Realms of Destiny
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“Hmm…” Tora sagely stroked his non-existent beard while peering deep into the magical blue gem hanging from a necklace in Reina’s hand. The sunlight sparkled off its smooth surface as well as the boy’s bright eyes. “Well…unlike Sousuke’s and mine, your gem seems to have two different essences. I can sense the wind element, but the other one…is that…ice?”
The group had set up camp fire just outside the village, next to a river. The incident the day before where the eccentric young boy created a ruckus at the Akaheya - injuring a guest, threatening another, and breaking a few crockeries – has caused them to be banned from the only inn in the village. Even Reina and Sousuke’s countless apologies did nothing to improve things. They only managed to leave without being sent to the police when Tora threatened to point whoever tried out as conspirers with the Shadow Hands. And so, they are now camped out by the river away from angry villagers.
“That’s possible. I mean…even in winter, I don’t get uncomfortably cold.” Reina thought back to her first snowy winter. She was five then, Sousuke, Kurogane and herself had a massive snowball fight in the yard. That evening, due to a freakish idea Reina later decided to enter into a ‘whoever can keep their hand in the icy water for the longest wins’ contest, where Kurogane nearly lost a hand.
“That may be a bit of a problem.”
“Is there problem?” asked Sousuke from the riverbank, he was sat on a log by the fire they had created, four fish skewered on sticks that were stuck into the gravelly ground. Sousuke was only half-watching the fish however, his focus was on the fire.
“Well, not that kind of problem. There’s nothing bad about having two elements. That’s lucky even. But the problem is, I haven’t a clue how to teach you how to use that power.” The boy gestured to Reina that she may now put the necklace back on. She did so. “I should be able to teach you how to command the winds, cuz that’s the same as me. But with any other element, I think that the only way to start is to be close to it. You have to spend time within your element, feel its presence before you can even decide to try to bend it to your will.”
“That’s inconvenient. Does that mean, my ice element is only good for winter?” The disappointment was clear in Reina’s voice. She was all excited when Tora mentioned teaching them how to control their magic powers, but now that he puts it thus, she’s already at a disadvantage. Sousuke will be a pro by the time winter comes. Worse, she’ll have to pray for a winter that’s cold enough to freeze water as well. It’s been a while since she’s ever had to compete with anyone to learn anything. Sousuke had always been older, and 4 years ahead of her on the sword-fighting experience front. Now that they’re allowed to start on the same base, it had gotten her all hyped up.
“Well, eventually you should be able to conjure it out of thin air, so it’s not that bad. It’s just initially getting the hang of it that may prove more difficult. In the meanwhile, I guess you’ll have to settle with learning the winds. Worry not. Even the wind on its own is super awesome. Who knows? You can use it to help with controlling another element as well.” Tora gave her a reassuring smile. “Ooohhh that fish smells yuuuummmmmy!” He quickly bound towards Sousuke and lunch, picked one fish-on-a-stick up and started blowing on the grilled fish. He inhaled a lungful of the delicious scent and sighed dreamily.
You really like fish don’t you?” Sousuke smiled. “I think I better start catching more.”
“I just like meat, any kind of meat.” He gave a few more sniffs, savoring cooked-fish smell as though he was eating the smell as well before he began pecking on the fins like a rabbit on vegetables. “Scratch that, I just like FOOD!” with that, he started digging into his fish in earnest. “This is sooo good! Reina-neesan if you don’t come soon I might eat yours!”
“Alright, alright, I’m coming.” As she walked towards the fire, Sousuke pulled out another ungrilled fish from the net and started to skewer it. “How’re you doing on the fire front?” He looked at her with mild surprise. This was the first time she had started a conversation directed at him since their quarrel. Perhaps she was getting tired of being mad at him, she could never be angry at anyone for long. The thought made him smile.
“I can’t make it do anything yet, but like Tora-kun said, if you concentrate and try to feel and recognize its presence, you’ll be able to feel it.” He handed Reina a fish on a stick. “Here, have some.”
“I’ll tell you tonight I promise.” Sousuke said, knowing that Reina knew what he meant.
“Thanks Sousuke…for everything.” She took the fish form his hand and started eating. “This really is good!”
“I know, right?” the young Tiger agreed. “Well, I’m happy that you two are getting along again. Right Chibi?” the dog looked up from his own fish and gave a bark of agreement, then resumed his mission of picking the bones clean.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to practice controlling the winds today.” Reina looked up at the sky and around them. “It seems…unwindy.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. Look here.” Tora removed the stick from the remains of his fish and put the bones in his mouth. He brushed his hands with three quick slaps then turned to face Reina. He held out his right hand, palm up, and said “wind.” A soft gust blew and gathered into a visible sphere just above the open palm. A few brown autumn leaves moving about in a circular motion following the invisible tracks the wind was taking them. “Now place your hand just next to it, and see if you can feel it.”
