I Believe

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The Challenge

Judas starts the fight by swinging the sword at Doug’s head. Doug jumps back barely dodging the blade. Before Doug could recover Judas is on top of him with another strike. Doug’s blocks it with his robotic arm. Judas’s blade bounces off Doug’s arm. The blow doesn’t even shake Doug but the impact almost knocks the sword out of Judas’s hands. Judas recovers and swings again at Doug’s chest. Doug ducks under the blade which misses his head by inches. Judas suddenly charges and kicks Doug in the chest, knocking him to the ground. He advances toward Doug with his sword raised above his hand. Doug spins while he is on the ground and delivers a kick to Judas’ leg. The blow knocks Judas to his knees. Doug uses the momentum to propel himself up and deliver a powerful kick to the Judas’ face. The blow knocks Judas to the ground. Doug advances toward Judas and swings his hatchet at his chest. Judas blocks Doug’s attack then kicks Doug in the stomach knocking him back. Judas quickly jumps back up and they face off again.

“You are doing pretty well so far Doug.”

“You’re not making it easy.”

The whole round continues on like this. Doug has to block all of Judas’s attack with his right arm. Doug knows better than to block with his left arm. The size of Judas’s sword only increases the momentum of the attack. It is too much for his left arm to take. Whenever Doug sees an opportunity he tries to rush forward and attack with his hatchet. But Judas blocks Doug’s attack every time. The round goes on like this for three minutes. Both Doug and Judas are starting to tire. Finally, Judas thrusts his sword at Doug’s stomach. Doug spins to avoid the blade not fast enough. The blade slices Doug right side. Even though Judas’s sword had a sheath the blow is so powerful that it cuts through the skin. Doug almost screams in pain. The whole crowd cheers when Judas lands the blow.

“Round one is Judas with a cut to the right side.” Griffin shouts.

Judas looks down and sees blood staining the side of Doug’s shirt.

“Sorry about that Doug, are you alright?” Judas asks.

“It’s just a flesh wound. I’ll be alright.”

Griffin motions for Doug and Judas to face off again.

“You guys ready for round two?” Griffin shouts.

“Yes.” Judas and Doug answer in unison.

“Ok, FIGHT!” Griffin shouts.

This round is a lot like the last. All Doug can do is try to avoid Judas’s attacks. Judas isn’t giving Doug the time to attack. About halfway through the round Doug blocks a down strike from Judas with his hatchet. Doug sees an opening in Judas’s defense. He grads Judas’s left arm rotates it so far that he dislocates it. It is the same shoulder that Judas dislocated during the fight with the wolves and bears. Doug follows with a thrust with his knife aimed at Judas’s chest. Judas blocks the blow with his right arm and then delivers a powerful punch to Doug’s chest that knocks him back several feet. Judas advances towards Doug again. Doug blocks the blow with his hatchet and uses his right arm to push Judas off balance. He then jumps in the air and delivers a spin kick to Judas’s face. The blow knocks Judas to the ground. Doug runs at Judas and pins his sword to the ground. He raises his hatchet above his head for a finishing blow. But Judas grabs Doug’s wrist, places his right foot on Doug’s stomach and uses the momentum to propel Doug over and onto his back. Doug and Judas both recover quickly and face off again. About a minute later Doug blocks an upper attack from Judas with his right arm. Out of nowhere, Judas kicks Doug in the chest knocking him down. As Doug tries to get up, Judas swings his sword at him. Doug uses his right arm to push himself off the ground. Judas’s sword slices underneath him. When Doug lands on the ground Judas attacks him again. Doug tries to roll away but Judas’s sword smashes into his left hand. Doug hears a loud, painful crack in his hand.

“Round two is Judas with a cut to the hand.” Griffin says.

The pain in Doug’s hand is excruciating. He knows that it is not broken, but some of the bones are out of place. Doug ignores the pain and goes back to the fight. Since he cannot use his left hand any more, Doug puts the bowie knife on his belt.

“Do you need to stop?” Judas asks.

“Are you making fun of me or being serious?”

“I’m being serious, is your hand broken?”

“No, its fine, I can handle it. How’s your arm?” Doug asks.

“You popped it out of place. That was Aikido you used right?”

“Yes”

“Impressive”

Katrina is standing towards the back of the crowd with Zathora and Salvador. She is beginning to doubt her dream. Doug is putting up a good fight, but he is losing. In her dream, she saw that the chosen one would be able to go toe to toe with Judas. Right now, Doug is not fulfilling that part of the dream. Doug is doing better than most people expected him to. Very few expected him to last past the first round. But Doug is not handling himself as good as Katrina saw in her dream.

