2.1: Versus Tameri

Tameri combs her raven curls as straight as they’ll allow, many retaining moderate waves. She concedes and rises. She grabs the harness for her spadroon and fastens it across her waist, the only non-black attire on her person. She lifts her spadroon from a pair of hooks suspending it above a small, locked cooler. Layers of ice trap the legs of the cooler to the top of her bureau.

     The professor allows her gaze to linger on the cooler. She turns away before the cold it emanates frosts her eyes. She slips into shin-high boots before vacating her quarters. She shuts the door on her cooler with a warm smile.

     Today makes 91.

     Today is also the second Star-sparring day for her freshman class. She was pleased with what she witnessed of their skills before, but today Tameri is actively excited. Other than Rum’s promise, she’s seen the others preparing diligently on their own.

     No doubt Shuri’s gonna have something to prove today. And Aven…I hope he’s learned his lesson, though I suspect not. As for Pan and Roy, I get the sense they’re not quite so fond of armed combat. At least, not in this way.

     Tameri looks up as she banishes her inner monologue and sees all her students gathered before the sparring stage. Rum and Pan are assisting each other stretch while Roy and Shuri do so on their own. Aven, the appropriately dressed black sheep, sits up against the stage with his scythe propped against his right shoulder. His eager gaze shoots for the professor and she reciprocates. The fuse they ignite will blow the moment their blades clash.

     Same look in his eyes.

     “Good morning, everyone,” Tameri says, her silvery voice diverting their attention from stretching.

     “Good morning,” all but Aven says.

     “It appears you’re all more energetic this week,” Tameri mentions.

     “Yes, well, some of us like having more time to prepare for tests,” Shuri says gratingly.

     The professor snickers as she comes to a halt in front of the class. “This is your preparation, Shuri. Or rather, it’s a prerequisite to your preparation.”

     Shuri leers at her. “What does that mean?”

     “If I like what I see today, then I’ll enlighten you. That deal extends to all of you. Show me something I haven’t seen.”

     “Yes, ma’am,” the class chants, save for Aven, though he finally rises to his feet.

     Tameri grabs a large sandbag from behind the stage steps and effortlessly slings it over her shoulder and carries it up the steps. She tears off the top and dusts the stage with sand. She grabs the hilt of her spadroon to craft the star. She twirls on the balls of her feet and completes it with six swift strokes, using the latter to create her circle in the center.

     “One by one, I want you to take the positions I assign to you, and there you will stay for the duration of each round, of which there will be three.”

     Aven rolls his eyes impatiently.

     “Shuri, come and stand to my left, please,” the professor commands. As he does so, Tameri turns to another. “Pan, stand across from him on my right.” Pan nods and takes her place. She readies herself by gripping the bowstring with one hand and the lower limb of her bow with the other.

     “Aven, take the star on my right, facing my back. Roy, do the same on my left.”

     Aven winks at Rum as he follows Roy up the steps. When he turns his back to Rum, sunlight sparkles on his scythe’s blade. His weapon’s version of a wink. Tameri watches Aurum’s spiteful glare in return and clicks her tongue. Competition is good, but those two might take it too far. I’ll have to curb their interactions as best I can.

     “Aurum, front and center.”

     Rum grips his hilt tightly and rests his buster sword over his shoulder. He ascends the steps and delivers a scathing grimace Aven’s way. He lowers his buster sword and grabs the hilt with both hands. “Ready, professor,” he boasts.

     Tameri takes a deep breath as she lowers the timer to the floor. “The moment I rise the first round begins.” She sets the timer to five minutes and releases the trigger. Instead of instantly rising, she stays knelt as the seconds tick away.

     Tameri leers upward and scans the three in her periphery. Rum, Shuri, and Pan stand unblinkingly with solid stances and laser focus. However, just as the tenth-second ticks away, she hears a drop of sweat disturb the bed of sand. Before even rising, the professor rotates on the balls of her feet.

     Tameri knocks Roy’s unsteady arms into the sky, then lightly taps his chest. She turns and slowly takes her place in the center while Roy vacates the star. She faces Pan next, but narrows her eyes when she notices Shuri’s shoulders slump.

     He’s still not taking me seriously.

     Tameri targets the young man. Shuri grins as he hastily forms a guard with both swords and stops her downswing.

     “I was impatient, so I made a pseudo opening to–”

     The professor slips her leg behind Shuri’s and yanks it back, knocking the cocky youth on his ass. She goes and engages Pan without bothering to watch Shuri stalk off sulkily. Instead, she marvels at Pan’s new improvised defense.

     Tameri strikes swift and from a myriad of angles, but Pan uses her bow itself as a shield. She uses her grips on the bowstring and lower limb to control it similar to a staff. She even switches her hand placement expertly.

     “Get a move on, ladies,” Aven says with a scowl.

