I’ve been in my head a lot these last couple of months. Here’s the start of a story that’s been in there with me.
“There’s a new student today,” Coach said to no one in particular, but we all knew it was directed at me.
Every new student was given a test on the first day, and that test is always me. For the girls, it’s generally a test of strength and skill since I’m the best (so far). For the boys, it can be a test of strength and skill, but it’s usually a test of character. Will they underestimate me? Will they go easy on me since I’m a girl? Or, if they have me beaten, will they show mercy?
After the first test, Coach will figure out if any mistakes they made can be trained away. Fighters can be taught to never underestimate their opponent, but the Merciless are almost always transferred. I don’t know where they go. I’m sure they find a place for the ruthless, but it isn’t here. Because we’re not trained to fight wars, we’re trained to end them.
People who’ve been slaughtered without mercy are not easily turned – they dig in their heels; they fight with vengeance and hate in their hearts; they match their oppressors’ savagery and accelerate their violence. Nations who have been defeated with compassion and benevolence will look for the humanity in their adversaries. They will seek reconciliation and can be assimilated into a new, jointly created society. We test because we need fighters who have everything: strength, skill, and most importantly, mercy.
“What’s their name?” I asked.
“Uh, Blaze, I think.”
Coach flipped through a folder he was holding. “Yep,” he said absentmindedly, reading one of the pages. “Looks like his real name is ‘Blake’ but he goes by ‘Blaze.’”
I rolled my eyes so hard I almost popped one out. “So you have some transfer papers ready in there, too?” I asked smartly.
Without looking up, Coach said, “I would never judge a man without first looking him in the eyes.”
It was a gentle but stern reprimand; a reminder that I have not yet learned to temper my snap judgments – it’s my blessing and my curse. “Of course, you’re right. I’m sorry,” I conceded. Maybe Blaze wasn’t a Merciless. Maybe he was just…fiery? Full of sparks? I stifled my smile.
“Anything else I should know about him?”
Coach snapped the folder closed, “Nope! If I gave you any more than that, it wouldn’t exactly be a good test now, would it?”
Great. A test for me now, too.