Chapter 3:

The Art of Combat

Six


Asytaria awoke as the sun was peaking over the horizon. Making her way into the kitchen, she served herself some bread like she had before, and grabbed a small notebook off her desk. Feldia took a lot of notes on Emyria, I definitely shouldn’t let this information go to waste, Aystaria thought as she looked over each page. On each page were carefully detailed notes as to how Emyria acted, and even down to what she liked, and hated. After pouring over all the information, Aystaria noticed there was an entry on the distinctive mark on her hand. Although Aystaria had noticed it, she noticed that even Feldia didn’t know the reasoning behind the burn mark on Emyria’s right hand.
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Guess I still have many things to learn about the little noble girl, Aystaria thought as she chuckled in a cute way. Placing the notebook back down onto the desk, Aystaria made her way out into the hallway before running into Emyria. She was dressed in her school uniform, and appeared as if she was about to leave.Bookmark here

“Good morning, you’re up earlier than normal,” Aystaria said as she spoke in a cheerful tone.Bookmark here

“Well, you promised to teach me after school so long as I focused on my studies. That was the agreement.”Bookmark here

“I am aware. Don’t worry, I won’t be cruel, and not hold up my end of the bargain.”Bookmark here

“Same. I look forward to training with you.”Bookmark here

For a second, Aystaria was surprised to see Emyria smile. It wasn’t a fake smile, but one that was genuine, and showed that she cared about the task ahead. After saying good-bye, Aystaria watched as Emyria made her way down the hall, and out of sight. She is in high-spirits. That’s good, she will need it for the training I am going to put her through. Guess I should take a bath too. I feel like I haven’t had a decent bath in months, Aystaria thought as she took a moment to stretch. As she made her way down the hallway for the bathing chamber, she noticed Reina, and Lyis heading in the same direction from down the opposite end of the hallway.Bookmark here

“Miss Pynn, good morning to you.”Bookmark here

“Morning to both of you as well. What are you two planning for today?”Bookmark here

“We were thinking of taking a relaxing bath before our shifts started.”Bookmark here

“Funny, I was about to as well.”Bookmark here

“We should bathe together then,” Reina said with a smile.Bookmark here

“If it’s all right with the both of you, I’d rather bathe alone,” Aystaria said in a nervous tone.Bookmark here

“Are you sure?” Reina asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah. I…”Bookmark here

Aystaria was silent for a second. She thought carefully, trying to choose her words in a methodical manner.Bookmark here

“Hey, we get it. You’re self-conscious of your body. I was like that too.”Bookmark here

“Uh, yeah… you got me there,” Aystaria said as she rubbed the back of her head nervously.Bookmark here

“There are two baths for the males, and females. You can take the female one. It should be empty. We can take the other,” Reina said with a smile.Bookmark here

“Thank you for understanding,” Aystaria said as she made her way into the bathing room.Bookmark here

The chamber was akin to that of a large lake or hot springs with warm water that stopped just above the knees. Unlike a common bathroom, the bathing chamber resembled that of a natural spa sitting in the mountains. Small rocks, and other earthy objects were carefully placed to preserve a sense of the mountains—evening going so far as to include a waterfall that appeared as if it was formed naturally. Okay, I know this is a manor, and the family is rich, but this is more than I thought it would be. Then again, this shouldn’t surprise me, Aystaria thought as she carefully removed her clothes. Slowly, she unwrapped the bandage that covered her whole arm, and stared upon the mark that she recalled in grave detail.Bookmark here

The skin of her left arm appeared as if it had been mauled, and peeled away at certain places. Although the skin had managed to heal, the scars remained. Every time she looked at the scars she recalled that dark time in agonizing detail. He spared no expense at my pain, and did this. I will kill him, even if I have to die to do it, Aystaria thought as she removed her skirt.Bookmark here

“You made me what I am, so I’ll make sure that you never exist,” Aystaria said aloud as she entered the water.Bookmark here

“Hey Aystaria, did you say something?” Reina asked from the other side of the wall.Bookmark here

