Thunder roared in the night as feet rattled against the concrete paths. Chains smacked the already bruised skin, creating a cacophony of lustrous sounds which were heaven for the Director’s ears. With a delighted smile she observed how her students broke through each other, aiming for their dinner. After all, that was their one and only goal – if they did not manage to reach their piece of bread within an hour, they would be left with no food until tomorrow morning. There was, of course, a catch – the supplies were limited.
“Should we give them a break, madam? They have been going at it since noon.” A timid voice uttered.
Red lips froze in a thin line. The once eerily happy expression morphed into a barely visible scowl. Nonetheless, it managed to scare the poor girl. She fidgeted while she tried to cover her glistening brown eyes with her muddy fringe. The director smirked once she noticed how she could affect even her own assistant. It seemed her power had yet to fade away.
“Damn it! Give it back!” Someone suddenly screamed, directing the director’s attention to herself. Icy blue eyes observed with utter disgust how her granddaughter fought for a muddy piece of bread. For a split second she contemplated whether it would be useful to exit her office and go out into the pouring rain and the girl. Soon, however, she shook her head and smirked. The scene was far too amusing to be ruined.
“Shouldn’t we help her?” The timid voice spoke again.
“No.” A gelid voice answered. The director crossed her arms in front of her chest. With emotionless eyes she continued to observe the brawl.
A poor petite body was tossed back and forth between three other, more muscular forms. Vulgar words were shouted as her head was bathed in dirt. Spits followed, successfully increasing the embarrassment and pain. Elisa tried with all her might to run away, but whenever she managed to escape one or two pairs of hands another one would appear and grab her. Other times she was pushed toward the wall or splashed with mud. This night, however, there were no heavy punches or kicks. Therefore, she could consider herself lucky.
Suddenly a knee connected with her stomach. Elisa fell to the ground, bruising her knees further in the process. As she was coughing up blood, the two girls were spewing insults. The boy was preoccupied with eating the piece of bread he had successfully stolen from Elisa, even though she had arrived before either of them and, as a result, had received one of the last pieces.
The other students dispersed. After all, even though this time her enemies were only three, nothing intriguing had occurred. Elisa thanked the heavens for the fact that her classmates were easily bored. The same could be said for her pursuers for they left a few minutes ago, munching on what was left of her bread.
It took Elisa around ten minutes to recover. Wobbling, she managed to make it to her room just in time for curfew. In her small room there was only a bed, a dresser, a chair, and a mirror. According to her grandmother, however, she was lucky because in most room there was only a bed and a dresser. Also, Elisa was granted permission to reside in a single room, unlike most of the other students, who attended Amyss Academy.
In reality, Elisa considered herself far from fortunate. Her mother and father did not want to have anything to do with her, but had not had the heart to abandon her when she was still a baby. Instead, they had left Elisa with her grandmother, hoping that the old bat would accidentally kill her during a training session.
The girl snorted. Although she knew that her grandmother would never kill her, she did not feel safe in the woman’s presence either. There was always coldness in those wise, pale blue eyes and there was always stiffness in the director’s posture. Elisa had once day concluded that the only relative she had contact with was more familiar with her assistant than her own granddaughter.
The growling of her stomach put an end to Elisa’s musings. She groaned. The girl ran her fingers through her shoulder-length, blond hair in order to distract herself from the pain and hunger she was currently undergoing. Her blue eyes traced the muddiness on her white shirt and the patches of blood on her beige trousers. She narrowed her eyes once she noticed a white piece of paper, tucked carefully in one of her pockets. Elisa did not remember writing down anything today or receiving a note. Her curiosity was not piqued, however. It was probably just another mindless threat. She received numerous every day because, apparently, being the director’s relative immediately meant that you would have privileges.
The girl scoffed. In reality, she was in a much tougher position than any of the other brats or imbeciles in this hellhole. However, no one was smart or brave enough to voice the truth. Not even her grandmother made a move to defend her, even though the woman noticed long ago the way Elisa was treated. With a soft sigh Elisa grabbed the note and considered unfolding it and reading through it. After a few seconds she rolled her eyes and crumpled it. She then threw it on the floor and closed her eyes with a small smile. At least in her dreams she could escape.
