Even though by now Nova knew that Ifrit held back when they sparred, he still had never beaten him.

If they were marks that wouldn't scar, it was alright for Ifrit to inflict them.

No matter how hard Nova tried to catch him, he slipped away like water.

He saw what he thought was an opening as Ifrit effortlessly parried a strike, and made to swing his sword back around; it was parried again, and then his wrist twisted by the force of Ifrit's counter strike, forcing him to drop it.

" You improve every day," Ifrit said, not even broken into a sweat.

Nova doubled over, panting.

" I'm not good enough yet," he said. " It's frustrating. Why can't I ever win against you?"

Ifrit neatly sheathed his sword.

" You could win against anyone here that wasn't me," he said. " Even Fausta would have trouble keeping up with you."

Nova looked back up at him.

" Why doesn't it feel that way?" he asked.

Ifrit smiled at him, and wiped his brow of sweat with the white, patterned sleeve of his shirt.

" If you're always thinking of how many times you've lost, you can't see the victories that lay ahead for you, Nova," he said.

He stepped forward and wrapped his arms around him.

" ...You're very talented," he soothed. " You're intelligent, and have good moral character, and you're strong... Don't be angry with yourself, Nova. Turn it to determination to improve."

Nova did not speak, his head against Ifrit's chest.

Ifrit pulled away from him slightly, and looked down with a smile.

" Now! Nova! Let me pick you and swing you around!"

" Wha-!? N-no way! I'm too old for that now! Wait- Ifrit- Hey-!"