“You are going to be in so much trouble when my dad finds out about this!” shouts a slender, black-haired girl while Selenia calmly tends to the girl’s injured arm. “He’s rich and has a lot of influence in the courts! I’ll send him a message and this entire academy will be turned into a bakery! My dad didn’t pay you so that I could have my arm broken!”
Selenia glances at the large boy who is out cold in the middle of the sparring circle. She prods him with her foot causing him to groan and roll over to his stomach. With a snap of her fingers, four of her stronger students pick up their fallen classmate and carry him to the infirmary.
“Shut up, Kira,” Selenia mutters, hoping the girl will listen. “You knocked him out, so be happy with that. Go to the infirmary and they will fix you up.”
“I swear that this academy will pay for this,” the girl declares. Selenia slaps her across the face, which knocks Kira to the ground. Everyone, except the sparring students in the back of the class, stop what they are doing to watch the one-sided fight.
“This academy is not responsible for your arm being hurt. Blame your own foolishness for your injury,” Selenia explains, slowly pulling the girl up to her feet by her nose. “You should have jumped as he flipped you instead of resisting him because he is physically stronger. You have to learn to use your agility to your advantage when facing an opponent who relies on raw strength. Consider yourself lucky that Roland was holding back and went limp when he realized what was going on. That is why your arm is dislocated and not shattered.”
“As for your father,” Selenia coldly continues, “You can whine to him as much as you want, but he knew what could happen when he sent you here. He knew my reputation for tough training and the possibility of injury. Finally, I remind you that you remain in this academy by my good graces and not your father’s wealth. I can always send you home where you will face whatever your father does with failed children. From his reputation, I’m sure it won’t be enjoyable or kind. So, shut up and get moving to the infirmary before I drag you there by the skin of your ass.” She shoves the girl toward the infirmary before turning back to the rest of the class.
“Stupid brat,” Kellia mutters while Luke struggles to keep her in a chokehold. “She thinks she can boss people around since her father is in politics. I’d never be caught doing that if my father had that much power or influence. It’s just so . . . pathetic.” She grabs his arm, turning him so that she is wrenching his arm behind his back.
“Who is her father?” Luke gasps, swiftly breaking her hold.
“I don’t know or care,” she states as she begins to circle the half-elf. “Some big shot, but nobody knows her last name. She was ordered to keep it a secret while at this academy in order to avoid special treatment from her peers. I tend to stay out of stuff like that. Politicians are too slimy and their children can be real pains in the ass. All I want to do is avoid my parents’ fate of being simple cow farmers. That’s why being a warrior is a great choice for me. I’m already as strong as a barbarian from doing so much farm work. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Kellia smirks as she pulls her arm back to deliver a stiff punch to Luke’s face. The half-elf tries to dodge, but she follows him so that the punch still connects, though with less power than she had hoped. He rolls for a few yards, coming to a halt on his back. Luke feels blood trickle out of his nose as he gets to his feet.
“Kellia!” Selenia roars from where the rest of the class is practicing. “How many times do I have to tell you to restrain yourself and stick to the lesson? Today’s subjects are holds, throws, and escapes! Not punching!”
“I’m fine. I should have kept my guard up,” Luke admits as he grins at Kellia.
Selenia walks over and grabs Luke by the chin, examining his nose. He manages to avoid cringing in pain when she starts applying pressure. Noticing his attempt to hide the pain, Selenia suddenly sticks her finger up Luke’s nose. His scream of pain rips across the academy, startling a flock of orange birds hunting for worms outside the wall.
Selenia releases him and wipes her blood-covered finger on Luke’s shirt. “Your nose is broken. That is something you shouldn’t set by yourself without a first aid kit. Go to the infirmary to get it set and cleaned. Do you understand?”
“Yes. My nose is broken and it hurts. I will make sure not to get hit there again . . .” Luke says, shaking his head clear of a sudden wave of dizziness. “I am not going to the infirmary until I get one more practice match with Kellia. I feel it’s only fair since she was the one that hit me.”
“Come on, pointy ears,” Kellia snaps. “I will beat you into the ground every time.”
Kellia and Luke take a step toward each other with their fists sailing toward each other. Neither of the fighters get very far before Selenia steps between them and catches both punches. Both students tug at their arms, but find that they cannot break Selenia’s grip.
“I am not letting you have some childish grudge match,” Selenia announces, letting go of their arms. “You two want to have a practice fight? Then, you will have to wait until the next class. That means you have until tomorrow to mature and prove to me that you deserve to be in this advanced class. If you continue getting into fights with each other, I will suspend both of you for two weeks.” Selenia hears the other students mumbling in disappointment behind her back. She picks up a stone and hurls it toward the group of students, which makes them stop their mumbling very quickly.
