Chapter 12:

Volume 2 Chapter 6: Sword Dance Part 1

A Battlefield of Swords and Flowers

Close to the center of the capital stood a colosseum-like building built around two hundred years ago. Here was where the sword fighting tournament would be taking place in just half an hour.

Liena had me spar with her for a while before the tournament just to get some practice in. She said it didn’t matter whether or not I won the tournament, but I could tell that she was secretly hoping I did.

Personally, I was starting to hope that I did win the tournament. Not only did I want to get that fancy sword promised to the winner, I also wanted to win to make Liena proud of me. It wasn’t like I was the best sword fighter, so I kind of wanted to show Liena that I had potential. Winning the tournament would be a good way for me to prove that. Though it would be difficult.

Anyway, there was a few minutes left before the tournament started, and us eight competitors were all placed in a waiting room until further notice. In total, there were three girls and five guys competing. One of those girls was Lia, which took me completely by surprise since she was mostly training as a mage. But from the times I’ve seen her training with a sword, I couldn’t deny that she had talent.

At the moment, though, Knight Andor had pulled Lia aside to speak with her. Maybe for a strategy meeting? Either way, that left me all alone in the waiting room.

I haven't really interacted with any other apprentices other than Lia, so I had no one to speak with. The whole thing just made me anxious. I was left alone in a room full of people I didn’t know.

The four other boys were having separate conversions in pairs while the two girls sat quietly on benches. The bad thing was that there were only four benches available; the boys occupied two of them while the two girls each sat on their own.

Trying to sit next to any of the boys might be a bit awkward. I would just be an unwanted entity barging into their conversations. So they were a no go.

That left the two girls. Like the boys, the two girls were of varying ages. The one furthest from me seemed to be around and wore a nasty glare. She made it seem like she would carve my face with her nails if I tried to sit next to her.

The second girl, on the other hand, looked quite calm in comparison, and seemed just a bit older than me. It seemed like she held the kind of serenity you would have if you were sitting out in a field of flowers. Between the woman that seemed like she was about to kill someone and the girl that actually seemed quite kind, I'd rather sit next to the latter.

So quite awkwardly I walked up to the girl closest to me, the one quietly passing the time. “Um, excuse me. Is this seat taken?” I asked a bit awkwardly.

I was a little concerned that she might have not heard me, but fortunately, the girl turned and looked toward me, though, she didn’t bother to angle her gaze toward my face. Maybe she was just nervous?

“No, not at all. You’re free to sit there if you'd like,” she assured me as she carefully moved aside.

I took her offer and thanked her as I sat down.

I didn’t want to just sit there silently. I felt that if we did, an awkward silence might break out. Imagine if we fought each other later but we couldn’t focus because of the uneasiness between us. It was a far fetched idea but it would be bad if it did happen.

Not wanting that to happen, I came up with the most obvious conversation topic I could think of. “So,” I started inquisitively, “since you're competing in the tournament, your teacher must be a knight, right? Can I ask who it is?"

Still, without looking at my face, she asked, “First, could you take my hand?”


“S-sorry.” Her face flushed red as her mind processed what she had just said, inching further and further away from me every second.

Flustered, she turned her whole body away, moving even further on the bench, almost falling off.

“M-maybe...I should have phrased the question a little differently? You see…” After a short pause to regain her composure, she continued. “I’m actually blind, and so I ask people to take my hand so that they can guide me to where their eyes might be. That way I can make eye contact and the conversations don’t end up getting awkward."

“Oh, eh heh… That’s what you meant," I said giving a wry chuckle.

She nodded. My heart was at once both relieved and crushed. But now that I looked closer, her pale blue eyes seemed a bit empty. But that sort of detail wasn’t the sort of thing that you would be able to see from afar.

Still, blind? How could she be the apprentice to a knight? Wouldn’t it be too dangerous for her? Wait, maybe she was some sort of mage apprentice. But if that were the case, why would she be competing in a sword fighting tournament? I guess Lia is in the same boat but she had her vision. Was it really the best idea for a blind girl to be competing?

Regardless, asking her about such things might be a bit insensitive, so I held off on doing so.

“U-um, if it’s okay with you?”

The girl timidly offered me her hand, the rest of her limbs close to her body, seemingly quite reserved. Maybe she just never had the luxury of speaking with many people. I could relate with that. Still, there was no reason to refuse.

“Sure,” I agreed as I clasped her hand.

“Would you guide my hand toward your eyes, if you don’t mind?”

I didn’t as she asked, not wanting to make this any more awkward or difficult than it already was. Her slender fingers twitched as they touched the skin near my temple next to my eye. But after a fit of hesitation, she extended her fingers once again.

While she held her fingers next to my left eye, she gently adjusted her gaze, her eyes no longer staring off into the distance but now focused on mine.

“See,” she said with a smile as she moved away her hand, “now it won’t look as if I’m not paying attention to you when we speak.”

