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ZaiWin tilted his head back and couldn’t help but gape.

True, he’d spent the entire previous day jumping from tree to tree, atop wood platforms build several feet above the ground. But this …. This could never compare.

Surrounded by the tallest trees he’d ever seen, he couldn’t stop staring at the small planks that bridged the gap between them. A rudimentary ladder, built against one of the tree trunks, led all the way up there, telling him that they were expected to climb it and fight atop those narrow wood planks.

A gasp of horror finally made him lower his gaze, and he saw a pale, beautiful, blond girl with wide greenish eyes arrive with the other group. She was staring at the two bodies that laid on the ground, to one side, covered with the blankets they had probably been carrying in their backpacks, which meant that at least two kids had already lost their lives in that arena.

His gaze, however, didn’t linger on the girl for more than a few seconds. It also didn’t linger on the dead bodies he had initially simply ignored.

Amongst the other group, taller than most of the other contestants, with his head held high and his hair still intricately braided and adorned in the imperial style, walked Wen CalWan. Of course his red hair immediately identified him as one of the El’Gin, but ZaiWin had the sensation that even if he were to be blond like the girl walking beside him, he would still look as regal, a certain air of superiority clinging to him.

And then it finally registered. Their group too, was missing one element.

CalWan and the two girls that accompanied him stopped right beside them, while the Calzai’s men quickly organized the next round of duels. CalWan didn’t even turn to look at him, as if he had never seen him in his entire life. He didn’t turn to look at his younger brother either, who was sitting down on the ground, leaning against a tree, distractedly pulling out grass as if he were too tired to stand.

Seeing him standing there, ZaiWin couldn’t help feeling a bit excited about the possibility of being able to fight him. Sure, CalWan was five years older than him, which meant he was not only taller but also much stronger. But, even though he would probably end up loosing should he face him, he still wished he could measure his experience in sword-fighting against the oldest of the El’Gin.

And yet, unfortunately, it was not meant to be, he concluded a few moments later, looking down at his green rock. Of the three kids of the other group, he had been paired with none other than the delicate-looking blond girl.

Looking every bit like a porcelain doll, her pale blond hair carefully braided and tied with several knots, even in dressed in the same common clothes as everyone, she was the living image of what a noble young woman should look like. And ZaiWin couldn’t help wonder if she had actually had to fight anyone, that afternoon.

Standing as close to CalWan as humanely possible, pressing her round, full breasts against his arm, her green eyes kept staring at him with nothing short of pure adoration, leaving a sigh on his lips. So she was one of CalWan’s followers, girlfriends, lovers. He had heard all sorts of rumors about the group of girls that constantly followed him wherever he went. And ZaiWin couldn’t help feeling sorry for the poor girl, since CalWan hadn’t spared a single glance her way since they had arrived.

Well, he didn’t care what she might be. He didn’t even care about the obvious fact that there was some royal blood running through her veins. He’d lost the last duel and, taking into account the differences in age and experience between him and RouZen, he could live with that. But he had no intention to lose any more combats, much less against a porcelain doll like her.

“Yellows, please step forward,” one of the Calzai’s men shouted, but GinWan didn’t even blink, still pulling out grass as if he hadn’t noticed they’d called him.

His adversary, however, a girl with honey-colored hair, couldn’t look more pale than that, her brown eyes staring at the planks placed high above their heads. Looking back at GinWan, calmly sitting down, her color became even worse, and ZaiWin was sure she was about to faint.

“I … give up …” she whispered in a weak voice. and the Calzai’s man nodded his approval.

“GinWan, plus one point. JinVen, minus one point. Greens, please step forward. Begin.”

Not wanting to waste time, ZaiWin made his way to the wood ladder built against the tree trunk and started to climb.

The wind brushing through his hair made him take a deep breath and smile. He had always enjoyed standing on high places. There was always a certain silence and a certain sense of security about them, which he was sure no one would ever be able to understand. The wind roaring on his ears was like the sound of a familiar voice, and he couldn’t help wonder how high he’d be able to raise above the ground should he use his daitai in that place.

When he finally reached the wood plank that connect the tree he had climbed and the next one in front of him, he realized that they weren’t as narrow as they had looked, when seen from down below. However they still were narrow enough to make one drop to a deadly fall if he didn’t pay attention to where he stood.

Beside the long plank where he stood, there were four planks, also connecting large, tall, thick trees, but they weren’t connected between each other in any way, meaning one would have to jump to change from one plank to another. And the view from up there … was simply breathtaking, he thought, raising his head, seeing above most of the treetops of the forest all the way to a small village a few miles away from where they were. The several streams and rivers that crossed the forest looked like thin, slithering threads of silver, from up there. And the people down bellow were nothing but a bunch of small dots.

How would they possible be able to judge their combat?, he thought, squinting his eyes, trying to distinguish everyone’s faces.

A huffed sound reached his ears, and he quickly turned around, sword in hand, ready for combat.

The blond girl had finally reached the top of the ladder but the way she was holding her sword made him kind of relax. Apparently she was more worried about holding on to the tree than to actually fight him.

