3.2: Reverse Blind

You better believe we were at it all day!

     Rum’s red eyes snap open, irritated from an incomplete rest, ruined by Pan’s rhino snoring. He looks at the panda-shaped clock on her nightstand and it reads 8:08 am. Since class time is drawing near, he neglects to go back to sleep. Instead, he chooses to have a little fun. The rhino snoring is just one of Pan’s morning ticks he finds charming. He reaches over the heavy sleeper and grabs the lanyard with his ID on it. He wiggles the end of the lanyard over her nose. She stops mid-snore to sneeze, a cute high-pitched noise. Both the sneeze and the resulting glare amuse Rum.

     “If you don’t want me to mess with you, you shouldn’t sneeze like a mouse,” he says.

     “Oh, yeah? Then you shouldn’t be ticklish!”

     Pan dances her fingers along his side. His cheeks are puffed full of air as he tries to contain his laughter. He loses that battle when she reaches around to tickle his other side, too. He wiggles all around to escape her clutches. When he opens his eyes to search for an escape route, his gaze locks with hers, and the tickling stops. Together, they realize that she’s directly on top of him.

     Pan slides her fingers over his hand and he interlocks them. She lowers, pressing their bodies close, her lips inches from his. He can feel her breath brush his lips, the heat setting his heart ablaze. He can feel her heartbeat through their connected hands. He blinks when it flatlines.

     Pan vaults out of the bed in a panic, taking the bed sheet with her. She races across the room, clothes littering the floor. “Damn! I didn’t realize class was so soon! Gotta shower! Gotta brush my teeth! Comb my hair!” She plucks clothes from her dresser while fessing with her bedhead. “Gah, I’m such a mess!”

     Rum stands and grabs the bed sheet. “Pan, you okay?”

     “Yeah, yeah, just, y’know, class calls!” She grabs her scattered toiletries. “You can see yourself out, right? Cool!” She bangs the door shut behind her.

     Her sudden retreat stings. Rum’s still sleeping over primarily as a precaution but it felt like what was happening was natural. He mulls it over as he tends to her sloppy quarters.

     She said she wasn’t ready but I thought she’d dive in just now. She’s never been shy about us being physical before.

     He laughs, recalling the last time they were at Jupiter Mall, ducking into a toy store to avoid Aven. He wasn’t entirely on board with her penchant for PDA. Expressing himself that way in front of others is not easy for him. He smooths out the bed sheet, tucking the sides underneath the mattress. He straightens and looks up at their drawing taped on the ceiling above the bed.

     And I thought the drawing put us back in our little bubble of heaven.

     The images of Pan in love with the armadillo and himself in awe of the stingray were just two of the adventures they had during their week alone.

     But it was only a week. We both had to face the worst parts of our lives after that.

     Rum collects her dirty clothes from the floor, mainly Arrowhead apparel, and dumps them into her bright yellow hamper.

     If I’m still struggling with mine, then she might still be struggling with hers. It can’t be easy to divorce your parents. How does she equate that to us, though?

     He grabs his buster sword from under her bed, careful not to scratch her recurve bow in the process. Normally, he’d have on a leather cover for his blade, but he’s trying to take on Tameri’s challenge outside of class. He wants to learn better control so he doesn’t harm things with his sword. It has not been largely fruitful. He hopes nobody notices the little nicks on several door frames he’s been leaving behind. He wraps the magnetic sash around his body, his blade fitting snugly against his back.

     He goes to Rum to prepare for class, and to give Pan some space to calm down. As usual, Fain’s gone when he enters. The two sides of the room are divided by a canvas acting as the line of demarcation. The right half of the canvas has a poorly drawn katar on it. The side of the room adjacent to the buster sword drawing is flooded with different sketches and paintings taped and stapled to various surfaces respectively. Rum starts to move toward his dresser, which is covered in sketches of deserts but ends up at his desk.

     Aside from a row of textbooks lined at the rear, the only things on the desk are a lamp, assorted markers, and a closed sketchpad. He flips the cover over. The sketch on the very first page is nowhere near as polished or stylistic as the others. The outlines are thick and crooked, and the colors bleed into each other messily, some sections darker than others as a result of indelicate pencil strokes. The drawing itself is of an open window facing a night sky with a singular golden star, one much too small to be the sun. Rum touches the sketch gingerly.

     Why did you leave me?


     Rum is annoyed to still have to sit directly between Shuri and Koren. Having to field the nasty looks they gave each other last week was bad enough. While it appears Koren’s cooled off, Shuri has not. He shoots occasional glances past Rum instead of focusing on Pan’s skirmish with Roy. Shuri’s bad attitude distracts Rum from fully enjoying Pan’s victory, scoring over two dozen more phantom hits than Roy.

     Looks like she calmed down nicely.

     “Nice job, Pan. You too, Roy,” Tameri says with soft applause. “So…Shuri, are you- Never mind. You are not ready.”

     “To face you? Of course, I am,” Shuri argues.

