Dream of the Guardians I-1

 

 

 

Dream of the Guardians

I-1: Rising

 

by Ch. E. Gallardo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedication

To my late father, that perished right before I could finish this first book. I used to tell him some fragments of the story as a way of bonding despite the many things that happened between us. Specifically, about a certain character that he inspired.

 

 


 

 

Introduction

 

Long ago, when humans were just beginning to form communities, two beings of great power collided, bringing destruction to the earth. For mortals, the land full of life was trampled on by the whim of beings outside their world, outside their lives. With great anger towards the beings and fanning the flames of their hearts with the love of the land they were born from; the beings were expelled from the world.

 

With the power they awakened, humans built great civilizations, expanded their domains throughout the world. Nothing was out of reach; no monster was able to cope with them... until the world became boring and meaningless. Jealous of their fellowmen, each civilization began to yearn for the power of its brethren, those who could build longed to destroy and those who could destroy longed to build.

 

Before long, everything they built after eons of trial and error, mutual support, and bonds beyond the ages, disappeared in less than a blink. The very power they used to protect the world where they lived ended up consuming them until no trace of them remained.

 

Time passed, new civilizations rose above the ashes of the old world, and although no one knew what had happened, history repeated itself once again in an inevitable cycle. The endless race of the human to build a path to greatness, reach the heavens, just to end up falling into the abyss only to repeat the process.

 

Along the way, humans with power took the reins of the course of civilization, anyone with power can take the reins, yes, but not anyone with power will take the road to greatness. In this way, powerless humans became fed up with the endless cycle of impotence.

 

Making use of the only power they had, their inventiveness, powerless humans began to prosper and reached heights never imagined by humans with power. They turned the tables, now they had the power and the reins. Humans with power were repudiated and were forced to hide in the shadows, where no one found them, where they could live in peace.

 

400 years ago, a man gathered humans with power and unified them in a single movement, with a single goal, to survive under the light of the world. To be able to shout to the four winds that he is alive in the world, to feel the freedom that he longed for all his life, that man really reached to greatness and his name was engraved in the annals of time.

 

Little would everyone know that he would end up betraying everyone, humans with and without powers, in order to reach the top and bring great darkness to the whole world. The scar he left, the same one that has been repeated infinitely in the world, would give rise to the story of a young man with the ambition to reach that same peak.

 








Chapter 1 – The first step

 

In a lifeless village, where everyday life is looking for something to do with their lives, villagers speak worried about the rise of passengers in the last years. Recently more outsiders passed by through the town, although it is good for business, they cannot lower their guard because of the possibility of being taken away from what little they have.

 

Someone starts talking over a box about the recent monster attacks in the area, the inhabitants are more concerned about how active the world has become. A young man in rags and covered in dirt carrying a slightly large sword and a sack in each hand goes into the village in search of a tailor.

 

People give him the right directions, and as the young man walks his way everyone looks at him and talks behind his back. After a short tour he arrives at his destination and inside he meets a man with gray hair so white that the young man's eyes squint when trying to look directly at him.

 

The old tailor drops a chuckle, a sign of being used to giving the same first impression for a long time. Unlike the rest of the people, he ignores the appearance of the young man, and when pointing it out the tailor responds:

—In this line of work the first thing you see in a person is what a customer can become. Each person is a work of art yet to be sculpted.

 

The young man appreciates his wisdom and holds a conversation while his measurements are taken:

—What kind of outfit will you want? Preferred colors? Usual postures? —the tailor is very methodical about the details of his work.

 

The young man is quiet trying to answer each question clearly enough, the conversation is more of an interrogation.

 

—I want an outfit to travel, to cover the most essential, to resist the cold, walk a lot, be able to carry objects easily. I guess blue and black. I'm more used to having my legs somewhat open and moving my arms, so take into account the area of the upper back, knees and crotch. —The mental effort to remember each question and formulate a clear and concise answer to each of them leaves a good impression on the tailor.

—«Specific requests, he must have a clear objective»—thought the tailor —What is your objective? If you can tell me. —asks the tailor while taking measurements of the young man's exercised body.

—Eventually I will take the King's Mountain Challenge far to the west and reach the top of the world, then I will be able to fulfill my goals. —answers the young man in a very serious expression, but full of motivation, a fire that the old tailor has seen more times than days he has lived.

 

The tailor claims that it is a suicide, even his lifelong friends left the town in search of adventures when they were young and were never heard from again. He is the only one who has lived so long, having his feet on the ground and asks the young man to be realistic.

 

—There is no point in living if you do not at least try to reach your goals, whether dreams or ambitions. —says the young man with complete honesty that his words reach the heart of the tailor, they even made him feel young once again —Although you say that it is a suicide, there is nothing else I want to do with my life, it is the only thing I am completely sure of. Besides, it's not just for me, it’s no longer just my dream. He says as he turns his gaze to his sword.

 

The young man appreciates the old man's concern and assures him that he is not just any person.

 

—«That look, this young man is determined» —the tailor deduces when he saw the face of his unusual client up close, until he saw more closely—«Those dark circles, how much have you cried in your short life? »

—«You remind me of an old friend, but it is precisely this aspect that led me down this path» —The young man thinks when he notices that the tailor is leaving professionalism aside.

 

Returning to the business, in addition to the outfit, the young man orders a few garments to be better dressed and the clothes are stocked swiftly. From the sack he carries with him, the young man pays the tailor with a piece of gold little larger than his fist.

 

—«Is this guy crazy? With this he would be able to buy a dozen luxurious suits» —thought the tailor since the people have not gone through good times in many years—Where did you get such a large piece? —the tailor asks and leaves the young man somewhat puzzled.

-I don't know, my teacher gave it to me for completing my training and to start my journey. He mentioned that it would help me stay in shape. —the young man stands as he opens the sack and shows that there are many more pieces of similar size occupying the entire space of his sack.

—I have never handled money, being an orphan, I only received what I needed to live if I fulfilled my duties in the temple. With or without money, I will live as I please.

 

While the payment and the sack are worshipped with bulging eyes reflecting such treasure the young man asks about the piece of cloth that is framed on the wall.

 

—It's my greatest treasure, a piece of elf robe, very sturdy and light and has a great story behind it. —the tailor replies with great pride and nostalgia, which was enough for the young man to ask enthusiastically to hear the story and the tailor is excited to have the opportunity to dust off his story.

 

"When I was young, as young as you, I was an apprentice in the family business, my father was an excellent tailor, so much so that he received orders from wealthy families from faraway places. One day a royal visited us and asked for a specific outfit, but my father refused, as it was impossible to get the most important material.

 

The reputation of the family fell because of the rumors that began to circle around, so I decided to grab the bag and go to the forest to get what caused so much trouble. I easily found it, but then I discovered the reason why it was impossible to get it, the forest was infested with monsters, and I was too deep to get out right away.

 

I was at the mercy of a very large monster and just as I was about to be devoured the monster fell to the ground, completely stiff and I could see that he had received arrow shots. From among the trees came a man carrying a bow and told me to run for my life, but while saying it the monster moved again and I shouted with everything I had "Behind you!" and ended up being injured because of me.

 

After easily finishing off the monster, I could clearly see that it was an elf, with long ears, very white skin and very young appearance. He retreated deep into the woods and all I could pick up as a souvenir was that piece of cloth from his robe. I never got to thank him for saving my life, but thanks to that I managed to live long enough to vindicate my family."

 

The young man listened to every word very carefully, thanked him, and asked how long his assignment will take. One day, so he has enough time to rest at the inn, get ready, and start his journey off on the right foot.

 

With an equally exaggerated payment, they give him a feast for himself and the most luxurious room, for a small town. At night, the young man spends his time discovering what a mirror is and makes his best attempt to remove all facial hair.

 

The young man looks in the mirror with his bare upper body, seeing how his body is toned, covered with scars and remembers how he got every one of them. A jingle sounds and he sees the crystal pendant hanging from his neck, looking deeply into it in a deafening silence.

 

—«Just look at you, after so much training, I'm sure the two of them wouldn't recognize you. Does it matter? We each take our own course, so there is nothing more to think about, it remains only to move on» —thinks the young man who clearly hasn't had much interaction with people in a long time.

 

After spending hours chatting with himself and baffling staff and guests with the noises of the shower and the mess of bathing utensils, the young man fell asleep like rock in the greatest invention ever, the bed, something he never had in his life.

 

The next day the young man soon began to wear his travel attire, hard-sole boots, pants, tunic, jacket, long half-finger gloves, as well as a bag at the waist and even included a strap to carry the sword on his back. The fact that the tailor considered that the young man uses the sword was a great gesture.

 

While the young man talks a little more with the tailor, a ruckus is heard in the vicinity in addition to the voices of the people. When they leave, they notice that the town is under attack by werebears, beasts of 5 meters high, and there are at least ten of them.

 

The young man goes towards them, but out of nowhere fire comes out and the beasts are defeated one by one, a few flee while from the fire as a young man with reddish hair and his fists comes from flames. The "firebrand" boasts of his victory, but one of the bears rises to attack him from behind and is suddenly thrashed to the ground by a punch of the young man.

 

—Oh, thanks for covering me. You are a good person. —the firebrand says very carefree, but the tailor approaches the scene and asks if the two of them are "adepts".

 

Both answers affirmatively and receive the news that in the village there is rejection towards the adepts, so they must retreat, far away.

 

They run away once people start gathering with pitchforks and shouting "Adepts! Adepts!" and the young man can't help but engrave in his mind the image of the hatred they feel towards him without knowing him.

 

After getting away far enough, the two adepts rest to catch their breath a little, the firebrand is presented as Guilian, a globetrotter who has spent some time touring the surroundings. The sword is laid on the ground and Guilian is reciprocated.

 

—My name is Chris; I'm just starting my journey. —despite the presentation Guilian only received a name and vague information, but it is the best thing Chris could get out —What else do you want me to tell you? There are not many relevant things in my life.

 

Guilian asks him if he is really 'one of his own', as he does not believe that Chris is an adept, he only hit the werebear, but Chris immediately shows him that he is wrong. He is an Earth adept, he simply does not move earth, he uses his powers to increase his own strength.

 

—It's not about the power you have, but how you use it. —Chris explains as he manipulates the earth to prepare a bonfire —Do you think it's possible that a human without powers could knock out such a beast with brute force?

 

Guilian is a little intrigued by how the power of the Earth becomes brute force, but Chris decides not to respond, it's not like they know each other enough. Therefore, he invites Chris to travel together, the two defeating monsters while making their way into the world seems like a great idea.

 

—Well, where do you suggest we travel? Do you have anything in mind? —ask Chris because it was Guilian who proposed such an idea, it is certain that he has something planned.

—No idea, I'm a globetrotter, I just travel without planning. I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way. —answers Guilian with a very blatant carefreeness that makes Chris sigh.

 

Chris mentions that he wants to go to the forest that the old tailor mentioned, he wants to do something about the old man's pending thanks.

 

—Wait, why do you want to go there? —Guilian asks a little puzzled —It's just an old man you saw a couple of times, isn't it?

—Is there anything wrong with it? Maybe no one noticed it, but I heard what the villagers were saying behind my back, when I got to town, when I was having dinner at the inn, even while I was in the bathroom. —Chris replies bluntly—That tailor was the only decent one in the whole town, I want to reward his good heart. Life is only one and for him it is impossible to close that business, I don't want to give up on him, I can't leave it unfinished.

—«Is him serious? He speaks with total clarity, he does not lie, he does not hide anything. His intentions are clear as water» —Guilian thinks as he gazes at Chris's determined gaze

 

Guilian laughs out loud, finding Chris's words refreshing, tells him that he is the first guy he knows that would dare to do something like that. Guilian thinks it's a great idea to venture into the monster-infested forest to find the elf village that no one has confirmed its existence for longer than the surrounding towns and villages exist.

 

—Are you serious or are you just being sarcastic? —Chris asks as he realizes that his own idea sounds crazy once someone else says it.

—So, can I go with you? I've already toured the villages of this entire region and you don't miss much. —Guilian asks ignoring the debate with Chris —«You're a weirdo, but hearing your reasons, I can't let you go alone, I would hate if you died so soon after I met you»

—Do what you want- —Chris replies after giving a big sigh.

—«Which of us is dumber? Me for wanting to go or Guilian for following me? Anyway, I cannot allow that tailor to be left with such an unfinished business» —Chris debates in his mind about his own intelligence and the influence of his first partner.

—Hey Guilian, I wanted to ask you, how did the bear men end up arriving in town? Yesterday one of the villagers only mentioned that the attacks were in the vicinity. —Chris asks curiously, he found the attack very sudden.

—Ah that, I don't know, they just came suddenly, they are very rude, I was eating orc meat outside the village, and they ruined my food. I wish we could go back to the village to devour their flesh as revenge.

—«Then it was your fault, firebrand» —Chris concluded without much effort.

 

After half a day of walking, the two arrive at the famous forest and enter without considering that it is about to get dark. While Guilian uses his flaming fists to illuminate his surroundings, Chris guides the raid by perceiving the surroundings with his earth powers.

 

Once again, Guilian tries to figure out how Chris uses his powers, so Chris relents this time. By trying to control the surrounding earth, that area is like a part of his body, you can recognize the shape, position and everything that is in contact.

 

Among the trees, a female figure is resting quietly until something disturbs her. A smell that only gives bad omen, so she begins to jump among the foliage. Chris suddenly stops Guilian, says that something is watching them, but from one moment to the next, Chris warns him that a creature is approaching to attack them. He holds Guilian and pulls him to dodge the monster's onslaught, revealing its true figure.

 

A 10-meter-long, fully armored centipede prostrates in front of the two of them as Guilian prepares his fire to counterattack, but Chris stops him on the spot, warning him that his fire could set the entire forest on fire, wreaking havoc.

 

—Trust me, I will fight this time. —says Chris as he draws his sword and takes a stand.

—«Impressive, just his pose shows how much concentration he gets in an instant. How many years have you prepared to have this level? » —Guilian thinks as he watches Chris, as he entrusts his life to a guy he met that same day.

 

Despite how big his weapon is, he holds it with one arm and Chris runs straight to the centipede in a mutual approach. Chris slides underneath the creature and gives it a sword attack strong enough to lift the centipede and fall lying down.

 

Chris can't relax yet, his sword hit it, yet he didn't cut it, he must find a better angle to deal a critical attack. Immediately the monster rises and attacks a second time, Chris hits it with his left fist, turning it over and discovering his jaw.

 

He jumps to attack the same place, calm his breathing, concentrates his force on a single point, the shell was weakened by the first attack, a stronger attack must finish the job. With a sword attack faster than sight, the centipede begins to spill its fluids as it contorts from suffering, attacking both adepts with its huge body.

 

Chris stops the attack, covering Guilian, with his increased strength, although it is difficult to resist because of how slippery his body is from the fluids. As Chris holds as long as he can, a projectile fly straight at the centipede wound, leaving a huge hole running through its head, and falling to the ground.

 

The battle was intense despite lasting less than a minute, but Chris can't stop breathing because of the shortness of breath, so his sight begins to fade, and he falls face to the ground. While losing consciousness he manages to see a few feet approaching the illuminated area as Guilian's voice is lost.

 

As everything gets cloudy, a very deep memory in his being comes to the surface:

—What's your name? —a girl with a sweet voice asks tremblingly.

—Chris. —responds sharply a child with a lack of brightness look.

—You don't have many friends, do you? —the girl replies a little annoyed.

—You don't have to be with me. No one forces you to do it. —Chris maintains his barrier of indifference.

—That's not true, no one should be alone, at least... I don't want to be alone. —says the girl as she lowers her gaze starting to speak more and more decayed.

—Do what you want. —says Chris resigned to the company.

—My name is Karen." —the girl introduces herself with a smile.

—…

—Can you at least answer me? —Karen asks irritated by Chris's lack of manners.

—For what? You want company, I don't, talking is not necessary. —Chris is trying to cut off the possibility of conversation.

—You yourself said to do whatever I wanted; I want to talk. —Karen replies with a lot of longing in her eyes.

—You talk, I don't. —Chris tries to get rid of her.

—Even if you don't like it, now we're talking, ha, ha. —Karen’s strategy paid off.

 

—«Now that I think about it, that’s where I began to feel again, my heart began to beat, and I began to feel alive. There's not a single day I don't regret how things ended» —Chris reflects as he clearly dreams of one of the most special moments in his life.

 








Chapter 2 – Arrow Shot

 

Chris opens his eyes, woke up in a strange cabin, and as Guilian breathes a sigh of relief, the first words Chris releases are to ask where his sword is. Guilian tells him that it is sheathed and at the village chief's house, Chris connects the dots, someone gave the final blow to the centipede, and they took him to a village within the forest.

 

A few people enter the room, the features are evident, long ears, pale skin, thin complexion, great height and long silky hair, bright eyes, they are in the Elf Village. They give him a very brief explanation, saved him from the poison of the fluids of the man-eating centipede with herbalism and brought him to the village, but confiscated his sword due to the nature of the intrusion.

 

It's been two days since that night, Chris gives them the same explanation as Guilian, they are just travelers who were curious about the legendary elf village and have no bad intentions. Once Chris can get up and walk around unaided, he strolls around the village to see what none of the human do.

 

Elves are very neat beings, impeccable manners, air of intellectual superiority, although that is only an opinion, but they have great signs of living from nature, nowhere do you see signs that they deal with meat, they are vegetarians. The route of the village of pleasant becomes monotonous, and Chris moves away to the ends, before entering the forest.

 

—How much more are you going to keep watching me? — Chris has been on alert for a while for a piercing gaze that has haunted him since he left the cabin.

—I'm surprised you perceived me. —a voice is heard from various angles.

 

A girl with long, braided emerald, green hair appears from among the trees. Chris is now sure; she is the one who finished off the centipede. The girl asks what he is based on for such a claim and the answer is clear, Chris noticed that her hair is styled to not obstruct her archery, in addition to having clear habits of walking on the branches, literally, her outfit blends perfectly with the wooded environment, and if it were not obvious enough, she gives the same presence of elemental power of Air as on that night.

 

—What puzzled me the most is that you don't share a single elven trait, you look too human to be one of them. —Chris's words offend her without such an intention.

—Do you have a problem with it? —the archer asks with a lot of irritation in her expression, apparently Chris found a very sensitive complex.

—You see, we risked our lives to find the village of elves and the strangest thing is to find a human here, and more than that, an adept. What can I do but find it fascinating?

—Well, excuse me, my name is Tsubaki and forgive me for not being an elf like the rest of the villagers. —rants the archer who at least maintains the manners to present herself first before doing anything else.

—My name is Chris, a simple traveler who almost died on his first day of travel. —he presents himself with a bit of embarrassment and disappointment towards himself.

—Much pleasure, Chris. Also, elemental power? Adept? What are you talking about? Is it something from the outside world? —she asks with a face full of innocence and ignorance, eating a snack he took out of a pocket.

—Wait, where did you get that? —Chris asks, a little puzzled.

—Oh, I stole it from the provisions of the village, as I always must look for my food, I usually steal their food before they eat it. —Tsubaki replies while enjoying the food.

—«Those were my provisions; now how do I explain her that she’s eating smoked beef leg? »

 

Picking up the thread of the conversation and to prevent Tsubaki from vomiting the food she just enjoyed, Chris explains to her with complete honesty as the two sit behind the cabin, she used elemental power to fight with her archery, an adept recognizes another if they witness their abilities in use. Although they are of different and even opposite elements, the elements react with each other.

 

—I detected your presence today just as you located us that night. It happened to me a lot with my friends in the temple where we grew up and trained. —mentions Chris to build trust with Tsubaki, although it really worked because of the expression she sees on his face, a lot of nostalgia.

—«He tells me the truth, it's the same expression that villagers use when remembering their families when they were little children centuries ago» —Tsubaki reflects for a few seconds to process the truth that Chris revealed to her—«Also, his scent is peculiar to me, he's not lying, of that I'm sure»

 

Tsubaki apologizes to Chris, her temperament is very volatile because of the environment in which she grew up. There have been no children in the village for centuries, so she is literally the youngest villager and some even discriminate against her for being human. Being on guard all her life in a village from which she cannot leave and not having a family with which to shelter is very hard for anyone and Chris understands that.

 

For as long as he could remember, Chris was living on the streets, watching people come and go while sitting and very still. He always came to wonder where they were going, how they had fared in their day, how the food they carry tastes, why children laugh when they are carried by the hand or carried in the arms by adults. The only time he wasn't alone was when two boys older than him would pick him up and give him food, sleep and travel together.

 

To him, they were his world, a very small one, but it was all he had and nothing else mattered. Some memories he had from that time were very vague, inside boxes, hidden in the merchandise of carriages and boats. The most vivid memory in his mind is his arrival at the temple.

 

One day he was very sick, his head was spinning, and the two boys were desperate to take him to a place. Since he had a very high fever, Chris couldn't walk, so the two children took turns carrying him. Right in the middle of the forest the two children left him lying by the road in the middle of the lush forest.

 

The two boys gasped with tiredness and asked him what he wanted to eat, for it was his special day, the fourth time it was celebrated. Chris only asked for one thing, delicious food, no matter what, just to have the three of them eat it together. The two boys went out in search of food and Chris fell asleep, and by the time he woke up he was already in the temple.

 

Chris asked the whereabouts of the two boys, but the monks who attended him stated that there was no one in the vicinity. Out of concern, Chris asked them to search more, they would eventually show up because they still have to eat together, and the monks agreed to search and be on alert in case they find any clues to their whereabouts.

 

He was waiting at the door of the temple for days, watching the monks come and go in search of the two children whose existence consists only of Chris's words. The days turned weeks and the weeks into months, under the sunlight, in the pouring rain, Chris was waiting to eat together, but they never showed up. That was his fourth birthday.

 

The monks told him all the time that there was no sign of those two boys, and on each occasion, he refused to leave the site. But with the passage of time his heart was weakening, every day his flame was extinguished until eventually... stopped waiting.

 

Chris didn't get up from the door, he didn't wait anymore, but he stopped living, when the monks inspected him they noticed his empty look. The only thing alive was his small childish body, the monks did not dare to touch him, they did not know what to do about it, they had all entered the path to enlightenment, so they did not know how to deal with a child who was left completely alone.

 

When one of the monks tried to talk to him, he received no response, he tried to encourage him by telling him some philosophical reflections, but he received no reaction. It was then that Yamamoto, the great priest of the temple, did not say a single word, he just sat next to him, to pass the time he was meditating. So much time passed that the little animals in the forest were on top of the old man, but Chris still did not respond, until he received a little touch.

 

A small bird was prostrate on the back of his hand, it was that small external interaction that made him respond at last. Yamamoto couldn't comfort him because of his own philosophy of detachment from the mortal world, like his students, so he warned Chris that going so long without eating or drinking would lead to an inevitable death.

 

When Chris turned his gaze directly into Yamamoto's eyes, the old man could notice something in the little guy, the Path of Mu, because in the time that the child was completely motionless, he was suffering hell in his mind. He was thinking why the two boys haven't appeared, why they left him alone, if he did anything wrong so that they have abandoned him. He himself was digging his own grave inside his mind to drown in his own thoughts. Eventually something broke within him and disconnected from that part of his mind, becoming completely empty, without any thought, having reached the world of Mu.

 

For the next 3 years, Chris was serving in the temple, not as a disciple, but as a simple servant in order to deserve some food and lodging. Like any temple, they received orphans to raise them and possibly train them, all of them were abandoned children, refugees, but none could break Chris's barrier. Together, they came to despise him as "weird", only confirming to Chris the nature of humans.

 

Over the course of time, he ended up learning herbalism, cooking, and some meditation tips by listening to the teachings received by the students receiving the rigorous trainings. The routine was methodical, getting up at dawn, preparing breakfast, watering the plants and orchards, cleaning the numerous halls, rooms and gadgets. More than the quiet lifestyle of the monks, Chris's life was tasteless, colorless, he just stayed alive, with no attachment to anything or anyone, even Yamamoto's teachings were nothing more than knowledge of no use to him. He himself knew how he lived, but there was nothing to do about it.

 

Back in the present, after remembering the past, Chris can only sympathize with the girl next to him:

—Don't worry, we all have sorrows and the heavier they are, the stronger a person can become. —Chris's words are wise, but he doesn't deserve any credit—«I hope your words help her as much as me, Teacher»

 

Tsubaki breathes a sigh of relief, as if she has freed herself from a great burden, and a cool and pleasant breeze runs through the village. After seeing that reaction in the environment, Chris proposes to teach her about elemental power as a thank you for helping them with the centipede.

 

—One of my friends explained to me that the Air element is manifested by the freedom of a person. This very pleasant wind, is this how you feel now? —Chris asks as he closes his eyes and enjoys the wind like he hasn't done for years.

—I'm not sure what you mean, I've always had good smell and hearing. I can listen to the villagers talk about me, so I prefer to be alone, even if I spend all day alone. —Tsubaki explains as she begins to hug her knees.

—«She is not yet aware of it, her elemental power has taken root in her senses, her potential is dangerous if she does not master it soon» —Chris deduces as the conversation follows a casual course.

—You know? That is why I was that night in the forest, when I feel calmer it is far from the village, among the trees. Its aroma and the tranquility of the distance give me peace of mind. —Tsubaki is filled with longing as she expresses her lonely feelings —Of course, that was until you arrived, heh, heh.

—Well, excuse me, I just wanted to find a certain elf who saved the life of a human decades ago. —Chris lets go of his purpose by letting his guard down for the pleasant talk.

—You don't have to apologize, you're the first humans I've ever met, so I feel better than ever. I can't feel alone now anymore. —Tsubaki's smile leaves Chris somewhat uncomfortable.

—«Don't put on that smile, I don't want the same thing to be repeated as it was four years ago» —Chris's expression leaves Tsubaki somewhat confused and worried.

—An elf who saved the life of a human decades ago, won’t he refer to...? —Tsubaki tries to connect the dots, but the sunset light interrupts them.

 

The talk was longer than they anticipated, but Tsubaki is sure she can talk again another day. Before returning to her duties as a night hunter, she thanks Chris for the talk, but she must first get information from the village chief about her elemental power while she has time. The chief oversaw raising her, because he has a certain attachment to humans unlike the rest of the elves, she has great respect for him since he taught her to be a hunter.

 

They both enter the chief’s house, Tsubaki is nervous about talking about something so delicate, but Chris stands behind her to provide her with moral support and support her if the situation gets out of control. But the chief immediately points them out and explains that the village is in grave danger because of the two of them.

 

They defeated the alpha predator of the forest and, although it is cause for celebration, the most serious consequence is the change of the ecosystem. Without the presence of the man-eating centipede the food chain has lost its balance, the frenzy could not only destroy the elf village, but expand to the surrounding villages.

 

—How come you can live in a monster-infested forest without being devoured? —Chris asks, trying to understand the situation on a larger scale.

—The trees that surround the village are special because they scare away monsters with their scent, but with so much chaos some of them will find a way to cross the barrier that protects us. Those who fly will surely arrive first. —explains the Chief of the Elves—Tsubaki, first you harass the herd of werebears just to prove your worth and now you end up killing the great predator of the area. Fix it at once. —the words of the chief of the elves are stern, but fair.

 

The rest of the elves vent their anger on Tsubaki, which leaves her tense by the blunder. She continues to receive the hatred of the villagers and the boss does nothing about it, but she just stays still, silent and with her gaze down, Chris immediately knows that she is used to such a conduct.

 

Chris notices that it is too much antipathy towards a simple young hunter, the village chief feels a very stinging presence, to the point of putting his whole being on high alert. Chris retrieves his sword and before he can wield it Tsubaki stops him. He can't understand why she doesn't answer them but decides to go with the flow.

 

Understanding the situation, they have caused, Chris and Tsubaki decide to shoulder the responsibility for their actions. Guilian enters asking what the ruckus that is heard from outside is about.

 

—Thank you for volunteering, firebrand. —Tsubaki says, a little irritated by the guilt the three of them share.

 

Now the trio of adepts will have to work very hard for the good of many without anyone knowing what happened.

 








Chapter 3 – Process

 

During the last few days, Chris, Guilian and Tsubaki face off day and night against the monsters of the forest, without a single moment to stop. The ravages that the elves of the village and the villages around the forest would have lived, all of them, face them without doubt, covering their backs. During each confrontation, Tsubaki is observing the smallest detail of the power she uses to hunt, every arrow shot, every jump between trees, every stab, always with Chris' words in his mind.

 

—«How long have I had these powers? » —Tsubaki thinks as she can only do that on the subject, in addition to concentrating on the task at hand, but she cannot overlook the true nature of her being.

 

Most of the beasts they faced were not so big, but they made up for it with the quantity and ferocity due to the circumstances. From goblins armed with stone axes to orcs attempting to kidnap women from the elf village, Tsubaki's ear detected and identified the monsters and gave Chris and Guilian advice to defeat them in as few attacks as possible.

 

Guilian adapted the fire of his blows to concentrate it completely on the point of impact of the blow, trying only to burn the corpses of the monsters he attacks. Meanwhile, Chris moves quickly among the orcs surrounded by small flashes of his sword.

 

The movements are fast and precise, the huge bodies of the orcs collapse from cuts on the legs and when trying to writhe in pain their arms do not respond, as they were also mutilated. Shortly after falling to the ground, each orc is beheaded with Chris's sword, leaving the forest covered in blood and Tsubaki and Guilian intimidated by the scene that leaves his mastery of the sword.

 

Only one type of monster managed to go unnoticed to the hearing of the archer, the harpies, its stealth flight is one of its best predation characteristics and taking advantage of the blood smell of the other monsters, the barrier of protective trees was reduced to almost nothing. The claws are so sharp that they manage to easily cut the trunk of the leafy trees. Jumping through the trees, Tsubaki intercepts the flock of harpies, leaving the two outsiders surprised with her great speed.

—«Considering the difference in thickness between the upper and lower parts of her body, it is to be expected that she will focus on speed. » —Chris deduces when he sees the figure of Tsubaki in combat.

 

With her archery, Tsubaki pierces their wings and lets the harpies be bait for attracting more monsters. Chris and Guilian take advantage of the lure to kill the hordes of monsters who are very distracted fighting each other, but they can’t overlook Tsubaki's experience to hunt the monsters.

 

She confirms that she has been exterminating monsters since she was a child because the elf village has been isolated for centuries.

 

—Someday I want to get out of this doomed forest and see all that the world has to offer. —says Tsubaki as the three of them hide to ambush the next horde of monsters —Life in the village is tedious, I want to leave anyway, even if I must kill each monster myself.

 

The continuing frenzy and the few opportunities they have for exchanging dialogues are becoming more and more scarce. When they finally finish, after a week, they collapse in the house where Chris woke up at the beginning of his stay and talk after a well-deserved nap. Tsubaki asks Chris and Guilian about the power that comes out of her weapons taking advantage of the tranquility after finishing their duties.

 

She channels the power in one shot and the pair of adepts confirm one hundred percent that she used elemental power. More specifically, the power of the Air element, the rarest of the four elements.

 

As far as the two outsiders can tell, elf weapons channel her elemental power to enhance the capabilities of each attack. Guilian begins to understand the situation in which he has been included without any context but decides to stay on the sidelines and let Chris handle it.

 

—«I don't know what's going on, but she's a bundle of nerves. I better not do any stupidity. » —Guilian thinks as he lies on the bed where he slept and starts eating of the meat he carried in his provisions.

—«Disgusting, to eat meat in a completely vegetarian village. Is it your habit to eat out of stress? » —Tsubaki thinks as she stares at Guilian with disdain.

 

Chris notices the tension in his two companions and resumes the conversation. Confused and at the same time dismayed, Tsubaki begins to have more and more questions about her powers and asking the villagers is not an option because of so much discrimination she has received from them during her lifetime.

 

This is how she decides to ask Chris to teach her how to use this power that she had never heard in her life, elemental power, which he accesses with some discomfort. The next day, Chris takes Tsubaki to the village training camp for privacy and they start immediately.

 

This would be the first time Chris was going to be the teacher and not the student, so he would teach her what he learned in his old home.

 

—There are four elements: Water, Earth, Fire and Air. Each of them represents an aspect of nature, life and everything that exists in our world. As the elements are the foundations of the world, the elemental power of an adept is the expression of the force of nature through the adept and at the same time the adept expresses themself through how they interact with the world.

 

Tsubaki pays close attention to Chris's words but gets lost in the abstract and even philosophical things. Even so, she follows his explanation to the end.

 

—The way to express oneself is through ideas, with which one comes to create words and actions that shape the world in which we live. It all starts with that, an idea, a thought. The sharper the mental image, the greater the effect the idea will have on elemental power.

 

Tsubaki, being an experienced hunter, clears her mind and concentrates on a particular mental image. The wind begins to blow, the leaves of the trees make noise in the surroundings by the movement. Tsubaki began to generate wind through the forest and Chris was amazed at how quickly she had learned to activate elemental power.

 

Chris perceives that the wind is different from when they met, even the aroma is different.

 

—You awakened the power, but now comes the most crucial part, you must express your inner self through your elemental power. —Chris explains, because he knows that the answer is not easy, but he can't do anything else. After all, each adept is a unique world.

—«Express my inner self? How do you want me to do that? Do you want me to think about something in particular? » —Tsubaki thinks as her mind wanders through questions that become heavier and heavier in his mind and the wind expresses turbulence.

—«You can do it, don't give up » —Chris looks at Tsubaki as he begins to remember one of his friends. —«Fanny made it look very simple, she was always a prodigy after all»

 

Some voices begin to be heard in the distance; the wind is altering the villagers by the unusual atmosphere. The concentration of Tsubaki begins to falter more and the wind turns into a gale that hits the houses and everyone remains on alert. Chris advises her to take a break, as starting to use elemental power tires the mind and the performance will be worse.

 

—«After so many years using these devices, it’s expected that her container is very developed. She'd better take it very cautiously or it could lead to disaster. » —Chris remains alert so that Tsubaki will not lose control —The last lesson of today: Always remain calm, because the slightest sign of fragility can cause our powers to explode and cause disaster.

 

The last lesson leaves Tsubaki more worried about her powers. After an afternoon of training, Tsubaki was able to learn to activate her powers and generate a gust of wind strong enough to push somewhat heavy objects. The tiredness of all the training together with the success of having made significant progress put her in a very good mood.

 

—Hey Chris, what's the world like out there? —asks Tsubaki very curiously, though with some discomfort.

—I have no idea, I just finished training with my teacher and the next day I almost died with that centipede we killed that night. —Chris replies thoughtfully —«What have I been doing? Four years in constant danger of death with the master and almost died in one night? »

—So, what if I go with you? No one can stand me in this village for as long as I can remember. Surely no one will be bothered by me going with you. —Tsubaki is determined to leave the forest, her eyes full of brightness trying to reach the outside world.

 

Motivated after a day of training, she goes to the village chief's house to ask him questions.

 

—Sir, I need answers. What am I really? I can control the air, I don't see much immediate utility, but now my world has expanded too much. Please, I just want honesty.

—I knew this day would come. —says the village chief on the air as he turns his back on the two adepts —Sure you want to know the truth?

—«This scent, he is very tense. » —Tsubaki perceives with his developed sense of smell.

 

She nods and her mentor, although he continues to turn his back on her, knows perfectly well what answer he has given her.

 

—On a cold and windy night, from among the autumn leaves appeared a silhouette, a woman carrying a sleeping baby. The woman handed me over the infant with an amulet and asked me to take care of her, who would eventually grow into a powerful warrior. A strong breeze lifted the leaves and disappeared without a trace.

 

Tsubaki in other circumstances would have thought that "powerful warrior" means she would be a monster hunter, but after fighting alongside Chris and Guilian she realized that there is something more, there is a purpose for which she ended up isolated in the village of elves.

 

—I knew you couldn't learn like everyone else, so I handed you my old equipment. —says the chief of the elves quite seriously —You know that since I received the wound on my shoulder, I could never make a proper shot again.

 

Chris opens his eyes and mouth in surprise that he has found his target. But he can only restrain himself by watching the scene unfold in front of him.

 

—The whole village has treated you badly and I apologize, the air is very vitiated when we all live isolated here for so many centuries. You were the breath of fresh air we so badly needed, but it's time for you to take flight.

 

Tsubaki's voice begins to break, all her buried feelings come to the surface.

 

—Of course, you took care of me, raised me and trained me, no matter how harsh you were with me, you will always be my family. —tears fall like a river as she hugs the elf from behind and he can no longer maintain his facade.

 

The two-stay crying for several minutes until they calm down, the two feel completely liberated. After finishing hugging, they realize that Chris is still in the room, he witnessed everything and can't look more uncomfortable.

 

After resuming the conversation about fate and stuff, there is only one last matter left.

 

—Where is the amulet with which I was given? —Tsubaki asks and the boss hands her the amulet that hung from his neck for so many years and gives it to her in her hands. A small semicircular amulet with strange symbols and an elongated dragon twisting, as if a part was missing.

—I don't know what plans destiny has for you, but it will be better that every step you take, you do it with all the security in the world. —now the chief says goodbye to his student with a smile full of affection.

—These symbols are very unusual, surely somewhere in the world you will find someone who can translate them for you. —Chris mentions when he sees the amulet in Tsubaki's hands —What do you plan to do now?

—Well, of course I'm going on a trip, does it bother you if I go with you? It would be better to start traveling with someone you know. —Tsubaki asks, being a little embarrassed for asking the first boy she met for a very big favor.

—Do what you want. —Chris responds by looking away when he is uncomfortable with such a request.

 

With a clear goal and two new friends, Tsubaki decides to start her journey into the outside world. Now Chris, Guilian and Tsubaki get together to travel the world.

 

Chris remembering his original goal to enter that forest, he asks the chief if he remembers that he saved the tailor's life and indeed remembers it, although it is somewhat bittersweet. Chris immediately asks him to go to the village so that he can thank him after more than 50 years of what happened and after a period of disagreement and being persuaded by Tsubaki, he agrees.

 

Once they reach the village, Tsubaki and the chief will part ways and she begin to say goodbye to everyone in the village. It is not a goodbye, but a see you later, because it is certain that one day she will return, not permanently but she will tell you all kinds of stories from the outside world.

 

The departure of the chief and the extermination of the monsters were incentives to open a direct passage to the village to open to the world and trade, because surely the place is more accessible and safer.

 

As he is touring the new step, the chief mentions how intrigued he is about the outside world. It has been 400 years since the village was locked up by the sorcery of one of their own.

 

—The elves were always a noble and proud race, but an internal conflict led Alipheese to take revenge against us for expelling her from our community. —the chief mentions of the story before he was even born.

—Well, now is a good time for the elves to know the world. It will surely be different from that time they remember. —Chris replies seriously.

 

Once arriving at the village from which Chris and Guilian were initially kicked out, Tsubaki and the chief separate, but the farewell is interrupted by a scandal on the outskirts, bringing bittersweet memories to the two guys.

 

A group of travelers are expelled from the village in the same way as the two of them and end up approaching the party. It turns out that these travelers are also adepts and after a moment to catch their breath, they begin to talk as they move further away from the town.

 

Chris and his friends don't have a fixed destination so anywhere is a good start. The travelers tell them that they are heading to a nation of adepts, and it immediately catches their attention. It turns out that they are close to a series of mountains that protect a nation of adepts, each one of its inhabitants has powers just like them and it is the best option to live quietly in such a hostile world.

 

This place is a few days away and they immediately choose it as their next destination. There will most likely be more resources to guide Tsubaki in her training and it will be an interesting place for Guilian and Chris.

 

During the night, travelers tell them about their experiences at the hands of humans from their homelands. Chris and Guilian understand their words and have a few drinks with them to swallow the sorrows.

 

Tsubaki only watches them while having dinner, she is disgusted by the rabbit stew while Guilian approaches her from behind and spoonful in her mouth. At first it burns her mouth and palate a little, but she begins to feel the taste of rabbit meat, which absorbed the flavor of the vegetables and edible herbs they used as spices.

 

She only manages to hold back a little but begins to almost dance to how delicious the dinner was. Tsubaki had never tasted something so rich, because elf gastronomy does not have great variety due to it’s based on ingredients such as plants, fruits and vegetables.

 

—I helped in the temple kitchen since I was a kid, so I know some secrets if you want to include meat in your diet. —Chris says when he sees Tsubaki so pleased with the food.

—Really?! —Tsubaki asks with glowing eyes and high expectations.

—Sure, I cook for two girls for years, I'm sure you'll like it too. —Chris replies with an air of pride.

 

The days pass, as the caravan moves forward Chris teaches Tsubaki some tricks with kicks and pirouettes, while Guilian watches them bored. He teaches her about the center of gravity, synchronizing the contortions of the abdomen and spine with kicks to ensure effectiveness.

 

—Why do you teach me kicks if I've always used my bowing?" asks Tsubaki as she catches her breath.

—You should always assume that your main fighting style will not always be the best option, your bow can be broken, you run out of arrows, you are ambushed despite your incredible smell and hearing. —Chris explains to his partner —You should always have a backup plan.

—Do you have a backup plan? —Tsubaki interrogates Chris.

—Of course, if my increased strength and sword are not enough, then I will use the earth, and if that doesn't work, you two can cover me.

—«Do you trust us so much? If we've only known each other for a few days. » —Tsubaki thinks touched.

—Sure, that last one is unlikely to happen, it's very likely that, if a situation I can't handle, I'll probably run away to find a more viable option —Chris explains, breaking Tsubaki's illusions, but hinting her his degree of honesty, which makes it easier for her to trust his words even more.

 

In the daily routine, Guilian gets used to hanging around the vicinity of the camp to hunt creatures for Chris to cook. Because of this, Tsubaki began to compete with him in hunting, by the time sunset came the two returned and counted the number and size of the prey obtained.

 

During the evenings, Tsubaki enthusiastically helped Chris in the cooking of the food and Guilian played pranks on her, so Chris puts him to prepare the ingredients, season, cut, take advantage of all that energy to spare in something productive.

 

—Hey, peel the vegetables well! We need them to have no piece of skin. —Tsubaki says in judging Guilian's performance in the kitchen.

—Yes, yes, I'm doing it, I'm doing it. —Guilian replies to the rebuke, being a little stunned by Tsubaki's ability to raise her voice —God, you scream even more than my grandma.

 

Chris sees how animated his two companions were and can't help but remain self-absorbed whenever he sees them interact. He almost takes a small step towards them but decides to concentrate on continuing to cook.

 

Everyone gets used to the routine, Chris always judges the meat that Guilian and Tsubaki bring them excited about what food he is going to prepare, their eyes shining with expectation make him strive to cook.

 

—Chris, I caught a deer, can you cook it? —asks Tsubaki, drooling with hunger.

—Ah, yes, I can roast its legs with... —Chris tries to reply.

—Chris! I caught a black bear; can you cook it? —asks Guilian with fire in his eyes.

—Oh yes, I can smoke his flesh and... —Chris explains, always drawing on the repertoire of food he collected during his training years.

 

Every night they have a big feast due to the performance of the pair of hunters, they end up sleeping peacefully with full bellies. Chris watches them sleep while he fights daily fatigue.

 

—«It would be much easier just to cook for myself. » —Chris thinks as he continues to see his two companions —«Although it's comforting the noise they make during the day. The silence I spent these last years, eating alone, had enough of it. I guess I'll keep cooking for them. »

 

Not disappointing his two companions is his daily struggle.

 

Once they reach the first mountains that surround it, they find a doubt, how to get into it. There are no signs of lookouts, roads or anything resembling an entrance or exit from the territory. Chris immediately decides to inspect the place as they enter the mountain.

 

After a few hours climbing the mountain Chris detects some constructions inside the stone. It would be imperceptible to non-Earth adepts, and immediately Chris moves the earth to dig into the mountain. Can't see much from the outside because of the change of light so Chris and one of the travelers decide to come in to look.

 

As soon as they enter, they are pointed by spears of some men in armor and they decide to tell the truth, that they only want to enter the territory because they are adepts and show them their powers. The others enter and proceed to do the same and one of the guards guides them through the premises.

 

It turns out that they entered the tunnels restricted to civilians through which they watch the outside and the way to the territory and finally understand the behavior of the beginning.

 

—«How many attacks will they have received in the territory to need to make a surveillance network inside the mountains? » —Chris thinks as they move forward and begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel and immediately begin to accelerate the pace.

 

When they reach the outside, they realize that they are right in the place they had been promised, the nation of adepts, Vodheim. The citadel they see from the top of one of the inner mountains looks like nothing they imagined, perfectly aligned paths, buildings much taller than any construction in any town and village connected by bridges.

 

In the distance, more mountains that surround the territory and look completely green and when they move away from the mountain through which they arrived from they realize that the surface is worked to have crops throughout its surface. Feats like that are impossible if you are a farmer without powers.

 

When they arrive at the entrance of the citadel the guard who led them tells them that they must "register", create an identity with which to live within the territory. The registration is not very demanding, name, element to which you are related, alternative skills, but the curious thing is that, in a totally optional way, you are asked your origin.

 

Once the registration is finished, they are given a small letter with the information they gave, something called a "credential" and that they must always carry with them. Something curious are the symbols that are in the upper corners, the one on the right is the Vodheim badge.

 

—«A dew drop surrounded by mountains, making a clear allusion to the mountains that surround the territory, but the drop in the center, what does it represent? » —Chris is puzzled as he keeps thinking. In the upper left corner, there are six circles of different sets of colors, one of them with the colors of Vodheim, blue and gray green.

 

After looking at the credential, they are directed into the citadel and suddenly the sky lights up for a few moments and they hear a rumble. Something happened, just entering the territory and following the noise to its origin. A crowd of people are surrounding a strange man, carrying a huge sword and armor and around him are some fallen guards and civilians, the damage in the area indicating that there was combat.

 

A single young man is barely standing up, with all his strength he concentrates the last of his elemental power in his fist and throws a blow at him. The mysterious man deflects the attack with his sword and lashes out at what is left of his life. In less than a blink a metallic sound is heard, Chris unsheathed his sword and blocked the attack on the young man.

 

The increased strength and his sword are barely enough to stop the sword of the mysterious man, in a single crossing of glances it is clear, both retreat and announce that they are now in a duel, and as is the custom of warriors, they exchange a few words. The mysterious man is introduced, Caellach, the Tiger's Eye and Imperial General, some civilians confirm that their villages were attacked by people in those armors and uniforms, so his presentation is more than reliable.

 

—My name is Chris, a man lost and with no clear future. —he kicks the body of the badly wounded young man back from him and falls to a girl with long dark hair and tells her to take him immediately to some healer.

 

Immediately Guilian carries the young man and Tsubaki asks the girl to guide them, and she starts talking tremblingly and starts running, and they end up following her.

 

Chris puts a posture with his sword and receives the attack of Caellach, the sound of the clash is enough to know that both have the same strength. One, two and even three more blows and all of them are blocked by Chris, he does not deflect them, he stops them head-on. One more clash and they keep pushing the swords to destabilize the other, a misstep and it would be defeat.

 

Caellach stops putting strength and makes Chris lose his balance, in that single instant he lashes his sword directly to his chest, but Chris also had planned to pretend to lose, because he turns his body face up, passing Caellach's sword a few centimeters in front of him, hits his sword with such force that he ends up breaking it and falling to the ground on his back.

 

Immediately Caellach retreats and tries to assimilate what happened, while the crowd around is stunned. Chris stands up and tells him that the fight is over, as he no longer has a weapon with which to fight his sword. Caellach only smiles, with a very clear expression, because his whole face said that he wants to continue fighting, but he agrees with him.

 

Caellach takes out of his armor a small circular object and throws it to the ground, this generates a circle with symbols that releases a column of light that goes far to the sky and gives the order to his men to retreat. These are introduced to the column of light and address a few last words to his new rival:

 

—It's a pity that I didn't bring my real sword, the Dragon Fang, but rest assured that next time we will fight until only one is left standing and wielding his sword. Until then, Chris.

—Do what you want, Caellach. —Chris beckons his sword to him, implying that he accepts the challenge where and when they meet again.

 

It is said that when two people fight, they are expressing their true interior, without any lie, therefore, regardless of gender, age or culture, in a duel there are only two people in their exclusive world, and it is inevitable to develop some sympathy, so both warriors usually become rivals.

 

With a new rival in the world and marking a before and after in Vodheim on their first day, Chris and his friends could never imagine that this meeting would only be the beginning towards a series of events that would change the world to an uncertain and excessive future.

 








Chapter 4 – Push

 

After an unexpected battle for both Chris and the Vodheim community, Chris asks the people where his companions went, probably with some healer and they answer that a few "blocks" away there is a building with a triangular roof, there they surely went.

 

Whatever a block is, Chris heads to the roof of a nearby building to see the triangular roof building. Entering the right place Chris reunites with his classmates and asks how the young man who kicked is doing.

 

—The young man is fine, the injuries were a bit serious, but not fatal and I treated him quite soon. You saved his life, even if he was very foolish. —the words resonate as a woman very different from the others enters the room, long, blond and wavy hair, tall, with a one-piece dress and hair held by a black ribbon.

 

The funny thing is that she always keeps her eyes closed and talks from the door she walked through as she heads towards them. The woman stops next to the young man and slaps him on each cheek, although it is not much use, he does not wake up, but her spasms a little of the pain, a sign of recovering.

 

After her only sermon to the unconscious, in more than one way, she introduces herself:

—My name is Lillian, healer of Vodheim. —said with total humility and her words are so calm that Chris feels uncomfortable.

 

As soon as she pronounced her name, Guilian gets up from his seat with a surprised expression and immediately Tsubaki asks him what his problem is. He comments that Lillian is the name of the leader of the nation of Vodheim and one of the Six Lords.

 

With a face of misunderstanding on their faces, Chris and Tsubaki ask him what he is talking about, who those are and what relevance they have. Guilian only sighs and proceeds to explain to them.

 

—There are six nations of adepts in the world, one on each continent, sheltered in natural fortresses so that only the adepts can enter. Each of them is led by an adept of incredible power, together they are called the Six Lords and lead the most powerful military force in the world. —Guilian explains what he has learned from rumors after years of living adrift.

 

It is something they had never considered on the way to Vodheim and from the stories they heard from the adepts who guided them to that place, if a simple inexperienced adept has enough power to defeat and even easily kill a group of people without powers, a nation of hundreds of thousands of adepts is enough to change the climate and cause a natural disaster, not to mention the number of people who would perish from an attack of that scale.

 

As if reading their thoughts, Lillian replies that it only depends on the person who runs the nation, in all her time as Lord she has emphasized not attacking any nation or human settlement but establishing trade routes and international relations with the other adept nations of the world. For more than 400 years, each Lord has written a part, from isolation from the rest of the world to a fondness for conquest.

 

—Personally, I just want a quiet life, drink tea and cure the sick, that’s why the army is only in charge of defending the mountains and the inhabitants are not forced to train and be militarized like 5 years ago. —Lillian says very seriously —Taking the power of a nation is demanding, but with demilitarization it is no longer so much tiresome. The arrival of adepts from abroad gives us a lot of information about the lands near and far and trade is more prosperous than ever. It was a good idea that Karen proposed to us three years ago.

 

Hearing that name Chris swallows his own saliva and turns pale. After all that Guilian and Tsubaki have experienced and the struggle they had a few minutes ago, the two are surprised by the unexpected reaction. Immediately Chris asks Lillian where she knows her from. She returns the same question, adding that by his reaction Chris must know her in another sense.

 

—She is a childhood friend with whom I grew up and trained. Well, until four years ago as we took separate paths. —Chris replies with some discomfort and his words show a face that Tsubaki knew halfway but that Guilian knows perfectly: the expression of a hurt man ... in the heart.

 

Immediately Chris insists to Lillian to give him an answer to his question, Lillian analyzes Chris' answer for a few seconds and agrees to speak.

 

—Karen is a friend, but we are in the same circle, because she is also one of the Six Lords, the leader of the nation of Cundraria, on the continent to the west. I met her three years ago when she came passing through with her companions and we met while healing one of her own. She told me about an idea she had of establishing international relations between the Six Lords to unify the adepts of the whole world and open us to the human world.

 

Chris is somewhat confused at first but regains his composure and only immerses himself in his thoughts.

—«Well, I guess she's got on with her life. But why do you do this? I hope you have a good reason. » —Chris tries to understand the events that happened while he was isolated while training.

 

This revelation only leaves Chris thinking about his old friend, he is so immersed in reflection that Guilian and Tsubaki begin to worry about the expression on his face. Even the atmosphere became very tense.

—«Was it so easy to forget about me, Karen? Now you rub shoulders with the Six Lords and after what you experienced; I don't think I can believe the words of a colleague of yours. Even if your reasons are good, we both know you have a darkness that you can never get rid of, just like me. »

—Do you really think she will still be the girl you met? Her nickname is Shinigami, which in a certain culture means Goddess of Death, as she is said to harvest the souls of her opponents. —Guilian's words leave Chris with an empty look for a moment, he thinks for a few seconds. That kind of rumor starts to raise Chris' suspicions and make him more thoughtful.

—Well, eventually I will meet her again and we can treat each other cordially because of our past, there is no reason to look for a fight with her, even if it is me. —that’s the only thing Chris gets to say after a few moments of silence, although the last thing he said leaves his companions somewhat confused, while Lillian is uneasy as well as serious.

 

Without realizing it, Chris sees that Lillian is already sitting and serving a rare drink to Tsubaki and Guilian, a Vodheim native tea made with plants unique to its mountains and the water with medicinal properties that flows throughout the city. Chris just sits with them at the same table and after a few moments asks Tsubaki where the dark-haired girl he commissioned the young man to is.

 

Tsubaki puts on an expression of discomfort and tells him that, in fact, that girl ran towards the building they are in, but once they entered, they could not find her, and Lillian told them not to look for her. Chris asks her the reason for this, and she responds cordially.

 

—She's an old friend and has her... Peculiarities. Come to think of it, from what I was told and heard, you forced her to do something, even if it was with good intentions. Most likely she ran here for me and not to save the young man. Don't grudge her, please. —Lillian's answer is unusual, but it is enough to show the three foreigners that she defends her friends, which speaks very well of her.

 

Chris is intrigued by such an answer and decides not to inquire about it anymore, he reclines on the back of his seat and takes a momentary look at the end of the stairs and notices a small black silhouette hiding as if it were watching him until recently. It was clear that it was that dark-haired girl, but he desisted from doing anything.

 

After a brief chat with Lillian about his confrontation with Caellach, Chris begins to talk to his companions about what they are going to do, on the one hand, there is Chris with the challenge of King's Mountain and on the other Tsubaki wants to investigate about the power of the wind, then Guilian mentions something interesting, Lillian told them that in a neighboring kingdom a unique competition of its kind will be held, a Tournament of Adepts. That kingdom in recent years has been promoting the image of adepts by accepting them into its military forces, whether for combat or for medical services, and the tournament is an excellent opportunity to earn a high position in its inner circle or simply because of renown.

 

It is the first tournament of its kind not only for that kingdom, but worldwide, as the kingdom in question belongs to the Union of Kingdoms, an association of kingdoms exclusively of humans without powers with the aim of equating the nations of adepts. Among its members there are some nations that do allow the adepts to be in their lands if they do not use their powers under any circumstances or join their military forces.

 

They do not hesitate to decide, as the tournament arrives Chris and his teammates will train to polish their skills and participate. Chris will learn quite a few new perspectives from his opponents, Tsubaki will be able to gain renown and have more clues about her amulet and Guilian will be able to fight and have fun. The only drawback is that the tournament starts in two months and the fastest route to reach the kingdom of Heinburn where it will take place is passing through a volcanic region and a desert of black sands that will take about two weeks.

 

Lillian warns them that they shouldn't stay so long in Vodheim if they plan to get to Heinburn:

—I recommend you go out through the north tunnel and avoid the Maxim volcano and the desert; the two sites are very dangerous and would be an unnecessary risk. —the leader knows many secrets of the area, so she advises them.

—If we take time to train, it will be our route, but if we finish soon, we will surely take your advice. Thank you. —Chris replies with some cordiality.

—«Why is there some tension between the two of them? » —asks N Tsubaki and Guilian as the conversation begins to stall.

 

The silhouette peeks out once again, Chris notices and decides to cut off the conversation, although he apologizes to Lillian for possibly disturbing her.

—«Is this the guy you told me about, Karen? I think you are the blind one, that sword almost hurts me with its presence alone. » —Lillian thinks as her guests retreat, leaving her drop cold sweat and letting out a sigh when she is left alone in the room.

 

Once they leave the building, they decide to go their separate ways, Guilian and Tsubaki will train their combat styles and Chris will train on his own. In a nation of adepts there must be styles that could be of use to them, so they will be a little more than a month at most doing as they please. They check into an inn near Lillian's house and to their surprise Chris pays with a fist-sized piece of gold and Guilian and Tsubaki are surprised.