“Hey Katrina, do you still think that this guy is the chosen one?” Zathora asks.

“I don’t know, in my dream. I saw that the chosen one would be near equal in skill to Judas. It doesn’t look like he is going to win.” Katrina replies.

Katrina sees Doug get into a fighting stance like before, only this time, she sees something different. He looks more relaxed and focused than before. It looks like something has changed inside of him. Doug is obviously decided to use a different tactic.

“Whatever he’s going to do, he’s going to have to do it quick. He can’t use his left hand anymore and it seems to me like his metal arm is slower than his left arm.” Zathora says.

“Round three, next point wins. Doug you cannot use your left but you can still move your arm. Are both of you ready?” Katrina hears Griffin shout.

“Yes” Judas and Doug answer in unison.

“Ok, ready FIGHT!”

Everyone expects Judas to attack first, but before he can move Doug lunges at him with his hatchet. Judas barely manages to dodge the attack. Before he can recover Doug launches another attack at him. Judas just barely blocks the blow with the flat end of his sword. The strength of Doug’s robotic arm brings Judas to his knees. Doug then spin kicks Judas in the face, knocking him back several feet. Doug rushes at Judas as he tries to get up, but Judas thrusts his sword at Doug. Doug turns and just barely avoids the blade. As he recovers, Doug swings the hatchet at Judas’s leg. The hatchet makes contact with his leg.

“Round three is Doug with a cut to the leg.” Griffin says a little surprised.

The entire crowd falls deathly silent. It becomes so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. Everyone is surprised that Doug actually manages to hit Judas. Very few expected Doug to win even one round against Judas. Even Katrina is surprised, and she knows the outcome of the fight.

“I guess he does have some fight left in him after all.” Zathora says.

“Yeah but he is still down by one point. “ Salvador replies.

“He can do it.” Katrina whispers.

Doug sees surprise in Judas’s eyes. He knows that his attacks caught Judas off guard. Doug also knows that he may be able to do it again, but not a third time.

“Round four, Doug you cannot use your left hand. Judas you have to limp on your left leg. Judas are you ready?” Griffin shouts.

“Ready”

“Doug, are you ready?”

“Ready”

“Ok, FIGHT!” Griffin yells again.

Doug wants Judas to make a mistake in his timing. He wants the attack to have an even more effect than last time. Doug starts with the same attack just even faster this time. It surprises Judas, but this time, he responds quicker. Judas lashes out to block Doug’s attack but Doug anticipates Judas’s response. He suddenly stops then backs away. Judas overextends himself and the momentum from the block causes him to fall forward. In response Doug slams his right shoulder into Judas, knocking him down. Doug advances toward Judas with his hatchet ready to swing down on Judas’s chest. But Judas sweeps Doug’s feet out from underneath him. Doug falls down flat on his back with a loud thud. Before he can get up Judas is already on top of him. Judas pins Doug’s arms to the ground and knocks the hatchet out of his hand. Judas pushes the hatchet out of Doug’s reach. Doug tries to get up but Judas knocks him back down. Doug knows that Judas’s forte is ground fighting. As long as Judas can keep Doug on the ground, he has the advantage. He uses its strength to keep Judas off. Doug throws Judas down and pins him. Doug delivers a powerful punch to Judas’s face with his robotic arm. The blow almost knocks Judas out. Before Doug can deliver another blow Judas wraps his legs around Doug’s left arm then uses his leg strength to throw him down. Judas grabs Doug’s left arm and quickly gets him in an arm bar. Judas pulls back with all his strength. Doug can feel the tendons in his shoulder tearing as Judas pulls back. He tries to grab Judas with his robotic arm but Judas uses his legs to keep Doug pinned down. Doug knows that Judas has him in a position where his strength is useless. So he results to something that is very unorthodox. Doug bites Judas’s leg. Judas cries out in pain and eventually let go. Doug quickly pushes himself away and jumps back up on his feet.

“WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT DOUG?” Judas yells.

“You didn’t leave me much of choice. That was the only thing I could think of.”

“Well next time try something else please.

“If there is a next time.”

Judas kneels down and picks up his sword. Doug looks for his hatchet and finds it behind Judas. Her reaches into his belt and pulls out his bowie knife. Doug waits for Judas to charge him. When Judas gets close he thrusts his sword at Doug’s chest. Instead of ducking under the blade Doug surprises him by jumping over the blade and delivers a power spin kick to Judas’s face. Judas turns with the blow and falls to his knees. He recovers in time to see Doug advancing with his bowie knife, just not in time to block it. Doug lands a blow on Judas’ left shoulder.

