CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Nineteen: Weapon's Art
After getting changed, they both steadily navigated through the corridor once more and guided Valeriana to the training field. After doing so, the girl happily waved at Valeriana and said she would be back after her class to fetch her.
“How kind of her,” she said before walking into the grassy field. Students were already hanging around dressed in the proper attire, holding their own swords in hand. “So this is swordsmanship, huh?”
The expanse of the training yard was filled with students currently taking their lessons. It was further subdivided into different sections based on the weapons being taught. The other classes were being displayed in full view since the only thing separating them was distance.
Valeriana looked to the sky. The tranquil color of a clear, bright blue with fluffy and soft-looking white clouds stretching from above. The gentle breeze caressed her cheeks and willfully played with her hair.
“Enjoying the view?” a man’s voice echoed beside her.
Valeriana’s heart leaped to her throat. She craned her neck to see a man with dirty blond hair and brown eyes. He looked especially strong. He had slight stubble on his chin and wore a cheerful smile.
“Oh . . . uh, yeah. I really haven’t seen anything like it,” she said, hand on her chest as she tried to calm her racing heart. “This world is beautiful. Well, it’s my first time seeing it like this.”
“This world?” The man raised a brow at her. “Don’t tell me—”
“I’m the rumored human.” Valeriana grinned, finishing for him.
He laughed. “Took the words right out of my mouth! So your name is Valeriana, is that correct? Valeriana Kerrigan?” He tilted his neck to the side as he gazed at the young girl in front of him with his questioning gaze.
“Yup!” she answered enthusiastically.
“I never saw you up close when you fought Courtney, but now that I see you face to face, you’re quite the cute kid, aren’t you?” His booming laughter echoed throughout the training yard. Valeriana stared at him in confusion as he reached out and patted her on the head.
“Not . . . really.”
The man’s laughter came to a stop and he looked down at her with curiosity. “Why not?” He paused. “Oh, wait a moment. Let me look at you.” He reached for her shoulders and pulled her towards him gently, his eyes staring straight into hers as if searching for something.
“When I caught you looking up at the sky just now, I thought you looked a lot like someone I know,” he stated. “I mistook you for her at first, really. It was hilarious.”
The man stared at her for a moment. “It’s like she was reincarnated.”
“Oh . . . she’s dead?”
“Unfortunately,” he whispered. “My name is Hajji Tarragon. I’ll be your instructor. Unless, of course, you came to the wrong class. But no, I have your name on my class list. So, you’re probably not lost.”
“You’re my teacher?”
“I can be no other person,” he said, chuckling. “Alright, I suggest you get ready. We’ll be working on a lot of things today.”
Sir Hajji turned to his students and clapped his hands twice. Everyone stopped the activity they were currently doing and diverted their attention to their instructor.
Without second thoughts, everyone dragged their legs and stood in a straight line. Valeriana decided to join in and stood on some random spot.
“Alright, everyone. Since this is just the first month of your stay in Celeste Academy, we’ll work on the very basic of your skills!” He padded across the field and reached for a wooden sword sitting in a bin with others. “I know I told you all that yesterday or last week, but I’ll be repeating it for our newcomer over here.” He nodded to Valeriana’s direction and everyone’s eyes were suddenly pinned at her direction.
“Valeriana, do you mind coming over here?”
The human girl nervously walked forward. Sir Hajji flashed her a comforting smile and threw her the wooden sword. Valeriana caught it easily in her hand and flashed the older man a questioning look.
“Forgive me, my dear,” he grinned. “Tradition is tradition and everyone in this class had to fight me on their first day. It helps me determine the level of your ability. But since you recently just dueled and came out with injuries, I’ll try to go easy on you.”
He must be talking about the wound on her left arm. It wasn’t her dominant arm, nevertheless, so she was sure it wouldn’t bring her any burden. Much.
Valeriana furrowed her brows in worry. “O-okay.”
