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"Do you, Catherine of Rothsguile, take Nicolas of MonteSievert?"
"Excuse me?" Catherine could not believe Professor Hamlin uttered such a sacrilege.
"I asked you if you will take Nicolas as your duel partner today? Your pairing is up." She was not quite sure if she saw a smirk flash across the haughty professor's usually scowling demeanor. She glanced at her prospective partner for today, heir to the Sievert fortune and symbol of that family's new blood. Their families' fortunes had run parallel for centuries, the violent animosity never been quenched. Nicolas chatted animatedly with fellow VladSieverts, cousins and allies. They did not seem to have any want for an interesting topic to discuss.
"Why should I refuse? We'll see how the MonteSievert boy holds up," came Catherine's defiant reply.
"Very well. I haven't had this chance at entertainment since your great grand uncle dueled with his great grand aunt." The professor motioned Nicolas to join him and Catherine.
"Hhmmm...Stuff of childhood stories. Great uncle Silvanos lost an arm. They had to bring him to Morocco to grow it out. Centuries of family connections at the Marrakesh Market helped. I can still hear the curses thrown at the MonteSieverts whenever this story is told. "
"Silvanos was a fool. A blundering idiot trying to show off against the MonteSievert girl. She blasted him to bits. I haven't seen that kind of stupid behavior again in your family. Please don't be a repeat of it. Show him no mercy." Professor Hamlin turned to the dark-haired young man by his side, his white skin a beautiful contrast to his raven-black hair. He looked very masculine, the lines of his beard accented his strong jaw.
"Nicolas, you are to duel with Catherine this afternoon. Since you are both in your highly advanced levels, you may use everything in your arsenal. In short, you can do everything except kill each other." This was the first time anybody in their class saw Professor Hamlin break out into a wide grin, like he finally discovered Christmas.
"Where'the fun in that? I'm sure the class has already place their bets, including you." Nicolas laughed. "I daresay you've placed me in a dilemna, fighting with a girl."
"Such an ass," muttered Catherine, which didn't escape Nicolas.
Nicolas glanced at Catherine's backside, "Such an ass."
She glared at him, red waves of infuriation crept up from her neck, making her head seem on fire. Nicolas barely contained his grin. "Do you want to start now?"
Catherine took a deep breath to regain composure, unconciously giving her skirt a slight tug downwards."We'll start at the professor's bidding. Professor, let me know when the duel begins."
While watching her walk away, Professor Hamlin warned Nicolas, "The Rothsguiles are not to be underestimated. They are known to be a deceitful lot. Do not let your guard down."
To which Nicolas replied, "She's cute when she blushes."
Cute was not included in Catherine's mind when she let out a bolt of energy that landed right above Nicolas' head, showering him with a ton of ashes from the burnt tree leaves. Her right rib dug at her skin. Nicolas' smashed her against a brick wall. He was not looking smashing himself. His shoulders and left leg were bloodied from daggers of fiery light that Catherine chased him down with.
"By God, I'm a god. Look at these two. They're way better trained than they should be." Professor Hamlin watched in glee, bringing out the entire class to watch the two heirs of the oldest families he had ever known. Both lineages rose in wealth and in power through the centuries, their survival assured with their supernatural powers. He should know. Generations of MonteSieverts and Rothsguiles had trained before him.
Catherine hid behind a dense stretch of shruberry, trying to control her breath lest Nicolas sensed where she was. "How could I miss that last blast? I had him squarely in my vision. He must have used a reflective defense. Nicolas seems a bit off today. He should have hit me big time by now. He's not the best in class for nothing." She kept still, trying to decipher where he was. "But I have more A's than him. And I, Catherine Rothsguile, intend to be on top of the class."
Suddenly, a deathly silence enveloped her, a white fog appeared, confusing her senses. Catherine slid down to the wet grass, keeping her ear to the ground, letting minute sounds guide her out of the fog. "Ha! He thinks I'm still by the shrub. Am I that good? Or he's being kind. How sweet of...." BLAM! A ball of fire blazed in front of her, barely missing her by a foot. "The fucking bastard is trying to kill me!" She quickly gathered her composure and concentrated on locating Nicolas.
"By the shrub. Nice. Eat this, asshole!" The humongous shrub uprooted itself and torpedoed down Nicolas.
"What the fu-?" It took Nicolas a few seconds to realize what was on top of him. And another few to notice the fire racing through the shrub. "The bitch is trying to put me on fire."
From the corner of his eye, he saw Catherine rising from the grass. For a split second, she was open for target. He raised his hand, the only thing he could freely move now, aimed then released.