Crap, the two bathing areas are side by side. Guess I should have been more careful, Aystaria thought.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about it, Reina. I just was thinking aloud about what I was going to teach Emyria when she returns.”Bookmark here

Aystaria sat down in the water as she allowed the warm rejuvenating liquid relax her body all over. I hope Emyria is taking her studies seriously, Aystaria thought as she closed her eyes.Bookmark here

#Bookmark here

Emyria wrote down each word that Miss Feldia said as she furiously took notes, and asked questions on things she didn’t understand. Miss Feldia could only smile, and part her knowledge as she explained about the various commodities that made up the world. The hours passed until the school hour was over. Without delay, Emyria rushed out of the classroom, and made her way home. Entering into the main foyer, she was greeted by the sight of Aystaria who smiled as she was just about to make her way down to her room.Bookmark here

“You’re here a lot earlier than I thought you would be.”Bookmark here

“Well, you said you would teach me, so, let’s get started.”Bookmark here

“Have patience. We will begin soon. First, I need to grab my sword.”Bookmark here

“Why do you even have that blade? I noticed that it’s lighter than other blades I’ve held. The metal appears unique, and it seems like it’d be impossible to break,” Emyria said as she followed Aystaria to her room.Bookmark here

Aystaria grabbed the blade as she twirled it, removing it from the sheath in the process while catching the blade in hand.Bookmark here

“This blade has a deep, and enriching history. Pretty sure that would just bore you though.”Bookmark here

“Wait, what is that inscription on the blade?”Bookmark here

Near the sword guard was an engraved inscription on the blade that was in a set of runes Emyria failed to understand. Aystaria simply smiled as sheathed the blade, and rested it on the back of her lower hip.Bookmark here

“I actually have no idea. Anyways, we should get started. You ready?”Bookmark here

“Yeah!”Bookmark here

That was the first time that Aystaria could feel the joy in Emyria’s voice. She was ready to learn, and willing to do whatever it took to see it through to the end. The two of them made their way out into the garden. As they made their way down the hall, the two of them ran into Reina, and Lyis.Bookmark here

“Are you two off to study, Miss Hyteria?” Reina asked.Bookmark here

“Yup. Aystaria is going to teach me combat techniques, and how to fight like her.”Bookmark here

Reina, and Lyis eye’s glanced to each other as they smiled.Bookmark here

“Why don’t you two join us, I could actually use assistants,” Aystaria said in a happily upbeat tone.Bookmark here

“Us? But Miss Pynn, we don’t know anything about combat.”Bookmark here

“Is that so? Still, I think you two should come. Don’t worry, nothing dangerous will happen.”Bookmark here

The four of them made their way out into the garden as the sun was just over the city.Bookmark here

“So, what am I going to learn first?” Emyria asked in excitement.Bookmark here

Aystaria looked over to Reina, and Lyis as they stood close to Emyria’s side.Bookmark here

“Well, first, I’d like to make sure we’re all honest with each other.”Bookmark here

“Honest how?”Bookmark here

Aystaria looked over to Reina with a smile.Bookmark here

“Care to share with us, Miss Reina?”Bookmark here

“What do you mean, Miss Pynn?”Bookmark here

“I see.”Bookmark here

Aystaria sighed. Without skipping a second, Aystaria grabbed one of the hidden daggers strapped to her thigh, and threw it in Emyria’s direction. In that moment, Emyria felt her life flash before her eyes as the dagger continued its course to pierce her head. Emyria blinked only once to see the tip of the dagger stopping only a few inches from her eye. What just happened? Am I dead, Emyria wondered as she tried to process what had happened. Standing before her was Reina who had managed to catch the dagger between her index, and middle finger. Standing just in front of Emyria was Lyis who had a blade on him.Bookmark here

The two of them appeared serious, and showed no signs of love as they had before. Emyria had known the two of them for a long time, yet, she had never seen their faces show such signs of hostility. In the mist of the commotion, four more maids appeared as if they were always hiding all along. They were armed with various weapons, and surrounded Aystaria as if they were ready to kill her.Bookmark here

