Broken Dream: Part VI

A Broken Dream

Part VI: Memento

The fights continued, Nalar the alien and Luke the cryokinetic were the closest to doing well, although they didn’t win.

Kioshi seemed to be calming down a little.

“Class is almost over, we’ll be out in a few minute tops.” I told him. It was just a few minutes before lunch.

“Is this what… all classes- all schools, are like?” He asked, looking at the current fight.

“No, not at all. I trained in boxing for a few months and the instructor didn’t do this. This Rook guy’s just a jerk.” I thought it’d help me be a better hero, but it had mostly taught me how weak and pain sensitive I was… But I wasn’t going to give up, I had to continue.

“Oh. Well I hope there  are less jerks like him here and more nice people like you.”

“Thank you.” I blushed a little at the compliment.

Rook gave us a quick run down; we sucked was the verdict, and he dismissed us seconds before the bell announcing the end of class rang.

“Guess it’s lunch time now. Want to go to the cafeteria?” I proposed.

“What’s a cafeteria?”

I blinked. I wasn’t sure what to chalk it up to; Kioshi not being american or him being a chimera? “It’s a place where you get and eat food.” I said and he nodded. “Have you never been to a school?”

He shook his head. “Not since I was a very small child. And that was in Japan.”

“Oh wow… I’m sorry.” There was a moment of silence as we followed the others walking out. His words only confirmed the human trafficking victim theory… “So, are you hungry?” I asked.

He frowned and it took him a moment to answer. “Yes.”

Most of the class went into the cafeteria. It was a rectangular building at the back of the central administration building. The place was pretty crowded and more people were coming in.

One side had rows upon rows of cafeteria tables while the other had seven food counters with signs and menus above them. One for italian food, one for fast food, a custom order sandwich place, a lebanese counter, a mexican one, a chinese one, and lastly there was one of those Japanese flat top grill.

“So, what do you like eating?” I asked Kioshi.

“Like? I just eat what I’m given…”

“Well, you have choices here.” I listed him all the options available.

“Japanese? I haven’t… it’s been so long…” He trailed off, chewing his lip.

As we took place in line, I was a little anxious. I’d never tried Japanese food before so I had no idea what I was in for. Well, I kind of had, mom would sometime get sushi and I’d tried it once but the wasabi hidden between salmon and rice had been one of the worst experience of my life…

Not far ahead of us in line, I saw an Itharii was talking to the chefs. They were these small amphibian aliens that had arrived on earth as refugees fourteen years before. I’d seen some before, but his one was different. In addition to the orange skin and the black spots, they had these odd glowing blue lines coursing through their body. Clearly they were just as confused about the menu as I was.

There were a few things but the names were japanese without explanations. “Anything that interest you?” I asked Kioshi.

He was looking at the board and squinting, like he was focused. Could he even read english? I leaned toward him, whispering, “can you read the menu? I can tell you what’s on it if you need.”

The was a little frustrated frown on his brow. “I can’t read it sorry, too many words I don’t know.”

I read the few options available outloud to him, a sign announced tomorrow’s dishes meaning they rotated options. “Are yakisoba noodles spicy?” I asked when I was done.

“No, or at least I don’t think… yakisoba, it’s good, I think.” He looked down. “My mother used to make it, I think.” These last words barely came out of his throat.

The Itharii ahead of us was served and the cook turned to us for our orders.

“Two yakisoba for us.”

“Would you like any miso soup, or gyoza, or both?” The cook asked.

“Eh…” I looked at Kioshi. “Do you want some?”

He just sort of looked at me then at the cook and then back at me, looking like he didn’t know what to say.

“Yes, both please.” I answered for both of us.

We got served and walked away from the counter. I looked around at the seats and they were pretty crowded. “So… Want to eat here or outside?” I asked Kioshi.

“W-Wherever you want!” The anxiety in the stutter was clear as day. Clearly he was a little overwhelmed…

“Well, it’s kind of crowded, so outside seems nice.” Avoiding crowds seemed for the better.

“Okay.”

We left the building and came into a park at the back of the school ground, furthest away from the entrance gate. I looked around a little and found a bench a little way from the main path. I sat down and put my platter on my lap only to see Kioshi was standing, looking at the bench like he was silently asking permission to sit next to me.

“Aren’t you going to sit?” A little nervous laugh left my mouth. This was kind of awkward and sad, Kioshi was clearly walking on eggshells like he was expecting to make a mistake and be punished for it…

He nodded and sat down. I turned my attention to the food, sniffing the plate, moving it around to make sure there wouldn’t be any surprise. There was cabbage, which I didn’t like, but apart from that the noodles looked and smelled okay. The soup and dumpling I was more afraid off. I grabbed a few noodles with my fork and put them in my mouth.

It was a little on the salty side, had a sweet note, and there was a little vinegary taste to it, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

“Not bad.” I declared.

“Itadakimasu.” Kioshi muttered. He took a bite and when he was done chewing there was this smile on his lips. “It’s good.”

I had to smile back. For a moment, he seemed happy and not scared. “Yeah, I could get used to it.”

There was a quiet moment as we both ate. Kioshi was surprisingly voracious for his small size.

“Y’know, it’s nice making a friend here. I don’t really have any back home…” I said.

“But you’re nice? Don’t nice people have a lot of friends?”

A little bitter snicker made it out. How I wished he was right and it was that simple… I mechanically moved food around my bowl for a moment. “I get bullied a lot back home, well not as much since I got my power… But I guess people don’t want to associate with me in case it’d extend to them.”

Kioshi looked at me, frowning and head tilted. “Bullied? A-associate?”

“Right…” I sighed. I couldn’t expect him to know complicated words in English. “People are really mean to me and others are scared to be my friend because the others might be mean to them too.”

“I’m sorry… there are a lot of mean people.” He said, the cat-like ears at the side of his head folded back.

“It’s alright, I’m here now. And not everyone was bad…”

“Gabe was nice? Like you? I hope he gets better, the world needs to keep as many nice people as it can.”

I felt a little tightness around my heart at the mention of his name. “Yeah, he was the kindest, sweetest guy I’ve ever met.” I answered after a moment.

We went quiet, filling the silence by eating some more. I dissected a gyoza, it was filled with cabbage, meat and smelled a little like ginger. I offered them to Kioshi, saying how I wasn’t going to eat them. He took them and ate them too.

“So, we have homeroom after lunch, maybe that’ll be more normal, it’s apparently English and maths combined into one.” I said after a moment, breaking the silence.

“There is so much to school, all I remember is coloring, and serving food and writing kana.”

“Yeah, it can get a bit overwhelming, but if you need any help, you can always ask.” I gave him a smile. “Unless it’s geography, I cannot for the life of me remember countries’ name and location.” I laughed at my own half-joke.

“Thank you. I’m happy you’re my roommate.”

“And I’m happy you’re mine and not someone like Gloria… Or Kayla, she seems nice but she’s kind of a lot to take in.”

He nodded firmly. We’d both noticed how they could be overwhelming or downright terrifying.

“So, do you like music?”

“I like Koto, my mother used to play it…”

“Koto”?