“Hey, kid! Won’t you lose this battle?” she asked with a wink of her greenish eyes, a sweet, seductive smile on her full lips, and ZaiWin frowned.

He couldn’t tell if he was just too young to be swept away by that kind of play, but if that was the case he was deeply thankful for his tender age. And if growing up meant that a wink and a smile would be enough to make him willingly lower his sword, he wished he would never grow up. He had seen ZenTar fall for similar tactics more than once, and it had never ended well for him, usually resulting in several lost pouches of coin and once even his entire clothing had disappeared.

“I can reward you, you know? Have you ever even kissed a girl?”

No. No, he hadn’t. But it wasn’t any of her business, anyway! And why was she talking about that kind of thing in the middle of a combat?

Lowering her head, gazing up at him through her golden eyelashes, she took one hand to the hem of her tunic and slowly started to pull it up, showing him the smooth, porcelain skin of her belly.

Was that suppose to impress him? How? And wasn’t she supposed to be one of CalWan’s followers, girlfriends, lovers or whatever?, he wondered looking down at the dark spots standing down there.

Misinterpreting his shift in attention, the girl chuckled and, when he looked up at her again, she was covering her red lips with one hand, batting her eyelashes at him.

“Are you a timid one? Just as I thought, you have no experience at all, right?” she purred and he couldn’t help slightly blush at that.

“You’re in luck. Up here no one will be able to hear us. In fact, I don’t think they would even be able to see us, if you were to get a bit closer to me,” she went one, slipping a small hand down her pants, her cheeks flustered as she licked her own lips with a wicked grin that sent shivers down his spine.

Enough!, he decided, his initial bafflement and confusion quickly turning into disgust. He did not want to get more traumatized than that! What would he do if, in the future, when he decided to get married and have kids, he ended up seeing that vulgar woman in his memories?

Flexing his legs he turned his sword against her, a serious, deadly expression on his face.

The blond girl froze where she stood, the smile on her face turning to stone, the hand she had slipped down her pants unable to move.

“What are you doing?” she asked through her unmoving lips, and he pulled his sword back as if ready to pierce her with it.

“Fighting. And you would do better to grab that sword of yours,” he declared , his gaze falling to the sword she had leaned against the tree so she could free her hands, and she blinked, apparently unable to believe her own ears.

“Fighting?! Haven’t you heard a single word I said?” she asked and placed a renewed, seductive smile on her face. “Let me win. And I will teach you whatever you want to know about how a girl’s body works. I am sure we will have a lot of fun. We can play all night lon …” The voice died in her throat when ZaiWin lunged forward across the straight plank, stabbing the tree right next to her head, cutting one of her braids in the process.

Since she was taller than him he had to look up to glare coldly at her, and her ashen face and widened eyes told him he’d been successful in trying to scare her.

“Choose. Fight or give up. But if you decide to fight know that next time I will not miss.”

“I … I give up …” she whispered in a very small voice and he pulled his sword free, allowing her to breathe out in relief.

“Then move it! Get down there and tell them exactly that. As you said, I doubt they can hear us up here.”

Pulling herself together, she gave him a look of pure loathing.

“You are such a little kid! No wonder none of the other girls won’t even get close to you!” she spat and he sighed.

Was she an idiot? Hadn’t she noticed that none of the boys would get close to him either? Was she unable to see that he was the only kid around with black hair? Well, that she apparently hadn’t realized that was actually kind of cute, he would grant her that, he thought, watching her sulk as she climbed down the ladder. Of all the stupid things she had done and said, the words she had thrown at him out of contempt had actually been the only ones that had moved him a bit.

Taking a final glance at the amazing and liberating view from up there, he sighed, feeling sorry that he had to leave, and he also made his way to the ladder.

The moment his feet touched the ground one the the Calzai’s men immediately announced the result.

“ZaiWin, plus one. KimWon, minus one.”

Already standing beside CalWan, KimWon crossed her arms and averted her gaze, tilting her chin up as if she were superior to everyone standing around her. How a loser could look so pridefully was beyond ZaiWin’s comprehension.

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A note from Sophia Carpersanti

Well, the kid is only 12, so ... >_>



Language:

El’Gin: Literally el (supreme) + gin (gold). Name given to the male children of the Emperor. Could be translated into prince in the common language.

Calzai: Literally cal (bright) + zai (blade), or Blade of Light. It can be translated in common language as General, one of military leaders of the Empire. Each Province has it’s own Calzai.

Daitai: Literally dai (light) + tai (mark), or Holly Markings, considered Heavenly Blessings. They’re the source of power.


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About the author

Sophia Carpersanti

Bio: Sophia CarPerSanti was born with her mind lost in another world. Not too strangely, writing is her only passion since childhood, and so there's not much one can do to correct what was weird right from the start. Once deprived of writing total mental breakdown follows and yeah, nothing good comes out of it. And so there are a lot of books and manuscripts inside boxes and drawers just waiting for an opportunity to see the light of day. I hope you enjoy my beloved ones as much as I enjoyed creating them ♥

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