Blue eyes burned over her form, seeing every inch of her skin. She was exposed, and she could feel it. Even with her head tilted down and hair covering her face, she knew that nearly every eye was on her. She stayed close to Tacker, hoping he could at least hide her a little. He led her outside to the same courtyard she had gone to with the boys that one morning she had been among them.
She glanced around, seeing a couple men fighting and other groups stretching or running around the perimeter. Most stopped and openly gaped at her. A few didn't notice her. A few looked, glanced away, looked back incredulously, and then looked away with a blush.
"Alright, girl. I'm going to run a two lap warm up. You are going to warm-up in the same amount of time but at your pace."
He grabbed her shoulder before she started and nodded to a group of men who were failing at hiding their blatant stares and snickering.
"Timidness is weakness. Confidence is strength. Now go warm up."
She took off at a light jog and slowly built up until she wasn't trying very hard but still passing Tacker every minute or so. When he stopped, she stopped with him, only breathing lightly. She tried to copy his stretches, like she had the boys, and he watched her critically. She tried to ignore the men who also started stretching in the same area.
After a couple minutes, one finally got the nerve to approach Tacker.
"That your girl?"
"That's my apprentice, Tessa."
"You mean the little girl that killed her brother?"
Tacker rolled his eyes. "Yup."
The man looked her over with a shit eating grin. She decided to ignore him.
"If you want to touch her, I ain't stopping you," Tacker mentioned.
Tessa froze and stared at him, her eyes pleading. He smirked as the man approached her with a confident step. She looked at that man uncertainly and jumped back before he could touch her. He laughed.
"You're a timid little thing. Don't worry, I just want to touch you."
Timid. Tacker had said "Timidness is weakness." She wasn't going to be weak. She straightened her back and balled her hands into fists at her side.
"I would rather you don't touch me."
He stopped and raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah?"
She lifted her chin. "Yeah. Are we done stretching, Master?"
"Then what's the workout?"
"Run as fast as you can as long as you can hold it. Keep track of your laps, and tell me how long it takes to get to where you have to walk."
She turned to go run, but two hands caught her around her waist, pulling her back. She stiffened, feeling the rough fabric against her bare skin.
"Or what? Your master said he wouldn't do anything about it. And you're a girl."
Hurt flashed through her, only to be replaced with anger. She was a girl, but that didn't mean she couldn't protect herself. She drove her elbow back into his stomach, but he only laughed at her attack.
"You hit like a girl."
So she stomped on his foot, which did nothing because like most of the men there, he was wearing boots made to endure running. His hands split, one going up to her breast and the other between her legs.
She wiggled. "Let go of me!"
The men around leered at her and gave the man behind her encouragement, asking to go next or to join him.
"Tessa," she heard her master clearly over the other voices, "do you see now? You're a beautiful woman. No man will ever see you differently."
She started to struggle and another man joined the first, sliding his disgusting hands over her body.
"You're nothing but a piece of meat. Tell me you understand girl, and I'll stop them."
"Tacker, please!" She begged. "I understand!"
"Enough!" He barked, and the cacophony of voices stopped.
"Back away from my apprentice, gentlemen."
He wasn't even done speaking before there was a wide birth around her.
Tacker approached, shaking his head. "Really boys, it's like none of you have seen a naked woman before. Go back to your workouts; you're all pathetic."
"But you let us not a minute ago!"
"I was teaching her a lesson. Lesson taught. Now if anyone touches her without my permission, I'm going to remove his hand."
"You selfish bastard!"
The first man jumped at him, and Tacker disappeared only to reappear next to her. "Go run, girl."
She took off, and the next time to she passed the spot, two men sat on the ground, rubbing their heads and looking pissed but not doing anything. The next time she passed, they were gone.
She mulled over Tacker's "lesson" in her head. He wanted her to understand that no man would ever see her as more pretty face. Why was that necessary for assassin training? He had said he would make her the most dangerous assassin the Clan had ever seen, and he had mentioned that this new body Chaos gave her was some type of weapon. Then he let those men touch her new body all over so she'd understand that she was "nothing more than a piece of meat." It made no sense to her.