“Well, then, quit standing around!” Hajji took a wooden sword himself and held the hilt firmly in his hands. He pointed the sword at Valeriana and smiled. “Come at me!”
Valeriana took a deep breath.
Remember to be like water, she reminded herself before running forward and attacking the older man. Hajji didn’t even lose the smile on his face before he blocked Valeriana’s assaults almost effortlessly.
Compared to the fight with Courtney, this felt much more enjoyable with no pressure of being killed or cut. They were using light-weight dummy swords that didn’t really pose much harm to an inexperienced eye, but Valeriana knew it would be much dangerous when put in the hands of a trained swordsman. After what Seraphina showed her, Valeriana started to see things differently.
They exchanged hard blows. Wood and metal posed differences, but that did not make the situation any less difficult than the fight she had with Courtney. Hajji was on a completely different level. Nevertheless, he was treating it as if it was child’s play.
Sir Hajji’s style was different from Lady Seraphina’s. Instead of what she was taught, Hajji’s moves seemed just . . . playful. They were complex and hard to understand as if they went to one direction then went to another. He was unpredictable, swift, and free.
Valeriana felt confused. Hajji took advantage of the inner turmoil and beat his sword unto hers, completely knocking it out of her hand. Valeriana’s jaw dropped alongside her weapon, the tip burying itself in the earth.
A round of applause came from the other students. There were a few judging stares from the students, especially with Valeriana’s position within the Circle. Thankfully, nobody dared do anything out of line.
“You picked up great skills, young lady!” Sir Hajji exclaimed, lowering his dummy sword. “Lady Seraphina’s truly a good trainer!” He then walked forward and placed a hand on her shoulder. “But she did not teach you everything yet—so that’ll be my job.”
Hajji nudged Valeriana back to where she previously stood before facing all of his students with a gleeful smile. A gush of wind blew and playfully caressed Valeriana’s cheeks. The cool breeze toyed with her hair before suddenly disappearing as if to only cool her down from the recent activity.
That was when it occurred to her. “The wind . . .”
Hajji, who seemed to have heard her, flashed her a knowing smile and winked. “That’s right. You have moved like water, my dear, just like what Seraphina taught you. It may have worked on Courtney, but it won’t work on me.”
“I don’t exactly understand this,” she muttered, looking at him in confusion.
“It goes like this, there’s fire. It’s rash, and it swallows everything it can, but water puts out the fire. Still, the wind carries the water and sometimes may even put it in a state of turmoil, but a wall of earth can block the wind.”
“So you can fight, not just by being like water?” Valeriana inquired.
“Of course,” Hajji answered. “There are many ways to fight with the sword. Being like water is not the only one. A master swordsman knows how to be like all the elements—wild like fire, graceful like water, free as the wind, and firm like the earth.”
“I see . . .” Valeriana trailed off as she mulled over what he said.
“Alright! Since I’m done with my wonderful speech, it’s time to start the lesson!”
“Will you teach us to be like the elements too, sir?” one of the students asked in obvious excitement, making Valeriana smile.
Sir Hajji paused and scanned all of his students. “Sure, I will!” he answered.
“But not now. It’s too early. We haven’t even finished with the basics yet. You all must know the foundation of everything before you even become ready to become beginners!”
“Aren’t we beginners already?” someone asked.
“Beginners are different from amateurs!”
The mood of the students suddenly faltered and they all began to whine like children, shoulders sinking with disappointment. Someone even amusingly muttered about it not being fair.
“You too, Valeriana,” Hajji said. “I noticed your lousy footwork. Your enemy would’ve easily knocked you out with that sort of stance!”
Valeriana bit her lip but said nothing.
“Anyway, we’ll be working on balance today!”
“But, sir!” the same student from a while ago whined. “We’ve been working on our balance since last week! Can’t we even move on?”
“What do you think moving on is about? Moving on is when you’re decent with what I tell you to do. Are balances decent?”
“No,” the student replied hesitantly.
“Then shut it and get to work!”