18 - This Too Shall Pass

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(Note: a little over a month as gone by-keep an eye on the dates at the beginning of chapters or page breaks)

February 10, 1477

Monteriggioni, Italy

Catherine thrust forward with her blade, forcing Ezio to quickly dodge to the side, although not easily; he grimaced as the dull weapon nearly hit him. He danced away, and she came after him. She swung, slashed, and struck out with the weapon, going for his middle, chest, legs, or wherever she could as they moved about the ring. It was practically routine now with how she'd used quite a few of her tricks up, which her opponent knew well by now much to her annoyance. However, there were still some she could use on him.

The young man, of course, was smirking at this point. Sure, she'd almost given him a few more bruises, but he's done this dance with her so much it was more of a game to him. To be honest, it irked her he felt that way, but in this moment it was an advantage: he was being arrogant. With her lack of strength, that was her greatest tool against her opponents, and she was all too happy to use it. As such, she only paused to circle him a little-get that arrogance a little higher-and then charged forward. He braced to dodge, and she made as if to strike downward, so he shifted to the right. To his surprise, though, she thrust the blade into the ground and used it as a support to change direction and slam her leg into his side. He let out a pained grunt as he was thrown to the ground by the force-and surprise of it, which showed ion his face when she reclaimed her blade and aimed it at him.

"You couldn't let me have this, could you?" he grumbled, giving her a look as he lay on the stomach.

Catherine smirked, "Nope."

Beyond them came a laugh, and the redhead finally sheathed her blade and looked to Mario while Ezio pushed himself up and brushed off his clothes. His Uncle was quite pleased as was Ottavio, whom shared in the laughter.

"Well done, Nephew. No shame in losing-she may not be as strong, but Catherine is a crafty one," he mused.

"That's for sure," the young man grumbled, which only made Catherine's smirk widen.

"Oh, don't be a sore loser. Besides, Mario taught me that move. You can learn it, too, although you'd probably need a long weapon."

"And he will-in time. For now we will finally have you move on to learning how to properly use your fists and a sword at the same time," the commander hummed happily. "Tomorrow, of course. For now, you have earned a good meal and rest. Well done, both of you. Ottavio, see to the men tonight. I must see to the city's defenses."

"Of course, sir," the Captain nodded and then to Catherine and Ezio as well before he headed off towards the Barracks. Mario, likewise, left, but he made towards the city. Once gone, the redhead freed her training sword from her belt and set it against the rail. That done, she turned to Ezio, whom was rubbing his side.

Catherine raised a brow, "I did not kick you that hard you big baby."

"I don't know-I may suddenly fall over and pass on," he mused playfully. She just rolled her eyes and shoved him away. He grinned and watched her walk off for a few seconds before trotting after and heading up the steps to the Villa. Normally, the Ezio should have eaten with the other men, but he was lumped into a special case like her. Mostly it was because their training went on longer, so the mess hall was empty by now, but it was also because Ezio remained in the Villa unlike the rest of the soldiers. No one said anything, but he had a status-if only for his name. It was nowhere near his Uncle's, but there was this sense that he was meant to be there; to sleep there, eat there, bathe there, and so forth. If there were any complaints the men made none properly known, and thus had seen the young man left be for the past month, which was good. He'd actually made a few friendly acquaintances among the men, although enemies, too.

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