Of Enemies and Endings

Of Enemies and Endings by Shelby Bach Read Free Book Online

Book: Of Enemies and Endings by Shelby Bach Read Free Book Online
Authors: Shelby Bach
tanned like their mother—were piled like puppies in front of them.
    Hansel had a family. Who knew?
    â€œRory, I need to ask you a favor. A big one,” Hansel said. That got my attention. “You can say no if you aren’t comfortable, but I want you to really think about it.”
    I nodded so he knew I was listening. I’d never heard him sound so serious without also sounding kind of . . . mean. Or at least stern. It made me even more nervous.
    â€œTomorrow, the Director will announce mandatory weapons training for everyone inside our walls, not just Characters,” Hansel had explained. “We’re creating more classes. I want your help with a class that teaches defensive techniques with a staff.”
    I stared at him. The rant I’d been composing fell to pieces. “Me?” Two years ago, I’d been his worst student.
    â€œThere’s one kid in particular I know you’ll help,” Hansel said. “The Character we discovered among the kidnapped children from Portland.”
    I knew exactly who he was talking about. I remembered her scowl and the cartoon unicorns on her nightgown perfectly. I’d asked Ellie what the new Character’s name was. “Priya?”
    â€œI put her in the staff class. A weapon with a longer reach will keep her safe, but she doesn’t want to learn,” Hansel told me. “She says EAS already has enough fighters without her.”
    That sounded like her. She did have an attitude.
    â€œI’ve never been any good at motivating kids like Priya and Lena,” Hansel continued. “Kids like Chase are easy. A couple well-timed insults and a few scary stories about villains, and they pay attention. Now, girls—well, you’re one of the few girls that worked on. Kids like Priya and Lena attend the required classes and just go through the motions. I’m not saying that they wait around to be rescued, but most of them assume that they won’t save themselves with a weapon.”
    I continued to stare. I knew the scary stories had been on purpose, but the insults  . . . “You don’t think girls can’t fight?”
    Hansel snorted. “I spar with Gretel every morning. She beats me seven times out of ten. It’s her metal foot. She lands one good kick, and it’s all over for me.”
    Well, my mind was blown. “Why don’t you ask her to be your assistant instead of me?”
    â€œShe is going to be teaching a class,” Hansel said, “but she’s not patient. Especially not with students who don’t want to learn.”
    â€œYou could ask Chase.”
    â€œChase is a fine teacher for a boy of his age,” Hansel said. “He taught you, an easy, talented pupil, but you taught Lena. She used to let you and Chase cover for her. Now she’s a competent fighter on her own.”
    He’d been paying attention. All this time.
    I never expected to say yes. I’d asked for some time to think about it and then scurried straight to the infirmary, where Rapunzel spent most of her time as Gretel’s assistant nurse. I’d found her in the back, past the curtain that hid her from the sleeping patients and their visitors.
    The whole story gushed out of me before she’d even had a chance to say hello. Excuses tumbled out too: The staff wasn’t even my best weapon. I’d just taught Lena for a few weeks. She’d only gone along with it because she was my best friend.
    Rapunzel listened, rolling bandage after bandage and stacking them in the cabinet. We needed them now. The Director had restricted the use of the Water of Life only to fatal or critical injuries. Nothing convinces you to start rationing a magical life-saving cure-all like a war. When I was done, Rapunzel offered no advice. She just lifted her gaze over my left shoulder.
    Gretel stood there, scowling. I felt instantly awkward. I’d been talking about her brother right

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