40. Spar Wars

Previous Story: 39. The Showman

Lady Rose led ‘Little’ Jenny into one of the gym’s practice rooms. They hadn’t sparred like this for months but she could tell the bodyguard was unsettled by the recent promotion of Gudu, Rose’s chief enforcer. Now was the time to spend some time together; boost her confidence and perhaps improve her fighting skills. Rose had Jenny, Gudu and others to protect her but she was also a capable martial artist herself. She felt that someone of her diminutive size had to compensate with superior skill. The bodyguard was very strong and powerful but she needed to work on her agility.

As they neared the center of the mat that dominated the room, Rose turned to Jenny. ‘Implants switched off, I hope.’

Jenny nodded. ‘Of course. Normal fan, I hope!’

Rose flicked her fan open to show it was not equipped with poison-tipped points. ‘Of course.’

Though non-lethal, the fan did feature a striking image – a red dragon breathing fire.

The pair stood opposite each other, ready to fight. They had swapped their usual attire for gym clothes. Rose, who liked to keep up appearances, had told her people that they were not to be disturbed. One side of the room was covered by a mirror and she smiled as she noted their difference in size. They were an odd couple, but Jenny was her oldest friend and a loyal ally; it was important to preserve this relationship.

The bodyguard had seemed enthusiastic about the idea but now her expression suggested otherwise.

‘What’s up, Jen?’

‘Nothing. It’s just … I don’t want to hurt you.’

‘You’ll have to get close enough.’ With a sudden dart, Rose aimed a kick at Jenny. She couldn’t get high enough to reach her head but Jenny moved languidly into a spin that ensured the kick missed. Despite her bulk, she usually made effective use of the ‘drunken’ style to avoid contact.

Jenny raised her hands and now she took the initiative. As she advanced, Rose kept on the move, using her speed and agility to keep her foe guessing.

‘Footwork, Jen. Stay on your toes.’

‘Got it.’

‘Aim your feet towards your opponent. That’s it. Much better.’

Rose didn’t give Jenny much time to enjoy the compliment. Snapping the fan open as a distraction, she came in low under Jenny’s swinging arm and kicked her – lightly – on the flank.

‘One to me.’

Rose knew she would have to rile Jenny a bit. The bodyguard was always hesitant at the start of these sessions.

Rose kept moving: side-stepping, weaving, jinking, continually using the fan to deceive and distract.

Jenny was sweating now; and seemed annoyed that she couldn’t lay a hand on her smaller opponent. Her anger actually made her fight better, and soon Rose was struggling to keep her at bay. Jenny’s ‘drunken’ evasions and parries worked well and, with her advantage in reach, she was beginning to get close.

But then Rose nipped nimbly inside her defenses. Leaping high, she landed a blow with the handle of the fan on Jenny’s head. As always, it was a light impact that made a powerful point.

‘Two to me.’

As Rose withdrew, Jenny lashed out and caught her on the shoulder.

This was not a light impact. Rose staggered backwards, tried to regain her balance, but ended up on her backside.

‘Oh no!’ cried Jenny. ‘Rose, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it.’ She reached down and helped her back up. ‘Are you all right?’

‘I’m fine. Nice footwork to get in position.’

Jenny was still holding her close. ‘I really couldn’t bear it if I hurt you.’

‘It’s nothing, Jen. Really.’

Looking into her old friend’s eyes, Rose knew she felt more than friendly feelings towards her. It had always remained unspoken between them. Rose also loved Jenny in a way; but not in that way.

It was unusual for Rose to be lost for words; or unsure of what to do next.

Jenny let go, her face flushed with embarrassment. ‘Maybe we should stop.’

‘No,’ said Rose. ‘Let’s keep going.’

With a smile, she flipped the fan open again and wafted the air to cool them both. ‘Multi-purpose. Nice, eh?’

As the moment of tension was broken, Jenny smiled. ‘Yeah, nice. Okay then. Best of five?’

Rose snapped the fan shut. ‘Best of five it is.’

Next Story: 41. The Blackout