“W-What is this?” Emyria asked.Bookmark here

“The truth,” Aystaria said.Bookmark here

“Miss Hyteria, I am sorry that we lied to you, but we were not allowed to reveal the truth unless your life was in danger,” Reina said as she twirled the dagger, and readied herself for combat.Bookmark here

“Emyria, your maids are all highly trained assassins. They are to protect you with their lives. Isn’t that right, Lord Feriun, and Lady Alyzie?” Aystaria asked as she looked up to the balcony.Bookmark here

Emyria looked up to see both her parents with an expression of disgust.Bookmark here

“Mom… dad?”Bookmark here

“You know we should have you executed, Aystaria Pynn,” Lord Feriun spoke in a deep voice, his tone as serious as an ox.Bookmark here

“Oh I’m well aware. Don’t worry, if I was going to actually kill your daughter, I could have easily done it already. I just wanted all of us to be honest with each other. After all, I hate dishonesty,” Aystaria said cheerfully.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

“If you don’t mind though can I use your maids to teach? Would be better for both of us, don’t you think?”Bookmark here

“Very well. Do as you will. We are paying to to teach her. If she succeeds in her studies then that is all that matters.”Bookmark here

Without another word, lord, and lady Hyteria headed back into the manor as each of the maids stood ready to engage Aystaria.Bookmark here

“Well, Miss Pynn, it seems we are apart of your lesson now,” Reina said with a smile as she threw the dagger back to Aystaria.Bookmark here

Keeping up her nonchalant expression, Aystaria caught the dagger the same way Reina had before twirling it between her fingers as she holstered in its sheath. Removing a piece of the bandage from her arm, Aystaria tied it tightly around her eyes until she couldn’t see anything.Bookmark here

“You’re going to fight like that?” Emyria asked in a surprised manner.Bookmark here

“I am. Now, there are four maids here, plus Reina, and Lyis. In total that is six. I will not kill any of you, but I want all of you to attack me as if your lives depended on it.”Bookmark here

“What are you thinking, Aystaria!?”Bookmark here

“I’m going to show you how I fight.”Bookmark here

Aystaria stood there calmly with her same cheerful expression. She appeared more than happy as the six maids carefully moved in with their weapons at the ready. With haste, one maid rushed forward from the behind as prepared to pierce her blade into Aystaria’s heart. Even though the maid’s footsteps were soundless, verging on the point of nonexistent, Aystaria swiftly dodged the blade, and stopped the momentum of her rush by grabbing her arm. Like a flash of lightning, Aystaria coiled her left leg around the maid’s right leg, and slammed her onto the ground with only her palm. Not giving Aystaria a moment to evaluate the situation, two maids rushed from the sides as one aimed for the neck—the other the leg. Moving like the flowing water, Aystaria calculated, and dodged the blades before grabbing one of the maids with her legs, wrapping her thighs around her like a coiled viper. The force of the maid’s head hitting the ground was enough to knock her unconscious as Aystaria set herself up to take out the other maid by using only one index finger—the same trick she had showed to Emyria.Bookmark here

Like a candle flame, the maid fell to the ground as her body devoid a bodily fluid that felt like a release of pleasure from between her thighs. A loud moan escaped her mouth as she was unable to hold back what she was feeling. Reina, and Lyis continued to hold their weapons at the ready.Bookmark here

“Did you just…”Bookmark here

Aystaria rubbed the back of her head, and smiled nervously.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I didn’t mean to hit that nerve that controls that, but I was off by a bit.”Bookmark here

“That’s—”Bookmark here

The other maid was caught off guard which distracted her from Aystaria’s mad dash over to her. In just two hits, the maid found herself on the ground, leaving only Reina, and Lyis left. Aystaria walked forward slowly as the two of them kept their guard up.Bookmark here

“You two realize I haven’t even drawn my weapon yet. Is this the best assassin’s such as yourselves can do?”Bookmark here

“You said you didn’t like dishonesty. Aren’t you being dishonest by not revealing your true self, Aystaria?” Lyis asked.Bookmark here