 

—«Where did you get something like that? » —The two think simultaneously as their eyes shine with the golden light.

 

Chris only tells them that his teacher gave him a bag full of gold from the cave in which they lived. Unknowingly, Chris already had a good amount of money for his travel expenses and the bag, practically a sack, is indeed heavy enough that Chris is the only one who can carry it during the trip. They devour a great dinner before bed and plan their working day.

 

The next day, the three foreign adepts leave the inn just dawning to look for aspects to polish for each of them. From the gazes of passers-by, Chris decides to go on his own and leaves Guilian and Tsubaki alone to take their own paths.

 

The two stares at each other for a few moments in an awkward silence and begin to walk aimlessly. Eventually they return to the square where Chris confronted Caellach and contemplate the daily routine of the town. Guilian notices a good number of workers going in the same direction and he decides to ask about it.

 

—We are going to the quarry; we must continue removing land to continue the renovation and expansion of the city. If you have time to ask, come with us, boy. —answers the foreman as he forces the hands of fire to work.

 

Tsubaki can't help but make fun of what happened, and her laughter turns into a windstorm that shakes people. Everyone complains about her, and the children mock her lack of control, Tsubaki sends them to silence with a scream that almost blows them up and the teacher who guides them to their morning classes asks her if she wants to receive guidance.

 

Meanwhile, Chris heads to a forest outside the city, and walks around town on his way to the woods and notices some activity in people, they begin to avoid it. He thinks it's because he confronted Caellach and stopped his plans while everyone only showed helplessness in the face of such a situation.

 

His decision was correct, training isolated by the shock of his arrival is his best option to avoid conflicts. Meanwhile, Guilian in the quarry spends his time destroying rocks with his fire fists and receives guidance from the workers there and Tsubaki receives from the novice teacher books on wind and combat styles, many of them require a high degree of skill and control because she must shape something that has no form and is intangible, things have only begun.

 

Chris just by walking around the city already gave an idea to how they built buildings, the earth has been compressed and shaped so that they come together like a puzzle, that way each piece is fastened to the others and vice versa, obtaining resistance against tremors. The union makes the strength, and that they apply it in that way indicates that truly they have been refining this type of technique for a long time. Without further hesitation, Chris begins to try to imitate the bricks of buildings with common earth.

 

After half a day of failed attempts, Chris begins to feel something strange, being isolated from everyone it is easy to feel when they are watching you, so he begins to walk through the forest, to the deepest part, created some false traces with the earth and covered himself between the branches of a tree. It did not take a minute for the person responsible for his concern to appear, or, rather, the girl responsible.

 

Hiding behind tree trunks, loitering, the dark-haired girl was clearly looking for him, so she decides to give her what she wants. When she is looking in another direction, Chris comes down from the tree and stands behind her.

 

—Can I help you with anything? —says Chris directly to her ear and she turns very fast, jumping from the surprise that easily causes a heart attack.

 

Chris laughs slightly at the funny reaction and apologizes for the mischief he did to her. Once calm, the girl, stuttering, tells him that she wants to know where he got his power from. Chris only replies that he got it with a lot of effort:

 

—You want me to teach you to be strong? —Chris' question is straightforward, but completely honest. She remains silent but nods her head.

 

After returning to the outskirts of the forest they realize that it is getting dark, so they decide to camp where Chris trained. After a simple roast meat on the campfire of an animal that Chris hunted, he begins to tell a story to the girl.

 

—My teacher was a peculiar man; he was a hermit who lived in a mountain cave and used to live alone for a long time. Just by seeing him you can tell that he is strong, and I do not mean brute force. The first time I saw him he attacked me, and because he survived, he decided to train me. Not as an adept, but as a warrior. Every day I brandished a simple wooden stick and many times I fought him and received many blows. He would hit me whenever he saw some weakness in my postures and movements, he would even hit my abdomen for "not breathing properly", and now my breathing has a constant rhythm and I hardly exhaust myself. He made me hunt my own food to survive, sometimes attacking and chasing me in order to keep me awake and alert. I can truly say that I came close to dying many times. What I am going for is that, under his teaching, I lived a long time in fear, mainly to him, but it was precisely that that taught me to feel alive, not to be a predator with a thirst for blood, but to value the life that I have and that I can have.

 

Listening to that brief but interesting story, the girl is left with her gaze lost, trying to imagine all the lessons that Chris lived and how he can talk about it as if nothing had happened. The girl, upon regaining a little attention, realizes that Chris has a look of nostalgia, that nostalgia that is expressed with affection.

 

Contemplating the flames of the campfire, Chris begins to immerse himself in his memories:

 

Four years ago, in a mountainous area in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by lush forests, Chris falls from the sky next to Hama. She tells him that an old friend will take care of him, but Chris doesn't care at all.

 

—Come on, you have nothing to do or where to go, it will be good for you to get away from the temple with all the memories you must have there. —Hama tries to cheer Chris on, although he's not as effective.

—I don't have much choice, do I? —Chris replies very discouraged —Anyway, I don't know where exactly I am.

—But you must admit that traveling through the skies is so fast and efficient. —Hama mentions optimistically—It's something that no one in the world could experience firsthand.

—Sure, whatever. —Chris replies as he sighs.

 

Advancing through the forest, they reach the base of the mountain and Hama says goodbye, she has matters to attend to and that her friend is easy to find. Before Chris can say anything, Hama flies:

—Don’t sweat it, my friend is the only person in this whole area, there is no chance to mistake. —Hama shouts carefreely as she disappears into the vastness of the sky.

 

Alone and in the middle of nowhere, abandoned by everyone for one reason or another, Chris faces a new challenge from life itself.

 








Chapter 5 – Forged in steel

 

Being in the middle of nowhere, Chris decides to go into the mountain and makes his way against some fierce animals such as wildcats and bears ending their hibernation. For any human without powers, it would have been a very dangerous journey, but for Chris it was very easy to build solid stone walls to block the attacks of wild animals.

 

Having wandered the mountainous region throughout the day, he eventually reaches a cave to shelter from the rain:

—Wow, here it starts to rain more suddenly than in the temple, even the air feels less dense. —Chris says loudly panting despite being alone, trying to catch his breath so quickly—Walking up a hill almost makes me faint.

—If that alone is enough to exhaust you, you will not survive. You’ll die. —says a male voice, much lower than that of the monks of the temple.

—The only person in the whole area, you must be the old friend of— but Chris is abruptly interrupted.

—Hama must have left you here, she always does what she pleases, I seriously don't understand the Air element. Everyone justifies their actions by being "free," only causing unnecessary problems. —complains a man at the bottom of the cave.

—I don't plan to make trouble; I just want to rest. —replies Chris with a very much exhausted expression in his eyes —«One thing after another, Karen leaves the temple, Fanny gets fed up with me, Yamamoto kicks me out of the temple, and Hama leaves me in the middle of nowhere. Now a man complains about my very existence. I'm fed up. »

 

The hermit sees Chris carefully, the awkward silence lengthens, the docility of the young man in front of him makes him more uncomfortable than watching a man kiss a dog on the muzzle. The man's piercing gaze makes Chris stay defensive while trying not to be a nuisance.

 

—How disgusting. —the hermit replies as he looks away from his figure—I hate unnecessary problems, but what I hate most are weak people like you.

—And who cares about that?! You are just a filthy man in a cave in the middle of nowhere!!! —Chris explodes when he receives a strong criticism.

 

As soon as Chris finishes speaking, he notices the atmosphere around him, the environment is flooded with a suffocating pressure that makes all his senses indicate the same thing: Death. The hermit wields a sword, and the pressure increases as he wields it in his direction.

 

All the animals of the region ran in terror with the pressure and throughout the area all can see an immense flare rising from inside the mountain to the skies, splitting the storm clouds and interrupting the torrential rain. Just outside the cave, Chris is all badly injured, his clothes have almost been completely incinerated, and his whole body is smoking.

 

The hermit comes out of the cave with the sword that almost destroys the entire area and is a little surprised that the young intruder has survived his attack. He claims that even a powerful adept would not be able to withstand an attack of that magnitude, so it will give him a chance to survive.

 

—«Chance? What the hell are you talking about? He almost killed me just for being in front of him. » —Chris thinks as he tries not to lose consciousness.

—I hate the weak, I'm not going to repeat myself. —says the hermit who prostrates on top of him while the twilight sky clears over them—I can't stand a world where you are weak, so either you get stronger, or I destroy you.

—«I’m fainting, I don't understand what he's saying anymore. » —Chris is already finishing fainting.

 

Chris wakes up in the same place and the hermit has dinner prepared at the campfire in front of him. With his body sore and his guts roaring from not eating all day, Chris extends his arm to reach for a piece of meat from the campfire, but the hermit hits his hand in reprimand.

 

—That's my food, get yours. —says the hermit with his mouth full of delicious deer meat —One more thing, I am disgusted by the primitive way in which you use your elemental powers, do not move the earth again or I will kill you on the spot.

 

Chris didn't eat that night or the next day, he was at the awkward point of his body healing while demanding nutrients to carry out the work. He collected water from a nearby river and seeing fish swimming against the current he tried to catch one, but was unsuccessful, plus huge bears appeared even hungrier than him.

 

Automatically, Chris was about to fight with them with the power of the earth, but he remembered the words of the hermit and before he could make use of his powers, he could feel the same pressure fall on him practically from the sky. The presence was just as overwhelming, but it was enough for the bears to come out terrified and Chris was able to continue catching the big and juicy fish.

 

Still unable to make use of his innate abilities, practically Chris’ day flies away as he roamed the area in incognito, looking for resources to survive: berries, edible plants, animal habitats that he could hunt and develop the means to get hold of the precious meat.

 

For the next 2 months Chris was living in the open, living more as an animal than as a person. Sometimes he could see the hermit in the distance, even if he showed no signs of it Chris could feel his piercing lookout over him.

 

At a certain point, the hermit arrived at Chris' camp and incinerated with his fire what he had built:

—Is that how you plan to survive? Are you satisfied with meeting your needs like an animal? —asks the hermit—Is it that you don't have a shred of pride in being a human?!

 

But Chris didn't respond, he was just immersed in staying alive, although it was strange to him. As lonely and dangerous as his current life was, he was still struggling to survive, the hermit knows the answer, but there is no point in telling him directly.

 

Wielding his sword, the hermit begins to attack Chris and chases him all over the place:

—You try so hard to survive that you forget to be a person. —the hermit says as he wields the sword —You better not sit still, because at the slightest opportunity you will end up dying. How much will you be able to resist?

 

For the first time Chris' expression stopped being dull and apathetic, for the first time in a long time his gaze was shiny, although he was completely terrified and running for his life. Sneaking through the foliage of the forest, receiving cuts all over his body by the branches of bushes, Chris' whole body was covered with wounds and dirt as he tries to catch his breath.

 

In less than a minute the hermit finds him and resumes the persecution, and the situation remained for about 2 months. Figuring out to survive, Chris couldn't stay in one place for long, plus the intervals for the hermit to find him didn't have a pattern, sometimes he found him right away and at other times he could spend a few hours.

 

Due to the constant persecution, Chris had to learn to analyze and predict, if the hermit chased him, then it meant that he could prepare in advance some traps to facilitate his escape and ensure his survival. On each occasion that he received attacks with the sword, he analyzed the movement patterns of the hermit, the postures and occasions in which they were used, sometimes imitating them in order to discover weak points and openings.

 

Chris went so far as to confront the hermit in order to get more information about him, although on each occasion he ended up seriously injured. It even hurt to breathe, but he was already so used to the pain that it did not affect him, although he still considered the condition of his body. Making use of his knowledge in herbalism, Chris made ointments to treat his wounds, avoid infections and rest his body as much as possible.

 

Over the course of an entire month, Chris gathered the materials to make his own sword, carved from the wood of a very large and imposing tree. He had to prepare a hiding place and return to work the weapon without the hermit noticing. Knowing that it was impossible to confront him, he had to learn to brandish it by taking full advantage of what he observed from his attacker.

 

Having trained on his own for 5 months, Chris finally wielded his wooden sword to face the hermit, although he had no chance of winning. No, his main goal was to make use of his sword to improve his chances of survival in pursuit. The hermit let out of his presence a little when he saw Chris's brazenness, causing him to attack him with more ferocity.

 

From the first few seconds of the fight, it was evident, all of Chris's attack attempts were easily blocked. Every clash of the swords told him that he was hitting a "mountain", something immovable. Every time Chris received a blow, he remembered it with frustration, having allowed an opening caused him multiple injuries and a lot of pain.

 

After a more severe beating than ever, Chris analyzed the new repertoire his opponent demonstrated, even if he couldn't lift his arms from all the blows he received on them, still, he wielded the sword in his mind. This new phase lasted just over a year, during which time Chris began to become more and more accurate and precise, improved his hunting abilities and even drove the bears away from the river where he fished on his first day.

 

Without realizing it, Chris had gone through a metamorphosis and was no longer the sniffy young man who fell from the sky. Looking at his face in a pool of water he could see that even his gaze changed, although he didn't care at all, his only idea in the mind was to survive.

 

Feeling a presence, Chris feels something falling from the sky and investigates the point of impact, only to realize that Hama arrived after such a long time. She only apologizes for having taken so long, after all one thing led to the other and flew by a year and a half. Although that two-way comment is very bold to tell Chris covered in recent wounds, scars and dirt as far as it is not reached.

 

As compensation, Hama decides to instruct Chris, because it is practically a miracle to have survived so long with Charles. That’s when Chris realizes that after all that time, he did not even know the name of the hermit who besieged him.

 

While receiving martial arts instruction, Hama noticed how Chris had changed, but turned a blind eye. She taught him some basic techniques, such as cutting punch with his hand, circular punches, and applying perpendicular force to deflect an attack.

 

For Chris, all those lessons connected quite easily with what he learned analyzing Charles:

 

—Well, it's a good sign that you realized that. —Hama says somewhat uncomfortable by epiphany—It means that what you have learned is marked very deep in your being, you absorbed the essence of something intangible such as an action.

—Something intangible? —Chris asks with great interest.

—How to explain it? —Hama asks herself for a few moments until she gets to the answer —Anyone can explain to you how to do something, from fastening your laces to making a tie knot, but when you do it for yourself you realize the difference. That is the essence of an action, and only the one who carries it out will gain experience, true knowledge.

—Experience...—Chris mutters thoughtfully of Hama's teaching.

—You Earth adepts always have your feet on the ground, but the adepts of Air are good at letting our minds fly. —Hama says with a smile.

 

After a short break, the two resume training and sessions always began when Charles retired. Chris found it strange that Hama would appear whenever Charles was away, but she says he noticed her presence, only that it must seem to him a hassle to deal with her.

 

Hama's reputation has never been the best, but it's not something she can control, it's what she earns accordingly to being herself. Those words sank into Chris as he stands up from the ground, understanding what she meant, remembering his past in Yamamoto's temple.

 

With great focus on training, Chris spends a couple of months connecting Hama's teachings with what he learned by observing Charles. The combat sessions with Hama were summarized in that they were mostly exchanges of blows and kicks, Hama always allowing him to find openings for him to take advantage of and learn to block and counterattack.

 

In a single one-hour session, Chris would block and strike close to 1000 punches and kicks, leaving his body incredibly tired, but with each attack and block he could feel it strengthening. Deflecting attacks with the back of his hand, attacking openings with elbows, knees, forearms, Chris learned a very complete repertoire of how to use any part of his body to block, deflect and return attacks.

 

One night, while Hama watched Chris devour an entire leg of deer, she tells him that Charles was used to loneliness, even more than he was. That's why she decided to put them together, the two are ingrained loners, but together they may come out of the cave of their lives.

 

Chris does not agree with her, he received many beatings to get along with Charles, but something good could come out of this situation:

 

—I've never felt more alive than I do now. —Chris says with overwhelming serenity as he gazes at the campfire.

 

Two years after falling from the sky, Chris faces Charles again, this time with a strange fire in his gaze. The two do not speak at all and ram into each other with their swords, initiating their combat.

 

There is an abysmal difference in brute force between the two warriors, while Chris' body trembles from exerting with his whole being, Charles is completely still, as if he were a mountain. Chris backs down from being pushed with Charles' sword, but Chris' gaze is analytical, proving that he has no intention of giving up.

 

Hama watches the two men's fight from the top of the mountain:

—Heavens, Charles is still lousy holding on. —she says out loud, even though there is no one to listen to her.

—«I can't break his defense, so I'll have to elude it to catch up with him. » —Chris plans in a matter of seconds before pouncing on his opponent.

—Do you only know how to go in a straight line? —Charles asks annoyed by how boring Chris' strategy is—«After two years of achieving to survive in the open, it's obvious that he plans something. »

 

As soon as Chris enters range, Charles watches as Chris' body settles in to launch his attack. He recognizes the pose, so he blocks his sword from his right flank, a diagonal descending cut of opening, a simple but effective move, if it is blocked then the attacker has a chance to block the counterattack.

 

Charles knows that Chris is mimicking his swordplay, so he doesn't hesitate to raise the level of combat. He stops holding the clash of swords, causing Chris to lose balance and prepares to hit him directly in the abdomen, but Chris takes advantage of his fall to attack him from the right side instead.

 

—«He retaliated the attack that was going to strike him, he has studied me extensively. He is not imitating my movements; he is using them against me. » —Charles deduces in the instants it takes for the wooden sword to come into contact with his body.

—«There are only two options left: 1) You dodge leaning forward, turning your back on me and giving me moments to attack you; and 2) You dodge leaning back, backing up and giving me a chance to attack you again. » —Chris thinks as he is focused to his opponent.

 

However, Charles is a more experienced warrior than Chris can imagine, opting for a third option. He hits the wooden sword with his knee, deflecting his attack and opening an opening to kick him with the sole of his foot, causing Chris to vomit blood.

 

The young man is thrown by the force of the kick and twists from the pain, for the first time in a long time the pain affects him, but that only makes him feel more alive. His breathing is heavy, he gasps as he resists continuing to vomit blood, but his gaze is more piercing than before.

 

As Charles lowers his leg, Chris can't help but smile as he stands up, wielding his sword which was clearly weakened by the knee. He realizes that the wooden sword will not endure much before it finishes splitting in half, so he must finish the fight as soon as possible.

 

Chris approaches Charles once again, he knows that the swords must not collide or his wooden sword will break, so he must dodge all attacks and attack him as soon as there is an opening in his defense. Using the experience gathered over the past two years, Chris recognizes Charles' habits when it comes to attacking and defending, all he has to do is be quick enough to react in time.

 

—«His dominant arm is the right, he never hits with his left arm, which makes him seem slow, but he's actually fast enough to need only one arm to fight. However, the left arm moves it first to prepare for the movement of the right arm. » — Chris analyzes being back in range —«He never wears a defense pose because he encourages attacks...Does he fight using counterattack always? »

—«Too late. » Charles thinks, having found a slight sign of distraction in Chris's expression.

 

Charles raises his sword and attacks from above, causing the same pressure as at the beginning of the training, as if the sky fell on Chris, but the experience helps him in times of crisis. Having experienced that situation on multiple occasions, Chris' body reacts by instinctively connecting his knowledge with his impulses, Chris jumps and turns horizontally, deflects Charles' sword with his own and exposes him.

 

In an instant that seems to last minutes, Chris has Charles in reach, lands his left foot after the rotating attack and Charles realizes the intention of the young man. As soon as he lands his right foot, which he normally uses as a pivot, he will give a thrust directly to the heart.

 

For the first time in two years of knowing him, Charles can feel in Chris something he just woke up, Killer Instinct, Chris has every intention of killing him and does not blame him, but he is not even close to letting him do it. Charles lets out his own murderous instinct, very different from the pressure exerted by his powerful attacks, trying to make Chris doubt.

 

What Chris decides to do at the last moment will define his path, if he backs down out of fear, he will never have such a chance again and will leave a scar on his being in formation; if he ignores the imminent threat to which he is pouting he will be discarding his own life uselessly, throwing away the quality that defined him for the last two years, the survival instinct.

 

However, like Charles, Chris opts for a third option: he will continue with the attack, evading the threat to the greatest extent possible. He can't dodge the counterattack completely because of the momentum of his own attack, but he can use his pivot to take a side jump.

 

Taking advantage of both impulses, front and side, only his sword is below Charles' attack, breaking his sword in half, but he still has a blade. With what is left of his sword and the great proximity, Chris directs a sword attack at his neck, Charles tries to kick him once again, but with the side jump Chris has both legs in the air.

 

Chris lands his feet on Charles' knee, knowing that the kick is not circular, the leg serves as a platform. Squatting, Chris tries to end the fight with beheading, but Charles leans back, dodging the sword and retreating in combat for the first time in the two years they have been together in the mountains.

 

—You almost killed me twice in a single second, something no one has achieved in many years. —Charles declares to Chris that he was left lying on the ground after his last attack failed—Are you satisfied, Hama?

—Of course, I told you that this guy has a lot of potential. —replies the sorceress that descends from the sky —But you have not said the words I seek.

—I will train him, but not because you want him, but because he has earned it. —Charles clarifies annoyed towards Hama.

—Aren't you happy, Chris?" —Hama asks his badly wounded student relieved—Anyone in the history of the whole world would kill for an opportunity like this.

—Train me? Wait a minute, and why should I train with you? —Chris asks the hermit who has tormented him so much.

—Because I say it, so don't question what I say. I will not repeat myself. —says Charles quite imposing towards Chris who is all emaciated by the fleeting fight —Also, the change in you began from before you got here and if you don't complete it, you will inevitably get lost. It's not something you should go through alone.

 

Those last words really impacted Chris, they weren't an attack, it wasn't blunt, they were the first words of real support he's received in a very long time. Something he thought he had lost began to ignite within him, different from the survival instinct or the Killer Instinct, it was something more, it made him feel... Not bad.

 

Back in the present, Chris looks at the campfire as if it were at that time:

—He was the kind of person who wants you to be strong for yourself and no one else, because you can't take care of others but take care of yourself at least. Even though I separated from him a few days ago, a part of me misses all the training, every step, every exercise. Once I finished my training with him remembering the whole tour makes me feel truly grateful. —Chris says as he gazes at the flames of the campfire, remembering that time— "Someday I will see him again to express my gratitude. He welcomed me into my darkest time.

 

The girl was left with a look of being completely immersed in his words and begins to ask if she will do all that and Chris immediately clarifies that no, it is not necessary, just to maintain the concept of his training, more than to lose the fear is to let fear drive you to survive adversity. The girl begins to tell him back a story of hers.

 

—I'll start with my name; my name is Ha-Hanna. — says the girl as she looks at the campfire.

 

That the shy girl begins to open her heart to Chris is the first step toward an uncertain path, one that will take shape with every step she takes from there.

 








Chapter 6 – The Girl Inside the Flame

 

Hanna, the girl with long dark hair, shy, stutters whenever she talks to people, her long-sleeved blouse outfit and pants, giving a conservative appearance, her hair hiding much of her face and reaching up to her waist, no matter if she is standing, sitting or walking, always inspires insecurity. From Chris's perspective, from what he has come to observe, she is an introverted, insecure and even unstable person, but that doesn't matter to him at all.

 

What Chris sees in her is a spark, one that can ignite a very bright future, while she clearly grabs determination from anywhere Chris just accepts anything she is going to pronounce with her little mouth. After the ritual of preparing to talk so long that you could cook a full meal, she starts talking:

 

"As a child I was normal, I attended school, I got together with other children, I always helped my parents with household chores. Nothing out of the ordinary, until I awakened my elemental power. I always had a lot more elemental power than the other kids, so much so that the teachers at the school constantly talked to my parents about training me to greatness... My mother always refused. She defended me from all the bullying and my father told me to do things at my own pace, to take it easy.

 

I really felt safe at home and eventually stopped attending school and my parents didn't care about it, on the contrary, they felt safer with me inside. But one day it was all over, the Lord of that time came to the door and tried to convince them and again they refused. My parents were all night arguing about what they were going to do, eventually the Lord was going to take me by force, and they were going to end up suffering.

 

Being so young and in that environment, I ended up falling asleep and had nightmares and by the time I woke up the house was engulfed in flames. The more I was upset and scared, the more the flames were fanned, my parents came into my room and sheltered me, and then I lost consciousness. By the time I woke up I was covered in bandages and the healers told me that my parents saved me from the fire. They sacrificed for me; the fire was so intense that their elemental power was not enough to make it out alive. "

 

She, with her right hand trembling, showing that her heart beats quite hard and fast, discovers her face in its entirety, showing scarred skin in little more than the right half of her face and with the light of the campfire it is clearly seen that her right hand and neck are also in those conditions.

 

Chris maintains his composure, while listening carefully only the almost certain possibility that this state extends through the entire right half of his body passes through his mind. Meanwhile, Hanna, gradually filling herself with a lump in her throat, begins to speak more fluently:

 

"Ever since, I went to live with my grandfather and no one tried to approach me again, the children treated me very badly, saying that I killed my parents, the only person besides my grandfather who treated me as a person was Lillian, she wanted to help me heal my scars, but she never could. But I do appreciate that she treats me well for so long.

 

She doesn't even care about my appearance, for she was born blind. Even after gaining the leadership of the nation, he continued to improve his skills to heal my scars and makes time to be with me. He truly is the best person I have ever met."

 

Chris stood his ground and asks her to stop, that she doesn't have to force herself so hard. He just puts a hand on her shoulder and tells her it's enough, she doesn't have to say more. She begins to let go in tears and he ends up comforting her for a long time, until she fell asleep.

 

While Hanna sleeps, Chris keeps looking at her face, calmer than the forest where he surprised her and begins to shudder a little, clearly having a bad dream. Chris just puts one hand on her forehead and calms her down a bit, and gradually wakes up. It's barely dawning and she’s a mess, and he just gives her a faint carefree smile.

 

—You'd better prepare, it'll a tough first day. — says Chris with motivation trying to convey to Hanna —«I will help you; I promise you. I don't want to see you cry like that again, like Karen used to. »

 

With a face full of sleep and staggering half asleep Hanna is standing in the light of dawn and Chris positions himself in front of her at a short distance.

 

—«What will it make me do? » —is the only thing that goes through Hanna's mind as she tries to stay awake, slapping her cheeks to finish waking up, putting on a look of insecure determination.

 

From a bag Chris takes what she needs to make a campfire and a flint and a piece of iron. He places them on the floor and asks Hanna to turn it on, and with a body expression of total discomfort she sets out to do so. With a little of Chris' guidance, she gets to turn it on and stoke it. Once lit Chris asks her to sit in front of the campfire and he sits on the opposite side.

 

With an air of security Chris is ready to address some very important words.

 

—My teacher, even if he taught me to be a warrior, was actually a Fire adept, and an old friend too, so believe me when I tell you that I have some real experience with fire, in a sense.

 

He asks her to take her hands, left with right and right with left and tells her to close her eyes.

 

—What do you visualize in your mind at this very moment? Can you imagine the fire in your house, or do you imagine only fire?

 

These questions begin to rumble in Hanna's mind, and she begins to get upset.

 

—Stay calm, pay attention to your current surroundings. Not with your gaze, but with your whole being. The campfire, although it is warming our bodies, is a relatively small and quiet flame. With your hands feel my pulse, listen to my breathing and follow the rhythm.

 

Hanna begins to calm down, concentrating on following her rhythm, paying full attention to Chris' voice, speaking lower and lower.

 

—Imagine a candle, that small, uniform flaming candle, one that is disturbed by just our breathing. Visualize it between your hands and in them you feel the beat of your heart. You feel your breath and realize one thing, a simple but great thing, the flame begins to grow, but not violently, no, it grows slowly with your breath. It is feeding on you, but at the same time you can feel its heat, it gives you a warm feeling that relaxes your body, you are feeding on the flame.

 

Chris lets go of Hanna's hands and watches her closely.

 

—Keep that image, keep that feeling, record in your being the feelings you have right now.

 

He asks her to open her eyes, and to her surprise the campfire is out.

 

—Look in your hands. —says Chris and Hanna realizes something impossible, between her hands lies the flame of the campfire, but it has a uniform and calm shape, as if it were on a candle.

 

Hanna stays watching the flame, her gaze submerged inside it, and Chris utters a few words that would be engraved in her soul.

 

—That flame represents your being; your elemental power maintains and feeds that flame and depending on what you feed it with it will take on a certain form and intensity. If you feel fear the flame will be unstable and if you are full of passion the flame will be intense like the sun.

 

Hanna's gaze, still stuck in the flame, begins to show that spark that Chris saw from the beginning, he even begins to show a slight but very sweet smile and Chris decides to record that moment in his heart. He has just fanned a flame that could illuminate the world and begins to feel something.

 

—« Did my teacher feel the same when he was training me? They’re difficult things to explain in words, so I don't have to think about it much, if it makes you feel good, what's wrong? » —Chris meditates and decides to follow the most important advice given to him by his teacher: Follow your instinct.

 

After a long time keeping the flame in her hands, Hanna rests a little and Chris puts her to meditate on it, she must record and reproduce that feeling naturally, because, after all, it is part of her and denying her fire power means refusing to be herself. Chris puts her to turn on the campfire again and repeat the exercise, this time without his help and after being a few minutes in front of the campfire she achieves the same result, and Chris makes her repeat the exercise more than twenty times throughout that day.

 

Exhausted from collecting firewood, lighting it and "grabbing" the fire from the campfire, Hanna retreats to her house with Chris accompanying her. Hanna apologizes to Chris for taking his training time to train her.

 

—I've been training for more than 10 years; training you is much more fun. —Chris nonchalantly says, what he wants least is to kill the motivation of the girl who asked him for help.

—«Is it really amusing you that I am exhausted from so much walking in the forest? » — Hanna thinks seeing Chris' smile at not having to put so much effort into teaching her, although what he said leaves her intrigued —«Chris has trained for more than 10 years, how many years was he with his teacher? Did he have more than one teacher? What things will they have taught him to move so securely and naturally? Even without being a Fire adept he knows very well the bases, his teacher and an old friend, is he talking about Karen, the Shinigami? » —all of those questions go through Hanna's mind as they walk to her grandfather's house.

 

Once they arrive, Chris says goodbye to her and tells her that she can train with candles if she wants to practice more. Once away Hanna retires to her room and Chris reunites with his companions at the inn and they prepare for another day of hard work.

 

Chris, Guilian and Tsubaki have a feast at the inn and talk about the places where they are training. Dinner feels more alive than before, Guilian and Tsubaki see how Chris is in a good mood and ask him if anything good happened in the past two days.

 

—I wouldn’t, say it happened to me, I just found a good way to pass the time. —Chris replies before choking on food and leaving his two companions without food for themselves.

 

Meanwhile, at Hanna's house, her grandfather asks her where she was, she didn't tell him she was going to stay outside, but she doesn't want to talk about it. After spending years supporting her in her darkest moments, Grandpa can only resign himself to giving her space, though she apologizes:

 

—Sorry to worry you, it's just that there is something I seriously want to do. When I'm ready, I'll tell you. —Hanna's words seem too important to her grandfather to interfere.

—Okay, just don't overdo it. Remember that, in excess, even the best medicine can destroy someone. —Grandpa's words are wise.

 

Grandpa finishes some details and gives Hanna a box with typical Vodheim sweets. He asks Hanna to take it to the young man who walked her home, as a thank you for his help and she agrees with great encouragement.

 

The next morning, Hanna is surprised to see Chris at his post:

—It's time to start, come on. —says Chris with a smile of "Today I won't let you rest a little bit”, and Hanna prepares as quickly as possible with a lot of nerves, although it was she herself who asked for the instruction.

 

Instead of going to the same camp near the forest, he takes her to run around the city, Hanna really notices that she is not in shape compared to Chris. Almost out of breath, Hanna asks him why that exercise.

 

—It doesn't matter if you exercise physically or elementally, what you are forging is your mental state. Even if it is in combat or in a quiet place, you must maintain your mentality and tranquility. Another lap and try to keep up. —Chris' words are said so confidently that Hanna stops panting for the marathon.

 

With Chris' guidance, Hanna begins to take her rhythm, inhales through her nose, one step forward, exhales through her mouth, another step forward, tries not to land her foot with her heel. After finishing the second lap around the city they arrive at the camp of the previous day, and he puts her to light the campfire. This time she's not just going to grab the fire, she's going to light more campfires from one. That raises the difficulty for Hanna, but the goal is clear, each time she will require more control and the mentality that makes her forge is fundamental.

 

As Hanna struggles in her training, Chris tastes the sweets he received from Hanna. He loved what, according to Hanna, are called chocolates with almonds, in addition to having a "caramel" cover, Chris enjoyed the sweets very much and that made Hanna happy while making it difficult for her to focus.

 

And so, the days became weeks, every day they ran, every day she lit bonfires, every night she played with the flames of the candles in her room, even on rainy days she kept the flames lit for the campfires, now she had familiarity with the fire she held in her hands, protected them and fed them so that they would not be extinguished. One day, Chris asked Hanna to do the first exercise, from day one... no campfire. Hanna was confused, but still tried.

 

She imagined the flame, fed it with his elemental power and…boom! There was a flame in her hands, Hanna had created fire with her elemental power, instead of stoking and controlling the fire that already existed. That fire was totally hers, and she looked at it as the first time, "That flame is you" are the words that go through her head, the words that Chris said to her from the beginning, and she feels, for the first time, that she begins to know herself for real.

 

Chris sees in her a brighter smile than the first time, maybe she is not a warrior, but her spark is getting bigger, now it is a quiet flame, it shows from afar in her eyes. But it's not time for sentimentality, Chris raises a wall of earth and puts Hanna the next exercise: "Go through the wall and reach me."

 

Hanna is a gentle soul, but she knows full well that when Chris says it, everything has some purpose or meaning. She throws the flame and goes out immediately, barely moved away from her hand and disappeared. Now the difficulty lies in keeping the flame away and Hanna has it clear about the goal just with the first attempt. Already with weeks of daily training, Hanna and Chris can understand each other without needing to speak directly.

 

Days go by and finally the flame reaches the wall, but it does not do much, it barely has a few embers in the impact zone, she must make the flame larger and more concentrated, throw it with more speed, not with force, but with power. And she throws over and over again for days, until one morning, after trying all night before, without sleeping or resting for a minute, Chris is asleep on the other side of the wall and a tremor wakes him up. The wall was not only pierced, but it was also destroyed, and each piece is covered in flames and from among the dust in the air Hanna comes out with a fireball in one hand and easily any adept can tell that a large amount of fire is concentrated in the ball the size of a fist.

 

Her gaze, full of determination, suddenly changes to an expression of concern when she sees that Chris is covered in the rubble and begins to apologize multiple times for the disaster. What a change of attitude, but that only makes Chris start laughing out loud.

 

—Destroying that wall was not only an exercise, but it is also an analogy, going through any adversity and moving forward. That was my teacher's last teaching. —Chris' final lesson to Hanna, a treasure she will keep for the rest of her life.

 

With a Hanna starting to bring tears for finishing her training, Chris is full of satisfaction to see how far his student has come and the tournament a few weeks away from starting is how a new life begins for the shy, but gentle Hanna.

 








Chapter 7 – Attachment

 

After crying for a few minutes, Hanna wakes up with a smile that would make any young man her age fall in love with and gives her mentor the sincerest thanks in the world. Chris just smiles and backs down a bit because of the discomfort of having someone thanking him, for having successfully helped someone and receiving a reward, that's right, his reward is that strange feeling of having taught someone well.

 

Going back to the city in the middle of the sunrise they enjoy the walk and the landscape, something that almost nobody does, although it is a dream land. The silence is awkward so Chris invites Hanna on a walk around town as a reward for her hard work and she happily accepts. Although by the time they are in the middle of the day it is Hanna who directs the walk since Chris is a foreigner and never had the opportunity to know much about the city.

 

Food, clothing stores, utensils, libraries, all the places Hanna had already gone and also those she could never go to for fear of getting out of control she visited with a huge smile on her face. People, although they were already more than familiar with the rumors about Hanna's past, were always watching her with her new personality. Was she really such a cheerful person? It's the question they had practically written all over their faces.

 

During their journey throughout the city, they ended up wandering to the quarry, Guilian was already famous among the people who work in there and even admired him for his power of destruction. All the workers have a lot of respect for the firebrand that have been getting stronger by working longer and harder than everyone on the site.

 

Hanna is a little uncomfortable with Guilian's behavior but trusts Chris's opinion that he is a good boy. An explosion arises and a huge rock fall from the cliff, the Earth adepts use their powers to stop it, but it is too big, and they cannot stop it completely.

 

If it is not landed properly, the 8-meter-diameter stone will roll down the hill until it reaches the city. Suddenly, Chris and Guilian jump into action, with their powers the two take care of one half of the stone, making it explode into smaller stones and freeing the workers.

 

Hanna sees Chris in action for the first time and is impressed as she cheers the pair of foreign adepts for saving the day and begin to inspect what caused it. No one can explain where the explosion came from, but some workers acknowledge that gunpowder was used, a resource they do not have in Vodheim, which raises even more suspicions.

 

With a dead end, Chris and Hanna say goodbye to Guilian and proceed to visit Tsubaki, who was training on top of one of the mountains surrounding the city, at a training camp for Air adepts. The staff and students speak highly of Tsubaki, being a prodigy in air control, as she completed the beginner and intermediate level courses in just one week. She is currently finishing the advanced course to proceed to forge her own style. That leaves Hanna impressed, though she has always heard how difficult the course is.

 

Chris observes the facilities, which are three towers connected by thick ropes, while on the platforms that hang in the intermediate zone there are a series of rectangular panels which must be rotated in a certain way according to the level of difficulty of the exercise.

 

The most advanced level is to rotate all the rectangular panels while the three circular panels in each of them rotate in the opposite direction. Tsubaki is still somewhat stuck in controlling air gusts in a millimetric way, but she has become accustomed to dancing with the flow of the wind.

 

—Some masters change the drafts, and you have to keep yourself unharmed as you progress through the rotating maze. —explains Tsubaki as the three of them watch the students practicing the exercise —Although being a foreigner, I noticed that the teachers made it more difficult, and I was getting a lot of blows for weeks.

 

A huge tempest hits the mountain and causes some students to fall, Tsubaki reacts and generates drafts to cushion the fall of inexperienced adepts. Chris realizes how complex it must be to control the air to make spinning gales that protect young people from even scratching their knees when touching the ground.

 

The teachers protect the area from the tremendous current of air that whips them, it does not seem normal to them at all. Tsubaki sensed some disturbances in the air and was able to react to the event. The students are forced into shelter and Tsubaki says goodbye to Chris and Hanna.

 

—See you at the inn to plan the trip to Heinburn! —Tsubaki shouts so that his voice is not lost to the wind.

 

In the afternoon, while they were still walking, Hanna began to think in her head that detail, that the time she had with Chris was limited, and as if he were reading her mind, Chris immediately asks her about her future.

 

—What are you going to do now? Did you plan what to do when I finished training?

 

As if that were not enough, Hanna begins to fill herself again with the memories of her past, of how everyone wanted her power, not her for who she was, but she was no longer the shy and fragile girl, now she had confidence in herself, she only needs a goal.

 

—You'll make it, whatever you set your mind into. —Chris says as he sees his student's expression to lift her spirits.

 

The moment is very intimate, although something interrupts the moment, rain. It starts to pour abruptly, and they end up taking refuge in a restaurant. The two ended up soaked and laugh when they see each other and because of the noise the cook calls their attention but stops when he sees Hanna.

 

Due to the obvious awkward silence in the business owner, Chris orders him to prepare them a hot drink while they dry up. The cook refuses to attend to him but realizing that Chris is the young man who fought the invader of the Empire loses all authority and obeys.

 

—«Maybe you don't realize it, or you don't want to admit it, Hanna, but there is still discrimination against you, I hope you break that barrier. » —Chris thinks as he eats a very interesting drink called "hot chocolate."

 

While the minutes pass, they conclude that the rain will not stop in a while and end up eating in the restaurant. After a whole struggle against cutlery, Chris gives up and eats with his hands in a moderate way, Hanna laughs and wipes a stain of food from her new friend's cheek.

 

Chris is not at all uncomfortable with the familiarity with her, it is as if they had lived together all their lives, but he realizes something. He doesn't want to admit it, but his heart starts to speed up.

 

—«Don't approach me, please don't. I don't want it to end up like with Karen. » —Chris thinks as he looks away from Hanna. She realizes what she was doing and walks away, not knowing that she is misinterpreting what Chris is processing.

 

After a few moments of awkward silence, they begin to worry for the weather, not just for the rain. All the adepts are perceptive about the weather and such a wild storm only leaves bad vibes in the body, ends up making the skin bristle and even leaves the mouth dry. In a totally unexpected way, there begin to be strange noises throughout the city, barely and can be perceived by all the noise of the water falling from the sky and walking the streets, some sounds begin to be distinguished, voices of people and by the tone anyone would tell that it is not a good thing.

 

Chris, without even thinking twice, leaves quickly thinking about the possible damage that may be in the city that people are so upset of.

 

—«Something for sure is that there must be flooding. » —Chris deduces as he enters the city center, but he begins to see an intense light and from the reddish tone it is more than clear that there is a fire. —«In the middle of a storm? The fire must be too strong so as not to be extinguished by the rain, although according to my teacher, there are only two ways for the fire not to be extinguished by water: a powerful Fire adept or a very incendiary fuel. »

 

Upon arrival it is completely remarkable that it is not a single building, there are many, the fire is massive and worst of all, you do not see the end of the fire. People are evacuated, but it is very dangerous anywhere, there is the fire spreading through almost half of the city, and in the canals, there is water overflowing everywhere. Some rumblings are heard everywhere, landslides in the mountains. During the daily morning races Chris observed that the canals carry the water throughout the city, so if the land is too much it will end up obstructing the canals, leaving the city submerged in a lake in the middle of the mountains.

 

Running to the center of the city is Lillian, she is using her power to create a safe zone and evacuate people into the mountains, but landslides are very dangerous and even more so staying inside the internal structures of the mountains. The channels overflow, but Lillian keeps them at bay with her incredible elemental power, though she is too focused to guide her people.

 

Suddenly an entire mountain begins to collapse, the amount of rain was too much for the structure inside it to resist and ended up crumbling like a castle of cards. People begin to go into hysteria and begin to use their powers indiscriminately trying to fix what they can to be safe, but it is in vain, it only generates more panic and there begins to be violence everywhere.

 

—«To avoid a revolt, the former Lord of Vodheim demilitarized the inhabitants for decades. By the time our parents were born, no one had combat experience. This is the consequence of this, although they use their powers for day to day, in their jobs mainly, no one has the courage to face this type of crisis. » —Lillian is frustrated, she alone cannot save an entire nation that collapses from within.

 

Being in the middle of everything, totally distressed, Lillian only expresses one word, one name:

 

—Hanna. —Lillian pronounces worried about her best friend's well-being.

—She could save the city; I have an idea of how to overcome this crisis. —says Chris as he gazes at the ruins of the mountain —«That was the mountain where Tsubaki was, I hope he is well. » —he thinks as he tries to stay calm.

—What about me? —Hanna asks right behind her two friends around the world.

 

Chris is surprised with almost a heart attack by the unstable concentration, Hanna is the only person who looks calm in such a situation. After years of anxiety, fear and harassment, a natural disaster is like a walk in the park. Chris orders Hanna to go to the buildings and steal the fire, as with the campfire, and Hanna immediately realizes what he means.

 

—One last detail, release the fire into the sky. —is the last thing Chris says to Hanna.

 

Hanna walks the streets, at the front door of each building she begins to gather the fire in her hands and leaves no trace of the flames, people are surprised by the ease with which she does such a feat, one building after another is completely extinguished. Fire adepts try to imitate her, but they don't succeed, they don't have enough control to compress such quantity of fire. They must suck all the fire out or the remaining will end up expanding until it covers everything again.

 

Lillian followed Chris' advice:

 

—Concentrate all the flow of water from the canals to the area without fire and that the Earth adepts try to keep the channels clear. —Lillian orders with her eyes open despite her blindness, which makes everyone take her very seriously.

 

Rapidly all mobilizes receiving these words from Lillian. With the joint efforts in unison, the water begins to descend, and the fire light begins to constantly reduce, Hanna is getting faster and faster at stealing fire from an entire building. The constant practice combined with her enormous elemental power allows her to have enough experience handling a large amount of fire.

 

The rain begins to stop, the constant fire released into the sky caused the clouds to begin to dissipate. The constant hot air released by the fire stolen from the buildings by Hanna heated the clouds, raising their temperature and reversing the condensation of water and the sunset begins to be seen.

 

Lillian was exhausted for sheltering her people and thanks Chris for giving her a strategy when she couldn't even think due to all the focus she required to use so much power and keep it stable. Everyone applauds and cheers their Lady Lillian, but she just wants to rest peacefully in her little house with a cup of tea.

 

It's almost getting dark and there is little time left to end the fire, just a few more houses and everything will be over. One of the last houses to be extinguished is familiar to Hanna, her grandfather's house.

 

Ignoring the others, Hanna runs quickly to put out the fire and desperately tries to find her grandfather, does not find him on the street with the neighbors and fears the worst. Once inside the burning residence, he begins to compress the fire almost automatically and tries to see each room and does not find it. But something is not right, there is one last place she has not inspected, the basement.

 

Hanna opens the gate in the middle of the room and finds her grandfather lying on the ground, barely has signs of still being alive. She tries to take him out of the house, but it is useless, she has used her powers so much as to have enough strength to climb the stairs, and, even so, she keeps trying. She suddenly hears footsteps and realizes that Chris got to where she was and helps her get her only family out of such a dangerous place.

 

Once outside, they try to make him recover, but it is useless, he inhaled too much smoke and for his age it is a miracle that he did not die inside that hellish furnace. With too much difficulty he begins to pronounce a few words for his beloved granddaughter:

 

—You are identical to your mother, fly away. —and just like that, he loses consciousness and inevitably... Dies.

 

She breaks down in tears, the people around her begin to move away because of the terrible sensation, a great elemental power begins to overflow, but a person comes to her aid, Lillian hugs Hanna and with her water power counteracts the fire power, until the poor girl loses consciousness from crying so loud. Lillian asks Chris to take Hanna with her to her house to treat her and without a second of hesitation agrees.

 

After a whole night full of crying while sleeping, just dawning, Lillian tells Chris that it is too late, stress and trauma have made Hanna's great elemental power hurt her body, the scars have expanded. Eventually her body will be consumed by her own fire, and she can't do anything about it. Chris has his mind full of bad images, Hanna crying uncontrollably, Lillian's expression for the terrible fate her dear friend has, the words Hanna said about her past, her grandfather's last words, it's too much for him.

 

Chris kicks Lillian out of her house and is left alone with Hanna, makes a few movements with his hand on his own body and then directs his hand towards Hanna. The whole room begins to light up and then a great silence. Lillian immediately breaks the door with water and enters along with Guilian and Tsubaki, the two of them were safe in the quarry. Inside they find Chris lying next to the couch where Hanna is resting, he is somewhat agitated and exhausted, but manages to get up and head towards the exit, while Lillian is stunned by what happened.

 

—You didn't have to go that far, —Lillian mutters as Chris passes right next to her.

—I strengthened her power by training her, I bear at least some of the blame. —Chris responds trying to take away some remorse for not protecting his friend's smile.

 

He retreats and endures fainting with every fiber of his power so as not to worry his companions. After a while, Hanna wakes up and begins to assimilate what happened, there was incredible damage throughout the city, a mountain was totally destroyed, but none of that really matters to her, she has lost the last of her family. And the cherry on the cake is that Chris and his teammates are about to leave for their tournament in Heinburn.

 

So many things in her head make her stay disconnected on that couch, and she begins to remember every day she was locked in that house with Lillian, pitying herself for her past and remembering her grandfather's last words, "Fly away." The next day a funeral is held for all the victims of the natural disaster and Lillian gives a few words for the whole town, while, in a totally invisible way, Chris and his companions head towards the tunnel where they arrived, as it is the road in better condition.

 

Arriving at the beginning of the tunnel they notice a familiar silhouette in the darkness of the tunnel, and taking a few steps reveals herself the mysterious person, Hanna was waiting for Chris on his way out of the territory.

 

—Are you determined? It's about traveling the world, it's not an easy thing. —Chris asks Hanna without even having to ask her the motive.

—Yes. —Hanna replies with an intense flame in her gaze, figuratively.

—Do what you want. —Chris doesn't want to touch on any sensitive topics for now, and he likes the idea of her accompanying him.

 

And without further ado, they all go through the tunnel together, Tsubaki starts talking to Hanna to get to know her better, finally another girl in the group, and Guilian tries to join the conversation and Tsubaki starts to get upset about it and again the group is full of arguments as it usually is.

 

—How funny, you get along so well. — Hanna says without restraint while laughing a little.

—By the way, why were the two of you in the quarry? —asks Chris to break the tension a little.

—After so much training, I wanted to teach Guilian a lesson and have that prankster side removed. —Tsubaki replies with great frustration.

—Well, you'll have to wait for the tournament for me to show you why you can't even touch me. —adds Guilian, mocking the rookie who usually makes mad.

 

The fighters begin to get more upset with each other, trying to deny that they get along, and Hanna just starts smiling more and more. Meanwhile, Lillian has just finished her speech to those affected and begins to remember everything Hanna said the night before, about her thoughts about her future, what she thinks about Chris' teammates, the training she went through, what she accomplished for the city, and about her grandfather's words.

 

Once inside her house, Lillian begins to remember all the time she spent with Hanna, since they were little girls, she prepares the tea she used to drink with Hanna on those busy mornings for those who work on the streets. Listen to the deafening silence all over the place, as if the rest of the world ceases to exist.

 

—You must really have a great determination to have embedded a fragment of your soul in order to protect her from her own power. You are now linked beyond life. —Lillian says on the air while alone in her house.

 

At the same time Chris begins to remember the night before:

—Where did you learn how to do such a thing? —asks Lillian to Chris at the inn the two alone.

—Learned about it in the temple of old Yamamoto, where I was raised and trained with Karen. If you know her, you should know that what I say is true. Tell me, how do you know what I did? There are not many spiritualists in the world with our level of perception.

—A student of him, Elizabeth, she taught both the power of Water and the spiritual arts and thus developed the power to perceive the surroundings through the flow of energy.

 

At her home, Lillian receives the damage report, the fire was sparked, the marks note that fuel was used to ignite the buildings. After inspecting the ruins of the mountain, they realized that there were detonations as in the quarry that same day and that they found very peculiar explosives in other mountains, but the staff located them in time and cast them away.

 

Had they been detonated; the city would have been completely flooded by rain. After that revelation, Lillian receives one more fact. The air currents reported at the Air element training camp were triggered by a dust burn identified by refugees from the desert near Anthar, the Empire's tech city.

 

When that special dust is burned, rain is generated, but it causes drought in the surroundings. One of many disastrous wonders created by the science of the Empire. Lillian processes the information and does not want to admit it in front of its staff.

 

—«It seems that they want war in the Empire, but for Hanna's sake they won't make me give in so easily. I will not give you our greatest treasure, the stone will stay in Vodheim. » —Lillian thinks with a very serious expression, making her assistant uncomfortable.

 

Both Chris and Lillian have learned very important information, now he is heading to a new destination with a new companion on his journey and has obtained a new goal, to strengthen Hanna until she completely controls her power.

 








Chapter 8 – Travel Journal

Day 1

 

Today I started my journey with Chris and his friends, Tsubaki and Guilian. They get along very well, they are always talking, Guilian always plays pranks on Tsubaki, and she fights him, they even argue verbally while fighting with her elemental powers. The two know each other well enough to weigh in on anything the other says.

 

Chris always keeps seriousness, it seems as if for him there is no noise of discussion, but in reality, he pays attention to details, if anyone shows tiredness from traveling a long distance, if they take the discord too far, he will always be watching you, he will always protect you from the shadows. It's as if he doesn't want to show concern for his loved ones, but he does it in secret as long as he doesn't abandon something inside.

 

After a whole day surrounding the outer mountains of Vodheim we arrived in a small village and stayed in an inn, it seems that we will have to travel a long way due to the storm damage in the mountains. Today I will sleep next to Tsubaki and not with Lillian, I hope I can sleep even a little.

 

Day 2

 

I just had the most agitated night of my life, it turns out that Tsubaki has a lot of anxiety when sleeping alone, so she was a long time squeezing me to sleep and did not let go for anything in the world. Was I that way with Lillian? I'll be sure to apologize and thank her when we see each other again (even if she doesn't really see). Although... it makes me happy to be the one who helps someone, I feel that we are already good friends.

 

I asked Tsubaki how she slept until now, it turns out that if she can't sleep on the branches of the trees, she ends up having nightmares. If she doesn't have trees at her disposal, she simply chooses to stay awake until she finds one and forces the group to camp nearby.

 

We all left the village as soon as dawn began, not even the sun had come out. Although it feels strange that the horizon is so low unlike Vodheim, where daylight lasts less than half a day because it is between mountains. Guilian gave us more problems when getting ready to leave, it turns out that it takes too long to collect his five senses when he wakes up, is that called being heavy sleeper?

 

Once again, we were running all day, but we didn't get to any village, so we ended up camping, we all helped so it didn't take us more than an hour to start having dinner and sleeping. It is in this kind of situation that Tsubaki and Guilian make a truce. After trying Chris' cuisine, I think I already understand the motivation of the two of them when it comes to preparing food.

 

Since Tsubaki took me quite the confidence sleeping together, we bathed together in the moonlight. She takes her privacy very seriously, as she used her Air power to perceive the sounds and aromas and verify that Chris and Guilian did not spy on us, although I think she is being too cautious with them, she does not give them enough credit.

 

I used to bathe with Lillian at her house, but with Tsubaki it was very different, my heart beat a thousand for showing her my body covered with burn scars. She was very uncomfortable, but I don't blame her, I explained and understood very well. Tsubaki is a great person, she accepted my past just like that, just like Chris.

 

It wasn't as hard for me to talk about my past with Tsubaki as it was with Chris, I think I'm really stronger than I was back then. Although I'm not as strong as I'd like, nothing would prepare me for the biggest surprise I've ever had.

 

Grabbing confidence, Tsubaki undressed, and I could see her attributes, her great attributes, as big as Lillian's, I think a little bigger. My body gained muscle mass and toning thanks to training with Chris, but those floats, God, that was a very hard blow to my self-esteem.

 

Tsubaki explained to me that she hides them so that they don't get much in the way of the archery, but that restricts her a bit when she breathes. I understand, my hair is my biggest risk when it comes to using my powers, so sometimes I think about cutting it, but I don't do it because of my scars, although I hope that I finish developing my body and reach her in that area.

 

Day 3

 

As soon as we got up Tsubaki and Guilian started arguing, even while we were getting ready, they spent it bothering each other, I can't help but start getting used to all this noise, or I won't keep up with Chris. What worries me a bit is that Chris remains just as distant with me as he is with the two of them. He was a completely different man in Vodheim than traveling together, what is his problem? It would be easier for him to simply open up with them as with me.

 

As we ran Chris mentioned that we should start seeing the Maxim volcano during the afternoon, he always gives us details of what is coming according to the plan, although he starts talking too much in his explanations. Guilian always interrupts by saying that he pays attention only to the beginning and the rest is unnecessary and Tsubaki does not waste to complain about him.

 

We arrived at the volcano earlier than expected and it was not at all what we expected, it was erupting non-stop to the point of darkening the whole sky and the air was too vitiated by the ash. I proposed to surround it to Chris, but he flatly refused, we had to reach the Heinburn kingdom in the next days or they were not going to participate. The way he told me was cold and made me feel bad, but I realized that Chris really wants to participate in the tournament, almost instantly I felt motivated not to delay them.

 

As we approached the base of the volcano the air was getting heavier and heavier, but Tsubaki created drafts and Chris controlled the ash so that we could breathe without problems, although it stalled the pace. As we ascended, we noticed that the eruptions became more and more intense and chaotic, to the point that the fumaroles began to expel lava instead of steam.

 

Every minute I thought, "Oh! I'm going to die here right now." But my body always reacted, and I stole the heat from the lava, and without realizing it I was in front protecting them all. It really made me happy to be of use to them and they tried to take care of the rear so that I would advance at my own pace.

 

When we reached the top, we realized that the eruptions had stopped, but Chris was more alert than ever. We realized that in the very air there was enormous pressure, as if the sky were falling on us. And then something came out of the crater, a reptile.

 

Red-hot scales, its breath turned into fire from the heat and with outstretched wings it looked more than imposing, then it attacked us with a huge shot of fire breath and Chris covered us with the earth but being too hot we began to see the light of the earth being melted by the attack and we ended up underground, being an oven by the temperature of the place and the conditions.

