So after I made a big deal out of apologizing for being a day late, this is three weeks later that I actually put anything on the blog. As expected, writing challenges don't just disappear when I make a commitment to make them disappear, but I'm working on it. Anyway, the way the writing is going, I can't exactly post in chronological order. Some scenes don't work at all, and some flow out nicely. So today I'm posting my most recent effort. Time to introduce some new characters, neh? Well, not really; but they do come up.
As Yuki and I circled warily, I mused that it wasn't actually all that different from work. All right, so office suits didn't carry swords into the conference room, but their verbal sparring often had the same life-and-death quality.
She moved first, reversing direction and coming in hard with a slash towards my left shoulder. I took it on my left guard and punched out with the other, pivoting towards her, but she just kept moving and ended up to my left with a clear shot at my back. I dropped into a forward roll and winced as her sword cut the air above me.
I spun as I rose, expecting a fast-approaching blade, but Yuki just stood there looking at me curiously. Not questioning my fortune, I started my own charge, hoping to get in close, where my mailed fists would be more effective than her blade. But she danced away, and I had to put up both arms to block a flurry of blows.
"Slow," Yuki taunted as she struck. "Perhaps it is my fault for expecting something. What happened to the skill of the one known as Iron Fury?" She worked my guard high, then suddenly reversed into a middle thrust.
"I'll take age and treachery over youth and skill any day," I retorted. I pivoted around the incoming sword and dropped my right hand down to keep her from shifting to a slash. The pivot ended with my back to the sword, as I reached out for a vicious backhand blow. Yuki traded for a knee to the side, and then it was her turn to fall away in a roll. I pursued, but stopped before a nigh impenetrable steel curtain, Yuki whipping her blade back and forth to keep me at bay even as she rose.
"You say that, but you don't really mean it," she pointed out. "You fight tricky, but you never used tricks to fight. You've laid on a world-weary veneer, but--"
I interrupted with my fists. We exchanged a few blows, sword on fist, then separated. Yuki was the worse off; I could feel a bruise coming up, but she was limping.
"Why'd you cut me off?" she demanded.
"After years apart, you still talk like you know me," I said. "Not to mention you still talk like it's a free action. I'm not here to listen to you. I fight, I take you to the hospital, I go. That simple." I closed in, leading with my left.
And blocking with my right, against Yuki's descending blade. I told you it was her feet, right? Against anyone else two fists beats one blade, but Yuki was already miles away from my intended attack. Not just that, either. Her grin was all the warning I had before I got a hammer blow to the side. I staggered, and she was behind me. I whirled, left arm sweeping below my right guard, but she just came in behind the block and poked my chest with her sword. I raised my arms in defeat.
"So is this what it takes to get you to listen?" Yuki inquired, breathing hard.
"Well, it helps," I replied.
"'Good," she said with some asperity. "Because 'simple' is the last word for our situation, and if it takes a blade to make you listen to an adventurer, I'll leave it there till I'm done."
"Now you're just being contrary."
"Maybe I am," she admitted, smiling. "Besides, inside's better than out for long talks." She sheathed her sword. "But then, the only reason you're not leaving right now is that you know I'm faster. And when I'm done, you'll know why that's worst for all of us."
"All of you, maybe," I retorted. "Worst for me would be--wait a second. All? You mean everyone's back? And how did you manage that little feat?" I looked quizzically at her, but faltered at her suddenly grim expression.
"Not everyone," she said quietly. "Verth never took to townie life the way you did. I found him a month ago, all right--found him with a layer of snow covering the hole in his belly. Word was he'd fallen in with the local thugs, and ran his mouth once too often for the boss." She stared into the distance. I laid my arm across her shoulders.
"The thugs?" My voice was soft.
"Dead," she said, almost without emotion. But her eyes were moist. "Took me a week to root them all out. Not sure anyone else knew who was who--got myself a couple of wanted posters by the fourth day. You know how it is."
"That I do," I sighed. "How about the others?"
"Carran never left," she answered, blinking her eyes dry. "This is his life. Couldn't pry him away from it with a crowbar. Lyran was on-again, off-again. Trying to have it both ways, I'm surprised he never got--caught. Too fond of creature comforts for his own good, the rascal," she grumbled good-naturedly. "We'd pick him up in Plesset and he'd drop out in Deringham, saying he'd never be back. Didn't have your resolve, I guess. Ephestra settled down like you, though. Hell, she was going steady when I showed up. She was more trouble than you, honestly. You don't want to come back, but she didn't want to leave. Love's harder to budge than hate."
"She left, though," I cut in. "Why don't we head back to Folger's, and you can catch me up on why."
"What, you don't want to hear more about Ephestra's exploits?" she asked mischievously. "Time was you'd be jealous."
"Time gone past," I replied in kind, then sobered. "Besides, you may be chuckling now, but last night you weren't so pleasant. Not angry, either, however you tried to fake it." I fixed her with a serious stare. "You were nervous--scared, even. And that's got me more worried than when you had three feet of steel pointed at my chest."
"Yeah, but that's because you knew I wouldn't follow through," she pointed out.
"No, that wasn't it," I replied, moving suddenly. Before she could react I had her in a headlock. She yelped, reaching for her sword, but I blocked her from drawing. "Notice anything?" I asked her casually.
She sniffed. "You didn't break a sweat. But why let me think you were out of practice?"
"Because I wanted to see if you needed me, broken down as I wasn't," I replied, releasing the hold. "Besides, if you'd been going all out yourself I'd have been down at the first blow. Shall we?"
"I still would've won," she said irritably, stalking towards the road. I smiled and followed.
I'll also be editing the first excerpt for continuity and style whatnots.