“The food is on the table.” Verana said, but Decena offered no vocal response, opting to simply take the meal up to her room. She heard Verana mutter something as she went up the steps but she paid it no mind.
Am I being too hard on her? Decena thought as she moved across the dusty, wooden room toward her bed. She didn’t know her boyfriend was a monster… And… I guess she meant well. Decena sat on the bed and stared at the meal in front of her. Still… She should have told me. How did she think I’d feel using a sword that belonged to a murderer?
She began eating away at the basic ham and eggs that the plate presented. The aroma made its way to her nostrils, forcing a sigh out of her. The windows were covered by thin curtains that didn’t completely ensnare the room in darkness, but still provided a semblance of shade. Anyway, Decena. Get your head in the game. You did well in that last fight, but each enemy is only going to get harder to beat from here. And now they know you have magic. She thought. That surprise isn’t going to work a second time.
The meal went by quickly as her thoughts seemed to accelerate time. It’s probably about time to go to the academy.
She arrived at the academy shortly after, her sword equipped at the waist of her blue skirt, and a backpack at the back of her white shirt. As she walked through the courtyard she noticed how some of the other students continued giving her odd looks. What is it with these people? She thought as she approached the front entrance.
Opening the double doors, she found a brown board at the wall in front of her, covered with newspaper articles and random notices. May as well see what’s going on in Nova. She said as she approached it. As she did, her eyes were drawn toward a particular picture. Those demons and their technology. She said as she leaned in to see it. Her eyes widened as she looked at the figure, captured in the photograph.
It was herself.
W-What!? She thought as she leaned in further, almost pressing her eyes on the paper, to read the small writing imprinted on it.
“The Red Knight! A local student of Nova’s Magical Academy is making a name for herself in the fighting pits?” It said.
You… Are you serious? Who saw me? What!? She thought as she looked around and noticed how every student was looking at her as they walked by.
“I saw your fight, it was really cool!” A young girl said, patting her shoulder as she walked by. Before Decena could reply the girl had already walked away.
Well… I guess this is what being famous is like.
She made her way to her first class in short order. As she stepped inside, every seated student turned their heads towards her, almost simultaneously. Their collective action brought a flush of blood to Decena’s face as she quickly made her way to her chair by the window. World History class went by quickly. Prac App is next. Decena thought. Come on, I just want to get out of here. This is really uncomfortable. She thought as the students’ whispers filled the room.
“You saw her fight?” One boy said to another.
“Yes! You should have seen it, she totally wrecked a guy.”
“She’s pretty dangerous huh?”
Ugh… Decena planted her face on her desk.
Felicia entered the room as her class was about to begin.
“Good morning everyone.” She said. “Today we will be looking at…” Decena zoned out immediately.
Should I even go fight? Yes. Yes, come on Decena, you have to. Or at least go train. I really need to get faster, right now that’s my biggest weakness. And, since I don’t have that unbreakable sword anymore, I have to get stronger at some point. We’ll focus on speed first though.
After the class, Decena got up and was about to walk out of the classroom when Felicia stopped her.
“Well, well, well. How’s knighthood going?” Felicia said from behind Decena.
“Oh my goodness, not you too.” Decena pleaded.
“What is it? I’m just surprised, and honored, to be in the presence of a knight such as yourself. You should be proud!”
“Stop it!” Decena begged.
“Alright, alright. But, forgive my curiosity, but why are you fighting in the pits. You don’t seem that impoverished to me.” Felicia asked, assuming a more serious tone.
“Well, at first it sort of started a pastime…”
“Fighting for your life was a pastime?” Felicia asked.
“I… I just really liked it.”
“Well, putting that clear sign of a mental illness aside, you were saying?”
“Anyway, now I’m doing it because I need the money. I… I need a lot of money and that’s one way to get it.” Decena said. “Then there’s also… The practical exams.”
“The practical exams? Decena, your magic isn’t infinite, if you use it up, it’s over. It’s done. Are you sure you want to drain yourself like that?” Felicia asked.
“I… I have to.” Decena asked. An almost sinister look appeared on Felicia’s face.
“Is this something you’re doing for yourself or someone else?” Felicia asked, causing Decena’s lip to twitch for a brief second.
“…” Decena thought about it, and opened her mouth to reply just as Felicia interrupted her.
“Alright, you don’t have to tell me. But I worry because the way I see it, you’re taking several questionable decisions at once. Go, get your lunch. I have a lot of things to do, so we won’t train today.”
Decena walked out of the classroom and paced away, looking at the floor the entire time. I… I have to do all of this. Enverna needs it.
She arrived at the cafeteria in a brief moment later. A line was formed in front of the chef who distributed the food. Decena grabbed a grey tray and walked into the line. She felt a tap on her shoulder behind her.
“Hey.” Doleren said, his messy black hair giving off a sense of tiredness only matched by the bags under his eyes.
“Didn’t sleep well?” Decena asked.
“No. I’ve been trying to study for the theoretical exams.”
“Oh, okay.” Decena said.
