Winia sees more than she thinks, and says less than she knows.
She tells herself that she should stop staring at them and concentrate on looking out for stray shards that threaten to detach from the overhangs of the glass canyon with the slightest vibration and impale any of them within seconds, but cannot tear her eyes away from the fluid movements of their deadly dance.
Chris is baiting Shannon as always, reminding him that he is sheltering the great evil that is prophesied to destroy the world, telling him to give up this hopeless and immoral cause, give in and stop fighting against an opponent who has had years of experience in killing without mercy.
His words flow less easily than they had at the beginning of their meeting: Chris has been trained to wear down an opponent's psychological resistance, and his superior prowess has ensured that most contests have not required too much stamina, but even Winia can see that Shannon is made of sterner stuff.
And there is another thing that Winia knows, and Chris refuses to acknowledge: that Chris is fighting on his orders, but Shannon is fighting for his family.
She almost suppresses a scream as a huge sheet of glass crashes to the ground inches from her, wincing as splinters embed in her heavy cloak, raising her head to look anxiously for the combatants as soon as the deafening roar dies away.
"Stop it, both of you! Chris, you don't hate her, you just think you have to. No, you haven't even convinced yourself that you do.
"You . . . you just . . . you just envy Pacifica!"
Chris never looks at her, but he wavers for a fraction of an instant in what should have been a killing strike, and Shannon seizes the opportunity to sweep the halberd aside and reverse their positions.
To his mild surprise, Chris finds himself in the unfamiliar position of having a blade at his throat; his smile is as sharp as Shannon's sword, and his voice is even when he says with only a hint of quiet resignation,
"It would be prudent for you to kill me."
Shannon answers in an almost casual tone,
"If I killed someone to protect her, I think she might really become "a trigger of disaster". At the very least, if someone got hurt because of her, she'd blame herself for it, that idiot princess.
"So we decided that we wouldn't kill anyone, and we wouldn't let anyone get killed. Not even a screwed up, killer brat. If that's what you call hypocrisy, then go ahead and call it that."
He gets up and turns around, and there is nothing in his posture or the set of his shoulders to suggest that he expects an attack from behind. Chris does not speak until Shannon is out of striking distance.
"I have lost."
"If that's what you think, then don't come back again."
The last Winia sees of the glass canyon are myriad reflections of a small figure hunched in the middle of the floor, head bowed and arms wrapped around himself, and she is not sure from this distance what the glistening drops on his face are.