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Chapter 38 - Ken

I have spent the last few hours comparing strategies and running statistical models on the coming match. It is ultimately futile, as we are clearly well beyond the limits of what tactical play can accomplish. All I have determined is that, given my own skill level and what I could ascertain from Leon’s capabilities, I would lose 99.5% of direct matchups. Clearly, I will be of minimal utility in what everyone predicts will be a straight head–to–head between Leon Mara and Paul Liston. Sadly, I believe that Paul’s odds are not much better than mine, though I would be a fool to shatter his confidence by saying this aloud. He certainly does not require any more stress than has already been placed on his shoulders.

And the tension here has reached new heights. My focus on victory had grown so tight that I failed to notice a blurb about our competition on the website of Aukland’s Unofficial. As a result, agents from several publications and leagues have come to Solace in hopes of seeing the public premiere of the next scion of the Mara clan. There will be important eyes on us today, and even more awaiting the footage which will no doubt be journeying across the digital void within minutes of the round’s termination.

I was too restless to sit through every one of my classes, so during sixth period I decided to make an early exit. “Mrs. Allman? Can I be excused to get ready for the round?”

Mrs. Allman looked back into the classroom. “Kenneth, there are only three other students here.”

“Yes, I see that. Can I go?”

“Do you really feel that it’s necessary to ask when we’re not even having a lesson today?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Kenneth, just go on down.”

“Thanks.”

The buzz of the waiting crowd was plainly audible even from the other end of the building. Not wanting to deal with the mass of students and parents below, I worked my way to the auditorium via a lower profile route. But there would be no peace for me even on this route. Waiting for me at the entrance to the auditorium were two familiar faces: Ron Janowski, adjusting the controls on his school provided camera, and Edward Page, still sporting his rather comical hat. All that was missing was the card with the word “Press” protruding from the brim.

“Hey, Greevey!” Ron waved to me. “You fired up for the round?”

“Yes, I’m certainly fired up.” I turned to Edward. “Now why are you hanging around here?”

“Why do I go anywhere?” said Edward. “I’m here for the story. They’re sending people from across the state, what kind of reporter would I be if I wasn’t here, too?”

“You’re not a reporter,” I said.

“Hey, I thought his last piece was pretty awesome,” said Ron.

“And now I want the follow–up.” Edward produced a cellular phone. “Care to give me a statement for the record? Come on, you talked plenty before.”

“That was different. I was...” In truth, I spoke with Edward only to help Paul defuse a potential Aaron Bellamy plot, but I did not say this. That much honesty seemed like a mistake. “...you know, that was before the tournament really started. It’s different now.”

“Why?” said Edward. “Come on, Ken, if it was important before when it was just our little local write–up, then it’s way more important now. Come on, just a few statements, a quote for the record. I’ll take it from there.”

I could only shake my head at his persistence. “Why are you so hot for this? You really can’t think that this is gonna be your big break?”

Edward shrugged. “I think it’s interesting. Maybe even important. And I think I can get other people to think that it’s interesting and important, too. It’s a story that deserves to be told, and I’d like to be the one who tells it.”

“Yeah?” I had never thought of it like that.

“That’s the name of the game.” Edward extended his phone. “Comment for the record?”

Behind Edward, I saw Ron lift his camera. For once, this was going to be a big deal to someone besides me.

“You have time?” I said.

“Plenty of time until the round starts, man,” said Ron. “We’re recording. Chat away.”

“Okay,” I said. “Well, it all started on Wednesday about three weeks ago...”

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