"Burn, bastard." Catherine muttered from where she was sprawled. "Wait, the fire is moving quickly. He's not doing anything!" She shouted, "Nicolas, move!". Her mind was raising, "Fuck, he passed out! Because of the shrub? That wasn't so heavy. Weird." She got up, "Nicolas!" The something stirred under the bushes. His hand.
"Fuck! He's going to hit me. Catherine, you brainless idiot." She braced for the oncoming pain. It was cold. Then came the large spatters. It was raining.
The shrub moved away from Nicolas, revealing him lying on the grass, seemingly enjoying the cool drops.
"Is this a joke?" She stood beside him. "Did you make it rain?" Catherine remained intensely alert lest it was all part of a ruse.
"No, blame the old man in the sky." His eyes remained closed on his upturned face. He did not show any signs of getting up. "Or the old woman, whatever your family believes in. Better choose just one so you won’t be confused. My family did once. Become confused, I mean."
She sensed the game ended for him already. "You were not yourself today," her voice sounded relaxed, even concerned.
Nicolas took a sharp breath. "Had a bit trouble focusing today." He opened his eyes and smiled at her. She could not help but notice that his acorn blue eyes looked at her in their usual mischievous way. He bounded up with slight difficulty. "You are good. I got hit a lot. You could have killed me. Though you should really learn not to show concern for me."
"What? What are you talking about?" Catherine's voice could not believe his smugness.
"Really, it could get you in trouble. You should have seen your face when you saw me under the fiery shrub. I did not really get the full look with all those leaves but man, you looked heartbroken. Come on, let's get ourselves healed." Nicolas ambled ahead of her.
She threw her arms up in the air in exasperation. This guy was really an asshole. The freaking nerve! Under the continuous drizzle, MonteSievert and Rothsguile medical teams appeared from the crowd of students to assist their master and mistress.
While lying inside the healing room that looked much too luxurious for healing, Catherine could not help but rant to her long-time nurse, Gertrude. "Isn't the family tired of this....this stupid war?"
"I would gladly ask your parents that the next time we have a heart-to-heart," came the snappish answer. "Stupid? The hell, yes. Personal? To the day they die. When did your father go off on a hunting binge and even took shots at poor bystanders?"
"When he lost the auction bid to Nicolas' father for a Picasso."
"When did your family hold the mother-of-all parties with all the Rothsguiles in full force?"
"When the family took over a company the MonteSieverts were eyeing to acquire."
"And when did your mother last have one of her near-nervous breakdowns?"
"Ah, such silliness. When Nicolas' mother was featured on the front page of the annual list of best-dressed women instead of her. It didn't help that mother dropped from number 1 to number 4."
"And that will go on and on until someone in your silly families grows up. But better not mention that last adjective to your parents. They do take it seriously." She rolled up her eyes.
"Since when did Professor have a taste for designer furnishings?" Nicolas walked in casually into the room.
Gertrude eyed him curiously, amused to see a MonteSievert up close. Catherine was a bit taken back by his entrance but managed to grin. "Mother spruced up the place when she heard I have a duel this week. Maybe the healing is faster in the company of designer labels."
"How are you? Everything healed?" Surprising, he sounded concerned.
"I think so. You?"
"Good enough for a cup of coffee. You want to grab some? And of course, we'd love you to join us, Madame Gertrude. By the way, I am Nicolas MonteSievert." He extended his hand to the blushing nurse. Catherine wanted to throw a pillow at her.
"Oh, oh...don't mind me. You, young people, enjoy yourselves." Catherine raised an eyebrow. Her mother was totally going to kill Gertrude.
"I would have loved to be in a company of a Rothsguile nurse. We can swap stories," Nicolas teased.
"We can do that some other time," was the nurse' gushing reply. Her father would join her mother in killing Gertrude.
"Do you want to meet there?" Nicolas turned his attention to her.
"How about your bodyguards?"
"I can tell them to keep themselves busy. Yours?"
"Gertrude can take care of the boys."
"Let's have some coffee then."
"No. Let's have a drink. After all that banging, I need to relax."
Nicolas laughed, took her hand and led her out. "You're not such a stuck-up, after all."
As they were about to board his Porshe, Professor Hamlin went out to his office balcony. Upon seeing them together, he stopped in his tracks, raised both his arms, yelled something incomprehensible then went back casually to his office.
"What the hell was that?" Nicolas laughed.
"He's insane." Catherine laughed back.
"Just like our families. Your phone's ringing."
Without glacing at her phone, Catherine shrugged her shoulders. "My mother. 17th missed call. Let's go."