I wander the halls of the training rooms aimlessly searching for a challenge. After returning from Africa a second time, I wonder why it is I decided to stay. I am learning some English, and I can manage to hold brief conversations with the others, but I don’t feel that close with anyone here. As always, I only ever have Kaze Sama.
I sigh as I come to the end of the hall. There is no exit, only the danger room. I stop in front of the door, staring at the panel and the settings. It looks like the cockpit of a plane, almost, with all the buttons and lights and a screen.
“Abunai…” [dangerous.] I say, looking at the room. I wonder what it would be like. I turn around, to see if anyone else is around, but the hall is empty. I hear a few sounds coming from the other rooms, but at this time, there is no one else in the halls, no one else to see me go in.
I want to try.
‘Hmm, this looks like fun.’ Kaza sama materializes beside me, standing tall in his majestic white kimono, Katana tied to his back. His long black hair tied back in a band hangs down his back past his hips. I look up at him and see his flawless pale face smiling. He likes a challenge also.
I look at the handle and see a pad by the door with a hand drawn on it. I place my palm on it as a light comes to life, scanning my prints.
I flinch. How did it know my name? What is a – setting? I frown, turning to Kaze sama. He shrugs despondently. I look at the panel and see three lit up options. Perhaps I can change the language setting. I wouldn’t know where to begin though. Maybe I can speak the command?
“Nihongo de, onegaishimasu.” [In Japanese, please.] I speak slowly.
The voice repeats in Japanese. I exhale, relieved. The three options on the panel now flash in Japanese. Shoshinsha (Beginner), Chuukantai (Intermediate), and Hogosha (Guardian).
I’m a Guardian, aren’t I? But… I don’t know how hard the levels are set. I stare at the options long enough for the voice to repeat. My finger hovers over the Chuukantai selection. What if it’s too easy? I suppose I could change it after. But then…
‘Let’s go all out. We haven’t used our magic in a while.’ Kaza Sama smiles mischievously. He’s right. I have a pent-up storm raging inside of me. I shift my finger to the Hogosha selection and press the panel delicately.
The speaker says as the door unlocks, swinging silently open, prompting me to enter. I step into the room with Kaze Sama, feeling a shiver of anticipation. I wonder what will happen.
Kaze Sama’s gaze turns to me thoughtfully. “How shall we approach this, Hitomi Hime? Shall I become your sword? Or a dragon?’
I look around the room, waiting still. I supposed we should try the Katana first. I haven’t practiced since the last time Kaitlyn san held a group training session. I wonder when the next one will be… I want to find a worthy opponent to test my blade with. I stare straight ahead as I answer. “Katana.”
Kaze Sama smiles and shifts, glowing faintly in the darkened room. In a buffet of wind, I hold out my hand and clasp a gleaming Katana, 120 cm in length. It is long for my height, but I like the extended reach it provides me. Because the Katana is also Kaze Sama, I can change the length at will.
I feel a shift in the air and out of the gloom three lith looking demonesque creatures appear wielding similar Katanas. I set my lips into a flat line, concentrating on their positions and ready to anticipate their movements. I enter the battle with a clear mind, as my mentors taught me.
The one on the right shifts its weight just before it bounds effortlessly towards me. A moment later, the right and centre demon do the same. I grip the blade, waiting until it comes within striking range. Just before it pulls back it’s own blade I flick my arm out, shifting my feet to face it as I slam the light Katana through its torso, effectively cutting it in half. It’s upper body and raised arms slide to the floor, Katana clattering loudly before it dissolves into dust.
The others are upon me a second later and I turn to meet them, dancing out of range of their Katana’s. Together, they try to circle me but I am fast; fast as the wind of a Typhoon. One Katana lunges at me but I bend out of the way and slide my right foot out, maintaining my balance as I lean back. The blade sings over my chest, three inches too high.
I follow it, rolling into a backward somersault and recovering my stance outside of their circle. I dash forward, rushing the demon who tried to strike me. He bounds away like a jackrabbit, long limbs flapping at his sides. It’s ugly really. But I haven’t the time to question as the third demon approaches with a gurgling cackle.
