Chapter 13:

Volume 2 Chapter 7: Sword Dance Part 2

A Battlefield of Swords and Flowers

Through the blinding summer sun, off in the stands I could see not just a few hundred people but instead I saw at least four thousand spectators all yelling out with excitement.

I guess the event really was as big as Liena had said it was. I didn’t expect there to be these many people all here to watch us. But now that I was in the midst of it, the whole event just made me more anxious than I was before.

"Oh, Sam! Over here," a family voice called out to me.

When I turned to my side I found Lia rushing over to me with a confident grin.

"So you finally show up. I thought you got cold feet and ran away," I teased.

"Come on, if anyone was about to run away it was you," Lia countered. That particularly hurt because she was half right. I didn’t want to do this in the first place, and the anxiety was getting to me. "If we face each other in the tournament, I'm gonna make sure I beat you."

The way she smiled was a bit scary but it held an unimaginable amount of determination. I have no doubt that if we were to face off in the tournament, Lia could very well beat me.

But once she finished her conversation with me, Lia turned her attention to the person beside me. "Who's this?"

"Oh…" I stepped aside so that Serena was in full view to Lia. "She's also competing in the tournament."

Serena took a step forward and presented herself. "My name is Serena Elendra. Nice to meet you," she said with a smile.

"Likewise. My name is Lia Surlaine."

Lia looked her up and down until she stopped on her eyes and smiled. "Ohh… I look forward to fighting you in the tournament." The way she said made it seem like she was that they would face each even though the bracket hadn't been announced yet.

But our time for small talk was over because–

"To all the citizens of the capital!" The family baritone voice of Knight Andor rang through the colosseum's grounds, bouncing off all the walls only to be amplified further. I bet that even at the further point in the colosseum–around one hundred meters away–his voice could be heard loud and clear.

Motioning to us with his arm, he continued. "Once again, it is with great pleasure that I introduce the noble knight appearances that have come here today to prove themselves!"

Not a moment after he gave his opening line, the spectators cheered and roared more intensely than they had before. If it had been any louder, my ears would have started to hurt.

Looking back at all of the contestants, he had us all get into a neat line and walk out into the center of the dirt field, probably so that the spectators could have a clear look at us. Lia was on my left while Serena was to my right.

Knight Andor continued. "The bracket for these tournaments has already been decided. So, to start this tournament, Sam Whinrose, apprentice to Knight Liena, will go up against Alec Everthorne, apprentice to Knight Lucius."

What?! What do you mean I'm the one first fight? I guarantee you that I'm the least skilled here out of the eight of us. Heck, if it weren't for Lia being here, I would be the youngest one here. What the hell was Liena thinking enrolling a thirteen year old into a sword fighting tournament?! It was crazy that it wasn’t until now that i realized just how stupid the idea was.

Even with the crowds of people in the stands cheering me on, flashes of cold sweats kept creeping all over my body. You could argue that it was all the cheering that brought on my anxiety. Beads of sweat ran down my forehead and also formed on the palms of my hands. Even my legs started to feel weak.

"Come on, Sam," Lia encouraged me while smacking my back. "Don't think about it too much when you're out there. Miss Liena is a great teacher who knows her stuff. You do as she has always taught you and you'll be fine." Her cheeky smile was uplifting but it still wasn't enough to call me down.

"Mhm, just like Lia said, just remember all you've been taught." Serena turned to me, her eyes not quite focused on my face, and gave me an encouraging pat on the back.

I did appreciate both of their encouraging words, but there was no way that would completely alleviate my nervousness.

Regardless, there was now way for me to get out of this now. So I timidly walked forward, putting some distance between me and the rest of the competitors. Out of the corner of my eye, though, I did see one other boy step out as well. I'm assuming that's my opponent. Once the both of us were in plain view, the crowd's cheers became louder than ever and they made me feel more anxious than ever.

But even in the midst of all the cheering, one aggregating voice still made themselves known. "Heya, Sam! If you don’t win this fight, I'm not letting you eat until you've done one thousand push-ups." From afar, Liena called out to me, waving with a jovial smile.

