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A warm summer breeze blew through the West End street of small businesses and restaurants weathering the times with varying degrees of success. The light wind stirred the gorgeous flowering plants hanging from the second storey windows of one such building, trailing leaves and vines brushing against the top of a bold gold-on-black sign that proclaimed the street-level floor to be home to "The Espadas School of Self-Defense and Swordsmanship!". The dojo had been open for a little over a month at that point, attendance gradually picking up as fliers throughout the city and good word-of-mouth did their job. The proprietor was a well like native of the neighbourhood if unknown in the city at large and while the more introductory self defense courses were all well and good it was the more specific sword fighting classes which were purportedly worth the trip.

Erik Espadas himself was locked in particularly grueling battle with the second hand computer on the reception desk, attempting to bring up the spreadsheet with the list of new students signed up for that week's class. "No, that's the budget," he grumbled under his breath, the annoyed expression on his lightly stubbled face visible from the other side of the large windows that looked out onto the street. "Depressing but not helpful right now. C'mon..." The attendee would be showing up shortly; if he could get this sorted out he was going to have to track down a pad of paper and a pen to take attendance.

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John checked his pocket to make sure the document was still in place after stepping off the bus about a five minute walk away from where he was headed. He had been on the lookout for further training outside of Claremont, and when Mona had suggested the place he decided that it would not hurt to check it out. Still, he asked and had received permission from the headmaster along with a letter of explanation if introductions went sour. He adjusted the strap on the rucksack he was carrying with his exercise kit to not bite into his shoulder and made good time to "The Espadas School of Self-Defense and Swordsmanship!". By his watch he was about 15 minutes early, which he figured would be taken up by signing the various paperwork and waivers associated with starting patronage at locations such as this.

The view through the door revealed a man working at what seemed to be the reception desk so the clone hero opened the door with an elbow as he took off his sunglasses and stepped into the foyer. "Good Afternoon, Sir. I have a class scheduled here later today. Is there any official documentation that I have to take care of before I can proceed?" If he had noticed the annoyed look on the mans' face, it did not seem to have concerned him.

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Erik looked up from the uncooperative computer and nearly checked over his shoulder to find who to carefully polite teenager was talking to before remember that 'sir' was probably him. A little more 'drill instructor' than I usually go for but I'll take it, he decided, opening a drawer in the desk and pulling out a copy of the form stored there before stepping out and giving the youth a broad smile that was welcoming even if it looked like it was a little more used to being a smirk. "Hey, c'mon in! The sword-fighting class, right? I'm Erik, I'll be your instructor." He extended the piece of paper in his hand along with a pen. "There's a little bit of super-exciting paperwork, yeah," he confirmed with a brief chuckle. "Basically making sure we've got your emergency contact info, relevant medical conditions, that sort of thing."

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The revelation that Erik was going to be his trainer earned the man a surreptitious second glance from John before he responded. He nodded in affirmation at the class he was taking as well. "Yes, that is correct. I am known as John." He took the offered items. "Thank you. I will return these after I have finished with them." He had sat down in one of the chairs in the foyer before starting filling out the paperwork, briefly wondering if being a clone of a sociopathic supervillian counted as a relevant medical condition or not. Still he was absconded in the corner chair for a while filling out the documentation.

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"Heh - and here I thought taking some time to relax and take a sword-fighting class would be a good way to put off the super-exciting paperwork," Tarrant joked. He'd come in not far behind John, who he'd given a curious, raised eyebrow when the professor had realized how young John was. Jeeze. What do they feed teenagers these days....?

"Ah. Tarrant McLeod," he introduced himself, chuckling. "And while I'm here to learn to use a sword, I'm pretty sure that any 'clan McLeod' I ever belonged to is long gone. I also promise to not cut off any heads, so there's that."

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Blodeuwedd normally planned for everything, but today she was a little tizzy. For today she’d get to train under a real honest to god Freedom City swordsman. She shouldn’t be quite so excited about just a training session, but somehow the sword wielders of Freedom City had certain mystique about them. She’d even bough herself proper workout clothes figuring her body armour would be to obvious, a despite her all her instincts she’d left Dyrnwyn at home. She did however have a few throwing knives in her purse just in case.

She thought she’d thought of everything until she walked through the door, early but not too early, and saw John sitting there. Perhaps she should have asked the school for permission, she didn’t peg John as a tattle tale but best not to take any chances. She slipped in a near perfect local accent and hoped John wouldn’t make the connection between Blodeuwedd and Cerys.

