1.2: A Chance To Smile

For the fifth morning in a row, Shuri is beleaguered by his SD training. His coach, Buck, just jumped right into playing 1-on-1 games with Shuri and told him to use his wits to pick up on the rules, scores, and strategies. Since Shuri doesn’t know how to move to make the ball go certain ways, he lost without ever scoring the first four days.

     He comes close in the first practice game today, but afterward, Buck steps up his game. And if that weren’t bad enough, Shuri seethes at knowing that today, Didaska, is usually when his class meets at the Sparring Fields, no doubt leaving him further behind.

     If only

     A ball to his face silences his brood and knocks him onto his butt. He refuses to rise after, staring up at the ceiling unblinking, tired of playing this game. His coach is inefficient and sloppy at instruction, he still doesn’t have access to his swords, and now he can’t even attend class. He stares at the lights until his eyes are too weary to fight back tears.

     “Okay, all right, I’m sorry!” Shuri hears Buck say from nearby, but doesn’t turn in his direction. “I didn’t mean to make you cry, but your grandfa–” Buck stops when Shuri bolts upright, his fury more intimidating with the tears present.

     “But my grandfather what?” Shuri gets on his feet and yanks Buck close by his collar. “Did he tell you to beat me to a pulp? Did you even argue against it? You sure shared a few laughs about it during lunch. I heard it all, so don’t bother lying.”

     “And what if I did?” Buck swats Shuri’s hand away. “You can’t do anything about it. How would that look for the headmaster?” Buck turns away and sniggers while picking up the ball.

     Shuri balls his fists. “That’s too bad for you, because right now I don’t give a damn about the headmaster!” Shuri’s already lunging at Buck’s back by the time he finishes the declaration.


     “I didn’t put the two of you together to get into a fight,” Headmaster Neth says scoldingly. “If not for Kez, who knows how far you would’ve gone.”

     “Your grandson started it!” Buck snaps.

     “And the next time you hit me in the face with that ball, I intend to finish it!”

     “Shuri, stop! You do not talk to your classmates that way.”

     “So, you give this moron permission to torment me during practice, but I can’t speak to him out of line? Yeah, that’s par for the curse of your treatment of me.”

     Headmaster Neth takes only a short moment to flare his nostrils before turning to Buck. “Stark is awaiting you outside my office. She’ll relay to you your punishment. You’re excused now.”

     Buck curses beneath his breath as he leaves, slamming the door behind him.

     Headmaster Neth sighs gustily. “You should not take out your frustrations at me on other students, Shuri.”

     “And you shouldn’t use them to persuade me to swap classes.” Shuri slams his hand on the desk and pulls a class transfer form from underneath a small stack. “You didn’t hide this as well as you think. Oh, and look at this, it’s already got Professor Tameri’s and Lynald’s signatures. Not sure how you convinced Tameri, but you can’t sway me!” He tears the form in half.

     “Give me my swords back, pick another Ohaida representative, and let me enjoy the curriculum I choose!” Shuri rises out of his chair so fast that it topples over behind him. “Think you can manage that, headmaster?”

     “I’ve told you my restrictions on that first condition. And the Freshman Derby is only a week and a half away. Would you force your class to risk having fewer odds of success by making someone else have to learn it in so short a time?”

     “Two and a half weeks is hardly better.”

     “And you chose to be in the Ohaida class to spite me, isn’t that correct?”

     Shuri freezes entirely, his countenance stuck on anger.

     “I let it slide when you had Tameri smuggle in weapons for you to bond with. I turned a blind eye when you had her order wooden dummies for you to practice on. I’m even allowing you to finish this semester in the Ohaida class. I just want you to take some time and explore your Sulublei heritage, what you inherited from me,” Headmaster Neth finishes his speech softly. “Please, sit.”

     Shuri remains fuming, but he lifts his seat and obliges.

     “Your father went his entire life without ever experiencing Sudita. I never had the chance to show him all the amazing things he could do, and I don’t want my skills to end with me. Now, you’ve allowed me to teach you the basics. However, unless you learn the Sulublei curriculum, you won’t be able to master much else.”

     “And what if I don’t want to learn it?” Shuri asks sourly, still scowling.

     Headmaster Neth hums as he ponders. Soon, he says, “How about a wager?”

     “A wager?”

     “If you win the Freshman Derby, I’ll honor your first and third demands. If you lose, then I keep your swords long as they’re not necessary for your lesson plans, and you’ll immediately transfer to the Sulublei class. Do we have a deal?”

     Nuria’s gonna be plenty distracted by all the stuff with her brother, and her own anger at this whole situation, so I’d only have two real competitors in my way. And unlike her, I need this victory. I can’t become Avinia’s greatest dual-wielding swordsman if I can’t use my swords. So, to get that dream back on track, I have to win this thing!

     “Only if I’m allowed a new coach,” Shuri replies.

     “Very well. Tell me which coach you want and I will notify the corresponding professor.”

     “You’d best tell Professor Zathony as soon as I step outside your door. I know the Vanusi team is practicing now since they always come in on our heels.”

     Shuri turns and walks away without another word, his scowl lessening and fury diminishing the closer he gets to the Star Derby arena. He marches right into the arena and nearly gets flattened by a group of lime jersey-clad joggers.

     “Look alive, Shuri!” shouts the voice he wants to hear.

     He turns and reflexively raises his hand when he sees her coming, her own hand raised, and they high-five each other. “Don’t know why you’re here, but betcha you won’t be able to keep up with me!” Nuria flashes him a challenging smirk before turning away. Just like the day they met, he doesn’t refuse her challenge and takes off after her. She twists around as she rounds the next corner, barely breathing heavy after the maneuver, but it slows her momentum enough that he matches her pace. They lock smiling gazes that switch to more intense stares as they start to race one another.

Too bad, grandfather. If you had said you were going to transfer Nuria, too, then I’d have followed her.

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