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Cause [2.2.2]

Breakfasted and ready to face a new day, Joseph and Vasa had returned to the apartment to find Ephra waiting for them.

“Hey.” she said. Her eyes were gleaming, rather than empty and dead, and Joseph realised that training was what awakened her senses. Her spirit was renewed when she trained. With this in mind, he made a mental note to give his all in the training that was to come. If he could keep her from having Raziel on her mind, he would have done her a favour.

“Hi.” Vasa said. “Training went well, then?”

“Yeah.” Ephra replied. “I’d like to start training with you, Joseph, but I’ve tired myself out. Shall we start in an hour or so, if that’s good?”

“Fine by me.” Joseph replied.

Ephra walked to the sofa and fell across it, sighing in contentment. “Right. You can still do your exercises, since you don’t need me to do those. Let’s start with stretches. Shall we?”

“…Yeah…” Joseph replied. Vasa chuckled and sat in the armchair, facing Ephra.

“You know, ‘shall we’ is a little cruel considering you aren’t joining in.”

“Heh.” Ephra replied. “Perhaps.”

Once Joseph was limbered up, having struggled through a rigorous series of exercises, Ephra retrieved two spears and pushed him out of the door, taking him up to the rooftop to practice.

“Hey, Ephra…” Joseph said as they ascended the stairway.

“Mm?”

“Do you teach professionally?”

Ephra considered the question for a moment. “Not really. I tend to offer pointers to those around me, and I trained Cassil a few years back.”

“Cassil, huh?” Joseph asked. Ephra nodded.

“Yeah, for when she wanted to impress Raziel. But… I don’t know, I just think I’m too brusque to be a proper teacher.” she explained.

They reached the rooftop, and Joseph made his way to the opposite end, ready to begin sparring. Ephra watched him impassively and held her spear loosely, equally ready.

“If it makes you feel any better, I’ve been enjoying your brutal combat training.” he replied. Ephra, caught off-guard, smiled.

“Thank yo-”

The minute she had been distracted, Joseph had lunged. With a fierce look on her face, Ephra blocked his first two spear stabs and replied back with several strikes of her own. They kept up the conversation as they fought.

“Cocky, aren’t you? It’s not a good look on you.”

“Hey, whatever works.” Joseph replied, blocking Ephra’s strike and attempting to lunge, but missing Ephra by inches. They continued the battle with various jibes, and Ephra found herself lost in the quickstep of the duel – having fun.

A quarter of an hour later, Joseph was thrown back by a particularly fierce volley of stabs and landed on the ground, dropping his spear. He lay there, staring at the sky, until Ephra’s face appeared in his vision and offered her hand. He took it gratefully.

“I’m impressed.” Ephra said. “I feel I’ve been saying that a lot recently, but… you’ve picked this up really quickly. A month of this and you just might have this sorted after all.”

Joseph knew the compliment was genuine, and nodded with a warm smile. “Thank you.”

“That’s enough for now. We’ll take a quick break, maybe we’ll get lunch. We don’t need to train for hours and hours a day anymore.”

“That’s good.” Joseph said. “I’ll be happy to train more this afternoon though.”

Ephra nodded, beginning to walk to the stairway. She looked despondent.

“Hey.” Joseph said. Ephra didn’t turn around, but stopped moving. “If we’re successful, I owe all of my success to your training. He would’ve been proud.”

Ephra felt her throat tighten, and she let a single tear pool in the corner of her left eye. “…Yes.”

In silence, she walked away. Joseph decided not to follow for a few minutes, and instead looked up at the sky. His mind was loud, but over time, it quietened down as he stared into the endless blue flecked with yellow.

Perhaps he had said the wrong thing. But he’d said what was on his mind.

Cause [2.2.1]

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