     “No, dear, not me. To face Koren. And it appears neither case is true.” Tameri delivers the news with bitter disappointment.

     “One fight with him was enough. I’m over it.”

     “No, you’re not. As soon as I said his name, you had to stop yourself from reaching for your swords.”

     Rum looks down and sees Shuri’s hands fisted next to his twin blades.

     “I was hoping this lecture wouldn’t be necessary but here we are, so be it. Everyone, listen up. This doesn’t just apply to Shuri. Koren, you weren’t here at the start of the semester but you will benefit just the same. But first, why do you think I have you spar using my Blessing?”

     Koren’s ears lower onto his head. “So, we don’t kill each other.”

     “Head up, Koren. This lecture is not to disparage you or your peers but to encourage you to do better. And for the record, your remorseful attitude tells me you’ve matured quicker than Shuri has.”

     Rum snickers but stops when Tameri’s scrutinizing stare settles on him.

     “Why do you think you have the right to laugh, Aurum? You think I put you there to keep those two apart, is that it?”

     “Well…yeah,” he replies meekly.

     “No, dear, you’re mistaken. I decided to put my problem students all in one place.”

     “Problem student? How? I’ve done nothing but ace my assignments left and right.”

     “As have Shuri and Koren. On average, you edge out Shuri in my rankings but Koren has the highest average grades among Zathony’s students. None of you are problematic in an academic sense but all of you have created tension among your peers. And you, Aurum, have caused the greatest ripples. Your attacks against your sister have spread outward, provoking action from Tyra, Pan, Lauron, Professor Cwen, and your sister. Aside from the latter, most have had to get on your case on her behalf.”

     Rum’s emotions have always been in a general flux, tied to the mosaic of colors in his mind. Before starting at Four Hearts, none of the colors ever took up more space than the others, at least not for long periods. However, for the last few months, even when he was calm, he could feel the shades of red taking more and more space from the others. When his anger flares, the mosaic flashes red. Right now, is one of those times.

     “So, again, nobody gets on her case! How surprising.”

     “Again, you’re mistaken. But since we’re on the topic and the three of you are all so invested in Nuria, listen well. We had planned to scold her when her activities of late began to get out of hand. Now, I won’t tell you what the cause was but she broke down in tears at that meeting, feeling like her attempts to rebuild a life here weren’t worth it.”

     She flays Shuri by saying, “She felt her friend had wronged her.”

     Tameri ices Koren’s soul. “She felt her first crush was too good to be true.”

     Rum clashes against her disapproving stare with a stubborn countenance. “She felt like she didn’t belong anywhere.”

     “Because she doesn’t stay anywhere long enough to try to belong.”

     “So, you are still upset about Mount Handreau,” Tameri says.

     “Mount Handreau?” Pan parrots.

     Rum goes from stubborn to hostile. “You don’t know anything about that!”

     “Your mother told me everything, Aurum. During the tour. She gave me express permission to bring you to heel if your behavior became too aggressive. I didn’t think it would.”

     “It’s still none of your business.”

     “Then settle it. All three of you owe Nuria an apology. I expect them to be given soon. Is that understood?”

     “Yes, ma’am,” Koren’s quick to say.

     “Yes, ma’am,” Shuri says, his fists coming undone.

     “No, thank you,” Rum says defiantly.

     “Rummy,” Pan pleads.

     “No, Pan, that’s enough. He’s made his choice. He’ll have to live with it no matter what comes of it. But that’s it for that part of the lecture. We’re moving on.”

     About damned time!

     “So, Koren, the reason I have you spar using my Blessing is to teach you restraint and respect. It is very easy for my powers to be fatal. I have to live my entire life cognizant of that fact but that does not mean my powers have to be fatal. The fine line between restraint and respect is control. I control every aspect of my powers; how I use them, when to use them, and how I want others to view them. I could be an assassin very easily but that is not the kind of Ohaida I wish to be. Nor do I want that for any of you.

     “The golden rule is this, everyone. Be the Ohaida- nay- be the Avinian others should strive to emulate. For example, look to Aven.”

     Aven stands with his brand-new scythe and couldn’t look prouder if he tried. A side profile of his smug grin, shadowed cheeks, and piercing dark eyes reflects in the reshaped blade. It is no longer a flat, curved piece of metal. The blade is thicker than before and has two curves to it. One curve extends from the shaft (the same one as before) and comes to a peak, the blade’s top at the valley of the second curve bending the opposite way.

     “He’s taken a great leap forward by earning his OCL- open carry license. His discipline and acumen were tested and he passed with flying colors. It was the new condition he asked for at the start of the year. I waited to put him through the tests, thinking I’d take more of you along. Events that have taken place since changed my mind.”

     “You think I can’t earn my OCL, is that it?” Rum asks.

     “I know you couldn’t, Aurum,” Tameri states.

     “Then let me prove it!” Rum stands, disconnecting his sword from his magnetic sash. “I can fight you without your Blessing and convince you I can strike you in under one minute!”

