(To read the previous chapter of Strength, click here)
“So…” Lilina said, apprehensively at breakfast the next morning, “Do I still have to fight daddy?” “Not if you don’t want to,” Hector said. “Yaaaaayyyyyy!” Lilina said, “Now I never have to fight again!” “So you admit that your magic is weaker than my axe?” Hector asked. “Wha? I never said that!” Lilina pouted. “Well, if you think your magic is so cool, prove it to me!” Hector said. “Wait… so you’re saying I can fight you with magic?” Lilina asked. “Not quite,” Hector said, “I’m saying you have to. Magic is your calling; I won’t let you waste any more time practicing a weapon you aren’t suited to. And to make your magic stronger, I’ll let you study as much as you want!” “All right!” Lillina shouted, “You better get ready, daddy, ‘cuz I’m gonna kick your ass!” Lyn glared at her silently. She didn’t need to say anything. “S-sorry,” she said, meekly, “I mean, I’m gonna kick your butt.” “Better,” Lyn said. “Wait, so you have no problem with her threatening me?” Hector asked, indignantly. “Should I?” Lyn asked, teasingly, “You aren’t scared, are you?” “O-of c-course I’m n-not,” Hector said, acting afraid. “I-I’m sorry Daddy!” Lilina said, “I didn’t mean to scare you!” “Oh ho ho!” Hector laughed heartily, “Don’t worry princess, I’m not actually scared! I was just pretending!” “Oh really?” Lilina asked, “Well, if you’re not scared, I guess I’ll just have to fix that, won’t I?” “Ah ha ha,” Hector laughed, a bit uneasily, “We’ll see about that. Since you’re so fired up, why don’t we spar right after breakfast?” “You shouldn’t exercise right after eating, Daddy,” Lilina said, “You’ll get cramps.” “Oh yeah, I guess you’re right,” Hector said, “But my schedule’s pretty full today. I don’t know when else I could find time.” “Oh,” Lilina said, dejectedly, “Maybe I could train with someone else? Like Oswin!” “Oh, I’m sure you’d love that, wouldn’t you?” Hector said, “With his heavy armor, he’d be a sitting duck for your magic!” “Th-that’s not why!” Lilina pouted, “I’m just saying that he’s strong, so he’d be good at training me!” “Maybe,” Hector said, “But I’m the only one who can train you.” “What?” Lilina said, “But if I only fight daddy, I’ll only be good at fighting Daddy! And no one else fights like Daddy, so I wouldn’t be strong!” “She makes a good point,” Lyn said. “If she must learn to fight, she would be better suited learning to fight her enemies, rather than her allies.” “Easier said than done,” Hector said, “It’s not like I can borrow some wyvern knights for her to train against.” “W-wyverns?” Lilina asked, timidly. “N-never mind, sweetie,” Hector said, “I see where you’re coming from, but in the end, I have to be the one to train you.” “Why?” Lilina asked, “Is this some dumb masculinity thing?” Lyn smiled. “Yes, kinda!” Hector said, “But more importantly, everyone else is too afraid to fight you.” “Really?” Lilina asked, beaming, “They’re afraid of my magic?” “Don’t sound so excited!” Hector said, “And it’s not really my magic they’re afraid of, it’s me. All my knights know that if they accidentally hurt you while sparring, they’d have to answer to me.” “I could spar with m’lady,” Matthew interjected, suddenly entering the room, “I would never dream of answering to you, m’lord.” “Very funny,” Hector growled, “I may put up with your antics far more than you deserve, but if you were to harm my daughter, neither your quick tongue nor you quick feet would keep you safe.” “Be at ease, m’lord,” Matthew said, “If she’s even half as sturdy as you, m’lord, then I scarcely think I could harm her if I tried.” “Th-that’s not true!” Lilina said, “Don’t be so hard on yourself, Uncle Matthew! You fought against The Black Fang and Nergal! I bet you can beat someone like me easily!” “Well, probably if I tried really hard,” Matthew said, “But I’d never do that while sparring, much less against m’lord’s precious princess.” “And just what is that supposed to mean?” Hector asked. “Well, nothing fit to discuss in the presence of m’ladies,” Matthew said, “But let’s just say that I picked up a few tricks when we were fighting The Black Fang.” “Oh… OK then,” Hector said, suspiciously, “Well, despite that, I guess I trust you to spar with Lilina. Just don’t use anything sharp.”
“I could train her,” Lyn said. “A-are you sure?” Hector asked, “If you hurt her…” “I’d never forgive myself,” Lyn said, “But it’s not like I’d forgive you if you hurt her. And besides, I could use the training myself.” “B-but Mommy,” Lilina said, “I don’t want to hurt you.” “Hah, you sound just like your father,” Lyn said. “M’lady!” Matthew cried out, “No child deserves such a cruel insult, much less your own daughter!” Lyn and Lilina laughed while Hector scowled. “It’s fine, Uncle Matthew,” Lilina said, “I like daddy! For now.” “I do, too,” Lyn said, “But in this case, you could afford to be a bit less like him. I may not be big and tough like he is, but I can hold my own. You don’t have to worry about me.” “Your mother’s right,” Hector said, “If you’re not careful, you could end up a big dummy like me!” “Oh no!” Lilina said, “Anything but that!” They all laughed, even Hector.