“Hi there I’m Blodeuwedd. I called ahead about taking a class her today.â€

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"Any clan, huh? And here I'd thought there could be only one," Erik responded with broad smile and a firm handshake, ducking back behind the desk to get additional copies of the form for the new arrivals. "I may have to add a 'no decapitation' checkbox to these things, good thinking." It took a little longer to dig up another pair of writing instruments, leaving Tarrant with an oversized pen with something about a FCPD softball league written on the side and the second teenager with a ballpoint missing it's cap.

While 'John' - perhaps Erik was just one to be paranoid about pseudonyms, but something about the teen's stiff introduction raised his eyebrow - was built like a farmhand-turned-quarterback and Tarrant looked outdoorsy in an average sort of way, the fencer guessed that the third attendee had had some gymnastics training or similar conditioning. "I am... probably going to have some trouble remembering that," he admitted as she introduced herself, shaking her hand as well and offering a rueful grin. "So bear with me. Take your time with the forms, guys; we're still waiting on a forth."

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She took the form and responding to his grin with one of her own. “A lot of people seem to have trouble with my name; most people tend to call me Blod.â€

She wasn’t quite happy with that, but over the last few months she’d gotten use to people using that name. Far more than when people called her Cerys.

She took one of the seats, the one furthest from John and began to careful fill out the form, choosing where to tell the whole truth and where to bend it a little. This Erik didn’t strike her as quite the person to check through everything she put down, but she didn’t want there to be anything that would make him suspicious. She really wanted to enjoy this, and hopefully many more, classes without having to answer any awkward questions about her identity.

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John had nodded at the other arrivals and was going to go and say hello to Cerys, but she seemed to want to avoid him for some reason. Well, it was not like that was an unusual occurrence at Claremont. If he had known she was going to be here as well they could have split a cab fare. Getting back to the task at hand, he quickly filled out the rest of the paperwork.

He stood, freeing the seat and table for whoever needed it next and handed the pen and documents back to Erik. "I have a question, Sir. Is there a title you prefer to be addressed by as the instructor of the class?" John knew it was considered respectful in some places and others went without the tradition, but it never hurt to ask.

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The fourth student quietly slipped into the dojo on the heels of John's question, green eyes conducting a brief (though thorough) sweep of the area. Eve recognized John; perfect memory aside, one doesn't forget nearly assaulting someone of a case of mistaken identity, but the others were new faces. However there was something to the person John was addressing that tugged at her memory...

As Eve waited for the instructor to respond to John's inquiry, she mulled over her reasons for attending classes here. The psychic construct that manifested itself as a sword (albeit of an archaic variety) was more an extension of her own will, and didn't actually need to be wielded properly as it tended to guide itself to the target. As a result Eve's attacks tended to be simple, straightforward and it some instances brutal. But as her time with Etain taught her, the lack of proper form left her vulnerable to counterattack, and it was only through luck and her preternatural agility that kept savvy opponents from exploiting those openings.

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Giving Blodeuwedd a florid bow from the waist in return for the concession, he straightened to accept John's paperwork and blinked again at the teen's crisp tone. Gotta be an officer's kid or something. Placing the paper on the front desk to start an eventual pile, his expression reached a balance between amused and reassuring. "Well, my daughter calls me 'Gheeabpbth' which I'm pretty sure is salty Klingon language, but Erik's fine, or Mr. Espadas is you like. Mr. E if you want to be hip."

Spotting the the final arrival once he'd answered, almost did a double take at her white hair. She was a little too well kempt and not-tearing-the-building-down-with-giant-plants to be one of Willow's relatives but it was still pretty striking. "Hey, right on time. Let me get you a form and we can get started."

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"Always a shame to see kids starting the bad language young," Tarrant quipped, already well into his paperwork - given how much time he spent every day on grading and preparing and filling out assorted forms, he'd have been done already if it weren't for his obvious, curious interest in his fellow students. Many of which could be his students. And at least one of whom...did she dye her hair, or was it just naturally like that? Always hard to tell in this city.

Man. I feel old.

"'Mr. Espadas' it is, then," he chuckled. "I've never claimed to be very hip."

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With the practiced speed of someone who had to memorized multiple cover stories she quickly and efficiently filled out all the form.

