Rather than kicking Helga's sides, one could tell that I only tickled it with my heel. In an instant, my trusty horse kicked the ground with its legs, jumping forward with only the minimal tilt upwards required to not twist its ankle. With the familiar feeling of momentum filling my mind, I stopped caring about all my previous worries, how I would appear, whether I would manage to make the right impression.
Right now, my entire mind was focused on the tip of my spear, while my eyes tracked the path that it would have to take to pick the first circle, without tilting it out of the balance as I would approach the next one.
Even though the diameter of the first picks was big enough to not care about such fine details, if I gave up on the fine control at the very beginning, picking the harder ones would pose a way greater challenge, making me commit the same mistake as Bart.
With the first ring landing on top of my hand, I corrected the small tilt caused by an additional weight on my wrist, fixing the position of the back of my lance under my arm. Not using the saddle locker that would keep the back of my weapon in place, while it was susceptible for even the smallest change, I retained the full control over it.
Two more circles falling on my hand indicated the end of the warming up part. With my body relaxing as my mind tensed up, I simply adjusted my movements to Helga's vibration caused by her run. Even though I could only admire how stable she was despite clearly reaching the upper echelons of her speed, that also meant I had way less time to adjust the tip of my spear for the next approach!
First normal circle landed on top of my hand, but this time it hit my wrist hard enough to tilt the tip of my lance, making it impossible for me to pick up the very next target. Instead of lamenting at the misfortune though, I simply disregarded the second easy ring and balanced myself out to strike at the third one.
At this point, I only needed one more ring of any difficulty to be better than the first challenger, yet I wasn't going to just give up on my attempts to score as much as I could! Being better than an unskilled idiot is not an achievement!
Thanks to the perfect thrust that I used to pick the last easy ring, I could retract my hand a bit to lower the speed of the tip of my spear relative to its next target, successfully pushing right through its middle!
At this point, the weight of all six rings started to add up, slightly increasing the burden on my hand and making it even harder to control the tip of this wobbly piece of wood. Before I managed to adjust myself to this new condition, yet another ring of the second level of difficulty passed by me, but in exchange, I didn't have any troubles picking next two rings in quick succession, despite the last one being the smallest of them all!
As soon as the last pole went past me, Helga quickly turned to a slow trod, before losing enough momentum to take a lefthand turn and start the slow, triumphant march towards the waiting area.
Waking up from the focused state of my mind, I looked at my hand, holding the lance pointed at the skies to not impale someone by an accident. Three green, two orange, two yellow and a single red ring. Counting up in my head, it added up to eighteen points, out of twenty-three that one could get at a perfect attempt! (green 1 point, orange 2 points, yellow 3 points, red 5 points)
Not so bad for the very first try in my entire life!
Reaching the waiting field, I slowly turned the lance down, allowing the rings to slide down right in the hands of one of the servants. Passing the weapon in yet another set of hands, I jumped off my horse, before leading it to the big bail full of water and allowing her to have something to drink.
By the time Helga was busy with sating her thirst, Elia approached me with an apple in her hand and a wide smile on her lips.
Passing me the apple, she used the fact that my hand was now busy, to throw her hands on my neck and grace me with a warm hug. Before I could free myself from her arms or even come to the realisation that it was something that I was ought to do with how we were making a scene and drawing the attention that was supposed to be placed on the contest, I felt something sloppy wet on my hand, as an invisible force suddenly stole the apple from my hand.
Looking from behind Elia's shoulder, I saw Helga munching on something, with a content look in her wide eyes, as if she was proud of her own ingenuity.
"Thanks. I just didn't want to make a fool out of myself, but thanks to her, I somehow managed to score nicely."
With Elia's hands finally moving from my neck to my right arm, I could use my free hand to pat Helga's soft side. As she already finished her snack, she leaned her big head to the side, looking at me with longing in her eyes, as if hoping for another fruit.
Reaching for Helga's head, I scratched her lightly between her eyes, enjoying how her nostrils vibrated as if she somehow managed to purr like a damned cat!
"That was great, Mike!"
Butting in this intimate moment between me, Elia and Helga, that some misinformed readers of the chronicles that would surely be written about me would take for the opening of the harem arc in my life, the governor himself appeared right beside us. While it was not so nice for the other competitors to be devoid of Jan's attention during their attempts, being the Governor, he could commit such faux pas once in a while and get away scot-free with it.
"Thanks for the praise, Your Governorship!"
With how my sole aim for taking part in this silly tournament was to make this man notice myself outside the field of trade, seeing how he approached me personally right after my performance could only mean one thing.
I did it!
"Actually, I came here with a request. Would you mind hearing me out, brother?"