A Change in Fate

November 5, 2012
By tico003 BRONZE, Surprise, Arizona
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tico003 BRONZE, Surprise, Arizona
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Favorite Quote:
It's never too late to be who you might have been.


Author's note: I started writing this because I was bored one day, but I actually ended up getting pretty into it. I know my writing's not fantastic, though I hope I was at least able to tell a good story.

The rain came pouring down that night with the streetlights flickering on and off. Kevin ran down the street, determined to get his sister back home safely. She’d gone to her friend’s house before the storm, but something had happened to her.
When Kevin called to make sure she was alright, someone answered the house phone, but then he heard screaming and the crunching of the phone being destroyed. His parents weren’t home that night; they had to handle a few “errands,” as they called them. They’d taken his youngest sister, Jackie, with them as well, leaving him alone that night. Kevin wasn’t the strongest, or the bravest or the most protective, but he wouldn’t let his sister get hurt. He could feel something wasn’t right, and the smashing of the phone confirmed that.
He’d been able to sense different types of energy in people for a long time now, like their determination or sadness, but in this case he felt an ominous energy coming from the presence of not only the storm, but from the number he called. Something was wrong; he knew this storm and this feeling couldn’t simply be a coincidence. His mother had told him not to go when she called him, but as the oldest at fifteen, he felt obligated to protect his two little sisters, and right now his nine-year-old sister Andrea needed his help. She’d always looked up to him, and now wasn’t going to be his time to let her down.

Kevin continued to run, approaching the house where his sister would be. The houses weren’t too far away, but it felt like an eternity of running to him with that bloodcurdling scream still ringing in his head. Thunder boomed and lightning crackled in the distance, igniting fear in Kevin’s heart. Rain beat down on his head, trying to dissuade him from his quest, but he would not allow it overcome him in his sister’s time of need. While Kevin was no swordsman or fighter, he had felt strange lately and had been able to do things he’d never thought his body was capable of.
His soccer practice the other day was only one example of these strange occurrences. Kevin had been dribbling down the field when Lance came in front of him to steal the ball. Lance was an overconfident, snotty, blond-haired know it all. Since fifth grade Lance just always had to beat Kevin at everything, including soccer.
Kevin and Lance had been considered rivals since this whole “competition” started, so Kevin wanted so badly to score the winning goal against Lance. All of a sudden Lance kicked the ball away, so to get it back Kevin somehow did an under-the-feet sweep kick, knocking Lance off his feet. He swiftly maneuvered around his fallen rival, and getting the ball back, scored the winning goal. He’d never been able to do anything even remotely like that before, but thought it was a fluke so he moved on.
The next day was even weirder though. A boy about his age in almost all black clothing appeared before him asking him to train or something. He had seen what Kevin did and wanted to teach him how to control his “power”. He’d said it was imperative in order to avoid some type of disaster. Kevin began to walk away thinking it was some kind of joke, but after only a few steps, he was tied in a type of white cloth.
The boy appeared in front of him then, his face as hard as stone, the white bandages around his left arm missing. He sent a series of images through Kevin’s mind to try to make him understand, pushing Kevin to his limit. He fell to his knees; his breathing was labored now as he saw those images of fighting and death.
The boy untied him then and agreed to let him think about what he’d seen, but warned him once again about the consequences of his actions. It was obvious that getting Kevin on his side was really important to him.
He knew something that Kevin wanted to find out, but was gone before Kevin could even blink. He was going to think about it, simply because of all the strange things happening, but wasn’t sure what he would even be training for or why. He wasn’t sure about the training, but he did want answers to why he could feel other people’s emotions and feel where they were. Kevin hadn’t seen the boy since then, but could feel his presence as he moved around. The boy felt cold all the time, hiding his emotions so well that he didn’t feel like any other human Kevin had met.
As he ran down the wet streets in the pouring rain to find his sister, Kevin had decided this was something he wanted to learn how to do in order to protect his family. He didn’t know why he changed his mind so easily, or why he suddenly wanted to hone this power, but there was just a feeling inside of him, telling him to do it. Kevin would figure out how to use this new strength in order to make sure nothing ever happened to his family, though wondered if he should have come to this conclusion sooner. His sister could be in trouble and he had no idea what he’d even do at this point or how to protect her, but there was no time for regret now.
Kevin turned one more corner and thought, Good. Only one more block. As he approached the house with his brown hair plastered to his head and his clothes sopping wet, a terrible roar emanated from that house, snaking fear into Kevin’s heart once again. It wasn’t human.
Now he had no choice though; there would be no turning back when his sister was in danger. “Drea!” he screamed over the thunder as he ran up the front porch and tried the door. It was locked. Kevin would have tried the windows, but had little confidence that he could break them after that monster’s roar failed to.
He looked around frantically for another entrance, but there was none. Kevin would have to break the door down if he wanted to get inside. Even with that thought, Kevin had no way or idea of how he would even attempt to break a door down. If he couldn’t get through a window, he had little confidence he could somehow get through the door. His mind was racing frantically, his heart beating rapidly, but he would do it with his sister inside. Maybe I can pick the lock! He thought, but he had nothing on him that he could use.
He didn’t really know where to start, so he would try the classic “close your eyes and focus” technique. Pretty much everybody in those television shows and action novels did this “technique” when they were in trouble and had no idea how to use their abilities. In this case though, he wasn’t seriously confident he had abilities, but if that boy wanted to recruit him, he must be able to do something.
So he did the same as those people, slowing down his breathing and blocking out everything else. The fact remained though that Kevin had no training, and therefore had no idea how to access this energy he supposedly had inside. Nonetheless he held his hand out to the door and focused. He imagined the mechanisms in the door twisting and turning, unlocking themselves, but nothing seemed to be happening.
He wouldn’t give up, but it was hard not to when he seemed so powerless. After a few minutes, Kevin couldn’t wait any longer; he’d have to try harder. As he did, all of a sudden he felt weak. He opened his eyes in surprise as he saw that the door did open. Kevin looked down to see his hand steaming as proof. Amazing, he thought. I opened it with my mind.
He stared down at his hand until a girl’s scream shocked him out of his revere. “Drea!” he yelled, his voice laced with worry. He ran through the doorway into the house filled with shadows and darkness. The door slammed and locked behind him somehow, but he was too worried to even notice it.
It was so quiet in the house, Kevin could’ve heard a pin drop. The only light came from the moonlight shining through the few windows in the front of the house. Kevin ran through the hallways, yelling his sister’s name, trying to see through the impediment of darkness blocking his vision. He ran from room to room, trying to sense where his sister would be.
As he came to the front room, Kevin felt two types of energies: fear and bloodlust. He adjusted his eyes to see his sister sitting near the window, outlined in the moonlight. Her eyes were locked in the shadows, not moving from the spot even as he approached her.

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“Drea?” spoke Kevin quietly as he kneeled down beside Drea. She continued to stare at the piercing eyes of the beast, hearing her brother, but not willing to let the beast out of her sight. She needed to know its position; she couldn’t just give it the chance to hide in the shadows once again. That thing was powerful, it was violent, it was inhuman, and its bloodlust was so strong she could feel its intent to kill from across the room.
Drea didn’t even truly understand what had happened to her friend and mother, but it was as if she could feel them. They had a certain aura to them; it was like Drea was able to connect with them and feel the energy coming from them. She had been able to recognize people based on their energy for some time, and when she focused on what she had felt coming from them, Drea knew they hadn’t been eaten or killed or even had run away, but that they became the monster. Somehow they had transformed into that creature, that’s why they “left” before it showed up.
Drea had been sitting in the dining room when they said they’d be back, but then the storm hit and the power went out. She got up and went to the kitchen where she saw this monster. She ran into the living room in an attempt to get away, to get to the door, but she only prevailed in getting stuck in the corner in the living room while the beast watched her from the darkness. She didn’t even know why it wanted to kill her, but it did, and it wasn’t going to stop until she was gone.
“Drea” whispered Kevin, “you ok?” He completely disregarded his own safety when he saw the look on his little sister’s face, but Drea wondered if he even realized the beast was there. He scanned her worriedly as though some piece of her might have gotten hurt. She was perfectly fine.
That’s when it hit her like a load of bricks; the monster wasn’t after her, she was only the bait. It was after Kevin. That’s why it had waited to kill her, leaving her unharmed to lull her brother into this false sense of security. It still waited though, unmoving as Kevin sat next to her.
“Come on Drea” she heard her brother saying, “Let’s get you out of here.” As he got up, trying to pull her up with him, Drea felt a change in the beast’s energy, a change Kevin didn’t seem to notice. It was preparing to attack, it was beginning to pounce towards them, but it was already too late when Drea yelled “Get down!”
There wasn’t enough time for him to move out of the way and save her at the same time. The monster was already moving towards them at an incredible speed; it was only a few more seconds before it would be upon them. Kevin knew that; Drea could see it in his eyes, yet he still didn’t move out of the way.
He positioned himself sturdily in front of her, his arms crossed out in front of him to protect his chest and his sister. It was the only thing that he could do with the little time he had left if he wanted to keep her safe. There wasn’t even enough time for Kevin to focus to try and come up with a plan to save them both with the beast converging on them. He knew what would happen, but still he remained, his resolve unwavering. If he survived by cowardice, abandoning his sister, Kevin would never be able to forgive himself. “Kevin!” screamed Drea as the monster stopped right in front of him.
It slashed at his stomach with its terrible claws. It was as if the world was moving in slow motion as Drea saw her brother fall. He fell slowly, landing on his side. Kevin’s blood stained the floor and the beast’s claws, and as the monster took in the sight of his prey, Drea took in the sight of the monster.
It was a wolf-like creature standing upright like a human, its deep purple fur outlined in the moonlight. It was probably six feet tall or more with hooked claws extending about five inches out of its huge paws. Its eyes were the most terrible part though; they shone red in the darkness, with a black slit running through them like that of a cat’s eye. Somehow this thing used to be her friend, but now it stared at her with cold eyes, almost smiling as the tears streamed down her cheeks.
Drea wanted so badly to go around in front of the monster to see Kevin’s face, to hear his last words, but she couldn’t move; she was paralyzed with fear by this beast. The only thing Drea was capable of was looking at Kevin’s blood drip of its black claws. It looked at her and said in a deep voice, “Pathetic.” Then it turned its attention back to its prey.
It was about to deliver the final blow when a shadow smashed through a window with the clang of broken glass, stopping the wolf’s claws with a foot-long knife. It was a boy who looked to be Kevin’s age, standing at about five foot seven. He had obvious skills with a knife, but Drea felt much more than that in him.
He was cold, almost like the wolf; there wasn’t much feel at all to his energy. He lacked the bloodlust though, taking on a type of neutral feel. It was as if he was used to this kind of occurrence, but Drea could still feel a sense of duty in his heart and his desire to protect. He looked back at her with his powerful green eyes as he saw her crying in fear and pain, her heart practically breaking at this point.
Then he turned his attention back towards the wolf, still struggling to keep the claws at bay. He held the knife with both hands so he wouldn’t get cut, holding the wolf off somehow. He kicked the wolf in the stomach quickly, sending it flying backwards into the shadows. The boy followed it out of sight. Drea could hear the sounds of their fight across the room as she sat staring in their direction, listening to their dance coupled with the clang of metal on claws.
Kevin grunted, trying to move, snapping Drea back to her reality. She crawled around to the other side of him to see his face and hear his voice again. “Kevin.” she whispered, rolling him onto his back. That’s when she saw the cuts deep in his stomach and the blood pooling around them. His flesh was completely torn, and the inside of his stomach probably was too, but all the blood covered it up like a veil of red trying to obscure her vision.
Somewhere deep inside her she knew it was hopeless, but that didn’t stop her from clinging to her brother’s life. She had to do something or he would die, but Drea had never been in a situation like this; she had no inkling of what she would do. Kevin looked up at her, smiling a sad smile as he saw the tears run down her face. Blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth as he did so. Kevin lifted his hand up to Drea and put it on her cheek where she held it for him. He felt cold, his life ebbing out of him with every moment that passed.
“Don’t worry Kevin” she whispered, “I won’t let you die here. I’ll get you home safe.” She continued to cry as he wiped her tears with his thumb. She was about to start ripping her clothing up to try and make some sort of makeshift bandage when he interrupted her.
“No Drea,” he said quietly, “My time is up. These wounds are too deep and you know that.” His voice was raspy, his breathing labored. He used his other hand to reach under his shirt, revealing a golden necklace. It was a beautiful chain with a charm shaped like a tiny shuriken. It was golden with white accents where the blades would be.
He snapped it off his neck and handed it to Drea. It was warm, almost burning under her fingers, but she paid no attention to it as she listened to his final words: “I want you to have this, Drea. Remember me by it. Keep it close to you. When you’re in trouble, hold onto it and help will arrive. I’ll always protect you.” He ended in a whisper as his hand went limp in Drea’s hands. She could practically feel the life leave his body. “Kevin!” she screamed as more tears fell from her face.
Then a terrible roar echoed from the other side of the room. She looked over in a panic; Drea had completely forgotten about the boy and the monster. The roar wasn’t like before though; it was painful this time and felt like it was weakening in intensity.
She saw the beast fall suddenly as its head and torso slipped out of the shadows. It began to dissolve into the darkness, disappearing right before her eyes as if it never existed. The monster was gone. She automatically noticed that the necklace was cooling off; it was no longer burning as it was before, but it was still warm in her hands.
Footsteps then echoed from the shadows. The boy had survived, somehow defeating the wolf. He emerged from the darkness where Drea could finally see what he looked like. He was dressed in a loose black t-shirt with black cargo pants. The rest of his arms were covered in white bandages, but it didn’t look like he was injured in any way.
His short, black hair shone in the moonlight as he walked towards Drea, cleaning and hiding his knife in the folds of his shirt. He kneeled next to Drea and looked over at Kevin. He did look sad, but his demeanor still felt cold. He was as still as a statue until he ruffled his hand through his hair to wipe some of the blood away from his eyes. The monster must’ve hit him in the head or something.
Drea looked at him in disbelief as he sighed what seemed like a sigh of disappointment. He didn’t even shed a tear for her brother. It was like he didn’t even care. Who was this boy to sit around and act like this was normal for him?
He reached out and closed Kevin’s eyes carefully, not looking at Drea as he did so. Blood was still pooling around them, but despite that, Kevin now looked serene, in an almost grotesque sort of way. Drea couldn’t stand to look at him, the color ebbing out of his face, his body becoming still. It was only the boy’s mock concern that let her turn away: “I apologize for not following your brother more closely. If I had kept a better eye on him, I wouldn’t have shown up so late.” He continued to look down at Kevin like he’d failed, like he was the one who should be sad, like all that mattered was the fact that he couldn’t be there in time.
Drea couldn’t take it anymore. Her brother was the one who died and yet he was acting as if it was hurting him! It seemed like he didn’t even care about what had happened, and that he only cared that he had failed in watching over her brother. She could feel no compassion in him, only that gnawing sense of disappointment.
She grabbed him by the front of the shirt and pulled him towards her, anger mixing with sadness dancing on her face. “How can you just sit there like you don’t care?!” Drea yelled as she looked his straight in the eyes. “Does it even matter to you that my brother died? You act like it was your fault and like you’re the one hurting.” She gripped his shirt even tighter. “You don’t care, do you?”
It was dangerously quiet. He continued to stare at her as if neither she nor her brother mattered to him. That only made Drea even angrier, so angry that she took her right hand and punched him right across the face. Hard enough to hurt her knuckles should be hard enough to hurt his face. He swiveled his head back around to face her, his eyes wide with disbelief at what she had just done. “How can you be so cold that death no longer matters to you?” She said as her voice broke with the sadness overtaking her. “You crash in here to defeat that thing and yet you’re just like that monster if you can’t even recognize the value in human life.” She let go of his shirt and set her eyes down upon Kevin once again, the reality of his death sinking in.
The boy still stared at Drea with that surprised look on his face. He could feel her aura because of his training, but he hadn’t expected her to also be able to feel his aura. She was able to feel it so well that she saw things in him that he wasn’t even willing to admit to himself. Somehow she was able to achieve this level of power without any type of training. She was even able to feel his entire being just by being near him, and what she said hit him hard. To be compared to such a monster was unfathomable. Sure, he’d been doing this for a while, but why didn’t he still feel the pain that this girl was feeling? What had he lost? He pondered that as he watched Drea look down at her brother, sadness in her eyes.
“I’m so selfish,” she whispered. “I put my own life before his… I couldn’t even move with that monster here. I couldn’t save him. I couldn’t do anything.” Drea couldn’t even cry anymore; she’d cried so much that her tears were all dried up. Her face felt as though it was contorted permanently in sadness, her expression fixed in pain. She only wished she knew why he’d given up his life for hers.
“He protected you because he would never have been able to forgive himself if you had died. You meant everything to him. You know that don’t you?” He said, making it seem like he’d known Kevin for his whole life. Now it was Drea’s turn to stare at him in disbelief. How had he known that about Kevin? This boy was definitely something special.
He sighed as if contemplating something as he looked down at Kevin one last time before turning to Drea once again. “I’m afraid I can’t let you remember what you’ve seen here tonight. You seem to be like your brother in more ways than you know,” referring indirectly to her ability to sense aura. “It’ll only put you and your family in more danger if you were to remember this.” Now he did seem genuinely sad as he stood up and stared down at her.
At first Drea didn’t understand, but then the full weight of the situation hit her: she wouldn’t be able to remember her brother’s final moments. “You’d really force me to forget what happened here tonight?” Drea said as she stood up, the fear of forgetting creeping into her heart. She may have only been nine, but the height difference between her and him made no difference to her.
“You won’t remember the wolf or myself, but I’ll allow you to keep the memories of your brother, even if it is against the rules,” he said with bits of compassion finally creeping into his heart. It was obvious he didn’t want to break the rules, but he seemed to be resolved to help her after she punched him. “It won’t hurt at all.” The boy got down on one knee so he could look Drea in the eyes. His eyes began to glow purple as he focused in on her thoughts.
All Drea could remember was a white light enveloping her vision. She remembered the feeling of someone invading her thoughts, of someone prying into her secrets and moving in her mind. Whenever she tried to access her memories of that night, the white light always came back. She tried to hang on to them as he wiped them all away.
Slowly she forgot about her friend and her mom, about the wolf, and even about the boy, but just before all her memory was lost in that white light, she asked, “What’s your name?” Her voice echoed as she said it. Drea wanted to know at least the name of her savior, even if she would forget it. This boy was something special, she knew it, but she just didn’t know why. It’s too late, she thought; he must’ve been gone already and her memory along with him. Finally she heard, “Daniel,” just as her mind went completely blank and she lost consciousness.

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Drea woke up in her room. She lay on her bed, unsure of where she was. She must’ve stared at the ceiling for an hour before she found the energy to get up; she was feeling weak for some reason.
She got up out of bed and looked around; something seemed like it was missing, but she couldn’t quite remember what it was. Drea thought she’d see Kevin to find out. He’ll know what’s going on, she thought cheerfully as she walked across the hall to his room.
“Hey Kevin…” She stopped right in the middle of her sentence when she saw he wasn’t there. Where did he go? She wondered. Just as she was about to go downstairs to ask her mother, the scattered memories of that night flooded back to her.
She saw her brother fall and bleed, but had no memory of why they were in a strange house and how he had even gotten hurt. Drea fell on her hands and knees as the memories of her brother came back to her painfully. It hurt to remember in the same way it hurt to forget.
After her brother died, she must’ve fainted, and that’s when an ambulance or something had come to get them. Yeah, that’s it. Then why did it feel wrong though? Wouldn’t she be in a hospital if an ambulance had come by? Her memory of his death came in pieces, like someone came in and cut out some parts with a scissors. She did remember him dying though and that hit her the hardest; knowing that she would never see him again made her feel so small and empty inside.

As she sat there on her hands and knees, she remembered one more piece of that night: Kevin had given her the golden shuriken necklace.
Where is it? Drea thought frantically, until she finally noticed something hurting her hand as she squeezed it closed on the floor. She opened it to see that the chain was still in her hand, and she was holding it so tightly that it cut into her palm causing droplets of blood to drift slowly down her hand; it was somehow cool under her fingers even though she had been holding it for so long. Kevin had given it to her before he passed, telling her to keep it close to her so he could always be with her. She began to cry again as she watched the blood dribble out, thinking about the way she remembered it pouring out of Kevin.
All he ever wanted to do was to keep her and Jackie safe, which must’ve been the reason he was gone and she wasn’t, but still she could not remember. She didn’t know what she was even protected from that night, but she knew she couldn’t let what he had done for her be in vain.
Now it was her turn to protect the family and take on the burden that Kevin had carried to his death. Drea would protect everyone now as he had done his entire life; she’d make sure nothing ever happened to them ever again. She could only imagine the amount of pain her little sister and parents felt at Kevin’s death if she felt so terribly about it.
Drea looked at the chain in her hand, feeling the smooth gold in her hands. She wiped her eyes defiantly and held up the chain. As she put it around her neck she made this promise to herself: to protect her family no matter what.
She didn’t remember exactly how Kevin had died, but she knew he did it to protect her and she wouldn’t dare forget that. She’d take on his job; Drea only hoped that she could do it as well as he had done. She only wanted to please him and protect the family he held so dear. She would no longer be afraid, and even without any type of fighting abilities, she would put herself in harm’s way to prevent another situation like this from ever happening again.
She stood up and wiped the last of the tears from her eyes. It was decided. She would no longer be the same Drea that everyone knew; she would be stronger, tougher, and she would become the hero that this family needed. It would be her burden now, and she’d bear it proudly. Drea would live up to her brother’s name. She would protect them no matter what.