“It’s a…” He paused trying to find his words but failing.

I took out my phone and looked it up. It was a Japanese stringed instrument. “This?” I asked, showing him the picture.

He nodded.

I put on a koto video and when the musician first stroked the strings I saw his eyes light up with wonder.

“It’s beautiful.” I said.

Kioshi seemed a little too emotional to answer. I smiled and put my phone on his lap. For a moment we just stayed there, listening to the sound of a beautiful melody.

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Broken Dream: Part V

A Broken Dream

Part V: Trauma

Ethics class ended and the second period of the day came. Instead of the classroom building, our class was held in one of the dojo. We loosely lined up by instinct close to some benches.

A moment later, someone came out. Unlike Miss Contreras who was dressed in a suit jacket and skirt, this guy was in full superhero costume. It was a dark rubber or leather looking armor with a bird cowl and stuff strapped to him everywhere. He even had a staff in his hand and his eyes were hidden behind red tinted goggles.

“Good morning students.” He said, then there was a little chuckle. “Oh how your morning will not be so good when we are finished today…”

He walked toward us and we lined up more properly.

“My name is the Rook. I’m your basic combat training teacher. My job is to teach you the essential of how to survive through a fight, defend yourself, and protect others. To do that, I will no be pulling any of my punches, make no mistakes, you will get sore, bruised, maybe worse even. Hate me as much as you would like, but when I’ll be done with you, you’ll stand a chance to survive in the big bad world out there.”

He paused, gauging our reaction, but nobody dared to argue with him.

“To do that, I need to see what you are all made of. So you and I will have one on one fights, I don’t expect you to hold back. And do trust me, I suggest you don’t.”

“So you’re Rook, huh?” Leo said, really cockily and visibly unimpressed, looking him up and down. He summoned some giant impractical looking floating sword out of nowhere and leaned against it.

“Alright, you go first.”

Leo and Rook took position in the mattressed part of the dojo and a transparent barrier raised itself, separating the benches from the fighting portion of the dojo.

I don’t know what I was expecting from Leo, he was clearly cocky, had this arsenal of weird swords, maces and stuff…

What I didn’t expect was for him to get hit right in the face from the getgo, pass out and have to be dragged back to the bleacher within seconds. He quickly came to, tried to get up, summoned more swords and then immediately tumbled down on his face.

“You’d think that thick head of yours would have protected you.” Freyja said.

Leo muttered something in answer but it came out all garbled.

“You two, get him to Doc Venus.” He said pointing at Ike and Erik. They didn’t question and carried Leo out who tried to walk by himself with mixed success.

Leo done with, it was time for others have their try and by and large they didn’t go well…

Most notably for me, was Gloria. For such a proud assassin, she didn’t do so well. She’d used her one trick, her poison that is, and when it failed she was out of options. Apparently she’d never learned how to take care of any kind of competent resistance.

Out of everyone of us, Vicky was the one who did the best. She’d grabbed a staff from a rack and jumped in with Rook, using her phantom double to aggressively press the offensive and play defense while she worked on undermining his balance and finding gaps in his defense. Another to do well was some black enby kid named Riley who could teleport around through portals.

When Kioshi’s turn came he went inside the arena and turned invisible. Rook announced the start of the match and for a moment nothing happened. Then the Rook swung his staff… and nothing. There was a pause and he did it again. Unlike with others, there was no banter from Rook, just focus.

After a minute or two, he threw his arm out behind him and Kioshi appeared, his thin arm in Rook’s grip. Rook flung him easily to the ground. Kioshi didn’t move as Rook moved to press his staff to his throat. He could’ve teleported but he didn’t, he stayed there.

“You’re officially dead, kid. Come on, scram.”

Kioshi didn’t move so Rook nudged him with his staff. That got Kioshi on his feet.

Rook came back to our line up, looked at us one by one. Then pointing his staff at me “Your turn kid.” He said. “Show me what you’ve got.”

I hesitated, then decided to take a staff from the rack like Vicky had. My power wasn’t exactly fighting material…

“Ready?” Rook asked once I was in the arena.

I nervously nodded.

He rushed toward me and I put the staff between us, the moment I felt him close enough, I froze him. His armor was good, but it wasn’t immune to my power. I hurried behind him and got ready to hit him.

It took about half a minute for the effect to wear off, but it felt like ten times more. His colors returned, his momentum too and with a swing of my staff I only hit him with the tip at his side. He expertly rolled with impact, getting up in a microsecond.

“Impressive trick.” He said. “What’s the range on that? You didn’t use it when I was further away.”

He quickly got some distance and took out a bola. He tossed it at me and I dove to the mattressed ground to avoid getting ensnared.

“Can’t dodge forever, kid.”

I got back to my feet only for smoke to fill my vision, it itched my nose and lungs a bit but that was it. At least it wasn’t tear gas. Then a second bola hit me. Its coils wrapped around my torso, tightening themselves around me and rubbing my shirt against my skin, I grit my teeth at the pain.

I wasn’t going to scream. I wasn’t going to cry.

There was a bang. Something hit me. It felt like a punch to the guts. I let out a ground.

Then another a second projectile hit me, making things even worse. I screamed.

Don’t cry. Don’t cry. I repeated to myself mentally, I couldn’t give him the satisfaction.

“If those were real bullets, you’d be dead.” Rook announced, coming forward. He untied the bola. “Get back in line.”

I was shaking from the pain, biting my own cheek hard as to not breakdown. I struggled to get back to my feet. I walked toward the others.

“You did well.” Someone said. My brain wasn’t in any state to recognize anyone.

Other words came to my ears, some whispered, some not;

“He’s a jerk.”

“These fights are so unfair.”

“Oh my god, you guys are so terrible for wannabe capes.”

I sat down on a bench, letting the pain lessen a little. When I came back to my senses, I looked around and saw Kioshi. In the excitement of watching the fights, he’d slipped away from the others and was curled up all alone in the corner.

I got up and walked toward him. “Are you alright?” I asked.

He didn’t answer. He didn’t move either. He looked toward me, but not at me. At least his chest was moving a little with each breath…

I sat down not far from him. “Kioshi?”

He blinked, looked sort of in my direction again. A choked out word came out of his mouth, again and again. “Sorry.” Tears started rolling down. “Sorry… Sorry… Sorry…”

“Jesus…” I muttered to myself. I’d had emotional breakdowns before, from my dad, from being bullied at school… So I knew what Kioshi was going through…

Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw others coming closer, having noticed us. “Let’s not crowd him please?” I raised a hand and they stopped. Maybe they’d thought I’d freeze them.

I turned back toward Kioshi. “Is there anything I can do?”

“I’m sorry… “ He said. “I’ll be good, I’ll be good…” He kept repeating the words, stuck.

I felt my stomach churn… Old memories stirred but I focused on Kioshi hoping to chase them away… What had been done to him?

It didn’t take long for the gears in my brain to turn, he was part cat. What if he wasn’t any paramorph but a chimera? I’d seen documentaries… Trafficked children experimented on, made part animal, used as slaves…

“Hey, it’s over Kioshi, you’re not going to get hurt.” I said, he didn’t quite react so I prepared myself. I could feel my whole body tensing up as I reached out with a hand. I half expected him to jump me when my hand touched his. I took it and gently squeezed it, my skin feeling like it’d been burnt from the contact.

