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Saturday September Eighth 2018 10:00 AM

Espadas School of Self-Defense and Swordsmanship


But for the low hum of an electric motor and the tinted windows the Danger International fleet car that pulled to the curb a few car lengths from the Espadas Dojo was nondescript and would hardly elicit note from passer by.  This was perhaps slightly less true about it's occupants.


Before exiting the car Ace turned to his niece.  "Alright so, as I said, he's the best, but also a little touchy about keeping a low profile."  which was to say had a standing threat to stab Ace should he descend on his home with reporters again.  "So uh, casual is hte rule I guess?"  Low profile was really no more in Aces vocabulary than his companions, luckily this was actually nothing but a legitimate visit for the establishments actual purpose.


That said the immortal adventurer hopped from the car and strode confidently up to the doors to the dojo slipping inside to await the proprietor, he'd even done the due diligence of arriving between scheduled classes.

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Janus gave the family patriarch a slightly confused look but with a shrug of their lean shoulders, seemed to imply agreement with whatever that meant. Fortunately, Janus didn't look too out of place heading into a dojo. In leather pants and high boots and a tightly fitted sleeveless shirt, they'd dressed for a potential work out, shouldering a roll of equipment that included both practice and carefully packed real blades. A little on the dramatic side, but hair that went from white to rose red at the tips wasn't entirely unseen in the West End. People would assume dye. Janus had found in the quest to find a potential teacher, it was best to be prepared. 


"Yes, Grandfather," Janus replied, their tenor voice respectful if a bit confused by the admonishment. Glancing around, Janus shifted the equipment more easily on their muscular shoulder before glancing around the interior of the dojo with abject curiosity.

Edited by alderwitch
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The Dangers heard the rhythmic huff of exerted breathing before they saw the school's proprietor. Classes for children and teens looking for an extracurricular wouldn't start filling up until a little later in September so for now the first floor was otherwise empty. Rounding the corner they found Erik Espadas upside-down, suspended by his feet from the anchor points installed in the ceiling, strips of black fabric wrapping around his ankles. Old navy sweatpants that had lost some of their elasticity shifted as he folded himself in half, bringing his face up to his knees before dropping back down and repeating the crunch. A sheen of sweat covered his bare torso, catching the light in waves as the muscles underneath strained and relaxed.


Erik felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end as the front door's bell chimed, his metamagi senses jangling like someone was trying to play a full arrangement of something by Tchaikovsky on a single acoustic guitar and doing a surprisingly good job of it. He contorted around without letting himself down and cocked his head slightly to one side. "Ace? Talya already headed out for--" He stopped and refocused on the lean youth just behind the gregarious adventurer, eyes narrowing. He looked back and forth between them for another beat before flatly demanding, "What did you do?"

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Ace for one was not above appreciating the display and offered a small quiet applause at the dismount. The elder Danger waved off the note of talyas absence, "Oh well so much the better I'm here to see you."  he glibly replied his smile a little too winning.  Ace Danger wanted a favor, and by the end of it expected at the very least expected Erik to accept that it was one the timeless hero was owed.


He glanced to his niece fully away of the family resemblance, not helped by the fact they were more of an apparent age to be siblings than generations apart.  "I found you a protege."  he replied easily as he looked back to the swordsman a glint of mirth in his eyes.  Letting out a small laugh at Eriks reasonable conclusion behind the resemblance he gestured to Janus, "Janus Danger, Prince of Aruivia."  he introduced with mock solemnity.  "A delightful Kingdom in the out of the way dimension of Fortuna.   My brothers eldest settled down there."  Ace explained as if that summation was nothing out of the ordinary.  For a Danger it simply wasn't.  Really though Erik hardly did any better.  Pausing with a teasing smile, "Honestly with what Talya tells me of your antics I'm surprised you haven't stumbled upon it."  The swashbuckler did have a penchant for accidental dimensional travel matched by few others.


Looking back to Janus with a fond smile Ace completed the introductions, "Janus, Erik Espadas, The finest swordsman I have had the pleasure to know."  Which given the Immortals time on this plane and others was really quite the statement of confidence.

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There was a flash of appreciation in the teenager's eyes before their violet gaze dropped politely to the ground as a teacher was way more important to Janus then ogling - even if the man was very handsome. Janus silently set down their equipment on the floor before offering a respectful bow with long-limbed grace. For all of their recent growth spurts, there was no awkwardness in movement. No, the teenager was clearly light on their feet and highly attuned to their place in the environment, "That's high honor coming from Grandfather, Master Espadas."