 

Chris immediately came up with a plan to escape and keep moving forward, descend from the top, and hopefully escape the monster. But neither Tsubaki nor Guilian agreed and proposed to defeat it to advance, and Chris agreed with relief. His answer perhaps concealed the possibility that Chris wasn't going to move forward. Doesn't he trust us? Or is it that he easily resorts to sacrificing himself for others? If so, with more reason we should not leave him alone, who knows what crazy things he can do if we are not to worry about him.

 

As soon as we got out, Tsubaki shot out from being thrown by Chris with his strength, she controlled the wind to position herself on top of the monster and shot wind to make it descend, Guilian concentrated the fire from his hands and released it by striking the blow to its abdomen, maybe the fire is not hot enough to damage its skin, but the force of the shock wave was effective in hurting it.

 

Chris got into position while they were doing their thing and it was surprising that he could impose as much pressure as the monster, he was concentrating his strength in a single blow and the way he moved his arm in conjunction with his body unleashed a current of air that cooled the monster and managed to weaken it. But it immediately began to wreck everywhere and threw its fire breath directly at Chris, that way our formation was undone.

 

I jumped to protect him and as if it were someone else's work, the fire deflected and formed a dome on us and hit the monster head-on, dropping it into the crater and we stayed without moving for a few moments. Then that creature came out once again, bigger and with more power than ever and just as we were about to resign... it spoke!

 

It turns out that it is a salamander that protects that territory and a strange man hit him with a kind of spell and he began to feel strange, he could not distinguish reality, it was a complete chaos inside his head. The fire that I returned to him accidently made him come to his senses and stabilize his power, although he was hurt so I felt sorry.

 

From his gaze I would say…that he like it? to receive such a powerful attack, and it was not even mine. Once the conversation was over, he took us to the end of his territory, he carried me on his back, but he held the rest with his hands and Guilian held his tail. Surprisingly his body did not burn us, the salamander told me that with enough training you can control the heat so that it is not transmitted to other things and therefore does not burn. Choose what things burn and what doesn't? It's something I want to achieve definitely.

 

When we said goodbye, he mentioned that we will most likely see each other again and he left without further ado, but I doubt very much that we will return to such a place in a long time. We walked a bit and decided to camp after such a desperate fight. We were all exhausted and couldn't even enjoy the food, even Guilian and Tsubaki didn't argue, that's what it means we went through a lot.

 

Day 4

 

We advanced a lot of thanks to the salamander, so we kept the pace constant until we began to notice the black sands of the desert. It was something surprising, I had never imagined that something like it existed. But at the same time, I felt something strange inside me, I don't know how to describe it in words, only that... I felt it up to my guts.

 

We were walking for half a day until we began to find fragments of buildings scattered around the land and to our surprise, we found some ruins. The symbolism in the structures alluded to fire and the union of the community, as crowds of people were portrayed in a pose of connection and what seemed a kind of ritual with fire elemental power.

 

When we arrived at the main building we discovered even more things, a library, relics and what seems to be the site of the ritual, because in the center of that room there was a magma spring and the designs on the floor indicated the positioning of the people. The feeling of discomfort I had when I arrived was more and more intense, I began to feel very sick, and they had to get me out of there while I lost consciousness.

 

Chris stayed to inspect the place and at dusk, during dinner, he explained that, in fact, the designs of that hall indicated that there was a ritual, and it was a large-scale one. Throughout that ruined city were everyday objects eroded by the conditions of the place, but the strangest thing is that, inside the castle on the site of the ritual, the deepest and most isolated rooms seemed as if people had simply disappeared, there were even the clothes in places where people had normally been, in chairs, corridors, beds.

 

We almost couldn't sleep in a place like that, it was too gloomy to rest even a little. I confessed to them that my father was an archaeologist and his greatest hobby in life was the study of the Phoenix Clan, which turns out to have lived in these ruins.

 

From Vodheim I brought my father's diary that Lillian stored in the Great Library, more as a memory of my family and home than anything else. Although I don't understand much about the diary, I have a lot of information about this culture thanks to the stories my father told me.

 

In fact, it was precisely because of his fondness for legends about this place that he ended up making my mother fall in love. One more reason to keep the diary with me, I wish they could have come to this place.

 

Day 5

 

At dawn, Chris gave me some books from the library because they seemed interesting and asked me to research them, maybe we'll get to know what happened there that long ago. Although in the surroundings it is said that the desert appeared overnight, I had never heard about these ruins, these kinds of mysteries are what encourage me even more to travel with Chris and company.

 

Something I noticed as we walked away from the ruins is that in this desert there was no wind at all, it was as if it was frozen in time, nothing changed except for what was exposed to sunlight. And the strangest thing of all is that, despite all the discomfort I experienced in that place, as we moved away, I began to feel nostalgia, as if something wanted me to stay there a little longer. At least now I have something else to tell Lillian when I come back.

 

By the time it was noon we managed to see on the horizon a castle glowing with a vivid bright yellow, almost like gold. It was the distinctive land from which the Heinburn kingdom was founded, after so many difficulties we came to our destination, to begin to write our destiny.

 

We arrived at sunset at the gates of the wall, but we met a young man who had broken the front of his wagon and it was impossible for him to carry his cargo with his horses. Then Chris offered to push from behind and the young man helped us through the door full of security.

 

The young man turned out to be the most competent blacksmith in the kingdom, all the people greeted him as if he were a kind of hero, he was somewhat embarrassed to receive so much attention in front of us and without realizing it we arrived at his premises. We helped him unload all the material he was carrying on the cart and while we were at it, the young blacksmith was very struck by Chris' sword.

 

According to what Chris said once we were all inside, that sword was forged by his teacher (maybe it's the one he told me when training). He aimed to create the most powerful sword in the world, one that could go through any adversity in the world, I think it's something symbolic. As Chris was his disciple, he ended up inheriting that dream and with it, the sword.

 

We were all silent to hear something of Chris' past, even though it's actually about someone he knew. But it was at that moment that an old woman began to scream inside the blacksmith shop, turned out to be the young man's grandmother and repeated over and over again that Chris was cursed because of the sword and asked him to retire immediately, to get away from everything.

 

It turns out that her grandmother has special abilities, something called ki, the energy of the body according to the Far East, which is where she comes from. Chris didn't want to sit idly by and asked her for an explanation of what she meant and if possible, learn from her. Grandma refused because the curse made Chris reek so much, although in my opinion, even if he is sweaty, he smells good, especially his hair.

 

Chris lowered his sack and paid her with all his savings for the trip, Guilian and Tsubaki tried to convince him otherwise, but he made use of his authority for the first time. The blacksmith's grandmother flatly refused and then Chris used the most unexpected method: blackmail.

 

Using his sword, Chris proposed to leave it in the blacksmith shop if he were to die in the tournament or because of the curse. If he does not learn about ki, about his curse, about the sword, then the sword will serve as a curse as revenge for not helping him. While he said all that the grandson blacksmith was holding back the laughter, I think even her own family considers that she exaggerates.

 

So, Chris left his sword in the blacksmith shop while he was going to train with grandma, and we stayed in an inn to wait for the tournament. There is only a week left for it to take place, I hope he manages to get there on time, after all, he trained me instead of training by himself.

 

Day 6

 

Tsubaki and Guilian signed up for the tournament and invited me to do the same, but I decided not to do it, I still think I am not prepared for such a big thing, it is said that adepts from many kingdoms and nations of adepts have gathered so everyone is expected to be quite powerful.

 

No matter where you are going to register, there are always many adepts doing the paperwork, some of them are quite famous as adventurers and world travelers and even as part of the military force of some kingdom. I think I heard that there are some people from the Empire loitering with the aim of recruiting them to their Guard.

 

I haven't seen Chris since yesterday afternoon, but I'm sure he must be trying hard, although according to the regulations it is not allowed to carry weapons so Chris will not have his sword during the fights. Still, I think something big is going to happen, there's something in the air, that pressure, just like before the storm in Vodheim.

 








Chapter 9 – Presentation

 

It has been several days since Chris and his companions arrived to Heinburn kingdom, Hanna and Tsubaki were walking around the city to pass the time until the date of the tournament, the two of them became close enough to talk openly while Guilian was training inside the Colosseum, where the fights will take place, because many of the participants, to try to be in the best conditions, do practice fights in the last days before the big event.

 

One day before the tournament, on a plain on the outskirts of the city, Chris was training with the young blacksmith's grandmother, an old woman named Xian Tao, with the strict policy of staying 10 meters away from her because of his "curse". She was somewhat impressed with the ease with which he etched into his body the habits of perceiving with it.

 

—You have some experience in this. —Xian Tao said, being the first compliment to Chris —The more trained your body is, the easier it is to awaken the notion of ki. Who trained you, kid?

 

Chris tries to follow the postures, to do it fluidly, without tension in the muscles, maintaining a constant rhythm in the breathing. "Be like water, formless, in constant flux and change." Despite being an adept of Earth, he has the facility to learn very quickly with his body.

 

—Actually, I trained with two teachers, who handed me the sword taught me to be a warrior. —Chris replies as he remembers his last four years training tirelessly—My second teacher taught me martial arts, always emphasizing me to follow the flow of the wind.

—«Four years? It seems as if his body has trained for decades and considering how young he is, he’s brimming with life force, he is more terrifying than those creatures of the night. » —Xian Tao thinks as she observes Chris very closely—«If he gets to dig up the secrets of ki, he will be unstoppable, a real monster. »

 

Having trained for days without much rest, without his instructor practicing what he learned until he does it instinctively, she gives him the go-ahead that he has managed to "perceive" the ki, barely, but he is still far from "using it" and Chris runs away to register first thing in the morning of the competition. His companions are surprised to see him made a mess, not even the clothes were neat and immediately Tsubaki takes him to the bathrooms of the Colosseum to clean up and give a good first impression.

 

The hot waters relax his worn muscles, and, in the meantime, the playoffs begin. Due to the alarming number of participants, it was decided to divide them into blocks of 100 people and the winners shall clash in duels 1 against 1 until they reach the top. Chris, Guilian and Tsubaki were in different blocks among the 8 in total. Another rule is that participants are not allowed to watch the other bouts, even in the playoffs.

 

Having just started the bath, Chris does not worry about being late because his block is the last one and then, a huge tremor is felt throughout the structure, even brisk Chris' skin while drying his hair. Battle royale of the first block, the whole public was speechless to witness a crushing victory, just after a couple of minutes the field was burned, and all the adepts were in terrible conditions while a man stood up with an expression that says "not worth my time" in all the face.

 

The presenter announces the first victory of the playoffs, the man with black hair, clothes from the East and an ironic look that would freeze the blood of any experienced warrior, according to his inscription form, by the data entered, is shouted to the four winds: Fire Adept, one of the Six Lords, Fist of Dragon Ryuken.

 

All people start to get out of control knowing that one of the six most powerful adepts in the world, both individually and collectively, is right in the center with the intention of fighting. Immediately the bugles sound everywhere with a characteristic tune, the queen, Alice Heinburn XVI, addresses a few words:

 

—If he had wanted to do destruction like Volt he simply would have done, but even now he followed the rules of the tournament and abides by the code of the warriors, so his intentions I recognize as not hostile. Right now, he is just a warrior in search of a worthy opponent. —the queen's voice reached all her subjects, who have calmed down a little.

—«That woman, gives me a bad feeling. Her inner flame is unusual, as if it were not even human; and her voice makes me sick, it gave me a bad vibe when going through my body, something hidden. » —Ryuken analyzes when he looks at the queen from the center of the arena.

 

And with that, the people are left speculating while that man is guided to his dressing room to wait for his next fight.

 

Twenty minutes later the winner of the second block is announced, and the people are thrilled, Alexander of the Whirlwind, disciple of Faust, one of the six Imperial Generals. Unlike the previous participant, this one had a good reputation for the inhabitants of a kingdom that is allied to the Empire. The repair of the Arena is carried out and immediately the battle of the third block begins.

 

The battle royale begins and immediately a hurricane of explosions is released, Guilian, after training for weeks the destructive power of his flaming fists, developed his technique of compressing flames and releasing them with each blow. His body of chunky complexion allows him to withstand the force of explosions and after so much training his body was strengthened in addition to his elemental power.

 

Blow after blow, the opponents' attacks are swept away by him, and a second blow is enough to knock out every adept who dares to attack him. Most adepts do not train their bodies, so Guilian's attacks of great destructive power are enough to render their attacks and attempts to defend themselves irrelevant. The crowd cheers as Guilian defeats an adept every 5 seconds and after half an hour there are only two participants left against him, in an allied attempt to beat him.

 

They combine their attacks, a large rock shoots out and is engulfed in flames, and Guilian, while anyone would think of dodging the powerful attack, decides to jump directly at the front. He concentrates his power, his fists are engulfed in very intense flames, and he strikes a double blow, pulverizing the rock and debris shooting out with enough force to hurt the last adepts. People scream excitedly at a frenzy where they didn't even have time to take a breath because of the excitement.

 

40 minutes later the fight of the fourth block ends and the fourth participant rises, Senna de las Rosas, the right hand of Selenne, one of the Six Lords, of the nation of Freia. Gracefully, this beautiful woman defeated all her opponents with roses growing from her body. The men in particular were ecstatic to celebrate their victory.

 

Then, the start of the fifth block takes place, Tsubaki enters the arena with a bit of nervousness, but she remains calm as best she can and remembers the hunt she did with Chris and Guilian, in addition to her training in the Vodheim fields. And so, begins the next combat, she quickly slips through the crowd as if she were running through the forest of the elves, dodging the attacks that crosses her path by perceiving the aromas and knocking out each adept jumping on them as if they were tree trunks.

 

It is after about twenty defeats when adepts gather to work as a team and defeat her, but she decides to stay close to them, makes them attack each other and even use their attacks to maneuver in the air. The tension rises between the participants, and they begin to attack rampantly and all she has to do is keep dodging and get closer to those who will receive the attacks for her.

 

When there is only one left, 10 meters from her, while she is in the air, he throws a fireball at her and then, she makes a maneuver, throws a kick and the wind shoots out like a fine line, cutting the flames and gaining heat, giving the opponent directly and obtaining a crushing victory. She gets the applause of all the people and begins to feel a little embarrassed and quickly withdraws.

 

Viewers are fascinated by the rookie who has just made herself known, as Tsubaki retreats to her dressing room she can hear people's voices praising her for her victory.

—«My training was not in vain. » —Tsubaki thinks, crying with joy as she moves through the corridors.

 

20 minutes later the fight of the sixth block ends, a mysterious Water adept, Pierre, won easily dodging all attacks and firing pressurized water, knocking out the few that remained in the last minutes. That young man did not have any kind of document, identification or affiliation with any nation, in addition to a battle without much noise, the public did not celebrate him like the rest, but they recognized his abilities.

 

Just after 10 minutes the combat of the seventh block ends, who rises with the victory is Morgan the Skull Crusher, one of the commanders of Volt's army, one of the Six Lords. His powerful technique of hardening the earth allows him to attack and defend himself at the same time and as a distinctive mark of his fights he always aims to crush the heads of his enemies. Once again, the audience is somewhat uncomfortable with the appearance of another... wild character.

 

And at last, it was time for the eighth block combat, everyone enters the arena and receives the ovations of the people. Chris, in the middle of the crowd, starts to contemplate how big the place is, how small the people look being in the center, the deafening sound of the crowd excited by the expectations they have for the result. He can't help but let out a smirk, a small smile after feeling in his body how the blood begins to boil from the pressure that is felt around him.

 

Takes a deep breath and the signal sounds, the combat begins. Someone attacks him from behind and ducks, some small rocks fall into his hair, and he immediately realizes that it was an Earth adept, jumps with his legs and flies over a few individuals and finds the person responsible, lands in his face with a kick, leaving him unconscious.

 

Everyone is too busy fighting each other to pay attention to him until various attacks from different directions begin to arrive, fireballs, compressed water shots, rocks the size of his head, some enemies wanted to attack him thinking he was clueless. Then Chris takes about three steps back and to the right and at a normal pace, without hurry, and each attack passes almost reaching his body.

 

People begin to pay attention after the rumble of the surprise attack, and the announcer begins to talk about the center of the commotion, Chris spends it hitting each opponent and dodging all attacks, even those that come from his blind spot, always attacks those who launch attacks at him, only in response. The audience gets excited, but at the same time there is starting to be restlessness, they are not seeing any kind of power in Chris.

 

He is not increasing his strength; he hits them with his normal strength and nothing else. The participants begin to make it the center of their attacks and another massacre begins. Blow after blow, Chris knocks everyone out with minimal and necessary force and ensures that the fallen do not receive collateral damage. He doesn't want the attacks that target him to hurt them if they've already been defeated.

 

In the stands, Hanna is stunned to watch Chris' combat, suddenly feels a small pulse and sees Chris react at the same time to dodge another attack from behind. She can't help but begin to feel doubts about what she is literally feeling.

 

Having passed just over 10 minutes there are no more than ten participants including Chris, they are all with chaotic breathing and he is calm like a fisherman in a river on a summer day. Hanna senses the pulse going through her body again and Chris leaps on one of his opponents.

 

He dodges the attacks while cutting the distance between them and passes right next to him, Chris stands on the wall of the arena and then everyone realizes what is happening, Chris has in a single straight line all the opponents and begins to feel a great pressure for an instant.

 

Chris shoots out after jumping off the wall and rams everyone in one move. Then, a silence begins throughout the place and as quickly as it arrived the cries for his victory begin. Everyone is impressed to have won the playoffs without even using his powers. He decides to go to his dressing room to mentalize for the next round and is guided by the event staff.

 

Once inside, he cools off with water and Hanna enters the room to congratulate him, telling him the results of Tsubaki and Guilian and they begin to talk about their fight. He did not use his powers as a form of testing, he wanted to know how much he managed to learn from his intensive training on ki.

 

According to the old lady Xian Tao, ki, the energy of the body, is an essential part not only of life, but of everything in the world. In animals it can be observed that they have heightened senses due to the environment in which they live, but still demonstrate a kind of instinct that makes them avoid danger, they are closer to perceiving ki.

 

In the same way that insects become restless one day and soon storms or earthquakes happen, Chris tested his perception of ki to avoid attacks, because those who threw at him were of material element, not elemental power.

 

Hanna is a little confused by the last part in his explanation. Chris realizing this decides to explain a little how the bases of the adepts work:

 

—Elemental power lies in the soul, we control it with emotions and thought, it is precisely the elemental power that gives us control over an element. —explains Chris, recalling his training in the temple—Hanna, you generate fire by concentrating elemental power in the air and causing combustion. Once turned into fire, it ends up under your control and from there you decide the course of action.

 

She is somewhat thoughtful with that explanation, she did understand it, but another question jumps, how does Chris increase his strength? The answer is simple and explains it even more simply. He uses his own elemental power to propel his body, the greater elemental power he concentrates on one limb, the greater the increase in his strength.

 

All that is possible thanks to the training he had with his teacher, trained his body, got to know it thoroughly, formed discipline and concentration until he was able to control his body to such extremes. There is "earth" inside the body, minerals and metals, so he managed to add his elemental power, which comes from the soul, with his body, combining his abilities up to that point.

 

Without realizing it, because of the long conversation, the break ends, and the individual rounds begin. Hanna retires for Chris to rest and prepare, but halfway through she remembers asking him about the "pulse" she felt during their fight but decides to postpone it until the tournament is over.

 

The classification is over, and the branching of the fights is shown: the first fight is Fist of Dragon Ryuken against Alexander of the Whirlwind, the second is Guilian against Senna of the Roses, as third Tsubaki against Pierre and, finally, Chris against Morgan.

 

On the outskirts, inside the blacksmith shop, the old lady Xian Tao can't help but feel that the pressure in the surroundings begins to increase and decides to take her grandson with her away from the city with the excuse of having a bad feeling, something that worries her to the bone.

 








Chapter 10 – First Round

 

Clear sky, the Sun rises at noon, the fresh wind gives the area the perfect environment to be outdoors while witnessing the fights in the Arena, as an opening ceremony to the rounds 1 against 1 all the competitors in the center are presented to start the four initial fights.

 

Chris, Tsubaki and Guilian can't help but stare at each other with the thought of facing two of them in the finals and checking the results of their trainings. However, without giving many indications, the other competitors observe each other to analyze the others who are famous, in order to make strategies in advance and be able to finish quickly with the combats.

 

Ryuken, in a totally immutable way, never opens his eyes, he remains totally immobile and without the need to analyze the situation. Hanna, from the audience, begins to feel a strange sensation in the body, it is not tension, it is not the "pulse", it is not unpleasant, but it does not feel good either, despite this, it feels that there is something that does not add up. She begins to observe the surroundings, but finds nothing peculiar, except for the center of the Arena, almost imperceptibly Ryuken gives a small glimpse at something.

 

That leaves her intrigued, so she decides to try to discover the goal of such an action and realizes that it was Chris, and she realizes that he is also on alert and after a few seconds she turns to observe Ryuken, as if there is "something" between them. He begins to feel a pressure again, this time Tsubaki and Guilian begin to feel it because they keep watching Chris on alert.

 

It's just a presentation, but they can't help but feel the danger. After a few minutes, Queen Alice gives a speech on how the adepts have become in recent centuries one of the greatest forces in the world, how nations have begun to unify and how the world is transforming into a peaceful one due to the efforts of the leaders of both human and adepts kingdoms.

 

Once the speech is over and a few minutes of emotional applause, all the participants return to their rooms and begin preparations for the first fight. Ryuken and Alexander go out to the field from opposite points, the whole Arena is silent as they observe that the fight is about to begin, the tension in the air is overwhelming and the signal sounds, the fight begins.

 

Alexander throws whirlwinds from his arms and Ryuken dodges them minimally, barely moved his body, but Alexander decides to increase the pace, begins to launch more attacks, more often and bigger and Ryuken continues to dodge them while taking steps to approach. People are stunned to see that Ryuken shows no sign of difficulty and is now only 5 meters away from his opponent.

 

That’s when Alexander, totally desperate, decides to take his ace out of the sleeve, begins to form whirlwinds in both arms and Ryuken starts to feel that the air begins to become lighter, the whirlwinds shoot out with great power and speed, spinning in opposite directions, these cause between them a vacuum chamber where its walls have wind loaded with dust traveling at high speeds, crushing everything in its path. Ryuken moves at high speed to dodge it but ends up receiving a little damage to his clothes, the vacuum chamber ends up suctioning the target with great efficiency to be crushed, his maneuver must have been quite powerful to have been practically unharmed.

 

Alexander recharges to use his technique and Ryuken begins to get into position, the tension is felt in the air as his gaze gathers concentration. The whirlwinds come out even bigger and then, Ryuken disappears into them. He received them fully and everyone is impressed to see that there was absolutely nothing left.

 

But something is not right, Alexander begins to fail breathing, that’s when a voice sounds near his ear:

—You're still a newbie if you get carried away by appearances. Your attack certainly is easily deadly and of great power, but it is of no use if it is directed at a mirage. —Ryuken is right in front of Alexander, who is barely standing with a frantic breath.

 

Ryuken heated the air imperceptibly and created a mirage in his position to serve as a decoy while taking a safe route. Alexander's breathing is failing because of how hot the air he inhales is, he can't help but fall to the ground, and as he loses consciousness, he sees how Ryuken just stays watching him, defeating him without even touching him or setting any fire.

 

—«I couldn't even touch it; this is the level of a Lord? It's a monster, I will never reach your level, Master Faust, I have failed you. » —thinks Alexander as he loses consciousness.

 

The fight is over in less than 5 minutes and Alexander is quickly taken to the medical ward. As Ryuken heads out of the Arena he quietly pronounces how pathetic he is like an Air adept, for he didn't even notice the change in the air around him.

 

Hanna watched Ryuken's combat, ended up fascinated by the skill of the man from the East, but at the same time worried that at least one of her friends is going to confront him. She can't find a way to defeat him because of what she knows about her fellow travelers.

 

Being immersed in her thoughts, Hanna realizes that the repairs of the sand have finished and the participants of the second confrontation are already entering. Guilian never tires of greeting the audience, he loves the attention and support after all his practice matches last week.

 

Senna enters the stage; the men acclaim her for her beauty and even throw flowers at her on her way to her opponent. She walks the path of roses, but never steps on a single flower, instead, she looks at them with disappointment.

 

—«Fools, they were all alive and happy where they were. They didn't have to kill them just to do something so useless. » —Senna can only contain her outrage until the confrontation begins.

 

The signal sounds and immediately the second fight begins, Guilian against Senna, Guilian keeps watching her, absorbed by the beautiful woman he has right in front of him. She can't help but feel some discomfort and makes no qualms about stating how he makes her feel. Senna, at only 17 years old, has climbed positions within the military force of Freia to always be at the side of Selenne, who is her idol.

 

Senna opens her mantle, discovering her body and the thorny stems of crimson roses that characterize her so much come out. Guilian tries to dodge the surprisingly fast attack, but receives some scratches on his left forearm, then he jumps on her, burning the thorns with a series of punches.

 

He harnesses the force of each explosion to roll back his arm and releases the fire backwards by fully loading the fire for the next explosion, resulting in a series of high-speed punches. Guilian manages to get close enough to Senna and stops his last blow just by rubbing her face, tells her in a calm voice that he wants to avoid hurting a woman with his fire, especially one as beautiful as her, and she lowers her thorns.

 

Just as Guilian lowers his arm and puts out his flames, thorns come out of the ground under him and, barely reacting in time, manages to avoid a fatal wound, leaving him injured in the abdomen and part of his face. Senna, with a sadistic look, reveals that she enjoys torturing men, because they seem to her disgusting, she does not want his chivalry and if he continues, she will not hesitate to take his life for belittling her power.

 

Thorns begin to come out of the entire battlefield and launches towards him, barely maneuvering thanks to the fire in his fists, Guilian walks away and burns all the plants that are directed at him. But Senna never took a single step, he is still in the same position and does not even turn to see him.

 

Guilian decides to gamble, the answer comes to light when you face adversity. He, again, throws himself directly at Senna, while dodging the thorns and burning them again and again. He prepares his fists of fire and throws a large explosion at her, but she covered herself with thorns coming out just below her, forming a thick wall. But Guilian had only begun, for he immediately releases another explosion and another and another, until there are no vines left.

 

He launches one last explosion, hitting Senna hard, throwing her a few meters and as the smoke and dust dissipates, her naked body to be seen. Guilian managed to discover the secret of her thorns, Senna's clothes were covered with rose seeds, which he grew with his elemental power of Earth and controlled them with it.

 

As she ran away to her room, embarrassed, Guilian is declared victorious at the cost of his reputation for stripping a girl naked in front of hundreds of people. That day would be condemned by all women, not only of the kingdom of Heinburn, but of the world, but applauded by men. Inside his dressing room, Chris can't help but feel the different emotions within the scandal outside.

—They must be having a lot of fun out there to make so much noise. —he says loudly to himself as he prepares.

 

The holes in the sand soil were filled in and the flowers from the previous combat were collected. The next opponents enter, Tsubaki is full of confidence and greets her friend Hanna in the stands. Pierre enters calmly, as if he were at home, that gives the Air adept some uncertainty.

 

The third fight begins, Tsubaki against Pierre, she stays watching him carefully before making her first move. Everything in him is strange, no intention is perceived, neither of attack nor of defense, he is only completely inert, calm, serene. It gives a feeling that leaves her uncomfortable for not matching the circumstances.

 

She throws a series of slashing wind attacks at him and dodges them all, moving unnaturally. It's as if he's dancing, jumps back and forth and dodges each and every attack without making any effort and she can't help but shorten the distance to try to strike a simple attack.

 

She begins to move at high speed with the help of the wind, drives her every movement and attacks with a sharp wind in her limbs, attacks him from all angles, but dodges everything and while doing so, imperceptibly, ends up causing her cuts in some areas of arms and legs.

 

She can't figure out how he could do it, Hanna begins to worry about her condition and yells at her from the audience to observe the pattern of her movements, not his but hers. Tsubaki does not remain calm and rushes, she begins to run around Pierre and raises a cloud of dust, leaving him without much visual field. She attacks again in a non-frontal way and dodges him again.

 

As soon as she takes his first step after his last attack, she loses his balance and notices that her heel was also hurt, meanwhile, Pierre begins to approach with great confidence, as if he had won the fight. She decides to throw herself head-on and attacks from both sides, with both arms and Pierre launches his counterattack.

 

His hands are covered with water flowing at high speed, as if it were a stream circulating throughout the extension of the palms of his hands. His water stream follows the flow of Tsubaki's wind and destroys both attacks, grabs her hands and takes her as if they were dancing, she can't help but feel embarrassed for having been manipulated so easily, Pierre asks her to give up, and she agrees.

 

Unlike Guilian, Pierre ends up winning the hearts of women by being so gentlemanly and elegant, and the men in the audience boo him for it. He leaves with a face of satisfaction at the reaction of the public while Tsubaki dies of shame for his defeat, as well as feeling strange after the final attack.

 

As she retires to the medical ward she meets Chris on her way to the Arena, she lets him know about her defeat and his curiosity rises. That Pierre avoided her fast and difficult-to-see attacks because the wind is not visible, is the dangerous thing in addition to his cutting ability.

 

Morgan enters the arena, and the spectators remain silent, they do not know whether to boo him for his well-deserved reputation or throw objects at him because of his hostile nature. Then Chris comes to light, and everyone sends him support to defeat the barbarian.

 

The last battle begins, Morgan against Chris, his earth hardening ability allows him to attack with spikes and Chris dodges them feeling the vibrations of the earth, by perceiving the ki he can identify which zones he is hardening and predict his exit trajectory. As the entire Arena is filled with peaks Chris decides to start attacking and realizes that super hardened peaks come out of the peaks already out, in addition to starting to turn so they are no longer vertical attacks, but horizontal from all sides.

 

Morgan's strategy paid off, he can't move freely and he's not safe in one place either. Chris can only dodge the spikes that come out around him and makes his way straight to his opponent, jumps over the spikes and propels himself by kicking the tips from the sides, falling straight up on Morgan.

 

Being exactly above him, Morgan cannot see him in the sunlight and kicks him directly in the face, causing the beaks to stop coming out and turning, as he lost concentration to keep his ability active. Chris grabs his skull and with his strength begins to squeeze him until he begins to scream in pain, saying loudly that for people like him the adepts get a bad name.

 

Once he begins to bleed from his nose and ears, with no sign of remaining conscious, Chris is declared victorious, and the audience hails him for subduing such a powerful barbarian. And he still didn't get to use his elemental power, which makes him increasingly popular in the competition.

 

The results of the first round are set and the contests that follow are shown, the semifinals will be Ryuken against Guilian and Pierre against Chris. Hanna can't help but worry about the battles becoming bloodier and bloodier and decides to visit them in their rooms.

 

First, she decided to go see Tsubaki in the medical ward, they have already treated her wounds that were quite superficial and will not leave any scar. She is frustrated that she has shown ineptitude, but Hanna encourages her to use that experience to grow more. Just a few meters away she manages to see that Guilian went through a more serious treatment, because his wounds were close to being deadly, nothing that the healing wizards who came from the Empire cannot treat.

 

With Guilian, she sees how focused she is, as he is about to face one of the Six Lords and talks a little with him to help him calm down. With Chris, he just stays thoughtful, he is somewhat dismayed by what Tsubaki could know about Pierre, that he is so strange is what makes him so dangerous in combat.

 

She can't tell him much more because she didn't get much information from his perspective, but she can tell him about the other matches and he is glad for Guilian, who has come as far as he has and has a lot of desire to face him in the finals. In a sense, the two of them always competed with the power of their fists.

 

The rest between rounds ends up being one hour and in that time the Arena undergoes a few modifications, the floor was separated from the walls, leaving channels full of water and the Arena has less extension. The Colosseum has technology from the Empire that allows it to modify the terrain at its discretion.

 

With all the people gathered, ringing the excitement throughout the kingdom, the two competitors of the first semi-final battle, Ryuken and Guilian, come out. Hanna and Tsubaki, from the audience, send him support, each in their own way. Smiling, Guilian begins the battle of his life.

 








Chapter 11 – The Semi-Finals (Part 1)

 

Guilian, 19 years old, a tall, strong young man, eyes full of that spark called courage, but he was not always someone like that, "We are the result of our whole journey, each of the steps taken and still to be taken defines us." Although he never talked about important things about his past with his traveling friends, we will dig into his story.

 

Village of Veiru,6 years before the tournament, in one of the houses there was a young Guilian still asleep almost past noon. His grandmother wakes him up by throwing a few blows to his face with her broom as old as she is, with his five senses recovered in a single instant he realizes that he fell asleep for quite some time because of his special regimen of night exercise.

 

He runs out in the direction of the fields to help his father and grandfather and almost bumps into his mother at the door and outside the house with his 2 little sisters but dodges them in a hurry and shoots out for his colossal delay. While he is focused on running, his entire family sees him with smiles on their faces as they see him full of energy and vitality.

 

It is at this time that, as is evident, Guilian was a carefree young man, all the discipline in his life was due to his older relatives, because being the only son of the family in a farming community, he had the responsibility of carrying the family farm in the shortly distant future. Because of his younger sisters, he developed a sense of buffoonery to amuse them, and it was those moments that he enjoyed most in his entire life, something that his parents and grandparents rejected him for not taking his instruction seriously.

 

It was precisely on this day, when his life was going to take a 180-degree turn, either by fate or by chance, that his world would end in just an instant. While he struggled to plow the land with his own body instead of using cattle for his delay, outsiders would arrive in his village.

 

All the villagers were a little skeptical at first, but the stories they told about the outside began to captivate them to the point of becoming very popular among the community. Guilian's grandfather was the most skeptical of all, he was always keeping an eye on them, especially with the harvest season almost knocking on the door.

 

During the night a marriage took place, the son of the village chief married and the whole community celebrated them. Guilian was, as usual, choking on the feast while everyone had a partner to dance to, eating his feelings while feeling betrayed by his friends with a partner.

 

Because of how late the end of the party was, the young children stayed to sleep in their homes while the older ones celebrated. As Guilian could hardly continue eating, he decided to go to sleep in his bed for a new day at work, the sermon of his father and grandfather actually reached to him that morning.

 

But there was something strange, there were signs of struggle at the door of his home, and the strange movement of the candle lights could be seen from the windows. Running without even giving a break, he entered his house and as he moved, he could see that everything was a mess. With the worst of his thoughts taking all space in his mind, he arrives at his sisters' room only to find the perpetrators.

 

Outsiders held his sisters captive as they searched for any valuable items, and he couldn't help but throw himself at them with great fury. But that only caused them to throw him with wind and water, those two were adepts. "Don't take it personally, we just wanted something to sell to survive. We will settle for selling them as slaves." And they started laughing sadistically.

 

The anger was taken to exorbitant levels, so much so that he lost the notion of reality and by the time he regained his senses, he was outside his house totally covered in flames with his sisters behind him, watching the flames rise to the heavens. While he tries to know what had just happened, he realizes the reality, from his hands is coming fire and that’s when, in a totally unexpected way, the whole community is contemplating what he did.

 

His family is shocked because he is an adept and his little sisters have their eyes totally lost, what they have seen during his explosion of anger left them totally traumatized. That only "added fuel to the fire", because without knowing what really happened, everyone concluded that Guilian provoked it and began to attack him.

 

Shattered, Guilian rushes out of the village, and his hands keep being covered in flames. After a whole night of running, he manages to stop hearing the sounds of persecution and begins to understand what happened. His fury awakened his Fire power and set the house on fire, leaving the outsiders inside and by the expression in the gazes of his little sisters, he incinerated them before the house... in front of them.

 

Alone, with nowhere to go or return to, Guilian began to wander in the open until he reached a small town, where he worked for a few days until, unintentionally, his hands lit up again and attacked him as at home. And history repeated itself from town to town, over and over again, for years, until he learned to control his power.

 

It was his entire journey that made him forge the determination to use his power regardless of whether people rejected him, in order to save as many lives as he could, like his sisters. It is all these events that pass through Guilian's mind every time he uses his Fire power, they are his catalyst.

 

Back to the present, Guilian is face to face with Ryuken, they look each other in the eye, the tension can be felt in the air as everyone waits for the first fight of the semifinals to begin. It is precisely in this type of moment that the nerves make your senses sharpen to the point of being sensitive to anything, even the slightest variation can make you give a false move, the greatest psychological war.

 

However, Ryuken sees clearly that Guilian's gaze has not an inch of doubt, just as anyone is sure that the rain goes from top to bottom. A single word coming from Queen Alice's mouth is more than enough to cut through the deafening silence, "Start!" and the bell rings.

 

Guilian is propelled with explosions of both hands to throw himself directly at Ryuken and at the last moment he makes a third, flying over him, but Ryuken throws a kick from the ground to above his head, thanks to great flexibility and his foot ends up approaching Guilian’s face.

 

One more impulse and Guilian maneuvers to avoid the blow, turns and makes the first attack, throws an explosion from close, giving him directly. But once he lands a few meters away with the remaining momentum and the smoke dissipates, there is no sign of his formidable opponent.

 

—You have really worked on the development of your power. —Ryuken says calmly as he stands right behind him.

 

He barely manages to react and fires explosions in his direction, as Guilian's hands point at the target, no matter the position or posture, he can fire his explosions to attack and distance himself at the same time.

 

What Ryuken did was completely different from his previous match, Guilian can't help but simply lose sight of his opponent. He changes the strategy, his hands are covered in flames, and he begins the combat at close range, a very dangerous bet, but with no alternative.

 

He uses his explosions only to boost himself and try to launch quick and forceful attacks. Blow after blow, Ryuken dodges them all with little body movement, without even taking a step back at any time. Despite the wild attack, no attack is effective in the slightest.

 

—This will be more than enough. —is what Ryuken says with a few flames in his bare palm to make him ridiculous with himself.

 

Again, Ryuken dodges all of Guilian's fiery blows and puts his hand right on his face and releases the fire in a small but strong burst.

 

Guilian is left suffering on the ground from the damage to his face, he can't help but let go of his hurting voice, and tries to recover as quickly as possible, but it’s useless, he can't see clearly from the damage, no matter if it is permanent or not, but he is determined to keep fighting. His hands are engulfed in even more intense flames and the heat begins to be felt all over the battlefield.

 

From the audience, Hanna can't help but panic about seeing her friend suffer from the fire and with the possibility of being left with permanent damage like her. She screams at the top of her lungs that he doesn't have to go any further, that he please takes more care of his life than a silly competition and starts to break down in tears.

 

Tsubaki can't help but be affected by Hanna's condition and she screams next to her something totally opposite.

 

—Finish it at once! Get him off its cloud with blows! —Tsubaki shouts unexpectedly with an expression of concern.

 

Guilian can't help but smile at being irritated by the words of the girl he is always fighting with. Ryuken is somewhat surprised to see that his opponent has such composure, even in the deplorable state of his vision. Guilian goes straight on the attack and is getting closer and closer to even rubbing him. Combat performance is becoming more intense and accurate. Ryuken can't help but be forced to use more and more forces to "play" with his opponent.

 

How can Guilian be more accurate now than at the beginning? It's what everyone is wondering in their minds. Deprived of sight and by the "heat of the moment”, Guilian’s senses have been sharpened beyond the limit, his exercised body responds quite well to varied stimuli, including the heat of his own fire, by emitting large amounts of heat in his surroundings, Ryuken avoids being affected by it, leaving a defined form of lower temperature than the rest of the field.

 

Were it not for his body trained since childhood and the influence of his friends in being more perceptive and detailed, this kind of skill would never have awakened in him. As he approaches his target, he notices an unusual movement, refrains his last blow a bit and, in effect, manages to dodge Ryuken's second attack.

 

—I see that you have grown quite a bit in the short time of our confrontation. —is the praise he receives from Ryuken —What is your determination for? —it's the only valid question between two warriors crossing attacks.

—Of course, it’s my friends, but above all, my desire to return to my village with my family. I will gain fame and renown and be accepted back into my home. —Guilian responds honestly and openly, giving a smile to the two girls who support him from the stands.

 

The silence is immediate and after a few seconds it begins to feel how the atmosphere full of emotion changes to an ominous one in a few moments.

—Disgusting. Family? Being accepted again? You can't count on anyone except yourself. —says Ryuken with total disgust at that display of emotions.

 

An incredible power arises from Ryuken and in a single instant he is hit by a direct kick to the abdomen, leaving Guilian completely lying on the ground, unable to give any breath. Without giving him a chance to defend himself, Ryuken begins to beat Guilian with his hands outstretched, clearly with the intention of injuring him as much as possible without concluding the fight.

 

After a few minutes, Guilian is completely bloodied and covered in burns and the entire audience can't help but be intimidated by such an act of brutality. Hanna and Tsubaki do not stop screaming for their fallen friend and as a final touch Ryuken gives a flaming blow to Guilian's face to finish him off, falling into the water on the edge of the Arena.

 

The fight is over, Ryuken moves on to the final round and Guilian is rushed to the medical ward to at the very least save his life. The two friends do not hesitate to accompany him during the intensive treatment, while the call of the next semifinal match is sounded. Chris is on his way to the Arena as the healing team passes by him with his badly injured friend.

 

For a brief moment, Chris feels as if his heart has stopped beating and decides to go to the medical ward before the fight. The medical team does their best to heal his wounds while Guilian's friends can only watch the fight for his survival. Meanwhile, Tsubaki tells Chris what happened in detail.

 

The imperial wizards have tried their best to stop the internal bleeding, but Guilian calls Chris for a moment. He tries to say a few words despite his injuries, but he does not have enough strength. Chris takes Guilian's hand and for a brief moment Hanna feels the pulse through her body.

 

Guilian loses consciousness and the healing team begins treatment again with alarming urgency as Chris heads to the Arena, without even looking back. The only thing that goes through Chris' mind are Guilian's memories, their souls were connected by the heat of the moment and Chris could see his friend's memories.

 

He has felt his pain, despair, anguish, all from having his dreams trampled on by a stranger, he can't help but feel something inside him ignite with great intensity, but he must remain calm for now and concentrate on what is in front of him. Chris arrives at the Arena and meets his opponent, Pierre.

 

—I'm sorry, I really wanted to enjoy the tournament and get on my way no matter the result, but now I can't even stop thinking about winning this fight and going to the final. My friend will never rest in peace if I don't give him a lesson. —with an extremely bitter feeling and a look full of cold and repressed anger, Chris begins the second semifinal match.

 








Chapter 12 – The Semi-Finals (Part 2)

 

The wind blows as the opponents wait for the signal, despite everything that invades Chris' mind, he has only one thing clear: to reach the final and avenge his friend. Pierre can't help but be surprised by the words his opponent said, but it's not time for an emotional chat.

 

The bugle sounds all over the place and as exciting as all the previous fights have been, neither of them takes the first step yet. Chris remains completely static, the information he received from Tsubaki and Hanna about him makes Chris cautious, while Pierre continues with his atmosphere full of mystery.

 

The tension increases so much that the audience begins to feel short of breath, and then, Chris takes a pose he has used before, prepares his body and throws a punch into the air. The same pressured-air punch he used against the salamander is perfect for attacking while keeping his distance. Pierre can't help but be forced to dodge, but it's too late, Chris has disappeared from his sight.

 

—Never start a fight you can't win, prepare your strategies before you even take the first step and never use your best cards until the end. —are the words his teacher taught Chris while training him with.

 

Despite having incredible strength if he sets his mind to it, Chris always tries to avoid using all his power, as he understands how easily elemental powers can cause death to other people.

 

Distraction and disappearance are basic elements to destabilize the enemy's mind, but Pierre remains calm, no matter what happens, no matter what his opponent does or when, he maintains composure. Right between his feet the earth begins to climb, and Chris comes out quickly with his fist covered with dirt up to his elbow.

 

As Chris expected, Pierre "reacted" to his strategy and uses his water stream to destroy the earth that covers his hand. The speed of his water is impressive, as it almost instantly destroys most of his improvised protection, but before reaching the skin Chris raises a wall between the two, deflecting his arm and pushing him back.

 

It is the first time in the entire tournament that even something touched Pierre, also to push him back. Preparing a defense in case your attack fails sounds logical and sensible, but it's something that no one really considers. "You do this, and then what?" The less you leave to chance, the better.

 

As the two analyze the "greetings" they just exchanged, Chris can't help but highlight that he didn't perceive Pierre's movements, what good was his training? How does his ki manage to be imperceptible? "The answer is always in plain sight; you just have to change your perspective." They are the words he remembers whenever he doesn't understand something at the first opportunity.

 

Immediately, Chris sets out to cut the distance, increases his strength more and more, and just as he takes his last step before being one arm away from Pierre, he throws another blow of air, and another, and another, consecutively, without any pause. The pressurized air is shot in a concentrated way by the combination of movements in an attempt to hit his target, but he dodges them anyway.

 

His movements are very strange, despite how violent the series of attacks is, he moves with great tranquility and harmony, as if he were dancing without a single worry in this world. Chris does not sit idly by, he pays special attention to Pierre's movements, not with the ki, but with the sight.

 

He knows exactly the trajectory of the air from his blows, so he can know where his "projectiles" are and how he dodges them. Habits, movement patterns, analysis and prediction, the more you use the mind to analyze information the more you prioritize using the head instead of the body.

 

Chris was distracted, he was paying so much attention to Pierre's movements that he didn't notice how the distance was shrinking between the two of them. Pierre's hand passes almost rubbing against his cheek and leaves him with a series of cuts, barely the area turned red from losing a thin layer of skin.

 

A small opportunity, with so little distance between them it is impossible not to deal him a blow. However, it was too big and risky, Chris tries to hit him with air on the head and abdomen, but Pierre backs up and dodges both attacks.

 

A small pebble on the ground trips Pierre, causing him to lose his balance and Chris immediately rushes to give him a direct blow, but Pierre has a face of "I got you". As he falls, Pierre lifts one of his feet and covers it with his stream, hitting it directly on the left side.

 

The momentum from the kick is enough for Pierre to fall to his feet as Chris tries to endure the pain he feels from even trying to breathe. If his wound is not treated within minutes, his life may be in danger.

 

—«Don't lose your cool, a single moment can make you lose more than the fight. » —Chris tells himself as he tries to recover from the damage.

 

Chris barely manages to stand up and tries to regulate his breathing rhythm, yes, that same breathing he taught Hanna at the campfire. Each breath with a big breath of air, not paying attention to the intense pain, just watching it fade away. It is not that you stop feeling pain, but by controlling your breathing you can create intervals of lack and great oxygenation.

 

The head begins to spin, his heartbeat begins to fade, but the pain is successfully mitigated, allowing Chris to begin to clear his mind. Yes, he has the fervent desire to reach the final, but sometimes being too cautious can close the door to an opportunity. It's at times like this, when people start remembering seemingly random things.

 

Yamamoto Temple, five years ago, on a sunny spring day the breeze is filled with the smell of pollen from many flowers. Chris, with 16 years, is practicing with mud from a small lake to try to squeeze the water, without much success he barely manages to make it move as he wants a part of the mound, the rest shooting out everywhere and his face covered as if he had gone to a spa.

 

Discouraged, he remains thoughtful as he contemplates the ripples in the water next to the sound of tree leaves. A woman's voice sounds from behind, among the trees:

—Why the long face? —says a beautiful woman who appears with a kind smile and eyes with a strange glow, as if she were contemplating a pair of precious gems.

 

Everything is strange in that woman; she has a strange air that makes the calm overwhelming. She is right in front of him, and at the same time it is as if she does not exist, and despite this, she continues to speak to him. With a strange sense of personal space, the strange woman suddenly stands right next to Chris as she sees the mess with the mud.

 

With a lot of shame Chris ends up admitting that he can't control the mud well and doesn't do what he wants. He ends up resigning himself to moving dry land and is embarrassed lying on the shore of the lake.

—But mud is easier to move than dry land, it is soft, versatile and you can give it freer and more aesthetic shapes. You can even make beautiful sculptures with mud. —the strange woman interrupts him in a cutting way.

 

Chris ends up screaming, admitting that he doesn't control the earth well and tries to leave, but the woman takes his hand and holds him very tightly.

 

—Do not try to escape so soon, you can do it now, but sooner or later you must take the reins and achieve it. —the strange woman's words dig straight inside Chris, as if stabbing him straight to the heart, but without feeling any pain.

 

As if something inside him were taking hold of him, the woman takes him back to the mud to try again.

 

—Grab mud with your hands. —says the woman, something simple that anyone can do and Chris listens to her —Squeeze your hands tightly. — she says immediately and Chris replies saying that he knows the mud will fly out and the woman forces him to do it.

 

With mud all over his face, Chris asks what the point is to end up the same way.

 

—The answer is at first glance; you just have to change your perspective. —says the woman as she puts more mud in Chris’ hands and guides them, taking on an increasingly defined shape, until she becomes a bird.

 

He is fascinated with the detail with which it is made, it is small, and he feels how fragile it is.

 

Once cleaned, the woman proposes a challenge to Chris, to try to catch a tree leaf. She climbs a tree, tears off a leaf and releases it, he tries to grab it and slips out of his fingers at the last moment. It seems simple, but there's so much more to it than just grabbing it. Hours pass, he tries to grab the same leaf over and over again without any success and his fingers extremely tired.

 

Returning to the present, he begins to remember the tiredness of that particular day, he feels the same, despite having forgotten it for so long, Chris manages to recognize the situation. He remembers all the frustration he felt at being eluded by a simple leaf, but he begins to understand one thing, the simplicity of the leaf floating in the air.

 

Chris’ mind begins to plunge into darkness, the sound of the audience fades until there is no trace left. Realizing too late, he comprehends that everything around him has disappeared, there is absolutely nothing in the world, there is only him. But he does not despair, on the contrary, it seems as if there is not a single concern in its entire existence.

 

Despite his unfortunate goal, at that very moment, Chris, for the first time in his life, is at peace. The ki is calm, serene, as if he were water from a puddle, without waves that disturb it. He has stopped feeling, thinking, it's just that leaf soaring the wind in his hands that day.

 

His body moves without even reacting, despite perceiving absolutely nothing, within a non-existent world, he records in his mind the sensation of not feeling anything, the sensation of his body moving without having to react, only action, without apparent cause. He opens his eyes and to his surprise, there is Pierre right in front of him, short of breath.

 

As it seems, while he was in that trance, without knowing it, Chris was dodging Pierre's attacks until he was a little tired. Even if he tries, it is certain that Chris will not be able to repeat that feat on that occasion, so he decides to leave it for after the tournament.

 

—Who are you? You are an Earth adept, your technique makes you control the air, you have an internal fire about to explode and, above all, you moved like water. —declares Pierre completely surprised.

 

That confirms it, the reason why Chris could not perceive Pierre's ki was because he "moved like water”, letting himself be carried away by the current, Pierre becomes imperceptible because he becomes one with the environment in motion, being the river that guides him.

 

Pierre's condition is not optimal, and Chris cannot repeat that state, so he must take advantage of the situation and circumstances to end the fight immediately, he is beginning to feel that his body does not react due to the loss of blood.

 

—Why don't you try to attack me? It never hurts to try your luck, maybe you'll finally get it right. —a provocation, that's more than enough for Pierre to lose his cool.

 

Taking the bait, Pierre begins to lose his character, he feels angry, but Chris can see that his spirit begins to ignite. The water surrounding the Arena begins to gather in his arms, he has accepted the challenge. A direct clash is what will determine the outcome. With effort, Chris increases the strength of his wound muscles enough to stop the bleeding as much as he can, despite the constant stabbing pain.

 

Chris begins to concentrate his elemental power, he remembers that day, how he witnessed the birth of that little mud bird. How much he trained to be able to mold the earth efficiently, how many months he was trying, leaving his face covered with mud.

 

Chris begins to smile, the spirits of both participants begin to ignite like burning flames, waiting to see which of the two emerge victorious. That strange desire to fight and win, something he hadn't felt in a long time, something that feels addictive, Chris can't help but get carried away for the time being.

 

Pierre runs out at high speed amassing large amounts of water in his hands, Chris puts his hands on the ground and a large number of compressed earth walls begin to emerge, one after the other, pushing each other. Their forms are arranged in such a way that they appear to be a single barrier becoming thicker and thicker.

 

The water finishes forming, the stream completely envelops Pierre, turning into a vortex of water. The sound of the stream is enough to tell that it is more powerful and cutting than before. Pierre collides with the earth wall, smashing the walls one by one as if nothing had happened.

 

The debris begins to shoot out and leaves a trail of dust around, until Pierre destroys the last wall and arrives in front of Chris, who did not move from his position at any time because of the amount of concentration he needed.

 

Just as Pierre is one step away from touching Chris with his current... Fwoooooshhh!!! All the water he gathered dissipated in an instant, Pierre is stunned by what happened, and Chris throws a punch at him.

 

That last second begins to become eternal, Pierre realizes what happened, he did not lose control of the water, Chris took it away. The earth of the walls mixed with the water of his stream and destroyed the flow that kept the water together and moving.

 

Pierre decides to dodge Chris’ blow but realizes that his body does not respond as he wants. The earth was not only in the water, but it also reached his body. Pierre has his body covered with dirt and does not allow him to dodge at ease.

 

Pierre takes Chris' blow to the face, with enough force to resonate throughout the Colosseum. A single punch, just what Chris needed to knock out his opponent, but his skills made the fight very complicated for him. The fight is over, Chris reaches the final round.

 








Chapter 13 – Final Contest

 

Chris has been in his room for almost an hour, receiving medical treatment from the imperial wizards, although he wants to ask about Guilian, he knows that it is not the right time. He must concentrate on his next opponent, Fist of Dragon Ryuken.

 

The diagnosis is not very favorable, may his wounds have been completely healed, but if Chris receives enough damage they will reopen, he lost a lot of blood and is advised not to move on, his life is already in danger in his current conditions. But that's not enough to overlook what happened.

 

Hanna returns to her seat in the stands, what she has felt lately has been more and more intense, and she can't feel calm. She contemplates how excited the audience is for the final round to begin.

 

The preparations during the break are according to the height of the competition, the drums greet Ryuken as he walks towards the Arena. He is waiting for his next match as if it meant nothing, while in the distance a gloomy figure is seen in the hallway, Chris comes out into the light of day.

 

Hanna can't help but see Chris’ gaze full of determination, she is not full of anger, only conviction in reaching the goal, victory. The fight he had against Pierre taught him a lesson, anger will not be enough to win the final, he must overcome any obstacle that comes his way to rise victorious.

 

The audience is completely silent, the tension increases too much, Queen Alice can't help but watch the two warriors fight with only their presences, at least until she gives the signal. Barely hiding the trembling of her hand by nervousness she begins the final fight.

 

Chris goes straight to his opponent, kicks his upper body and is stopped with an effective block. Both have experience in martial arts, kick against kick, deflected punch and counterattack, each action is effectively stopped against each other.

 

With only a few seconds since the battle began, there have already been at least 30 attacks and neither of them gives up an inch of ground. Having spent a few minutes, both stop and back at the same time, they are already done with the warm-up.

 

Ryuken is somewhat exalted, even without powers, there have not been many people who can keep up with him. It had been a few years since he had last been able to fight someone so much.

 

Chris is just analyzing what happened, his times were perfect, the postures before, during and after each type of attack, everything is similar. It's too much of a coincidence that they're both at the same "level" of skill in hand-to-hand combat. It is not time to think about solving those types of doubts, so he always has to postpone things.

 

It's time to raise the level, Chris increases his physical strength and throws a blow of pressurized air, he plans to use the same play as with Pierre. However, Ryuken wraps his fist in flames, becoming wild and very compressed and expels them, consuming the air and leaving the effect totally null.

 

Chris realizes that his strategies must be improvised and never repeat things, because Ryuken has the total appearance of being analytical with the details, that he could stop the pressurized air is proof of this.

 

Ryuken breaks the silence between the two:

—Did Hama train you? —a question that perplexes Chris for a few moments, that name reminds him of that time when he was useless in controlling the earth. That woman who taught him how to make the mud bird, the strange woman who supported him in the past.

 

—Posture, times of attack, defense and counterattack, deflecting the trajectory of attacks, being fast as a hurricane and elegant as a spring breeze, is totally the style of that woman. —every word of Ryuken to describe her leaves Chris more stunned by its accuracy— Hasn't she died yet? It never seems to age one bit.

 

Ryuken speaks as if he knew her all his life, Chris can't believe he met an acquaintance of hers. A teacher who taught and supported him so much and he talks as if he holds some kind of grudge against her. Chris can't help but lose his temper.

 

He runs out to attack Ryuken for speaking ill of his teacher and increases his strength to the limit allowed not to kill. But Ryuken stops his angry attack, despite being a Fire adept, he has enough physical strength to continue to stop Chris’ attacks.

 

Incredible analytical and deductive skills, physical strength, speed, tremendous elemental power, and still not seriously fight, one of the Six Lords, Fist of Dragon Ryuken. With a direct kick to the abdomen, Chris ends up being pushed back by the force of the attack. Strength and speed combined in an effective and accurate attack. He can barely keep his breath going.

