The air was still inside the court yard. Every sound was crystal clear, from the buzzing insect to the water fountain. Naoe, Hanzo, and Matabei with weapons drawn circled around Maria. As if on a silent cue, they struck.
Naoe jumped the highest to come down with her hammer, but Maria met her in the air. She had jumped higher, and as Naoe had moved her hammer back to strike, Maria struck the hammer sending it flying straight towards Hanzo.
Hanzo dodged the huge missile and sent a volley of knives at Maria. One of Maria’s light weapons sprang to life and created a shield that caught each knife. Matabei was quickly coming in from underneath Maria, but the Paladin and twisted mid air and had the shield aimed at her. The knives were expunged in Matabei’s general direction, forcing Matabei to abort the attack.
Silence prevailed in the court yard again until Yagyu spoke out, “Impressive! I didn’t know that Western styles of fighting had such forms.”
Maria bowed to each of her opponent before saying, “It is not all Western. Paladins study many forms of combat to help handle the many types of foes we can face. Truly, it is a world style, and each Paladin makes it his or her own.”
Sen and Yukimura both growled at the way Muneakira was looking at Maria. Sen spoke first, “Paladin Kendrick, would you like the spare the two of us?”
“Yes, but first may I sample your general?”
Both girls flinched at the words, but before they could say anything, Muneakira stepped towards Maria and bowed. After she bowed back, he drew his blade.
Power started to ebb from him, and the aura caused Maria to raise an eyebrow. She matched Yagyu’s stance, and she pulled one light blade out. It took the form of a katana.
With one glance, Muneakira said, “Let me guess, your mother, taught by her father, taught you some moves.”
“Actually, after I beat him in a duel, Grandpa taught me his style.”
Both their moves were so fast that most people would not have seen it. The swords clashed repeatedly, but rarely for the pace the fight was going. Each fighter was skillfully moving to try to gain a better position. However, Yagyu slowly started to force the Paladin back.
Suddenly, her katana become a giant mace. Yagyu did not react in time and his sword was sent flying out of his hand. Her weapon changed again, and a spear was moving straight to him. He dodged and caught the spear with his hand. He was almost about to strike home with his secret move when another light blade, in the form of a dagger, beat him in speed and was positioned under his neck. Shock filled his face.
Maria, looking at the near strike Yagyu was about to give, gave a slow exhale. “You are faster than Grandpa by a long shot. If I didn’t have some actual battle experience and knowledge of your style, that would have defeated me.” Her weapons withdrew back into their containers. “That was a excellent match.”
Yagyu regained his composure and bowed back. He raised his head and said, “Why didn’t you tell me you trained with my Grand Uncle and that you knew my style?” His voice sounded like he knew the answer already and was not actually upset.
Maria gave an innocent smile, “Enemies don’t show their full set of cards before a battle, so why would one train that way? Also, the fact that it gave me an edge on you could have played a factor. Plus, it might give you motivation to spare with me more.” Muneakira laughed as Maria gave another innocent smile.
Yukimura growled to Sen, “Why is this old fart flirting with Muneakira!?”
Sen growled back, “How did she know that was a good way to flirt with him in the first place!? Aren’t they related?!”
Though no one else heard them, the aura the two gave had everyone looking at them. Both turned into Master Samurai and said at the same time, “It is our turn, Paladin.”
Maria raised her eyebrow as she looked at the two of them. Then, her other brow joined in. “Well, this will be an interesting bout. Lets see how long I last.” She bowed to them. They bowed back, then struck so fast that Muneakira barely got out of range.
The two Samurai struck with air and lighting in coordinated attacks. It was everything Maria could do to stay on the ground and not charred. She used both weapons to either hook into something to not be blown away or give her enough weight to stay on the ground and then to absorb the lighting strikes. However, that was not all the Samurai did. Sen slashed with her spear and Yumikara did with her fans. Maria managed to block them, but she was quickly losing ground.
Yagyu shouted out, “Shouldn’t this be one at a time!”