It was like his whole body got shocked. This time he looked at me rather than toward me. He’d stopped muttering too. Then he turned his head away. “Thank you.” he muttered.

“It’s alright, you’re safe, and it’s over.”

“Thank you.” I was worried he was going on repeat but he wiped his tears away with his hands. He squirmed in place just a little.

I got up and offered him support to get up. “You’re welcome, I’ve had my shares of public breakdowns.” I smiled at him.

“I-It’s not as painful as be-before. I don’t know why I…”

“Befo—” I almost asked, but cut myself. “You don’t have to answer that.” Echoing the same words he’d told me.

He crossed his arms protectively over his chest, hunching a bit, but a sad kind of smile appeared on his lips. “I… Aaron told me no one would ever touch me again without my permission… I guess his promise doesn’t work if he’s not here…”

“I’m sorry…” I said, looking down at the thoughts of whatever might have happened to him. “I know how you feel… I’ll make sure nobody does it again.”

Renegade Part IV

Renegade

Part IV: Choices of Mate

After a long travel the day before, I did not stay up long. I woke up early and went downstairs without bothering to put on a shirt. Luke was still asleep by then and I left him to it.

When I came down, the smell of food tickled my nose. Others were already up and about. Two people were busy around the stoves; a dark skinned female and one whom I believed was a pale skinned male. They introduced themselves as Vicky and Ike respectively.

Just about the same time I did, Kayla the canine-being came down, they had a blue satin nightgown on. They yawned, mouth canine mouth hanging wide open. “Morning.”

“Greetings.” I said. Ike and Vicky served me food and I made sure to thank them, bringing my fist to my heart. “And I thank you for your service.”

“Yeah, what he said.” Kayla said, stacking quite an impressive amount of food onto their plate while yawning again. If the previous night had any indication, they were quite voracious.

“You said your name was Kayla, was it not?” I asked.

“Yep!” They said with a toothy grin. “Kayla Walker”

“Call me Nalar.” There was a pause before I decided to clarify the issue of their gender. “I believe that Kayla is a female name, is that right?”

“Traditionally, yes.” They said before filling their mouth with food. They kept talking even with their mouth full. “I use she/her or they/them pronouns. I consider myself a demigirl, something between girl and something else. That something else being wolf. And before you sit in silence out of politeness I got a dick and I want to keep it.”

Kayla’s forwardness took me by surprise, I’d learn that humans were rarely open about these kind of things as we Tzari were. “That is good to know?” I said, a little laugh escaping my throat. “I am not well versed in human gender norms, but would that make you transgender?”

“By most standards yes.”

A smile formed on my own lips. “On Resh we are called Rhaskru.”

“Now that is a fucking cool word!”

“It means Rhasnel’s kin, he is supreme lord’s husband, his sigil is our symbol.” I explained before showing them the tattoo I had on my arm. It was the solar sigil of Rhasnel.

“Whoa that’s so cool!”

“My species is very open to these things, something I have notice yours often is not.”

“My dad can be an asshole sometimes.” They said with a shrug. “But this school is pretty nice.”

I snarled at the thought of their parent not being supportive. “Should you need it, I could introduce him to Bardiche, teach him respect.”

In answer, they laughed. “He pretty much shuts up if I growl at him, he’s been a bit scared of me since I became a wolf and honestly it’s better that way.”

“I do have to ask, why turn yourself into a wolf?”

“Don’t I look great, no,  Awesome!? It’s what I always wanted to look like!” Kayla’s tail waggled from side to side in excitement as they spoke.

“That I cannot argue against, I do admit, you look quite well.” They were quite unique, quite pleasing to look at too. “You reminds me of the old gods of Resh I learned off.” In old historical archives, I’d learned that before they had turned to worship the creator the ancient Tzari venerated half-animal half-tzari creatures.

“That sounds so cool!”

“You know, you seem quite open.” I said, a grin forming. “I admit, most of the humans I have met were quite… Prudish, if I might say.”

“Why beat around any bushes? I’m not a fan of mind games or taking anything slow.”

“Then we have that in common.”

“You’re pretty interesting! I like you!”

“I must say, the feeling is mutual.”

“I wonder what it’d be like to have sex with an alien.” They mused out loud, looking at me.

“Perhaps you’d like to find out?” I proposed.

“Tonight?”

“I had no other plans, It seems I have now.”

“Okay!”

I finished my plate and then looked at the time. “Well, I better give Bardiche a last minute maintenance, I saw we have combat training today, I wouldn’t want him to be uncalibrated.”

“Have fun!” They said.

I went back upstairs and got Bardiche out as well as put on proper attire for the day. Luke was just waking up. “Others have kindly  prepared a morning meal for us all.” I informed him.

“Right.”

With that, I left him and went to a little living room that was upstairs, using the coffee table to hold my tools as I ran diagnostic and recalibrated Bardiche. After quite some time I decided to take a break and went downstairs. As there was little time remaining before our first class of the year began, the kitchen was almost empty save for one green haired human male who also had horns and a forked tail.

I sniffed the air and the sweet aroma of coffee came to me. It was just what I needed. I walked to the machine which thankfully was still half filled. I looked around for a cup and saw one on the dish rack further away.

Rather than walk, I opted to try Bardiche’s calibration. I took him off my back and aimed him at the rack. “How about a little test run, Bardiche? Get me a Cup.”

Bardiche’s orb came to life. “Yes, Sir. Manipulator mode.” Bardiche reconfigured itself into its telekinetic manipulation mode and it released a pulse of energy, encapsulation one of the cups. It lifted upward gently for a moment before cracking and breaking.

A little disappointed growl escaped my throat. I walked over, cleaned the mess and then got myself a mug, this time with my hands. I walked to the coffee machine and filled the mug before taking a sip. It left a pleasant tingling on my tongue. I’d heard humans felt awakened by by coffee but its effect on my species was different, we got a little more excitable and happy.

My craving stated, my eyes fell back on that human male sitting at the counter. He slowly nursed a cup of coffee, barely looking awake, staring right down into it. I came closer and rested my arms on the counter.

“Hello there.” I said.

“Uhh…hello.” He took a moment to even look up at me.

“You are quite distinctive. I’m Nalar.” I said with a grin. There was something about the horns on his head and the claws on his hands that were quite attractive, I must say.

“Thanks, I guess? I could say the same for yourself.”

“Do you happen to have a name?”

“It’s…Nine. I’ve already forgotten the other one, it seems.”

“Nine?” I arched a brow. “That sounds like there’s an interesting story behind that, or did your parent love numbers?”

“Oh, my parents didn’t give me this name.”

“We have something in common then.”

“Alright. You’re who, then?” He said, a frown on his brow.

“I am Nalar, but I was not always.”

“Sounds pretty cool. What as it before?”

“Ankiran.” I said with a shrug. That had been my name before my rebirth as male.

