CHAPTER TWELVE: CLIFFSIDE
††††††††††† It was a few days later when Rei actually began his formal training. He had gotten up that morning with the decision to finally approach Damodred and ask her to begin. Despite his better judgment, or worse judgment, or whatever kind of judgment that he had, Rei was actually going to go through with it. The first problem was going to be in finding that girl. Ordinarily, Damodred was an ever-present factor in his life at Mankurosa. The only exceptions to this rule were when she was busy with something else, overly annoyed at him, or when he actually needed to talk to her about something. At those points in time, finding her was like finding the Triforce in your own backyard- possible in theory, but don't get the shovel just yet.
††††††††††† Rei first tried to wait for her at breakfast- meals were organized in the area, and sooner or later you were bound to find anybody coming in to get whichever meal was currently being served. No dice. Talien had passed by, although he had no idea where Damodred was. Rei ended up meeting a few more interesting people who all shied away when he asked them about her whereabouts, and after about an hour he gave up and tried looking elsewhere. The nearby training rooms, dojos, and the like were either empty or simply not occupied by her, and Rei ultimately ended up combing the entire city for her. It was in mid-afternoon when Rei finally got the bright idea to stop by her room and check there, or at least leave a note. This was where the next complication arose: Rei didn't have the slightest idea where she lived.
††††††††††† And so Rei stopped by Talien's room instead, to ask him where to go. Rei began to realize something while on the way there. He actually didn't know anybody in the city except for Talien and Damodred. He had nodded to a few of them, chatted lightly, but in thinking about it, with the exception of two other people there, Rei was completely and utterly alone. He made a quiet resolve to get to know a few more people's names at the very least when he reached Talien's quarters.
††††††††††† Rei knocked lightly on the wooden door and waited for a response.
††††††††††† "Come in," came Talien's voice, slightly muffled through the wooden door. Rei turned the handle and came in.
††††††††††† "Evening, Rei," Talien said, sitting in a chair over by a small desk, "What can I do for you?"
††††††††††† Rei took a second to look around. He'd been in Talien's quarters once before, and had admired how it looked. Relatively simple, but with such an air of high culture that it couldn't be ignored.
††††††††††† "Did you find Damodred yet?" Talien asked, turning his chair around to face the other.
††††††††††† Rei shook his head. "No, not yet," he replied. "Have you seen her?"
††††††††††† Talien shrugged. "Not recently. I saw her this afternoon, though. She didn't say what she was doing."
††††††††††† Rei sighed. "Do you think she's in her room?"
††††††††††† Talien raised an eyebrow. "You mean you haven't checked there yet?"
††††††††††† Rei shook his head.
††††††††††† Talien kept his eyebrow raised. "Good one, Rei. That's where she usually is when she's not busy."
††††††††††† "Oh," Rei replied.
††††††††††† "She's probably been there the entire day," Talien went on, "I'd check there for her." he stopped for a moment, and realized something. "Rei," he started, "Do you even know where she lives?"
††††††††††† Rei shook his head. "I came in here to ask you that," he said in a rather deadpan fashion.
††††††††††† This time it was Talien's turn to say "Oh."
††††††††††† "She's in the same building as you are," Talien commented, "On the other end, top floor. Room 208. I'm surprised you didn't already know."
††††††††††† "I never thought to ask," Rei replied.
††††††††††† Rei walked down the narrow hallway, lined with doors to different sheikah members' rooms. He noted the room numbers and nameplates on each one, as well as the fact that some of the nameplates had two, or possibly three names on them. Finally he reached room 208. Rei checked the nameplate to make sure (And, of course, it didn't list a last name) that it was the right person. He raised his hand to knock, and then stopped. Was that music that he was hearing? It was very faint, probably coming from inside one of the rooms. It sounded like a lyre. Whatever it was, it was beautiful, and the sound was almost definitely coming from Damodred's room. Rei listened to it for a second or two before he finally knocked on her door. The music stopped abruptly, and Rei could hear her voice from the other end.
††††††††††† "Who is it?"
††††††††††† "It's me, Rei," He answered. He could almost hear the annoyed sigh from the room.
††††††††††† "The door's unlocked," she replied curtly. Rei turned the handle and stepped in.
††††††††††† The first thing that he noticed was that Damodred's quarters weren't nearly as spartan as he expected. They weren't cluttered or lavishly furnished, or anything, but he had expected basically Nothing that Was Not Need to be in her room. Instead, there were a few pieces of art decorating the room, and some old-ish furniture. The design looked distinctly Southern, and Rei vaguely remembered Talien telling him that she was from that region. Besides the open jar of olives on the desk, the room was for the most part immaculately clean and organized.
