Two figures stood poised for battle at the edge of an icy lake. The wind rushed the rolling clouds through the pale sky, tumbling them over each other and across white, jagged peaks. It swept across the chill waters of the lake, stirring the tall monk's robes and the slight boy's cloak as they faced each other in duel.
The boy squinted his eyes against the bright glare that glanced off his rapier as he withdrew it from his belt.
"En garde!" he cried. In the same motion, he launched himself at the monk with a high thrust, and then whirled the blade around to knock back his opponent's staff and slice him in the ribs.
The monk blocked the blow askew and promptly delivered three sharp jabs to the boy's gut with the butt of his staff. The boy swayed back and gasped for breath, clouding the crisp air in fierce puffs. The monk took the opportunity to knock the boy completely off-balance with a fierce kick to the ankles.
"Hah! Offense isn't always the best defense," he grunted as the boy fell under his attack.
The boy was ready for the fall, and rolled with the force to return quickly to his feet. It was true—Raphael had chided him many times for fighting too offensively and putting too little thought to defense. But the boy would not take such words from the novice monk.
"It will take… more than mere… words to throw me into the lake," the boy replied, reminding the monk of the conditions of the duel as he launched a successive high, low, then mid vertical strike.
The monk blocked the last, then spun the staff to knock the slight boy to the ground again. The boy slid along the frozen snow with the force of the blow, leaving a thin, red smear in his wake.
"Come here!" the monk ordered as he leaped after the boy and smacked the length of his staff down upon him. The boy shuddered under his blow, but quickly took advantage of the monk's vulnerable position.
The boy kicked away the staff and let the force carry the monk along the slick ground. He rolled to his feet in time to meet the new strike with a guard impact that forced the opponents away from each other with a sharp clang of steel. Both were stunned for a moment, but the boy recovered a millisecond faster and struck the monk with three quick cuts in the chest—the move Raphael called the "Double Apple Cut." The monk's robes bloomed crimson in the center, red as an apple in September. But the boy was not finished dicing him yet—he finished the move with a quick, sweeping strike that cut the monks legs from under him before he had a chance to strike back.
The monk toppled and slid toward the steep bank of the lake. The boy slid uncontrollably after him, forced along by the momentum of his blow, almost landing himself in the lake. The monk recovered at the bank and for a moment they both danced precariously on the edge. The boy was too frantic. All the monk had to do was step clear of him and the boy would take himself into the icy flows of the river. But somehow he was falling, the boy's hands pressing heavily on his chest.
The boy launched himself away from the riverbank as his opponent tumbled into the icy river. Freezing water splashed up upon impact, dousing the boy almost as thoroughly as it soaked through the yellow robes of his former adversary. And again, when the angry monk vaulted himself out of the lake with his staff. But the boy had met the conditions of the duel, and now he would return to the monastery to claim his prize.
"You were not even worth my effort," he sneered contemptuously, but that was a lie. The information he sought from the Sang-Mu Monastery was well worth this little skirmish in the snow. The tall monk had been all too eager to exact that price that the head monk had ordered. Well, the boy hoped he had delivered the impetus young novice a dose of humility. He clutched his wound and stalked off toward the monastery as the monk ran raced ahead of him like a storming cloud.
"Now, tell me about the Soul Edge."