At noon, a slave brought me food. I was expecting Trajan to join me, but he never showed up. I spent the time thinking about everything Sultana and Shahzadi had told me. I also tried to practice my powers. I had spent so much time being afraid of them, thinking that they were only to be used when absolutely necessary. Now I knew I had options. I knew that I could use them, press myself to the limit without serious consequences.
I started with simple things, using my mind to lift the food plates and the silverware. After a while, it became fun, until I tried to move the bed and found out I wasn’t strong enough; I felt a sharp pain. The pain wasn’t in my mind; it was my muscles, my back and arms, almost as if I had been trying to lift the bed with my body and not my mind. I remembered the warning my teachers have given me, that any action I took with my mind would have a repercussion with my body, the experience made me understand the lesson. Dame was always talking about the importance of a strong body to have a strong mind, now I was starting to see why. I needed to improve my body if I wanted to improve my powers.
I rested for a while and then started to exercise; trying to improve my strength and ease the pain I was feeling. I noticed how much the time in bed had affected me. I needed to train a lot to be back where I was when I left the Burrow. I was careful not to push myself too much. I didn’t need to injure myself, after all, Sultana had told me she was going to measure my strength.
It was late when one warrior entered my room. He wasn’t as impressive as the ones I had seen around my mother, but I could tell there was a huge difference between my power and his. The man asked me to follow him, and I did without a word. He guided me through the halls of the Palace. I felt nervous, thinking about Dame, the warriors that had been fighting with Sultana and the scary looking warriors who were always around her. I was way over my head. We crossed various soldiers in our way. All of them were scary; they looked stronger than the teachers of the Burrow. They looked confident, strong, and powerful. They had a different vibe than the one the teachers had.
It felt as if we had been walking forever, even as I had to run just to keep up with him. Finally, we arrived to a huge door, when we stepped inside I noticed that we were back at the place where everything had started. We were in the arena at the end of the tunnel that leads to the Burrow.
The first thing I heard was the clang of metal against metal, it reminded me of swords clashing against one another, and then I noticed that Lobishomen and Shahzadi were indeed fighting in the arena, each of them holding a sword. I saw Lobishomen trying to hit Shahzadi only for her to move out of his reach at the last second. I was surprised at Lobishomen strength when his sword hit the floor and opened a gash. I noticed his movements didn’t look so fast anymore, and his hits were weaker, then I saw Shahzadi’s face, void of any emotion, like an empty shell.
“Lobishomen gets his strength from the emotions of those around him,” I haven’t noticed that Sultana had approached me until she spoke. “Shahzadi can control her emotions and those of the people around her. Together they’re almost unstoppable, but when they fight each other some interesting things can happen.”
“So, Shahzadi is taking away Lobishomen’s strength?” Without emotions to feed him, Lobishomen wasn’t able to fuel his strength; Shahzadi was slowly draining him.
“That’s right. She’s a powerful empath; she can do more that feel emotions. She can create, control and suppress them. However, it is not an easy task, and I’m not sure how long she will be able to pull that off.”
The battle in front of me was mesmerizing, the sound of swords crashing echoed in the place, making some kind of hypnotizing music. There were few people present, everyone was silent, watching the spectacle. Suddenly, after a powerful exchange both swords flew away, Shahzadi moved swiftly and turned, I thought she was going to hit with her elbow Lobishomen’s stomach, but instead she let herself fall into his arms.
“I got you,” announced Lobishomen as he wrapped Shahzadi in his arms.
“Only because I let you,” responded Shahzadi as she put her own arms over Lobishomen’s, “besides, I also got you.”
“Please, leave the games” asked Sultana as she walked to the smiling couple “It’s time to get down to business; this is not play time.”
“Of course,” Shahzadi started walking towards me, and something in her eyes scared me. “Come girl, let’s see what you’re capable of.”
I walked to her and meet her halfway. Lobishomen was a step behind her. He had the swords in his hands. He extended one of them to me, and I took it. It was heavier than I thought, and I almost dropped it, having miscalculated the weight. I heard some of the warriors laughing at my clumsiness. Shahzadi was especially loud. Sultana wasn’t laughing; she was giving me a cold stare, and looked angry, and it hurt more than the laughs around me.
I adjusted my grip and lifted the sword. Lobishomen was still holding the other sword, and I wondered for a moment what I was supposed to do. Suddenly, Lobishomen raised his sword and let it fall over me. I reacted by instinct and moved to the side to avoid the sword, falling as I did it, then I lifted my sword to stop the next attack.
