Yoh was called up again and demolished his competition, casually becoming the first place victor of the boys’ tourney. Tom realized it now; his hubris was a lie. He had attempted to taunt Tom with his words. It didn’t matter if Tom lost anyhow. Yoh returned to his seat next to Tom and continued on. Tom did the same thing to win third place.

“What, no congratulations?” he asked to break the ice.

“Congratulations,” Tom said absently.

“Ok, let’s put together what we’ve got.  I’d say she has to be no more than thirty years old but no younger than twenty-five. She’s blonde with long hair.”

Tom added on, “She’s a former medic from Discordia. The closest thing I have to her name is A. Schwarz.”

Yoh interrupted, “Hey, if we know that much, I know how to find her. I’ll become a blue knight soon, right? I could just ask my superior that I really want to meet her, and when I present her name, we can narrow it down to double-digits. If I get proper permission, I can match face to name to address, and we’ll be set. Think, Tom. How many A. Schwarz’s are former Discordian military medics?”

“What if you don’t get permission to check records? What if she’s not listed?”

With a smile, Yoh said,” Well, I guess I won’t meet her then. Anyway, I really do want to meet Ms. Schwarz. I haven’t yet thanked her for saving my life. You know, we don’t even know if that knight and Schwarz are the same person. I really want to how someone can be so strong in the face of pure darkness.”

Tom thought of something: Was Blank a method of valor or of cowardice?

“For now, let’s kick back and enjoy the tourney. I don’t know how you do it here, but we won’t be trainees forever. In fact, my partner and I are just a year away from graduation.”

Tom looked puzzled, so Yoh rambled on.

“At Water-lily, education there replaces college. Along with ‘useful’ academic courses, we receive our basic training over four years. We’re put into the system, and we start most of our development in our future squads. The reason we’re put into squads so early is so we can pressure ourselves, form basic tactics, and so we can compete earlier. In fact, this goodwill tournament is nothing special to us.”

Deciding that it was fair to explain Oakwood, Tom answered “At Oakwood, I’m not entirely sure when we’re processed into teams, but almost all grads are become knights eventually. This education is pretty minimal, and we only learn the basics over about a year.”

“I’m glad we’re not the only ones then. Other countries must have their own knights, and most of them mustn’t be imported. I thought I was going crazy when I agreed to go to that death trap. Though I wondered; why do our knights have to be trained to early? Where do they train them? Anyway, just to make sure, you go on patrols too, right?”

“Patrols? No, I don’t fully understand your question.”

“In groups of two or three squads, of about four each, we follow a genuine knight and carry out exterminations. Sometimes, upperclassmen are allowed to go by themselves. I’ve seen some of the better students go alone.”

“I digress, but you mentioned a partner, yet you keep talking about squads and their organizations. Please elaborate.”

“Within our first year, we may form our own squads of two to six, or if you’re feeling lucky, let the system decide for you.”

“You’re dodging my question.”

“About that,” Yoh laughed. “We’re only a squad of two. You see, no one really wanted a martial artist for a partner.”
“Well, why not?”

“What did you think when you first saw me?”

“I understand.”

“So anyway, I was put into a squad by administration, and I was kinda late with the paperwork, so I got the short end of the stick. It seems that my partner and I were the only ones left, so those lazy bastards just abandoned us in an army of two. I have no complaints though.  It’s safe to say that she’s probably the strongest in my year. Just watch, I’ll point her out,” Yoh said confidently. His face was mildly exasperated and undertones of red showed. He stopped talking and gathered his breathe.

“Wait, then that would mean that she’s stronger than you. Was she the girl who was sitting next to you?” Tom inquired. Yoh didn’t answer.


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