“Round four is Doug with a cut to the shoulder. Whoever scores the next point wins.” Griffin shouts.

Doug and Judas are both tired and exhausted. Both are covered in sweat and have multiple injuries. Doug is still bleeding from the cut to his side.

“Hey Judas, can I ask you a question?” Doug asks.

“Yes”

“When this is over, are you gonna hate me even more than before?”

“I do not hate you Doug. I just want to know if you are worthy of my respect. You have earned it. But I would like to know why you don’t respect me.”

“I do respect you. I was trying to be nice to you. This is all probably just a big misunderstanding.”

“You are probably right. But we still have a fight to finish. May the best man win?” Judas says.

“I was about to say the same thing.”

Doug and Judas get in their fighting positions. Judas stands ready for Doug’s attack like the last two times. But Doug has a different plan up his sleeve.

“Last round Judas, you ready?” Griffin asks.

“Yes, I’m ready.” Judas answers.

“Doug, you ready?”

“I’m ready.” Doug replies.

“Okay, ready, set, FIGHT!”

Judas jumps back in anticipation of Doug’s attack, but Doug just stands there. Judas looks at Doug shocked. Doug stands straight up and drops the hatchet on the ground.

“What are you doing Doug?” Nick yells at Doug.

Doug doesn’t even reply back to him. Instead of going into his normal Jeet Kune Do stance, Doug takes a T’ai Chi stance. Everyone in the audience just stands there looking at him. It becomes so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.

“What are you waiting for?” Doug asks.

“I don’t want to attack an unarmed man.” Judas answers.

“Don’t worry I won’t hurt you too bad.”

Judas drops his sword and lunges at Doug, but Doug easily side – steps Judas’s attack and uses his momentum to flip Judas on his back. Judas recovers and attacks Doug again. But Doug easily dodges and delivers a powerful palm strike to Judas’s chest knocking him back. “You know that I is just kidding with you right?” Doug says.

Judas calms down a little, but he still seems to be angry. He lunges at Doug again with a powerful thrust kick. But Doug grabs Judas’s foot and flips him on his back.

“What the heck was that?”

“T’ai Chi”

“Not bad, I see that I’m going to have to mix it up a little.”

Judas jumps up and cautiously advances towards Doug. Judas suddenly launches multiple attacks at Doug. Doug not only blocks but turns Judas’s attacks against him when he can. Judas is making it almost impossible for Doug to defend himself. The round goes on for what seems like forever. Judas finally sees an opening in Doug’s defenses. He throws a punch aimed at Doug’s chest. Doug easily blocks but Judas his fist rotates around Doug’s arm and connects to Doug’s face. The blow stuns Doug long enough for Judas to deliver a powerful side thrust kick to Doug’s chest. The blow is so powerful that it knocks Doug to the ground. Judas lunges at Doug to pin him but Doug attempts a kick at Judas’s leg but Judas blocks it. Doug uses the momentum to jump up and deliver a punch to Judas’s face. Before Judas can recover Doug delivers a spinning heel kick to Judas’s face. The blow knocks Judas to his knees and almost knocks him out. Before Judas can get up Doug comes up behind him and wraps his arm Judas’s neck, a move called the choke hold. Judas grabs to Doug’s arm to try to pull him off but Doug is too strong. Just as his vision starts becoming blurry, Judas reaches back, grabs Doug’s hair and flips him over his shoulder. As soon as Doug lands of his back Judas jumps back gasping for air. Doug’s chock hold almost did him in. Doug stands back and lets Judas catch his breath. Both of them are getting close to the end of their strength.

“I must say Doug, I am impressed. I never thought that you would last this long against me.”

“Thanks Judas, what do you say we end this?”

“I could not agree more.”

Doug and Judas reach for their weapons at the same time. Judas grabs his sword first, it was much closer than Doug is to his hatchet, and rushes towards Doug. Doug knows that he doesn’t have the time to grab his hatchet so he pulls out his bowie knife and rushes at Judas. Judas and Doug both stop less than a foot from each other. It becomes so quiet that the audience hears the crickets chirping. Judas has his sword on Doug’s throat. But that is not what surprises the audience. Less than an inch away from Judas’ heart is Doug’s bowie knife.

