Welcome to a new chapter of Imperial Struggle, the story of the young Emperor Marco, and the struggles he has with his new imperial position. Imperial Struggle is my first web novel, so any feedback is welcomed. This is chapter 18, so if you want to read from the beginning please click here
While everyone was rooting for this duel, commander Abruzzo was depressed. His Imperial Guard was becoming a joke in the eyes of everyone. And this time it was in public. He couldn’t blame the Emperor, but he thought of a big punishment for that damned de Sar captain. He will have patrol duty in the slums for a year. He won’t forgive him. But that will be after the duel, now he had to think of 3 people that wouldn't embarrass the imperial guard. He would need to think of three good soldiers.
The commander thought his brains out and finally settled for three people. He gave the order and headed to the training courtyard of the Imperial Guards.
In the big courtyard where the Imperial Guards were usually trained a duel scene was erected over night. On the sidelines, many stands were created as well, so the nobles could have a comfortable view of the duels.
Yesterday, when the Emperor gave his approval for this duel, everyone was shocked and excited at the same time. They all like a good sword fight, and all the noble factions wanted to know how good were the Emperor guards.
Although the duel was set to begin at midday the courtyard was filled with people. Some nobles arrived earlier, unable to contain their excitement. On the training grounds, the Imperial Guards were sparring as usual, unhinged by the looks of these nobles. Their training had to continue.
“Commander Abruzzo, how are the odds of these matches?” someone asked him as soon as he arrived.
“With this kind of duels, you never know. Imperial guard will give it all.” he said with a smile, but inside his mind he cursed that noble.
The middle of the day arrived soon. All the nobles were present, everyone was waiting for the Emperor.
Marco didn’t delay his presence too much. He arrived on foot, with his hands behind his back, like he was taking a stroll. Behind him, the four guards were having a dangerous aura. If until now they acted like regular guards, now they unleashed their killer vibe, that could make a weak heart opponent freeze.
“We greet the Emperor” everyone present in the courtyard bowed in front of Marco.
“Good day everyone.” Marco said with a smile. “Quite the lovely day for a duel, isn’t it?” then he seated on the special seat prepared for him.
“Today’s duel was issued by Scilla,on behalf on my four guards, to the Imperial Guard. This is a friendly duel, to just compare points. I don’t want any accidents today. So everyone, watch yourself.” Marco stated. “The fights will end and the sight of first blood or when someone surrenders! Grand General Basta, would indulge this Emperor and supervise the fights?” Marco asked.
“It would be my honor, your Highness.” the Grand General replied and left his seat, heading for the center of the stage.
“The first contestants, please take the stage” Basta said. “As the Emperor stated, this is a friendly contest, so behave yourself and act like gentlemen, not savages.”
The first guard that took the stage was Argento. With his big stature, he was taller that even Basta. Surprisingly, the Imperial Guard that would fight him, he was about the same size as him.
The fight began immediately. Both of them used broadsword, so from this point of view, neither of them would have a weapon advantage.
The Imperial Guard started to power down on Argento, unleashing attack after attack, slashing from above without mercy. Argentina meet these attacks with smiles, and casually parried down each attack, like it was a child play.
This continued for a few good minutes, making the nobles to comment on the outcome. Many of them were disappointed about the fact that Argento wasn’t a little bit more fierce.
“Argento, stop playing, finish this” Scilla voice was heard from beside the stage.
As soon as Scilla said this, Argento’s smile disappeared and his defensive stance changed. His sword made a big circle, that stopped the sword of the Imperial Guard, almost blowing it out of his hands. Then he pummeled down the hilt of the sword in the chest of his adversary, stopping his breath for a moment.
The Imperial Guard tried to retreat and recover his breath, but a big punch approached his face, hitting him directly in the nose. After he threw this punch, Argento stopped and returned to his initial place, leaning on his sword.
Seeing that everyone was looking strangely at him, including Grand General Basta, that was the supervisor of the fight he casually said:
“First blood. Wasn’t I supposed to stop at first blood?”
Basta, and everyone else, moved their eyes towards the Imperial Guard that unconsciously touch his nose, only to feel the blood that was rushing out.