     “Why should I oblige you given how belligerent and disrespectful you’ve been to me today?”

     Rum’s still heated over the Nuria conversation but the heightened amounts of red are balanced out by pulsing pools of green. He feels those pulses target his eyes. He looks at Tameri softly, expressing remorse for his words.

     “I do not intend to apologize to Nuria but I recognize that I’ve acted out of turn towards you. Allow me this chance to prove I’m ready to earn my OCL. Please.”

     Tameri looks Rum up and down, then turns. “Aven, what do you think I should do?”

     It irks Rum that she puts a higher premium on his input but he can’t fault her given his recent actions.

     “The golden boy’s too honest with his feelings to fake an apology. Give him a chance,” Aven says. The look he gives Rum says he’ll expect a favor in return. Rum nods, not caring what the price is.

     “Very well. One minute, Aurum. Come.”

     Rum follows her onto the sandy ring. He watches the steel of her spadroon sparkle as it leaves the sheath. The size and length of the blade appear dainty but he wouldn’t underestimate Tameri if she wielded a butter knife against him. He believes he can get one hit in under a minute but she wins any protracted fight between them.

     Fain’s technique isn’t good for lengthy brawls. I’ll show her and him its true value.

     “Aven you will count our sixty seconds, so you announce when we begin,” Tameri instructs.

     Rum assumes his opening stance, holding his blade across his torso, hiding one hand from Tameri’s view. He generates a single blue electric current between his middle and index fingers.

     “Okay, you guys are good to go…Now!” Aven announces.

     Rum vaults his sword and rushes Tameri, using his lightning-call to send his sword straight into the air. Tameri doesn’t linger on his sword as long as he wanted and moves into his path swiftly. He dodges her initial thrust but she corrects her attack angle in that same motion.

     She’s using Fain’s technique offensively!

     Rum points his sparking fingers down and commands his buster sword to slam the tip of her spadroon into the sand. He cancels those sparks before gripping his sword, not wanting to electrocute Tameri. He keeps the pressure on her spadroon, using his sword as a fulcrum to slide into an arch, hoping to trip Tameri. His legs pass through her.

     Damn it! I forgot about that! I need to make her stay solid somehow!

     Tameri wrests her spadroon loose and goes on the attack again. Rum keeps himself from being hit, countering with Fain’s parry and slide technique. He matches Tameri’s speed because he’s spent his entire life getting used to his buster’s sword’s weight. He’s able to defend against Tameri’s attacks comfortably.

     But I’m not here to defend!

     He squints his eyes after the next flurry of exchanges, the light glinting off her spadroon striking near his eyes. His next tactic comes to him instantly. He stops his retreat and forces her to unleash another flurry of thrusts. He sees the light travel up her spadroon, turns his sword laterally at the right time, and hits both her eyes with the reflection. He doesn’t wait to see if she’s stunned because he knows it would waste his chance if he has one. He performs the leg sweep again, this time pulling it off. He kneels over her immediately and sticks the end of his pommel in her face.

     Rum’s chest rises and falls rapidly but he looks down at his stunned professor proudly. “I told you I could do it!”

     “Woo! Go, Rummy!” Pan cheers.

     “Not bad, Sparks,” Aven comments.

     Tameri smiles and shuts her eyes for a moment. “That was far from not bad. Aurum just demonstrated excellent swordsmanship. He was able to read his opponent and found a genius way to render my counter useless.”

     “I knew you’d cancel your power while blinded to avoid harming me, so I rushed in during that time.” He climbs away from Tameri and extends his hand. “But you don’t have to prolong the ad news. I know that I failed. I was counting. One minute and twenty-seven seconds. That’s how long I took.”

     “One minute and twenty-eight seconds,” Aven corrects tersely.


     Tameri graciously accepts his help but sighs ruefully afterward. “Aurum, that’s not why you failed.”

     “What do you mean?” he asks.

     “I am happy that you’ve learned from Fain but that is not what I meant for you to emulate. If skill was the only bar to one’s OCL, every single one of you would have them already but it goes beyond that. Your mentality and attitude play huge roles, too. And Aurum, as it stands, yours are off-balance.”

     The pools of green in his mind lose their places to all kinds of red hues. “You can’t be serious! Is this about Nuria again?”

     “No, this is about you, Aurum. About what you can’t face.”

     “That doesn’t make any sense!”

     Tameri shuts her eyes and sheaths her spadroon. “Which is precisely why you won’t be getting your OCL. Take a seat, now. Others have yet to take their turn.”

     Rum scoffs. “I can’t believe this! This is ridiculous! I’m out of here!”

     “Then I guess you were wrong to judge your sister,” Tameri calls to his back. “She isn’t the one with trouble staying. You are.”

     I can’t fathom why everyone seems to see Nuria’s side over mine. She abandoned me. She won’t tell me what she went through, no matter how much I beg. If everyone here is going to take her side, from Tyra to Lauron, the professors, and Pan, which stings even more after the morning we had, why would I want to stay?

Rum slams the door roughly.

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