I sidle to the left as it charges the space where I was and I swing my Katana diagonally, slashing its arm off with one clean motion. It’s voice keens through the room as blood spurts from its shoulder. I finish the job and drive the Katana though it’s armourless chest.
The last remaining demon returns, quickly, light on its feet. I dance around it, avoiding his swings, but he does the same, mirroring my stance. It learns quickly.
I decide to up my anti, backing away to increase the space between us. It doesn’t want that though, as he jumps towards me, trying to maintain a minimal gap. I adjust my grip on Kaza Sama’s handle and lean low. My feet pad on the floor lightly, like feathers and I run forward. Its eyes widen as I dip under his looping arms and drive my blade up through its chin. He falls to the ground, sputtering, black blood gushing down my blade.
I straighten, ready to release Kaza Sama as five more demons appear. These look different. They have large, muscles arms and wide feet. I note their weight and presume they will move slowly and cumbersome. This level still seems too easy.
I take my stance as two of the five demons run at me, long lumbering steps that seem to shake the floor as they land. I too, begin my charge. I pad along the floor until the first beast with a very large hammer starts to swing. As his arm comes down I step to the side and flip my sword up its wrist, removing his hand. The Hammer drops to the ground with a rumble.
I leap up, landing on his severed arm and run up its shoulder, driving my blade through his clavicle. He falls and I tumble off, finding my footing as the second one appears behind his fallen comrade, followed closely by two more.
I grin, feeling the rush and the air in the room begins to swirl around me. I dance around their swings like a leaf on the breeze. I’m as light as a feather, letting the mini tornado pick me off my feet and twirl me through their attacks.
I flip up into the air doing a backward somersault and behead one of the foul creatures before it can let out a cry. They can’t seem to hit me, I evade their swings as if I were mushi (bug), too small for them to track.
With three remaining, I switch my strategy.
“Kaza Sama, Nitsu ni naru” [Kaze Sama, become two Kanatas.] I command.
The Kanata in my hand fizzes and a second light appears in my left hand, this time, two shorter Katana’s materialize. I spread my legs further than shoulder length apart, crouching low. I lean forward as I face my foes. I inhale a deep slow breath and run at them.
I take the centre beast first, bounding between its legs and slice both his ankles from behind. It lurches forward, unable to hold its own weight. As the other two come about, I lean left, tumbling into a roll to come up just behind the leftmost beast, remaining in his blind spot. I leap up and jab my left blade into its hip. It lets out a painful cry and tries to swat me away but its muscles arms can’t reach the spot I’m in.
I jab it with my right, climbing up its hip. The third beast comes around, spotting be behind his comrade, but pays little heed to this fact as he swings a blade at me. I remove one blade, releasing my grip on the other as his comrade slashes him in two. I tumble to the ground in a tight roll.
Holding out my empty hand, the missing blade, still stuck in my opponent, dissolved into a mist and reappears in my outstretched hand. I take in a sharp breath as I grab the wind around me and let it lift me higher, till it appears I am flying. I spin around its head, it’s tiny little eyes trying to follow me as I circle him. He trips over his feet and I use this chance to drop out of the wind and land on his shoulder, ramming one Katana into its shoulder and using the other to sever the tendon holding his arm up. His shoulder drops and it groans with pain.
I release both blades, commanding Kaza Sama again. “Ichi.” [One.]
The long Katana returns and I slide its razor edge through the beefy neck of the last and finally hulking beast.
Its body crumbles to the floor in a cloud of dust as I drop lightly beside it. I look around, hardly heaving a breath.
“Sore dake?” [Is that all?] I ponder. The room is filled with dust and smoke now from the disintegrating bodies or is that…
I feel a tremor in the wind and out of the cloud of dust comes a twisting dragon, thirty feet long, scales glimmering in the dim light. Its talons are as long as my twin Katanas, and sparkle like steel. Twin burning red eyes shot out towards me.
