The space between them was disappearing quickly. There was no more time for him to be asking questions, for she was not letting him have another moment. The blade of the sword had nearly reached striking distance eliminating any remaining time he thought that he might have had. Yuki jumped out of the way rolling to the ground just in time to only have the ends of his hair clipped.
Ayumi came to a stop from her strike with her sword held down from the swing. She looked over her shoulder towards Yuki as he came to rest on one knee. Yuki stared at her trying to judge what she might do next. He saw only cold emotionless eyes set on him with a single purpose. “Ayumi… That was a little much for training! You nearly took my head off!”
She stood back up, turning to face Yuki with her sword held at her side. “If you can’t clear your mind, then I will force your mind to use its power.” Ayumi raised up her sword bringing the point to bear on Yuki bridging the distance.
Chapter 14 - Learning by Error
That confirmed what he figured, not that it made it better. ‘This is like in those stories. The hero is pushed to the edge to realize their power by their master. But this isn’t a story!’ He pushed himself up off his knee to stand and face Ayumi. His legs were shaking knowing that he was in danger. ‘But still the master only made it look real. She wouldn’t really hurt me. It wouldn’t help her.’ The efforts to calm his nerves down slowly began to work as he stopped shaking.
Ayumi pulled her sword back, entering into a charging stance. “You’ve stopped shaking in fear. You need fear if you expect to learn!” She charged towards Yuki swinging her sword again at him in an arc at his chest.
‘She’s not going to hit me. Just need to keep on my toes and watch her.’ Yuki managed to dodge the swing of Ayumi’s, but stumbled finding that the reach went deeper than he expected. He slid back on his shoes.
A questioning stare crossed to her as some doubt lingered in his mind. However, he had no time to think as Ayumi was on the attack again. ‘Keep moving and I’ll be safe. She’s not going to hit me.’ Another swing from Ayumi was avoided with a thrust followed up before Yuki saw it. He fell back hearing the ripping of his clothes in his ear as he hit the ground.
Yuki winced in pain from the impact of the ground underneath the snow of Ayumi’s field. The snow had not been enough for him to be cushioned. ‘She nearly cut me with that last attack. But she didn’t.’ He felt more certain about what was happening now.
However, he was not given more than a moment of rest as Ayumi came at him with even fiercer attacks making Yuki roll through the snow just to keep going. ‘The attacks are getting more accurate.’ Yuki continued to roll on the ground until he was far enough away to get back to his feet. He confirmed his suspicions from his clothes that had several more cuts left in them. While he examined himself Ayumi did not skip a beat of her offensive, taking him off guard.
The sword cut through his right sleeve and into his skin drawing up blood soaking into the cloth. Yuki yelped in pain and surprise, stumbling backwards to step away from Ayumi. He felt how deep she had cut him with her blade. It left his entire arm feeling numb and difficult to move.
His left hand clutched the wound tightly streaming more blood over his fingers, unable to hold back the bleeding. Yuki looked down at his arm and back at Ayumi still in shock that she cut him so severely. ‘This isn’t how it’s supposed to go!’ He caught the glow of her blade in his eyes as she raised it up with his blood dripping from the tip staring him down. “What are you doing? You nearly took my arm off! This is going too far, Ayumi!”
“Not yet. You need to learn. You need to remember that feeling of your power.”
“Learn? Remember? All you’re doing is making me bleed!”
“That’s because you aren’t afraid yet. You think I won’t hurt you because I’m supposed to be training you. You couldn’t be more wrong. I’ll do whatever it takes to make you learn and right now you need to remember fear to draw out your power.” Ayumi tightly held the hilt of the sword, stepping forward. A step that drew tension through the air.
“I might die from shock or something before you stop!”
“This is the real world, not some story of yours. We tried it the academic way. This is the other option. I can heal any injuries you sustain.”
‘She’s serious!’ Yuki’s mind froze on Ayumi’s words not understanding until then how determined she was to make him use his power. It was immediately afterwards that he felt the shaking in his legs resume once more. The shaking went beyond his control as his body became re-familiarized with fear.
The cold stare of death from his opponent was something that he wanted to forget, but she was forcing it on him with a feeling that his body would never forget. Yuki attempted to get his arms to move, but found them just as immobilized as his legs. ‘…I-I can’t move…’ He stared at Ayumi seeing what her next move was going to be.
Ayumi stepped forward slowly, narrowing her eyes at the changes that were happening to Yuki. “That’s the feeling. Fear me and call on your power!” She no longer held back her strike and leapt back into the attack coming for Yuki.
Yuki could see her coming, but he could do nothing about it. He remained paralyzed by his own fear and inability to protect himself. His left hand was still clamped on his wound, unwilling to let go. ‘Ayumi’s…she’s…would she?’
The sword slid across his left upper arm and shoulder cutting nearly as deep as before flowing blood from his new wound. Yuki stumbled backwards again, biting his teeth against the pain. ‘She’ll kill me at this rate!’ His strength in his legs finally returned, turning him away from her as fast as he could.