“Drea, could you get up already?!” yelled Jackie, “It is a school day and breakfast is already on the table.” Jackie continued to shake Drea until she sat up and said groggily, “Alright Jackie I’m already awake.”
“Then why was I up here shaking you to wake you up?” Jackie said smugly.
“I don’t know, why?” Drea replied playfully as she got up and went to her closet to get her school uniform on.
“Shut up Drea.” Jackie chuckled.
Drea stepped into her closet to change into the short blue skirt and white short-sleeved dress shirt. Jackie already had her school uniform on, but it was a little different since she went to the elementary school. She wore a white sailor shirt with the same short blue skirt and black knee socks. Drea was just buttoning the last few buttons as she opened her closet door and stepped out. She grabbed her hair brush and stood in front of the mirror as Jackie watched from her bed.
As she brushed her long brown hair, Drea started thinking about a few things. Lately she’d noticed that she’d been able to do amazing things- things that normal people weren’t able to do. She was able to reach her consciousness out of her body to feel all the things going on around her.
When she was little, she was only able to feel the aura and energy of someone, but over the years she began to feel the location of people and their emotions and thoughts. She could extend her mind out towards other people to feel who they were inside. All their emotions and thoughts became clear to her along with their energies and auras.
At first Drea thought it must be some kind of thing where her senses were somehow heightened, but she began to realize that that type of thing wouldn’t allow her to actually feel everything going on around her. It was like Drea knew someone else’s intentions before they actually did anything.
She didn’t even have any idea how she could move her mind out of her body or how she could sense people’s auras, but decided that she would learn to use it in order to protect her family, or at least to be part of something bigger than just her. Her only wish was that she could figure out how to learn to use these abilities, something she had no idea how to do. Most of the time she even tried to use her abilities, she began to feel dizzy or lose clarity, so she needed to find a way to use them well.
“Drea.” She wanted to protect her sister Jackie just like Kevin had protected her so many years ago.
“Drea!” Jackie’s concerned voice snapped Drea out of her daydreams. Drea turned around to see Jackie’s worried face staring back at her surprised one. She forced a smile through her heavy thoughts. “Sorry ‘bout that Jackie, I’ve just got a lot on my mind today.”
“You sure you’re ok?” asked Jackie, looking completely unconvinced. Even though she was only eleven and Drea was fifteen, Jackie never ceased to worry about her older sister since Kevin passed. She knew Jackie didn’t remember much of him, but she still missed him the way she did.
“Yeah, I’m fine Jackie,” smiled Drea as she took a seat next to Jackie on her bed. She pulled on her black knee socks and tied her blue tie to finish off her uniform. Then she got up and went to her desk to put her school books in her shoulder bag as Jackie watched her.
“You still look really out of it if you ask me,” Jackie said suspiciously.
Drea smiled back one of those fake smiles, saying, “Trust me Jackie. I’m ok. There’s no need to be so worried about me.” Her voice ended in a whisper.
Just as she said that, she froze suddenly. It felt like someone was watching them. She felt that tingling feeling that made her feel as though someone’s eyes were locked upon her. Drea turned around to look at her window, but there was no one there.
What this person didn’t know though, was that Drea could still feel their presence close by. They may have moved out of her line of sight, but she knew they were still there. It was like her senses alerted her to someone strange, and she wasn’t about to just let them fool her. Drea thought she’d try out her abilities to see who this person was, so she extended her mind out to this person.
They felt… cold, but familiar in some way. How can this aura be familiar? As far as Drea remembered, she had never felt someone quite like this; someone who was cold, but kind, fierce, but gentle. I need to see who this is, she thought, though she wasn’t exactly sure how to find out. Maybe I can reach my mind even further into theirs. She tried to reach into their mind, but just as she reached their consciousness, she felt a type of wall come up to stop her.
It was extremely strong, reverberating with power. Before Drea even had time to react, this person turned the tables on her. They were invading her mind. But how? How do they know how to get into my mind?
They were digging into her, trying to discover who she was. It was painful as they shifted through her memories and her consciousness, sapping all the energy out of her. Drea could no longer stand anymore. She dropped her bag and fell to the floor, her eyes widening with terror as her things clattered out everywhere.
She heard Jackie running over to her, yelling her name as she kneeled down in front of her. Drea was having trouble focusing now. Her vision was blurring with everything being drowned out by the pain, even her hearing was getting worse. She didn’t black out though, since just before she lost consciousness, the pain in her head began to subside. They were retreating out of her mind. She blinked as her eyes started to come back into focus. Her hearing also began to return as she heard Jackie saying, “Drea what happened?”
Drea groaned and tried to get up with Jackie’s help. “Come on Drea. We’ve got to call the doctor, something’s wrong.”
“No,” said Drea quietly. “I don’t want you to tell mom and dad. I just got a little lightheaded, that’s all.”
“But Drea!”
“No Jackie. I’m serious,” said Drea more forcefully as she got to her knees. “I don’t want you to tell them anything. I’ll be fine so let’s just go downstairs to eat.”
Drea forced herself up, using her desk as a handhold while Jackie watched nervously. She bent down and grabbed her bag to put the books she dropped back in it. She wasn’t even extremely sure how that person had gotten into her mind, but she wasn’t about to involve Jackie in what happened. Jackie didn’t know anything about the way Drea was able to use her mind and Drea didn’t need her to know about that right now. She worried about her older sister enough as it is and Drea didn’t want Jackie to put a bigger burden upon herself.
She sighed and said, “Alright Jackie let’s get going.” Jackie still wasn’t looking too happy about what happened, but nonetheless she walked out the door and went downstairs. Drea was just about to follow her when she realized she had forgotten her charm.
She trotted back to her desk where her golden necklace was. Her older brother, Kevin, had given it to her on the day of his death, just before he died six years ago. Drea wore it every day to remember him and keep him close. It was a golden shuriken consisting of four blades sprouting off of the circular handhold in the middle. It had white gold on the edges where the blades were.
Drea moved her fingers over the smooth, ice-cold gold, caressing it in her fingers as she remembered her older brother. She was there when he died, but she didn’t talk about it much. There was always a place inside of her that felt like it was her fault that Kevin died. Everyone told her she was wrong, that it was some sort of freak accident, but deep inside her she couldn’t destroy those feelings of guilt.
She was there when he died, but Drea didn’t even have a great memory of what even happened that night. There were only certain pieces of her memory that she could remember, like her brother falling as he bled and him giving her the necklace, but that was about it. The rest was blank. Drea knew there had to be more to what happened, but every time she tried to reach those memories, there was nothing there. She just didn’t have the key to unlock what was hidden from her.
Her parents had told her that her friend and mother had knifed Kevin when he came to save her, and then disappeared. They’d never been caught or anything, and the police had no idea where they would’ve gone. Apparently her parents had gotten her from the hospital and taken her home where she woke up later that day. She’d wanted to believe that story for so long, but something about it just didn’t seem right. Something told her that there was more to what happened that night. She sighed at the thought as she put on the necklace like she did every day.
She headed out the door and made her way downstairs where she found her parents and sister sitting in the kitchen eating breakfast.
Jackie gave Drea a concerned look, which Drea ignored as she went over to get herself a cream cheese bagel for breakfast. She hung her bag on her chair while she stood to eat it. Their mother was doing the dishes and their father was reading the newspaper while Jackie ate her cereal. Their mornings were actually pretty quiet since there was never all that much to talk about, so their mother started with the usual, “How was your morning Jackie?” Jackie innocently ate another bite of cereal and said, “Oh mine was fine, but Drea-”
“Drea was just having a bit of trouble sleeping last night because of all the things she’s got on her mind.” Drea interrupted with a tone to suggest a warning to her sister with a look to match.
“You sure you’re alright today Drea?” said her mother, giving Drea that same warning tone about using that tone with her sister.
“Yeah mom, just tired.” And that was the end of that conversation. The excitement of a school morning never ended.
They were silent for a while after that with each one of them going back to whatever they were doing. Then their dad looked at his watch and took out his wallet to give Drea her lunch money before her and Jackie left. “Alright Drea five dollars today right?” asked her father as he took out a bill and handed it to her. “Don’t lose it.” It was five dollars for lunch every couple days so Drea just had to make sure she didn’t lose it over the course of those days. Yeah, lose it, she thought sarcastically. Someone would steal it before she even had the chance to lose it.
Drea was not the most popular kid in school, so of course she became the victim of the classic “bully steals your lunch money” situation. Mean girls absolutely loved to pick on her because of her quiet demeanor. She’d gotten pretty creative at finding new hiding places in her clothes where no one would be able to steal her money though. The perks to being clever: making the bully look like an idiot when they can’t find your money. “Thanks dad,” smiled Drea as she pocketed her money.
“Why can’t I take money like Drea?” asked Jackie, always wanting to be like her older sister.
“Because I made you such a wonderful lunch,” said their mother cheerfully, handing Jackie the classic brown paper bag. Jackie sighed as she accepted it, looking disappointed. She looked up to Drea even more so since Kevin died, so she would’ve loved to take money too. Drea didn’t blame her though; she’d always felt like a dork bringing bagged lunch.
“Alright girls time to get going,” said their mom as she looked at the clock, “Drea, you make sure you watch your sister.”
“Yeah mom,” responded Drea as she finished up the last bites of her bagel. “You ready Jackie?” She picked up her bag from the chair and slung it over her shoulder.
“Yup.” Jackie ran to the sink to put her bowl away just before she grabbed her bag off the floor and headed for the door, Drea right behind her.
Since Drea went to the high school and Jackie went to the elementary school, school didn’t actually start at the same time for them, but their parents felt better if they walked together. Jackie was always about an hour early, but her friends were there so she really didn’t mind too much. Their parents had gotten very overprotective after Kevin passed, but that was pretty expected. Jackie couldn’t be out much by herself without Drea, and Drea couldn’t leave the house for more than a few hours before her parents started having a heart attack. That’s the reason Drea had a cell phone though: protection, forget about friends.
They walked down the street in silence. Drea still had a lot going on in her head, especially with her sudden encounter that morning. She noticed Jackie stealing looks at her, but kept on walking. Jackie must’ve felt a little guilty about almost telling mom and dad earlier, but Drea had already forgotten about that.
They walked together for the few blocks to their schools since the elementary and high schools were right next to each other. They were on the same campus, but of course there were the high school areas and the elementary areas. The elementary school was on the left and the high school was on the right from the main gate. It was pretty separated that way, but Jackie and Drea saw each other periodically.
As they reached the main gate, Jackie looked to Drea. “Look Drea I’m sorry about before, but are you sure you’ll be ok?”
Drea returned her look with a smile. “I’ll be completely fine Jackie. Ok? Don’t worry so much about me, worry about yourself for a change.”
“Ok Drea,” she said sounding exhausted. “See you later then.” Jackie trotted over to where her two friends, Jenny and Keisha, were waiting for her. They were all eleven years old, about the same height too. They came early just to keep her company, but they did homework and projects too of course. The three of them stood in their little triangle, talking and laughing cheerfully. Drea stood smiling as she watched them. It must be nice to have friends like that, she thought to herself forlornly.
Drea never had friends like her sister did because of the “in her head”, quiet type of attitude she adopted in school; to most people it seemed like she didn’t care to talk with people or make friends. She always retreated so far into herself that she found it hard to make friends. Drea was never the most popular or standout person either, fading into the background most of the time during school.
She didn’t have a whole bunch of friends, but she did have her best friend Karen who stuck around her despite her quiet demeanor. Karen was just about the perkiest person Drea had ever met; they were complete opposites.
Drea walked on to her side of the school, which was to the right of the gate. There were four gates in all: one for each of the cardinal directions with north being the main gate. Walls were in between the gates to stop kids from getting out. Drea walked nonchalantly past benches, trees, and other kids preparing to start the day. She looked at her phone and saw that she still had another ten minutes before class started, so she decided she’d take a leisurely slow walk up to the classroom.
Just before Drea entered the school building, she heard someone call, “Drea!” She turned around in surprise since no one besides Karen usually wanted to speak with her. As she did, she smiled in seeing Drake, her lab partner. He seemed like a nice guy, but she always felt like there was something off about him. She tried to be nice though. “Hey Drake, you need something?”
“Well I was just wondering if you were alright. You’re looking a little off today.” That was a strange thing to say; Drea was acting the same as she did every other day. Something wasn’t right, so she decided she’d find what he was thinking. She’d been the victim of many pranks before, and she really didn’t have the desire to fall prey to another one. Probably not the smartest idea based on what happened that morning, but she was just getting this bad feeling about Drake.
To stall a little bit of time she said, “Well I don’t think you know me well enough to say that I’m looking a little off. Don’t you agree?” almost ending with a threatening tone in her fake cheery act. She forced her mind out towards his when she said it, but was met with another wall. He knew more than he was letting on.
Drea pulled back and felt his aura instead. He felt cold and hostile, but that wasn’t all. The sense of bloodlust coming out of him was unmistakable. Her eyes widened, faintly remembering something like this; the feeling felt so nostalgic, but she didn’t remember feeling it. In that instant, she noticed her necklace was burning when it was cold as ice only a few minutes ago. It was tucked under her shirt, searing her skin with its intensity. It was never so hot, not that she could remember anyway.
Drake was saying something, but she couldn’t hear it. Shattered pieces of memories were coming back to her; it hurt, forcing Drea to her knees. She saw Kevin dying again, but with that same bloodlust choking her and surrounding her in her memories. She hadn’t remembered this when she thought of her brother’s death at all. The feeling was so familiar though, it was unbearable.
All of a sudden, it subsided. It was no longer crushing her, but the feeling was scorched into her memory. There was no mistaking it; the night that Kevin died that bloodlust was strong, but how could she have not remembered a feeling such as that?
Drake was bending down next to her saying, “Are you ok?” He seemed so caring, but Drea knew it was a lie. He had that same bloodlust that she now remembered from that fateful night. She wasn’t about to trust him.
“I’m fine,” she said, forcing herself up. He tried to help her, but she whacked his hand away. “You stay away from me. Got it?” she said threateningly with a new found confidence she didn’t know she had. Drea wasn’t the type of person to pick a fight, but this time it was different.
She felt this overwhelming desire to attack him even. There was no explanation for it, she just really wanted to rip this guy apart, and she would if he didn’t stay away. Drea couldn’t decipher this feeling, but it almost felt natural for her. She’d never felt this type of feeling before, and yet it felt right. Her own desire to be violent frightened her, but for some reason it was only Drake whom made her feel this way.
“Hold on, what happened Drea?” Drake was staring at her as if she’d gone crazy. Maybe I have lost my mind.
“You just better stay away from me or I’ll hit you so hard your nose will break.” And with that, Drea ran into the school building, resting her head in her hands. When she was inside the doors, she slumped to the floor. That feeling she had had disappeared as though it never existed, but she knew it was one hundred percent real. She didn’t want to hurt him anymore, but she didn’t even know what had come over her. Drea usually wasn’t like that, but that feeling of bloodlust was just so strong that she couldn’t stand it.
She held onto her charm, noticing a decrease in its temperature. Within minutes, it was cool once again, even though she had been holding it so tightly. As she stared at it, she realized the one other place it had felt hot: when Kevin had given it to her. In the six years after that though it had never burned as it just did so why now? She didn’t really remember that night, but she did remember receiving it from him. She’d thought the necklace was hot because it was under his shirt, yet the fact that it never burned so much in those six years, even when she wore it under her shirts every day, made her think she could’ve been wrong.
Drea got up from the floor and began to go to her first class once again. She didn’t have a lot of time anymore, so she went swiftly up the stairs and down the hall to the room. Just as she got to the door, her eccentric friend Karen appeared right behind her and yelled, “Drea!” in her usual cheerful manner.
Everyone thought Karen was way too perky and cheerful to be hanging out with someone like Drea, but for whatever reason, Karen enjoyed being friends with her. It must’ve started six years ago, right after Kevin passed. Karen had seen Drea sitting alone in the park where they always used to hang out. She sat down next to her and started talking to her. Drea felt so happy that someone wanted to talk with her like Karen had. Slowly she started to open up to Karen, so much so that Karen now knew everything about Drea, including why she seemed so withdrawn. The only thing she didn’t know was the part about Drea’s abilities. Drea did plan on telling her though, she just didn’t know when or how.
“Hey Karen,” said Drea as she bent down to pick up the books she had dropped. They walked into the room and took a seat. Before class started, the first hour classrooms were kind of like a hangout for everyone. During class, Drea sat in the front of the room while Karen sat somewhere in the middle.
Drea walked in and took her usual seat in the chair closest to the door while Karen sat atop of Drea’s desk like she always did. Karen was smiling as usual while Drea looked around the room. A bunch of kids had already gathered in the room to talk before class started.
“Good morning Drea. How are you?” said Karen kindly.
“I suppose I’m doing alright. Bit tired this morning. And you?”
“Come on Drea, you of all people should know that I’m always doing well. You seem a bit off today, you sure you’re alright?” Seems that just about everyone was concerned about her today. She was getting tired of it.
“I’m fine Karen; thinking about a lot of stuff lately. Drake was bugging me this morning.”
“Ooo Drake?” she said excitedly, moving forward on her desk, “He’s hot! Did he ask you out?”
“He’s not hot Karen. He’s a jerk and there’s something really wrong with him. Keep away from him.” Drea took on a tone so serious that Karen stopped talking and looked at her as if she was trying to discover how the gears were turning in her head.
“Drea… what happened with him?” she said quietly, so quietly, it felt as though all other movement had ceased. Drea took a deep breath; she was about to tell her best friend about what she could do when Karen slid off her desk to stand beside her. “Trouble,” she whispered to Drea.
Drea looked ahead at the door to see Crystal and her two friends, Katie and Kaia entering the room. They were in the same grade as Drea, but all three of them had just moved there recently. They were considered the most popular girls in school too, and as school goes, the popular kids absolutely loved picking on the not-so-popular kids. In this situation, Drea was considered one of those not-so-popular kids that Crystal just loved to pick on. Drea really didn’t know why since she really didn’t allow much of anything to get to her, but each day Crystal got some kind of high from attempting to make her feel like a freak.
Drea sat up straight and sighed as Crystal approached her. She came up to Drea and sat on top of her desk like she owned the place. It wasn’t playful and friendly like Karen though, Crystal made sure to do it as insultingly as possible. She crossed her legs and looked down at Drea as if she owned the place. The queen was sitting on top of her castle, looking the jester up and down with disgust. Katie and Kaia came up and stood behind her with those I’m-better-than-you looks.
“Hello Drea, and how are we today?” said Crystal in the annoying little voice she liked to use. Maybe she actually did think she was a queen.
“How much do we care today?” Drea mimicked in that squeaky, high pitched voice of hers.
“Good point sweetie.” She inspected her nails and said, “You know I’ve gotten pretty bored with this conversation, so how ‘bout you just give me the money that I know you have hidden in your shoes and I can move along.”
Drea got up out of her chair and glared at Crystal with one of those “over my dead body” looks. The money didn’t really bother her, it was her thinking she was better than everyone else that bothered her. “How ‘bout you get off your high horse and get lost,” still mimicking her squeaky little voice in an insultingly sarcastic tone.
Crystal smiled menacingly as she got off the desk and came over to Drea. If was almost as if she had discovered something about Drea that she didn’t even know herself from the way she looked at her. Crystal put her hand on her shoulder and said, “You’re really something, aren’t you Drea? I hope you start to understand soon.”
She didn’t know what Crystal meant by that, but within a couple of seconds, that same feeling of someone invading her mind came back to her, but it was different from that morning. Both times were painful, though this seemed much worse. It was like a needle was scrapping at the sides of her skull. They weren’t looking for her secrets though, this was an intentional pain; it was meant to drain her body and force her to the ground, unlike that morning when it was like they were just looking for something. It felt like hot iron was flooding through her veins with Crystal’s touch.
Her necklace started burning ferociously again. It hadn’t done that when someone got into her mind that morning so why was it burning now? And so soon after what had happened with Drake? It continued to scorch her skin as the pain got worse. She wasn’t sure what was going on now, with her eyes swimming and her shoulder and necklace burning painfully.
Without even knowing it, Drea’s body moved on its own accord. She knocked away Crystal’s hand with a quick flick of her wrist, before performing an under-the-feet sweep kick to land Crystal on her butt. Before she knew it, Crystal was on the floor staring up at Drea with a surprised look on her face. Katie and Kaia were gathering around her to gauge her reaction. At this point, a whole bunch of kids were looking at them, sniffing out a fight. Seems like everybody in high school loved to stick around to watch people beat each other up.
It was completely silent as everyone waited for what would come next. The burning in her charm stopped increasing in intensity suddenly, becoming hot, but not scorching. It was like it was calming down now for some reason, though it still didn’t return to its cold state. Karen stood next to Drea in surprise, looking from Drea to Crystal before a smile broke out on her face.
“Nice job Drea! I didn’t know you could do stuff like that!” She patted Drea on the shoulder approvingly. Drea just stood there though, unmoving and unsure of what had happened.
I can’t do things like that though, she thought slowly. How did I do it? It was almost like and instinct; when she felt that burning touch on her shoulder her body told her what to do. Drea had never done something like that, and she didn’t even realize she’d done it. It felt like she was looking at someone from the outside, wishing she could do stuff like that. What did I just do? She looked down at Crystal with wonder.
In an instant Crystal got over her confusion. She got up and brushed herself off. Drea continued to look down, unable to move from the leaden feel her body had taken on. The teacher, Ms. Kray, walked in to see Crystal looking at Drea with murderous eyes and the whole class scattered around the room staring at them in silence.
She stopped and said, “Alright I don’t care what’s going on here, but the all of you need to sit down so I can start my class. Drea, Crystal, break it up. Now.” Everyone slowly moved to their seats as Ms. Kray went to the board to write the lesson plan. Karen moved slowly away to her seat, looking at Drea with a concerned look on her face. Only Drea and Crystal still stood.
Crystal shoved past Drea on the way to her seat saying, “Seems you’re starting to get it,” with a vicious smile as she made her way to her seat in the back of the room. Now everyone was in their seats except for Drea; she still stood staring down at the floor.
She wasn’t standing there because she wanted to; it was more like her feet were glued to the floor. When Crystal touched her, it felt like fire, but now it was as if that fire cooled and actually did become lead. It had numbed her entire being, rendering her unable to move. Drea’s body was feeling heavy and useless, but it still felt like it was steaming where Crystal touched her. It felt like her body was no longer hers. It felt like she lost all control of herself. Move! she repeated over and over in her mind, but nothing was responding. What did she do to me? Drea was beginning to feel panicked now.
Ms. Kray finished writing the lesson plan on the board, and was just about to start class. That is until she turned around and saw Drea still standing.
“Drea?” she said in her impatient teacher tone, “Take your seat please, I’m about to start class now. So if you would…” pointing out Drea’s seat, like it wasn’t obvious or somehow she’d forgotten where she sat.
Drea heard her, but still couldn’t respond. It was like all the strength was being drained from her body. Her eyes began to swim as her body weakened and the world danced in front of her. Crystal had done more to Drea than she had previously thought. Her knees gave in as she fell forward and hit the floor, landing on her side with her body unable to move. She heard Ms. Kray run over to her and scream her name. Karen must’ve come over too as her voice became prominent in all the din obstructing Drea’s ears. She must’ve kneeled down next to her with a few other people, but with the dots skipping in front of her vision, Drea could no longer tell.
She was losing consciousness this time, and the last thing she remembered seeing was Crystal smiling tauntingly at her in her mind’s eye. She didn’t look exactly like Crystal though; she looked wolfish and bestial. She looked like a monster.

Drea woke up in a small, dimly lit room lying on a padded bed. She was covered up by a thin sheet with an ice pack on her forehead. She wasn’t exactly sure where she was either. It took a few minutes for her eyes to adjust properly in the light, but when they had gotten used to it, Drea just lay staring at the ceiling, wondering what happened.
Her memory was a little foggy, but it was slowly coming back to her; she just had to give it a little bit of time after that fall. Drea sat up slowly, trying not to induce dizziness. It was incredibly difficult, but within a few minutes, she was propped up. She found that her shoulder was hurting as she sat there feeling dazed. She moved her hand up to her shoulder, feeling bandages curl up from her elbow to her shoulder. She smoothed her hair back and took a deep breath as it began to sting painfully.
How did I get here? she thought looking around. The pain shot through her body, snapping her brain back to reality. It woke her up, and she realized she was in the school nurse’s office. Drea suddenly remembered what had happened all at once. Crystal’s touch had burned her and that’s what had sent her to the nurse. It was so painful that it drained her energy and forced her to the ground. It was so powerful that it went right through her clothes and burned her skin. How is it possible that a simple touch could physically harm me? She wondered with confusion. Something’s wrong…

She had a feeling Crystal wasn’t right, a feeling that was reaffirmed by her memory of the wolfish quality that Crystal had taken on. The image of wolves sprung up from that memory, spreading like a virus in her mind. Every time she remembered Crystal now, she looked like that wolf. Not human, but not entirely an animal either. Her eyes were the most terrible part of her, though. They were always glowing red in her mind now, looking more like the eyes of those monsters in the classic nightmares. It was completely inhuman.
Drea rubbed her temples with all the thoughts bouncing around in her head ripping her mid to pieces. Her life was beginning to feel like something out of a science fiction novel. Scattered memories began to flash back to her. She began to see bits and pieces of memories she didn’t remember seeing. The wolf-like appearance she saw was very familiar as she began to see it often in her memories of six years ago. Six years ago was when Kevin died.
Drea didn’t remember this wolf thing at all of the day that he died. It was strange. It was like this wolf was in her memory, but she just didn’t know it was there; as if it had been masked by something else.
More parts of her memory came back to her in shattered pieces depicting this monster. She only saw still pictures of it, giving her curiosity for its purpose there life. It was as if it was just thrown into her memories, yet it felt like it belonged there. Drea thought about it for a second, thinking that just maybe the monster had something to do with her brother’s death, but right when she thought she remembered, it slipped away. So close, she thought as the answer avoided her once again.

Drea sighed and swung her legs over the side of the bed slowly. Her body was feeling a little sore from falling and lying in the bed for so long. She reached for her phone on the bedside table. It was three o’clock, end of the school day. Drea’s day actually ended at two fifteen, and Jackie’s at three, but she usually waited up for Jackie to walk home with her. Knowing Jackie though, she had probably been waiting in the nurse’s office all day for her to wake up.

Drea got up slowly, using the side table as an anchor. She still felt a little dizzy, but she really didn’t want to lie in bed any longer. She took a deep breath, feeling stronger and stronger with every second as energy flooded back into her body. She walked slowly to the curtain that separated the beds from the office, pocketing her phone on the way.
Upon opening it, she was blinded by the bright light outside the room. After a few seconds, her eyes re-adjusted revealing Karen and Jackie waiting for her. Karen must’ve come to wait with Jackie after school ended.
Once they saw her, they gathered around her worriedly, looking at her with concern in their eyes. Drea probably looked pretty beat up, especially with the way she was leaning against the wall, but she was feeling miraculously strong.

“Are you ok Drea?” Jackie said with concern.

“I’m fine Jackie, it’s only my shoulder.” Unfortunately Drea just couldn’t keep the ring of annoyance out of her voice. After hearing “are you ok?” about five times in one day, Drea couldn’t help but to feel weak and useless. She hated not being able to protect everyone, or even herself, and the fact that her little sister was acting like she was the older one made it even worse. How could she care for all of them when she kept fainting and falling down? It was a terrible feeling to feel like she was putting a bigger burden on everyone around her. Drea wanted to be like her brother so badly, she wanted to protect all of them and keep them safe, but now everyone was concerning themselves with protecting her. That was the last thing she wanted.

“Drea, you’re not fine!” said Jackie more forcefully. She rarely raised her voice like that, especially to her sister. “You need to stop saying that nonchalantly when all of us can see that you’re nowhere near fine! You almost fainted this morning, and you did faint today. Mom and dad know now too. They’re taking you to the doctor’s to get you checked out. Quit trying to be strong already and just let us take care of you.”

That pushed Drea completely over the edge; she just couldn’t take it anymore. He little sister was acting like she was her mother and that wasn’t acceptable for her. She normally didn’t get angry at Jackie, but she just couldn’t help but to show her attitude to little miss I-know-everything. “Why don’t you quit trying to act like you’re my mom? I can take care of myself Jackie, I’m a big girl you know, and I don’t need my younger sister to take care of me. It’s my job to protect you, not the other way around. I’m fine, so you can just leave me alone.”

Jackie looked genuinely hurt, but she really didn’t care at the moment. It hurt to feel like she was the failure of the family and that her younger sibling had to watch over her. It hurt her even more to know that she had disappointed Kevin, and that she couldn’t protect the people he’d given his life to protect. Drea normally wouldn’t have even said anything to Jackie, but she couldn’t let herself feel so helpless anymore.
Karen still stood next to Jackie, looking extremely uncomfortable. She knew better than anyone else that Drea didn’t normally blow up like that.
Jackie was just about to say something else when a boy of about seventeen seemed to materialize next to Drea. She could’ve sworn that he wasn’t there before, but she must’ve gotten so caught up in the argument that she didn’t see him approach. He had such a powerful presence too, like he was emanating power.
Who is he? thought Drea with curiosity. He wore a school uniform, but she’d never seen him in school before. He did seem familiar though with his short black hair and piercing eyes reverberating in her memories. It was like the wolf; he was in her memories somewhere, but she just couldn’t place where she’d seen him. There was a lock in her head that she just didn’t have the key to, making it impossible for her to remember where she’d seen him.
She was so lost in thought that it took him a few tries to get her attention again, which didn’t help her side of the “I’m ok” argument.
“Excuse me,” he said politely, but also a little impatiently, “I know you’re a bit busy, but I really need to speak with you Andrea. It’s very important.” How did he know my name? She didn’t remember meeting him, but everything about him seemed familiar. His voice was the same as something she’d heard deep in her memories, but his aura was even more familiar. It was fierce, gentle, and sharp all at the same time.
With a start, Drea realized that it was the aura from that morning, the aura that had knocked her to the floor. This was the guy that did that to me? As she dug just a little deeper into his aura, she felt a reserved, cold feel like that of Crystal and Drake.
Are they related in some way? She wondered. It seemed likely since they all seemed to be a little different than the average human. Of course with that thought, what did that make Drea? She was able to looks at people’s energies with her mind, so how much different was she really from them?
She still couldn’t quite place where she’d seen him, but now she knew she’d spoken with him sometime before. The eyes were the thing that gave him away; they were knowing, and they knew the answers that Drea was beginning to so desperately desire.
He raised his eyebrows at her impatiently, using his hand to direct her to the door. “If you wouldn’t mind…” It definitely seemed like he was in a rush.
Drea slipped behind Jackie to grab her bag from the chair and said, “I’ll see you later Karen, Jackie, I’ll see you at home. Walk safe Jackie, I’ll catch up.” She ended in a type of remorseful tone, not regretting what she had said to Jackie, but wishing she hadn’t made her hurt so much. She then walked towards the door with the boy leading the way. Jackie stared back at her, wishing she could understand Drea a little more. Maybe it wasn’t her place to interject, but she cared about Drea and wanted to make sure she was alright. If only she could see her sister’s point of view a little better.
In the hallway, the boy leaned against the wall looking nonchalant, yet he still emanated a sense of duty as Drea stood across from him. “Well,” she said, “what did you want?” Drea just couldn’t keep the tone of annoyance out of her voice.
“I think you know what I want,” he replied, “You were able to recognize my aura weren’t you?” Her eyes widened at the mention of the aura. She had never talked about it with anyone before, so how would this stranger know about it? “I do apologize for this morning though. I didn’t mean to hurt you like I did; I only needed to know who you were and your intentions. It seems you’re much more than I previously thought.” He was looking at her as if inspecting her. It seemed like he knew so much, making Drea feel ignorant in his presence. She knew nothing at all about what was happening with her, but he seemed to have all the answers.
He sighed and stood up straight, all those answers hidden on his face. “Andrea, you know you’re no ordinary human and that’s why I’m here. You possess specific abilities within your mind and within you that need to be harnessed before they get out of control. More of those monsters will come around you with the more power you obtain, and without the proper training in how to use those abilities you have, they’ll end up killing you or those people close to you.”
“Wait,” she said with confusion, “Monsters? I mean I saw Crystal look a little bit like a wolf, but actual monsters?” She still didn’t even understand why Crystal had looked like a wolf. She didn’t remember what answers he was looking for.
It took a second, but then a look of realization appeared on the boy’s face. He finally understood why she wasn’t getting it the way he thought she should. He sighed, looking remorseful. He moved a little bit closer to Drea, but stopped. “I can explain everything if you’ll comply with my training. I know that you’re confused, but I can’t tell you anything until you’re willing to listen.”
He seemed serious about getting her to train with him, seeing that he knew she wanted to know what was going on, but wouldn’t say anything until she agreed to this training of his. “Look, I’m not sure about this. I mean I don’t even know how much of what you’re telling me is true. I’m nothing special anyway, I’m sure you can find someone else to train or whatever.”
She began to walk away when he said from behind her, “You’re just like your brother Andrea. He refused me too and he suffered because of it; don’t repeat his mistakes, I don’t want to see you get hurt again.”
She stopped dead in her tracks at the mention of her brother. How did he know about that? How does he know what happened to my brother? She turned and spoke, “What did you mean about me getting hurt again?” Her eyes were wide, but she tried her best to hide her surprise from him. She knew her face was growing pale though at the mention of that night.
He looked down and said, “You’re more than you think you are, and I know you’re not the same stubborn little girl that I met six years ago. You can do this Andrea, but you need my help.” He paused, looking back up. “I can’t answer your question without giving you the desire to search for more answers. I only want you to listen to me and train with me. I don’t want you or your family getting hurt again because of ignorance.”
He was quiet then, but Drea still didn’t understand. She was about to question him again when her memories of that day six years ago flashed back to her suddenly. She still saw the wolf and her brother, but now she saw the silhouette of a boy hidden in the shadows. It was like more pieces of her memories were being glued back into the empty spaces that were previously cut out. It all just made her head hurt.
She must’ve looked like she was battling all the memories flying around in her head as he paused unexpectedly. He looked at her as she struggled with herself, remembering what he’d done all those years ago in an attempt to protect her. Now he wondered if he’d made the right decision by not training her right away, by choosing to keep her ignorant. He could only hope that she would listen to him now, but now she didn’t even remember him.
He looked at Drea with sadness with his eyes, wondering what was going on in her head. She wanted to know the answers, but was that enough to convince her? If that wasn’t, hopefully the thought that she’d be protecting her family would be.
Drea mulled over what he had said. Monsters that would attack her and her family? It seemed unreal, but there was something in the way he said it that made her want to think about what he’d said more closely. What he said, as crazy as it sounded, struck a chord in her, but for now she wasn’t sure what to do. She wanted to protect her family, though protecting them from actual monsters was a bit out of her league.
He seemed to realize that as he looked at her, saying gently, “You don’t have to decide now Andrea. I’ll meet you tomorrow for you answer, but stay safe until then.”
Drea turned around just in time to see him disappear right before her eyes. It was like one of those moments in the movies where the mysterious mentor magically disappeared. It was like he disintegrated into the air as a breeze whooshed past her. A breeze inside a building, she thought curiously as she heard his voice whisper, “Don’t make the wrong choice.” He was completely gone then, the quiet suddenly becoming very loud in her ears. Drea looked around nervously and began her walk home, her footsteps echoing out in the empty hallway.