Lobishomen was staring at Shahzadi, and I took the opportunity to stand up again. My arms were hurting from the strength needed to stop Lobishomen’s attack, but I ignored the pain and lifted the sword as I took a defensive stand. As I waited for what was next I noticed the cut in the ground where I had been standing, I shuddered at the thought of what could have happened if I hadn’t moved in time.
“Good reflexes,” Lobishomen said to Shahzadi, “for her age.”
“Try again,” was all she said.
Before I could react, he was in front of me, I didn’t have time to block and received a nasty hit that sent me to the floor. I saw the sword approaching me. I let my own sword go as I fell, and had nothing to block the attack with, nothing but my mind. I used my telekinesis to stop the sword, focusing on it to stop, and it did, just an inch from my face. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop it for long, so I rolled to the side searching for my own sword and putting enough distance between us, so I could defend myself from the next attack.
“Good job little one, this point goes to you,” said Shahzadi in a business-like tone that was so rare in her. It was scary.
Both Shahzadi and Sultana were difficult to read, neither of them was reacting to anything that was happening. Lobishomen was slowly approaching me. I tried to keep the distance between us, but it was a fight I could not run away from. I decided to strike, running to him and attacking, but he blocked me easily and disarmed me. I tried to move out of his reach, but he was able to hit my arm and left a superficial cut. For a few minutes, all I could do was dodge. His attacks that were steadily getting closer to me. Soon I had two other cuts across my arm and my side.
Lobishomen started to walk towards me with a sword in each hand, and I felt a shiver down my spine. He was just a couple of steps from me when he nailed the sword to the floor. He wiped the blood with his hand and then observed it for a while, as if he was trying to convince himself it was real.
“She has imagination and is resourceful,” said Lobishomen to Shahzadi, “and she’s quick both on her feet and her mind.”
“I’m sure that if we were testing her on running away and dodging, she would have excelled,” said Sultana. “Shahzadi, do whatever you think is best.”
“As you wish Sultana.”
After that Sultana, Lobishomen and Shahzadi left the room without looking at me.
“Follow me,” ordered the same man who had guided me to the arena. I obeyed, not knowing what else to do. I was confused and wasn’t sure what had just happened.
When I reached my room again, there was food prepared for me. I was left alone and ate in silence, wondering what had happened. Did Sultana think that I was a coward? Had I failed the test they gave me? Thinking about that and a lot of other stuff I fell asleep.
I woke up as the door was opened, Trajan entered the room quietly, as if trying not to wake me up.
“Hello Trajan, how was your day? Where have you been?”
“I can’t talk to you.” I was frozen by his words, his coldness. He had been so friendly before, I had felt a real connection between us, like we had known each other for a long time, but now… “My father asked me to keep away from you. I can’t disobey him.”
“But… why? What did I do?” I wasn’t sure why I was so hurt by his words, but the idea of not talking to him saddened me.
“Sultana wants you as her heiress, which means we are enemies,” he said as he climbed on his bed and turned his back on me. He didn’t say anything else, I just stood there trying to understand. What had Kamose told him to make him hate me so much?
Kamose came for Trajan as soon as we finished our breakfast. I was feeling abandoned, then the same warrior who had come for me the day before entered the room carrying a backpack.
We walked through a different route than the day before. After a while, we reached a door that took us outside the Palace. For a moment, I was blinded by the light. The man had to push me for me to keep walking. We reached a wall and crossed it to get to a patio that was filling with people.
“Warrant officer” called my guide to a man standing close to the wall, in front of him were various soldiers, most standing in groups, just a few alone. Most were young like me, but some were standing next to adults. “I brought you a recruit.”
“Lieutenant,” said the warrant officer to my guide before turning to look at me. “What’s your name?” he asked me.
“I’m Kaiserin from the Maxima Family.”
“Yours?” he asked my guide.
“No, but none one of her parents was available, so I had to escort her.”
“Do you have her assignment?”
“Yes, she was assigned with sergeant Cervo, and it was recommended that she get the rank of corporal,” answered the lieutenant as he passed some papers to the warrant officer.
“Ok, I will take the recommendation into account,” said the warrant officer as he took the papers, then he looked at me, and I felt really small under his gaze. “Welcome to the defense division. Welcome to the rest of your life.” He smiled and I froze, scared of what his words could mean.
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