 

He attacked him directly at the site of his wound, making it difficult for him to recover from the blow, but he further increases his strength, enough to tighten his muscles so that the "relaxed" body is totally rigid and thus not lose stability. If losing control of his body, Chris may not move it again for a while, that is the consequence of demanding too much on the past combat.

 

Ryuken decides not to let him rest until he is totally defeated, and begins to attack Chris with his real strength, fighting seriously. The blows are sharp, despite blocking the attacks, Chris begins to stop feeling some parts of the body by receiving the accurate blows.

 

Remembering the image of Guilian badly injured while calling him, Chris fights back with his whole arm and, despite blocking him, Ryuken begins to back off. Chris' strength increases more and more as he connects with his opponent's body, causing Ryuken to end up being pushed straight to the ground.

 

—«Fight, fight, fight. » —even without saying anything, Chris’ expression shows off his determination to make his opponent suffer. That spark that ignited ended up becoming an inner hell.

—«He ignored the stabbing pain of the pressure points; he is more of a beast than a man. » —Ryuken is amazed by his opponent's unexpected ability as he suffers from the impact.

 

A direct lariat, despite not connecting with the neck, the real damage lies in the impact with the ground. Chris’ strength causes Ryuken to collide with the ground strong enough to lift dirt from the Arena.

 

One of the weaknesses of martial arts based on speed and precision is high-impact attacks. Because of Ryuken's incredible physical strength, Chris had to suddenly increase his own strength as he whipped him towards the ground, for an instant reaching his maximum strength without hurting his own body.

 

As Chris watches his opponent on the ground for a moment, he senses a disturbance in the surroundings. Hanna warns him to turn his gaze and Chris manages to react in time, he gets kicked by someone else while Ryuken was on the ground.

 

He defends himself from the blow, but as soon as he receives the impact the foot becomes a flash and explodes, throwing Chris away from his opponent. Despite having increased his strength throughout his body, the impact of the explosion is enough to hurt him, not to mention the heat damage of the explosion fire.

 

He manages to recover from the damage and understands the scene, as Ryuken rises from the ground, the smoke dissipates and the identity of the other opponent, a second Ryuken, is revealed. Chris is amazed at what is in front of him. He sees it and can't believe it.

 

The Ryuken of the explosion runs on the attack while the injured Ryuken is left watching alone. Chris can do no more than respond to any attack, no matter from whom he receives it. He easily evades the blow of the Ryuken from the explosion, directly attacks his body and as soon as he receives the damage that Ryuken ends up lighting up, detonating in an explosion.

 

That Ryuken did not defend itself much, its purpose was to receive damage to explode, or to attack with explosion on contact. As Chris recovers from the damage from the second explosion he notices that there is no longer that Ryuken, but now there are more of them around the initial Ryuken.

 

No doubt, Ryuken is creating clones of himself with his own elemental power. It is a technique of too advanced level to clone in detail, but there is something that does not add up, it seems as if they have their own consciousness, because they do not seem to be controlled by the original Ryuken.

 

Perceiving the ki, Chris avoids contact with all the Ryuken, evading all attacks, they do not seem to have as much physical strength as the original during the "warm-up". But there is something more alarming than his abilities, there are starting to be more and more clones. While evading almost automatically, he notices how clones are divided into more clones.

 

One is divided into two, they attack a certain number of times and each of them is divided into two, repeating the cycle. In just one minute since he began to evade the clones, from being about 3 they multiplied and became more than fifty.

 

Sharpening his perception of ki, Chris can notice how the clones' bodies "heat up," getting to enough activity, have twice the heat, and divide. Because the clones are splitting at an alarming rate Chris decides to blow one up and have the explosion eliminates others around him.

 

BOOM!!! Chris is thrown by the explosion, because at the time of attacking a clone he was without making contact with the ground, letting himself be carried away by the force of the explosion. He lands and repeats the process, but that attack did not make more than 4 clones disappear and the others do not let him catch a breath.

 

As the combat progresses, explosions are more frequent, Hanna can't help but feel worried about her friend and his recklessness. Even though he's fighting the clones, the original Ryuken is resting and recovering from the tremendous damage he received.

 

Twenty minutes after the fight began, Chris has lost count of the explosions he has received all over his face, his body is fragile and very hurt by the fire of the explosions and very exhausted. The aftermath of his fight with Pierre begins to be felt even with his muscles strained by the increase in strength.

 

His clothes are also shattered and begin to fall off his body, once he is left with his top uncovered it can be noticed how defined his muscles are and covered with multiple scars. That’s when Ryuken contemplates his opponent and notices something particular, Chris wears his necklace with a crystal pendant.

 

Ryuken is perplexed to see the pendant and begins to ask him where he got it from, but Chris does not answer, as he is too focused on staying conscious to pay attention to his questions. It is just at that moment that Chris begins to feel lighter and lighter, the pain of his wounds and the feelings he has vanishes, while Ryuken from his perspective notices how the pendant begins to emit a small light from inside.

 

The faint light envelops Chris’ badly wounded body, his mind as it becomes cloudy, losing notion of reality, it becomes clear by digging up something that was very deep in his being. Chris manages to visualize a man on his back carrying two ill-behaved children while noticing that next to him he is being held by the hand of a beautiful woman, from her great height he deduces that he himself is very small.

 

The five are walking in a field of grass gilded by daylight as a mountain rises on the horizon. Everyone eats on a picnic; everyone smiles and the woman hands Chris the pendant with great affection. He, being a very young child, is ready to bite the crystal that since that day hung from his neck and everyone laughs out loud.

 

Ryuken keeps trying to get answers from Chris but is surprised to see that drops are falling to the ground. Chris is crying rivers while Hanna feels something inside, the pulse is no longer instantaneous but continuous. She feels a warmth that she thought she had forgotten since she was a child, causing her to start crying too, but it doesn’t last long.

 

Chris is increasingly relaxed despite the atmosphere, so much so that his muscles are no longer tense from the increased strength. One of the clones rushes to attack him and Chris dodges him easily, attacking right in the abdomen with a punch, but it does not explode, it just vanishes.

 

Hanna is totally shocked by what happened, the clone disappeared unexploded and the original Ryuken is showing pain, he received the damage from the clone. As the light disappears from the pendant, Chris regains his senses and sets out to attack the clones.

 

Blow after blow, the clones disappear as if nothing, and Ryuken takes in pain every time a clone is destroyed. He doesn't understand what's going on, something like this has never happened to him, so Chris explains that he now manages to understand the mechanism of fire clones.

 

—«I don't know what happened to me, but ki and my elemental power have been mixed. » —Chris reflects as he contemplates the power emanating from his body —«One thing is clear to me, those fire clones are still tied to Ryuken, the spiritual arts don't lie about something like that. »

 

Ryuken is cornered, despite having recovered a little from lariat, he has received quite a bit of damage from having lost many clones. He pounces on Chris and unleashes a flare that covers the rest of the Arena, his goal is to incinerate Chris to prevent him from attacking him further.

—«Had you not learned the secrets of ki you probably would have defeated me with a single attack. » —Ryuken thinks as he loses sight of his target lost in the sea of flames.

 

However, from the flames comes an arm and holds it by the neck, Chris is unharmed from the fire:

—Combining ki with my Earth elemental power has a second application, covering my body like a thick membrane and protecting me from your fire. —Chris shouts, which leaves Hanna surprised by Chris’ solution to the fire damage.

 

Chris lashes out at Ryuken and starts beating him with a clean fist. As he tries to fight back, Ryuken can only notice that Chris’ strength continues to increase as time goes on, which makes him understand that his new "ability" is adapting, discovering a limit in which to stay.

 

Ryuken's injured body does not allow him to attack with all his strength, so he uses fire to propel his movements, while the flames on his hands and feet intensify, all with the aim of breaking Chris' protection. Blow after blow, the two of them are giving and receiving damage by the force of the impacts.

 

The excitement of the audience echoes further as the two fighters are fighting as equals. Hanna can't believe what she is witnessing, she realizes that they both have a smile from ear to ear as they fight, while the look they have in their eyes shows that life-filled glow.

 

—«His blood boils from the fire of the combat, where do those two come from? » —thinks Queen Alice as she sees the two men fighting with an elemental fist—«I thought that clan of warriors was extinct. »

 

Throughout history a pattern was repeated for certain figures who made history, men who come out of nowhere, whose fervor for combat comes to light at the moment of truth. Knights, martial artists, bandits, pirates, after much effort gathering information from those legends, a clan of warriors with superhuman capabilities came to light.

 

That clan is scattered throughout the world and only one lucky exceptional individual comes out once every century. But what came to be repeated the most is the end of their stories, none of them grew old, all had deaths in battle without leaving offspring. They shine brighter than anyone of their generation, only to die prematurely from their thirst for fighting.

 

—«That that clan has appeared again, what is going to happen to this world? » —Queen Alice is so immersed in her thoughts that she does not process the fight right in front of her eyes—«The world has not yet recovered from what happened 400 years ago. »

 

Both spirits are no longer on fire, they are now shining as bright as the Sun, the passion of battle is turning them into animals with a thirst for battle. It is then that both hit with the right fist and stop with the left hand to each other, being tied once again.

 

—I haven't fought like that since I faced Volt. —says Ryuken, covered in sweat and panting slightly as he was regulating his breathing.

—I just sweated like this when I trained with my teacher, only he was more powerful. —Chris replies as the two continue with a smile on their faces.

 

The two of them are stuck in that situation, staying connected by attack and defense at the same time. But the seconds become minutes, and they don't change, and the audience is surprised, something is not right.

 

The expression on Chris' face is more and more tense, as if he is resisting with every fiber of his being. Out of nowhere the ground under the two of them starts to crack and flames come out, Hanna realizes what's going on, Chris is using his elemental power to contain Ryuken's fire, and it's getting harder and harder to keep it at bay.

 

Chris tries to appeal to reason with Ryuken, to let go of everything, innocent people will die, the public has done nothing to deserve that, but it doesn’t work.

 

—That they have done nothing to deserve this? It is quite the opposite, by doing nothing they allowed injustices to happen to real innocents. Powerless humans are just blind cattle, before the Six Lords system they almost caused the extinction of the adepts. It was poetic justice that the Demon King arose because of them.

—«What is he are saying? » —it’s the first time Chris hears something about it, but it's not time to ask for the details—If you plan to release it, then direct it all to me! I will receive everything for them.

 

Ryuken is surprised by Chris' decision in that situation, as he wants to sacrifice himself for people he doesn't know. He refuses, but Chris decides to throw him into the skies to burst away from the crowd.

 

—Do you think I can't control all this fire? That I am an inexperienced Fire adept who would just burst out? —says Ryuken as the flames are released from within and begin to converge on his right hand.

 

Everyone contemplates the exorbitant amount of fire that is condensing just above them, it even ends up changing the color of the sky, and the brightness can be contemplated throughout the realm, the old lady Xian Tao can see it from the outskirts and feels the danger to the bones from so far away. Queen Alice can't help but worry about what's about to happen, but it's too late, it's a calamity about to fall from the sky, literally. Hanna can't help but be immersed in the figure that takes the fire, eyes, fangs, scales, horns, a fire capable of incinerating anything in the world and even the afterlife: the Fist of the Dragon.

 

Chris can feel how everything from that fire dragon is being directed towards him, he can feel that that fire is fueled by the same thing that destroyed his friend's ideals. A darkness beyond reason, shining freely consuming everything in its path. Being between a rock and a hard place, he begins to feel that everything connects in his being, conscience and subconscious.

 

The pendant of his neck begins to glow, radiating his whole body, Chris can feel how his elemental power comes to the surface, but he is not aware of what happens to him, for he has only one thing on his mind: to stop Ryuken's attack.

 

The only thing he gets to hear are the words of his master that he heard continuously for four long years: Fight, fight, fight. His mind is clouded, and he can only see the huge fire dragon fall on him.

 

Chris’ elemental power emerges as a fierce current and runs through his entire being, a current that he releases with a punch with all his strength and flies straight out towards the Fist of the Dragon, colliding in a blinding flash that shakes the entire kingdom. Hanna can feel the power that shakes her body as Queen Alice watches as Chris gives his all to fight the sky itself.

 

People think the two fighters are screaming as they give their all of their power, but Alice notices what's going on. Ryuken watches as Earth elemental power roars Chris’ will, making her spine shudder. A few moments that become eternal is all that lasts that clash of wills, leaving everyone disoriented by what happened and trying to know what resulted from it.

 

Everyone is shocked by the result, Ryuken quietly falls into the Arena while Chris is totally withered with his arm raised by the attack he launched. As everyone watches the two opponents in the arena, they are stunned by the scenery that was left, the cloudy sky above them with a huge hole through which the sunlight descends.

 

That day would be marked in history as Chris’ rise into the world, and the day the world witnessed a fist split the sky in two.

 








Chapter 14 – Clues

 

It's been three days since the tournament, during which Chris has been sleeping without a stop. Hanna has not been separated from his side at any time, she only spent it contemplating his friend after what happened. Beyond the simple admiration of power, what she feels is concern, that expression he had, the emergence of an unknown power, the feelings that exploded during the final shock, everything she could feel with great intensity and fills her heart with insecurity.

 

Everything she desires becomes reality, he opens his eyes, totally serene, but bewildered by the situation. Hanna explains what happened after losing consciousness. The damage to the Colosseum was minimal, it was limited to the combat arena, there were no injuries after the final blow and Queen Alice made his victory official, but Chris’ expression is the same, discouraged.

 

She also explains that Guilian managed to recover from his injuries and is rehabilitating, but Tsubaki does not allow him to visit Chris because of all the ruckus he would cause for his buffoonery. At least one piece of good news, the only one that makes his shoulders a little lighter.

 

She is surprised by his reaction, it is then that Chris confesses that he does not consider it a real victory, because it was a matter of luck to have defeated Ryuken. Had he not figured out how to defeat the fire clones, he would have lost inevitably, plus it was that miscalculation that caused Ryuken to receive the vast majority of that day's damage.

 

It was precisely that damage that prevented him from properly using all his power, that final clash, despite having been colossal, was only counteracting a weakened attack, he was not at his best. Chris can only look forward and become stronger, enough to stand up to him once again, in his ultimate form.

 

The Six Lords will never be something taken lightly, they hide large amounts of power and abilities that allow them to handle almost anything that obstructs their path. But the words Ryuken said that day are still hanging around in his head.

 

Three days ago, after the final crash, Ryuken was lying on the ground and Chris was about to faint from exhaustion, but he clearly hears how Ryuken in the matter of a blink is back on his feet. Despite all the damage, he tries to keep his consciousness a little more and keep fighting, but Ryuken raises his hand to surrender.

 

He admits to having been defeated on that occasion, if he continues, his own power will tear his body apart, so the best option is to surrender. Chris is relieved that he doesn't have to keep fighting and gets some questions from the good loser.

 

—Where did you get that pendant? —Ryuken asks very curiously.

—I've always had it, for as long as I can remember, maybe even before. —Chris replies openly.

—Why did you fight so hard against me? —his curiosity is lighting more and more.

—For my friend who you beat up, I will never forgive you. — Chris’ voice alone is not enough to express all the anger he still has inside.

—Do you care so much about his dream? Why? —Ryuken's disgust emerges a little in his tone, but the fight leaves him with no strength to attack even verbally.

—Because it's a lot like my goal. —Chris' answer seems empty.

—Enlighten me. —Ryuken asks without the magic words.

—I'll go to King's Mountain. —Chris' answer doesn't explain much.

—And how does that resemble your friend's dream? —Ryuken begins to get exasperated by the lack of details.

—Becoming king of the world is only a step, my real goal is my full name, the one that is engraved in stone, with it I will be able to find my family. —Chris’ eyes as he declares his goal without any filter are filled with a strong determination, one that is difficult to carry, one that can kill you if you don't carry it out.

 

Ryuken simply retreats silently, and quietly replies that there are things that are better not to know, they are not known for something. Chris manages to perceive his message by the ki, but he cannot answer him, his consciousness is fading.

 

At present, Hanna finds herself preparing fruit for him to eat something, in the words of the healers, Chris’ body is unusually slow to recover from the wounds, despite having received uninterrupted intensive treatment for a whole day his wounds closed, but he has not healed completely. His body is still fragile and being unconscious for so long left him in precarious conditions in terms of his health.

 

After a few days Chris’ health is more favorable, at which time he was transferred to Queen Alice's castle as a courtesy for his championship, where he met influential people who witnessed his "victory". The ki does not lie, he could perceive bad vibes from most of them, so he decided to seclude himself in his room most of the time and with the presence of Hanna he was able to rest properly.

 

A month after the tournament Chris was finally able to carry himself, although by professional opinion he was advised not to make unnecessary effort for at least a couple of weeks. Throughout his recovery time Chris had enough time to analyze that new power he gained during the final.

 

The combination of elemental power, ki and spiritual arts, the materialization of earth power, doing experiments being static as rock, as if doing nothing, but in reality, he was training without anyone noticing it. It has incredible efficacy because it is power with a high degree of purity, but it has an equally enormous weak point, by making it flow through his body at a higher density, the lower the recovery rate.

 

It greatly increases the effectiveness of strength gain by making his body heal slower, which is dangerous in any circumstance. No doubt Chris must continue to hone his skills if he wants to keep moving forward.

 

With only his right arm still recovering, Chris is finally reunited with Guilian and Tsubaki and they all guide him to his award ceremony. All of his friends are proud of his victory, but Chris keeps an expression that says "I don't deserve it, really" while Hanna is just watching him.

 

The royal guard welcomes him to the Throne Room, while Queen Alice meets the champion. As she performs the knighthood ceremony Chris can sense her incredibly low voice, but manages to perceive the message by the ki, "don't be discouraged, a victory is a victory."

 

When she tells Chris to look up following the ceremony, he understands that she is watching over him. The day turns to night and a grand banquet is held in his honor, many of the competitors, who stood out the most, are celebrating, sharing drinks with Guilian and Tsubaki, while Hanna is sitting in a corner, keeping a low profile.

 

Chris stays away from the crowd, not feeling proper to the festivity, so he goes out to the balcony and from the shadows she appears, Queen Alice was waiting for the moment to be able to talk to him without restrictions. He doesn't shy away from throwing straight in her face that there are few people he enjoys company with, while she simply listens to his complaints.

 

A victory is a victory, no matter the circumstances, as she explains to him that she does not belong to the royalty of the country, she sheds her disguise, the queen was actually a dark elf, caramel-colored skin, blood-red eyes, silky knee-length black hair, he can't help but feel a little uncomfortable witnessing too much beauty. But he cannot understand why to hide her identity, reducing her existence to that of a simple human, why of course, Chris does not discriminate between royalty and plebs, for him they are all the same, people.

 

The queen does not give many details, only that her true existence cannot be accepted by the current world, especially for what happened in recent centuries. She hid as a human and ended up as Queen of Heinburn.

 

She explains that the Heinburn royal family has made all sorts of deals and is currently affecting what remains of the lineage. She, as a mother, can't help but worry about her husband and son, to her they are worth countless more than any nation.

 

—Why me? You might as well choose one of the adepts you recruited. —Chris asks curiously —There's no chance I'll find him.

—You reminded me of a certain man I admired, one who devoted the whole world and was not afraid to fight heaven, earth and sea, if necessary. —Alice replies with much nostalgia. —Please treat him well, he needs a break from time to time.

 

Alice can't directly explain what's going on with the nation, but she implores him to please carry on a message for the two most important men in her life, and Chris accepts.

 

While the sound is lost in the silence of the night, the feast continues until the sun rises over the horizon. Chris immediately takes his party away, as long as he doesn't continue in those lands, first thing in the morning.

 

His first stop, the blacksmith shop, Chris picks up his sword and the young blacksmith can't help but tell him that he couldn't resist the temptation and set about investigating the properties of the sword given to him by his teacher. Certainly, it carries a curse, a very powerful one, and as Chris wields it with his only available hand, he realizes that his words fall short.

 

Before he wielded it as the treasure he received from his master, but now, with the ki, he can feel a weight from deep inside it, something that wants to enter him. The training was effective, even if he did not perceive it, the concentration and mentality he forged for so long makes him have the reins, he is in control of the sword and not the other way around.

 

The blacksmith informs him something else, according to his investigations, the sword is forged with very exotic and even legendary materials, but the most relevant is something called Soul Ore. Everyone is intrigued by the name, and the young man explains that it is too rare of a material, every object that has this material in its composition is legendary because of its properties.

 

From the Spiritual Mirror of the distant lands of the East that is said to send you to another world to the Spear of the Fallen that is said to have made a god bleed, all of them have stories of what has been done with them. This rare material is named this way because it has a high conductivity of the energy of the living being that comes into contact with it.

 

The power not only varies depending on the object in which it is used, but also the user and their abilities, and in the case of the sword it is also the case. There are merged weapons, which change from one dominant weapon to another, but the sword itself changes, adapts to the user, but the curse makes it difficult to deal with, it is its insurance against the unworthy.

 

Chris only carries his sword as he always does and says goodbye, thanking him for treating his sword with so much dedication, and being outside the premises the old lady Xian Tao says goodbye to her student, giving him a small vase, she says that inside there are some medicinal herbs from her homeland, these serve to revitalize the tired body and will be a great support.

 

Such a gesture of kindness from the old lady that always kept him away from her, he feels very grateful and leaves with his friends towards the door through which they arrived. Just before saying goodbye for good, the old teacher notices Tsubaki's amulet:

 

—Where do you get that amulet? —asks Xian Tao quite intrigued.

—I was abandoned as a baby in a forest with this. —Tsubaki replies sincerely. Any clue helps.

—Well, I come from Shengkun, but some symbols are similar because they are neighboring regions, I'm sure it’s Cerean language —Xian Tao says when she sees the amulet up close because of her tired eyesight.

—Cerean? And where is that from? —Tsubaki can't deduce things.

—The kingdom of Ceres, in the Far East, literally on the other side of the world. —Xian Tao replies annoyedly because of how dense Tsubaki is in her head— It doesn't matter if you go east or west.

 

Now Tsubaki has clues about her origin, everyone is intrigued about what she is going to say about it, but she reassures them. She confesses that, first of all, it is first to travel with the group, her priority is the delicious food of the places where they go.

 

Everyone laughs at Tsubaki's simple answer, but everyone supports her decision. The group chats happily as they walk away from the old lady who prays for a safe ride.

 

Leaving the city, they meet someone they know, Pierre is right in front of them, Tsubaki fails to remain calm and is left with a small gesture of discomfort and asks what matter he has with them. Because of what happened, they all believe that he wants a rematch against Chris, but nothing could be further from the truth, Pierre himself says to the four winds that he wants to leave with them. Everyone takes a few seconds to process what he just said, a second, two seconds, until 9 seconds pass and the first reaction is one of confusion on Chris’ part.

 

Pierre explains that he has his reasons for having arrived at the tournament, practically by the work of fate, because a priestess saved him from a shipwreck and guided him to land to the Colosseum.

—You will find the path you want to follow, frog of the well. —is what she told Pierre.

 

After his fight against Chris, it became totally clear to him that he must go with him, no matter where, he will rely on fate. Chris remains skeptic, because he replies that destiny is not written in stone, you write it with every decision you make, and more with those you do not make. Pierre is more exalted by his words, and puts more emphasis on wanting to accompany him, there is no one but Chris who is the river by which he is carried away.

 

—Do you want to be free, even from fate? —Chris asks.

—Yes, there is nothing better than freedom, and even more so if you free yourself from the destiny forged by others. —Pierre's words have a lot of weight behind them, so much so that even Chris can feel it through his eyes.

—Do what you want. Chris replies with some resignation.

 

Pierre has joined the group and starts conversations to get to know everyone. Chris can't help but look up at the sky as he blurts out a few words in his mind:

 

—«Teacher, are you seeing me? Now I have one more friend, I think I am ready to fulfill my ambition, I will go to the King's Mountain and fulfill our dreams, yours and mine. »

 

Hanna strangely feels something inside, a warmth, makes her feel cheerful and at peace as the scandalous group moves away from the city and takes one last look at the land where many things happened.

 

They arrive in a port city and after a day of rest from the journey on foot, Chris guides them to a boat that recognizes the picturesque group.

 

—So, you're the champion, huh? Come on board. —the group calls the young adepts, and they are puzzled by the situation and Chris surprises them.

—This is a small gift from Queen Alice, she has made it easy for us to travel by sea to the western continent, Meri, and from there we will go to King’s Mountain. —Chris reveals to his friends.

 

All of them show emotion in their eyes and accept that no matter what happens the journey will continue, beyond their dreams farther away.

 








Chapter 15 – Travel Diary (Part 2)

 

Day 49

 

Today has joined our journey Pierre, the Water adept who faced Tsubaki and Chris in the tournament a month ago. Apparently, he is quite polite and gentlemanly, although Tsubaki can't help but have the nerves on edge near him, that’s why I'm always between the two of them. That has given me the opportunity to get to know him a little, as he gets carried away by the current, he usually supports Guilian's jokes.

 

He is quite nice, if you ask him for help with something, he will not hesitate to agree, but I am worried that someone will take advantage of that. I'm sure Chris will protect him from that by having him in the group, although he should look more out for his own health.

 

Even with two weeks of rehabilitation remaining, Chris was able to withstand the journey to the port and we are surprised by a trip to a new continent, Meri, far in the west. As much as I want him to rest, he doesn't pay much attention to me and wants to keep up with the pace of the trip.

 

Day 50

 

It's the first time we all woke up at sea, Guilian and Tsubaki spent a long time vomiting overboard, while Pierre tried to help them with the dizziness. Tsubaki preferred to remain dizzy rather than being close to him, but Guilian surprised me by refusing too, he had no reason to deny help. Does he dislike Pierre that badly?

 

After a whole day learning about sea navigation, we were all exhausted and I took the opportunity to ask Guilian his opinion about Pierre. He replied very clearly that he dislikes his personality, he does not seem like a bad person, but it is not possible for him to get along very well with him. I don't understand why that is, maybe it's men's stuff, I remember that my mother used to get crazy about aspects of my father, will it be something similar?

 

Tsubaki is more aware of Pierre for his nervousness than in Guilian for his jokes. Will my first impression finally be fulfilled?

 

Day 54

 

Today I finally achieved a bowline knot, although I do not dare to climb the mast of the sail to use it, I will trust that it is well done, I have to admit that it was easier to understand with the small story so as not to fall into forgetfulness: We have a lake and a tree, a snake comes out of the lake, he surrounds the tree from behind and gets into the lake.

 

I felt like a child again as I recited it chanted. On the other hand, Tsubaki has been training her fishing skills and even got the dinner of the day, a bluefin tuna, IT WAS HUGE, and Pierre took care of cooking it, a recipe from his home, the food was too delicious, and the crew on top of him to learn how to cook the fish, so we had him away for a long time and I began to notice that he was missing. It's amazing how quickly he's integrated into the group.

 

It's ironic, we're always traveling on foot, and we don't think much about it, but on such a long trip on a conveyance there's always something to do and you don't get bored at all, and the days fly by like nothing, even the sound and movement of the tide becomes the best lullaby, becomes hypnotic.

 

Day 62

 

We have been almost two weeks at sea, and we have almost become accustomed to the environment, even Tsubaki and Guilian started fighting each other to stay in shape. Although it all ended when Pierre wanted to face both simultaneously, because neither of them could put a finger on him.

 

During dinner the two of them were swallowing their feelings with food, they didn't even get in the mood to yell at each other as they usually do. Will it be a common enemy? As for Chris, he has been recovering in his room, twice a day I make him a cup of tea with a couple of leaves of Grandma Xian Tao's medicinal herbs.

 

His recovery is almost complete, although I had already become accustomed to seeing him rest and tell him stories of all the books I read in Vodheim and Heinburn, their folklore, myths and legends, novels by local authors, he even came to ask me how I read the books so quickly. He was overwhelmed and it was funny, because he doesn't usually read, just think and stay quiet.

 

He also got into the habit of sleeping in that position, not lying on his back, but like a fox, rolled up oneself and it is even easier for Tsubaki to sleep together.

 

Day 63

 

Today we had a long day barely waking up, it hadn't even dawned at all and the whole ship collided with... something. The crew thought it had been a reef, but to our surprise we ended up discovering what it really was, or, rather, it discovered us.

 

The ship had been attacked by what the sailors call, a kraken. A creature from the depths of the sea, its tentacles were easily thicker than the mast of the sail and its suction cups’ really disgusting.

 

Tsubaki and I were so disgusted that we would attack it non-stop in order to keep their tentacles away from us. Guilian kept burning sections of the tentacles and Pierre instantly attacked those weakened places to wipe out their limbs.

 

Guilian and Pierre are very compatible working together and that displeased Guilian, he didn't want to admit that the two of them can be good friends. Having ended up with at least 5 tentacles, they ended up coming out more and more and I believed we wouldn't get out of it.

 

Then Chris came out of his room and grabbed one of the tentacles holding the ship, and pulled the kraken out of the water, as if he was pulling a sack of clothes up and down.

 

He whipped the kraken against the water repeatedly and Pierre finished it off while its main body was flying through the air. We were all amazed by Chris’ incredible power, but that effort only ruined his recovery, as he exceeded even if he had been in excellent condition.

 

We were all quiet dining for allowing Chris to fix it without having fully recovered. Even with the control I have of my elemental power I could not do much for him, I must make myself stronger so that he does not have to overdo it.

 

Day 66

 

At last, we reached the mainland, we were exhausted from the whole trip and our incompetence, although Chris spent every day trying to cheer us up by saying that it is not our fault his current condition. That only made us more depressed.

 

This time it was Chris who was energetic, even cheerful, trying to make us feel good. Maybe he's not a buffoon like Guilian, according to Tsubaki, but he really went out of his way to ventilate the matter.

 

Only in this port we already saw fish that are not found in any book in Vodheim, one is called salmon, and its red color is due to the mollusks it eats, its whole body, even inside, is dyed that characteristic red due to its main food. I would never have believed that if I didn't see it with my own eyes and it's not even from this side of the continent, it's from the west side while we're on the east.

 

This country has transportation means that allow them to take fish from one end to the other by land and still be fresh to consume them. They even have something called "refrigeration" to keep the inside of that machine frozen and preserve food. Thanks to that we were able to have a very varied dinner before planning our route from tomorrow, although we were already somewhat tired of eating so many fish and they warned us that we can die because of it, they call it mercury poisoning. Curious word, I think I heard that name in the folklore of somewhere.

 

Chris told us to rest in this city for tomorrow to leave on a transport called railway, I am very excited.

 

Day 67

 

After a quick assortment of local clothes, we ended up in a caravan of wagons to Palm Beach, where we took the famous railroad. It is as big and noisy as the kraken and is made entirely of metal.

 

It is propelled using earth, water and fire, THREE ELEMENTS for something so powerful, although according to the opinion of the station staff that kind of "engine" is about to perish before new "technology". From what I've read in the books Chris bought me outside the station, the country has been constantly changing in recent decades, especially in politics, economics and technology.

 

In addition to that, something does not look good in the population, it is very hardworking and helpful, even with us who are adepts, but something feels strange, as if something is affecting them. Apparently, the enormous industrial development is due to great scientific minds not only of this nation, but also of other countries that have joined forces with it for development, and to the lack of adepts.

 

Non-adept countries have developed by leaps and bounds in their own way, something like a railroad is too complex for a nation of adepts, which is mostly isolated territory.

 

The trip is incredibly relaxed for the size and power of the transport, making the time very enjoyable, although it feels our destiny still far away. Although the view of the Gulf Coast is beautiful at sunset, it is a journey like no other.

 

Day 68

 

We didn't sleep much during the night, even though the trip lasted so long. Despite going so fast as to cause a new kind of nausea in Guilian and Tsubaki, the journey is quite long, and the multiple stations make us quite unsure about which one to climb, as we are not on the same railway for the entire trip.

 

At one station we got on a railway, two stations later we got off and boarded another, we got off at the next station and got on another, if we didn't pay enough attention, we could board the wrong railway and end up in another part of the country.

 

In fact, due to the dizziness, Tsubaki ended up in the wrong way being alone on the platform and Pierre had to quickly get on the wagon, carry her and jump before it was too late, during which Pierre lost his top hat. After that Tsubaki was red-faced for quite a while, while we waited for our next boarding. Did her dizziness get worse from the acrobatics?

 

Practically Chris and Pierre are the ones who lead this journey to be more attentive to the details of the trip, I can hardly avoid losing sight of the group every time we are in a station.

 

By sheer luck, the last railway we boarded to reach King’s Mountain will pass by 5 stations, although this is not good news for those two who cannot enjoy the food cart.

 

During the night, while we were all sleeping, something woke me up suddenly, although it was only my case. As I refreshed myself in the dressing table, I began to feel a strange presence, something I could feel from Palm Beach.

 

I got out of the wagon and ended up advancing through the roof a few more, as the clouds cleared and the moonlight came out, that presence appeared, a thin man with a coat and top hat, like the one Pierre bought, because, in fact, it was the same.

 

That guy was following us from Palm Beach, and by Pierre's hat, he was most likely on the railroad where Tsubaki almost went alone. He pulled a very strange knife out of his outfit and attacked me, but to my surprise it wasn't so quick as to get me hurt.

 

I ended up throwing a flare straight in his face and beat him. My heart was racing very much, but it was my first fight alone and I won. I ended up questioning him to know his goals and I couldn't get much out, but he had several jobs.

 

One of them was the murder of Chris, because he was in the sights of some organizations after having defeated Ryuken and the other was to kidnap Tsubaki, the perfect opportunity was when she got on the wrong railroad alone, where he got Pierre's top hat.

 

As he was about to reveal his client's identity to me, an object began to light up between his clothes, causing a small but powerful explosion, throwing me off the roof of the wagon and Chris ended up catching me in his arm, preventing me from falling outside.

 

By the time we got back to the roof of that wagon, the body was nowhere to be found. I ended up explaining what happened to Chris and he asked me not to reveal it to anyone, unless something very serious happens. The really strange thing is that he asked me, it wasn't an order, it was a favor. I think he's finally starting to open up as a person.

 

Day 69

 

At last, we arrived at the City of King’s Mountain, from afar you could see how much that mountain rose to the sky, while the moors were completely deserted, there was an abysmal contrast with the city that surrounds it. It is not a metropolis like some cities we saw during our rail trip, but you can tell that it has adapted to the inhospitable area.

 

It is a huge impact that you receive when you see it from afar, even the sky changes according to the height and the area with respect to the mountain. The blue sky turns gray as you approach the mountain, and everything fades between the clouds that surround the top. Is Chris supposed to go through all of that without powers?

 

We arrived at the station and were finally able to stretch our tired bodies. We checked into a decent inn and started preparing for the evening, replenishing supplies, exchanging the gold from Chris' sack for the local currency, all in order to focus Chris on his recovery.

 

While we were shopping, we heard that there were hot springs to the west, so we passed some hills during the wagon trip and went straight to the hot spring, the trip was hard and a small impromptu trip was what we least wanted, but the reward was worth it. We were in genuine hot springs, separated by gender, but we were relatively close together.

 

All the tiredness went away instantly, and it was impossible to get out of how wonderful the water felt. On the way out we saw how Chris was brimming with energy and vitality, at the same time looking completely serene like the rest of the guys.

 

It was quite a surprise to see Guilian so calm, even the dinner at the hotel was very quiet for being in such a good mood, Tsubaki was so relaxed that she didn't care about the presence of Guilian and Pierre, Guilian didn't play games or jokes, and Chris started eating too much, almost to the point of making the staff close the kitchen.

 

During the celebration, while Guilian was having his typical dance on the table for drinking too much, Pierre asked Chris what the plan is in the city. He made it very clear, as soon as he fully recovers, Chris is going to take the King's Mountain Challenge. His answer was very honest as he wielded his precious sword.

 

Despite the seriousness of the situation, he was actually full of motivation, Chris claimed to be full of life more than ever in his entire life. That gave us great relief, for the first time we can see that he is at peace with himself.

 

So many days of travel, each full of new things, we pass through places outside our imagination, we face hardships, and everything seems to have gone far away with a single night in hot springs and food until we burst. We all get along well and completely at ease and happy. It was too good to be true.

 

As we were on our way to our bedrooms, a voice behind us stopped Chris completely as he uttered his name which made him pale. Chris turned and pronounced her name with a lot of weight in his gaze: Karen.

 








Chapter 16 – Reunion

 

There she was, right in front of him, Karen of the Six Lords, the famous Shinigami, her eyes did not stop looking at each other, an extremely beautiful girl, her dark brown hair at the height of the neck, her dark gray eyes shine like a pair of lakes under the light of the full moon, white complexion skin that at first glance you can tell is soft like baby skin, everything in it makes her irresistible to the looks of both men and women around her, even her short stature makes her tender to look at. Tsubaki and Hanna are amazed at how beautiful she is, while Pierre and Guilian are totally mesmerized by her beauty.

 

—How beautiful that girl is, totally my type. —whispers Guilian hypnotized.

—Do you have a fetish for baby faces? —asks Tsubaki irritated by her partner's lack of decorum.

—Well, of course I wouldn't try anything, the Shinigami has a reputation for traveling the world to avoid being in her own nation receiving marriage proposals every day she spends there. —says Guilian still blushing and drooling a little—I heard that some did not accept a no for an answer and when they challenged her to a duel they ended up incinerated. There weren't even ashes left of them.

 

Chris, however, has an empty look, the silence is noticeably awkward as the seconds go by, they both have things to say, but no word comes out. After processing the presence of the person right in front of him, the first thing he thinks about is greeting her, but the words come out before he notices it:

—What are you doing here? —Chris’ question has a somewhat aggressive tone, putting tension in the environment.

—I saw the news of the tournament, knowing you would go here after such a great victory. —Karen knows Chris perfectly—Are they your friends?

—«What do you care? » —says Chris inside his head as he tries to keep his composure, but Hanna begins to notice how upset he's getting.

 

Chris immediately takes Karen with him to his room to talk alone, while the rest of the group were still stunned in the hallway. The room reserved for Chris, a single bed, in the dark, the two are sitting, silently, as they each formulate what to say. He returns to speak dominantly towards her, it was obvious that she wanted to talk to him, so he forces her to tell him her intentions, she does not put up resistance.

—Why are you here? Don't make me repeat myself. —Chris asks, holding back to how it happens.

—I just wanted to see you, I have so much to tell you, the things I've been through, surely you also have a lot to tell. —Karen's awkward smile betrays that the two of them have unresolved issues.

—You have no right to it; you were the one who left and did not come back at all. You abandoned us, you abandoned ME, and even if it was not the case, in these four years you and I have become very different people, haven’t you, Shinigami?, we have had our own lives. There is nothing to do. Chris’ words are blunt, affecting who was an old friend.

 

Her voice begins to break and agrees to him, but she asks, begs him to know if there is an opportunity to be on good terms. Not even he knows, it depends on what happens next, so she understands and withdraws silently and when she leaves the room everyone sees her walking with her eyes down, covering herself with her fringe to hide her crying eyes.

 

The whole group peeks out the door to see Chris and they keep wondering what kind of relationship the two have, as they remember his words with Lillian in Vodheim, "she's my childhood friend, but we part ways 4 years ago." They had never seen him that way, but Chris sends them to sleep and leave him alone for a while, his gaze full of repressed feelings.

 

That night was difficult for everyone to fall asleep; Hanna decides to go for a night snack to relax and while exploring the reception she can hear some very familiar sounds, uncontrolled crying. It is new for her to hear it from someone else, so she has mixed feelings and decides to investigate who it comes from, so she checks the surroundings.

 

Leaving the inn, she finds the person responsible, Karen is crying out loud on a garden bench next to the pond. Hanna can clearly see how much she is suffering, but a doubt stops her, what should she do? As much as she wants to comfort and encourage her, it is not her business, because she is a very close person to Chris and the affair is with him.

 

Interfering would mean digging into Chris’ past, something he still doesn't trust her, his previous personal life, beyond his training. She decides to retire while still listening to the heartbroken cry, carrying a great regret in her chest.

 

We all have a past; it is our decision to make it a burden, discard it, face it or turn it into a source of motivation and inspiration.

 

While Karen cries uncontrollably, Chris can sense the scandal with the ki while lying on his bed. He closes his eyes and rests his left forearm on his head and his mind is clouded until he relives the past.

 

11 years ago, in the temple of Yamamoto, Chris wakes up very sleepy and while recovering his senses he notices a figure above him. One face is right on his:

—Good morning, Chris, it's dawn. —Karen greets her good friend with great energy and enthusiasm.

—You know how to make your own breakfast, let me sleep. —Chris doesn't want to get up despite his youth.

—Come on, today is the big day, we will finally start training. —Karen is excited to the point that her smile dazzles Chris and ends up ruining his sleep.

 

Already up, Chris is semi-awake as he tries to stay aligned with the line of orphans who will start training. Yamamoto appears and inspects the children by putting his hand on top of their heads, without touching them. In a matter of seconds, the teacher identifies the element to which the student is related, which he has done every year for many years.

 

Some children murmur about his looks, how his bald head is not shiny because of how old he is, his long beard that flows like a waterfall past his waist and the mustache and eyebrows that are so long that they hang from his face. His trembling hand passes over them, and they close their mouths so that he does not reject them.

 

When the old master arrives at Chris, he is a little puzzled, even the children notice that he is having some difficulty. After some awkward silence, Yamamoto instead of continuing with the other children remains thoughtful in front of Chris until he comes to a conclusion:

—Interesting, we'd better be careful while instructing you. —Yamamoto's words leave everyone confused, especially Chris.

 

Of the 19 orphans only 13 were accepted in the course of adepts, as their latent powers are high enough to begin at such a young age. The remaining 6 have the option of training the spiritual arts to one day have a "container" large enough to activate the elemental powers.

 

—This year has been the most fruitful for Master Hama, she has brought so many children with good potential. —the monks mention seeing that the number is more than double that year.

 

At the end of the inspection Karen runs to Chris impressed with what happened and asks him what Yamamoto meant by what he said, but Chris knows as much as she does. Although he doesn't really care much about the training, it was Karen's idea to take the course after all.

 

—By the way, what element are you related to? —Karen asks very curiously.

—Ah, I think he forgot to mention it to me. With what tires me to address someone, now I have to ask him. —Chris says as he begins to search for an answer.

 

The first class was an introduction to the fundamentals of elemental power:

 

—The power of an adept depends on three factors: container capacity, purity of elemental power, and affinity to the element.

 

An adept harbor the elemental power of nature in their soul, so the size of the container is the first trait to take into account. The larger the size, the greater the amount of elemental power. Like the muscles of our bodies, as we use our powers our container will be strengthened, and we will be able to house more elemental power.

 

As the soul of an adept is equal to that of any human, depending on the current state of the individual, their elemental power will have as much purity as their soul. A soul in balance does not ensure purity, but the fidelity of desires. If your will coincides with your deepest desires, the elemental power will have more purity and therefore greater capacities. An adept with a small container with high-purity elemental power can easily match the capabilities of another adept with a large container of low-purity elemental power.

 

Elements are capricious, no one can fully understand their true nature, as happens between people, so your affinity to an element depends largely on the essence of your soul. Two water adepts will not be equally related to their element because of the differences in their essences. One of them will be more so because it coincides more with the Water element.

 

Affinity to the element is the great difference between adepts and humans, they came into the world without the ability to connect with the force of nature, although that does not mean that they do not have a chance and does not mean that your path is so narrow.

 

The element to which you are related is called the 'Main Element', because it is the one with which you have the greatest affinity and therefore it is the easiest to awaken. As you gain experience throughout your lives, expand your horizons and points of view, there is a possibility that the essence of your soul will change, and you can connect with a second element that is called the 'Secondary Element'.

 

Normally when an adept awakens a Secondary Element it is usually an element adjacent to its Main Element: an earth adept will be more likely to awaken the Element Water or Fire than to do so with Air. Although it is very rare that it happens, because carrying two elements already makes you belong to a very small circle of people in the world and even smaller if they have opposite elements."

 

Over the next few weeks, the monks set the children to activate their powers, getting only splashes of the water in buckets, disturbing the flames of candles, spinning a pinwheel inside a room or moving the fine sand of a Zen Garden. Chris has no motivation but sees Karen struggle with the candle she was given.

 

Seeing her face turning red from such concentration, Chris mentions that "those things are done in the bathroom", a joke that makes Karen embarrassed and the outburst of anger just after causes the flame to fan so much that it consumes half of the candle. The spontaneous flame was so great that everyone was shocked, and a monk extinguishes the embers left on the ceiling and floor with the water from the buckets.

 

The session ends prematurely, and everyone looks at Chris angrily, if it weren't for him everyone would continue training. But Karen jumps on Chris, hugging him with great excitement to discover that she has so much power to make such a big flame. Her joy protects Chris from receiving hatred, but neither of them realizes it, they are immersed in their exclusive world.

 

In a matter of months Karen gained enough skill to generate flames from her small hands and since then she was at the top of the adept course and her enthusiasm led her to be popular with the orphans. Meanwhile, Chris did not give everything in training, so he could hardly move the sand with great difficulty, being him completely oblivious to the words hard work and effort.

 

Karen's popular life distanced herself from Chris, who had no friends or sought any attention. But he couldn't help but feel the emptiness in his life, those outrageous mornings where she woke him up began to miss them. It was then that something lit up inside Chris, something as unnatural as finding fish in a volcano, motivation.

 

After starting to take the instructors' teachings seriously, Chris realized the long and rough road Karen traveled. To even manipulate freshly flattened land required so much concentration that Chris’ head almost exploded.

 

—Why don't you try the spiritual arts? —Yamamoto asks when he sees Chris exhausted on the garden floor—Sometimes it's better to leave something for a while to develop other skills.

—Do you think I won't get it? —Chris tries to keep his motivation alive.

—Certainly, being so young your container is not so large, and even if you have a good degree of purity in your elemental power you will not be able to use your powers properly. —Yamamoto's words are like knives sticking into Chris—That's why I recommend the spiritual arts, the more you know about your own soul, the easier you can advance on the path of the elements.

 

The next day, Karen noticed a void in her life, Chris was not in the elementary training session. Meanwhile, he was learning about the soul of humans, how it manifests itself in the world of the living, the very meaning of life and death.

 

Over the next year learning daily from ancient scrolls in the temple, studying while the other orphans of the spiritual course mocked Chris behind his back for leaving the elemental course, spending much of the time meditating, introspecting, he came to a revelation: his soul is broken.

 

Chris remembers Yamamoto's words, that care had to be taken when training him, that no matter how much he trains, he will not be able to use his elemental powers properly. So much effort, so much motivation, none of that matters if the soul with which he controls the element is broken.

 

—Master, how can a soul be broken? —Chris asks Yamamoto as he approaches him in the Zen Garden.

—You can't say it would be broken at all. —the old monk replies trying to make the child understand something that even adults often do not understand—A soul is not only a container of elemental power, but it also has a nucleus, a center that keeps our being complete.

—«Complete? Will there be a way to repair me? » —thinks Chris with Yamamoto's information.

—It is normal to think that the soul is like a vessel, if we receive a sufficiently deep damage our soul fragments. As the energies of the fragments are exactly the same even after the damage, they are kept together inside our container. —Yamamoto explains by showing a teapot that is about to break —The fragments remain united; despite being completely separated. Most people would think that's what heart is meant.

—«Broken heart? Like when I came to this temple. » —Chris tries to understand his situation.

—That you try to become an adept with a fragmented soul is as if you dedicate yourself to learning to run a marathon with crippled legs. —Yamamoto finishes destroying Chris’ motivation"—But that doesn't mean it's all over for you, I propose you this: Until you finish the advanced course of the spiritual arts, you're not going to use your elemental powers.

 

With that, Chris put the elemental training aside flatly and went even deeper into his own soul. Receiving direct teaching from Yamamoto, something that even experienced monks did not have the honor of receiving, even though the temple itself is detached from civilization, Chris isolated himself from everyone he knew.

 

Meanwhile, Karen had managed to reach new heights with her elemental power, though she misses spending time with Chris. Before she would pick him up in the mornings, but with her popularity growing and him isolating himself in his spiritual training the two have become too far apart.

 

—«Where are you? » —asks Karen as she lies on the bed where he slept in the middle of the night, inevitably hugging his pillow.

 








Chapter 17 - Meeting

 

A few months after Chris' training course change, Priestess Hama returns to the temple with a new orphan to host: a scruffy girl named Fanny. In a matter of minutes Hama leaves the temple again and the monks have no choice but to lead the newly arrived girl to her new life.

 

On her first day, Fanny met the rest of the orphans, but she didn't respond positively to all the attention of the other children, so it was easy for them to keep their distance. "It's a very big temple, we won't even see it all day." It is what they think when they discard it.

 

Having once again arrived on the most important day of the year, Yamamoto again appraises the orphans, but that year only Fanny was untested, resulting in the rarest element of all: Air.

 

Having a solo training for the great advantage that the other orphans took her, she took the lessons at her own pace, with great freedom as indicated by her element, which gave her a lot of opportunity to fill her empty agenda like the pockets of her clothes.

 

Exploring the temple on her own, Fanny runs into a boy as lonely as she is:

 

—... —she doesn't know what to say or do, but she stumbles when trying to take a better look at the young man.

—Excuse me, I'm trying to meditate. —Chris says without even bothering to look at the source of the noise.

—Sorry, ehm, I was just walking around and. —Fanny doesn't stop babbling trying to explain herself.

—«Please stop talking, I just want to meditate » —Chris cries internally.

—Ah, my name is Fanny, I arrived at the temple a couple of days ago. —the newcomer who Chris never asked about it is introduced—What do you do so much?

—I just want to meditate, in fact, every word I say is a step back towards my goal. —Chris replies, trying to get rid of his distraction.

—Oh, you're meditating, I'm sorry, and why? —Fanny's curiosity overshadows her manners.

—Because I want to. —and while he doesn't mention it, that's all Chris is going to say in the rest of the day.

 

Fanny watches as Chris meditates, even as the hours pass, she stays more immersed in Chris’ meditation than he does. Even if he doesn't do any action, Chris can feel the look of the girl his own age. He gets fed up and takes Fanny out of the meditation room and she realizes what she had done.

 

Just as she begins to withdraw from the place, her stomach roars quite loudly, which embarrasses her in front of Chris and causes him a slight laugh. While Chris laughs his stomach also roars and there is no choice but to eat after a fruitless day.

 

As the two skipped a meal and Fanny is a newcomer, Chris has no choice but to cook for two. A simple white rice and some boiled vegetables is all he could get at such short notice, but Fanny enjoys the food. It is very different from the food prepared by the monks, she fails to understand why, but it is the first time she can enjoy the food since she lost her family.

 

Seeing Fanny vent with the food, Chris decides to prepare the food for her from time to time and she thanks him wholeheartedly. Karen is sneaking through the halls in search of a nightly snack as she has always done since she arrived at the temple and sees the two friends having dinner and after a few minutes of continuously looking she retreats back to her bed.

 

From then on, Karen tried much harder in her training, while Fanny supported and encouraged Chris in his meditation, and they always ate together. Having got close enough, Chris reveals to Fanny that he left the adept course to concentrate on the spiritual arts and Fanny upon learning this begins to take her own training seriously.

 

In a matter of months, the adept course became a daily competition between Karen and Fanny, as the two became the most outstanding of the course. Although this rivalry was only declared by the other orphans and not by themselves. The daily spectacle that caught the attention of both orphans and monks became a daily life.

 

Two years after Fanny's arrival, the course has begun to conduct combat exercises. The two prodigies instead of competing with each other are responsible for keeping the rest of the group in shape while they, to make progress, fight against the instructor monks, exposing to a notable difference in experience ensures the development of the student.

 

Having reached the age of 13, Chris finally finished his spiritual training and resumed his training as an adept. But seeing the class from afar, he realizes that the road to reaching them has become much longer than before, and even more so when he sees Karen and Fanny give their all in their training.

 

Without saying a word, Chris stopped eating with Fanny and went to train alone in a lake at the foot of the mountain surrounding it. The journey was too much to do in a single day, so Chris prepared rations and did not return in days and only did it when everyone was busy in their affairs, so he did not interact with anyone.

 

During that two-year span, Karen decided to dig into the spiritual arts in hopes of seeing Chris, but she studied it alone until the end. Fanny missed eating with Chris a lot to the point of trying to cook like him, but she never succeeded, so she decided to concentrate on her adept training until Chris ate with her again.

 

Alone, Chris relentlessly trained his skills, learning every step of Earth's elemental power. Reviewing the knowledge of the scrolls about his element, he became familiar with that aspect of nature.

 

Sleeping on the solid stone floor of a cave or the soft earth of the lakeshore, being covered in mud due to his training, he even learned the smell and taste of the earth from different places, accidentally. Although all of that didn't serve to better control the earth, it wasn't until Hama's intervention that Chris made significant progress.

 

By the time Chris returned to the isolated world of the temple, everyone saw him very differently, for most of them it was a noticeable difference of 4 years, they are all teenagers, but the most drastic change is noticed by Karen and Fanny: their eyes have a brightness that they had never seen in him. Even out of the usual. Yamamoto that day had decided to keep an eye on the young apprentices close to becoming true adepts.

 

After so long of being separated from the course, Chris knew nothing about the dynamics of the group, so Yamamoto explains that the session that day was elementary combat. Instead of fighting the adepts, they make the elements fight each other, no one gets hurt and evidence is left of who makes the best use of their power.

 

Hama appears just behind Chris and proposes that he get a showdown with Karen and Fanny in one-on-one duels and Yamamoto agrees. As the two of them are the best of the course, they will be the most effective to know his level and prepare an adequate regimen for him to train with supervision.

 

All the students are excited to see the top two in the class beat Chris, but he keeps his composure. Karen is happy to see Chris again, but she knows that she should not be distracted from training and even more so being an undefeated student in any kind of duel within the course of adepts.

 

—Don't think I'll hold back just because it's about you, Chris. —Karen says with an expression full of emotion as she lights a fireball in her right hand.

—That's what I want, Karen, come with everything! —Chris replies, holding his ground.

 

She throws her fireball, and it expands as she moves, proving that Karen has control over the fire even after she has released her power. Chris responds by molding the earth to encapsulate the great fireball but seeing that the wall begins to break by the great power he is trying to stop he blows the earth under the fireball, leaving the entire site covered by a cloud of smoke and dust.

 

Chris can't see anything, but he feels something coming and when he looks up he sees how several fireballs are coming towards him, this time smaller, but they all move more elegantly than the first giant one. He puts his hands on the ground and molds the earth to generate arms from the ground and grabs the projectiles, returning Karen her own attack.

 

She uses snaps from her hands to defuse each of the fireballs as they head towards her. With the sound, Chris identifies the location of his opponent and sends pieces of land using the arms he molded. The first projectile does not hit Karen but alerts her and begins to move to dodge the rest.

 

When Karen gets to where she remembers Chris was, she realizes that he's not in place before the explosion either:

—«Surely he went to where I was, we exchanged places. » —Karen deduces as she tries to predict Chris by the years she has known him.

Chris is looking for Karen, but can't find her:

—Here I am, Chris! —Karen shouts from above.

—«Did we exchange places? » —thinks Chris when he seeing that Karen used the fire to jump from where he was before and shoot him down with a moderately large fireball.

 

He molds the earth to block Karen's attack, but with the difference in speed, Chris can only generate a wall very close to him and not thick enough. The others conclude the duel when they see Chris' inevitable defeat, but Fanny realizes that he has prepared a way out.

 

When the fireball falls on him, the ground below collapses, and the two fighters sink into the earth.

—«He softened the earth to cushion the impact of the fire attack. » —Fanny is impressed by Chris’ improvised strategy.

—It's not over, Chris. —Karen says as she resumes the attacks of her flaming element.

 

She throws flares and Chris blocks them with extremely thick walls, but they only manage to cover enough to prevent the attack from hitting him directly. Being exposed to the heat released from the fire, Chris begins to get tired and knows that at that rate he will end up defeated by heat stroke.

 

While he concentrates his hands to build walls and protect himself, his feet are responsible for molding the earth in the surroundings and attacks Karen from all sides. She was so distracted attacking that she didn't realize the counterattack that was going for her. Karen quickly concentrates a lot of fire on a tiny incandescent ball and releases the fire into a whirlpool that incinerates everything around her.

 

At the end of Karen's defense, she is exhausted from using so much elemental power suddenly, and Chris come out of the earth and gobbles her up until she only exposes her head, being buried almost completely:

—You almost killed me with your fire, plover head. —Chris says exhausted.

—But you survived, so make do with breaking my perfect record. —Karen replies in frustration.

 

All the students and monks can't believe that Chris defeated Karen, having been an unattainable figure and an uncontrolled mess for them respectively. Fanny is called to fight, and Yamamoto re-establishes the training ground with his power. All the wrecking that the two young did in a duel was undone with a simple swipe of Yamamoto's finger, showing that he is far above them in skill.