*
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It was probably five o’clock when Drea arrived home. As she walked in the door, she saw Jackie was already home, waiting. When Drea walked in the kitchen, her mom came over to her saying, “Drea!” and gave her a big hug. “The school called and said that you fainted! We were so worried about you! Jackie said she was waiting with you though and not to come down. We knew you would be alright.”
Somehow that didn’t make Drea feel any better. Her parents stayed home when she passed out because her little sister was watching her. She couldn’t believe that they didn’t even come to the school to make sure she was alright. It only worsened her mood to know that they basically ignored her.
Her mom continued to squeeze her as her dad and Jackie stared at them. Her dad usually worked a 9-5 job, but he must’ve gotten off early for this. Drea had forgotten about the argument until she entered the house. She wasn’t angry anymore, but she could tell just from everyone’s auras that the room was very tense. Her father didn’t like her supposed attitude, her sister was full of remorse and sadness, and her mother was just happy to see her. At least she seemed to be getting better at feeling other people’s emotions.

Her father got up, his figure barking with authority, “Andrea, I don’t know what you were thinking. Leaving your sister behind like that? You had just fainted and she’s not supposed to walk alone. You could’ve fainted again on your way home. It would’ve been better for the both of you if you had just stayed with her.”
Drea sighed, unhappy that she had to go through this now. She understood why her father was mad: her parents were extremely overprotective since Kevin died, but she really wasn’t feeling up to an argument. She didn’t really fight with her parents much anyway since she was usually so withdrawn. Apparently they saw that as good behavior.
She rolled her eyes, but unfortunately her father caught that. “Don’t you dare roll your eyes at me young lady. I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but we don’t appreciate your new attitude.” He paused to look at her with disappointment. “Now up to your room where I hope you’ll have an attitude adjustment.”

Drea only looked at him with contempt, taking her time to respond. “Do you even understand what I’m going through? Do you even understand me at all?” It was quiet then. He obviously didn’t think that she would’ve said anything in retort to him. “I’m supposed to be the older sister, but you treat me like I’m a little kid. I know what I’m doing, so why do you act like I don’t? It’s like you trust Jackie more than me; you didn’t even come down to the school when you found out I got hurt! How could you not care enough to check on me when I randomly faint like fifteen minutes into the school day?”
She paused then, aware of the boiling emotions of her father. He was not the type of guy who would let his kids tell him off, but she could feel a small sense of remorse creeping up in him. Nevertheless, she continued, “So you think my attitude’s changed? Did you ever think that maybe I’m just being like a normal teenager?”
She was absolutely seething now. “I’m fifteen and Jackie’s eleven, so why don’t you trust us? We aren’t little kids anymore and yet you treat the both of us like we are. I’m pretty sure Jackie can walk home by herself without getting killed like Kevin did, and if you’re so worried about the two of us, then I’d think you would’ve come to pick me up from the nurse. You’ve all been so scared since he died, but you’ll never understand how I feel. How guilty I’ve felt because I couldn’t help him. It was my fault that he died and nothing you say can change that.”

Drea looked up at them, holding back tears in her eyes. She hated to bring up her brother, but that was something they needed to hear. It was something that had been bothering her for a long time. Without waiting for whatever they were going to say to her, Drea walked past them and headed up the her room. Her mother and father stared at each other, looking a little lost and confused. It was obvious they didn’t know what they should do.
Jackie only looked down at her lap, feeling sad. Drea never raised her voice like that and Jackie wished that she could help her sort through whatever was bothering her. Jackie knew that something was wrong with Drea, but if she didn’t tell her, Jackie had no idea of what to do. Telling her parents was obviously a mistake though.

Up in her room, Drea sat behind her closed door with her head resting on her knees. She wished she hadn’t had to say those things, but she just wasn’t in the mood to be the perfect daughter right now.

All of this made her think of the decision she had to make. When the boy had finished speaking to her and he disappeared, she had begun her walk home alone. It was extremely quiet with not another soul in sight.
Drea pondered over what the boy had said, unsure of whether to believe him or not. The whole thing just seemed so outlandish. She thought that he knew what he was talking about, but she was having a hard time grasping the concept of her being some type of superhero. She was never anything special, and despite her resolve to protect her family, she never thought she would be. The boy just had this demeanor about him that made her believe that she could do it.
But why was she the one who had superpowers? Usually the popular people or important people or well-known people get the powers in the books and movies, so why would a quiet girl like her get the powers? She wasn’t even sure if she had legitimate “superpowers”, but the guy made it seem like she did. The only thing she knew about was her mind abilities, but that probably wouldn’t classify as a superpower. That guy knew what she could do, but she knew he wouldn’t tell unless she agreed to do this training with him.

She sighed. Something about all of this was making sense to her somehow. The fact that she could extend her mind, and even what Crystal said was clicking in place with what the boy had said. If he was telling the truth, and there were monsters hanging around her just waiting for the chance to attack, then she would need to learn to use these powers of hers to protect everyone. Drea had wanted to protect her family all her life, but the thought of being a hero was just frightening and unrealistic. She wanted to do it, but she was scared of the world that she could be opened up to. This was bigger than just her, but how much bigger was it?

She had been making her way down the street slowly, still caught up in her thoughts. If these strange monsters can attack me, then why don’t they just kill me already? It’s a unique form of torture to make someone paranoid of being attacked when no one’s actually attacking just yet.
There was more to this than she thought. Just then a strange presence lifted her out of her thoughts. Her necklace once again began to burn for the third time that day when it hadn’t burned in six years. The aura surrounding her felt dark and sinister, but the feel of bloodlust was the strongest. It was the same feel from that morning with Drake, and the same feel from her memories of Kevin’s death.
Drea knew automatically that it was dangerous, but she couldn’t get away. She became paralyzed with fear as she realized her every movement was being watched. It felt like the presence was crushing her, restricting her and her ability to get away with its bloodlust snapping her resistance like a twig and crushing her bones like toothpicks. She could no longer move. She could barely even think anymore. It was approaching her now, relishing in her fear. She didn’t know if it would simply kill her or torture her, but either way it seemed as if her time was running out.

Drea stood there, waiting for it to make a move, but it still continued to observe her, absorbing her fear. The only thought she had wasn’t to get away now, but it was of her memory of what her brother had done for her all those years earlier. She was in that same position again, still unable to save herself.
Now more than ever Drea wanted to learn how to protect herself so someone else wouldn’t have to do it. Maybe training with this guy is the way, she wondered in what she thought would be her final moments. Things were getting strange and maybe it would benefit her to accept this training offer, but if she was going to die, it wouldn’t really make a difference.
She only wanted to be like her brother, yet there was never a way to do that. Now might be her chance if she made it out. The feel of the aura continued to get stronger, causing her heart to skip a beat and her eyes to widen with the force of it. It was amazing how strong it was, but that wasn’t good for Drea. The burning on her chest continued, getting worse with the aura increasing. For all she knew, it had already burned her chest it was so hot.

The sinister feel would not leave her; it continued to consume and crush her as she stood there in pain, her head throbbing with the feeling that her body was being crushed. She thought she really would be crushed, when a sensation of a cool reprieve washed over her. The pain was lifted to be replaced by a feeling of soothing calm and relief. Another presence had chased it away and enveloped her entire body in its wonderful feel. It was giving her the energy to counter the dark feel.
With a start, Drea realized that it was the boy’s aura from earlier. He emanated raw power in such a fierce way that if Drea didn’t know he was on her side, she’d be running down the street at one hundred miles an hour already. Somehow he had enough power to conquer that terrible feel, chasing it away without even skipping a beat.
He wasn’t visible to her, but she knew he watched her, protecting her like her guardian angel. Her charm stopped burning with the aura gone, cooling off as she held it in her hand. She didn’t understand as she stared down at it; it was more than just a charm, and maybe that was another answer she’d need to find. She took off down the street, not willing to stick around, running back towards her house.

Now she sat on the floor of her room, angry that she just sat by and watched, unable to do anything for herself. That was one thing she’d had enough of.
She came to her conclusion. She decided that she could no longer sit idly by and let other people do watch over her. She wanted to be able to protect herself, and there seemed to be only one way to do that.
Tomorrow she would meet with him for her answer. She would train with him in order to become stronger, in order to keep her family safe. Drea just couldn’t let them down. Maybe she could even come to understand what was happening to her.
She got up and sat on her bed, looking out of the window with determination shining on her face bright as a star in the ever darkening sky. She held her once-again-cool necklace in her hand, remembering Kevin. It was her time to be something great. It was her time to redeem him and prove to him that she wouldn’t let him down.

Drea woke up that morning and began that day as usual. She slowly descended the stairs by herself and walked quietly to the kitchen. Jackie hadn’t been around that morning, but Drea really didn’t blame her after yesterday.
She stopped right outside the entrance, hearing conversation drift out towards her. She could hear her mother, father, and sister talking about her, but she really didn’t care for what they were saying. She knew what it’d be about, so she walked in anyway. As soon as she stepped in, it got so quiet that the only sound was the ruffling of their father’s newspaper. She stood there for a second, staring at everyone in turn as they stared at her.

It remained quiet as Drea got her breakfast. She set her bag down on the chair and stood to eat her bagel. It was all incredibly awkward as she pretended not to notice everyone stealing looks at her. Every time she looked back at them they’d look around the room to make it seem as though it wasn’t too obvious. She rolled her eyes with a hint of a smile. It was actually kind of funny.
Drea looked at her phone. It was time to leave. She grabbed her bag and headed for the door, looking back without emotion to wait for Jackie. Jackie was still looking a little down, but she didn’t say anything. She only got up, grabbed her bag, and headed for the door. They left quietly. Drea could tell from Jackie’s aura that she was still unhappy about their argument yesterday and the way it all turned out, but she was trying really hard not to show it. Jackie looked up to Drea, so it was hard for her to feel like she’d disappointed her.

The silence was penetrating and loud as they walked to school. Drea was pretty lost in thought, oblivious to Jackie walking next to her. She was anxious about starting this training; it just couldn’t leave her mind. She didn’t even know when she’d see him or what they’d be doing.
It was strange though how lately she’d even been able to feel other people’s auras with more clarity, especially since he’d arrived. She was able to know where everyone was without getting overwhelmed, and she was still able to recognize who they were. The intentions of people became clear to her as she found the ability to look even deeper into people’s minds. It was as if she’d closed her eyes, but could still see everyone and everything clearly.
Over the years she’d gotten stronger, but just a few days earlier she could only move her mind into only one other person to feel their energy and hear their thoughts. Now she felt this amazing feeling of being inside of everyone’s heads all at once. She’d somehow found the focus to recognize specific thoughts without getting overwhelmed. It was like having eyes and ears everywhere, on everyone, like being omnipresent.
She wondered how this training could teach her more. She was already pretty adept in using her mind, but if that was all she could do, how important could she really be?

As the two of them approached the main gate and entered the school, Jackie stammered, “Um Drea, about yesterday…”

“It’s fine Jackie,” said Drea looking down at Jackie with a small smile and kindness in her eyes. “I’ll fix everything today.” She walked off towards the right where the high school was. It took a second, but then Jackie realized what she’d said.

“Drea!” she yelled, “What did you mean?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Drea yelled back, waving her hand in the air at her sister who still stood there looking worriedly at her as Jenny and Keisha approached her.

Drea walked on towards her homeroom, looking around to see if the boy was near. He’d said that he would show up, but he failed to mention when. It was too bad he didn’t even tell her his name.
She continued walking towards the building, noticing with confusion that her necklace was once again beginning to burn. It was getting hotter as Drea neared a dark aura, the bloodlust seething and growing around her. She wasn’t surprised to see Drake standing nearby with his group of friends. His back was to her, so she took a moment to observe, feeling the necklace heat up within her shirt. She wanted to ignore it, but the bloodlust was just so powerful around him. It was unmistakable in his aura, but he looked like just a normal high school teen. Why does he feel so inhuman?
His aura felt familiar somehow though, in fact, it was just like that of Crystal’s yesterday. She didn’t notice how similar they had been, but they weren’t exactly the same. Drake’s was concentrated and choking, making her feel as though a hand was grabbing at her throat, constricting her air. Crystal’s felt sly and controlled, like snakes were whispering in her ears with the same bloodlust snaking around her body.
How do they not notice? thought Drea, referring to the way his friends just stood by. It seemed so obvious to her, but this only acted as proof to how different she truly was.
Drake must’ve noticed her as he turned his head to face her. It was as if time slowed down for a brief second as he stared at her. He had a slight smile creeping across his face, his aura surrounding her, evaluating her. He didn’t dig deep into her mind or even try. He was playing a game with her, a game she didn’t plan on losing.
She didn’t flinch, but continued to glare back. He was still smiling at her when his eyes changed to resemble a wolf’s and teeth grew sharp. His nose turned black like a dog’s and extended. His eyebrows grew hairy and large. He resembled a wolf now, just like Crystal. Now her eyes did grow wide, but she refused to be scared.
The only difference was his eyes, his inky, dark eyes. All it would take was one look to drown in those pools of ink, those pits of tar and darkness.
The necklace was burning angrily now in response to his aura, heating up to the point of being cool as his appearance changed. Drea had to grab onto it to stop it from really burning her, but even then it felt like it was seething her hand.
He sneered in seeing her reaction and changed his face back to a human’s at will. He looked human again as time returned to normal. It was as if nothing had happened. With one more look at Drea, Drake turned back around to face his friends and continued laughing and talking normally.
His friends didn’t even give him a second look; to them he was the same person who they thought he was. It was so strange how no one else could feel his brutality and savagery with the amount that he elicited. It was kind of like when someone who no one expected was the killer, but there were signs of it all over. It amazed her how they couldn’t feel it, but she realized just how much she’d changed by gaining the ability that she had. It made her feel as though she were no longer human either. She only wondered if she still was.
Drea narrowed her eyes in his direction, shivering with the thought of a monster in their midst. It was unreal. Her necklace calmed as well, becoming warm in her hands as she began to walk away slowly, keeping her eyes locked on him. He was still laughing pleasantly, looking so normal that if it wasn’t for his aura, she wouldn’t know he was anything other than human.
There was a savagery about him that seemed to pour out of every piece of his body, foreshadowing his desire to attack and kill. She knew his target would be her, but he didn’t attack. Something was holding him back, something more powerful than even him. He was waiting for something before he would reveal who he really was.
Drea walked on into the high school building to escape him, sighing in anxiety as she walked in. She kept wondering when the boy would appear, but that wasn’t what made her heart jump out of her chest. There was something about the boy that made her search her memories for something that wasn’t there, making her feel as though she knew more than she thought. Her memories were still hidden from her, and she just didn’t know where to look to find them.
Maybe that was what was making her jumpy. Maybe discovering something she didn’t want to know was scaring her. Maybe she had a fear of what would happen, and of what she would be agreeing to. Having time to change her answer wasn’t a great feeling either, she just wanted to tell him before she did.
In the meantime, she’d have to move on with her day and all the schoolwork that came with it. Fun, she thought sarcastically, and continued her walk down the hall and to her classroom. She saw that Crystal, Katie, and Kaia were all gone from school that day as she walked in the room.
I should be the one who’s staying home from school today, she thought angrily. It didn’t even make sense that all of them were gone. It could be a coincidence, but what were the odds of that? Probably ditching, she thought as she sat in her seat. Drea tried to convince herself of that anyway, yet she couldn’t shake the thought that they were up to something a lot bigger than ditching.
Thinking back, she realized that the aura of Katie and Kaia were also similar to that of Crystal’s, meaning that if Crystal wasn’t human, then neither were they. Thinking of the fact that two more of them had this wolfish aura made her feel really paranoid and suspicious, a feeling Drea absolutely despised.
Before she could think more on the subject, Karen came up and sat on her desk. She smiled happily saying, “How are you today Drea?” Drea also smiled back at Karen, happy to feel that sense of normalcy in seeing her with the strange morning she was having.
“Alright Karen,” she responded, but before she had time to say more, Karen continued, “Did you fix up everything with your sister and family?” Karen knew she wouldn’t talk until she was ready, but Drea couldn’t blame her for trying. Karen just had this sixth sense when it came to knowing if something was wrong with someone and she always tried to make it better. She’d make a great psychiatrist. Of course with her mind abilities, Drea kind of had that sixth sense too.
Drea just had a hard time showing her true feelings and tended to keep to herself in order to feel strong. Ever since her brother died, she thought she needed to be strong for everyone, but she only ended up hurting herself by keeping it all in. When she met Karen six years ago right after her brother’s death, Karen had made her feel better just by being her friend. It took a while, but she eventually told Karen all about Kevin and why she was so withdrawn. It felt good to let it out, but now wasn’t the time to do that. She could tell Karen was itching to hear about what happened, but refrained from really getting involved.
“I really am fine Karen,” said Drea with a slight smile, “Still working it all out.”
“Oh I see,” said Karen, “but don’t blame your sister. She’s just trying to fill the same space you are with your brother.”
There was one of those awkward silences before Drea said, “Thanks Karen,” after a bit of thought. It seemed that Karen always knew the right thing to say.
The click of heels approaching the classroom took their attention to the door. The both of them turned their heads to see Ms. Kray walking in the door. She went over to her desk and faced the class. “Alright class, take your seats so I can begin our lesson plan today.”
Karen patted her on the shoulder and with one more smile, she slipped off the desk and walked over to her seat. Once everyone was seated, Ms. Kray looked around, and in seeing Drea, said, “Oh Andrea, I wasn’t expecting to see you here today! I hope you’re doing better today then.” Drea nodded to show she was listening as Ms. Kray took another look around. “Crystal, Kaia, and Katie are out today too… I wasn’t expecting that. Well lets all hope they come back soon.” After attendance, she began her lesson for the day.
The classes kind of blended together for Drea after that. It was all a blur as her thoughts strayed elsewhere. She just couldn’t help but to wonder what she would be getting herself into with her acceptance of this training. Maybe she needed the answers, but was it truly the right decision?
The classes continued on. By the end of the day, he still hadn’t shown up, and Drea was beginning to think that he wouldn’t; she couldn’t even feel any of his aura nearby.
She went to the bench outside the building and sat to wait for Jackie after school. She usually sat to wait for Jackie since she got out at three. She’d end up doing homework or just thinking to pass the time.
A few minutes later, Karen caught up to Drea as she waited. “Well Drea, I’ve got to be going home today.” Some days she waited with Drea, but other days she needed to be home so she couldn’t. “My mom’s bringing home her new boyfriend, so I’ve got to make sure everything looks nice when they get home.” She rolled her eyes and said, “See you later Drea.” Then she took off in a trot towards the main gate.
Drea sat there for another forty minutes doing homework and thinking as she always did. When she looked at her phone, she saw it was only another few minutes until Jackie got out, so she got up to wait by the main gate. The boy still hadn’t shown, so she had pretty much given up on him. Maybe he was just kidding her.
She sighed, but lifted her head as she sensed a few strange auras approaching her, not just strange though, savage and dark. She looked down once again as her necklace heated up. It seemed as though it would heat up when the dark auras came near, but why? Every time this sensation of bloodlust and darkness would come near, it would blaze up uncontrollably. Drea knew it was special, yet she had no inkling of what it really was.
She tried to walk away, but only got a few feet before she could see who it was eliciting the sinister aura. Crystal, Katie, and Kaia were walking in a group towards her and they didn’t look like they had come to mess around. Drea automatically knew something was wrong in the way they stared at her, not even trying to hide their intent to kill in their dark auras. It wasn’t a coincidence that they’d missed school or that they showed up now: they’d been waiting for this moment; they’d been waiting for their target.
Drea knew immediately that she was the reason they were here. She was that target, but she wouldn’t back down, not that she could anyway. The evil in their eyes rooted her to the ground, their shadows snaking up her spine to keep her in place. They no longer felt human; they felt like animals stalking their helpless prey. They were sadistic killers full of purified hate and anger.
It was unbelievable how much aura Crystal was sending her way, trying to intimidate her. It’s working, she thought weakly as her breathing became shallow. Her energy was being sucked out of her like a vacuum. They were clearly no longer human, but what they had been transformed into remained to be seen. Drea was left standing there as they got closer with her charm dancing against her chest.
The three of them stopped right in front of her, their aura laced with an incredible amount of bloodlust. Crystal approached with a mixture of overwhelming confidence and arrogance in her movements. She stared into Drea’s eyes without even blinking, an unmistakable amount of hate building up in her aura. “Seems you’re becoming more dangerous than I thought,” she said, “I can’t have you ruining our plans, so I guess I’ll just have to kill you.” It sounded like one of those movies where people got abducted or killed without anyone else knowing, but unlike a movie, this wasn’t planned. This was real and Crystal was dead serious, and based on her tone, Drea knew she wasn’t kidding about killing her and leaving her body to rot. None of them had even a hint of a smile.
Crystal shot her hand out quick as lightning and grabbed Drea’s wrist with incredible force, pulling it towards her. Drea planted her feet in a stance that wouldn’t allow her to be dragged, but that was all she could do with her seemingly useless body. The aura of bloodlust was chokingly strong.
Crystal stared at her and narrowed her eyes dangerously. “You actually want to try and resist? I’m not going to kill you all at once, don’t worry. I’ll just take you apart in pieces.” A silent smile cracked on her face like the crack of a mirror as she stared into Drea’s eyes. In less than a second, the drilling feeling came back into Drea’s mind, but it was much more painful than the other day, if that was even possible.
Just as Crystal had made it feel like hot iron was being poured into her veins yesterday, now it felt like she was pouring hot iron into her brain. Her eyes began to blur with the pain in her head as spots blossomed and bloomed in her vision. It all seemed blurry and unclear as if the lines had been taken away and the colors had been smudged. It was becoming hard to think, but Drea knew she had to get away, that standing her ground would help for some reason, a reason the pain had made her forget. She could barely feel her own body anymore with the weakening of her senses. Her ability to feel aura was diminished. Even the immense burning of the necklace was overshadowed by the pain Crystal created, becoming an afterthought in her blurry mind.
Crystal was losing her patience now though. It was taking more effort than she expected to dismantle her. She began to emit and incredible amount of aura out of the hand holding Drea’s wrist. She started to squeeze that hand tightly.
It was like a snake was coiling around her wrist, curling so tightly that it broke through her skin all the way down to her bone. Crystal’s hand was cold as ice, cooling off to the point where it felt hot. Drea’s hand was going numb with the pressure, her body following suit. She was able to get out a few broken words before she felt like she’d lose consciousness, “Why… why, do… you want to… to kill me?” Her speech was broken, her head turning to mush under the pain, but she felt like she had to know why she was dying. She had to know why she was the target. Drea could no longer stand it; it felt like her wrist really would snap. Crystal continued to squeeze, her hands becoming saws.
“So you really want to know why I’m killing you?” She chuckled. “We’re looking for something and you’ll get in the way. We know you’re a Kaienshi, and we can feel your strength. That idiot trainer of yours will only make you stronger, which will cause us even more problems. It’s around here, and we don’t want you finding it first.” She reached out and grabbed the Drea’s collar. “I’ll find it when you’re dead.” She let go of her shirt, smiles dancing in her eyes.
Questions bounced around it Drea’s head, but she lacked the energy to ask them. I’m a what? A-and my power; I don’t want to die… I don’t want to die… Time felt like it was slowing down as the pain kept on. Every second felt like an hour, every minute a century. Her wrist almost felt numb, as if it had already been broken off. Crystal was certainly taking her time with the inhuman strength she somehow possessed. Tendrils of fear snaked into Drea’s heart as the thought of death began to sink in. It was real this time, and no one was around to save her when she couldn’t save herself.
Just as she thought her bone would snap, what looked like a shadow in her bleary eyes used the butt of a knife to hit Crystal’s wrist with an incredible amount of force. She was forced to let go, her arm falling limply back to her side. Drea fell to her knees, but felt little difference in the amount of pain she was in. She didn’t even have the energy to feel the aura of her savior as the pain continued to snake up her arm and into her head. The charm burned ferociously still, reacting to the aura the three girls were spewing.
Drea’s vision was slowly refocusing without the constant pain. Within a couple of seconds, she could see the damage done as she clutched her arm to hold it up. She barely had the energy to move it. Her wrist was bruised and crushed, the bone deformed and cracked, but still attached. It was a horrifying sight to see the blood drip from where her skin should be, the muscle even crushed to the point where the bone was visible through them. The nerves had been crushed as well, stopping all movement of her hand and sending little shocks through her arm. She was too shocked to even cry at the sight of her deformed wrist, but just sat staring.
As her eyes refocused, so did her aura. She was able to feel the things around her again, but nothing was clear. It was still fuzzy and difficult to sort out. She could recognize the aura of the boy from yesterday though. He was the one who had saved her. His aura had been easy to pick out due to the sheer force of it. It had grown stronger and more forceful as he stared down the enemy before him. There was no more gentleness in it anymore, only hatred directed towards Crystal, Katie, and Kaia.
Drea could see from where she sat that he was also dressed differently than the previous day. He had on a black t-shirt and cargo pants. What looked like white bandages covered the rest of his arms, though he looked uninjured. On his feet were black sandals. His jet black short hair shone blaringly in the daylight. He was completely different in both his aura and his looks, emitting a powerful aura to match.
On the other side of the school, Jackie stood there waiting for Drea. She’s always here on time, thought Jackie worriedly, arching her neck to look around. She knew Drea wouldn’t want her to worry, but she also knew Drea wouldn’t just leave her behind.
Jenny and Keisha came up behind Jackie and looked around. “Where’s Drea?” asked Jenny, “Doesn’t she always walk home with you?”
“Yeah…” said Jackie distractedly, looking off in the direction of the high school.
Seeing the look on Jackie’s face, Keisha put her hand on her shoulder encouragingly. “Well then why don’t we go find her? Maybe she fell asleep waiting there or something. You did say she was acting strange lately.” She smiled and took a few steps forward. When she looked back and saw that no one was coming, she yelled, “Well come on!” and grabbed Jackie’s wrist, pulling her toward the high school.
All three girls advanced into high school territory. They were pretty lucky no one was around. The older kids would always bully the younger ones. It was some sort of unspoken hierarchy system.
They looked around for Drea in the unfamiliar school grounds, taking steps slowly as they swiveled their heads. In another few minutes, Jenny pointed ahead. “Look! That must be her and some of her friends.” They ran towards the people, thinking it was Drea and some other high school kids, but as they got closer, they saw that they were wrong.
Thirty feet away from them was a group of people standing around, but they didn’t look like friends. One of them was on the ground, and when Jackie looked further, she saw it was Drea. She was on her knees, holding one of her arms in her lap. It had somehow gotten bruised blue and purple around the wrist, but even from that far away, Jackie could see the blood dripping into a puddle. Her heart fluttered as she saw her strong, independent sister huddling on the ground, almost in tears.
A boy dressed in all black who was about her age stood protectively in front of her, holding a knife to fend off three other nasty-looking girls standing like statues in front of them. The girl in front was clutching her arm as if she was hurt. The boy and her stared each other down as if they tried hard enough they could turn the other to stone.
Sensing the feel of danger in the air, Keisha directed them quickly over to a nearby tree. They made sure no one could see them. Everyone was too focused on the situation to even notice anyway. Jackie sat on the ground, watching from behind to see what would happen to her older sister. They all waited in silence, fear grabbing their hearts with death and danger gathering around them.
Drea hadn’t noticed the aura of three more people, let alone the aura of her younger sister. The pain was too great to extend her mind; she could still barely think. Only the strongest auras were visible in her senses.
Her hand, wrist and arm were difficult to move as the throbbing became worse. When she looked back up, she saw the boy was still staring at Crystal, who continued to clench her now disabled arm. She stared back with so much animosity that it probably wouldn’t be surprising if her eyes caught on fire. The boy’s face remained a mask even with the hatred lacing his aura. No expressions or movements gave away any emotions besides his anger. He still held the knife out with obvious skill. It was clear he’d use it if he needed to.
Crystal picked her head up, trying to salvage her dignity. She wasn’t about to give up despite her unusable arm. Why is this so important to her? thought Drea weakly, even her voice a whisper in her head.
With her gaze unwavering, Crystal spoke: “Don’t think I won’t be coming back. Don’t think I won’t kill the both of you.” She gestured to Drea. “And I will be coming back for you. You two, time to go. We’ll be handling this later.” She turned to her left and slashed her hand, which was now growing claws, across the air. It opened a rift in space. Kaia and Katie went in first, obediently. With one more evil smile, Crystal walked in behind them. She was still clenching her arm as the rift closed behind them and they disappeared.

