Joton Shaze Academy
“Laisen has been watching you non-stop,” Se-orna said.
“Well, I was at the center of the action, so it makes sense – everyone was watching me, I guess.”
“No. When you’re not on the floor, he’s wandering around sort of lost. He doesn’t watch the other matches – just you. He’s trying not to, but he’s still watching you now.”
The other semi-final match started, giving Jessten time to rest a bit more - and ignore Laisen.
“You’re doing really well, Jessten. No matter how you do in the final, you’ve really won against yourself. You’ve proven to everyone that you’re a worthy opponent,” Frey said.
Jessten nodded with a weary smile. One more battle, then she would be clear to go to Towani.
The other semi-final clash finished, but the victor limped painfully to the sideline.
A hush hung over the room as Mathis attended the young man.
Jessten sat waiting to find out what would happen next. A pair of medical technicians joined the little huddle. A screen was erected to give them privacy.
A quiet sparring room wasn’t what Uana expected when she returned to the Shaze Academy. A glance at the screen worried her until she saw Jessten on the bench. She let out a breath of relief before joining Sipper in the stands.
“Xanthine?” he asked.
“About as good as could be expected. She’s in labor. Our stella says she’s doing as much as she can to help, but that Xanthine is doing well enough.”
“How much longer?”
“The stella reminds me that it’s her first. It could be six hours, it could be two days. It all depends,” Uana answered. “We can check after the tournament is over.”
Uana thought about the specter of labor and delivery that overshadowed her own optimism. Sipper grabbed her hand. “I will be there for you, no matter how long it takes,” he promised.
“I love you, Sipper,” Uana said, leaning into him.
“I do think the feeling is mutual,” he said putting his arm around her. “Strange how things work out when you give it half a chance.”
“I’m glad you gave me a chance,” Uana replied, remembering how she had seduced him with the Curator’s blessing. She had been prepared to go the road alone, but had been pleasantly surprised by Sipper time and time again. He was truly a partner now.
She looked across at the medical team again, then back down to Jessten, clearly ready for another fight. “How are things with Jessten?” Uana asked.
“She’s impressive. She won the first semi and we’re waiting to see the outcome of the second. The victor seems to be injured,” Sipper replied.
“She’s good,” Uana said as they watched the commotion.
“She’s won now, I think,” Sipper replied.
“Not yet. I think the Academy can choose to pit her against their best shaze for the title.”
“Doesn’t seem all that fair,” Sipper said.
“Neither is it fair to maintain that Jessten’s victory is equal to that of someone else who had the extra battle. Maybe she should play against the loser of the other semi-final,” Uana suggested.
“That doesn’t seem fair either,” he said with a sigh.
“Mathis runs the Academy. He can do as he sees fit, but the standard protocol is what I said – for her to fight their best shaze.”
“Or he can declare her to be the outright winner,” Sipper said.
“He might do that too. I don’t know him very well,” Uana confessed, remembering the last time she’d met the man and the redecoration that had been required as a result.
“I didn’t know you had it in you,” Sipper crooned, squeezing her closer. “I find that kind of sexy!”
“You always did have a way with words,” she replied, giving him a kiss.
“Not too much… I don’t want to attract attention.”
“Between the action on the floor, and that Laisen, I don’t think you have to worry, my husband. She’s not paying attention to us, that’s for sure!”
Sheena was getting seriously concerned. She and Oberti were no closer to figuring out where Ada went now than they were when they left the Academy.
Rami hadn’t approved of Ada leaving without an escort, but couldn’t blame Ada for refusing to acquiesce to her guidance. Sheena knew that Rami was glad she’d had gone after Ada.
But Rami didn’t know about Egan.
Sheena finished running the length of the park, checking out all the likely hiding places, then met back up with Oberti. “I don’t know where she’s gone.”
“Maybe that’s the point,” he said. “She’s not made a secret of the fact that she’s tired of everyone knowing where she is all the time. I’m guessing she’s gone somewhere different.”
<Hira! Hide!> the shout came to her.
“No!” Sheena cried, taking off at a sprint in the opposite direction.
Oberti hurried after her. “What’s happened?”
“No time!” Sheena shouted, and picked up the pace again.
Back at the Academy, the young man emerged, his arm well-wrapped, escorted by the medical technicians. A round of applause erupted from the audience.
Mathis announced: “Attention. The young man Nigel Harrington has broken his arm and cannot fight in the final. That means Jessten Sipper wins!”
A cheer broke out from all the A’mara. Jessten felt relieved that she wouldn’t need another battle. She took another drink.
“Hang on, Mathis,” came a voice Jessten well recognized.
She looked to see Laisen joining Mathis.
“As your top-ranked fighter, I request the right to fight her for the final – if you don’t mind.”
“Of course, Laisen,” Mathis said. “Do you need to warm up a little first?”
“That would hardly be fair,” Laisen said. “But if I win, I get to kiss her.”
An excited cheer erupted from the audience. “Told you!” Se-orna whispered into Jessten’s ear.
Jessten’s face was burning.
“If she loses, she’ll stay in Joton and be my student,” Laisen added.
“If she wins?”
“I will be at her mercy,” Laisen said, catching Jessten’s gaze.
“A very gutsy offer,” Mathis said. “Do you accept, Jessten?“
“You don’t have to,” Frey said. “It’s not really a fair challenge. You have nothing more to prove.”
“He’s the only one I have anything to prove to,” Jessten replied to Frey. Then she stood. She looked at Mathis, and at Laisen. “I accept.”
The audience roared again as Jessten stood on mat 1, looking at Laisen properly for the first time in months. She had to ignore her feelings and face him as an opponent, nothing else.
“Are you ready, Jessten?” Mathis asked.
“Then you may begin.”
If you have enjoyed this book, I would be grateful if you could put your thoughts as a review on [Goodreads](coming soon) for me.
Buy at: (coming soon to Books2Read, Scribl, LBRY and Lulu - paperback.)
Other Chapters of this set
Birth of the Neví - Chapter 1 on Whaleshares
Name of the Neví - Chapter 1
Mind of the Neví - Chapter 1
Game of the Neví - Chapter 1
Maps and Guides
- Kri'enden & Joton - 830 TCE (New/imprived map coming soon)
- Character Guide and Image Credits
- Calendar and Glossary - for Name of the Neví but these two parts are true throughout.
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