The room was large enough for the two of them to give chase, but never to run away or hide. It gave safety to Yuki. He managed to evade the next series of swings from Ayumi, but not without having his clothes cut up more.
Wherever he went blood dripped from his arms into the snow field following him as he fled through the room. Yet he was running out of strength in his legs. Each of her strikes came closer to him. He couldn’t keep up the pace much longer. When he tripped, it became a clear sign of his failing.
He scrambled to his feet, unable to use his arms and nearly fell down again in the process. ‘I can’t get hit again…’ Yuki mustered up strength in his legs to hold together long enough to get him away, managing to avoid getting slashed in the back.
He came to rest against the wall of the room breathing heavily from fatigue. A constant pressure from her bore down on him. Yuki had to keep moving if he wanted to live. Her plan of fear wasn’t producing results. It simply bled him.
The sword pierced through air commanding all of his attention. His slow reactions left a deep wound in his ribs. Yuki coughed up blood feeling the copper metallic taste in his mouth. Panic flew into his mind.
Ayumi retracted her blade and spun around connecting her leg with his shoulder, dropping him to the ground. She held her weapon at her side walking towards him seeing the twisting uncontrollable fear in his eyes. ‘Still not yet…either he’s stubborn or still doesn’t think I’ll kill him somewhere deep inside…’ The snow advanced on Yuki as she came closer to him, drawing the dark aura behind her. ‘…he must use it soon or this will kill him…’
Yuki barely rolled over in the snow with his body starting to give out. ‘…am I going to die here? I want to save myself, but I don’t know how! Please…’ He pushed against his weakened arms, pressing even more blood from them as he felt waves of pain snapping over his body. Yuki sat up to see Ayumi still pressing on, but unable to do anything.
‘…should be soon…just a little more…’ Ayumi raised her sword up, placing it at her back. A sheath for it materialized from the particles in the air taking hold of the sword for her. She clasped her hands together creating a spark of light that surrounded her hands drawing on sudden bits of energy in the air. The energy gathered together as her hands separated forming into an orb of blue energy.
Light from the energy painted the snow and Ayumi pale blue as she manipulated it in her hands. She pulled her hands back with the sphere becoming larger than her hands. The energy reached critical mass for her and she grabbed it in her hands pulling it back to her before thrusting it forward providing the necessary momentum to reach the target, Yuki.
For Yuki, there was a mix of awe and fear at the sight of Ayumi charging up an energy attack (gathering up was more accurate). If he didn’t feel like he was dying, it might have brought a tear to his eye. ‘…got to move…not enough time…’ He couldn’t even move when the energy sphere hit him in his stomach exploding on impact.
The force of the energy cut in arcs of lacerations along his clothes and skin. Blood sprayed up from the explosion coating the snow. He flew backwards from the force hitting the wood floor and sliding along its polished surface. “Ugh…I…” Yuki could not feel his body anymore. His clothes were in pieces barely hanging together by pieces of threads left with numerous rips. ‘I can’t move…Ayumi’s going to…’
Ayumi marched towards him, drawing up the snow around him to keep him in place. She grabbed her sheathed sword from her back pulling it free preparing for her final strike. ‘This is it…’
‘This is it... she’s going to kill me now… All because I can’t use my power…’ Yuki closed his eyes recalling images of the maid, samurai and fairy that he had made without thinking. Their existence frustrated him knowing that he had the power and was using it. He was simply unable to reach it. It laid there for him to use, but he did not understand it. ‘I came here to learn how to use it. I need to know! I can’t die yet!’ Yuki screamed in despair to the ceiling.
A reaction occurred in Yuki sending out waves from his body nearly instantly changing the entire room into grass and rocks. All around Yuki’s body large rocks came around him protecting him from Ayumi’s attack leaving her to step back. ‘…finally…’ She lightly skipped back as the earth heaved around him layer after layer.
She landed on the ground. Below, she noticed the majority of her field disappeared, overtaken by the raw power of Yuki. The walls of the room, even the idea of it being a room, was gone, left with nothing, but a field of grass and rocks. “Impressive. His field’s finally released. This room isn’t large enough for him. I guess this is to be expected of the King’s Power.”
She approached the rocks that protected Yuki from attacks and passed through them forcing her field through his own. “The lesson is over. You need to turn it off.” Risk analysis quickly started in the back of her seeing what his potential could be.
Yuki breathed heavily, looking like a scared child desperate to defend himself. “Stay away!” His mind actively worked on its own, throwing up rocks to halt Ayumi’s march to Yuki. Panic raced through him finding that none of it was working against her. “Don’t come any closer!” She continued towards him, though it seemed to be getting harder for her to press through the layers of rocks.
Ayumi narrowed her eyes from the strain put on her to forcibly enter his defenses. Sheer raw power made up for the lack of skill in the barriers. ‘I need to reach him to stop this. I can’t believe how much natural talent he has. I can barely…I might need to…’ She had hit the last of the barriers and the closest to him. It proved to be nearly impenetrable for her. Regardless, she pressed forward. A glow shone through as her field battled with his for superiority. ‘Even focusing all my strength around me to increase the density is barely enough.’
