Surrounded by the light of lanterns and stars, Mune and Mura stood across from each other in the courtyard. Both wore their training clothes, along with leather gauntlets reaching their elbows. Their treasured swords poised, they rushed forward.
Mura struck first with a downward strike, which was easily defended against. Mune pushed away, turning sideways to avoid a straight kick aimed for his stomach. Maintaining the momentum of his spin, he crouched under a horizontal slash and tried to take Mura’s legs out from underneath him. His opponent jumped high enough to avoid the sweeping leg, and positioned his blade for another downward cut. Mune blocked, and then pushed the blade away to his left. Using the brief pause, he rolled to the right and into a crouching defensive pose. Mura did not press, letting him regain his feet.
Mune began the next sequence. Holding the sword hilt with both hands, he pointed the blade towards his opponent. He waited for Mura’s response, who stood back as if deciding to attack immediately or accept the starting pose. After a handful of seconds, he moved in. Matching Mune’s stance, he crossed swords. The pair stared at each other, each trying to outwit their opponent.
Mura’s blade was quickly pushed to the side. Mune stepped in to shoulder charge him, but Mura spun with him to avoid the impact. Mune ducked under a neck-height horizontal cut, and moved lower to again try to sweep Mura’s legs. Mura jumped back this time, then quickly pushed forward to gain an advantage over his unbalanced opponent. The ring of steel clashing echoed around the otherwise empty courtyard, with both fighters struggling to gain an advantage over the other. Such was expected for a pair who knew each other’s style so well.
Mune let his opponent maintain the offence, knowing that Mura’s attacking would wear him down quicker than defence would weary himself. He noticed that the quality of Mura’s attacking cuts were becoming less refined, and knew that the one weak cut that he could take advantage of was approaching. Mura leaned too far forward into an attack, which Mune stepped into. He defended against the cut, placed a foot between Mura’s legs, and pushed back. Mura’s attempt to avoid the trip only unbalanced him, and he fell flat on the ground. Before he could respond, Mune’s sword was at his throat.
Mura smiled up at the victor. “You always time that perfectly. No matter how hard I try to be wary of it, you always catch me.”
Mune returned the smile. He returned his sword to its casing, and then held out a hand to his grounded opponent. Mura accepted the gesture, and pulled himself up.
“That is why patience is a virtue in battle, Mura. If your opponent presses too hard in their offence, they’ll weary quicker. When that happens, their attack is less powerful, and you need to be able to pick the right time to press your advantage.”
Mura nodded. “I will have to work on that at training tomorrow, and hope that I have learned it in time for the weekend.”
The Challenge Tournament was three days away, and the pressure was being felt by those who stood a chance of rising in the rankings. Mura’s fighting ability stood shoulders above the others in the group, but Mune still stood above him.
“You know what to expect in facing me, which is half of the battle. An opponent may not be as strong as you physically, but if they know your tendencies and technique well enough, they may be able to find the way to unbalance you long enough to win.”
The pair collected some water to wash their faces on their way back to their room. Once they got there, they saw that their roommates had already gone to sleep.
Mura looked at them disdainfully. “Not surprisingly, they aren’t proving me wrong in their future prospects.”
Mune looked to him. “Over the last two days, they have been training with an extra bit of fire in their bellies. What did you say to them?”
“That they’ll be no better than village sentries if they don’t focus on their training.”
“That may be so, but there is no need to provoke them. They need little excuse for their petty antics against you, so taunting them may make them try harder to torment you.”
Mura looked to him, a flash of anger in his eyes. “So you’re saying I can’t get a small measure of revenge on them?”
“You need to be the bigger person in the situation. If you are thought to be petty, being in the top rankings will mean nothing in the future. You will end up being another foot soldier, instead of climbing the army ranks.”
Mura looked disappointed. “You are right. My true revenge on them will be climbing the ranks, while they do not.”
Mune nodded. “That is exactly right. Now, we better get some rest. We have not finished our week of collecting the morning catches of fish, and we need to be well rested by the time the tournament begins.”
Mura looked to his friend. “Are you not nervous that your parents will be travelling all the way here to see you in battle?”
“No. I will do my best, and trust that my training has prepared me.”
“I think I fear my father seeing me fight due to his high standing, and what most people of me in my younger days. As you said, I will do my best. Good night, Mune.”
The pair changed into their night clothes, then lay down on their beds. Mune fell to sleep quickly, while Mura was kept awake by dwelling on getting his revenge on the others for their years of torment.
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