Robin woke up with a start. Cho had slammed the door shut as he entered the room. The two large dogs were sitting at his bedside. Reaching out, Robin absently petted one. Caligula growled at Robin’s touch. Robin drew his hand back quickly. Nero turned and placed his head on the bed. He looked up at Robin with a longing. Robin slowly reached out and started petting Nero on the head. Nero’s eyes closed at the touch.
"He was always soft," Cho growled. He ordered the dogs to go to their corner. They quickly obeyed him.
Robin ran his hand over his forehead. His head still felt a little light from what he had endured the past week. Feeling hot under the blanket, he threw it to the side. It was then that Robin noticed he wasn’t wearing anything.
"Where’s my clothes?" he angrily asked Cho, as he recovered himself.
Cho did not answer his question. Ignoring Robin, he went to a small chest that sat on a table in the room. Unlocking the chest, Cho opened it. He pulled out a small bundle from its interiors. He slammed the chest closed, re-locking it. Turning his attention back to Robin, he threw the bundle at him.
"You’ll be wearing these from now on," he ordered Robin.
Robin opened the mysterious bundle. He found it held a pair of black leather pants, and long sleeved shirt. There was also a set of black boots inside. Robin examined the boots carefully. They seemed to have spurs imbedded in the heels.
"Why do I have to wear these?" he asked Cho.
Cho threw another small bundle, in answer to Robin’s question. Robin tore it open, removing the contents. Cho had added sharp spikes to his gauntlet and wristband that he wore. He gave him a look of confusion. Cho pulled a chair up to Robin. Sitting in front of him, he began the lessons.
"The black leather is protection for you. In Arena, fighting you must try to have as much of an advantage that you can get. The leather will be tight on you. Harder for your opponent to grab."
Robin showed him the gauntlet and wristband. "And these?" he angrily spit out. "Am I going to be your dog now?"
Robin pointed to Caligula and Nero. The two dogs wore spiked collars around their necks. Cho's passive face immediately grew dark and threatening.
"I am your master now! You will not address me in that manner again. Understand!" Cho shook in anger. Both dogs leaped up, snarling at him.
Robin bowed his head, biting his lip to keep from replying. He reminded himself that Cho was in control here. There was no escape for him now. Later, he thought to himself. He would try something later. For now, he had to appear to be abject. As Robin assumed a submissive pose Cho's anger subsided.
"That is better King Richard. You must remember your place here. As for the Gauntlets, that is not why I had them done. The idea came to me when I took them off you. I had the blacksmith add those. In arena fighting, all things are allowable in the ring. The spikes can do great harm to an opponent. They can also be a shield against small weapons. But you will learn these things when I begin your training." Cho then slapped Robin on the knee as he stood up.
"Come King Richard. You get dressed now. Then we will start with your lessons."
Robin hesitated at first to dress in front of Cho. Cho however did not suffer from any embarrassment. He pulled the blanket off of Robin and tried to dress him himself. Robin brushed him away, telling Cho he could do it himself.
He slowly slid his long legs off the bed. Carefully standing, he hesitated at first, his head spinning a little but his legs were able to support him. Taking the pants first, Robin started putting them on. Cho smiled at his charge. He backed off and waited by the door. He was genuinely anxious to get started with the training. The Master said she would be there to see King Richard’s first lesson. Cho had a curious look to him as he stared at Robin. Robin noticed this as he started lacing the pants.
"May I speak candidly?" Robin asked. He stopped dressing and placed his hands at his sides. He had to keep Cho thinking that he had accepted being here.
Cho nodded his head. "You have my permission."
"You seem troubled," Robin said.
"You are most curious my warrior," Cho sighed.
Robin just smiled and finished the lacing. "Am I?" He asked.
"Yes you are. There is something about you King Richard. Your eyes tell me that you are not an ordinary peasant. I noticed that when I first saw you."
Finishing the pants Robin plopped down on the bed. He pulled on the boots one at a time. They came over his pants, up to his knee. He stamped them on the floor into place. Grabbing the shirt, he then started putting it on.
"There’s something else," Robin stated. He stood up to pull himself into the long sleeves.
Cho’s eyes grew small. "You are also a very smart man."
"I’ve been told that." Robin slyly said.
"Yes, I wonder why I don’t see the hate in you anymore. After what I have done to you this past week, most men's eyes would be filled with anger. Yet, in your eyes I see nothing there. Why is that?" Cho asked.
Robin tiredly rubbed his eyes. He was so exhausted. He hoped that Cho would go easy on him today.
Looking at him sideways Robin replied, "What was done is done. You said to me yourself that I have to accept being here. That I either fight or die, I have chosen to live." Robin started tying his shirt on.
Cho’s face broke into the biggest grin. He was happy that his warrior was strong enough to not only live through the picks pain. But be strong enough in mind to proceed with the training. This was truly a great Warrior.
