CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Eleven: Ten Hours
Valeriana’s eyes shot open when she heard the loud knocking on her door. Out of shock, she rose into a sitting position as sweat broke from her forehead. The bed, the ceiling, and the walls weren’t what she was expecting. After everything, she had hoped she would wake up in her room.
She threw her feet out of bed and placed them on the floor. “Oh, damn, I’m screwed. So I really wasn’t dreaming?”
Valeriana sighed as she rubbed her face with the palm of her hand. The knocking got louder and more impatient. She raked her fingers through her messy, honey-golden hair that nearly resembled a bird’s nest and took a deep breath. She then stood up and opened the door.
“What do you want?” she asked rudely. “It’s in the middle of the night.”
“It’s half-past ten in the evening.” The girl before her seemed irritated that she had the galls to say that to her. “Valeriana, right?” she asked.
“I was told to fetch you and lead you to Lady Seraphina in preparation for your duel. She is waiting for you in the arena.”
Realization dawned on her. “Oh my god. Right.” She lightly tapped on her forehead with the bottom of her palms. “I don’t know a thing about sword-fighting or whatever. How good is this Courtney exactly?”
“One of the best in the academy,” she answered.
Valeriana groaned. “Why is this happening to me?” She rubbed her eyes and yawned noisily, trying to hide the trepidation she was getting from the impending fight. She didn’t even know a thing about holding a sword. How was she going to stand up against someone more experienced than her?
Maybe she should just become a slave instead.
“Is it dawn already?”
“No. It’s about ten hours before so,” the girl answered.
She groaned, feeling her heavy lids dropping back down. She fought the urge to simply fall back down and go back to sleep. “I hate this,” she said, whining. “Can I just . . . go back to sleep?”
“I also want to go back to sleep,” she told her irately. “I was told there was a letter. Where is it?”
“The letter,” she repeated impatiently.
“Oh,” she said, feeling dense. “There.” She pointed at the envelope on top of the table she used a few hours earlier.
She snatched it off the table and slipped it into one of his pockets. “Come on.”
She distractedly began twisting the golden band around her wrist, trying to restrain herself from strangling the annoying person in front of her. Her brows were knitting together while she pouted furiously.
Valeriana sauntered behind her and sucked in the urge to stick her tongue out.
She was guided through a far walk from the girls’ dormitories. The distance was really long that Valeriana began wondering how big the academy really was. How much land did it cover anyway?
Valeriana was certain she wouldn’t get used to this place anytime soon.
“Just how long will it take us to get there?” she muttered impatiently under her breath.
Seraphina was waiting somewhere within the arena, as the boy once called it on their way there, but she wasn’t sitting patiently, waiting for her to arrive.
She was warming up with the sword.
The arena resembled a football field. There were layered seats that circled a vast, empty space, although the ground wasn’t grassy but sandy and no lines were drawn. It was one of the common sights that could be seen in a movie with a Roman gladiator theme.
“Lady Seraphina,” the girl politely addressed. “I’ve brought her.”
Seraphina stopped and turned to look at the two, lowering her sword. She flashed them a smile and nodded at him gratefully. “Thank you, Rin. I’m sorry for bothering you.”
“Not at all. It’s been an honor.”
“It’s alright. You can go and have your much-needed rest.”
The girl, Rin, bowed and left.
“Come here now, Valeriana.” She threw a hand on Valeriana’s shoulder and steered her away.
Seraphina made Valeriana wear the protective gears. She was also asked to put on some more comfortable clothes since the ones she wore were inappropriate, not to mention disgusting. She hadn’t taken a bath for a while after all.
The gears were a simple leather armor that came with shoulder pads and a belt that held a scabbard for a weapon.
“You should know that Courtney is included in the Celestial Circle. It’s impossible for you to stand up to her the way you are now.”
Valeriana’s curiosity perked up as her ears picked up the unfamiliar term. “What’s the Celestial Circle?” she asked.
“The Celestial Circle is comprised of the top twelve students in the Knight’s Wing. They are, by far, the best,” she explained. “Courtney is currently ranked fifth.”