“Interesting. Nice to meet you, then.” He didn’t sound too enthusiastic. Or awake. He sipped his coffee only to grimace.

“Something wrong with your drink?”

“It’s so bitter…”

I took another sip of my own, I’d always found the taste delectable. The pleasant buzz that my brain was starting to experience was also great. “I have seen others add sugar or milk to theirs, perhaps you should try that?”

“If I add any more, it’ll be mostly that.” He said with a little laugh.

“Different tastes, I guess.” I shrugged.

He shrugged too. “I’m still so exhausted.”

“What from?”

He hesitated before answering. “…Not enough sleep.”

“That seems like an easily solvable problem to me, and if not perhaps you should look for a medic?”

“It’s not so simple…” His hand went to his other arm and scratched at the edge of some metallic bracelets. Both hands had one and they had tech in them, so clearly they weren’t just decorative.

“Interesting contraptions. What are they form?” I asked.

“Well…I don’t know if you want to hear about it as it wasn’t really my choice to wear them to begin with.”

“Why would I not? And if you do not want them, why not remove them?”

“I can’t remove them. I’ll get punished.” He said bitterly.

I frowned, who could force him to wear those? The school perhaps? But why? I decided to just ask rather than keep wondering. “By whom?”

“Eh, just some people who I used to work for sort-of. It’s complicated.”

“That sounds quite like it.”

He shrugged. “Cool axe.”

That was a blatant attempt at diverting attention away, but I didn’t press on.

“That’s Bardiche. Bardiche, say hello.” I said.

As usual, Bardiche came to life briefly before going back to standby mode. “Greetings sir.”

“It…talks?”

“He does, yes. Bardiche has its own artificial intelligence to calculate and operate his different functionalities.”

“Made him myself. He’s very versatile.” I said, omitting how some of those functions were still in need of perfecting. At least I already had Bardiche’s force blade, the particle pulser and its device mode working…

“Wow, no wonder you’re here. They’d be blind to not see potential there.”

“Oh, but I’m just a humble armorer.”

“What about you, surely you have skills worthy of being here aside from your dashing good look.”

He choked on his coffee. “W-What…? You’re joking, right?”

“Why would I?”

“Cuz, I’m a mess and look like a rolling dumpster fire?”

I snickered. “We have different opinions on that, her perhaps I have different views than you humans.”

“I doubt I’m much of one anymore.” He sighed.

“You look much closer than many of the humans I have met.” I said with a shrug. Some of the paramorphs as they were called were completely alien in appearance. Other than horns, a tail, claws and some strange black marks he was quite normal.

“I guess that’s a good thing, right?”

“It is.”

“Well…thank you, then.”

I looked at the clock and saw there were only a few minutes left before we had to go.

“Well, I better finish tuning Bardiche, I heard we have combat training today.”

“Right. Was nice meeting you.” He said, giving a little wave.

“Likewise, Nine.”

Renegade: Part III

Renegade

Part III: Housing Situation

We arrived at the school and it didn’t look like much, beyond the gate I could see mundane brick buildings, not quite what I had expected, it all felt rather primitive compared to the imperial academies of Resh.

One of the human’s costumed people came to greet us but I did not have a clue as to who it was. Someone important by the looks of the others.

We were divided in five groups and I found myself among seventeen others, all human except for one, who was somewhat similar to some of the Earth dogs I had encountered. Not that the others were normal; one of them, a female, had wings while another had horns and a tail. Much to my surprise and pleasure, Erik from the bus had been assigned to my own group.

“It is good to see you again Erik.” I said, nodding to him.

“Same, be good to have a friendly face around,” he replied, glancing over his shoulder at the person who had sat next to him on the bus. They were busy looking at the winged girl.

“Do you know them?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah. Their name is Ike. We were childhood friends…”

“I see. Quite the coincidence for both of you to be here and in the same group.”

“Yeah. Gonna be weird,” he laughs. “Last time we spoke things ended badly,” he added, the humour leaving his face.

“Then perhaps this is a chance for reconciliation.” I said, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“I hope so,” he said, smiling at me.

We were guided across the academy’s terrain to a house on the periphery of the outer wall, told it was ours to share and we were responsible for it. We all went inside and split in our own directions, Erik included. First I opted to scout the location for myself.

Like most human housing it was quite spacious and furnished, we Tzaries were more frugal in our lifestyle. There were not one but two living rooms, a large kitchen and dining room, a study, eight rooms. After exploring the area I went back downstairs and saw some people had began congregating around pizza boxes in the kitchen.

“I love this place already.” A human male in a thick baggy hoodie said.

The dark skinned female across the counter from him did not answer, simply putting pizza into her mouth. A little further was another female very similar to her except for the wings coming out of her back.

I put my things down and grabbed a slice myself. “Hello.” I said, looking at the male.

His eyes went up and down examining me. “Hey.” He smiled. “I’m Luke.”

“I am Nalar, son of neetarin, of clan Vinek, of the Qurhal.” I returned his smile. “But Nalar is just fine.”

“Cool.” He put some more pizza in his mouth and chewed on it.

“I’m Freyja.” Was all the dark skinned female said.

Another human male came in, he was short with blonde hair, he sort of stared at Freyja whom I noticed was pregnant, was called on it and he then quickly escaped some pizza in hand. Then I noticed the winged female was gone too, she hadn’t introduced herself.

“It is a pleasure to meet you.” I said once that odd little diversion was over. I took out the bottle of Ralgth Vol from my jacket took and took a sip. “To the coming year.”

I offered the bottle to the male who took a sip before gagging. “What. Is. That.”

“Booze, kid.” Freyja said.

“I’ve had booze.” Luke said, pointing at my flask. “This is death.”

“Ralgth Vol, its doesn’t have an exact translation.” I explained, taking a moment to word it in English. “Fire to wake the the ancestors, would be the closest.”

Another male walked in, wearing very little clothing, dark tattoos covering every bit of his exposed skin except for his head. “Booze?”

I turned my head toward him. “We were partaking in an ritual of toasting the coming year.”

“For a second I didn’t think I’d live to see the coming year.” Luke proclaimed. Freyja took the bottle from him, took a swig before muttering something in her language.

“Huh, cool.” The newcomer said. “Never thought I would see a Tzari here…” He took some food while putting a hand on Luke’s shoulder.

Freyja offered him the bottle, he sniffed it but returned it to her. “Me and drinks don’t work well together… Unless you want a shredded kitchen.”

I took my bottle back and finished the little ritual. “To the coming year, may the honored ancestors watch over us.”

Luke went to the fridge and came back with a can of liquid. “Why’s that?” he asked the newcomer when he came back. “If you don’t mind me asking.”

The newcomer extended a hand and I saw the tattoos were design schematics of weapons. One of which vanished only for a real version of it to appear floating above his hand.

“Whoa.” Luke muttered.

“Feel free to touch.” The newcomer said, giving Luke the weapon. “Nice weapon.” The newcomer then said nodding to Bardiche resting on my back

“Made him myself.” I explained. “Bardiche, say hello.”

“Yes, sir.” bardiche declared. “Greetings, humans.”

“Hey, little orb.” Luke said, now looking at Bardiche before looking back at the sword. “It’s lighter than I expected.”