"Yes, that is good," Cho praised his new warrior. "You have accepted your fate. Now my work will be easier. From now on, you must listen to me. You must do as I say. The next two weeks will be the hardest days in you life. But in the end, you will win that tournament. WE will win it!" Cho added.
Robin finished putting the shirt on. He began to lace up the leather gauntlets. He had Cho fooled for now. After what he went through the past week, he didn’t think that anything could be any harder than that. As he finished the gauntlets, he looked down at the outfit that Cho had given him to wear. The leather fit tight. It was like a second skin to him. He walked around in it. Flexing his arms, he found that the leather gave with his movements. He looked questionably at Cho. The large Mongolian chuckled.
"That is a unique leather brought in from my country. It is worked specially for fighters. It stretches with your every move. It is flexible but it is also very strong. It will help you when you are in battle. Now come King Richard. There is much to do. NERO, CALIGULA come boys!"
The two dogs, hearing their master’s voice came to his side.
Cho then gave Robin a warning look.
"You must remember that I am your master. I am your teacher. You will only speak when I allow it. Stay close to the boys and me. There are many out there who would like to have you for themselves. But never fear, I will not permit it. Now come. Let us begin the lessons.
When we are in public, you are to walk always behind me. I will grant you permission to speak freely in this room. But outside they must see that I am your master. Do you understand?" he stressed.
Robin quietly nodded his head. Cho handed Robin a leather tie.
"I want you to tie your hair back. You cannot give a opponent a chance to inflict harm on you." Robin took the tie from Cho. He waited impatiently as Robin pulled his hair back and tied it off. Pleased with the way Robin tied it, Cho said, "Then let us be off. We have much to do and so little time to do it in."
Cho then turned and opened the door. He left the room first. Robin followed, with the two dogs trailing behind him.
As they walked through the dark corridors, Robin took in a deep breath. He had been kept in that small room for almost a full week. Even the stale air in the corridor smelled fresh to him. They were slowly making their way to the main arena. Cho was taking his time on purpose. He wanted to relish the moment. Other fighters and trainers stared at the small procession as they walked by. All had heard of the new fighter, and what Cho was doing with him in his room. They were amazed to see the man in such good shape. His eyes were clear. His walk was strong. Cho smiled proudly as they walked on. He was the center of attention now. All eyes were upon them. Cho’s head was held high. It began, he thought to himself. This warrior was going to bring him back the respect that he deserved.
As they entered the large, courtyard, Cho headed towards a small man sitting off to the side. He held two rapiers across his knees.
"So thees ees the man you spoke of?" the Man asked, as they approached them. His accent told Robin he came from Gaul. His age was evident on his face. There were many scars from previous battles, but his eyes were blank of emotion. He must have been here for a very long time, Robin thought.
"Yes Jean. He had a sword with him. I want to know how good he is."
"That ees no problem. What ees your name Monsieur?" Jean asked. Robin was taken aback by the respect given by the man. Cho laughed at the perplexed look on Robin, he quickly explained.
"Jean is here the same as you my warrior, but we respect him for his skills with the sword. He goes by King Richard Jean," Cho informed him.
Standing up, Jean bowed deeply at the waist.
"Oh ho, we ‘ave royalty ‘ere then Meebee I think I weel finally ‘ave someone that weel geeve me some sport, eh?"
"May I speak?" Robin humbly asked Cho.
"Granted!" Cho said with pride. He was elated to see Robin show him the respect he deserved. It felt good to be training a warrior again. Robin cocked a smile at the small man. "Perhaps?" Robin returned.
"Good then. Let us see ‘ow good you are your Royal ‘ighness."
Jean handed a rapier to Cho, who threw it at Robin. Robin deftly caught it by the hilt. Others in the arena, noticing that Jean was about to duel the new fighter, stopped what they were doing. The arena grew silent. Something special was about to happen. Each man put their rapier to their faces, in a salute to the other. Flinging the swords back, they then brought them forward to touch. Robin smiled wily at Jean.
Without any more ado…they began. It was slowly at first. They tried to feel the others style. Robin was able to easily return any thrust or parry that Jean gave to him. As they dueled on, Jeans face glowed. At last; a worthy opponent, he thought. He then stepped up his attack. Robin was able to fend off anything that Jean tried.
"It seems," Jean huffed. "That I ‘ave found a worthy opponent, no?"
"Perhaps?" Robin repeated. Jean feinted to the left. Robin quickly brought his sword up to counter the move that he knew was coming. The swordmaster - surprised by Robin’s defense; let his up. This gave Robin an opening, he was able to nick Jean in the shoulder. Jean grabbed the shoulder in shock. It had been a long time since someone had done that to him. He half grinned at Robin. Flourishing his blade to the side, he stated.
"I think I weel stop playing weeth you now." Jean brought his free hand up the air. To let it hang over his head. He flexed his knees, bringing his rapier forward.
"Well that’s a relief," Robin said. Assuming the same position, "I was wondering if that was your best."