Maria then shouted, “Flame Jet!” The two Samurai dodged a flame of fire that sprang from Maria’s armor and was channeled by a weapon. “Cone of Cold!” Right where they dodged Maria blasted with an expanding freezing spell. It was not strong enough though as both charged right through it. “Lighting Strike!” Both Samurai struck Maria’s weapons, only to have a charge from those weapons strike at them. Both Sprang back and prepared to attack again. However, Maria was knocked back by their attack and was on the ground. She was not moving.
Both girls instantly dropped their auras. After a quick look of concern to each other, they joined everyone else in running towards Maria. But only after a few steps, Maria sat up and shook her head slightly. “No wonder Japan held off the dark forces for so long. You two rival the most powerful of Paladins I know, and they had a life time of training to get to that level.” She got up and bowed, “It is good to know Japan is protected by such strength with grace and beauty. I am soundly defeated.”
The two did not know what to say. Sen eventually spoke out, “Well, Paladin, I am Princess and Master Samurai. Of course I have grace and beauty and powerful strength. The fact you lasted so long speaks well of your skill and training.”
Yukimura added, “Yes, those attacks were a mix of your battle armor and your own spiritual strength. For someone to do that without a Samurai pact or heavier technical and genetic modification is most impressive. It would take a Samurai to take you on.”
Maria gave them an odd look before smiling, “Your words are very gracious, thank you.” She stood up, her armor instantly shook off the dirt, and she walked to the two Samurai. When she was close enough, she bowed again and whispered, “You two really love him, don’t you.”
Both froze, but nodded yes. Maria continued, “Don’t let jealousy cloud your judgment. That could easily be used against you in a real fight. However, I am sorry for causing that jealousy. In some respects, Yagyu reminds me of my brother. He is definitely a good catch for the two of you. Can you forgive me? I know I haven’t been all that innocent around him.”
Once again they looked at each other. The two girls slowly looked back at Maria. Sen said, “Sorry we both attacked at the same time. It was a bit overboard and not respectful.”
Yukimura added, “And we know that we should not act out to harshly with our feelings. If it is just because Muneakira reminds you of your brother, we can forgive a couple friendly passes. It is not like you would try to sneak a kiss in while he was asleep.”
Maria made an odd face, “Tell me that has not happened.”
By now everyone had gathered around them. Though they had missed the conversation, Matabei and Hanzo could guess what took place. Naoe said, “Why is everyone hanging around here?” Yagyu wisely kept some distance.
Sen looked at Yukimura who just realized she made a confession. Maria laughed, “May I look into you?” Both girls gave her an odd look. “I will look into your eyes, but you will feel a connection between us. You will see and feel my true self as I would see yours. It is kinda of intimate, but I want to see what the true self of a Master Samurai is.”
The two Samurai looked into Maria’s eyes as she looked back as everyone watched. Sen felt her arrogance, pride, selfishness and more rise to the surface, but Maria’s eyes plunged further to where Sen felt her own caring, charitable, loyal, and loving self. Yukimura saw her high self esteem be brushed away by Maria’s eyes as she gazed into warm heart that beat beneath. No secret feeling could hide from those eyes. Maria’s naughty nature was barely a whisper at the surface as a tide of compassion, strength, virtue, and conviction flowed underneath. Maria slowly blinked and broke the contact.
No one said anything for a second. Slowly, Sen managed to say, “That was, not what I expected.”
Yukimura looked at Maria with a whole new perspective, “I knew Paladins were disciplined, but I had no idea. To know oneself so well is truly a great step to becoming a warrior.” She thought to herself and then said, “Wait, you did that with Muneakira yesterday, didn’t you!”
Maria nodded yes, “In that situation, I wanted to know who he truly was before I acted on the picture before me.” Everyone remembered the situation of which she spoke and wisely did not object further.
Maria held out her hand, “After seeing the real you, I would be honored to be your friend.” Both Samurai looked at the hand for a second before reaching out and shaking it. It was at that moment that the three of them felt the wrongness in the air.
By the time everyone else had started to move, the Master Samurai were striking at the shadows surrounding them. Yagyu was moving as well, but did not see the spear of pure darkness flying towards his back…