 

Now Fanny confronts Chris and one of the students gives the signal to begin the elemental duel. He prepares for whatever comes, but she gives up:

 

—I don't need to fight you, I'm just glad you come back. —Fanny confesses with a sweet smile.

—«Good thing, I was completely exhausted after Karen, I wouldn't have been able to deal with Fanny so soon » —Chris thinks relieved as he endures the tiredness.

 

The whole group of students was dissatisfied, but they cannot cope with the one who defeated one of the prodigies of the course. Chris now has prestige among his peers, but he stays away from everyone, he just wants to rest after a big win.

 

In the dining room, Chris is cooking his own food and eating with Fanny after so long. While enjoying the meal Karen approaches the table and Chris offers her a seat next to him:

—You must be hungrier than me, you're more gluttonous than me, after all. —Chris says as he brings her food plate closer.

—Thank you, Chris. —Karen thanks while crying a little while being with her old friend after so long.

—«Were the two of them so close? » —asks Fanny to herself as she sees them together in front of her as she continues to eat quietly.

 

The three eat happily, talk about everything they have done for the past two years, while Chris was isolated from everything and everyone. Karen had a hard time with spiritual meditation and Chris agrees, it is extremely difficult to enter the inner world. Even if you manage to immerse yourself in your own soul, you can get lost in the huge ocean of your own thoughts, emotions, and memories.

 

—When I meditated, the first thing I thought about was how lonely I was when I arrived at the temple. —tells Chris to his only two friends —My life was so empty, then I unearthed the memories of my life before I got to the temple. How I was abandoned here, I don't want to live it again and I have realized that this is how I made you both feel. I'm really sorry.

—That's not true! Of course, I missed spending time with you a lot, but I knew that you would return sooner or later, although I tried to look for you I could not get close to you and I understood what you felt when you stayed behind us. —Karen replies, showing her true feelings.

—You still owe me a lot of meals; you better be prepared. —Fanny says as she carries one more bite of food in her mouth— Ah, how I missed this food.

—«It's true, I'm not alone anymore, now I have the two of them in my life. You made me happy for so long and I didn't know it. » —Chris thinks as he sees the two girls eating and talking in front of him —«I hope I can be with you for the rest of my life. »

 

Back to the present, a new day at the hot spring hotel, everyone is exhausted from not being able to sleep much, so they decide to sleep late in order to be well. Although Hanna decides to look for Chris to find out if he is resting properly for his final recovery... He's nowhere to be found.

 

Back in the city, Chris is wandering until he finds a huge building, upon entering he finds a large number of people coming and going, contemplating the architecture and relics that are on display. He is in a museum, but not just any, it is the Museum of Legends, Chris listens from the vicinity to a guide explaining the tour and decides to keep a low profile and mix with the crowd.

 

As the group progresses Chris can see relics from many places and times, from swords, armor, to documents written on parchment. Each and every artifact present was used by the legendary warriors who rose victorious at the top of King's Mountain.

 

It is practically contemplating the history of the world, heroes who managed to forge a path to the future of the world, monsters that almost destroyed it in their desire for domination, each and every one of them had fixed objectives about what to do with so much power. As he moves deep into the showroom, Chris begins to fill himself with melancholy and insecurity about whether to take up the challenge.

 

Then they arrive at the most important piece of the entire museum, the Twin Stone. It is a huge indestructible monolith, prostrate in the sight of anyone who shows the names of all the Kings of the World, those who reached the top have their names immortalized in it.

 

There is a reason why it has the word "twin" in its name, its counterpart is at the top of King’s Mountain, and legend has it that you must be recognized by the stone at the top for your name to be engraved on both.

 

Everyone retires after a while, but Chris is left seeing the last names written, only the last two are marked, according to the guide means that those people are still alive. When they die, the mark will fade, but the strange thing is that they have been alive for centuries.

 

There is also a legend about those last two names: The War of the World. Four hundred years ago, a man came out of nowhere, gained adepts throughout all the lands, and reached the top of the world, became the most powerful of all, and eventually his power reached every last corner of the world.

 

One day he showed his true identity and betrayed the whole world. Brandishing his sword shrouded in the flames of hell, commanding hordes of demons with pure intimidation of his determination, he almost destroyed the world and was called the Demon King.

 

It was then, when heaven, earth and sea were submerged in darkness, that a light pierced the skies of the whole world, and a woman confronted the Demon King. That woman was known as the Heavenly Queen, and the two fought for four uninterrupted centuries in different places around the world.

 

For more than thirty years none of them have been seen fighting again, some fearing that the fight will continue very soon, while others trust that the Heavenly Queen managed to defeat the Demon King and thus save the world.

 

On the ceiling of the room, at the top, that legend is described in painting, the author remains unknown, but witnesses affirm that she was a direct witness of the last of her legendary battles and therefore immortalized it in that painting on the ceiling. The clash of good against evil, light against darkness, the two sides of the same coin, a confrontation that has lived in people's hearts since the beginning of time.

 

A story that leaves Chris stunned, he remains silent, processing what he just noticed in the painting, the illustrated Demon King's sword is very similar to his own sword. The dots begin to connect, the sword carries a powerful curse, his master handed him the sword, the dark arts are mostly curses, the Demon King wrapped his sword in the flames of hell and his master was a Fire Adept, incredibly powerful does not do him justice.

 

Chris becomes increasingly confused, everything points to that conclusion, his master is the Demon King, but why? What motives did the Demon King have to stop fighting and isolate himself on that mountain like a hermit? What happened to him to end that legendary battle?

 

—«That they have done nothing to deserve this? It is quite the opposite, by doing nothing they allowed injustices to happen to real innocents. Humans without powers are just blind cattle, before the six-lord system they almost caused the extinction of the adepts. It was poetic justice that the Demon King came out because of them. » — Chris recalls Ryuken's words during their confrontation.

 

One thing is for sure, the Six Lords have some connection to the Demon King, so Chris heads once again to the resort, to talk to that person once again. Karen is on the same bench as the night before, totally exhausted by what happened.

 

As he approaches her, the rest of the group begins to gather around him, fearing for what might happen. "As one of the Six Lords, what do you know about the Demon King?" She is left with a blank look; everyone is surprised with what has just been mentioned.

 

Chris puts Karen in context, about what he just discovered about his teacher. Despite what happened in the past, Chris is asking for Karen's help, and that is already an advance for her, so she decides to accept her request, in order to improve her situation.

 

"About four hundred years ago the Six Lords System was founded, each of them is a powerful adept with the ability to guide all his people and defend the territory from humans. But who was the founder?"

 

Chris knows where the story is going, but he keeps quiet so as not to jump to hasty conclusions.

 

"A boy lost his family in an adept hunt by the Imperial Inquisition, growing up, the young man became a powerful adept, brandishing his sword engulfed in flames. Back then the Adepts Creed was that elemental power was to interact with the world, never to attack our fellowmen.

 

But one day, while some adepts were being sent to the stake, the young man rescued them using his powers, fighting to prevent their deaths. The struggle of the young man became that of more and more adepts, they began to unify into a movement instantly, they organized, allied, got resources with the jobs they could do in a simple way and expanded the influence of the movement by each continent.

 

Thus, in a matter of a few years, around the world, the adepts designated their territories in natural fortresses, which were only habitable and accessible to the adepts. The Territories of Adepts were founded, the nations that today are world powers for their great military potential and skills impossible to reproduce with current technology.

 

That young man could not be everywhere, so he appointed his most faithful and powerful allies as the leaders of each territory. It was in this way that the Six Lords System was born.

 

There is only one leader, the most powerful has the highest authority, but no one could know what would happen next. Once the territories were established, the nations of humans began to ally themselves in order to try to match the power, but they could not do anything, the massive armies had inevitable deaths due to the extreme conditions and the difficulties of access.

 

When each continent had lost the vast majority of its soldiers, the human nations were left at the mercy of the Six Lords, but the young man decided not to attack them. Instead, he decided to forge alliances with them, in order to prevent more adepts from dying at the hands of humans without powers.

 

The whole world was amazed by such a display of kindness, "Goodness is not measured by good deeds, but having the power to do something bad without consequences and still not to do it.", those were his words. World leaders agreed without complications.

 

On the day of the agreement, just as the world alliance was about to take place, the place was completely destroyed. That man destroyed all the leaders, kings from all over the world, and the Six Lords remained as accomplices of that betrayal.

 

But the power of them was enough to take the reins of the situation, the Six Lords turned against that man, who would show his true facet as the Demon King. The hordes of demons were too powerful for all the unified adepts against them, but then the Heavenly Queen appeared and fought alone against all the darkness.

 

Since then, the Six Lords isolated themselves from the rest of the world, and with the passage of time the Nations of Adepts distanced themselves, leaving the world increasingly divided.

 

That's all Karen knows as one of them, Chris analyzes what happened, but there are still no clear answers about his teacher's current motives. That the Demon King founded the Six Lords System is already too hard to believe, Chris thanks Karen for revealing the information he wanted, but he remains confused with what to do with his life.

 

She just puts her hand on his shoulder and makes it clear that she will support any decision he makes. But then she speaks quietly in his ear, asks him where his teacher is, but Chris does not answer, despite being the Demon King he is still his teacher, he is the one who will fight him if necessary.

 

Karen leaves but not before making one last comment:

—Was it Ryuken who gave you a clue about the Demon King? If you made him speak during his duel, then maybe you have a chance against his brother, Volt. —the childhood friend asks seriously in Chris' ear.

 

As Karen moves away on the horizon, Chris asks Guilian about Volt, as he was mentioned on several occasions at the Adepts Tournament in Heinburn. Guilian claims that Volt has a great rivalry with Ryuken, they have fought deadly duels on many occasions.

 

Also, that the guy with whom Chris fought in the first round, Morgan, is one of his commanders, Volt is also known for being the most warlike of all the Six Lords, as he uses his people as an army to destroy the kingdoms of humans and expand his territory and influence.

 

Chris processes the information for a few moments, but before he gets going someone suddenly arrives, somewhat familiar boy:

 

—«He's the guy who faced Caellach in Vodheim. » —Hanna admits to the young man.

—Hey, hey, did you follow us from Vodheim? —Guilian asks —You should consider building your life around yourself.

—Close your mouth, Guilian, don't you see that he is tired of traveling to find us? —Tsubaki rhetorically asks —What do you want, child?

—«Child? If we are the same age. » —the young man thinks as he tries to catch his breath.

—He managed to withstand a one-on-one fight against an Imperial General, Tsubaki, you have to give him more credit. —Chris says of the young man in front of him.

—I need your help, Chris. —replies the young man, trying to explain himself between gasps —I want you to help me defeat Volt.

—«Is this for real? If just a few minutes ago we were talking about him. » —the situation is strangely convenient for Chris —«With so many coincidences, it's surely 'her' doing. »

 








Chapter 18 – Reminiscence

 

Chris and his friends are with the young man from Vodheim in a room, apparently his request has very personal motives. He explains that rumors have been circulating about Volt's next target, the kingdom of Ceres in the far east, the royal family is of great importance to him personally.

 

As hard as he try, he doesn't quite convince Chris, it's none of his business, he has no reason to fight a war for a country that has no relationship with him. Although there will be many innocent deaths, he is only one man and conflict is inevitable in human nature.

 

—Please, please help me save Ceres. Maybe you are one man, but I am also just a man, I can't defeat him by myself. —the young man bows his head while begging for help —I heard you defeated Ryuken, so you have a better chance of defeating Volt than anyone.

 

—No matter how noble your goal is, I will not march into a war that does not concern me. If I did, I could end up dragging my friends, and if something happened to them I wouldn't forgive myself. —Chris replies as he leaves the scene.

 

Everyone feels somewhat uncomfortable about such a statement, Chris considers them his friends, not just companions, and that makes them happy, but they feel guilty for being the reason he does not try to save countless lives. It's a very complicated position.

 

The young man tells the rest of the group that he will stay at the resort in case he changes his mind, and everyone leaves. Chris is walking around as his friends catch up with him to try to talk about it.

 

—Wow, you've become more insensitive, mud mask. —a woman's voice sounds from behind, interrupting the desperate attempt to convince him

—Of all the places in the world, what are you doing here, Master Hama? —Chris recognizes the unequivocal voice of the teacher who helped him so many years ago.

—You know that I am like the wind, I roam the world free, I know people, fate plays tricks from fun to bizarre. —Hama explains with a carefree smile next to his smug attitude.

 

Despite having a respectable face, her attitude is completely carefree, making Tsubaki uncomfortable, but Pierre is brimming with happiness. Everyone is surprised by his anticlimactic attitude.

 

—Priestess, I didn't think I would find you again so soon. Thank you so much for guiding me to the tournament. —thanks Pierre with a dazzling smile, making Hama somewhat uncomfortable.

 

The reason Pierre came to Heinburn is because he was guided by Hama.

 

—I'm glad I hit the nail on the head, by the way, Chris, I met Karen recently, isn't she a beauty? She grew up pretty well since you two were kids. —Hama mentions while making gestures about the "curves" —Ah, youth, you should take advantage now that you can, otherwise you will die a virgin.

 

Chris sends Hama to silence, her sense of freedom takes away all common sense, decorum and even respect for personal space. Everyone can only watch as Hama lays on over Chris’ head as she continues to speak without any discretion for intimacy.

 

The young man from Vodheim meets the group again and recognizes Hama:

 

—Mrs. Hama, thank you for the information, although I could not convince you to help. —the young man is disappointed that he failed in his task.

—«Apparently she knows so many people who coincidentally have a tendency to find each other. » —Chris deduces from what has been revealed during the conversation.

—Don't worry, I've known him since he was a little tadpole, if you want some respect, challenge him to a duel. —mention Hama as she plays with Chris’ cheeks and rubs his hair—Prove your worth to him and maybe he will take your family situation into consideration.

 

She knows Chris like an open book, so it is inevitable that she will push him into her game, it is even possible that he has already fallen from long before.

 

Despite the last remaining of his injuries, Chris accepts the challenge, winning the first to strike a direct blow. Everyone watches as they wait for the fight to start while Chris’ gaze is fairly calm.

 

—Get started! —shouts Hama as everyone walks away from the area.

 

Chris stands still as the young man rushes straight out to him, his body wrapping itself in elemental power and taking the form of armor.

 

—Fascinating, you also materialize the elemental power of earth, and it is incredibly dense and with high detail, but... —

 

He dodges the first blow, and the next, and the one that follows, no matter how much he fights, Chris dodges all attacks, because they are useless if he can’t catch Chris at all.

 

—This is not even the speed with which I dodged Ryuken's attacks. You just waste energy. — Chris’ stern words are full of disappointment.

 

Dodging another blow, Chris hits him in an armor opening, and maintains the strategy. With normal blows and evasion, without any elemental power, the young man is put against the ropes in less than 3 minutes.

Panting with tiredness, the young man lashes out one last time at his opponent and Chris decides to end the duel once and for all. Just as the young man throws a punch, Chris deflects him with his palm and twists him towards his back, reduces him to the ground and uses his legs to press against his back, almost completely paralyzing his mobility.

 

—You will die uselessly if you do not find a more effective way to fight. —Chris declares upon seeing the young rookie wasting his potential.

 

The young man, lying on the ground, unable to get up, can only feel helpless as Chris walks away after destroying his hopes.

 

—Well, you tried, better to try and fail than not to try. —says Hama as she watches Chris and company go —Don't worry, I have a hunch that "that place" will make him change his mind.

 

As they walk, Chris talks to his friends about his insecurities, the truth about his teacher, the origin of the sword, his goals are no longer so clear, reuniting with Karen, he is at a crossroad. No matter how much experience you have, it is one of the most difficult decisions you must make, what to do with your life.

 

They all try to support Chris, no matter what he decides, they will accompany him without regrets. Guilian appreciates that Chris avenged his dream by fighting Ryuken, Tsubaki thanks him for taking her out of the woods, Hanna admires Chris for helping her take charge of her life and Pierre... he just finds Chris’ direction fascinating, there's no decision he makes that leaves him regrets.

 

Chris is truly grateful to be able to open up to his friends, but once he starts paying attention to his surroundings again he realizes that they have returned to the city, they are in the market. He contemplates his reflection in an apple, very appetizing to the eye, Guilian desperately wants to eat and Tsubaki begins to scold him.

 

Normality returned and Chris smiles, slightly relieved, although the noise causes an old woman to complain about it, turning out to be the owner of the fruit stand. Chris apologizes for the disaster of his friends and reluctantly the lady accepts the apology, as long as they buy merchandise from her.

 

Having been blackmailed into buying fruit, Guilian enjoys how juicy the fruit is, too delicious to be normal. As they talk about food of uncertain origin, the old woman begins to look close at Chris’ face, making everyone uncomfortable without exception.

 

—That alignment of moles around the left eye, you even have the mole in the right tear. There is no doubt, you are that child. —says the old lady of the fruit.

 

An unknown person recognized him; among all the people he may have encountered there is a clue about his origin.

 

Chris gets straight to the point; does she know me from somewhere? "Yes, you are that child, your mother used to buy me fruit, she had a very peculiar personality. It's a shame what happened, at least she left you her pendant." He immediately remembers Ryuken's question, "Where did you get that pendant?"

 

"She used to say that the pendant was a kind of protective amulet. Despite that, she could not avoid that misfortune." It's not enough, he needs to know more.

 

"18 years ago, there was an adept hunt by the Imperial Inquisition, the entire valley south of King’s Mountain was destroyed. You used to live there." Chris holds her too tightly and asks for the exact location.

 

He runs out and his friends follow him until he stops in a field full of grasslands, "This color, this scent, the butterflies, the scenery, ..." Chris starts running again and everyone follows him while worrying about his condition, he is too upset.

 

They arrive at a shattered house; it is clear at first glance that no one has lived there for decades. Chris enters slowly, sees the shattered furniture, walks around the site while sliding his hand through the wood walls.

 

Vague memories resonate in Chris’ mind as he contemplates every detail of the house, climbs upstairs and reaches a bedroom where he finds a crib next to a large bed, or at least the remains of it. He falls to the ground, sad, everything inside him begins to fall apart again.

 

His friends, worried to the point of not being able to ask him about it. Chris decides to reveal to them the most hidden of his past, his "origin". Something only a childhood friend would know.

 

"The most distant memories I have are of having lived in the open, on the streets of towns and cities. I used to see people having normal lives while I was completely still.

 

Where are the adults headed? Where are the other children going? What does the food everyone has taste like? These were questions I couldn't answer. I used to be with two children older than me, they took me by the arm and at last I was allowed to move.

 

Sometimes they would come running, short of breath and hiding food among their clothes and we would eat together. If it was cold we slept together in containers. As time went on I realized that I was an orphan, most likely those children were too.

 

We would get into boxes inside wagons and even on a boat, we were stowaways. They took care of me during those hard times. One day of many, I felt very bad, I did not stop coughing, my head was spinning, and I could hardly breathe.

 

They told me that that day was my day, it was the fourth time they celebrated my day. They asked me if I wanted something special, anything I wanted they would take care of getting it, so I ordered delicious food to eat the three of them together.

 

They walked away and I fell asleep, I don't know how long it was, but when I woke up I felt better and was in a monk's temple. I immediately asked about them, they must be looking for me to eat together, but they told me that they found no sign of the two of them.

 

Currently I don't know if they were real in the first place, I don't know if what I lived was real, but for such a small child, just four years old, they were my world. I waited at the door hoping to see them again, the day was over, the days turned weeks, the weeks in months, even if I no longer expected them to appear I kept waiting at the entrance of the temple in case anyone knew anything about me.

 

As I learned basic things I began to wonder if I had parents, if those children were my older siblings, we all have family in this world inevitably, so why am I alone? Why didn't anyone care about me? Am I so insignificant that no one will seek me?

 

Since I was a child I was broken, empty, hollow, the only thing I had to hold on to were those questions. Eventually I aimed to find the answers to those questions. I will find my family, I will find my origin, and once I have all the answers... I will make a decision. "

 

That last sentence left the group chilling from the tone with which he said it, adding the somewhat gloomy look on Chris ‘face. Whatever the final decision, it is something he still keeps none of his friends feel entitled to ask about it.

 

The concept of family forges our identity, Guilian was separated from his family by circumstances, Tsubaki was raised by the head of the Elves and at least has a clue to her origin, Hanna lost her family to the fire leaving her permanently scarred and Pierre... just support his new friend.

 

It has been a rise and fall of emotions for Chris, the worst day of his life, his only pillar with which to sustain himself are his friends:

—I would fight the whole world as long as I don't lose you. —Chris says openly as his expression stops being gloomy but shows as great a determination as when he fought Ryuken.

 

Everyone smiles and lets Chris know they feel the same way.

 

They end up returning to the resort, it has been the longest day of their lives and the most exhausting, especially for Chris, but the young man from Vodheim tries to convince him once again, although this time it is all his friends who reject his request. Although Chris asks him about his identity, since he appeared he has felt that he is hiding something, if he doesn't reveal everything she will never consider it.

 

"You win, my name is Heinrich Heinburn VII, Prince of Heinburn and sole heir to the throne. For centuries the kingdoms of Heinburn and Ceres have had a close relationship not only politically but also mythologically."

 

Everyone is shocked by the revelation and Chris uses what's left of his strength to say, "Your mother gave me a message for you before leaving the kingdom: Don't go home and stay hidden."

 

"Ouch", is all Guilian says after a few moments of awkward silence. Chris does not know the reasons that Queen Alice has for sending such a message to her only son, and he is not interested, but he is fed up with the King's Mountain, about his past, his unknown origin, he wants to get as far away from that place as possible.

 

—Also, if none of the Six Lords have succeeded in the King's Mountain Challenge, then I'm not so sure I can do it yet. —Chris has resigned himself to his hasty destiny—First I will travel the whole world; will you accompany me?

 

Everyone responds vividly with a strong yes.

 

Heinrich doesn't understand whether he agreed or not, so Chris lets him know that he expects a big reward for fighting a full-scale war for two countries that have no relationship with him. He takes that as a yes, the trip will take about three weeks, so Chris is going to be in top shape by the time they reach their destination.

 

Meanwhile, at the city market, Karen finds herself buying supplies to go on a trip and the fruit old lady approaches her:

—Did you visit the ruins of your village after all? Your parents have been waiting for you for a long time. —asks the old lady very curiously.

 

Karen replies that it was very difficult, many things have happened to her on The King's Mountain, both past and present.

 

—I can only say that, despite the pain of tragedy, I was able to meet him, and I can't imagine a life without having met him. —Karen says with a bittersweet smile, filled with both happy and tragic memories.

 

She says goodbye and both Karen and Chris move away from King's Mountain in opposite directions, not knowing that they will eventually meet again.

 








Chapter 19 – Setback

 

Chris and his friends agreed to help Prince Heinrich fight one of the Six Lords, Lightning Volt, despite being an adept he is the only one in the whole world who has achieved a power as ominous as it is unheard of except for folklore legends from different civilizations and eras. In just one day they reached the east coast by rail and since then reopened their maritime routine chapter.

 

Tsubaki, Guilian and Pierre spend their time training while Hanna stays with Chris to oversee his recovery. Heinrich is the one who directs the boat, although the crew accepted the job of transporting them with a great reward, they insist that they will not even be able to enter, since the Kingdom of Ceres is isolated from the world, foreigners are strictly prohibited.

 

Heinrich doesn't care at all, as he feels total confidence that his lineage will allow him to enter alongside his "vassals", at least that's the excuse. If necessary, they will enter the force to help, despite not having asked for help in the first place. Chris can't even believe he has accepted, but since they're already on their way, he has no choice but to move on.

 

After a few days at sea a carrier pigeon arrives, Heinrich mentions that he is in contact with an intelligence group, so it is common to receive information from them. The report upsets him, apparently underestimating the effectiveness of the adepts of Rushen, a nation ruled by Volt, because the attack that was estimated to fall within a month will be in just one week.

 

As the entire team has been in Vodheim they are aware of how basic the technology and knowledge of the adepts is, even though they belong to one of the six territories, as they depend heavily on their powers. The large displacement of its soldiers is abnormal, it has been estimated that it has displaced at least ten thousand units and mixed them with the civilian population while the main forces arrive.

 

Understanding the magnitude of the threat, Heinrich tries to convince the crew to go faster, but it is impossible. A boat 7 meters long only reaches 10 knots of speed; it is physically impossible to exceed its maximum speed.

 

—It is not impossible if you have the forces of nature at your disposal. —says Chris as he gives his friends a look full of conviction— Tsubaki, constantly provides gusts of wind to the sail of the ship; Pierre, you control the wave water on the bow of the ship; Guilian and Hanna, propelled fire from the stern and the crew is responsible for inspecting at all times the durability of the entire vessel.

—How do you know so much about sailing? —asks the ship's captain.

—My teacher told me stories of his journey around the world. —Chris replies with an expression of discomfort —If the sea routes have not changed over the years, then we can chart a course that takes advantage of the underwater currents and compensate for the ship's capabilities with our powers.

 

The captain is surprised by the performance of the young adepts, maintaining a constant rhythm they manage to triple the speed of the ship. They could not perform to such a degree if it were not for the constant training they have done since Vodheim and the great familiarity they have.

 

The elemental power of an adept is stored in its soul, which serves as a container and it can increase in size if it is "exercised" as if it were a muscle, while the degree of purity of the elemental power makes the abilities of an adept more effective, which can be called "potential". Chris understands that better than anyone because in addition to being an adept he knows the spiritual arts and knows perfectly the limits of his friends.

 

Taking breaks of 30 minutes for every hour of propelling the boat and sleeping properly, the team managed to get ahead more than half of the direct journey. It's been the most exhausting 4 days of their short lives, but they don't even have time to feel it.

 

On the fifth day Chris asks them to slow down a bit so they don't get so exhausted, and he himself decides to join the impulse team. No one understands how he is going to do it, but it is simpler than it seems, he is going to row with his increased strength, plus his body demands a great physical effort after resting so long.

 

They manage to match the speed with the final help, but they know that at the last moment more effort must be given, so all together they increase the pace, the captain is surprised to see that they have reached 40 knots. In just one day they reach the coast of Ceres, at least to see it on the horizon.

 

The good thing is that everyone will be able to rest for a whole day and recharge their energies. Heinrich is in charge of giving them all the food they need, but now they just need to infiltrate a country isolated from the world.

 

While resting from the high seas they think of some strategy, but they are invaded by ships of the marine guard, so the group of adepts hides in the boxes of provisions, they simply cover themselves with them, giving the illusion of being fuller the boxes. The crew makes the excuse of having been shipwrecked for several days after a storm and ended up getting there.

 

The guards believe the story, as they mention that the country has been hit by multiple storms in recent weeks. Many rituals have been carried out to appease the wrath of the gods, especially by the populations near the sea.

 

Chris understands immediately, the storms must be the work of Volt and his best soldiers, they take advantage of the damage to the coastal towns and their superstitions so that they are too busy to notice that they infiltrate the very beaches on which they live. Some must have infiltrated posing as castaways dragged to shore.

 

Due to the lack of boats on the beaches the guards decide to allow themselves to disembark in what remains of the port and stay in the village with the strict condition of not leaving the area and providing their services to the population. The crew accepts, as it means honest work to compensate for the infiltration that takes place under their noses.

 

After a small venture into the market, the crew manages to provide the team with local outfits to pose as natives. Something very useful to start their journey to the capital, although they should avoid as much as possible making contact with people.

 

—When it comes to infiltrating an isolated community, a sign that can give you away is the cultural difference. —Guilian warns his friends, because he spent years going from town to town hiding the fact of being an adept —Something as simple as the use of cutlery or the way you walk can discover your disguise.

—No matter how we behave, we're all very different, even more so Chris with his darkened skin tone. —Tsubaki points out, making a point —All of us have very diverse hair color unlike all Cereans with black hair.

—Hanna is the one with dark hair, but in terms of features of the face Tsubaki is the one who most resembles them, especially in the eyes —Heinrich adds while scrutinizing the clothes of a clothes line.

 

Everyone opted to wear those strange outfits called yukata and kimono and hide their heads with straw hats, although they all had trouble holding the clothes with that single belt. If you don't hold him properly, you can get naked very quickly, which happened to Tsubaki a couple of times while everyone was learning.

 

After a few embarrassing scenes, the team infiltrates the village, "walk normally" Hanna murmurs again and again while covering her face with a fan, as traditional etiquette says that women only wear their hair completely loose in their bedrooms. Since Hanna's face is somewhat exposed by her hairstyle, her anxiety is through the roof.

 

The team organizes to surround her so that she can remain calm while they walk, but that only causes them to attract attention. A woman with long, black, silky hair, dressed elegantly, covering her face as she walks slowly and carefully, being escorted by gallant men and a maiden showing great dignity, all the people begin to talk about how unexpected that "procession” is.

 

Suddenly people end up turning it into a march to the temple, believing that another ceremony will be held to pray to the gods. Hanna is so nervous that her body warms up to the point of starting to smoke. The strange thing is that her clothes do not burn in flames, she does not even feel that she has a fever, so the whole group deduces that it must be only her elemental power manifesting through her body.

 

Tsubaki sets out to cool her off with gentle breezes, but that only causes the pink leaves of the trees on the ground to start fluttering, making a scene that moves the villagers. The team begins to see the end of the village, as they observe that people are ready to bid them farewell, believing that they are heading towards the temple that is among the villages in the region.

 

—«Well, at least we can relax once we leave here. »—is what everyone thinks, until they hear someone mention that they have already sent a message to the temple via arrow so that the villages can make sure to monitor their route to their destination. Everyone screams silently as they try to accept the misunderstanding.

 

The slow walk in the village became a procession to the most important temple in the area, instead of walking slowly for a couple of hours it will be for a whole day, while people join in their path to carry out the ceremony. Hanna realizes how much the plan to reach the capital has been complicated because of her, so she sets out to resist like everyone else.

 

Having already gotten dark, people have made a path holding their paper lanterns to guide the procession, so they can only keep walking, but then Chris and Pierre perceive that something is not right. Suddenly, some lights in the distance begin to disappear, Chris can feel the ki around him, the movements in the area are too fast to be the work of predatory animals.

 

Everyone stops due to Chris’ warning sign, so Tsubaki decides to dive into the forest, her ideal environment. The two go together to investigate, letting the procession follow, but warn that they must speed up the pace if something bad happens.

 

Going a little farther inside, they find the persons holding the lamps, they warn them that there is a monster nearby, "It's the same creature that attacks the processions we try to send" That alerts Tsubaki, making her run on purpose for the monster to attack her.

 

Chris senses it, something is directed at her, so he throws himself into action with his increased strength. He doesn't need to use 100%, just a small 10% to jump through the trees and draw his sword in a few seconds, covering Tsubaki's back.

 

The presence moves away, but does not disappear, so Chris orders Tsubaki to return to the group. Their purpose must have been to drive them away from the group to attack them, as the two of them are the most suitable for combat in a forest at night.

 

The second problem is that if they want to keep a low enough profile to continue the infiltration they will not be able to directly use their powers. That is the biggest risk factor, as they could alert the infiltrated forces and provoke a premature attack, as well as make all the forces focus on them first than on the people of the kingdom.

 

Tsubaki moves quickly thanks to the wind, which is not visible, and has her bow and knives, while Chris uses increased strength and has his sword, so they can be more subtle. When they re-enter the route they realize that the procession advanced faster than they thought, so they hope that something has alerted them to danger.

 

Rushing to advance the route they find Pierre; he finds himself on alert:

—That thing tried to attack us, but I managed to deflect its attack, so I stayed to try to buy time. —reports the Water adept with some scratches on his outfit.

—«The creature is hanging around nearby, for some reason it did not follow the procession and focused on defeating Pierre. » —Chris deduces when inspecting the surroundings with the ki.

 

Chris sends Pierre and Tsubaki to meet with the others and he will take care of the creature. They obey the order and as they walk away they can only see how Chris gets lost in the foliage of the forest.

 

When they reach the rest of the group they are warned of everything Chris said, about not using their powers in public and the consequences of being discovered by the enemy and by the inhabitants. On top of that Tsubaki gives a very important warning to Hanna from Chris:

—The processions always involve an offering to appease the deities, in many cultures it is usually livestock, but there are others that do very dangerous rites and offer very specific things. —Chris’ words leave Hanna worried about her well-being, but she relies on her abilities and her friends to stay safe.

 

Back in the woods, Chris runs at high speed, chasing his target until he reaches a lake that reflects the starry sky. As the clouds move, letting out the moonlight, he can see the temple on top of a mountain from its position.

 

Chris senses that the creature is slowly approaching from the darkness of the forest, while on the side of the procession they end up reaching the stairs towards the temple. As Tsubaki delivers a second message to Hanna, Chris begins to see a silhouette coming out of the woods, a very well-defined female figure, and an incredibly familiar presence.

 

—No matter what you feel from now on, don't go after me for any reason. —is the second warning he sent exclusively to Hanna.

—Wow, if he is the slowest disciple of old Yamamoto. —pronounces the woman of the forest while revealing her identity. Chris is filled with disappointment at seeing the identity of the attacker of the processions.

—Old Yamamoto would be very disappointed in you, you used to be a kind soul with a big heart, I remember it for all the times I was attacked by the animals you brought to the temple. —says Chris as he recalls his childhood in the temple —I received many bites and scratches for your fault, but I was always instructed to accept the differences of others, especially yours.

—Animals are always honest with themselves, humans are liars, they hide their true personalities. You should know better than anyone, Chris. —replies the woman who only shows disgust mixed with melancholy.

 

He knows perfectly well the kind of situation he is in, so he decides to simplify things.

—Life is full of difficult decisions, especially if you're trying to do something good for others. That's something I learned from you, Lea.—Chris says to the woman in front of him with a look full of bitterness.

 

That's right, right in front of Chris was an old companion, someone he's known since his temple days, Lea.

—I'll show you how many animals I've seen around the world that humans should respect because of their importance in the food chain. —Lea prepares to devour her old companion.

 

With a bitter encounter with his past, Chris decides to deal with his old friend while keeping his friends away.

 








Chapter 20 – The East Wind in the Horse's Ear

 

The procession reaches the foot of the mountain, there are many steps, but the team must move on. Hanna is very worried about Chris, she is processing the warnings he sent her, but she cares more about what he can do when he is alone.

 

Chris contemplates his former classmate, he can see how much has changed by her gaze, he can see blur, the same look you have when you are blinded. The goals you have, the goals you crave, you can stare at them, but you become so obsessed with them that you don't see the path you're traveling.

 

—How did Volt convince you to attack innocent people? —he can only express anger at the path Leah has taken—All of this goes against each of Yamamoto's teachings!!!

—Look who speaks, it was Master Yamamoto himself who expelled you from the temple. —she replies as her voice distorts—What you did after Karen's departure was not at all from the Human Kingdom, but from the Preta Kingdom, I will never forgive you.

 

She begins to change, her figure is modified, claws begin to grow, her pupils tear, a thin layer of fur begins to grow, becoming a cat woman.

—You really managed to become one with the animals, it was always for you the Animal Kingdom, but you must remember the upper level, the Human Kingdom. —Chris says as he wields his sword with resolve.

 

In a blink they disappear, they are moving inside the forest, chasing each other. They collide, Lea attacks him with her claws, but Chris bends his head, letting her make deep blows in the trunk of a tree.

 

Chris takes the opportunity to hold her by the limbs and she tries to get away, but does not succeed, although Chris recognizes that she has superhuman strength, because she is literally ceasing to be human. He perceives that her body begins to change, her fur falls out and her skin is smooth to the touch, in addition to loosening her body a lot.

 

She contorts and begins to hold him back, her hiss evidences the change, she is now a snake woman. Lea tries to bite his face, but Chris jumps back, dodging the bite larger than his head, and whips her to the ground.

 

He takes advantage of the impact to further increase his strength and frees himself from her scaled body. She changes again, Chris inspects her transformation with ki, he can perceive how her whole body changes, the organs are rearranged, stretched, such a level of change must cost a good amount of energy, because it is a complete metamorphosis.

 

Chris challenges her to overcome his strength and ability, and Lea becomes angry, so she interrupts her transformation in half and decides to take a different form. Her body enlarges, even the earth sinks a little, it even breaks some branches of how big she is getting.

 

Back on the stairs of the temple, everyone reaches the top and manages to see the monks prepared for the ceremony, so everyone prepares to escape at the slightest sign of danger. Hanna openly asks what kind of rite will take place, but the monks are only silent, as they guide her through a path of stone slabs to a kind of balcony on the edge of the summit.

 

It is a beautiful view of the forest in the light of the moon, the monks light fire in the surrounding cauldrons and begin to pray to the gods of heaven and earth.

—Oh, great monarchs, please accept our offerings and answer the call. Celestial Emperor, please no longer unleash your anger on us. —the prayers of the priests makes Hanna nervous.

 

In the distance she can see a thunderstorm approaching, as the wind becomes so wild that the monks begin to pray more fervently. Hanna doesn't have a good feeling of what she sees coming, as lightning begins to form strange shadows with the clouds.

 

—Hey, you don't just see a kind of snake inside those clouds, do you? —asks Guilian to Tsubaki on high alert.

—The shadows are easily deformed in the clouds; you must have imagined it. —Tsubaki replies, though she says it mostly to reassure him as much as she does herself.

 

Inside the forest, Lea finishes changing, "Metamorphosis Level 2 – Hybrid: Tiger + Bear" Chris contemplates how much control she has over such an unstable power. Just modifying her body requires energy and concentration, but she also does not get totally carried away by the instincts of animals, which must get out of control her human impulses.

 

Lea throws a blow of great destructive power, her fist covers his torso and head easily, Chris fails to completely dodge the impact and is thrown back into the lake, having destroyed several trees along the way. That blow would have been fatal if he had not used his Earth Energy Skin, as it is dense enough to cushion large amounts of external force, in addition to having retreated with a jump at the last moment.

 

—I thought you would be a bigger challenge, because you broke that damn Morgan’s skull. As soon as I entered Rushen's army and began to rise quickly, he began to despair of gaining merit and went to that tournament hoping to prove his worth. —Lea says when she sees her former classmate lying against a big tree —You gave him his deserved punishment, but you are too weak, Chris.

 

Hanna gets to see from the temple that something is happening in the lake, but she herself is on the ropes, her friends are focused on protecting her, and they can't use their powers. She begins to worry, so she asks Tsubaki to watch what is happening in the forest, she understands perfectly what Hanna is asking for.

 

While lying in the remains of trees, Chris begins to recall a fragment of the past:

 

Two years ago, Chris was formally accepted by Charles to train as a warrior, which is no easy thing, let alone follow the path after finishing training. "A warrior is not the one who fights, but the one who fights to protect." Those were the words of Chris' first lesson.

 

—Why do you fight? Survival? In such a case you are no different from the animals and the rest of the people who make up the masses. —says Charles looking firmly into his new student —A true warrior does not give up, for he has a reason to fight and make his way in the world and in life itself.

—Why do I fight? I have nothing and no one, I have no family, I no longer have friends, I am all alone. —Chris replies to himself —I have always looked for something, something that has always been lacking, that leaves me incomplete.

—«That’s it, meditate on your being, your ideas, thoughts, experiences, then you will find the answer. » —thinks Charles as he sees his disciple begin the real training.

—I want to find my origin, I honestly don't know what I'm going to do after it, but I don't have anything else. —Chris came up with an answer, incomplete, but he has nothing else to start with.

—Well, you may see it as a flimsy motivation, but remember that the more you cling to your reason for fighting, the greater the path you'll travel. —Charles' words guide Chris' heart—Also, as you progress you might find a bigger reason to fight for, it can be a person, an idea, whatever, but you'll know as soon as you find it.

 

Once he finishes dinner, Charles takes Chris to wield a new wooden sword and proceeds to teach him proper swordplay techniques. Charles knows how quickly Chris learns with his body, so the techniques that took decades to be developed and polished will be learned in a few years.

 

—Remember, each sword technique has a story by which it was born and also represents the life of the swordsman at that time. Every time you use one, try to do it with all due respect. —Charles says as he begins to open a fragment of the story he once lived.

 

Back to the present, in the forest of Ceres, Chris is slow to get up from the ground while Lea throws herself to give him a finishing blow, but realizes too late, he was making a feign. He slides under her crotch, cutting exact points on her knees and ankles.

 

Now Lea can't walk properly, and Chris lashes out at her with a series of high-speed sword attacks, each move complementing the next forming a swirl of flashes. His body dancing around his victim as he spins like a violent whirlwind of blades, Chris makes use of a technique it took four years to master, Storm of the Crimson Rain.

 

“A master of the sword, 400 years ago, was born mute and his only way of communicating was through dance. When war struck his country, he began his sword path and his most memorable feat was dancing between the enemy's defense lines, turning them into mounds of flesh. It is said that the land of the battlefield remained dyed red for decades.

 

At the end of the war, the actions of the swordsman were literally written in blood, those being the words that were most engraved in the hearts of the people.”

 

She can't even see what's going on around her, but between flashes she can see Chris' gaze that leaves her sweating cold as her body begins to collapse under its own weight.

 

Tsubaki realizes what's going on in the lake and warns Heinrich and Pierre to go with Chris, while Hanna keeps watching the thunderstorm begin to approach. She is only stunned with her eyes wide open as she pronounces a name in a very low voice, Volt.

 

A year ago, Hanna welcomed Lillian after a long journey:

—Welcome, Lillian. —Hanna says very blushingly.

—I'm back, Hanna. —Lillian replies smiling with fatigue and hugs her sweet and very nice friend —Sorry for taking so long to return, the negotiations were... somewhat turbulent.

—What happened? —asks Hanna intrigued —You said it would be a big step for Vodheim.

—Everything good requires a process, every step of that process is hard and very difficult to perform. —explains Lillian very exhausted —For the first time in history the Six Lords met in one place to establish international relations. We all have our own motivations for having risen to this position, but the progress of our nations is something we cannot ignore. That's something Karen showed us and that's why we all agreed to meet.

—«It's very difficult to be the head of a nation, right? Lillian. » —Hanna thinks as she listens intently to her friend and pours her a cup of her favorite tea.

—One man in particular was very different from the rest of us, Volt, his thirst for blood was immense, he almost made me vomit alone with his presence, as if the sky was falling on you. —confesses Lillian exhausted just remembering what happened —Ryuken stood his ground before hum, turns out those two have a bloody history of rivalry, but Selenne kept them at bay by being between the two. That woman seriously is exceptional, to maintain such composure in front of the two most powerful adepts of our generation.

—«The two most powerful, even stronger than you, Lillian? I don't even want to imagine it for a second. » —Hanna is relieved that she didn't attend the meeting, though it makes her feel bad for her friend.

 

Back in the lake, Lea's body begins to return to its original form, but her wounds, being small and accurate for her large body, end up being larger than expected bleeding quickly. Chris only watches as his former classmate, now corrupted by a thirst for revenge beyond his understanding, is stripped of life.

 

Lea can't stand the pain, but as she loses her strength, she also stops suffering, and she can only see how Chris' gaze remains the same as when she cut off her body. That leaves her terrified at every moment, until Heinrich and Pierre arrive on the scene, and Lea's gaze begins to be human again, an expression that screams "Help me, please. "

 

Chris begins to recite some strange and indistinguishable words for his companions and puts his hands on Lea's body, arching her body as if stopping having control over herself. Her breathing is deep and agitated, her body begins to glow and deform, from human to non-human and vice versa repeatedly.

 

Heinrich and Pierre only see how Chris is showing signs of being very focused while Lea is suffering with what little is left of her life.

—Stop, what are you doing to her?!!! —Heinrich yells at Chris as he approaches to try to stop him, but Chris falls to the ground, ending with Lea.

 

She is stiff, lying in the pool of her own blood, while Chris is short of breath, Pierre doesn't know what just happened. Heinrich pounces on Chris, but before putting his hand on him Lea breathes again, being upset to return to the world of the living.

 

Heinrich can't process what happened, but Pierre calmly asks Chris what just happened.

—It is a process called 'Transespiritual Dominance', I come into contact with a person, I connect to their soul and take control of them and, therefore, their body. —Chris replies with little force.

 

Chris explains that by taking control over her soul he was able to visualize how she used the elemental power of Earth and the spiritual arts to modify her body and transform into animals. Since Lea could not use her own power when she was dying, Chris took control and repeatedly transformed her not into an animal, but into a human in order to rebuild her body.

 

Her wounds healed completely, but she ended up exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually, so she will not die and will not be able to wreak havoc anymore on the inhabitants of Ceres. In addition, by touching her soul he could see her memories and especially Volt's plans, leaving Chris' gaze very gloomy.

 

Despite being a little hurt, Chris insists on carrying Lea's body, as he does not want to risk her contacting someone who is not spiritually trained. He explains that for any spiritualist a person without spiritual training is like a book without a padlock, easy to open and manipulate.

 

Therefore, the creed of spiritualists is always to use their abilities only for self-preservation and solidarity towards souls in sorrow. Never, never, to gain power over other people.

 

Although he admits that by saving Lea's life he broke the creed in a positive way, because the transespiritual dominance does not work in healthy people, for this they must be close to death. It would take a huge difference in willpower and stamina to take control of the souls of living, healthy people.

 

But he sees it as a possibility to control souls once people have died, although that would be too heavy of a burden, because the will of souls, especially those who are in pain, makes them want to free themselves. Making your own soul a cage for other souls, destroys you from the inside, figuratively and literally.

 

Heinrich and Pierre can't believe everything Chris has revealed to them, no matter how much time they spend with him, he will always have something hidden, about his past, his knowledge, his skills, although now is not the time for absurd distrust. They must hurry to the temple, because as they climb the steps they can feel how the energy is overflowing, an environment that bristles the skin.

 

When they reach the top they see for an instant the scene, Tsubaki is protecting Hanna and Guilian from the strong air currents, the rays do not stop going from one side of the storm on top of the mountain to the other. The monks are desperate to appease the wrath of their gods.

 

Lightning flashes through the temple, setting it on fire instantly, but it is insignificant compared to the fact that the temple collapses from lightning damage. Chris inspects the ki of the storm, it's an even more chaotic frenzy than his sword technique, it's somewhat unnatural.

 

He begins to do a kind of rite at the entrance of the temple:

—What a waste, they have a temple with great spiritual energy, an excellent Torii gate, and they spend it shouting to the sky to some gods that do not exist and if so, they would not listen to them in the slightest. —Chris says on the air even though the winds are so wild that no one can hear him.

 

A light covers the inside of the door, no one can't tell what's on the other side, but Chris yells at everyone to go through the door, or everyone will die. The team immediately flees, leaving the temple monks alone trapped in their delusions.

 

As they enter the light, they cannot see anything around them, everything is a blinding white and they stop feeling weight, there is no soil, they cannot distinguish the top from the bottom. Chris enters the last, closing the passageway, as it closes, an explosion enters with great force, shaking everyone, scattering them into the unknown space.

 

From among the fleeting lights outside Chris manages to see the silhouette of a man, wrapped in the fulminant spears that fall from the sky, clearly having knowledge of each other. The passageway ends up closing, gaining a breath of relief, but everyone is disturbed by the strange environment they are in.

 

None of them are able to use their powers, so they are all almost about to lose the last thing they have left of patience. Chris explains that they are safe, it is a place that eventually everyone will inhabit, sooner or later.

 

He begins to speak into the void, calling someone, everyone begins to hear a series of laments, something from beyond the grave that leaves them frozen. Chris manages to get tiny beings to approach, almost like small children, lamenting, suffering, sobbing.

 

—I'm sorry your forest has suffered, don't worry, eventually life will come back up, the trees you inhabited will grow once again. But my friends and I can't stay here long, or we won't go back into our world. —Chris says to the little creatures that only he can see.

 

Chris convinces the little beings to take them all to safety, and everyone can feel how they move. Tsubaki is terrified of feeling the small hands pushing her as if she were a leaf flying with the wind.

 

Without realizing it, everyone is in front of a torii gate like the one on the mountain where they were, but the temple is completely different and with great tranquility. Guilian asks what everything that happened was, or if it didn't really happen.

 

—They were kodama, spirits who live in the trees, watch over the peace and prosperity of the forest they inhabit and punish those who do not respect life. —Chris replies to his friend almost on the verge of madness —I appealed to their sadness to get us out of there, to a temple far from that strange thunderstorm.

 

Everyone continues to doubt what happened, whether what they felt was real or not, but they must reorganize themselves to try to get back on track to their goal. Chris and Heinrich begin to search nearby to orient themselves, while Guilian, Pierre and Tsubaki search the temple for something useful.

 

Hanna is left alone with Lea, she regained consciousness during that strange experience.

—He hasn't really changed that side of him, that damn Chris. He did not hesitate to take a risk and put you all into the spiritual world, but what I am sure of is that, if you had stayed on that mountain, Volt would have destroyed them all, including me. —Lea says as she begins to catch Hanna's attention.

 

She is still processing what happened, her mind is too exhausted to do anything. Lea clarifies that no matter how much she changes, no matter what she becomes, she has never been able to put a claw on Volt.

 

He was betrayed by a king and took revenge against the entire kingdom. After what happened in Nobyl, the whole area became uninhabitable, the thunderstorm endures, as a sign of his desire for revenge. There is not a single day that there is no lightning rain, whipping the lands that were once prosperous and full of life.

 

—Chris reminds me of Volt in many ways, his gaze as he cut pieces of my body, his thirst for blood was so intense. While watching how I was losing my life, he was impassive, after 'them' it is to be expected that a part of him would be broken, fragmented. —what Lea tells overwhelms Hanna, catching the attention of the rest of the group.

 

Hanna can't believe what she's hearing, Chris starts to get closer, trying to silence Lea from revealing something sensitive. She starts talking more and more, showing how unhinged she really is.

 

—I can't believe you gave her a part of you, a fragment of your soul. Well, you've always had a weakness for fire women, you try to repair them, that makes you feel like you're good, but I know you, you're still the same shattered child inside, they abandon you again and again, fragmenting your soul, your being. Scattering your fragments will not make disappear what has been done to you, you are a coward. —Lea verbally attacks Chris for not defeating him in the fight.

 

Chris hits out at her with a heavy direct punch to her face, knocking her unconscious once again. Everyone can only see him altered, containing with every fiber of his being his impulses, but they do not judge him, they only let him know that he can trust them.

 








Chapter 21 – Shoganai

 

Everyone is watching how Chris has an expression full of repressed feelings, things from the past come to light, the fear of abandonment makes Chris very insecure.

—Truly, I should never have made friends, I have become weak. —Chris says to himself in a low voice —Before I am abandoned again, I will be the one to abandon.

 

Chris flees with jumps of increased strength, leaving the team diving into the darkness of the night while his friends can only see hints of tears falling from his direction. No one can do anything about it, but knowing him, he is likely to continue with the goal of stopping Volt, so they bury their sorrows and move on.

 

—Eventually we will find him again, then we will follow him as we want, even if he does not want to accept it. —says Tsubaki in a broken voice as she draws determination from the depths of his being.

 

As they take a breath to vent the environment, they notice a huge light in the distance, the mountain they came from is burning in flames, illuminating to its position.

 

Chris saved them from a catastrophe, but something much worse is about to happen not only to them, but to the entire island country. Perhaps he has also considered it, so with more reason he left the team, for the possibility of being able to finish everything at once.

 

As Chris navigates a path at high speed many thoughts run through his mind, he needs focus. He remembers every time one of his friends joined the trip, and between memories appears an image of the past, two girls in front of him.

 

He kneels down and begins to take a deep breath:

—«Empty your mind, feel your surroundings, what surrounds you is real, the rest does not matter. » —one of his teacher's lessons, then he remembers all his training with him and the fact that he is the Demon King.

 

Chris hits a tree, breaking the bark in his anger, he feels that everything is crumbling, again. He cannot continue to flee from the past, but he can put an end to everything at any time, even if he does not have a future afterwards.

 

—«I will defeat Volt just before the attack, fight one-on-one and put an end to all this. » —Chris thinks as he looks determinedly. Just as his friends thought for so long, without them by his side, Chris makes the worst possible decisions.

 

The team decides to separate into groups, Guilian and Tsubaki, Hanna, Pierre and Heinrich, the latter carrying the prisoner.

 

Guilian and Tsubaki will be in charge of warning the feudal lords to organize each region, while the other team will go to the capital to warn the shogun, the supreme leader, of Volt's plans, for this they will take Lea. Perhaps there is not enough time, so the plan will be to evacuate the capital, and the forces of each region will invade the capital taken by the enemy.

 

Give enemy troops free passage to their target as the perfect bait, while the main forces gather in the full cage to focus the fight on a single zone. Heinrich's plan is unexpectedly sensible, considering how straightforward he has been since joining the trip.

 

The work of Guilian and Tsubaki is not so much burden, it is enough to warn a feudal lord so that the rest know about it and help organize the recovery of the capital. Once the war is over, they will have all the time in the world to look for Chris, as he is likely to fight so much that he will be exhausted and will not flee again.

 

With all their goals clear in their minds, the two teams set out to travel as quickly as possible and use their powers if necessary. As the two groups drift away, Hanna is only worried by everything she is feeling inside, they are feelings with so much weight and she remembers what Lea mentioned, "I can't believe you gave her a part of you, a fragment of your soul."

 

She wonders if the strange feelings she's had, the impulses that ran through her body during the tournament, all because of Chris’ soul fragment. Hanna isolates herself in her thoughts while there is still time to reflect.

 

From traveling from one temple to another in the middle of the night to just having dawned everyone is somewhat exhausted by everything that has happened. Heinrich recommends taking a break at a stop on the trail to the capital and everyone takes a big breath.

 

As they are near a village on the outskirts of the capital, Pierre and Heinrich decide to get a transport to get there much faster and rest as much as they can. Hanna stays to watch over Lea, being free to knock her out with her fire.

 

The cloudy sky ends up bringing a dense rain and leaves them both on the indoor bench while the pair runs as fast as. Pierre notices something in the atmosphere, especially from the rain, he lets Heinrich know that its feeling is as if something very big is about to happen, as if a huge wave is about to come towards them, although Heinrich does not understand a word of what he says.

 

Meanwhile, Guilian and Tsubaki are running at high speed thanks to the wind and concentrated explosions to propel themselves. But something is definitely not right, Tsubaki perceives a strange scent, they are being followed by numerous enemies, she reminds Guilian of the extermination of monsters from the forest of her village.

 

Guilian understands the situation with the hint, both prepare for combat, being back to back. A group of people appear from trees, shrubs and even from the ground itself, without a doubt they are adepts.

 

—We have been looking for our commander all night and saw the mountain near where she went to take her 'walk', where do you have her? —ask one of the guys of intimidating aspect.

 

Of course, they were from Volt's forces, and worse, Lea is one of the commanders, so they are cornered, the fight is inevitable, but Guilian and Tsubaki are not desperate, in fact, it is the perfect opportunity to vent about everything that happened at night, as well as warm up for the final fight. Gusts of fire, water and wind jump on them, but a whirlwind of Tsubaki envelops the two companions:

 

—No one else will interfere with my friends. —Tsubaki says with a very serious look, before releasing her gale to the invading soldiers.

 

During the instant of instability in the enemies, Guilian jumps towards them and makes them fly with a bang. Tsubaki sneezes at the intense aroma of ash, but feels a faint smell, very faint still to her sense of smell.

 

She reacts and dodges a stone the size of her head, had she not reacted to the attack her head would have flown out. A second projectile flies out and Guilian smashes it with a concentrated explosion.

 

With the second shot and having concentrated on the ear, Tsubaki located her target, prepared an arrow and shot it with her usual bow. Unlike other occasions, Guilian appreciates how refined Tsubaki's elven archery style has become.

 

The arrow pierces the fierce winds, reverberating in a whirlwind that runs through the forest and the two adepts see the silhouette of a person flying through the skies in the distance. The ruckus of the fight lasts only a few minutes, everyone is fainting and both adepts relaxed to know that the forces are less powerful than in the qualifiers of the tournament in Heinburn.

 

But if it is indeed ten thousand, then they will indeed be in trouble. They leave the troops hiding in the woods and continue on their way when the looming storm on their side begins to throw lightning, bringing out the recent wounds, especially in their pride.

 

Back on Hanna's side, she is waiting for Pierre and Heinrich to return, when she begins to feel that she is being watched with much disdain. She knows immediately that Lea has woken up, but despite what happened Hanna treats her wounds from her fight with Chris and his finishing punch.

 

Lea is uncomfortable about receiving gentleness from Hanna, after everything she said about Chris. When she sees her gaze, she begins to remember the past.

—You really look like her, Karen. —that leaves Hanna blank.

 

"I've known Chris since we were kids, I also remember the day Karen arrived at Yamamoto Temple. I'm sure I've seen your gaze before on her, a warm light to the world shrouded in darkness that only humanity can offer.

