And another short piece:
“Stand still, left hand at your back, as if trying to hold your own belt. Breathe properly, deep, not too much, we don't want you to pass out, now do we. Now, raise your right arm, wrists relaxed, son. What you're holding is not a walking stick, but a rapier, a true gentleman's weapon. That's better, now turn slowly, spin on your toes, rise, feel yourself featherlight. Dance, ballet and swordplay are very similar, this is an art of elegance, you must dance, my boy.”
“Relax the wrist, don't it grip with all your might! No need for a full hand, that hilt guard of yours is not only a piece of jewlery, it helps the hilt from slipping through your hand, you need only two fingers to keep this weapon in play. Add more pressure and pinch your index finger and thumb when you want to attack. Thats right, let the moves flow, softly, gentlly, see the point of the rapier dancing. Smaller cross, make smaller crosses, thats how you will bring your weapon to aim much faster. Not like that, spin it wider. If your movements are too stiff, your enemy will know what you are aiming for. Dance, now its here, now its there, make it unpredictable. Hm...I see your tired already. Come, come, now go stretch and remember to breathe properly, relax and warm up again. As soon as your moves become stiff and uneven, its a clear sign that you are too tense, which means that you got tired too quickly.”
Every year, for the last six years I've been listening to this banter of Nicolo de Sotto. At first I thought that he was testing me, that he wanted to check my resolve to become a swordsman. Doing all the same excercises again and again makes me nervous. I feel that I'm wasting my time, as if Master Nicolo doesn't want to tell me that I am hopelessly without talent, too slow and dumb for this art, and is waiting for the moment when I will get the clue. I finally decided to stop this nonsense and end the mistery - I will confront that pompous old Hazat.
Of course, it has begun anew. His lofty philosophical rhetorics, how its natural when you “practice!, practice!” and feel as if you're not evolving, then suddenly you get better and better, faster and quicker, until in the end you realize that you really didn't go that far and that really hard work is ahead of you. He spoke about honest desire, about humble work, he spoke of resolve, preservance, tireless work on the path of becoming a Blademaster, who must again and again reach a new starting point, and start from there, relearning the art anew.
I pushed him away, and with a foul curse at my lips, left the courtyard and abandoned the school. I wanted something in return for the years of learning and practicing. I wished for thrill the of the fight, a true real duel at dawn, to see the look of fear in my opponent's eyes, the smell of sweat and blood soaking the very air you breathe, the life I've been dreaming of since my first lesson in swordplay.
And so it was. My enemies crumbled into dust before my feet. I knew they were just a petty officers and village ruffians, I knew that a real challenge was waiting for me at Agora. But I felt the taste of victory, and the excitement of thriumph over death , like steam rising from a pool of warm blood slucing from my perished opponents right wrist.
Soon the tide will turn. In a duel, after skillfully placed strike or feint, you always expect a riposte, so I expected that minor change in luck. The next opponent I had the honor, or should I say horror to challenge was Rin Li Halan himself. If I listened to my Master's training better, I would have recognised the demon's spawn by his unusually graying eyebrow and birthmark.
What to say? He was so fast, so far ahead of me, and sheer calculated coldness. There was something ritualistic in his measured steps, and the look on his stone face. Someone whispered to him that I was old Nicolo's pupil. With a grin of contempt he announced to me that it was the only reason he will keep me alive. Rini as well knew what means to be Nicolo's student, what it means to learn patience. So I left the duel with nothing more than a large cut across my face, deep and painful. Thanks to it, I realised now what my Master wanted to tell me about becoming the best, I realised how to become a true swordmaster."