Not only did she sign me up to this tournament, she's also planning on torturing me if I don't win. She was trying to kill me! I'm starting to regret this whole knight's apprentice thing.

When me and Alec–a roughly sixteen year old boy with short, dark brown hair–came face to face, Knight Andor walked toward us carrying two swords, a pair of leather vests, and some helmets.

"Here, put these on. I'll explain the rules as you do." We grabbed our gear and listened closely. "The rules are simple. The fight will end after the first hit to either the torso or head. The swords aren't sharpened but they'll still break bones if you swing them too hard, hence the vests and helmets."

Broken bones?! Now I'm really starting to hate Liena.

"You'll start ten meters apart and only on my signal." The knight walked off after giving his instructions, but not before he gave me a nasty grin.

That asshole. He has never liked me, and I bet that he placed me in the first match just to spite me. He probably doesn't think I can win and wants to embarrass me.

He really doesn't like me, huh?

Once Knight Andor was at a safe distance, me and my opponent walked until we were the specified distance apart. In the distance I could see all the spectators--men, women, and children alike--stand up and roar out their cheers at the sight of us two swordsmen finally coming face to face.

As customary of duels, we both bowed as a form of respect and stood at the ready awaiting Knight Andor’s signal. From afar, I could hear the final wishes of good luck coming from the three girls that had accompanied me here.


His heavy voice shot through the air like thunder. Before I even had the time to process his voice, my opponent, Alec, had already sprinted half the distance toward me. I instinctively took a step back wanting to put as much distance between me and him. But he ran at such a speed that backing wouldn't do me any good.

Alec used his sword with one hand, just like me. As he approached, he raised his sword with his right over his head. It was an attack that would normally leave wide open for an attack. But at the speed he was running it didn’t matter. At this rate, I wouldn’t be ready to parry. So all I could do was defend.

His sword came down and clashed with mine, the weight of the swing almost forcing me to kneel. I tried to push it away but Alec held his ground, not letting me escape.

Realizing he wouldn’t let up any time soon, I stepped back quickly and guided both our swords to the ground. His blade glided across mine letting out a shriek of metal and a few sparks. Finally freed from his first strike, I quickly backed away.

My sword wasn't in the right position to attack, so there was no point. The same should have held true for Alec, but when I focused my eyes back on him, he pivoted on his heel, swiftly regaining his balance and shifting his body in my direction. Before I even had the chance to react, his blade sliced through the air in front of me missing my chest by just a few hairs.

Though his swing caught my by surprise, it gave me an opportunity. The momentum of his swing carried his sword to his far right, leaving his chest open for attack. By now, my footing had found a steady stance and readied my attack. I brought my sword up from bottom right and slashed at Alec’s chest, but it was met by his own.

Faster than I could blind, Alec brought up his sword for a block, putting some weight behind it. Unlike me, the moment his sword met mine, they rebounded, both our arms flying over our heads.

We were both open for an attack. Alec must have realized that as well because he jumped at the same time I did. With both our swords in an unsuitable position, neither felt confident in executing another attack. Even if Alec was faster than me, he didn’t seem to wanna to risk it.

For a few seconds, me and Alec stared each other down, his gpare a lot sharper than mine. He seemed pissed off and the way some of his teeth peeked through his lips made him seem demonic.

Having decided that we were idle for long enough, Alec brought his sword up and took a step forward while I took a step back. Whenever he got closer, I inched father away. And in a split second, he bolted toward me with the same speed as before. My feet shifted, ready to dodge, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw Liena off in the distance, arms crossed and studying the duel closely.

Something about the way she looked at me made me feel anxious. Maybe it was a judgmental glare, one only used for those who have no skill. Or maybe one of pity given to me after seeing me back away from my opponent.

There was just something about that look…

Maybe it was because of all the anxiety that had built up in me up to the point, but in the middle of the duel, I stopped dead in my tracks. Out of fear I looked to my teacher for an escape but all I saw in return was a pensive stare. One that I was all too familiar with.

Every time me and Liena would duel, she'd always give me that same look after she would knock me to the ground. Without even taking a step, she could constantly defeat me.

I closed my eyes, took in a short breath and returned my focus to my opponent.

