Weapons practice, Nyx had suggested, smiling in a way that reminded Brasidas of all the things his teachers had told him about 'feminine wiles' and their dangers.
On the other hand, he was a Spartan, and Spartans did not back down from a challenge. Spartans laughed in the face of danger.
Not, of course, that Brasidas was going to laugh at Nyx.
Nor was he going to acknowledge that being cheered on by a girl actually made him feel a little bit better, like maybe this was going to go exactly the way it was supposed to go when a tall and well-trained Spartan warrior faced off against one of Thebe's (in)famous Shadows.
Diona watched quietly, as Brasidas had expected of her. No support there, which was fine.
Nyx smirked, then disappeared into thin air - shadow steps, Brasidas thought, turning around even though he knew it was pointless: he could only defend to one of his four sides, and Nyx might appear anywhere.
As she did, directly behind him, holding a blade to his throat that felt very cold and very sharp.
This, Brasidas supposed, were 'feminine wiles', though how 'thinking of the rules of one of the ballgames at the Olympics' should help him handle them was a bit unclear. Maybe he was supposed to swiftly turn around and bash her with his shield? That seemed more likely to annoy her, though, where right now, she merely seemed amused.
"Too slow." Her voice sounded far too close, like she planned to whisper some dangerous secret in his ear.
"Well, he's a Spartan. They're not supposed to be quick," Nephele said.
Brasidas couldn't quite work out if this was meant to cheer him up.
Nyx stepped back, and he resisted a strange urge to follow. Nephele had been right: his reflexes had been too slow. As a bodyguard, he should strive for better reaction speed, or how else was he going to defend the lives of those who depended on him to keep them safe?
Not that he thought anyone here did so. It was a little insulting, yet at the same time, he could hardly blame them. "Can we uh, try that again?"
Nyx shrugged. "Why not?"
"I should have brought some popped corn," Nephele said, sitting down. "Diona, come and watch the show. We can bet on how often Nyx is going to win before Brass decides to call it a day."
Brasidas decided he did not feel very supported. "A Spartan warrior does not fight for entertainment. He fights for honor and glory."
"You're no use in a fight if you always end up turning your back on the enemy so that they can stick a knife in it," Diona said. She hadn't sat down next to Nephele yet, so that was something.
"Only honorless cowards approach their enemies from behind. An honorable warrior - " Brasidas swallowed, feeling decidedly overcome by feminine wiles. Again.
"An honorable warrior is a dead warrior if he gets distracted talking instead of keeping up his guard," Nyx said, her voice soft and smooth as silk while as hard as the metal of her blade.
"Better to die with honor than to live in shame," Brasidas said, even though he very well knew he didn't have the right to make such a claim: when push came to shove, he had chosen to run away rather than stay and be executed.
"Well, then the best thing is a combination, isn't it? Living with honor beats dying in shame!" Nephele said, beaming and looking as if she thought this was very clever.
Brasidas felt there was some flaw in her reasoning, even if he couldn't quite put his finger on it.
Nyx sniffed. "Honor is overrated. Or rather: it's nothing more than a word, used by fools to justify foolish actions."
"I think it's cute!" Nephele said.
"It's not cute!" Brasidas protested. He realized he was blushing: supposedly a warning sign of exposure to feminine wiles, though Brasidas didn't quite understand how that worked. He'd also blushed when his teachers had praised him, when the King had presented him with his shield, when his comrades had talked about his heroic actions in battle - and none of those incidents had involved any women, or even girls. "Without honor, what else is there in the world?"
"Um," Nephele said. "A lot? I mean, really, Brass."
"If your honor means you'll stick by my side and make yourself useful, I'm fine with it," Diona said.
Brasidas thought this might very well be the nicest thing she'd ever said to him. He kind of wished she could have said it on a more auspicious occasion, like after he'd saved her life (or better yet: after he'd saved everyone's lives) but beggars couldn't be choosers. "Thank you, arktos."
"I think this calls for a bear hug!" Nephele said, jumping up excitedly.
Nyx muttered something and shadow stepped to somewhere out of hugging range.
Brasidas decided to stand his ground, mostly because he knew Diona fairly well by now and there was no way she would -
"No hugs," Diona said, as expected.
Nephele sighed and sat down again.
Nyx relaxed, still looking at Nephele and Diona rather than at Brasidas, which meant now was the perfect time to -
"Oooh!" Nephele said. "Brass! You did it!"
Nyx turned around slowly, raising her hand to touch the tip of Brasidas's spear. Brasidas half-expected her to comment on his lack of honor, to use his own words against him, but instead she merely smiled.
"I guess perhaps you're not as hopeless as you look."
Brasidas grinned. It seemed to be an evening for unexpected compliments. "Thank y- " his ears popped, and he was suddenly on his back, staring up at the sky " - ooph."
"Brass! Are you all right? She didn't break you, did she?" Nephele bent over him, face blurry.
Brasidas blinked a few times. He wanted to say, I'm a man, not an automaton. I cannot be broken. Spartans are unbreakable.
Instead, he let her help him up and accepted the offer of a hot drink.