TITLE: Harletia: Rise of the King
GENRE: YA Fantasy
April 15, 2163
“I don’t care who your parents are, what you think you have that makes you special, or if you’ll never pick up another sword again post-graduation! If you can’t handle a blade, you are in-sig-nificant,” Mr. Henderson, our dueling teacher, enunciated. Holding a clipboard, he paced back and forth as two of our classmates fought. In my wrinkled white shirt and long blue pants, I half-observed the match with the rest of my class while tapping my nails against the mats on the ground. It wasn’t that I was disinterested; the battles hyped up my adrenaline as much as the next girl’s, but this whole class period had been spent watching instead of actually practicing. I liked practicing. Surreptitiously, I glanced at the clock and noted that there were fifteen minutes left before school ended and we were allowed to go home.
Mr. Henderson was an ex-White Guardsman in his forties who’d been the dueling teacher at our school ever since I’d attended, probably longer. Gym class as a whole was purely optional after sophomore year, but any student expecting to graduate had to have four stamps of dueling on their transcript before being allowed to walk across the stage. Blowing air out the side of my mouth, I watched the girl get flipped on the ground by her male opponent. Mr. Henderson wasn’t fazed by gender, weight, or height ‘because you never knew who would be sizing you up’. His words exactly.