"You weel know what ees my best monsieur!"
Jean then pressed into the attack. The clash and clatter of blades echoed in the open arena. All had now stopped fighting to watch the duel. Jean became the aggressor now. Robin tried all he knew to defend himself against Jean’s brilliant attack. With each thrust and parry, the grin on Jeans face grew. This was no ordinary peasant. A master trained this man in the art of swordplay. Realizing that he had to become the aggressor, Robin fooled Jean by feinting a strike. He cried out in pain. Thinking he had marked Cho's man, Jean brought down his defense. It was then that Robin pressed his attack. His thrusts were more open, broader. Jean smiled at him as he countered each move.
"You must ‘ave more finesse Monsieur. You ‘ave thee skill. But for what wee are do-ing you must learn to control your movements be-tter."
It was then that Robin realized that the man had been playing with him.
Moving into Robin, Jean backed him up until he was up against a pillar. Robin ducked as Jean thrusted his blade towards Robin’s middle. Robin then rolled on the floor. He brought his rapiers blade up and knocked the rapier from Jeans hand. Quickly standing up he held the point to Jean’s throat. Robin was surprised to see the swordmaster laughing at him. His face glowing in joy.
"Very good Monsieur, very good. I theenk Cho that thees man ees Ce magnific in sword play." Jean then bowed to Robin in respect, Robin returned the bow. Jean then tried to find his way back to the bench Cho took his hand and led him back. It was then that Robin realized that Jean was blind.
"I’m sorry," Robin gasped. "I didn’t know."
Jean just waved it off. "That ees why I no longer fight in the arena Mon Ami. But I steel ‘ave a skill that I can geeve to others. Don’t you think?"
Robin nodded his head. "You are the best I have ever faced." Robin’s admiration for the man grew. If he fought this good blind, Robin wondered how good he was when he had his sight.
"Well, from thee way you fight I consider that an honor."
" I thank you."
"Then he’s good?" Cho asked.
"He ees very good Cho. I think you ‘ave someone special there."
"I knew that from the first moment I saw him," Cho loudly declared. He hoped the others heard the words that Jean had spoken about his warrior. One had, but it was someone that Cho did not want to talk with.
"Very good. Very good Cho." The master had been standing in the background the whole time of the duel. Ian as always was by her side. She walked towards Robin. Clapping her hands and nodding her head.
"That was very good King Richard."
She strolled over to Robin. Walking slowly around him, she examined him very carefully. Stopping in front of him, she purred.
"Yes, very nice. I really didn’t think I would see you come out of that room alive. For that matter not in such good shape." Her gaze ran up and down Robin’s length. Robin defiantly smiled down at her. She gave him a warning glance.
"So you still have some bite in you King Richard. Even after what Cho put you through." Patting Robin on the chest, she said.
"Just save that for the ring."
Looking at Cho, she nodded her approval.
"Cho, you’ve done a excellent job. Excellent! Will he be ready in the two weeks left until the fight?"
"Oh yes master. I will be training him from dawn to dusk. I promise he will be ready."
"Good!" The Master said. "Very Good, I want him to have his first Arena battle next week. He will be ready for that won’t he?"
Cho bowed his head. "Yes Master. I am sure he will be ready."
The Master stood in front of Robin. Her smile grew as she gazed into his eyes.
"Yes King Richard. I think you're going to make me a lot of money."
"Us money!" Ian added. The master turned and gave Ian a scolding look. "Of course us my dear. We will be making a lot or money from him." Looking up into Robin’s eyes, she whispered.
"I know you are not a just a common peasant. I can see it in your eyes that you have royal blood in your veins. I don’t know why you have hidden if from us, and I don’t care. All I care about is winning that battle. And you King Richard are going to do that for me."
Reaching up she gave Robin a kiss on the cheek. Ian turned red in the face as The Master looked at him, licking her lips. Robin had to hold himself back. He wanted to wipe her kiss off. He felt soiled from it. Satisfied in her teasing of Ian, The Master left the arena. As Ian was following her, he gave Robin a funny look. "Like the outfit!" he sighed. Turning, he ran to catch up with The Master. Robin’s eyes knit in puzzlement.
"Pay no mind to him," Cho whispered. "He is harmless."
"Perhaps to you," Robin muttered.
"Jean, thank you for helping me," Cho said. He bent down grabbing Jeans hand he shook it. Jean just nodded his head towards where Robin stood.
"I thank you Cho. It ‘as been a long time since I ‘ave ‘ad a ba-ttle like that."
Cho glowed with pride. He glanced around at the other trainers. They heard every thing said. Their faces were filled with envy. It was then that Cho realized he had to protect his greatest warrior. The others would surely want to have this man for their own. They would have to kill Cho to get to him. For now he had to concentrate all his time in King Richard’s training. It was going to be hard work. He knew it would be well worth it.
End of Part Eight
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