Chapter 48

“Aunt Paige, you said you were going to teach me how to use a sword! All you’ve done so far is teach me how to stretch, spin and play around!” Markus threw done his stick angrily, his face scrunched up in frustration. Paige sighed to herself as she watched Markus from the side.

“This is how I learned how to use a sword. It works, Markus. Just trust me.”

“This isn’t even a sword! Tyler’s teacher let him use a sword, and you even gave him a sword after he learned [[Shield Bash]]. All I have is a stick with a rope attached! This isn’t fair!”

“Paige, you might want to show him the end result. Even I would say it looks…childish, to say the least,” Zenith coughed from the side. When Paige had told Markus after breakfast that she was going to teach him how to use a sword just like she was taught, even Zenith stopped what she was doing to watch. But all she had shown him so far was how to move rope on a stick.

“It’s called a twirling ribbon. But that’s not the point. You really can learn how to use a sword this way.” Paige frowned as Markus picked up his stick and thrust it out. The rope drug across the ground as Markus moved forward at a steady pace. It wasn’t supposed to look that way.

“Markus, faster thrust with the point slanted upward!” Paige yelled out suddenly. Markus tilted the end of his stick slightly upward instead of parallel to the ground. Paige watched as the rope danced slightly off the ground. “That is what you want to feel when you thrust.”Beckoning Markus to her, she lightly took his practice weapon and sat him down next to Zenith.

Taking a simple fencing stance, she angled her body so that she was facing to the side with her weapon pointed inline with her body. Breathing in, she quickly dashed sideways and thrust forward repeatedly. Zenith and Markus watched as the rope floated parallel to the ground, snapping rhythmically in time to her thrusts. “Step forward slightly and thrust, pulling back once your back foot completes a small step. Watch my rope, Markus, it never touches the ground after the first thrust. What did you notice from my example?” Paige stopped and grabbed the rope before it fell to the ground. Smiling, she knelt down and waited expectantly waited for an answer. She could tell that Markus was really thinking about how the rope moved.

“…the rope swayed side to side instead of up and down?” Markus asked hesitantly.

Paige stilled. “Good job, Little Markus. I wasn’t sure you would have seen that. Every weapon will have its own specific rhythm. That is why most fighters will have a specific preference on what type of weapon they use. My lessons, while a little unconventional, will teach you the fundamentals for each type of attack. Slash, thrust, sweep, parry, block. Maybe by the end, you will realize what else I am trying to teach you. But for now, practice twirling the rope. Just do whatever you feel is natural,” pushing Markus back to the clearing, Paige waited until he started before she sat down next to Zenith.

“Is this really how you learned, Paige?” Tyler asked doubtfully. “Why not teach him the normal way, with a dummy? He won’t be able to replicate what you did for at least a few months, and by that time it might be too late to fix any problems that arise from this.”

“I wasn’t allowed to practice swordsmanship in the Imperial Palace, so I did the next best thing. Trust me, it works. Even Grandmaster Flynn agreed that the theory behind using a twirling stick is sound… not that he used any of this in his own lessons.” Paige added after a moment.

“Grandmaster Flynn? I haven’t heard of him before. Was he important?”

“He was. He was the head combat teacher for Imperial Scions when I was still there. He… he was the one who helped me gain a Warrior subclass when I was still a Princess. He was the one who helped me plan a way to escape.” 

Tyler whistled but noticed what Paige had said. “Hm, Zenith told me about how you forced the Imperial family to turn over their magic research to everyone. I thought that was a little unusual for you. But it makes sense to do it that way if you had someone planning it for you and you just followed along with it… You said was. What happened to him in the end? After your escape?”

“He was tasked to hunt me down. He refused and paid the price.” Paige said after a long moment. She smiled sadly as she watched Markus swing his stick randomly, going from a thrust to a slash and awkwardly stopping as the rope got in his way. She probably looked just as ridiculous when she was young. 

Zenith wrapped her arm around Paige. “Do you think this will work for Markus?”

Paige shrugged after a moment. “If it doesn’t, I’ll switch over to traditional teaching methods, though Tyler might have to teach some of the skills instead of me.”

“Hah! Ho, Hah!” Markus thrusted his stick forward, the rope tied at the end dragging across the ground. He stared hatefully at the coarse, woven rope. Aunt Paige had made it look so easy! He still didn’t know what he was doing wrong. Looking over to his aunt, he noticed she was talking with Aunt Zenith and decided not to interrupt whatever they were talking about. 

Thinking back to his dreams, he frowned as goosebumps formed on his arms, exactly where he was hit in his dream by a grumpy looking old man. “A THRUST IS MEANT TO KILL THE ENEMY IN ONE HIT! SNAP YOUR ARM FORWARD AND PIERCE THE TARGET. GO -“ 

“A thrust is meant to put an enemy on the defensive. But a bad thrust will put you on the defensive instead. Every motion of your sword is dependent on how you move. Gather up your energy and step forward first, then thrust your arm out. Otherwise, the rope will never get off the ground.” 

Markus startled and turned to see Aunt Paige staring at him. “You are being too forceful with your thrust, Markus. Watch me again.” He nodded and sat down to watch. His aunt was a much better teacher than that grumpy old man. And nicer too.

