A Spot of Exercise
I felt someone lightly shaking me. I bolted upright, feeling the bed shift beneath my sudden re-distribution of weight.
…Bed? Since when did I sleep on a bed?
As I rubbed the sleep and confusion from my eyes, I slowly began to remember that I now had a new position and a new set of circumstances – a roof over my head was one; an employer was another. I turned my head to see said employer standing by my bedside, a kind smile gracing her features.
“Good morning. Sleep well?”
“Yep. So, what do you need me to do?”
I climbed out of the bed as I gave my reply, unused to the feeling of not having my muscles stiff and aching from sleeping on a hard surface.
“Oh? You caught on quickly. Good. Put these on.”
Elysium handed me a bundle of clothing, consisting of a simple white shirt and long blue pants. Elysium herself had already slipped out of her nightwear in favour of a similar white-and-blue ensemble. Her long hair was tied back in a ponytail, her bangs tied back such that they kept out of her eyes. The light from the lamp on the table cast half her body in light and the other in shadow. Her eyes – her grey eyes – seemed to absorb the light, the light emphasising its contrast with her black hair. Her posture was strong, confident, dignified, more brash than the subdued confidence she bore in her butler outfit. She directed a wry smile at me and pushed the bundle toward me again.
“You know, it’s rude to stare.”
I jolted and shook my head, apologising. Then I took the bundle from her hands. Elysium considerately turned around as I began to change, letting me have a bit of privacy. As I slipped off the shirt, I spoke up.
“So, what are we doing? For that matter, what time is it?”
The only source of light was the lamp – the world beyond the window was still draped in darkness. It made me wonder what we woke up so early to do – clearly, the lack of light would hinder us.
“It’s about an hour to dawn. As for what we’re doing, well, just a bit of exercise to start off the day. I do this every morning, and from now on, as long as you’re with us, you’ll do the same. So try and get used to waking up at this time.”
I nodded, even though she couldn’t see me. Yes, it was early, but I was feeling well-rested. That was the best night’s sleep I’d had in several years. A spot of exercise would be no problem.
“Alright, I’m done changing, Miss Elysium.”
“Drop the ‘Miss’. Elysium is fine.”
She beckoned me to follow and walked to the door, picking up a strangely-shaped bundle on the way – I couldn’t quite make out what it was, owing to the dim light. She led the way up the stairs, opening the door onto the flat rooftop of the inn. She dropped the bundle she was carrying to the floor and motioned to me.
“Glint, could you light this place up?”
Ah. She wanted to observe my magic.
“What kind of light?”
“Just enough to let us see – something that lasts for a while. If possible, concentrate it just to this rooftop. Oh, and it should be something that isn’t a large drain to sustain.”
“Hmmm… I should be able to do that… I don’t know about keeping it to this rooftop, though.”
“That’s fine. If you would?”
I nodded and focused. I held out my palm, and a tiny ball of light sprang up in it. I began to shape it, feeding magic into it, making it grow larger, until it was about the size of my head. It emitted a soft, pale glow, enough to allow us to see without actually illuminating the night. I tossed it up, causing it to suspend itself a couple meters over our heads. Elysium nodded, satisfied.
“I presume you can make it larger or brighter, if needed?”
I expanded the light slightly and increased the intensity, then returned it to its previous state, to demonstrate.
“And would it be possible to spontaneously create the light in that position, rather than have it float there slowly?”
“I don’t know; I’ve never tried. It should be possible, but I might need some practice.”
Elysium placed a finger to her lips, thinking. Then she shrugged.
“Well, I can’t really help you when it comes to magic-related things. We’ll have to get a tutor for you, somehow. In the meantime…”
She bent down and untied the bundle she had brought, causing it to open up and reveal a collection of wooden weapons. She set the weapons out neatly in a row, then took a step back.
“Hm? Elysium, what’s with all this? What’re we doing?”