Drea stared ahead at the place where Crystal used to be, bewildered. She sat on the ground as the boy stood in front of her, looking around cautiously as he held up his knife. She didn’t understand what happened, but he wasn’t looking too surprised. In the very least, she knew Crystal definitely wasn’t human. She’d opened a rift in space just to get away with her now wolfish hand. Admittedly, that was pretty amazing.
The necklace was cooling off again too, becoming like ice against her skin as the black aura dissipated. Drea wanted to know more, but she had bigger concerns for the moment. She looked down at her arm, unnerved that she couldn’t move it. The bruises looked as if they were getting worse with the purples and blues smearing around her wrist like a shackle, the blood dripping down her dead fingers and paralyzed arm.
The boy stared ahead for another moment before turning to her. He concealed is knife under his shirt and kneeled down in front of her. “Here,” he said, gesturing towards her arm. Drea held it out warily, looking into his kind green eyes with a mixture of fear, sadness, and suspicion. He touched it lightly and gently, brushing his warm fingers over the wounds. He looked at it, inspecting the damage done with eyes sharp as eagles, yet unspeakable sympathy and kindness were hidden in them.
Drea sat there quietly, still deep in thought. She wasn’t crying, tears just wouldn’t come, but her heart was skipping beats. She’d been in fights before, but they didn’t usually bother her so much. She’d never get nervous or scared; she’d fight when she had to. When she was younger, her quiet demeanor made her a target, but she had been able to fight back. School fights were little things though, this fight really would’ve ended with the dismantling of her body, beginning with her hand. She was just glad that it didn’t.
Real danger was so much different than just school fights with one’s life actually being on the line. It was definitely a new feeling for Drea, one she didn’t truly know how to handle. For some reason though, the rush of adrenaline and fear felt familiar, as if it had been embedded in her memories somewhere. The aura, the bloodlust, and that danger blended together in a way that she’d felt somewhere before, she just couldn’t quite remember where. Story of my life, she thought.
In another minute, the boy looked up at Drea. She was still staring down, deep in thought, so he lifted her chin to force her to meet his eyes. He wanted to make sure she understood. “Andrea, she hurt you pretty bad. She caused internal damage to the nerves and bones inside your wrist and broke up the muscles. It’ll take me a little while to heal it, so I’m going to move us. Alright?”
Drea understood perfectly, but she still had so many questions. She was having trouble getting the words out, so she simply nodded to show she understood. The boy leaned forward and put his arms under her. He lifted her in his arms and stood straight, then with one more look around, he jumped up quickly, disappearing from sight in an instant.
Jackie, Jenny, and Keisha stood behind the tree, watching the rest of the scene. After the three walked into some kind of portal, the boy leaned down and spoke with Drea. She had never looked so helpless in her life, not that Jackie could remember anyway. Then he picked her up and basically disappeared from sight.
They slowly came out from behind the tree, unable to take their eyes off of the spot where everyone had been. Drea was now gone, and from what they could see, she had been hurt pretty bad.
“Where did they go?” asked Jackie with wonder.
“Could be anywhere…” responded Jenny with the same wonder. They all continued to look around and at each other, unsure of what they should do next.
Then Keisha suggested, “Well, um, why don’t we all go back to Jackie’s house? I’m sure Drea will turn up there and then we’ll figure out what happened.”
“Yeah…” Jackie was still feeling shocked. “That sounds like a good idea.” The three of them turned around and began their walk back home. It felt lonely and quiet as they walked back towards the main gate in silence, unanswered questions whirling around in their heads.

Drea kept her eyes open as he was carrying her, but she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. He was jumping from building to building like a ninja, moving at a speed so fast that the naked eye couldn’t possibly catch him. The land under their feet and the world around them was blurring at the speed he was moving, and yet his eyes could somehow make out the landscape ahead of them. His eyes might’ve just gotten used to the speed, but hers hadn’t. Everything still looked blurry and undefined.
Within only a couple of minutes, they had arrived at their destination. It was a small alcove a bit out of town in a rural area. A waterfall of about ten or twelve feet high flowed down over the smooth gray rocks, crashing down softly into a shallow pond. The gray rocks continued down the sides of the waterfall and around the pond. They formed flat ground with a few large boulders spread around. A forest surrounded the waterfall with natural paths leading to and from the rocky underfoot. The waterfall was an interruption in the forest, splitting up the trees and grass with its smooth gray rocks.
Drea had been there many times with Kevin and their father when she was little, but hadn’t come often in the years since Kevin died. It was never the same. As she set her eyes upon it again, she was happy to see that it had lost none of its beauty in the years since she’d been there. The water still sparkled like stars as the crisp water twinkled down into the shiny, unbroken pond water. The koi fish moved silently in it, the oranges and reds swirling around in the pool of blue. The smooth gray rocks formed the cliff behind the waterfall, jumping to the ground like cooled lava.
The boy landed on the flat rocks covering the ground. With a look around, he set Drea down, propping her up against one of the large boulders. He was extremely careful of her arm as he did so. When he gestured for it again, she held it out tentatively. He looked at it under his critical eye before holding his hand out over her wrist.
She watched suspiciously, unsure of what he was planning on doing. He’d said something about healing her. What is that supposed to mean?
His hand began to glow green and, like magic, Drea felt the pain and pressure release from her wrist. The bruises were lifting off of her skin as he poured his energy into her wound. The blood stopped dripping as her skin reformed itself slowly around the healing muscles and bone. It was strange to see the inside of her wrist healing like that as the skin slithered back over her arm. Her arm was already feeling better with the energy of his hands resembling the cool feel of smooth water.
“How are you doing that?” she asked in bewilderment. Her voice sounded gravelly after not talking for some time. He looked up to meet her eyes without taking his focus off of her arm. How he could maintain that amount of focus was beyond her.
“I’m using my aura to heal you,” he said, “It’s one of our healing techniques. I’m able to speed up time within the space of my aura. I use my mind and aura though to fix anything that time wouldn’t mend correctly.”
“How?” asked Drea
“I can use my aura to feel the damage inside the body where the eyes can’t see. I use my mind to direct the aura through my hand to fix that internal damage by reforming bones or nerves. I can use the aura to fix broken bones, fill in cracked bones, heal nerve damage and the nerves or muscles themselves, and of course heal outside wounds like cuts and bleeding wounds.”
Looking at the thoughtful look on her face, he added, “Only certain people can direct their aura so precisely though, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up. It’s usually something that comes with birth.”
“And how do you know that I can’t heal people like you?” she responded, beginning to return back to herself.
“Andrea, you don’t have the feel in your aura,” he said with a chuckle and a smile. It was the first time he seemed to let go of some of that seriousness. “A healer’s aura has a certain quality to it. It’s more… precise and exact.”
He turned his attention back to her wrist, still smiling slightly. Drea’s thoughts began to wander. She couldn’t sort through everything just yet, but there was one thing she was beginning to understand: her charm. It was now cool again as she touched it through her shirt. It had been seething hot less than ten minutes ago when she was near Crystal and the others, but now it was so cold it was hard to believe it could’ve ever been so hot.
She remembered Kevin as she clenched it; it had been hot when he’d given it to her, but she thought that that was because it was under his clothing. The more she thought about it, she realized that over the six years she’d had it, it had never gotten hot. It was always cold.
That was true until a few days ago anyway. It started burning when she’d felt the bloodlust coursing through Drake’s aura, and then happened once again when Crystal burned her. The third time was when she felt the sinister aura on her way home, and just then with Crystal, Katie, and Kaia.
Come to think of it, it only began to burn when she was near the dark, sinister aura like that of Drake’s and Crystal’s. Over those six years, Drea had never been near any aura like that, which explained why the necklace never burned. If that’s the case though, then why was hot the night she he gave it to me?
She had a vague memory of some monster on that night, but didn’t know why she remembered that. It was as if it was just thrown into her memories somehow. That bloodlust she remembered from Drake and Crystal was the same feeling as what she had felt that night six years ago too. So the aura that was present on that night must’ve made the necklace burn, but where had it come from?
It was like the charm itself was protecting her whenever danger came near, heating up to warn her of the dark aura.
It reminded her of what her brother had said to her those six years ago before he died, that when she was in trouble, all she had to do was hold onto it and help would arrive. She’d never known what he meant, but now it was starting to make sense. Maybe he knew about how it burned or maybe he didn’t, but either way she was grateful for it.
The boy continued to heal her as she lost herself in thoughts. After a few more minutes, he interrupted them saying, “Hold on.”
Hold on? She thought, for what? Then she knew what he meant. Her wrist cracked and itched internally as he repositioned it and filled in the broken bone. It was painful at first, but was replaced with a feeling of relief as the bone adjusted back to where it should be. She could see the muscles wind and twist around the bone, the nerves snaking in after. A shock suddenly made her flinch involuntarily. She almost whacked him in the face, but he had a tight enough grip on her arm to stop her. At least the nerves were working again.
Drea looked down at her wrist, amazement still singing on her face. Her arm was actually fixing itself. The boy looked up at her, his face taking on a whole new level of seriousness. His eyes had such intensity in them; it was like he was building up to something. It turned out he was: “So have you made your decision?”
The question actually caught her by surprise. She had gotten so caught up in the whole situation, it completely slipped her mind.
“Yes,” she said quietly, but with an incredible amount of conviction. “I’ll do it. I need to know what to do and how to keep everyone safe.” Determination replaced the fear she felt toward agreeing to the request. Drea was still unsure of what she was getting into, but saying yes to him felt right. She was still fearful of this new path, yet she felt empowered to take it; it was almost like one of those cheesy “meant-to-be” feelings. She had always wanted to protect everyone as Kevin had and this was her chance. It’d take some time, but if this guy was willing to teach her, she couldn’t refuse.
“You need to know though that in accepting this job, you are accepting the responsibility of protecting this town. You will be the one to stop the monsters from hurting humans. Are you prepared for that?” She continued to stare at him with the same determination in her eyes. “Very well,” he said with a slight smile, “We can begin tomorrow. I’ll tell you everything you need to know before we actually start with the physical aspect of all this.”
“Why can’t we start once you heal me? If all you’re doing is explaining, then we can start now.”
“I’m afraid that won’t work,” he said, “It’s late and you’ll need to be ready to absorb what I’ll be telling you. Your family’s probably pretty worried anyway.”
Drea felt a moment of panic before she lowered her eyes. She had completely forgotten about them. “What can I possibly tell them…” It was more a statement than a question.
She continued on without waiting for him to answer: “The more they know the more they’ll want to get involved, especially Jackie. I can’t let her, or any of them, get hurt like that.”
He remained quiet for a while. Finally, he spoke, “I can’t tell you what to do with your family, but if you tell them something reasonable I’m sure they’ll believe you. Keeping your sister in the dark is the only way I can fathom to truly protect her if that is you goal.”
She nodded, still lost in the thought. It almost made her smile though to hear how trusting he believed her parents were.
“As for your training,” he said, “we can do it every day after school. I may need you during your school hours or at night sometimes too though.” He looked up to her. “It’s your choice what you tell people.”
She didn’t understand all of what he meant, but she knew it’d be tough to find excuses so often. She’d have to be crafty. It occurred to her that agreeing to this really did involve a lot of work, especially if she’d be gone so often.
“Why don’t you just tell everyone you joined some type of club? That seems reasonable enough to me.” It seemed like a good enough idea, which made Drea smile in amusement. He didn’t strike her as someone who was that involved in the aspects of high school life, especially since she’d only seen him at school like once.
Drea thought back, feeling reflective. She thought about everything that had led her to this moment and this training; it seemed so unreal and out of place for her, but she was ready nevertheless. As she thought back to the boy and when she’d met him, she suddenly realized that he knew her name without her telling him. She narrowed her eyes at him, and through her aura, he must’ve sensed her suspicion, so he lifted his eyes to her once again.
“How did you know my name?” she asked.
“I apologize, but as I said earlier, I looked into your mind. I needed to make sure I knew who you were, and a person’s name is one of the things that’s easy to discover.” Looking at her, he anticipated her next question. “And yes, you are also able to extend your mind as I am, as you’ve already discovered. That’s something most people with the awareness of aura can do, with a little training.”
If she needed training, then it surprised her that she already knew how to extend her mind. She wasn’t very good just yet, but it was a start.
Her next question was one that caught him off guard though, “Well if you’re going to be my trainer, and you already know my name, then what’s your name?”
He looked away for a second, as if he was thinking about something. He remained quiet for quite a while, the only movement in him being his slow blinking and soft fall and rise of his chest. Drea began to think that he wouldn’t answer when he turned back to her and said, “Daniel.”
The name sounded so familiar to her, but she couldn’t remember why. It was on the tip on her tongue and yet she just couldn’t place it. The single word echoed through her mind, bouncing around incessantly. It began to bother her. Where have I heard that name before?
She tried to breach the wall that seemed to be put up in her mind as the name wrung in her ears. Without warning, her vision went black, but she was still awake. She blinked a few more times before her vision focused on the scene of her memories from six years ago. It was the night Kevin died. She had no memory of what she was seeing though, despite the fact that she could even see herself- her younger self from six years ago. It truly was like she was on the outside looking in, in to memories that didn’t belong to her, yet she could feel everything happening in her own body and mind, even hearing the thoughts of her younger self.
She saw herself at a friend’s house- a friend whom she didn’t remember- on that stormy night. She was in their kitchen, waiting for her friend and her mother to return, but then the power suddenly went out. Drea shivered as a chill ran through the room coupled with a dark, sinister feel. She still stood off to the side, but she was looking through her younger self’s body. The feeling began to crush her; it was weighing her down.
She tripped off the stool she was sitting on and fell to the floor as a she saw a tall, wolfish creature enter the room. Drea got up quickly and ran through the rooms as fast as she could, tripping over her own feet in her haste to get out. Her fear pounded in her ears, forcing her feet to move quicker than she thought possible.
She could feel the aura spewing out of the beast as she looked over her shoulder and caught a glimpse of it in the dim light. Its eyes were blood red, glowing with hatred as its purple fur prickled with the aura surrounding it.
Drea continued to run, but she was having trouble finding the doorway; she thought she knew where it was, though as she ran, it was like the entire house had gotten flipped around. It was maze-like as she wandered through countless doorways, more doorways than should’ve been in the house.
Eventually she ran toward what looked to be the front of the house. A small window shed a patch of moonlight on the floor. By that time, the monster was right behind her and she’d have no time to make it to the front door, so she took refuge in the moonlight. Her eyes remained trained on the monster the entire time.
She couldn’t move anymore with its eyes following her and the aura assaulting her. It didn’t attack, but only stood in the shadows, watching her. Drea felt its aura as it drifted towards her. It was cold and inhuman, displaying no emotions besides hatred and bloodlust. She snapped back into her own mind for a moment as she realized why the aura felt familiar before moving back to her younger self.
Then she felt another aura approaching the house. A loud bang echoed from somewhere in the house right before Kevin entered the room. She could feel her own fear for him echo through her body mixed with her relief to see him. His aura felt frazzled and worried, but somehow strong. He was speaking to her, but she didn’t respond; she didn’t dare take her eyes off the beast.
He began to stand, trying to get her to come with him, but she could barely feel her own body anymore. Just then, Drea noticed a change in the wolf’s aura. It became much more hostile, its power increasing by the minute. It was getting ready to pounce.
With a start, Drea realized it never had any intention of attacking her, it was after her brother. Panic snaked through her as painfully as a knife would slip through her gut. Before she could stop him, he stood up and the wolf charged.
It was too fast and she was too late. It slashed Kevin right through the stomach and his blood flew through the air from the four think slits protruding from his stomach.
He fell and bled like she remembered, the blood beginning to pool around him even before he hit the ground. It slid in droplets down his body, pouring down over his legs.
She saw herself just sitting behind him, paralyzed by the fear of losing him and of losing herself. She was yelling out, but she couldn’t hear her own voice.
Right before the wolf delivered the final blow, a shadow jumped through the window, smashing the glass with an ear shattering blow. It kicked the wolf out of the way and followed it into the shadows. The cacophony of metal on metal echoed back to her as Drea entered the memories that she’d always remembered. She spoke with her brother and received the necklace as she watched him die and felt the life ebb out of him.
It was strange that she never remembered the slash marks in his stomach, but they were as clear as day now. She had been told that he’d been knifed, though she never remembered anything other than the image of him. Now as she kneeled beside him, she was acutely aware of her feet and knees sitting in the warm, sticky blood. It smelled metallic and synthetic, curling her nose as it stained her skin.
The image of it all was overwhelming as all of her five senses were assaulted with the image of him there, dying slowly and painfully. Her heart was hurting just as much as it hurt the day he died as she felt the pain of his wounds through his aura. It couldn’t have hurt more if she was the one lying there, covered in her own blood.
He died within minutes. A roar echoed from the other side of the room, forcing Drea to look up. The beast fell into the light, disintegrating into dust. To her surprise, the boy, Daniel, walked out of the shadows, cleaning and sheathing his knife. He had on the same outfit, walking with the same strong, forceful demeanor. The weird part was that he looked like he was only maybe two years younger than he did in the present. It was like he only aged two years when he should’ve aged six. She felt a flash of nostalgia wash over her older self, but her younger self had no other reaction besides fear.
He came over and talked with her. Even so many years later, Drea was happy when she saw herself punch him and saw the look on his face. He deserved it, but it made her wonder why he seemed so much more sympathetic now.
After some more talk, Daniel stood in front of her. He started talking about her memories and they made a deal. He took a knee and his eyes began to glow purple. That’s when a white light entered her mind; it was the same light that she had seen for those six years whenever she’d tried to access those memories. His name echoed in her mind as her vision began to return to normal.
She blinked a few times as the white light began to fade. Her eyes readjusted and she realized that she was still sitting against the rock with Daniel healing her. Her senses flooded back into her body as her consciousness filled her again. She could still feel Daniel’s hand on her wrist and his eyes locked on her. When she saw his face, he looked slightly worried, but not surprised. Her heart skipped a few beats as she looked into his face. He had barely aged in all those years, and even then he still had the same hair and face. Only his eyes looked a little wiser.
The waterfall shone in the background, trickling softly as Drea’s ears absorbed the sound. “W-what was that?” she stuttered with confusion.
It was definitely the night from six years ago, but she wondered why she never remembered it. She knew Daniel had erased some of her memories, but it still didn’t seem real. The only thing that was familiar in that whole thing was when she was speaking with Kevin, but the rest of it was completely new to her.
Daniel looked away from her, unable to meet her eyes. He stopped healing her at that moment and began to unwrap some bandages from his arm. He snapped off a section of about two feet and tucked the excess back in the bandages on his arm. Then he began to wrap up her wrist, but stopped. It seemed like he was about to say something, but he kept catching himself.
“What?” Drea said more fiercely, the anger returning to her voice.
He took a moment before he said quietly, “Those were your memories of what really happened the night your brother died…” He paused, seeming unsure of what he was going to say next. Then he began to wrap up her wrist again. “When I mentioned your brother yesterday, it was because I was there when he died. I erased your memories of that night in a frivolous attempt to try and protect you. It’s only a shame that I didn’t enlighten you then.
“You have so much power Andrea, and back then I noticed it, but I didn’t train you. I knew you were young so I tried to make you forget, but that was a mistake. I only put you in more danger by trying to protect you. I blanked out those memories because I had to, though it probably would’ve been better if I hadn’t.”
Drea stared at him intently, realizing the truth. He was the one who had made her forget, who had seen her brother die, who had remembered her over so many years. He spoke about his mistake as though it pained him, as though it was a thorn in his side that he simply couldn’t pull out. Daniel never forgot her over those years.
She lifted her other hand to his face, feeling his cheek bone where she punched him. It was completely healed, although it had been six years.
He looked up at her with sad eyes. “You hit me pretty hard that night.” He chuckled slightly. “It’s a good thing you did though. I’m not sure I would’ve ever realized what I had become, but you were there to show me. I’m only grateful I’ve been given the chance to train you.”
“So all that really happened?” asked Drea
“Yes,” said Daniel, “Everything is true. It may seem unreal now, but it’ll become more familiar as you process it. I blocked your memories to keep you safe, but it seems you would’ve regained your memories on your own anyway. You have so much more power than I imagined.”
They sat there in silence for a moment, both deep in thought. Judging from the feel of Daniel’s aura, he was feeling really bad about what he’d done. Drea decided not to push it, but he continued on.
“I do regret it,” he said with eyes downcast, “and I only wish to make it right by training you and giving you the abilities to defend yourself. My training you is part of the rules in my uh organization as well. I can explain more on that tomorrow. I think you should take it easy for now.”
He finished wrapping up her wrist with the bandages. She held it up. It felt as good as new. She did have one more question though: “Why does it need to be bandaged if you healed everything?”
“The bandages are only because it might be a little sensitive. I fixed the internal and external damage, so the new skin and bone just need to adjust,” He stood up, stretching.
Drea hadn’t realized it, but they had been there for a while, at least half hour. She was sitting, but he had been crouched down healing her. His back must’ve been killing him. As she looked up at him, he even looked slightly tired from all of it, yet his aura still felt still felt strong. She had no idea how he could still have so much energy, but it was obvious he was physically tired. He offered her a hand and she took it, using it to help her get up. Her legs were stiff from sitting, and her butt hurt from the rocky ground.
Drea lifted her hand once again, admiring the fact that he’d fixed it completely. It was amazing.
“I should be getting you home now,” said Daniel looking at her.
“Right,” she said. “Are you going to uh carry me again?”
“That would be the fastest way,” he said with one of his eyebrows raised in question.
She nodded and blushed as Daniel smiled a little and came towards her. She’d forgotten he had to carry her to get her back. She blushed again as he lifted her in his arms. She’d never actually been with anyone before and it made her nervous that he was carrying her. He was two years older, and definitely not that bad to look at.
People just didn’t carry her off every day. It was like one of those fairy tales, those fairy tales that didn’t happen in the real world, let alone Drea’s world. Daniel snickered a little in feeling her aura of embarrassment, so she elbowed him in the ribs. He smiled in amusement and then jumped off from the ground at light speed.
He somehow sped himself up again as they left the beautiful forest of trees and sparkling water in exchange for the clean-lined houses in their straight rows; it all blurred under their feet as they raced through space. The last time he carried her, she was slightly incoherent, but now she felt clear-headed. She was able to see small glimpses of houses and trees, yet she was still unable to process everything.
In only a few minutes, they arrived at the front gate of the school, behind a tree. Drea didn’t blame him for not going to her house; after all he was dressed like some kind of ninja or assassin and it wouldn’t look too good on her part that he’d been carrying her.
He let her down gently as she used his neck to anchor herself. It wasn’t until then that she realized she’d dropped her bag in the school yard when he’d picked her up before. Daniel sensed her frantic aura and stopped her before she entered the open gates. He moved his arm in a small circle until the remaining bandages slipped off. They fell to the ground silently, but instead of piling on top of each other, like normal bandages would do, a shape protruded out from under them. He gestured towards it, and to Drea’s surprise, her bag was under them. She picked up the bandages and handed them back to Daniel with a look surprise, then returned her bag to her shoulder.
He smiled one of those mysterious smiles, then turned and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow after your school day Andrea. Then we can begin our training and I’ll make sure you know everything you need to know.”
He jumped off the ground with unimaginable speed, disappearing from sight. Drea looked up at him quizzically, ready for the day ahead as she began her walk home, thinking about everything that had happened in the space of just one day.

