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Never Bet on a Pair of 3's [Solo/Training/Job]

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The Casino. A wild and rambunctious place where the foolish go to gamble away their money in hopes of riches. Altair had never been much of a gambler, and honestly was proud of that fact. But for once he had allowed himself to be pulled along with his employer to “invest” his bonus money in something “solid”. Mr. Henderson gawked at the size of the building, and marveled at the extravagance of every detail. ”Look at the majesty of it all! It probably cost a million Huang to build this! And we get the ability, nay, the privilege of spending our hard earned money here. Come Altair, it is time to make our dreams come true!” And with that, there was no stopping Mr. Henderson.

Altair allowed himself to be pulled to one of the gambling tables and sat down. Mr. Henderson almost took a seat next to him, when suddenly he stood bolt upright. ”I’ll be right back.” he said to Altair, and left for another part of the building. The dealer at the table looked expectantly at Altair and said in a soothing voice, ”To buy in is 50 Huang. Will you be joining us sir?” With a shrug and a nod, Altair handed the man the buy in amount in exchange for chips. The game went smoothly. Altair had a fair bit of luck that day, and actually ended up ahead for a while. Mr. Henderson returned with an enormous grin on his face, and bought in as well. Feeling a bit cocky, and honestly not caring if he lost, Altair bet everything he had on his last hand. The other men at the table took on critical stares, as if they wanted to peer into Altair’s soul and see what his cards were. Although Altair didn’t know much about the game, he did know that having multiple of the same card was a good thing. And since an Ace was the highest card, and counted as a One, then a pair of Three’s must be a pretty good hand right? Only one other man bought into the hand, and they revealed their cards. And then the men started laughing. Altair had lost it all.

~368/2000~

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Mr. Henderson was not pleased at having Altair lose “his” hard earned money, even though it came out of Altair’s pocket. And he was even less pleased about the embarrassment it caused him, bringing a rookie to a professional table. While Mr. Henderson fumed, Altair couldn’t care less. He had had fun playing the game, and was happy he only lost a small amount. After a few moments at the bar, Mr. Henderson approached Altair again. ”Altair, for losing that money you are going to have to play a punishment game. You are going to earn back every penny and then some.” Altair nodded. ”Another game? Sounds like fun. What will we be playing this time?” Mr. Henderson laughed, ”Oh, not us boy, YOU. I’ve signed you up for a very special game, played in a very special room. Follow me.” Mr. Henderson led the way down some stairs and through a set of double doors. They walked down a hall, but were eventually stopped by an enormous, bear of a man. ”Passes.” He said in a thick Imuchakk accent. The man’s gruff exterior seemed a bit funny with that bright blue hair of his, but Altair didn’t dare say a word about how he felt. Mr. Henderson handed the man two bright green and gold passes and the man waved them through. Altair wondered where they could be going, as the sounds of yelling could be heard coming from farther down the hall. When they arrived at the end, they saw a small arena with men and women standing around it, yelling and exchanging money. Two men could be seen in the center of the pit, both covered in blood. It was a fight club.

Altair swore. He really expected him to fight people for money? He tried to walk away but was stopped by another Imuchakk man. ”Fighters go this way.” he said, and hurried Altair into a room below the pit, where other men waiting to fight were found. Some of them looked at Altair and laughed outright. ”You expect us to beat up a boy? Ahaha… Hey, if that’s what they want to see.” Others stayed quiet, knowing full well that it was the rabbit in a den of wolves that you should be most afraid of. Altair once again turned and tried to explain, ”Look, I think there has been some kind of-“ ”Get dressed here, check your weapon over there. When you hear your name, set up those stairs. Good luck, and try not to die.” The Imuchakk man had obviously heard that story before, and was quick to brush off Altairs pleas. Seeing that there was no way out of this, Altair got himself ready.

~820/2000~

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The clothes they provided were simple, and really not more than rags. Some of them even still had the blood of their previous owners on them. Altair opted for a rather clean looking tunic and trousers. He got his Rod checked out by a small man in red clothing. The man checked it for any poisons or traps, and then handed it back to Altair. He muttered something about “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying…” and went back about his business. While most of the men were simply waiting for their turn to fight, Altair took the moments before his turn to stretch and loosen up. The men down here were obviously highly dangerous, and if Altair wanted a chance of beating them, he would have to be at his best. Finally his name was called, along with another man named Orion. Altair observed the man that got up as having muscles upon muscles, without being large. Instead, he looked to be wiry, the kind of body that comes from decades of rigorous training. He carried no weapon, and upon closer examination of his face, appeared to be from Zou.

Altair and Orion headed up the stairs and into the pit. The crowd cheered for Orion to, quote, “kill the shepherd boy” and to “tear his head off”. Orion waved to the crowd, and then got himself ready. Altair gave no such pleasantries, and simply got into a fighting stance, his rod extended behind him. A horn blew, and the fight began. Orion swiftly flew into battle, giving a shout as he bolted towards Altair. The man was an aggressive type fighter, Altair noticed, he would try to overwhelm Altair with a barrage of attacks before Altair would be able to fight back. Altair thought back to his training. When fighting aggressive type opponents, seek to open them up for counter-attacks, instead of simply striking back. Make decisive strikes, and don’t get cocky. Altair waited for Orion to get in close and saw him jab at his chest. Altair saw his movement and intercepted it, using a technique he had developed to slay wolves. The punch was deflected off of Altair’s shoulder, while Altair’s Rod was thrust into Orion’s stomach. Orion staggered, the wind knocked out of him, allowing Altair to follow up with a rising uppercut to the chin. Orion fell to the floor with a thud, knocked out. The crowd was absolutely silent. Altair rubbed his shoulder, pain emanating from the bruise that was sure to be forming. He then turned, and began to head back down the stairs. Suddenly, the crowd erupted, both cheers and boo’s echoed from the stands, and money began to be quickly exchanged. Altair could see Mr. Henderson had made quite the fortune off of that one fight.

