The Quest for Excalibur: Chapter Four: The Best Friend
Arya met Leon Adams in the woods outside of Unnamed when she was eight and he was nine. Back then, Arya’s hair was so long it fell to the backs of her knees in a messy french braid that swung wildly when she ran. Arya didn’t live far away from a forest surrounding the city back then and she would always take the wooden sword her father made her in there, escaping into the trees. She would pretend to be Vapor Karstaag, the greatest swordswoman alive, chopping her sword through branches and bushes, screaming war cries at the top of her lungs.
One day, she wandered farther from her home into the deep woods. She stumbled across a two-story, private home in the heart of the trees. The house looked like it has been untouched for years, but it carried a certain life about it that Arya didn’t understand for a very long time. There was a little boy around her age with his own, wood-plank sword, yelling and swinging furiously at the air.
Arya was mesmerized. She had never seen anyone so good with a sword. His technique was near-perfection. His shouts were merciless. The feral anger in his eyes was awesome.
(Of course, at the time, Arya would think that an angry little boy spewing random curses while hacking a slab of woods around like a madman was something to gawk at. She was only eight after all.)
Leon paused when hearing rustling in the bushes. Gritting his teeth, he spun around and pointed his “blade” defensively at the little girl staring at him with shock written all over her face. “Who dares disturb me?!” He bared with narrowed eyes before they settled on the admirable weapon in her hands. “A challenger?” He shrieked, outraged. “Come to try defeating me? Who are you?!”
Arya decided then and there that if she wanted to be the best, she was going to have to beat this guy. She brandished her sword courageously, glare set deep on her face. “I am Vapor Karstaag! The greatest swordswoman to ever live!”
“Karstaag, huh?” He scoffed, grip on the hilt of his sword tightening. “No one is better than me! I am the powerful Othello Axel! Wielder of the Demon Blade, Abel! And if I must destroy you to prove I am greater, I will.”
“So this is how it’s gonna be.” Arya stepped forth from the bushes, mighty took glinting in the sunlight. Her foe backed away some, reading her body language, ready to defend his honor to the very end. “A proper swordsman must bow before the final battle.” She made show of bowing deeply, arms outstretched and feet crossed, before falling back into an offensive stance. She held her sword high, the useless hand parallel, pretending that she had another sword to dual wield with just like the real Vapor Karstaag.
“Touché.” Leon spat, flipping the end of the sword toward the ground and pressing the enclosed fist to his chest, bowing, then righting himself once more. Leon mimicked the combat style of Othello Axel himself, his sword held loosely in his hand like a knife, ready to flop between the fingers for any slashes or jabs.
“May the better swordsman win,” Arya announced, shifting her weight forward to the balls of her feet. Leon mocked her actions, a cocky smirk playing at his lips.
“I am the better swordsman.” Sneering, the two children shouted their final cries and burst forward at each other, out for blood and victory.
The fight lasted a little over seven minutes. By the time they were done, Leon had a nasty black eye forming on his face, cuts on his arms and a bruised ego. Arya’s lip was busted, one of her wiggly teeth came out and her nose was bleeding. They sat on the ground together, backs pressed up while they sharpened their mighty blades with rocks.
“I think a tie is fair enough,” Leon said finally after minutes of heavy silence. “But I’m still the best.”
“You’re just jealous because I made you cry,” Arya taunted, turning around to face him. Leon’s cheeks flushed and he shoved her half-hearted, but hard enough to make her fall over. Arya glared at him and sat up, brushing off her sleeve. “Othello Axel isn’t even the best swordsman anyway,” she pointed out. “Terrance Adams is.”
Leon’s expression grew so dark that it scared Arya. “Terrance Adams is trash. My parents always talk about how great he is. I’m great. Not him. And I’ll prove it to the world. I swear I will.” When Arya didn’t respond, Leon’s momentary anger died down enough to see the fearful look on her face. His cheeks burst into blushing flames, worse than before. “I-I mean-- I’m sorry! I scared you! God, I’m so dumb…”
“I don’t think you’re dumb,” Arya admitted, wiping some blood from her nose with a sniff. “I think you’re super cool.”
Leon stared at her, astonished. “R-Really?” Arya grinned with a nod.
“Yeah. And you’re an awesome swordsman. You’ll definitely be just as good as Othello Axel-- even better, even!” Leon timidly smiled back, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Thanks,” he said sheepishly. “You’re really good, too. I think you’ll be better than Vapor Karstaag. I think you’ll be better than Vapor Karstaag one day. You just have to practice a lot more.”
“But I already practice everyday,” she whined, crestfallen. Leon laughed at her.
“Then you’re just gonna have to do it every night, too.” After thinking it over, Arya beamed at him, taking his hands in her own.
