What lies beyond freedom
As I was walking to the river I wasn't exactly eager to see Clover at the river. Best case scenario she wasn't mad about yesterday anymore. Worst case though she sneaks up on me with that red flower and I wake up to being drowned by a pretty girl. Now that I think of it a particular person I know and his teacher might enjoy that. When I got there I didn't see Clover at all. Immediately that made my nerves rack because she said she would make me smell that flower twice a week and she already did it once. Near the bank of the river, I saw a stick that looked like a wooden sword and an iron bucket with a small spark engraved into the side. When I went to pick it up through there were words carved into it.
“Training starts now” She fell from the tree above me. With sword in hand, she tried to strike me down. I quickly lifted the sword to try to block it but she was stronger than I thought and managed to break my stance. Once she was grounded it was a nonstop flurry of quick attacks that packed too much punch from a little girl. There was no chance that I was going to win this by parrying all of her attacks so I threw my sword at her. When she went to block the toss I quickly grabbed her wrist, pulled her towards me, and went for a punch to her stomach. She jumped over my fist in almost an instant and hit me with a swift heel to my temple.
When I came to she was towering over me with the iron bucket filled with water. Before I could tell her to stop she poured the cold water onto my body and I shot up.
“For our first sparring match, you did pretty well. I thought you would do better though.”
“Sorry if I did not match your expectations but I didn't expect to fight a professional swordsman this early in the morning.”
“You were practically keeping up with me the whole time.”
“Just another way of saying I was losing.”
“When you were losing you started getting creative. That's a good sign.”
“I got desperate.” I went to pick up the sword with engraved writing again and assumed my stance.
“Come on. I'm ready for round 2.” I was a little angry that she got the jump on me so I decided to challenge her again.
“ Oh, it sounds like someone's pouty. I could just stay here and not accept.”
“I'm not waiting on a response.”
I lunged at her with a sword in hand. Not even a moment later I was upside down rolling away without a sword. I quickly got up and grabbed her sword to attack. The way she was moving and attacking was strange though. When she evaded my swings at the same time she would return one. It was like when guarding she had a sword but when attacking she had a knife. I backed up to assess the situation. Every time I attacked her, the counters were at double the speed. It was as if everything was one movement. I went in again but this time dodging her counters. When I went for a high swing she deflected it and quickly changed directions for my midsection. I finally realized why I was losing. She was able to counter faster than I could recover from a swing. So when she countered and struck me It may have hurt but I completely took the blow. I went for a mid-section swing that forced her to block. I put all my power into this swing so I was banking on it being stronger than her guard assuming she was able to fast enough. That's when her eyes flashed red. For a brief moment, her eyes changed colors and she leaped into the air. I wasn't able to pull back fast enough and she hit me with a high swing that took me out for the 2nd time today.
This time when I came to, I was soaking wet. She was getting her things and hanging them in the tree hidden by leaves. I was trying to get up but I was staggering. I was a little dizzy but ok. When I managed to get up Clover was drinking from a canteen and handed it to me.
“Here, drink this. It will make you feel better.”
It was a green liquid that smelled like flower stems and poison. It was sour and tasted like leaves, leather, and blood but I drank it anyway. I felt more refreshed afterward and could walk straight. Not only that but I felt like I could go another round.
“How did you dodge my last attack?”
“You sacking that last attack was too predictable. It's like you wanted to lose. Congratulations though somehow you did better in the second round than the first. Since we are the same age you won't be able to try out for the royal guard for another 3 years. I'm confident you will be ready by then.”
“Wait but what if someone else takes the spot?”
“No one can try out for my personal guard that isn't within 3 years of my age or if I'm not 15 so you don't have to worry about that. If that's it I'll be going. We can meet back here tomorrow.”
“Wait, I have one more question.”
She turned as if she was angry at me for asking. So I decided it could wait.
“I'll see you later.”
As I was walking home I couldn't stop thinking about what she did. Her eyes flashed red, unlike anything I've ever seen. Maybe if I trained with her long enough I would be able to do that too. There was one problem though. I would never be able to beat her if I just trained with her, I needed to find someone else. Someone that I knew was even stronger than her. And I had just the unbreakable wall to help me.
When I got home I found my dad talking to my mom about something so I intervene
“Hey, dad can I spar with you?”
He noticed that I was wet but that didn't matter to him. His eyes lit up as he jumped at the opportunity.
“Seeing that you're that eager, I want to see the fruits of your training.”
My mom intervened, asking the question I wanted to avoid.
“Eric, are you not concerned by his clothes being wet?
“Dear, that doesn't matter right now. He most likely did it so he didn't smell like sweat when he got back. Come on son, let's see what you can do.”
There was not a single word about where I was. He just walked to the back of the house and threw me a sword. As I assumed a stance I was thinking about how screwed I was. Not only was I going to fight him while he was excited. He thinks I've been training for the past few months when I've been going to different parts of the stream seeing which had the least people around it and was closest to our house. I may not have that many fighting skills right now but I'm confident that I can learn something from this
“Alright come at me and give me everything you got!”
I rushed towards him with an open guard. I wanted to try and bait out a swing. With Clover I sacked it. Trying to sack this one would result in a broken bone though. Usually, he hits hard so when he misses he would be open. Once he swung he missed and I went for the strike. The only problem was that he wasn't only using his sword this time so I was met with a right hook straight to the jaw and I was out with my 3rd loss of the day.
When I woke up I was soaking wet and my dad was standing over me with a proud grin like he was happy for slugging his son.
“It looks like I was right. I assumed that you would be ready for that since you've been practicing so consistently for so long but in the back of my mind, I was thinking. Practicing by yourself with the sword does nothing for you when it comes to experience and battle sense. So I arranged something with the blacksmith near the west edge of the town. He has an apprentice who wants to be part of the gate guard so he's been training him. He's about a year older than you so I felt like it would be a nice opportunity.”
This was the perfect opportunity. Not only would I have a way to train other than Cover but it was also close to me and her meeting spot. All I had to do was a few hours of training per day.
“I think it would be a good way for me to train. That way I could last more than 7 seconds in a fight with you.”
“That's a horrible goal. I want you strong enough to properly spar with me by this time next year. I thought that I was going to have to make you train. Seeing you today proved me wrong at not just that. Ever since you could walk I've been watching you. Your interest, your hobbies, and what you did during the day. All I've seen was you pick fruit, help with housework and run near the stream. You never had any passion for anything. However, you showed me today that you have a dream and a goal. You made me proud today son.”
He reached his hand out to me and said what would create a fire in me.
“To be strong you may have to struggle now. But soon you will be drinking with kings and living the rest of your life as a champion.”