I’d never before felt envy of the sort that I felt when I first saw her pick up a sword, without a clue how to hold it properly. “Teach me,” she said, and I had no choice but to do so. Not because I saw any inherent gift within her – I didn’t, though there might have been. Not because I was some kind of grand instructor or the sort of mentor that sets heroes upon their paths. I’m not the former, and only coincidentally the latter.
No, I taught her – had no choice but to teach her – because of her unselfconscious joy when she took up the blade that morning. She had to know that she didn’t have the first clue what to do with it, but that didn’t matter at all. She didn’t care if she looked like a novice, because that’s what she was, and the only way to gain skill was to practice. I envied her willingness to look the fool in service to her own growth, I suppose.
There are times on the battlefield when it’s to your advantage to appear more competent than you are. There are times, too, when it pays to exaggerate an injury or a moment of indecision. It allows you to direct the flow of the battle, to draw the opposition to a spot that’s to your benefit at a critical moment. I could tell the first time I saw her that this was not a skill she would possess for many years, if ever. She would have to make up for that shortcoming by being great. I didn’t know if she had the determination for that, or the reflexes, or the luck. But I could also tell in that first moment and with her two words that she had the joy for it, and that was enough to begin with.
“All right,” I said, resolved to direct my envy into a more productive enterprise. “First thing we do is work on your stance.”