     Again, Tameri narrows her eyes. She locks her spadroon between the bowstring and lower limb and uses it to guide the bow toward Aven. He deflects it in time to see Tameri blitz him. She pushes him out of bounds with the tip of her spadroon. And again, she turns away without a word.

     Pan holds her hands up in surrender. “Sorry, professor, but since you took my weapon, I can’t continue.”

     The professor blinks when she hears traces of discomfort and fear in Pan’s voice. She watches the young lady go and join the others outside the star. Though the two of them appear unharmed, Tameri notices the same feelings expressed in Roy’s and Shuri’s eyes.

     Today’s a reset.

     Professor Tameri sighs and shuts off the timer prematurely. “I’m sorry, everyone. I’ve started off today’s class on a sour note. Shuri, I should’ve let you explain your clever bait. I fell for it as easily as how perfectly you executed it.”

     Neth is wrong about him. He belongs in my class.

     “And Pan,” the professor says, “I apologize for using your weapon as I did. No true Ohaida would use anything other than their own weapon.”

     “Own weapon?” Rum asks. He lowers his blade when the professor faces him.


     “I’ll explain after class,” she tells Rum. To them all, she says, “Retake your positions, everyone. Round two starts now.”

     “Wait! You’re saying Rum wins that round by default?” Aven asks.

     Professor Tameri gives him a hard look. “Part of a fight, especially one involving weapons, favors one with more patience, cunning, and speed. Lack even one and you’re at a disadvantage. Maybe you can identify which one you lacked and correct yourself this round.”

     Aven grumbles as he takes his position.

     “Now, are you all prepared?” Professor Tameri calls out.

     “Yes, ma’am!” they all shout back, Aven included this time.

     The second the timer rings, Professor Tameri targets Shuri. They exchange a flurry of sword strikes. When the professor attempts to disengage, Shuri forces her continued participation by making her block a wide swing. She makes the young man regret it by moving quicker than he can bring his swords back and shoves him out of bounds.

     “Never continue a skirmish you can’t win, Shuri,” she advises. “Know your limits before giving your opponent the chance to exploit them.”

     Shuri nods.

     With a calm and clear heart, Professor Tameri sets her sights on Rum next. He moves to meet her with an attack of his own. Just before they clash, Rum shuts his right eye tightly and freezes. The professor doesn’t have time enough to stop entirely and crashes into Rum. His splash into the sand bed is met with a sneer.

     In order, Professor Tameri then Rum glare at Aven. He shrugs as his scythe shines over his shoulder. “Why’re you looking at me? Don’t you have advice for the boy on his back?”

     Professor Tameri adjusts her path and approaches Aven. “I do,” she states. “Aurum, observe my next action closely.” She plants both feet into the circle in the center. Aven grins when her boots are one step from entering his section of the star. As the professor lifts her left boot Aven tightens his grip on his scythe.

     It vanishes one second later when she pivots and steps into Roy’s section instead. Aven is left unattended while the other two remaining Ohaida get in some solid practice. The timer goes off just as Roy is defeated, leaving Aven alone.

     “Congrats, Aven. It appears that you won by default,” Professor Tameri says in false praise.

     Aven turns to his classmates when they offer mocking applause. His gaze focuses on Rum, who returns his earlier wink.

     “Look at me, Aven,” the professor commands. “The only reason I haven’t decided to fail you today is that your underhanded tactic wouldn’t have injured Aurum. However, should you continue these dishonorable acts, I may have to exclude you from all future field activities.”

     Aven clicks his tongue in disgust. “This is pathetic!”

     “Excuse me?”

     “I thought you were a soldier! But it appears you’re just a glorified instructor! I bet your title’s even fabricated!”

     “If I were you, Aven, I’d shut your mouth right now,” Professor Tameri warns gravely, appearing right before the young man in a flash. “My title and the events surrounding it are none of your concern. The next time you mention it in my presence without my express consent will not only land you with mere detention. I will file for your expulsion immediately. This is your only warning.

     “Do not speak!” She cuts him off. “To show you understand, I want you to lead Roy, Shuri, and Pan back to the dormitory. I will join you there shortly and explain your grades. Dismissed.”

     Aven grumbles beneath his breath as he leads his peers away.

     “I’m sorry, Aurum. I didn’t wish for class to end early,” Tameri says. She places her spadroon back into her waist harness.

     “I mean, I’m still up to do it, professor,” Rum replies, his buster sword still held high.

     Tameri shakes her head. “No need. I scheduled this session for Shuri, Pan, and Roy. You and Aven gave me plenty to work with before. I just wanted to stir you up during our last meeting.”

     “Oh,” Rum says. “Then why keep me behind?”

     “Because there’s a talk you’re overdue for.”

     “And that is?” Rum asks warily.

“Bond of the Blade.”

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