• The dojo hallways were relatively empty as Faide traversed them- having finally gotten too annoyed at their conversation to deal with it anymore; she had simply stormed out of the room. Now she was attempting to work out the true meaning behind Rose’s words, “She couldn’t have actually seen a god or a demon” she thought with a roll of her eyes, “unless of course she’s more nuts than I previously thought…” She smirked in amusement at this, but knew that even if irritating at times, her adoptive mother was far from insane. “Why is it that she always has to talk in riddles?! It’d be so much easier if she just said what she meant!” A person bustled by here and there, and there were voices to be heard off in the distance, but such distractions eventually evanesced as she ambled along.
    Her feet were moving on their own, and it wasn’t until she sighed in frustration that she finally looked around and recognized where she must have been unconsciously headed. “The training room!” a genuine smile formed on her face, she had always enjoyed watching the sparring matches, and relished in the unique air of confusion and excitement that always permeated the room. The student’s were always friendly too, but that was due more to the fact that her adoptive father was the teacher rather than genuine kindness. Still, there was an extra spring in her step as she sped towards her new destination.
    Yet when Faide arrived at the training room, she also arrived to a disappointment. Everyone was headed towards the changing rooms for a break, and probably wouldn’t be back for at least an hour- which was bad, she had hoped to blow off some steam by watching them fight. “Of course it’s too much to ask for someone to spar with me.” She muttered as she seethed. She herself was a competent swordsman- Lance had taught her since she was four, but she had never been trained along with the normal classes, and to this day still wasn’t allowed to spar with them. Lance claimed that as her adoptive father as well as a teacher, he was liable to favor her over the other students, and didn’t want that held against him- that didn’t stop her from complaining about how unfair it was. But whining didn’t change things, and so when it came to the training room watching was all she could do.
    Thus it was with a sense of loss that she watched the boys leave. All the students were of the brainless gender- not that the dojo was exclusively for boys, but finding a female student with a genuine interest in swordsmanship was rare, and the last one had left some time ago. Of course, Faide had no resentment of this fact- she usually hung out with boys more than girls anyway, and the students who came to the dojo daily changed constantly. So it was hard to remember everyone’s title- she never understood how Lance did it, all she could do was recognize them by face. The only exception to this fact was her childhood friend, Ezra- he had been a daily student at the dojo practically as long as Faide had lived there. Apparently, his father and Lance ‘went way back’, as they said it- Faide usually tuned out before the stories started. Still, when your parents were close, it was a simple thing for the children to develop a similar bond, even if they picked on each other to no end, both Faide and Ezra were practically siblings.
    Perhaps that was why he dashed eagerly towards her rather than the changing rooms for his well deserved break. “What’s up, Faide?” He called as a strangely mischievous smirk spread across his face, she looked at him suspiciously, but he met her gaze with an innocent one of his own. The devious look was normal for Ezra, but that only made it difficult to tell whether he was actually up to something, or simply messing with your head. “Jeez! What’s up with you?” He tilted his head as he watched her frustrated face, “You look like an angry banshee!” The glare he received in reply to this statement would have made anyone else recoil in panic, but he simply laughed. It was a warm, strong laugh that though not overly deep, fit his muscular demeanor well. Ezra was a gruff looking man, certainly not bad looking, but he had a rather cool unkept stature. He was tall- far taller than Faide, and most of the other students for that matter, but his mischievous personality was far more intimidating than his height. His delicate reddish brown hair extended to his shoulders, and his eyes- an odd shade of lavender- were deep with the emotions of the moment. He was like a child- an unusually tall and mischievous child, but that’s what made him endearing. “Enough with the looks, I’ve seen ‘em already!” He laughed again to emphasize his point, “Now what’s got you all wound up?” His piercing gaze returned to her face, waiting impatiently for an answer.
    Faide sighed in exasperation at her friend’s insensitive forcefulness, but she explained the conversation with Rose and her crushed hopes to blow off some steam. He listened carefully to her words before heaving a sigh himself. “C’mon, Faide.” he said, sounding slightly bored, “You know you never get anywhere with Rose when it comes to the war.”
    “It’s not my fault she doesn’t listen!”
    “Neither of you listen!”
    “You’re not helping!”
