Sirius chuckled. She was different than he’d been when he was her age, that much was true. But it was refreshing to see something different. Most Iriliean knights were very stuck up, especially early on. They knew this technique and that technique, had studied under this master or that, had a gleaming gem-encrusted hilt for their sword, were prepared to see men die, and so on. Once he’d heard a kid gloat about how proficient he’d grown at slicing goats. Some of the older knights laughed about how great of a butcher he should be, but he wound up being trained nonetheless. Someone in his family had, apparently, too much wealth on their hands.
But to hear someone admit that they want to learn was refreshing. It was rare. Or maybe he just hadn’t been listening. He’d never actually trained an apprentice, and there were some higher-ups breathing on his neck to produce an “heir”. He couldn’t take a female apprentice, however, so he would have to let the girl down gently. Still, she had promise. Purpose, even. Then again, she’d also just leveled a man to the ground. Then again, he’d done worse. A terrible predicament, really. So, Sirius opened his mouth to deliver the bad news.
And, just then, his back started to ache.
The words came out as a mumble just barely under the breath.
“Tell you what. I need to gather some provisions. If you help me lug some of the stuff around, I’ll help you with your form. But that’s about it.”
Someone as persistent as her would probably follow along, accept the deal, and try to negotiate something better later. Easier to break the news without breaking his back. So, Sirius turned around, trying his best not to showcase his old age. His walk was still confident, filled with all the luster of an aged knight. Of course, part of him felt off giving a show, but knights were supposed to look their best. Or something like that.
Sirius weaved through the capital with expert direction. He’d been here many times. It was, arguably, his home. Of course, a nomadic lifestyle like his negated any real roots, but he had friends here. He returned his orders here. Wasn’t that what a home was? Sirius grumbled in his mind, knowing full well that the answer was no. He didn’t turn to face the village girl. With luck, she’d have sought out someone younger. That’d take a load of guilt off him.
Well, maybe his back ache was fate trying to steer his hand. That rule against ladies being knights was as old as the order itself. No wonder no fresh blood came in. A bunch of nobles sent in their vastly underprepared sons to play at being soldier for a few years before coming home without having done anything in service to their liege, or even worse, having been changed by the things they’d seen. The few village boys were often better at this sort of thing. They were used to hard work. Often, they were dedicated. Motivated, some of the time. Sure, Sirius himself had technically been the son of a noble, but he was already used to hardwork before then. A noble’s life never suited him. And, to be frank, it still didn’t.
“Aye, just up ahead in here.”
Sirius had navigated the paths offhandedly, not really paying attention but still knowing full well where he was headed. A little shop with walls overflowing with necessities. And, even better, the owner was a dear friend who gave him his favorite pastries. The owner gave him whatever pastries he’d baked for the day. A life of war was over for this shopkeep, twenty-two years too late. Those years would have been spent better at a bakery of his own. Regardless, too many pastries later and with an excess of other provisions to lug around (food, water, a couple of torches, and everything an old knight would need to be overprepared), Sirius was done with his business.
“Alright, basic weight training. Do this enough and you’ll be strong. Make sure you don’t throw out your back. We go until you’re tired, then I’ll help you with your form.”
Truthfully, he’d never trained an apprentice. And most of his knowledge was muscle memory. He’d forgotten what his instructor looked like by now. Well, not really. He still remembered him very vividly. But only his face. His name had escaped him some years back. But now that he was acting as an instructor, it almost came back. Not quite, though.