by Mehve Rider
Part 4: Rae fights a bully with naught but her sharp tongue.
| “Rae! Where in the world did you go?” Ánra raced towards her.” I checked your rooms and you didn’t answer, and I asked Elk and he didn’t know, and I went to the stables and-” “Ánra, calm down. I only went to the Alchire. I needed to clear my thoughts.”
Ánra stopped mid sentence, her mouth slightly open. “Oh.” She stood up straight. “Is that it?”
“Yes. That’s it. It’s a good place for me to meditate.”
Ánra still looked a little surprised; Rae remembered that she did not have much love for the place. About a year after Rae had taken the ritual, Ánra had turned sixteen. She had been so worried, staying up at night, barely eating. When she had come out of the Alchire, she’d been shaking, though the chakram in her hand had been changed to chrysocolla. She had never gone back, never talked about her experience there. The fact that Rae went there so often still seemed bewildering to her.
“Well. Yeah. Elk is waiting for us at the arena. Exertim and Velrit are arriving soon, and we’re all supposed to be there for the greeting. Well, I have to be there earlier. You know.” Rae grinned. “Don’t look so down about it Ánra, you have an amazing talent. Besides, it’s not like you’ll be the only one up there.”
“Easier said than done!” Ánra’s voice rose, wringing her hands. “What if I mess up? All three schools will be watching!”
Rae took her friend by the shoulder, guiding her across the courtyard. “You’ll be fine,” she said. “You’ve practiced this for so long. You love doing it.” She knuckled Ánra in the arm. “Elk and I will be watching and cheering you on. He may or may not be making faces at you though, so prepare yourself not to laugh.”
Her friend smiled a little at that. “How come you didn’t volunteer?” she asked. “You have the talent too.”
“Yeah, but then it’d only make me look bad, playing next to you.” Rae felt Ánra relax a little, but when they heard another student call from the arena entrance, she tensed up again.
“I gotta go,” she said. “Remember,” Rae called after her. “You’re brilliant.” One of Ánra’s shaking hands raised to acknowledge, but other than that, she kept her back straight as she walked away.
Rae watched her enter the back of the arena where the temporary stage would be set, then hurried over the main entrance. Most of the students were milling about, tapping their weapons, talking with friends, glancing out towards the main road. She could understand their apprehension and excitement. Last year, they had all traveled to Velrit, and upon their entrance, they had all drawn their weapons and ran into the arena. It was a completely uncoordinated display, but it emphasized just how diverse their weaponry as well as showed of the product of those who went through the Alchacite Ritual. Exertim had lead a synchronized battle formation into the arena, with a lot of shouting and shield banging. Who knew what they would do this year, or what even Velrit would do?
Rae found Elk and was about to head over to him, when some of his friends pulled him into a conversation. She pulled up short, glaring at them. She couldn’t explain why, but she did not like other boys; Elk was the exception. She was always the one to roll her eyes at the other girls during the academic classes, giggling over notes about who liked who and what not. Even Ánra acted like that sometimes, and all Rae could do was mentally bang her head against a wall. It’s not like she hated them, she just thought they were a waste of her time. What was the point of being all chummy with them if they were only going to see her as a girl?
Meyrin had a pretty good boy to girl ratio, and discouraged any gender speculations, but still, guys didn’t always take you seriously. Well, they took her seriously enough. None of them talked to her, and she liked to think they were scared of her fighting skills. Ánra said it was because she glared at everyone, but Rae took it with a grain of salt; at least she had a reputation could be proud of. “I taught you to have some pride in yourself Rae. But that is not what I was talking about.” Her mother’s words began listing in her head. Rae could almost see her, throwing her hands in the air in frustration. “Just because I said not to get into any relationships with boys until you’re older, did not mean for you to completely sever ties with them!” Rae felt the familiar glow inside, at the fact that she could still remember her mother’s words in perfect detail, and annoyance at the reprimand.
It wasn’t just because they were guys, per say. It just happened that the guys were always joking around thinking they were so great at everything., fooling around during class instead of listening to the teacher, flirting with the girls and basically making her life more irksome.
Rae considered what to do. It wasn’t like she needed to be with Elk during the opening; she could just stand by herself and cheer the other schools when they came. But then, she hated standing by herself. It was so awkward, she never knew what to do with her hands, or her feet, or where she was supposed to look. Ánra said that whenever she saw Rae standing by herself, she looked ready to skin somebody. Apparently, standing at parade rest with arms crossed and staring into space was not the most inviting pose.
But if she didn’t want to stand by herself, then she had to find someone to be with. Her first choice would be Elk, but was preoccupied. Her other option was to find one her “acquaintances” and try to be friendly with them for the first half hour. Rae grimaced; that was not an appealing option. She hated doing that, even more so when other people did it. Going to someone and being friendly for a few minutes just to pass time and not look like a fool, and then move off as soon as they could. Rae felt it was complete hypocrisy, fake friends. If there was anything she couldn’t stand more, it was a false face. So...it looked like she would have to hang around Elk and his friends for a while.
Steeling herself, Rae walked over to him. He saw her coming and waved her over, not breaking his conversation. As she approached, she resisted the urge to gag. His friends were some of the most annoying at Meryin; how Elk could stand them was beyond her comprehension. Then again, she snorted, It’s not like he’s much different. The group soon realized who Elk had been waving too, and got a little quiet. A few looked at her with quite condescending stares, while others almost looked...was that friendliness she saw?