I chuckled, not because she had said something funny. It was more so that having a girl touch my face was kind of an awkward experience that made my heart race a bit. I’m kind of glad she couldn’t see my face because I’m sure that I would be blushing.

“Oh… Please forgive me. I haven’t introduced myself yet, have I?”

“No, it’s not a big deal," I assured her.

“Well, I was always taught proper manners by both my parents and my teacher. It was rude of me to not introduce myself before I asked you a favor. Anyway, my name is Serena Elendra.”

“My name is Sam Whinrose. Pleasure to meet you.” I was about to go in for a hand shake but I stopped myself before I made myself look stupid. That fact that she tried to suppress a giggle after the fact only made me anxious.

Could she sense my anxiousness, or read my mind?

“So…” I began trying to get back to the conversation I had started. “What knight are you an apprentice to?”

“Miss Mina."

Lady Mina? Now that was a surprise. Lady Mina was very close friends with Liena. From what I knew, their friendship went back more than a decade. They were such good friends that she often dropped by unexpectedly to talk with Liena and catch up, and I in turn ended up getting to interact with her on many occasions. The only bad thing was that Liena sometimes stopped my training early just so that she could go hang out with her. Regardless, even though I had spoken with Lady Mina on several occasions, never once had I seen or known of her apprentice.

"Well, it definitely isn't reassuring to know that both of the teachers are a pair of slackers. Not only that, but they’re in charge of two students."

Serena giggled cutely even though I wasn’t trying to make a joke. I was mostly just vetting my frustration. "Oh, if your teacher is just as carefree as mine, then it must be Miss Liena, right?" Serena said, her prediction right in the mark.

"Yeah, that's her, eh heh heh…" Yep. It was definitely unsettling to know that multiple people knew my teacher as "carefree." She was supposed to be leading soldiers into battle, for heaven's sake! Can’t she act more like a proper knight?

“My teacher often tells me of just how talented she is even though she’s the youngest of all the knights.”

“Well, even if that’s true, she’s always complaining about how she is too old for her job even though she’s only twenty. But her being the youngest also reflects in her personality, which is to say that her level of maturity is the same as mine.”

She giggled even though I wasn’t trying to make a joke. This was the kind of person trusted to be a knight. Unbelievable!

“Well, my teacher is just a year older than Lady Liena, so you could say she’s just as childish.”

We both laughed.

To think that we were both stuck with people like them.

Even so.

“Still.” I continued, “and please don’t tell her I said this because it’ll only make her ego bigger, but in reality, she really is talented. I honestly couldn’t ask for a better teacher. Though, she does get on my nerves at times.”

“Then we both share the same opinion. I’m glad Lady Mina is the one who is teaching me. Even after I kept telling her over and over again that I couldn’t be her apprentice because I was blind, she kept insisting that I was capable of such a thing. She understands me, in a way, and somehow manages to turn my weaknesses into strengths.”

She lingered on that though for a bit, leaving her gaze to stray with no particular goal or focus. She had grinned when I made her laugh, but now she smiled without provocation. Maybe she was thinking about her teacher. I guess I could say something similar about Liena. She might be childish at times, something about her made me want to stick with her and be her apprentice.

“It seems like you have a loving mentor. Liena usually sees it best to teach me by knocking me to the ground in every duel. She does this thing where she’ll stand still and not change her stance. Then she tells me that she’ll only swing her sword once and we start the duel. But even though she gives herself such a disadvantage, I’ve never once beaten her.”

Serena giggled. “That seems a bit frustrating.”

I let out a long sigh. “Yeah, it is.”

But even though she works me until I can’t feel my limbs...

“She really is amazing, though,” I let slip out.

Even after everything, I wouldn’t want anyone else as my teacher other than Liena.

At my comment, Serena made a face as if she had just remembered something, or maybe for another reason.

“Well, I believe you found the perfect teacher for you,” was all she could say before a loud voice rang through the waiting room.

From the doorway, the same man who had led us to this room let us know that the tournament would begin in five minutes, and prompted us to follow him.

“I guess it’s time for us to go,” Serena said with a smile. “Maybe we will fight each other in the tournament.”

“Yeah, if we don’t lose to someone else before we see each other.”

Though, and this might be insensitive of me, but I was kind of worried about her. I mean, was it really the best idea to register a blind girl in a sword fighting tournament? And furthermore, she was a knight apprentice. For now, I'm going to assume that she’s just as capable as me. It wouldn’t be good for me to judge her when I hadn’t seen her in action yet. There’s a reason that she’s an apprentice. If Lady Mina chose her, she had a good reason for doing so.

“Well, let’s go,” she prompted me with a smile as she stood up.

All of us contestants followed the man to an exit that led straight into the colosseum grounds where I assumed at least a few hundred people would watch us from the stands. I could already hear the countless screams and cheers of people in the distance even though we still hadn’t made it outside.

Before we stepped out into the sunlight, Serena moved in closer and whispered into my ear, “Good luck.”

But her quiet comment was quickly drowned out by all the loud cheering as we all walked out into the colosseum grounds.