The audience cheered as she stared at the red pulp she created. She backed away for a moment, absorbing the result of the fight, internalizing it. That was close. She thought as she felt her hands tremble. Her shoulder was screaming in pain from the stab wound. I could have died there. Easily. She thought as she began walking away.
She turned and left the arena, walking back inside the red team’s headquarters. Immediately, she approached some of the healers and asked them to heal her shoulder. There, Dissen walked up to her, congratulated her and handed her a single gold coin for her victory. A dozen minutes later, and Decena was standing by the stairs that led to the gate, a sore remained where her stab wound happened.
Twister, who was standing by the stairs as well, checking her equipment, noted Decena’s complicated expression.
“What’s going on with you? You won, right?” She said, tilting her head at the younger girl.
“Yes, but I could have lost just now. Or, I guess ‘die’ is a better way to say it. I… I couldn’t calm down. I don’t get it.” Decena said as she sat on the steps. Twister sighed and sat down next to her. She tossed her blue hair over her shoulder and turned to Decena.
“Why do you think that is?” Twister asked, her eyes curiously open.
“Hey,” Decena opened, ignoring her question. “How do you deal with… the risk?” She asked.
“What do you mean?” A look of confusion appeared on Twisters face.
“Well, we fight up there knowing damn well we could die at any moment. That would be it, no second chances, no miraculous survival... Isn’t that crazy?” Decena asked. “Why?”
“Hm…” Twister paused. “I don’t know about you, but if I stopped doing this, I don’t know what I’d do with myself. These fights are the only thing that give me a reason to get out of my bed in the morning.” Twister said, as Decena looked down at the ground between her legs, a thoughtful look on her expression. “Some people have painting, others have horseback riding, others have archery, the army, drinking, fucking, etcetera. Me? I have fighting. I’m guessing it’s the same for you. Do you like the academy?”
“Not really.” Decena said. “I don’t really see myself taking any long term career from it.”
“And you can’t use magic, right?” Twister asked.
“And you love fighting. I’d guess it’s the same for you.” She said.
“I guess…” Decena said. “Why does life have to be so complicated?” She whined.
“Oh, stop it.” Twister wrapped her arm around Decena’s sore shoulder, bringing a cry out of the red head. “Ah? Sorry!” Twister said.
After the sore feeling in her shoulder went away, Decena decided to train more.
“Don’t swing your sword like that, you’re committing too much to one attack. Unless you’re certain you’re going to get the hit in, you’ll want to avoid putting that much into it.” Twister said. Decena raised her sword above her head, using both hands. She stepped forward, lowering it in a vertical slice. Before she finished she felt a sharp tip poking at her stomach. She paused midway to see Twister’s sword placed at her gut. “What did I tell you about vertical attacks?”
“Too easy to counter.” Decena said. “Right.” She backed away, taking a small breath as a familiar voice rang behind her.
“So, this is where you spend your time? You should be studying!” Wait, what? Decena turned her head to find Felicia standing there, her arms crossed, her eyes shooting the usual piercing gaze. She was wearing an uncharacteristically casual brown shirt, her blonde hair which was usually tied into a ponytail, was loose and flowing over her neck and shoulders.
“What are you doing here?” Decena asked, her cheeks flushing red as she acknowledged her lecturer intruding on her only space away from the academy.
“Is there any reason I can’t be here?” Felicia asked. Decena looked towards Twister for a response.
“As long as she doesn’t break any of the equipment, nobody should have a problem with her.” She said with a shrug. “And I must say, I quite appreciate getting the chance to see our schoolgirls’ teacher.” Twister said, which brought another red flush unto Decena’s cheeks.
“But why are you here?” Decena asked again.
“Relax, I’m here to tell you something. Also, I was hoping to get to see you fight.”
“Well, you just missed it.” Decena said.
“Really? Aw…” Felicia made an excessively sad look as she pouted towards Decena.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, professor, I’m trying to practice.” She said, as she turned her back.
