Do you dream of me in the next life?
If objects could talk, Dragwind could probably spin some tales unlike any other blade before it. Josie could just tell by looking at it that it’s been through a lot. All leading up to this moment when a new owner could wield it once more and write new tales into history.
She lifted Dragwind out of the chest and into her hands. It doesn’t feel too heavy, just the right weight to hold it with one hand. Josie pointed the sword into the light to look at it better. Man does this sword look so amazing, she thought. It was a great moment until…uh, the sword became floppy?
“W-What!? Did I break it already?! Aiden, what’s going on?!" she said as she waved Dragwind up and down.
Aiden looked at Josie and sighed. “Kind of figured this would happen.
Looks like we will have to ask Alvin to help out. Follow me; he lives just
outside the settlement.”
Outside the house, she could see a small garden of flowers and some vegetables that were growing nearby. There was also a chicken coop some distance away from the house as well.
“Do you take care of this garden yourself? What about those chickens?”
Aiden stopped walking and turned to face her. “Yeah, I take care of that garden myself. The chickens used to be taken care of by Josie. Josie always wanted pets, so she bought some chickens to take care of. She…used to give away eggs from time to time to families who struggle to afford it.”
As they continued to walk, Josie looked from left to right of her surroundings. Palm trees stood proud and tall. Some ferns and other foreign plants could be seen along the worn grass path. “I know we are in the dragon settlement, but where are we exactly?”
“We’re currently on an island in the middle of a lake. But this isn’t the whole dragon settlement. The rest of it is on the other side of that bridge we have to cross now. I rather fly, but since you don’t know how, this’s the only way.”
The old bridge was long and wooden. Wooden dragons held up the railings. Two carved dragon statues were in front of the bridge, one of which had an engraved plaque that said “To those that came before us. May your dreams live on.”
“What’s the story of this bridge?”
Aiden briefly closed his eyes in thought while they walked across the bridge.
“Long ago, dragons used to live on Earth until the humans drove them to find a better world. When they came here, they figured they could live long lives and finally create their own culture just like they dreamed of. But then, everything changed when an unknown illness spread among the dragons, taking their lives before they could live them. One day, a dragon gave birth to dragons that were half human and as time went on, this new population of dragons became very large. These new dragons eventually took on the role of taking care of the sick dragons. Because none of the dragons could figure out a cure, they all died out. So, our kind built this bridge believing we can carry on their dream and live a life that they could not. Sadly…that illness is still present in our kind. There are higher chances of survival now, but if we had a cure, then we won’t have to hold onto chance to survive.”
Aiden frowned as those last words came out of his mouth.
“Did your mom…”
“Yeah…she died from it.”
There was some time of silence while they were walking across the bridge. Sounds of birds that cawed overhead and the movement of water kept them company. At the end of the bridge, they met with crowds of dragons walking about the settlement. Children were running around and giggling joyfully. Young and old could be seen in various colors of fashion. Some dragons fished at the lake, others were buying fish and other goods from market stalls. Josie saw one vendor who sold some kind of meat on a stick that he cooked with his own fire breath.
Finally, they reached their destination, Alvin’s dojo which was what the sign said on the building. The dojo was a tall, old Japanese style house with a wall that surrounded the yard of the house. There was a Japanese water fountain on the right side; some pottery was on the left side near the corner. In front of the house was the man himself, Alvin. He was drinking tea while ignoring all of his surroundings, cross-legged on the ground. They walked up to him and bowed.
“Sensei, I request that you pass on your teachings of combat onto Josie, please.”
The man gave them no response.
“Please, Sensei, Josie would like to travel the Dream World. If you could pass on your ways of the sword…that is all we ask, so please.”
Still no response.
“Hey, old man, wake up!”
Alvin suddenly moved and said drowsily, “Huh? I’m not an old man…”
Wait a minute, thought Josie, he was sleeping with his eyes open this whole time? But how was he drinking his tea? Was he…sleep drinking?
“Well, you are old, and a man, so therefore you’re an old man.” said Aiden.