“And what truth would that be, Lyis?”Bookmark here

Without taking a chance for Aystaria to get closer, Reina rush forward with her blade ready to swing. Aystaria continued to dodge each of the attacks as if they were being swung by a mere child. As she continued to dodge each attack, Aystaria could feel the presence of Lyis rushing from behind. Like the other maids, his footsteps were as silent as a ghost. Aystaria could only smile though as dodged a vertical slice from Reina that was intended to split her in two. Maneuvering behind Reina like a dancer, and grabbing her wrist as she wrapped her arms around her, Aystaria controlled Reina like a puppet.Bookmark here

Emyria could only look at the stage of the battle in shock. Aystaria was carefully positioned behind Reina with her hidden dagger pressed up against her throat. Lyis stopped dead in his tracks as the tip of Reina’s short sword pressed gently against Lyis’s chest.Bookmark here

“Lyis, it’s best not to move,” Aystaria said in a cheerful manner.Bookmark here

“Who exactly are you?” Reina asked.Bookmark here

Aystaria giggled as she lowered her dagger.Bookmark here

“I’m just a simple tutor.”Bookmark here

Aystaria removed the blindfold, and focused her gaze on Emyria.Bookmark here

“So, are you ready to learn how to fight like this?”Bookmark here

“But that’s impossible!”Bookmark here

“Pretty sure I just did it, so… your statement is invalid,” Aystaria said with a smile.Bookmark here

Sheathing her dagger, Aystaria placed the blindfold around Emyria’s eyes.Bookmark here

“A-Aystaria, there is no way I can do this.”Bookmark here

“Relax, you won’t be fighting.”Bookmark here

“What am I supposed to be learning then?”Bookmark here

“Learn to feel the wind around you, the small vibrations in the ground. The smell of scents that give away a presence. In fact, remove your shoes, and socks then tell me what you feel.”Bookmark here

Emyria removed both her shoes, and socks as she felt the freshly cut blade of grass against her feet.Bookmark here

“Now, relax. Focus on the wind, the vibrations of the ground, and the smell in the air.”Bookmark here

Emyria took a deep breath as she tried to focus on the various things Aystaria had said. Ten minutes passed as she struggled to understand what Aystaria meant with her words.Bookmark here

“Aystaria, I don’t think this is working.”Bookmark here

“Maybe it’s best you learn in an active environment.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean?”Bookmark here

“Come on.”Bookmark here

Aystaria grabbed Emyria by the hand, and dragged her off into the manor without warning. Before long, Emyria found herself standing on the side of the street as people walked by giving weird glances as to her appearance. Why did I sign up for this again, Emyria wondered as she felt the cold stone ground against her bare feet.Bookmark here

“Aystaria…”Bookmark here

“Emyria, just trust me. Close your eyes.”Bookmark here

Emyria closed her eyes as she felt Aystaria grab her hand.Bookmark here

“It’s okay. Relax, and take in the sounds of the city.”Bookmark here

Emyria calmed her breathing as she tried to focus on the sounds of the bustling city. She could hear the sounds of people walking about in various directions. The faint smell of smoke in the distance she knew was the lit oven of one of the bakeries across the street. As she continued to feel the area around her, she realized she could visualize the people, the buildings, and even the wind in her mind. While it wasn’t a clear picture, she started to understand that sight wasn’t her only sense.Bookmark here

“In combat you need to rely on more than just your eyes. It’s possible you could be at a disadvantage when you fight. As such, it is always best to heighten your senses to a keen level.”Bookmark here

“What did you use to do before you were a tutor?”Bookmark here

Aystaria was quiet for a moment.Bookmark here

“In due time. For now, focus on your training. I don’t like slackers,” Aystaria said cheerfully.Bookmark here

#Bookmark here

Reina placed a stack of papers on her desk as she looked over to her little brother. He was busy looking through all the files the Hyteria family had on each of the noble families. Of all the files, the Pynn family was well established throughout the land. They were considered one of the most lethal military families that did not lose to anyone. They were prideful, and refused to show weakness even in the most fearful of situations.Bookmark here