 

From the first moment I tried to brighten her life without any success, but when she was with him, it seemed that she left everything in the past, she was full of... hope. How disgusted I was, I guess it was envy and I even felt jealous of him.

 

That damn Chris did not value her enough, always insensitive because of the abandonment that he did not appreciate the way Karen saw him. Having the most wonderful woman right next to him, and he was just there, pitying himself, but she still loved him."

 

Hanna is stunned to hear of her friend's past, her gaze changes, Lea immediately knows the kind of expression she has. Disappointment that falls from an idealized image, jealousy evidencing the attachment and affection she feels in her heart, but above all, pity for everything that his friend must have suffered to have lost such a special bond.

 

—I can't believe it, you love him, don't you? —Lea says in surprise, leaving Hanna speechless in the face of such a revelation.

 

But that alone leaves her getting closer and closer to the precipice, the thought of being very Karen-like only clouds her mind about how she is seen by Chris.

 

She for many years believed she didn't even deserve to live, let alone be loved, so the idea of loving a person in that sense was out of the question. She just yells at her to shut up, not to utter any words again, and she is about to break down in tears.

 

Lea understands, it is for being so similar to Karen that it also hurts her to see her in that state, so she sincerely apologizes. "Love is inevitable, it is always our fault to love someone and suffer for it. I loved Karen so much that I ended up like this, I'm sure she would be disappointed in me as much as Chris was. I think I now understand why I was never chosen, neither before nor now."

 

A girls’ talk is such an effective confessional, many things come to the surface, good and bad feelings, problems are made visible, opening the possibility of solving them. Hanna and Lea begin to get along, and for about an hour the two of them forgot the situation they were in, that they were enemies, they were just two girls talking about love.

 

Far from the sentimental atmosphere, in a wasteland on the outskirts of the capital, Chris is surrounded by Volt's troops, having seen Lea's memories he could know exactly what to do to get attention. Just with his eyes he can see that there are at least a thousand troops, but no one expects him to have tricks up his sleeve.

 

He wields his sword and greatly increases his strength, covering his body with the Earth Energy Skin and taking his combat posture. The wind blows as the storm approaches, and the very organized formation is just waiting for "him" to arrive.

 

Chris takes the first step, and then the next, running straight into the crowd. The first line of defense raises walls of compressed earth and begins to throw rocks as powerful as cannonballs, while the later lines throw fireballs to incinerate him from behind, cutting off his escape.

 

But he has no intention of leaving the crowd, his gaze is once again filled with bloodthirst, smashing the wall with ease and confirming that Chris is an adept, but it is too late, he has already entered the formation and the frenzy began.

 

The cuts of the sword are precise, the blood begins to rain, creating confusion within the crowd and attacking without restraint, causing falls by friendly fire. Perceiving the ki, Chris takes the opportunity to do as much damage as possible trying to avoid causing death to someone.

 

His only goal is to deplete enemy forces as much as possible and send a message:

—None of you are up to the task, bring your leader. —Chris challenges the invaders as he rises above the bodies of his defeated companions.

 

Hopefully, that will attract the rest of the troops, or at least lighten the load on their friends on their respective fronts.

 

The roar of the battle echoes to the capital and the surrounding villages, the smoke evidences the origin of the noise. Both groups interrupt their activities in order to meet with Chris when they can see the direction from the smoke of the fire.

 

The first to reach the wasteland are Pierre and Heinrich, as they were closer than anyone. The only thing they manage to see is the blood-drawn earth while all the troops are badly wounded, Heinrich only describes it as the result of a massacre and remembers how dark Chris’ mind can be, as much good he tries to do.

 

The wind dispels the cloud of dust and Chris walks among the fainted bodies, his gaze is creepy and Pierre, for a few moments, loses his calm and experiences terror. Hanna and Lea, the last free of ties, arrive on the scene and are horrified by the landscape.

 

Hanna remembers something of utmost importance, Chris trained for four long years with the Demon King, taught him to be a warrior, to fight, to focus his darkness on something productive and not to be carried away by emotions. Lea can only come to understand what Chris felt when he saw her:

—Karen would be disappointed to see you. —is what Lea murmurs read before checking Hanna, who is terrified by the landscape.

 

The storm is on top of them, and lightning begins to dance through all the skies, falling several between Chris and his friends. Electricity is conducted by blood, blowing bodies up and reanimating almost everyone.

 

People begin to leave terrified, not only because of the cause of their injuries, but also because of what the storm represents. The message to the rest of the troops has been sent, there is only one remaining matter.

 

A huge lightning bolt falls in front of Chris, leaving a red-hot earth pit and from the smoke appears the silhouette he saw just half a day ago. Everyone present realizes Chris’ plan, the look he has is the same as in the salamander volcano, "I don't plan to go back, keep going" is what his face expresses.

 

They realize that they can do nothing to help him, more than a monster, more than some kind of warrior, in front of them is one of the Six Lords, Volt. His distinctly military outfit, his look exactly like Chris’, very penetrating.

 

—I heard you defeated my damn brother, that's my job. —Volt says with electricity flowing over his body.

 

Even without perceiving ki, his friends can feel the immense thirst for blood that emanates from Volt to the point of feeling nauseous. Chris maintains his composure and makes it clear that he knows his plans and will not sit idly by.

 

The atmosphere tenses, Chris can sense how the air around Volt begins to flow as the heat he emits from his body mixes with the air. Combining the elements Wind and Fire shows in front of him his famous style of Lightning.

 

Unlike Ryuken's mighty fire, his lightning is wild, piercing and, above all, devastating even to the naked eye.

 

—It's what you were looking for, isn't it? —es everything Volt says to start the fight.

 

With his mind clouded by all the damage he has just caused and realizing the people behind him, Chris prepares his power to fight without any restriction, no matter what consequences there will be in his own life.

 








Chapter 22 – Heaven Speaks

 

The air blows as the Sun rises above the horizon, Chris can clearly feel the difference in the personality of Ryuken and Volt. Both are perceived as having an atmosphere of heaviness, carrying something from the past just like him, but Volt is too ominous, his ambition is even greater.

 

Volt takes a long look at Chris as he remembers something that happened recently, just over a month ago. Back in Rushen, Volt’s territory that occupies half of the eastern continent, making it the country with the largest extension in the entire known world and that is a huge natural fortress due to the inhospitable climate.

 

The great Kreml fortress, its fortified security is shattered by huge bursts of fire that make way for the man from whom they emerge. None of the adepts is even able to do anything against the flares that make them feel hell on earth.

 

For that man only one sentence is enough, "Take me to him" while the penetrating gaze makes them sweat cold despite the enormous heat in the place. Everyone comes out terrified as they make way for the walking fire.

 

In the main chamber, where they have Volt and all the commanders gathered, they give the warning that 'that man' is approaching. Volt frowns and warns that they can't do anything about it, to let them "talk" alone.

 

All the commanders object, saying that they will defeat him right there, but Volt brings up a burst of electricity so dense that the pressure he imposed for an instant is enough to leave them pale. The commanders retreat, but it is too late, the fire begins to come out of the large ornate gate, leaving everyone even more terrified by the enormous pressure on both sides.

 

The doors open and man approaches without saying a single word, letting his presence speak:

—Wash away and do not return. —is what the man says as the flames dissipate as if nothing had happened while everyone retreats in a hurry.

 

Volt exclaims how bold he is for presenting himself that way in his territory to the confines of his headquarters, even intimidating his subordinates by letting out his power as if walking without pants on.

—Didn't you learn manners, Ryuken? —Volt asks his fiery brother, literally.

 

Still with traces of the combat wounds, Ryuken claims that he has no intention of fighting for the time being, he only came to speak as much as he dislikes it. Volt is disgusted by the idea, but he has no option to refuse, to fight would not be fun because he is not in top form and to do so within his territory there would be an international crisis in the Nations of Adepts.

 

The two sit reluctantly and the war-monger asks the origin of his current condition, making it easier for Ryuken to touch the purpose of his unexpected family visit. He tells him about a certain individual who against all possibility ended up meeting him in a certain coliseum and even more importantly, defeated him barely being a rookie out of nowhere.

 

—That guy carries the pendant. —is enough to leave Volt speechless, in just a moment the surprise turns to anger.

—Do you think that because it appeared everything will return to normal? Just so you know, that doesn't change anything that happened. —Volt says as his power begins to shake even the air.

 

Volt's anger corresponds to Ryuken's entrance, letting out lightning and causing storms above the Kreml that throw lightning throughout the area.

 

—This world will remain just as rotten as long as that man is still alive, there is no going back to everything he has done since before we were even born. —Volt's words are so forceful that Ryuken cannot refute him —No matter how innocent people think they are, they all carry the sin of that night and will pay for it.

 

Ryuken rises and his fire collides with Volt's electricity, turning the room into a cataclysm in the eyes of all who see from afar the colossal forces making heaven and earth tremble, causing chaos everywhere.

 

—Now that he appeared there may be a possibility of changing everything, the past cannot be changed, but surely everything will begin to change with his steps. —Ryuken has faith in the rookie he met.

 

Volt refuses on his brother, shouting that none of that matters, the world as it is it mustn’t exist. He exclaims that nothing good can arise from a world made by "that guy" and throws a blow wrapped in lightning, colliding with Ryuken's flaming fist and causing a shock wave that blows up the entire place.

 

The impact makes two loud roars resonate throughout the area, whether they have been caused by the immense power of each of the elite warriors doesn’t matter, they have left paralyzed every living being that unfortunately was within reach of the shock wave. Ryuken retreats without saying a word more, as the chamber falls apart and the ashes of the vaporized furniture fly in the wind.

 

Back to the present, Volt asks Chris where he got the pendant, he gives him the same answer as to his brother, he has always had it with him. But the young man's gaze clearly says that he deserves nothing more than that answer, so it is enough talk.

 

Chris’ power runs through his body like a river overflowing in a flood. The raw power is so concentrated that gusts of wind comes from his body, so much force concentrated in a single point causes the air that touches his body to shoot away.

 

Volt analyzes his opponent with just his gaze while Chris concentrates totally on perceiving with ki. He can perceive alterations everywhere, as if they were in an imperceptible strange cloud, something that leaves him very restless.

 

The strangest thing is that, despite Chris being in combat pose, Volt does not change his posture, as if he does not pose any threat with his power. Both looks are calculating, but there is a clear difference in terms of information collected.

 

Chris asks why he doesn't take the fight seriously, so Volt confirms his suspicions, for him it does not represent a challenge, nor does it come to a test. Such confidence can only mean two things: Either Volt is very careless, which is unlikely because of the feats that precede him, or from the beginning it is more than clear that he has absolute advantage, which makes everything riskier.

 

Chris rushes in and throws himself straight towards Volt, but before he even reaches two meters away from his opponent, he disappears into a flash and hears his voice behind him.

 

—Your pose tells that you trained with Hama, your strength boost confirms that you expect hand-to-hand combat, and above all, your ground power coating clearly says you want to avoid being hurt. —Volt has a high degree of intelligence to have deduced so much in such a short time.

 

Immediately Chris changes tactics, instead of moving forward he directs his attack towards the ground, raising an avalanche of earth everywhere. In just an instant Chris compressed a portion of dirt and pinned it to the ground, throwing a surge of dirt in all directions, a technique he always saved for when he was at the mercy of his opponent.

 

The surge of dirt lifted dust on all sides, buying time to analyze what happened. The ki revealed the identity of the strange disturbance cloud, it was a kind of conduit by which Volt is guided with his electricity.

 

As Chris dives into the earth to take him by surprise, he begins to remember every moment he witnessed Volt's power. The lightning of the storms, the way he descended from them, both in the temple and in front of it.

 

It is as if he is inside the lightning as they advance, such a transport technique is of extreme capabilities. Chris inspects the ki, Volt is nowhere to be found, but disturbances begin to gather above the ground.

 

He dives deeper into the earth as he approaches, a shower of lightning hits the earth from the sky. Had he not moved the earth before hiding the blood of the troops would have conducted the electricity down the ground and would have inevitably died.

 

As soon as Volt descends back to earth Chris comes out of the ground to hit him, but the electricity comes out of the surroundings, going straight into Volt's body. The incandescence causes an explosion that throws Chris out of reach.

 

He was able to perceive the disturbances drawing electricity from the lightning rain back to Volt, but it has also given him a hint of his way of fighting. His real power is both lightning and disturbances to control them, two simultaneous styles.

 

On top of that, he could notice that he always has to recharge with lightning. First he threw lightning and then he descended, generated lightning and transported behind him, ascended to the sky and generated lightning to hit the earth and just now instead of generating more lightning he used the ones he had already used, obtaining a charge and using it as a defense.

 

Electricity is too fast, but he can keep pace with disturbances to predict the path of lightning, as well as having a reaction margin to prevent Volt from generating lightning and being forced to reuse electricity. Out of so many lightning bolts he threw to try to get him off the ground, he could only gather enough to make a small explosion around him and avoid getting punched, which means that recycling lightning is not very efficient.

 

Chris begins to remember that his friends are witnessing his fight, but then he remembers all the moments he spent with them. That gives him the determination to run a big bet, so he prepares for a number of strategies.

 

He begins to throw waves of earth, lifting pointed rocks, but Volt begins to dodge them simply with his body, he is agile and his experience in combat is noticeable with the maneuvers and acrobatics he uses to avoid each sharp stone.

 

Volt recognizes that style, as it was used by Morgan, so he tries to get away from the peaks and the disturbances begin to form a route through the area. Chris quickly throws himself into the road and lifts a large piece of compressed earth.

 

Volt begins to generate lightning, but the block falls on him from the direction of the disturbance path. He can't use that route and the huge stone took away much of the electricity generated.

 

He received part of the blow, but he can continue without problems, but during those moments of improvisation Chris prepared the next strategy. A natural enemy of a fast opponent is the inability to move freely, Chris measured on each occasion how much range his manipulation of disturbances has and began to move and compress the earth in the surroundings.

 

Walls begin to rise to generate a dome and lock the two inside to contain the danger. In complete darkness Chris can guide himself with ki, he perceives the power of Volt quickly generating more lightning, but with a few seconds in the dark Chris prepared the next scenario.

 

Volt begins to throw his lightning everywhere to make his way, but the light of the rays reveals that there are spears of compressed earth surrounding him and they have an unusual color. The reddish color reveals that it is earth with absorbed blood, so its electricity is conducted directly to the ground.

 

Chris prepared his own conduit to direct lightning through the underground and disable his power with a cage that prevents him from moving. Any false move and Chris will pierce multiple parts of his body with his ground spears.

 

Volt is impressed by Chris’ abilities to analyze patterns and identify skills and weaknesses. But he does not leave the last word:

—An unofficial requirement to be of the Six Lords is to have multiple ways to use your elemental power, directly or indirectly. —Volt says very confidently.

 

Volt begins to generate more lightning, but the disturbances are generated more and more and in an increasingly compressed area, his own body. Electricity circulates Volt's body like Chris’ elemental power to increase his strength, and all in less than a second, demonstrating how prepared he was to use that mode.

 

He begins to generate a whirlwind of lightning; the disturbances are so concentrated that they attract lightning more than the spears of bloodied earth. Volt shoots out at Chris and hits his stomach at lightning speed, taking his breath away and throwing him out of the ground dome.

 

Chris can't believe the insane speed with which he was hit, at such a speed his blow was strong enough to ignore the Earth Energy Skin and hurt his strengthened body. Volt leaves the dome at high speed and shows himself with an air of victory, because in that state he is almost invincible.

 

He confirms that only Ryuken is able to face him in that mode, both in speed and by incinerating his lightning with his fire.

—I forgot to remind you of something important, Chris, the earth is made up of minerals and metals that conduct electricity. —mentions the Lord with a smile on his face —Pure elemental power has the same properties as the material element.

 

Volt begins throwing punches at high speeds, hitting multiple areas of Chris' body, each as sharp as the last. But the most desperate thing is that the electricity that runs through Volt's body is transmitted to Chris’ body with each blow, leaving burns in the impact zones as if lightning were falling on the ground.

 

Chris’ body shudders with every punch, burns him like he's in a fire, and hurts like he's being stabbed by knives everywhere. The combination of punches ends in a huge lightning blow to the chest and even the spectators see how the large amount of electricity travels through the energy cover directly to Chris' body.

 

The blow throws Chris’ dying body and as he loses the last of consciousness he realizes that his body is now a rag doll, he can't move a single finger, let alone feel his own body. His friends are desperate for the situation, if they get in, they will die, if they don't go, Chris will die.

 

Hanna is desperate for the situation and begins to perceive how a heartbeat that is clearly not hers is diminishing and inevitably... it stops. Pierre feels the flow of energy stop and says that Chris is about to be unable to be revived, but Hanna can clearly feel it, inside she feels how a trace of life has dissipated.

 

She begins to cry rivers as Volt begins to address them and Lea makes the decision to protect them with her position as commander. She asks Volt not to hurt them, that none of them live up to his defeated opponent but ignores the request.

 

—The simple fact of wanting to go against me is paid for with life, you know it very well. Or do you want to join them, Lea? —Volt's thirst for blood makes them shudder at the inevitable death that awaits them, but then from the sky fall Tsubaki and Guilian engulfed in flames like a meteorite fallen from the skies.

 

The two directly hit Volt and throw him by the explosion of the collision, falling near Chris’ inert body. The rumble is enough to disturb his body and move it a little, but after a glance at the scene the troubled couple understands the situation.

 

Tsubaki arms herself with courage and yells at everyone to prepare to fight to the death for their fallen friend. Everyone activates their powers to face walking death, but just behind him is seen as the sword slides out of its holster, dropping the hilt into Chris’ hand.

 

Then Hanna begins to perceive again a heartbeat of life, weak and slow, inside. The beats begin to be perceived not only with the body, but in the elemental power itself in the surroundings.

 

Volt turns around and contemplates the strange sword:

—Where did you get that sword? Stay away from it. —Volt asks completely pale, remembering as a child seeing the man who used to wield it.

 

The heartbeats become stronger and stronger, until they shake the body of each of those present. An empty presence surrounds Chris as he stands as if he were a puppet being carried by the hand wielding the sword, as if it were the thread being pulled. Hanna begins to feel very bad, to the point of vomiting while Chris’ body begins to fill with strength and life once again.

 

With a strange behavior from Chris and Hanna's reaction, the team begins to understand the true nature of the sword.

 








Chapter 23 – The Shadow That Accompanies You

 

The atmosphere has become gloomy, unlike Volt's chaotic killer appearance, the strange atmosphere enveloping Chris' body perplexes everyone as he finishes getting up. Hanna's sickness begin to worry Lea as everyone starts talking about the sword curse that Grandma Xian Tao mentioned in Heinburn.

 

Volt quickly jumps to snatch the sword from the fallen one's hand, but before even taking the first step Chris disappeared from his sight and blood begins to flow from his body. Faster than the eye can perceive Chris gave him a shallow cut in his abdomen, by the area reached he realizes that he was close to reaching the vital organs and the only thing that prevented him was having reacted to the speed of lightning unconsciously.

 

However, try as he might, Volt can't even perceive traces of consciousness in Chris, it becomes totally clear, he is being manipulated, a total possession. The sword lets out a small pulse and begins to dye the metal of the blade black while the hand is covered by a black substance how the gloom begins to run through Chris' injured body.

 

As it makes its way through the patterns of branches running through the trained muscles, Volt realizes what is happening and takes a fighting pose. Chris’ right arm is completely covered while the rest of the body has uncovered areas, but the black substance spread to each limb.

 

Arms, legs, back, abdomen, even the head has dark areas, it is then that it reaches up to cross the eyes. The empty presence becomes ominous and the pressure in the environment intensifies so much that even Chris’ friends feel threatened.

 

Worst of all, the body language indicates that Chris is in complete tranquility while throwing the senses of everyone present into madness. One step back and Chris carries his sword behind him, preparing an attack with it.

 

The pressure of his presence is so high that the rapid movement with the sword seems eternal at first and ends the sword slash by making a horizontal cut from right to left. In just one instant the area is devastated by a storm that destroys everything in its path, leaving Volt almost being cut in half if not having dodged it as before while the party falls for having lost the ground where it was standing from the hill to the forest.

 

They end up falling to the level of the wasteland and begin to walk away from the fight because they do not know what Chris is capable of in that state. As they run Guilian asks how it is possible that Chris controlled the Wind element for such a powerful attack, but Tsubaki clarifies that this was not elemental power but a vacuum cut, the sword had too much strength and precision to have made a void in the air and generated a gust of cutting wind.

 

Despite being the style that Tsubaki handles, she is far from making an attack of such a large scale as what they have just witnessed. Heinrich stops running and decides to witness everything until the end, maybe everything will be solved with some uncontrolled power, he sought it out to help him in his crusade, so he decides to take responsibility for what happens, but everyone decides to stop with him and feel embarrassed for having left terrified while his friend goes through something so dangerous.

 

Volt can no longer allow Chris to be such a big threat for all the damage he inflicted on him in just two moves. He prepares lightning and makes roads to transport himself, preparing an attack so fast that even he cannot react to it, so he has to prepare the electricity to control his body and be able to execute attacks so fast.

 

Chris’ body reacts and Hanna once again perceives a pulse running through her body, as she experienced in the tournament, and witnesses the impossible. Chris extends his arms, covering the left side with one arm, the right side with the corresponding arm, and the front only with the sword.

 

A simple flash and Volt appears in three places at the same time, launching attacks simultaneously, but they are stopped by the simple pose Chris took in a single instant. Volt is completely surprised by the efficiency of the defense and the exact reaction time, if he had done it a little later Volt would not have stopped the attacks and if he did it too soon he could have modified his trajectory in time and dealt even a blow.

 

Such a block makes him look like a turtle trying to reach a cheetah, the remnants disappear and only the real Volt remains, receiving a hard impact on the abdomen by a direct kick behind the defense. Whenever an attack is blocked, there is an opening left to do critical damage.

 

The blow is so strong that it makes Volt vomit blood and is thrown into the rubble of the previous fight. His body was too damaged with so little effort, even the impact against the rocks ended up hurting him due to the force with which he was thrown.

 

The dust cloud splits in two as it is pierced by a second vacuum cut, reaching Volt directly and receiving him fully, leaving his body even more injured. The pain he feels he hasn't had in years, but he can't feel any emotion from it, it's not the kind of pain you can enjoy in a fight, it doesn't even come to that, it's torture.

 

Chris walks towards him and Volt resorts to transporting himself in lightning to try to stay safe from his attacks and try to find an opening, but it is useless, Chris moves at high speed and begins to chase him everywhere. The team present can only visualize the light of the flashes on all sides being chased by a shadow.

 

Between the fleeting moves come out some bursts of blood, Volt is getting more cuts from the sword during the chase. The invader's wounds hinder his movements, causing more damage to his body and making him more vulnerable to more attacks and even more accurate ones.

 

The combat takes off to new heights, beginning to soar the cloudy skies as natural rain looms over the rookies. Flashes of lightning being chased by the shadowy figure can be seen throughout the region, alerting the large warrior houses in the surrounding regions to events.

 

The shogun himself witnesses from the balcony of his huge castle in the capital the fight in the skies and dispatches a small but fast unit of his best samurai on horseback to know what is happening on the outskirts of the city. Back in the heavens, the darkness enveloping Chris pulls him straight into the light of Volt's electricity, making him his inevitable doom.

 

With his sword he hits Volt with the flat face of the blade, sending him back to the ground, the impact makes him practically a meteorite, but since it was wet earth by the blood of his troops it ended up cushioning his fall. Although of course, all the cuts he has around his body do not help much in continuing to fight.

 

With his body shattered, exhausted and bleeding, Volt resorts to his final card, concentrating as much lightning on his body and surroundings, causing a blinding light that guides the samurai directly to the scene. Volt channels all his power into his hands and shoots in Chris’ direction, a deadly lightning bolt that would easily destroy an entire city.

 

Chris wields the sword with both hands, the air around him changes completely, the blade is engulfed in fierce flames, illuminating the sky as if it were hell falling on the earth. He throws a vacuum cut and the fire flows with the air, turning into a vortex of fire going straight to its target.

 

The fire makes its way through the electric shot, splitting it in half and even consuming the electricity, becoming the largest and most powerful attack. The burning avalanche reaches the source of the attack, turning into an explosion that destroys the entire wasteland, leaving it unrecognizable.

 

Chris descends from the sky like a god of destruction, slowly walking into the impact zone as the smoke dissipates. No one can recognize a bit of Chris in his body, his movements, abilities, even vitality are completely different.

 

Lea yells at him to wake up at once, not to be manipulated so easily, all his friends start shouting the same thing, trying to make moral support and closeness with them a bond strong enough for him to return to the world, but it’s pointless, he does not respond at all. Chris arrives where Volt is, he is totally hurt, he is even writhing in pain despite having lost sensation almost entirely and his consciousness about to fade.

 

Volt tries to get up, but only gets to kneel while Chris gets to be directly in front of him. He can't help but breathe with difficulty, he almost finishes bleeding, but his incredible life force helps him to stay until the end, although he can't even raise his arms he continues to fight to carry his own body to face his opponent, demonstrating the pride he has deeply rooted in his being.

 

—So, you keep choosing him over us, huh? Demon King, Charles. —the expression on Volt's face is full of regret.

 

Chris is expressionless but the presence gives him the answer he was looking for, leaving Volt completely frustrated and ends up giving a look full of resentment.

 

He raises the sword, pointing directly at the sky and lines up the sword to strike the final blow and end the poor man's life. The fall of the sword seems eternal as Volt closes his eyes and the expression on his face goes from grudge to regret, letting out a tiny tear for who knows what memory goes through his head in his last moment of life.

 

All of Chris’ friends rush straight out to Chris to stop him before reaching a point of no return, but the sword stops just a hair away. Volt opens his eyes and realizes that the left arm is stopping the right arm, stopping the attack and resisting with all the strength he has.

 

Chris has regained consciousness and is fighting the darkness:

—I don't know what this is, but it's my body so stop doing as you please! —says Chris with difficulty.

 

He pulls out his elemental power and begins to flow through his body and even his sword wraps in his power, causing the dark cover to twist a bit.

 

Taking advantage of the brief reaction of weakness, the elemental power reaches every part of his body and envelops the dark areas and begins to drag them back to the sword. All the darkness ends up inside the sword and contained with Earth elemental power, leaving Chris completely focused on containing so much power.

 

Volt takes the opportunity to hit the sword by leaning on electricity to propel his withered body, but the collision of the three powers causes an explosion, letting out the worst of this world. Darkness spreads all over the area in the form of a black haze so dense that you can't see inside, no one can see what's going on, but Hanna's sickness becomes worse, and an image comes straight to her mind, as if she sees it with her own eyes.

 

Inside the darkness he clearly sees Chris and Volt seeing the silhouette of a man in the shadows, the atmosphere around him makes him sweat cold. That subject, approximately one meter ninety in height, musculature and abundant hair, turns his back on them all the time, as if they were not worth his attention.

 

—Master, why? Please, you gave me a way. —Chris asks, but there is no answer—Everything I went through with you, was it a vile lie?

 

Just as Hanna begins to understand what is going on, the man turns around and points to her, implying that it is not her concern.

 

The darkness becomes ominous and causes Hanna suffering, but something inside reacts to the threat, starting to glow and the damage to Hanna is directed towards Chris, hurting his body and soul even more. A glass breaking sound is heard inside Chris and Hanna can feel it too.

 

Chris begins to fall with fractures all over his body, as if he were a porcelain figure slowly breaking, meanwhile Volt begins to realize what is happening right next to him. He calls the man Demon King Charles again, so Hanna is left with the name and appearance of the subject who has caused so much damage without even being present there.

 

—This is only the first step, when everything falls into place the pillars of the world will fall and nothing and no one will be able to do anything about it. —says the Demon King in the most intimidating but strangely relaxing voice.

 

Volt tries to attack him, but the darkness repels the three back to reality, the cloud dissipates, and Chris and Volt are lying on the ground fainting, while Hanna is still in a trance trying to process what she has seen.

 

They all head towards the inert bodies of both of them and pick them up to try to find out what happened to them inside the darkness, only to realize that the vital signs of both are almost non-existent. Lea realizes that the samurai are arriving on horseback and walks away carrying her leader and getting lost in the foliage of the forest.

 

Guilian and Pierre try to lift Chris’ body, but the shogun's men end up surrounding them for being at the scene and raising suspicions for everything that was seen from afar. They try to explain things, but the samurai do not believe them at all and force them to surrender.

 

All of them are being accused while their friend's life is in danger, but Heinrich suggests that they let themselves be captured and he will take the opportunity to speak directly with the royal family. He also mentions that they have what it takes to treat Chris’ wounds, so it doesn't matter much about the circumstances.

 

With many feelings being repressed the group is handcuffed and taken to the prison of the capital while the sword is abandoned in the ruins of what used to be a wasteland, stuck to the ground while Hanna contemplates it as they move away from the place, only to end up seeing the shadow of the sword taking the form of a person.

 








Chapter 24 – The Life that lasts in their Memories

 

The entire group finds themselves locked in multiple cells beneath the castle of the shogun, Tsukino Kentaro, while Chris is being cared of by Tsubaki and Hanna the boys try to convince the guards to let them have an assembly with the leader, only to end up being considered nothing more than a nuisance to the guards. Heinrich tries to call the guard tirelessly but only provokes them to pour hot water for tea to send them to silence.

 

He tries to come up with a strategy to get attention, but Guilian keeps watching the girls desperately try to save Chris' life.

—What would Chris do? —Heinrich asks on the air and it's enough to give Pierre an idea.

 

They murmur as the guard approaches once again to scold them, but before he can even throw the rest of the water at them Pierre controls it to jump in his face. The guard wrings from facial suffering and Heinrich throws a pebble that was on the ground straight at his head and knocking him out easily.

 

Heinrich exclaims that he is glad to have played with marbles as a child, but no one understands what he means, so they proceed to organize themselves to continue with the operation "Get the attention of the lord". As they want to move forward they will have to leave someone watching over the gagged guard in case he regains consciousness and he will also have to protect Chris, not going to be used as a hostage against them.

 

Hanna decides to stay with him so that everyone concentrates on the other roles, as they are already used to those roles they agree with her. Heinrich and company will infiltrate the main chamber, he and Guilian will go inside the castle while Tsubaki and Pierre will take care of the guards staying incognito.

 

The team runs towards their target while Hanna watches Chris covered in bandages on most of his body. His breathing tells her that his condition is stable for the time being, although she is a little concerned about the fever he has had since he came out of the dark fog.

 

Heinrich and Guilian run through the corridors defeating the guards with short-range attacks to maintain as much stealth as possible and finding someone at a distance about to sound a horn to alert the rest Heinrich shoots another rock. Guilian is impressed by the incredible control he has to hit his target several meters away and maintain a perfect balance between speed and power to try not to kill someone.

 

The prince explains that since he was a child he was taught to use earth armor, a style that requires incredible control and precision in detail. For this reason, his attacks the smaller the greater precision they will have, although Guilian feels somewhat jealous, his fire is wilder so that logic is not applied in the same way.

 

Outside the enclosures, jumping on ceilings, Pierre arrives at one of the watchtowers and beats the lookouts, makes a slight bird's noise and Tsubaki understands that he "took care" of them. Inspecting the area from above she tells her partner the route to "clear" while she takes care of all the lookouts in the neighboring towers.

 

Pierre notices the movement of some groups of guards, they are realizing the lack of other men who were surely knocked out by Heinrich and Guilian. Pierre takes a guard's clothes and will surprise them, so she will cover him as they resume the course of action.

 

Guilian uses his flaming fists to knock out every man who crosses his path in one fell swoop, one of them attacks him with his katana sword and Heinrich receives the cut with his armor, breaking it in the process. The hardness of the armor is impressive, it is as if trying to cut a mountain with a stick, Heinrich hits the guard in the face, and they go on their way.

 

As they climb stairs to the next floor, Guilian remembers how Chris covered his back in the same way when he met him. Although he is a very different person, Heinrich makes him feel the same familiarity, so he begins to warm up with his typical smile full of motivation.

 

Pierre is fighting some hordes of guards, giving soft but effective blows directly to their jaws and necks to knock them out without seriously injuring them and Tsubaki notices some movements in the air. As if people let themselves be carried away by the air like tree leaves, their presences are clear, the irony of hiding your presence only to end up making it more noticeable.

 

Well, it's bad luck for them that she is sensitive to changes in the air, Tsubaki shoots an arrow and hits her target. A man in dark clothes was floating with a blanket, she takes his clothes, covering her whole body except for her eyes and embarks on defeating the rest of the hidden men.

 

The clothes are very light, but incredibly stealthy, she jumps with the wind and perceives projectiles going towards her. Tsubaki dodges and notices the metal stars and knives, from the angle of fire she calculates that there are approximately three people going after her, so she jumps into the trees outside the castle, straight to her territory.

 

Pierre is a little short of breath from defeating almost 40 men with normal punches alone, but he can continue without problems. Although he worries that, because he had not received help, he realized that Tsubaki found opponents more in line with his style.

 

She jumps from one tree to another and perceives the men jumping without the need for powers and following her rhythm. Being hidden among trees Tsubaki remembers when she met Chris, he was fighting the giant centipede in her forest, and she shot when she found the opening that provoked his sword.

 

In the forest a tree is heard falling and her cry sounds everywhere, the men come out of their hiding places and find a person crushed by the trunk. Due to the woman's clothing, they believe it is her, but then a gust of wind falls in their middle and throws them directly into other trees, becoming unconscious from the impact.

 

She feels a little embarrassed that she used her original clothes and forest plants to simulate her body. The simple fact of not bringing clothes under the dark clothing makes her feel incredibly embarrassed by how light it is, so much so that she feels naked.

 

As she prepares to retrieve her clothes Pierre continues to clear the route for Heinrich and Guilian, some guards crowd to attack him, but he begins to flow like water. Their movements are so strange to them that they do not know how to react, Pierre moves between each of them, dodging each attack and knocking them out in a single movement.

 

As he progresses to the next block to reduce potential obstacles and reinforcements, Pierre remembers when he met Chris at the Heinburn tournament. The first words he addressed to him were an apology, something that no one in the world would dare to do for pride, but his motive was justified, by friendship.

 

He begins to fight with more guards, some of them do not use katana swords but simply fighting with the body. The fatigue from all the previous fights hinders him and he receives a huge blow from a fat man who makes the ground tremble with each step.

 

Pierre remembers how Chris defeated him, how he resembles the current situation, a tough opponent to defeat that he can't ignore. The warriors jumps on him and defeat them using light blows covered in his water stream.

 

The fat man tries to crush him with both hands with an apparent applause that would destroy his upper body, but Pierre takes advantage of the water he generated to make the huge warrior slip. Without taking a step, Pierre was left between the applause and the face of the fat man and punches him with a stream of water.

 

Instead of making a continuous and linear current towards a single point he concentrated the water to hit an area at the same time, making a water cannon with his hands and being able to strike without killing. Pierre is grateful to Chris for showing him that he can always find a way to fight without taking someone's life.

 

He sits on the ground to catch his breath after having finished off dozens of soldiers by himself. While resting he hears accelerated footsteps, Guilian and Heinrich run past and warn him that Tsubaki is waiting for them on the top floor.

 

Pierre overcomes his limits and starts running alongside them, only to end up finding Tsubaki surrounded by fallen guards everywhere. She finds herself a little tired from using her powers so much, but they are close to their destiny.

 

She has been trying to make a gust of air as big as when Chris was possessed by the sword, maybe not a vacuum cut, but it is big, although she can't find the trick. Heinrich encourages her to keep trying after the coming war and she rejects him, as she feels that he must become stronger as soon as possible.

 

Everyone is on the same page, after witnessing the fight against Volt they realized how newbies they are and that they are too far from staying at the same height as Chris. Although he was defeated the first time, that he managed to free himself from the dark control of the sword showed them how much potential he has, it has motivated them to continue evolving.

 

Heinrich and Guilian knock down the huge door to the shogun's chamber and forcibly ask for an assembly with him. Everyone begins to take a combat position and alerts all the forces and Heinrich lets them know that it’s useless, they have already defeated everyone who is not present in the room.

 

The shogun is left watching the four adepts who have made their way from the dungeon to his presence. He accepts the request because he observes in their eyes pure determination, in addition to not perceiving bad intentions, he did not detect bloodthirst in any of them.

 

Heinrich tells him in detail about the threat Volt imposes on the rest of the world and how Ceres is in the immediate target list. The shogun Kentaro stands up to show off his huge figure and wields his katana, one of the most powerful created in his kingdom.

 

His intention to murder overflows on all sides, but none of the adepts flinch. Kentaro claims that he is the strongest warrior in the kingdom and if for them that did not affect them then Volt is a much more threatening man than they made him see.

 

As a shogun he accepts the help of the adepts for the fight against Volt's army, and asks the details of the operation, but Heinrich claims that this information is no longer so relevant. As a result of the fight in the wasteland Volt was badly wounded and his troops must be trying to resume the invasion of the capital.

 

Kentaro decides to dispatch his shinobi squad to gather the information as soon as possible in addition to alerting the feudal lords of other regions. So much authority provided them with the help they needed to take advantage of the time Chris gained with his excessive struggle.

 

The group warns that they have to return to the cell to give the good news and prepare for war. The shogun decides to go with them to meet the one who gave them the opportunity to defend themselves, but when they reach the dungeon they are all left with a lump in their throat.

 

Hanna is desperate while Chris is covered in more blood on his bandages, no matter how much she tried she couldn't stop the sudden bleeding and his body feels increasingly fragile. The aftermath of his fight against Volt left him so lacking in vitality that his serious injuries became deadly.

 

The heartbeats became weaker and less frequent, but no matter how much he suffered he was still resisting, at least until they arrived. Chris opens his eyes, waking up apparently, and begins to try to utter a few words.

 

Everyone tries to encourage him to endure a little longer in what Tsubaki tries to make tea with medicinal herbs, but Hanna tells him that it is useless. No matter how much she tried to give it to him to drink, he ended up vomiting it, as if his body rejected it as soon as it touched his lips.

 

Chris’ words start to get a little clearer:

—I'm sorry. —is what he repeats a few times while watching Hanna.

—It’s okay, save your strength as much as you can to get back to health. —Hanna says to reassure her friend on her lap.

—Sorry, Karen. —Chris says sobbing.

 

Hanna realizes what is going on, she remembers Lea's words: "You really look like her, Karen" Her heart is shattered to know that in his last moments Chris is not seeing her, but another woman.

 

—Sorry, Karen, wasn't I the one for you? Why should you stay with me? You always deserved someone to make you happy, that's why I'm sorry. —Chris says with much regret.

 

The apologies become a little louder as Chris begins to break down in tears, showing how much pain he had buried deep inside him.

 

The crying is appeased, but not for tranquility, but for the inevitable end that awaits us all. As his voice goes out Chris pronounces not to worry, that he is no longer alone, his friends are with him.

 

Tsubaki begins to shed a tear as she hears the heartbeat begin to stop, Hanna can visualize within her that light that protected her in the darkness go out at the same time that the expression on Chris’ face fades.

 

Silence reigns in the room, only to be broken by Hanna's uncontrolled crying as she held in her arms the inert body of her most precious friend. Kentaro bows to him for his efforts.

 

Somewhere on the other side of the world, in the nation of Cundraria, Karen stands in front of a well-cared tomb, puts a bunch of flowers on it, and prays silently. The breeze takes some petals flying and she begins to feel something, as if it were going out of this world.

 

The next day a traditional Ceres funeral service is held, a pair of maidens prepared his body to watch over as the group gazes at their fallen friend. Heinrich asks where Hanna is, and Tsubaki replies that she has not left that cell since that day.

 

After three days and three nights, Tsubaki returns to visit Hanna in her cell, she is totally a mess and more reclusive than when they met. Tsubaki tells her that it is already the third dawn, they are going to cremate the body and scatter his ashes in the most significant place, in that wasteland.

 

There is no answer, Hanna cried so much that she can't even let go of any more tears, nor has she eaten anything in all that time. Tsubaki can no longer even recognize her and that only makes her suffer more inside.

 

—We lost him, please, I don't want to lose you too. —Tsubaki asks her only friend facing the grief as each one can.

 

She says goodbye and Hanna barely notices it, although soon there begins to be an uproar from the guards who have already recovered. In the distance there are some very strange sentences, "Where is it?" "He couldn't go far, find him."

 

Hanna feels something inside her, a warmth she thought she had lost. She runs out to see what was happening only to find the assembled group in the temple inside the castle.

 

Everyone is shocked to see her outside the cell and more by her appearance, she asks what is happening. Heinrich tells her that Chris’ body is nowhere to be found, they believe it may have been stolen by someone.

 

Hanna puts her hand on her chest, the warmth she feels is real, it is not an illusion. She runs out of the castle. The whole group follows her, Tsubaki realizes the direction they are taken.

 

They reach the wasteland where everything happened and realize something impossible, the sword disappeared. The recent rain concealed any trace, but that both Chris’ body and the sword disappeared is not to be taken lightly.

 

Having witnessed something out of this world it is very likely that Chris has not actually died. Everyone avoids having many illusions, but it is inevitable that they will try to find the answer after what happened.

 

With their gazes full of determination, the team travels at dawn on the horizon in search of their lost friend.

 








Chapter 25 – Reconnaissance

 

It's been a few days since Chris' body disappeared, rumors began to spread in the area. From the castle guards to the servants, from them to their families, from them to other people on the street, gossip and rumors that pass down the road about how a man's corpse disappearing without a trace.

 

The shogun Kentaro has kept in touch with the feudal lords of the eight great regions through messenger birds, ordering the obtaining of information about the enemy based on the tales of the young adepts. After a brief inspection of activities in all areas, a strange decrease in the number of animals and plants in the forests, abnormal periods of low water flow in multiple rivers, frequent landslides in mountains and tremors in areas near abandoned mines were confirmed.

 

What is alarming about the situation is not only the reports confirming the colossal number of infiltrated troops but also the latest news in the neighboring regions. In the few days since Chris’ fight against Volt, multiple attacks have been confirmed to occur at night.

 

The numbers and identities of the victims were confirmed by travelers and residents. The vast majority are people without any relationship with the town, even if they investigated their identities there was no clue about their origins more than appeared in the vicinity in recent weeks.

 

For this reason, they were imprisoned on suspicion of being soldiers of Volt, although it would be useless if they were awake. If they were adepts, they could easily break through and escape, but none have woken up in all that time.

 

They do not have many wounds and not so deep, only signs of resistance to an attack, some bruises and scrapes, although in some they do have scratch cuts. As much as they tried to treat their wounds they simply did not heal and the monks of various temples indicate that they do not have enough energy to awaken, much less to recover.

 

The shogun upon receiving all this information dispatched one of the best hunters in the kingdom in order to track down the culprit of so much damage. Although all the victims have been foreign soldiers, it is a potential danger to the inhabitants of the kingdom.

 

Kunreisiki region, east of the capital, in a lush forest that should be full of life, a man is inspecting the ground. He grabs a handful of fresh soil from the ground and sniffs it, "Demon" is the conclusion he gets.

 

Unlike the typical traditional one-piece Cerean outfits, that man wears a more practical outfit that denotes the lack of contact with society. He looks more like a samurai, although the pieces of armor he wears are thinner and lighter, but in vital areas.

 

The most striking thing about his appearance is that he has a scar running through his right eye, long, sleek black hair, and a permanent expression that says "Don't get in my way." After having obtained the trail the hunter runs at high speed to reach his target.

 

Meanwhile, in the Honshuu Region, the group of adepts investigate the strange attacks on people, each of them asking for details of the approximate dates and times of each one to try to find a pattern and reach the person responsible. Heinrich keeps in touch with the shogun to know all about the defense plan, so they are focusing on finding Chris at all costs.

 

In Kentaro's words, Volt's injuries are quite serious, even spread the news among the bases that the attack will take place in just over a week when he wakes up and fully recovers. Although they discover the locations of all the foreign settlements would be useless, the adepts possess a power unknown to the samurai and attacking them would be a fight in vain.

 

One of the shogun's requests is that in addition to looking for Chris they take the opportunity to attack as many enemy bases as possible, as long as they do not overdo it to be in top shape for the final war. Heinrich explains the situation to the team so that everyone can disperse to cover more ground.

 

Each will go to a different prefecture in the region to investigate and meet to gather the information, once gathered they will attack the nearest bases and follow the next regions to the north. Although they wanted to explore every last rock in the entire kingdom they agreed to only explore the northern half due to the alarming number of bases discovered.

 

Back with the hunter, on his way following the trail he finds himself in an area highly known to the entire kingdom, the Jukai Forest, a sea of trees that is considered cursed by the abysmal number of people who have lost their lives when entering voluntarily or accidentally. Just as the hunter is about to enter, he notices the old woman watching from the entrance.

 

—Another man who doesn't respect his own life. —says the old woman who has seen so many people give up their lives by entering the woods for decades.

—It's because I lost them all that I have nothing to stop me from entering. —replies the man ignoring the kindness of the lady with a dull look.

 

The old lady can only pray for him to be the first to survive such a dangerous place. The hunter goes into the cursed forest, the foliage is so thick that it is a bit difficult to tour the place. From one of his sleeves, he throws a kunai with a chain to jump from tree to tree and watch from above, although he would rather be sniffing the earth.

 

He descends and tries to look for some trace, but the only thing he perceives is the smell of monsters. He runs for hours inside the forest only to encounter a few creatures that are frightened.

 

Among the positions of the various monsters, he could recognize signs of struggle and some non-human pieces that indicate that the monsters are the massacred ones. Although it gives him a little pity, the hunter chooses to get rid of the lower monsters, otherwise they would take advantage of the legends to hide and grow into real calamities.

 

With a single movement he releases all the filth on the sword and sheaths it, having finished the "work", but he can still feel the danger in the air. Seeing the light that manages to cross the foliage realizes that it is about dusk, so he sets out to camp.

 

An hour later, the atmosphere changes, from a gloomy to an ominous one, a creature jumps to attack him while he sleeps. The body is destroyed, but the being realizes that it was a decoy, an imitation of the hunter made with his clothes, the earth is inflated, and the hunter comes out naked with the sword in hand to cut off the head in one sweep move.

 

The sword attack is so strong that the air around moves all the branches of the trees, but the monster dodges it by contorting and standing on its back, with the belly pointing to the sky. The hunter is impressed by the physical capacity of his target, although he cannot recognize it by having the campfire behind the creature, the only thing he can distinguish is its man figure.

 

—«The most difficult monsters to kill are those in human form. » —the hunter thinks while sheathing the sword to make a faster and more powerful cut and with more range of range —«You eluded my ambush perceiving the ki, I will have to get serious. »

 

The being attacks him by trying to cut the distance before launching his next move, but a ball of light falls from the sky, destroying everything in its path and directly colliding with the monster.

 

The hunter cuts the cloud of dust and ash and manages to distinguish two figures in the impact zone, a somewhat hurt woman on an unconscious man, both smoking while the woman realizes that the three are naked in the middle of the forest in the middle of the night. She screams so much that the hunter begins to get uncomfortable about being present and throws a blanket to cover herself while he retrieves his clothes and armor and ties up his fallen opponent.

 

The woman accuses the hunter of being a depraved, but he hits back by replying that she is the one who fell from the sky incinerating her own clothes while he got rid of his clothes to set a trap for the monster. She doesn't want to accept his reasoning; she's practically saying that she's some kind of exhibitionist while he has no shame at all.

 

The hunter gets tired of dealing with the woman and decides to focus the whole problem on the fainted man, he is the one who was running naked in the forest and dragged the two to that situation. At last, she agrees with him, but is not satisfied at all.

 

The night goes away; the sunlight is just beginning to come out and the hunter already has the man well secured with many chains attached to the trunks of the trees. The woman finished adapting the blanket to make an improvised dress just by having cut some parts, she is proud of her achievement, although the hunter ignores her completely, returning her moodiness.

 

The woman questions the hunter if truly that man is some kind of monster, she even finds him very attractive, especially his expression so calm when sleeping. He warns her not to get so close, because he is about to wake him up with a kind of infusion in a jar.

 

The smell is so powerful that man begins to suffer before regaining consciousness, he begins to struggle and the chains begin to emit squeaks, demonstrating how much strength he has to begin to stretch the links with only brute force. Man regains consciousness and his expression is full of anger as the struggle becomes more and more savage.

 

The hunter points his katana at him, and the struggle stops, despite the savagery the man understands perfectly the circumstances of the situation. But none of that matters, the hunter is still with the nerves on end and very cautious because the expression of the man is still full of aggressiveness, but now he is analytical, any misstep and will take advantage to free himself.

 

—How long have you been in this forest? Are you even human? —the hunter asks, but the man does not answer, he just stays watching the two people in front of him.

—It's like I'm being stripped naked just with his gaze. —says the woman who begins to feel uncomfortable because of the penetrating look.

 

She slaps her cheeks to leave behind all traces of insecurity and approaches the prisoner, extends her hands to caress his head. The hunter warns her not to do it, he may try to tear her hands out with his mouth, but she ignores him.

 

Her hands slowly approach his cheeks, and she caresses his face, begins to rub his hair. The hunter can notice how the man has calmed down; the woman speaks to him gently:

—You've been treated very badly, haven't you? —the woman asks very gently.

—«His ki is no longer turbulent, he has calmed down, he even looks human. » —the hunter deduces upon seeing the scene.

 

The man begins to sob, the woman comforts him while instructing the hunter to free him from the chains. He reluctantly agrees, saying that she do whatever pleases her, it is her life that is in danger.

 

As soon as he releases one of the chains, the man bites the woman on the shoulder and throws her like a rag doll towards one of the trees that holds him. The force of the impact is enough to free him from another of the chains and the rest breaks them with his brute force.

 

The hunter throws knives at him to immobilize him, but easily dodges them, with an opening as he tries to pull out his katana he realizes that the chains the savage is dragging are moving like tentacles. Just by having freed himself, he took advantage of the chains that held him to chain the hunter.

 

Just before receiving a blow from the wild man a light is turned on behind the fallen tree, the woman shoots directly at the two of them and tackles the fierce man:

—Treat me like the lady I am!!! —the woman shouts so aggressively that she surprises the hunter.

—«With that vitality you are lucky to consider yourself human, treating yourself as a woman would be difficult. » —thinks the hunter because of the trouble companion who exploded right in front of him.

 

The savage shoots straight out towards the mountain that rises south of the forest while the hunter tries to understand how she is still alive but decides to comment that she burned her clothes again and became naked.

 

She tells him that despite his strength that guy did not bite her so hard as to hurt her, although she did not feel that he wanted to hurt her anyway, his goal was simply to free himself. Most likely, he just wanted to return the chaining to the hunter, so it is better if they tried to treat him well from the beginning.

 

—He's just a savage who provokes massacres wherever he goes, it will be better for everyone to kill him. —the hunter refuses because it is his job to put an end to calamities like him.

—Every life is important, even his own. Moreover, despite how wildly he has lived, he kept that pendant on his neck at all times. —the woman clarifies that she has no intention of allowing him to kill him—It must be so important to him that he still keeps it in his current state.

 

She is not a hollow head that takes everything lightly, she thought carefully about every detail of that man.

—My name is Takeshi, I'm a ronin who hunts monsters and demons. —the hunter mentions upon realizing that he has not presented himself properly.

—You can call me Aneko. —replies the woman who does not trust his delayed manners.

 

Takeshi asks her to help him immobilize the man again, he needs to get information out of him.

 

While they are running along the shattered road Aneko asks what kind of information he is looking for. Takeshi reveals that he tries to find the demon that killed his wife and children, any information will help him.

 

She agrees but does not plan to let him murder the man, Aneko trusts that she can return his humanity. The trail they followed is very long, but the direction is quite obvious, after stopping for so many trees with which he collided the man escaped to the top of the mountain.

 

Takeshi warns Aneko that the mountain is a dormant volcano. If he wants to get information about demons they will have to get him out of the mountain without doing too much destruction or they will make it blow up.

 

—An ancient emperor went to the top of the Holy Mount to achieve immortality, not to live eternally but to bring his wife back to life. —tells Aneko by remembering what his father told her when little —If the legend has any truth then he may try to revive something or someone.

 

Aneko thinks that, from what she managed to see in him, that man is incomplete, he is trying to look for something important. Maybe he has more facets than just that aggressive side, and that's something Takeshi can't ignore.

 

The two of them are about to reach the top of the Holy Mount after a few hours using their skills and Aneko proposes to Takeshi that they try to restore humanity to that man.

 

—If we return him to normal, maybe he will give you information about demons and you will not have to kill him. —Aneko tries to convince Takeshi to take the most difficult, but most dignified and honorable path.

 

With a smile of resignation Takeshi loses to Aneko's kindness and they find the man contemplating the crater about to overflow with burning magma.

 








Chapter 26 – Answer without question

 

The savage man is completely immersed in the bubbling magma while Takeshi and Aneko stare at him, the two of them do not know for sure his intentions so they must be cautious. The seemingly dormant volcano is about to erupt, and they are right in the crater with an inhumane man who has no clear intentions.

 

They have a lot to process and make a decision: one, escape and warn the villages at the foot of the mountain, losing track of the savage man; or two, stay and risk their lives completely with the savage man and find out what he has in mind, if he actually use it at all.

 

Beckoning to each other Aneko and Takeshi try to agree on which plan to follow, she tries to appeal to the savage man to escape, but he tries to attack her by surprise and capture him. In either case the three escape and warn the villagers, but, even if they do not make any noise, the savage man lets his presence be communicated by him, letting them know that he noticed their presences before they arrived, but ignores them completely.

 

They approach the edge slowly and the two stay on the sides of the savage man, realizing that the gaze with which he contemplates the landscape is full of nostalgia, as if missing something related to a volcano. Aneko asks him if he ever lived anything in a volcano, but the savage man does not understand what she says, her attempt to communicate is in vain.

 

Takeshi begins to make some noises with his mouth and the savage man begins to react, having a conversation of guttural noises with the grumpy hunter. Aneko realizes that they are having a conversation with noises, as if two cat’s meow at each other.

 

She is impressed with the incomprehensible but passionate conversation she has just witnessed and asks Takeshi what they talked about, but he replies that he doesn't know, he just made noises like babies do before they learn to speak. Aneko again gets upset with Takeshi for having raised her expectations and makes a fuss again.

 

Takeshi sends her to silence when he realizes that the savage man is trying to tell them something using signs, some sounds he makes Takeshi recognizes by having heard them while they were fighting him. The sound he uses most often is the one he made when trying to punch before the fireball woman fell on him.

 

It seems that he wants to fight, but against whom they do not know clearly, although Aneko only adds that they are the only ones at the top of the volcano. Takeshi proposes that the savage man face the volcano and Aneko yells at him for reverend stupidity, but the savage man begins to burn with motivation.

 

Aneko is surprised because two men who were trying to kill each other have just come to understand each other through stupidity. While the savage man is hitting the rock of the mountain they two try to devise a plan, Aneko will descend to warn the villagers while Takeshi guides the savage man in his crazy fight.

 

Honshuu region, after an extensive investigation the group of adepts found no signs of Chris and they spend it discouraged while resting to invade the bases of the infiltrators. Hanna gets off her back and starts running around the group, everyone stares at her and asks what happens to her.

 

—Chris wouldn't let me feel tired while training, so I'll exercise so I don't feel bad. —the rest of the group begins to regain their shine with Hanna's simplicity, and they are encouraged enough to rest properly.

 

Guilian asks Heinrich how many bases they are going to attack, but Heinrich remains quiet, thoughtful. He takes out a map with the marked locations, there are at least 50 bases in the region spread over the boundaries of the prefectures and begins to cross out the marks, indicating the places where there were attacks, only 5 bases remain intact.

 

Everyone is stunned by such revelation, so many Volt soldiers have been mysteriously attacked while they were searching for Chris. Tsubaki confirms the plan, they must rush to the intact bases and wait for them to be attacked to catch the perpetrator, each of them to a different base to secure the encounter.

 

Sacred Mount, Kunreisiki Region, the savage man is impatient to start fighting, but Takeshi tries to explain the dynamic:

—Listen, you will be completely free to destroy everything around where I cut my sword, don't walk away from the line, did you understand? —Takeshi explains while the savage man has a clear blank expression, confirming that the words entered him through one ear and came out of the other.

 

After sighing with much restrained annoyance Takeshi tries to make sounds and signs, surprisingly the savage man understood perfectly.

 

Northeast of the Sacred Mount, Aneko falls back from the sky and incinerates her clothes, steals clothes as soon as possible and begins to call all the villagers to evacuate immediately, but no one pays attention to her, "It's just a woman" is what everyone says. She is upset by the comment and begins to verbally quarrel with the men.

