Tom and Sally had signed up for the competition and Tom went to the library to research his enemies. Susanoo has three knight corps, each with their own distinct fighting styles.

 The Imperial Guard is accustomed to fighting to protect, so they hold their positions until they find an opening. Tom can use a ranged weapon to harass them until they let down their guard. Then he could run in with a sword.

The Susanoo Blue Knights, once Elodian Knights, fought using innumerable methods. After all, they fight both against darklings and in wars. Tom decided that they were wildcards, but they do have a few things in common. They commonly use tools called “mercurial weapons” which change form to match the users’ wills. Tom would want to avoid close combat with those.

The Susanoo Black Knights, previously called Discordian Knights, are a special task force that serves directly under the king. They probably use many tricks to carry out delicate missions. Tom doubted if he would be able to fight fair against one. And even if he did, he’d probably still be at disadvantage. If he ever fought a trainee that used those sorts of tactics, he’ll have to end it fast and see through all of the tricks, he decided.

The rules of the tourney were simple. Any and all weapons were allowed as long as the blades and bullets were replaced with soft rubber. The opponents fought in single combat until either one is unable to continue or the judges deem so. Magic was allowed, but Tom doubted that he’d see a single spell cast. Ever since the panic in Susanoo six years ago, most able people hid their magic in fear of hate-fueled violence.

Tom had few days left to train. He practiced using his sword in one hand, and a gun in the other. He usually used only one hand when he fenced anyway, and since he was pretty ambidextrous, he was able to land six precise shots in just 7.5 seconds, even with his offhand. He worried more about Sal, the only thing she had going was her superb swordplay, but it won’t be enough.

Sally knew that she was a one-shot gimmick, so she was determined to learn new techniques. She was actually in the same advanced swordsmanship class as her brother, and there she learned draw techniques. Since Tom already had practice with quick draw, that was the one aspect of swordplay that he was superior in.

If Sally could improve on that, she’d be in whole new level when it comes to pure skill. Every day, or rather every morning, she asked Tom to help her train. They didn’t get much done, but in the end, Sally was able to succeed Tom. That much was to be expected of the prodigy.

One morning, right after a rigorous workout, Sally embraced Tom. Tom kind of pushed her away.

“You bastard, you’d thought I’d forget.”

“Forget what?”

“Don’t you ever do that again, confronting a darkling? You could’ve died.”

She started to cry.

Truth be told, it was Tom’s plan to tell her during lunch, so he wouldn’t have to listen to her in front of Stein.
She wiped her face and turned serious, but not with a tone of humor. Tom had never seen her like this.

“You think it’s a joke, what do you think they are? Wild animals? They're manifestations of pure darkness. What a joke! A darkling got Mom; Dad is a wreck because of it. You’re the only one I have left, you jerk. It’s like you want me to be alone. What would I have done without you? You like to think you’re more perceptive and intelligent. Why didn’t tell me about that night? You think I can’t handle it. I’m not the weakling you have to protect, it’s you.”

She had gone too far. She had just been so frustrated, so she let all out on Tom. She waited for Tom to reprimand her. He only smiled silently. He felt the ice around his heart being replaced with heat for a moment.

“You’re right. I'm the one who has to be protected. But you’re also wrong about some things. I don’t want you to be alone, because then I’ll be alone too. I really am the intelligent one, idiot sister; do you think I would’ve done it if I didn’t know for sure if a guard would come? I know I deserve this criticism, but let me make it up to you. I’ll tell you a few secrets, so you better be ready.”

They didn’t need to say anymore to understand each other. Tom could only wonder how she was so courageous.


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