The soft cutting of flesh and drops of blood tainting the ground could be heard in the otherwise quiet forest. Soon the serenity was ruined by the clashing of metal against metal as two dark figures danced around each other. Each movement was carefully calculated and neither found an opening. Whenever one would aim, the other would dodge and vice versa. Whenever a swift kick was made, a solid block followed. Whenever a punch was executed, a grunt and a knowing smirk would follow.
The spar continued for hours as blood and sweat coloured the ground. The black armour both of them were wearing glimmered in the night as the moon illuminated its flawless surface. Even the few patches of blood and mud could not keep it from shining.
“Your speed has improved.” The boy, Allister, commented before he jumped back and blocked the swinging of his enemy’s sword with his own.
“Thanks. You’re not so bad yourself.” The girl, Kelly, responded as she used more force, trying to make Allister lose balance.
Her plan, naturally, backfired. Allister suddenly loosened the grip on his sword, causing Kelly to lose her balance. The miscalculation on her part cost her the battle. Allister turned around sharply and swung his sword directly at Kelly’s abdomen. The girl managed to block it, but soon a series of fast paced attacks followed. Kelly could not predict the final blow which managed to disarm her. Her back hit the ground. When she tried to rise, a deadly edge was pointed at her neck.
Dark brown eyes glared at mirthful blue ones. Allister was obviously enjoying himself mainly because this was one of the rare times he had managed to secure a victory. Kelly, of course, was smothering in anger. They remained in the same position for several minutes. Allister asked her whether she gave up only to receive a negative answer. In the end, he pressed the tip of his sword to the slightly muddy, pale expanse of skin. Kelly retaliated by jerking her head forward, making a few drops of blood leak out of the warm vessels and hit the cold ground.
Allister’s eyes widened. He immediately withdrew his sword which was exactly what Kelly needed. She quickly got on her toes and with a roundhouse kick switched their positions. Allister was now on the muddy ground and she was towering over him. In one of her hands she held a dagger which was aimed at the boy’s heart. It was over. He knew it yet he refused to admit it.
Wind wheezed past his black locks, trying to fill that stubborn head with some common sense and ease the burden of his pride. However, Allister was no quitter. He had never once admitted defeat immediately. It would take hours for him to utter those two bloody words – I quit. He smirked, making Kelly glare once more. Her nostrils flared as the corners of his mouth stretched further. It was no longer a battle of prowess. Now it was a duel of the wills. It would have continued longer, maybe even long after the sun had risen, had a messenger not run past them, hitting one of the trees.
Kelly and Allister escaped the trance they had been under. The dark-haired girl pocketed her daggers, while Allister picked up their swords. He threw Kelly hers, who caught it without even casting a glance his way. The two waited for the messenger to scramble himself upward. With shaky hands the boy handed them two envelopes. Then he put his index and middle finger together and rested them against his forehead. Allister and Kelly did not return the gesture. They were preoccupied with reading about their new mission.
Long after the messenger had left did the two manage to recover from their stupor. Kelly was fuming. She was pacing from one end of the small clearing to the other, slicing dead branches with her already dirty sword. Allister was cursing his luck in his mind, but otherwise there was no indication of his discomfort or disagreement with the mission. He clenched his fists before he rose from the spot he had claimed as his own long ago. Allister then walked up to Kelly and grabbed her sword. She eyed him warily when he glared at her while simultaneously grasping her shoulders. He applied too much pressure and made her wince. The boy smirked when he received the reaction he had been waiting for.
“I refuse.” Kelly uttered.
Allister chuckled and then gazed at her. Kelly felt sweat drip from her forehead and dread fill her stomach. She hated the glint in his eyes. It always meant trouble regardless of whether only the two of them were involved or an entire army.
“Then, pray tell, what are you going to do? Where will you go, Kelly?” Allister enquired. He then stepped back and gave her space to breathe.
Kelly looked away, refusing to meet his knowing gaze and smirk. After a minute she surrendered. She knew she could not disobey her commander’s wishes. She was aware that in order to fulfill her dream and create a society based on equality and fairness she needed to assist the rebels in dethroning the current dictator. However, she was yet unreachable. Therefore, their leaders had found a better and safer prey – the snake’s granddaughter – and had decided to use their most powerful and skillful warriors in order to abduct the girl. Naturally, Kelly Kraft and Allister Walker were among them.