I wrote this piece about a year ago on my old account, which I just recently discarded. Using two different accounts for fanfiction is just silly so I transferred it over to my "main" account. I hope you enjoy this short Ike/Stefan one shot!

The Duel To Earn Trust and Skill

Ike wasn't too sure about this new addition to the Greil Mercenary Company. It definitely didn't help that the one who recruited him, Lethe, wasn't too sure about him.

"What can I say?" Lethe spoke to Ike after the battle in Grann desert when he questioned her about Stefan. "I was patrolling the area fighting off my fellow Laguz when out of nowhere he just pops out and starts talking to me. The next thing I know, the battle's over and he's over here talking with Oscar and Boyd. One thing is for sure, we could definitely use his unique and strong swordsmanship…even if he is a human!"

Ike left his tent and walked over to Stefan as Boyd and Oscar left. He examined the man with lime green hair wearing the robe of a true Sword Master. The Commander of the Greil Mercenaries could not help but be impressed with the sword tied to Stefan's left hip.

"You must be the company's Commander." Stefan spoke with a charming smile. "My name is Stefan and I look forward to fighting at your side. I was watching your swordplay as you fought in the dessert. While you're technique is still a bit flawed, it is clear that you have plenty of raw talent. I am guessing you had a great teacher."

"My father was my teacher," Ike spoke, a bit defensively, "and he was a fantastic teacher. As far as my skill with the sword, I hardly think you know me well enough to judge what I do with a blade."

"You're right I may not know you," Stefan spoke calmly as he unsheathed his magnificent blade. "But I know that you have the potential to wield that blade far better than you do now. Spend some time with me, Commander, and I can teach you how to be a real swordsman."

Ike turned to walk away, not to impressed with the manners of this new mercenary. Typically Ike didn't care much about manners and respect, but the fact that this stranger could be working with anyone, even the Daein army, gave Ike the impression that he should at least be TRYING to earn the Commander's trust. Stefan pondered to himself as Ike walked away. As the Commander took several steps, the Swords Master spoke again.

"I think I have a fantastic idea, Commander. If you're not busy at the moment, what do you say that you and I go to the nearby field and practice our swordplay a little bit? I would love to learn more about your unique style and I think, if I may be so bold, you could learn a thing or two from me as well."

Ike paused and considered this. He thought back to something his father told him once. Greil used to always tell his son that one could measure the true merit of a man based on how he holds himself in battle. In a regular conversation people can hide anything they want about their personality. Pride, greed, hatred, or any other human flaw can easily be shrouded by cunning words. But in battle, how a man composes himself reveals everything about who he is and how he thinks. Ike knew in that moment that this "swordplay practice" Stefan was suggesting would be a perfect way to get to know him. What he may or may not have known was that Stefan was considering the exact same reality.

That night the two sword fighters left the mercenary camp and walked to a nearby abandoned field. What neither one of them knew was that most of the Greil mercenaries and their new comrades decided to follow, as this duel would serve perfectly as late night entertainment.

When they got to the field, Ike stood on one end and Stefan took his position on the other. Ike withdrew his large sword and pointed it at Stefan. The Sword Master looked at the blade and gave Ike a confused stare.

"What are you doing?" Stefan asked, "Real swords are for real battles, and real battles end with one warrior taking the life of another. I wasn't planning on killing you tonight, were you planning on killing me?"

"No I just thought…" Ike lost his words as he felt very silly. "I mean, you said we were coming here to practice swordplay."

"Very true, and we will." Stefan responded, "But with these."

Stefan looked to his right and found two large sticks about the size of a long sword. He picked them up and tossed one to Ike. The son of Greil quickly dropped his blade and caught the stick. Ike now was the one to give Stefan the strange look that suggested that Ike was asking the mysterious man, "Really? Are you serious?"

"I don't get it…" Ike spoke, "wooden sticks are typically used for beginners. Come on Stefan, I'm not so naïve that I need to practice with you with sticks! I'm sure that back at the base they have battle worn swords with blunt edges…why not at least practice with those?"

