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Pearson Mary E, “The kiss of deception”, public translation into English from English More about this translation.

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It wasn’t exactly a dunking.

Once we wove through the crowd, we saw a log that was suspended by ropes, only the log wasn’t suspended over water as I had assumed, but over a deep puddle of thick black mud.

“Still up for it?” Kaden asked.

“I won’t be the one falling in,” Rafe replied.

We watched two men wrestle atop the log while the crowd cheered valiantly at every push and lunge. Everyone gasped collectively when both men teetered, arms swinging to regain balance, lunged again, and finally fell together facefirst. They came up looking like they’d been dipped in chocolate batter. The crowd laughed and roared their approval as the men trudged out of the muck, wiping their faces and spitting out mud. Two new contestants were called. One was Rafe.

Rafe’s brows shot up in surprise. Apparently they were calling them in random order. We had expected him and Kaden to be paired. Rafe unbuttoned his shirt, pulled it loose from his trousers, and took it off, handing it to me. I blinked, trying not to stare at his bare chest.

“Expecting to fall?” Kaden asked.

“I don’t want it to get spattered when my opponent plummets.”

The crowd cheered as Rafe and the other contestant, a tall fellow of muscular build, climbed the ladders to the log. The game master explained the rules—no fists, no biting, no stomping on fingers or feet, but everything else was fair play. He blew a horn, and the bout began.

They moved slowly at first, sizing each other up. I chewed my lip. Rafe didn’t even want to do this. He was a farmer, a flatlander, not a wrestler, and he’d been goaded into the contest by Kaden. His opponent made a move, springing at Rafe, but Rafe expertly blocked him and grabbed the man’s right forearm, twisting it so that his balance was uneven. The man swayed for a moment, and the crowd shouted, thinking the match was over, but the man broke free, stumbled back, and regained his footing. Rafe didn’t give him more time than that and advanced, ducking low and swiping behind the man’s knee.

It was over. The man’s arms flailed back awkwardly like a pelican trying to take flight. He tumbled through the air as Rafe looked on with his hands on his hips. Mud sprayed up, dotting the lower part of his trousers. Rafe smiled and took a deep bow for the crowd. They howled in admiration with extra cheers for his theatrics.

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