“You should get some sleep” said Pailadyn.
“Yeah. Probably. You gonna be ok?”
“I was fine yesterday Juewuhl. I was fine when you came this afternoon. I’ll be fine now ok? Now go sleep!” she said with smile.
“Alright. If you need anyth-“
“Yes I’ll come and get you ok? Now go!”
I held up my hands, “Ok! Sheesh. Just making sure.”
I shuffled off to my room and sat on the edge of my bed.
A chance to go home.
A slime chance, but a chance nonetheless. Would I be ready? Would I have what it took to win?
Would I survive?
I lay down and folded my hands on chest. Traynur said if I used my head, my most important weapon, I could beat even him. There was something else he’d said during this morning’s training session that gave me a small measure of hope.
“Now I want you to harden your will Juewuhl. You’ve grasped your power quickly, but that power is nothing if your opponent can shatter it with ease.”
“How do I build my will?”
“There is no one right way to do it. Your will is your want to want. Your desire to succeed. If you don’t want to win, your will can be shattered as easily as a bone. Now attack the dummy. I want to you leave your mark!”
I swung my fist at the dummy, blade forming before my skin touched the hard black material. As usual it bounced off without leaving a scratch.
“You can’t think that way Juewuhl! I can see it in the way you hold yourself. Your shoulders are slumped, your head is hung, your punch lacked conviction. You are expecting to fail. And if you expect to fail, you will succeed in that expectation every single time. Do it again.”
I started to get angry. There were no other marks on this dummy. Meaning nobody else had been able to mark either. Why should I be the first to succeed?
I was torn between proving Traynur wrong, and trying to be the first to put a mark on this stupid thing.
I finally decided on the latter, and let my anger and frustration build until I was nearly quivering with rage. My blade had already been spinning, but now it was spinning faster than ever.
I swung my fist in a diagonal uppercut. The blade connected and met slight resistance at first, but then continued up from the dummy’s waist to its chest. The top half of the dummy retained its perch for just a second before sliding off and falling to the ground.
I looked to Traynur for approval and didn’t expect the reaction on his face. His mouth had dropped open and his eyebrows were raised.
“Nothing is wrong. Quite the opposite in fact. I have both good and bad news.”
“Bad news first I guess.”
“You are not the first to mark the dummy. After it is scratched, we repair it to create the impression that it has never been marked before. It’s a psychological test if you will.”
“Ok. And good news?”
“Only one other person has actually cut one in half. And that wasn’t until he had trained for years.”
“Me. It’s curious Juewuhl. For someone who is not accustomed to fighting, your progression is remarkable. If it weren’t for the fact that it was nearly impossible, I’d have thought that you’d had a shroud before and that this is simply a refresher. You are as much a puzzle to me as you are to Skrybe… you may yet become a champion.”
I was scheduled to meet with Skrybe tomorrow, so I’d have to ask him how possible it was that I’d been here before. The odds were very slim, but the chances that I’d simply pick up my Shroud so quickly were almost as unlikely. At least that’s how it seemed to me. I had never fought in anything more than a tousle with my friends or my brothers.
I had hoped to find some answers as time went on, but all I seemed to be getting were more questions.
After another twenty minutes I finally drifted off to sleep with thoughts of returning home plaguing my mind.