thirty-four

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"NOT TODAY," HE SAID.

"What?" She span around from the rack of wooden practice swords. "I thought we were doing swords again?"

"We are," Theo grinned. He titled his head towards the wall of swords. "Pick one."

The surprised look on Celestia's face had his grin widening. The left side of the wall in the training wall was filled with many different kinds of blades, all of which Theo had made her study their types and capabilities.

Short swords and longswords and broadswords. Daggers and sickles and knives. Rapiers and falchions and scimitars. Axes and halberds and flails. Katanas and daos and sabres.

For the past month — since she'd promised to begin training with him again — they had been using wooden swords, much to her disappointment. Apparently, getting cut or stabbed while practicing with actual blades happened a lot more than she originally thought.

So, Theo had her starting off the basics with a mock blade to avoid any injuries. She had finally begun to grasp everything he'd been teaching her; balance, stance, timing.

There were other facets, too, that she hadn't considered. Some days, he had her focusing on mental aspects: awareness, serenity, analysation. Others, the need for confidence, deception, intimidation and caution. The lack of rhythm, and importance of timing and distance.

She thought that they wouldn't be starting to use an actual steel blade for a while yet. So, she didn't run over to the section of swords like she wanted to.

"Are you messing with me?" she asked.

He shook his head, feeding off the excitement she was practically brimming with. "I'm serious."

In an instant, she was over by the swords. Theo chuckled behind her, and she pulled off a average looking short sword off the wall. It was heavier than she expected, but not unreasonably so.

He picked up a sword of his own, one similar to what she picked. They went to the middle of the room and stood opposite each other.

Theo made her go through the eight basic attack angles, and then the five main counters, making her attack and defend against imaginary enemies as she did so. She'd gotten the hang of them with a wooden sword, but it was starkly different with an actual weapon.

"Counter one," he ordered, and she raised the blade horizontally above her head while crouched slightly. It was a stance that would defend against an overhead attack. "Angle two, slash." She moved her sword to a position that would allow her to attack straight up, before slicing up at the invisible enemy from their groin to sternum. "Thrust."

She pivoted and lunged forward, slamming the blade through the breastplate of her non-existent opponent. She paused, expecting to be given a break.

"Counter three," he commanded. She parried an attacking coming from right to left by swinging her arm across her body. "Angle seven, strike." She angled her blade and struck horizontally to the right. "Angle three, cut." She cut down the body diagonally to the right.

Her movements weren't anywhere near as perfect as she'd like; each taking her a moment to recall the exact motion and execute it. She had to remind herself that she couldn't be perfect at everything instantly.

"Good," he commended as she wiped a hand across her brow. "Angle eight, slash, thrust."

She followed his orders without hesitation. She started to get the hang of it with an actual blade, her moves coming faster.

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