The newcomer laughed. He took his weapon, let it float and it disappeared back into the schematic on his skin. He then walked closer to me and examine Bardiche. “Can you draw designs for these?” He asked me.

“I could definitely, although the chance of you replicating Bardiche are low, I had to scavenge particularly exotic components.”

“How exotic?” Luke asked.

“Replicating has never been a problem.” The newcomer said.

“Aldaar tech, also Bardiche’s core used to guide the light of Ranathos.”

“The light of Ranathos?” Luke said.

“It was a Tzari armory frigate, now at the bottom of the English Channel.” I explained.

“Oh yeah, what all can you guys do?” The newcomer asked, looking between Freyja and Luke. “I’m guessing our tzari friend is a warrior of some kind with that thing.”

It was a common misconception that all of us were warriors, as if an army did not require support. “No, I was an armorer.”

“I’m just a tag along for my sister.” Freyja said, shrugging.

The newcomer made a sound, then stopped himself, sighing. He then looked at Luke. “What about you?”

“Oh um. I uh. Freeze stuff. Among other coldish things.” Was Luke’s answer.

“Nice nice…” The newcomer said before launching into some rant about not taking armorers and tagalong and making us great. Which I ignored in favor of pizza. Freyja did not seem too keen on him either.

“Love the confidence.” Luke said.

“Confidence is the key to victory and success. If you don’t think you can, you never will be able to.”

“I’ll remember that.”

“Remember what?” Someone said, making my ears fold back toward them. I turned around and saw the canine-like humanoid from earlier. They came forward and stuffed pizza into their mouth.

“That confidence is important in a hero.” The older newcomer said.

“And some good old fashioned strength!” The canine one said.

“I like you! You seem to know what’s what!”

The two of them bumped their fists together and I just watched the scene.

“Oh yeah! I almost forgot. I’m Leopold Dean, Leo for short. What’s everyone’s names?” The tattooed male said.

Luke and Freyja reintroduced themselves and so did I. The canine person introduced themselves as Kayla.

“It is good to meet you all. I hope this is the start of a long and prosperous camaraderie. Let’s get along and aim for the top.” Leo said.

The conversation continued for some time and I let the others carry it. Kayla claimed to have transformed themselves into that canine form using her technological expertise, also she ate more food than I thought was possible, she did leave at some point. Leo on the other hand proudly showcased his over inflated ego and lack of sense.

Eventually I looked around and noticed the room arrangements. “It appears we shall share a room, Luke.”

“Cool.” He said, finishing his pizza. “It’s been a long day I should prob drop off my stuff soon.”

“Perhaps we should drop our things then.” I suggested.

“Yeah that sounds good. Night guys!” Luke said with a yawn.

We picked our things and made our way upstairs. We’d been assigned room five which contained little but two beds, two closets, two bedside table and two desks.

“I will leave the choice of bed to you, although I admit I am not used to sharing a room but not a bed.” I said.

“Actually I’ve never really shared a room either” Luke said, dropping his stuff on the left bed, so I took the right one.

“I see.” I put my own things down before deploying Bardiche. “Bardiche, scan.”

Bardiche came to life and altered itself. “Device mode, activated.” It scanned the room and broadcast information into my entoptic display. “I only detect two devices, one hidden within each of of your end table, sir.”

I opened the drawer and found a tablet like humans were fond of using inside. Luke did the same and he had one too.

“What exactly were u scanning for?” He asked thowing himself on his bed.

“Listening devices.”

“You think we could be spied on here?”

“I suspect High Lord Kiorga approved me to keep an eye on me. I do not like being watched.”

“Well it seems like there’s no spies for now.”

“Indeed.”

“I’m gonna, uh, hit the sack. Get some sleep in before classes start tomorrow.”

I nodded. “Sleep well, Luke.”

The Pursuit of Power: Part I

Kaimana Arc I: The Pursuit of Power

Part I: Foretelling

Our feet padded softly through the sand, kicking up particles behind us. My dad lead me closer to the shoreline, and we stopped before the sand became wet. Light settled along the horizon as the sun descended, casting us further into shadow. Dad knelt in the sand and I sat cross-legged in front of him. He scrutinized the piles of sand that filled the space between us. I couldn’t fathom what he saw in the tiny granules.

My father’s abilities made him skilled at abacomancy, a type of divination, and rarely used his abilities in front of others. He didn’t often like to share the predictions he saw either but he made exceptions for special occasions. I could think of no greater time, having just received an acceptance letter from Ravenhold Academy this morning.

That meant, from the school’s perspective, I had potential. Which was just the long-awaited affirmation I needed.

I closed my eyes and listened to the waves behind me. It gave me something to do while I waited to hear the results from my dad.

After a while, my dad said my name, gaining my attention. I opened my eyes. All around us the sands formed pathways, looping and twisting, down the beach.

“So…” I said, looking up at him anxiously as he rose to his feet. “What does all of this mean?”

He brushed me off and I realized, annoyed, that his reading was far from over. He walked alongside the patterns in the sand, following them up and down the beach. I watched him, seeing for the first time how crazy he looked doing so. At times he would squat, trace the flowing patterns with his finger, study the sand intently and then move on to the next area of interest.

I grew tired of watching him and walked towards the ocean. The water was cool and swept the lingering sand off my feet. I walked along the shore, kicking the waves as they reached my ankles.

Increasing my pace, I began to run. I was met by a rush of speed as my powers kicked in and every step I took sent water flying up around me. On either side of me, beach and ocean went out of focus. My hair flew through the wind, bending and tangling. The burst of power ended as abruptly as it started and I tumbled into the sand.

I couldn’t have been running for longer than a minute. “Come on.” I muttered under my breath.

At sixteen, my abilities were supposed to be powerful. Not only was my dad a mutant like me, but so was my mother. Everything I’d ever read or heard about mutants insisted that children of mutants were supposed to be exceptional. Some even manifested powers before puberty, as was the case with my younger brother, Anakoni. He was just ten years old and he was already displaying phobikinetic abilities stronger than my own super speed. It was completely and utterly unfair. He had no intention of becoming a superhero either; what a waste.

From the other side of the beach, my father called to me. “Mana!”

“Yeah?”

He waved me over. “We’re leaving.”

Confused I ran back to him. At an ordinary, tiring, human speed, not a mutant one. My footsteps broke the patterns of the sand as I went.

My dad ignored me as he got into the Jeep and started the ignition. I climbed into the passenger seat. “So… are you gonna tell me what you saw?”

He shook his head. “I couldn’t get a clear reading. There wasn’t enough…” he searched for the right word. “Agreement.”

My future was still uncertain because a bunch of sand couldn’t get along? Well that sucked. I slumped in my seat, vexed.

Dad chuckled. “Don’t worry. I’m gonna try again with ash when we get back to the house.” He placed a hand on my shoulder. “We’ll get you some answers.”

***

I knew for a fact that my dad preferred using his powers with sand. He never exactly told me this directly, or gave me an explanation as to why, but I could guess. I think he felt a stronger connection to the sand and the beach. Sand had strong relations to water, of course, which had a much more serene reputation than ash’s partner, fire.