“By the way, so are you going to avoid Enverna or what?”
“Hm? What do you mean?” Decena asked.
“At the Grand Ball. You know the royal court will be there, right?”
“Decena, lower your voice. It hurt my ears just now.” Doleren said.
“S-Sorry. But what?”
“Yes, every year the royal court attends that dance. Your sister is probably going to be there.”
The rest of Doleren’s words failed to register in her mind. Enverna… I’m going to see her? So soon? One side of her heart felt happiness, but the other felt a distinct worry. What do I say to her? Should I even say anything to her? Her eyes lowered as she made another realization. Bendry… That bastard is probably going to be there too. If I see him, I’ll definitely end up in prison for what I want to do to him.
“You’re getting faster.” Twister said as Decena launched an attack on her. Twister sidestepped Decena and ducked out of the way of her slashes. “You’re still pretty clumsy with that sword, but you’re getting somewhere. Take a moment to breathe.”
Decena leaned on her sword and began breathing heavily as Twister analyzed their training.
“Am I ready for another fight?” Decena asked.
“I’d say so. You’re three wins away from another promotion, so you may as well.” Twister replied. “That said, I’m definitely seeing improvement. You just need to work on your upper body strength, but you’re definitely quicker.”
Decena sat on a nearby chair, trying to catch her breath. I guess I’ll be fighting today. She said as she scanned the area nearby. There was a quiet in the room that she wasn’t all that used to. Normally, she would use the festive sounds that surrounded her to block her doubts, but at this moment they seeped into her mind unwelcome.
Nevertheless, she approached Dissen and requested a fight, to which he obliged.
She walked up the steps to the red team’s gate when the announcer called her up. Calm down, Decena. You’ve done this a lot of times now. What have you got to fear? She thought. She placed a sweaty palm at the hilt of her sword as the gate went up. Opposite her, she saw a man wearing a white robe and hood, holding two swords at his sides. He fights like Twister.
Unlike her usual opponents the man didn’t charge at her as soon as they begun, and instead, aimed his swords at Decena, threateningly. Why am I so nervous? Decena asked herself. She decided to be the aggressor and charged after the opponent, swinging her sword at him. The opponent simply stepped back and deflected Decena’s attacks. Wait, what am I doing? This isn’t my style.
That brief moment of analysis provided the opponent a window in which to attack. He slashed at Decena’s calf, barely managing to nick it as Decena saw the attack coming. Ah! Come on Decena! Get your head in the fight. She rolled backwards hoping for a moment to catch her breath, but her opponent gave her no such chance, slashing his swords in fan-like ways at her. She managed to deflect his attacks and land a kick at his gut that separated them, bringing on a stalemate.
He’s not as fast as Twister. I actually have a chance here. Decena thought, bringing her sword up in a defensive posture. Her opponent mimicked her, doing the same. For a moment, neither combatant attacked as they both intended to counterattack. The fight’s lack of progress brought anger from the crowd as they yelled at them. Do something already… Sure enough, her opponent seemed to grow inpatient and charged after Decena.
She didn’t step back. Instead, she opted to face his charge. I’m stronger than he is. I can feel it. They clashed swords as Decena blocked his vertical attack, positioning her own weapon horizontally. They remained like that for a moment, in an apparent test of strength. I’m definitely stronger. She thought as she felt his struggle to overpower her. An idea appeared in her mind like a sparked fire, and she pushed his blades up. As soon as she did so, she removed one hand from her sword and punched the man in the face. He fell back, stunned. Now! Decena ran in to try to end the man. A brief smirk that appeared on his face let her know she had made a mistake.
In a show of spontaneous speed, he grabbed one of his swords and simply stuck it forward, aiming at Decena’s chest. No! Decena, unable to stop her momentum, ran into the blade. However, before it tore through her chest, she turned slightly, causing the sword to go through her upper left shoulder instead. She fell right beside the man, who quickly stood and backed away, seemingly totally uninjured. I was careless. She thought as she struggled to get up as well. I… I should use my magic. I have no choice, he’s better than me. She thought, however she then realized something.
As soon as the sword made contact with her shoulder, she couldn’t feel the magic in her body. What? Was his sword enchanted!? Decena said, her eyes widening at her smiling opponent. As soon as Decena made the realization, he charged towards her. His speed far surpassing her own this time.
Time slowed down for Decena. He’s too quick. I can’t move away. What do I do? She thought as she slowly saw him run towards her. With faith in her mind and a sudden spark of energy, she made a choice. As he approached her, Decena threw her sword at him. The faster opponent dodged out of the way, turned his head, and halted his momentum watching the sword go by. However, that wasn’t Decena’s intention.
She approached him from behind as he was momentarily distracted and launched a knee strike at his back.
“Agh!” The opponent bent backwards in pain, as Decena hit him. I’m not done yet. She pushed the man down, and quickly walked over to his head. In a flash of aggression, she stomped on the back of his head.
Over and over again, she didn’t stop until she was no longer bringing her foot down on anything firm.