“So, when are we doing this, m’lady?” Matthew asked Lilina, “I’m free basically whenever.” “Uhhhhh, I guess I am, too,” Lilina said, “Let’s fight right after breakfast, then!” “Hey, wouldn’t you get cramps?” Hector asked. “It should be fine,” Lilina said, “If I’m just doing magic, I’m not really exercising, right?” “Er, I guess you’d know better than I would,” Hector said, “But what about Matthew? Have you eaten breakfast?” “Of course not, m’lord,” Matthew said, “I do not eat. The shadows are my sustenance.” “I… what.” Hector said. “Listen,” Matthew said, “Don’t even worry about it.” “Way ahead of you,” Hector said. “But I still want to spar with you, Mommy!” Lilina said, “Just find me whenever you’re ready! And make sure you’re prepared, ‘cuz I won’t go easy on you!” “Of course, Princess,” Lyn said, “Just make sure you’re ready, too.” “Don’t worry!” Lilina said, “I will be!”
“Lilina! Dinner’s ready!” Hector shouted for the third time, “You’ll have plenty of time to study afterwards! Don’t make me come up there!” Lilina came down the stairs, pouting. “I’m not coming because you told me to,” she said, “I’m just coming because I’m hungry.” “Is something the matter, Princess?” Hector asked. “Daaaaaaadddddyyyyyyyy,” she whined, “Mommy and Matthew were cheeeeeaaaaaatiiiinnnggg.” “Oh?” Hector said, surprised, “I can’t say I’m surprised by Matthew, but I didn’t expect that from you, Dear. So, how did you cheat?” “Beats me,” Lyn said, “This is the first I’ve heard of it.” “Same here,” Matthew said, robbed of his usual dramatic entry by Hector allowing him to dine with his family, “I did no such thing. I give you my word.” “Your word is no good here!” Hector said. “Of course, m’lord,” Matthew said, “Then I give you Lilina’s.” “It doesn’t work like-” Hector began. “Daaaaddddddyyyyy, they’re llyyyyyyiiiiiinnnngggg,” Lilina interjected as she sat down and crossed her arms, “Any time I tried to cast a spell on them, they just got out of the way!” “Oh, sweetie,” Hector said, “That’s not cheating, it’s just part of combat. In a real life-or-death fight, you can’t expect your enemies to let you hit them.” “But you never did that, daddy!” Lilina pouted. “Well, I wear heavy armor,” Hector said, “For me, it’s easier to just let weak attacks hit me than it is to try to dodge.” “So you’re saying my attacks are weak?” Lilina asked, sadly. “Well, when you weren’t using magic… kinda, yeah,” Hector said, “But you can bet I’ll try my best to avoid those fireballs of yours.” “But that’s not faaaaaiiiiiirrrr,” Lilina whined. “Don’t worry,” Hector said, “I’m way easier to hit than Mommy or Matthew, even without my armor, so I probably won’t be able to dodge much. But if dodging is cheating, then that means you were cheating when we were sparring before!” “What, you think I should just stand there while you’re swinging your axe around like a madman? I’m not a big dummy like you.” “So it’s only cheating when someone else does it?” Hector asked. “Exactly!” Lilina said.
“There’s no such thing as cheating in warfare,” Matthew said, his demeanor as cheerful as ever, “Where I come from, we have a word for people who fight fair: losers. Whether someone bests you in honorable one-on-one combat or sticks a poisoned dagger in your back while you sleep, the result’s the same. So when you’re fighting for your life, you better be ready for every dirty trick in the book, because The Gods will turn a deaf ear to your pleas of ‘unfairness’ in the afterlife.” “Matthew!” Hector said, sternly, “You’re scaring her! Hold your tongue!” “If you are afraid of combat, m’lady,” Matthew said to Lilina, “Then you are wiser than your father. It is not the game that he makes it out to be.” “Matthew!” Hector shouted, “I’m not joking. I am ordering you to shut up!” “No can do, m’lord,” Matthew said, “I’m bound to protect M’lady before I’m bound to obey you.” “And just how do you figure you’re protecting her?” Hector demanded. “Because sparring isn’t the same thing as fighting,” Matthew said, “And if I don’t teach her that, someone else will, and they may not be nearly as nice about it as I.” “I…” Hector realized he had a point, but couldn’t admit it.
“Lilina,” Matthew said, sounding as sincere as Hector had ever heard, “I really am sorry for scaring you. But it’s better to be scared now, when you’re safe, then on the battlefield, when your life is in danger, right?” “R-right,” she said. “So… you’re saying I should cheat?” “Not when you’re sparring,” Matthew said, “But in a real fight? Do whatever it takes to survive, and be prepared for your enemy to do the same.” “Like what?” Lilina asked, “How do people cheat in real fights?” “Well, I could show you a few tricks,” Matthew said, “With m’lord’s permission, of course.” “Absolutely not,” Hector said, “I won’t have you teaching my daughter how to kick people in the nuts or whatever.” “Afraid, m’lord?” Matthew asked. Hector only sighed. “I don’t think it’s such a bad idea,” Lyn said. “Huh?” Hector said. “Well, Lilina can cast powerful spells,” Lyn said, “But there’s more to combat than hitting hard. With Matthew’s help, she could learn how to get the upper hand in a real fight so she can hit enemies before they hit her.” “…Fine,” Hector said, “Just don’t teach her anything too unbecoming of a lady.” “There are no ladies or gentlemen on the battlefield,” Matthew said, “Only warriors. And anything is becoming of them, so long as it helps them survive.” “I… wow,” Hector said, genuinely surprised, “That was… kind of eloquent.” “Many thanks, m’lord,” Matthew said. “That said,” Lyn said, “As powerful as your spells are, sweetie, I noticed that it takes you a while to cast them, making them easy to dodge. We should find a proper mage to tutor you.”
(To read the next chapter of Strength, click here)