††††††††††† Damodred was sitting on the edge of her neatly-made bed, looking completely relaxed. On the end table next to her was a lyre.
††††††††††† "How long have you been playing?" Rei asked, gesturing toward the musical instrument.
††††††††††† "I don't," She replied stiffly. "It's a decoration."
††††††††††† Rei made an effort not to show any surprise, or comment on the fact that he didn't quite believe her. He glanced around the room again. "Yeah... you have a few of those. These are Southern, right?"
††††††††††† She shrugged. "Well, I am from the South, after all," she said, getting up. "So... I take it you wanted me for something?"
††††††††††† Rei nodded. "Yeah... I've been trying to find you all day," he said.
††††††††††† She smirked. "I've been in here more or less the entire day."
††††††††††† "I didn't know where you live."
††††††††††† "Well, now you do," she said, crossing over to the other side of the room, "So, why do you want to talk to me?"
††††††††††† "I'd like to start my training as soon as possible, and I need to know when you're free."
††††††††††† She gave a cold grin, although not for his benefit, and began sorting through some knives that were on a rack. "I see... I'm perfectly free tomorrow," she commented, pulling out one moderately-sized dagger. "I'll wake you up in the morning, then."
††††††††††† Rei nodded. "Okay." he turned around and started to leave.
††††††††††† Damodred put the dagger back, and pulled out another knife. "Hey, Rei," She started. "Wait a second."
††††††††††† He stopped, and turned around. "Hm?"
††††††††††† "Here, I have some homework for you," She commented idly, folding the knife closed. "Take this," she said, idly lobbing it over her shoulder in his direction. Rei missed catching it by about six inches, and the instrument clattered on the floor.
††††††††††† "Sorry," He said, getting to his knees to pick it up. He could hear her quietly laughing.
††††††††††† "Learn how to flick it open and shut," she told him. "See how well you can do it by tomorrow morning. Remember to let the knife's own inertia open and close it for you."
††††††††††† Rei nodded. "I'll try," he said.
††††††††††† "Yes, and most likely you're going to royally screw it up," she commented. "But you will try."
††††††††††† "Thanks," Rei said before he began to leave again.
††††††††††† "Don't thank me," she added, shaking her head. "See you in the morning, Rei."
††††††††††† "See ya," Rei casually called out as he left her room.
††††††††††† Damodred went to bed at roughly 12:30 AM that night. She got up somewhere around 4:45 AM, already planning her course of action for the day. She had decided to let Rei sleep until 7:00, which would give her enough time to get everything set up. Firstly, there was the matter of the training room. All of Rei's preliminary training had been done in one of the lower-class rooms- it even had a dirt floor. Just for the sake of putting her full 200% into the task, Damodred had pre-rented out one of the higher quality dojo-style rooms. She doubted that it would really make any difference, but it *was* the thought that counted, And, of course, after that came the matter of stocking the room itself. Not too much weaponry would be needed, per se, but it was important that everything look good. Despite the fact that she lacked most of the essential elements of femininity, Damodred did have enough of a woman's touch to know the importance of aesthetics.
††††††††††† After setting everything up, and surveying her work, it was time to warm up. There was still a good hour left before she had to at least begin to meander in Rei's general direction.
††††††††††† She unsheathed the longer of her two swords, and silently held it in a casual battle stance. Proper focus was important- No, it was everything. Clearing your mind was only the beginning step. There must be something that you can place your mind on, that you can focus on, in order to properly use a blade. Your focus must either silence your motions, or bring them out in a total and complete rage. Being the realist that she was, Damodred chose the former.
††††††††††† Damodred unsheathed the shorter sword and began practicing some basic motions in complete silence, choosing only the ones that would best function as warm-up exercises for the day. For a little while, all of the normal concerns of the day slipped away as she absorbed herself in her current work. Finally, she came to a stop, fully aware of how the time had passed. Silently, she sheathed both of her swords, and was about to leave to wake up Rei when a familiar voice came in from behind.
††††††††††† "Now, why did I figure that you'd be in here?" Talien said, entering into the room.
††††††††††† "A lucky guess, I suppose," Damodred commented, not yet turning around to face him.
††††††††††† "Either way," Talien began, "You're actually going to go through with this?"
††††††††††† "Why not?' She replied casually, "Personally, I really don't care one way or another what happens to him. I might as well do my job and do it well. It makes no difference in the end."