Reina did as she was told. “How do I know if I’m ‘feeling’ it?”
“Well, knowing that it’s there is a good start.”
“I already know that it’s there. I can feel the breeze itself on my hands.” Reina was confused as to what Tora meant when he said to ‘feel’ it. How hard can it be to feel wind? Anyone can feel wind, like anyone can feel heat.
“Not that kind of ‘feel’.” He would’ve done a face palm had he not had a windy sphere in his right hand. “Not with your hands, neesan. You’re feeling for its spirit, the spirit of the wind…with your soul. Feel it with the whole of you, like blood in your veins.”
“Close your eyes.” She heard Sousuke whisper by her ear. She was concentrating so hard she did not notice him move next to her. He had gone down on one knee to be on the same level as her, sitting on her log. She did as she was told. “Now think of it like a feeling that’s not usually conveyed through your usual five senses.” He placed his hands reassuringly on her shoulders. “Like when you feel warm and fuzzy inside when you see the smile of someone you care for.”
“Yea, kinda like that.” Tora agreed.
“Like when you feel safe when you’re home, even if the walls are no thicker, gates no higher than any other building.”
“…like understanding someone completely without a word, by exchanging a split-second of a glance.”
“I…I think I know what you mean.” Said Reina. She thought back to how she felt each time those things that Sousuke mentioned happened and she could feel those feelings that one can’t feel with their usual senses. She could see them clearly in her mind’s eye.
“Ofcourse you do. Open your eyes neesan.” Reina opened her eyes slowly to find that the sphere was still there, only, the dark-skinned hand wasn’t. It was her hands that were holding it up.
“Am..am I doing that?”
“Well, I’m not.” the surprise caused her to lose concentration and the sphere disintegrated into a soft gust. “You may call me ‘sensei’.”
“Aw.” The leaves fluttered to the ground. “I’m gonna need a lot more practice at that.”
“Rei, did you get the feel of it?” Sousuke asked.
“Kind of. I think so anyway. Sousuke, those tips really helped. How’d you know about them?”
“Well, it was because of Tora-kun’s prompting that gave me the idea. Now I’ll have to see whether I can put it to practice myself.” He moved back to his own seat by the fire and placed his hand by the flames. However, instead of closing his eyes the way Rei did, he looked straight into the flames as though he was hoping the flames themselves would tell him how it’s done. What he told Reina did indeed make it easier; and as soon as he finished reciting them all in his head, he felt the fire dance towards his hand. “Fire, hear me.” They did, for when he said it, the flames danced into his hands, away from the main body of the flames. All three looked on in wonder.
“Wow…are you some kind of a genius?” asked the little ‘sensei’. “Now, can you speed-grill that uncooked fish over there?” he said hopefully. Sousuke tried to direct his little ball of flame towards the fish but it was merely burning there and less strongly so than their campfire. “Now you gotta tell it to become stronger. Like so.” He conjured another spherical gust but this time he threw it into the water like one would a disc, and as it traveled to the surface, the ball grew into a tiny twister, then a bigger one.
“Tora-kun stop! It’s making the fire too strong.” Reina warned him. True enough, the campfire burned strongly from the wind, threatening to singe anything nearby. The twister blew away and disintegrated at a gesture.
“Phew! Now that was cool.” Said the youth proudly, admiring his handy work. “Always wanted to do that.” He wiped a bead of sweat from his brow.
“You’ve never done it before? What if it turned into a tornado?” It wouldn’t do to cause a tornado that would blow the village apart. Knowing the energetic youth, it seemed highly possible to the older man.
“Don’t worry about it, I don’t have that much magic power. It’s not like you can keep using them indefinitely. So be careful when you practice, you might pass out; happened to me once. I went training in the mountains where it was windier and passed out for a day.” He chuckled. “Master thought I got eaten by some wild animal.”
“You mean, it happened to you twice.” Corrected Rei. “You passed out after fighting Sousuke remember?”
“Oh yea…but that was a real fight. Brrrr just the thought of it gives me the shivers, the good kind.” Tora gave a visible shiver to emphasize his point. “We should do that again, now that you can use your magic.”