“Ah, I suppose this is a good time to explain. As you’ll recall, when I hired you, I said that your main job will be helping out with lighting at our concerts – but you’ll also be helping out with various other things.”
“Um, yes, what of it?”
“This is one of those other things. I want you to protect Ros.”
“Me? Why? Aren’t you much better-suited for the task?”
“I am, for sure, but I can’t be with her all the time. My duties as her manager often take me away from her side – I need to prepare concert venues and negotiate logistical issues, and she need to practice and rehearse. She can protect herself, to an extent, but I’d feel more at ease if I had someone by her side that I can trust to keep her safe. You’re just the right man for the job. So I thought I’d teach you how to use a weapon.”
I straightened up a bit when she called me a man, a hint of pride entering my heart. Thinking back, I really was an easily manipulated boy.
“Leave it to me – I’ll keep her safe in your stead.”
“Good to see you’re spirited about it. Well then, pick a weapon.”
I walked over to the bundle and ran my eye over the collection of weapons – it was a large variety. There was a spear, several swords of varying size, a pair of daggers, a number of blunt weapons, and numerous strangely shaped weapons I couldn’t name. There were easily twenty weapons laid out before me. I hovered over the sword section for a bit, then finally picked out one that seemed a bit longer than the rest. Elysium raised an eyebrow.
“A bastard sword? Hm. Not the worst choice, but… no, better that you see for yourself. Are you done choosing?”
I nodded and hefted the sword in my hand, testing the weight. The blade was about a meter long and doubled-edged. It was a little heavy, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Of course, the whole thing was wood, so it worried me slightly about whether I’d be able to handle the weight of a proper, steel version of this weapon.
Elysium chuckled and stepped away, positioning herself near the middle of the rooftop.
“Well then, since this is your first lesson, let’s see what you’ve got. Attack me.”
She placed both hands behind her back and stood facing me.
“I won’t block or move from this spot. If you can hit any part of my torso, it’s a pass.”
I looked uneasily at her, then at the sword in my hand. In all honesty, even with her hands and movement sealed, I doubted I’d be able to land a hit. But still, if she wanted me to try, there was nothing for it. I grasped the sword and ran at her, using my momentum to swing the sword up as I reached her position – causing her to casually tilt her body, the swing cutting through thin air. Worse, the momentum of the blow remained, and I was carried along, causing me to totter precariously for several moments as I tried to regain my balance.
“Keep a stronger grip on the sword. Control the weight, don’t let it control you. Try again.”
I tried another swing. And another. And another. Each time she completely dodged my attack by just slightly twisting her body in some way or another. Eventually, I let the sword drop from my hands, exhausted, the sweat dripping down my face. Elysium laughed and walked up to me, ruffling my hair.
“This is why you don’t pick a weapon outside your weight class. The bastard sword is a good, versatile weapon, yes – if you have the strength to use it. You have a smaller, slimmer build, so picking a sword is a good way to tire yourself out quickly. I saw you in that alley – you’re fast, but not strong. Picking a weapon that’s too heavy for you will basically negate your greatest advantage.”
She picked up the sword and walked over to the bundle as I stood behind her, trying to catch my breath, my right arm aching from the exertion. As I watched, Elysium picked up the daggers and tossed them in my direction. Reacting quickly, I caught them mid-flight and watched her questioningly.
“Try using those instead. They’re lighter and more suitable to a hit-and-run style. They should fit your build perfectly.”
Unlike the sword, the daggers were much lighter. I reversed them in my hands, such that the blades were facing downward, and tried an experimental slash in the air – it was much faster than slashing with the sword. In addition, because the dagger was lighter, I didn’t feel nearly as much strain as with the sword. I looked at Elysium, who had returned to her previous place in the middle of the rooftop. She beckoned to me.
“Same rules apply. Come on, Glint. Show me what you can do.”
I crouched low, gripping the daggers tightly. Then I rushed forward. And so my days in Elysium’s employ began.