Chapter 13:

Don't Think


“Hello? Good evening!” Ayumi greeted the door in her usual cheerful manner, but quickly changed it when she saw that it was only Yuki. “…Something happen?” She moved out of the way allowing him into the house. “Come in.” Tonight she was wearing a long simple light green dress that tied itself in at the waist with her hair down.

In his memory, he had been to her house before, yet he knew that to be a lie. He didn’t know what to expect from the mysterious foreign girl. “T-Thank you…” Yuki cautiously entered the house trying to ignore the wild spun tales of his active imagination to what her real life might be. However, the hall appeared mundane, if not spread a little thin on furnishing.

He looked around slowly, taking his shoes off. Old memories surfaced breaking through the thinly painted veil constructed by Ayumi. “Is it true, Yakuza used to live here?”

“Huh?” Ayumi looked at him with genuine confusion for the complete nonsense question.

“Yeah, I remember like ghost stories about this house from other kids. No one bought this house because of all the weird stuff that happened. Some even say you can hear the voice of some girl shouting.” He caught a more intense glare for his ceaseless ramblings. “It’s just a story to scare kids. Your little jedi mind tricks are playing havoc on my memory.”

“Just stop, or else–” Suddenly, a ghostly image of a black suited man with a gun appeared firing down the hall as a brightly pink figure dashing through. Ayumi sighed and a ripple came out of her feet. The figures vanished. “I was going to ask, but I see why you came…”

Chapter 13 – Don’t Think

“…again…” Yuki snapped quickly back with the disappearance. Just to be certain, he scanned the hall and adjoining room for the ghost. “It happened again… Dammit!”

“How many times?”

“That was the second this evening.” He faded out for a moment as the memory of being devoured by his power remained fresh. ‘I feel like it’s getting worse…’

“Yes, you’re progressing faster than I forecasted. Perhaps it’s due to the strength of your power.” She recalculated her assessment. Extra variables could be interfering with his power. “Or it could be you…”

Yuki searched once more to make sure the ghost remained vanquished, thankfully it did. He tilted back to Ayumi as she mentioned him. “You mean my imagination or overactive in this case. Yeah, that was my fear as well.”

“Indeed, it’s a blessing to have, but uncontrolled it’s also a curse.”

“Don’t need to tell me that…” Everything around the house appeared normal. He didn’t know what to expect with her, maybe guns, swords, armor, perhaps that was too cliche. Though the living room lacked most basic items. It had a single chair and no table. “Not a socializer huh?”

“My objective is to keep you alive and save my people. So no, it’s not on my list of necessities.”

“Keeping up appearances though.”

“Did you want training or discuss the inadequacies of my interior design?”

“Training, definitely training.” Small talk came off the table. Standing around the living room, he didn’t really know where they would be training. Or even the sort that he needed. “So where do we do this?” Nothing around them seemed like it would be useful, unless that chair was some ancient relic passed down in generations of her family.

Ayumi motioned to him out of the living room. “It’s more or less ready now.”

“The reason you needed time?”

“Correct.” In the back side of the dining room, she tapped on the wood panels with her foot. A seam appeared in the previously smoothly painted wood. Traced in a square, the separate section lifted up with a jerk a centimeter before rotating. Every action moved in silence as though nothing happened. It created a nearly unsettling aura, otherworldly.

He leaned around Ayumi expecting to see a ladder, as would be customary in this sort of setting. A secret underground training room where powers could be freely unleashed without negative impacts to the community. A classically familiar setup that gave him a bit of excitement. But instead, just another floor existed, metal this time. “I thought we were going underground.”

“You were quick to deduce that.”

“It’s a commonly used device for training arcs.”

“More of your stories…” Ayumi stepped onto the metal floor. “Get on.”

A step forward, he nearly touched Ayumi. The entire cutout was at best a meter. It put him far closer to her than he wanted. He body flipped between being okay with it and uncomfortable, not sure if she was a friend or stranger. “I forgot to brush my teeth…”

“Your dentist is crying.” She tapped her foot again and the metal floor dropped suddenly. Released from whatever locking mechanism, they quickly passed through the foundation of the home. Earth should have been around them, but a clean polished metal shaft hugged them.

A few dozen meters later, it ended abruptly, opening out into a massive chamber. Ambient non-localized light filled the space, giving it a daylight appearance. All of the walls were covered in metal with strange patterns carved deeply into the surface forming intersecting circles and arcs. The floor seemed to be made from hardwood panels in direct contrast to the metal. The ceiling matched with the walls along with a massive array of intersecting and concentric circles and a strange language that looked like Latin (Greek!).