††††††††††† "Still," Talien commented, walking around in front of her, "It's obvious how much you're annoyed by him."
††††††††††† "You mean," she corrected, "How much he annoys me."
††††††††††† He shook his head. "I wouldn't say that quite yet," he commented. "After all, it's not like the guy's actually done anything to get on your nerves."
††††††††††† "He's incompetent. He doesn't have to do anything else."
††††††††††† "He'll get better over time. Everyone has problems."
††††††††††† Damodred smirked and shook her head. "Talien, I really have to commend you on this."
††††††††††† "On what?" he asked, surprised.
††††††††††† "You've done the best job in manipulating that poor boy," she answered, "One would think that you used hypnosis on him."
††††††††††† Talien folded his arms. "I had to make up for you."
††††††††††† She nodded. "You never could persuade me to do anything that I didn't already want to do, could you?"
††††††††††† "You're more stubborn than my brother," he retorted.
††††††††††† "And just look at how I've turned out," she stated calmly. Talien nodded.
††††††††††† "I am proud of you," he answered.
††††††††††† "And only the gods know why," she answered, shaking her head.
††††††††††† "Isn't it about time that you woke up Rei?" Talien asked.
††††††††††† Damodred nodded. "Good point. I might as well get to it."
††††††††††† "Don't hurt him too much," Talien commented as she left the room. "He's a nice guy, after all."
††††††††††† "Don't worry," she replied while exiting through the doorway, "Whenever I do a job, I do it right. He'll be fine."
††††††††††† "Sure he will," Talien remarked, shaking his head. "Cliff? Usual time?"
††††††††††† "Yeah. I'll try to bring him along, too," Damodred commented as left the room and went to awaken the poor boy.
††††††††††† However, the Poor Boy did not need awakening. Rei was currently sitting on his bed, attempting to figure out how to flick the darned knife open. It was a nice, three-and-a-half inch stiletto blade, with a very light spring holding it shut inside the wooden handle. The blade itself seemed almost loose enough to fall out on its own if angled downward. Despite this, Rei had found it nearly impossible to flick the thing open, as he had been told to. He tried "letting the knife's own inertia" do it for him, but that usually resulted in watching the blade go back into the handle, or just exit by about three centimeters before stopping. He had practiced opening and closing it manually, to try to get the hang of its weight, but it still hadn't worked.
††††††††††† Rei was frustrated.
††††††††††† Very frustrated.
††††††††††† He was about to go to bed at midnight, or so, when the strange little Worry-Gremlin in his head reminded him exactly who had given him that assignment. Five minutes later, he was back at the knife-flicking business. He was still trying at 3:00 AM. He had not succeeded by 4:00, either. When the clock struck 5:00, Rei had begun to feel hopeless. By 6:00 that feeling had overwhelmed his entire being. At 6:45, however, he realized that Damodred was probably going to come to wake him up soon, and he began panicking. Nearly throwing his wrist out, Rei strained himself to just get that danged knife to OPEN for once when he wanted it to. He began to pace around his room in worry, and was beginning to lose hope again when Damodred opened the door and walked in.
††††††††††† Rei jumped, and his wrist spasmed at the perfect angle, opening the knife blade all the way back until it clicked into place. However, he had also put nearly all of his strength into it, and promptly lost his grip on the knife handle. There was a dull thunk, and Rei looked over his shoulder to see the knife embedded in the doorjamb, roughly three inches from Damodred's face. She raised an eyebrow.
††††††††††† "You know, there are better ways to tell me that I'm being unfair to you than by trying to kill me," the girl remarked.
††††††††††† "Ummm..." Rei stammered, "I flicked the knife open?"
††††††††††† Damodred glanced over to the knife again. "That you did," she commented, pulling it out of the wall and folding the blade shut. "Iíll give you that much."
††††††††††† Rei blushed.
††††††††††† "That'll teach me to barge in without knocking, eh?" She opened the knife again and examined the blade for a second before putting it back. "The tip needs to be sharpened a little, I think."
††††††††††† Rei searched himself, but was unable to find a reply.
††††††††††† "Shall we begin?" she asked him, putting the knife away.
††††††††††† The most unfortunate thing about pulling an all-nighter is the fact that, if you are like the average person, you will zone out periodically during the day, at rather random moments. This is not a good thing when being trained in the art of armed combat.
