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chapter six | new friends and clumsiness

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"This is Jean-Luc Virieux, class."

Lise was at the front of the little clearing. Dust, kicked up during their drills, curled around everyone's feet as they studied the boy next to their teacher.

Jean-Luc shuffled his feet, ignoring the eyes on him and staring at the gaps within the shrubbery, the walls of the school seen through them.

"I hope you will treat him as one of your own and make him feel welcome."

It was one of the worst feelings in the worlds. Not only were you the new kid and on display for everyone to see and talk about, but this was also completely new for you.

Two days ago, he'd been in his own school with his own friends in his own city.

"He just moved here from a country none of you will ever visit. Don't bother asking him about it."

At the sharp note in her voice, Jean-Luc glanced up at Lise with a frown. She ignored him, placing a hand on his shoulder and gestured with the blade in her free hand. "Now, back to your drills."

Everyone continued what they'd been doing before, while Lise turned to Jean-Luc and assessed what she saw.

He was a fit little twelve-year-old.

"You ready?" asked Lise, smiling kindly at him. When he nodded in return, his hands still in his pockets, eyes avoiding hers, she sighed. "Emmy! Sebastian!"

In the chaos of the class' drills, two children stopped exchanging their slow, cycling drill and approached Jean-Luc and Lise.

Emmy was a petite girl, her skin several shades darker than Jean-Luc's, and her wavy hair hanging in a thick braid down her back. She had been the girl who had helped the innkeeper serve dinner the previous night.

Sebastian was a wiry, freckled boy, who had grown too fast to become used to his height, with a shock of orange hair that ached to be cut. He was heaving from the exertion and wiping away a layer of perspiration on his forehead.

"Yes, Mrs Taillier?" asked Emmy in a soft voice, her practice sword safely held pointed towards the earth and away from any living body.

Sebastian's was tucked under his arm as he leaned forward to catch a breath, much to the chagrin of Lise.

"I need you two..." She trailed off as she studied Sebastian for the last time, then shook her head. "I need you two to show Jean-Luc the very basics. Catch him up. Something tells me he will be a fast learner."

Emmy blinked at Jean-Luc. "Uh, okay. Are you sure Sebastian and I should...?"

"Of course," Lise nodded, while Sebastian haphazardly swung his sword around. "As shocking as it may be," she added wryly. "You two are some of my best pupils. Get to it."

"Yes, ma'am," Sebastian bowed, flinging out one arm in an attempt to be formal. Unfortunately, it was the hand holding the sword, and the jarring movement dislodged it from Sebastian's grip. The blade went flying.

It harmlessly fell in a cloud of dust, to the side of the class, with the wide eyes of Lise, Emmy, and Sebastian blinking at it.

Jean-Luc couldn't help his grin. "Are you sure they're the best?"

Lise didn't answer.

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"This mark, with the tentacles? It's called an 'octenta' and it means..." Emmy trailed off, her finger tapping the inked symbol.

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