CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Twelve: Dawn
Seraphina had finally revealed her tyrannical side. There was no trace of mercy in her eyes as she pounded rule after rule in both her body and mind. Valeriana was wracked with exhaustion. Lacking the muscles necessary for this kind of activity, she wasn’t faring too well.
“That’s not enough! Put more effort into it!” Seraphina reprimanded as she knocked the sword out of Valeriana’s hands for the umpteenth time.
Valeriana collapsed and held up her arms in surrender. “A minute to breathe . . . please,” she begged.
The lady knight panted but relaxed the hand holding the sword. “I don’t think that’s enough. Your muscles aren’t very well-developed so you’re having a hard time.”
“As expected,” Valeriana said, panting. “I can’t even win against you.”
“You don’t have to feel bad about it,” she told her reassuringly. But you cannot give in to your adrenalin, Valeriana. It will interfere with your concentration and mess up your control. Fight it.”
“I thought it was supposed to help people survive.”
“Extra strength, increased endurance, yes. But it is not applicable when fighting. You will have to get yourself under control.”
“Alright. Mental note taken.”
While Valeriana was resting, Seraphina decided to make use of valuable time and trained her eyes to a scarecrow-like training dummy planted into the ground.
“Now listen closely to me Valeriana,” she said. “Courtney’s way of fighting is intense and relentless. She won’t give you a room to breathe, so you’ve got to be very careful and never let your guard down. Just focus on the fight.”
“Got it,” she answered immediately.
“Fighting is simple,” she said. “People make the fight complicated. Look at this.” The lady knight turned towards the human and held up a polished sword in her right hand and a stick in another. “What do you think is the difference between these two items?”
“Uh . . .” Valeriana’s mind was blank. “They are both weapons?” The girl looked expectantly at Seraphina.
“I can see that.”
Valeriana grinned at Seraphina humorlessly. “Sorry.”
“This mere stick can be a weapon if one focuses all his power on it. This plain wood can be as firm as metal when one knows how to handle it properly. Observe closely.”
Valeriana watched Seraphina as she temporarily plunged her bladed weapon to the ground and spun to look at the dummy she envisioned as her opponent. She lifted the stick into the air and brought it down speedily to the structure she put up.
She witnessed the training dummy fall down to the ground with a cut in the middle. The stick itself then broke apart right afterward even so. This forced a gasp out of her.
“Whoa. That’s amazing,” she whispered before breaking in a girlish scream. “Exactly like what Doug Landers did! Oh my god! I have never seen anything like that except in movies and cartoons!”
Her mentor raised a brow at her. Valeriana stopped immediately when she saw the face she was making and flushed a deep red when she realized what she was doing.
“Oh,” she mumbled, redirecting her gaze down to the ground and kicking the sand.
Seraphina sighed. “Look Valeriana, there’s no difference between a wooden sword and a blade when the one who wields it has a firm conviction. It’s really just that the stick has less durability.” She pointed at the cut where the object struck and dropped the other half of the broken stick over the other. “Knowing this technique, you’ll be able to cut a thick sword or even a tree in half without fail. But you must remember, how sharp the sword is does not rely on how well it’s polished, or how sharp its blade is. It’s always about the one who holds the weapon with the weapon itself. Do you understand?”
“So are you telling me I should be one with my weapon or something?”
A smile curled on her lips. “You catch on easily. A true swordsman knows how to be one with his weapon. In a battle, a weapon and its user should always be the same entity. You do not treat the sword as a mere weapon. You should treat it as if it’s a part of you.”
“So I should just cut Courtney’s sword into half, and it’s over?”
“Preferably, but having you develop that skill overnight is close to impossible. It’ll be a miracle if you did.”
“Then what is the point of showing it to me?”
“Cutting off Courtney’s sword is not the exact reason why I showed this to you.”
“You know, this isn’t the time to be cryptic since there really is no time at all,” she told her.
“Oh, but what kind of learning will it be if you don’t figure it out for yourself?” She sighed. “It’s only a matter of time. Dawn will arrive soon.” Seraphina stared at the clearing skies, chugging down some water from a wineskin. They were both drenched in their own sweat.
“You should go take a bath before everything else,” she suggested. “You need to rest for a while.”
“A bath sounds tempting.” She stood from the sandy ground and dusted her pants. The clothes she was wearing were marred by dirt and sweat. She felt sticky all over and she stunk. “I feel bad for the owner of these clothes.” She tugged on the soft, comfy sleeves.
“You don’t have to worry about it,” she said and paused, scrutinizing the way she looked in the attire. “They’re yours from now on.” She slid off of her leather armor and dumped it in some sort of large container with the others. Valeriana did the same but had a hard time trying to pull the thing off.
“Really? For free?” She sheathed the sword and placed it gingerly in the armoire, sparing Seraphina a few glances while she did so. “Why?”
