Took a whilte, but the 8th chapter is here! Thanks for the paitience in waiting.
"…Winner is Francois Devereux!"
Applause echoed around the gym and I closed my notebook. Francois' friends ran out on the floor and gave him high-fives. A few girls tried flirting and he just brushed it all to the side. My curiosity was piqued by these actions, but I turned heel and headed straight for the gym door. Niichan would be expecting me home soon since the fencing matches were over and I didn't want him to worry more than he should.
"Form fencing. Hmph." I muttered quietly to myself. Throughout every match I had seen the differences between niichan's and my techniques versus those of the students who were on the team. The fancy movements that Francois, the one student who had won all his matches, was more of a show than a way to fight. Although I was just a beginner and still learning I was pretty sure that I could go against him and win flawlessly.
Suddenly I tripped over something on the sidewalk and fell. My books and things went everywhere and I stayed there on the ground staring up at the sky for a moment. The sky had darkened slightly during the fencing matches and the lamps that were around the campus were lit. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the tree limb that had caused my fall and I glared at it as I pushed myself up with a wince.
"Do you need help?"
I glanced up to see Francois dressed partially in fencing gear. His mask was under on arm and the rapier he had used was with it. He smiled softly at me and I shrugged offering my hand. "Sure." He took the hand and pulled me gently to my feet. Once there I grabbed my bag and started stuffing books and everything else into it. I made sure the notebook I had at the fencing matches went in first.
Francois handed me the last book that was near his feet and I dropped it into my bag. "I noticed you have been to quite a few of the fencing matches here. Not only the tournament ones, but the practice ones," He said matter-of-factly.
Shouldering the bag I nodded. It wasn't a huge secret. "I watch to compare it to what my older brother has been teaching me."
"Oh," Francois shifted his stance slightly with a not very well hidden look of surprise. "That's intriguing."
"Sure." If you thought women who fenced was something out of the ordinary.
There was a silence as I stared off into the distance thinking I needed to get home very soon. I could almost feel niichan's worry as the silence continued. Francois cleared his throat and I moved my gaze to him as he hefted the things he had under his arm. "I would like to invite your brother and yourself to the next tournament this Saturday. Perhaps after we could all talk about techniques and the such?"
I shrugged; I didn't know if niichan would or not. "Okay. I'll see you Saturday then?"
"Yes. Farewell until then, Miss…?" He trailed off.
"Until then, Miss Jessica." Francois smiled at me and walked off toward the school. I went in the opposite direction hoping maybe one of my friends were about the leave for home and could drop me off on her way.
"Niichan? I'm home!"
"Dear sister!" Out of nowhere he hugged me tightly and affectionately. I hugged back and he took my bag dropping it beside the couch where I usually left it once I got home. "I was beginning to worry. You were gone for a while."
I stretched and walked off to the kitchen. "One of the fencers stopped me after the matches and we talked a bit." A bout of dark muttering entered the kitchen and I shook my head with a soft smile on my lips.
"Which one?" Niichan asked.
"Francois Devereux," Taking a bowl and a box of cereal from a cabinet I made a bowl of cereal as I continued. "He's the new exchange student I told you about."
"Oh, the French nobleman." He came to me with the gallon of milk and sat it by my bowl. "What did he want?"
With a shrug, I poured the milk into the bowl and grabbed a spoon. "He invited us both to come watch him fence this Saturday and talk about techniques."
"Now why would he go and do that?" Mused niichan. I shrugged again and started eating the cereal. My mind drifted off in thought about Francois' intentions over the whole fencing deal.
"It's a date."
Niichan didn't look up from the pot he was studying the contents of. "Another date, another guy to beat mercilessly."
I smiled but knew he wasn't exactly kidding. If given half the chance he would fight and win against Francois. Francois was pretty much giving the chance after the tournament with the invitation to come watch and trade techniques. I was sure trading techniques would involve the two of them fighting and if they did Francois was going way out of his league. I wasn't complaining, but still.
Niichan and I turned at the greeting and he tensed slightly at my side. I glanced at him briefly before turning to Francois saying, "Hey."
"Miss Jessica, it's nice to see you and your older brother have come to watch the tournament." He smiled and held out his hand to niichan. "I am Francois Devereux. It's a pleasure to meet you."
He ignored the hand and nodded slightly. I could already tell niichan didn't like this guy. Part of me wondered if it was from what I already told him or if it was how Francois held himself and that alone was a trigger for niichan's dislike.
There was a silence until Francois clapped his hands together. "Well," His smile faltered slightly. "Let's go on in. The tournament should begin shortly."
We all went in and parted ways: Francois to the locker room and niichan and I to the stands. The hour or so after that wasn't too suspenseful. I was used to watching the tournaments and practices whenever they happened and the matches in that tournament had familiar skills and techniques. With a yawn, I leaned against niichan's side resting my head on his shoulder.
"Dear sister," Something poked me slightly and I opened my eyes to see niichan.
"What happened?" I asked, stretching.
"You fell asleep and missed the ending. The French guy lost." Niichan smirked.