My dad always needed a little bit of a, shall we say, boost before an ash reading. He’d start a fire in the fireplace and if he was looking for answers for a specific person, which in this case he was, then he’d need something from that person to burn. I gave him something I wouldn’t miss; last year’s math homework.

I watched the flames crush and consume the paperwork. Throwing sparks in the air as it burned. When the last of the fire began to disappear, my dad sent me away so he could focus.

Pacing back and forth I couldn’t stop myself from wondering what Dad was seeing. Or hearing. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how his process worked exactly.

“Knock it off.” My brother said from his room beside mine. The house was quiet enough that he didn’t have to yell.

I folded my arms. “Knock what off?”

A groan sounded from the other room and the kid made his way into my room. “Your fear.” He said, blankly. “It’s annoying. I’m trying to sleep.”

My stress melted away but fury rose in my chest. “What have I told you about using your powers on me!”

He rolled his eyes and walked sluggishly back to his room without a glance back.

“What a brat.” I said, sitting on the edge of my bed.

I felt wrong. The only thing on my mind was my dad’s readings and I was physically incapable of feeling stressed about it anymore. So now I just felt empty.

I hated to admit it but maybe Anakoni’s powers were handy for once. Because minutes later Dad came in, and he looked like he’d gotten all the answers he needed.

Unruly: Part IV

Unruly

Part IV

I walked over to the right counter with him and got the same thing he did even though I still wasn’t hungry at all. We sat down at one of the tables and he seemed delighted with what he’d got while I just picked at mine.

“I spent some time in the south of this country, became quite fond of it.”

“Where else have you been? I mean, like, other than space. Which I also want to hear about sometime.” I replied, kind of falling over my words in an embarrassing manner.

“A good deal of Europe, I’ve spent the past two of your years travelling; Spain, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherland, Germany. I came to America a few months ago, then I was thinking I might visit Africa. You may find it funny, but I have seen more of your world than I have of Resh.”

“What’s it like? I mean, compared to here?”

“Hot and dry. Our oceans are smaller. Our cities are much more impressive and developed, however.”

“You mean like…floating cars and stuff?” I asked, instantly feeling stupid.

Nalar laughed at my question, “Well they do exist, although by and large most Tzari do not own vehicles. On the other hand, our public transport infrastructure actually works.”

“Umh…yeah. Okay.” I still felt embarrassed over how lame I’d sounded just now.

“But the best place I have ever been is without a doubt space. There is nothing quite like experiencing microgravity.”

“I hear it messes up your bones and stuff. Or are they just saying that because it’s truly so awesome?”

“It does, but we have an array of biological augmentation process that protects against bone density loss, increase the brain’s ability to maneuver in three dimensional space, and make many biological process more efficient.”

“Of course. What’s it like travelling through space? Is it sorta like the movies?”

“Slower, I spent most of the voyage in stasis, I was woken a few months before arrival to help with the preparations.”

“Must’ve been unreal.” I replied, trying to imagine it for a second.

“Quite so. Atmospheric entry is another experience, quite intimidating.”

“Plummeting to earth in a ball of fire would freak anyone out, I guess.”

“The ship I was assigned to is still in the English Channel, good place to get components  if you can sneak past security and can dive.”

“Me, break the law? As if I’ll do that again.” I shrugged with a smile on my face even though deep down I didn’t like the thought of diving at all.

“Of course, but it’s not stealing if it was mine to begin with, was it?”

“I’m sure they’ll consider that before shooting…” I said with a hint of sarcasm in my voice.

“The trick is just to approach underwater.”

Yeah. Not happening.

“Why haven’t you done that? Like, if it’s just sitting there?”

“I have, but there’s a bit more than I could carry with me. Bardiche’s core once computer jump trajectories for that armoury frigate.”

I blinked, not quite understanding. “Um sure. Of course.”

“I went diving off the coast of Spain too, found some old Aldaar wreckage where I got power cells for Bardiche, it’s how he can do so much while being portable. And some useful composite materials for the shaft.”

“It sounds like you’ve been everywhere…” I felt a little bitter after realizing how long I’d been locked away and how much of my life had been practically taken from me.

“I was lucky. Have you been anywhere?”

“Nowhere too exciting, that’s for sure. And if I have, I don’t remember.”

“A shame, but I’m sure you’ll get the chance soon.”

I shrugged again, not really believing him.

“Maybe I should try my and at making a spacecraft, that would be entertaining.” Nalar said in a lighthearted tone, as if he weren’t really serious.

“That would be awesome!” I said, already liking that idea.

“Could show you space.”

“I’d love that for sure.” I gave him a genuine smile.

“I guess I will have to try now.” He grins, taking the last bite out of his food before setting it down. “Umm, there’s still time before our last class of the day.”

“Oh, yeah I guess there is. Do you have any plans?”

“That depends, I guess…” He pauses. “I know your species can be quite…prudish and I don’t want to seem too forward…”

“Too forward with what?”

He took another pause before answering me. “I’m asking if you’d like to mate.”

I wasn’t really sure how to take that. He probably just had no shame when it came to that sort of thing, I assumed. His bold proposition was flattering at most, but I wasn’t sure what to think about it beyond that.

“You’re joking. Again, I mean.” I gave him a blank, unamused stare.

“I am not. But if you’d rather not, then I understand.”

“I just…don’t see why. I’m hardly worth anyone’s time.”

“I disagree.”

“I think I’ve just been bothering you since we’ve met and you’ve only been nice just to be polite…”

“Need I remind you that I approached you first? Also, I shamelessly admit, the horns are quite attractive…” He said with a grin after glancing at them.

I sighed. “Most find me repulsive. I wasn’t even told that the black blood would result in this sort of thing happening.”

“Black blood?”

“Yeah, it’s umm…altered matter from space, or that what they told me. Said ‘nothing would go wrong’ and that I’d ‘be better’ for going along with it.”

“That sounds quite irresponsible of them.”

“They just wanted to use it was a weapon like they always do…”

“And you in the process?” Nalar snarled, clearly upset.

“It…was what I was hinting at, earlier. I was a villain and I came here on parole. My only other option was to rot in that cell forever. I had to do whatever they asked of me. Even if it meant erasing whoever I’d been in the past.” I really couldn’t believe I was telling him all of this.

He nodded slowly. “You’ll find no judgement from me, I did come as a part of an invasion force intent of subjugating your species.”

“I still think some of us deserve to be invaded and wiped out…”

“Wiping out was never our intention, although having seen your world, the bad and the good it offers, I do say a lot would have been lost.”

“Yeah, I guess. I do have doubt over if it’s worth saving at this point…”

“Understandably so, I can tell that you have seen much of the worst but little of the good.”

“It could also be my fault for not seeing the good, either.”

“Seeing the light is very hard when one is at the bottom of a deep hole.”

“I guess I have to change that, right?”

“Hopefully this place will help, perhaps friends could help, too.”

“Do you think they could get over how I am…? I mean, I know I’m not the easiest person to be around.”

“I have met much harder people to be around. Got arrested for fighting some of those even.”

