Adam's comment about Jared brought an involuntary rush of heat to my cheeks. I resisted the irrational urge to put the blade back to his neck, but the angry red rising around the slim wound already on his neck reminded me of my position. I turned abruptly away, pulling a rag from my pocket and cleaning the katana as I replaced it in the rack. Still facing away from him, I spoke.
"You have another half hour to prepare for lessons. I suggest you leave." My tone was colder than I would normally use, though not overtly so.
Though it was enough for it to register with Adam.
"Laters then." His flippant tone aggravated my temper, though true to my training, I didn't show.
Ten minutes later, I was setting out some of the heavier weapons when someone touched my elbow. I span round, a short sword in my hand this time, only to have my wrist caught. I relaxed instantly when I saw who it was, the tension leaving my body in a sigh.
"Jared." He released my wrist, letting me put the weapon back. "I just had to warn Adam-the new kid-about sneaking. You really should know better."
"You're jumpy, Lorna." He replied, concerned. I could feel his presence behind me as he put a comforting hand on my shoulder. "What's got you so wound up?"
I was silent, mentally cursing having to live with such damn acute people, at the same time, debating the wisdom of sharing my problems.
"L sent through some information on the people we have here. The files are...disturbing. Henry in particular. I've never seen anything like it."
He rubbed my shoulder in a familiar gesture of comfort. "You're a good teacher, Lorna. The best at what you do. Don't let difficult students faze you."
"A single A4. Thats all L could get on him. And not much more for the others. But his... there was practically nothing. I've never seen L struggle for information but here.."
"It's worrying, yes. But not unheard of. You're testament to that." I knew he would have a wry smile on his face and I gave a half-laugh.
"Yeah. I guess."
"Its time for the lessons." Jared moved away from me, moments before the students began to arrive.
Lower ranked assassins did searches, patting down the students and again, depriving Henry of his dagger. Other than a couple of small throwing knives and other, less deadly daggers, nothing much was taken.
"Well, I'm pleased to see you all came prepared." Jared said, as I took the weapons out of reach. "But you'll be using our stuff. Different weighting, different balance, we'll be pushing form, footwork and reactions. We'll make you adaptable, able to make a weapon from anything. We aren't going to bother with an introduction-this is not hand to hand. Here, we're going to teach you things you've never heard of. Starting with something basic though," He pulled the rack of short swords close. "Take one each. We're going right back to basics, kids."
I noted with amusement the look of disgust on Henry's face as he regarded the significantly heavier and apparently more clumsy weapon than his own dagger. I pulled my own sword from my belt, collected before the lesson, facing Jared.
"Now, you are currently holding dulled weapons. They will bruise and break bones but, unlike these," He indicated the swords in our hands, "They will not cut."
Jared and I did a demonstration of the top level movements. Though brief, the class was silent after. Even Adam had paled a little though Jay had a keen glitter of focus in his eyes that suggested he was eager to learn.
"Kana, come up here." I said, gently. "We can demonstrate."
Jared talked through the form we were learning as I demonstrated with Kana. She was initially shy, clearly not familiar with the sword but soon relaxed when she saw that there was no actual fighting. Jared pointed out mistakes, correcting gently. He then paired up the others, taking Henry himself and giving me Adam, while Jay and Kana were together. We went through the form over and over, perfecting it. We then switched partners, making sure Henry was always with an assassin with training, both of us keeping an eye on the 'troublesome two'. Jay proved to be adept with the sword, impressing Jared.
"I see you can appreciate a good blade." He grinned, pleased.
We eventually took a break. The class so far had behaved, as though normal. I murmured to Jared, out of earshot of the others.
"Do you think sparring is a good idea? I don't fancy the idea of breaking anything."
"Use the wood." He replied, less concerned. "Worst you can get is a bruise."
I hummed in response, unconvinced but allowing it.
I could not suppress my concerns entirely though, and felt tension across my shoulders as I faced Henry, a weighted pole in my hand, a mock sword. The look in his eyes was enough to chill a flame. I took my stance as he did the same. A split second before the signal to go, Henry's pole flashed forward like a striking cobra. There was a smack and the sound of shattering wood as the pieces of his weapon scattered across the floor, towards the others, who stood in silence. I was frozen in position, my weapon extended where it had blocked Henry's attack.
"Next time, wait for the signal." I said, loud enough for all to hear. I lowered my weapon, walking towards him.
"And killing is for outside the Academy." I murmured in his ear, resisting the urge to flinch from the powerful aura of barely leashed violence he gave off.
With that, I walked away from the main hall, without looking back. I heard Jared continue the lesson behind me. Truthfully, I was shaken. The wooden poles were dangerous in the right (or wrong) hands. To smash one like that required immense force and lethal intent. I had blocked it more out of reflexive luck than skill.
I was there when the students and Jared filed into the common room for a debrief.