The most aggravating thing about Riider, Stylo noted, was his arrogance. The rest of the Challenges were mostly undecided, but sword-fighting and archery were written in stone–everyone knew who would win. It was frustrating, to say the least, to battle against Riider with a sword. Not only would Stylo lose, but he would be embarrassed in front of the entire group.
“C’mon, Stylo,” Riider taunted. “Give me a challenge!”
It was the wrong choice of words; if anyone could give Riider a challenge, it was Stylo. Despite his taunts, Riider had to work to win. The fight drew out for a long time, making both of them out of breath and almost panting. Riider’s taunts faded as the minutes dragged on. The longer they fought, the better advantage Stylo had, for he was more fit than Riider.
But alas, the moment came when Stylo was caught a little off-balance and all the efforts came tumbling down. With one swift motion Riider had him pinned to the ground, the sword against his neck. Stylo dropped his own sword in defeat.
“May the best man win,” Riider said to him, smirking. He scowled.
Everyone began to clap, but it was more a polite, required clap than one out of choice. The smiles, if any, were strained and were denied by their cold eyes. Riider was alone in his win.
“Wonderful work, Riider,” Acher said. His smile was the only genuine one. “And good fight, Stylo. Both of you have learned much.”
Riider handed his sword to Acher and sauntered away. Stylo sighed and got up, brushing the dust off his clothes.
“Nice try, Stylo,” Syth said, coming over and patting him on the shoulder. “You put up a good fight.”
Stylo shrugged him off and walked away. Trying was not the same as winning.
“Okay, the agility part is up next,” Acher shouted. “Line up!”
Everyone collected themselves into five rows, each line in front of a simple balance beam.
“All right, everyone,” Acher barked. “You know the rules. This is to test your balance and your speed. Are you ready?”
Stylo nodded and placed his foot on the starting line. “One…two…four…”
Stylo took off, sprinting to the balance beam along with four others. Two years ago, they had struggled with even walking across a simple beam–now the real challenge was being the fastest. The first Agility would be easy. Stylo was obviously the quickest among his opponents. It was only when they took the winners from each group–five in all–and put them together did they have to work for the win.
The finish line ribbon snapped at his chest as he completed the race. He hadn’t even been paying much attention to it. It was a short race with a few balance beams and moving platforms scattered throughout.
“And now for our second group,” Acher said. Stylo sat down onto the grass to watch the races.
“Hey.” Syth sat on the ground beside him. He had just finished his race and was breathing harshly.
Stylo tried to smile and offer the same for him. “Thanks. Second place is good too.”
Syth chuckled. “Not good enough. I’ll never be as good as…some people.”
“Oh, don’t say that.” But Stylo couldn’t say anything else, for it was true. Syth wouldn’t become as good as someone like Stylo.
There was a long silence. To be honest, Stylo just wanted Syth to leave.
“Well, it looks like the last race just ended, Stylo,” Syth said. “You should go.”
“Yeah.” He got up and walked to the starting line. He didn’t even know why he disliked Syth. He was kind to Stylo and never said anything mean. But there was just something about his nature that unnerved him.
He shook his head. No need to worry about that now. He had a race to win.
* * *