Hylla tried to hide it, but she was nervous. Who wouldn't be? She had survived against the founder of the Amazons once, but now Otrera knew Hylla's fighting style. Contrary to what Hazel had hopefully suggested, Otrera was not rusty. Hylla had only survived by using a relatively new technique she had learned from a recent recruit- a punch to the left side of the face, quickly followed by a sword strike to her right leg. Otrera had proven to be a quick learner, though, which didn't bode well for tonight's duel.
She didn't realize she was chewing the inside of her cheek until she tasted blood. How could she succeed again tonight? Unlike Otrera, she didn't have unlimited lives. One lucky stroke from her opponent, and she was finished. Aside from the fact she would be dead, that would mean Otrera could send reinforcements to the monsters attacking her sister. As Blackbeard knew by now, Hylla took Reyna's safety very seriously. Motivated or not, though, this duel wasn't against some half-trained impulsive man, or even against a cruel son of Ares like Blackbeard. Otrera was the founder of the Amazons.
"Your majesty, you will win again," Kinzie informed her. Hylla was yanked out of her thoughts. She knew she would never be able to hide her feelings from her closest friend.
"How do you know that?" she asked desperately. "I barely won, and now she'll be expecting a trick, and everything's depending on me…" As much as she would really love to deny it, Hylla began to sob. "I'm not good enough!" She had hid her feelings ever since Otrera had first appeared, but she had to break sometime, and it was better to shatter in front of a friend than in the midst of a duel.
Kinzie let her cry, putting her arm around the queen of the Amazons. After Hylla had been silent for a while, Kinzie began to speak, somehow finding exactly the right words to quiet the fears of her best and most reliable friend.
"Hylla, I believe you will win. Not just because your abilities, or past achievements. Not because of wishful thinking. You will win because you aren't fighting by yourself, like Otrera is. You're fighting with me, and the rest of the Amazons, and Hazel, and your sister. Sure, we are on different battlefields, but it's the same war! Besides, you're the best fighter we have. You alone can take lessons from all parts of your training and weave them together. Last night, I saw you using combinations from your time with Blackbeard, ones I taught you, even a couple I think you made up. Otrera's style is plain and simple Amazon. You know that style!" She was shouting by now, determined to get the message across. "You will win tonight, then Hazel and her friends will succeed, and we can all go help your sister. Got it?"
Hylla took a deep breath. She knew now what the result of the duel tonight, and every night, would be. How could she lose with so many friends by her side?
Kinzie stood up from the couch casually, as if she hadn't just given Hylla the most encouraging pep talk of her life. "I'd better go see if anyone is getting your armor and everything ready for tonight. Your job is to relax, and don't worry."
That night, Hylla fought even better than the first night. Otrera was hopelessly outmatched, and she gave up after only a couple minutes. After the duel, Kinzie entered the arena.
"What did I tell you?" She whispered. "I'll take care of arrangements to Camp Jupiter. I know Hazel succeeded, and anyway, if nobody is here, who will Otrera challenge?"
Hylla decided that Kinzie was a gift from the gods.