"I have a student who needs a mentor, Deliss," Riza told the injured duelist.
Deliss' body had mended, but when Riza looked at his friend, he saw a man whose spirit was wounded more deeply than his body.
"What has that to do with me? I am nothing, Riza, but a shell of a man who aspired to a greatness for which I was unfit."
"It was a fluke, Deliss."
The bird featured man held up a taloned hand, stilling Riza's protests. "I miscalculated," he said simply. "What difference does it make?"
"It would mean an elevation in rank to be her mentor," Riza insisted casually.
That got Deliss' attention. Any fame was more than he had at present.
"A mentor shares rank with his pupil. As she gains fame, the points are awarded to both parties equally. She is about to take her first trial in a week. If she wins, she will rise to a high first, perhaps a low second rank."
Deliss did not answer right away, considering his position. Riza would not have come to him without reason. Either the girl was an embarrassment doomed to fail, or....
"What is the girl's name?"
"Her name is Mai. You may remember her...."
"I do," Deliss interrupted sharply. "Why me? What can a broken down, poor excuse for a bird to for her? I cannot even show her how to move." He rubbed his injured hip unconsciously. Riza cleared his throat pointedly.
"I've made arrangements for virtual training sessions."
Deliss' expression was stony, his bright eyes, razor sharp, cut through Riza's well controlled demeanor.
"Have the Champion train her. Surely he is better suited than I."
Riza shook his head. "She needs the best!" Riza's anger flared.
"The Champion...." Deliss yelled.
"Is not the best!" Riza roared forcefully. "We both know it, Deliss. You were the best."
Deliss snorted derisively. "Thank you for qualifying that remark, Riza. My pride might have gotten the best of me." Turning to go, he hobbled slowly toward the door leading from Riza's office.
"She needs you, Deliss." The crippled warrior froze. "Her mother just died, her father is very ill. You know the work they do. None of the others will treat her with fairness."
"No, the daughter of slaves must find it difficult," he whispered, remembering his own humble beginnings. Sighing heavily, he put his hand on the door. "All right, bring her to my quarters. We begin tomorrow."
Riza watched the door shut and allowed himself to sigh with relief. "Thank you," he addressed himself to Dajed the patron god of duelists. "For the sake of them both, thank you."