“I’ve finished the from as requested Taid…†as soon as she said it she realized her mistake, obviously the Dojo was bring back memories.

“Er sorry Mr Espadas, Erik. When I was learning to sword fight back home in Wales I called my teacher Taid. It means Grandfather, it’s meant as a sign of respect. Not that I was suggesting you were old or anything, I think I should stop talking now…†She blushed slightly.

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Eve accepted the pen and form with a faint smile, and found a seat near Tarrant, greeting him and the others students with a slight incline of the head. "Since we are learning the sword," she began in her French-accented soprano, her attention focusing on the paper in front of her, "perhaps Fight or Fencing Master would be more appropriate. Or perhaps Fechtmeister."

Looking up, she shrugged. "That is if you desire some degree of formality while we are on the mat. Otherwise I think I will call you Erik." Looking thoughtful for a moment, the white-haired youth added, more for the benefit of the other students than Erik, "I am Eve, by the way. It is a pleasure to meet you all."

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"Heh, yeah, you strike be as more of a rocker than a hipster," Erik assured Tarrant with a flash of white teeth. He and the brown haired academic might have been the 'old men' in the room but not by all that much, really. He doubted Tarrant was even thirty and fatherhood had given the West End native some perspective on age recently. The brief slip-up from Blodeuwedd still made him wince ruefully, however. "'Grandfather'? Ouch, right in the ego. At least we already know your aim is good, nieta," he joked, holding both hands over his heart as though wounded.

He made a brief metal note of Eve's accent as she spoke up. He'd dealt with enough of his father's side of the family to recognize it despite his lack of talent with the French language himself and filed it away along with Blodeuwedd's apparent country of origin. "I don't think anyone's ever accused me of being particularly formal," he admitted. "Sounds like you've already had some training too, though. Since we're all here, how about everyone gives me an idea what sort of experience they've had? Fencing, other weapons training, unarmed fighting, gymnastics, ballet, whatever."

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John was analyzing and cataloging the other students and instructor mentally when Eve had made her appearance. He turned and gave her a small bow. "It is a pleasure to meet you under better circumstances, Miss Martel." John said to the petite woman before holding up his hand slightly to answer Eriks' query.

"If I may? I am proficient in most combat styles that have modern military origins and applications, whether hand-to-hand or utilizing weaponry. Since most armed forces have phased out swords other than in a ceremonial nature, I have had not much instruction in that area."

When he realized that he was going to get some incredulous looks from that statement he continued. "My father owns and operates a private military contracting firm, and I have been groomed since I was very young to follow in his stead." The line coming easy after living with it for over a year as a cover story for his civilian ID.

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Tarrant chuckled and shook his head, setting his pen and completed paperwork down. "I am certainly more 'rocker' than 'hipster', it's true," he admitted, mostly for his own amusement.

"I'm afraid I don't have quite the training John has," he said, indicating the young man with a nod of his head. "I know a little self-defense, and I've had some experience with a sword, though not a whole lot of formal instruction. Not so much the ballet, though," he mused - though he couldn't quite keep the smile off his face. "I suppose it's never too late, but I don't think I'd look terribly good in those tights."

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"I've had some training," Eve answered as she finished up her paperwork, setting it aside for the moment. "But not with the sword; that's why I'm here. I just felt that the old German word, or at least the meaning of the word, seemed appropriate. Mostly because I have been reading Talhoffer's "Alte Armatur und Ringkunst" that I recieved as a gift earlier this year."

Eve brushed a hand through her hair, her cheeks flushing a light shade of apricot at her admission to trying to learn how to fight with a sword from a book first. "Euh, the training I did have," she continued, "was mostly, well entirely really, gymnastics. I do alright there."

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The one thing she’d been taught was at a time like this you should tell the truth it wouldn’t take long for people to spot if she was lying.

“Well I dabble a little bit in everything, a bit of mixed martial arts, some boxing, and some gymnastics even a little ballet in the day. My main focus is the sword, I’m okay but I’d like to improve my skill. All as just a skilled amateur.â€

It was a simple matter of fact she knew there were many people better than her, maybe even in this room. No scratch that this Erik was defiantly more skilled than her, that was why she was here after all.