“Oh? Why don’t I help you then?” Felicia said, her attitude brightening up immediately.
“I’m not training with magic, I’m training with swords.” Decena said.
“Even better.” Felicia replied, walking up to Decena. “Give me one.”
“Are you serious?” Decena said.
“Yes. Hand me a weapon.” Felicia said as she looked towards Twister, who gave her one of her own. “Great. Now, come, attack me.” Felicia said, putting her sword up, in a seemingly ridiculous manner, that even earned a scoff out of Twister.
“I don’t want to hurt you.” Decena said.
“Hahaha, oh trust me, you won’t.” Felicia replied. Decena, sighing, raised her sword and stepped forward, lunging at Felicia’s chest. With a quick flick, Felicia deflected Decena’s attack diagonally without even moving her torso. Decena’s momentum carried her all the way to the ground next to Felicia. Decena, shocked, looked up at Felicia, who simply shrugged in return. She stood, and tried to swing again at Felicia, who this time, ducked out of the way of Decena’s slash without moving her sword. Decena quickly spun, and tried another stab, but Felicia grabbed her blade between her index and middle finger. Decena couldn’t even move the sword back, as it felt as though she had just trapped her sword in a rock. “Still think you’re going to hurt me?” She asked Decena, releasing her sword. “Just so you know, I’m no fighter. That was all magic.”. She then turned to face Twister who was leaning on a wall nearby. “Would it bother you if I took her off your hands for the next couple of days?”
“Perfect.” Felicia flipped the sword Twister had loaned her, grabbed it by the blade and held the hilt out towards Twister, handing it back to her. “Decena,” She turned towards the redhead who was just getting up. “After school, you are to head up to the roof as we did previously. I want to train you for the exams.”
“You mean the practical exams?”
“Yes.” Felicia’s attitude turned just as serious, and borderline sinister as it usually was.
“What?” Decena said. “Weren’t you advising against it?”
“I never did such a thing. I only reminded you that your magic isn’t a gift, as it is more of a privilege than anything. A temporary one. Okay, that’s all I have to say. Goodbye.” Felicia said, walking away just as quickly as she had arrived.
“Quite the teacher you have there.” Twister told Decena, who simply sighed in return.
She walked out to the streets afterwards, on her way home, opting to end the day on a high note, instead of taking another fight. If I’m going to be practicing for the practical exams… I don’t think I’ll have the time to fight for a while. Of course, if I fail the exam, all that time wasted… It’ll basically cement Enverna’s fate. So, if I’m going to go through with this, there’s no choice. I have to come in first. I have to give it everything I've got... Otherwise… As she paced along the sidewalk, several carriages moved through the streets. The rumbling in her heart mimicked that of the wooden wheels hitting the stone road. I can’t let that happen.
She arrived at her home slightly quickly. Inside, shadows sprawled throughout the living room as the retreating sun struggled to provide lighting. Having made little sound, Verana hadn’t noticed Decena coming in. And so, Decena was greeted with the sight of her adoptive mother crying on the brown, wood table.
Stunned for a moment, Decena wondered what she should do, until a light footstep of hers caused the wood beneath her feet to creak.
“Huh?” Verana’s head snapped up. Even in the dim lighting, Decena could see the red veins in her eyes. “O-Oh, Decena, um.” She got off the chair and almost sprinted to the kitchen. “I already made your dinner, it’s just some basic rice and eggs, but I got this special seasoning from one of our neighbors, so I think you’ll see that it tastes good, or at least I hope, and uh… Uh. Yeah, here.” Verana clumsily walked up to Decena with a plateful of food in hand.
Decena grabbed it and began walking away. Come on, Decena. Just say it. She thought. After a brief sigh, Decena turned towards Verana.
“Thanks…” She said. Not a trace of poison in her voice. Verana’s eyes opened slightly as she replied, with Decena already halfway up the stairs.