“That’s a lot of digging…I’m going to guess you don’t have a permit.”

“Hence the time.”

“Yeah, man, it’s bigger than the house! What, a hundred meters?”

“Hundred and fifty square.”

“Damn…you work fast for a week.”

“You required a safe location to practice in.”

“Yeah about that. I don’t really get a lot of it quite yet, but you can use it to make changes to surfaces up to a range, right? Won’t that have an impact on this place?”

Pointed out the carved patterns all over every surface. “These reject any change by our power. It doesn’t negate your ability to use your power, but you can’t alter the surfaces just create on top of it.”

“So there is something that can’t be changed. Interesting…” As he pondered the mechanical reasons for that, Ayumi already began to send the lift back along with the support structure that brought it down. Yuki didn’t even realize she cut them off until it made it halfway. He could only watch as it disappeared into the ceiling and the panel closed completing the carvings. A warm yellow glow came from the carvings.

Stimulus overload began to hit him. His mind tried to piece together all of the new elements presented, yet he lacked necessary parts to understand the elements. It was a puzzle with no connecting pieces found yet, just a vague sense of an image.

“If this rejects your power, how does this all exist? You didn’t buy a bunch of lumber and metal did you? Or did you steal it?”

She glared at him a little for him thinking that she stole anything. “No, I made this all. As I explained before, our powers alter reality, but can’t apply lasting change. To get around this limitation, I can create machines that alter and process the environment to my needs.”

“A loophole then.”

“Correct. As I mentioned, that is the core of our power. We are normal humans with limitations like anyone else. But through creativity, we can work around them.”

“I see, set’s some interesting boundaries.” It was an unusual power system for Yuki, but not unlike others that he had read before. Part of him wanted to dive into it and learn more. Another feared what it contained, having already almost died once.

“Your lessons begin now.”

“That’s why I’m here.” Yuki walked away from the wall and towards Ayumi, meeting face to face with her. He tightened his hands steady at his side recalling what had happened throughout the day to him. So far the things he created only risked his life, which was bad enough. A dozen doomsday scenarios played in his mind, each a real fear.

She motioned him to stop. They were now a few footsteps away from each other near the center of the room completely devoid of anything aside from the chair she had before. “Lesson 1, the Apati Agros…Illusion Field.”

Ayumi closed her eyes and exhaled a breath that suddenly became visible with the drop in temperature around her body. The outline of her body began to glow blue like more than a few characters he read in manga. A moment later, all of the light around her body pushed into the floor and expanded outward beyond her feet. Snow covered over top of the wood floor. Like with the sand he witnessed before, it ended abruptly.

Though now not under pressure, he could see that a circle of snow lay around her. Yuki stepped around the snow a little surprised hearing it crunch underneath his feet. Thick and wet, a pure white sheet of freshly fallen snow stretched out like a painting. It reminded him of the time he went to Hokkaido.

He bent down in the snow, touching it with his hand and taking some in his hand. Cold to the touch and wet, it melted into water. “It’s so real.” Yuki expected it to remain snow with the power not being that sophisticated. Yet it followed all the rules he expected.

“This is our power. We make an illusion into reality or a lie into truth. What you see around me is the Illusion Field. When our power is activated an Illusion Field is created as either a reflection of the person’s subconscious or as an intention. Most will allow it to remain subconscious in order to save on mental concentration, but it can be anything you want as well.” Ayumi closed her eyes, letting the snow field disappear. A ripple came out from her feet again. Cold air changed immediately to dry scorching heat making Yuki back away until he felt comfortable. When Yuki stepped out of the field the wood floor erupted into tall flames.

Yuki stared in panic and fear, at the solid column of fire in front of him that glowed brightly in his eyes. He knew that Ayumi was inside and had to be hurting from this. “Ayumi! Ayumi!” There was no reply back to him, but the fire suddenly surrounded him. The heat was in his throat burning the water from his body and scratching his skin. He patted his clothes frantically trying to keep the fire from spreading on him. It felt like the very sweat burned from his pores in the heat. It would suck him dry.