“One more reason is because you need a change of clothes,” she simply replied. “Those belonged to me when I was still in the academy. They’re old and they were collecting dust in my closet. I figured I should give them to you.”
“These belonged to you? It’s been taken good care of.” Valeriana then sighed. She gazed at the lady knight and smiled before saying, “Thank you very much for everything. Now I feel like I have a chance to win, even if it’s just little.”
Seraphina smiled. “You’re very much welcome. I can’t say it’s enough to let you win, but I’ve taught you enough to let you live.”
“That isn’t comforting but . . . thanks.”
Seraphina was undoubtedly a good teacher. Her explanations were easy to understand and she had a lot of patience if not very demanding. It was understandable, however. If she babied Valeriana, what would become of her in the fight?
“I see that you and Lady Seraphina are finally done with training.” Corvan’s voice rang imposingly.
“Why, Lord Corvan. What brought you here? I thought you were resting.”
“It’s from Headmaster Kylon. He wants you by his side before the duel commences.”
“For what reason?”
“He told me that you should try to find out yourself and head over to him instead.”
The lady knight clicked her tongue to express her irritation. “Alright. I leave Valeriana in your hands. Take her to the baths for me, and fetch her the clothes appropriate for the event of the duel as well.”
“But . . .” He glared at her and she returned it.
“You can ask someone else to do it, just make sure she receives that bath and the clothes she needs. I’ll be going now then, Valeriana.” Seraphina made her way out of the arena and quickly disappeared from Corvan and Valeriana’s sight. When she was out, the lord turned to the human and quirked a brow.
“What are you standing there for?” he asked.
“Isn’t it obvious? Watching her leave.” She pointed to the direction Seraphina disappeared to.
Corvan’s look of irritation could not be painted.
Valeriana sneezed as she stripped off her clothes and stepped into the bath. There was no one she was to share it with, so she had it all alone to herself.
It wasn’t what she was expecting it to be. Instead of cubicles and shower heads, all she saw was an open pool with steam rising from the water.
She didn’t like to be naked in public so she wrapped herself with a piece of cloth she found folded among others in a cabinet. Valeriana figured it was for the purpose. Hopefully, she was right. She wasn’t going to risk having anyone see her in her birthday suit.
The bath helped her muscles relax and she breathed out a loud sigh.
She spent a few minutes musing to herself what in the world she was supposed to do and pulling on her hair as she rubbed off the dirt, feeling antsy because of the impending match. When she looked down at her fingers, she realized her skin had turned to prunes and it was probably time to leave.
Valeriana sighed and heaved herself out of the water. She walked out of the baths through the doors, only to stumble upon a bundle of clean clothes.
“I’ll be taking this, thank you,” she whispered. She bent down and took it into her hands, feeling the soft cloth with her palms.
She decided to try it on and discovered it was slightly different from the previous get-up Seraphina described as the school’s gym clothes. The top’s design was more intricate. The front ran down with ruffles and flat, silver buttons. The sleeves were puffy but tightened around the wrists with strips of ribbons needing to be wound together. It was slightly loose around the waist so she needed to tuck it into the brown pants it came with.
“I’m starting to regret even agreeing to all of this now,” she muttered, looking at her reflection. She placed a hand on her chin and thoughtfully spoke.
She flicked back her damp hair and quietly left the room. Corvan was patiently waiting for her outside, arms crossed while leaning against the wall. If he would only remove that frown from his face, he would look like a model from a cover magazine.
“You took your sweet time in there,” he said, his eyes fixed on Valeriana’s face. “I bet you looked like a raisin for quite a while.”
She huffed but did not make any move to deny what he said.
Corvan spun, his long hair swishing slightly behind him. He had tied it in a ponytail with a white ribbon while letting stray strands of his hair to accentuate his face.
She felt nervous of the upcoming duel. All this tension made her want to puke.
Speaking of stomach, hers suddenly made noises of protest.
Corvan stopped and raised a brow at her. “Do you need to eat?”
“No.” She shook her head sarcastically. “My stomach didn’t growl. I don’t need nourishment because I’m just that awesome. It’s just my monster side coming out.”
He snorted at her sarcastic comment. “Then, I’ll guide you straight to the dueling area without eating since you’re that awesome.”
She was silent.
“I could use some snacks, though . . .”
Still, hunger was making her more nervous.
She encouraged herself silently by clenching her fist. “I’m not going to die in this fight, right?”
Corvan’s gaze traced the creasing lines on her face. “It’s not a duel to the death,” he told her. “You will be protected. The administration is not that cruel.”
“But cruel enough to send out a girl who obviously don’t know anything worth crap about fighting to fight in an arena to realize her potential?” she pointed out. “Don’t you think that reasoning is a little bit—I don’t know—illogical?!”
“Then what do you expect to do in this place?” he asked. “Sew demons to death?”
“That can be possible.”
He huffed. “It doesn’t work that way.”