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Erik listened receptively as each of them quartet briefly outlined their experience. Martel? Why does that sound familiar? he pondered inwardly when John greeted the petite white haired girl. The instructor had never claimed to be particularly good at remembering names, part of the reason he doled out nicknames so frequently. The explanation the blonde youth gave certainly explained his capable bearing and rigid formality but it raised a few questions, too. Surely the leader of a mercenary group could have hired a private tutor; swords might not have been standard battlefield equipment anymore but fencing was popular enough in the halls of exclusive learning. Still, Erik wasn't the one to question anyone else about their father issues.

Tarrant obviously had a sense of humour and humility to him which recommended him almost immediately. Erik had to wonder what kind of experience the genial academic could have gotten with a sword outside of lessons; theater, perhaps? He had no reservations about believing Eve's background in gymnastics. She was obviously well built for it and moved with a sure grace that spoke to practiced control. Blodeuwedd sounded like a dedicated hobbyist to have dabbled in so many areas. That spoke of a lot of time invested but he has to wonder how focused she could be on any one thing with so much on her plate.

All in all, though, it was a good start; he'd expected to have to suffer through more students completely new to even the fundamentals. "Alright, good stuff. While I get the paperwork put away, you guys can move into the actual training space," he suggested, indicating the larger section of the first floor with his thumb. "There are some hooks for jackets and bags in there. We'll get started as soon as everyone's ready to go."

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John made his way over to one of the hooks pointed out by Erik and hung his rucksack from one of the lower ones. He did not quite know what to make of his instructor, as his laid-back and relaxed manner made hit hard to ascertain the man. There must be a good reason Mona suggested I come here, he mused to himself as he got ready for practice.

The other students were much easier to read since he had met most of them before. Eve he knew to be dangerous even before he met in her in the flesh, not to mention the SHADOW dossier reports. John thought Cerys was severely underselling her skills, but that could be for the same reasons that he glossed over the finer points of his training. Tarrant reminded him of his friend Brian, albeit with a few more years under his belt.

After he had his kit squared away, John moved into the center of the room while performing a few light stretches to loosen his muscles up. Afterwards, he waited at ease until the others were ready.

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Tarrant reflexively reached for a duffel bag before remembering that he hadn't brought it with him; with that thought came the creeping, unsettled feeling he always got when he had to leave the sword behind for too long.

He frowned and shrugged to himself, getting to his feet and making his way into the training room. He'd forgone his jacket, so with nothing to hang on a hook he went straight to stretching - rock climbing stretches, out of habit and lack of knowing anything better, but if he was going to keep up with a bunch of ki- a bunch of people a bit younger than he was, it'd at least help.

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She carefully hung up her bad containing all her normal gear, it felt weird not to wear her normal bodysuit but someone of Erik’s skill could tell if someone was wearing body armour. The one thing she hadn’t brought was Dyrnwyn. It felt strange that she wasn’t sparing with the blade and she had to remind herself that a few months ago she’d never even held the sword let alone wielded the blade.

She gave a small smile as a thought crossed her mind. She been taught through all her years to fight in a variety of clothes and foot wear but her fondest memories were of her earliest lessons where she fought barefoot. Coming to a decision she crouched down and unlaced her trainers adding them to the bag.

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Briefly searching through her knapsack and withdrawing a bottle of water, Eve hung the bag and her light jacket on a free hook. Eve's cursory examination of the training facility when she first arrived revealed that the floor was covered by the sort of athletic padding she was intimately familiar with. Force of habit had her removing her shoes and socks before she was consciously aware of it, but whatever (slight) embarrassment she felt from acting on 'auto-pilot' was negated by the other girl apparently being of similar mind. Tucking her shoes out of the way Eve lightly padded out into the training area proper.

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Erik nodded as each of the group limbered up in their own fashion. "Since this is a fairly advanced course, you're each going to be responsible for your own stretches beforehand," he explained. "If you need some advice, by all means, but you're not all going to be using the same muscles to the same extents so uniform stretches would be a waste."

Once everyone had properly prepared, the fencer walked to the far end of the training room, waving over his shoulder for the students to follow. Along the wall was a shallow but broad cabinet that had probably started out as an affordable, prefabricated piece of furniture before a few modifications. Unlocking it, Erik threw open the double doors to reveal a wide array of swords carefully hung side by side. From simple longswords to rapiers with swept hilts, curving dao to weighty looking hand-and-a-half blades, the collection showed a range of quality and wear, suggesting they had been acquired gradually over time. All of them were either blunted or safely capped, intended only for practice use.

"Take your pick," he told them with a small grin, stepping back and watching closely to see what they each decided on.

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