Drea walked in her front door ten minutes later. It was now four o’clock. She would’ve tried to be quiet, but it was pointless. They’d be waiting for her anyway.
She walked through the kitchen and into the living room. Her father was relaxing, since he’d gotten a day off, watching a little TV, and her mother was sitting next to him on the couch, scanning her laptop. When they heard her enter the room, they both turned around to see her. They didn’t say anything, although they really didn’t have the chance to say anything.
Jackie launched herself into the room, planting herself right in front of Drea. She didn’t say anything; she only grabbed Drea’s arm, and lead her around to the front of the couch where their parents could see. “See?!” she said, holding up Drea’s bandaged arm so they both could see. “I was telling the truth when I said Drea got hurt! That whole story was true!” She looked towards Drea and said, “Tell ‘em Drea! Tell them what happened!”
Jackie looked desperate, and Drea felt confused. Did she see us at the school? It made sense because of the time she got out, but Drea hadn’t sensed her. I was pretty messed up… She sighed. There’s only one thing I can do.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about Jackie.” She put on a face of confusion. “I mean I banged my wrist, but that’s not really a story.”
Jackie looked, wide-eyed, at their mom and dad. They looked exhausted and worn out, obviously not believing Jackie’s “story.”
“What happened to your wrist Drea?” asked their mom with a nonchalant tone to match her look.
“I just hit it on a door as I was walking out. It was sensitive and got a little red so I went to the nurse and got a few bandages.” I hope that’ll be enough to fool them.
Their parents looked back at Jackie, wondering what she would say next. Drea almost felt bad for the way they disregarded Jackie, but she knew it was necessary.
Jackie looked at Drea in disbelief. She didn’t understand why Drea was lying. Without another word, Jackie started ripping the bandages off of Drea’s arm, forcing her to flinch and yell, “Ow! Hey!” It was definitely sensitive. It didn’t matter anyway; Jackie had torn most of the bandages off anyway.
When she looked down at her wrist, Drea tried to stifle her look of surprise. Her wrist was healed, amazingly so. Her bone was completely fixed; no bruises or any type of remnant remained to remind her of the incident.
Jackie just stared at her wrist with a look of utter surprise. She looked like she had seen a ghost. She must’ve been pretty sure of what she’d seen. She did see us, confirmed Drea. She knew why Jackie looked as she did then; she had to admit that she was pretty surprised too though. An injury that would’ve needed a hospital visit was fixed up in thirty minutes. This healing thing Daniel did was pretty amazing. It inspired a pang of jealously in her. It would’ve been pretty cool to be able to heal people as he did.
“What did he do?” asked Jackie in a strikingly quiet and angry voice, referring to Daniel. Her initial surprise had vanished to anger at being made a fool of.
“I’m not sure what you mean by that,” said Drea in the most innocent voice she could pull off. It surprised her at how adept she was at pretending that she had no idea of what they were talking about. Whether that was a good or bad thing was yet to be seen.
Jackie turned around quietly and ran up the stairs, no doubt to try and figure out what could’ve possibly happened. If she seriously figures out what happened I’ll be doing back flips on the moon, thought Drea sarcastically.
She turned to her parents. “Well my class is doing a huge project and a few of us are starting a study group too, so I’ll be staying after school each day until four thirty. That ok?” She hoped it would be enough to fool her parents.
“Sure,” said her father, “Sounds wonderful sweetheart.” Before they could give her any protest, Drea turned to go upstairs. No reason to give them the chance to change their minds. She didn’t go fast enough though, for she heard her father say, “And Drea?” She turned to face him with the best fake smile she could muster. “We do apologize about yesterday. That doesn’t mean you were right, but we’ll consider giving you a longer leash.”
That was one of the best things Drea had heard all day. It was surprising to hear her father say such a kind thing, especially since he never wanted to admit when he did something wrong. A small smile crept up on her face as she lowered her eyes. “Thanks dad,” she said quietly before she ran up the stairs to her room. She stayed there for hours.
Once she locked the door, she lay in her bed, mentally trying to process the day. It amazed her how her arm was healed, but the whole conversation with Daniel had gotten her thinking more about her brother. Her thoughts spread like a poison, immobilizing her in her newfound grief. These were the monsters that killed him. She never remembered it correctly, and now she was wondering if it really was worth it. She could’ve gone her whole life without knowing how he died, or at least without reliving it.
Tears slid silently down her cheeks. Drea hadn’t allowed herself to cry in so many years for fear of appearing weak. She didn’t know how to wrestle with all the conflicting emotions fighting for the forefront in her heart. She wanted to help and train and be a hero, but it was hard when fear snaked its way around every shred of bravery she had left.
She didn’t feel confident in whatever Daniel thought she could do. Kevin tried to protect her in exchange for his life. She wasn’t sure she could truly do that for someone else. It was the workings of a true hero to give up everything in order to be the leader everyone expected.
All she knew was that people fought for what was dear to them, and if anything fueled her, it would be her desire to fight for what she had lost and what she still had left to gain.
Drea knew that she couldn’t let people get hurt because she was scared. If those monsters were after her, she would annihilate them for killing her brother, and destroy them for threatening her family. A newfound anger boiled in her heart, obscuring her grief, her fear, and her uncertainty in her rage. She wouldn’t let them get away when they threatened everything she held dear.
The thought of training seemed somewhat odd to her, like she was in some kind of fairy tale, but if it would make her stronger she felt she was up to the challenge. She wondered what they’d be doing, especially after seeing what Daniel could do. I wonder if he could teach me to fight like that, she thought. Those knife skills were amazing.
She lay in her bed for hours, simply thinking. The only time she came out of her room was when dinner was ready. They all ate quietly, everyone’s separate lives taking control of their thoughts. Afterwards, Drea returned to her room.
In only a few hours of lying in bed, Drea fell asleep. She’d been doing homework, but she just couldn’t keep her eyes open and her thoughts from straying.
Her dreams were restless, haunting her with visions of blood and monsters. It felt as if the shadows themselves were chasing her as she continued to fall further into the depths of her mind. Her own fears came to life, grabbing her and pulling her back as the darkness encompassed her and pulled her even deeper into its depths.
Drea tossed and turned in her bed endlessly. Sometime in the middle of the night after hours of unrest, a light, soothing aura entered her mind. She tried to defend herself against it, to push it out, but she lacked the amount of control to even be a hindrance to it. It began to fill her mind with light, allowing her to relax as the shadows retreated in fright.
She heard Daniel’s voice speak in her mind in nothing more than a whisper: Rest easy now. I am with you. He spread his aura out, enveloping her in a warm, protective feeling.
She found it odd he was in her mind at first, but became used to the idea as her mind began to rest. All she knew was that she was thankful to him. She was curious as to why he helped her though, and resolved to ask him the next day.
At some point she began to feel Daniel’s aura recede; it felt as if an infinite amount of time had passed. As he removed the aura from her mind, the jolt woke her up. Drea opened her eyes to see that it was six ten in the morning. She had woken up ten minutes late.
Must’ve forgotten to set the alarm when I fell asleep, she thought. She rubbed her eyes and stretched as she sat up, looking around her room. The feel Daniel’s aura was still engraved in her mind, and as she extended her aura out, she found him sitting somewhere nearby.
Danny? She spoke in her mind.
Daniel, he responded after a minute.
Very funny, she said. Why are you here?
I was actually sleeping.
Well why were you sleeping here?
For one thing, I’ve no other place to sleep, and I just wanted to watch over you. Your power puts you in a dangerous position.
If you say so, she said sarcastically, though she actually was pretty scared. So if you were sleeping, then how were you able to stay in my mind?
I set it that way, so to speak. All I did was control the aura I gave to you so I could sleep. I kept it at a constant rate, and if that changed, I would’ve woken.
But how could you have kept it constant while you were sleeping? Drea wondered.
Control, he said. Don’t worry, I’ll be teaching you that.
But why?
Why what?
Why did you help me…. She hesitated, unsure of how to proceed. I mean, I don’t even know you that well and-
We all have those nightmares sometimes, he interrupted. Everyone needs a little help here and there. He seemed like he’d just withdrawn into himself, judging from the outpouring sadness emanating from his aura that he was trying to hold in.
Drea thought he might say more, but he remained quiet. She guessed it was a painful memory, so she didn’t push it.
We’ll train after school then? Drea asked tentatively.
Very well. He was silent for a moment. I’ll be around. Be careful. Find my aura if you feel that bloodlust again. I won’t be too close though, don’t want you to think I’m watching you.
Haha, very funny Danny.
Daniel, he said again.
Whatever floats your boat, responded Drea as she climbed out of bed. She went to the mirror and saw that her hair was a mess and she was still in her clothes from the day before. She looked pretty tired, but she felt fairly well rested.
Drea went through her regular morning schedule, stopping only briefly to turn on her phone and put on her charm. It was ice-cold still with not even a trace of heat. She clenched it in her hand as she made her way down the stairs.
As they ate breakfast, the atmosphere was much more cheerful as the good mornings and smiles went around. Looking at Jackie, Drea wished she could tell her about her abilities, she yearned for it, but knew that keeping these secrets were for the best. She’d probably think Drea was some kind of freak anyway.
She set her bag down on her chair and grabbed her morning cream cheese bagel. Everyone appeared much more enthusiastic today, and her father even restricted the rules to her “study group/project.” She didn’t have to call or text until she was on her way home, or unless she’d be later than five o’clock.
After breakfast, Jackie and Drea left. They didn’t talk too much; Jackie was still probably trying to figure out what Drea did. Drea didn’t mind though, she had a few things going on in her head herself.
When they got to the school, they said their goodbyes and Jackie walked on toward her friends. Drea caught a glimpse of Jenny and Keisha staring at her as Jackie approached. They must’ve seen me too, she thought as they looked away to avoid her eyes.
Drea continued on with her school day, noticing that Drake, Crystal, Kaia, and Katie were all out of school. Their names weren’t on anyone’s attendance, but the weirdest part was that no one remembered them. In homeroom, Karen didn’t even say anything about the previous day. She looked completely normal, acting as if they never existed, and Drea knew she normally would’ve said something.
It occurred to Drea that the memories of Crystal and the others were erased when they went into the portal. She didn’t know how, but if they could erase memories, they must’ve been pretty strong. It brought up one question though: Why erase everyone’s memories? No one knew them very well, and no one would’ve care too much about where they’d gone. There was more going on than she previously thought.
Class started soon after that at seven fifteen. It was incredibly disorienting to remember something that everyone else forgot. It was as if she was the one whose memories had been changed while everyone else was normal. She knew it wasn’t true, but she couldn’t help but to feel as though she was the one who’d been tampered with. She only wondered why she wasn’t.
School was over at two fifteen. Drea stood outside as usual, but this time she was waiting for Danny. Karen passed by, leaving Drea alone after she waved goodbye. Drea waited ten more minutes, beginning to wonder where he was. She grew impatient, so she took a walk away from the school. Maybe I can find him this way.
She walked around for another ten minutes before she thought to extend her aura out to find him. So this is your game, she thought. You wanted me to find you instead of coming to get me. Drea smiled fiercely. If you think this’ll stop me, you’re wrong!
She took off running, moving as quick as her legs would carry her; she hadn’t realized how excited she was until her legs moved on their own accord. As she ran, her shadow danced and shimmered around her in the sun, reflecting her every movement and action like a puppet on a string.
She extended her mind out to find him while she ran, trying desperately to focus. She’d tried to focus while running a few times over the years, but wasn’t very good at using her mind while moving.
Drea focused in on everything around her, but had a hard time being aware of it all. She had to bring herself back into her body multiple times to avoid crashing into something. Every time she crashed into someone she got up and apologized about a million times before trying to escape their accusatory stares.
It was exhausting, but she did feel as though she could move herself out a bit easier. It was a nice feeling to feel as though she’d gotten better, even if she really didn’t improve much at all.
Eventually, she found Danny’s aura in the forest near the park. It was obvious he had been trying to hide it, but as she focused in on it, she knew exactly where he was.
She used Danny’s aura to guide her movements as she let her legs simply carry her there, keeping her mind outstretched the whole while. She couldn’t keep track of everything, so she switched her mind from person to person or animal to animal, trying to keep herself moving. It was a strange feeling to be outside of her body while still regaining control of her movements. It made her feel as though she was in two places in once, which wasn’t as good of a feeling as one might think.
She continued to run towards his aura, turning street corners, passing people and looking around. It was almost funny to look at their bewildered faces as she whizzed by, if she didn’t crash into them that is.
After a few minutes of running, Drea was breathing hard. She was finally beginning to get closer to Danny’s aura as she stopped in front of the park. She stood and took in a few breaths. The park was green with a small path and a little forest of trees. If she went deep enough, the trees would get thicker in that forest, creating the illusion of a larger forest.
Drea ran down the path, going past streetlights, benches and a few garbage cans. Danny wasn’t visible anywhere, and she was beginning to feel exhausted from exerting herself so much in a way she was unused to.
She ran into the forest, still going at top speed. His aura shone like a beacon to her as she approached it and slowed. She felt it emanating from atop one of the trees.
“Hey!” she breathed, looking up and yelling, “I found you!” She rested her hands on her knees, panting with exhaustion. As lithe as a jungle cat, Danny jumped down from the tree. He smiled a little at Drea, pleased that she was able to find him without any of his direction. He’d thought it’d take longer or that she’d give up or just wouldn’t find him at all.
Drea smiled back, feeling satisfied at what she had accomplished. She hadn’t thought she could do so much when she hadn’t even received any training.
When she felt as though she’d gotten her breath back, she tried to stand, but as soon as she started to rise she felt weak and powerless. Her legs gave out and she fell forward unexpectedly. Danny rushed over to her with his amazing speed and caught her in his arms right before she hit the ground. They remained there for a second until he lowered her to her knees. It was now painfully obvious to Drea at how much energy she’d used in finding him.
“I never imagined you’d be able to find me so easily,” he said contemplatively.
“Well… maybe you… underestimated me,” Drea said between breaths. She was struggling to regain the energy back in her limbs.
At his request, she explained what she’d done to find him. He was definitely surprised that she’d done so well, but he kept his face calm, as if he was just a statue subjected to the force of her words. When she spoke of the way she extended her mind, he even seemed impressed that she could stay focused, but it was as if he knew she wouldn’t be able to.
Danny stared at her when she finished speaking. He finally spoke after some time. “You’ve done well. It takes a lot to focus your aura like that, and Kaienshi of your skill level generally can’t do it. You retain much more power than I thought; now we just have to teach you how to use it.” He lifted her and set her against a tree. He’d used the same word Crystal had used: Kaienshi. She wondered what it meant, but thought it better to wait until he had explained before she asked her question.
“Alright,” said Drea, looking up at him. “I’m ready, so let’s start with everything I need to know.”
Danny stood, a serious look on his face. “Then let’s begin.” He leaned himself up against a tree trunk a few feet away, facing Drea. He looked around for a few minutes before his eyes settled on her face again.
“There’s so much you’ll need to know, so be prepared to wait a while.” He paused one last time before his story began.
“I’ll begin with the wolf creatures. You saw one in your memories and glimpses of them as your friends, but you’re still ignorant as to what they actually are. Those “wolves” are called the Lori. They’re creatures that were born in another dimension. We don’t know much of their history before they found the human world, and why they took the form of wolves is unknown, but they do have the ability to change forms at will. Their DNA and physical forms are similar enough to that of humans that they can change to look like humans at will. That ability has caused us a lot of pain.”
He looked away for a moment, a sad look on his face. “The thing that makes them different from regular wolves is the fact that they each have a specific ability unique to their bloodline. Some have great agility, some are intelligent while others have greater physical prowess such as strength or even size. The one you know as Crystal was one who’s been graced with cleverness and power, making her one of the higher-ups in their society.
“Anyway, they found this world by accident when they discovered a rift in space. They researched it and found a way to equip each wolf with the ability to travel dimensions. Once they perfected it, they used it to travel here. Each wolf now is born with the ability in their claws, which is why Crystal was able to get away.
“They immediately saw how weak the humans were, and decided to overtake them. They thought they would be better leaders and the humans would be good slaves. They tortured the human race, killing and enslaving many of them. It was a terrible time in the early history of the human race, but was never actually documented. One Lori emerged as the leader of their world during this time. He was known as Alka, and was considered the strongest, smartest, and fastest of all the Lori. He was exceptionally gifted. There were however a few remaining Lori who disagreed with the takeover of the humans. They saw something in your race that Alka didn’t. Those Lori attempted to protest, but to no avail. Alka exiled them into the human world, transforming them permanently into humans.”
“What happened to those human Lori?” wondered Drea aloud.
“Some say they intermingled with the other humans and became a part of society, while others say that somehow they survived. It’s been said throughout time that they still lay in wait for the one uh,” he hesitated for a moment, as if he couldn’t figure out the phrasing, “hero who is destined to save us, but that’s a story for another time.
“Alka took over the tribe and this world quickly, but the only reason Alka didn’t remain in control of this world was because of a man who had powers like you and me. He was known as Kaien. He was blessed with mind powers since birth, which allowed him to master any weapon he fought with. He is referred to as the first Weaponsmaster.
“A Weaponsmaster is a warrior who can master any weapon, as the name suggests. In our modern world, they are considered heroes. Kaien was an extremely powerful Weaponsmaster, but he was also still a human. He was the one who found the rift in space after many years of torture by the Lori. He made it his job to close up the rift in order to stop them. When Kaien was discovered by a Lori at the site of the portal however, he found himself cornered. Using his sword and dagger, Kaien was able to defeat the Lori with his ability to master the weapons. During the fight, he encountered the one known as Zen, the Guardian of fire.
“Zen decided to help Kaien on his quest to eradicate the Lori, for he was also tired of their rule. Zen now resides within all Weaponsmasters, helping them to conjure up any weapon using his fire. He gives every Weaponsmaster Kaien’s ability, which helps them prepare for their new role quickly.
“The Guardians are keepers of all the elements: stone, fire, earth, you name it, but the Fire Guardian, Zen, prefers to work with the Weaponsmaster. All the other Guardians go where they’re needed and may bond with humans, but that’s pretty rare. Zen has bonded with the Weaponsmaster since Kaien, and continues to do so in order to help our organization and prevent the rise of Alka. He tends to like the feel of the Weaponsmaster’s aura also.
“Once Kaien found that he could use his power to defeat the Lori, he sent out a message using the help of Zen with his mind. This message would allow anyone who also wanted to take down Alka to find and join him. Within weeks, Kaien had built up a force capable enough to fight. He taught them about weaponry and those who were capable of mind powers were also taught. When they were ready, they went to invade Alka’s palace. He and his small army fought against the Lori, killing many along the way. Kaien faced off against Alka one on one, but couldn’t kill him completely. The only other option was to seal him away. The only way he could do this was to remove the sources of his power, being the items of power Alka had forged.
“Alka possessed seven pieces of armor and weaponry on him, all golden. They were a vest, sword, gloves, boots, shoulder pads, chain link pants, and his most powerful weapon, the shuriken. Kaien sealed him by separating all the pieces and hiding them in different forms. They could be-”
Shuriken?, thought Drea, bringing her hand impulsively to her neck. No, it couldn’t be, probably just a coincidence. She was so deep in thought that she didn’t hear Danny until he said, “-or jewelry.”
“What did you say?” she said looking up at him, her heart pounding in her chest.
He raised an eyebrow. “Not listening?”
“I was! Except for that last part…”
“Ok, then pay attention. I said that the artifacts can be hidden or disguised as stone or jewelry.”
“Jewelry?” she interrupted again. “Like necklaces?”
“Yes,” said Danny. “Why?” He was getting suspicious.
She paused for a moment, unsure of how to answer. Then she remembered what Crystal had said. “Crystal… she mentioned she was looking for something around here… I think it was one of those charms.”
Danny was silent as he contemplated the possibility. Finally, he said, “I suppose it’s possible that they can track it, but I don’t see how…” Drea thought of telling him about her charm but decided against it. She didn’t want to bring it up that her necklace looked like one of those artifacts. It couldn’t possibly be anyway; it was just something her brother had given her.
“Well after Kaien had separated the artifacts and sent them around the world, he sacrificed himself to seal Alka’s body. No one really knows the type of seal he used or how to replicate it, but we do know that Alka’s body was encased in stone with chains made of Kaien’s aura binding it and hiding it deep under the earth. It happened so long ago, that even his body is undiscovered. The only way to find him would first be to gather the seven artifacts. That will reveal where the body is hidden.
“Those artifacts have been lost for centuries though, for no one has been able to find them. The Lori want to find all seven though, just as we do. With all seven, Alka will be resurrected and will attempt to take the world again. In order to prevent this, we have also tried to gather all the artifacts. We had about four until the wolves infiltrated us and took them.”
“Hold on,” said Drea, “If they can go and steal them from you, then why can’t you steal them back?”
“They have the ability to transform into humans and hide their bloodlust, making them look and feel like us. We can’t transform, so if we tried to sneak into their dimension, we’d be outmatched and outnumbered, not to forget easy to see. It’s also somewhat like what you call the Cold War. If we try to get them back, it’ll be considered an act of war, and it’ll end up destroying both our races.
“Anyway, in order to seal himself, Kaien had to give away his soul. He died in the attempt to kill Alka, and remains forever locked in a type of Limbo with him, or so we believe. When they were sealed, another rift opened in space. Kaien’s wife, Zoey, took his place as leader and led the remaining warriors into the rift. It turned out to be a new dimension called Skynea, where we now live. It’s similar to this world, except for the fact that time moves differently. As an example, you’ve aged six years and I’ve only aged two. We age about two thirds as slow as you do, which is why I’m not twenty one like I should be in your world.”
Drea looked at him with newfound curiosity. It was a strange thought to think that she was speaking with someone from another dimension, even if he explained it be something like Earth.
“In Skynea,” Danny continued, “his wife, Zoe, created the organization known as Koracan to fight the Lori and protect the humans. Everyone with these powers was then known as Kaienshi, after our founder Kaien.”
Crystal called me a Kaienshi. I wonder how long she’s known about me….
“Koracan would train the Kaienshi in using the mind powers and finding their specific weapon. Over the years after they left, many humans like you developed mind abilities and an affinity to weapons because of the great remnants of aura in the air. This is why when we know enough, we can be sent out to train humans like you on how to defend themselves. Humans with powers are ample targets for the Lori, since they don’t understand how to use their powers or how to fight back. Many unexplained deaths happen because of this.
“The one thing you also need to know about our organization is that we characterize the Kaienshi by this outfit,” he said, gesturing to himself. Drea looked again at his uniform: it was the baggy black pants, t-shirt, white bandages, and black sandals. She still thought he looked like a ninja.
“What are the bandages for?” she asked
He seemed to acknowledge them for the first time. It was like he hadn’t even noticed they were there. “Since I’m considered a healer, I have these extra bandages for myself and others. They also work to hide the mark on my hand that allows me to move dimensions. We usually keep them hidden so we don’t scare the humans, but I can explain more about the mark when I show you how I use it.
“As I was saying, Koracan is like a training facility, but of course we have our leaders. The rules in are very strict. Those years ago, I let you keep your memory of your brother when I shouldn’t have. I broke the rules, and I’m lucky no one found out. If they had, I would’ve been punished severely. There is no toleration for disobeying.
“Once the last artifact is found though, the Lori need one more thing to release the seal on Alka’s body. The Weaponsmaster. The Weaponsmaster has a small trace of Kaien’s DNA running through their veins, so once all the artifacts are found, the Weaponsmaster is used to release the seal.”
“So there are more?” Drea wondered aloud.
Danny looked down at her. “The Weaponsmasters are born spontaneously. We used to think it was once every generation, but now we see that the previous Weaponsmaster loses their powers when a Kaienshi who’s destined to take their place becomes strong enough. As of right now, we’ve no clue as to who the new Weaponsmaster is. It’s a problem since they are the only one who can release the seal on Alka’s body, making them a prime target for the Lori.
“No one knows where they are yet though so we still have time. The previous Weaponsmaster lost his powers six years ago, and since we haven’t found the new one among the Kaienshi of Skynea, we’ve been lead to believe that we are searching for a human, but we’ve yet to find the right one. Once we find them, they will have to undergo some pretty rough training to catch up to the normal Kaienshi.”
“There are human Weaponsmasters?” Drea narrowed her eyes.
“There has been one human and one female. The human, Shawn, was one of the most powerful, yet he chose to fight with only a staff and rarely changed his weapon. He never wanted to be a fighter, and lost so much because of it…”
Danny was quiet for a moment before continuing. It was like he was remembering a distant memory. “Many humans aren’t so used to killing, especially at an age like yours. The female, Korena, was also one of our strongest Weaponsmasters, but as of now she’s been the only female. She would’ve been an ideal match for Alka, but at that time all of the artifacts hadn’t been found.”
“You mean that over all these centuries all the artifacts have never been gathered?” asked Drea incredulously. “I know you said they can be hidden, but I can’t imagine taking centuries to find seven items.”
“It has been far too long” he said looking up. “That’s why we must make sure to prepare the Weaponsmaster for what will surely happen soon. I only wish we could find out who it is. The next one will most likely be the one to fight Alka, so we need to find them soon.”
He was quiet then, probably thinking about what was to come. Drea waited for him to say more, but he stayed quiet. She closed her eyes for a moment in an attempt to sort out all her new knowledge. All the new information was incredibly overwhelming, but somehow it felt right. It all felt very familiar to her in some way.
When she opened her eyes again, she was surprised to see Danny looking at her, sadness in his eyes. It made Drea feel exposed, like her was seeing through her. She stood and pushed her aura out towards him, snapping him out of his revere. She raised an eyebrow with a quizzical look.
He sighed. “I apologize, but you remind me of your brother. I didn’t know him well, but I was assigned to train him. I had met with him the day before he died to speak with him.” He paused, like he was unsure of what to say next. “I wish I had gotten that chance…. I’m sorry.” The last of his words ended in a whisper.
Drea only stared at the ground beneath her feet, as if she could phase through it and simply disappear. Of course life was never that easy. It was obvious that Danny felt the same guilt she did for her brother’s death: the feeling that they could’ve done something more, but she wondered why this particular instance had pained him so much. He must’ve seen a lot worse if he was a Kaienshi like he said, but for some reason, this death stuck with him like a nightmare.
Drea lifted her head and looked him in the eyes. She could see that he wasn’t looking for a release from the guilt he held or even forgiveness; he just wanted to get it out. She felt her heart sink and grow heavy in her chest. She had never blamed him, but she hadn’t known about him since a few days ago. As she looked into his eyes though, she could tell that he had changed from the snob she punched to the boy that stood before her.
At that moment, she couldn’t quite decide on her emotions, so she changed the subject. “So he had powers like me?” she asked quietly, her eyes moving to the ground.
“Yes,” responded Danny cautiously. She could feel waves of disappointment coming from him; he really wanted to make her feel better, but she just wasn’t up to it. “He was able to sense aura like you, though he wasn’t as strong. He died to protect you from that Lori, but he didn’t know how to protect himself yet.”
He looked over at her. “I’m sorry for not telling you earlier.”
Drea thought she should be mad at him for not telling her, but she couldn’t bring herself to be angry. Something in her heart just told her it wasn’t right, that Kevin wouldn’t have wanted that. Once again, she changed the subject, this time to stop herself from crying.
“Why did both of us have powers? Wouldn’t that be incredibly rare?”
Danny looked at her again; this time looking more like a great burden had been lifted off his shoulders. All he wanted was to tell her after those six years. Now he finally had. “Your ancestors must’ve breathed in some of the excess aura that was in the air. Over time, that developed into a gene that would allow you the ability to expand your mind. It’s a dormant gene for many people, but it activates in some people like you and your brother. If the gene isn’t strong enough, it can be passed down, but not visible. It’s likely that your parents have this gene, though it’s rare for two people in the same family to have the activated gene. It must be incredibly strong in you. In terms of DNA, the gene blends, so you won’t have to worry about anyone finding out about your abilities from any type of DNA test.”
So it seems Crystal was right. I do have a lot of power. Drea looked at her hands as if they were no longer her own. If only I knew how to use it.
“Because of the dormancy of the gene,” Danny continued, “not all of us in Skynea have powers. Some just don’t develop it. Those people simply don’t join Koracan, but they can live with us or may choose to come here if they wish.”
He paused, looking up at the sky. He suddenly looked a lot older and much more contemplative. “It’s everyone’s dream to become the Weaponsmaster in Koracan, but I feel as though the popularity is what many really want.”
He smiled at the thought, making Drea smile too. It felt like she was finally becoming what she always wanted to be: a hero. Her brother would’ve been proud of her. The thought of it brought tears to her eyes and a warm feeling to her heart. She let a cool tear slide down her cheek before she wiped it away and looked back to Danny. He stared at her, a slight smile still playing on his face.
Drea went over to him, eager to move on from her sadness. “So what are you going to have me doing in this training?”
“First I’ll need to teach you about the different auras and how you can use your mind to detect them,” Danny said. “Then you’ll be learning about fighting with your mind, breaking into other peoples’ minds, going in undetected, and everything you need to know on controlling your aura through your mind. Once you have accomplished those techniques, I can help you discover which weapon you can master. It’ll take a little bit of time, but once I teach you the basics you’ll be able to protect yourselves from any Lori you’ll see.
“Also, as I said yesterday, you will be using these powers to protect anyone who encounters one of the Lori. Lori have an uncanny ability to stay hidden and avoid human detection, which is why you haven’t seen many before now. Now that you’ll be gaining power, there will be many more here. You’ll have to fight them, and if you refuse, let me revoke your power here, before we go further. Again, are you sure you’re ready?”
He never mentioned revoking her powers, but that option still didn’t change her mind. “Yes,” said Drea. “It’s my turn to protect everyone now. I’ll be taking on this job to protect my city. I don’t want to see anyone die again. ” The pain was evident in her voice as her it cracked and she looked down at her feet.
Danny nodded and smiled a sad smile. “Good.” Danny stood straight and stared into Drea’s eyes. There was something about her that felt different than any other person he’d trained before. She was headstrong and he knew that after the pain she’d felt, she’d put her heart into protecting everyone from the Lori. Looks like she’ll catch on quick too, he thought.
Drea looked at the time on her phone. It was only three thirty, an hour before she needed to be home. She looked to Danny. “What should we do now?”
He looked at her in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“I mean that I still have another hour before I need to go home. You sure you don’t want to start this training now?”
“It’s probably best not to.” Danny said. “It’ll take more than an hour to get you started anyway.”
“Why don’t I show you around town then?” suggested Drea. “It’s not like you have anything better to do.”
Danny almost looked confused by the prospect, but he seemed to agree. That is if one of those confused stares was considered an agreement. By way of answering, he lifted his hand above his head and moved it in a small circle. Drea didn’t get what he was doing until she saw the air shimmer around him as what looked like glitter fell in a circle from his hand. As it passed over him, his clothes changed from his Kaienshi outfit to a school uniform. He looked completely normal, like any other school student.
Drea looked at him in amazement. He only said, “You’ll need to know how to do that if you’re going to be a Kaienshi. I’ll be teaching you this too.”
His face was blank and innocent as Drea rolled her eyes and grabbed him by the hand, leading him out of the forest and into the park. They ran over to the shops and looked around. Drea showed Danny the town, smiling and laughing at the looks on his face as she walked around with him. She hadn’t had so much fun in a long time; being with Danny almost reminded her of being with her brother. Almost. If only he could see her now.