††††††††††† "Most experienced swordsmen will tell you that part of using a blade is becoming the blade," Damodred went on, "However, that is not how I see it. You aren't becoming your weapon, but you are, however, making it into an extension of you. The sword isn't simply a fancy pointy thing in your hand, it becomes an extension of your arm- and you must treat is as such... Rei?"
††††††††††† Rei had zoned out.
††††††††††† "Rei?" She asked again. "Are you still living, Rei?"
††††††††††† Rei blinked a couple of times, and returned to the land of the living. Damodred sighed audibly.
††††††††††† "Don't worry about it," she interrupted, "you just missed out on some metaphysical shit that wouldn't have helped you any but that we seem obligated to give. To say it quickly; Treat your sword like it's a part of you, and you'll do fine."
††††††††††† "Thanks," Rei intoned, trying not to look tired.
††††††††††† "Just don't zone out when I'm saying something important, because I'm not going to repeat it."
††††††††††† "Right," he said, nodding, and making a mental note not to die.
††††††††††† "Most people see sword fighting as an art, or a kind of dance," Damodred began, drawing a rapier out from a rack near the wall and handing it to Rei. She drew her own swords as she went on. "The thing that they don't realize is that, really, sword fighting is just you with your big, sharp, pointy stick, and your opponent with another big, sharp, pointy stick. Your goal is to hit your opponent with your big, sharp, pointy stick hard enough that he stops moving, before he does the same to you. All of the artsy dance-like technique comes after that realization is made." She glanced down at his weapon.
††††††††††† "Now, your particular big, sharp, pointy stick is classified as a basket-hilted rapier. It's the same kind that you used against the King and Tyrant, and the same kind that Talien fights with, as well. A rapier is somewhat thinner and lighter than the average sword, although it's also long and sharp. It's blade is made for slashing more than for stabbing, although it is well-suited for both. The hilt is designed to protect your hand, while still allowing freedom. Also, despite its length, the rapier is meant to be used with only one hand."
††††††††††† Rei nodded, attempting to take in as much of this as possible before he went into zombie-land again.
††††††††††† "I choose to use a pair of katanas instead," she stated, holding out both swords. "This particular style relies on finesse and speed more than brute strength. If you'll notice," she said, bringing the shorter blade up, "One of the swords is shorter than the other. This way, it's better suited for close-ranged attacks, and for defense." She looked up at him. "The other, longer one is mainly used for attacking purposes. The main difficulty with this style, besides the obvious task of expertly wielding two swords at once, is the fact that katanas were originally intended to be wielded in two hands. The blade is curved, and weighted, and takes some expert practice to use in only one hand."
††††††††††† Rei thought for a second. "Then why do you use it in your left hand if it's more difficult?"
††††††††††† "I'm left-handed," she answered, rolling her eyes. "You know, like Link. The Hero of Time. That guy."
††††††††††† Rei nodded again.
††††††††††† "Like your rapier," She went on, "Both katanas are traditionally girded on the side- both on the same side." she put them back in their sheaths. "This makes unsheathing them more difficult, but far more effective," she said, simultaneously pulling them out in a blindingly quick motion. "Actually, everything involving weapons like these is more difficult than it looks." She grinned. "I think we're going to have a lot of fun today," she remarked casually, looking sarcastically demonic. Rei began to get nervous, and looked around in his half-asleep mind for something, anything to say to contribute to the conversation.
††††††††††† "Hey, at least you haven't beaten me up yet!" Rei remarked rather lightheartedly.
††††††††††† "We just haven't gotten to that part yet," she replied in the same sing-songy voice.
††††††††††† Again Rei made that mental note not to die.
††††††††††† Some hours later, Rei emerged from the training room, battered and broken. He braced himself against the doorjamb for a second, panting, before finally giving in to the laws of nature and collapsing onto the ground in a heap. Damodred looked down at him, leaned onto the doorway, folded her arms, and smiled.
††††††††††† "That was a good session today," she commented, "You learned a lot." She glanced down at him. "Just don't exert yourself so much next time. You could hurt someone."
††††††††††† Rei struggled to get up, leaning on his sword. His hair fell into his eyes.
††††††††††† "I'm not dead yet," he strained to say.
"I didn't imply that you were," she said, stepping over him. Rei collapsed again, and resigned his soul to fate. Damodred stopped, and knelt down in front of him. He attempted to raise his head back up so he'd be at eye level with her, but didn't quite manage it.
††††††††††† "Are you familiar with the cliffs around the area?' She asked him. Rei managed to shake his head.
††††††††††† "Aside from the one where I walked with Talien a little while ago, no."
