The next morning, Elora met me outside in the gardens for our first day of training. It was different to see her in trousers instead of a skirt, but she needed to be able to move more freely to learn the moves first.
I held out a small wooden dagger to her, and she took it in her hand. “I’m not going to learn with the real thing?”
“You will eventually,” I answered. “But I need to make sure that you understand how to handle it first before you accidentally lose a finger, or stab someone.”
“And by someone, you mean you?” She raised her eyebrows at the question.
I rolled my eyes. “Okay, yes. Though I have a high pain tolerance due to this,” I tapped the crystal. “Still doesn’t mean I go looking for it.”
She smiled. “Alright, where do I start.”
And we began. I slowly showed her some tricks that would help her handle a blade better. She slowly began to catch on, and I saw improvement as we continue to train. And during the time, we found ourselves laughing and having fun whenever something was slightly wrong. During one movement, she turned and tripped over her own feet. I was able to catch her easily. All she did was look up at me and laugh.
“Alright,” I said after a few hours of work. “Let’s try it.”
Her smile fell. “Try it?”
I nodded. “Attack me.”
“It’s wood, Elora.” I encouraged. “And I doubt you could truly hurt me. Now, attack me.”
She bit her lip and took the fighting stance I had taught her. She charged forward and slashed at me. I quickly evaded and moved to the side. I grasped my hands behind my back and smiled as she looked back at me, almost as if she were saying ‘how dare you evade like that.’
“I thought you wanted me to attack you.” She stood up straight.
I nodded. “I did. And I want you to keep trying until you land a hit on me.”
“Luna, that’s impossible.”
I chuckled. “Only if you believe it to be. Now, attack me again.”
She rolled her vibrant purple eyes again and leapt forward to attack again. I moved away once again, and she continued to attack like I had asked. I didn’t lift a hand as she kept going. I couldn’t help but grin at her determination. I moved to the side at one of her swipes of the wood blade and I reached and grabbed her wrist. With one swift motion, I twisted her arm behind her back in such a way that she faced me and was pinned against me. My other hand went and took the false blade away from her. But I didn’t release her.
“Let me go, Luna.” Her frustration began to show through, and I knew I wasn’t truly being fair.
“You can figure a way out of this hold, Elora.” I gazed down at her. “Think about it.”
She tried to push me away and twist to free her hand, but she was thoroughly stuck.
“You can do it.” I encouraged.
She stopped her struggle and looked up at me. Her eyes met mine, and I caught a note of mischievousness in them. She had an idea. But I didn’t know what. A smirk came to her lips only for a moment before she began to raise herself up on her toes. Forgetting where I was and what was happening, I naturally began to bend down to meet her halfway. A quick jump caused her head to impact mine and she crouched down to pull her wrist free of my grasp. Her foot went behind my ankle, causing me to fall backwards where she grabbed the fake weapon from my hand before I hit the ground. Her knee landed on my chest, and she held the wood blade against my throat.
A smile of triumph came to her lips. She had won, and she knew it. My eyebrows raised and I held up my hands in surrender. Standing back up, Elora offered me a hand to help me to my feet. I took it and pushed myself up.
“You cheated.” I observed.
Offering me the fake blade, she cocked an eyebrow. “You set no rules about how I could land a hit on you. And besides, not every fight will be fair.”
I couldn’t help but smile at her. “I’m glad you know that. You did well today. We’ll continue this tomorrow.”
I took the wooden weapon from her and she smiled. She turned her back on me and began to walk away. As tempting as it was to suddenly attack her, I let her enjoy her victory. There was some stuff I needed to attend to as well that required my attention. After putting away the practice weapons, I walked into my childhood home and went to the study, where I pulled some paper and began to write down what I wanted to teach the boys coming later that day.
“How are you doing, son?” My mother asked as she entered with her needlework in hand.
I glanced up at her. “I’m doing well. Just putting together what I want to teach the farm boys.”
“Romos blessed me with a kind and generous son.” She observed. “Where’s Elora?”
I looked towards the door of the study. “I’m not certain. But if she found the library, she would be there.”
“She likes to read?” My mother sat down on one of the chairs close to the desk.
I chuckled. “She adores it. If I remember correctly, she said that she liked ‘being able to explore new worlds.’”
My mother smiled at my comment. “She’s definitely a woman of high worth.”
I stared at the door as if Elora were going to walk through at any moment. “That she is.”
There was a moment of silence before I turned back to writing. I could feel my mother’s eyes staring, and the longer it went the more I couldn’t concentrate. I set down the quill and sighed before turning to look at her.
“I have a feeling you want to say something, Mother.” I said as I clasped my hands and leaned onto the desk.
She didn’t speak immediately. But a soft smile came to her lips as she stared at me. “How long, Luna?”
My eyebrows went together. “How long?”
She tilted her head to the door and glanced between it and me, and I realized what she was asking.
I let out another sigh and squeezed my hands together. “It’s still pretty recent, but I can’t tell you exactly when I realized it or when it started.”
She set the needlework to the side. “And do you feel it’s genuine rather than just because of the situation you two are in?”
“I didn’t feel a sense of danger until we became enemies to the King.” I responded. “Elora on the other hand has had that feeling since her home was attacked.”
“I’ve noticed that she’s very quiet around anyone but you.” She stared down to her lap.
“She’s spent at least a month in a Kingdom that hates her just because her ears are long and pointed. She’s constantly on her guard and scared. I don’t blame her for being quiet. She probably has it in her head that if she’s silent, she’s less likely to be noticed.” My grip on my hands loosened.
“But she seems comfortable around you.” My mother encouraged.
“Probably because I was one of the first people who showed her genuine kindness.” My eyes didn’t leave my hands. “I don’t know if she feels the same though.”
“You can tell her.” She suggested.
I felt some heat rise to my cheeks. “I’ve never courted someone, mother.”
“Why is that a problem?”
I sighed and fell forward a bit. “Because I don’t have the confidence to get the words out correctly.”
She laughed at my antics. “Who knew that my son was brave enough to join the Knights. Constantly put his life in danger for another. Even go against the King himself. But he loses all confidence when it comes to a woman.”
“Are you going to help me or mock me some more?” I looked up at her annoyed.
“You simply have to be yourself, Luna.” She responded. “Be the person she enjoys being around, and you have nothing to worry about.”