Elaine stood there, in the courtyard, panting furiously. She glanced at the practice sword lying on the ground where she’d thrown it, and then at her stepfather.
“How many times is it?” she asked. “So far?”
Mansemat shrugged. “I really haven’t been keeping count…” he noted.
“I have,” chimed in Morgaine. “Eighty-three.”
“I thought the second-to-last time was particularly good,” added Nerghal. “Where he turned his back, and still managed to get the drop on her.”
“I preferred the one right before it, where he did it left-handed,” noted Morgaine.
Elaine took one more deep breath, than glanced at the practice sword again. “All right,” she said at last, “what am I doing wrong?”
Mansemat smiled at her. “Do you really want to know?”
“Well, it’s become blindingly obvious to me that my brilliant plan of just outdrawing you somehow isn’t working,” noted Elaine, as she picked the sword up again. “So, I figure… the point of all this is to get it through my thick head that all of this is more complicated than ‘pull out sword, stick it in something’.” She gazed at Mansemat suspiciously, replacing the practice sword in its sheath. “Am I right?”
The Dark Lord nodded. “Exactly. So… what are you doing wrong? Well… quite a few things.” He coughed. “Let’s see… where to begin?” He stroked his chin for a second, then nodded. “You’re trying too hard to be fast. It’s making you lose speed.”
Elaine blinked. “What?”
“Try drawing it again,” said Mansemat. Elaine shrugged to herself, and prepared to draw. “There,” he said. “Why is your arm so far from the hilt?”
“Well… you see…” Elaine stared at it for a moment, and then shook her head. “Okay, I did not realize I was doing that.”
“You’re trying to make your arm move faster,” explained Mansemat. “The problem is, you want the sword to move faster. ‘Never waste a movement’--one of the cardinal rules of the Seventeen-Style School.”
“You know, I have to ask--why ‘Seventeen-Style’?” asked Elaine.
“True mastery does not come with the mastery of a single way, but the mastery of many ways,” explained Mansemat.
“Or to put it another way, my brother is a sucker for EVERY ‘ancient fighting’ technique he ever came across,” noted Morgaine.
“Untrue!” stated Mansemat. “The Seventeen Styles were chosen after rigorous selection on my part. Each is distinct enough to instill a different perspective, and yet shares enough in common that one may move between them at will. Further, in the mastery of the Seventeen Styles, one realizes fundamentals on the very nature of fighting that lead one into the Secret Style that is produced by…”
Elaine stared at her aunt. “You’ve put up with this for years, haven’t you?”
Morgaine nodded. “Oh, yeah.”
“She gives as good as she gets, mind you,” added Nerghal, idly scratching his chin.