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Before [Fanalis Corps/Military Exchange Training]

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Takes places before the events of Eligos.

”A dungeon? Really?” Lieutenant Hojo arched a brow at the woman’s words, a bit startled at first. A grunt was his sparring partner’s only response, the curved steel of her scimitar landing heavily against his katana. The two locked blades briefly before he pushed her away, arms rising above his head so as to deliver a vertical slash. When she used her arm guard to maneuver his weapon away, he gave a grunt of satisfaction.

The pair had graduated from sparring with wooden swords to their own blades of choice, their techniques fairly different but their skill level similar to each other. Ayero’s movements were powerful yet swift, while Hojo’s techniques were more calculating and decisive. Now that I think about it. Hojo parried away a burst of strikes from Ayero with precision. Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised after all.

”Mhm.” Ayero gave a short grunt of acknowledgement as she saw an opening and jabbed her sword toward the Lieutenant’s abdomen. The man saw the movement from the corner of his eye and was quick to move out of harm’s way, but Ayero didn’t give too much thought to what could have happened had her strike hit. ”Emperor Yoshiro seemed to be alright with me challenging the dungeon.”

Hojo raised the other brow at this, holding back a grimace as he nearly received a gut full of steel. ”Did he, now.” A flicker of light through the dojo window caught his eye as he moved back. He held up his hand for Ayero to stop, head tilting towards the window where the first glimmers of light began to show at the horizon. As much as he respect the fact that she didn’t pull punches with him, he didn’t want to think about what would have happened had he not moved.

”It’s dawn.” The man would turn his head back towards Ayero and sheathe his blade, just as she would follow suit. ”Time for us to start our day, then.”

”…And this is where morning drills are held. You’ll be working in conjunction with Lieutenant Hojo for this part of the day.” Ayero swept one hand out towards the training area, the other placed neatly behind her back. She glanced over at Yusuf, curious to see if she could glean what the other Fanalis was thinking from the look on his face.

”I see…” The taller of the two hand his arms crossed against his chest as he looked thoughtful before putting his head down and letting out a sigh. ”Geeze Shi—Colonel…I can’t believe you’re really going to do this.”

Ayero would arch her brow in response, an unamused look settling onto her face as her back muscles twanged, already as straight as they could manage.

”Ahh, no! No, I didn’t mean it that way. I just mean…it’ll be hard without you here, y’know?” Yusuf held his hands out before reaching up to run a hand though his red locks, trying to defuse the tension. He’d been a part of Ayero’s faction of the Corps for a while now, earning the rank of Captain himself for his service. He was excited when he learned that Ayero had personally recommended him and a few others to make the journey to Kou as a part of the Military Exchange, but he didn’t expect her to run off and challenge a dungeon. At least not this soon…it seemed a bit irresponsible to him.

It seemed that Kou didn’t mind, and Ayero was making an effort to train replacements for her while she was going to be away. Still, this didn’t sit exactly well with Yusuf. He still held a bit of distrust for Kou, despite the fact that they seemed pleasant enough. Ayero didn’t seem to show any signs of distress of distaste, yet she didn’t seem pleased either. Oh well. That’s just the way she is.

”…Followed by a small break, then reconvene in the afternoon for joint exercises. After that... …?”

Ayero gave pause when she noted how Yusuf’s eyes glazed over. Normally she would reprimand him for getting lost in his thoughts when he was supposed to be listening to her, but she reminded herself to make an effort to be patient like Octavius. Reigning in her initial feelings, she realized that on top of being some place new, this must be a large burden for Yusuf.

”Oi.” Ayero would place her hand on Yusuf’s shoulder, the taller of the two giving her a look of mild surprise. ”I asked you to come here because I knew you would do well. And I’m having you do this because I know you’ll do well. As for remembering the schedule, I’ll write it down for you before I leave.”

Yusuf snorted at this, the look of surprise still gleaming in his red eyes. ”Colonel, you know that I can’t read. Not well, anyways.”

Ayero shrugged, taking her hand from off of his shoulder and reminding herself that Yusuf probably never had the opportunity to learn to read and write. ”Then I’ll draw it.”

On the eve of Ayero’s departure, Lieutenant Hojo approached the Fanalis woman. ”Colonel Shiba, would you like to join me for tea?”

The red haired woman would adjust the blade at her side, tugging at the sash that helped to keep it in place. ”Sure…but don’t we usually have tea in the morning?” She would walk alongside him nevertheless, curious as to what he was up to. The two shared tea in the early morning before training, and though she knew that tea was the drink of choice at most hours of the day, he’d never invited her to tea so late.

As Ayero squinted at the setting sun, Hojo gave a gentle laugh. ”True, but I think it’s time you experienced a bit more that Kou has to offer beyond our military might. Have you ever been to a tea house?” When Ayero shook her head, Hojo simply laughed once more and continued to lead the way.

”I hear that King Lagi made a sudden appearance to Emperor Yoshiro.” Hojo spoke calmly as he gently hushed the wisps of smoke rising up from his tea. The man was a picture of calm, shoulders and body relaxed as he took a slow sip of the brew, enjoying its depth of flavor. Ayero, on the other hand, was fairly relaxed until this point. The Fanalis has slowly grown accustomed to the more delicate mannerisms of the Kou lifestyle, but now the rigidity came back to her posture and she nearly spat out her tea.

Grimacing from behind her cup, Ayero composed herself before lowering the tea, her face unreadable to most, save for those who were close to her or could read emotions particularly well. As Hojo opened one eye to peer at her, Ayero consciously loosened her iron grip on the cup before it shattered in her hand. ”Is that so…”




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