Week Two: Book Series
By Grace Ashley
THE silver stars came at her with blinding speed. Zara dodged the first two with ease, the third she deflected with her sword. But the fourth star’s sharp edges caught her cheek and opened a deep cut. Her attempt to avoid it wasn’t quick enough.
“You’re not paying attention,” Hiro Tanaka growled a low warning. More stars chased Zara across the training room. This time she evaded all the deadly projectiles. “A light heart lives longer. In battle, the slightest moment of inattention could cost you your life.”
Zara wiped blood from her face. “Wearing the marks of my carelessness should serve as a good reminder, oh fearless master,” she said, bowing irreverently. Blood dribbled from the burning wound onto her sleeve.
Hiro’s eyes flashed with dark fire, “Staying alive is not something to joke about.” He pierced her with a searching look. His frown deepened. “You seem troubled.”
Zara held his gaze for a moment before her gaze shifted away. Hiro saw too much. “You’re right I’m a little preoccupied tonight.” Why deny it.
“Problems at the dig?” his gaze flicked to her cheek, then back to her elusive gaze.
“The dig is going fine,” she walked past him and placed her twin swords on the weapons table. “I must be more tired than I thought.”
“Hmm,” his skeptical tone told her plainly that he didn’t believe a single word. “Then perhaps this is the perfect time to train mind over body.”
“What do you have in mind?” she said, turning around.
A few minutes later she really wished she hadn’t asked. For each time Zara bested Hiro he send her tumbling to the floor five times more. There was no time to think when one sparred with Hiro. He gave no quater and she expected none. The physical exertion cleared her mind at least for the time being.
“Very good,” Hiro said, slowly rising to his feet her swords in his hands. Zara had managed to disarm him but he captured her sword hands and flipped her over his head. She flew through the air and landed on her feet several feet on the marble floor.
“I lost my swords—again” A quick smile flashed across her lips. “I’m never going to beat you.”
Killed by the Guardians
“You’re good enough to defeat me. Stop trying to copy my style and start capitalizing on your own strengths. The battle doesn’t go to the strong but to the wise.”
“Alright let’s have a go again,”
Zara and Hiro had been sparring with each other for two centuries. She’d never met anyone more talented in the martial arts. Training with him had improved her fighting skills greatly. Because of Hiro she came and went freely without fear of being killed by the guardians.
At the turn of the eighteenth century, Lilith moved her court from the Carpathian mountains deep into the icy tundra of northern Russia.
The guardians were killing them off by the hundreds. With their numbers severely decimated it became necessary for them to set up somewhere remote and not easily accessible to the outside world, somewhere far from humans and hunters alike. Hidden from the guardians they had grown strong again.
The first time she saw Hiro he was practicing kung-fu on the ice caps outside the castle. She’d fallen in love with the grace of his movements. She’d watched him for weeks until one night he’d suddenly disappeared only to reappear behind her.
“Are you a spectator or are you a warrior?” he’d asked her.
He’d offered her a wooden pole and her training had begun. Why he’d chosen to train her when he’d turned away many others she didn’t know.
But she was grateful nonetheless. In a world where strength was vital for one’s survival Hiro’s mentorship was invaluable. To this day Zara’s training remained a well-kept secret. And Hiro became her closest friend and confidante.
“Practice seems to have improved your mood.”
“Having my butt thoroughly kicked seems to have that effect on me,” she joked.
“I shall endeavor to provide as much kicking as you require then.” Swipe and dodge. “Especially when it helps you focus.”
“I’m paying attention now,” she said parrying his thrust. The last half of Zara’s training went much better. Hiro didn’t give her a chance to let her mind wander. Unfortunately, she couldn’t stay in the secret underground arena forever.
This is the second in a five part series of the book Blood Prince by Grace Ashley.
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