Love is Revenge
Chapter Five

The men had been waiting a good ten minutes before the General, Karoma, and Pakharu walked into the spacious and empty room. Karoma had a hurried talk with Pakharu outside the doors before entering. She had asked that he pose as if he was heading the judging. That way the men's attention would be focused towards Pakharu instead of herself. She decided that she would stand back and watch from afar. Pakharu had smiled. Karoma was going to watch them when their guard was down.

A few whispers escaped the crowd. Karoma resisted a smile. She heard them. She had chosen to wear her everyday attire, and had chosen to leave her hair down. Her thick black hair fell to the small of her back. She had kept her sai holsters off. The men might have caught on if they saw that she was carrying weapons.

The men were asking each other who the woman was. What she was doing here. They said this was no place for a woman. They were probably right…if they were talking about anyone else.

However, she couldn't stop the smile forming on her face when she heard their words about Pakharu. "So that's the strong warrior!" "He looks tough!" "We better watch out for him." It made Karoma want to laugh. 'Foolish men,' she thought, 'It is me who you should be looking out for.'

They reached the front of the room. The men before them bowed in unison. General Menkara glanced at his daughter before stepping forward. "I congratulate those who have made it thus far," he began. "However," he paused, causing the men to shift on their feet, "less than half of you will pass today's final round. Look at the men around you. They all have passed the same criteria as you. Do you think you'll be one those that will pass? The only fair warning I will give you is to be smart. This is not only a physical fight buy a fight of knowledge." The General nodded. "With that I wish you luck." He stepped back.

The room was silent as Pakharu stepped forward. "Battles will proceed one by one. You will fight your opponent unarmed. When your opponent is unable to fight, that is when you become the victor." Pakharu looked down at his list of names.

Karoma mentally praised her father and Pakharu. Her father not only given them a warning but left numerous hints in his speech. Not all of them will pass. That was more than true. Pakharu has also chosen his words nicely. He did not promise a spot to the victor. She was more than positive that the men in front of her thought the victor would automatically be the one to pass.

"Jahi and Kafele. Please step forward."

A young boy around sixteen stepped forward, followed by a well built man who looked to be in his late twenties. The older man was smirking while the younger boy's mouth remained clenched.

Karoma studied the two men. Their names matched them well. Jahi meant dignified, and everything about this man told you so: his posture, his eyes, and his facial expression. She looked at the young boy. He was somewhat tall and had a sight build. His posture told her of patience, but his eyes were more than eager to prove himself. His name amused her the most. Kafele mean to die for. She wondered what fate had in store for this boy.

The rest of the men fell to the back of the room.

Pakharu looked at the General who nodded his consent. He faced the two men. "You may begin,"

Jahi lunged at the boy with his fist. Kefele caught his hand, but the man was already brining his opposite leg to the Kafele's side, twisting his fist out of the boy's fist. Jahi missed ad Kafele swiftly shifted to the side, quickly grabbing the back of the larger man's neck. The man immediately froze, and then grinned. He jammed both of his elbows into Kafele's stomach. The boy doubled over in pain.

Karoma saw Jahi steal a glance at Pakharu. The man was overconfident.

The boy quickly got up. His black eyes were focused on the man before him. Kafele immediately lunged forward, knowing that Jahi was already shifting his weight forward to intercept his attack. Kafele quickly changed his plans, sliding under the man's legs, legs forward, grabbing the man's ankles. Jahi fell face forward, but before he could do anything Kafele was beside the man with a knee digging deep into his back. A hand was clutched around the man's neck. Jahi groaned in pain.

Karoma mentally noted the attack in her mind. It was smart. He did the unexpected and attacked from a new angle, gaining the advantage. The boy had potential.

Pakharu looked quickly at Karoma. She nodded.

"It seems that Kafele is our winner," Pakharu announced. The young boy removed himself from the other man, standing up and bowing to Pakharu. Jahi slowly got up. He dusted himself off before he bowed. He was scowling.

"Stand with the rest of the men," Pakharu directed. Both men did as they were told.

Thirteen more battles continued in the same way. Karoma was surprised to see so many young faces. A few lost. A few became arrogant after their wins. And a select few surprised her, including Kafele.

Pakharu called the last one forward. "Akil."

Karoma looked directly at the young man who looked to be about her age. He was tall and evenly built. He stood in front of the other men patiently. His black hair hung over his eyes but his gaze was concentrated on Karoma. He smiled at her. He knew.

Pakharu turned around to face the General and his daughter. "He passed the first preliminaries at the top of his group. His fighting skills are beyond this group. He may be a prodigy. He's the odd number. What shall we do with him?"

Karoma looked among the men. Hours had passed. Many of them were sweating or propped up against the wall, tired. She noticed Kafele standing at the front of them men observing Akil with steady eyes. "Has he fought Kafele before?"

"No. But he's-"

"Then that's his opponent," She interrupted.

Pakharu was shocked for a moment, but he knew he should have expected nothing less from Karoma. Pakharu turned to face the men. "Kafele, please step forward."

Kafele's head snapped towards Pakharu. Karoma saw the instant shock, but it soon faded to excitement and resolve in the teen's eyes. It she wasn't wrong, this would be a good match up. They both were determined to win. Both Akil and Kafele observed their opponents. If Akil was a good as she had heard, she guessed that Kafele would adjust quickly. If anything Kafele was the best man to give the man in front of her a challenge.

Kafele attacked first, aiming a fist at the Akil's head. Akil blocked Kafele's right hand with his left, pushing it to the side, while using he right leg to kick Kafele in the side. The boy dodged the attacked, moving behind his opponent's leg. He quickly grabbed it and twisted it to the side.