The lyrical lilt of their accent colored the words though Janus' English was perfectly fluent. It didn't match any of Earth's languages, not quite, but wasn't entirely dissimilar to a French or Belgium accent in the cadence of lilt. Janus straightened to their full height - just a few inches shorter than Ace and likely not entirely fully done with growing. Like Ace, Janus radiated a certain amount of charisma but there was an elegant aristocratic cast to those features that looked like Min's particular elfin brand of not-entirely-human. Janus met Erik's gaze without any challenge and with a bit of a ghost of humor that strengthened their resemblance to Ace as they apologized, "It's a pleasure to meet you, sir. I'm afraid that I've given Aunt Rachel the very devil of a time trying to find a swordsmaster."

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With a small kick Erik freed his ankles and dropped to the floor with a backflip that seemed to be an afterthought as he glowered at Ace. His instinct was to be irritated at the other man on principle but the compliment made it difficult to pull off gracefully. Which was probably what Ace intended. "I do alright. And it's not my fault if portals..." He made a vague gesture with one hand. "...happen."


He gave Janus a brief once over and wiped sweat from his palm on the thigh of his sweatpants before offering his hand to shake. "You can skip the 'master' stuff, Starry-Eyes. Call me Erik. Or Mr. Espadas if you want to make me feel as old as tu abuelo. You've trained before." It was a statement rather than a question.

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"I try to tell her it is an occupational hazard for men such as us."  he agreed with Erik offering a small shrug at the intractable nature of the woman in question.  He cleared his throat slightly, "The last one we got in a bidding war with the olympic committee over before your,"  he paused to stifle a laugh, "Unorthodox style?"  he questioned the terminology and seemed satisfied after a bare moment, "Saw him returning to his coaching position."  Ace was far more amused than Rachel had been about the entire affair which was why in the end he'd offered to see to finding her a trainer personally.  After all he knew all the best people.


Ace flashed a smile to Erik at the titles, "Ah Fortuna is a bit of a departure from our timeline."  he offered helpfully, "Master would be equivalent to mister."  and was a likely origin of the term given the dimensions commonalities.  "But when she is your student I'm sure you will find what best suits your teaching style."  he was quick to note though he allowed Janus to offer the details of her training.

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Janus gave Erik a briefly baffled look, cutting a quick questioning glance to Ace and then relaxing once the elder Danger explained, "It's the appropriate title for one who is the master of their craft - in this case swordplay. Goodman, if the individual is not." Janus added helpfully, giving another small nod of their head and a friendly smile, "If you wish to be called simply 'Erik', I am happy to do so. I know that father's homeland is a less formal place than my home country. We came here for family reuinions a few times every year before I was, ah, shipped over."


The way the teenager's gaze cut over to the side briefly at that last statement certainly indicated that the trip to reside with their father's relatives certainly hadn't been Janus' first preference. The teenager rallied quickly though and their gaze cut back to Ace with a bit of exasperation, "He said not to hold back so I didn't. I assumed that it was a genuine sentiment."


Shaking their head and sending the long braid back over their shoulder, Janus gave Erik the full weight of their attention, "Yes, sir, I began training with the pages when I turned six and I was squired at ten. I earned my sword by the time I was thirteen and I've been blooded since that time. I've been cleared for combat for almost four years now. My preferred style is arming sword and buckler but I've been working in other styles for the last year or so."


Clearly the idea of involving Danger children in combat scenarios continued to spread through the family tree from Ace's time still to the present generation.

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"Ha, I hope you're talking about Buckie, Korfanty's like seventy," Erik laughed. He had a lot of professional respect for the national team and their staff but trying to translate the forms of a refereed match to a knockdown brawl against super villains was going to be a bad time for everyone involved. "I'm assuming you get the manners from the other side of the family. I appreciate it, we just don't really stand on ceremony here."


The instructor gave Janus another look and paused. He was pretty sure Ace had said 'she' but now he wasn't second guessing himself; the whole leather pants look could have gone either way and giving the kid body image issues seemed like a bad way to kick things off. Which reminded him that he probably needed to find a shirt at some point. "On the other hand I know what it's like to get dropped in a whole different dimension. Do you need to be called like prince or princess or...?"