The fight ended, but because of a sword cut, but because of a punch. Was this a joke? All the nobles present furiously chatted between themselves, some amused by the situation, some a little bit mad by the outcome. But blood had been spilled, and the fight was over.
“First blood. Young man, can you tell me your name, so I could announce the winner?” Basta asked.
“Oh, my name is Argento.”
“The winner, by drawing first blood, it Argento, of the Emperor's personal guards” Basta loudly announced making the win official. “The next participants, please take the stage”.
From the Seven Swords side, Qat entered the stage. Compared with the last two contestants, Qat was small, like a young child. From behind he didn’t look older than 17-18 years old. But when you looked at his face, especially his eyes, you could see how the years have taken the toll on him. Qat real age was above 30. As Scilla, he was a war veteran, fighting as a mercenary in many wars for the Empire since the age of ten. He was man was born and lived on the battlefield. Because of had been surrounded by death so much time, he went insane, living as a beggar on the side of the road. Marco save him from death of starvation and gave him a new purpose in life. Like the rest of the Seven Swords, Qat would give his life for Marco without a blink of an eye. Because without Marco, he would’ve died a long time ago.
“Present yourself before the crowd” Basta said. He realized his mistake from earlier, when he didn’t know who the fighters were. To save himself from embarrassment, he thought of this solution.
“I’m Qat” that was the only thing he said, and he didn’t intend to add more. Basta could only shake his head and look towards the Imperial Guard.
The Imperial guard arrived on stage, with full armor on him, armed with sword and shield. This seemed to be an interesting fight, because Qat was using dual swords as his weapon of choice.
“I’m Jan Zaran” the Imperial Guard presented himself, making many of the nobles present to gasp of awe.
The Zaran family was a famous family of Knights. Many of them were great warriors and several Grand Generals emerged from this family. Their shield and sword fighting technique was one of the best of the Empire. Abruzzo really brought the big weapons to this fight.
“Fighters, take your places” Basta ordered.
Qat drawn his swords, pointing both of them towards Jan, while taking a horse stance.
Jan place his shield in front of him with the sword above it.
“Begin”. Basta ordered.
Qat jumped directly to attack when he heard the order.
Bang, bang, bang. Qat swords here unleashing towards Jan shield. Slash, cut, pierce, Qat hands were moving like a storm.
“What kind of sword techniques is this?” Jan thought behind the shield. He never saw anything like this in his entire life.
Jan tried to push Qat away, by sheer strength, but somehow Qat avoided the push and continued his avalanche of attack.
For the ones looking from the side, Qat attacks looked like a sword dance, beautiful, serene. Some of the military staff present, couldn’t help to praise this sword art.
Crack! The shield that Jan was holding broke under Qat swords. With quick movements, taking advantage of the surprise, Qat disarmed Jan of his sword as well.
“Do you yield or do I have to cut you to finish the fight?” Qat asked
“I…I surrender” Jan said with a dejected voice. He was very heartbroken now because the way he lost.
“You fought well. But you would need at least ten more years of training, before thinking of competing against me. I was trained by a Zaran when I was a child and I know everything that there is to be on how to fight against the famous Zaran shield and sword technique. Come and find me when you have the time. If the Emperor allows me, I will play with you whenever you want.” Qat said and left the stage.
Trained by a Zaran? Once again, the nobles were mind-blown. Who was the Zaran family? One of the most famous family of knights in the Empire. They were masters in the art of war and even the nobles had to show them respect. Many nobles tried to have Zaran members employed in their private guards or at least have their children trained by them. And every time they were refused. The Zaran family served the Emperor, and only him.
And now, somehow, someone claiming to be trained by them was standing by near the Emperor as his guard. The nobles looked at Marco, concluding that they have no idea what this Emperor is doing. Many of them regretted that they didn’t try to build a better relationship with him in the past.
“The winner is Qat, of the Emperor's personal guards”.
Quite the duels, ain't that right? I tried to fill in the chapters with as much action as I could. In the next chapter we will continue with the duels. I will give a little spoiler, Escarte weapon of choice is a very strange one. Not a conventional one. But I can't say more than this. Stay tuned for the next chapter where we continue the duels between the Seven Sword members and the Imperial Guards
Thank you for reading and thank you for support this story. If you liked the chapter and want to know when the next one will be up, please follow me @sstefan