The next day inched by like a snail for Drea. She was curious as to what she’d be doing and even began to look forward to learning about fighting, as odd as that was.
Having the gene made her feel as though she didn’t belong in her own family though, even though they had no inkling that she was different. Being with Danny the other day made her feel different. It was wonderful to know he was like her; it made her feel like she belonged as she smiled and laughed with him. He reminded her in some ways of Kevin with his powerful demeanor and kind eyes, yet there was something else about him that interested her. Drea didn’t know why she liked spending time with him, she loved spending time with Karen too, but there was just something about Danny that made her want to be around him.
After school that day, Drea stood outside in the school yard and extended her mind out to Danny. She found him in the park again, but instead of training there, he took her back to the waterfall. “It’ll be easier for you to concentrate,” he said when he set her down.
“So where do we begin?” asked Drea as she took in her surroundings once again. The beauty of it all never ceased to amaze her.
“We’ll start with developing your mind abilities even further.” He sat cross-legged on the ground, motioning for her to do the same. Once she had, he said, “The purpose of this is to control your mind abilities in order to fight. You’ll need to close your eyes to start, but once you get better, you may be able to do this with your eyes open. Once you learn how to do this, you’ll be a truly great fighter.”
“Can you do it?”
“Yes, but I haven’t yet mastered it; it takes years. Of course with your strength and power, I wouldn’t be surprised if you mastered it before me.”
Yeah right, thought Drea as she rolled her eyes.
Danny raised an eyebrow as his mouth curved into a sly smile. “You didn’t read my mind, did you?” asked Drea accusingly.
“I didn’t have to on that one,” he responded. “Besides, I don’t like to go into other peoples’ minds. It’s not my place. Now, close your eyes and focus Andrea.”
Drea did as instructed and closed her eyes, feeling her breath shake as she took a deep breath.
“Calm down.” Danny’s calming voice washed over her, strengthening her concentration and forcing her fear back into the crevices of her mind. “Don’t be fearful, don’t hold back, or you’ll never succeed.”
His words were like a whisper as she pushed even her most worrisome thoughts away. All the uncertainty she had fled as a new power coursed through her. Drea could feel the aura running through her veins as a world of darkness enveloped her vision.
“Now extend your aura in all directions. Do not hold back. Try to become aware of your surroundings and the emotions of those near you.” Danny’s voice interrupted this new world created by darkness. “Don’t expect to master this here; you’ll have to spend some of your own time to become proficient with it. Once training begins, this’ll be easier.”
Drea did as he said and began to move herself out of her body. It felt like she was being pulled into all directions; it wasn’t just uncomfortable, it was painful. She didn’t want to give up, she wanted to impress Danny, but it was becoming difficult to continue. She winced as if she’d been smacked and her eyes forced open. She was surprised to see that she was panting. Danny looked at her with kind, understanding eyes. “Try once more Andrea. Take as much time as you need.”
She took a few calming breaths, then did as instructed and closed her eyes once again. It was completely quiet. Drea wasn’t sure if Danny had left or not, and was tempted to check, but refrained. She no longer felt his aura, but if he was as strong as he seemed, he probably figured out some way to hide it. Drea took a deep breath and began to focus, pushing herself out in all directions in an attempt to re-create and image of her surroundings in her mind.
Her head began to hurt and ache as an unnatural pain bloomed and crawled through her skull. She was about to open her eyes, but couldn’t. The pain was becoming too much for both her mind and body; it felt like she was no longer part of her own body, as if her soul had fled, taking her five senses with it. Only the pain remained as it crept into her eyelids, obscuring the world of dark she had created. In an instant, a white light enveloped the darkness, changing the scene.
Drea opened her eyes to see a small town. Pricks of white outlined the edges of her vision, making her feel like she was looking through something underwater. It felt like she was back in time with the mud-fashioned houses and dirt walkways. Trees dotted the town, or more accurately, the town dotted the trees. The town was built in a type of clearing within a forest. People were out and about doing laundry, talking with each other or playing with children. Drea began to walk forward without meaning to. Her body was moving without her command, as if her spirit had been put into a new vessel. Even the emotions of this new body coursed through her mind as she moved forward with legs not her own. She held herself straight with a type of superiority, though she felt relaxed with the people around her; she felt like she belonged.
People would smile and wave to her as she walked by and she would do the same. Children came up to her just as quickly as their mother shooed them away. She was respected in this town, though she wasn’t unkind or smug to these people. It felt like she was famous as the she walked purposefully by each house, smiling and waving to all the people she passed. Even the trees became soldiers, saluting her in the wind. After a few more minutes of walking, Drea finally came upon a larger wooden house in the center of town, though palace would probably be a better word for it. It was besieged by trees that hid it from view as vines and greenery crawled up the walls.
Drea felt something change in the demeanor of the body she was in. She became more serious in a way that reminded her of when her brother passed. It was like she closed herself off from the world completely once again.
Drea advanced through the two large hidden doors, only to come upon a foyer with countless doors and passageways. She walked straight into an infinite hallway dotted with flaming torches and wooden doors. She walked with purpose as she moved towards the door at the very end of the hall. Everything seemed unnaturally quiet as she entered the double doors. They opened to a large room covered with baby-blue stone. It sparkled and shimmered as Drea approached a square-shaped throne on a white paved walkway. The room was magnificent; it was like nothing she had ever seen.
It was empty all except for a young woman sitting atop the hard throne. She was dressed like a princess in long beautiful robes to match her delicate room. Drea advanced to the throne and kneeled respectfully in front of the woman. The woman radiated a power so strong it was unimaginable.
Drea looked up to the woman to hear her speak, but as she opened her mouth, no sound came out. Her lips moved in a silent dance. Drea didn’t understand what was going on as she rose also and began to speak; she couldn’t even hear her own voice. The silence roared in her ears as the conversation continued on.
Drea had no idea of what was being said, but she felt her back straighten with the seriousness of the words coming out of her unusable vocal chords. Suddenly she heard the voice of a woman whisper to her: “Are you ready?” It resonated with power; whoever it was, it was someone of great strength.
Suddenly, the light faded from her eyes as the scene turned to black once again. Drea opened her eyes and blinked a few times, realizing that she’d been holding her breath and was panting for air as if she’d had a nightmare. She finally realized where she was with the waterfall sounding in the background and the scent of trees smothering her. She wasn’t sitting like she had been, but was on her back as Danny knelt over her. He looked into her eyes with true concern. Somehow she thought that he hadn’t planned for this mind training to take her on some surreal vision adventure. She wasn’t even sure if he knew about what she saw...
“Are you alright Andrea?” asked Danny worriedly. His green eyes shot into her like emeralds, piercing her with their beauty.
Drea was surprised to hear his voice, though his words made her realize that she was right: he didn’t know anything about what she saw.
“I- I’m fine,” Drea stammered as she sat up. Her voice cracked as she said it. Danny gently helped her sit, never taking his eyes off her.
She looked at her phone to see that it was already four thirty, time to head home. How could I have been out of it for so long? she thought. It only seemed like a few minutes. She tried to stand, but her legs had been bent for so long that they were a bit weak. Danny grabbed her arm in an attempt to help her up; her legs were wobbly and unstable. He held her up until she was able to stand on her own. He was still looking at her with concern and interest.
“What?” she asked almost angrily.
“What happened?” he responded. “I was watching you, and was content to leave you alone until your breathing slowed even further. I lowered you to the ground, but you didn’t wake.”
“I was just really focused, that’s all. I think with some more practice, I’ll definitely be able to feel my surroundings.” She wasn’t entirely lying despite the fact that she withheld part of the truth. Through that memory, she somehow did have a greater understanding of how to use her mind, despite the fact that she really hadn’t done anything.
“If you say so,” he said, “Just keeping working on it to improve on your own time.”
“You speak as though you don’t have a lot of time,” Drea observed.
“I don’t,” Danny said. “I have to go back to Skynea and Koracan soon, which is why this is more like a crash course than actual training.”
“Oh,” said Drea with disappointment.
Danny smiled at her cheerfully. He was really starting to loosen up. “Don’t worry, we’ve still got some time.” He paused, “Though I do suppose you should be getting home.”
“R-right,” said Drea. She had wanted to know about the vision, but something had kept her from saying anything. She just had this feeling that she should keep what she saw to herself, yet she didn’t know why since he knew everything about this Kaienshi thing. It just felt like something personal, something she had to figure out on her own.
Danny transported Drea home again with his speed, dropping her off by the school. She waved good bye as he disappeared. She trotted home, feeling happy about the start of her training, though she still had a lot on her mind, including the last thing the voice whispered before her vision went black: “You’re not alone.”

Drea’s training proceeded smoothly as Danny continued to give her pointers with her mind, helping her to extend herself more periodically. She continued to try and extend her mind in all directions, expecting to see another vision, but no visions came. Instead she noticed that she was able to complete the training with growing ease. Whatever that vision was, it helped her with her focus and control.
Many nights she would sit on her bed and try to do the mind training. She was actually becoming quite good at knowing when someone was about to enter her room, which turned out to be a godsend. She had been feeling happier lately too, though she felt a little guilty that she hadn’t been spending as much time with Jackie. They used to be really close, and they still were, but it felt like they had drifted apart a little.
Drea thought about all this as she walked into the school yard, looking for Karen. Karen was the only thing that got her through each monotonous day.
She spotted Karen talking to an older man. He wasn’t a student or any teacher that she’d seen hanging around. Karen looked puzzled, showing off that defiant face that she had mastered. He stared back at her with his malicious eyes; it was like he was trying to bore right through her. After another second, he averted his attention and began to walk away. Karen looked in his direction, and Drea could feel a mix of emotions coming from her. She was angry, confused, and maybe a little protective. When she saw Drea by the school entrance, her eyes widened with a type of fear and her aura spiked with panic as the man began to walk in her direction.
Drea tried to run, but found that she couldn’t move her legs. The man’s presence was incredibly strong; he was dressed in a dress shirt and slacks with a brown overcoat. How original. His aura was powerful and dark, like what she remembered to be the Lori, yet he looked like a completely normal human.
Is it a Lori? She wondered as her necklace began to heat up ever so slightly. As he approached, it the heat increased as it did when the dark aura was near. He stopped right in front of her and stared down straight into her eyes.
“What are you?” she whispered in fear and defiance.
“Haven’t you figured it out already?” he responded coldly.
“You’re a Lori,” Drea said quietly. Her suspicions had been confirmed; turns out this mind training was really coming in handy. “What do you want?”
“You’re aura is different. Stronger. We can’t have someone with aura like yours running around. I’d like to kill you, but I’ve got orders to capture you instead.”
He smiled sadistically. Before Drea even knew what was happening, he reached out with his newly clawed hand in an effort to puncture her stomach. She was expecting to feel the pain spread as his claws ripped though her stomach like butter. She was expecting to feel the blood drip down, but there was no pain, and there was no blood. Drea looked down to see that she had grabbed his wrist and twisted it to the left, out of the way of her stomach. She held it firmly, squeezing it as he flexed his fingers. She hadn’t even felt herself move her hand or grab his, yet somehow she had.
How did I do that? She thought incredulously. It was like a week or so earlier when she’d kicked Crystal down. She didn’t know how she did it; her body just knew the movements.
They stared at each other before he snatched his hand back, feeling his wrist for damage. “We’ll meet again.” He walked away with pure hatred glinting in his eyes and a smile full of malice spreading across his face.
Drea’s breathing was shallow and she was still unable to move her legs. It was as if he’d stolen her energy when she touched him. His dark aura lingered around her, choking her, stealing her life force. She wasn’t sure how to break the trance as her body remained frozen.
Suddenly, she felt the aura dissipate. Her eyes refocused to see Danny standing in front of her. He was dressed in a school uniform, just like the first day she’d met him. Her legs gave out and she fell forward, only to have Danny catch her in his arms. He held her up, slowly giving her little pieces of his energy through his aura. Concern once again emanated from him. He wondered why she had been attacked twice by high-level Lori.
Within a few seconds, Drea felt like she could stand again. “Help me stand up,” she commanded. He did, but kept hold of her arm to keep her from falling. She looked up into his eyes. “What was that?” she whispered.
He looked back with a slight sadness glittering in his glowing green eyes. Funny, Drea never noticed anyone with such fierce eyes. “The Lori want you for some reason, and it seems they’re not beyond dressing up as humans to attack you.” He paused. “Today I’ll teach you some more fighting techniques. That should at least keep you safe when I’m not around.” He looked as though he was about to say more, but then Karen came running up behind him.
“Drea!” she yelled. She was panting. “That guy who came up to you, there was something really wrong with him. Are you ok?” Karen looked really worried like she knew what kind of danger they had been in.
She thought Karen would ask about what he wanted with her, but then her features relaxed into a mischievous smile as she took in Danny. “Oh I see someone came over to help you.” She raised an eyebrow. Danny blushed at the comment and let go of Drea. His embarrassment surprised her, seeing as he was usually so serious. They both straightened up as she blushed and tried to explain. “It’s not like that Karen, he just came over to help me when I fell.”
“Okaaay,” she said in that singsong voice that suggested she didn’t believe her. The bell rang unexpectedly.
“Come on Karen,” Drea said, “we better get going. Can’t be late again or we’ll lose a letter grade.” Teachers just loved to torment students with threats on their grade. “Thanks,” Drea mouthed as she pulled Karen away. See you later Danny. She looked back at him with a smile that he returned.
Even Danny had been feeling a little happier lately. It made him smile to see Drea with Karen; it almost made him forget what she’d lost so many years prior.
*
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*
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*

That afternoon at training, Drea asked about the martial arts. She explained what she had done with Crystal and what had happened with the Lori that morning.

Danny thought about it. “It’s possible that you already know how to fight and do it subconsciously when you’re in danger, but the fact that you don’t know how to use it doesn’t help you much.”

“Will you teach me how to fight with it?” Drea looked at him with those pleading eyes, otherwise known as the “puppy dog face.”

He sighed the wondrous sound of a sigh of defeat. “Well I suppose it would be a good skill for you to have, and your fighting style might help us discover what weapon would be good for you.” He looked at her sternly. “We can’t spend too much time on this though. I don’t have a lot of time, and with more Lori after you, you need to know how to fight with your own weapon.”

“Well how much kung-fu do actually you know?” wondered Drea.

“Enough,” he replied smugly. “Are you ready?”

Those words echoed in the back of Drea’s skull. They reminded her of that woman’s voice from the vision. She hadn’t had any visions since then, but the words were still planted in her memory. “Yes.”

They worked throughout the afternoon learning kicks, punches, and avoidance maneuvers. Drea was catching on fast, but it would take a lot of practice to be as good as Danny, whether she had any skill or not. Despite this, she was surprised how much she actually knew about fighting.

“You’ve done well,” Danny said between breaths. They were both panting from all the exercises. Drea looked at her phone. Four fifteen, almost time to go. Danny must’ve been aware of the time too. He straightened. “I think we’re done for today, but you’ve done extremely well here Andrea. I think you’ll be ready if you ever need to protect yourself.”

“Can we do one real fight?” asked Drea. She was doing so well, she didn’t want to stop. All the moves felt natural to her, as if she’d done them her whole life.

He sighed and smiled at her. “Fine, let’s see how much you’ve learned.”

The both of them took their positions on opposite sides of one another, fists in the air. They began to draw forward and back, each trying to outmaneuver the other. It was clear Danny could’ve beaten her easily, but he let her have the practice. Even she could feel the surprise at the level of her newfound skill.
In the midst of their fight, Drea was about to block Danny’s hit, but her vision went black without warning. She could no longer feel her body as the darkness crept over her. Her sight suddenly came back within a few seconds, but not to Danny or the waterfall.

She saw a young woman facing her, maybe about twenty years old, smiling and laughing. She was beautiful. Drea was doing martial arts with this woman, and whoever’s body she was in was incredibly happy. The two of them were in a beautiful alcove of trees; the soil was soft under her bare feet as the green leaves glowed under the warm sun. She and the woman sparred; the movements were strikingly familiar and easy to do as each movement became engraved in Drea’s mind. The body she was in knew these movements; it felt completely natural to spar with this woman.

She still couldn’t hear much, but she did hear a little. The woman’s laughter bounced through the forest as the leaves rustled in the wind. Their voices were still muffled, but Drea could make out the tone of a man’s voice. It was only then that she realized it was her own. She was in a man’s body now. The entire atmosphere was much different from her previous vision with a friendly, familiar feel, rather than the uptight, respectful feel she had felt before.

The two of them finally stopped sparring after she kicked Drea off her feet. They lay on the ground together, still smiling and laughing together. She stared at this woman, wondering who she was to this man she had become.

Once again he vision blacked out and the image of the woman faded. It felt like she was falling into the darkness as it enveloped her once again. Just before she opened her eyes, she heard another voice speak to her; this time it was the voice of a young, innocent man, of someone sweet and kind: “Things are about to change. Can you leave a few things behind?”

Those words echoed in her mind as Drea’s eyes reopened to see the familiar blue sky and rocky landscape. She could still hear the waterfall in the background, loud and clear. She could also see Danny looking down at her. Again. Finally she noticed that she was on her back. She sat up with Danny’s help, only to feel soreness raking through her body.

Danny looked away for a second, then met her eyes. “We were sparring. I uh thought you’d block me. Instead your eyes glazed over and you dropped your arms. You fell backwards before I could catch you. Are you alright?”

Drea looked at him. He was really getting curious now. “I’m ok,” She smiled. “I just lost consciousness for a moment. I’m fine.” She still wasn’t ready to tell him about the visions, especially as the man’s last words bounced around in her mind.
“Andrea, I think its cause for concern if you’re just blacking out in the middle of your day.” Danny did seem truly concerned about her, which surprised her considering the amount of time he’d known her.

“I’m fine Danny. Trust me,” Drea smiled at him, and while his expression softened a little, he wasn’t looking too convinced. “Help me up,” she commanded once again as he helped her regain her balance. He was helping her up a lot nowadays. With a start Drea reached up to feel something wet on her cheek. She pulled away her hand and saw it was blood. She must’ve scratched herself when she fell. She looked to Danny with pleading eyes.

He seemed to guess what was on her mind. Danny raised him arm and began to emit the glowing green light from his hand. The slight throb she had thought was coming from her head ebbed away, to be replaced by a soothing feeling. He removed his hand and she reached up to feel her face; it was perfectly smooth again.

The feeling of awe came back from the last time he healed her. It was amazing to see that in a few seconds, she was completely fixed. “So why didn’t you do his when I was knocked out?” she asked him curiously.

Danny thought about it for a second, then said, “I was more worried about your health. I didn’t think of it.” Drea smiled. He always seemed to know the right thing to say.
Seeing Danny’s serious expression, Drea started laughing. It took a few seconds, but he smiled too. “Are you ready to go home?” he asked. Drea nodded. Unfortunately, it was now five o’clock, and she was late. He picked her up and transported her to the school where she took off towards her house. He stared at her for a second and smiled. There was something about her that he liked, he just couldn’t quite place it.

The next day at school, all Karen talked about was how hot Danny was and how the two of them should get together. Drea denied having anything to do with him countless times, but no matter what she said, she just couldn’t convince Karen that she wasn’t seeing him.

In training, Danny continued to help Drea with her mind powers and martial arts. Even though he wanted to find this weapon or whatever, it seems he wanted to make sure she could fight without it now that he’d seen who was after her.

Drea’s home life was a little different too. She felt happier, stronger, and more capable. Her new attitude was greatly appreciated by everyone but Jackie, who still hadn’t given up the idea that she was up to something.

After a few more days, Danny finally began this weapon training. “Ok,” he said. “Now we must discover which weapon you’ll be using. As I explained earlier, each one of us can become a master at a specific weapon, we just have to find out which one is right for you.” He drew his knife from a hidden sheath on his pants. “I am well trained with the knife.” He looked up at her. “It’s time to discover what you will be able to master.”

“But couldn’t I master any weapon I wanted?” she asked.
“You could, but for the Kaienshi, there is one weapon which we will be able to use with ease. This weapon will always feel the most comfortable in your hands.
“Alright. Once we start testing weapons out, I’ll take out to defeat some of the stray Lori. Then you can do it by yourself when I’m gone.” He got down on his knees on the smooth rocky ground. The alcove by the waterfall had become their usual training place. Drea followed his lead and got to her knees. “Now we have to get a weapon for you to test.” He looked up at her. “Remember the mark I told you about earlier?”
She nodded and he continued, “This mark allows Kaienshi the ability to travel dimensions. This is why we can come to Earth and go back to Skynea. It used to be physically engraved into the skin with a dagger, but now we use a special ink. It has more uses than just traveling dimensions though. I can get you a weapon with it. In Koracan, we mark all weapons, so if we need one, we can summon it with the mark on our hands. We also use the mark to transport it back. For now, I’ll get you something common.”

Danny placed his hand on the ground. It began to glow green once again. After a few minutes, Danny lifted his hand. A long glowing figure came from the ground as he continued to raise his hand up. It extended to three feet when Danny grabbed it and took it in both his hands. The glowing in the ground stopped just as the narrow figure revealed a sleek sword. The hilt was navy blue with the sheath a cool gray.

The two of them rose to their feet. Danny unsheathed the sword and swung it a few times. The blade was beautiful, shining and unscathed. Drea never realized how beautiful such a deadly device could be, yet all she could think of was how great it would feel to hold it in her hands. Danny sheathed it again and presented it to Drea. “First we’ll start with the most common of weapons: the sword, and in this case, the Katana. There are obviously variations of this weapon, but we can look more into those later if you do well with this.”

Drea grabbed the weapon by the hilt, admiring its beauty. She was going to clip it onto her waist when she realized that she was in her skirt from school. She couldn’t practice sword fighting like that. Danny seemed to realize that too.
“I suppose I forgot to show you how to change your clothing. It’s fairly simple.” He raised his hand above his head like he did before and motioned for her to do the same. “All you need to do is picture what you want to wear, then use your hand to emit the energy necessary to cause that change. Once you know what it looks like, move your hand in a circle over your head while letting out some energy from your hand. Emitting a bit of energy out should be fairly simple. All you do is force it out through your fingertips.”

He moved his hand in a circle over his head, releasing the sparkles or aura. As they fell, his clothing changed to the school uniform. “Now I want you to try Andrea.” He did it once again, changing back into his Kaienshi uniform.
Drea looked at it, trying to picture it on herself. She closed her eyes and took a breath. The mind training should help her focus on the energy; she only hoped she’d be able to do it. She raised her hand over her head and waved it in a circle, letting go of some of her energy. It wasn’t painful, and barely any energy was used in it. It would certainly be a useful technique.

Drea opened her eyes to see if she’d done it. Danny was looking at her with a slightly surprised expression. She panicked for a moment, believing she’d done it wrong, but then she looked down at herself.
Drea had a black tank top with the same type of cargo pants as Danny. On her shoes were the black ninja sandals like his. She also had black fingerless gloves on her hands, something he didn’t have.
He seemed pretty surprised, though she didn’t know if it was from her outfit or from the fact that she actually did it. “So,” she said, “What do you think?”
He looked up at her. “That’s an exact copy, except for the gloves, of what a female Kaienshi would wear. How did you picture that?” Honestly, she didn’t really know how she’d come up with the outfit, she just thought that was how it should look. Before she could answer, he said, “Never mind, it doesn’t matter how you did it. Nice job.” Drea smiled at his complement.
Danny pulled out a belt from his robe and threw it to her. “Put that on, you can clip your sword onto it.” She did. When she put the sword on, it felt familiar somehow, like she’d done it a thousand times. As she stared down at it, her vision changed.
This time, she saw a pair of hands clip a sword onto her waist not just once, but many times. She felt years full of experience and memories leak into her mind, all of it concerning sword fighting. Different moves, the weight of different swords, all of it was familiar in her hands and her muscles. She opened her eyes to see Danny looking at her with a type of curiosity and worry. She’d had another one of those visions. What was happening to her?
“Are you ready to begin?” Danny asked. He was almost waiting for her to say no since he knew she wasn’t acting normal, but she wouldn’t tell him that easily.
“Of course.” Drea hesitated a little, but hoped Danny didn’t notice. She pulled the sword from her waist, just as she remembered doing it, and pointed it towards him, choosing one of the stances without even thinking about it. All of it was familiar to her. Despite this, she wobbled a little, simply because of how unused her body was to real fighting.
Danny looked at her with a glint of surprise. As far as he could tell, Drea hadn’t known anything about sword-fighting, but now she pulled her sword like a master and took a real stance. He hadn’t shown her any of that, and even if the sword was her weapon, those skills are things that have to be learned. Something was going on, he just didn’t know what.
He needed to pursue it, but knew that Andrea wouldn’t tell him what was bothering her; he didn’t know her well enough. She didn’t seem like that type of person anyway. Danny needed to see how much she actually knew about the sword, so he pulled his knife and took his stance.
She advanced towards him, noticing the beautiful black lines on Danny’s knife. Drea attacked first with all the power she could muster. “Let’s see how much you really know,” Danny said quietly.
The two of them fought for what seemed like forever. Once again, Danny’s skill level was clear, but Drea was doing a lot better than a novice should have. She was using techniques she didn’t even know she knew, moving in directions she didn’t think she could handle. Despite all this, Danny was clearly stronger, but she could tell he was similarly surprised.
Drea didn’t even have any idea how she was switching from move to move, yet she did it without even thinking. It felt like it was part of her memories as her mind fluttered with a feeling of remembrance. She’d learned all of this, she just didn’t know how or when. That’s when it dawned on her that the visions she’d had must’ve been the cause. Before she belted her sword, she had no idea of how to even hold it, but now she swung it like she actually knew what she was doing. Somehow these visions were bringing memories back to her, though from where she didn’t know.
After about twenty minutes of fierce fighting, Danny wanted them to stop. “Let’s take a break.” Danny sheathed his knife and Drea her sword. As she did, it was like a trance was broken. She fell to her hands and knees as her exhaustion became clear. Danny was tired, but it was obvious she was much more exhausted. She hadn’t been fully aware of all the movements she was doing in the fight, but now she realized the extent of what she’d been doing.
Even stranger was that she somehow remembered them all. It was like those movements were a memory she had forgotten, and now they came back to her. Drea now fully understood every aspect of the sword. She knew the weight, the length, everything. Yet she knew it wasn’t possible. She shouldn’t have known those tactics; she shouldn’t have been able to be that good. It had to do with those visions…
Danny ran over to Drea when she fell, and checked to see that she was ok. She didn’t seem as strong and focused as she did when she was fighting him. It was as if she’d lost a step. None of this was making sense, an untrained sword fighter shouldn’t have done that well.
She must be more proficient than I thought. Despite his logic, Danny just couldn’t stop one thought from creeping up into his mind. What if she’s the Weaponsmaster? He knew that the Weaponsmaster would be able to wield any weapon with proficiency, and while Drea wasn’t perfect, she’d done well. It must’ve been luck, he thought, for the real Weaponsmaster would have been able to beat me.
“You alright Andrea?” She looked up at him as her breathing returned to normal, displaying what looked to be a fake smile. She was forcing it. “Yeah,” she said as she rose to her feet with his help. “Just tired.” He could tell that she had a lot on her mind, but now wasn’t the right time to confront her about it.
“So now what?” asked Drea. She was feeling strong again, back to herself.
“Well you seem to have done well with the sword, but we’ll need to test a few more weapons. For now though, I’ll teach you how to track and find the Lori. They’ll come after you because of your power, but they’ll linger around other humans until they find you. We don’t need anyone getting hurt.” He stood up straight. “When a Lori appears, you’ll automatically feel its presence, but to find its exact location, you’ll have to extend your mind. Then you can use your sword to fight them.”
“By myself?”
“I’ll help you for the first few times, but afterward I’ll let you fight by yourself. You’ll need to know how when I leave.”
“And you’ll seriously let me keep this sword?”
He paused for a moment. “Yes… but make sure you clip it to your Kaienshi outfit. Then when you change your clothes it’ll disappear, and when you change back it’ll be with you.”
Despite the impending sense of doom she had at fighting these monsters, something told Drea she could do it. Something else unnerved her even more though. She didn’t want Danny to leave, and it was obvious that once she had her weapon, he’d be gone. She felt like they’d become friends in the past few weeks, but he probably didn’t care about her anyway. This was his job.
“None of them are here right now,” he said, “but when the Lori appear, I’ll come and get you. You’ll probably be inclined to go anyway, now that you should be able to feel their aura.”
“So you’ll pull me out of school and out of my house?”
“Yes,” he said matter-of-factly. “In order to protect these people, you’ll have to make time to fight the Lori.” His expression softened. “I know it’ll be difficult, but it’s what needs to be done. You’ll never forgive yourself if you knew you could help someone, but chose not to.”
Danny was right. She just knew that it wouldn’t be easy to do this whole “double-life” thing that bunches of other people did on movies and in books. It didn’t seem real.
“We can start on another weapon tomorrow. We need to see how you’ll do with a different type of weapon.” Drea wondered why, since they would only use one weapon as Kaienshi. Danny wanted to figure something out, and it didn’t take long for her to get a glimpse of what that was.
“Andrea?” he said as she tried again with her mind training. Danny suggested she try that since they had a little time; he didn’t usually interrupt her though. She opened her eyes and gave him a questioning look. “I’m curious about something,” he started cautiously. “You seem to be blacking out quite often. Are you by chance experiencing any types of visions?”
The question caught Drea by surprise. He knew. Maybe they were something common among Kaienshi then, but from the look on his face, she guessed not. It was important, but Drea didn’t need any more complications in her life. “No. My body’s just a little tired from all the training we’ve been doing. I’m just not used to it.”
It wasn’t the greatest feeling in the world to lie, but she did what had to be done. She thought Danny might pursue it, but instead, he suggested another idea: “Andrea. I think it’s time I teach you the quickstep.”
“And that is?”
“As the name suggests. I’ll teach you how to run like I do.”
Drea’s eyes widened. She’d wanted to learn that since she’d seen him do it. “How do I do it?”
The two of them stood and Drea belted her sword on. “It’s actually quite simple. All you need to do is focus your aura in your feet, and then use it to push yourself off the ground when you run. The energy allows you to move faster or jump higher, so you’ll be able to run on buildings or trees. It requires focus for beginners, but once you get used to it, you won’t even need to give it a second thought.”
Drea was surprised by the simplicity, but then she thought of something else. “But when you carry me I can never see anything clearly; it’s always blurry.”
“That’s because your eyes are unused to it. Once you start doing it yourself, it’ll become easier.” He looked over to her. “Start focusing your aura now. We have a little bit of time before you need to be back. Then you can try.”
Drea was so excited it took her a few moments to calm down in order to focus. She closed her eyes, but stayed standing, gathering up all the energy in her body. Slowly Drea moved the aura down to her feet. She focused on keeping it centered so as not to lose focus when she opened her eyes.
Danny stood nearby, watching Drea gather up her energy. She was doing a great job so far, but tomorrow would be the real test on how proficient she really was with weapons. After a few minutes, Drea opened her eyes and took a deep breath. Once again she had completed the task much quicker than expected.
He approached her. “Are you ready to try Andrea?”
She looked at him with that determined look that he had come to recognize and nodded. That look made Danny believe she could do anything. “We’ll jump from here. I want you to follow my lead.”
He pushed himself off the ground so quickly that it made him look as if he disappeared. Drea was quick to follow. It was amazing to see the entire world come into focus under her feet. She was finally able to make out the ground as she jumped flawlessly over the buildings. She stumbled every now and again though, noticing the soreness running up her legs. She wasn’t used to any of this.
As Drea continued to run, she felt the pain getting worse. In another second they arrived and she landed on the ground, but fell to her knees soon as her feet touched. Danny rushed up beside her to make sure she was alright; he’d been doing that a lot lately. Drea appreciated the help, but just hated feeling so helpless. She didn’t want to feel like that anymore.
She rose up with his help once again and looked in his deep green eyes. They were so piercing, yet filled with concern every time he came to her aid. She blushed without meaning to and ducked her head. He’d probably think she was stupid for getting so attached to him. He wasn’t staying long anyway.
He smiled at her, which didn’t help with the whole blushing thing. “You did a nice job Andrea. It wasn’t perfect, but I’m very impressed.”
Drea smiled. Stop looking at him like that! She probably looked like a dog that’d gotten a pat on the head. “Thanks. More training tomorrow?”
“Of course. Remember that I’ll look for you if there’s a Lori near. You’ll have to fight it in order to learn to defend yourself from them.”
“Right.” Drea began to walk away when Danny said, “Andrea!” She turned around. “Your clothing.” She looked down to see that she was still in the Kaienshi uniform. She’d completely forgotten that she was wearing it. Drea moved her arm above her head, emitting the necessary aura. When she looked down again, she was in her school uniform: the blue skirt, white blouse, and blue tie. It was like she never changed. Amazingly, the blue-gray sword she had was also gone.
“I can also teach you to change when you’re moving. It’ll definitely come in handy.” Danny looked at her with kind eyes overflowing with desire to help.
“Alright,” responded Drea.
Danny nodded and took off. Drea walked down the street as she did every day. She was excited to learn more. She was finally transforming into the person she’d always wanted to be, into the hero that everyone needed. Something tugged at her heart though. Maybe it was Danny; she knew she’d miss him, but it was bigger than that. She didn’t know what it was, but something made her question what her life was turning into, even though it was something she’d always wanted.