No way. She was perfectly fine with being glared at because she could just glare right back. And win. But she couldn’t glare at someone trying to smile at her. Rae groaned inside; why did people have to try and be friendly with her? As odd as it sounded and as much as she would like to have friends other than her cousin and Ánra, her reactions to kind gestures was always off. Her exasperation must have showed on her face: any glimpse of a smile she might’ve seen all but vanished.
Elk glanced at her, noticing the situation. “Rae, did Ánra find you?” He was always trying to bring her into socializing, but this time, she took the hint without hesitation.
“Yeah, looking like there was a bear breathing down her neck.”
“She was like that with me too. I tried to calm her down by telling her that we’d make faces at her, and she brightened up a little.”
“You used that line too? Facets, maybe that’s why she didn’t respond very well when I said it.” Rae teased him. “It was already watered down by you.”
“Hey, timing is everything, and you just didn’t have it. Besides, who said you could steal my lines?”
Rae felt herself relaxing. She always felt so much more comfortable around Elk and Ánra. She became more confident, more outgoing. As she joked with her cousin, Rae could sense the others watching them, trying to figure out what to make of her. She didn’t show this side of herself to others much, so Rae figured it was almost a culture shock to them. It wasn’t for lack of trying though. There were many times when she had tried joking with other girls in her classes, but it was never the same. Some of them seemed so shallow, while others just didn’t understand where she was coming from.
“Hey Rae, who do you think will arrive first?” Rae jerked her head around. It was that sandy haired boy, the one with the pyrite glaive. The ring of people got quiet, waiting for her response. She could feel the original comfortableness fading, replaced by her normal stony self. Who cared? Why was she even worrying about trying to be more of a conversationalist? “Probably Exertim,” she said stiffly. “They came after us at Velrit.” Her tone seemed to cut him like a knife. “That’s an interesting opinion,” he said meekly, trying to regain his composure. Rae felt sick; that was why she cared about trying to be a conversationalist: being a bad one put people down. She fingered one of her daggers, trying to distract herself from anymore awkward eye contact.
Another boy elbowed him in the ribs. “What was that for?” she heard him mutter. “Why do you even want her opinion? She’d probably step on yours and grind it like a bug.” Rae stopped fiddling with her belt and slid her palm around a dagger handle. The boy who had spoken cut off, noticing her movement. She stared him straight in the face. “What about my opinion, Merge?”
Out of all the boys in that ring, he was by far the worst, and was the perfect reason as to why she disliked boys so much. He always lounged in the back of classes, came onto the training grounds late, flirted with the girls, and was rude in every other way. But he was fast, and strong He could hold his own against many of the teachers. Rae’s conscience told her she couldn’t criticize him completely, but his bad qualities were enough to make her want to sack her conscience.
“Nothing that would matter to you,” he said, a smug grin on his face. Facets, she hated that smile. “You wouldn’t care about our opinions if it were a flea on your face, so why should we care about yours?” Rae’s fingers twitched. It would be so easy, to take him out before Rako even started. She held back; violence was not the answer. Elk held out a hand. “Hey Merge. I don’t think now-” “What’s wrong? Can’t even handle your blade? Or too afraid to take on a real fighter?” Merge ignore her cousin, his taunts were becoming increasingly bolder. He barely knew what he was talking about: had he never checked the mock battle rankings? Probably couldn’t even read them, . A spark went off in her mind: who needed blades when she had…
“I could probably beat her out of a ring in, what? Two minutes? One? I’m thinking-”
Merge glared at her. “What did you say?”
Rae stared back at him. “You were wondering how long it would take you to beat me out of a fighting ring. Well, it would probably only take you twenty seconds.”
He stared at her, had she just agreed with him? Rae mentally drew his face into her memory: Merge, the confused soul.
“I mean, I’d want to get out as fast as possible, your stench alone is bad from here.” She smiled when his face started turning jade red. “But by all means, if we’re in the ring, help me out. Breathing in toxins isn’t good for my health, you know?”
Elk looked like he was about to keel over from both embarrassment and holding in the laughter. Some of the others were looking at each other, as if trying to figure out how to react. Rae couldn’t help it; being with Elk all the time had taught her some pretty nasty habits.
“Oh, I’m sorry if I’ve offended you,” she said. “I’ve heard that spotted dowings vomit when insulted. Will you need a bucket or should we take you to the hospital wing?”
Merge’s face deepened to a garnet color. “You dare…compare me to that… stupid and weak blob excuse for a creature?”
Rae tapped her chin. “I see your point. It’s a little too impressive to be compared to you.”
“Why you dimwitted scum bag midget,” Merge reached for his falchion. The spessartine weapon gleamed as he drew it from his belt. Rae glanced over his shoulder, and decided to shoot for one more. “Ooh, I understand the midget part, but isn't dimwitted a bit hypocritical?” His moment of hesitation was overshadowed by his charge. She had a moment of irritation that he hadn’t seemed to get the entirety of her last quip, before she swung up her daggers to lock his blow.
“Merge!” Cove walked up the group, his normally calm demeanor replaced by a frenzied, ill-tempered look. “The students and teachers of Exertim and Velrit are soon to arrive and I find you knocking around your own classmate!” Rae could see Merge struggling, wanting so much to continue the duel, yet yielding under Cove’s authority. “I’ve a right mind to dismiss you from Rako’s opening ceremony!”
Chapter 1: https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2154336-Part-1-Uneasieness
Chapter 2: https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2154732-Part-2-Needed
Chapter 3: https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2155715-Part-3-Releasing-Fear