”
Yan Kun then appeared behind Zeel and attempted to plunge his sword into Zeel’s liver, but Zeel had noticed Yan Kun since he took a moment to throw the towel back to Gale. Thus, he sidestepped to dodge the deadly strike.
The sword grazed Zeel’s side and blood splattered all over the floor. Zeel hurriedly rolled away from Yan Kun and adopted a defensive stance immediately. Zeel knew he just escaped death by a thread!
If Gale did not throw that towel, I would have died!
Gale continued to scream at Yan Kun.
“What’s the deal, old man?! Why are you so adamant in killing Zeel?!”
Yan Kun hesitated for a moment before replying.
“I’m ordered not to allow him to give up.”
Gale then shouted to Zeel.
“Step out of the fighting floor immediately!”
However, Yan Kun enveloped the entire fighting floor with his energy and killing aura. Zeel knew Yan Kun could detect the slightest of movement in that state, and so he froze because if he makes a wrong move, Yan Kun could move and strike at his vitals before he could react.
Gale then reached for the towel to throw it back into the arena again, but the towel caught fire and became a pile of ash quickly. Gale looked around to see who did that, and he realized that the referee had used her [Mystic Arts] to burn the towel!
Gale was enraged, and his own killing aura flooded the entire underground arena! His killing aura proved to be much greater than Yan Kun’s, and the spectators were shocked! Gale stared into the eyes of the referee, and the latter trembled in fright!
“Woman. You will die for your foolishness.”
At that moment, someone took the mic and caught everyone’s attention.
“Is that so, Gale Gainsborough?”
Both Zeel and Gale turned their heads toward the voice, and they saw Sunny standing with Dylan at the back of the arena!
“Now now, are you sure you want to turn your head this way, Zeel? With a simple strike, Yan Kun could end your life!”
However, Zeel could not care less as he saw Sunny standing with Dylan and his heart was filled with worry for her.
“Sunny! Why are you there?!”
“I..I heard you were fighting in a tournament so I was invited to check it out. I didn’t realize this is going to be a death match!”
Zeel glared at Dylan with rage and yelled at him.
“DYLAN! If you dare touch my sister, I swear I will never let you off!”
“How do you think you can do that when you are a breadth’s hair away from death? Yan Kun is a seasoned assassin. The moment you lapse in your concentration, your head will roll on the floor!
However, I want to applaud you for lasting this long against Yan Kun. I want to make a deal now.”
Dylan turned to Sunny and took some of her hair and smelled it. Sunny was tearing at the corner of her eyes as she was overcome with rage and disgust, but she knew not to do anything reckless at that point.
“You still smell so good, Sunny!”
Zeel’s body was cloaked with so much electricity that the ground where he stood cracked under the power.
“YOU GET YOUR FILTHY HANDS OFF MY SISTER!”
“Be quiet, Zeel, I’m not dealing with an uncouth man like you. I’m making a deal with Sunny.”
Sunny then looked at Dylan with a horrified look.
“What do you want?”
“I want… you to join the Flowers Of Death!”
Sunny had expected Dylan to ask for something lewd and perverted, so she was very surprised that all he wanted was for her to join the Flowers Of Death.
“Why are you so surprised? You are highly regarded in that assassins group and you were trained by master herself. Not even Zeel knew the secrets that of our master’s powers that you know.”
“…What is in it for you, then? What good will it do for you if I join the Flowers Of Death?”
“Of course, they promised that if I could make you join them, you will become my woman and I will get their protection for eternity!
If you don’t, Zeel dies here.”
Sunny clenched her fist tightly and looked at Gale. As her heart was towards Gale, she had to make a choice between Zeel and Gale, the two most beloved men before her. A tear dropped on the floor from the corner of her eyes.
Gale saw in her eyes that she was struggling inwardly, and at that moment Gale snapped.
“To hell with these lynchpins. If you all have a problem with me for interrupting your idiotic tournament, then fight me.”
The ground started shaking, and the whole arena experienced the weight of Gale’s killing aura and energy! However, Gale began bleeding from his mouth! He was outputting so much energy that the silver needles, which was supposed to restrain his energy, was causing damage to his body!
Yan Kun lunged forward to strike at Zeel, but Gale unleashed a roar that was so loud, a shockwave erupted from his mouth and blocked Yan Kun’s path!