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Janus smiled widely, the corners of their eyes crinkling up and wrinkling the white-star scar around the one eye. "My father has had some of the rougher edges smoothed after years as Mother's consort, but yes. Also - unfortunate groin-kicking incident aside, I try not to offend potential teachers especially. I've already learned the error of my ways sassing the arms-master at home. 'Tis not a lesson I would repeat."


Janus' sense of humor was dry, but they clearly had relaxed a bit more. Enough that when the delicately-worded question came up, Janus gave a small shake of their head, their smile a little wry, "No, it's a largely meaningless title outside of Fortuna. I try not to be THAT sort of nobility even when home. If you are delicately trying to find out what pronouns I prefer, it doesn't matter to me, personally. Aruvian has non gendered pronouns but I know English is not so... eh, facile. My title is Prince and I've taken on what Americans, I gather, see as more masculine roles but my biological gender is female - which seems a weird thing for everyone to need to know but..." Janus gave an enigmatic shrug as if it were not the only oddity they found in their resettling in Prime. "... 'she' is fine as is 'he'. I suppose it depends if you find cultural standards a higher priority than biology in how you codify information."


Janus spread their hands wide - for once without any jewelry as they'd come ready to practice in case that had been requested or required. Their hands were long and elegant but with the clear callouses that one would expect from the years of practice. "I assure you, either is just fine with me. Would you like me to run through my practice forms?"

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Ace laughed slightly at the image of Janus treating the elder coach in such a manner and shook his head, "Ah yes Korfanty is a bit beyond the years of active training."  he agreed easily, "To her credit the man did say not to hold back."  he pointed out with a shrug.


As Erik tried to sus out pronouns he let Janus explain.  The old adventurer was from a time with less concern over such things and was accustomed to transliterating genderless pronouns to gendered in english enough it hadn't really occurred to him to dig deeper.  She handled hte question admirably and he rolled his eyes at the commentary about where she found her manners.  "The Dangers are perfectly capable of etiquette and diplomacy."  he pointed out squarely, "If you've encountered outhwise it must be intentional."  he teased lightly and probably displayed precisely why he'd felt the need to point out to Janus that they needed to take care not to ruffle feathers.  that being because Ace was almost incapable of not when visiting hte Espadas household.


He nodded toward the center of the room as he shot Erik a wink, "You're going to thank me by the end of this."  he promised with no small pride in his relations skill.

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"I actually have it on good authority that being an ass on purpose isn't actually better," Erik drawled in Ace's direction without actually looking at the immortal adventurer. To Janus he began holding up fingers to count off a list. "One: don't let him take credit for you being good. Two: I expect you to be able to train and sass at the same time. Three: I appreciate the clarification but if I still manage to put my foot in my mouth - and I probably will - and make you feel crappy about something, tell me. I don't like my students distracted because they're brooding."


Sauntering over the middle of the room and its training mats scratched ideally behind one ear and eyed Janus' roll of equipment. "Anyway, don't worry about forms for now. Why don't you just try to hit me?" The fencer pointed to his chin, his stance loose and relaxed.

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Janus offered a lopsided smile, "I'm already able to train and sass at the same time, I assure you. Like most weapons, though, I try to make certain that when I swing it; it's a deliberate choice. And, you know, not just wave it around because I can." The younger Danger grinned before giving Erik a brief, quizzical look. Their bright gaze flicked to Ace questioningly before finally asking Erik, simply, "With my regular sword first and not the magic one, I assume?


They unrolled their equipment with care. Erik's practiced eye could see that the blades used were lethal sharp, without blunted edges but likely a good pound to pound and a half heavier than what Janus would use in a fight. Like most who dealt in heavier weapons, Janus trained with heavier blades to ensure than in an actual fight, the movements would be lethally quick. The leather buckler was simple, round and not all that much bigger than Janus' closed fist. From Janus' stance, it was clear that the off hand was just as much weapon as the sword. Janus lifted the blade up in front of them in the briefest of salutes before simply attacking as instructed with lethal speed. They were good, not just in speed or strength but the attack was aggressive while being supremely controlled. While Janus might be bated into overconfidence, they didn't start from their as a default. No, Janus had been knocked on their behind enough times by enough different teachers to have any tendency of that drilled out of them.


