Chapter 5: to eat flowers and not to be afraid

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Monday is the last day of the first stage of initiation.

All of the initiates, both Dauntless born and transfers, are herded into the training room. All nineteen of our names are written on the chalkboard, and eighteen of us are paired together; Az doesn't have a name matched to hers. After a week in the compound, no one is still in their old faction's colors. It's a sea of black that is only interrupted by hair and skin color.

Cate is moving people around, matching us like the names on the board. I am paired with a Dauntless born boy who is a foot taller than I am and three times as wide. He has a bar through his brow and tattoos on his arm. His name is Connor. He looks down at me and I get the distinct impression that he thinks he can snap me in two. He's probably right.

My brother walks in with Eric right behind him. Cate joins them when she's done, and they stand on the other side of the room talking in hushed voices long enough for my nerves to work themselves up into my throat. Eventually they break apart, and Cate and Four stand on either side of the ring on the floor. Eric steps inside it, faces us, and crosses his arms.

"Today is the last day of stage one," he says. "Eighteen of you have yet to be ranked. Those eighteen will fight for a better position than you're already in. Remember, four of you will be leaving, so this will be the time to try and change our minds about whether or not you stay. The person to beat is Azalea," Eric rolls his eyes at her name, and Az blushes, "She's in first place. We'll announce results after we break for lunch.

"Harper and Jenny are first."

Harper steps into the ring with a Dauntless born girl of the same height. They're both slight, and fast, but I don't know if the girl is as cunning or vicious as Harper. She punches him once in the nose, and I can hear the bone break from where I'm standing. I guess now I know. They circle each other, and Harper acts as if the blood gushing from his nose is barely an inconvenience. He fits in several solid shots to her arms and chest, and what sounds like a horribly painful kick to the abdomen, but she continues on, returning everything she takes. In the end, Harper wins.

It continues for an hour; Eric calls a pair to the ring, they fight, our instructors evaluate, and call the fight to an end I the one instance that a Dauntless born continues to punch his opponent even after the other is unconscious. The results vary.

James (T) vs. William (D) – William (D)

Jason (D) vs. Talia (D) – Talia (D)

Tamsin (D) vs. Paisley (T) – Tamsin (D)

Sarah (T) vs. Callie (D) – Callie (D)

After the fifth match, I realize that none of the transfers have won their fights, and that my name is on the board next. Eric calls us to the ring. We don't remove our shoes this time, so there aren't any precautions against serious injury. Connor's feet are massive, and I hope I don't get stepped on. We face each other, hands up and protecting our faces, and wait for one of the instructors to call the fight to a start.

"Go!" my brother shouts.

Connor hesitates and I take the pause to step in closer and swing at him. He blocks easily, but he leaves his face open as he does, so I use the opening to punch him in the face. He jerks away and blinks rapidly, but I don't think I've done much damage. He jabs at me and I dodge, but I make the same mistake he did and I leave my face open. He punches me in the jaw and it feels like hot thunder rolling through my bones. I kick out, but my foot glances off of his thigh and he uses my momentum to unbalance me. I land on my back and all the air flees from my lungs. I kick up with both feet and catch him in the stomach; now I'm glad we're still wearing shoes.

Connor stumbles back, gaging like he's trying not to vomit, and I roll to my feet. He's a little unsteady, so I kick him again. My blow lands on his hip and it's just enough to push him to the floor. He's recovering quickly, so before he can get off of the ground, I hold his arm to the ground with one foot, and press the other one down on his throat. He waits to see if I'm bluffing, and when he finally decides that I'm not, he taps my foot, and the fight is over.

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