Pt. II, Ch. 11: “Last, and I suppose not least, we have the Dueling Club.”
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Saturday, Sept 5th, 12:15pm (after 4th period)
Arts Center Main Hall

The main hall was not especially crowded – it seemed like it was mostly first-years who had chosen to attend.  Our former tour guide – and the student council vice president – had ended up as the presenter, and they were going through sports clubs first.  It was mostly some very bland introductions – typically, someone coming up in gym clothes or a team uniform, and basically mirroring one person we knew- “Hi, I’m Amy, and I’m here to tell you about the girls’ Track and Field club.  If you like to run, come join us in the warm-up area outside the swimming pool gate,” and a few sports clubs or teams that had put on demonstrations.   Joel made an appreciative comment about the uniforms of the girls’ tennis club, and the captain of the basketball club spent a minute or so doing some ball tricks – maybe not up to globetrotters standards, but it got some applause from the audience.

The fencing club was last, which I’d been curious about since Kai had said he was part of their demonstration.  The VP was unhappy to introduce them – “Last, and I suppose not least, we have the Dueling Club.”

The representative for the club was the red haired third year representative I’d pointed out to Joel at the opening ceremony.  She was dressed in a costume straight out of Peter Pan, or maybe Robin Hood – green peaked hat, with a feather, and a blouse and skirt to match.  She bypassed the podium, drew what I thought was a fencing foil, and yelled “En garde!”

From the other side of the stage, someone entered in partial armor – a chest plate and a helmet with bars covering their face.  Except for the face guard, it was a very conquistador sort of look. This opponent was holding another foil and wore larger sword on their hip.  They did several passes, looking for all the world like something out of a 1930s movie, not at all like the little bit of athletic fencing I’d seen.

Then, after a short while and a few passes across the stage, the armored person withdrew to one side.  The redhead went up to the podium and said “Hi!  I’m Gwen, and this was a little demonstration of why I joined the fencing club.  We are the Academy’s oldest athletic club, and we are lucky to have a two-time junior national epee champion, as well as the youngest person ever to go to nationals in dueling sword.” At this, the armored student saluted Gwen with the larger blade now out of the scabbard.  It was a very serious looking sword.

“We also are a lot of fun.  While the social clubs get ready for their presentations, I’m going to leave you with two of our members answering the age-old question: who would win, a knight, or a samurai?”

And with that, there was a loud yell from behind the stage, and someone ran out holding what I was pretty sure was a katana… and like what the armored student carried, it was metal one.  Like the other, they were partially armored, and I realized after a moment this must have been Kai, who’d said he’d be part of the presentation.  He’s said he did kendo, which I’d thought was done with wooden swords, or something similarly non-lethal.

The two came together with a crash, Kai chopping downward, which the original armored student parried with ease.  The two circled each other, approaching briefly, briefly clashing and stepping back.  They were equally matched at first, but after a few cycles, the first one – with the western sword – sped up a lot.  Beating back another swing, their sword struck out at Kai’s armored chest and landed with a loud clang.  He stepped back and saluted the other, who bowed, and did the same. 

“Looks like the knight wins,” said Gwen. She waved her hat at the audience as she left the stage.

Joel had decided to leave at that point; he wanted to help set up for the soccer club open house. I stuck around on my own to see if anything looked interesting.  A couple did; there was a board game club, two different magic clubs (the “Mages Club” and the “Magical Research Club”, whatever the difference was) but and while I had and have never had any interest in acting, there were three separate theater clubs and each of them had a mini performance.

Towards the end, there was another club that seemed to annoy Neil, “And now we’ll hear from the personal computer club.”

The student presenting waved. “Hey folks.  Some of you were at the lower school already know this, but we have a student-run computer lab.  It’s a good place to write your papers, and if we’re not too busy you can use them to play games, too.  These guys” – and he gestured back towards Neil – “changed the rules this year so it can only be open if there’s a club member supervising, so we could really use a few more members.  You don’t need know anything about computers although if you do it couldn’t hurt.  Oh, and if you used it last year and think the new rule is stupid, please tell the student council that.”

Neil looked like he was about to rush the computer club guy off the stage, but he wandered off on his own, without ever having either introduced himself or saying where the lab was.

Sports Center, Dueling Club room

I’d remembered roughly where we’d seen the sign on our first tour; it was downstairs below the main gym.   The room itself was locked when I got there, and there were three of us who’d had an interest coming out of the presentations – a first year boy, plus Mina Fremis, who I’d met briefly at physics, and myself.  The first year introduced himself as Galen Alcorn. We’d barely had a chance to do a round of introductions, when the doors finally opened. 

Gwen opened the door; she was in the regular gym uniform.  “Welcome!” said Gwen. 

The fencing room was long, and somewhat narrow - otherwise like any other room in the gym except for the lack of windows; there were two doors at the far end, and a few people were already there – I recognized Kai, but no one else.  They were mostly stretching, but on spotting us Kai came over.

“So you three wanted to learn about the club?” asked Gwen.

I nodded, as did Galen.  Mina, however, simply said, “I was planning to join.”

“You’ve fenced before?” asked Gwen.

“At my old school, yes.”

“How about you two?” asked Gwen.

I shook my head, and Galen said, “No.”

“Don’t worry,” said Gwen.  “Most of us won’t bite.”

Kai added. “Mark is the transfer student from my homeroom that I was telling you about, Gwen. Actually, Mina is also a second-year transfer and in our physics class.”

“I see.” Gwen raised an eyebrow, and then to Galen, “How about you?”

“Your presentation made this look like a lot of fun,” he said.

Gwen smiled. “Good! That was what we were going for.”

“It’s cool if we’re just here for PE credit?” I asked.

“Of course.  We have practice Tuesday and Thursday in the PE periods.  After school and Saturday practices aren’t mandatory, but If you’d like to check our practice out today it will give you a good sense of things.  If so, you should probably start getting warmed up.

“Mina, I can show you the stretches we use.  Kai, can you show Galen and Mark?”

I am not particularly flexible, but the stretches they were doing to start weren’t particularly tough.  As we worked through them, I asked Kai, “That was you up on the stage, right?”

He nodded.

“You looked cool.  Do you practice with a real sword?”

“Not usually, no.  That whole thing was Gwen’s idea.  It was pretty crazy.”

“Who was it you were fighting?”

He grimaced and nodded over at one of the back doors which had just opened.  There was Cory, in her gym uniform. 

“Are you sure I’m actually going to be welcome here?” I asked.