“Sir, you called for me?”
Yaslovan gestured for the young man to come in and sit down.
“Tsun, I think I have finally found a sparring partner for you.”
“Yes he is a new transfer student-candidate. His Aunt sent him here to get him out of trouble. His fighting style is … extremely unorthodox but I believe it will challenge your defense more than your current method. You will still practice with me to work on your offense. Get sleep tonight you’ll need it.”
Hiding a smirk Tsun tried to come up with the most respectful response.
“Sir, if yourself and the best two associate instructors cannot break through my defense after wearing me down with a full day of strenuous physical exercise how do you expect a single new student to do so? If he is that good what does he have to learn?”
Yaslovan looked for a long time at his best student before responding with a smile.
“Not all the styles you will find in the middle world are here at the school, despite what our administration would like to believe. As you well know sometimes the unknown can surprise you. You know this conceptually at least, but because your skills are so advanced in this area you no longer emotionally believe you can be surprised. I guarantee you it is still possible. *I* was surprised and I am familiar with his homelands fighting styles.”
He paused and fingered a scar running down his arm before continuing.
“Additionally, I have promised him admission to the school if he can draw blood on you. And a scholarship if he can force me to use a medic on you.” Tsun’s eyes widened a bit. “Tsun, he will be desperate. This school is the only clemency offered him by his Aunt. Prison or worse is facing him if he doesn’t make it here.”
Tsun’s surprise only showed more.
“What did he do?”
“He survived her coup. And the first two assassins. Next time she will probably do it herself and he knows she can. However as her favorite nephew she sent him to me to see if he can make it here. If he gets on he will simply stay in away from home for the rest of her life. Now go. Get some sleep. Be at my tent at 8am.”
Tsun stood up and saluted crisply. Yaslovan returned the salute and added:
“Tsun, do not take him lightly. His offense is better than yours. I said he surprised me… he did more than that. I forced him to throw all he had at me and he added two new scars before I worked out a good counter. Tomorrow I will have our best medic on hand for healing, but accidents can happen.”
The following morning found Tsun waiting patiently in the cold at Yaslovan’s private sparring tent. Roughly fifteen minutes before 8 he saw Professor Yaslovan and the medic coming around one of the nearby buildings. Trailing them respectfully was a dark haired young man. Tsun’s first impression was to simply ignore him; to let him fade into the shadows… there were no shadows. Tsun shook his head and focused on him. Nothing out of the ordinary but it seemed like just a second ago there had been shadows around him.
The professor opened the tent and beckoned them in.
“Now, each of you pick a sword from the rack. Your choice of weapons. You have 5 min to stretch out anything you need but both of you should already be warm from personal exercise this morning.”
Tsun quickly found his preferred blade and started his stretches. The other man picked one as well and then just stood there. After a short while Tsun finished up and indicated he was ready.
“Okay. Listen well. You will stay within the fighting circle. This does limit your tactics but I do not want this match spreading out where some bystander might get hurt. We will be using regular blades. If at any point you see the medic casting healing magic you –will- stop. Failure to do so will result in expulsion. Blatant failure will result in criminal charges. Additionally, you will –not- attempt any sword strokes that would result in decapitation. If that tactical option is open you can simply swing and hit your opponent on the neck with the flat of your blade. Beyond these rules anything is allowed.”
Tsun was again surprised. This was –far- beyond any previous sparring match he had been in. No wonder the schools best medic had to be on hand.
Tsun snapped his sword into a defensive position and watched his opponent. Kian blinked twice and then… charged. A fury of blade strokes swept down towards Tsun he blocked them all quickly but was stunned at the speed with which they came. Kian was sparing nothing to defend himself, desperation clear on his face.
As he backpedalled Tsun began to be frustrated by the number of wide open thrusts and lashed out catching Kian’s arm. The blade laid open a long red groove and blood started flowing freely but Kian didn’t even pause, ignoring the wound like it wasn’t there he countered. A small cut appeared on Tsun’s cheek.
A cut. Time slowed as adrenaline suddenly flushed through Tsun’s body. He had not been –touched- by a sparring partner’s blade in over a year now. And now he had been cut. A white glow started to emanate from him and he focused his defense.
To no avail. Kian was stronger physically and knew it. He recklessly threw smashing slash after slash down on Tsun’s blade and Tsun was weakening despite excellent conditioning. He had countered several times but despite bleeding from at least 10 different cuts and being covered in blood Kian kept coming.
Kian kept lashing out of the shadows. Kept shoving Tsun into deeper and deeper darkness. Kept drawing all the light from the room.
Tsun also had added small slight lacerations and was starting to get desperate. He was now glowing with the bright white light that was his family’s magical birthright. Light glanced from his eyes and his blade seemed to make a solid sphere of light around him.
Originally he had been worried about hurting the other student. His first few attacks had only been meant to warn Kian to defend himself… to slow the endless attacks. But Kian’s continued lack of concern was infuriating. It simply wasn’t right. In a real battle Tsun would have long ago simply stabbed him in the heart and moved on to his next opponent.
Fine. The medic was there for a reason after all. Tsun was going to lose if he didn’t force Kian to defend himself and none of the other wounds had been serious enough.
Carefully, he began maneuvering Kian’s endless attacks into leaving a vital “kill” shot to the chest open. It didn’t take long until he saw his opening. Parrying one final slice he snapped his blade into Kian’s chest through a lung and into his heart region.
Kian let out a gurgled laugh and twisted his body. Startled Tsun lost control of his blade and Kian returned the favor with a thrust to the chest. As Tsun fell blood gushing out of his chest Kian stepped back and pulled Tsun’s blade from his chest. Dropping it he exclaimed:
“Yaslovan! I have bested him.”
The room started to go dark and the last thing Tsun saw was healing magic wrapping him in green.
When he woke up the only one in the room was Kian, who was sitting at the end of his bed smiling happily and playing solitaire.
“What happened? How did you…? T-“
Kian cut him off flipping a card into his face.
“You cannot kill my people that way. We… are not wounded deeply by cuts and slices to the body. Poisons.. yes. But simple swords? No. Although your light magic hurt more than I’m used to. Your skills are amazing. I’ve never had anyone defend so long so well. I was thinking I wasn’t going to gain admission or scholarship. I thought I would fail which I must vainly say is not a common thought for me.”
Tsun sat for a long quiet moment. Thinking. Kian waited and then continued:
“I would like to be friends. I know I can learn a lot of fighting from you. And from what I have seen while you healed… I’m the only one who has ever challenged you? I should like to show you more gaps in your abilities”
He finished with a grin.
Tsun wasn’t laughing.
“What were those shadows I saw? Were you using black magic in your fight?
“Me? A nightshade? No. My family has shadow blood. A great-great-grandmother of mine I think. Story goes she was locked up so long that she fell in love with shadows. Married one and tada! we make dark!”
Tsun looked askance at him.
“Ha. Some story. Friends it is. But I promise you, when they let me up I’m going to test this body of yours and you will learn defense. That I guarantee.”