I barely roll out of the way in time as its teeth filled maw snaps shut where I was just standing. I flip out of the way, only to see its face coming at me again. I roll under its chin, keeping low to the ground. This one is fast.
I tumble forward and feel something sharp graze my right shoulder and I let out a small cry. One of the dragon’s talons has sliced along my shoulder. I skid across the floor in shock. No! I gotta move.
I’m barely standing when it comes about, long pointed tail whipping along behind it like a trident. It flies upwards, twisting into a backward dive, its red eyes locked on me. I grit my teeth, taking to the wind and flinging myself out of its line of attack. Its tail spins through the air like a blade and I have to alter the winds to evade a second blow from its erratic movements.
I feel the Katana buzz in my hand and I look down abruptly as a voice hums in my ear.
‘I cannot slice this foe as a blade. We must meld!’ his voice chimes.
I look up as the dragon curls around to face me. I know Kaze Sama is right. A blade cannot smite this foe. My shoulder throbs from the gash from its talons.
A dragon can defeat a dragon.
I release my hold on the Katana and Kaze dissolves. I feel the winds turmoil increase around me like tiny little shards of glass peeling away my skin. I relax my body, falling through the wind as I meld with Kaze, becoming the dragon of wind.
I open my jaws and release a piercing cry as I rush my dragon foe. Like twins, we twist through the air, evading each other as we try to strike the other down. We spin in an abstract dance for an endless amount of time, equally matched it seems. I begin to feel a dull pounding in my veins as I strain to maintain such a long possession of my wind form.
I turn over, spinning around to arch over the back of the dragon, twisting my own form so my talons are below me, over it’s back. I reach down and graze its back with my diamond talons, peeling away the scales as it flies by. I feel a satisfaction at finally landing a blow, becoming distracted as its trident tail flips around and glides along my left side, just under my arm, along my ribs.
I cry out as it roars in similar pain. I misjudged its tail. A fatal mistake. I feel the ground rushing towards me, but I must stay aloft if I am to defeat this foe. I wonder when this training will be over. I feel like I need a break.
The time drags on, and I begin to lose speed and agility as we flutter around each other like tired ribbons. Except, my foe doesn’t seem to tire at all. I feel my body dragging through the air as if I were swimming through water, a feeling I’ve never really experienced before.
I feel a shiver, and suddenly I’m separated from Kaze Sama, dropping to the floor in an uncontrollable spiral as the wind speed lessens. I try to pull the wind, feebly, trying to cushion my landing. I hardly have the strength to do it, but I manage enough to prevent a back-breaking collision. My injured shoulder slams into the ground with a jarring pain that shoots down my back and the wind is knocked from my lungs.
I gasp as I see stars in my eyes and it takes a few moments before I can breathe again. I roll onto my stomach, cringing from the pain that comes from the slash under my left arm. I’m forced to use my knees to stand, as my right shoulder throbs with pain from the collective collision and talon gash and my left side burns from the tail slash.
“Kaza Sama, dou suru ka? Dekinai.” [Kaza Sama, how do I do this? I can’t.] I wheeze as the dragon spins above me.
Kaza Sama appears beside me, a desperate worry in his ghostly eyes. ‘You are nearly out of energy. You need to end this training,’ he says.
“Sonna koto shitteru ne!” [I know that!] I yell. “Dou suru?” [How?] I growl.
He turns to look at the dragon as it appears to launch another attack. He kneels before me, staring into my eyes. Avoid another strike. I’ll go get help if I can. Do what you can,’ he insists. I give him a curt nod and he vanishes from sight.
I train my gaze on the dragon, my vision starting to blur from my injuries and magical strain. I stumble to my feet. I know I have to stay standing until Kaza comes back. How long has it really been? I feel like I’ve been at this for a day. Not what I was planning when I wanted a challenge.
The dragon launches its attack and I do what I can to avoid contact. I keep my eyes on its tail as soon as its head sores past, spinning away. I come to a dizzy stop, finding the dragon with my eyes. My short hair hangs about my face in sweaty locks and I feel weak all over.