    He crossed his arms with another sigh, “Well, you’re right about that at least.” Then a thought occurred to him and the smirk returned as his eyes once again met hers, “But what was it you said earlier? Something about it being ‘too much to ask’ for someone to spar with you?” his tone finally matched the expression on his face, “I think you were wrong about that.” It was amazing how quickly Faide’s eyes lit up with a dark excitement. “Is that a challenge?” she asked, her tone was mocking as she was drawn into the moment, her anger all but gone. Ezra too was brimming with excitement- both of them knew that Lance forbade Faide from training with the normal students, but Lance wasn’t there, and the chance was. The dark excitement both of them felt was the thrill that can only come with breaking the rules, the ecstasy of committing a forbidden taboo. Logic had long gone from the situation by the time Ezra snickered and asked, “Did I stutter? Ready your weapon.” Of course, the only weapons they ended up using were the wooden swords- they hadn’t rid themselves entirely of logic it seemed. Yet the bulcans had the proper weight and shape of a real blade, and if one got hit it was bound to hurt.
    It seemed that Ezra wasn’t the only boy who had not yet headed for the changing rooms, many still remained, standing around and whispering as they cast furtive glances at the duo. They too knew the rule which was about to be broken, but none made a move to stop it- it seemed that the match had an audience. Yet neither Faide nor Ezra paid them any heed as they stood facing each other at the ready, they were in a world all their own by then. “You sure about this?” she asked in a mocking tone, “It’s gonna suck when you lose to a girl.”, but he wasn’t drawn in by her taunts, and laughed darkly as he replied, “Don’t chicken out on me now.” So it began. Both of them moved forward with surprising speed, but it was Ezra who truly started the game with a one handed thrust. Faide dodged swiftly, but she still felt the breeze as the bulcan flew by her head. “Apparently the nitwit is as strong as he looks.”, but that didn’t intimidate her, she could still watch his moves easily enough, and if he couldn’t hit her, then strength made no difference. Yet he had the height advantage, and her sidestep had allotted him enough time to perform a vertical slash- a move that could prove devastating to one on low ground. She jumped back, a move that saved her a concussion, but put her on the defensive. Ezra attacked relentlessly, forcing her to continue moving back- if she was pushed into the wall he’d have her right where he wanted her. She wasn’t about to let that happen, and hissed in frustration as she continued to watch his moves, waiting for an opening. What developed was an elaborate game of cat and mouse, for once an opening revealed itself it was Ezra on the defensive and Faide forcing him back- until the tables were reversed once again. They were evenly matched- neither one could land a decent blow on the other. It was a mystical dance of footwork and swordplay, both fully concentrated and showing no mercy to their partner. Yet a dance so fast paced can only last so long, it was only a matter of time before somebody made a misstep, and as Ezra moved forward with a diagonal slash downwards, Faide broke his stance. In the split moment that he was defenseless, she followed up with a kick to the gut filled with every ounce of force she could muster, and by the time he landed on his back she had the dull tip of the bulcan pointed at his throat- the match had ended as quickly as it started.
    After a moment of frozen silence, Faide moved the weapon away, allowing her friend to climb to his feet. Yet as he grimaced from the force of her kick, she simply smirked as she said, “I told you it would suck when you lost to a girl.” Still, if the looks on the faces in their audience said anything, the fact that she had won against a star student came as a shock; she herself was rather surprised as well, for although he was physically stronger and their skill with a blade was equal, she had been faster, and had been able to predict his moves as if reading an open book- in some twisted way, defeating Ezra had been rather… Easy. That confused her, she had always known she was decent with a sword, but had never been biased enough to think that she was better than the normal students. Could it be that the true reason Lance never let her train with the others was because she had talent? That made no sense; her adoptive father wouldn’t lie about such a thing, and why would how good or bad a person was matter as long as they were passionate about the sport? Faide sighed, maybe she was thinking too much. “Geez! That whole match was to cheer you up and you’re still sighing!” Ezra broke into her musings with a teasing tone, “What’s wrong with you now?”
    “Nothing, just thinking.”
    “You think way too much!” He barked his warm laugh and placed a hand casually on his hip, “Maybe that’s why you’re always so angry.” Before Faide could retort, a new voice joined into their conversation, “Maybe you don’t think enough, Ezra.” The duo jumped, having both forgotten anyone else was there. The one who spoke was a boy with relatively long black hair- finely layered with long bangs. His name was Drake, and he was another star student at the dojo- the only one who could compete with Ezra. “You must be brain-dead to have lost to her.” He watched their reactions carefully as he spoke. Anger flashed in Ezra’s eyes, but his tone was light and airy as he replied, “Hey, I know she’s twice as annoying as any other girl, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see she’s got talent.” Normally she would have glared at her friend when he called her annoying, but Faide let it slide- the ‘talented’ compliment made up for it. “Well, he sure as hell ain’t a rocket scientist.”
