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«EASTRIDGE ACADEMY: SCHOOL FOR ADVENTURERS BY KARA LOO AND JENNIFER YOUNG Eastridge Academy: School for Adventurers Prologue Explain why you would be ...»

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Torrent shrugged and slammed Fell with a solid punch to his already-broken ribs.

But Fell was ready. And while it hurt, it seemed to hurt from very far away, from a place that Fell could see, but couldn’t feel or know. All Fell knew was his hands latching onto Torrent’s arm and his foot sweeping out at Torrent’s legs, making the older boy stumble. And then, letting go with his right hand, Fell crashed his elbow into Torrent’s face.

The Warriors watching erupted into shouts and jeers. It was not the first time a first-year had landed a hit on a second-year, but it was the first time anyone had seen Torrent get hit.

Fell hadn’t expected the pain to faze Torrent, but he had anticipated some sort of reaction.

The second-year didn’t even twitch. Instead, he rammed his elbow into Fell’s chest. While Fell was gasping, Torrent grabbed Fell’s hand and twisted it behind him, wrenching Fell’s arm behind his back. Fell struggled, but couldn’t do anything as Torrent held his arm and kicked him between the shoulder blades. Without a pause, Torrent kicked the back of Fell’s knee, forcing him to the ground.

His hand still caught at an excruciating angle, Fell gave a cry of pain that was cut short as Torrent elbowed him sharply in the back of his head, finally releasing Fell’s arm so the boy could fall face first to the ground. Fell felt his nose break against the rocky surface. He could taste blood in his mouth. He scrambled to get up, but the pain was overwhelming, and he couldn’t see anything.

Torrent stood over Fell for a moment, looking around at the other Warriors, then down at the boy on the ground in front of him. Dimly, Fell could hear first-years calling for Halden to stop the fight.

But Torrent had already stopped. The older boy sat down next to Fell, breathing hard.

Alarmed, Fell inhaled sharply, swallowing blood and coughing.

–  –  –

“Breathe slowly, you idiot,” Torrent said, shaking his head. “You’ll be fine, as long as you don’t do anything stupid.” Fell spit out the blood and took shallow breaths through his mouth. Still face-down against the rocky ground, he could only see Torrent out of one eye, but he was almost sure the older boy had a look of approval.

Once a few of the first-year Clerics had carried Fell to the Infirmary, he was taken to the familiar station of Wisteria and Rai. Both Clerics seemed particularly horrified at Fell’s newest barrage of injuries and hurried to start fixing the worst of it, nearly tripping over each others’ runes as their fingers flew through the air.

“He nearly killed you,” Wisteria said grimly.

“What I don’t understand,” Rai interjected, “is how after all of this, you manage to look so pleased with yourself.” It was true. Fell couldn’t help grinning. In a backwards sort of way, Fell felt he had earned something today.

“Why do you look so pleased after nearly getting beaten to death?” Wisteria demanded, fixing Fell with a very pointed look.

Fell gulped. “Because,” he said, scrambling to find the right words, “because today, for the first time, I wasn’t just getting beaten, I was in a fight.” Rai chuckled. “What, you mean, ‘you should see the other guy’?” Wisteria rolled her eyes. “Are you telling me you look like this because you won a fight?” Fell looked down, embarrassed. “No, I lost. But I fought back, and some of what I did worked.”

–  –  –

Wisteria sighed. “Well, I suppose that’s good, if it means your fights will be easier now.” Fell smiled and didn’t bother to correct her. He didn’t expect life at Eastridge to get any easier. If anything, it would get harder. The second-years knew now that he was a threat. No one would be going easy on him.

But Fell knew that as the fights got harder, he would get better. Even now, he tried to take his mind off the pain by going through what Torrent had done and trying to imagine himself doing it.

The other first-years might feel bad for him because he was always fighting Torrent, Rakam, or one of their gang, but Fell also knew it meant he was fighting against the best.

And so, while Fell knew that life was about to get much more painful, he consoled himself with the knowledge that he had improved rapidly—more rapidly than anyone had expected—largely due to the constant sparring with Torrent and Rakam. If that’s what it takes, Fell thought as Wisteria’s rune snapped his nose back in place, then I’m lucky. The only way to be the best is to learn from the best. And I’m going to be the best.

136

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