“Challenge over by a tie.” Griffin shouts, really surprised.

The whole Rottweiler community is shocked. None of them, not even Katrina, believes what they just saw. Even Doug’s men do not believe. Judas is the one who breaks the silence.

“Congratulations Doug, you really impressed me. ”

“Thanks Judas, that means a lot coming from you.”

Judas turns to Doug and offers him his hand. Doug takes it and they shake. Griffin suddenly walks up to Doug and Judas. He looks very surprised, but he hides it well.

“Well, I have got to say that is one of the most interesting fights I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’ve seen a bunch of fights.” Griffin shouts to the audience. “What do the rest of you think about this fight?”

Almost all of Dogs start clapping in appreciation. There are a few that do not like it. A few of the older Dogs come up, shake Doug’s hand, and introduce themselves. Eventually the crowd starts leaving. It takes a while for the crowd to disappear. Soon only Doug, Judas, and a few others are left.

“Doug I have never lost a fight in my whole life. You have come closer to beating me than anyone has before. You have earned my respect. I am sorry for the way I treated you.”

“I forgive you and it is an honor to have your respect Judas.”

“Thank you, it was an honor to fight you. Just do not bite me next time.” Judas says while trying not to laugh.

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Thanks man, I would like to introduce you to my wife Mary.”

Doug and Mary shake hands.

“Nice to meet you Mary. “ Doug says.

“Nice to meet you too Doug. Thanks for not beating my husband too badly.”

“You’re welcome. Can you try to make him a little nicer?” Doug jokingly asks.

Mary and Judas both laugh.

“I can try but I cannot guarantee it.”

Zathora sees Katrina glaring at her with a look that says I told you so.

“Well Katrina it looks like you are right. This guy may just be the chosen one after all.” Zathora whispers to Katrina.

“I told you”

“What are you two talking about?” Salvador asks.

Katrina and Zathora stare at each other. They cannot reveal anything about the dream to him. Katrina has told only one other person besides Zathora about her dream. Doug has fulfilled three of the qualifications: save her from a bear; the Black Mamba Ranger tattoo on his neck; and challenge one of the Rottweiler’s best warriors. There are still a few qualifications that Doug has to fulfill. Katrina is now all but certain that Doug is the one. But she can reveal none of this to Salvador. Katrina makes up something on the fly.

“I cannot tell you. It is something between us Zioners only, understand?”

“Yes I understand.” Salvador replies then walks away.

Katrina and Zathora wait until Salvador is far enough away to relax.

“Phew, that was a close one.” Katrina whispers to Zathora.

Early the next morning Griffin and two of his Generals show up at the humans’ camp. Most of them are still asleep, but Doug, Roger, Mark, Corporal, and Frank are awake. Frank is busy cooking breakfast. Doug, Roger, Mark, and Corporal are practicing T’ai Chi. Griffin walks up and invites Doug and his men for a tour of one of their bases. Doug accepts their invitation. Roger, Shawn, Mark, Corporal, and John agree to come along. Jack, Jake, and Nick don’t want to go. They want to stay at the campsite and relax. Griffin promises that he will be back after lunch to pick them up.

True to his word, Griffin and Judas show up after lunch and takes Doug, Roger, Shawn, Mark, Corporal, and John to their military training facility (the one located next to their camp). The facility is bigger than it looks. There are shooting ranges, martial art studios, a barracks, mess hall, etc. About half of the facility is located in the woods. Griffin explains that it is for training purposes.

“We Rottweilers are at home in the woods. You do not want to follow one of us into the woods.”

“After what I’ve seen, I can believe that.” Doug replies.

Griffin and Judas lead Doug, Roger, Shawn, Mark, John, and Corporal over to the shooting range. A class has just finished shooting when they walk up to the range. Doug, Shawn, Frank, and Corporal notice that most of the Rottweilers are using M4A1 military rifles. Some have the M203 grenade launcher attached to their rifles. Others are using the M249 machine gun. Still others are using just a bow and arrow. Doug and Frank are instantly curious why the Rottweilers are still using the bow. They ask the Range Master.

“Simple, the bow is a silent and deadly weapon. We use it mostly on stealth mission.”

“But why would you use a weapon that is accurate to a hundred yards when you have guns? Frank asks.

The Range Master picks up a bow and notches and arrow.

“You guys see that target at the end of the field?”

Doug, Frank, Shawn, and Corporal have to squint to see it. It looks like a small dot.

“Yes sir”

“How far away do you think that is?”

“I’d say about three hundred yards.” Shawn answers.

