"What in the world," Jacob mumbled under his breath, garnering the attention of the warriors that had just begun to include him as one of their own.
"What do you mean?" one of them, an older man with a gladius asked.
"I know that girl. She's the daughter of a fire mage, not a noble." Jacob watched as they ascended the steps to the nobles' box around the Duke. Angelica wore very rich clothing, second only to Stella Albright and Duke Hycinth. Jacob watched them take seats near the Duke, but the Duke himself watched them passively, for the most part. For an instant, that passivity vanished. If Jacob had to bet on what emotion flickered across his face for that moment, he'd have guessed disdain.
The Relentless warrior beside him laughed. "Ah, that woman is a fire mage. She's the most capable mage of Steelshade, many claim. I don't know much about mages, so I can't really tell, but I don't doubt that's her daughter." Then he leaned into Jacob conspiratorially. "Between you and me, I've heard rumors that since her daughter began studying at the Academy, the pair of them have been unbearable. One of the guards over there's my childhood friend."
Jacob watched the scene with interest. Originally, he had expected that Angelica had somehow been adopted into a noble family because of her talent with fire magic. Now, it seemed that her birth mother was a mage of incredible prestige. If they were included in the nobles' box, they clearly had a large measure of pull. So that was what had rankled the Duke.
The rest of the nobles filtered in, none of them causing a shock, for Jacob knew absolutely none of them. He was far more excited for the round of sixteen. So close to his masterwork spatha he could taste it, Jacob began his meditations to calm himself. He even applied a small amount of mana to get some benefit other than the mental clarity that came with it.
As it turned out, he didn't need to meditate for long. "Jacob of Leafburrow!" called the announcer, drawing a certain pair of eyes from the noble's box onto him. Jacob smiled, though he wasn't quite sure Angelica could see all that well. He'd show her exactly who she had lost as a friend. His right hand gripped his sword until his knuckles turned white, his anger at his mistreatment barely controlled. For her part, Angelica just watched with a blank expression gracing her features.
No longer was Angelica the honest and upbeat girl that Jacob had met in Leafburrow. Something beyond just Rod's death had turned her into the icy figure that she portrayed. Once upon a time, Jacob might have felt pity for her. Now, he felt none of it. There were greater things to be concerned about.
His opponent, unfortunately, was the gladius-wielding warrior beside him. Jacob winced, but the other man offered him a handshake before they separated to their respective ends of the platform. There would be no enemies made from this match.
The gladius was, in essence, a shorter version of Jacob's spatha. That fact meant that Jacob held the advantage in reach. It also meant that he could utilize the slashing aspect of his fighting style on the lightly armored warrior in front of him. The shield his opponent wore on his arm would be a problem; he'd seek to attack Jacob over one of its sides.
Jacob wouldn't give him the opportunity. The match started, the gladius wielder standing his ground. Circling him, Jacob watched for any dip in his form, wary of potential deceptions. Figuring that it was better to just start an attack and figure out how to defeat the shield later on, Jacob displayed skill he hadn't had until his recent training ended. His blade parried every single bite the gladius wanted to inflict upon him while running his opponent's stamina down.
With a kick, the gladius warrior went tumbling down. He recovered quickly, but Jacob had now learned the fatal weakness of this man's fighting style. A strong enough kick would send him flying, but it had to be executed when the gladius was not in range of drawing a line of blood on his leg.
The proper opportunity arrived not long after Jacob's realization, and the match went to him. He was winded, but surprisingly little compared to what Jacob thought he would be like. There was no doubt his recent physical conditioning had a part to play. As he marched back to his seat a victor, his eyes sought out Angelica. He needed to see the expression on her face.
As far as they were from each other, Jacob could only see the outline of a frown upon her features. Good. Let her regret pushing him away not just once, but twice. He'd win this entire tournament not just for his weapon, but also for a sense of justice. Or maybe it was redemption. Jacob couldn't quite discern what it was he sought specifically, but he knew that he would get whatever it was by winning.
Cynthia progressed as well, but they were the only two from Relentless that managed to do so. The two free-warriors remarkably were still there at the end of the round of sixteen, as well as four Dauntless warriors. It was remarkably ironic that the last two representing Provost Thomson's institution just so happened to hate each other.
"I'm glad that you're still here," Cynthia told him, icily. There was probably a hint of sarcasm in there somewhere, but the girl was evidently bad at displaying it. Jacob could only fire back with some of his own, assuming that he guessed right.
"You're always such a pleasure, Cynthia."
That was it for their little conversation. As long as they both won, that was enough for Relentless. No greater cooperation other than a tacit agreement that they wouldn't disparage the other was required. Jacob was just fine with those terms. He was in it to win it, after all.
Hi everyone! I've been a bit overwhelmed lately with non-writing things. I'm going on a temporary hiatus until things settle down and I can crank these chapters out like I would like to. It's a terrible place to leave all of you, but I can't set aside enough time to get quality chapters done. I don't know when I'll be back, but I promise I will be as soon as I can!
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