"Use whatever you want." Stefan responded cheerfully and with confidence. "I believe I can hit you at least twenty times with this stick before you could block me with that stick, your sword, or whatever else you choose to use."

"Now you're just sounding crazy." Ike said as he started to feel the rush of competition. The blue haired warrior got into his sword fighting pose as he readied his wooden stick. "Here I come, Stefan!"

Ike lunged towards the Sword Master and before he even recognized what was happening Stefan struck him. It was unlike anything Ike had ever seen. Stefan started glowing with blue light, and then he moved with speed like a lightning bolt. He then hit Ike all over his entire body a total of twenty three times with his stick. The attacks were so quick that they happened almost all at once, but the stick was so painful that Ike felt each one individually. In a matter of seconds, the impact of Stefan's stick knocked Ike onto the ground gasping for air, and very flustered.

"What on earth was that!" Ike exclaimed as he sat somewhat dazed. "I didn't even see it coming!"

"The root of that tactic came from what I like to call my Swordsman's Spirit." Stefan spoke as he walked around Ike. "Not all sword fighters can be in tune with this power. All of us have some sort of Swordsman Spirit, but for most people it's so weak it's practically useless. For them, they must rely solely on technique and practice. I can see it in your eyes, however, that you possess enough of this spirit to be a formidable foe. Yes it's true, Ike, you have the potential to be a very powerful swordsman. Sure you're already exceptional right now…but if you were to keep ignoring your full potential, you'll only be robbing yourself."

"Ok…" Ike spoke as he got up and looked at Stefan, "So how do I use this Swordsman Spirit? Teach me."

Ike and Stefan spent the entire night discovering the full potential of Ike's sword skill. It started with Ike closing his eyes, concentrating hard, and channeling his spirit. At first, this was a very hard process that left him out of breath. Then he was able to gather his spirit energy, creating around him a blue aura. The problem at first was that Ike was taking too long gathering the aura, and by the time he gathered it, he was exhausted and could do nothing with it. After a couple hours of failure, pushing through the exhaustion, and continuous trial, Ike was finally able to gather his Swordsman Spirit in the blink of an eye.

The next part took Ike the entire rest of the night and early into the morning to master, which to Stefan added more proof to the fact that Ike was an incredible swordsman. To perfect Stefan's technique, Ike had to learn how to create twenty intentional strikes with his stick so quick that they gave the illusion that they happened all at once.

After summoning his Spirit, Ike rushed towards Stefan and began swinging his stick. Stefan simply stepped out of the way and whacked Ike in the back of the head with his stick. Ike fell face down back in the dirt.

"You're attack was too slow." Stefan corrected the Commander, "and to be honest, you were so busy trying to strike me quickly you're swings were incredibly inaccurate…they would have been harmless slashes with a blade anyway. Get up, and try again!"

Ike was quick to jump to his feet, summon his Swordsman Spirit, and rush at Stefan once again. For hours it was all the same. Ike would rush towards Stefan, and the Master would move out of the way and strike Ike in the back of the head. Every now and again he would actually block the attack and throw Ike to the ground with his own stick. Every time Stefan would say something such as "Too slow" or "Too weak". The process always ended with Stefan challenging Ike by saying "Again!"

The two were so focused in their training that they didn't notice all of Ike's company gathering at the edge of the field watching the battle intently. Rhys and Soren had to take turns holding Mist back from running to her brother, as they both knew this was for Ike's own good. Titania and Oscar commented on Ike's will, as he continued to get thrown into the ground.

"The Commander keeps on getting up." Oscar spoke, "Even after taking this beating so many times. He won't even take a break."

"That boy won't take a break for anything." Titania spoke. "His heart and dedication are what makes him an incredible warrior. It's been what has kept us alive through this entire war with Daein, and it's what will keep him going through the night until he has this technique mastered. Even as a child, Ike has always been that way."