I had dueled Liena a countless amount of times. She was much more skilled and far more terrifying than my current opponent was. So there was no reason for me to back away now. I had to stand my ground, just like Liena always did with me.

With my mind back on the task at hand, I stared Alec down, analyzing his stance with the same eyes that Liena always used with me. Even though he was sprinting toward me, my mind pictured every one of his actions in slow motion. With a calm mind, I prepared my next move.

When I looked more closely at his moves, they were exactly like the ones he had used at the very beginning of the match. I was betting it all on this one fact. If he truly was going to repeat his attack from before–an overhead, vertical slash–then all I had to do was account for that possibility.

Regardless, I had to choose now.

Alec was finally in range for him to strike. His feet came to a stop and the blade of his sword began its rapid descent. Even so, I didn't move. If I knew where his blade was headed, then there wasn’t a problem.

His stance and the angle of his swing. Just by standing still and examining it all, I could tell just how unpracticed he was. With his current momentum, his sword couldn’t change course until the move was finished.

So all I had to do was simply step aside.

As I had predicted, his moment carried the blade past my face until it hit the ground, at which I was already behind him.

I raised my sword to my upper right and swung down as fast as I could. In no time the blade hit Alec's side with a dry thud. The force of the impact sent him stumbling a few meters before tripping and landing on the ground, his sword clattering as it came down with him.

It wasn’t until a few seconds later that my ears processed the loud cheers from the crowd, followed by the cheers of the girls.

In comparison to all the praise I was receiving, Knight Andor looked on silently with an annoyed gaze. He blinked slowly, sighed and walked up to. Taking his arm and motioning in my direction, he announced, “The winner of the first round…!” And the audience erupted with another roar.

I was about to approach Alec to shake his hand but he stormed off the field without even looking back at me. He passed the entrance into the waiting room from before and he disappeared.

I stood there for a bit with my hand extended, contemplating the whole experience when I heard light footsteps rushing toward me and I was suddenly up in the air.

“Sam! That was splendid. For a second there, I wasn’t sure if you were going to come out victorious.”

Jeez. Just how strong is this woman? I’m at least three feet in the air.

“How could you not have faith in your own apprentice, Liena?!” I complained, exasperated.

After some struggling from myself, I escaped Liena’s clutches. But it was all for naught because the moment my feet hit the ground, I was embraced from behind, almost falling over.

“I was so worried that you wouldn’t win.”

“Do you not believe in me either, Lia?”

She gave me a jovial smirk. “Of course I believe in you, but I still worry.”

Before I could respond to her, Serena interjected. “You really were great, you know. I only heard two sword clashes. You must be really skilled if you can win a duel that fast.”

I gave a dry chuckle not knowing if I should tell her that I spent most of the time dodging. But if it made me look better in her mind, then maybe I should just let her think that.

“You have to get the idea of a longer duel correlating with more skill out of your mind,” Liena explained. “More often than not a longer duel only serves to highlight the two swordsmen’s lack of skill. A duel, especially one that takes place on the battlefield, should be finished as fast as possible.”

All three of us nodded. I had never thought of a duel that way. But it made sense. Duels were basically a mock trial before you entered the battlefield. Out there, it made sense to end things as fast as possible, for many reasons.

It felt a bit weird to see Liena bestow such sage advice to us. But I guess she has experience with this sort of thing.

With a warm smile, she turned to me. “Oh, and it seems like you did end up picking up some of the things I taught you.” And then, draw her gaze elsewhere, she continued. “It makes me glad to know that I didn’t fail you as a teacher.”

I was going to tell her that she was a fine teacher and that it was my lack of skill that was to blame, but before I could, she turned her attention to the two girls.

“Okay, come along, you two. Serena, you’re duel is after this next one, so you should go talk with Mina before the fight. And Lia, your fight is after Serena’s, so get ready.”

With that, Liena sent the girls off and prompted me to follow her so we could watch them fight.

I was kind of excited. I knew Lia was pretty good with a sword, but I had never seen her at her full potential. But the one I had more interest in was Serena. She was blind, so I didn't know how things were going to pan out. But if Lady Mina saw something in her, then I wouldn’t question it. 

 I guess I was just going to have to wait and see.