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Chapter 3 - Challenge at High Noon

Jack and the girl moved over to a table in the back. Unlike the other pitted and sticky furniture, this table was smooth and polished to a shine and seemed meant for gambling. Without a word, both took their seats. Jack sat against the wall, and the girl faced him straight on.

The other patrons were captivated. Helplessly fascinated by the match, they snuck glances at the pair, ears straining to listen in.

The bar filled with fidgety silence.

The girl's game of choice was poker.

Jack accepted wordlessly.

After a brief exchange to confirm the terms of the challenge, they settled on bets. It was to be 100 mira a hand--not even enough to buy a beer--but Jack considered that fair for a match against a kid and said as much.

The dealer was the small-fry punk from before. Jack gave him a quick eye signal.

First hand:

Both discarded just one card.

Jack called and the girl stood.

Jack had two pairs.

The girl had just one. Jack was the winner.

'Haha. Sorry, little missy,' he drawled.

He raised his glass to her and downed the amber liquid in a single, decisive gulp.

Second hand:

Both discarded just one card.

Perhaps trying to look confident, Jack let out a big, clear sigh.

The girl called and Jack stood.

The girl had two pairs. Jack had the same. But the cards told the tale...

The girl's hand had the high card.

It was her win.

'...What?!' Jack exclaimed.

His hand that had been toying with the glass froze. Immediately, he glanced over at the punk who was dealing. The other man avoided his gaze.

'Something wrong?' the girl asked.

Her face betrayed nothing.

'N-No... Forget it,' he shakily responded.

Had she swapped out some cards? The game had suddenly taken on a whole new angle.

The look on Jack's face changed instantly.

Lightly clearing his throat, Jack put the glass back on the table with his left hand. Then, once more, he cleared his throat. The dealer, recognizing the signal, picked up the cards again. It was their code for 'Deal normally next round.'

Third hand:

As expected, each discarded just one card.

Jack called and the girl stood.

Jack's hand was...a full house.

'Hahaha! How 'bout THAT?!' he crowed.

With a flourish, Jack laid his cards on the table. The bar patrons snickered into their cups.

The girl set down her own cards without a word. ...Four sevens.

It was the girl's win.

The bar once again returned to silence.

第3回 真昼の勝負