Chapter One: Behind Silver Bars

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The massive gates to the arena groaned as they swung open, and the sun's beaming light shined into Yuri's turquoise eyes. The young man brushed his flowing black hair from his face as he sauntered onto a dirt battleground, surrounded by large grandstands filled with affluent citizens and nobles alike. They cheered like barbarians, their formality absent in the coliseum.

Yuri, dressed in the tattered clothes of a street rat, pressed the soles of his bare feet onto the scorching dirt, his skin tingling from the heat. Dirt and grime was smeared across his ripped clothing, from his grey shirt to his torn pants.

Yuri felt the puzzled looks of countless nobles burning into him. After all, what was a boy from the slums doing in Horux's Noble Arena?

The Noble Arena was a coliseum that hosted an annual competition between the various Houses of the nobles. Each House chose a fighter that would participate in the brawl and battle for their faction's honor. It was typical that most noble Houses opted to hire professional fighters, trained warriors, or skilled heroes to fight on their behalf. But the group that Yuri represented picked a destitute boy from the grim corners of the ghetto.

Yuri scanned the crowd and eventually caught sight of his best friend, Asmund, of the Wolf Noble House. The boy brushed his curly blonde hair from his sky-blue eyes. He wore vermillion garments coupled with golden necklaces that dangled to his chest, flaunting his wealth.

It was Asmund's father, Beo, who'd enlisted Yuri for this prestigious contest. The winning House of the competition was awarded tremendous amounts of gold, wealth that each faction wanted in their treasury. Many were bewildered by the noble's choice of Yuri as the Wolf House's champion, but Beo seemed confident in Yuri's skill.

The other four combatants were all shirtless, revealing their rippling muscles and toned bodies. They all had their eyes trained on Yuri, whom they believed to be the weakest of the brawlers. It was clear that their plan was to eliminate the young man first.

Yuri licked his bottom lip and smirked at his opponents. He cracked his neck and hopped about, trying to get his blood circulating. Any ordinary boy would've been nervous in his current situation, being thrust into an arena against experienced warriors. However, he didn't feel anything but the electrifying sensation of adrenaline channeling through his veins, filling him with excitement. He slammed his fist against the palm of his other hand, a smile spreading across his face. I'm ready.

The announcer's voice reverberated through the stadium: "Hello, ladies and gentlemen! We've gathered today to witness the annual battle in the Noble Arena of Horux! We have our five contestants, each representing their Noble House! Now, brawlers, you were frisked before you entered the arena, and you know that you will fight using only your body. As this is a friendly match, murder is prohibited. You are to battle until there is only one man left standing! The winning House of today's event will receive three tons of gold and the victorious champion will be invited to dine at Horux's palace with the royal family!"

Yuri blinked, his arms drooping to his side. Suddenly, the roars of the crowd became muffled. He found himself staring at the king, who was seated on the far side of the stadium beside his beautiful daughter.The winner gets to have dinner with the royal family? He looked to the graceful princess, whose beauty mesmerized him in an instant. It took all of his willpower to pry his gaze from the highborn woman and turn his attention back to the overly-confident fighters before him. The boy's hands balled into tight fists at his side, his knuckles cracking. His eagerness for victory was now enhanced tenfold.

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