Just hang in there… a bit longer. Kaze Sama will be back soon.
I dodge a few more times, knees feeling weak. I can’t keep this up, no matter how hard I try. The dragon comes again, glowing red eyes fixed on me. I drop to my knees, all my strength gone. The dragon grows fuzzy before me, its face growing larger and larger as I wobble on my knees, unable to maintain an upright position.
I hear a strange wringing buzz as I dip forward and drop to the floor. I feel a breeze blow into me as everything grows dark.
I feel my body being rolled over and I groan in pain. I try opening my eyes, wondering if the dragon will eat me. I feel hands on my arms and I hear a panicked voice from above me, calling my name.
“Hitomi! Hitomi! Answer me! Are you ok?” I hear someone speaking English. I can’t focus enough to translate. “Hitomi? Daijoubu desu ka?” Suddenly I hear Japanese and I know how to answer.
“Itai…” [Pain], I groan, letting the word drop off my lips.
“Hang in there. You’ll be ok. God… I can’t believe you. You set the program to Guardian without a time limit. Are you insane?” the voice says. I hear ‘be ok’, ‘program’, and ‘time.’ I struggle to make any sense of it.
“Shirimasen… deshita.” [I didn’t… know.] I mumble.
“No kidding. Hold on. I’m going to lift you up, ok?” I can’t respond. I don’t know what he said. It sounds like Kaede kun. How did he find me? Did Kaze Sama bring him? My thoughts drift as I feel my body sway and the fuzzy world sways around me. I close my eyes to stop myself from feeling sick.
“I need Caroline. She can heal you. Hang in there,” he says. Caroline… that’s… the blonde one… Right? I give over to the swaying motion as he carries me somewhere. When I come to again, I feel something hard beneath me and I feel another pair of hands on my arm.
“Hitomi? Can you hear me?” a female voice asks slowly.
I can understand this. “Yes…” I mumble softly. I feel like my lips are swollen.
“Ok, I’m going to heal you ok? Just stay calm,” I’m not a hundred percent sure what she said, but I remain still as her hands hover over me. I feel a cool sensation wash over my entire body, and where the dragon slashed me, I feel an increased itching as my skin is sewn back together with magic.
A few moments pass before the coolness disappears and I feel a sense of relief and exhaustion. I exhale deeply. Thank Amaterasu.
“There, I’ve healed her wounds, but her magic seems very low. Maybe we should have Gwen take a look at her,” Caroline san says.
“Sure. I can bring her back to her room,” Kaede kun says.
“How did she get these wounds?” she asks as Kaede picks me up again. The pain is gone but I still feel as limp as an udon noodle.
“She was in the Danger Room. She switched the program into Japanese but forgot to set a time limit on the training. When I got there, the timer was already at seven hours and forty-two minutes!” he says with surprise.
“That’s… insane. How’d you know she was there?” Caroline asks.
“I didn’t. I was doing my own thing when I got blown off my chair. I didn’t see anyone around, so I tried to sit back down but then I was being forced by an unseen gale towards the training rooms. It pushed me all the way to the Danger Room. That’s how I found out,” he explains.
“I see. Must have been her subconscious or something,” Caroline hums.
“Didn’t Selene mention something about a spirit? Andrei mentioned it too when he went to Japan in that time jump like five months ago. Said Queen Himiko was talking to the wind or something.”
“Really? Wow. At least someone got her before the program killed her. Kaitlyn wasn’t kidding when she said it could kill you,” Caroline says sympathetically.
“Right. When I get the chance, I’m gonna play back the video feed. I wanna see how she managed to last so long,” I hear an excitement in his voice as I listen weakly.
Eventually, we return to the dorms and Kaede kun helps me into my room, laying me down. He comments on the layout and waits for Caroline san to bring the dark woman, Gwen san. He says something about her healing my magic. I lay back on my futon, listening to him banter in English about a video game he likes until I pass out from exhaustion.
By Kayla West