Synopsis: A fast-paced story about a youngster who loses everything and everyone he holds dear. Through the only family that still remains with him, his uncle, he gets to choose to dedicate his focus and attention to blacksmithing rather than to fall into depression and street life...
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“Ichaival, how are you feeling?” I asked.
“Feeling better,” Ichavial replied, giving me a confident smile.
“If you say it’s okay,” I nodded.
“Alright, don’t mess up this time, Darryl. I mean, you don’t even have to use your legs for this battle so I expect good things,” Shan encouraged.
“Let’s get this started already,” Tess cut into our conversation.
Ichaival and I met at the center. Tess handed her tablet over to Zhuyu. She said a few things to him and the man nodded. He pulled out a stylus in preparation. Tess nodded at me and then the practice match started.
Like before, Ichaival used his teleportation. He did not attack me, only demonstrating it for travel purposes. I observed his movements and something clicked in my mind. As it did, I noticed the grimoire on the bench glow. The book flipped open and a soft light enveloped it.
“Good. Keep going,” Tess said, her expression not changing.
I grasped the technique or at least the basic outline of Ichaival’s teleportation. When Ichaival appeared behind me, I simply used his powers. I appeared behind him and then conjured a sword in my hand. Ichaival, taken aback by my actions, paused. I then appeared in front of him and pointed the tip of the blade at his neck.
“Pause. Continue after I have a talk with Tomo,” Tess paused our match.
I moved my blade away from Ichaival’s neck and he sighed. He walked back to Shan and the look on the older man’s face said it all. Pure disappointment mixed with pity. And not the good kind of pity.
“You have an innate ability of grasping other people’s powers. It’s quite versatile, allowing you to deal with many situations. Although, your mirroring skill is still weak as your mastery of it is fragile. But it will improve over time,” Tess explained.
“I suspected something like that when I fought Kyoi. So, I just have to watch and I’ll get it?” I asked for confirmation.
“For the most part but I suspect there are exceptions,” Tess answered.
“Like?” I asked.
“Go up against Long. See what will happen. I think it will be more difficult than with Darryl,” Tess ordered.
“Alright, I’ll try it out,” I said.
Tess waved at Zhuyu and he walked over. Zhuyu returned Tess’ tablet and she told him about the plan. He agreed and I stood in the center of the room once more.
“Whenever you’re ready, Tomo,” Zhuyu said, his hands in his pocket.
Was he even taking this battle seriously? From the look on his face, it appeared as if this was a pain for him. His posture indicated no danger but yet something was off. Unlike Ichaival who rushed straight in, there was a more subtle degree of danger associated with Zhuyu.
I rushed toward him with a sword in my left hand. He blinked, stationary, and then I stopped. The sword fell out of my hand and I could not move. Zhuyu removed his left hand from his pocket and I could move again. This time I tried a punch and Zhuyu moved his hand to the left. Unlike Ichaival, I could not grasp his powers. I attempted an imitation of his powers and then a terrible headache hit.
“What?” I exclaimed, clutching my right shoulder.
“That’s enough, Tomo. You’ll only hurt yourself,” he warned.
“No, I’ll do it!” I disagreed.
Zhuyu noticed the look of determination on my face and shrugged his shoulders. Without even moving his hand, I felt myself rooted to the spot. I failed at visualizing a clear blueprint. Something prevented me from grasping the true nature of his power. The intensity of my headache grew.
“Tomo, stop. I’ve confirmed my theory,” Tess ordered.
The headache faded and I stared over at Zhuyu. Zhuyu put his hands into his pocket and walked away. Tess pointed at Shan, who walked over.
“Did you need something, Tess?” he asked.
“Yes, same thing as Zhuyu,” Tess directed.
“Will she be okay?” Shan inquired.
“Do you want redemption?” Tess asked, glancing over at me.
“After that battle, I do. Let’s go,” I agreed.
“Go, Shigetzu, go!” Ichaival supported.
“Darryl, be quiet,” Shan said back, waving off his friend.
I glanced over at Shan. Like Zhuyu, I could tell that he did not take this battle seriously. Man, what was up with these people? Compared to Ichaival, Zhuyu and Shan were on a different level.
Alright, I would utilize Ichaival’s teleportation and Kyoi’s sword in tandem. I witnessed Shan’s power before, but never received a full explanation about it. Actually, Tess divulged nothing about anyone’s power. Was it on purpose in preparation for these mock battles or did Tess just forget?
I jumped into the air and Shan’s eyes locked onto my location. Even if he did that, there was no way he could predict my landing spot if I teleported. Within seconds, I appeared behind Shan. The sword already in hand, I swung at his legs. But I descended at a much more rapid pace than expected.
“What was that?” I muttered, reaching for my sword.
Before my fingers even reached the weapon, a tremendous force pinned me down to the ground. Shan turned around, retrieving my weapon. What was this? This sensation differed from Zhuyu’s powers.
Shan stood above me and then I was finally free. He tossed me my weapon back and as I reached out for it, the sword flew up and struck the ceiling. It wobbled there for a few seconds.
“How did you do that?” I asked, looking up at the weapon.
“Gravity and a little mind reading too,” Shan replied.
“Gravity? What are you…?” I started asking, but then stopped.
Shan gave me a small smile and I felt myself floating. Was he using his powers now? Good, this was a chance at copying it. This time, I closed my eyes and concentrated.
