Traynur had me practice forming circular blades of different shapes and sizes. He also had me change the spin speed and the position of the blades when they formed. If I didn’t have a specific place in mind, then the blades would form at the bottom of my sleeve on the back of my wrist. As I began to tire and our session drew to a close, he brought me to a training dummy and had me test my will on it. To make a long story short, I wasn’t able to cut through one. I wasn’t even able to leave a scratch.
“You will have to try harder at our next session I suppose.” Was all Traynur would say. Practice was over so I dragged myself to my room and was asleep in an instant.
The next morning I was still sore, but not to the extent of the previous day. I looked around for Pailadyn but couldn’t find her in the dorms, so I guessed that she had already left for the arena.
I was under the impression that our match was simply a practice duel, so I was surprised and a little frightened to find spectators sitting in the bleachers. I sought out Traynur and gestured to the onlookers.
“Who are they? I thought this was a Practice battle!”
“It is, but you have become a subject of interest it seems and people are curious to see how you perform.”
“Can’t we send them away? I don’t want them to watch…” although I didn’t say it, it was implied that I thought I was going to lose.
“Going in with that attitude is the quickest way to defeat. Remember your training and you will be able to hold your own easily. I saw you in here yesterday before your training session. I’ve been alive long enough to be able to guess that you were analyzing the other students. Correct?”
“Good. That is the you that needs to fighting this battle. Use your head more than your Shroud and victory will follow. Now go.”
I swallowed and stepped into the black circle on the floor. Pailadyn was waiting on the opposite side of circle. While I wiped my hands on my shroud and fidgeted, she smiled and waved at me.
The fact that the circle was black should have clued me in to something odd happening. The ground shifted under my feet and then suddenly the black circle had begun to grow into a cylinder.
Our battle would be fought fifteen feet above the ground.
The crowd cheered and began a countdown.
Pailadyn’s swords were out as soon as the fight began. Unlike the other day, one was more of a longsword and the other was dagger length. The diameter of the circle was about ten feet. Her longsword was about four or five feet. Before I had time to think, she ran to the center of the circle and swiped at me.
From where she was standing she could reach me no matter where I stood. This fight would be over before it began.
Come on! I urged myself. Think!
The longsword arm was a bit slower and more unwieldy. It wouldn’t be hard to evade, and I could neutralize its effect if I stepped inside its reach. But then I’d have to deal with the dagger.
I ducked another swing and began to think of what would stop a dagger. The answer wasn’t long in coming.
And while I couldn’t make a “shield” I could make a wide spinning buzz saw. The saw formed on my right hand leaving my left hand free to punch. I wanted to win, but I didn’t want to kill her.
She swung an overhead blow which I sidestepped, then I took advantage of the opening in her defenses and charged forward. She jabbed with her dagger arm, but I turned it away with my saw.
At least… I tried.
My saw shattered and the dagger, while knocked mostly off course, still knicked my arm. I yelled in pain, but kept charging and knocked Pailadyn backwards. She tumbled head over heels and despite her efforts, her momentum took her off the edge.
“No!” I shouted and ran to the edge fully expecting to see a broken body on the ground. Instead what I saw was Pailadyn, dagger driven into the wall of the cylinder. She was ok for now, but her arm looked like it was bent at an awkward angle, and the dagger wouldn’t hold for long.
Then a familiar dark arm reached up, grabbed her, and lowered her gently to the ground. I waited for the platform to descend before I jumped off and ran over to see if she was ok.
“Pailadyn? Are you going to be ok?”
She flashed a quick smile, “Yeah! Just a broken arm I think… nothing big. I’ll be ready to go by the end of the week.”
My mouth dropped open, “The end of the week?”
“Yes the end of the week.” Traynur interrupted. “But for now she needs to go the rest center. Congratulations of your victory Juewuhl. We’ll have to test you again under less,” he gestured to the crowd, “extraordinary circumstances. Normally you wouldn’t have been on the platform. I’m not quite sure whose idea that was. See you tomorrow for training.”
“Um wai-“ But Traynur had already left.
That was odd. I guess the platform changed things a little, but the whole fight had felt…rushed. Pailadyn was an experienced fighter. I would never have gotten her that off balanced.
And I had expected a different reaction from Traynur. He hadn’t seemed quite right either.
There wasn’t much sleep that night, as I thought about the peculiarities of the day and wondered if I had, in fact, won.
It certainly didn’t feel like it.