It started after they realised that a Magic Swordsman was not just someone who could use both a sword and magic. It was someone who had spent years training and mastering their skills not only with spells, but also with the blade… and both of them fancied the idea.
While their magic abilities could only be improved in fits and starts during visits to Cephiro, swordsmanship was easy enough practised on Earth. The tutoring began as a once a month thing; Hikaru would go over to Umi’s house after school on a Saturday to practice fencing, or Umi would go to Hikaru’s to learn kendo. Fuu would show up sometimes too, but she was more interested in spending time with her friends than running about with swords when she preferred a bow anyway. She did make exceptions for the once a month training days with Ferio in Cephiro.
Somewhere along the line it had become a competition, a challenge to see which of them could achieve the rank first. Umi’s extra magic sessions with Clef on Sunday visits would probably help her reach Iru first, but Hikaru had grown up using a sword and would probably pass the Karu tests before her. There was a trial set for the week after school ended that year, and she had every plan to pass. Then she wouldn’t need to worry about sword training as much when she started attending the Academy in Cephiro.
Hikaru pushed her fringe back from her face and took up her position again, epee held out in front of her, Umi was waiting on the other side of the driveway. She took a long deep breath and checked her stance. True, this particular style wasn’t necessarily the sort of thing that would win her rank, but it was good practice nonetheless.
“Ready?” Umi called.
“Yeah!” Hikaru took two rushed steps forward.
The little blue egg-shaped timer on the step clicked to zero, and its shrill ring broke through the summer cicada drone.
The epee in Hikaru’s hand fell to the ground with a loud clang as she spun on the balls of her feet and bolted for the house. Umi called after her, but she didn’t pay attention to that. Nearly tumbling over in her rush to kick her shoes off, Hikaru clambered up and into the hallway and shot along to the kitchen.
“Hey! Hikaru!” Umi called again from the door, having to pause to untie the lacing on her boots.
Hikaru was already rounding the corner, swinging off the doorframe, on her way to the oven. She peered through the glass at the dozen chocolate chip cookies and saw they were a perfect golden brown. She could already imagine their taste when she grabbed the oven gloves and opened the oven door.
“Hey!” Umi appeared in the doorway as Hikaru reached in for the baking tray, holding both epees (one with a new dent on the guard). “I’m not going to bake for you if you’re just going to abandon me when the timer goes off.”
“Sorry,” Hikaru, sounding not the least bit apologetic. She was clutching the tray tightly with both hands, breathing in the warm chocolaty scent.
Umi shook her head and grinned. “If you eat all of those, I’m going to have to chase you around the garden until you’ve burnt them off.”
“If I eat all of these, you’ll never catch me!”