"Stand ready, young apprentice. Today, we are having a duel." Seeing the beaming ten-year old boy adopt a combat stance without hesitation, Palonis had to contain a smile of admiration. In the few years that he and young Anton had been working together, the boy had learned so much. It was a shame that he now had to deliver this important lesson, as it would hurt the ninja more than his trainee. "Today is an important day for you," he continued, circling around and keeping track of how Anton's feet shifted to track his movements. "I am about to teach you a big, big lesson about combat today, one which will be key for the rest of your life. But before I begin, show me your weapons." With a fluid motion, Anton reached into his sleeves and pulled out a slew of small throwing knives. Gathering them up into one hand, he came out of his combat stance to hand them, handle forward, to his teacher. "Here you are, master Palonis," he said. "But I checked them thorough-" *WHACK!* Staggering backwards, Anton massaged his nose and almost fell onto his bum in shock. "M-master?" he said, "what was that-" *CRACK!* Stars filled the young apprentice's vision, and he fell over sideways, rolling over onto his back. When his vision cleared, he saw his master standing over him, looking altogether unconcerned that he had just kicked his apprentice in the side of the head. "Master!" he demanded angrily. "What is going on?" "That was your first taste of reality, Turd. Welcome to the real world." Lesson One: Reality Check "Tell me, apprentice," Palonis said, having pulled the frazzled young boy to his feet, "what do people do whenever they are about to fight?" Without hesitation, Turd replied, "They bow, back off two steps, and then they get into fighting-" "NO!" Stepping forward, the ninja shoved his apprentice over. "They do that." While pulling Anton back to his feet, Palonis continued, "Or they do what I did before, and hit you while you're distracted. Or they hit you from behind, before you even know they're there. Or maybe, if they're feeling rich enough for it, they'll just drop a bomb on you, so you can't even run." "But that's dishonorable!" "DING! Give the kid a cigar!" "But I don't-" "Shut up, Turd." Anton complied. "You see, there's a reason why I've been teaching you to hide knives in your sleeves, because it sure as heck isn't a fast way to fight in a fair match. The reason why you hide your weapons is so you can make the fight as unfair as humanly possible. Heinously unfair. You should be sticking the third knife in your opponent's eye before he's even got his weapon out." "But then...then what happens to my honor?" "It doesn't make you honorable to give any leeway to someone who isn't willing to give any to you. All it does is make you stupid and dead. Every fight should be the hardest battle of your life. Strike while your opponent's guard is down, poison his food the day before, anything to end the battle as quickly as possible. Ideally, your opponent shouldn't know that he is in a fight to the death until it's already too late." "So what is honor for, then, if I do not have to keep it?" "Honor is for exhibition, a marketing stunt to make people believe that you're a good man who just happens to be a cold-blooded killer. Besides, if you happen to be in a fight you cannot win, honor is a good way to distract your foe long enough to make a speedy retreat." "So in essence, I should forget everything you've taught me before now?" "No, just set it aside for now. Think of it as a trump card. Ideally, your deck should have at least eight of them by the time you are eligible to become an assassin. Now then, under these new rules, let's have a duel." "Yes master." As Palonis handed Turd's knives back, the boy suddenly sprang forward, aiming a flying kick at the ninja's head. Unfazed, Palonis caught the kick in his free hand and quickly reversed, flipping the boy through the air and onto his back again. "But-but I didn't follow the rules, and I still lost!" Turd whimpered, rubbing his back. "That's because you fought me straight on. I know you're there, I know you're fighting me, and I'm bigger and faster and smarter than you, so I will always win. Face it boy, in these battle conditions, you're hopeless." "So...how do I beat you then?" Palonis reached out his hand for his apprentice to grab. "That, my young Anton, is the next lesson."