“You can train with me then! We can be partners! We can meet up everyday here and spar. And then when we get super good, we’ll see who really is the best. Deal?” Leon spat in his hand then held it out to Arya.
“Spit deal.” It was gross and she didn’t want to shake slobbery hands with him, but she thought of it as their first challenge for greatness. Determined to be the best there is, Arya snorted then spat hard in her hand, latching it with Leon’s in a firm shake.
“Spit deal.” Leon decided that he liked this girl.
“May the best swordsman win.” Arya smirked at him, her heart pounding hard in her chest.
“I am the best.” From that day on, she was hopelessly in love with him.
Nine years later, Arya was barging into Leon’s room, a wide grin on her face. “Leon! Guess what I--” She stopped in her tracks when he threw a blanket on his bed over his bottom half, face flushed and scandalous. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“Can’t you knock?” He grunted, sighing at the lack of relief. Arya shook her head, using her scarf to hide the blush on her face.
“Sorry. Just-- um. I can leave. If you, like, cold shower and such.”
“No, no, no!” He said that all too quickly before shrinking down in the pillows on his bed and puffing some hair out of his face. “What I mean is you can stay. I’ll be fine. Wanna sit?” Arya raised an eyebrow. “Bed’s perfectly clean, I swear.” Reluctantly, the younger of the two tip-toed over the random knives and swords tossed haphazardly across the floor before sitting next to him. She was so short that she barely touched the ground, which irked her, so she crawled onto the queen-sized bed, criss-crossing her legs. “So, what did you suddenly come over for?”
“Am I not wanted?” She asked curtly, crossing her arms over her chest.
“You know what I meant,” he chuckled, leaning back against his hands. Arya resisted to urge to stare at his loose t-shirt sliding down from one of his broad shoulders. He was so strong now, after all of the years sword fighting and demon hunting. He could probably lift her with no problem. What would it feel like if he just laid her down on the red and roughly tore her--
“Arya.” She snapped out of her thoughts. For the Gods’ sake, get it together, she chided herself, bringing her scarf up to her nose now. Leon looked unamused. “What were you just thinking about?”
“What were you thinking about when I walked in on you?” Leon’s cheeks darkened a little, but he scoffed to cover it up.
“Pretty blonde.” Arya wasn’t blonde, so she definitely did not feel pretty at that moment. She hoped that he couldn’t hear another piece of her heart shatter. Who could blame him though? Arya had her body-temperature issues, so she always wore three of four layers of winter clothes. Her female cousins told her that she had an amazing body, but no one had ever seen her exposed. She was seventeen now and she had never dated. And, obviously, her life-time crush and best friend had no idea what her feelings were. She could count on staying single forever then.
“Well, anyway,” she redirected, clearing her throat. “I’m going to find Excalibur tomorrow.” Leon blinked.
“You watched that video, didn’t you?”
“It’s not fake!” She argued, fists clenching. “I talked to Fenrir and Sköll and they said that the sword is real. And I got a ticket into that forest from Low Key. It’s all real. So I’m going.”
“I never said it wasn’t real, Arya,” he countered, surprised at how defensive she was. “And I’m not here to stop you. I’m your friend. I support any decision you make wholeheartedly.”
“But?” The young man frowned at her.
“But, I don’t know if you should go alone. You saw what happened to those mages. It’s not safe.”
“I won’t be alone,” she reminded him. “I have my pack.”
“Which is good, but who says they’ll save you from every danger in that forest? You don’t know what’s there, Arya. I’d hate for you to get hurt.” Her heart fluttered and she hated it.
“Then…” She brightened at an idea and took his hands, leaning in some, despite the fact that he was just having private time. “Then you come with me! We can find the sword together and it can be our’s.” Leon smiled at the idea and almost nodded. Almost. The more something that Arya knew nothing of came crashing down on him, the more his face and shoulders fell.
“I… can’t. I’m sorry. I’d really love to go to Elsinore and hunt with you, but there’s just a lot going on right now and…”
“‘A lot going on?’” Arya couldn’t believe this. “What exactly can be more important than Excalibur?” Leon averted his eyes, quiet. “Leon? What aren’t you telling me?”
“It’s none of your concern.” His voice was cold as ice. Arya shrank back, hurt plastered across her face. Leon winced and reached out. “Arya, I--”
“I should go.” Leon pursed his lips, hand dropping in his lap. He watched her slide down from his bed, step over the boobytraps on the floor, then head to the door.
“Arya. Wait.”” She hesitated. Just for a second. Just for him. “Stay safe.” Slowly, she nodded and left wordlessly. Leon groaned into his hands, slumping deep into the mattress. Beside him, his phone vibrated. He checked it.
Meet us at the park tomorrow morning. We have a surprise that we think you’ll like. Leon frowned at the screen and shut the device off. What he was doing, it was worth it. He would be the best, just like he promised Arya. Eventually, she’ll understand.