Drea went to school the next day feeling sore. Her legs were having trouble holding her up and her arms felt limp from the sword fighting. Her body creaked in protest as she walked to school with Jackie. She couldn’t let Jackie know anything was wrong though, otherwise a whole new field of questions would come up. She’d barely lied her way out of hurting her wrist.
Jackie didn’t seem to notice anything amiss though, thankfully. When they were almost at the school, Drea noticed another presence entering her mind. It felt familiar. She tried to push it out, but it didn’t feel like a Lori. Andrea! It yelled in protest to her efforts.
Danny? She hadn’t expected him to enter her mind.
Who else would it be?
Enough with the sarcasm, what do you think you’re doing invading my personal thoughts?
He hesitated. I apologize. We usually communicate like this in Koracan. I forgot you’re unused to it.
Drea was almost expecting some kind of excuse, but instead he’d apologized. One thing about Koracan citizens: they were much kinder than those citizens on earth.
It’s fine, she thought. What do you need?
You seemed distressed.
Now it was her turn to hesitate. She hadn’t expected concern. Yeah… I’m fine, just sore.
You do a very good job at hiding your pain, but don’t make it so other people can’t help you.
I know Danny. She paused. We’re at the school. I’ll catch you later.
Drea felt his goodbye as he drew back. It seemed they could just send feelings to each other too. You learn something new every day, she thought to herself.
“Ok?” said Jackie.
“What?” asked Drea. She must’ve blanked out of whatever Jackie was saying.
“I’ll see you later, ok?” Jackie seemed to be getting annoyed with Drea. She still was unconvinced of her lies.
“Yeah.” Drea forced a fake smile when she said it; she only wanted to make Jackie understand, but now wasn’t the right time to tell her.
Drea walked over to her side of the school. A lot of kids were standing around as usual. She went up to her first hour class to meet Karen. They talked for a little while. Karen looked as though she noticed something wrong with Drea, but didn’t say anything.
Classes slipped by that day. There was nothing too interesting, but Drea had to make sure she stayed focus if she was to keep her grades up. In the middle of class, Drea felt a trace of dark energy just before someone entered her mind. This time she knew right away it was Danny. He sounded urgent. Andrea!
A Lori?
Yes. We have to go.
Right.
As they spoke, Drea noticed her necklace getting warmer again. It hadn’t gotten like that since Crystal and Drake were around. It seems she was right before: the necklace responded to the dark aura. It was as if it was connected to all this… No! she thought with panic to herself so Danny didn’t hear. This couldn’t be the artifact. Danny never mentioned anything about them getting warmer anyway.
She calmed herself and thought for a moment. Well how do you expect me to get out of here? I can’t just leave.
Danny hesitated. Make something up. I’ll meet you outside the school. He withdrew himself from her then, his impatience evident in his aura.
Drea took a deep breath. Let’s do this. She got up and yelled, “Mr. Devon!” He was her english teacher; a young guy with short brown hair. Nothing special. He looked at her and said, “What is it Ms. Swift?”
“Um I’m not feeling well,” Drea hugged her stomach and made a face. She had to do something to make it look convincing.
Mr. Devon only looked at her like she was some kind of annoyance. “Ms. Swift please sit down so I can continue with my class.”
Not happening. “Oh! Ow, it really hurts.” Drea looked up at him. “I’ll just excuse myself to the nurse so I won’t be such a bother.” Drea ran out the door, grabbing her books on the way. She heard him yell, “Ms. Swift!” on the way out. So much for avoiding attention…
Drea ran outside and left her bag in the bushes. She could come back for it later. She looked around for Danny, but didn’t see him. “Andrea.” She turned to see him standing behind a tree in a school uniform. He nodded and took off. She followed suit.

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Karen was curious as to what just happened. Drea just ran out of the room complaining about stomach pain. She never got sick and she never, ever, had any type of outbursts, especially in school. Something was going on, something Drea wasn’t telling her.
Karen looked out the window, wishing for the end of the day; then she could find out what was going on. She was just about to turn her head back towards her teacher when she saw something outside. It was Drea. Karen saw her run out, and throw her bag in some bushes. Then she looked around the courtyard. Her eyes locked on something behind the tree. In an instant, Drea was gone as if she’d never been there.
Karen stared outside with wide eyes, wondering if she really had seen Drea or if it was just her eyes playing tricks. No, she had definitely been out there, which meant that she was lying. Drea was doing something, but Karen had no idea what. She had noticed that Drea had seemed a little happier lately, but she didn’t know why that’d prompt her to skip out on school. And the way she disappeared, that just wasn’t possible. Humans just couldn’t do that. Karen was determined to find out what was going on, but why wasn’t Drea telling her? After all, friends were supposed trust each other, right?

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Drea took off right behind Danny, moving quickly. She saw him running a bit ahead of her. He looked back at her and entered her mind. You’ll need to change to your Kaienshi uniform. Do a summersault in the air. I’ll show you.
Danny was in a school uniform also, probably just in case someone had seen him. He propelled himself forward and did the airborne somersault. Drea saw the little sparkles of his aura, and no sooner did she see his black-clad figure in front of her.
He looked at her with confidence and nodded, waiting for her to try. Drea did as he did, and when she looked down again, she saw she was also in her uniform. Her sword sat at her hip with that same sense of familiarity she took comfort in. She smiled up at Danny. That time Drea thought he blushed, but he turned his head away too quickly to tell.
She then heard him say, You’ll need to hide your face as well. He slowed down until they were next to one another and put his hand over his face. Put your hand over your face and use some of your aura to make a mask. Picture the face of an animal. Danny waved his hand over his face and a black mask appeared in the shape of a leopard. He nodded with the expressionless face he now wore.
Drea did as he did, picturing the face of the one animal she thought of immediately. Within moments, she was looking through the black mask of a horse. Danny waved his hand over his face once more and the mask disappeared to reveal a sly smile. Interesting choice, he said playfully.
He was right; it didn’t make sense that anyone would want the mask of a horse instead of, say, a tiger. Wearing the horse mask felt right though, like it was meant to be. Besides, the nose of the horse wasn’t too long and obtrusive, and it fit her face well. I thought so, she replied as she also removed her mask.
She looked up to see Danny smile at her as she sped up. She laughed as they continued their run. As they continued, Drea could feel her necklace increase in heat as the aura got stronger. She could feel the Lori’s aura getting closer; she could feel its hatred and rage intertwined within it.
Danny looked back at her and made a signal to stop. He jumped down to a clearing. They were on the other side of town. Drea followed and stopped beside him. No one was around, but she could feel the immense aura gathering around them. It once again felt like it was choking her. She couldn’t breathe. She would come face to face with one of the creatures that killed her brother. She didn’t know if she could handle it.
“Calm down Andrea. Take a breath.” Drea looked up to see Danny staring at her with level eyes. “You’re nervous, but don’t let your fear hinder you. Don’t let someone else feel the way you’ve been feeling all because you couldn’t overcome your doubts.”
Drea took a deep breath and steeled her nerves. She couldn’t back down now. The look of determination came back to her face as she looked around for the Lori, spreading her aura and her mind out to find it. “Draw your sword,” said Danny as he drew his knife from under his shirt. “Do you feel its aura?” Danny looked back at her, waiting for her answer. She spread herself out, searching for the darkness she had felt. In less than a minute she said, “Yes!”
No earlier than when she said that did a creature jump from behind one of the trees and spring towards her. She held her sword out in front, but couldn’t remember what to do. It was coming fast, but Drea only stood there, lost in her mind. She wasn’t even able to form a coherent thought with all the fizz in her head.
It was getting closer and closer until… the sound of metal on metal sounded in her ears. Drea stood with her sword outstretched, but the clang hadn’t come from her sword. Danny stood in front of her with his knife holding the monster’s claws at bay.
His whole demeanor had changed as he stood in front of her. His aura felt cold and calculating. It was clear that he had done this before, and that he was prepared to kill. He was staring straight at the Lori. It had a bigger upper build, like a bodybuilder, with claws about three inches long. The Lori was much bigger than Danny, but somehow he was able to stand his ground against the beast as his knife scratched against its claws.
“Look Andrea.” Danny spoke with power, his voice deep with frustration. “This is one of the monsters that killed your brother. It’s your job to kill them now, can you do it?”
The recurring question caught her by surprise. He’d asked her the same question a few times before, but now she understood why. He knew she’d have trouble facing her past, he knew she’d be scared. Now he stood in front of her asking her once again if she was ready. Drea felt anger boil up in her heart. Anger at the Lori, at herself, at Danny, at everything. She was tired of feeling weak, she was tired of always needing someone to protect her.
Danny nodded and pushed the beast back, jumping out of the way and behind Drea. She stared at the Lori with her eyes devoid of fear. It looked back at her with the same hate she felt for it in her heart. They charged each other. Drea suddenly felt all that sword knowledge come back to her. She knew what she had to do, and now she knew how to do it. She raised her sword and clashed with its claws. Then she kicked it in the ribs, forcing it back. There was no time to rest; Drea rushed forward and plunged her sword into its gut.
It was defeated, but she pulled her sword out and did an uppercut kick to send it flying in the other direction. She didn’t know what had come over her, but she didn’t want to stop; she wanted to stab it until it was nothing, until it turned to dust.
Drea was about to run towards it, to make it suffer, to show it pain, but then something grabbed her arm. She reared around, bringing up her sword. She was about to slash whatever was holding her back when she realized it was Danny standing there. He grabbed her hand and stopped it before her sword could pierce him. There was only hatred in her eyes as she stared at him. Danny’s aura radiated sadness as he looked at her. Her eyes widened. She had gotten out of control, and she would’ve hurt him if he hadn’t stopped her. Her vision blurred and her legs got weak. She collapsed in his arms and her sword dropped with a clang.
She couldn’t believe that she’d gotten so caught up in revenge. She’d never had any desire to face the Lori again, but something in her gave her the strength to kill it. She only wanted it to feel the pain Kevin had felt, and the pain she had felt for so many years, but she knew Kevin wouldn’t have wanted her to get so out of control.
Behind her, she felt the dark aura dissipate and disappear. The Lori was gone. Drea didn’t want to, but she couldn’t help it: she cried. She cried because of her brother and because of herself. She cried because of all the memories that rushed back to her of that day. After a few moments, she became vaguely aware that Danny was still holding her. She thought it best to preserve whatever dignity she had left; she was already embarrassed that she’d been crying in front of him.
Drea dried her eyes and looked up at Danny as he released his hold on her. There was no judgment in his eyes, only sympathy and understanding.
Even so, she couldn’t stop the sense of embarrassment she felt. She hadn’t cried in front of anybody since Kevin had died; she hadn’t even cried in a few years. Yet Danny didn’t make fun of her, he didn’t say anything at all. He just waited for her to compose herself. His kind eyes calmed her down.
She sniffed and smiled. “I’m really sorry.” She rose to her feet and he followed. “I lost control.”
Danny didn’t respond right away. Instead, he walked over and picked up her sword from where it had fallen and returned it to her. Drea lowered her head; she felt ashamed of herself. As Danny held it out to her, he said, “Raise your head Andrea. You’ve done well.” Drea looked at him with those sad eyes. “We all get carried away sometimes. Emotions are dangerous things, but they’re natural. You just need to learn how to keep them under control.” He looked at her with his sparkling green eyes as she grabbed and sheathed her sword. She didn’t know what to say.
She lowered her eyes again. “Thanks. It won’t happen again.”
He came towards her and raised her chin, just like he had done all those years ago before he erased her memories. She remembered the moment as if it had just happened yesterday. “If it does, I’ll be there to help you back to your senses.”
That was just about the nicest thing anybody had ever said to her. She blushed again without meaning to. She’d only known Danny for a short while and yet she felt like she’d known him for years. No… she thought. He’ll be leaving soon, don’t get so attached to him. Danny lowered his eyes and gave a sad smile. It was as if he’d read her mind.
He backed up a little and said to her, “You should probably get back to your school, then we can do a little more weapons training later.”
“Of course,” smiled Drea. She was looking forward to it.
“Let us be off then.”
“Very well.” They moved through the air at light speed. On the way, the two of them changed back into school uniforms. Drea kept her sword again, and when she asked about returning it, Danny told her it’d be done this afternoon. She didn’t really want to go back to school, but she knew it’d raise too many questions if she didn’t come back.
They arrived in the courtyard together. It had only been about half hour. Drea waved good bye to Danny and grabbed her school bag from the bushes where she’d left it. She headed back upstairs to her classroom feeling drained emotionally and physically. At least school would be over in a few hours.

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Danny stood in the courtyard watching Drea as she ran towards the building. He hadn’t expected her reaction today. When she saw the Lori, he’d felt her anger rise, but never expected her to get so out of control. She seemed like a level-headed person, though he could understand the anger she felt in seeing one of the creatures that killed her brother. They’d almost killed his older sister so many years ago, and that was something not easily forgotten. She’d decided to live on Earth when she realized it’d be better for her to live like a normal human. She hadn’t gotten any powers anyway. Danny hadn’t seen her since she came to Earth; he wondered how she’d changed.
He sighed. She wouldn’t be feeling this way if I had done my job. Danny always felt guilty for what happened to Drea, whether she knew it or not. If he’d followed a little closer, Kevin wouldn’t have died, but then of course he might not have gotten the chance to meet Drea.
There was something that made her different from the other people he’d trained. She was tough on the outside, but from spending so much time with her, he could tell she was just used to hiding her emotions. No wonder she lost control… She looked like she had a million things going on in her head when she almost attacked him. Then to see her cry like that… he just couldn’t believe it. She’d suffered so much in such a short time and he couldn’t help but to feel responsible.
Danny didn’t know what it was about her. He felt happy being around her. It doesn’t matter anyway. He thought. I’ll have to leave soon. Even with those words, Danny still wasn’t completely convinced that he wanted to leave.

Later on in training that day, Danny thought he’d see how Drea did with a knife. It was possible she could have natural knife skills like she had with the sword, but after training with the knife for so many years, Danny knew how difficult it was to master.
He waited patiently for her at the waterfall. He was looking forward to seeing how she would do. The way she used the sword, it was possible she could be the Weaponsmaster, yet there had never been a human female before. It wasn’t likely, but the way she caught on so fast… he couldn’t help but to wonder. The real Weraponsmaster would’ve been able to beat him, but if she hadn’t tapped into her true power yet, it was only to be expected that she couldn’t win.
If she did happen to show proficiency with the knife, he’d try a new weapon tomorrow. If she was able to master the next weapon just as quickly, then Danny would try a few special tests to see if in fact she was the Weaponsmaster. Koracan’s leader, Wren, had made sure that anybody who went to earth to teach the humans would know special techniques to discover if they were training the next Weaponsmaster. Danny never thought he’d be the one to use those techniques.
Drea was fifteen minutes late; she was never late. Danny tried to reach out to her with his mind but couldn’t. Something was stopping him from hearing her thoughts. He was beginning to get worried, so he decided to see where she was. Danny took off from near the waterfall and started on his way to the school. Something was wrong, now he just needed to find out what.

*
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Drea was so happy when school was finally over for the day. Off to train, she thought. Just as she began to walk out front where she could run off without anyone seeing, someone yelled her name. Drea turned to see Karen running towards her, waving. She sighed. Hopefully this won’t take too long. She didn’t like the fact that she wanted to get away from her best friend, but she really wanted to go train. Of course she wanted to see Danny too though….
Karen caught up with her. “Hey Drea.” She looked happy like she always did, but Drea knew her well enough to know that Karen was faking it. Something was bothering her.
Drea panicked or a moment. Does she know? How could Karen know?
Karen might’ve known, but moved on with the conversation. Maybe she didn’t want to say anything yet. “Hey Drea I’ve been thinking, and I feel like we aren’t spending as much time together. I thought that maybe we could go to the mall this afternoon.” Karen smiled at her expectantly. She wanted her to say yes.
It broke Drea’s heart to lie to yet another person. “Um I’m sorry Karen, but I really have to go. I’m uh…” Drea played with her hair, something she always did when she couldn’t figure out what to say or when she was nervous. Bad habit, especially since Karen knew all about it.
Karen looked confused for about a second, but then her face broke out into a suggestive grin. “Oh I see.” She nudged Drea.
Drea arched her eyebrows. “What?” She was getting angry.
“You’re going to meet that hot guy who helped you out the other day and you don’t want anyone to know you have a boyfriend!”
Drea blushed. That was kind of right actually, but she suspected Karen wasn’t exactly thinking of training.
“I told you before, it’s not like that.” Even when she said it, she didn’t sound too convincing.
“You keep saying that Drea,” said Karen with her smile still smeared across her face.
Drea opened her mouth to respond when a throbbing pain started in her head. She heard her heart beat resonate through her skull as the aura inside of her went crazy. It felt like her mind was spinning as she lost all awareness of herself and her surroundings. Everything blurred as her vision changed again.
This time though, everything stayed black. All she could hear was a cluster of voices. There were so many o them all speaking at once, that she couldn’t understand what they were saying; they were overwhelming her. Stop! I can’t understand… They continued without interruption. After what seemed like an eternity, they began to quiet down, yet Drea still saw only darkness.
They were just whispers now, ringing through her head. One alone spoke clearer than the rest: “Remember.” With that word, Drea’s world lit up. She saw pictures of people she didn’t know, but that resonated with power and importance. The first was of a woman who was about thirty with pitch black hair pulled up in a loose bun. Her eyes were wise despite her age and she was dressed in what looked similar to a Japanese kimono.
The next showed a young man, probably about twenty, with rugged short brown hair. He was smiling, and judging from the smile lines near his eyes, he did so a lot.
So many other pictures of countless men and women flashed through her memories, each looking different from the last. The only thing they seemed to have in common was the sense of power Drea got from seeing their faces, as if they emanated it. She felt their auras through their pictures, and while they were all very different, there was something in each of them that was the same. She didn’t know what it was. Their aura had one thread of energy that connected them all, even her, together.
Before she could comprehend what it all meant, the pictures vanished and the voices returned. This time though, they all whispered the same word: “Remember.”
They began to dissipate. Her hearing was returning. “Drea!” It was Karen’s voice sounding as if they were underwater; she sounded panicked. Something was shaking her. Drea blinked a few times and her eyes began to refocus. Everything was blurry for a few moments before Drea was finally able to make out Karen’s face above her. She must’ve fallen. Karen was shaking her, yelling her name.
Another voice joined Karen’s. Drea heard footsteps coming closer. She tried to get up, but her body felt weak and her eyes were still blurry. Arms wrapped around her and lifted her into a sitting position. Drea looked to either side of her: Karen sitting on one side and Danny was on the other. The both of them were holding her up. They looked really concerned.
Drea blinked a few times stood up on her own, the two of them watching her curiously. Strength was returning to her like fire in her veins. She remembered those pictures as they became engraved in her memories, even though she had no idea who they were.
“I-I’m sorry,” muttered Drea. “I uh didn’t eat today.” She wanted to say her body gave out, but she’d used that one with Danny many times.
Neither of them looked too convinced. She heard Danny say, Andrea, why don’t we resume your training tomorrow. I think a day of rest will benefit you…
He paused, unsure of how to continue. Are you fainting or are you lying to me about these visions?
It was an accusation. It was obvious Danny suspected something, but Drea couldn’t lie to him with their minds connected. What could she say that would satisfy him without giving her away?
After a moment’s hesitation, she said, My body’s just been weak lately and it all caught up with me just now. The only ‘visions’ I’ve been having are memories of my brother.
It wasn’t a complete lie, yet of course it wasn’t the whole truth. The way to lie without lying: withhold information.
Danny lowered his eyes; she could tell he felt bad about accusing her of lying when she brought up those bad memories.
“Well why don’t I take you home Drea?” Karen’s voice brought Drea out of her head.
“That sounds good. Thanks Karen.” Drea nodded to Danny and walked away with Karen. She hadn’t expected to just go home, but the rest would certainly be welcome.
Tomorrow then Danny? She was hoping he wasn’t too angry with her.
She felt his happiness as he said, Sure. It’ll be my pleasure. We’ll be doing a new weapon, so be prepared.
Drea was pleased that Danny was finally warming up to her and maybe she was warming up to him too. She liked having him around and only hoped he felt the same.

Drea had slept all afternoon yesterday; at least her being exhausted wasn’t a total lie. Danny had checked up on her to make sure she was ok, but she hadn’t been awake.
Now he waited patiently for her to come for their training. Hopefully there wouldn’t be another incident.
At school, Drea rushed away to meet Danny. There had been no Lori that day and she was excited to learn a new weapon. She changed to her Kaienshi uniform in midair and arrived to see Danny waiting patiently for her by the waterfall with his feet in the water and his pants rolled up past his knees.
She walked over to him and sat down next to him, taking her sandals off and rolling up her pants also. “I didn’t know you could relax.” Drea was amused by his face. He looked almost perplexed by the thought of relaxing. He didn’t seem like the type of guy who had a lot of extra time to just hang out.
“I suppose I’m usually pretty busy. This is nice.” He looked up at her and she laughed. She liked how calm he was; he made it so easy to smile. Looking at him, Drea noticed his striking green eyes, shiny black hair, wonderful smile… She gasped and blinked. She hadn’t even realized she’d been thinking about him. What’s happening to me?
“Are you alright Andrea?”
He was looking at her with that concerned look in his eyes. It made her blush and her heart skipped a beat. “Y-yeah, I’m fine.” She smiled. “You ready for a new weapon?”
He nodded and removed his feet from the river. Drea followed. They both put their shoes back on and walked over toward the flat rocks. “Today I’d like to teach you how to use a weapon that’s more tactical than the sword.”
He motioned for her sword and she removed both it and the belt. It disappeared in the ground as he opened the little green portal. Then he reached down and pulled out a new weapon. This one was smaller than the sword, but presumably just as deadly. The shape of it was familiar as Danny presented it to her. It was a knife like his, except it was more a generic kind. Danny’s was detailed with black designs over the blade and smooth black hilt. Hers was like the sword: a blue hilt with a shiny silver blade. Both of them were beautiful weapons.
She grabbed the knife in her hand, feeling that same familiarity as she had felt with the sword. Drea flipped the knife, grabbing it by the hilt under Danny’s watchful eye. It was obvious this was making him suspicious, but she couldn’t help but to hold the knife as though she had held it a million times.
For some reason, she began to feel remorseful, which tipped off Danny. “Do you know how to use this weapon Andrea?”
She examined the knife, but didn’t respond. Then he said, “It’s no problem if you do or don’t. It is similar to the sword in some ways, but the stance and reach are different.”
“I don’t know…” Drea looked at it with a puzzled expression. It bothered her that she couldn’t remember how to use the knife when she knew she should be able to. She regretted feeling as though she had forgotten something important. She unsheathed the knife and took a defensive stance. Some of what she’d forgotten came back to her, but it came back slowly. She nodded, giving Danny the signal to attack first.
He came forward, clashing with her. She felt as though she’d used the knife before, but she was having a hard time thinking. Danny was certainly taking it easy on her again, seeing as he was a master with the knife, but with each hit, she felt more information seep back into her.
Drea felt herself getting stronger as she became more familiar with the weapon. She was no master, but she was far better than a novice. Each time they would draw in close, Drea could see Danny’s wonder at her skill, but he was still much better.
As they hit one more time, it was like everything paused for a moment. Even her body became immoveable. The entire world turned gray in her eyes as she heard, “Not yet, it’s not time yet. Be patient, you’ll learn soon enough.” It was a man’s voice, different from what she heard before.
She felt her heart beat as her vision returned to normal, but now she’d been caught off guard. Danny deflected her blade, and kicked her in the ribs, sending her backwards.
She lay flat on her back and stared at the sky. He’d knocked the air out of her lungs and the knife out of her hand. Stupid voices, why do they have to always get in the way? Between that and the visions, she wasn’t really getting anywhere. She almost thought she was going crazy.
Danny came up to her and helped her up. She could tell he felt bad. She smiled. “I suppose I’ll need to get used to this if I’ll be fighting the Lori anyway.” He ribs ached, but they weren’t broken.
“Very well,” he said. It dawned on him that he may’ve been taking it easy on her. He contributed this to the friendship they seemed to have, but it seemed to be something more. Every time he hurt her, he felt terrible, but he’d never felt like that when training others.
As Danny thought, so did Drea. She wondered what the voices were trying to tell her, but if they were right, she’d find out soon enough.
Danny interrupted her thoughts. “You did well today Andrea. I’m impressed. Beginners don’t normally do so well.”
He almost said it in a type of suspicious tone. Drea also wondered how she’d done so well also; it wasn’t really making sense to either of them.
“Tomorrow I’ll teach you one last weapon to test your skills. Then we can decide which weapon I show you a little more in and that’ll be yours to keep.”
“But I thought we were only supposed to try one weapon.”
“True, but we need to see which one you’re the best at. We can’t just pick the first one.” He was hiding something, but whatever it was, he wouldn’t say.
He seemed to feel her suspicion, since he felt the need to say more. “When we find your weapon, I’ll use a few more days to really teach you how to use it. Then you’ll be ready.” He didn’t end her suspicion, but he figured his answer was good enough. After all, she’d used the same tactic of not-lying-by-not-saying-the-whole-truth thing earlier. It worked very well.
“Are you ready to try once again?” Drea nodded and they continued their brawl. They clashed countless times, each time Drea feeling as though she was getting better. She was doing well, to both of their surprises.
They fought for a while, growing tired quickly in both mind and body. As fatigue raced through her body though, Danny gained the upper hand. With one swift flick of his wrist, Drea was disarmed.
They stood there panting with his knife to her chest. He stood straight and sheathed his knife as she fell to her knees. She was exhausted.
Danny bent down and offered her his hand. She took it and rose. “Once again, you did well today Andrea.” Danny smiled. He seemed proud of her. Drea liked that feeling.
She had no idea how she knew about the weapons she fought with, but all of them felt familiar. Danny was probably wondering about her skill also. She was excited about the next weapon she’d be learning though, but wondered why. Weapons were one thing that didn’t usually make teenage girls excited.
Drea’s phone rang suddenly from where she’d left her bag. She wasn’t in time to answer it, but when she looked at it, she saw she was late. “Oh my God Danny I have to go…” She rushed to get herself together. “I’ll see you tomorrow!” She ran off waving and jumped off with a quick change of clothes. In her rush, she forgot to grab her knife from where it had fallen.
It was quiet then as Danny stood alone near the waterfall. He knew Drea was special, but wondered why it had taken her a longer to get used to the knife than the sword. Tomorrow would be the final test. If she was the Weaponsmaster, he’d see.