Selenia turns back to Luke with an icy glare. “You’re new here, Callindor, so I’ll explain what I mean by suspension. It is true that you will not have to go to any of your classes. You even get to sleep in during the day and skip the morning run. Without classes, the two of you can rest for the entire day. Come the night, your squabbling asses are mine. Your duties may be basic such as cleaning the entire academy or performing the night watch above the stable’s manure pile. Personally, I would prefer to take you two into the Caster Swamp for some hunting. That will teach you how important teamwork and patience is in the field. Another transgression like this would be just enough for me to suspend the both of you and put some fear into you. In fact, you two are now permanent partners in this class, so you better learn your lesson quickly. You share each other’s victories and failures.”
“But . . .” Kellia starts, her courage already wavering.
“Quiet! I won’t hear any more complaining. Go to the infirmary, Luke,” Selenia demands, turning to Kellia. “I want you to go with him, Kellia, and make sure he gets there. If I hear of you two fighting then you will be suspended.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Kellia and Luke humbly reply before they leave the class. They walk in silence for a minute as they take the long way to the infirmary. Luke occasionally touches his nose, wincing at the sharp pain.
Kellia finally decides to break the silence as they walk by the ringing blacksmith shop. “I’ve seen some of your father’s work.”
“What do you mean?” Luke asks. He looks around and grabs his nose tightly before resetting it. Kellia grimaces when she hears the loud crack. Luke bites his lip to hold back a shriek of pain. Unfortunately, he can’t stop himself from screaming louder than the last time. Some guttural laughter can be heard from the blacksmith as the briefly ringing stops.
“Nice try, boy! I think the entire forest heard that scream!” Duggan yells from one of the open windows. “You get points for the attempt though!”
Luke laughs a little, which causes some twinges of pain in his nose. “Good to see that I have an audience. Now, what do you mean by my father’s work? I assume you mean some kind of weapon.”
“It was a great axe made from this strange, colorful metal. A barbarian from the tiger clan had it. He was helping the local soldiers defend our village from a Staff Dragon and he let my father take a look at his weapon. The man said it was a coming of age weapon that Ilan Callindor had made for his father fifty years ago,” Kellia explains in a slow, steady tone as if she is trying hard to remember the story. “I’m guessing your sabers are the same metal because they had a similar shine to the great axe. I kind of peeked in your wardrobe after our encounter yesterday. Personally, I would prefer the axe, but your sabers are beautiful creations. I would think it a shame to dirty them with blood and risk damaging them, but there is no point in having a weapon that doesn’t get used. How good are you at using those?”
The question hangs in the air as they reach the door to the infirmary. Luke opens the door and is about to walk in when a familiar screech followed by a torrent of swearing hits his ears like a battering ram. He is very surprised to hear Kira using profanity in twelve languages and a sideways glance at Kellia reveals that she is just as confused as he is. Kira gets louder with a frustrated scream, so Luke gently closes the door and takes a seat on the grass.
“I don’t want to listen to that girl at full volume,” Luke says with a tired sigh. “As for your question, I am really good at swordplay. I feel very confident that I could defeat any of the other students here. I could even give Selenia a brief challenge before she put me in a hospital bed for a week. Is that good enough for you?”
Kellia sits on the other side of the doorway, plucking a blade of grass out of the ground and putting it between her lips. “More or less. I was just curious considering how arrogant you are. So far you seem to be all talk and no skill.”
“I haven’t had a reason to use my skills. Besides, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t need more training,” the half-elf defensively claims. He gets to his feet and stretches his sore arms. “Now, I have a question for you.”
“Go ahead,” she cautiously responds. “I’ll be heading out once you ask your question, though. Don’t want anyone to get the idea that I actually enjoy your company. I’m just a little sorry about damaging your fragile, girlish nose.”
Luke raises his eyebrow at the insult, but decides to ignore it. “Why would a cow farmer like your father be interested in weapons like great axes? I would think that he would be more interested in plows and shovels. A weapon like a great axe would have no practical use on a farm.”
“That is one of the most close-minded things I have ever heard!” Kellia angrily exclaims, jumping to her feet and clenching her fists. “I will have you know that my father is a great man. He was, and still could be, a great warrior if he didn’t have other responsibilities like his family. Just because he no longer paces the battlefield or wears his armor doesn’t mean that he has forgotten the thrill of holding a weapon.” She lunges in an attempt to grab Luke by the shirt, but he quickly moves out of the way.
“Calm down! I’m sorry,” he apologizes, dancing away from her wild grabs. “I don’t doubt that your father was a great warrior. You keep this up and we’re both going to be in the Caster Swamp before the day is done.”
He rolls past Kellia when she tries to grab him by the neck, which gives him an opening to sprint into the infirmary. The brawny girl is still turning around as Luke disappears into the open door. Kellia is about to barge in when Kira comes stumbling out.
“Hey! Watch where you’re going, half-elf!” Kira shouts.
The brown-skinned girl unknowingly turns into the furious face of Kellia, causing her to take a sudden jump back. For a brief second, it looked to Kellia that the girl had struck a perfect defensive pose from their martial arts class. She is about to say something about it when she notices the terrified expression and shaking arms of the other girl. If Kira did strike the pose then it had to be by accident.
“You are such a weakling,” the sneering tomboy states. She points her middle finger at Kira and walks away.
“The hell did I do!” the confused girl yells in response.