“Manage to find anything, brother?”Bookmark here

“Nothing. The Pynn family was a prestigious military family. They were tasked with overseeing the Light Bearers, and the activities that went on.”Bookmark here

“Does it say anything about their daughter?”Bookmark here

“No. It doesn’t even talk about the mother or father, only Aystaria Pynn… a noble who is clearly labeled as male.”Bookmark here

“Wait… so they had a son?”Bookmark here

“It looks like it, and he died during the fall of the south tower.”Bookmark here

“But that can’t be right…”Bookmark here

“Unless…”Bookmark here

“Aystaria is an impostor.”Bookmark here

“What should we do, sis?”Bookmark here

Reina thought for a moment as she paced back, and forth from one end of the room to the other.Bookmark here

“Okay, only we know about this, right?”Bookmark here

“Right.”Bookmark here

“For now, we shouldn’t tell anyone, and simply watch Aystaria closely.”Bookmark here

#Bookmark here

Emyria cleared her mind as she listened to the sounds of the city, and felt the vibrations of the world under her bare feet. She had been standing there for hours with Aystaria by her side as she trained her mind to view the world in a different perspective.Bookmark here

“Now, trying filtering out the noise around you, and focusing on try to find out something that stands out to you.”Bookmark here

With the sounds of the people—as well as horses, and carts driving past—Emyria found it hard to train her mind to focus on anything in particular. As she continued, she wondered just how Aystaria was able to do it while in combat.Bookmark here

“It’s hard to focus on anything with this noise.”Bookmark here

“Try focusing on the next street over. What do you feel?”Bookmark here

“There’s… people.”Bookmark here

“What kind of people?”Bookmark here

“It looks like… kids.”Bookmark here

“Good. What else?”Bookmark here

“There’s a man.”Bookmark here

“And?”Bookmark here

“He’s looking around as if he is looking for something.”Bookmark here

“Focus. How does he feel?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know.”Bookmark here

“No, you have to focus. Tap into his emotions.”Bookmark here

“I…”Bookmark here

“You can. Just isolate yourself from the rest of the world.”Bookmark here

“The man seems… lustful.”Bookmark here

“Mhm. Now, think. Where is he in relation to his emotions?”Bookmark here

Emyria continued to focus on the man until she finally understood exactly what Aystaria was getting at.Bookmark here

“That man is going to rape one of those kids!”Bookmark here

“We need to inform the Maiola Knights.”Bookmark here

“There isn’t time for that, Aystaria. We need to do something,” Emyria said sprinting off to the end of the block.Bookmark here

Aystaria sighed as she turned in the direction of where the Maiola Knight’s headquarters was. I should probably have started with teaching her how to not rush into any situation, Aystaria thought as she quickly made her way over to the headquarters. As she entered approached the building, Aystaria felt something bump into her body. Standing in front of her was one of the undertakers. Although this one was similar to the previous one she had seen, this girl was clearly different.Bookmark here

“It’s the gender of two, how do you do?” the Undertaker asked as she looked to Aystaria with a child-like smile.Bookmark here

“Has anyone ever told you Undertakers that all of you are… extremely odd? I’m putting that mildly by the way.”Bookmark here

The Undertaker giggled as she twirled on the ball of her foot.Bookmark here

“All the time, that’s why the Judges let us stop crime.”Bookmark here

“Right, well, I need two Judges as soon as possible to come to that street just over there,” Aystaria said pointing to the street.Bookmark here

“I can see, but the action cannot be.”Bookmark here

“And if I was to say the daughter of the Hyteria family could be raped, would that change your tune, or soon I dig your tomb?”Bookmark here

“When you put it that way… Judges will be there post-haste.”Bookmark here

“So, you can comprehend fear,” Aystaria said with a smile.Bookmark here

The Undertaker giggled as she moved her face closer to Aystaria’s.Bookmark here

“Fear is something all of us have to deal with, you smell with fear from The Pit.”Bookmark here