Damn, this was the same as when I faced Zhuyu. I was prevented from understanding his powers. Without notice, I crashed into the floor face first. Ouch, that actually hurt a bit.
“Sorry about that. Still trying to get that control back,” Shan apologized, offering me a hand.
I accepted it and stood back up again. I felt a slight headache but nothing too major. Tess dismissed Shan and checked my condition.
“You appear fine. I’ve confirmed the limitations of your powers now,” Tess reported.
“What do you mean limitations?” I asked for clarification.
“Your mirror skills are limited in what you can comprehend. Both Long and Shigetzu’s powers have roots in math, physics, and to a slight degree in Shigetzu’s case, some chemistry. It appears if you lack the proper background information then your powers are void. This is not to say you can’t copy them but it’ll take considerable effort as evidenced by your headaches,” Tess explained, showing me footage and photos from the matches.
“What about Ichaival’s powers? I didn’t know anything about them, but it still worked?” I questioned, confused about Tess’ statement.
“In Darryl’s case, his powers are more of a magic based skill than a scientific one. Magic is in one sense dependent on the imagination, not bounded by natural world laws such as the Earth’s. Therefore, it would make sense if you grasp it at a much more rapid pace,” Tess went on.
“Okay. I have a general idea of how my powers work. So let’s say I faced off against Kisai, would I have an easier time at learning his powers?” I asked.
“Jin is an interesting case. His skills are both rooted in magic and those of the natural world. I believe you may only gain partial mastery of the skill. However that reasoning applies for Shigetzu too with his mind reading. In the end, it all depends on you. The greater time you spend observing and practicing with everyone, the stronger your mastery of their skills. But I believe that not even you can use their powers at a mastery level. You’ll have to figure out your own unique way at combining things,” Tess replied.
So while I could copy everyone’s powers there was a limit on how I could use them and their effectiveness. A wide variety of choices available, but it required an efficient method of combining them for maximum potential. The learning curve would be higher for me though since I didn’t focus on one specific thing.
“Tomo while you may not have copied either Long’s or Shigetzu’s powers, I believe you gained enough battle experience to face Darryl again,” Tess recommended.
After a ten minute break, I headed toward the center. Ichaival stood there, a complex expression on his face. There was determination, but also reservation. This time, Tess added a stipulation. She decreased the radius of our battle field, limiting us to a smaller area.
“Tomo, I’ll win this time!” Ichaival declared and then vanished.
I clicked my tongue and opened up a portal. But I was too slow. Ichaival crashed into me, knives following behind him. I felt the blades pierce through my skin. I countered by sending my sword through a portal. Ichaival recognized my plan though and deflected it. I took a deep breath and then slid straight for Ichaival’s legs.
“Whoa, did not expect that,” Ichaival commented and disappeared.
I smiled, hoping he would do that. Visualizing multiple swords, I kept them in my mind not yet manifesting them into physical form. I listened and then heard the whir of Ichaivlal’s knives.
Now! I materialized the swords and directed them at Ichaival. I spun around and saw my swords knock down his knives. I accelerated, aiming a punch at his legs. Ichaival summoned knives once again in defense but I countered.
Recalling Bartholomew’s strategy, I jammed swords into the portal from which his blade exited, blocking them. Ichaival caught off guard by my attack, paused. My punch connected, but Ichaival held the upper hand. A blade slid out of his sleeve and struck me in my shoulder. Ichaival grimaced as he moved his legs but struck me again with another hidden blade. Crap, I was in trouble.
I then tried one more thing. Opening up portals, I hurled swords at Ichaival in multiple directions. With one blade, he deflected them all away. Damn, he got me. I attempted another portal but felt deep fatigue set in. Ichaival charged in, hidden blades in hand, and sealed his victory.
“Job well done, both of you. Tomo, remember once you copy someone’s skills, you also inherit the limitations. Ichaival in his current state can not sustain multiple portals and has a certain limit before he can no longer use them anymore. Since you only recently learned it, your limit is low. Don’t worry, you’ll improve over time,” Tess evaluated.
“Good job, Tomo, that slide of yours really got me,” Ichaival congratulated.
“You as well. How do your legs feel?” I asked, noticing his legs shaking.
“I guess things could be worse. Shigetzu, please help me out here!” Ichaival pleaded.
“Since you actually won this time, I’ll do it. You need to get stronger leg strength. We’ll train starting tomorrow,” Shan declared, supporting his friend.
“Wait, wait! Do you see my legs right now? I can’t handle..,” Ichaival protested.
“Stop your whining. I’m disappointed in you so we’ll change that starting tomorrow,” Shan cut him off and then they both left .
Zhuyu and his friend, En, also left. Before leaving though, he pointed out a few things I could work on. I nodded at his suggestions and watched them leave. Hmm, where was Kyoi? This entire time, she had been absent.
“Hey, where’s Kyoi?”I asked Tess.
“Oh, she left. She said something came up. Let’s adjourn for today,” Tess replied.
As Tess and I exited the facility, I thought about my powers. I still had much to learn. Ichizen would have loved this kind of life. It was quite a shame.
Still, I was in the dark concerning things related to the heroes. I would need to investigate more; uncovering more about Ichizen’s sacrifice and the supposed prophecy related to me gaining powers. I certainly was not ecstatic about having this mirror skill, but I wanted to hunt down the bastard who set this all up.