Akil didn't resist. He jumped to accommodate the turn and used the momentum to kick Kafele in the face with his right foot. He landed in a squat wit his back turned to the boy. He quickly got up and turned around to see Kafele lunging at him. He had noticed this in first battle. He wasn't going to fall for the same trick.

Kafele saw his opponents weight was still balanced and changed his attack. He threw a fake punch with his right hand and then started to lift off with a right kick. Akil saw both attacks, blocking the punch and then pushing away his foot. Kafele still kept his balance, twisting around to kick Akil in the back with his left foot. Kafele was shocked to find Akil's face and hands were waiting to intercept his attack.

Akil caught Kafele's foot and pulled him to the ground. Kafele grunted as he hit the ground. Akil wasted no time bringing his foot down on the boy's chest. He applied enough pressure for the boy to resist movement.

The other men remained speechless. The battle was fast but both boys had applied moves none of the other had seen.

Karoma too noticed this and smiled. She was tired of waiting. This man knew her secret. She stepped forward in her casual wear of her skirt and top. "Well done. Very well done."

The General stepped forward. "This is my daughter Karoma. She is also your superior. She was the one grading you."

She looked at the men's faces. Half of them were confused and the other half was stunned at her outburst.

Pakharu moved next to Karoma and showed her the list of names. Karoma pointed to a select few and Pakharu nodded.

"Akil. Kafele. Adio. Hanif. Thabit. Lateef. Adom. Minkah. Tarik. Najja. Kneph." The twelve men stepped forward. Each was very tense except Akil, who was looking down at his feet and smiling.

"Congratulations. You have passed. Please make your way to the room in the right," Karoma said calmly. She then directed her attention to the remaining men, "As for the rest of you. You have made it this far, that is a task in it's own. My father is always looking for men in the army. Special units are available. Speak to him now if you wish to be considered." Karoma watched those selected make their way to the next room. Akil was at the end of the line.

"A woman was graded us! What does she know!" A man was hustling forward, complaining at the top of his lungs, and drawing the attention of all the men in the room, including Akil who had stopped at the doorway. "I won my battle. I beat that pathetic boy who passed!"

Karoma stepped forward; the man had stopped right before her face. He eyebrows were furrowed together in anger.

"I don't know who you are. And frankly I don't care. You are inexperienced. That boy, in my eyes beat you. He watched the other battles. He tried new things. Unlike you, you were too busy talking to the men next to you, bragging on how you were going to beat your next opponent. I'll give you that. You beat him. Congratulations. Now go home."

"You know nothing!" Spit flew out of the man's mouth.

Karoma's face was calm but her voice was deadly. "Try me."

The man hastily threw a punch at her. Karoma caught his fist and twisted it in a counter-clockwise motion, making the man scream in pain. The man brought his left hand up, but Karoma blocked it, swiftly grabbing the man's neck and pushing him a couple steps back. The man's gags filled the room.

"Go home," Karoma repeated.

The man tried to kick Karoma in the side with he right foot, but Karoma blocked that with her knee, tightening her grip on the man's neck before kicking him in the stomach and sending him sliding across the ground.


Akil smiled before joining the other men in the other room.

Karoma nodded her head at Pakharu in the direction of the fallen man. "Take care of him." She turned her heel and made her way to the other room.

The men were already silent as she entered the room. Akil was sitting in the in a nearby corner.

"If any of you wish to display such talent. Leave. Now," Karoma stared at the men before her. None of them moved.

Karoma walked further into the room. "Some of you may have lost your battles," she began in a lighter tone, "but I saw a fighting spirit in you. From here on, you are expected to learn. Mistakes will be made. I watched each of you, even when you weren't fighting. I wanted to see if you learned from the other men's mistakes. Those seated next to you learned. The men out in the hall were ignorant." Karoma paused.

"A ceremony is being prepared in your honor tomorrow. I expect each and everyone one of you to be there an hour before the Pharaoh starts. Everything will be taken care of. Enjoy tonight and tomorrow night. Get a goodnight sleep. Because after tomorrow, you'll be too tired to do anything but sleep." A smile graced Karoma's features. "Congratulations."

Karoma walked over to Kafele and Akil. "I congratulate you two especially. Both of you fought extremely well today."

Kafele bowed and thanked her profoundly. This kid's character was nothing like his fighting. In fact, they were complete opposites. Akil merely looked Karoma in the eyes and muttered a small "Thank you."

"Come with me, Akil."

The man followed Karoma across their current room into another one, scarcely furnished with a rack of weapons. They were all highly polished.

"You knew," Karoma stated, "You knew that Pakharu was only a decoy."

Akil grinned. "I did."

"How?" It was more a statement than a question.

"I noticed you in the room. And I told myself you were there for a reason. Either to foolishly seduce the men there, or a deeper meaning. I saw the looks both the Head of Guard and the General Menkara gave you. I assumed."

"You assumed well." Karoma couldn't tear her eyes away from his.

"Right…" Akil chuckled softly.

"Would you consider yourselfto be a prodigy?" She asked. She knew there was more to this man. Akil had simply blocked Kafele's attacks and pinned his opponent when he saw fit. Almost as if Kafele was unworthy to receive his offensive attacks.

"Not nearly as much as you," he said coolly. If this was flattery, she wanted to laugh.

"Hit me."

Akil's face scrunched up on shock. He was clearly confused. "Excuse me?" He exclaimed. "I don't want to end up like that idiot out there!"

"So you saw…You won't. I promise." She looked at Akil who was still staring at her with uncertintiy. 'You played defensively against Kafele, I want to see your offensive fighting. Do whatever you think will catch me off guard."

Akil stood there quietly.

"I dare you." Karoma's lips formed into a subconscious smile.

A/N: These are all pretty much accomplished drafts. Nothing's final. Reviews are the best. )