1.3: Participation

Shuri stands in the center of a small arena. Strapped to his back is a pair of swords encased in sheaths decorated with the same hurricane decal as if the swords were identical twins. The hilts are wrapped in green cloth with white diamonds exposed in the gaps. Shuri’s tunic and undershirt match the colors on the hilt.

     Half a dozen wooden dummies stand before him on secure iron rods. Each is painted as an assailant in Shuri’s eyes, and his next few actions reflect his attitude toward such individuals. He swiftly skates between them as gracefully and softly as a light breeze.

     The twin blades, however, are quite the opposite. They strike fast and hard, leaving razor-thin gashes in the stationary targets. Shuri whirls counterclockwise as he slashes and hacks away at the dummies. He ceases his exercise by kneeling betwixt the wreckage, shutting his eyes as the dummies topple over and break apart into pieces of kindling.

     Shuri turns his head to the stands when he receives slow applause. He rises from his knees, slowly returning his masterfully crafted weapons to their homes.

     An elderly man descends the rows of bleachers lying just above a ten-foot arena wall. Apart from his grey hair and full beard, he and Shuri share the same slanted nose, deep teal eyes, and cream skin tone. The biggest contrast is Shuri’s musculature. While lean, the definition of his arm muscles can be seen even beneath the exercise tape wrapped around his wrists and forearms.

     “I see you’re practicing for the exhibition.”

     “No,” Shuri replies. “I don’t care about that.”

     “Oh?” The elderly man hops above the edge of the wall, but instead of plummeting right down, he plants his feet against rapidly rotating currents of air that support his weight until he touches down. The breeze dies and ruffles the bottom of his suit jacket and tie. “Change of heart?”

     “There’s no point in me attending the exhibition. I know where I wish to be placed already.”

     “That’s not the entire point, Shuri. You’ll have the chance to interact with your peers as they reveal their own gifts. Missing out on that opportunity is not what I want for you.”

     “Now that I’m old enough to attend classes, anyway,” the young man snarkily replies.

     “I know I’ve kept you away from this before but trust me when I say you’ll want to be there. Judging by applications I’ve received, we have a fair number of other Ohaida citizens gracing our campus. You should–”

     “Grandfather, enough!” Shuri snaps. “I’ll meet them when classes start.” Shuri swiftly departs, crossing paths with a woman on her way in. She notices the distraught expression on the young man’s face but presses forward.

     “Headmaster Neth, a word,” she asks, laying her free hand on the pommel of her spadroon. The guard is a circular disk made of chalk-colored metal. Her sharp blue eyes denote a heavy burden on her mind.

     “What is it, Tameri?”

     “Why did you administer this last-minute change to today’s orientation itinerary?” Tameri raises a set of stapled papers. “Normally you would charge me with the task of delivering the welcome tour.”

     “Did you peruse the applications?” Neth queries.

     Tameri pauses briefly, feeling a chill run through her fingers. “I did.”

     “Any opinion on those?”

     “I will admit, I never would’ve expected such high-profile families to send their children here, but Avinia’s seen crazier things.”

     “Which is why, when the students arrive, I will be the one to deliver the tour. I need you to round up the other professors for my presentation later. The remainder of the changes are detailed in full there.” Neth points to the packet in her hand. “This year’s class is going to be very crucial for Four Hearts Academy’s future. We must make certain everything goes perfectly.”

    “Yes, sir.”

Shuri stands right outside of the arena doors, ears perked up. He faces away from the door and makes a few internal judgments. His eyes bounce side to side as his indecisiveness rears its ugly head. He shakes his head, crosses his arms and leaves.