Disclaimer: not mine.

Chapter One

Midday. A time when the social networks of the city are in full swing. But not here.

A woman sat in a large library, reading a book. She did not look to be a proper lady. She wore trousers, a shirt, a waistcoat, and a belt which held a sword. She wore no dress, corset, stockings, chemise, or any of the other proper garments that a lady should wear.

The door opened, but she continued to read. Someone walked in, their footsteps betraying their position. The door was shut seconds later, followed by a slight click as it was locked.

The footsteps continued, getting steadily closer to the woman. Still, the woman continued to read. No glance was spared for the newcomer.

"Still using my library, I see," a male voice said amiably.

Finally, the woman looked up. A man stood over her wearing a lordly suit. His eyes and hair were black, and his face tan. He was tall and muscular, though not overly so. He was handsome, but not immensely so. He was elegant, even if his hair was a bit of a mess.

"Your library has always had a greater selection than mine, Nelson. You cannot expect a change in that simply because you are not in it," she said, her equally black eyes sparkling.

"Very true, Johanna. Here is the real question: have you been practicing?" Nelson asked, smiling.

"Of course. I wanted to be prepared for your return," she said, standing. A second later, she drew her sword smoothly and settled into a ready stance.

"I may have been gone, but I am not out of practice," Nelson said with a smirk as he drew his own sword.

As soon as he was done talking, he charged forward, attacking in a flurry of movement. She defended against all of his strikes. After a few seconds like that, he stopped attacking and stepped back. "Very good," he said.

He waited a second while she caught her breath. Before he could attack again, she lunged forward. She attacked in a flurry. Despite that, he soon overtook her. Before he could disarm her, she jumped back onto the table. A second later, the table stood between them.

That did not last long. Rathbone followed her quickly and attacked again, not holding back in the least anymore. Finally, she was more agile than him, but he still won out in brute strength and skill. After almost half an hour, he finally trapped her against a bookshelf. Their blades were interlocked above their heads. She tried for several seconds to push him away, but he was stronger by far than her.

Soon, the pressure of her blade against his abated. Only then did he take a hand away from his hilt. He touched the tip of her nose lightly with his finger and said fondly, "You've improved."

As he broke away and sheathed his sword, she smiled at him and said, "Thank you, and welcome back."