The days fell into a boring routine because Layla had settled quickly into her new home. There was little use for Zane to be hanging around all the time; Which gave him a lot of free time, because Ceri had not ordered him to do anything else, even when he requested to be assigned elsewhere. So instead he would keep a close eye on Layla in the early morning before disappearing into the recreation area, training hard with the over sized sword that was almost the same length as himself and was half a foot from edge to edge. It was a beautiful sword though that had ancient runes flowing around the hilt and its surface was a smooth obsidian black colour. The sword was shaped with one edge curving up all the way through to the tip, giving the other side little space to form a tip. Zane wielded the sword gracefully despite its size and weight; which often made onlookers curious to what his skill would be with a more conventional blade. He was careful not to destroy the dummies to which Erik had worked hard on to create the many flawless mechanisms that drove them to push anyone who wished to train on the dummy. Zane was quick with the training routine wishing to spar with a less mechanical partner. He yearned to spar or fight an enemy that he could not predict. It had been a while since Zane had been challenged to that degree which is why he had taken up using the overly large sword so he would naturally challenge himself but now it was time to see if he was proficient in its use. Slinging the sword onto his back he left for the dining hall meeting Erik , and Layla again for lunch. Jasper also dropped by this time round sitting across from Layla.
"Good afternoon." Zane said civilly
"Hello." Jasper returned civilly before assaulting the stew. Zane stared at him trying to figure out the guys deal, was he here because Layla was? That was probably a reason, but at least the guy could try to be more talkative.
"Hey Erik do you need help in the forge today? Layla here doesn't really need my help anymore, and Ceri hasn't assigned me anything new but he is determined to keep me down here till I go insane, well at least that's what I think he's planning."
"Zane no offence but you would be more of nuisance in the forge than a help, but thanks for the offer" Erik half joked.
"That is probably true, I’m not known for patience. Hey how about later we spar or something? I've been practicing pretty hard, but haven't had the chance to see how it's going to work out in combat, and Jasper if you want you can join to." Zane said trying to be friendly, but didn't get much of a reply because the guy muttered something incoherent at him, and Zane didn't feel like having to ask him to repeat it.
"Sure after dinner." Erik said finishing up his meal, “Later Zane."
"Alright later!" Zane said smiling. Jasper looked over to Layla who was quietly eating her meal, still wearing that ring, to which he had not bothered to ask where it came from, but something about it seemed off to Zane, but he couldn't place why he felt that way. So he said nothing but stared curiously, before asking, " You could watch if you wanted to Layla." She shrugged at the proposition before returning to her stew. The conversation had died pretty quickly at the table leaving Zane once again fairly bored as he poked at the stew; he was too excited to be hungry.
"Mr Kobiano, Ceri wants to see you." Orthore said from behind.
" Er uhm alright, I'll head over there with you now I guess." Zane said surprised, " See you two later. Take care Layla." He said while jumping out of his seat, before being lead by Orthore to Ceri's chamber which was darker this time.
"You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Yes, looks like Layla has done well under your care, but I think its time I have you ask her if she wants to join us, and truly and join the fight."
"I can do that sir."
"Yes I am aware, but Im curious if you would like to be the one to teach her, if she were to say yes?" Ceri said.
"I could do it yes but... with respect sir... I have never trained or taught anyone before wouldn't it be better if someone with experience in the matter taught her?"
"Yes, but it seems that she trusts you and in the process we'll gain another valuable teacher. Also don't you think teaching would be better way of spending you probationary punishment, other than doing nothing or doing menial work?"
"I guess so I will ask her when I have an opportunity sir. Is there anything else you need me for?"
“No, you may go." Ceri said.
