As I immersed myself in teaching Liss to fight I managed to temporarily forget my failure. I became completely focused on getting Liss to a point where she might be able to hold off a normal attacker. Of course I knew that she wouldn’t be able to learn it all, or become physically strong enough, in in one day. But I also knew that she needed to be pushed to her limits every other day. Then leave the next day for rest and growth.
I kept on pushing Liss farther and farther, untill I could see a droop in her walk and her defence became shabbier and shabbier.
“I…can’t…do…anymore,” Liss panted.
“Come on Liss, just one more round, you have to be able pull of this combo perfectly in order for it to work!”
Liss made a sound somewhere between a groan and a whimper and came at me one more time. She threw a punch at my abdomen and I caught it in my palm. I closed my fingers around her fist and spun her around, pulling her up against me and holding her there. “Liss, you have to get it past my guard, you have to be fast!” I reprimanded her softly.
Liss whimpered again and sagged against me.
I sighed heavily, it was time to call it quits for the day, Liss was at the very edge of her strength. She could barely walk. I led her to a trash-filled bedroom and laid out some flattened boxes for her to sleep on. They were about as comfortable as the beds at the orphanage so for Liss and I it was nothing hard or special. She lay down quietly on it and was almost immediately asleep. I got up and walked to the door of the bedroom and quietly closed it so as not to disturb the sleeping Liss, though I seriously doubted that she would be woken up very easily at this point. With the door closed complete darkness engulfed the room. Sitting down near the door, I leaned my back against it, no one would be getting in here without causing me to fall backwards and thereby waking me up. Satisfied that no one would be able to harm Liss, I closed my eyes and evened my breaths. A technique swiftly learned by all at the orphanage, it helps you get to sleep no matter whether you feel tired or not.
I woke up about seven hours later, at about four in the morning to Liss’s quiet crying. She was tossing and turning on her pallat, and tears streaked her face as she slept. I quietly crept up to her and laid my hand on her cheek. She immediately buried her face in it and started to reach out for me. She really shouldn’t, I wasn’t trust-worthy enough anymore, I had failed her. It hurt to see how much she still relied on me. I wanted so badly to just take her and hold her and give her the comfort she wanted so badly; but she needed to learn to survive without me. I had failed her once…I would probably fail her again someday, and that day she would need to be able to fend for herself. Or have someone else who wouldn’t fail her like I had.
I slowly began to withdraw my hand. Liss’s reaction was quite violent: she grabbed my arm and clung onto it desperately; pressing her cheeck against it as if somehow my hand was the only thing between her and some horrible death. My heart broke. I couldn’t do that this to her. I mentally slapped myself for being to soft-hearted to do what was best for her, but I continued any way. I gathered Liss up into my lap and held her as she laid her head against my shoulder and neck. I rubbed her back as her breathing evened out again and her nightmare moved on into a dream.
After about an hour, I carefully laid her back out and moved back to my position at the door. This time I didn’t go to sleep, I just did what I had been waiting to do since yesterday when the failure had just happened: I began to truly flog myself mentally for my stupidity and idiocy.