Note: This was written for the Zexal Flash Bingo challenge, for the prompt, "crescent".


It was funny how under stress, the mind jumped to the most trivial little things. Alit had never thought he needed such coping mechanisms - he'd always been a laid-back, deal-with-things-as-they-come kind of guy. He especially never thought he'd need them in the arena, which was practically his second home, and yet here he was with his mind skittering all over the place.

Oh, well. It didn't matter. He had a few more minutes before the main even anyway.

He let his gaze wander through the crowd, allowing the memories to wash over him. He remembered with perfect clarity how he had felt the first time he'd stepped into the ring, the smell of a handful of sticky flowers an admiring little girl had once given him after a bout, the feel of sliding into a bath after a long day of training. For an instant, his eye rested on the imperial throne, and an image flashed through his mind as brilliantly as if it had happened yesterday.

"Why are you so determined to win all the time, anyway?" the prince had asked him.

"I just don't want you to get tired of me," Alit answered lightly. "If I ever start losing, you're going to get bored and go find someone else to play with."

The prince had shoved him. "You idiot. The day I get bored with you..." He jabbed a finger at the crescent moon that was just rising above the horizon. "...is the day the moon falls and hits you on your thick head!"

"Well, at least that wouldn't be boring!" Alit had replied, and they had both laughed. Even now, Alit could remember that moon, perfect and sharp and silver white.

Another man was stepping into the ring now, a great muscular brute carrying a heavy axe. Alit had fought all sorts of opponents before, usually men bigger than himself, men who carried knives, swords, axes, even nets and tridents, and he'd always prevailed. He'd never been afraid before, but now his heart was racing. He hated it, but he couldn't help it. He'd always won by the power in his bare hands, and now those hands were bound and useless behind him. All he could do was raise his eyes defiantly as the executioner came to stand over him.

The man raised the axe high above his head, and as the audience's shouting rose to a frenzy, Alit sensed the world slowing down around him, as if to make these last few seconds stretch. He had all the time in the world to make out the scuffs on his executioner's armor, the expressions of the people in the crowd, the indifferent look the prince was giving him. Somehow, that was harder to look at than the axe that was about to do him in. It was a good sharp axe. It would cut him cleanly. The sun glinted brightly off the perfect silver-white crescent of it.

Watching it descend was like seeing the moon fall.