“Correct” The Range Master draws back his bow. “We call this Die Kunst der Verbeugung.”

The Range Master aims his bow and fires. The arrow hits the target dead center. Doug, Frank, Shawn, and Corporal jaws drop. The Range Master laughs as he puts down the bow.

“That is why we use a bow.”

Griffin and Judas both burst out laughing. They laugh until their sides hurt.

“So what does Die Kunst der Verbeugung mean?” Mark asks.

“It’s German for “The Art of the Bow.” Doug answers.

“That is correct.” Griffin replies a little surprised. “Where did you learn to speak German?”

“The U.S. military has a base in Germany. I got injured and spent a lot of time there. After my first visit, I decided that it would be a good idea to learn German. Long story short it paid off.”

Once Griffin and Judas lead Doug, Frank, Shawn, Roger, Mark, John, and Corporal to the martial arts studio. Doug, Shawn, and Corporal notice that the Rottweilers are practicing a martial art that is similar to S.O.C.P. The Rottweilers, even the young trainees, have outstanding martial art skills. The trainees are using rubber M4s and rubber knives for safety purposes. Griffin makes his way to a much older Rottweiler who seems to be the instructor. The Rottweiler is hunched over on a cane. He looks frail but Doug, Roger, Shawn, and Mark know better than to doubt an old man.

“Guys, this is Amos, our martial arts instructor.” Griffin says.

Doug walks up to Amos and shakes his hand. Despite his age, Amos possesses great strength. His grip almost crushes Doug’s hand.

“So you are the one who challenged Judas?” Amos asks.

“Yes, were you there?”

“No but I heard about it. They told me that you were an amazing martial artist.”

“Yes sir” Doug answers. “So is S.O.C.P. your martial art?”

“No, our martial art is called Die Kunst des Messers. Our ancestors, who were German Celt Warriors, developed it more than twenty five hundred years ago. Unlike most Celt clans who charged the enemy, our ancestors preferred guerilla warfare. They preferred to take stealth over confrontation, which made our ancestors one of the most feared clans. Die Kunst des Messers is both a weapons and empty – handed martial art. We use mostly small weapons like knives, short swords, hatchets, and clubs. I guess you can say that Kunst des Messers is similar to S.O.C.P. and Krav Maga.”

“What does Die Kunst des Messers mean?” Frank asks.

“It’s German for “The Art of the Knife.” Doug answers. “What do you mean that your ancestors were German Celts?”

“That is a little difficult to explain.” Griffin replies.

“Ok, I’ll pretend that I didn’t hear it, for now.”

“So would guys like to see a demonstration?” Amos asks trying to divert the attention away from the conversation.

“Definitely”

Amos quickly pulls out a knife and just glimpsing a target twenty yards away, throws the knife. The knife hits the target dead center. Amos pulls out another knife, aims, and throws it at the knife already in the target. The second knife hits the hilt of the first knife.

“How did you do that?” Shawn asks.

“I aim for the middle.”

Doug, Frank, Roger, Shawn, Mark, John, and Corporal burst out laughing. Once they get done laughing, Amos has Joshua, Darren, and Isaac, three of his students, stand up, grab their weapons, and demonstrate a situation where Die Kunst des Messers comes in handy. Joshua stands in the middle with his M4 and aims his rifle at Darren who has his hands up like he has surrendered. Joshua slowly advances toward Darren. Isaac sneaks up on Joshua’s left side. Joshua suddenly rushes forward and grabs the M4. Joshua kicking Isaac’s feet out from underneath him. Isaac lands on the ground with a thud. Joshua quickly pulls out his knife and stabs Isaac in the chest. Darren suddenly pulls out a knife and rushes at Joshua. Joshua reacts by blocking Darren’s knife hand then comes up with his knife and slashes Darren’s side. Before Darren can recover, Joshua slashes his chest, arms, neck, and head multiple times. Joshua moves so fast that even Doug and Shawn barely see his arms move.

“How old are they?” Roger asks.

“Joshua is seventeen, Darren is sixteen, and Isaac is fifteen.” Amos answers.

“Wow, they’re pretty good to for being that young.” Doug comments.

“You should see them when they get older.”