Zane walked out feeling confused, he didn't mind having to show Layla the ropes, but now it seemed his punishment was being extended. Was his disobedience that serious? Zane severely hoped Layla would say yes to joining the fight, but he was unsure if he was capable of teaching, he also didn't like the idea of doing slave work and hanging around headquarters so much either. He already felt like his skills were wasting away down here. Troubled he made it through to a rugged section of the caves to a place that was long abandoned because of constant cave ins. With a lone torch in hand he found a set of spiral stairs that ran with putrid green water, he made it up them for quite some time before being met by sunlight, and moss growing over the steps. He put out the torch and walked into the light where he was greeted by a powerful gust of wind. Zane had come out on top of a jagged ridge that divided two valleys, one being an alpine meadow the other one being a huge glacial expanse. It was truly wonderful sight to behold. A sight that Zane kept secret from everyone else. His friend and mentor Jaeden had brought him here when they had first met. He had told him that this used to be a look out when the resistance had started, but was abandoned long ago because it was ineffective to warn the rebels in the caves below. Zane at the time could see why it was quite an exhaustive hike to make at that age. He smiled at the memory of astonishment and shock when he first saw the view. Now it was a common retreat for Zane when he was troubled. Here it was peaceful life could have been thrown into the wind and be forgotten in the valley's below, the ridge. Zane continued to walk up a little coming across pile of rocks with a worn down wooden plank that that had an engraving of a name upon it, but it was to weathered away to read.
"Hey, it's been a while." Zane started his tone of voice now weary, “I’ve been pretty busy lately, and as you know headstrong, and stubborn as usual. I guess that's why I'm here now. I disobeyed orders, but while doing so I saved the life of a girl, named Layla who escaped the sorcerer’s clutches. Now Ceri is asking me to mentor her like you did me. I haven't asked her if she wants to join the fight and of course she can say no which will save me the trouble, but a part of me wants her to say yes even though I doubt I could teach her as well as you taught me. So I’m going to foolishly ask you to give me the power to teach if your hearing me now, or at least wish me luck on this endeavour I will try to do what's best by you, and you know that I can't always do that. I hate sitting here idly while something needs to be done. Anyways it was nice to come back up here and I’m sorry for everything, I’m sorry I don't come here as often as we used to, but I promise to come back here before I leave this place again. “Zane finished his voice now filled with sadness, he turned away wiping away any water that may have managed to break through his will. As he turned he swore he heard footsteps scurry down the spiral staircase below the pile of rocks that marked his friends grave. He leapt after them but found nothing as he sprinted down the stairs.
"Must have been my imagination." He said still hearing the eery echo of it in his head.
"Are you ready?" Zane called out to Erik who stood on the other side of the arena with sword and shield in hand.
"As ready as ever!" Erik replied.
"Good!" Zane said taking note of the small crowd that had gathered around them, what was with that? Maybe it's been a while since a competitive spar. He thought looking around trying to see if Layla was there but didn't have the time because at that moment Erik launched his attack keeping his shield up and charging with his sword. Zane charged aiming to knock his sword out of his hands but only managing to stop his forward approach as the shield caught Zane’s blade while he slashed outwards with his blade, Zane stepped aside narrowly missing the hit. Zane then jumped back readjusting his grip on his sword. Erik was a good opponent he was strong, agile, but what was his stamina like? Zane charged him this time holding his blade above his head. Erik rolled to the left just as he brought his sword down, then countered by lunging at him from a crouched position but Zane was ready as span around his sword and with centrifugal force Erik managed to block in the nick of time with his sword. This was much harder than Zane fought.
"Is that all you got?" Erik said regaining his balance.
"Oh I'm not even started." Zane replied playfully.
"Well you better take me seriously, or you'll be on the ground in no time." Erik said. Zane had never seen this side of Erik before he was competitive, strong, and actually forcing Zane to revaluate where they stood in skill level in comparison to him. They circled each other trying to draw an reaction from the other but it wasn't long before Zane lost patience and swung hitting Erik's shield with incredible force that a ringing filled the training area, Erik slid back from the force but quickly recovered and tried to hit Zane sword aside but met resistance as Zane did the same. Some sparks flew but Erik managed to move Zane’s sword out of the way with his shield, and charged at him again. Zane smiled eagerly not moving as Erik’s blade met with his shoulder armour lightly drawing blood.
"Good one, but look out!" Zane said bringing his sword down on Erik who raised his sword and shield up but still ended up being forced to kneel under the weight and strength of the hit. Zane stepped back making a second strike Erik tried to block but was surprised that Zane would recklessly leave himself open just so he score a hit. the strength was also too much to resist and the tip of his sword cut across his chest.
"Even!" Erik said.
"Not for long!"
" Yeah because I’m going to win." Erik said.