    “Oh really?” He took a bold step closer to the duo, and leaned in towards Faide, “Then why don’t you fight me and prove it?” Ezra had been about to say something to this, but before he could speak, Faide smirked and said confidently, “Bring it on.” She took the bulcan her friend held and tossed it to drake, and as he caught it she added, “You’ll be one hell of a brainiac by the time I’m done with you.” They both took their stance, and as Ezra moved a safe distance away from the upcoming fight, they began. This time it was Faide who took the initiative with a swift slash upwards, but her opponent parried and countered with a powerful thrust. His movements were surprisingly swift and seemed to flow gracefully into the next, “He’s good.” Faide thought as she spun away from his raging attacks, “But not invincible.” She jumped into his first opening with a swift slash similar to batojutsu, and instantly they were tangled in the elaborate dance that came with swordsmanship. Indeed he was as good if not better than Ezra, for as in the previous match, the two opponents were evenly matched- it would take an outside force to change this seemingly perfect limbo. Yet Drake seemed impatient for such a force to come, and took things into his own hands. As Faide moved forward with another attack, he blocked instead of dodging- he weighed more than her, so he wasn’t pushed back- and with a considerable amount of force he was able to throw her away. Faide landed on her feet, but her opponent’s move had allotted him enough time to do something unexpected. “Fighting can be tiring.” He said in a taunting tone as he moved closer to her, “And it’s about time you felt the burn.” Then in a gesture as swift and flowing as his swordsmanship, Drake held his open palm out before him- suddenly the room was illuminated by eerie shadows as he shot a ball of flame along with a series of sparks at Faide. “Why you….” She swore under her breath, if she dodged, then the spell would hit the wall- which would undoubtedly set the dojo on fire, but letting it hit her wasn’t a very tempting option either. “I don’t want to” she thought as she hissed in frustration, “But it looks like I’ve gotta play his game.” She jumped backwards away from the flame, performing a graceful spin as she did so, and whipped a wave of water at the ball. Their magic hissed and slowly the room filled with steam, it became impossible to see where her opponent’s attacks were coming from until the split second before they hit, luckily, Drake wasn’t doing much better. In fact, nobody in the room could see at all- not even their own hand in front of their face. In a way that would have been good for Faide had she not been affected by it, yet there was no point if she couldn’t take advantage of the situation. “I can’t fight like this” She had hoped not to have to resort to magic yet again, but there seemed little choice if she wanted to hit something other than misty air. So she began to move, twisting and stepping- swirling like the wind; slowly her magic began to take form, growing in vitality as her moves became bolder- a cool breeze, a raging whirlwind, and finally a full blown tornado of fierce winds and blazing heat. The room finally became visible again as the steam was sucked into the storm- she carefully controlled it to do just that- but as she watched the powerful creation before her a seemingly obvious idea hit her. He had started the dirty play, so it was fitting for her to finish it, right? “Time to end this.” She murmured, an evil smirk appeared on her face as she sent the tornado after Drake.
    Even if the boy was fast, he was nowhere near as swift as the wind, and the storm was upon him before he could even react. He screamed in pain as he was lifted off of his feet and suspended in the air; the heat showed no mercy to his delicate skin, and the fierce wind covered him in small cuts, only increasing the pain as the vacuum sucked away his breath and widened the wounds. For a moment as she watched this, Faide looked as if she was possessed; she was completely mesmerized by her own power and the pain etched in every feature of the one who fell victim to it. Yet it lasted for only a moment, and as she came to she became once again aware of the audience that surrounded her, and with a wave of her hand she calmed the howling beast that she had created and allowed Drake to fall to the ground. “I win.” The tip of her bulcan touched his neck covered in cold sweat, but his obvious fear didn’t satisfy her, she wanted more. It was as if some hungry monster had risen inside of her- a grotesque creature that pertained to the hidden side of her soul; she shook her head in an attempt to dispel such thoughts, hurting the boy further would be cruel, but the burning desire was etched in her nerves- if someone didn’t stop her….