Chapter 27 - Ripples

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 Codi held the head brace loosely in one hand, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. Kye stood beside her, lounging against the corridor wall. If he was nervous he wasn’t letting it show. He ought to be nervous though; she knew she could feel her stomach flipping at the prospect of taking on Ripple. Her own path to the quarter finals had been…she didn’t want to us the word ‘easy,’ but it had certainly been less arduous than it could have been. Now it all seemed like trial runs for the real test.

Under Vasco’s direction she was still improving. Her technique was still a mess, but it was a well-coordinated mess that threw other fighters for a loop when exposed to it. After getting over her scare in the group stages, she now found herself enjoying every fight, going out in front of the screaming multitudes and showing what she could do. When she wasn’t in the arena, she was in the training centre, and when she wasn’t practicing she was thrust out in front of a camera to face reporters and sponsors.

Shaking her head, she forced the every piece of behind-the-scenes information out of her mind and tried to focus. Looking at Kye, she felt a stab of concern for him. Bruno’s grim threat still lurked in her mind. At the time neither of them had really been entertaining the notion that they would make it this far, but now that they had the warnings were all too real.

“How you feeling?” she asked.

“Hard to say.” He lolled his head from side to side. “I got this far, but I’ve got a feeling I’m not going to enjoy this next one.”

“Stay light,” Codi said, moving closer to him. “Don’t let him come at you straight. And don’t try and fight defensive.” She knew her advice was nothing he hadn’t already thought of, but she still felt that she had to say something.

He grinned at her, giving her a nudge with one elbow. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll give bucket-head a good run. You just keep your mind on that ice queen and make sure you go through.”

With an almost insulting suddenness an announcement blared over the tannoy. “Kye Recktor to the arena, Kye Recktor to the arena.

He took a deep breath, settled his head brace and smiled at her. “I’ll see you after.”

Codi nodded. As he turned to leave she grabbed him by one arm and spun him back. Pulling him into a fierce hug, she planted a kiss on his cheek and whispered into his ear, “Good luck.”

After letting go she found him staring at her with an expression of amazement stamped onto his normally unflappable features. She felt the blood rush to her cheeks and her barrier came back up.

“Go on then,” she blurted out, shoving him in the direction of the tunnel. “Go kick his ass!” He hesitated for a second before nodding. Kye took in another steadying breath and then jogged off down the corridor. She watched him go, digging her free hand through the black locks of her hair.

It was several minutes later when her own name was called, summoning her to the quarter final bout. She rolled her shoulders, bounced on the spot a couple of times and began making her way down the corridor at an easy jog. When she reached the entrance to her surprise Ripple was no-where in sight.

“What? Am I going in alone?” she queried to the attendant. The young man nodded with a smile.

“You’re entering from opposite ends,” he said.

Codi frowned at him but no more information was forthcoming. It was strange standing alone before the cavernous doorway. The counter above the door stayed as a familiar point of reference, however, slowly ticking down from thirty seconds.

“Good luck, Miss James,” the man said as the counter reached five seconds. He pressed a button and the doors opened, exposing Codi to the now familiar surge of noise from the Gauntlet crowds. She rammed her head brace into position shook her limbs to loosen up and then went charging out into the light of the arena.

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