††††††††††† She nodded. "Then come see me when it gets closer to evening. I've got something to show you."
††††††††††† Rei groaned again. She stood up and began to walk away. Stopping, Damodred offered one last parting comment.
††††††††††† "Don't worry, you won't get yourself killed."
††††††††††† Rei was unable to reply to her comment.
††††††††††† By the time that the evening had actually begun, Rei had patched himself up to the point where he felt more like a human being again. The shower had really helped. And the nap. Not to mention the change of clothes, shave, and that strange and wonderful thing known as "food."
††††††††††† Perhaps it wasn't that bad an idea to go take Damodred up on whatever it was that she was talking about. Well, it was better than not doing it and paying later.
††††††††††† Damodred leaned back in her chair a bit, popped an olive into her mouth, and wondered to herself if Rei was actually going to show up. Chances were, he'd be there if he were conscious enough to remember. She ate another olive, and decided to give him five more minutes. Tradition waits for no man. But besides that, the olives were good, as always.
††††††††††† Rei arrived exactly four minutes and thirty seconds later, signaling his entrance with a shy knock on the door.
††††††††††† "Come in, she commented, sitting up. Rei poked his head in through the door.
††††††††††† "You wanted me?"
††††††††††† "Yes," she said, standing up. Damodred casually put the lid back on the olive jar. "Talien wanted to show you something. It's kind of a tradition."
††††††††††† "Tradition?" Rei asked, scratching his head. He stepped to the side to allow Damodred to walk out the door ahead of him.
††††††††††† "Yeah, tradition. Just follow along."
††††††††††† Rei shrugged and followed her.
††††††††††† Damodred led him out behind the main buildings, to the trail that he had walked with Talien earlier. They went up the path a little ways, and eventually met up with Talien himself, who was sitting at the edge of a cliff that overlooked the entire city. The sun was just beginning to set, and the landscape was bathed in a soft golden light. Rei blinked for a moment at the sight, and walked up to Talien.
††††††††††† "I'm here?" he said in a tone that implied neither question nor answer.
††††††††††† Talien nodded. "Feel free to take a seat."
††††††††††† Rei stopped, and noticed that Damodred had already sat down next to Talien. He shrugged, and sat cross-legged on Talien's other side.
††††††††††† "This cliff's the only one like it here," Talien said, "It overlooks the city from the west, in just the right placement to catch the sunset. On some days, it's beyond gorgeous.
††††††††††† Rei looked out over the horizon, as the soft gold turned to a fiery orange. The sky danced with colours, which were reflected on the majestic landscape below. He had never before seen anything, natural or man-made, as beautiful as this.
††††††††††† Rei spoke in hushed tones, as though in reverence for the beautiful sight that laid before him. "This... this is incredible," he said, in awe.
††††††††††† "Aye, that it is," Talien replied, seemingly basking in it. He looked years younger. "I come here every evening. Damodred usually joins me. We sit, and watch the sun go down. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we say nothing. It's something that I discovered years ago, before I met either of you, when I was a new recruit in the Sheikah."
††††††††††† Rei nodded, listening. The orange deepened to a red, and the clouds in the sky began to turn a light purple.
††††††††††† "There's something about this cliff, at this time of day," Talien went on. "It relaxes the mind, and feeds the soul. I really can't describe it."
††††††††††† Rei agreed with him, although at the moment he was too overcome by awe to say anything.
††††††††††† "This is one of the best sunsets that I've seen," Damodred commented, watching the deepening shade of red slowly change to violet as the sun dropped below the mountain ridge in the distance. "It's been a while since I've seen anything like this."
††††††††††† "I haven't really shown this to many people," Talien added, softly. "I'm letting you here because I consider you one of us. A third member to our duo, so to speak."
††††††††††† Rei blinked. Talien looked at him and smiled.
††††††††††† "I consider you a friend."
††††††††††† As the sun dipped below the horizon, and the fleeting remnants of daylight escaped, Rei felt honoured to be called a friend by this man whom he so respected. As of that moment, he belonged in Mankurosa. Any thoughts of leaving had disappeared from his mind. Rei Elanis was Sheikah, and would always be. The three must not be broken up. Ever.
††††††††††† They left shortly afterward, and went back to their own lives for the rest of the night. Talien went to bed early. Damodred ate a few more olives and sharpened the tip of the knife that she had loaned to Rei. Rei prepared himself for the next day, and hoped that he'd still be standing by the time that it was over.
Life was beautiful.