Fragment from "Aquatika", first draft
This novel has won the #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) contest
A meeting of masters
“When does your class begin?”
“At 3 p.m. Let’s go to the training wing.”
I take my leave from Anh and follow my red-haired friend. Sabienne continues to grin, and I can’t understand why. Nonetheless, knowing her for a couple of years, she must have something mischievous in her mind.
She opens the door, and we enter the training hall three minutes before three o’clock. As soon as I get in, I stop, not knowing what to do. Perhaps there is a mistake? I see there about twenty gorgeous women, all on heels and wearing elegant dresses. A party? However, I don’t remember such parties ever being held inside any Aquatika headquarters. Perhaps Lucero has different customs?
The women quickly line up and salute formally. I turn to Sabienne:
“What kind of class is that?”
“It’s a class for female envoys,” she replies among fits of laughter. “You should go closer to the mirrors lining the back wall and look at your face.”
The students are also laughing. Sabienne continues, now on a serious tone:
“While normally we don’t mix into politics, there are still various issues around the world we sometimes have to check in more subtle ways. For such situations, we have special envoys posing as people who have businesses in our areas of interest. Young and beautiful women can often get access to information impossible to obtain through other channels.”
“And what does this class teach?” I ask.
“Self-defense in street clothes and party dresses.”
“I see. In a dress or on high heels, some of the moves will have to be adapted.”
Sabienne invites me to take a seat on a side bench. I watch their warm-up and basic techniques. These are not ordinary students. They are already instructors, experts in hand to hand combat. All the women are wearing high heels and elegant dresses. The dresses are split at the sides, revealing perfectly shaped legs and allowing them to move almost as freely as when wearing a uniform. They run around the hall, get in low stances, and do high kicks almost as easily as bare-footed. If needed, these charming females can instantly transform into killing machines.
Sabienne checks their technique, correcting small mistakes here and there. Yet, overall she seems pleased with her students. Fifteen minutes later, she moves to the self-defense part. For ten minutes, they practice against each other. On high heels and wearing long dresses, they dodge, parry or punch. Some moves imply wrist control or strangling. The techniques are precise and efficient. Their stamina is excellent. Any of them could easily do the job of two or three ordinary bodyguards.
Besides this, there is the internal, invisible part. The women look lean, even skinny. However, their power doesn’t come from muscles. It's a complex combination of speed, biomechanics, tendon power, and internal energy.
Sabienne lets them practice and disappears inside the changing room. Five minutes later, I almost can’t recognize her. She’s dressed in an elegant white evening robe, with a golden necklace around her neck, and wearing a pair of red high-heeled shoes. With the height added by the heels, she’s almost as tall as me. And she’s extremely beautiful.
Sabienne calls towards the class:
“Let’s do the three circles meditation for five minutes, then we shall move to test self-defense techniques against men.”
I suppose I’m going to be the “men”. This is not going to be easy. I have always been shy around girls and women, especially around the beautiful ones… Perhaps Lila was an exception because I’ve known her for so long.
With feet shoulder-width apart, the women bend slightly their knees so that their projection falls on top of their toes, then move the arms as if hugging a large tree, palms facing each other. The eyes are looking down, forty-five degrees towards the floor, like during a standard Zen meditation. Sabienne does the same in front of the formation.
The flow of energy is tremendous. I can feel it in the air, floating like a thick layer of static electricity. I suppose most of these women will become masters in the next two or three years. I’m still sitting on the bench, but activate the small orbit around my body and begin accumulating energy myself. I’m going to need it soon.
The five minutes fly fast. Sabienne returns to a natural stance and calls the end of the short meditation session.
“And now we are going to try our techniques against master Kolin,” says my red-haired friend. “Master Kollin, please come here.”
I stand up and move next to her.
“Let’s try something simple first,” she says. “Assume I’m at a party; someone wants to grab my waist and kiss me. What is the best type of reaction?”
“Reacting violently would draw too much attention,” answers a blonde woman. “Best is to simply avoid the touch and move away if this is happening in a public location.”
“That’s right,” continues Sabienne with her mischievous grin. “Kolin, step in and try to kiss me.”
The thought of doing so makes me very uncomfortable. What if she actually pretends to forget defending and lets me do it? The trap has been set, and I’ve walked straight into it. Now I have no choice but to do what she asks. I pretend to be an ordinary ruffian, come close to her, and try to force a kiss. As I feared, Sabienne doesn’t resist. She leans back in my arms, looking up at my face. I stop just in time, a few centimeters before our lips were to meet.
“This is what would happen if I didn’t defend,” she says, laughing. Then she pulls her head up and kisses me anyway. “And this is a small prize for you, as you’re so helpful to our class,” she adds, in a roar of laughter. I feel my cheeks burning. I know my face is red without having to check it in the mirrors that line the back wall.
“Now, let’s do it again,” continues my friend.
I repeat the moves, but this time she turns and slides to my right. Before I have the chance to come close, she’s out of my reach and behind. My right arm grabs the air.
“Now I can either continue to move away,” she says, “or I can strike back”. She pretends to hit the lateral side of my neck with the back edge of her palm. This is close to a pressure point named “pool of wind”. Sabienne explains:
“Even a medium strike here would do tremendous damage. He’d be out cold almost instantly.”
We move back to our initial stances, facing each other.
“Let’s go up a level,” continues the master. “This time, he is a decent fighter, at the level of the bodyguards who surround important politicians and some rich people.”
I play my role again, reacting faster to her moves and turning towards her when she does the circular stepping. Before I have time to react, her left knee hits lightly my ribs and her right elbow touches the side of my neck.
“As you can see, he would have no chance in a real fight. When a man tries to kiss or touch us, he does not expect any hard resistance. This gives us an edge, and we can always win. We’re beautiful flowers with hidden venomous thorns.”
Turning towards me, Sabienne goes on:
“Were he to attack me in a square fight, the situation would be significantly more difficult to manage. Now, let’s have master Kolin do the same drill with each of you.”
I obey and repeat the moves, again and again, pretending every time that I’m trying to kiss the woman in front of me. The women giggle, but otherwise they take the drills very seriously, not trying to kiss me the way Sabienne did. It takes me about half an hour to do the set with everybody. In the meantime, the rest of the participants in the class are doing the same drills against each other.
This novel has won the #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) contest at https://nanowrimo.org
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