161 A Lesson from a Vampire and an Assassin*
That evening, as Rassa took on his watch duties, Ebony appeared with a request.
"Teach me to fight," she said.
Rassa sighed, "I'm on watch".
Ebony rolled her eyes, "We both know you can teach and watch at the same time".
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Rassa pointed behind him, "They don't know that. I'm already strange enough as it is".
"I thought you'd decided you weren't hiding anymore," Ebony cut back.
Rassa frowned. There she went again, digging at his sensitive spot. There to remind him of what he'd promised himself to work towards. He knew it wasn't normal that she had to remind him. It should have been something he just accepted and did. But something held him back, kept him from being who he knew he was.
"Fine," Rassa grumbled.
He looked around and picked up some spare rope about as thick as a large egg. He then handed it to Ebony who didn't seem to have a problem with the weight.
"What's this for?" asked Ebony.
"Hold your arms out straight in front of you with the rope on them," Rassa instructed. When he was happy with Ebony's stance he gave the next instruction, "Now squat like you're sitting on an invisible chair".
Ebony's frown deepened but she did as told. When Rassa said nothing else she stood back up, "Are you making fun of me?"
Rassa turned and sat back down against the mast, "If you don't want to learn that's your problem".
"So what am I supposed to do in that position?" asked Ebony.
"Hold it," Aegin said as he joined them on the foredeck, "Hold it until you feel like you're going to faint from the strain".
Ebony's eyes widened, "Why, by the gods, would I do that?"
"You wanted to learn," Aegin shrugged, "No point in learning if you don't have the proper strength to deal with the work".
Ebony realised why they were asking her to do this ridiculous stance and looked at the rope hesitantly. After all, Aegin had specified to hold the position until she was on the verge of fainting. That'd have to be a long time. And...it'd hurt.
Still, they were teaching her. And she was sure she'd been through worse than this.
Ebony took the stance again, looking forward with determined eyes.
Aegin took a seat next to Rassa, facing the determined Ebony.
"How long do you think she'll last?" he asked.
"If she's determined, maybe a couple of hours, if not, maybe forty minutes," said Rassa.
"You're generous. I bet she wouldn't last twenty," said Aegin with a smirk.
Rassa looked at Aegin, then smiled confidently, "She's fitter than that".
"We'll find out".
Ebony frowned at their conversation, "What? No bets?"
Aegin placed a hand on his chest as he looked offended by the question, "That you would think we'd degrade you to the point where your suffering was a game to us really hurts me, Ebony".
Ebony's eyebrows raised in surprise, then she watched as Aegin turned to Rassa, "10 gold that she falls in the first hour".
Rassa looked at Ebony, who now looked offended, then turned to shake Aegin's outstretched hand, "You're on".
"You're only a minute in, don't make me start counting again," Rassa cut her off.
Ebony shut her mouth, turning away in her annoyance. The three lapsed into silence for a while before Aegin spoke in a lower tone to Rassa alone.
"So what are you teaching her?"
"She's too small, it's better she learn the Havoi style I used earlier today," Rassa said, "Did you ever learn it?"
Aegin shrugged, "A little, I could probably teach her the basics".
Rassa raised an eyebrow, "Care to prove it?"
Aegin smirked, "What, you don't want to save that for the competition?"
"Call it a warm up," Rassa replied.
Aegin stood and jumped up on his toes, giddy as he skidded towards the bow of the ship. It'd been a while since he'd had a decent spar with anybody, he'd started to miss it. Even if Rassa had beat him to a pulp last time, this time they were limited to a style, it should make things more interesting at least.
Rassa stood, stretching slowly before he turned to look at Ebony, "You're fifteen minutes in. Aegin and I are going to spar in the style I feel is best to teach you considering your stature and strength. It's the same as the one you saw me using earlier today".
Ebony seemed to want to open her mouth to reply, but closed it again as her arms began to shake. She settled for nodding.
Rassa then turned to face Aegin, who had stood ready and waiting until the moment that Rassa did turn around, at which point he darted forwards.
The Havoi Style was rather defensive, but it did have a few moves to attack with. Mostly moves using the upper body.
Rassa and Aegin traded blows back and forth with wide grins. Aegin especially. He held out for a lot longer when they were fighting using this style. However, he refused to acknowledge the idea that he was holding out for that long because Rassa was trying to show Ebony the style as best he could.
Regardless, they traded blows for quite a while before they were interrupted by Ebony crashing back onto the ground, exhausted and her limbs shaking.
"How long was that?" asked Aegin.
Rassa sighed and pulled out ten coins, holding them out to Aegin, "Forty-one minutes and fifteen seconds".
Aegin grinned at the gold, pocketing it as Rassa made his way over to Ebony.
"Sit up," he ordered. Ebony breathed heavily, looking at Rassa incredulously. He'd never been this harsh with her before.
He glared at her until she shakingly managed to sit up. Rassa then moved behind her, spreading her legs out wide in front of her before he pushed her back so that she was leaning forward, "Stretch out your arms as far in front of you as you can".
"Flexibility is also really important in this style," Rassa cut in before she could protest, "I'm going to show you how to do a series of stretches, I want you to do them at least four times a day until you can do them easily".
So, through the stretches they went, and by the end of it, Aegin had to help take Ebony down to her hammock. They all knew that Ebony would wake up sore tomorrow, but hopefully the stretches would help somewhat.