“Oh, what happened?”

“They were improper to some human ladies, their advances were unwelcome and so I stepped in.”

“Heh, like a true gentleman.”

“This kind of behaviour is not tolerated on Resh. Although, if your females had claws, surely they would not be subjected to such improper behaviour.”

“Well, I don’t know about them, but I’m not going to get mine dirty by clawing some guy’s eye out. I’ve got other ways to deal with them.”

“I admit, these claws can be quite a bother to wash, they stain so easily.”

“Mine just make it easier to use my abilities, so I’ve gotta keep them intact.”

“I see.”  He was about to say something else until the bell rang, ending our break. “We better get to class. And I guess the question of mating will have to be answered another time. Such a shame.” Nalar said, once again in a lighthearted tone.

“Uh…Um, yeah…” I looked away, not really sure what to say.

While in class, I found it even harder to focus. My hands and arms continued to feel tingly and restless.

I did realize that I’d stopped noticing it after I’d got talking with Nalar, so I guess that counted for something. Right now, I couldn’t get the sensation out of my head and tried to dig my nails into my skin in an attempt to have some relief.

We were supposed to be reading over some English and math work which I did to the best of my ability. I was still incredibly rusty with both seeing I had almost no prior experience with it that I could recall. I didn’t want to bother the instructor as I was confident that I could figure this out, myself. In the end, I really had little to show for my efforts.

After that, we were supposed to get our ID’s done that the admin building so I had to wait in line with a bunch of other people around me while my freaking limiters didn’t work. Needless to say, it wasn’t a pleasant experience. My photo had me looking tense and uptight as I was too distracted to notice that they’d asked me to smile.

Later, I separated from the others and took out my phone. Looking it over, it took me a good minute or two to figure out how to use it to call someone. The interface was clunky and lazily done. I came across Turner’s number and tried to call him. It was hard enough going throughout the day without the limiters on. I felt as if I had no control of my abilities and that I could hurt someone.

To my disappointment, Turner wouldn’t pick and and I was much too self-conscious to leave a message. I paced around for while and was about to head back before I saw his familiar car pull up in a nearby parking space. He came out and walked up to me, he seemed to be talking on his phone with someone, but ended the call just as he got to me.

“You called earlier, right?”

I nodded and gestured towards where the limiters were. “They, uh, broke.”

“Tried to be rebellious?” He suggested, raising an eyebrow.

“No, I grew upset and tore them off when I fought that hero who teaches the class.”

“Oh. It’s the Rook, then?”

“Yeah, it was him. Anyway, they’re busted and I don’t know what to do about it.”

“So, you went throughout the whole day without harming anyone after they broke?”

“I…I guess.” I looked away.

“Hm.” He said, pondering for a moment.

“Right, there are replacements back at headquarters. Come on.” He gestured me to follow him and I reluctantly did so.

I didn’t want to go back there. I hated that they were going to limit me again. Even though I’d chosen to tell him about it, I couldn’t help but be annoyed with his lack of confidence when it came to me.

It was a quiet ride over. I didn’t really want to talk about how my day was and neither did he. For the most part, I was fine with that, yet that stupid needy part of me wasn’t. I followed him quietly and kept my guard up as we walked through the facility. Turner nodded at the few people he saw before going up to a secured room. He entered a code which I didn’t bother to remember and went through and had me follow him.

Inside, there were a number of crates and labelled boxes everywhere. Everything was so tightly locked up I had no idea what anything was. Looking over at Turner, I saw him stand in front of one of the larger cases with a sorrowful look in his eyes. He then blinked and went over to a different case to unlock it and search for what we’d come here for.

I went up to what he’d been looking at before. The label had simply said it was some type of experimental weapon, but upon closer look it read a string of numbers/letters, some jargon and at the end said “gunblade”. I wondered what it looked like. Reaching out towards it, I was caught off guard when the collar shocked me seemingly from nowhere.

“Don’t touch that.” His voice was tense and angry.

“Ugh, fine.” I took a few steps away and chose to refrain from looking around the room any further.

I waited for a while longer before he came over to me with seemingly identical limiters.

“Hold out your hands.” He asked even though this clearly wasn’t a question.

“I, uh, changed my mind.” I backed away.

“And what gave you the idea that this is voluntary?”

“I just don’t want them on again, okay?”

“You told me you were afraid of harming others and you won’t with these on, or at least it’ll be difficult.” He shrugged and held them out to me.

I continued to be hesitant and heard him sigh out of frustration.

“If I do it, you have to tell me why you snapped at me just now.” I said, hoping I could get some damn reason why he’d done that.

“No.” He glared at me. “Like I said, this is not a choice.”

“Oh, isn’t it?” I walked over to where that case was and ran my fingertips over it, marking it for explosion-fodder.

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Then you better start talking. And don’t bother with the collar. The second it stings will be the same one you lose whatever is in here.” I poked it some more and saw him get uncomfortable and agitated.

He just stood there, pondering on what to do.

“Well? Anything? Or, I guess you don’t care that much about it, then?”

“Fine. Just…take your hands off of it.” He tried, approaching me.

“Uh, no, old man. That’s not how this works. Once I’ve touched it, it’s pretty much being ‘held’ until I let go, yeah? Just tell me why it means so much to you.” I backed away a little more, but still stayed near the case.

“It belonged to someone I knew.” He quickly said.

“Who?”

He looked away, his hands had become fists and his side. I crossed my arms and kept staring at him, waiting for an answer.

“One of those I helped a while ago, it belonged to him.” Turner mumbled quietly.

The surprise was enough to get me to release the mark I had on the target. Damn. I wondered which one he was talking about. Something felt a deep sorrow deep down. With that came a strange pain in my chest which I don’t recall feeling before. Yet, it was familiar.

“Is that good enough?” He asked.

“Y-Yeah, sure. Let’s just get this over this.” I held my hands out towards him.

He hesitated before coming up to me and had the look of uncertainty in his eyes. I sighed and went over to him before taking the stupid things into my hands and doing them up myself. I’d seen him do it before, so it hadn’t been too difficult. When I looked back at him, he was over at the case I’d almost destroyed.

“What happened to the scary, stoic old man from before? Come on, let’s get out of here, already.” I said as I went over to the entrance.

He didn’t budge and just stood there while staring down.

“Ugh, the fuck’s the matter with you? It’s just a stupid case.” I shrugged.

“To you, maybe.” He said before going up to the door and went through without another word.

The air was really freaking thick on the drive back to the dorms. Before, it had been stagnant and boring, but I could feel it to a point that it bothered me. I’d overdone it back there. That’s why he was upset. It had to be. I did want to make it right, but then again, I couldn’t find it within myself to care too much about it right now.

Once we arrived, I turned and got out and heard him speak behind me.

“Try something like that again, and you won’t live to regret it.” His words were bitter and filled with hate.

Turner looked down at something on his phone, said something I could hear and drove off. What a freaking drama queen. I headed back inside, wanting only to get some sleep now.