"That sucks." Ever since I started watching the tournaments and practice I had never seen Francois lose. It was something worth seeing, and I had fallen asleep before it.
Francois came to where we sat in the stands and took a seat by my side. "Seems I had a case of bad luck today."
"Or you are just that terrible." Niichan commented. I kept back a laugh and stayed quiet.
He frowned at niichan and silence befell our group. Francois dropped his gaze slightly but shot up suddenly. "Would you like to spar with me?"
I raised an eyebrow and bent over pretending to look for something in the bag niichan brought with him.
"Sure. I brought my own weapons." Niichan stuck his hand into the bag right when I looked up and Francois got closer to see what he'd use. He took out two tantos.
Francois scoffed trying to hold back a laugh. "You're going to use those in a match against me?"
"No, only one." He replied with a smirk while handing me one of the tantos. I took it putting it back in the bag looking forward to what was to come.
"As you wish," He said in disbelief heading to the gym floor. Niichan followed Francois down to the gym floor. After a second's hesitation I followed so I could sit on the first bench of the stands. "Aren't you going to at least suit up?"
In a thinly veiled insult niichan replied, "No, armor restricts movements. Besides, I don't know about you but I can take a blow."
With a shrug, Francois took his place on the mat and niichan followed watching as his opponent took a fencing stance; niichan remained relaxed and limber.
Mistaking it for an opportunity with his guard down or just being impatient, Francois made a thrusting leap. Niichan quickly side-stepped and dragged his foot across the ground taking Francois' legs with him dropping him onto his knees. He followed the move where he drew his blade across his throat smoothly drawing it across his throat to his jugular vein. The blade then was slid to the back of his neck. I was taught the last motion across the neck was merely to save the sparing partner some pain. If it was done in reality meaning to due harm, the blade would be pushed through the neck beheading the enemy. It would end the fight and thus confirm a kill in one fluid motion.
"Oh my. You seem to have lost your head there," Niichan said with a smirk.
"Not really. Just didn't expect that is all." Francois' reply showed that he thought my niichan's comment was a critique. Having known niichan for a while, I knew his comment was a joke. I could have bet it was from a certain trilogy of books said by a certain character, but I wasn't one to bet until I knew for certain.
Francois jumped to his feet with a determination that made me slightly wonder if he'd win this match. They took their places, niichan's stance similar to the first match and Francois' stance more aggressive. He attacked first, making various thrusts and cuts. Calmly niichan parried and avoided waiting until he caught the rapier's blade over his own. Expectation filled me as I had a feeling of what was to come.
He quickly pushed forward under the blade while taking hold of it and pulling it and Francois towards himself. In a few seconds niichan's dagger was just under Francois' rib in his chest near his heart.
A stunned Francois said, "What is that?"
"The entrance to your heart. Up and in it hits three chambers and you hemorrhage to death." He replied coldly. "Just as dead as before, but you leave a better looking corpse."
I muffled a laugh quoting in my mind, "You're making corpses, not art."
Francois stood and brushed himself off. "I think I am beginning to understand how you fight. I will not lose again."
"Technically the fight is already mine. Two out of three, but let's go the third anyway. I'm curious to know if you really can read me or not."
And again they took their places on the mat and this time niichan made the first attack. He leapt forward with an attack slashing from left to right that was parried. They then went back and forth attacking, blocking, and parrying each other's blows, each never relenting for even a second. It seemed to go on forever, though it could not have gone on longer than ten minutes or so, before they retreated from each other. Francois took a defensive pose waiting for niichan to make his move. Niichan circled slowly and confidently, making me think of a predator moving in for the kill. He stopped abruptly and charged at him zig-zagging rapidly and feinting right but moved right at the last second. Before Francois could know it he was behind him with his practice blade poked between his shoulders.
"I severed your spine at this point. Your brain's connection to all the organs and muscles would be severed and your heart would continue to beat on its own but would be sporadic. Your lungs, however, would stop working as the rest of your body feels numb and you would slowly suffocate, not being able to move, though you might still be able to call for help with your remaining breaths. But make no mistake, you would die." Niichan said before Francois could even start to ask. I grabbed the bag and headed toward the two.
Niichan let Francois go and he stumbled slightly before regaining his balance. With a sigh, he turned to niichan and gave a soft smile. "I must admit, you are a difficult adversary. It was a pleasure to have gotten the chance to spar against someone as skilled as you. And you, Miss Jessica," I perked up at my name and focused my attention on Francois rather than my inner thoughts. "It was also a pleasure to have made your acquaintance. Would you like to see me outside of fencing practices and tournaments?"
I smiled and shook my head. "No, but thank you for the offer. I've had enough of boyfriends for the current moment." An image of Aaron came to mind and him getting into a fight with my niichan.
He frowned slightly but nodded. "As well it should be, I guess." His gaze went upward for a few moments before returning to us. "It's getting late. I must go." Francois bowed to us before going into the boys' locker room. I glanced at niichan and he dropped the blade he used into the bag I held before taking my free hand. "Let's go home, dear sister. You still have your homework to do."
We headed out the gym doors and I hid my surprise. I didn't tell him I had homework. How did he know?