Today was one of those days. The kind where you stepped into the office and seconds later you held nothing but a frown on your face. And as the minutes passed, the frown deepened along with your mood. Oh it was a shiteous day, and one that I knew well. I don't get those often, maybe once a month--is that often? Not sure, but I knew immediately that the best thing for me would be to go home, rather than direct my scowl at some innocent co-worker.
“His majesty is going to personally murder me himself!” Quintas’ easy smile is long gone. I can hear his heart pounding strong but erratically in his chest.
“He doesn’t have to know, Quintas. And I won’t be hurt, so it’ll only be a verbal thrashing rather than your head,” I assure him for the third time. I cinch the tie holding up my hair in a secure ponytail, enjoying the slight and familiar pain from the tightness of it. Then I yank on the leather glove to cover my right hand, pressing into the pad on my palm. It’s the nicest glove I’ve ever worn and I intend to make very good use of it.
Quintas is walking quickly beside me, easily matching my hurried pace. “Of course you won’t get hurt! No one’s going to lay a hand on you in that field. They’re not insane!”
“Calm yourself, Quintas. We’re playing whether you like it or not.” I arch a brow, asking him to challenge me.
“But, Princess, this is not proper. If you get hurt—”
I raise a hand to stop him. “We’re only playing one quarter. My terrain of choice and if your men don’t play they’ll be the ones getting hurt.”
My eager legs carry me quickly onto the Fila field, leaving Quintas behind me. The players who’ve volunteered for the game look uneasy; each of them varying in size, height, weight and gender. No doubt, most of them were forced to play because they all look quesy and apologetic.
“Listen up everyone,” I shout. “On this Field, you will not think of me as the Princess. On this field I am either your enemy or your teammate. So I suggest you play for real. If you come across me, I expect you to do your part, hit the Fila ball from my hand—or wherever else would be effective—as my teammate, you can aid me to the goal rings.” I give a deep sigh. “Or I will happily annihilate you. And if that doesn’t seem punishment enough, I’ll see to it that you’ll be stuck for weeks with a humiliating duty, and carrying it out wearing one of my cousin’s ridiculous pink froo-froo dresses.” I could tell that even the girls on the team are mortified by the idea. “The winning team will name their reward and it will be handsome indeed.”
With that, I turn to the outskirts of the field and signal to Quintas. “Pull up the water terrain, no lower than three inches. Add rocks, and make it hail, Quintas. I want a storm!”
The players all look up at me with a mixture of horror, excitement, and a whole lot of fear. “You six,” I point to the players closest to me, “You’re on my team. And you seven, prepare for a damn good quarter.”
Before I leave, I spin to face our opponents. “Oh, and just between us,” I add with a confident smile, “Haven’t you ever desired to hit a pompous, rich, royal, who believed herself priveleged in every way? Don’t forget, my food’s real…for every meal.
“I’m a champion. So, prepare to feel some real pain, ladies and gentlemen.” I eye each of them challengingly and I can tell some of them are disgusted, just like I intended them to be.
With that, I walk with my team to our end of the field. Each step brings a rise of exhilaration pulsing eagerly through my blood. Already my fists are impatient to hold the Fila ball once more.
Water begins to rise up from the mat. Soon it covers my boots until both my feet are bathed in it. Rocks form from the ground and the spokes spread above us, down the length of the field. The rings on the end zones are brought up from the ground glinting gold in the light. The hailstorm starts slowly at first but I know that soon, it will be torrential.
This is exactly what I need. This is where I belong.
A growing audience surrounds the field, taking their seats in the rising bleachers that have been resurrected by Quintas. I hope word doesn’t reach the Monarch’s ear before the quarter is up. I need this. The desire to feel like myself again overthrows my fear of having this day abruptly ended before I can finish what I set out to do this morning. But this morning, I never thought I’d set foot in a Fila field again. And now that I’m on it, I’ll be damned if I don’t get to play one last time.
I turn to face my teammates and place a look of genuine trust and what I hope is comraderie on my face and in my posture. “You’ve all played before right?”
Some nod in assent. “Yes, Princess,” others say.
“Good. We’re going to have a good game—albeit a fraction of a real game—but it’ll be a good one. Just remember that we’re all on the same team. Play to your strengths and each other’s. Me, I’m quick on my feet, the fastest you’ll probably ever see, with an aim that is always true. You see that hundred-point ring,” I point at the smallest ring on the end zone behind them.
Everyone turns to look. To all of them, it probably looks like nothing more than an impossible illusion. A taunt that if met, will be a failed attempt and a waste of a throw that could’ve been used to score 25 or even 50 points.
“Only one in every thousand players can throw a Fila ball into that ring. And I’m one of them. If you get the Fila ball, know that if you pass it to me, I’ll score high and win us this game. And all of you are going to reap the rewards.” I give them a confident and assuring smile.