Unruly: Part III

Unruly

Part III

For the next few hours, I played the handheld console I’d been given just the other day. Turner said it wouldn’t be a “destructive distraction” and I went along with it. I had to turn the volume off as Grant was still sleeping. I didn’t matter much, though. My thoughts were mostly elsewhere, anyway. Nalar had said we had combat training at some point today. So, not only did I have to hear a hero boast about their beliefs, but get the shit kicked out of me by them, too. Wonderful.

It was still fairly early when the others started to wake up. Soon after, nice smells were coming from the kitchen, but I just wasn’t hungry. I was still a bundle of nerves and I thoughts didn’t even stop not for a second. I could hear them talk down there and I contemplated introducing myself. I’d eventually decided against it as my anxiety overcame those logical thoughts that had told me not to worry.

I’d probably fallen asleep again because it was quiet when I woke up. Checking the time, I realized I was going to be late and set off out the door in a hurry. If it weren’t for those blasted limiters, I could just teleport there, if only a bit of distance at a time. Then again, I didn’t think it would work if I hadn’t seen the place before. It was also a really strange sensation that I didn’t think I needed on top of what I was already dealing with.

Somehow, I hadn’t arrived late and came through the door with just seconds to spare. I found some seat near the back and sat down. Apparently this was some kind of Ethics class and Leo once again made his stance pretty clear. I could hear Gloria stifle a laughter at his antics. I didn’t really think I could be bothered with that and tried to pay attention to the lesson as best I could

With that headache of a class over, I didn’t think things would get much worse from there, but oh, they did. Next was combat training or whatever against the hero known as the Rook. I had vague memories about him, but they were too far away and hazy in my mind for me to properly remember.

I watched the others take turns going at that hero, some doing better than others and a few even ending the match in a stalemate. I grew anxious just by watching. Just seeing the hero and my peers fighting had me all antsy and on edge. I felt lightning run up my hands from excitement. When was the last time I felt this? Hell, I didn’t even know if this was a good thing.

When my turn came up, that excitement came back, but I was hesitant. Something was telling me to hold back and try and talk my way out of it. I really didn’t think this would work and I was proven right as I didn’t even had a chance to speak before the Rook threw something on the ground, which made it difficult to see him. It made the air thick and my abilities practically begged me to grab hold and mark him for explosion-fodder.

I rejected that thought and backed away, not wanting any part in this. Hearing that hero behind me, I was knocked away by something I couldn’t see. He clearly was experienced and moved like lightning. I’d be surprised if it turned out that he didn’t have any abilities at all. All of this felt familiar, though. I knew as a fact I’d fought heroes in the past, I was just being stubborn and not allowing myself to embrace those memories. As long as I had control, nothing was going to happen. I was going to get my ass handed to me and surrender. No one would have to get hurt.

The Rook seemed bored with me and had asked why I wasn’t attacking. He didn’t accept my answer of “not wanting to” and kept up his relentless assault. I was already very sore and extremely tired. This wasn’t a good mix. Why wouldn’t he just take my word for it and leave me alone? My exhaustion turned to frustration and I noticed the lightning had appeared again. When the Rook had used that trick before with the fog, I couldn’t stop myself from prying off the limiters, appearing behind him and felt the power surge from my hands.

I was about to let it loose until a familiar vision came into my mind. It was from the dream I kept having. The one that had the blood everywhere, only this time it showed me what happened seconds before then. I’d done to same to another hero, appearing behind them with the lightning coursing over my arms. The vision had shown me the shock in his eyes. The fear. This was enough to stop me in my tracks and lower my guard.

I couldn’t get it out of my head! Why did I have to keep seeing this? Had I actually killed a hero? That felt too damn real to have been a dream. Was that why I was here? In that case, it would’ve just been easier to lock me away forever, right? Just put the air conditioning on full blast in there and that would be it, I’d no longer be a problem. I wouldn’t be here making a fool out of myself and having Turner believe I actually had a chance.

“Disappointing.” Was all the Rook said after seeing I could no longer fight.

When I found the strength again, I got up and retrieved the limiters. Yep, they were broken. How I even got them off to begin with was still a mystery to me. Was I really holding that much of a grudge towards heroes, or it could be something else? I slipped the stupid things back on even though they didn’t really work and kept my participation with the rest of the class at a minimum. I couldn’t risk anything. I continued to have that tingling sensation all over my hands long after the fight had ended.

I hadn’t noticed the bell ring and just sat there in my misery. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Standing up, I was about to head outside to be alone until Nalar came over to me with a cheerful expression on his face. I recall the Rook being really hard on him too. He was only able to hold his own because of Bardiche, apparently.

“Meal time, my favourite part of the day.” Nalar said with a grin.

“Huh? Oh, yeah…” I really wasn’t feeling it.

“Are you alright, Nine?”

I hesitated, thinking I’d told him enough already. “Just…fine.”

“Are you sure, you were quite hesitant it seemed to me. And that device around your wrists has been broken.” He said, prying just a little more.

“Yeah, it broke while I was fighting that hero…What’s it to you?” I hoped he’d back off, already…

“Perhaps I was mistaken, but I was under the impression we were to become comrades?” Nalar looked a little hurt and I couldn’t help but regret what I’d said.

I ran a hand through my hair out of frustration. “Yeah, sorry. I’m not really used to it.”

“You looked quite upset.”

“I can’t seem to use my abilities without seeing something terrible…And with these broken, I can’t control them that well.”

“That does sound quite concerning and undesirable.” Nalar arched an eyebrow, that concern still clear on his face.

It was strange having a friend for once, or at least someone to talk to. Turner was as sociable as a porcupine and he’d just brush off what I’d say most of the time. I wasn’t sure what else to talk to Nalar about or how I open I could be about what was bothering me. There was a line I didn’t want to cross that would result in him hating me, or anyone else in that case.

“I guess. What about you? Everything okay on your end?”

“Well, there is an obvious need for more training on my part, which is unsurprising as I was an armourer, not a warrior.”

“I thought you did really well.” I said as I recalled several times he’d used that axe like it had been a part of himself.

“You can thank bardiche. He’s rather versatile.”

“Well, I’m sure the one who made him should be proud too, yeah?” I replied with a faint smile.

“Perhaps.” Nalar grinds. “So, what do you like eating? I’ve been experimenting much with the food of this world.”

My mind drew a blank as I couldn’t even remember what I liked or hated in that case. I hadn’t had anything too terrible yet, though.

“There’s not much I don’t like.” I shrugged.

“I see, not surprising. There are things your people do better and I would say food is one of them.”

“They didn’t let me learn too much about your culture, said it wasn’t worth the time even though I really wanted to.”

“Well, human culture certainly has more variety in most of its aspect when compared to ours. Perhaps a symptom of being such a fragmented people.”

“I guess I haven’t seen the best of humanity.” I mumbled, looking down.

“You said ‘they’ did they not let you learn about us, who would that be?”

“Oh, these people I used to…work for. They’d kinda limit what I could do back then.”

“What kind of work did you perform?”

“Err…I, uhh…helped them deal with those who’d conflict with their plans.”

“I see.” Nalar said, not sounding suspicious or bothered by it. “What do you think of Mexican food?”

“Sounds good. Never had it, though.”