Chapter 1, Shadow

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Two men sat in a dim candle-lit room. The older of the two sipped on tea as he listened to the ranting of the other. His brother, Sen, the general of the Relz kingdom’s army, had come back from the front lines. Try as he might his anger wasn’t well hidden as he involuntarily crushed the cup in his hands. The war was at a standstill and he had no idea as to how they could defeat Iceborn. They had even been pushed on the defensive.

“I thought you had a plan to deal with them Requien.”

“I do, it’s just not ready yet. Won’t be for a while.”

Slamming his fist on the table Sen looked at his brother. A red aura of magic leaked out of his body as a ghastly wind filled the room. With a scowl he spoke, “ You could’ve told me at least! God, this war is infuriating.” Thinking about it made his mind throb in pain. Every single battlefield was filled with traps. They couldn’t move properly due to the heavy snow and hilly terrain. Then there were Iceborn’s generals and queen who read his plans like an open book.

“Calm down little brother, tell your men to keep the forts and to keep building power on the border. We are not to end this war, let us drag it out. We will learn from our forefathers. Making a peace treaty will hurt our reputation and our wealth.”

“Hoo, fine. How long?”

“Hmm…maybe ten years?”

“WHAT”

Iceborn was a cold and treacherous place to live. The walls seated round the mountain of Iceborn were always coated in ice. The tops of the towers holding icicles nearly two feet long. With the power of magic, however, the scenery in the royal garden told otherwise. As if one were to never look up they would think it was perpetually spring. The glowing barrier blocking the harsh winds from coming in. El panting followed Ianna as he continued his training, running through the garden.

Though it had been a few weeks since his trial he was still relatively quiet. While he did speak here and there it was rare that he ever spoke more than a few sentences. Due to his now clingy nature. Ianna had been assigned to watch over him full-time now. His separation anxiety wasn’t lessening and Ianna seemed to be the perfect fit. She made sure to take care of him whenever his parents or Master En didn’t have time.

“Come on El! Just a bit more to go until the run is over!”

Why is running so hard? When I get stronger I need to learn a movement spell so I don’t have to run. His body was still weak but it was leaps and bounds better than before. He had consistently been able to run the full length now. With his increased endurance, his mom had agreed to finally teach him actual sword techniques now. All he had been doing before was endurance and arm training. He was also very excited to learn shadow magic. He had dabbled before but otherwise, all his magic lessons had been on ice magic.

Walking into the training grounds I saw mom writing notes into a book. My eyes were covered in white as Ianna wiped my hair down with a towel. I heard from dad that the reason he hadn’t taught me shadow magic was because mom wanted to. Being freed from Iannas grasps I looked up to see a book and a wooden sword in mom’s hands.

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“From now on we will be doing actual combat techniques and martial arts, not just strength and endurance.”

Handing me the sword and book she was taking notes on before. The sword felt comfortable in my hands if heavy. The book wasn’t too big maybe 50 pages at a glance. Turning my gaze to the title it read “ Shadow Boxing”.

“….”

Mom could somehow sense my emotions as she asked, “Hm? What’s wrong El?”

“Who named this? Terrible.”

“Hey! I thought it was a good name…”

“You wrote this?”

Turning back to me with a huff, mom continued, “ It is a special type of martial art that combines fist and sword movements with shadow magic. I made it myself. You will most likely be using ice magic to block spells and attack at medium to long-range. This can be used in close range and has many movement abilities.”

Opening the book the pages were filled with text as well as personal notes she wrote in to help me. ‘This martial art utilizes the shifting and transitory nature of shadows to duck in and out of shadows. By constantly moving you will be but a leaves fluttering shadow as you murder your enemies. The first few forms teach you the basic stances for all arts but focus on your core. The basis of all the forms is keeping track of your center of balance in order to properly shift your weight around as you move.’

“This sounds…”

“It sounds like a technique for assassins? That’s because it is. Did I never tell you? I was an assassin before I married your father?”

Nodding Ianna came to me with a glass of water. Putting it in my hands before drinking from her own. Mom quickly looked at her before smiling,” When was the last time we sparred?” Ianna coughed into her drink, pupils growing, and I could see her shaking.

“N-Not since I was a. y-your knight ma’am.”

“Then it’ll be a good refresher. I doubt you stopped practicing but it neva’ hurts to fight ‘gainst someone stronger.”

Why did she start slurring her words?

“We both use Shadow Boxing so i’ll be a good demonstration.”

“C-Can I at least use armor?”

“If you wan it dented.”

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With those words, Ianna’s entire body drooped. She honestly looked like she was going to cry. Moving towards the clearing I sat on one of the stone benches as they walked to opposite sides. The clearing was a dozen or so yards, big enough to allow quite a bit of movement. 

“Now you just watch to the best of your ability. I know you got a good memory so use this as a reference.”

Facing each other they both put their right foot forward, getting into the first stance I read. And it seemed Ianna had resolved herself for this fight. The determination in her eyes so deep you’d think she was in a war zone. Well for her she might as well be fighting for her life. I heard mom was a 4th stage warrior she was barely 2nd.

While think of such they both moved at the same time. Well calling it movement was weird, as the only thing I could see as they moved was the shadow on the ground. Where mom rushed forward, Ianna ran to her right. Dodging and attacking without even kicking up any dust. However, Iana couldn’t make enough distance as mom seemed to have predicted her movements. Closing in on Ianna she put constant pressure as Ianna tried to run. What happened next could only be described as a brawl. Mom attacked with punches and kicks to the chest and head as Ianna kept sliding underneath.

The peculiar thing however was the fact at times the punches mom threw out seemed to flash in and out of existence. Ianna’s movements as well seemed jarring as her entire body became hard to track as she seemed to teleport around mom. It looked like her body transformed into a block of darkness as Mom’s fists passed through her. Using this technique to dodge attacks she couldn’t avoid. This scene kept repeating itself till I saw, or didn’t see, a fist dig into Iannas side.

“Ahk-!”

She launched backward as her body bent. Crashing into the ground she held her stomach almost like she was going to throw up. Until she noticed a growing shadow on the ground. Rolling out of the way a plume of dust billowed into the air before she dodged again. This time the attack came right behind her.

Even after the dust settled I couldn’t find mom and neither could Ianna. A darkness covered Ianna as she was thrown into the air as mom or ma’am reappeared. Another punch to the gut and Ianna was lifted off the ground.  Her shadow grew larger underneath her before proceeding to kick Ianna away. This time however Ianna grabbed a hold of the foot before the shadow pulled them away. Using the momentum of the movement she tried to throw mom to the floor. 

Not even resisting it she flew before landing on her feet and hands. A chuckle escaping her lips.

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