Soon, she couldn't think of more than putting one foot in front of the other. She was running so fast, she passed Tacker who was also running, once every ten seconds. She lost count of how many laps she had done and instead counted how many times she passed him. That would work, she hoped.
She decreased her pace when stitches of pain started restricting her breathing, which was heavy and fast. Sweat dripped down her body, and her breasts were bouncing in an annoying way that started to hurt after a while. Still she ran. Even longer than maybe she should have. She didn't want to stop and give into her weak body.
Finally she stopped, putting her hands on her knees.
"Put your hands on your head, girl. Straighten your back. Only weaklings put their hands on their knees."
She did as told and glared up at her master, who was also breathing heavily. She debated asking him what in the world he was thinking being so wishy washy, but she decided it was better not to provoke him. She tried to find a better way to word it that didn't sound accusatory.
"I don't understand," she said between gasps of air. "Are you going to make me 'the strongest assassin The Clan has ever seen' or are you trying to break me?"
His lips quirked up in a faint smile. "That depends on whether you break or not. You're much more resilient than I thought you would be when The Head gave me a scared little girl as an apprentice."
Her glare softened at the unexpected compliment.
"I'm confused," she admitted.
He looked her over, one of his hands going to the stubble growing on his chin and smoothing it down around his mouth.
"Of course you are. You're ten, even if you look older on the outside. Your mind shouldn't be able to come up with the proper explanation for what I'm doing to you."
Something occurred to her, something he had said to The Clan Head earlier.
"You said that you tricked Ch-Kai'ton's mother into having sex and you were going to use the same tactic on me."
"Not exactly. Were you thinking about this the entire run?"
He nodded to himself. "I might as well explain it to you. There doesn't seem to be a point to keeping you ignorant, and if I let your mind run wild you'll get it wrong. Right now, you are walking around naked to get comfortable with your body and men lusting after it. Eventually I want you to be confident in your skin, confident enough to lure men into your bed." He walked closer to her as he talked.
"My-my bed?" she gulped, backing away from him.
He reached for her, and instead of the violence she was expecting, he caressed her cheek. "Yes. And once you have them at their most vulnerable, you'll slit their throats. That's what will make you the strongest assassin. Instead of a red-rimmed blue eyed man hiding in the shadows and striking from a distance, you're going to be the little black eyed beauty luring them into a false security. You're not a sword, not a dagger, not a danger, and definitely not a berserk. You're a trap, Tessa."
She stood still as his hand trailed across her jaw, his thumb skimming over her lips, even as she bit the bottom lip in thought. His hand dropped lower and grasped her breast.
"My body is bait," she whispered.
"Precisely. But before we can get you there, you need to be dangerous in close quarters without a weapon. That elbow you threw back there was pathetic."
She nodded, thinking.
"I'm done explaining myself. If you're confused again, just figure it out."
He backed up a step and then full on punched her in the face. It stung and whipped her head to the side, but it didn't hurt her.
"Hands up, in fists."
As soon as her hands were up, he hit her again. She did her best to block it, but his other hand planted itself into her gut. She struck blindly at him, but he dodged, dancing lightly on the balls of his feet a yard away from her. She grimaced and put her fists up again.
"Widen your stance."
Before she could even do as he said, his foot hit the side of her head, sending her staggering to the side. A fist to her spine unbalanced her completely, ending with her face first in the dirt.
"Pft. I see why the infant had to kill your brother for you. Get up."
She wiped the dirt off her face. "What did I do?"
"Do? This isn't a beating. This is training."
And with a sweep of his leg she fell on her butt. She grimaced and braced herself as she stood. Well, she did want to be treated like a boy, and this was her master teaching her to fight. She couldn't complain, only take it and learn.
A/N: Shorter and a day later. Sorry about that...