“Don’t push it, Death Dealer.”Bookmark here

“Loud, and clear, avoid the topic of fear.”Bookmark here

“All right, please make sure the Judges know.”Bookmark here

“The Judges will know, and we will show.”Bookmark here

Spinning around in a half-circle the Undertaker skipped merrily into the building as Aystaria closed her eyes. She could sense that Emyria was already confronting the man. I need to get there quickly, Aystaria thought as she looked around the city. Moving past the people, and ducking into a nearby alleyway, Aystaria looked up at the walls of the buildings. She noticed a few stacks of wooden crates that she could use to get up to the roof of one of the buildings. Getting a quick running start, she jumped into the crate with a light-footed step, and jumped up to the roof. Moving quickly across the rooftops, Aystaria closed in on where Emyria was.Bookmark here

#Bookmark here

Emyria felt herself being pinned against the wall as the man stared into her eyes. She had baited the man into going after her to a back alleyway where he could have his way with her. The man was dressed in a brown gentleman’s jacket with a black pair dress pants, and matching dress shoes. He appeared as if he was in his mid-twenties, and had a considerably well-paying job.Bookmark here

“So, you said you’re worth one silver coin, right?”Bookmark here

“I said get off of me you jerk. I never agreed to anything!”Bookmark here

“Come now, you are the one who invited me.”Bookmark here

With a swift knee to the lower belt, Emyria had forced the mad down onto the ground which allowed her to run away from him as fast as she could. Moving deeper into the alleyway, Emyria turned a corner hoping to get away from the man as best she could. As she continued down the alleyway she quickly realized she had made a grave mistake upon turning another corner. A dead end of a cold brick wall greeted her as she turned around, hoping to find another way. Before she could move, she froze as she saw the man was between her, and the exit.Bookmark here

Crap, if I had a sword on me I could easily take this guy out, Emyria thought as she watched the man slowly creep forward. Emyria could sense the evil intentions the man had as she continued to back away.Bookmark here

“You shouldn’t have done that, because now I’m extremely pissed.”Bookmark here

“Then you don’t want to know how I feel right now.”Bookmark here

Aystaria’s voice rang out from the shadows of the dark alleyway as the man appeared taken by surprise. Emyria continuously looked around only to be confused by where Aystaria’s voice was coming from. Landing from off the one of the nearby roofs, and behind the man, Aystaria rushed from a crouched position like a wolf as she quickly took the man down without any effort.Bookmark here

“Aystaria!”Bookmark here

Aystaria stared down at the man with a cold expressionless face. There was something that was different. Emyria could see that Aystaria’s emotional state was one of intense anger. As the man stood to his feet he wiped his nose clean of the smallBookmark here

“You’re going to regret fu—”Bookmark here

Before the man could finish his sentence or even get up, Aystaria had kicked him straight into the nearby wall.Bookmark here

“Be glad I can’t cut the thing off that makes you a man, otherwise I would.”Bookmark here

As the man slowly stood to his feet, the sound of heavy boots could be heard closing in on their position. Aystaria turned to Emyria as two Maiola Knights appeared.Bookmark here

“I have much to say to you, but right now you need to come here.”Bookmark here

Emyria could tell Aystaria wasn’t joking around. Emyria stood by her side as she looked upon the two knights She could feel the aura radiating off of them like the sun to the point that she understood the rumors surrounding the knights. They were not meant to be crossed in any way. Aystaria gently grabbed Emyria by the hand, and whispered into her ear.Bookmark here

“Be respectful, and careful of what you say.”Bookmark here

While Emyria had been in the city all her life, she had never seen any of the knights before. Many of the students at school would talk about them, but everything was only gossip, and rumors that held little in the way of merit. One of the knights stepped forward, and looked to Emyria.Bookmark here

“State what has happened here.”Bookmark here

Emyria looked over to Aystaria, who nodded. Stepping forward, Emyria spoke in a timid tone.Bookmark here

