Since I was so late with Chapter 11, and since it's the holiday season and I have a little time off to do this, I thought I'd go with a double release. The Academy arc is reaching its conclusion, I have one more thing planned and then we'll finally be off to the Kingsguard! I wonder which characters will be joining us there... Anyways, enjoy these two chapters of Kingsguard! Chapter 12 will be in the next post * KINGSGUARD Chapter 11: Challenge July 4th, 2252. 8:24am. Owl King’s Academy – Training Facility, Second Floor. Chirch ducked under Rose’s leg, evading her high kick. As she straightened up, Rose came at her with full force. However, she was equal to each of her swings, parrying from all directions. Spotting a rare opening in Rose’s guard, she jabbed her blade forwards, prompting Rose to jump back. As Chirch readied herself to go on the offensive, she noticed Rose stumble a little; an unusual sight. Taking advantage of the opportunity, she moved in, sweeping Rose’s legs from underneath her. As Rose hit the floor with a thud, Chirch stood over her, a slightly angered expression on her face. “Are you even taking me seriously?” Chirch quipped, “You’ve been sluggish all morning.” Rose, a little surprised at Chirch’s sudden outburst, simply looked back, stunned. “I...” “If you keep this up, it won’t be Niklaus that you have to worry about any more…” Rose, afraid to make eye contact, simply looked at the ground, silent. Gritting her teeth, she cursed loudly, punching the floor. Her voice wavered, as she choked back tears of frustration. “Shit! I was so close… I thought I had him… I thought I’d redeemed myself after that embarrassing loss. But that attack… What the hell was that? I let my guard down and it cost me…” As Rose rued over her loss, Chirch stepped back for a moment. She hadn’t realised just how affected Rose was by it; all she’d said after the fight yesterday was “I’ll be fine. I’ll see you tomorrow morning as usual.” Chirch began to think of what to say, but she was drawing a blank. She hadn’t often been in situations like this, and didn’t know how to offer encouragement. Offering her hand out to Rose, she hoped she’d come up with something in the next few moments. Rose took Chirch’s hand, and used it to pull herself back up to her feet. As the pair looked each other in the eyes, Chirch smiled, almost reflexively. “We’ll get him next time. You were really close, I could feel it.” Moved by Chirch’s words of support, Rose’s eyes began to fill with tears that she once again had to hold back. Wiping her eyes, she began to smile. “Mm, yes, we will. Now let’s get back to training.” Rose and Chirch began to spar once again, Rose’s movements slowly regaining their normal sharpness and fluidity. On the other side of the training room window, a figure watched on as the pair continued to train. Observing them for a further few minutes, he decided he’d seen all that he needed, and turned to leave. As he headed for the exit, he mumbled to himself. “… Interesting.” * 1:45pm. Owl King’s Academy – Main Library. Marko and Grinnington are having 1-to-1 appointments with various Academy students. “Oh ho ho! A cute attempt, I must say!” Grinnington chuckled, poking away at a student’s creation, “But if you’re really serious about impressing me, you’ll have to stop with the kindergarten stuff. Maybe next year?” Demoralised and a little upset, the student took his project and walked off. Grinnington simply shrugged, wondering why they ran off so suddenly. Taking a sip of his coffee, he called out to the line: “Who’s next?” As a handful of students, intimidated by his treatment of one of their peers, walked off, a red-haired teen strode forward, extreme confidence in his stride. Pulling the chair out and turning 180 degrees, he sat in front of Grinnington, his arms resting on the back of the chair. A little taken aback, Grinnington almost forgot to initiate conversation. “… Oh, yeah. Good afternoon. I’m Arthur Grinnington. Though I guess you knew that. What might you be here for? Want me to examine one of your projects? Do you have any questions about engineering at the Kingsguard?” The teen simply smirked, and placed a handgun on the table. Tilting his head, he signalled Grinnington to look at it. Picking up the gun, Grinnington examined it carefully. “Hmm, this is probably the most impressive craftsmanship I’ve seen all day… In fact, I’d say you’re better than some of the dullards I work with.” Placing the gun back on the table, Grinnington took out a utility tool, and began to dismantle the gun, in order to fully examine it. As he examined the individual parts, a glowing blue core caught his eye. Shocked, he looked up at the teen, and asked: “Where did you get your hands on something like this? Even I haven’t been able to source one of these.” The teen smirked, running his hand through his hair. “Let’s just say… I know a guy.” Grinnington smirked back, leaning back in his chair. “Heh.. You’re acting pretty mysterious for some school brat. What’s your name, kid?” The teen pulled out a utility tool of his own, and quickly put his gun back together. Standing up, he turned the chair back for the next person, and began to leave the room. As he walked off, he turned his head over his shoulder, and addressed Grinnington. “…Judge.” As Judge walked out of the library, Grinnington smirked. “Judge, huh…” * 2.15pm. Main Library – Marko’s desk. “Thank you, Captain Marko!” a student beamed, as he exited the library. Marko’s meetings had been somewhat hit-and-miss; some students seemed to be too nervous to speak, which resulted in a few minutes of awkward silence. Some, however, managed to pull a little conversation and insight from the Elite soldier, be it training advice or just general information seeking. Satisfied with the now empty queue, Marko took a sip from his drink, and pulled out his phone and began to play a game. A few minutes and several levels later, Marko’s bliss was interrupted. “Excuse me. Captain Marko?” A little miffed that his quiet time was over, Marko paused his game to address the student. “Yes?” The student pulled up a chair, and sat face-to-face with him, looking the captain straight in the eye. “My name is Zak Niklaus. I’m a fourth-year student here at the Academy, and am the top ranked prospect entering the soldier division next year.” Marko placed his phone back in his pocket, and took another sip from his drink. “Great.” Niklaus, determined to get through to the captain, continued to speak. “I am looking to test my strength against a member of the Kingsguard, and wish to challenge you to a sparring match.” The entire room suddenly fell silent. Grinnington, curious, looked over to Marko to observe his reaction. Marko, however, responded calmly, despite an obviously irked expression on his face. “And what reason would I have to accept this challenge?” he asked, hoping this question would be enough to get Niklaus to relent. “Throughout my time in the Academy, I have never suffered a loss, and have only once had to use a portion of my true strength in battle. I would like a chance to fight with someone at a level higher than that of the Academy students.” After a few seconds of silence, Marko responded, a hint of contempt in his voice. “… Fine. I’ll have a match with you.” Niklaus’ expression lit up. “Thank you so much, Captain!” Marko, however, did not look so pleased. “Three days’ time. 3:30pm, in the Colosseum. We’ll make a show of it.” Niklaus thanked Marko once more, and strode out of the library. Behind him, the people in Grinnington’s queue, and those who were just in the library to study, began to talk, and a loud buzz filled the air. Students pulled out their phones to tell their friends. Zak Niklaus will be fighting Captain Marko of the Kingsguard. The library descended into chaos. So much so, that the librarian had to close down Marko and Grinnington’s Q&A session, and close the library for the day. Minutes after the departure of both the students and the recruiters, Tsubaki Sheikah reached the door of the library, only to find it closed. Sighing, she shook her head, and headed back to her dorm room. “I guess I’ll have to try again tomorrow… Marko.” END Character(s) Debuted: @Judgement as Judge, who "knows a guy"