Dylan could not believe what he was seeing and started to mutter uncontrollably. “T-That…That’s the [Lion King’s Roar]! This technique was supposed to be lost many years ago in the annals of martial arts!”
Gale then walked towards Yan Kun uninhabited, and everyone was shocked! Yan Kun was so surprised by Gale’s movements that he took a step back as Gale drew near to his side!
“Old man. I heard that the girl at that corner is your granddaughter. If you don’t want to die today and leave your kin in this world, then step away from the fighting floor and don’t cause any more trouble for Zeel and me.”
Dylan immediately shouted at Yan Kun angrily.
“Yan Kun! Kill Gale here right now! We don’t need him around!”
Undeterred, Gale continued speaking.
“Are you sure, old man? The reason you have to use these ‘Pandora Dice’ was that your [No-Eyes Swordsplay] is incomplete.”
Yan Kun could not believe what he was hearing, and he froze.
“W-What did y-you say? H-How d-do y-you k-know?”
“You only learned a portion of the technique, and that’s the reason why you have to use the ‘Pandora Dice’ to improve the accuracy of your strikes and the strength of your killing aura! The mantra of the [No Eyes Swordplay] is these words, ‘Ten Steps Per Kill’., but you clearly lack in these two components, so you have to use those dice to make sure your strikes hit their targets!
If I fight you right now, I don’t even need to target your stupid dice. It only increases your strength to the maximum of twelve-fold anyway. Moreover, with an incomplete set of sword techniques, I can counter any sword technique which you can throw at me. Get out of here with your granddaughter before you regret it!”
Yan Kun was shaken! He couldn’t believe how easily Gale had discovered his combat weaknesses and how familiar he was with his sword techniques! He was acutely aware of his shortfalls, but the ‘Pandora Dice’ was his saving grace!
“I-If I leave right now, those lynchpins will come after me with their men!”
“And do you think I will not end your life here? Once I start fighting, I don’t plan to be merciful.”
Gale then walked towards Zeel, with his killing aura and energy at its maximum output. Gale was too angry to notice the strain that the silver needles were causing on his body. Thus he was leaving a trail of blood as he walked towards Zeel.
Zeel was shellshocked and stunned that Yan Kun could not do anything to Zeel! Gale then picked Zeel up as he was bleeding from his side and then looked at the camera that was broadcasting the scene throughout all the criminal syndicates around the globe.
“If you have a problem with me, then come after me. I dare you to try.”
The cameraman felt the full brunt of Gale’s killing aura, and he was wetting himself before the spectators. The spectators all froze at their seats, unable to move or say anything since they were petrified.
Yan Kun swung his sword towards Gale, but Gale backed into Yan Kun’s chest with his shoulders, and Yan Kun crashed into the wall behind him! As Yan Kun was struggling to pick himself up due to the impact he suffered, Gale walked towards Yan Kun and wanted to slay him to end his life, when suddenly the granddaughter stood in front of Gale!
“I’m sorry for my grandfather! Please let us go!”
Gale took a look at the granddaughter before turning away to face Dylan. The granddaughter hurriedly picked Yan Kun up and carried him away.
Dylan was angry, but he remained composed and sneered at Gale.
“Just because you can defeat Yan Kun doesn’t mean you can get away unscathed! Do you know how many affluent people you have upset today?”
Unperturbed, Gale’s voice was deep and horrifying as he seethed with anger.
“Like I care. All I want to do now is to end your life with the lady in a bunny suit.”
When the referee heard those words, she broke down in tears and knelt for mercy!
“I-I’m sorry! I was forced to do that by Dylan! Please don’t kill me!”
Gale then looked at the referee and burned his gaze into her eyes.
The referee picked herself up and ran out of the underground arena without the slightest hesitation. Gale resumed his posture and looked into Dylan’s eyes with fury.
“You are next, fool! And be prepared for a beating that you will never forget!”
 [Serenity Within Rage Technique] is [静中怒], or [jìng zhōng nù]
 [No-Eyes Swordsplay] is [无眼剑法], or [wú yǎn jiàn fǎ]
 [Lion King’s Roar] is [狮王吼], or [shī wáng hǒu]