“Well, you see sir—”Bookmark here

“Judge. You do not call a Maiola Knight anything else.”Bookmark here

“R-Right… f-forgive me, Judge.”Bookmark here

“Is this your first time?” the knight asked.Bookmark here

“Y-Yes… Judge…”Bookmark here

“Allow me to inform you on the workings of our system. We are the judges that enforce the rules of this city. When a violation occurs, two judges, and an undertaker are dispatched to the area of altercation. We judges serve as the judge, jury, and executioners in a case. The undertaker’s job is to clean up in the circumstance that an unfortunate event happens. Two judges are a representation that both sides have a fair state in their case. One judge serves one party, while the other serves the other. Do you understand?”Bookmark here

“I do, Judge.”Bookmark here

“Good. Now then, I’ll ask you once again. State what has happened here.”Bookmark here

“Judge… I… I was trying to stop this man from having his way with a child.”Bookmark here

As Emyria said this, she could feel the sign of annoyance that Aystaria was giving off to the answer she had given. The other knight stepped forward as he looked to the man.Bookmark here

“State what has happened here.”Bookmark here

“Judge. I was just minding my own business until she appeared, and offered to show me a good time.”Bookmark here

“You liar!” Emyria shouted as she looked over to the man with disgust.Bookmark here

“Silence!”Bookmark here

In that instant, Emyria shut her mouth.Bookmark here

“Seeing as how there are no witnesses, a monomachia pepoithisis will commencement to determine who is right.”Bookmark here

“A what?” Emyria asked with a puzzled look on her face.Bookmark here

“The two of you will fight to the death. Who remains standing is right.”Bookmark here

“Wait, wait, wait, wait… I can’t kill a man… even if he has questionable intentions.”Bookmark here

Aystaria took Emyria by the arm, and stared into her eyes. Emyria could see that Aystaria was no longer smiling or cheerful. She appeared cold, and serious. While Aystaria began to lecture Emyria about what was going to transpire, one of the knights headed off to grab two swords that were used in a monomachia pepoithisis—duel of convictions.Bookmark here

“There is no backing out of this, Emyria. You will have to kill this man to prove yourself, and I can’t help you.”Bookmark here

“But there has to be something that can be done that doesn’t involve us killing each other.”Bookmark here

Emyria turned to the knight as the other one was just returning.Bookmark here

“Excuse me, Judge. Is there any other way do this to be settled without killing each other.”Bookmark here

“The alternative is that both of you serve your sentence. For you, this would mean three years in the dungeons.”Bookmark here

At these words, Emyria’s face went ashen as a ghost. She was stuck between the quandary of saving herself from the dungeons or killing a man who should only serve time for years, maybe even life. Emyria continued to battle what she was supposed to do as one of the knights handed her a sword. She stood in front of the man that she didn’t want to kill. Combat, and fighting were one thing, but taking a life was one thing that she wasn’t ready for.Bookmark here

Holding the blade in her sword-arm, Emyria felt her knees growing weaker as she stared at the man across from her. He was unfazed by holding a blade, his stance revealing that he as not untrained. A calm stance, his back straight, and his sword at a perfect forty-five degree angle showed that he was at least trained by the military or at least a hobby of sorts.Bookmark here

Aystaria studied the stance of the man, and felt a chill down her spine. That’s the Gentleman’s Stance used by members of the Locuir family. This isn’t good. If it was me, I could take this guy easy. Emyria could win if she wasn’t afraid of killing him, Aystaria thought as she leaned against the wall of the building.Bookmark here

“Let the monomachia pepoithisis commence!” one of the knights announced.Bookmark here

In the blink of an eye, the man stepped forward as Emyria readied her guard. Okay, I just need to get past his defenses, Emyria thought as she stepped to the left. The tip of the man’s sword followed her movements. Taking a second to breathe, Emyria steeled herself. Rushing forward with her leading foot, Emyria engaged in a series of blows that were meet with the echoing sound of metal scraping against metal. She continued to attack repeatedly, only to fail to land even a single strike on the man.Bookmark here

Before she could react, she could feel something stringing around her lower thigh area. Looking down for a second, Emyria could see that man had managed to cut a section of her school skirt as well as a small paper cut of a wound that started to ooze blood. Looking back into the eyes of the man, she could see a prideful smug look. He was confident that he would win. As Emyria tried to figure out what she could do to win, the man rushed forward with speed that made Emyria nervous. She struggled to block the incoming attacks as tried to formulate a plan to counterattack.Bookmark here

