Clara decided soon after I found out about vampires, that I should learn to kill them. Max had volunteered to train me, he asserted that he would be best for the job, since he knew me better than anyone else. Clara was a bit skeptical at first. She was, after all, my mentor and it was custom that the mentor would train the newcomer. In the end, Max convinced her to let him train me.
Contrary to what I had expected, training with Max wasn't a walk in the park. He didn't go easy on me at all, in fact, he was the most difficult trainer I had ever had in my life. Even more so than the Nazi of a piano teacher I'd had when I was six. Max got me up at the crack of dawn, as if he were a drill sergeant. He had me do warm ups that consisted of running for an hour without stopping, push-ups until I collapsed, and sit-ups until I wanted to throw up.
I didn't quite understand why he wanted me to do these things for training. If I was going to fight the undead, I needed to fight, more than be physically fit. sure, I guess running would come in handy, when it came to fighting and killing creatures from Hell, but push-ups and sit-ups? My muscles would be enhanced by training to fight! All of this was simply exasperating for me, but I pushed through without much of a complaint, because I knew he was the boss in this situation.
"Come on, Mel! Keep up! If it was a vamp chasing you, you'd be dead by now!"
"Max... we've been... running..." I gasped, trying to run faster and feeling my energy drain to nearly nothing, "for such a... long time.... can't we.... take a break?"
Max abruptly stopped in the middle of the trail, causing me to run straight into him. He turned and glared at me, as I bent double, gasping for air and clutching my ribs, "Don't you realize that if this weren't a training session, if this were the real thing, you wouldn't have the option of taking a little break? If you stopped, even for half a second, you'd be dead. Chances are, if you were in the position where you had to run, you'd end up being separated from anyone else you might have gone in with... That means you'd be alone. Which means stopping would mean immediate death."
I sunk to the ground, willing myself not to throw up the breakfast that I had eaten two hours ago, before leaving home at four in the morning. My breath was slowing down a bit and the sound of my blood pounding in my ears was fading.
I looked up at Max and said, "I'm sorry, Max. This is just really intense. I'm trying my best, but I can't just be at your level this early in the game... I've gotta build up to it. I thought that's why you guys were training me- so I can build up to your level."
Max sat down beside me, "Yeah, That is the point... I know I've been pushing you really hard, I'm trying to gauge your abilities, before I can decide what you're capable of right now. I'm harsh, I know. That part is because I can't be your buddy while trying to teach you how to protect yourself in a life or death situation. It doesn't work that way... You know?"
"Yeah, I get it. So how do I know when you've ascertained my abilities?"
"You don't. I will know and move one from there. We'll start out at a steady level and work our way- quickly- to more intensive training."
I nodded, "So, does this 'more intensive training' include the fighting or what?"
"I'll teach you to fight when I see fit."
Seeing there was nothing more to say and no real reason to sit around, I stood up on legs that were still a little shaky from exertion, "Okay, so what do we do now?"
* * *
After the day's training was finally finished, I collapsed in my living room, on the sofa. Max was beside me, looking much less exhausted. I looked over at him and sighed, "How can you be so.... not tired?"
"Mel, I've been doing this for a few years now, I'm well trained in these areas. It'll take some time before you can to all that exercise and not get so tired and sore. Believe me, it didn't all happen overnight for me, either."
"One more question."
"When did you start this 'Mel' crap?"
He thought about it for a moment, "You know... I'm not really even sure. Why? Does it bother you? If it does, let me know and I'll stop."
"No, it's fine, I was just curious as to where it came from, that's all." I smiled and we spent the next few moments in companionable silence. I watched the fire crackle in the fireplace and got lost in my thoughts. presumably, Max did the same.
Eventually, I broke the silence by yawning.
Max laughed, "Leave it to you to ruin the peaceful mood."
"Because yawning isn't peaceful," I jabbed him in the ribs with my elbow.
"I'll take it as my signal to leave," Max got up, did a mock bow and turned to go.
I stood up and said, "Night, Max."
"Night, Mel. Sweet dreams."
"Thanks," I smiled and turned to walk up the stairs.
Surprisingly, that night was the first night I actually did have decent dreams that didn't involve death and pain. It was the first night in a long time that I slept through the entire night and never once woke up screaming or crying. When I woke up the next morning, I felt more refreshed and awake than I'd felt in a while.
My peaceful haze was shattered, however, the second I walked outside. The normally serene village was bustling and I could tell something was wrong.