 

During the argument Aneko's fists are wrapped in light and she throws a punch that shatters the ground and the surroundings. Because of the show of power everyone is intimidated by her and forces them to leave the village immediately.

 

Even if it's for the right reasons, having bullied them will create new problems and she is aware of it. But it is not time to reflect, they have a lot of work to do, Aneko sets out to raze the ground to form a channel to safely direct the lava directly into the bay.

 

Due to the destruction generated by her bolide tackle, the villagers are terrified and flee as soon as possible. In the midst of the chaos a girl looks back to see the woman giving her all and the image of her face full of courage is engraved.

 

Meanwhile, at the top of the Sacred Mount, Takeshi concentrates his forces and unleashes a sword slash so powerful that it leaves a long, deep line on the surface of the earth. The savage man has goosebumps when he feels to the core the powerful attack he launched.

 

The hunter yells at him to attack the split ground and the savage man begins to hit the volcanic ground at high speed. The attacks are so strong that you can still distinguish the sound of the rock breaking in the middle of the frenzy.

 

Takeshi continues to run down the road and throwing vacuum cuts to split the earth, but he realizes that the ground begins to crumble way sooner than thought. The savage man finds himself so self-absorbed hitting the volcanic rock that he doesn't realize what is about to come out under his feet.

 

He then chooses to attack the savage man to get his attention by throwing a kunai at him. That annoys the savage man and begins to attack him, Takeshi begins his improvised plan, dodges his attacks and guides them to continue breaking the ground directly to the bay.

 

In the bay, Aneko finds herself totally exhausted while her body smokes from so much running wrapped in flash, even the sweat that tries to travel through the skin of her stocky body evaporates because of how hot it is. In a few minutes she will lose consciousness by heat stroke, because her body is burning, and she has no strength to reach the water to cool off.

 

As her body begins to fall and little by little she begins to anchor herself on the ground, she can watch as smoke begins to come out of the Sacred Mount. The fumaroles begin to explode, becoming lava geysers and starting to split the mountain in half.

 

As the molten earth descends, approaching where she is, Aneko realizes that she is lost, no matter how much she wants to stay alive she cannot lift a finger. Then water begins to fall on her head, she looks up and realizes that the girl who saw her returned to pour water with a bucket.

 

The lava descends faster than expected, it has already reached the foot of the mountain and begins to approach the village. The girl arrives with a second bucket and pours it on the head of the faint woman and seeing that the red-hot earth is about to reach them begins to try to drag her to a safe place, but it is impossible, she is very heavy for such a young girl.

 

Suddenly, something falls from the sky with great force:

—He almost killed me 20 times, that damn bastard will pay for it. —Takeshi says out loud as he picks up the two girls.

 

Aneko realizes from that sentence alone that the two are relatively well, although the man shows some injuries and has bled due to the fight. The savage man descends a few moments later and Takeshi decides to escape with both hands occupied. The priority is to save the greatest number of lives and he is not in a position to continue fighting.

 

Even if he decides to waste what is left of his life to fight, if he fights he will have to leave the two girls at their mercy. Just before the savage man strikes him with a mortal blow, the Sacred Mount explodes, throwing rocks engulfed in flames everywhere, even the tremor is powerful enough to weaken the movement of the attack.

 

Takeshi takes advantage of the chaos to get out of the scene and leaves the savage man to his fate while he takes a crazy look at how powerful nature is. While shouting at the newly awakened volcano he realizes that there is something on the ground, he is stepping on a small object next to Takeshi's katana.

 

An amulet with strange letters and a tiger, the savage man keeps observing it, his mind is beginning to move the gears. His head starts to hurt so much that he starts hitting himself to make it stop, but he can only feel a lot of pain in his head.

 

Images pass through his head, a monk in a temple showing him a broken cup, a girl waking him up with a bright smile, a woman molding a bird with mud in his hands, a man with a sword giving him a beating, chasing him across a mountain and a forest day and night. Despite not recognizing the faces of those people, the savage man hurts very much in the background, until he visualizes a group of young people camping together while they delight in a rabbit stew, he can only see them smile, laugh out loud and at last the chaos turns into peace and tranquility.

 

Back to reality, he falls to the ground after so much information that literally broke his mind, his hand falls on the hilt of the katana, his body reacts and takes it as if he were familiar with it. A huge rock falls straight into the wild and Takeshi is shocked by what he is seeing from afar.

 

The savage man takes a posture with which he is very familiar, right foot forward, left foot back, the katana at waist height on the left side and arches his body forward. A great inhalation and closes his eyes, just at the moment when the rock is in front of him throws a sword slash so powerful that he split it in half, starting to break into more pieces by the impact with the ground behind him.

 

—Instant death —whispers the savage man and only Takeshi can hear him because of his perception of ki.

 

Takeshi can see the savage man’s gaze, he is completely focused, he is not full of anger, only concentration. The lava keeps flowing, destroying everything in its path as the man blows up a large piece of the rock he just cut, jumps over the molten earth, and lands in the lava river.

 

When descending, the currently not so savage man touches the volcanic rock, and it begins to deform in such a way that the channel becomes an aqueduct for lava. When it reaches the bay, the water begins to launch clouds of steam that clouds the sky next to the huge floating mass of ash from the eruption while in the middle is that man that has caused so many problems.

 

After a few hours, in the middle of the night, the lava flow stops in its entirety and the immense lake that was surrounded by houses was divided in two by all the volcanic land it received. As much as the locals are happy to stay alive, the view of the lake is dreary.

 

While the lava filled the bottom of the lake the water was stirring frantically and soon the corpses of people began to float. All of them had signs of having perished from lava and boiling water, they had not drowned.

 

What were those people doing inside the lake? It is what the villagers asked each other again and again trying to find an answer. Takeshi remembers Kentaro's reports of the infiltrators and decides to remain silent while taking advantage of the great focus of attention to escape unnoticed.

 

The few buildings that are still standing are used communally, so they cannot stay in the village. Takeshi grabs a few provisions and tries to take Aneko to safety, but a voice behind him stops him.

 

—Sorry for everything I made you go through. —hears Takeshi while trying to know the identity of the presence that could go unnoticed until it reached so close to him.

 

When he turns around he realizes that he is the savage man, but he no longer has a bit of ferocity, now he is very serene and even calm, he does not give Takeshi a single vibe of aggressiveness.

 

The average guy would find that kind of change reassuring, but it makes Takeshi much more alert. A person cannot change their essence so suddenly, and if they do, he never knows what he is dealing with.

 

—How did you do that with my katana? No one can make a vacuum cut without prior training. —asks Takeshi very tensely.

—I don't know, something inside me connected and my body reacted, I don't know how to explain it. —replies the rehabilitated man.

—And what was that about the earth? I never saw anything like that. —Takeshi is still trying to understand what happened.

—Again, I don't know how to explain it. Although, after launching the attack with the sword, a voice in my head told me to touch the earth with my hand. —says the confused man.

—Do you remember anything before the eruption? Any names you can remember?

—I don't remember many things, everything was blurry, I just remember feeling very bad, as if something inside me came out after so long —says the man with a grieving look as he looks down.

—You start to recover your memories due to the memory of your body, because you recovered consciousness and some knowledge due to exposing to hold a sword, you must have experience holding one. —Takeshi reveals his deduction —Since I found you I knew you perceived ki, once you start perceiving it, it never stops. That helps you bring out your body's habits. Another thing is the memories of the mind, like your own name.

 

The man tries to remember his name, but only says things without much sense, among all the various versions of his possible name Takeshi decides to give him a provisional name, Kurisu. Listening it he hears a spark in his mind, as if he is close to remembering his real name, but he feels that it is not enough.

 

—The only thing I can remember is what just happened, I saw some blurry images in my mind, and something connected, my body moved on its own and I launched that attack. —Kurisu says in confusion —What I am sure of is that you are not a threat to me, I will trust my instinct.

—«In my condition, am I not a threat? How cheeky you are. » —Takeshi thinks as he checks Aneko —If you have time to ramble, help me carry her, we can't stay for long.

 

Takeshi realizes with the conversation and from what he could see at that moment that the best option to recover his memories is to train his body, so he proposes to train and maybe along the way he will find someone who knows him from before losing his memory. Kurisu accepts as he feels that he has something very important unfinished somewhere and the two subjects take Aneko out of the village, getting lost in the darkness of the night.

 

Meanwhile, in the Honshuu region, each of the adepts finds themselves on a different base, waiting for something to happen, but it’s no use. After being more than six hours among the branches of the trees nothing has happened.

 

Everyone feels that they are wasting valuable time, but Tsubaki begins to feel something strange. Every 15 minutes the soldiers change guards at the entrance, but it has been so long waiting that the lookout fell asleep.

 

She approaches to investigate and realizes that the watchman is not asleep, he has already been attacked, Tsubaki enters the abandoned mine and discovers that everyone has been stripped of their energies like the other victims. She quickly runs away, trying to find a trail to know what other bases the attacker has targeted and hoping that none of her friends have entered into combat with whatever it is.

 

In a cave very hidden in the cliffs to the north of the region, Hanna discovers exactly the same thing as Tsubaki and a voice whisper to her from all sides:

—Wow, I didn't know I had such a cute chick looking for me. —listens Hanna unable to discern beyond knowing that a woman is talking.

 

She prepares a fireball, but as the light of her power spreads the voice speaks again... just behind her ear. It is clearly a female voice, her hands stretching across her body, feeling every little detail of Hanna's figure:

—You know, fear only ruins the body, relax. —says the woman with a seductive tone.

 

She's sweating cold, doesn't know what to do, and is so terrified of how close she is that she can't move a hair. The woman begins to extend her arms, hugs her belly and head and sticks her body with hers, as if they were lovers.

 

—I never had a chance to thank you, if it had not been for you I could not have awakened, this body, this life, this freedom, every second I feel that I overflow with happiness, but I feel that something is missing, where is he? —the woman asks Hanna as their bodies stick closer—I need him, I miss him, I can't live without him, no matter how much I devour the lives of these animals, I don't get to be satisfied.

 

With her life hanging by a very fine thread Hanna lets go of all survival instinct and her fire is lit, in more ways than one, in order to protect the world from a calamity that has been released without any control.

 








Chapter 27 – Explore

 

Hanna is feeling that woman's body through her back, her heartbeat, her breathing, every movement makes her shudder behind her. The woman begins to sniff her black hair, the aroma running down her nose makes her let out a small moan of satisfaction and tells her that she wants to taste her skin.

 

She is so close that she can hear her tongue come out and approach her smooth skin, but she takes the opportunity of her small full-body spasm to wrap herself in flames and concentrate as much fire as possible between the two of them, freeing herself from her degenerate oppression. From among the intense flames that illuminate the place the woman comes out without any damage; her body is not affected by the intense heat of the fire.

 

Her laughter shows how much she is enjoying the exchange between them, which makes Hanna even more uncomfortable. The woman appears right in front of her in a blink, trying to hug her again and enjoy her warmth.

 

It is said that, when we are exposed to imminent dangers, our bodies react thanks to the survival instinct. Fear is what drives us to stay alive, fills us with the strength necessary to make our way in the world.

 

In Hanna's body happened that exactly, after spending months training under Chris' guidance the training paid off. She dodges the woman's grip and shoots highly concentrated fire directly at her face.

 

The attack barely served to disorient her perception, sight, smell, hearing. Her face is slightly burned, as if she had been exposed to sunlight for a few hours, confirming her incredible resistance.

 

The woman goes crazy from feeling pain, makes her shudder so much that she begins to destroy the place with only her hands. Despite being in a place composed of hard and solid stone, it is torn by her hands with ease.

 

Rock projectiles are fired from all sides and Hanna tries to escape, but some rocks end up hitting her on the back and her legs, falling to the ground and alerting her stalker. As she tries to crawl to safety the woman begins to regain her senses, now she can hear a little again and can locate the direction of the sound by her body sliding on the ground.

 

The woman lightly hits the ground and perceives the vibrations, just as the ears perceive the vibrations of the air she is perceiving the waves with the whole body. Her body's sensitivity is so high that it can replace one sense with another.

 

She throws herself on Hanna, lying on her, with her strength easily turning her over to be face to face on the ground as the clouds clear and the moonlight bathes her dirt-covered bodies. Hanna tries to throw fire again, but the woman holds her wrists, and they are getting even closer.

 

Hanna's strong heartbeat makes the woman excited, opens her eyes, and they see each other face to face:

—You really are beautiful, I don't know why, but there is something about you that captivates me. You make me feel alive in more ways than one, my head clears up when I'm around you. —the woman says while panting a lot.

 

The woman begins to rub her cheek with Hanna's and ends right on her nose, discovers the right side of her face and she begins to feel embarrassed by her appearance, but the woman only looks at her with fascination flooding her eyes. She repeats the gesture of affection with that uncovered side and gives her compliments again, expressing his feelings.

 

Hanna can't be calm, her body no longer pays attention to her, her strength has faded, and she is at the mercy of a strong and dangerous woman. She fears that she will be sullied by a person she doesn't love at all, but then she begins to feel that everything is silent.

 

Stopping to look away, Hanna notices that the woman is watching her carefully, her eyes are very dilated, she even begins to feel her pulse through the hands that hold her. Although, the most intriguing thing for her is the expression in her gaze, she no longer has that wild fire, she is just a woman with many feelings coming to the surface.

 

Wind, aroma, sound, everything in the world has stopped, it’s just the two of them in the moonlight with their faces getting closer and closer. Meanwhile, on the other side of the realm, in Kunreisiki, Kurisu is resting, and Takeshi begins to notice movement in him, he feels a little restless.

 

The tips of the two girls’ noses touch and the silence becomes deafening and finally their lips make contact. Instantly, Hanna begins to feel that something inside her begins to come out of the depths of her being, blinding visions that fill her mind and heart.

 

Chris, the Demon King, her mother, those ruins of the black desert, a beautiful woman in cleric dress. Kurisu begins to shudder as when he was chained, and his pendant begins to cast a blinding light that illuminates the place so much that it seems daylight again.

 

Hanna's body unleashes the same light and repels the woman, leaving her very hurt and letting out groans full of suffering. Despite all the enjoyment she gained during the fight that flash severely injured her.

 

Hanna takes advantage of her opponent's small gap in weakness and begins to gather her strength, releasing her flames and unexpectedly injuring that woman. The two are very exhausted, but the woman begins to let go words that only Hanna can understand.

 

—I begin to remember, my master, I know where he is. —mentions the woman and Hanna begins to mortify herself for what is about to happen as the woman wakes up full of wild emotion again— I really enjoyed hanging out with you, but the last thing was no fun at all.

 

The woman begins to raise her hand, preparing to do something unthinkable, but then Tsubaki arrives, and the rest of the group fall from the sky to stop her. Launching their most powerful attacks the group generates an explosion that strikes directly the woman and Hanna is thrown by the force of the impact, almost falling down the cliff.

 

Tsubaki clears the smoke with her wind, and they realize that the woman disappeared, there is no trace of her. Everyone is relieved, but Hanna explains that this was not enough to destroy her, in fact, it was far from being able to end her definitively.

 

In Kunreisiki, Kurisu wakes up totally upset, his breathing is chaotic, and he is sweating too much. Takeshi tries to calm him down and notices that his pendant is still shining, no longer as much as before, but he may notice pulsations in the light it emits.

 

Kurisu doesn't know what is happening, but he feels that something is awakening inside him. He explains that he felt someone watching him, which leaves Takeshi intrigued as well as confused.

 

In Honshuu, Hanna finishes explaining what happened to her friends, omitting some incomprehensible scenes and things. They have lost track of the mysterious attacker, there are no longer intact bases in the region, they have nothing to start from, they are in a dead end.

 

Heinrich recommends resting the rest of the night and resuming the search the next day first thing in the morning. They leave the place and Tsubaki notices that something strange happens with Hanna.

 

The two of them have slept together since joining the group, they are so close that she can tell something doesn't fit. She asks her if she is okay, lets her know that she can count on her, that she can tell her whatever she wants, but Hanna refuses, she replies that she is fine.

 

Hanna's smile is one of the most precious treasures for her friends, it illuminates their world and fills their hearts with love and warmth. But Tsubaki noticed instantly, her smile changed, as if that light had a dark spot, something changed in her.

 

Two days later the group of adepts receives news from Kentaro, there have been no attacks on bases since that night, so it will be impossible for them to find a trace to find the mysterious woman again. They were also informed that, due to the reduction of invading forces, there has been very unusual movement throughout the region.

 

Not only have the bases been abandoned, but also the underworld is beginning to take action. Many criminal groups, yakuza, warrior clans that equate the military power of the kingdom, have been showing unusual activity and the word 'unusual' means that they have not been interfering with the feudal lords.

 

In addition to that, they are investigating what happened on the Sacred Mount, as reports give indications about an unusual group that saved the lives of the surrounding villages. As they continue reading the reports they arrive at the description of a certain man with a pendant on his neck, so everyone is glad of the possibility of finding Chris.

 

Now they are sure that he is still alive or, rather, came back to life, but they do not understand how it happened or why he has not met with them. That is why they decide to concentrate on investigating Chris' whereabouts and hopefully find the new hiding places, Heinrich mentions the possibility of meeting Volt before he fully recovers and defeating him before the war begins.

 

Saving an entire kingdom, countless lives, before the battle breaks out, is the desirable outcome, but no one expects things to be so easy. Even after so many attacks by the mysterious woman, no trace of Volt's army commanders was ever found.

 

Guilian claims that each commander is under Volt's direct command and that means he is the only one who has authority over them, proving that they are the closest to his position. Any of the commanders could take Volt's place and continue the war, but with the difference in power being narrower with the rest of the commanders.

 

Heinrich confirms Guilian's words and pulls out a small notebook from his clothing. He goes through the pages and comes to a specific page, starting to write names on the earth.

 

Morgan, Earth adept, known for crushing the skulls of his opponents, current whereabouts unknown after the Tournament of Adepts. Alyosh, a Water adept, is famous for being an irreverent who insults his opponents to show his weaknesses, in other words, psychological warfare.

 

Dobryn, Fire adept, everyone calls him the "old gentleman", he was the right hand of the two Lords before Volt, his loyalty to Rushen is an example for the whole people. Ilya, Wind adept, the only thing that is known about him and that made him famous was that he defended alone the border of his country from an invasion by the former Lord of Shengkun, nation of Ryuken.

 

Everyone is silent, processing the information, then Hanna asks why he has so much information. Heinrich remains silent as everyone begins to have a look of uncertainty about him.

 

He agrees to speak and begins to open his heart, all the information contained in his notebook has been collected over the years to achieve his goal. Everyone is serious about it, so they decide to keep listening to him until the end.

 

As everyone knows, Heinrich is the Prince of Heinburn, Heinrich Heinburn VII, but he has his reasons for having left his country, even before he received the Queen's message not to return.

 

Heinburn had a promising future during his grandfather's occupation, the fifth, performed great feats worthy of each of the previous Heinrichs. At a very old age, the king was to succeed the throne to his son and the whole kingdom had high hopes.

 

But then a tragedy happened, VI murdered V, the whole kingdom fell out of favor because of it. The king died, the successor betrayed his own nation, unable to take the reins at such a young age Heinrich's mother took the mandate as queen and ordered her own husband imprisoned but managed to flee the kingdom without being captured.

 

Much of the people hold a grudge against VII for his father's crime while the queen does her best to run the kingdom. It's been 15 years since then, his life was hell after hell in all that time.

 

Private education in the palace was more than enough, but he would have no real experience without leaving the palace grounds. The private school was very hard because of the rejection he received from everyone, although everyone repudiated him he only accepted the blows and insults.

 

Normally anyone in his position would be untouchable, but Heinrich decided to take all the attacks. He eventually awakened his powers and covered his body with armor as much as his young heart.

 

The armor he creates represents the strength with which he protects his heart and the honor of his family, excluding his father. Even having received the hatred of his own people he still feels a duty to them, he has every intention of taking the throne, when the time is right.

 

Upon completion of basic education, Heinrich was sent to an academy abroad on the condition that he not show his powers in public. His life was relatively normal by the standards of the nobility in an allied country, and he lived quietly for years, until news circulated around the world and reached his ears.

 

Heinrich VI ascended as one of the Six Lords, in the exotic phantom land of Patera. The surprise caused a lot of weight to fall on him.

 

Not only did he continue his crime with impunity, but he now held one of the greatest positions of power in the world. On top of that, Heinrich realized that the powers he gained were surely thanks to his father, for his grandfather was an ordinary human.

 

The power he trusted so much, with which he sustained his life and protected his weak and damaged heart, came from the man who ruined his life. That was the straw that broke the camel's back.

 

Heinrich left the academy and went out to travel the world, taking advantage of the resources he had at his disposal as prince and heir to the throne to obtain the greatest amount of information about powerful adepts and the Nations of Adepts. It was all in vain to discover that Patera is a fading city, the only information about that region is that it is led by his father.

 

It was then that he came to the conclusion of making it a goal to reach his inner circle, the only people who know his father in person outside of Patera are the rest of the Six Lords. They are the most reliable track to reach out to his father and make him pay for his crime.

 

In fact, Heinrich visited Vodheim with the aim of finding Lillian and extracting information about his father, but then came the invasion by the Empire. He tried to reason with Imperial General Caellach, but he is known to be a combat addict, so he could only take the beating of his life to try to tire him out.

 

Heinrich clarifies that defending the kingdom of Ceres from Volt is the priority, but once he is defeated he will be able to obtain clues about his father's whereabouts. A fortunate coincidence that a good deed aligns with his main goal.

 

Everyone now understands Heinrich's feelings and clarifies that they now have one more reason to fight Volt's army. He is moved by being totally accepted by his first friends in many years.

 

With a heart beginning to heal for the treasure of friendship, Heinrich walks with his friends towards their next target, the Honshuu region.

 








Chapter 28 – Expectations

 

The group of young adepts run at high speed making full use of their elemental powers, each and every one of them has their eyes full of determination set on their next destination, the Honshuu region. It would take weeks for a powerless human to travel a few tens of kilometers, but an adept, with enough practice, can use his powers to propel themselves without restrictions.

 

Fire propulsion, wind gust momentum, firing its own body by moving the earth it has contact with, and launching pressurized water to amplify the movement. In just one day the young adepts arrived in the capital, gathered supplies and left immediately.

 

The shogun is impressed with the performance they have and at the same time overwhelmed by the possibility that each enemy soldier will be equal to them. With a sign he orders his shinobi team to gather information as many times as necessary, placing his hopes in the promising team.

 

As soon as the messages are sent via carrier pigeon, a message arrives from the patrols in the neighboring regions, the numerous yakuza groups will meet after centuries of having distanced themselves in each region. Kentaro senses that something is about to happen, so he has sent a message to the kingdom's ancient capital, the Ancestral City of Kyo.

 

The city of Kyo was the former capital of the kingdom, before the shogunate system. It was in that city where a civil war happened, overthrowing the emperor along with his entire family and the warrior clans took the reins of the nation.

 

Since then, some warrior clans were carried away by pride and refused to ally with feudal houses, thus forming yakuza clans. Although they refused to cooperate with the new system, they did not choose to join forces to take control for themselves.

 

They maintained their honor as warriors and limited themselves to protecting their ancestral territories and eventually began to take control of the underworld. That all of them come together only means that the situation of the nation is more serious than expected.

 

A day ago, in the morning followed by the blinding light that alerted everyone in the Honshuu region after the eruption, Takeshi can finally relax to see that Aneko has woken up as if she had not worn her body almost to the point of death. He remains skeptical as she claims that she already feels better that her body is quite resilient, a characteristic she inherited from her father.

 

Aneko appreciates the concern but warns that what makes her angry the most is that she is not treated properly. If she says everything is fine it means everything is fine, end of the conversation. Kurisu accepts the idea and etches it in his mind, as if it were carved in stone, while Takeshi only lets out a sigh of resignation.

 

—Either I will be killed by their occurrences or the discomfort they give me, decide at once. —Takeshi thinks out loud, Aneko begins to laugh at the suffering of his unusual friend, and they begin to walk along the road surrounded by lush forests at the foot of a series of mountains.

 

The three of them can't stay long in that place, after what happened in just one day they have attracted a lot of attention. First what happened in the volcano and the village, and then the light at night.

 

Sooner or later, they would be discovered by everything that happened and that worries both Takeshi and Aneko. Kurisu does not understand why they should stay out as much as possible, but since he has just obtained reasoning they decide to explain concretely.

 

Takeshi was asked by the shogun to hunt down the person responsible for the multiple attacks on the kingdom and since they stopped after meeting Kurisu then leaving him alive is basically treason to the kingdom, so he can't let them know about him. Meanwhile, Aneko mentions that although the kingdom is her home, she is essentially a fugitive and is not allowed to live in the country, so she doesn't want to attract much attention.

 

 

—The shogun, Kentaro, ordered me to find the culprit of the multiple attacks on people throughout the country, once I met you they ceased. Do you understand what I am going for? —asks the hunter trying to avoid telling the harsh truth.

—I've hit all those people, that's what you're trying to say. —that's what Kurisu deduces somewhat disgusted—Not remembering it is... hard.

—D-Don't worry, you're a better person now. —says Aneko, trying to comfort him.

—You don't understand! —Kurisu shouts irritated, pushing back the woman who was always kind to him— All those lives, what were they like before I tore them apart? Did they have families waiting for them in their homes? How many of them were good people who deserved no harm?

—4 deceased guards, 30 crippled servants for the rest of their lives, more than 100 relatives bearing the consequences of the misfortune of those affected. —says Aneko completely serious — My family's honor is worth little compared to all those ruined lives, all because of these damn powers that I woke up in the middle of the night when I was just a child.

—«So that's the burden on her. No wonder she is so kind, she is always trying to make up for her sin, but the scales are never going to tip to the other side, no matter how hard you try. » —Takeshi thinks powerlessly to Aneko's affairs.

—My own country hates me, even I hate my own being, I never wanted these powers, but I have no choice but to help whoever I can and never hurt another person in my life again. —Aneko shows her way of life, exposing her own heart for a better future for Kurisu.

—Is it difficult? —Kurisu asks with his eyes down.

—It is, it will never be easy, it will never end, but it is our decision what will come next, a brighter future for all, or death. —Aneko is determined to overcome her sins, even if it takes the rest of her days.

—If you carry all that by yourself, then I have no right to complain. I will help you overcome your sin, and someday, I hope you will help me overcome mine. —Kurisu promises, with a look in which Takeshi sees the faint flame that has just been lit.

—I'm glad. *sniff* —Aneko replies, starting to blow her nose from being on the verge of crying —Although there's not much we can do, we both only know how to destroy, after all.

 

Resigned to only being able to destroy, Aneko and Kurisu decide to put their minds to think of a way to help the country, but they do not come to any answer, so much thinking left them smoking from the head.

 

—You don't have to think much, when the situation requires it, just trust your instinct and you won't have to regret what happens. —it’s the advice that Takeshi gives to the two brutes.

—Thank you very much, although if you discover that I am in these lands, you will surely cut off my head," Admits Aneko with a smile full of resignation.

 

Kurisu doesn't understand further but decides to accept Takeshi’s advice and Aneko's harsh reality completely. It is precisely that "innocence" that makes them worry even more, if they lose sight of him and encounters a person with bad intentions who knows how it might come to manipulate him, he is very malleable and unpredictable in its current state.

 

After a whole day traveling with a low profile, the three arrive at a coastal village and Kurisu is left contemplating the huge city that can be seen on the horizon. Despite being separated by the sea; Takeshi mentions that it is really only a matter of following the shore and would eventually reach that historical monument.

 

The sunset is so beautiful that Aneko is left watching the sunset behind the big city. Kurisu is looking in the same direction and she asks him if he remembers something so beautiful, but he totally denies, the only thing he contemplates is the city, nothing more or nothing less.

 

—I think you have the talent to ruin the mood. —replies the woman who had her heart exposed and received only a harsh and tasteless response.

 

Takeshi warns that the food is ready and after a while they go to sleep in a small cabin. Unexpectedly Aneko and Takeshi fall asleep while Kurisu can't fall asleep. He leaves the cabin and returns to contemplate the city, although the starry sky illuminates a little he can only see the city as a large black silhouette.

 

He stares at that big black spot on the horizon for a long time until he starts noticing strange activity. Some lights move in the distance, on the coast, going in the direction of the city.

 

Kurisu recalls the curious fact that Takeshi mentioned, "follow the shore and eventually you will reach that historical monument."

—Damn, I fell asleep. — Takeshi complains as he gets up and checks the remains of the campfire, estimating that he slept at least one to two hours.

 

He immediately realizes that Kurisu is not asleep and leaves the cabin to realize the most obvious thing he must have expected to happen. Kurisu walked along the coast, leaving the trail of footprints.

 

Takeshi lets out an angry cry and wakes up Aneko to start tracking down and protecting their necks. It doesn't take them more than an hour to get to the big city and they cover themselves with blankets to hide their bodies.

 

They begin to check the streets of the city from unusual angles, staying as hidden as possible. Something is not right, the two of them know that city from a lifetime, they know that it is full of life at all hours, but that night there is not a soul touring the area.

 

Patrolling guards get together and mention what is happening beneath the city and the two undercover fugitives enter the underground canals. As they are close to the night of the full moon they are in danger that the tide rises enough to drown them, so they rush through the tunnels until they end up hearing a lot of scandal.

 

The labyrinth, despite how deceptive it can be because of the unknown sound, guides them due to the rats being chased away from a specific place. They begin to notice that there is a lot of light and resume their incognito mode.

 

A large, illuminated hall surprises them by containing many people in different outfits. Men with strong features and scars, only leaving an idea on the head of both, yakuza.

 

Takeshi manages to visualize the people in the center of the hall and notices the emblems they have on their outfits, amulets and on the tattoos on their bodies. All the clans have gathered and are arguing fervently.

 

The heads of the clans argue about the future of the country, despite the inevitable war some maintain their position of not interfering in their affairs and protecting their public patrimony. Meanwhile, the other heads claim that with the fall of the country will also fall the last thing left of their culture.

 

Having very different ideals and values rooted in their hearts words are not very effective. It is then that the heads begin to throw hurtful comments and in less than two sentences everyone prepares to fight against each other.

 

Whoever emerges victorious will have the final decision, the two fugitives realize that it is a lost case.

—The best thing would be to let all of them fight at ease and the underworld that they have used for centuries would disappear. —says Takeshi resigned.

—If they disappear inevitably someone will take control that each of them has. That will only lead to massacres during the reformation of the underworld that will involve everyone in the kingdom indiscriminately. —Aneko's ideals are pure, which makes her suffer more as she sees her country in trouble.

 

Everyone takes up arms for a big battle but then a person appears right in the middle of the chamber with a contemplative look at the temperamental elders. Due to the surprise Aneko and Takeshi almost let out a scream and lose a few years of life seeing Kurisu right in the worst possible place.

 

The heads of the yakuza ask which lord he serves, but the clueless man does not understand the question, so he gives him an answer so out of place that he ends up offending an entire clan.

—Is there any point in being loyal to a person in this place? —Kurisu asks the yakuza bosses in a loud way.

 

Due to the offense the servants begin to jump to attack Kurisu with their katanas, but quietly moves dodging each of the attacks. Takeshi is surprised to contemplate the serenity of his movements, each step is as if he were alone in the chamber, as if there were no attacks at all.

 

Aneko tries to go out to rescue the troubled young man, but Takeshi stops her when he discovers that some vassals of the feudal lords are in the crowd. From the treatment they have at that meeting it is clear to them that they are originally yakuzas and are infiltrated into the inner circles of the kingdom.

 

Takeshi proposes to observe and wait for an opportunity and Aneko reluctantly agrees. Kurisu continues to avoid attacks and ends up in front of one of the heads, his calm face unsettles him to the point of becoming completely static.

 

—You've tired me, your talks about their honor and pride disgust me. —Kurisu says to all the yakuza present, which offends them the most where it hurts the most, honor.

 

The offense makes the attacks more ferocious, but Kurisu takes a fighting pose and throws a pressurized air stream with a kick. The wind is so strong that it throws everyone back to the stands, some more stunned than others while most have lost consciousness.

 

The heads of clans are surprised by the demonstration of power and let him know that he has earned the respect of all, because the yakuza, being warrior clans, have absolute respect and admiration for power. Kurisu again responds that it means nothing to him but mentions that the words they used during their group discussion were just foolish nonsense.

 

—I have a friend who loves this country very much, its history, its people, no matter how undesirable her stay in the kingdom is, she still loves it to the point of doing everything she can to protect it. —Kurisu says as she remembers her only day of memory —Do you feel the same as my friend? Don't you love your country so much that you die fighting for its sovereignty?

 

Aneko realizes that he is talking about her, so she begins to blush at the touching speech. Takeshi makes her come out of the cheesy trance that pass through her head and makes her pay attention to the scene again.

 

Kurisu's patriotic speech begins to captivate both lackeys and clan heads. The excitement begins to ignite in the room and the two spies begin to worry about the turn the whole thing is taking.

 

Although he has no memories, Kurisu is having great charisma towards the most dangerous people in the kingdom and has now earned their leadership. Takeshi remembers that when he chased his trail he perceived its scent as that of a demon and influencing the gloomy hearts of the most dangerous and powerful criminals only gives him the worst of hunches.

 

After a few hours, when everyone regained consciousness, the celebration of the new leader of the underworld began. The party spreads throughout the city, only for Takeshi and Aneko to realize that there were many more yakuzas than they expected.

 

It is as if they have taken the entire city as a base and with the clans unified under the power of Kurisu things do not look good at all. Inside a palace the celebration of the high commands of the clans is given as if they were in a golden age.

 

Kurisu spends his time eating so much that it becomes a spectacle for everyone, to the point that others begin to try to keep up. Due to the atmosphere, Kurisu begins to replace food with drink and the party is further stoked.

 

The unity of the clans has been consolidated; it seems a distant dream the image of the yakuza segregated throughout the kingdom. Everyone laughs and enjoys the party as if they were lifelong siblings.

 

As much as they worry, Aneko thinks it's good for everyone to get along, maybe Kurisu's image of her will lead him to positively influence the yakuza. Takeshi believes that she is being too optimistic, for him it is better to always expect the worst and prepare properly.

 

Just as a clan head tries to pair Kurisu with one of his daughters, a huge explosion is heard. Aneko and Takeshi, who are hiding on the roof of the palace, observe a large number of people on the outskirts of the city.

 

Everyone gets up in arms ready to fight and realizes that they do not look like natives of the kingdom. From the crowd a woman appears and shouts that everyone surrender with honor to preserve their lives.

 

That suggestion only makes all the yakuza boil their blood and they prepare to fight.

—On behalf of one of the Six Lords, I, Leah, will take this city for my lord. —shouts the youngest commander of the army, initiating the raid of the historic city —«You see, Volt, I will compensate for my defeat, you in the meantime recover. »

 

That name causes a vibe to run through Kurisu's body and he immediately gets up to fight alongside his new subordinates.

 

Just four days until Volt's recovery, a war breaks out in the Ancestral City of Kyo with an unexpected encounter.

 








Chapter 29 – Betrayal

 

Kurisu watches the invading forces from the top of the city walls and Lea immediately realizes who is in front of her.

—The reports said you were dead, Chris. Is eternal rest so boring? —asks Lea boldly.

 

Kurisu doesn't understand what the woman is talking about, he doesn't understand what makes him feel like as she addresses him with that name. His expression is filled with irritation and orders the yakuza to guard the city, the main strategy is defense.

 

Everyone screams in unison to follow the orders of their new lord and Lea commands the invasion forces. Fire adepts launch concentrated projectiles towards the crowds of the first line of defense and Earth adepts generate mounds to climb on the walls.

 

Seeing that access to the city is more viable for the invaders Kurisu orders them to focus their forces on guarding the mounds. Earth adepts fire compressed bullets to break through, but the yakuza prove their worth by cutting the solid projectiles with their swords.

 

They may not have powers, but they make up for it enormously with focus, precision, and fortitude. Kurisu motivates his men with words that exalt them, motivates them through his pride as Cereans.

 

Lea observes Kurisu's personality in detail and leaves one of her subordinates in charge of the command.

—«There’s something different in him, it does not seem the same as the last time I see him. » —Leah deduces from knowing him from decades ago —Even if he does not use his powers you cannot do anything, so I will take care of him, and we will take that treasure. —is the order that leaves his subordinates after reaching a conclusion.

 

With great determination, the woman who lost to that man in more than one sense runs straight to the head of the city's defense. Some yakuza offer swords for Kurisu to fight, but he refuses:

—I don't know why, but when I hold a sword I feel a lot of weight inside me. I will use my hands to break through from now on. —says Kurisu, feeling an unknown weight inside.

 

The yakuza admire the audacity of their lord and send him words of admiration as he heads to a clear area to fight without restrictions, in the bay next to the city. The seawater barely reaches the heels, but the land is unstable, and the waves do not help much.

 

—It's strange that you wanted to fight alone, was it easier for you to replace your little friends with those criminals? —Leah asks, but Kurisu doesn't know what the woman in front of him means, every time she speaks she makes him mad.

 

Lea releases her power without any restriction, transforming her body according to the conditions. Kurisu's instinct hit the nail on the head, she is the biggest threat of the invasion on the city.

 

The pair of legs turns into a gelatinous mass and molds into more limbs, her arms become thicker and harden with a vivid red color. As he watches closely the woman transforming, Kurisu feels greatly repelled by the private spectacle.

 

Metamorphosis level 2 – Hybrid: Octopus + Crab

 

The tentacles help her to have a good base to move and attack without qualms with the strong pincers, with enough power to split a man in two as if he were a noodle. Kurisu dodges pincer attacks without taking even a step, only contorting his body above the waist.

 

Lea also attacks with some pairs of tentacles and Kurisu begins to move. Despite how viscous each of the tentacles looks, the blue rings that cover each limb give him a bad feeling.

 

—I see that you are still just as perceptive. —says Lea upon seeing Kurisu's caution —On the shores of Cundraria there is a kind of blue-ringed octopus, its venom is so lethal that not even adepts with healing abilities can save the lives of the unfortunate ones who end up touching them by accident.

—«Takeshi was right, following my instinct is the best option. » —Kurisu deduces by recalling his recent experiences.

—«He's underestimating me again, how it irritates me that it's always like this, even as children. » —Lea begins to get impatient.

 

Kurisu begins to insult his opponent's intelligence, as it is her prattling that ends up giving him the information needed to defeat her. Lea starts to get angry but remembers to focus on fulfilling her goal.

 

The attacks continue as Kurisu devotes himself to dodging each and every one of them. Lea begins to notice a pattern on his movements, starts with his right foot, moves his center of gravity to propel himself and stabilizes by moving his arms.

 

Despite being by mere impulse she is amazed at the fluidity with which he avoids danger. Kurisu stays focused on dodging until he finds an opening, but he can't help but feel his body almost react involuntarily, as if he's used to that level of activity.

 

Every time his body reacts to a movement of his opponent he perceives a certain pulse running through his body. His focused mind is close to remembering something important, but it is not enough stimulus, he needs more, something much stronger, to fill him with life.

 

Kurisu gets tired of how tedious the fight is, so he proceeds to hit the pressurized air directly to her face, but Lea defends herself with her steel-sturdy tongs. She takes advantage of the small gap she observed in the previous fights, every time a pressurized air shot is generated it must be allowed to flow or it will be weakened.

 

Uses her tentacles to hold Kurisu's legs under the water, but he decides to jump over her. Lea takes advantage thar, while in the air, he won’t be able to maneuver to escape her toxic grip, but Kurisu uses kicks to generate bursts of air and deflect his trajectory.

 

Lea has observed Kurisu's every move, before they were somewhat clumsy compared to the night of their reunion, but each time he regains precision and increases the pace of the fight. At this rate she will be exhausted before she even manages to incapacitate him.

 

She begins to plant her tentacles in the ground underwater and begins to spin, releasing sand-loaded tides that destabilize Kurisu. Some of the muddy water falls into his eyes and they leave him without any vision, so Lea takes the opportunity to hold him with her lethal lower limbs.

 

Taking advantage of the momentum of the rotation her grip is much faster than before, but Kurisu takes a pose that she knows very well. During Volt's fight in the wasteland, she saw how he hit the ground to generate a wave of earth towards all directions, that simple memory makes her try to stop his movement to take cover, but it is too late.

 

Kurisu hits the ground with only concentrated brute force at a single point, generating a shock wave in the water and wet sand on which he is standing. The waves are fired with such pressure that droplets of salt water loaded with mud become tiny projectiles, hurting her tentacles.

 

Avoiding serious injuries by covering her upper body with her pincers, Lea tries to reform herself to heal her body, but Kurisu takes the opportunity to fight back. He puts his hand in the water and with his force moves the water to the point of generating a pressurized current directly towards Lea.

 

The water turns into a cutting blade that easily amputates two of the tentacles she desperately used to cover herself from the deadly attack. Leah is beginning to despair, once again she is being massacred, but now she really fears for her life, because she felt the same killer instinct, only this time she does not perceive that he is going to stop as before.

 

The sunrise ends with the sun rising above the horizon, just so everyone knows how many hours they've been fighting in that area. The ruckus of battle continues to erupt in the distance, which begins to raise Kurisu's suspicions.

 

Lea takes advantage of that slight distraction to make her way through the sand, digging underwater. Kurisu barely perceives the vibrations but manages to discover that she is heading back to the city through the underground, so he decides to enter the city through the waterways.

 

Despite being several tens of meters below the surface the noise of the fierce fight comes to be heard clearly. As he runs through the tunnels he finds a trail of blood and mud and hurries so as not to leave her the opportunity to continue with her plans.

 

The route seems familiar to him, it is the direction of the chamber where the meeting of the yakuza clans took place. Upon arriving at the scene, he finds the woman very worn, despite having resumed her human form and ceasing to have wounds all over her body she is still very exhausted.

 

Digging through the sea subsoil with such serious injuries was clearly too much of a burden for her. Kurisu can see that she has not noticed his presence and begins to hear her murmuring.

 

—Where is it? He told me it should be here. We need the Sacred Stone for our plan. —Lea is plunged into despair at not being able to fulfill her mission.

 

Kurisu immediately remembers some conversations he heard during the party with the yakuza.

 

The sacred stone has been in the kingdom since before its foundation and all the legends of folklore attribute miracles and good fortune to the people around it. For this reason, the stone was sheltered in the city of Kyo until it was moved to the new capital of the kingdom.

 

None of those things seem relevant to him, so he approaches the weakened woman from behind and subdues her with his strength. The woman has an expression full of despair as Kurisu gives her a cold and insensitive look, as if her life means nothing to him.

 

As her heart beats harder, she remembers the two occasions she really felt sympathy for Chris: when he arrived at Yamamoto's temple and before he left. Those two moments in his life where he was completely shattered and it's right at that moment that everything connects.

 

—«This is why I never saw you as a man, you're not even still human in the first place. It was the humans, your own family, even Karen, who tore you apart and only this remained: your shadow. » —Leah thinks as she accepts her inevitable fate —«As much as I love her, she did this to you, you are what was born into Chris, that’s the reason the Demon King put you under his wing. »

 

Back on the surface, the warriors are still fighting the invaders, they can barely keep up. Suddenly, the ground begins to shake and is destroyed from the bottom up.

 

Among the debris that shoots out like a volcanic eruption comes the female figure that the invaders immediately recognize. Lea falls from the sky like a rag doll hurt all over her body and Kurisu comes out of the big hole with a very intimidating expression.

 

The adepts begin to understand the fear expressed by the troops of the battle in the wasteland. Yakuza are also intimidated by his expression, but their loyalty to him motivates them to fight more fiercely.

 

Takeshi and Aneko, who were watching the entire city’s brawl hidden from all perception in the palace, begin to fear the worst for Kurisu. Takeshi believes it's time to do his job with the shogun, even if he doesn't get the information he's been looking for so long.

 

In the early morning of that day, with the air stale with blood, smoke and ash, the invading soldiers blow a horn that echoes to the mountains in the distance. The cloudy sky begins to roar, and lightning appears, letting out a very bitter feeling in Kurisu's body.

 

Writhing from the little pain her injured body may feel, Leah warns that the "divine punishment" that both Volt's opponents and useless soldiers who cannot fight for Rushen's ideals deserve is about to fall.

—We don't mind losing our lives, we live to fight for him and him alone. His will is that of all Rushen. Long live Volt. —says the woman as she lets out a hopeless smile.

 

Lightning gets wilder and concentrates on top of the city, illuminating the sky as if it were clear. Suddenly, an incandescent comet emerges ascending into the sky, directly into the storm clouds.

 

Kurisu knows perfectly well who it is, Aneko shoots out so fast that she is almost imperceptible to the eye without training. The huge electric charge falls shot directly into the city being hindered by the female comet.

 

The giant lightning collides with the flash that surrounds her, circulating around her and the anonymous heroine falls directly into the sea. Kurisu seeing her descend jumps at full speed to protect her, she is not well at all, her skin is very damaged, and he does not feel her heartbeat.

 

The enemy army begins to retreat having contemplated something impossible for their disposable lives. They carry their fallen commander in tow as she struggles to stay conscious to remember everything that happened right at the end.

 

All the soldiers are muttering as they escape what kind of miracle they have just witnessed, but Leah knows exactly what it is.

—I can't believe it, what is she doing here? It doesn't make any sense. I must inform Volt about this. —mutters Lea stunned before encouraging her subordinates to report the finding.

 

Takeshi arrives with Kurisu to try to save the life of the woman who gave everything for her home. They try with great dedication to revive her body, to breathe, to beat her heart, to reopen her eyes to contemplate the sunset that has her in love.

 

The stress of the situation causes something inside Kurisu to start waking up, his pendant shines again, and he embraces the woman who has shown him how good a person can be. Kurisu's body begins to take a glow around him, and, on the way to the Holy Mount, Hanna feels something inside, it is a feeling she had a couple of times inside the kingdom.

 

Kurisu's glow begins to envelop his fallen friend's body and she takes a big breath and starts breathing again, only to end up losing consciousness. Takeshi hurries Kurisu to move their friend to a safe place, away from the yakuza and invaders.

 

The soldiers who continue the retreat reach the forest at the base of the mountains and encounter an ominous figure.

—The smell that surrounds that woman, isn't it delicious? That's why I love it so much, ah, my master is nearby. —says the voice of an ecstatic woman.

 

With everything that happened the troops are very frightened by the events so impossible to predict and the voice that resonates on all sides only makes them attack indiscriminately. Lea tries to calm them down, but it’s no use, they are reaching dementia while eyes with a penetrating look observes them from the shadows.

 

One by one, the helpless soldiers begin to disappear, and Lea falls to the ground, almost losing consciousness with the blow. Struggling with all the strength she can muster to stay conscious she begins to crawl to be of use to her Lord.

 

—«I cannot die, not now, not here, not in this way, I must inform Volt about her, that here is Selenne of the Six Lords. » —is the last thing that passes through Leah's mind before she is dragged into the abysses of perdition.

 








Chapter 30 – Unexpected

 

Kurisu carries Aneko's body back to the cabin where they walked away before all the mess. Takeshi begins the first aids on the weakened woman's body, the burns spread throughout the body making branches, they barely perceive her breath, so he takes out of his provisions some ground herbs and mixes them in hot water to bandage the damaged body.

 

Throughout the process Kurisu only contemplates with a lost look, remembering how full of life she was. He gets out of the cabin and quickly heads to the city, discovers that the yakuza have finished the work of defending the territory and begins to ask some questions to prisoners of war.

 

The adepts refuse to reveal information, but Kurisu's murderous instinct that intimidated Lea makes them bend. Servants are also intimidated by the darkness he can show against those who mess with his friends.

 

The target of the raid on the Ancestral City of Kyo was effectively the Sacred Stone, but the yakuza claim that the stone was moved to a new location once the civil war was over. The prisoners were taken to a prison and the yakuza guarded them by keeping them asleep.

 

Kurisu gives the order to the high commands to go to the capital of the kingdom to avoid obtaining the stone. He affirms that with the escape of the commander surely the leader will learn of the current location of the stone, with what happened to his friend he does not plan to stand idly by.

 

As a last order to the heads of the clans he makes it absolutely clear that they shall not reveal his identities to the shogun.

—My friends don't want to be discovered, so I'll follow their example. —Kurisu says as he quietly retreats.

 

The leaders obey the order and leave the city as soon as possible, when Kurisu returns to the hut to see Aneko's condition he is greeted by Takeshi with the worst of the news, her injuries are very serious, and he does not have the resources to treat her properly.

 

—There is hope, there is a village hidden among the mountains that shelters special medicinal herbs that are more than enough to save her life once again. —says Takeshi and Kurisu perceives the hint, that brightness that came out of his body and enveloped Aneko gave them the opportunity to save her life.

 

Takeshi will be in charge of going to the village and obtain the necessary herbs since only he knows the route to access it, meanwhile, Kurisu will stay to take care of Aneko, in her condition she cannot be moved so he must protect her. Before leaving, Takeshi gives him some herbs that revitalize the body, so that Aneko's body remains active to heal as much as possible.

 

The aroma and texture of the herbs seem familiar to Kurisu, as if he had had them before. Leaving aside his own mysteries, he prepares to fulfill his duty as a friend to take care of his friend in her very serious condition.

 

Takeshi departs as quickly as possible for the village with the determination to save a life that has only brought him trouble. Memories of everything that has happened in the last few days go through his mind and he understands how ironic his situation is.

 

No matter how bad your relationship with someone is, in times of need your true feelings towards that person appear. When Aneko wakes up he will annoy her as if there is no tomorrow.

 

After a whole day, just after dark, he arrives at a main point of the route to the village, he is very close to arriving and the small sanctuary lost in the forest is a sign of it. He looks at some marks on the wood and remembers the voices of children but rushes to fulfill his goal.

 

After a few minutes running he arrives at the village, completely in ruins, from among the rubble he pulls out a small doll and remembers what happened. Tragedy happened 18 years ago, the village was full of life, and the days were peaceful.

 

Takeshi taught exploration and hunting to children going through their transition to adulthood. When turning 7, children choose to be apprentices in some line of work, if you wanted to dedicate yourself to hunting you had to be accepted as an apprentice of a hunter, if you wanted to be a modiste you learned from the modiste.

 

It was a very simple life, but very rewarding, even more so when you have your own children as apprentices. One night he took them camping in the forest, nothing new to them, when while they slept he began to perceive the strong stench of blood.

 

He woke up his children and they returned to the village, only to find that they had all been massacred. The markings indicated that they bled to death, but the lack of blood in the ruins suggested that the target of the attack was the coveted crimson liquid.

 

No one was spared except for his children who accompanied him, until they heard some noises coming from the village leader's house. When they approached with as much stealth as possible they discovered a very tall man biting the neck of the woman in the main house.

 

It can be heard her blood leave her body and run down the throat of the ruthless killer. Takeshi remains calm at all times, a hunter must maintain composure and wait for the opportunity to attack his prey in a decisive blow, although his children did not follow his example.

 

Them being so young, they were carried away by their emotions and jumped to attack the man, only to end up being torn to pieces with a simple slap. The force with which he touched them was more than enough to leave the remains of their bodies scattered throughout the room as if it were paint.

 

All of that happened in less than a second, leaving his mind completely blank, trying to process what happened. Takeshi was so stunned that he wasn't even aware of what happened in front of his eyes.

 

By the time he finally regained his sanity, the dark man had already disappeared, leaving his village completely deprived of life. In just one night he lost everything and everyone he loved.

 

Returning to the present, Takeshi reflects on what happened:

—«I should have been the one to die, not them. I had to stop them, so at least they would still be alive and have had a chance. » —meditates Takeshi almost breaking down in tears—I will not allow anyone else to die within my reach.

 

He moves away from the ruins and finds the wild plants that grew uncontrollably, collects enough to save Aneko and retreats by merging with the veil of night, but not before taking another walk through the remains of his old life.

 

During his walk he notices some alarming signs, traces. He begins to sniff the earth and realizes that the aroma is similar to the invaders of the city of Kyo, the place is not safe at all.

 

He hides as quickly as possible and observes a strange figure, a woman carrying the body of the raid commander. The mysterious woman's appearance reminds him of the man who murdered his family, realizing everything he is feeling he tries to stay calm.

 

The woman enters the ruined house where he lost his children and witnesses a very important conversation. Lea is thrown to the ground, barely staying alive:

—I thought that the trail would lead me to my master, but I was wrong. —says the woman with great disappointment.

Lea manages to regain consciousness and screams desperately.

—Please don't do anything to my lord. Take my life and do nothing to him. —shouts Lea desperately upon regaining consciousness.

From the shadows rises a man full of wounds and clear signs of going through intensive treatment.

—After treating my soldiers inhumanely, do you think I will stand idly by? —the man identifies himself as the leader of the invaders, one of the Six Lords, Volt.

The name is etched in Takeshi's mind, but what matters most to him is the woman's identity. The tension is very high, but the woman only retreats.

—How boring, I will have to keep looking for my master. —the woman says with a high tone of superiority.

 

Volt makes it clear to her that she has no right to retreat after all the depravity she has had against his soldiers.

—Are you looking for Chris or Charles? —Volt asks with a lot of tension.

—«Chris? Is that Kurisu's original name? » —Takeshi tries to connect the dots.

The woman stops and replies that those names mean nothing to her, her master is her master, end of the conversation.

 

—Your scent is very similar to my master’s, that's why I confused you with him. When I finally find him I will ask him to punish me for lowering him to your height. —the woman answers.

 

Volt is offended and generates lightning, shooting it at the woman who has caused so much trouble to his fight.

 

The flash is very large and causes a lot of damage, but once the action is over he realizes that she escaped. Takeshi can't believe what he just witnessed, but before he retires he begins to hear Volt receive Lea's report.

 

—The sacred stone is not found in Kyo, and after receiving the reports of the spies about our soldiers attacked by that thing our forces are not enough to fulfill your goal, sir. —Lea reports to her leader still with sequels of having had two defeats by Chris and the nameless torture she received from the woman.

 

Volt is left thinking for a few seconds, reassessing the situation, until he comes to a conclusion:

—I'm tired of this kingdom, I was originally going to steal the stone and take it to Rushen. I would let the kingdom of Ceres continue with its sovereignty under my protection and use the territory to send my forces towards the continent of Meri, but it no longer has a case. —is Volt's conclusion of the current situation.

Takeshi is glad that Volt is resigned, but the words he would release next would bring down his entire world.

—I will turn Ceres into the second Nobyl, there will be no trace of its existence. —declares Volt to Lea, confirming the genocide of an entire country just for having resisted his objectives.

 

That leaves Lea completely blank while Takeshi records that scene. He retreats immediately, running as fast as he can while writing a message to the shogun about Volt's plans.

 

Takeshi no longer cares about being a fugitive, this is now bigger than Ceres, Volt is a threat to everyone. On top of that, he has now found a key target to meet his original goal.

 

He sends the message with his personal eagle and rushes back to the cabin where his friends are. Things couldn't be worse, but that's something he thought about without knowing what was happening on the other side of his path.

 

A few hours later, in the cabin under the midday light, Kurisu finds himself refreshing Aneko's body with the infusion of herbs, despite Takeshi's instructions to prepare it he does it as if he were used to it, which seems strange to him. Even being far away from the city of Kyo, he has been perceiving the noise of reconstruction by the population who returned home after the migration of the yakuza.

 

Even coastal dwellers have been more active in providing food for citizens struggling to restore their homes and have heard rumors about what happened. Kurisu can't help but compare the villagers' tales about what he experienced directly.

 

After a while meditating he realizes that it is precisely these rumors that can endanger Aneko's life. Kurisu tries to decide what to do, but then hears some people asking about the details of what happened.

 

The voices seem familiar to him, but he can't remember anything. While the stories continue, he takes the opportunity to sneak away, only that it would be useless because a girl perceived a familiar aroma and immediately runs towards his direction.

 

Kurisu runs quickly to the outskirts of the village and tries to continue into the forest, but the pursuers are faster than he expected. He hears behind him the noise of explosions and gusts of wind and decides to stop to face any adversity.

 

The people who chased him without any restriction are shocked to see Kurisu's face. They all murmur "At last, we found you. What a joy, you are fine" as they shed tears smiling.

 

Everyone asks him what happened to him, but Kurisu doesn't understand what they are talking about.

—I don't know who you are, but don't come close or you will regret it. —Kurisu says with an imposing presence.

All of them change their looks of happiness for confusion, trying to understand the situation.

—Don't you remember us? Do you not recognize us? I am Tsubaki, we are your friends. Guilian, Hanna, Pierre and even Heinrich, nothing? We've all been worried about you. —Tsubaki says with a voice breaking with sadness.