“Leave me alone! I don’t want to be hurt anymore!” Yuki’s mind continued to pump into his field acting as the bulwark. He could not move his body or fight what was happening to him. Everything went blank.
The rock barrier forced her hand back, leaving her unable to break through to him. Quick solutions started to run low. ‘I’ve got to reach him. Break his concentration somehow. I just need a little more.’ Ayumi pressed her hands against the barrier again. “Yuki! Can you hear me? Yuki!”
“Don’t come near me!”
“Yuki! …You… Yuki…” Ayumi paused seeing that she was not making any progress and at a loss. She changed her tone back to her school and public persona. “Y-Yuki? A-are you in there? I-I-I can’t see you!”
“It hurts, Yuki! S-stop, please!”
‘That’s it. There’s enough interference for me to break through.’ Ayumi forced her hands in again. Waves of light from the barrier flashed in protest, but no longer held her back. “Yuki! Please, help me!” Her entire body put weight against the barrier feeling the struggle to keep something so large out. Every time that she would speak to him a little more of her was let free to go in.
The last shreds of the barrier breached, she discovered Yuki unconscious on the ground speaking to her unknowingly. ‘This is going to be harder than I thought. I can’t knock out someone already unconscious.’ Military training never prepared her for such things.
However, other training that she received benefited her now in Japan. Ayumi went to his side keeping her softer persona speaking to him. She lifted him up into her arms letting his back rest against her body holding him tightly. “Yuki… I’m here for you. You’re safe now. You don’t need to be afraid anymore.”
The soft voice from Ayumi eased Yuki’s mind, washing away the pain and wrinkles on his face. A calmed expression showed through the fog of fear in Yuki. “…Mo…ther…” The barriers came down quickly returning the room back to the original appearance.
Yuki woke up on the hardwood floor looking around the room no longer certain where he was or what happened. The last thing he remembered was the fight between Ayumi and him, rather the attack by her. However, he could not see her anywhere in the room. When he looked down at himself he saw that he was no longer bleeding, though his clothes were worse for wear. He jumped up in surprise at how ragged they looked. “My clothes! They’re all torn and destroyed. How am I going to explain this to Momo?!”
While he panicked over his clothes Ayumi heard the noise created as she descended into the underground room. “I had to prioritize healing over repair.”
“Ayumi! Um, I’m alive! But I look like I’ve been through a paper shredder.”
“You burned through nearly all of my energy. I didn’t have a lot left to heal you.”
“Energy, like chi or something?”
“No, mental energy. You really need to stop relating everything to pop culture.”
“It’s a shorthand, makes communicating faster.”
“You’re out of juice? But you look out.”
“It’s a mental fatigue. My body may be fine, but I’m not able to do much else.” She presented him with a change of shirt.
“Oh! Thanks, Ayumi!” Yuki pulled at his shirt to take it off, but found that it fell off on its own. Apparently, hopes and dreams held the thing together, and that faded fast. “Heh…Oops…” he said laughing sheepishly at the sight.
The leftover pieces were quickly removed from his body and he took the new shirt in hand. He pulled it on over his head finding it to be a little tight, but it managed to fit him (a little too well actually). Yuki looked down at the red shirt with the English word “Fancy” written on it. “Umm…Ayumi?”
“Is this one of your shirts?”
“Yes, I don’t own boy’s clothing.”
Yuki tried to smile and nod not saying anything more to her about it. ‘I must look like one of the weird male pop bands. How can she wear this? It’s so tight.’
“Well it’s almost midnight. You should be getting some sleep for class tomorrow.” Ayumi returned to the lift waiting for him to join her.
“What?!” shouted Yuki panicking, running over to Ayumi quickly. “Did you say midnight?” Ayumi nodded to confirm her last statement for him. “I told Momo I’d call if I was going to be late!” He shifted around on the balls of his feet.
Once the lift reached the dining room, he jumped up and hurried for the front door. The layout wasn’t complicated, so he knew the direction to go. He passed through the empty living and a Momoko seated on the single chair. “Momoko, hey! Momoko?! What’re you doing here?”
Momoko politely set her tea cup back on the table before she stood up to face her brother. “Falling asleep in the middle of work. You feeling okay, Yuki?”
“M-Momoko I-I can– Work…” He looked back towards Ayumi, who slowly walked into the living room. A silent oddly reassuring stare came from her. “I guess if I’m being honest, I haven’t been sleeping well lately. Been tired a lot.”
“You’re pushing yourself too hard.”
“I’m not the only one in the family. It can’t be easy for you either.”
“But you’re still growing.”
“Somewhat, I think my height’s stalled.” He looked down at the shirt again, finally picking up on the stifled smirk from Momoko. “Right, this…”
“He knocked over his soda. I’ll return his shirt once it’s cleaned.”
“Thank you, Ayumi. Sorry for the trouble.”
“No trouble at all, he helped me a lot. He gave me plenty to think about.” Ayumi glanced over at Yuki once more. The unleashing of his field and the barrier played back in her mind. ‘He’s pushed through one wall, but it’s only made it easier for his subconscious to access it. Unfortunately, he’s a greater risk than ever before…’
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