Call it luck. Whatever be the definition, but the way Fanyi's chest rose and fell in a constant rhyme made Uche wonder how the man had survived the first tribal war. They had raged into combat together and had battled death itself. However, fatigue was something their enemy had preyed upon. It was the same reason why some of the men had lost their lives, leaving memories and emptiness as a testimony. But how had the man survived?

Ducking to the left, Uche jumped back, missing the wooden sword which swung freely above his face.

"Same old tricks? Impressive." Fanyi said and took a different stance. It was the 'ice on water' stance. A technique that only a good swordsman can muster.

Uche clenched his weapon. He had been on the defensive as always, waiting for the right moment. But knowing who his friend was, Fanyi would never leave a weak spot. The lanky man was too smart for that.

"I will beat you on this one." 

"Not in your dreams," Fanyi said.

The morning sun was on his dark skin, glittering with the sweat that trickled down in heavy drops. His hairless face was devoid of confusion, but amidst the arduous expression lies the mocking gaze of fatigue which the man was trying so hard to smolder. He has lost his stamina of steel. Maybe the many years were finally getting into his bones.

Woods clattered as Uche's sword met Fanyi's, mid-air. The lanky man's blow was weak, and not powerful enough to cause vibrations. That was a blessing.

Uche did not let thought dwell in his head, as he twisted his feet, ready to launch his first attack.

Instead of jumping back, he drove his right knee towards the man's rib, powerful enough to leave the man leaping for days.


oo" Uche screamed as Fanyi took a different stance in the last hour and swept him from his feet, causing him to land on the dust like a bag of groundnuts.

"Was that meant to scare me?" Fanyi mocked.

Uche did not respond as he coughed himself up to a sitting position. He had played the fool again and had fallen for the man's rusty pranks.

"What kind of warrior uses such exclamations?"

"The one that is going to beat you to a duel one day," Uche said. He was on his feet now and was dusting his pelt.

"Haha. The same one who just kissed the dirt." Fanyi eased his stance and lowered his wooden sword. "When will you learn? I am unstoppable. The best swordsman in the seven kingdoms."

"Second best, point of correction"

"Blah. Women are pathetic." Fanyi said and threw his wooden sword to the far side of the training ground. 

A little boy hurried towards the fallen object and picked it as if he had anticipated the older man's move. His hair was shaved to the skin and the branding on his chest gave him out as one of the many slaves of Fanyi.

"The judges were unfair," Fanyi continued. Tinny lines creased his brow, portraying the anger that was beginning to heat his face. "I had the situation under control. Ah, I should have won that competition."

"But you didn't." Uche smiled triumphantly and started towards the mango tree "You lost the fight. And for the fight time, to a woman."

"Biko. Let me hear. You and I know that Ejima is not just any woman. Your wife has special qualities which I have not seen in anyone before."

"Tell me about it," Uche said and rested his weight on the chair, grateful for the mango tree that stood in the middle of the compound, casting a shadow from the hot dry season sun.

He was already gulping the cold water before Fanyi walked up to him and took the seat on the right.

"Have you told her yet?" 

Uche paused for a moment, but his face narrowed when he met his friend's brown eyes.

"I have no intention to." He said as he refilled the cup and handed it to Fanyi.

"It is going to break her, and you know it. I think it's best if you tell her," Fanyi shrugged, "maybe find out what she has to say. She is a tough one and I know she would see reasons."

"No," the coweris on Uche's long hair dangled to the side as he shook his head, "I have respected her well enough. It's twenty years of childlessness. I am tired. Nwoke na agbada."

"No," Fanyi licked his lips as his brown eyes looked away from his friend. It was difficult to place a finger on what he was looking at. 

"It's been twenty years of misery." Fanyi continued, "Four miscarriages yet she has been strong enough to keep pushing. Why not give her time?"

"Marriage is not like swordsmanship, dear friend. It is more like a work of pottery. One crack is all you need to get a broken piece. And as it stands, mine has four."

"And you are willing to throw the cracks away, after twenty solid years of harmony? All because of...setbacks?"

"Setbacks," Uche laughed, "I would rather you call a snake a snake."

"What about love? I thought the fathers called it the oil that mellows the hurting heart. The bandage of a wounded soul and the glue of a broken spirit. Has this nature's gift lost its wondrous touch in your household?"

"You've never ceased to amaze me, Fanyi. You knew all these yet you have five wives at your disposal?"

"That's it, Uche," Fanyi said, dropping the cup and shifting his weight so he could get his friend's attention. "I have seen these things. I have experienced the joy of one and the trouble of five. I don't want you to wallow into this depth of despair and confusion. Ejima loves you. She is a tough woman who is going through a tough time. Love her and cherish her. You might not understand the hurting finger until you feel the ache."

"The ache is all over me," Uche breathed in as if suddenly tired, "Twenty years, yet without a child. Not even a leprous one."

"Be careful what you wish for, Uche. The trees have ears. And so are the gods."

"Then why have they not listened to my cries? Have I not been a brave warrior or shall my adventures stand as advocates?"

"You are indeed a great warrior," Fanyi picked the clay cup, "but you haven't defeated me yet."

Uche giggled, "Maybe I will leave that part to my wife"

"Hmm, I see." Fanyi gulped the water and returned the cup to Uche, "does that mean you've changed your mind?"

Uche shrugged as if struggling with the question.

"I can't say for sure. Only time will tell."

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