“I wouldn’t say I can use it.” Sousuke said doubtfully. “Let’s see how well I do with this speed grilling.” He held the fish up high away from everyone else then pointed the flame in his hands towards it. “Alright then…Stronger!” There was an audible ‘boom!’ akin to an explosion, and Sousuke’s little ball of flame blew seven feet into the air. From Reina’s vantage point it looked like her husband just did a fire-juggler’s fire breathing trick. Chibiku jumped to his feet and started running back and forth and barking at the sudden explosion. To Tora’s dismay, his uncooked fish was charred to the bones. The two could feel the heat on their skins even from their distance.
“FISHHH!!! Nooooo…” the boy gave a forlorn sigh. “That was a big one too…But that aside, that’s some really good progress for one morning.”
“I’m terribly sorry, Tora-kun. Here, you can have mine. I better do this at a safer distance. With all the dried leaves around, I might end up causing a forest fire.”
“Staying here is fine for you, you can be by the river. Reina-neesan, I think we should head to higher ground, perhaps just on that ledge over there. I find that it’s windier the higher you go.” He bounded off into the direction of the jutting ledge. “Follow meeee!” Reina enthusiastically followed the boy. Seeing Sousuke achieve what he just did, it got her competitive spirit going.
“See you in a few hours Sousuke, make sure you don’t burn Chibi.” She called back before jumping swiftly onto the branch of the first tree, then the next to get to the high ledge.
“No worries!” he assured her.
Six hours came and gone, and Sousuke found himself grilling fish again. He clicked his tongue twice and called Chibiku to his side.
“Here Chibi.” He gave the dog a ruffle on the head and a scratch behind his left ear before giving him a command. “Go find Reina. Dinner’s almost ready.” The dog gave his hand a lick to indicate he understood and bound off into the trees. Sousuke had taught him a year ago the ‘find’ command. Chibiku had been good at it. At first, he started by telling him to ‘find’ Hakuda from within the house, but the skill evolved to the point where the dog was able to ‘find’ anyone in town and bring them back home.
Having sent the dog on its way, Sousuke resumed his training. He easily pulled fireball out of the campfire this time and when he moved with it to the riverbank, he put both his hands by the fire and drew an arc. That sent the ball floating a meter into the sky and stayed there. He then bent it into the shape of a bird and watched as his creation soared just above the water in a lazy circle. He smiled to himself on finding this experiment successful. He had tried to do the bird earlier, but Chibi would not leave the creation alone and tried to chase after it. After the third circuit, Sousuke turned around at a sound of applause coming from behind him.
“Impressive.” Said Reina as she was smiling at him, although somewhat wistfully.
“Wow! That’s SOO COOL!!” even Tora was so impressed he forgot about the smell of fish that drew him there. “Did you conjure a PHOENIX?”
“Hehe, no. I didn’t conjure anything.” But Sousuke smiled nonetheless. “I merely shaped the fire into the shape of a bird and sent it going round in circles. How’s your training coming
“She’s progressing well.” Said Tora, but Reina looked so disappointed and downcast that Sousuke regretted asking.
“Well, now that I see how much you’ve managed, mine’s hardly groundbreaking.” Sulking, she walked to the log and picked up her fish.
“Was it that bad?” Sousuke asked Tora in a low voice.
“No, not at all. She managed to retain that sphere, and she could also aim it at targets to attack.” Tora reported. “To be honest, she’s progressed much faster than I did when I first started. But I guess, it’s not as impressive as yours.”
“She’s always excelled at everything she ever attempted to pick up.” Sousuke tried to explain.
“So did I. And it’s not like she’s not excelling now.” Somehow, Reina’s disappointment was rubbing off on the young teenager. He felt like a failed instructor. “But we must have good grasp of our powers before we can storm the Shadow Hands. If what the Matsutada guy said was true, we don’t stand much of a chance. That demonic experiment thing he talks about, where he took the blood of ‘the Demon’ and injected it into live subjects worries me.” It did more than worry him, actually. When the boy first heard what the Shadow Hands were doing to poor animals, injecting demonic blood into them, causing them to become raving mad, killing one another. It was a form of animal cruelty that angered him to nearly destroying the Akaheya. “Speaking of animals, where’s Chibi?”
“I just sent him out to get the both of you; just a moment ago. Did you not see him?” They must have missed one another, Sousuke realized. Tora shook his head to indicate that he did not see the dog. “He’ll be fine, your tracks should lead him straight back here.”
“Do you want me to go look for him?”
“Don’t worry about Chibi, he can take care of himself.” Reina told him. “He should be back within minutes.”