Upturn: Chapter 8

After a long hiatus, the saga of Upturn continues!

Step. Parry. Step. Parry. Step. Slash parry step back parry slash. Step…

Lauryn had been training for hours, but she wasn’t beginning to sweat yet. Her body was so accustomed to the motions of Shii-cho by now that it barely affected her more than sitting around all day. To push her endurance with these simple exercises, Lauryn estimated she would need to stay at it for close to 30 hours, testing her ability to stay awake. Her instructors and some of her peers criticized the time she spent on beginner moves, but the energy and speed it granted her while sparring proved her point, to her mind.

As if to challenge her thoughts, her counselor, Elena, bowed to her. Paladin training sessions were strictly silent, so hand signals, bows and salutes were common methods of communicating. Communication itself wasn’t a problem, in the eyes of the Great Paladins; rather, shouted commands and challenges that distracted everyone present from their training was. The bow was either a signal of respect for a superior or, in the case of Elena and her pupil, a challenge to a ritual sparring match.

Lauryn immediately finished her practice kata with a slash and pivoted to face her instructor. It wasn’t unheard of for Elena to challenge her, but it was rare enough to bring a bead of perspiration to her brow. For a moment she anticipated her long, dark hair slapping her in the face from the speed with which she turned, before remembering that today she had had the foresight to tie it into a tight bun. The sixteen year old Paladin bowed to the elder lady in front of her in acceptance, and they both jumped into a flurry of motion.

It was a relatively easy duel to follow- one-dimensional steps, slashes and parries abounded- but it was fast. Both duelists were masters of the simple moves, and the progress of the duel required almost no effort from either of them. Lauryn’s entire attention was able to focus on the situation outside herself- the other Paladins practicing in the garden around them, and of course anticipating and reacting to the movements of her opponent. Wooden swords collided again and again, but neither could claim an obvious edge over the other. Youth and vitality clashed against over half a century of experience, and neither gave ground for long.

Then, suddenly, it was over. Lauryn found herself sprawled out on the floor, her sword four meters away from her reach, and a painful welt on the back of her sword hand. For a second she was confused, and then she willed herself to re-experience what had just happened. In slow motion, she watched Elena step out to the side with her left foot and follow with her right. She landed right next to Lauryn, never stopping the flurry of her weapon. Before she stopped moving, the flat of her sword slapped against the back of Lauryn’s hand. With one more swing at Lauryn’s unprotected and unexpecting side, she knocked the younger duelist to the ground.

Lauryn rose to her feet, and bowed. The realization in her eyes was all that Elena needed to know that her pupil had learned her lesson. She bowed back, and left, with no hesitation.


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