Emyria continued to block until she felt her body getting tired. Even if she was able to block most of the strikes some were had managed to get through, and cut her in various areas on her body. She was slowly losing blood as the minutes passed. Another strike from the man, forced Emyria to falter in her footing which forced her to block a follow up strike with only half her strength. In that moment, she could see her life flashing before her eyes as the tip of the blade was aiming dead for her head—square between the eyes.Bookmark here

The tip of the blade continued forward, forcing Emyria to blink. In that split second, Emyria was frozen by what she had witnessed before her. The blade had missed her head by a few inches as Emyria tried to process what had happened. She noticed her blade had moved ever so slightly to the man’s chest, and was piercing through close to his heart. Emyria could feel her hands shaking as she realized what she had done. Stepping back like a frightened animal, Emyria began to breath rapidly as her heart started to be beat faster. The face on the man turned from a smug look of pride into a state of worry, and panic. Looking down at the sword that had pieced his body, he tried to speak only for blood to rush out through his mouth. Without any words, he fell to the ground like a brick.Bookmark here

Emyria could no longer hold herself up as she fell to her knees. Tears began to form in her eyes, her mind racing with what she had done. I… I killed a man, Emyria thought as she felt a hand on her shoulder. Looking up behind her, she could see Aystaria who appeared to show a mixed state of emotions. Aystaria knelt down, and gently wrapped her arms around Emyria.Bookmark here

“There, there.”Bookmark here

“It is done. Bring the Undertaker,” one of the knights said looking over to the other.Bookmark here

Emyria began to cry as she couldn’t hold back what she had done. The feeling of taking a life was something she had to deal with, even if she was only defending her position. A few minutes passed before the undertaker appeared. Skipping merrily over to the body, the Undertaker smiled as she poked the dead body with her silver rod.Bookmark here

“Judge, this body is in fact dead.”Bookmark here

The Undertaker pulled out a small vial with a small red skull labeled on it as Emyria was confused by what the little girl was doing.Bookmark here

“W-What are you doing?”Bookmark here

“Hehe. I’m going to dispose of the body, sweetie,” the Undertaker said with a giggling grin.Bookmark here

“Emyria, don’t speak, and look away.”Bookmark here

“This is life, it all comes down to a knife,” the Undertaker mused as she poured the liquid over the body.Bookmark here

“I think that’s enough out of you, Death Dealer,” Aystaria said in a cold tone.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about me, hehe.”Bookmark here

Once the Undertaker was finished pouring the liquid over the body, she made her way back over to the knights. Without another word, the knights, and the Undertaker left from the site as Aystaria continued to hold Emyria close.Bookmark here

“Aystaria… I… killed a man.”Bookmark here

“Emyria, if you truly wish to be in the military then this is something you will need to get used to. If you don’t have a heart of stone, you or people you love will die.”Bookmark here

“I never wanted to kill anyone though…”Bookmark here

“I know. Let’s get you back home, okay?”Bookmark here

#Bookmark here

Aystaria couldn’t help but feel at fault as she entered her room. She had to explain what had happened to Emyria’s father, and mother, followed by consoling Emyria until she fell asleep in her bed. I shouldn’t have pushed her to learn like that, I should have started slowly, Aystaria thought as she laid down on her bed. The sound of rain began to drum against the roof of the manor as the wind picked up. Standing to her feet, Aystaria looked out the window—taking note of the dark clouds forming overhead.Bookmark here

They are probably going to be more active, Aystaria thought as she looked over at the lantern. She had almost burned through the first candle as it was closing its last breath in the world. Before Aystaria could replace the candle, the last flicker of the flame died out as the room turned pitch black. In that moment, Aystaria could feel her body tense up as a cold chill overtook her. No… No! Not again, Aystaria thought as her breathing started to increase into a state of hyperventilation.Bookmark here

“No! No more!”Bookmark here

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