His aunt was amazing though. Even as a Farmer, her teachings matched what the old man said sometimes, if in a roundabout manner. Which brought a question to mind. “Hey, Aunt Paige? Why do you know so much about fighting?”

“Hm? Can’t a Famer know how to fight?” Paige stopped her thrust and looked at Markus wryly.

Markus knew that her aunt was trying to distract him. It wouldn’t work today! “Lily and Tyler said you all are too powerful for the classes you have.”

“Mhmm. And Lily and Tyler are better than their classmates now. So, what does that mean about us?”

“You… you had a good teacher? Or you are hiding something?” Markus asked with a tilt of his head.

“Or both. Maybe one day we’ll tell you Markus. But right now, I am just a Farmer. Zenith is just a Teacher, and Nick and Tyler are a Bower and Merchant. I promise.” Paige said seriously. Markus watched her face carefully. She was serious, he realized. Right now she was a Farmer, than wha-.

“Everyone has a secret, Markus. You shouldn’t pry into your Aunts and Uncles.” Lily sighed as she tapped Markus on the head.

“But you said yourself that they are too powerful! Why not ask them outright before you leave?” Markus said with a whine. 

“Because it’s not our place to ask. Some things just shouldn’t be asked, Markus. Not until they decide when to tell you. My mom tells me all the time that she lost most of her friends that way. That’s why she is hesitant to inquire about Mentor Zenith’s past, even though she knows where she went to school. What would knowing about mentor’s past do to their relationship now? Make it stronger than it already is? Or would it cause problems down the road?”

“I’m sorry for asking, Aunt Paige,” Markus said quickly. How had he forgotten about what Lily and Tyler had told him?

Luckily, his aunt smiled and rubbed his head. “It’s all good. Run along to Uncle Tyler now, Markus. I think he was planning on teaching you some strength exercises. I gotta go and check on all my food plots. Unless you want to read books with your aunt instead?”

“Umm..I’ll go with Uncle Tyler. I don’t like reading books. It’s kinda boring,” sticking out his tongue, he waved goodbye and walked over to his uncle, who was sitting idly on the ground. Markus could already hear his aunt laughing and telling Aunt Zenith what he had said from behind him though. Blushing slightly he sat in front of his Uncle and waited for him to say something.

Being the only child here was harder than Lily and Tyler thought, especially amongst only adults. Each of his aunts and uncles had specific quirks that he had to watch for. Aunt Zenith was the most approachable, but she was also liable to make anything into a lesson. Uncle Nick was quiet and withdrawn and was almost impossible to find in a forest. So any questions he had would have to be asked either before bed or right after breakfast. Uncle Tyler was the most serious of all the adults, and he really didn’t like to ask him any questions. But he did bring treats back, so he was fine to be around. Aunt Paige was the fun one though. There was never a dull moment, although she was kinda weird at times too.

And Aunt Paige was the leader. That Markus was sure of. Everyone usually deferred to her decisions and she had the final say in most matters. Or so it seemed to him anyway. He knew of their late-night discussions, but after the fifth time they caught him sneaking about, his punishments went way up.

After five minutes of sitting, Markus hesitantly broke the ice. “Umm, Uncle? Thank you for the treats. Did you want me for something?”

“Look at the sky, Markus. What do you see?”

Ugh. “… a few clouds, some mist, Miss Paige’s pet bird. I think that’s it.”

“Time flies by fast. Just four years ago the mist was so thick it could almost block out the sun. You were also just a little baby back then. Now look at you, you are almost seven years old now and the mist is sputtering away.”

“Umm, you were also fat back then. Lily and Tyler made fun of you a lot because of that.”

Tyler laughed softly. “True, I was rather large back then. But that should tell you what I am trying to get at.”

Markus frowned. Did clouds have something to do with time? “I really don’t.”

“Time waits for no one, Markus. What do you want to learn?”

“How to be an Adventurer! I want to join Lily and Tyler’s party, but they said I need to have a Class first. But I’ve tried to get a Class, and my Class is still Commoner.” Markus noticed Tyler hesitate. “Can you teach me how to get a Class? I want to be a Swordsman! Or maybe even a Sword Master!”

Tyler whistled. “Not a Warrior?”

“Nu-uh. Lily and Tyler said a Warrior is weaker than a Sword Master. So I want to be strong enough to join a party.”

“Haha, don’t let your Aunt Paige hear you say that,” Uncle Tyler said as he stood up. Markus filed that comment away for later. His uncle looked at him as he started to stretch, seemingly trying to gauge what to teach. “Well, Paige gets first dibs on training, and she is already teaching you how to stretch, balance and swordplay. So, what can I teach you… tactics? No, you were there when the other children were learning… you said you want to be a Sword Master? Then how about I teach you how to parry correctly?”

“That won’t mess up Aunt’s lessons?” Markus was confused. He already said Aunt Paige was teaching him swordplay. He had watched Tyler train, and parrying was definitely something he considered swordplay. Or would it be shieldplay in Tyler’s case? 

“Parrying, if you remember from my lessons with young Tyler, is about timing and decision making. But since Paige is teaching how she was taught, maybe I should do the same as well,” Tyler said with an unnatural smile. 

Markus decided he did not like the look on his Uncle’s face. Not one bit.

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