Chapter 2

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"You're coming in too low, Samuel," the master said. "How many times do I have to say it? Just because your opponent's shorter, doesn't mean your punches should be that weak."

"Yes, master," Sam said. He had lost track of how many times he had said that word today alone.

"Show him how it's done, Thiago."

"Yes master," his friend answered and walked towards him.

Sam clenched his jaws when he saw Thiago's mocking smile. He shook his head and raised his hands in guard position.

But it made no difference. Even with the glove, Thiago was too fast for him. The moment their professor said to start, Thiago's punch became a blur, got through his defenses with ease, and landed on his jaw. Even with the protective gear, the blow made Sam dizzy as he fell on the mat.

Even blinking, it took a while for the room to stop spinning. When his eyes got back to normal, Sam took off the glove and grabbed the arm his friend offered. "You're too strong," he said.

"Yeah, I know," Thiago said, pulling him up. "But the fact that you don't like hitting people helps."

"Sorry for not being a brute."

Thiago laughed. "I don't know why you decided to train Muay Thai all of the sudden. If you really wanna fight MMA, you should stick with Jujutsu. You're better at grappling shirtless guys anyway."

"Don't make it sound gay." Sam punched him in the shoulder. "And you're just saying 'cause you suck at it."

"I'd rather hit my opponents than get on the floor with them," Thiago said, punching Sam back.

They lined with the rest of the students. They greeted the teacher, thanked for the lesson and headed to the locker-room.

"Hey Sam." Thiago's voice reached to him from the partition dividing the showers. "You still haven't said to your mom and Mirela you wanna fight professionally, have you?"

Sam kept his eyes closed as he washed his hair. "I try every time they bring up college stuff and all, but... it's hard to say."

"Yeah... I can't see them supporting you," Thiago said. "Actually, I imagine your mother crying and going to church to pray you don't go down that path."

Sam chuckled weakly. He had imagined the same thing. "And Mirela will be pissed off."

"Either way, you're screwed. Good luck." Even through the wooden wall, Sam knew his friend was smiling.

"Yeah, thanks for the support. I really need that.


"I don't know what I'd do without you."

"You'd probably wrestle shirtless guys to the ground."

They had finished changing and were walking towards the bus stop. "Where do you wanna eat?" Sam asked.

Thiago closed his eyes and crossed his arms. "Your mom's cooking today, right? Let's eat at your house."

"You just want a free meal," Sam said and then laughed.

"I want your mom's food—"

Though his mouth still moved, Thiago became mute to Sam.

It only lasted half a heartbeat, but Sam first saw a pillar of light in the corner of his eyes. Then he heard the explosion, so loud it made his entire body tremble. As he turned to the sound, he flew backward with the shockwave.

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