Even if Erik didn't dodge out of the way, Janus had enough control that the wound would be superficial; the last few inches of their blade whipping up and to the side. Unlike fencing, their style focused on the sharp edges of the blade rather than any sort of thrusts and Janus closed with the long gliding strides, their off hand guard up as they were not going to make a mistake of underestimating someone that Ace called 'the best'/ 

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With a lazy shrug Ace replied, "I never claimed to be one of the good ones."  the old man in a young mans body did manage to leave the 'son' implied and not vocalized at least.  He was also not great at taking his own advice about not antagonizing the best chance at instruction the younger Danger had in this realm.  "Thank me for bringing her to you not for her skills those you'll hone."  ah a blade pun, when in Rome and all that.


Ace returned Janus look with one of indifference and a slight gesture toward erik.  Even if she did manage to hurt the swordsman Ace was confident they could patch him up before talya or Willow could arrive and complain, "Just make sure any scars you leave are of the dashing variety."  he suggested simply.  He watched as she settled into her stance and began her attack with interest curious to see how she'd fair in such a contest.

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"Just supply your own rude hand gesture, old man," Erik drawled as he snapped back a pace from his seemingly relaxed stance, a little quicker off the mark than he'd honestly been expecting. Janus was skilled enough to add their strength to their speed, letting the heavy blade add momentum. It was enough that instead of doing the old 'barely twist out of the way so the blade whisked by his nose to impress the new kid' move he actually had to move his feet. Still looked pretty cool, though; he knew what he was about. "Alright, I like that, pretty good." Erik wove his feet like he was dancing so that he came back in front of the teenager, hands clasped behind his back. "Get the buckler in there. You use that for attacking, too, yeah?"

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Janus was surprised that their assault didn't land but it was surprise laced with obvious pleasure. Not only was this not a teacher that Janus could tromp into the ground in the first fifteen minutes, Janus was skilled enough to tell that Erik was better than they were just from footwork. And Janus was clearly delighted by that fact. For the first time since stepping into the dojo, Janus' shoulders relaxed and a smile lit up their features. Honestly, in a way that Janus hadn't smiled since showing up on Ace's doorstep; one of pure joy and mingled relief. For Janus, this was the first thing that Prime could offer that was better than the home that they missed quite so very much. It made Janus look more like a typical teenager (well, in an impossibly handsome and vaguely elfin sort of way). 


"Yes, sir," Janus said simply as they stepped backwards with quick, light steps, retreating as Erik retreated to prevent him from taking control of where they were moving away. Janus, at least, knew enough not to be baited in following Erik around the dojo on his terms if it could be helped. Closing quickly; Janus was clearly used to fighting closer in than a typical fencer, blade whirling in quick, clean slices while the hand holding the buckler bobbed and weaved; ready to block but Janus added the off hand blows. "I'm equally dominant with either hand and train to keep it so. Never know when you're going to get one lopped off by a lightsaber, after all. I also throw knees and elbows. My knight used to wake me up bellowing things like 'EVERY PART OF YOUR BODY IS A WEAPON'. Nice fellow, little intense. Well, either intense or partially deaf. No one was brave enough to find out. There's a betting pool still going if anyone ever does. I have two gold on 'intense AND deaf'.

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Ace quirked a smile at Jacks response, "Don't mock your elders."  he retorted back with an easy laugh.  He brightened at the clear joy in Janus' movement as they realized he'd not been mistaken about Eriks skills.  It warmed his heart to see her come a bit out of her mope at least.  And as a side benefit made it much less likely she'd go find a war to fight in like he had in his moody youth.  


He watched the give and take of the attack and dodge with genuine interest as well.  He knew enough of both styles and their skills to see the dance for what it was even if he was not so sure of the steps himself.  Made it all the more exciting really.  "Ah Talya does have a standing request we not harm the ah, family jewels?"  he suggested as they mentioned the knees and elbows that had thusly laid low the last teacher.  Not that Erik was likely under such threat but of the two he was more concerned with Talyas upset really.

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  • 3 weeks later...

"Hey, you know Star Wars," Erik noted with a grin as he batted away an offhand swing with his forearm before sliding back a pace out of the reach of Janus' sword. The swordsman had begun moving about the training area in long strides, leaps and a few largely gratuitous flips, curious to see if the teenager would chase after him or change up their close-quarters approach. "Don't worry about the wives; Talya would like anybody who can fight in those boots and Min would just want to play with your hair." He dropped low abruptly, bending backward from the knees so that the blade sliced through the air above his face, then sprang up. Grabbing the ribbons still anchored to the ceiling he hauled himself into the air and over Janus' head, landing spryly behind them.