"That's my line!" The two charged each other both managing to block and counter each other flawlessly, Zane's smile grew bigger and bigger. This spar session was more than he could have imagined, he had found an equal that was actually pushing him back possibly even winning over him. Sparks flew through the air again as the two swords met again. Zane pressed harder forcing Erik's sword back.
"Come on Erik your stronger than this." Zane said stepping forward lifting and striking repetitively over and over again now gaining the upper hand, but Erik had trick up his sleeve as he rammed Zane sword with his shield then slashed at his feet, but Zane was quick enough to jump back. Erik however was already on top of him as his shield pinned Zane’s sword against him, he went to strike but only meeting his own shield as Zane pushed back.
"That was close! Almost thought you had me there." Zane admitted bring the point of his sword near Erik, " But you know I won't let you win, I can't lose!" He smiled.
“Pretty big words to someone who almost just lost this sparring match!" Erik said bashing his shield against Zane sword and charged again. Zane smile again like knew something that Erik didn't. He dropped his sword and dodged another slash from Erik while grabbing his arm, and aiming a punch at Erik's side to which he was unsuccessful so he pushed Erik away and grabbed his sword swinging it widely to deter Erik from charging him again.
"What a reckless battle strategy." Erik warned. Zane shrugged.
"Still works, plus it's a little more fun this way." He said before charging Erik, who was ready for him with his shield up but he didn't strike he side stepped and slashed at his side, Erik had tried to respond but still ended up taking the full force hit and was hit back losing his balance, Zane brought his sword down on Erik who managed a second block at the expense of his balance because of the wieght of Zane's sword. Erik hit the ground, and Zane brought his sword on his chest lightly indicating his thoughts of winning, but Erik thought other wise summoning the strength to knock Zane's sword back, before rolling back onto his feet. Zane smiled this man had the same perseverance he did, and seemed to enjoy fighting just as much as he did.
“I won't lose that easily." Erik said his dark blue eyes conveying the message of absolute seriousness, and possible humiliation of the possible defeat.
"Neither Will I." Zane said, not intending to back down if this sparring match turned into a battle of Pride. They charged each other again exchanging equal blows, counters, and blocks, but as it wore on Zane wore the same smile, while Erik continued trying wipe that absurd smile of his face. There blades crashed again as another harmonious ring filled the room, Zane pushed Erik back, and slashed meeting Erik’s shield, Erik went for a jab but Zane had already moved out of the way, there blades met again this time both forcing the other back from each other, before the charged again, Zane stopped hallway though and placed the tip of his blade on the ground. Erik took what he saw as an advantage but fell into a trap as Zane used all of his strength swing the blade upwards catching Erik's shield and armour and lifting him into the air, sending him flying through the air and on his back, but now Zane was out of breath, it very physically tasking, but Erik was equally as tired, but managed to clamber to his feet. Zane smiled.
"Let’s call it a night." Zane offered, but Erik refused and took by surprise by charging shield first knocking Zane to the ground.
"That's enough!" A voice called out from the crowd. Zane got up seeing Ceri coming throw the crowd, " Good show boys, but let’s stop before one of you idiots end up hurting the other, " Zane."
"It was all in good nature.. Sir." Zane said.
"Yes, sir good natured Spar sir." Erik Agreed. Ceri raised a questioning eyebrow.
"Next time tune that good naturedness down a little. Other than that I must say that was indeed an impressive battle from both of you, but I think that will be it for the night." He said not sounding at all impressed.
"Yes sir." Erik and Zane said, holding the same stance until ceri turned his back.
“That was awesome!" Zane exclaimed, “Sorry if I took it a little seriously though."
"I should apologize for the same thing. I want people to think highly of my swordsmanship."
"Ah no problem, I haven't been pushed that hard in a long time you're good. Actually better than good, so don't worry about" Zane said, “also thanks for that."
"And thank you, anyways I'm going to head back, so goodnight Zane."
"Goodnight Erik." Zane replied now scanning the dissolving crowd for Layla to who he saw was near the exit leaning against the wall with Jasper nearby. No surprises there Zane thought. he decided to ask her if she wanted to join the resistance tomorrow he wasn't entirely interested in having to talk to Jasper as well.