Alvin stood up from where he was sitting. “Yeah…whatever Aiden. I’m sure you two are not here just to debate my age, now are you?”
Aiden shook his head. “We are here to train Josie how to fight. She doesn’t know how to use Dragwind or any of the basics of fighting and survival in our world…”
Aiden explained to Alvin about the whole situation.
“I see. This is a lot to take in, but I understand why you must travel back to your world. You want to stop whoever stabbed you in your world, yes?”
“Yes. I’m afraid that my best friend Kalah could be next and possibly more if I don’t try to stop it. If I am going to achieve this, I would need your help and guidance. I just can’t sit back and do nothing, Sensei.”
“I agree. But do you have the resolve and dedication to see your training through?”
Josie stared him dead in the eyes and said “If I have to climb the tallest mountains I would do it! Anything if it means I could save Kalah and stop further sorrow and hardships!”
Alvin walked over to the door, opened it and said, “come inside.”
Before she did so, Aiden said, “I have to take care of the chickens and run some errands, so I’ll be back later.”
The room they entered was a spacious one. Various training dummies could be seen in its corners along with some chests. They walked towards the middle of the room. Once there, Alvin turned around to face Josie.
“Could you please unsheathe Dragwind?”
Josie pulled out the sword from the sheath on her back.
“You couldn’t keep the sword solid correct?”
Before she could say yes, the sword became floppy before their eyes.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he said while he had a laugh. “This means that you’ll need to learn how to properly channel dream energy.”
She looked at Alvin with confusion. “What is dream energy?”
“Dream energy is energy made out of dreams. It is a positive energy source that anyone born in this world may use. However, Nightmares cannot use dream energy. They use what’s called nightmare energy, which is made of nightmares from sleep, a negative energy source. Dream energy has the ability to counter nightmare energy and vice versa. Before I say more, lets practice channeling your dream energy into your sword. Try thinking about positive things or what makes you happy and only think about that.”
Josie held onto her sword and closed her eyes. Suddenly, her entire body glowed with a blue aura. As she focused on her thoughts, the aura left her body, only to be seen on Dragwind. It flashed and then disappeared.
“Good! Do that several more times. Make sure you remember this, since this process should be as natural as breathing for you.” Alvin left her to perform this exercise while he finished the tea he was drinking earlier.
“Ok, now back to what I was talking about. When you are fighting, it’s always important to maintain self-care. What I mean by that is to make sure you don’t rashly push yourself beyond your limits. It is easy to exhaust your dream energy. When this happens, to put it bluntly, you will die.”
Josie looked at Alvin with concern over his words. “Now, now! No need to fret. The ways to remedy low dream energy are quite simple to understand. The most obvious, is to sleep. Second way would be to eat food or to drink liquids, so keeping snacks and a canteen of water can be helpful for restoring your dream energy. The last way possible would be to use dream potions. It has a bitter taste to it, but they’re effective.”
“Ok, I understand, Sensei!”
Alvin nodded his head.
“Good, good. Alright, let’s get to the next part of your training.” Alvin walked over to a corner of the room and clapped his hands. Suddenly, targets materialized on the walls, the ceiling, and around the dojo floor in front of her.
“Your objective is to hit all targets with your sword. To do this, build up your dream energy into Dragwind and then release it while pointing your sword in a desired direction. This causes your sword to extend a long distance and hit far away targets. Begin as soon as you are ready.”
She quickly extended her sword toward a target on a wall, but it missed. Josie tried again, again, and again, but she kept missing.
“Keep at it! And remember, build and release!”, shouted Alvin.
After some more tries, a target was finally hit.
Josie did a fist pump in the air. “Yes! Got one!”
“Congratulations! Now, hit the rest of them! No time to celebrate just yet.” said Alvin.
She continued aiming for the other targets and hitting them as she went until…bang! The last one was hit.
“Great job, Josie! Here’s some water as a reward. When you’re ready, we will begin the next part of your training.”