Griffin and Judas show Doug, Roger, Shawn, Mark, Frank, Corporal, and John around the training facility for another hour. They show them the “Kill Houses,” vehicles, and weapons room. The Rottweilers have the same weapons and vehicles as the U.S. military. They appear to be better armed and trained. Nearly twenty years of training can have that effect. When they finish with the tour, Doug, Roger, Shawn, Mark, Frank, Corporal, and John are very impressed. Doug, Shawn, and Corporal all comment that the Rottweilers training facility is better than the Rangers. Frank is impressed when he sees the weapons the Rottweilers possess. Their weapons are, if not more, technologically advanced as the U.S.A. military. Even Frank, one of the best weapon developers in the United States, is amazed. Doug, Shawn, Roger, and Corporal are all impressed on how physical and mental the training is. Griffin comments that by the time they are eighteen, the trainees are as skilled as Green Berets. This makes the Dogs the most powerful and effective military force on the planet.

Early the next morning, Charles is sitting in his room waiting for someone to pick him up. The doctor told him yesterday that he could leave in the morning. But he has to take it easy for a couple of day. Since Charles doesn’t know where his comrades have set up camp the doctor told him that someone was coming to take him there. Charles ends up waits for so long that he falls asleep. In his dream, he is standing on top of a snow covered mountain. Charles looks up and sees Zathora standing on top of a nearby cliff. Charles sees her wearing a beautiful black dress. The wind is blowing her hair around. Charles finds her absolutely beautiful. He walks up behind her. Zathora turns around and grabs his hand.

You are so beautiful.” Charles says.

Zathora wraps her arms around Charles neck and kisses him. The kiss is so passionate that the snow and ice covered lake starts to melt. The whole environment turns from winter to spring in an instant.

Charles is suddenly awakened by a push on his shoulder. He looks up and sees Zathora standing next to him.

“Am I still dreaming?”

“No, this is real.” Zathora answers.

“Dang it, I was having a good dream.”

“What were your dreaming about?”

“Why do you want to know?” Charles asks while trying not to sound mean.

“We take dreams very serious around here.”

“I remember Katrina and Judas telling Doug that you guys receive dreams from God.”

“Yes, we do.” Zathora replies. “So what was your dream about?”

“It wasn’t a dream from God. It was just a normal dream.”

“Oh, sorry I did not mean to. . .”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Charles slowly and painfully gets out of bed. His wounds have been stabilized but they still hurt.

“So are you leading me to my friends’ camp?” Charles asks.

“Yes”

“Ok, not trying to sound ungrateful by why didn’t my friends come?”

“Griffin told them not to worry about it. I do not know why he sent me.” Zathora answers.

“Well I’m glad he sent you.”

Zathora blushes and tries to hide it but Charles see it. She hands Charles a cane and leads him to the front desk. Zathora quickly fills out Charles’s paper work and then leads him to the human’s camp. The entire way there, Zathora notices Charles staring at her.

“Can you please not stare at me?” Zathora almost shouts.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable. I’ve just never met a girl like you before.”

“You really mean that?”

“Of course, I wouldn’t make up something like that.” Charles replies.

“Ok, what do you mean by a girl like me?”

“You’re a contradiction that I just can’t figure out. You’re a strong and powerful warrior. But you’re also the kindest woman I’ve ever met. I’ve never met a woman like you before.”

“You really think that?” Zathora ask while trying unsuccessfully not to blushing.

“Absolutely, I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t mean it.”

Zathora and Charles do not say another word almost the entire walk to the humans’ camp. Finally Zathora breaks the silence. She has something that she wants answered.

“So Charles, do you remember the walk to the hospital?”

“Barely, I remember some details of it. I’d lost so much blood I was delirious. Why are you asking me?” Charles answers.

“Do you remember asking me what my name was, then saying that it was a beautiful name, and that it was a perfect name for me? I don’t remember it word for word but you said something like that.”

“That is one of the few things I do remember.”

“Were you being serious or just hallucinating?” Zathora asks.

“A little bit of both. But I can tell you that I meant what I said. The hallucinations are what got me to say it.”

Zathora hearts feels like it is going to burst out of her chest. Just knowing that Charles meant what he said draws her to him. Zathora waits until they are in the woods and out of sight of everyone. She suddenly turns around and kisses Charles on the cheek. Charles is so stunned that he almost passes out.

“That was for saving my life.” Zathora whispers.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“You do not have to say anything.”

“So where does this leave us?” Charles asks.

“I do not know. I say we play this out and see where it leads us. It is way too soon for us to say that we are in a relationship.”

“I agree”

“Good, just do not go around telling people.” Zathora replies.

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell a soul.”

Charles and Zathora pretend that nothing happened when they get to the camp. Charles receives an outstanding welcome when he arrives.

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