“Yes, Princess,” they all echo, some more doubtfully than others.
“Remember, I’m not a Princess on this field. Thinking so will get you hurt.”
I level a dull stare at the blonde girl who almost calls me Princess again.
The opening of a Fila game always starts out with both teams vying to be the first to obtain the Fila ball that will be shot out from the center of the field, high into the air. Each team will start on opposing end goals, running to the center to retrieve the released ball. The team that gets to it the fastest can immediately make a play and run to the end zone to throw a goal. The defense will receive bats as quickly as the offense is identified.
This is my favorite part of the entire game. And it’s always the bloodiest.
My chest rises high and low as I suck in deep breaths, feeling the welcoming surge of adrenaline at the antipation. I lower my stance and spread my legs into a quick start position, my back leg twitching, impatient to race to the center. The buzzard rings and from the center can be heard the sound of a spring coiling tight, readying the contraption that will release the glass ball in the air. My ears strain to hear the spring release.
The spring releases. I propel forward; my entire body in harmony—in sync to the rythmn of my racing heart. I don’t feel anything, not even the beating of the pebble-sized hail as if they were dropping from the sky all at once, or the cold water splashing up, soaking me as I kick across the water. None of it. For I am a Fila champion. This is my home.
Across from us, our opponents are slow to react. But upon seeing me surging through the thick haze of hail and the slick rocky surfaced water of a field, they become mobile and race to meet me in the center.
The Fila ball bursts from the dark water, high into the air. It’s mine! Using a large rock, half hidden beneath the high layer of water, I kick off of it, and leap. The glass ball reaches its high point and begins to drop; my fingers reach out and guide it into my glove-encased palm. Hah! More coils spring, our opponents have been armed with their Fila bats.
Let the game begin.
Two opponents directly ahead of me, charge at me with raised bats. The first one swings crazily before hesitating as if suddenly remembering who I am. But it’s his mistake. I duck his wild swing and in one fluid motion, drive a fist into his solar plexus. Just as he hunches over, I follow my punch with a downward elbow at the base of his neck. The second guy, still running at me, slows slightly as he gapes, but he’s quick to recover and takes his bat with both hands. With a battle cry, he drives it down where my shoulder is. I dodge--just a quick movement to the right, before ramming him with that same shoulder he’d meant to injure. My momentum and Modi strength lift him completely off the ground and catapulting him into the air. He lands on a smatter of rocks. Ouch.
No time to pity him, but I do chuckle a little. Only six yards to the end zone. Someone rushes at me from the side, pumping his long athletic legs, hard and fast. He leaps, arms stretched wide to tackle me by the waist. I change course and run to meet him. He leaps, his whole body lifting like a missile to destroy me. But just then, I collapse to my knees, bending backwards and using my momentum to skid safely beneath him. The fool soars right over me, catching nothing but air. Amateur! My feet recover and I take off into a sprint. My team is doing well to oppose the defense who are all now coming after me. But it doesn’t matter because the defense is still too slow—too late to adjust to seeing what I’d done to their teammates.
Only three yards left. My arm swings, my lips smile, my body sings. I could practically hear the whistle of the ball as it soars into my target.
The buzzard rings. “50” points go up on the board under the team name Violet.
I purposefully didn’t aim for the 100-point goal ring. Why shatter their hopes before we’ve even begun to really play?
From the audience made up of guards, trainees and bystanders, erupts applause and screams. That’s right baby, I say proudly to myself. From the sidelines, I hear Quintas curse. My personal guards look squeamish, gazing around the area as if expecting the Monarch to pop out and hang them at any minute.
I pass by the opponents on the ground, “You have some time to take Ubuu before we continue,” I say to them, knowing the ones who’ve fallen on the rocks wouldn’t be able to continue playing if they didn’t drink the elixir to numb the pain and quicken the healing. The rest of the players rush to us then, some of their faces bloody and bruised. But most of them ignore the fallen men, instead looking at me with admiration and a little bit of fear.
“What?” I ask, hiding my smirk. “I told you not to hesitate. Now, let’s keep playing.”
“I’ve never seen anyone throw like that,” the player in jersey #2 says aloud.
Some reply, sounding so much in awe, “Me too…”
“None of us have ever scored that quickly before. How did you do that?” asks another.
“What can I say?” I reply with a shrug, allowing my arrogance to rise at all the attention. Fila is the only thing I can rightfully claim to being good at.
“You gotta show me how you did that,” the blonde girl from before, says.
I wave them back, asking instead, “So are you going to play for real? Or do you want to end up like these guys?” I ask the last with a raise of my brow.
My challenge is met with smiles and nods. “Yeah! Let’s play!” one guy yells.I laugh. “You heard the kid!” And then the buzzard rings.