After a short break, they continued to the next part of her training which was…
Alvin let out a joyous laugh at her reaction to his words. “Yep, you heard right! This time, you must hit all of the targets within a time limit. If you fail, you have to start over again until you succeed.”
Josie positioned herself near the middle with Dragwind in her hands.
“Are you ready, Josie?”, shouted Alvin.
Alvin clapped his hands and off she went into rapid fire attacks. This time, the targets were actually moving around so it became more difficult to time the attack just right. As time went on, it looked like there was just a small number of targets left to hit. Before she knew it, the last target was hit with just a hair of time left.
“Cutting it close there, but that was good enough. After all, I’m sure you will improve over time being that a while ago you couldn’t hit one target in the same amount of time you took now. Good job, have some water and we will begin the next part of your training when your all set.”
“Alright. This part of your training is a bit specific in that, you have to switch your Dragwind from its standard form into its wide form. To do this, focus your dream energy into your sword like usual and then shake your hand in a quick motion. Doesn’t matter which direction you do it, but when you perform this, it will immediately change form. After your blade is changed, get ready to fight me in that form only, no long distance attacks. The objective is to fight until you can make me yield.”
“Wait, I’m fighting you? But you’re an experienced fighter so wouldn’t that be a big disadvantage?”
As Alvin unsheathed his weapon, he said “Don’t worry, I’ll be holding back so you can have a fighting chance. Besides, I’m not as fast as I used to be so you should be fine.”
Josie switched Dragwind into its wide form and the sword was completely different from what it was just a moment ago. The thin blade was no more. It was now a bigger blade. Firmly gripped in her hands, she took a stance. Alvin followed suit and stared her down in eager yet stern anticipation.
Josie dashed towards him and took the first attack, which he blocked. Alvin took the chance to attack with his katana which she jumped away from. In a short moment he closed the gap between them and attacked from above. The attack was blocked, and Josie pushed him back, causing him to flip in the air. She took the opportunity to attack but he managed to deflect it in time, which caused them to wobble back.
Then, they both lunged forward and attacked with their swords bouncing off with each clash. On one of the recoils, she swung her sword around to hit him. In that moment, he jumped, not away, but onto Dragwind. Alvin swiped at her, but she dodged it. Josie tossed him as she fell backward with Dragwind, doing a short roll on the floor until she used her sword to stop herself. She turned around slightly, only to see Alvin was running to her. He hit Dragwind with strong force and their swords became locked in a standoff. They both pushed against each other in an intense tug a war, until Josie pushed back and knocked them out of it. That was the moment Josie took to hit him with her sword, which sent him flying in the air. Before he could get up, she pointed Dragwind at his face.
“Do you yield?”
Alvin looked at her with defeat. “I yield. Great job, Josie.”
After she helped him up with his free hand, Alvin decided they could take a longer break this time since they both exerted themselves so much. Josie laid down on the floor to catch her breath while Alvin sat in a chair.
“You said you were holding back, but that totally didn’t feel like you were!”
Alvin chuckled a little. “Well, I wanted to give you some real fighting experience so of course I lied. You shouldn’t be complaining! Most people fail on the first try, so you did very well if you ask me. Just remember fighting is about reacting to your opponent. Don’t ever overthink things, overthinking leads to defeat and loss of life…either yours or the ones you must protect.”
After some silence, Josie spoke up. “Why did you decide to help me train?”
Alvin contemplated her question.
“I helped you because you’re a good person.”
She looked at him like he had two heads.
“You see,” he continued, “What you said before we started training, I could tell that you have a pure heart. A heart like yours is worth training, so that it may continue to spread its pure light to the candles of others. Also…” Tears fall down his face. “I think Josie would’ve wanted me to help you.”
She smiled as she laid there in happy thought. Alvin got up from his chair and walked over to a nearby chest.
“Do you like ramen? I think I have some.”
Josie sat up and said, “I don’t know. Never had ramen before.” She stood up to help Alvin until the front door suddenly opened.
“I’m back!” said Aiden as he walked in.
“Welcome back! Good timing too, we were just about to have lunch.” said Alvin as he turned around to see him.