The fire suddenly disappeared leaving only the wood floor again and Ayumi standing in front of him unaffected. Yuki stood straight up while looking around feeling off balance from the experience. “I can make it fire as well if I so wish, but most importantly I can make it real or an illusion. As you can see the snow you could touch and melt, but the fire had all of the properties tied to sense associated with fire without any of the physical properties. It was just a very vivid illusion. That is important to remember. The strength of the Illusion Field will depend greatly on your mental state, concentration and strength.”

She turned her field back on bringing the snow back to the ground surrounding her. “As you can see from my Illusion Field it is a complete circle around me. This is the second thing to remember about the fields. It will always be projected around the person at the same distance from all sides.”

The circle increased in radius around Ayumi. “The size can be a good estimation of someone’s strength, but it’s flexible. Commonly, the larger the field the more powerful. Our power also weakens the further away from our core. The change can be so much that an attack made close up is lethal while the edge may only scratch you.”

Ayumi stepped away from Yuki making the snow disappear from around him and be revealed behind her. “And it follows with your core.”

She raised her up hand and on command a simple generic straight sword appeared out of the snow held up by the snow. “I can create within this space.” Ayumi picked it up and showed it to Yuki. “However, anything I create can’t exist beyond my field, where the snow ends.” She threw the sword straight at Yuki making him panic and dodge out of the way.

He had closed his eyes, reacting instinctively to someone throwing a weapon at him. However, when time passed for him and he was not bleeding or in pain from the wound that it would have caused he opened his eyes. He looked around seeing that the sword was gone. “Hey! Ayumi, don’t scare me like that!”

“Hrmph…I was making a point. You were outside my field and thus can’t be affected by my powers. That is the limit we all have. Understand?”

Yuki stared silently for a while, taking it all in trying to comprehend all that she had said. Most of what she had told him was close to what he had figured out during his first two encounters with the assassins. She filled in and confirmed assumptions he made. ‘Hearing it from her is a nice confirmation.’

It meant that he had a long way to go before he could even think about working at the same level as her if this was just the basics. “Conceptually I get it. But you haven’t told me how this works into my training.”

“This will be your goal creating an Illusion Field. I wanted to give you a clear objective so you knew what you needed to achieve.”

“Alright, what’s the first step then?”

Ayumi stepped forward to Yuki releasing her field as she moved closer to him. “Our power lives in our mind. A clear mind with a focused image is paramount. Remove all stray thoughts or images in your head. Clear out all of the fantasies and dreams. If you have anything in your mind you’ll become distracted and lose focus.”

“Clear my mind? That’s a tall order for me…” Yuki closed his eyes after seeing the demanding eyes of Ayumi as if staring would be enough to laser out all of his thoughts. The last image of Ayumi was in Yuki’s mind leaving him unnerved and he could not concentrate correctly.

Fears and ideas churned around his mind. ‘I don’t know if that is even possible for me to do. Even when I was holding back all of the ideas to keep from accidentally triggering it I was still thinking of things. It’s impossible for me to remove everything from my mind there’s too many things. I can’t do it!’ He opened his eyes, having begun to sweat from the distress that was blanketing him. “…I keep thinking of something…” Yuki looked up at Ayumi to see what her reaction would be to his failure.

‘Not surprised. I’d be more surprised if he had been able to do it. He might have a great potential, but there is no refinement to his mind.’ Ayumi closed her eyes fixed into a pensive expression. The room had become eerie during her peaceful break as though it seemed to know and became prepared for what was going to be happening soon.

Yuki stood waiting on what Ayumi would do next. He was hoping for a piece of wisdom that might give him a helpful hint to being able to clear his mind. Her people had to have tricks to silencing their thoughts. Others had to be like him.

However, as he waited longer he became uneasy by the change in mood of the environment. He didn’t know what it meant. It almost felt like electricity leapt through the air. A heaviness settled around him. Yuki took a step forward to reach out for Ayumi stretching his hand out, but stopped mid-motion when she snapped her eyes open. “Ayumi?” The look in her eyes was different from before and he did not know what it meant, but there was a chill that went down his spine.

The air in the room became cold quickly, making Yuki’s breath visible. This prelude was the only warning that Yuki had before Ayumi charged blue shortly after turning the area around her to snow. A cloud wrapped around her from the vapors in the air and spun tightly concealing her from view.

Yuki’s heart began to pound as his body knew before his mind what was coming. Enough reading told him exactly what came next. It made him sweat in the cold. A sword’s blade appeared from the clouds dispersing it in a swing as Ayumi charged forward at Yuki transformed into her battle clothes. “Ayumi, I didn’t ask for a real training arc!”