Cracking his knuckles in anticipation, Erik's grin broadened. "Now what was that about a 'magic sword'?"

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Janus hesitated for just a moment once Erik switched it up. Both Ace and Erik were skilled enough to clock the moment's pause for what it was although a layperson probably wouldn't have recognized the heartbeat of a hiccup before Janus adjusted. Rather than chase after Erik or fall back on trying something ranged, Janus slipped into a strike and run sort of tactic. With the sort of lean and limber athleticism, Janus probably could have thrown in acrobatics but the dojo was not familiar stomping grounds to Janus and they really had no desire to fall on that trim butt in front of the first promising teacher Janus had seen on Prime.  


Whirling, Janus blinked those pale violet eyes once at the request and gave a little bow of their head. "I shan't aim for Master... for Erik's jewels, Grandfather." Janus promised with wry amusement. Quickly wiping down the training sword before setting it back on the equipment roll, Janus unbuckled the leather buckler as well. "I've spent most of this summer watching all of the classics," Janus explained, "I may have visited this earth a few times a year but I didn't want to be woefully unprepared for popular culture references going into high school. Of course, it IS Claremont so..."


Janus gave a little wiggle of one hand as if to say 'everyone's a little weird'. 


With their practice weapons safely away, Janus flexed one hand and then reached those elegant fingers up towards their sternum. The dimensional barrier rippled a little, like disturbed water, as Janus' fingers closed around the raw magic of Fortuna that pulsed around their heart and drew the crackling power from deep within, shaping it into physical form. The magic hidden under Janus' skin surged and sang - not audibly - but to mystic senses as it was tapped by Fortuna's native son. Touching their opposite hand to the blade, Janus drew off enough humming magic to surround their off hand with a buckler made of glowing light that pulsed in pink to rose hues. 


"It's something my father brought to Aruivia," Janus said softly, their gaze downcast on the weapons made of light and magic as if they could feel their home just a little bit closer with Fortuna's magic humming in their hands. It was a bittersweet feeling and the flicker of homesickness flashed across Janus' fineboned features once more. "I don't, entirely, know how it works other than the obvious - I mean - I can use it but the metaphysics of it never mattered at home. I do know that my story shapes the magic.. Grandfather?"


Janus glanced over their shoulder towards the immortal adventurer as Ace probably knew more about that aspect of Fortuna than Janus happened to. It had never mattered to Janus before leaving for Prime.

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Ace shrugged slightly at Erics deflection as he watched the back and forth curiously.  He'd certainly found the right teacher for the young Danger, though he'd know that of course, but it was clear Eric had a genuine appreciation for not only the skills but their wielder.  "We do manage to keep in touch with the common man from our ivory towers you know."  he smirked slightly at the self deprecating joke.  


As Janus drew her weapon and segueyed to him for further explanation he was happy to fill in the blanks as he was able, "A soul blade."  he offered the rather grandiose title, "Magic as you likely can sense,"  he assured the swordsman, "tied to her sense of self and manifesting in kind."  he frowned slightly as he sought the words in a tongue other than that it had been explained to him.  "It is powered and shaped by her subconscious into the form most fitting her needs."  he explained, "Though at this point with only the most basic control as I understand in time she might learn to wield it with more flexibility?"  he shrugged the metaphysics of the entire affair rarely interested him over the spectacle after all.

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"Oh, sure, got a student who make a glaive like that," Erik nodded, taking the light show in stride. He extended his right hand and Janus' sword and buckler flared for a moment, the current of energy finding a new outlet as a ribbon of fuchsia light wound through the air to his waiting fingertips. It coalesced there into a mirror image of the teen's arming sword, albeit noticeably more ethereal.


Wrapping his fingers around the one handed hilt Erik took a moment to close his eyes and inhale. "Smells like crinkling paper and orchestral brass. Reminds me of a unicorn I fought one time." The fencer rolled his shoulders and the sword reshaped itself into the narrow piercing blade of a rapier, the excess energy spiralling about into a filigree hand guard. As it assumed his preferred configuration the energy took on a subtly purplish tint and regained what intensity it had lost. His eyes snapped back open and he tilted his head approvingly. "Good sword. Now, stop messing around and hit me."

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