 

As much as she tries to explain what happened Kurisu refuses to allow them to approach. It is at that moment that Aneko appears falling from the sky and crashes right in front of Kurisu, trying to stand as much as possible, but falls again. Kurisu immediately holds her, the way he holds her, his gaze full of worry, the whole scene makes the message clear to the puzzled group.

 

He takes a clear defensive pose, and his murderous instinct focuses on strangers who claim to know him, breaking their hearts. Hanna is left watching Kurisu, her interior shattered again by comparing him to all the memories she keeps in her heart.

 

She turns around and begins to slowly walk away releasing a very slight and imperceptible apology, everyone tries to decide what to do, but they resign themselves to following the example of their friend. Try as they might, they can't get their friend back.

 

Hanna uses every fiber of her being to maintain her composure, so as not to break down in tears. Not only for her or for her lost friend, but also for her other friends, if any of them collapse the others as well.

 

The group of adepts gets lost on the horizon as Kurisu carries his friend and starts running back to the cabin. As he takes each step he feels something inside, feels heavy, with a lump in his throat and hears the sound of something breaking.

 

From a distance he starts to hear a very loud cry, Hanna could not take it anymore. Everyone else begins to shed tears that hurt like blades, Tsubaki doesn't let go of her voice, but cries as much as Hanna as she collapses inside and out.

 

Their crying is even more painful than when Chris passed away, the scene is so painful that it is etched in their hearts. They all fall lying on the ground, their world has collapsed.

 

Back with Kurisu, he asks Aneko why she did that, she just endangered her life.

—As soon as you left the cabin I understood that you did it for me, I didn't want to let you go through something just because of me. —Aneko says with a sweet smile.

 

She realizes that a very light, almost nonexistent tear runs down his face and she hears the worry her friend feels. Aneko recharges her head on his chest, feeling his heartbeat.

—Sorry, I won't worry you again, so rest assured. —Aneko says to Kurisu, forging a stronger bond.

 

After a while, when the old friends manage to calm down, they return to the place of impact, trying to understand what happened. While touring the place Guilian ends up stepping on something strange but realizes that it is an amulet.

 

Guilian says out loud how careless Tsubaki is for dropping her precious amulet, remembering when the elf chief explained to them her arrival in the village. The two girls, their eyes so irritated by tears and multiple attempts to dry their faces, are reunited with them.

 

In an attempt to regain confidence and encouragement, Guilian begins to tease Tsubaki for losing her amulet when she has been scolding him all along. She begins to get irritated but realizes that she has her own amulet in the same place where she keeps it.

 

She takes out the amulet and everyone realizes that the amulets fit together perfectly, the figure is completed in a tiger and a dragon dancing in an endless circle with an emblem in the middle that they remember perfectly.

 

The friends start running as fast as possible to the place where they saw that emblem, the chamber of shogun Kentaro.

 








Chapter 31 – Confusing

 

Aneko finds herself sleeping serenely while Kurisu watches her with great attention, but something in him is not right. Ever since he met those strangers who claimed to be his friends, he has been more thoughtful and even distracted.

 

As much as he tries to remember something about his life, he only remembers those strangers and a bitter feeling inside. Above all, that apology from the girl with long black hair, every time he remembers that word something in him reacts, she begins to feel an intangible pain, as if there is a deeper meaning on both sides of the coin.

 

A few hours pass and finally Takeshi arrives with the herbs, starting to prepare the infusion as quickly as possible. Kurisu explains what happened in his absence, although he does not give it much importance, "Whatever you feel accept it, let it be integrated into your being."

 

As Takeshi applies the new bandages and gives the woman the miraculous liquid, he explains to Kurisu that his feelings are real. Due to amnesia, the complete lack of memories, any emotion he’s feeling is authentic and is a sign that he is still human, something for which he should feel happy, after all.

 

Kurisu is reassured by the words of his friend, letting out a slight but sincere smile, something that makes the strong and imposing hunter uncomfortable for the intimate moment they have. The silence becomes somewhat uncomfortable until Aneko begins to show signs of improvement, breathing properly and her skin begins to regain its full color of life.

 

The two men breathe a sigh of relief and then Takeshi remembers what he saw in the village, but before he can even tell Kurisu a scandal begins in the distance. Screams of people are heard, men, women and even children, Kurisu’s senses put him on alert intensely and Takeshi ends up recognizing the smell.

 

They hurried out of the hut to fight and find a shadow dancing all over the village as the residents emerge in terror. A macabre woman's laugh can be heard as Takeshi warns Kurisu that he is possibly the target.

 

The woman jumps from the ruins of a hut and heads in a completely straight line towards the two warriors. Takeshi throws a sword with his prized katana, but is easily eluded, demonstrating how inhuman the woman's body is, twisting as if she possesses no joints.

 

She glides across the surface of his body and thanks him for guiding her all the way. Takeshi realizes that he was deceived, and the woman explains that she noticed his presence in that village before he did about her, only that she ignored him for being a very low quality prey.

 

It was just a matter of disappearing during the flash and following him from a distance imperceptible to him, until he reached his destination. The hunter, furious to have been used, tries to attack her and taking advantage of the short distance, but the woman moves with such speed that she ends up tearing his armor through friction, tearing off part of his clothing and even leaves a little damage to his skin.

 

The woman jumps towards Kurisu and shouts loudly "Master!!!!" with a big smile full of happiness, as if she were a dog reuniting with its owner after years. Kurisu realizes from the beginning that she does not want to hurt him, but to receive affection, so he punches her right in the center of his face, causing a noise by the force of the blow against her body hard as steel.

 

Takeshi reacts to the noise, identifying what she is composed of and begins to wonder if Kurisu's hand is okay. The woman falls to the ground, completely motionless until she begins to gasp and shows an expression full of satisfaction, clearly asking for more stimulation.

 

The two men are completely uncomfortable with what they have just witnessed, until she tries to get closer to Kurisu by crawling in the sand to his feet and he yells at her to walk away, blindly obeying him. Now they are very clear that she obeys Kurisu, although that more than giving answers only lets them know that they have more problems than they can imagine.

 

Meanwhile, back to the Capital of Ceres, Tsubaki rushes to the castle she previously invaded with her friends following her from behind. Despite having won the favor of the shogun himself, the royal guard shows no signs of allowing them to pass, so they decide to repeat what happened just a week ago.

 

They forcibly make their way again until they reach the chamber where Kentaro is sheltering. Upset and in search of answers, Tsubaki rushes in hoping to get answers, but the group of adepts is surprised by the yakuza around them 100 to 1.

 

Because of all the tumult on both occasions, the adepts never got to contemplate how big the castle really was, so it was to be expected that they would not expect so many warriors in one room. The central tower is basically a small mountain surrounded by more buildings, turning the castle grounds into one city by itself surrounded by another smaller city.

 

Tsubaki tries to understand what is happening until she realizes that the shogun is in current meeting with a group of elders who are recognized as the leaders of the yakuza clans. Their complete disdain for Tsubaki can be seen in from distance, though that doesn't make her back a bit.

 

The look in her eyes, Tsubaki is full of determination and the wind begins to flow, causing the atmosphere to change suddenly. The yakuza recognize that she has some power and retreat by order of the clan heads.

 

One of the vassals explains the situation of the meeting, the yakuza have unified to help the kingdom maintain its sovereignty from foreign invasion and learn of Volt's plan to obtain the Sacred Stone. Hanna lets out a slight show of surprise to the point of hearing how she swallows her own saliva when she hears those two words.

 

Tsubaki perceives the concern through smell, so she warns the shogun that as soon as the war meeting is over she requests an audience for a matter of utmost importance, but the yakuza begin to be offended. After having caused a lot of rumbles by entering in the middle of the meeting only to end up deciding to retire, it is the last straw.

 

They yell at the girl to talk already her whim if it is so important as to interrupt the men who carry the future of the kingdom. She pulls out the entire amulet with the emblem that matches perfectly with the one shown just above the shogun's seat.

 

Everyone in the room is stunned by the amulet, even the shogun is so dumbfounded that he let out a few drops of cold sweat. The yakuza begin to show respect to her, even bowing down, none of the adepts know what is happening.

 

Back on the outskirts of the City of Kyo, the strange woman finds herself wiggling her body from side to side with complete happiness on her face. Kurisu does not know what to do with her, however obedient she may be to him, when he orders her to abandon him she flatly refuses. What good is authority if she does not obey his only desire? As much as he tries to understand the woman's response, he does not come to any conclusions.

 

—After so much searching I don't plan to leave, although I'm really not sure. Hmmm, is that, indeed, you are my master, but you are not my master either. —the woman tries to order her thoughts—Hmmm, how to explain it? I was looking for my apple until I found it and realized that instead of being red it turned out to be green. What do I do from now on?

 

No matter how much Kurisu orders her to explain him, she does not know how to express herself very well, and with amnesia it is much more difficult to understand her words. What they do manage to understand is her strong desire to stay with Kurisu, so they are forced to have her around.

 

Takeshi warns him that she is responsible for attacking many soldiers of Volt, the leader of the invasion, he must be extremely cautious with her, but something connects when hearing that name, ignoring any other words. Kurisu's inner anger is released to the point of discomfort the nameless woman.

 

First Lea mentions it, then Takeshi, every time Volt's name comes to light the only thing that goes through Kurisu's mind is anger and frustration. But above all, he remembers the lightning that hit Aneko.

 

The woman tries to break the tension in the environment, asks if there is anything she can do to please her master:

—I don't want anything from you, just don't make trouble for me. As long as you stay within the margin and don't hurt anyone, do what you want. —it's the only thing Kurisu is asking for.

 

She is glad to receive from him the freedom to stay by his side, but the two men feel that the bipolar woman hasn't heard a word about not harming anyone. Kurisu puts his fists on the woman's temporal zones and begins to compress her skull, asking her if the part of not harming anyone was completely clear to her, to which she responds with a strong "yes" with intermingled suffering and satisfaction.

 

Takeshi is completely amazed at how quickly Kurisu gets powerful people to gather around him. Even more so because of that woman who has caused so much damage in the kingdom in such a short time.

 

He asks her if she knows anything about the guy who killed his children, but she replies with complete disrespect that she doesn't know what he's talking about and that if she knew something he has no right to receive any answer from her. What's more, for the simple act of speaking to her he should be grateful to her, for which she gives him the privilege of cleaning her feet.

 

Kurisu presses the woman's head again:

—Takeshi is my friend, anyone who disrespects my friends will regret it. —Kurisu says, emitting a lot of aggressiveness with his presence, but even if it is with the intention of intimidating and keeping her at bay, they know that she behaves like this on purpose in order to receive punishment.

 

Kurisu asks the woman about it, and she honestly replies that she knows absolutely nothing. The woman explains that when she woke up she could understand the things around her, she understood human language and she knew the name of the basic things, but there was only one idea in her mind without being able to fully comprehend, to find her master.

 

Outside of all that, she knows absolutely nothing, she doesn't know anything or anyone in particular besides the scarred girl who freed her, Kurisu remembers that girl once again because of her explanation. Her full existence began at that precise moment just over a week ago, those words begin to sound in Takeshi's head.

 

He explains that on that same day a battle happened that shattered an entire wasteland on the outskirts of the kingdom's capital between Volt and a young warrior. More than a fight it was in fact a glimpse into the end of the world that put the entire kingdom on alert.

 

Many things happened that day and now they are clear that what happened in that wasteland is connected with what happens in the kingdom. Despite having gathered information and tied up loose ends, they don't come up with any clear answers, let alone some goal, so they now have a lot more questions than before.

 

The three are in complete silence until Aneko begins to get up, she appears in a much better condition than before. It's a pity that she is far from fully recovering, but with all the chatter unfolding right next to her it was impossible to return to the necessary rest.

 

The woman begins to complain about her master apologizing to her and begins to ask who she is and why she seems so close to the only man to her. Aneko lets out a little laugh and makes it clear that she notices jealousy better than anyone, so the woman gets angry to the point of making sounds as if it were a wild animal.

 

It doesn't matter that she is a woman far from human, a woman's anger always intimidates men and that is demonstrated by how small Takeshi feels to be almost in the middle of the two women throwing sharp glances at each other while Kurisu holds the strange woman out of Aneko's reach.

 

Kurisu calms the woman once again with "affectionate punishment" as Aneko carefully observes the abnormal interaction between the two. Once calm, using her role as a master, Kurisu asks the woman for her name, because if she is going to accompany him at least she must have a name for them to address her.

 

She replies that she has no name and that in any case as her master it is he who decides what her name is or if she deserves any right or obligation. Such an explanation she gave as if nothing, she does not care about her wellbeing, she does not care about anything in the world except her master and accepts anything he declares, what makes it worse is the fact that she said it with a bizarre affection while rubbing her body with Kurisu’s, taking advantage of the fact that the two were very close.

 

Kurisu pushes her away and declares that he will give her a name, but that he does not consider himself as his master and that she is not a slave or anything, she is just one more person in this world, just like everyone else. The woman protests and even seems a little offended about it:

—Am I unworthy of you to be my master? —says the woman sobbing, almost breaking down in tears.

—It's not about that, more than a master and a... Whatever do you consider yourself towards me?, I want you to experience the same things I do in this world. —Kurisu's words are embedded in the woman's mind —Eating, sleeping, traveling, all enjoying it with friends, I would feel very bad knowing that you don't feel the same as me, to get to love the people around you and who include you in their lives despite what the world thinks of you.

 

The sentimental and cheesy speech that almost gives Takeshi toothache causes Aneko to let go of a lot of tears and put aside her antipathy towards the woman. Still without a name, the woman clarifies that she does not understand what he is referring to, but that she will try to live fulfilling his expectations about her.

 

—Okay, from today and forever your name is... —and from that day on, in that little cabin, no one knew that the life of that woman was going to cause chaos all over the world.

 








Chapter 32 – Travel Diary (Part 3)

 

Day 78

 

Today we arrive at Ceres, it's amazing how far we've come on this journey. First I started in Vodheim, right in the center of the continent of Eur, and ended up with my friends in the distant exotic and mystical lands of the East. As I know because of Lillian, Ceres is located just east of Shengkun and southeast of Rushen, which are located far east of Vodheim. We literally travel only westward until we covered half the world. I can't wait to tell Lillian everything we've seen and what's coming.

 

At night I posed as a maiden for a kind of rite in a temple, apparently they wanted to sacrifice me to calm the thunderstorms, but it turns out that it was actually the work of Volt. What he intends to do to people must be worse than we can imagine.

 

Chris used an ability that completely breaks the horizon of our minds to save us from Volt's attack, as well as meeting a childhood friend? Her name is Lea, and they don't seem to get along very well, especially since she is Volt's subordinate. That someone who grew up with him ends up on the enemy side doing so much harm to people, really makes anyone think.

 

Lea was saying very sensitive things and really managed to hurt Chris, because he abandoned us after that, and we can't afford to look for him. I hope he is well; I don't want him to go through something as bad as in the tournament.

 

Day 79

 

I couldn't sleep much, after what happened to Chris and what Lea implied, I can't imagine how much he carries in his heart. I want to know more about him, to be the support he needs as he is to me, although she explained to me the implications of containing a fragment of someone else's soul.

 

Depending on the type of process?, with which the fragment is deposited has different effects. According to her analysis, the fragment is a kind of seal with which my elemental power is contained as in a barrel inside the room that is my soul, that way my power does not hurt me.

 

What struck me the most is the fact that, even though he has separated himself from that fragment, Chris must be feeling the weight of bearing the damage that I should receive. I can't believe he has done and endured so much for me; I hope one day to give him back properly.

 

In addition to that, depending on the type of relationship that the two people have, the connection can be stronger and stronger, to the point of being able to share many more things. Maybe the pulses I felt during the tournament were because of that.

 

I was talking to Lea a lot; it turns out we are very similar. She grew up in the Yamamoto temple with Chris and other orphans while I was in an orphanage with Lillian, until my grandfather took care of me. We both know what it's like to lose our families and... we also talk about love.

 

I still don't know where these feelings will take me, but I hope it will make me as happy as my mother was with my father and me. What I do have clear is that, once I see him again, I hope to be corresponded.

 

Things didn't go well at all, Chris rushed in and directly challenged Volt, almost victorious, but it turns out that he kept his true power and was defeated with great ease. The power of the Six Lords is indeed to be feared, not only are they powerful, but they are also skilled adepts who keep many aces up their sleeves, Lillian is proof of that as far as I can remember.

 

Worst of all, Chris was possessed by the curse of his sword and the soul fragment awakened our connection, it was horrible what I experienced, and I think it wasn't all that happened in Chris’ body. I never imagined that a person could retain so much power, although what no one knows is what I got to see what happened in the darkness.

 

It seems that Chris’ teacher, the Demon King himself, controlled him through the sword. I still don't understand why, but his words don't seem to be lightly, something very big is about to happen, or maybe it's already happening and no one in the world knows it.

 

The shogun soldiers arrested us after Chris and Volt’s ruckus, they were both badly injured, but I hope we can stop all this soon.

 

Chris passed away in my arms, I couldn't tell him anything about my feelings, nothing matters anymore. While a part of him lives in me, at the same time a part of me died with him.

 

Day 82

 

Chris' body disappeared and my connection with him gave me a hunch, I think he's not dead. I just hope my intuition doesn't betray me.

 

The sword disappeared, I don't know who took it, but I hope that what I thought I saw that day was only my imagination.

 

Day 84

 

My friends and I have been exploring the Honshuu region due to the multiple attacks overnight. I hope it's not Chris, please it's not him.

 

A woman ambushed me, it turned out to be responsible for all the attacks and curiously only attacks adepts. Luckily the only adepts are Volt's troops and us, so no innocent has been involved.

 

I don't know what she meant by thanks to me she came to life, but I think it has to do with the power of the Demon King of that day. When he tried to attack me my connection with Chris caused him to take the damage, but I'm not sure how she gets into the equation, although from what I could tell from the fight she is as tough as steel.

 

I don't think it's 'that', is she?

 

She stole my first kiss, and I had some visions, my feelings haven't changed, I think, but those images are still hanging around in my head. The ruins of the black desert did not look at all like ruins, they looked in good condition and I do not know what my mother has to do with that place.

 

But what is really impossible to find any answer, I do not know who that woman with ecclesiastical dress was, her appearance, attire, atmosphere, everything in her is familiar to me, but at the same time not. I don't know how to explain it, but it reminded me of Lillian.

 

Day 87

 

We finally found Chris, but he has no memory of us. Again, I felt something dying inside me, but my connection to him remains, so I'm not going to give up.

 

The woman who was with him, the way the two of them are close, I think I felt jealous. But apparently she must have something to do with Tsubaki, their amulets fit perfectly and have some connection to the shogun.

 

Day 88

 

Again, we invade the shogun's castle, we discover that Tsubaki is actually descended from an extinct lineage related in legends. It turns out that the emblem of the palace is in honor of the real clan that defeated the emperor centuries ago, with their mysterious abilities they were able to fight against the tyrannical government.

 

The shogun's family took the leadership of the kingdom because the clan returned to their true home according to legends, they ascended to heaven. As his clan was in the service of that legendary family they decided to protect the country they came to love in the world from us mortals.

 

The yakuza now revere her as if she were a goddess who descended from the heavens, although in the current situation we can't even feel uncomfortable, much less rejoice. I know very well that Tsubaki hid her desire to find her origins with the excuse of traveling for delicious food, but now she ran into a wall of fantasy, literally.

 

Guilian did not hesitate to put aside his jokes to her and mentioned that maybe there is an answer, the woman who accompanied Chris. The only bad thing is that, because of Chris’ condition, it will be impossible to get close to her.

 

One obstacle after another, but Tsubaki came up with an answer: she decided to abandon her personal goal. If her origin relates to the kingdom of Ceres, then she has every intention of fighting for the home of her supposed ancestors, plus after it's all over, we can focus on getting Chris back and catching up with the woman from the other amulet.

 

I am always impressed by how determined Tsubaki is, I would have collapsed and needed the help of my friends, but she thought rationally and set herself a goal that meets all goals, individual and collective. A part of me is envious and on the other hand it inspires me, I am glad that she is my friend.

 

At night, when we were supposed to sleep, I chatted with Tsubaki, from friend to friend, it turns out that she doesn't feel any strength. All the time she feels adrift, that's why we share a bed every night, so she has someone to cling on to.

 

I didn't really know how important it was to her, I'm her first girl friend, we can share things I couldn't with Chris, Guilian, Pierre or Heinrich. I'm glad we could have talked, in fact, when she finally fell asleep she felt much calmer, she even looked very cute, it's something that is not noticeable because she is all the time with her nerves on edge.

 

Always listening to what they say about us behind our backs, smelling the evil intentions of those we meet throughout our journey, she has always been protecting us.

 

Everything we have gone through in this country has made me reflect on myself, everyone has fixed and clear goals, but I, what am I doing? I only travel with friends, I feel that I can do more, that I must do more so as not to be a burden for my friends, if not, I do not think I can face Chris again.

 

Day 89

 

The reports of the ninjas arrived, Volt's forces approach the capital, apparently tomorrow the war begins. Everyone is preparing to face death with honor, but I don't think that philosophy works for me.

 

Still, all my friends are training like there's no tomorrow. I remember that expression is a bit literal, even though everything is really happening I still feel that everything is a dream, that nothing is going to happen, I still feel like when I lived in Vodheim.

 

The long nights contemplating nothingness when I was so burdened by the emptiness of my life, no matter how much I appreciate my friends I still feel that something is missing, or, rather, someone.

 

Heinrich decided to visit me and asked me to help him train, I shot fire at his armor, and he resists. We were training all afternoon and it really helped me clear my mind.

 

Instead of doing nothing and sticking with all my problems in my mind, a simple activity made me forget everything and feel like I can actually do something. I don't feel exhausted at all, so maybe I'd train a little more with him.

 

When I wanted to talk to him I ended up watching him talk alone in his room. There was no one besides him, but apparently there was a strange dim light emitting words, I didn't understand much of the conversation, but apparently Heinrich has hidden something very important from us.

 

Once the conversation was over he tried to avoid me, but as much as I wanted to ask him about it, I felt that this would only bring more problems than we already have. The day is almost over, and we must rest for war.

 

I have been reflecting a lot on the Six Lords, all this power must also be held by Lillian, so why haven't they done anything about Volt? She is my friend, the only one I had for a long time, especially in my darkest time, but I can't help but think that the world is far from peaceful.

 

Once all this is over and I return to Vodheim I hope to convince her to change the situation in the world. She has never refused to help me so I think everything will change for the better, I will bring hope out of any corner of my being.

 

Day 90

 

The day has come, I couldn't sleep much, not because of worry but because at night I felt something through my connection with Chris. Something must have happened with him on his side.

 

While I was sleeping, my sleep was flooded by blurred voices and images, many things were not relevant, but I recognized Karen among all that storm. I think I saw his memories, the ones he kept to himself until before the amnesia.

 

It doesn't make me feel comfortable at all, but I was also able to experience feelings, they clearly weren't mine, but from what to experience I'm sure of something, he's still there. Chris can come back and my connection to him makes that totally clear to me.

 

This revelation gave me enough courage and determination to clear my mind and truly be on par with my friends. I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to, and I plan to give my all to get ahead, that's what I think Chris would tell me to cheer me up.

 

At last noon arrived and the troops are approaching, the multitude can be seen from the horizon and that the storm clouds completely surround the capital is not a good sign. We all still remember the two times we met Volt, but it is precisely those experiences that motivate us to fight him, no matter the outcome.

 

I just hope that, wherever he is, Chris can find his way back to us, his friends, and also back to me.

 








Chapter 33 – War Cry

 

The petals of cherry blossoms flutter through the wind throughout the capital on the first day of spring, samurai in the service of the shogun take their positions as enemy forces approach the horizon. The footsteps rumble so much that the petals are shaken on the ground, even animals such as rodents and birds have left the region.

 

Tsubaki inspects from the top of the castle, only to notice that Volt's army completely covers the wasteland of last time. When they report it to Heinrich and Kentaro, the three decide to carry out the strategy they designed in the last two days.

 

Currently, Ceres' forces have the shogun's troops, with four thousand samurai ready to fight to the death for the sovereignty of their country, the men of the yakuza clans who have ruled from the shadows with ten thousand warriors, and five adepts who came from beyond the sea.

 

Considering that Volt's units were considerably reduced during the last week in their own bases of operations, cerean intelligence estimated that they exceed 3 to one, but they cannot relax since they are trained adepts, forged by constant war.

 

The entire civilian population has been evacuated, ordinary men, women, children and the elderly, only warriors have been left to defend the sovereignty of the kingdom. Right at the top of the castle wall, the five adepts contemplate the forces as Tsubaki begins to pronounce herself.

 

"In my village I was taught to always fight with victory assured, when you hunt an animal or a monster you easily understand their lifestyle. But it's different when you fight other people, humans keep in their hearts their true thoughts and motivations, so we will never fully know the life of our opponent, whether they have family, what kind of home they have, how many people wait for them to return to their lives the next day."

 

Princess Tsubaki's words echo throughout the castle, motivating warriors to fight in defense of their homes and families. The screams of Volt's soldiers are heard all over the battlefield as they begin to accelerate the pace of their march.

 

The great sea of people in the moors is divided into several groups and the tremors begin, the earth begins to change shape and Heinrich perceives the activity. Earth adepts are creating hills with great ease, shattering the borders of the capital, if not ending up submerged in the moved land.

 

The troops begin to invade the city and the rain of compressed ground projectiles begins. The samurai defend themselves by the warnings they received from the yakuza who fought in Kyo, despite having no powers the Cerean warriors perform quite well.

 

Cerean warriors are considered formidable opponents in legends of neighboring countries, as they are said to have the vitality of the rising sun. Fast as the storm, changing as the waves of the sea, firm as the mountains, the Cereans face the forces of nature that the foreigners plague them with.

 

The first line of defense surprises the invaders, blaming the influence of the Sacred Stone. A rain of arrows begins to fall against the foreigners and the Air adepts generate whirlpools to cover themselves, but the large number of projectiles allows the next step of the plan to be carried out.

 

Tsubaki and Heinrich taught the soldiers ways to defeat the air defenses, first a shower of arrows to learn the weak points of the whirlpool dome and then BOOOM!!! Explosive arrows manage to pierce the eyes of small storms, destroying their formations and forcing them to disperse.

 

The first lines of defense have a secondary role, distraction, while they are fighting in the limits of the city the samurai on horseback are responsible for directly raiding the first line of attack from the flanks. Due to the distraction of the lateral attack the first line of defense goes on the offensive, the fall of the first units is a complete success as they do not suffer significant casualties.

 

The following attack forces have witnessed the first strategies, which can no longer be used, but continue to attack as the storm approaches the city. The commanders are expectant in front of their units, a rain of arrows falls on them, but the torrential wind diverts them, leaving the rest of the forces intact.

 

Heinrich knows that they are facing Volt's war-forged army, so he hopes that he too has hidden plans and indeed his guess was correct. The land below the city collapses just behind the first line of defense, a wave of adepts comes out and begins to attack.

 

The first and second lines of defense become embroiled in battle as commanders approach from different points. The frenzy takes over the battlefield while from the castle they observe the situation, the adepts party decides to divide to support the defense, with the previous battles before the combat against Volt they have an idea of the level of the common soldiers.

 

Everyone is scattered around the city, fighting against adepts and defeating them as soon as possible, with all the training they have gone through in recent months and recent events have been forged into real warriors.

 

Guilian's explosions are accurate to the point of not having to use so much power to generate a lot of damage to the enemy. Despite the firing of elements becoming a rain of destruction he moves with small bursts of fire and manages to approach the crowds, only to end up making them fly with a powerful explosion.

 

—The qualifiers in Heinburn were much more entertaining, come with everything, Rushen invaders! —Guilian shouts and the provocation works, the attacks focus on the vivacious young man, noting his true intentions.

 

The samurai watch as Guilian strives to deplete the invading forces so that they cover more ground, earning the respect of the veteran warriors.

 

Heinrich rushes straight towards the enemy troops with his armor covering his body, the attacks are repelled as if they were mere raindrops. As the confrontation against the war tank is inevitable, they try to immobilize him, but they are surprised to see that he makes a big leap directly towards them and begins to hit them all.

 

Falling like flies, the adepts can do nothing against the prince's incredible defense. They begin to distance themselves from him, but they did not count on him pointing his fingers at them and the falls begin.

 

More soldiers are defeated, this time at a distance, the earth beneath Heinrich begins to sink, or, rather, to disappear. The earth flows through his armor and is compressed as it flows into his fingers, being shot by his armor with great accuracy towards the enemy.

 

The bullets are so dense that the earth walls are easily pierced, and the massacre begins. Whether at a distance or hand-to-hand, no one escapes the determination of Heinrich Heinburn VII.

 

—As long as I am here, no innocent person will be harmed! —shouts the prince as he covers the samurai —«I'm not going to go back to repeating Chris, this time I will fight myself, even if I end up throwing away my own life. »

 

Dancing throughout the city, Pierre dodges attacks at short and long ranges, invades enemy formations and knocks them out with his water-stream gloves. Quiet as a pond, but destructive as a tsunami.

 

Alternating between punches and kicks, no movement is wasted, with each attack falling between two and five soldiers and each move determines the next. The more they attack him, the more attacks they receive and if they do not try to defend themselves they end up being defeated inevitably.

 

—Water is the most beautiful element, it gives us life and teaches us to live it, but you only show what not to do in this world. I will show you the true meaning of the Water element. —Pierre says with a shadow in his gaze towards the invaders.

 

Meanwhile, Hanna finds herself exploring the city in the midst of the tumult, she dodges the attacks by the hair, incinerates those heading towards the Cereans and evacuates them before moving on to the real action. She releases her flames, causing so much light that it catches the attention of other blocks in the area.

 

When the reinforcements arrive, they can only see the blackened site with her unconscious companions on the ground and Hanna surrounded by flames ready for the next round. The troops make the same mistake twice, throwing projectiles of earth and fire at her, but they are all incinerated as they approach the girl who begins to shine like the Sun.

 

Taking advantage of enemy attacks, Hanna feeds her fire and becomes a human bomb. Releasing the fire in an explosion, she tries to make everyone survive by controlling the shape of the expansion, having alternating layers of vacuum, using air as the true projectile and the heat of fire as the force of the attack.

 

—«This is the most I can exploit my powers; I must try not to hurt them. » —Hanna thinks all the time as she watches her body smoke like the meat Chris served her at dinner —«I must hurry to the next block. »

 

Tsubaki contemplates the performance of her friends, but she has an important role in this war, being the last line of defense. As much as she wants to fight alongside her companions, she represents the country as well as the shogun, who is also restricting himself from fighting.

 

As leaders, they have an obligation to fight only in the end and only if strictly necessary. Both Kentaro and Tsubaki understand their positions and hope that the fight ends as soon as possible.

 

The rumble is replaced by more powerful tremors, the commanders have arrived in the city and begin to raze the brave and proud warriors. In each part of the city a powerful adept faces crowds of enemy combatants, instead of directly facing each other they are simply fighting against people who do not reach their heels.

 

The situation remains for hours to the point of reaching dusk, the entire region has been engulfed in storm clouds. Each of the young adepts has fought relentlessly, but they have no intention of stopping and cannot see when they will reach the final line.

 

Something is not right, the fight is frantic and chaotic, but it has spread more than this phase of the battle should. Suddenly, large explosions shake the castle, the raid has successfully infiltrated the palace.

 

The commanders are destroying everything in their path inside the castle, proving to be more dangerous than the young adepts on both occasions. The samurai can't do anything against them, they're just being stripped of their lives without the need to fight.

 

The invading forces begin to move in an unusual way, what no one knew is that the whole city is invaded by the forces and the ground adepts begin to cause tremors. The whole city is involved in the earthquake that is generated by the resonance of the vibrations caused by all the adepts throughout the city.

 

The large structures begin to collapse, and the city becomes unrecognizable, even fractured, dividing the terrain that once contemplated golden and peaceful days. The samurai are frustrated to see the destruction caused by the adepts and the fight becomes bloodier.

 

The palace continues to collapse from the damage, the structure has been compromised, and everyone escapes to the outer grounds. The commanders ambush the royal soldiers and realize that since they got out it means that they do not have the Sacred Stone at the top of the palace.

 

Tsubaki is a little hurt, bleeding a little from her head as she guides Kentaro to the exit, but now they are cornered. Although the entire army is fighting in the city, the commanders are inside the palace demonstrating more danger than outside the castle.

 

Kentaro, releasing a cry full of fury, wields his sword and throws a vacuum cut, despite the wounds he has still fighting. Not only is he a big and strong man, but he is also determined and very stubborn in admitting defeat, otherwise he would not deserve to be the shogun.

 

Doing his best to charge the shogun as he desperately tries to fight, Tsubaki winds her way through the castle gardens carrying the shogun as they are chased by the commanders. Suddenly, a large fireball falls directly on them and the young adepts land to protect their friend.

 

The commanders disperse the fire, proving that won't be enough to even hurt them. The team begins to launch their attacks towards them, but lightning falls from the sky, destroying the whole place between them.

 

They already know what lightning means, so they keep their guard up while the smoke disperses, showing the figure of the man responsible for everything. Volt has fallen from the sky directly in front of them.

 

Commanders cease to be in battle position and show their respect to their leader, while he ignores them by contemplating children who believe they are up to adults.

 

—This time Chris is not there to save you, huh? —Volt says with a smug smile on his face as lightning flows through his recovered body to intimidate them, but Guilian and Hanna combine their powers and form a whirlwind of fire, devastating everything in their path.

 

As soon as the flames end up coming out of their hands they notice that Volt is right in front of them:

—You are powerful, I admit, but it is not much use if they do not give the target. —Volt's words show that he is at a level far above theirs.

 

A lightning-fast kick hits Guilian, throwing him against the wall and fracturing it while a simple touch on Hanna envelops her in electricity, dropping her to the ground, smoking for the second time in her life.

 

Heinrich and Pierre manage to react to what just happened, but again Volt transports himself through them and hits them with lightning. Volt admits that the two are a potential danger, he could perceive how Pierre managed to react to his trajectory while Heinrich survived the lightning strike thanks to his armor.

 

—If they develop their skills more, they will undoubtedly give me problems in the future. It's a shame they don't have an inch of joining my fight. —Volt says with an impassive look full of tranquility.

 

Tsubaki tries to fight, but lightning strikes her completely, enveloping her in a blinding light. When the area is cleared, she is covered with little electricity, her body somewhat numb, but not at all charred or reduced to ash, unlike what Volt assumed.

 

He is surprised that she maintains her consciousness after receiving lightning directly. Tsubaki tries to process what happened, she tried to attack him and when she gathered the winds for her characteristic arrow shot the lightning came to her.

 

While she is thinking Volt gets tired of waiting and throws a second lightning bolt at her to "make sure" to finish the job, but Tsubaki survives a second time.

 

—I thought miracles happened only once. —Volt says, a little irritated by the anticlimactic event —Well, there's always a first time for everyone.

—«I could hardly react to the smell of electricity in the air, this scent I could never get out of my mind since that day in the wasteland. » —Tsubaki thinks as she gasps for her body completely numb and smoking.

 

Taking advantage of Volt's small mockery of the apparent streak of luck, Tsubaki shoots one of her whirlwind arrows. Volt dodges her attack with his lightning speed and just as he is about to kick her in the abdomen, Tsubaki throws a wind kick at him.

 

The commanders are completely shocked by what happened in front of their eyes, Tsubaki kicked Volt. He has no lightning covering his body and the foot sinks into his muscular body. She jumps back from the sudden thirst for blood she perceives with her sense of smell:

 

—«The wind is his weakness, it dispels his lightning, leaving him exposed. Completely the opposite of Chris’ Earth element. » —Tsubaki deduces after the small exchange a few moments ago —«I must do my best to find a gap again. »

 

She gets up and gives him a look full of defiance:

—Is that all you have? Chris rightly defeated you that day. —Tsubaki says shamelessly as she smiles.

 

Volt hits her without lightning in the stomach, leaving her breathless, but she gets back up, panting as intermingled saliva and blood come out of her mouth. Tsubaki takes a beating while Kentaro can no longer hold his sword, his lack of power causing him to die of shame and despair.

 

—«Go ahead, destroy my body all you want, you keep confirming that my wind exceeds your electricity. » —laughs Tsubaki inside her head —«Otherwise, you wouldn't need to hit me with your bare hands. »

 

She is kicked straight at Kentaro, she barely breathes, but it is perfectly perceived that she has every intention of continuing to take her against him. Volt approaches as he concentrates lightning in his hand.

 

—All the kingdoms I have attacked have fallen by this hand, say goodbye to this world, kingdom of Ceres. —Volt says as he points a fulminant finger at her.

 

Lightning strikes her, releasing a large explosion, Hanna regains consciousness and realizes what happened.

 

The smoke dissipates and Kurisu stands right in front of Tsubaki and Kentaro, he is unexpectedly in good condition after receiving such a big attack.

—You've fought a lot; you've earned a break. —says the man who a few days ago did not know her.

 

He touches his pendant and begins to glow, his body lights up and transmits the light to Tsubaki's injured body. She begins to gain strength but feels great pain throughout her body.

—Hey, hey, take it easy, I didn't heal your body, but revitalized it, it will help you not to die. Don't do something so reckless ever again or you'll die hopelessly. —Kurisu clarifies as Tsubaki tries to control her own body.

 

Kurisu turns to see Volt, his gaze is full of anger and murderous instinct, even the commanders raise their guard in the face of the threat that has just appeared.

—I heard you were dead, don't you get tired, do you, Chris? —Volt asks sarcastically as he lets out a sinister smile.

—That name resonates in my mind, but try as I try, the only thing I manage to get out is the desire to stop you, Volt.

 








Chapter 34 – The Role of Everyone

 

Lightning flies quietly in the cloudy sky that extends beyond the horizon, Tsubaki coughs blood repeatedly as she tries to regain control of her body, and Hanna is confused. As glad as she is to see Chris save their mutual friend she can't help but remember the condition they had found themselves in a couple of days ago.

 

Out of nowhere Takeshi appears and warns the shogun that everyone must get as far away as possible, or they will be involved in the fight. Kentaro is confused by what the hunter has said, from his perspective the hunter should be the threat.

 

Volt instantly unleashes his lightning on everyone present, destroying the entire area. The thunder is so great that it silences for a few seconds the war that is happening outside the castle walls.

 

The dust cloud slowly dissipates and one of the commanders, Ilya, notices that something is not right. There is no one, not because they were burned by electricity, but because it seems that they would not have been exposed to the attack.

 

Kurisu declares loudly that he came close to not saving them all, the young adepts and the shogun are all together right behind him. Volt knows what happened, but doesn't want to accept it, which leaves him even more frustrated.

 

Making use of the strange power of the earring, he gives the group the same "treatment" to all of them, gaining enough strength to wake up and keep fighting for their lives.

—Do you still not remember us? —asks Hanna with a look full of hope and despair intermingled.

 

He decides not to answer, implying that the answer is complex, and they don't have time to chat.

 

—I'll only say it once, I'm doing this for her and for me. I'm doing what I want, so do what you want from now on. —Kurisu says without taking his eyes off Volt.

 

Hanna and the rest remember that phrase that brought them to the trip and immediately understand the message.

 

Suddenly, a pulse makes Kurisu and Takeshi's skin bristle, warning them that time out is over. Kurisu turns to face Volt who has an analytical look, with lightning speed flying straight towards the group that was saved on two consecutive occasions.

 

Kurisu launches a punch, connecting with Volt's flashing fist, the impact vibrates the air around, shatters the surface of the ground on which they are standing, and the entire group perceives the incredible amount of power contained in the fists of both men. It generates a shock wave that throws the group even further away, causing them more pain than they already felt from the strange power of their friend/ex-friend.

 

None of them understand how it is that "Chris is much stronger than before." Having traveled so long with him they know how strong he can be if he tries hard and gives everything, especially for the confrontation against Ryuken.

 

Takeshi escorts them out of the castle grounds while Volt is on the ground, trying to understand what has happened. The commanders are also shocked, clearly Kurisu is in the same place while Volt ended up backing up during the force crash and the shattered dirt path is proof of this.

 

Volt is baffled by what he has just discovered, his electricity was conducted through Kurisu's body and directed straight to the ground. He remembers that in his previous fight the Earth Energy Force drove its electricity directly to him, but now it did not affect him.

 

—My two friends taught me many things. —Kurisu tells Volt, upsetting him as target.

 

He takes the bait, but he is not as delusional as it is thought, Volt orders his commanders to capture the shogun and the "children", there is no point in stealing the Sacred Stone if they do not take care of them first.

 

They obey the order and jump to fulfill the wish of their leader, but the pressure in the environment begins to be felt, Kurisu begins to walk towards Volt.

—Do you really think anything will change if you dare to approach? Maybe Ryuken has admitted defeat, but you're nowhere near beating him, neither in that wasteland a week ago nor here and now. —Volt says as he accepts Kurisu's challenge.

—If I don't get close I won't be able to kick your ass, sparky. —Kurisu is still insulting Volt.

 

That nickname raises the offense against Volt and his commanders are outraged, distracting themselves from his orders. Standing a few feet in front of each other, Kurisu throws a direct punch to the face, but in a flash Volt strikes him, stopping him.

 

—You are very slow, Chris, the true speed of lightning is enough to move from one side of the continent to the other in a few minutes. The only reason you stopped me earlier was because I can't take those little kids seriously, they’re still too green to get into adult affairs.

—Little boys? If they survived your attacks it is because you are not as powerful as you so proudly boast. —Kurisu ends by offending Volt by underestimating him.

 

Volt gets tired of the oral exchanges and throws more blows, Kurisu blocks them by covering himself with his arms, despite not being affected by the electricity his body is receiving damage by the force of the impacts, losing sensitivity at every moment.

 

Kurisu hits him back, but Volt dodges him by jumping and moves with the lightning bolt, hitting him with the knee. With a blow with his elbow, Kurisu blocks the impact, and the force is fired back towards the surroundings.

—How about we stop the warmup and take action for real, Chris?! —Volt has grown tired of the warm-up.

 

The two collide again, proving that Kurisu takes his strength to such focus point that he can match Volt’s lightning speed, because being so close he can notice the marks of burns from friction with the air. They let go of their fists and clash out at again and again, thus beginning a rain of punches at high speed.

 

The rumble is even bigger and continuous unlike the explosion of electricity that happened before, causing a ceasefire in the city by staring from afar what everyone would call a hurricane contained in the castle. In the middle of the exchange, Volt deflects a punch, passing by and hits Kurisu's face, while the punch he didn't stop suddenly gained speed and leaves a superficial cut on his face.

 

As they both know that they continue to hold back, they begin to raise the pace of the fight, causing a tremor that reaches the core of each person in the city, as if the war were an insignificant firecracker compared to the great explosion of power of the two warriors. The gusts of wind caused by the blows do not allow the commanders to approach the group of adepts, so they choose to surround the area while trying to contemplate the fight of their leader.

 

The team tries to keep it stable, resisting the wild winds at high speed, Heinrich modifies the earth with his armor and holds the entire group so that they do not fly away. Kurisu challenges Volt to find out who will win, lightning speed or the force of the earth.

 

Within the rain of punches, Kurisu knows perfectly well that Volt is at a faster pace, blocking his punches and hitting his entire body more. At this rate, he will fall first, so he increases and concentrates his strength more and begins to gain ground, reversing the roles.

 

No one can breathe properly because of the movement and pressure of the air, but they endure it thanks to Tsubaki's power for watching his friend fight. Hanna can see Kurisu's expression when fighting, and she can see perfectly that he is still there, he is still with them, their friend is fighting for them subconsciously, rekindling the flame of her heart.

 

The blows Volt receives are powerful, a little weakened due to the match, but they are strong enough to hurt him. Suddenly, Kurisu's strength reached the point of being able to repel Volt's blows, leaving him exposed and hitting him directly to the abdomen, making him remember the blow he gave Chris the previous time and considers it ironic.

 

Again, he has been wrong in his calculations, Volt has realized that the exchange of blows with Kurisu was aimed at getting used to the rhythm of his lightning speed. Kurisu's adaptability capabilities are to be feared, even without memories he remains a threat because of the potential he hides.

 

Volt flies out of the shattered garden to the direction of his subordinates and Kurisu does not let him rest, now the fight has ceased to be stationary. Trying to defend himself, Volt kicks him and is blocked, but electricity is conducted through Chris’ body and, with a slight rubbing of the little finger of his right foot, ends up circulating through the commanders, weakening them enough not to have to block their way for a few minutes.

 

Due to the increased pace of the fight, Volt used more electricity than against the group of Adepts, so the dose of electroshock received by the commanders was higher, causing an adjustment in the balance. Everyone witnessed this gesture and realized that they should not sit still:

—He's not only fighting Volt, but he’s also protecting us. It's time to fight and take the weight off our friend's shoulders. —Hanna tells the rest of the group, and they completely agree.

 

Everyone gets up on their two feet, getting used to maintaining stability in their precarious condition and lets out a cry of motivation. Volt has realized that right in front of his eyes, the children begin to forge themselves into lions, his hunch was wrong, he continued to underestimate their true potential, not as adepts but as warriors.

 

The group flies out of the castle and, taking advantage of the short-lived loss of vigilance of the commanders, they separate throughout the city, with the idea of staying hidden while Volt is defeated. If one of the top commanders comes across them then they will have no choice but to fight.

 

As much as they want to fight to win, they must remain calm and follow a logical strategy to ensure victory. One, protect the shogun's life; two, defeat the commanders; and three, defeat Volt.

 

Kentaro wants to fight, but he understands that honor and pride mean nothing if you don't protect what you love most in this world. If he must be protected by teenagers, then let it be so, when everything ends their names will be engraved in the history of the country and eventually, they will be legends.

 

Alyosh realizes that they have gained the upper hand and rushes to hunt their 'prey’, disappearing behind a cloud. Dobryn lets out a sigh of disappointment:

—That boy is hopeless, but it is precisely that attitude that has taken him so far. —says the old man clad in armor —Ilya, look for Leah and begin the search for the shogun, we still have some of his blood to track him down.

 

Ilya disappears in an instant, leaving a gentle breeze despite the situation they are all in. After fulfilling his role as the commander-in-chief, Dobryn sits down and pulls a set of tea from his long beard.

 

—There is nothing better than a cup of tea to warm up the body and relax muscles and joints. —Dobryn speaks openly to himself because everyone has already left the place —The boy Morgan, if he had not disappeared we would have transported the Sacred Stone with ease, now we will have to use an entire battalion. Ouch, ouch, ouch, my back.

 

Meanwhile, Kurisu and Volt continue to fight, wrecking not only through what remains of the palace, but also through the city. Due to the great speed of the fight, Kurisu tries only to flatten as collateral damage the invading adepts.

 

Volt tries to hit Kurisu in the face, but dodges him and grabs his arm, whipping him straight to the ground. Hanna, in the distance, saw the maneuver and remembered when Chris did the same against Ryuken.

 

She begins to remember Chris’ words after the tournament, "That wasn't a win, I was lucky to cause him a lot of damage before he ever released all his power." It is clear that he unconsciously tries to do the same as back then.

 

Because of the incredible strength, Volt's body bounces to the ground as if it were a rag doll. He is still conscious, but for an instant he stopped using lightning, Kurisu noticed this and lashes out a hail of punches all over his opponent's body, starting with a direct blow to the face.

 

All the soldiers witness the massacre that has become the fight of the two titans and the samurai take advantage of the shock and the momentary fracture of the morale of the enemy army to begin to repel them and recover ground. The blows Volt is taking are getting faster and more accurate, each impact hurting a specific part of the body, ensuring that he is so hurt that he cannot fight properly.

 

Desperately, Volt tries to generate lightning around him to fight back, or at least to get rid of Kurisu, but realizes that all the electricity he is generating is being driven to Kurisu by the blows. He is on a dead-end road, he can't get electricity, and he can't free himself from being beaten.

 

Kurisu hits Volt's head again and whips him back to the ground, losing consciousness for a brief moment. Instant that takes advantage to concentrate all his forces in a single direct blow to the chest, throwing Volt through the skies and splitting the clouds, leaving a large hole where it can be seen the starry sky.

 

No one had noticed that so much time had passed, at noon the war began, at dusk Volt appeared and now, late at night, he flew out after receiving the beating of his life. The yakuza acclaim their boss by demonstrating so much power, fanning the flames of combat.

 

The entire city witnessed the 'fall' of Volt, but something is not right, the commanders have not flinched. It's as if they don't care that their leader has been defeated, or worse, that he hasn't been defeated yet.

 

Lightning strikes again from the sky and Volt falls right in front of Kurisu, surrounded by so much electricity that it can hardly be distinguished whether it is still human or just electricity.

—Now I understand why Ryuken told me about you. Come on, entertain me more, Chris! —exclaims Volt eager to keep fighting with a smile from ear to ear.

 

Takeshi knows that Kurisu's body is miraculous, has great stamina and physical capabilities, but he can still tell that he is close to giving in to exhaustion. Kurisu uses the power of the pendant to revitalize his body and keep fighting.

 

—I don't mind destroying my body, I won't let you do as you please, Volt!!! —Kurisu shouts as he confronts the fiercest Lord of his generation.

 








Chapter 35 – Paranoia

 

Hanna has witnessed Volt's resistance, causing despair at the sight of Kurisu's expression as he pushes the limits of his body to wear him out enough so he can stop him. As much as he tries hard to defeat him, a part of him knows that he will not make it if he does not put his life on the line.

 

Kurisu rams Volt and holds him in the face, moving away from the city, Hanna realizes that he noticed her presence. No matter how hard she tries to repay his efforts, Kurisu tries even harder for them, an endless cycle of sacrifice for his friends, even unconsciously.

 

Suddenly, a fog begins to circulate in the area and the invaders begin to retreat without saying a word. That is not a good sign at all, and she begins to hear the suffering of one man, and followed by another, and yet another.

 

The fog has become so dense that it is impossible to look at your own hand, however, Hanna has trained her body constantly and can feel every fiber of her being, even the vibrations of the heartbeats. She concentrates on perceiving people's pulses, but everything is very confusing, the noise of the battle does not reach the area, they are isolated from the world.

 

Sound is transmitted through the air, but it can also be perceived through liquids and solids, and yet no sound from the outside. Hanna lights a fireball to try to illuminate the area but discovers that the samurai have been massacred.

 

She begins to concentrate a lot of fire at her fingertips and generates a fine line, thus generating a rope as thin as silk, but destructive as an avalanche. She manages to cut through the dense fog and finds the person responsible, Alyosh, Hanna reviews the information in Heinrich's notebook, she must be careful of the psychological attack.

 

Alyosh has been impressed by Hanna's skill level of concentrating enough fire to burn an entire forest and use it as a weapon.

—You look so much like that little girl from the Summit of the Six Lords, what was her name? Ah, yes, Karen. —Alyosh mentions being as insightful as ever.

 

That name alone hits her right where it hurts the most, in the events of the last few days, and in her feelings. Alyosh notices Hanna's expression, the drops of sweat, the breathing, the position of hands and fingers, he is hitting the nail on the head.

 

He knows many things from his habit of listening to other people's conversations, and among them that of Lea to her stuffed animal before sleeping in the camp. It was pure coincidence that Hanna's style looked a bit like Shinigami’s, at least at the basics.

 

The fog circulates again in the area, but she begins to propel her body with the fire in her hands, leaving the area. While touring the city from the sky she notices the true range of the fog, about 100 meters in radius.

 

She can clearly see that the area is moving to cover an area still to be attacked and immediately heads there to warn the samurai, but it is too late. Hanna can be saved from the fog, but many warriors, all men of families, are dying.

 

Alyosh reappears in front of her:

—Huh, weren't you going to get away from me? Clearly you don't care about the people of this country. —the commander's words ignite a certain flame inside Hanna.

 

She returns a look full of thirst for justice, her eyes are burning with her inner flame. Although no one sees her, it is clear that she is no longer a fragile child, she lights her hands, leaving flames so small that they almost seem to be red gloves. Hanna disappears, but the trail of the haze reveals her trajectory, plus Alyosh can perceive almost anything due to the haze.

 

For him, moving the mist with movement is as if you were rubbing his body, for that reason it is easy for him to locate people within his killing zone. Hanna tries to give him a flaming kick, but the man dodges her s swiftly in advance.

 

As much as she has made her body perceptive, as she flies she is blind.

 

—It seems that another person wants to play cat and mouse, doesn't it? Cutting Moon, Mangetsu. —Alyosh proves that he has the entire area under his control.

 

Hanna doesn't know who it is until she turns to look at the man and a sharp burst separates her from the irreverent one. She looks directly at the cut fog road and sees Takeshi walking towards her:

 

—You are an idiot if you think you are going to defeat him only with speed, if you want to at least put your hands on him you must evade his perception or at least attack in such a way that he cannot avoid being hurt. —his experience as a hunter comes to light.

—Why did Alyosh called you Mangetsu? I thought your name was Takeshi, the hunter, the shogun mentioned it. —Hanna is observant of the identities of the people around her.

 

The man proposes that if she learns to defeat Alyosh he will answer that question. Hanna has earned his attention.

 

The man named Mangetsu explains that he perceives his environment with ki, he can even notice the reactions of others. If you perceive the reaction of a person's muscles, then you can know the movement they will carry out.

 

Hanna knows the basics of ki very well, but she doesn't have enough skill or training to get to that level. That is why during the two days before the war he was training with Heinrich her ability to concentrate her elemental power and with Guilian some lessons from one Fire adept to another.

 

Mangetsu clarifies that something similar happened on his side, he and Aneko were training Kurisu intensively. Try as they might, his memories could not come to light, but he was able to regain previous skills due to the constant struggle against a person as hard as steel.

 

She received many blows, but none were effective, it was then that Kurisu began to regain the perception of ki. Because of that discovery Takeshi taught him the next level, to control it.

 

By controlling the ki efficiently you can do the work of 10 men with only one person and with the basic physical strength of Kurisu's body his power became terrifying. Yes, the strength boost does not use elemental power, instead, he learned to use the revitalization skill with the pendant.

 

Hanna begins to tie up ends in her head and comes up with an analogy, if Kurisu learned new skills, then she will tap into her connection with him. She remains completely static; her eyes closed and even stopped her breathing.

 

She begins to visualize Chris and the fragment inside, and her elemental power begins to ignite within her.

—They are too cocky to be very calm in the middle of my fog. —Alyosh has grown tired of waiting for his prey to take action.

 

Alyosh appears once again, approaching with a walk full of security. Mangetsu knows perfectly well that Hanna is in a kind of trance, so he must protect her while she comes to an answer.

 

Mangetsu wields his katana and releases a vacuum cut, but Alyosh dodges it by a few millimeters. With one hand he wields his sword as he slides it down the blade, awakening a power unknown to the murderous adept.

 

A strange atmosphere surrounds both the katana and Mangetsu's body, putting Alyosh's nerves on edge. Suddenly, a hole opens through the fog and breaks a hole in the left side.

 

—You are weaker than Kurisu on the Holy Mount a few days ago, so this power will be useful. —says Mangetsu as he lets out an ability by which he has earned the shogun's trust.

 

The cloud is gently cut by the sword with a very slow movement, demonstrating the tremendous destructive power it is wielding.

 

Mangetsu lowers his body and prepares for a speed attack, taking in a big mouthful of air, enough for anyone's lungs to explode without physical conditioning. He appears just behind Alyosh, leaving a path that divides vertically, including the foreigner.

 

The hunter scores a win for Ceres, but something is not right, the fog has not dissipated. Then, breathing becomes difficult and he tries his breathing technique, but that only makes his condition worse.

 

Mangetsu falls to the ground and only manages to see Hanna still in a trance. A voice begins to be heard from all sides:

—Hahahaha, did you think that was my body? —says the voice of Alyosh while the corpse appears—That body used to be that of the previous commander, I also killed him.

 

He realizes Alyosh's true identity thanks to ki in his last moments of consciousness, but he can't do anything about it and falls to the ground. His gasps become weaker and weaker, and he eventually faints.

 

Hanna wakes up from the trance and tries to find out what happened, the place is shattered and only finds Mangetsu lying down. She checks his condition, he is barely alive, but a very familiar female voice approaches her from behind.

 

—I will not allow you to remain by his side, Hanna. —says a voice that she recognizes perfectly.

 

Hanna turns and is pierced by a fire scythe directly on the right side. The fog heats up around and the woman's identity is discovered, it is Karen with a murderous look.

 

She even tries to get up, but it is impossible for her with the wound on her abdomen. Blood gushes out wildly, but she still manages to look up, only to see the woman who holds so many secrets.

 

Karen steps her head on the ground while lifting the scythe to decapitate her, but then Hanna fights back. Fire rises from her body, engulfing the woman who almost killed her.

 

Hanna begins to scream rampantly in pain as the fire becomes a huge pillar of fire coming out of the haze. Now the whole area is free of the cloud as it barely rises.