"But he's not a child anymore." Boyd spoke as he was leaning against a tree, behind Titania and Oscar. "When we left home to start this crazy crusade we're on to bring the princess back to Crimea, Ike and I were equals. I didn't want to acknowledge it then, but watching his rigorous training now proves it to me…Ike's not a kid anymore, he's a man...And I for one, though it has taken me a while to admit it, am honored to acknowledge that man as our Commander."

The crew continued to watch as Stefan kept thrusting Ike down into the ground. Sometime in the night, a gentle yet constant rain appeared which moistened the ground and made it very wet. Now as Ike fell into the ground, he tasted the gross mud that polluted his entire body and all his clothes. Stefan remained on his feet damp, yet not dirty.

Ike slowly got up, his body aching all over, shook off the dizziness and discomfort, summoned his warrior energy, and once again lunged towards Stefan. Just like the hundreds of times before, Stefan twirled out of the way and knocked Ike in the back of the head as he hit the ground. This time, however, Stefan acknowledged a subtle difference. Ike's stick had just barely missed the Sword Master on the first and most important strike that sets the stage for all the other attacks. Stefan knew that Ike was at a breakthrough moment, and he needed something to help push him through this trial.

As Ike struggled to his feet, Stefan tossed the stick to the side and unsheathed his magnificent sword, the Vague Katti and pointed the tip towards Ike. Ike stared at the blade with mistrust of the swordsman as he wiped away the trickle of blood that was coming from his lip.

"Listen carefully, Commander." Stefan spoke calmly. "Let me explain something to you. This war that you are bravely fighting; I care nothing for the outcome. I am just a war-torn man from the dessert, whether it is Daein or Crimea who rules makes no difference for me. I just met you and your comrades today, so whether you are alive are dead makes no difference to me. What I do care about however is the potential of my technique being used by a swordsman such as you who is unable to perfect it. The thought of anyone ruining the beauty of my swordplay and practicing it in battles that will be talked about centuries from now is something I just cannot stand by and let happen. Ike if you cannot prefect my skill tonight, you never will be able to, and then you'll be an embarrassment to great swordsmen such as myself and your father for the rest of your miserable life, and I'm sorry but I can't let that happen. Compose yourself, Commander, because if you do not strike me with the proper form of this Occult I will strike you down with my blade and kill you. As the old saying goes, it's now or never."

Upon hearing these words, many of the mercenaries watching began gathering their weapons to prepare for battle. Titania however raised her hand, signifying her order that they stand down. All eyes were on Ike as he stared at the mysterious Sword Master with green hair. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, focusing on his desire to master this technique. Ike knew that this field was not his final destination. He still had to avenge his father's death by defeating the Black Knight, he still had to lead Elincia to Crimea, and most importantly, he still had to defeat the unjust Daein army. No, this was not his final destination.

"Come on, Ike." Titania muttered in a soft voice that barely anyone could hear. "You can do this!"

Ike opened his eyes and stared intently on Stefan. The Sword Master wielding the steel sword could see the resolve to live in Ike's eyes as the warrior began to glow blue. And then just as Stefan mentally prepared himself for the possibility that he would kill Ike, it happened.

Stefan felt twenty hits all over his body in critical areas that took his breath away as he was knocked to the ground. The technique was executed perfectly and Stefan realized that even if he was prepared to try to stop it, he wouldn't have been able to. Stefan smiled as his body hit the ground and his fancy blue robe was muddied. Ike breathed heavily as he stood over Stefan's body. Without saying a word Ike stared at Stefan. With one look to the fellow swordsman, Ike not only acknowledged his great accomplishment but also Stefan's merit as a trusted comrade. Shortly after that, Ike fell to the ground unconscious and exhausted.

Stefan got up and threw Ike's arm around his shoulder and carried the Commander to his troops. The Greil Mercenaries and the others crowded Stefan examining their leader and making sure he would be okay. He was not dead but simply asleep from exhaustion. Stefan smiled as he handed Ike over to Boyd who would take him back to his tent.

"The enemy will have no idea what hit them when they meet that man in battle." Stefan spoke with pride as he watched the Mercenaries return to base. "He is simply one magnificent swordsman."