“I’m dead meat,” she murmured.
“Let us start immediately. There’s no time left to waste. I’ve only ten hours to teach you how to hold the sword.”
“Will that even work? How am I supposed to learn within only ten hours?”
Seraphina looked confident, a small but calm smile on her lips. “It will. It should. However, I’m going to expect you to exert more effort than usual.”
“You’re really going so far to help me. I don’t know how to thank you anymore.”
“No. It’s alright. I’m the reason why you’re here in the first place. Besides, you’re my responsibility now, Valeriana,” she said, smiling. “But now is not the time to talk. Let’s focus on the job at hand.” She threw the sword to Valeriana, who caught it around the hilt.
“Shiznits!” she exclaimed and wobbled. “I’m supposed to fight with this thing? It’s as heavy as a baseball bat! Yeah, but I never really got how those people could swing something so heavy. I don’t know if that’s just the wimp in me talking.”
“I’m surprised. I was expecting you to scream and wait for the sword to drop to the ground before picking it up,” she said, laughing.
Valeriana pouted angrily at Seraphina and tightened her grip on the weapon, trying to find her balance. “I’m not entirely useless, you know. I do know a little about self-defense.”
“So I’ve heard. That sword is a bit heavier than the standard weight. Once you start swinging something heavy, when you switch to a lighter one, you’ll feel more comfortable.”
“Oh, okay.” She gazed at the sword in her hands. “I really can’t believe I got challenged to a duel. Like, in my seventeen years of life, who would even think I get to hold a really really long knife?” she said while testing its weight. “Not to mention use it to smack down someone.”
She pulled out her own weapon and aced it forward. “I’m sorry, Valeriana. I can’t do much in this situation. Teaching you is all I can do.”
“I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from you, though.” She had seen Seraphina use the sword once. The way she held her sword displayed her familiarity with handling the weapon. There was no questioning her experience and competence.
Seraphina smiled. “Look forward to it.”
Clutching the hilt with both hands, she decided to test its weight again by swinging it around. It looked so light-weight when people in the movies held it. The real thing required much more balance to use and it was heavy.
Well, obviously, it was made of metal.
“Can I even do this?” she asked herself, slightly anxious with the sudden change. If her father was here, he would probably tell her she could do it. He would say that there was nothing impossible for a hard-working person. If she put all her effort into it, she would succeed with no doubt.
At the thought of her father, her eyes flew to her bracelet. She felt homesick. A painful ache lingered in her chest.
She felt like crying.
“Let’s start.” Seraphina brought out the sword tied around her waist. “We’ll begin with blocking. Make sure to have a good grip on your sword to prevent it from flying out of your hands.”
“Alright,” she mumbled.
“Good,” Seraphina said and stilled her hand, the sword readily positioned before her. “After you already know the basics of swordsmanship, it will make things easier. In order to make sure you stand a chance, I’ll teach you all of Courtney’s weak points. However, the time is short. Managing to learn all these with just the time we have will be a miracle.”
“Well, I have no choice but to try my best.” She shrugged.
“Three hours for the basics. No, four. It’s the most important. After that, we’ll move on to attacks and counterattacks. We’ll work on your balance and the proper stance.”
Valeriana’s training began. Seraphina was a strict one. Since it was already like a matter of life and death for Valeriana, she determinedly focused on learning.
Using the sword required eye and hand coordination, good reflexes, and guts.
Seraphina showed her simple moves and she imitated. It went on like that for a few hours. So far, Valeriana managed to understand and get half of everything right.
Soon enough, Seraphina told her it was time to engage in one-on-one sparring. She told her to apply everything she just learned while they fought and try to block all of her oncoming attacks. This was the part where everything became hard.
At first, Valeriana found herself running away when Seraphina attacked her, but she got over it. Hopefully.
“I told you not to just stay in one place! Move!” Seraphina yelled.
“I thought you told me I should plant my feet or—whatever.”
“So what will you do if I come at you and you cannot block this attack so all you can do is evade? What will you do? Let yourself get stabbed? Focus, Valeriana! Swordsmanship requires common sense as well!”
“This is really confusing.”