~1286/2000~

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Hoping to be done with this nonsense, Altair headed for the door, but was once again stopped by the Imuchakk man. Instead of speaking, he simply pointed to a chart on the wall. Altair observed the chart, and to his disdain, saw that he was entered in a tournament of sorts. He had passed the first round of combat, and was on to the semi-finals. Altair swore again, and turned back to try to get a better look at the other men in the hall. He noticed several of them carried a personal weapon, and all appeared quite proficient with them. In addition, they all appeared to have different fighting styles and techniques at their disposal. Altair observed one man in particular who appeared to have a very special set of bronze knuckles. In the right light, they almost seemed to shimmer with some kind of energy. “Those couldn’t be magic, could they?” he thought to himself. He decided to ask the short man in red about what exactly the rules on weapons were. The answer he got confirmed his suspicions. While poisons and trapped weapons were out, men with magically charged weapons were encouraged to use them, as they made the fights more exciting for the members to watch. He wouldn’t blab about what the large man’s knuckles were, but Altair thought he had an idea already.

Only a few minutes afterwards, Altair was once again called to the pit. This time it was with a man named Jazz. The man was lithe, but strong, and carried a rapier of incredible quality. Jazz looked at Altair’s Rod and snickered. ”How can you be expected to win with a weapon like that? It’s so barbaric, it’s almost sad.” Altair brushed off the insult. Jazz was just trying to unnerve him before the fight. He had to remain calm, or he wouldn’t be able to read his movements. The horn sounded again, and the fight was on. Jazz calmly walked around the pit, with Altair mirroring him. For a moment, nothing happened, and then Jazz struck. A flurry of blows issued from the rapier, and Altair was barely able to keep up, using a defensive technique inspired by the way a wasp flies. When the barrage ended, Altair struck back, aiming low for his ankle, attempting to break his root. But Jazz was faster, blocking the strike with ease, and delivering a nasty gash to Altair’s ribcage. Altair recovered quickly, and noticed something about the way Jazz moved. He overextended when blocking low. Altair could take advantage of this. Altair seemed to quiver, and then bolted forwards, once again aiming low for his ankle. But this time, when Jazz went to block, Altair used a technique he had developed for killing bears, and quickly got behind Jazz. Before Jazz could turn around, the Altair landed a solid blow to the base of his neck, almost knocking him out. When Jazz turned to face him, Altair landed a blow to his cheek, and sending him sprawling. Fight two was over. Once again the crowd cheered, and Altair could see money flowing between the patrons. He was about to leave the pit, when they called for a single man. Cain, the man with the bronze knuckles, entered the pit, closing the gate behind him.

~1837/2000~

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Cain was a giant of a man. His strength was obvious in his size and his muscles rippled with unused power. Cain had a wicked grin on his face. The crowd hushed as he entered the pit. It was obvious to Altair that this man was meant to kill him. Cain put the knuckles on his fingers and then slammed them together, causing a crackle of electricity to arc between them. Lightning. Awesome. Altair knew that if those knuckles connected, it would be all over for him. The lightning would cause spasms in his muscles, leaving him all but defenseless against a future attack. Altair had to think. He would have to take this behemoth down in one go, because he wasn’t going to get another attack. The blood he had lost already from that slash to his chest would make sure of that, along with those knuckles. But before Altair was able to think up a strategy, the horn blew for the third time.

The first thing Altair noticed about Cain was that he was slow to move. That was good; it meant he would have to work to keep up with Altair. The second thing he noticed was that when he made strikes, he put a lot of pressure on his rear leg. Altair had some trouble dodging his attacks, mostly having to do with the small size of the arena, and the large sized Cain. And Cain just kept moving like a machine. He never seemed to tire, even after his fourteenth attempt at Altair’s head. It seemed that part of Cain’s strategy was to tire his opponent, before finishing them off. Suddenly an idea struck Altair. What if he used that move he was training to use on Jackals? It struck specifically the joints, and was meant to impair an opponent before the final blow was given. He had never actually used it in combat before, but now seemed like a good a time to try it as any. Altair waited for Cain to make another attempt at his head, and then sprang. His first strike landed on Cain’s back knee, causing him to fall. As he did, he swung backwards with his left fist, right into Altair’s second strike aimed at his left elbow. Altair then ducked back under his now overextended arm, and in front of Cain. Cain tried to launch his right hook into Altair’s stomach, but Altair was too quick. A third strike to his right elbow caused it to bend, striking his own chest with the bronze knuckle. Cain went rigid as the electricity coursed through him, but Altair ended his suffering with a quick blow to the head. Cain was down for the count.

The crowd erupted in cheers, like none anyone had experience before, and rushed the pit. Altair was suddenly hoisted onto the shoulders of the crowd and carried around the pit like a conquering hero. Altair was too tired to resist, and simply let himself be carried around. Mr. Henderson approached from below shouting praises at Altair, as though he had just saved the world from devastation, and united all the people within the nation. And all Altair could think while he was being carried around was “If he makes me do this again, I’ll break his neck.”

~2388/2000~

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