It was the middle of the night. Drea tried to sleep, but couldn’t; her neck was burning. She jumped out of her dreams and sat up in bed, grasping the chain around her neck. It was burning in her hand as she panted under the disgustingly sweaty covers. She didn’t remember having a bad dream.
Drea looked around. She’d started wearing the shuriken charm when she slept ever since she figured out it could detect the dark aura. She thought it might help.
Suddenly the feeling of the dark aura hit her like a ton of bricks. It invaded her mind, begging her to find it. She wanted to, but she forgot her knife when she left. Without a weapon, she couldn’t fight. I’ll have to let Danny get it. She lay back down, finding it difficult to get back to sleep.
The dark aura wasn’t disappearing though; it seemed to be getting stronger. It didn’t alarm her until a new aura invaded her mind. It felt like the aura of just a normal human; there was nothing special about it. It began to approach the dark aura.
Drea sat up in fear. Where are you Danny? She extended herself out far, but could feel his presence nowhere. For a moment, she panicked. What if something happened to him? The feel of the Lori snapped her back to reality. That person was in danger, but a small part of her was still reluctant to go. Something didn’t seem quite right.
She couldn’t waste time thinking about that though with the possibility that someone was in trouble. Drea threw off her covers and quickly changed her clothing to her Kaienshi outfit. She donned her horse mask as well. As she opened her window, she thought, I hope you’re safe Danny, and jumped out.
The wind flew through her hair as she sped through the dark city. The faint glow of the streetlights illuminated patches of earth, leaving darkness in between. None of the houses she passed over were lit up. The beautiful moon shone in the sky, it was a full moon that night.
She moved quickly, hoping she would get there in time. She may have not had a weapon, but she didn’t have to fight, she just had to get that person out of there. Maybe it was cowardly, but it was efficient, at least until she found Danny.
Drea touched down in a rural area with a few empty buildings and a few trees spread around. One streetlight shone as the moon hung over it, spreading its eerie light. She advanced slowly, looking around for the aura she was sensing. Her necklace was still burning in response to the aura, yet she saw no Lori nearby.
Finally, she saw a little girl running towards her hurriedly from the shadows. It didn’t feel right to her; after all, what little girl would be out by herself like this? She wasn’t sure what to do. When she was little, her friend had turned into a wolf, so this girl could too. Maybe she was a Lori… Drea was torn. She wanted to help, but wasn’t sure if it was a great idea at the moment.
Against every fiber of her being, Drea stood her ground and waited for the little girl to come to her. She heard voices of dissonance clamor in her head, protesting her decision. She agreed it was a bad idea, but if this wasn’t a trick, she’d never forgive herself.
The little girl rushed up to Drea and stopped. Fear shone in those big brown eyes as she looked down into them. “Please, help,” said the little girl. She truly looked frightened. Maybe this isn’t a trick.
“Where?” Drea looked around, but still could see nothing.
“Here,” said the little girl in a menacing, skin-crawling voice. Drea felt her heart beat in panic for a moment before she understood what had happened. She felt a stabbing pain penetrate her thigh. Warm liquid dripped down her leg, staining even the back fabric of the pants. Her heart beat about a million miles per hour as she looked down to see a dagger in the hand of the little girl, sticking out of her thigh.
Drea panicked. The thought of the knife twisting in her skin and the sight of her own blood dripping in puddles threw her thoughts into a whirlwind. The girl’s eyes shone like the devils, or maybe like a wolves. She didn’t know what to do with her mind in such a mess, but she knew she had to get away.
Drea balled her fist and did a sweep of her arm to get the girl to release the knife and jumped back. When she landed, she felt the knife scrape up against her bone and fell backwards, realizing that her leg wouldn’t support her anymore. It felt like spiders were crawling in her as the knife remained lodged in her muscle. She looked up to see that the girl had vanished, but something far worse had taken her place. A Lori, about the size of a doorway, stood where the little girl had been.
How could I have fallen for this, Drea thought between breaths. Its aura had felt like a human’s, and she fell for it.
She looked up at the Lori again. Its eyes gleamed with hatred as its teeth glowed venomously. This Lori was strong, and it had stabbed her in the thigh not to kill her, but to immobilize her. It wanted to draw out the battle. That little girl must’ve been part of the Lori, just like her so called friend many years ago.
Drea stood, never taking her eyes off of the Lori. She needed a weapon, but there weren’t any near… except for the dagger in her thigh. She looked down and cringed at the thought of pulling it out. She’d lose a lot of blood if she took it out. Looking at the Lori though, she had no choice: It was either die without a weapon, or die from blood loss with a weapon. She took a chance and grabbed the hilt. Each second as she pulled was filled with new pain. It was really stuck in.
After what seemed like an eternity, Drea felt the knife slide out, it’s cold steel slithering around, sending chills up her spine. As she pulled the blade out, a line of blood followed, splattering the ground in front of her and around her feet. It was already dripping out quickly. Almost immediately, Drea began to feel lightheaded and fell to her hands and knees; it was obvious she’d lost a lot of blood, too much. She took the knife and ripped off one pant leg below the knee, quickly tying it around her leg to try and stop some of the bleeding. She knew that wouldn’t do much, so she had to kill this Lori quickly. She stood, her legs barely supporting her weight.
Their eyes met as each tried to figure out how they could out do the other. In a flash, they moved forward and clashed, Drea’s bloody dagger matched up against its massive paws. Its fur seemed to be made out of a thicker material, a material that couldn’t be cut with a knife. The claws were fairly small, but hooked, made for optimal shredding of Kaienshi. The Lori reached out with its other hand to get at her stomach, but she jumped out of the way just in time. Her speed had drastically decreased, along with her stamina. She was already panting as she slid backwards. The blood was seeping through her pants, dripping in sad little drops of crimson down to the earth. Where are you Danny? Surely he felt her aura, but why hadn’t he come?
It doesn’t matter, she thought. I have to finish this now. Drea rose, ready to finish the fight. Hopefully her leg would hold out a little longer. She advanced towards it, moving as quickly as possible, but with each step another stab of pain blossomed in her, racing through her veins.
They clashed multiple times, both of them on an equal playing field at first. It occurred to Drea that the beast wasn’t attempting more strategic movements. It was just continually clashing with her. That’s when it came to her: He’s trying to force me to kill myself by bleeding out. It was a great plan, and with her restricted movement, she couldn’t counter it.
I have to end this, or else I’ll end up killing myself. She needed to change her tactics, and she needed to do it fast. But how could she inflict damage on this beast when she could no longer quickstep or even run for that matter?
An idea came to her, but it was risky. She’d only have one chance. Now or never. Drea slid backwards from its last blow and planted her feet. Aim for the heart. She gripped her bloody blade, holding it below her thigh. She could barely move her leg anymore; this would be the deciding blow between life and death. She gathered all the force she had left in her tired arm and sent the knife flying. An onslaught of memories hit her once again, but thankfully they didn’t overwhelm her like before. Throwing that knife was natural, and hopefully it’d hit.
It came right up to the Lori, a clear shot. She was about to rejoice when just before it pierced the monster, the Lori disappeared. Her eyes widened. She’d lost her weapon now and had no way to defend herself. Where is it? Drea looked around frantically. She was so surprised, she let down her defenses, and so frantic, she couldn’t sense its aura.
When she realized where it’d strike from, it was too late. The Lori appeared in front of her and slashed through the shoulder opposite to her injured thigh. Blood spurted from it, flying out in front of her as her eyes widened in disbelief. It trickled down her arm in globs.
Then the Lori kicked her in the stomach, sending her back into a tree. The force of the impact knocked her mask of. She sat back, trying to get up, but her ribs hurt. A few of them were probably broken. She was coughing up blood now, the warm liquid dripping slowly out of the corners of her mouth. She had no more options; her shoulder was hurt and she could no longer walk, plus she’d given up her only weapon in a failed attempt.
Drea stared in contempt at the beast approaching her. It almost looked glad to see the face of the girl it would kill. I don’t want to die… I can’t die… I can’t leave Jackie alone; I can’t. Her breathing was laborious, and her body was weak, but she tried to get up. It seemed futile as the blood flooded from her wounds. Her hands and feet were stained with the dark, sticky liquid. She managed to sit up, but could go no further. She was in so much pain with her shoulder, thigh, and ribs throbbing, but she had to get up, she had to try to survive.
She backed herself up against a tree behind her, and used it to get herself on her feet, the worn wood scraping against her back. Every second was painful, but if she was going to die, she didn’t want to die a coward. She stared at the beast, staring death in the face. She didn’t want to die. She wasn’t ready to give up.
Memories began to flow into her mind then, just like before. They came quickly, as if they knew the urgency of the situation. Drea felt a power and strength emanate from those memories coursing through her. She saw and felt the movement of throwing a weapon. She saw and felt the feeling of creating a weapon too. She felt the knowledge seep through her from a mind much older and wiser than her own. It showed her how to picture a weapon and make it real.
In her mind’s eyes, Drea saw many weapons appear in her hand before her vision refocused on the approaching Lori. She tightened her hand, trying to create a weapon like the mind had showed her. She thought of every weapon, but none appeared in her hand like they should’ve.
She was out of energy and out of options. As she stared at the Lori, she suddenly felt a huge loss in her meager energy. When she looked down, she saw a huge golden shuriken materializing in her hand. It looked just like the one on her necklace, except it was probably a good foot in diameter. She held it at her side, feeling as though she’d held the shuriken a thousand times. It brought her comfort to hold it, even if she didn’t really know where it came from.
Drea held it up in front of her, and got ready to throw it. She knew what she had to do and now was the time to do it. She took a stance designed to help her get all her weight behind the blade, causing optimal damage. With one last defiant glance at the Lori, she stood straight and threw the shuriken with all the power she had left.
It left her hand in a blur, as if it moved on its own. It moved so quickly that not even the Lori could evade it this time. It struck the Lori in the chest, going deep into the beast. The monster howled in pain as it began to disintegrate and turn to dust. But as the Lori disappeared, so did the beautiful weapon she had thrown. It turned to dust with the Lori.
Just as it disappeared, Drea felt the cold of the shuriken on her neck. She’d stopped paying attention to its sting some time ago. She reached up to touch it, the memories of her brother embedded in its smooth gold coming to her once again. It was silent then. I won, I killed the Lori… It took her a minute to realize she hadn’t died, and that she had defeated the nightmare itself. I’m not dead… The thought made her smile, it elated her, but as she tried to take a step, her body gave out.
Drea fell to her side, hitting the ground with more force than she thought. She coughed as her limp and lifeless body smashed into the ground. So weak, she thought. Danny, help me… She’d lost too much blood and too much aura. It was impossible to move, impossible to save herself. She laid there, trying everything to force herself to move to no avail. She clenched her hand and released it as she passed out. Her only hope was Danny, but where was he?

Danny sat in a tree, trying to shake off a drug someone slipped him. He opened his eyes, feeling groggy and slow. Slowly his memories came back to him. He’d been sleeping when he felt a dangerous aura nearby, jostling him awake. Just as he woke though, he felt a pinching sensation in his arm. Someone had shot a drug into his system, forcing him into a type of comatose.
He’d been fighting off the effects of the drug for some time, for how long he didn’t know. He yawned and stretched, still feeling the effects of the drug. He could also feel the excess of some Lori aura. It was potent and powerful, but the Lori had been killed. Good, someone killed it, thought Danny as he lay back down, the drug still muddling his thoughts. It took a few moments, but the implication of the situation hit him. Drea! She must’ve killed it. He reached his mind out to find her, to make sure she was alright, but couldn’t feel her, and there was no response. What if she’s hurt? He frantically jumped from the tree to her home, stopping in the open window.
She wasn’t in her bed and he didn’t feel her anywhere in the house, which meant she must’ve gone off to kill the Lori. His eyes widened, fear racing through him. Drea wasn’t an experienced fighter and didn’t even have her weapon. I have to find her, he thought as he jumped towards the direction of the excess aura. She had to be there, but he couldn’t feel any of her aura. That wasn’t a good sign.
His heart raced as he rushed to where he thought she was, moving faster than he had in a long while. He felt guilty. This was the second time he wasn’t there for her, something he would never be able to forgive himself for, whether she was ok or not. He’d always felt guilty for what happened to her brother, and now it was the second time he’d let her down. He knew he couldn’t let another person die, or why her death would mean so much to him, but he had to make sure she was alright.
Danny was getting closer to the spot as he moved with unexplainable speed. I can’t let her get hurt. Not again. After what seemed like forever, he touched down in a clearing. Buildings dotted the area with a few trees spread around. One street lamp shown under the full moon, providing illumination under the shadows of the trees. There so much aura in the air it was almost intoxicating.
Danny looked around for Drea, his eyes stopping on an unmoving figure lying near a tree. His heart beat faster.
“Andrea!” He yelled her name as he ran over to her lifeless form. When he knelt down beside her, his worst fears came alive. She was bleeding profusely in a few different places, the blood pooling around her. Danny’s heart almost stopped. He moved some of the hair away from her peaceful face as his contorted in fear and sadness. Slowly he reached out and touched her neck for her pulse. She was breathing, but it was labored and slow. Most of her aura was depleted as well, but she wasn’t dead. He let out a sigh of relief. He’d have to heal her or she’d bleed out. “I won’t let you die Andrea, hold on.”
Danny got to work, removing the bandages he had tied around his arms. The cut on her shoulder was pretty deep, and the stab wound on her thigh went all the way to the bone. The thigh was the worse of the two though, so he decided to fix it first. He knelt next to her for minutes that were hours in his mind, using his aura to heal her wounds. Slowly the bleeding stopped and the skin reformed over the opening. Danny ripped off the rest of her pant leg to cover the wound with his bandages, and removed the fabric on her shoulder to cover it as well. In inspecting her ribs, he found that a few of them were broken. He slowly repositioned them with his aura, being careful of her lungs.
When he finished, he was exhausted. He’d healed people who were half dead before, but the drug was still crawling around in his system, making it harder. Danny sat back, staring at Drea’s serene face in the moonlight. She was beautiful.
I wonder, he thought, what she means to me. He lowered his eyebrows, as if thinking. Have I fallen for her? He didn’t think it was possible. Danny had only met her a few weeks ago, he couldn’t be truly in love with her, nor could she be with him. He narrowed his eyes. It must be nothing, he thought, yet he still couldn’t explain his feelings.
After a minute, he rose and picked her up in his arms. He was exhausted, but he carried her back to her room and lay her down on the bed. He felt guilty and sad when he looked at her, for even if it was indirect, he was the cause of her pain. All the guilt and sadness practically hit him in the face for not being there a second time. He wondered if she’d forgive him.
Danny wasn’t about to simply leave her, so he sat in her windowsill to make sure she’d be alright. The sun would rise soon. It was a good thing it was a Saturday, otherwise he knew she’d have a hard time explaining why she couldn’t go to school. Hopefully that also meant her parents wouldn’t check on her.
He sat and stared at her kindly, his emotions spinning in his heart. He didn’t know what he thought about anything, especially about her. After a little while, the exhaustion overcame him and he fell asleep, wishing he could discover the source of his confliction.

*
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Drea woke with a headache. She could hear the birds outside and felt the warm sun of her face. She lay on something soft. She tried to go back to sleep until she remembered what had happened the night before. Drea rose with a start, feeling the pain spike through her body. I was knocked out… She touched her shoulder and leg, they were bandaged, and her ribs felt like they had been fixed.
She looked over to her window and saw Danny sitting in the windowsill, sleeping calmly. Drea knitted her eyebrows. Where was he last night? He healed her afterwards, but he wasn’t there to help her. She reasoned that something had happened to stop him.
Drea got up from her bed slowly to avoid causing herself any more pain. She looked down to see that she was in her Kaienshi uniform, except it was a little torn up, or well maybe a lot torn up. One pant leg was missing and the opposite shoulder was torn off. She would’ve changed back, but didn’t feel up to it.
She looked over at Danny on the window. Somehow he was sleeping there without falling, looking peaceful. Maybe he didn’t want to leave her side. Drea blushed and looked away. He certainly seemed kind, but she hadn’t known him for that long, and she was just unused to a guy paying so much attention to her. Besides, even if she did like him, he’d have to go home anyway. At this point, she honestly wasn’t sure of how she felt, she just knew she’d miss him when he was gone.
She looked at the time. It was only six o’clock on a Saturday morning. Nobody would be up yet, so she’d be able to hobble around without arousing suspicion. She waved her hand over her head and changed into her school uniform. With a sigh, she walked to her closet; now she’d still have to change out of that. She changed in her closet into a loose pair of sweats and a tee. She didn’t want anyone to see those bandages.
Danny was still sleeping when she came out. He must’ve used up a lot of energy healing her, so Drea decided to get them both something to eat. She walked downstairs quietly, but slowly, happy that no one would question her just yet.
Danny opened his eyes not long after she left. As he looked around, he saw that Drea wasn’t there and panicked. Where could she have gotten to now? He stretched out his mind, only to be met with a wall. He blinked in surprise.
In a moment, the door opened and Drea walked through slowly, carrying a plate holding two cups and a few waffles. “Jeez, calm down I was only downstairs.” She bumped the door closed with her foot and walked towards him. It was kind of funny to see the look on his face in reaction to her false annoyance.
She looked up with a smile. “I thought you might want something to eat when you got up.” Drea placed the plate down on the bed and handed him one of the cups. It was orange juice. “Here,” she said and handed him a waffle. They ate in silence for a few minutes. It was nice, homey; a feeling Danny didn’t get too often in his hectic life.
“How are you doing?” asked Danny after he had finished.
“Better, thank you.” Drea smiled.
“For what?” His tone was one of guilt. “I couldn’t protect you. You wouldn’t have gotten hurt if I had been there.”
“What happened?”
“I was drugged. It put me to sleep for a while.” He looked at her sadly. “I didn’t come until after you’d killed the Lori.”
He closed his eyes for a brief second. “It’s the second time I let you get hurt, the second time I let you down.”
Drea lowered her eyes and got up. She moved herself so she was close to Danny, facing him. She never knew he still felt so bad about what happened to Kevin after his confession to her earlier, or even remembered his remorse for that matter, but just looking at him, she could tell that day never left him. And now he felt bad about the fact that he failed again. Danny was so sweet to want to look out for her, but he needed to know it wasn’t his fault.
“Danny, all those years ago,” she paused. It was hard to talk about that day. “It wasn’t your fault. All you did was help me. I would’ve died then if you hadn’t shown up.” She met his eyes. “And last night wasn’t your fault either. There was nothing you could’ve done. Besides, after you leave I’ll need to fight on my own. I can only hope I won’t get hurt when you’re not around.”
She smiled sadly at him, realizing the implications of her words. She wasn’t ready for him to leave just yet, especially after what happened last night. Despite that, she put on a smile to reassure him. Drea hated seeing that look on his face.
Danny narrowed his eyes sadly; he seemed to feel her sadness, but didn’t say anything. They continued to eat in silence for a little while, absorbing the beautiful morning. “You look exhausted,” said Drea after a while.
Danny took his attention off of the trees and looked at her.
“Why don’t you get some rest? Unfortunately I don’t think we’ll be doing too much training today.” She made a good point. He really couldn’t show her the next weapon today, and he wasn’t really sure he wanted to.
“Alright,” Danny responded.
The two of them relaxed for most of the day, until Drea had to go out with Jackie for a little while. She wasn’t feeling up to it, but she’d have to go if she wanted to avoid suspicion. Danny had gone back over to his tree earlier to get some rest; he must’ve still been sleeping.
Drea picked up a sweatshirt and walked out with Jackie; they had to go pick up something for their mom, and of course Jackie couldn’t go alone. She tried to walk as normally as possible, but every step sent shudders of pain swiveling through her body. Jackie seemed wary of it. She kept looking over to Drea, asking her questions about her “after school projects.” Oh I really hope she doesn’t know anything, Drea thought worriedly. Jackie didn’t need to know about her being a Kaienshi.
Once they picked up the oil for dinner, they were on their way back. That’s when Drea heard Danny say, You know it’s probably not a good idea that you’re out walking.
I know, but I couldn’t get out of this one.
From what I can tell, you’re in a lot of pain, he said smartly.
She chuckled to herself. Yeah I am. Well how are you feeling? She said sarcastically. You’re the one who’s been sleeping for hours.
Better. He paused. You know it might take a few days for you to be well enough to train.
Yeah, she said sadly. It always felt natural to hold those weapons, it was a feeling Drea liked. We’ll see what happens. Thanks.
“Drea?” Jackie was looking up at her.
“What is it?”
“Are you ok? You’ve been acting really strange lately.”
Seems like Jackie had noticed. “Yeah,” said Drea with a smile. “What would make you think I wasn’t fine?”
Jackie looked up at her, anger gleaming in her eyes. She stopped walking, forcing Drea to stop as well. They were right in front of the house now. “Well for one reason, you lied about your wrist. I know what I saw. And you weren’t here last night. I heard that window open. And,” She grabbed Drea’s sleeve and pulled it down, exposing the bandages, “I know you got hurt again.”
Drea didn’t know what to say. Her sister had been keeping closer tabs on her than she thought, but now wasn’t the right time to start something. She was determined to keep Jackie out of this, no matter what she thought she knew.
Drea looked at her sister with level eyes void of emotion. “I pulled a muscle in my shoulder, and last night I just went for a walk. It was a full moon and I wanted to see it. I didn’t want to wake anyone up.” She walked to the front door, but before opening it said, “Don’t go around accusing people Jackie.”
She walked in without waiting for her sister and went to her room. No doubt her parents would be up later to see these bandages, but hopefully she could take them off before then. Drea lay on her bed, looking at the ceiling. She fingered her golden necklace, remembering Kevin. She hated lying to her sister like that, but she had no other choice. She only wanted to keep Jackie safe, but these questions were hurting both of them.
Drea started to cry as she remembered that night. It’d only been recently that she’d discovered what really happened, but it still hurt to feel his loss. She couldn’t help but to wonder what her life would’ve been like if Kevin was still alive. About twenty minutes later, she heard Danny say, Andrea… Are you alright? He seemed timid, almost afraid to ask. He knew what a touchy subject it was.
She sniffed. Yeah. Of course, I just need to rest a little.
Danny didn’t say anything more, but she felt the sadness in his aura. He sympathized with her and wished he could help. Right now though, Drea just wanted to be alone and he could see that. She was just happy he didn’t see her crying again. She didn’t want anyone to see her so vulnerable.
She cried for a little while in her room, thinking about what her life had become as of late. She missed Kevin dearly, more than she could’ve ever thought possible.

It took a few days, but Drea was finally able to continue with her training. She took the bandages off Saturday night, since her parents came to check on Jackie’s story, but her body was still incredibly sore for a few days. She did get stabbed in the thigh. During those days, Drea just hung out with Karen and caught up on some school work. She talked with Danny sometimes too about Koracan and Skynea. It seemed a lot like the human world to her, but he described it with such happiness that she couldn’t help but to wonder what it was really like.
During that time, he handled the Lori, to Drea’s dismay. She wanted to get better, and sitting around wasn’t doing anything. She slowly began to take in the reality that Danny would be leaving soon. It’d been about three weeks, but she’d had really gotten attached to him. She’d only fought one Lori alone, ending with a disastrous result, meaning that she’d like to have his help for a little longer.
When they did get back to training though, Danny didn’t seem to want to move on to the final weapon just yet. He had them focus on fighting techniques and basic skills for about a week, also letting Drea handle most of the work with the Lori by herself. She got cut occasionally, but it was nothing too bad.
Drea got better with her fighting skills quickly, absorbing all the knowledge easily. Most of the Lori were easy to defeat, but of course she had some trouble sometimes. Danny thought that the one that hurt her was a high level one, so he continued to push her so she wouldn’t get hurt again. She was surprised that he would spend so much time on it.
Jackie was still suspicious, but seemed to have calmed down a little since Drea proved her wrong once again. She would tell Jackie one day, but not just yet.
Drea leaped over to the waterfall after school that day, wondering what they’d be doing. When she arrived, she saw Danny staring into the waterfall. He looked sad for some reason.
“Hey, you ok?” She came up beside him, waiting for his response.
In a minute, he turned to her. “Fine.” Drea stared at him, but neither of them spoke. He was such a bad liar.
“Today we will begin on your last weapon Andrea. Are you ready?”
Of course she was. “Why stop the skills training?”
“You no longer need to practice with them anymore. They were just to help you on the off chance you don’t have a weapon.”
“So, when do I get my weapon?” Drea’s heart flipped with excitement; having her own weapon would be beyond cool.
“You’ll get it.” He smiled at her apparent excitement. “But first I have one more weapon for you to try.” He leaned down and created the green light, opening a portal for a new weapon. It extended into a strange shape, not like a sword or knife, but something entirely different. It was like that stick that the supposed grim reaper carried around, except the handle was much shorter at maybe three feet.
When it revealed itself, Danny said, “This weapon will require a lot of tactical knowledge and skills. Many people have difficulty using it because of the weight of the blade, with only true masters being able to wield it properly.” He presented it to her. “The scythe.”
Drea took it. The weapon itself was top heavy due to the two foot long curved blade. It was extremely familiar, but she couldn’t remember how to use it. Not just how to use it, she couldn’t remember anything about it. The weight was unfamiliar and she had trouble holding it properly. Yet she knew that somewhere deep inside, she could wield the scythe. It was strange.
“Are you ready?” Danny’s voice knocked her out of her thoughts.
“Yeah…” She said quietly. “I’m ready.”
Danny unsheathed his knife and took a stance. Drea held out her scythe; she didn’t even remember what kind of stance she was supposed to take for the weapon she held. Danny knitted his eyebrows, but said nothing. It was obvious he also noticed her unfamiliarity.
They met in the middle, and while Drea was able to reflect a few of his hits, she knew she was at a major disadvantage. Even with Danny going more than easy on her, she had a hard time keeping up. She truly had no idea what she was doing, but she knew she was supposed to. I know how to use this, she thought. Why can’t I remember?
They clashed multiple times, the metal clanging on metal, but Drea just couldn’t remember. With one more hit, the two of them met eyes. In that instant, Drea heard a clamor of voices stir up in her head. They merged to express one thought as a whisper in her ears: “It’s not time yet, you’ll learn to use it in time.” They were referring to the scythe.
She kicked Danny back as an opportunity to try and speak with them. What do you mean? Why can’t I remember how to use the scythe? Who are you? Drea’s questions echoed in her mind, but no response came. “It’s not time for you to know yet,” they whispered. “Not time…” And they were quiet.
Drea blinked back to reality to see Danny coming at her. She raised her weapon to defect it using some of the techniques she learned from using the knife, but the weight of the scythe prevented her from using a wider range of movements. The two of them fought for some time, as Drea got more and more exhausted. Her misuse of the weapon wasn’t helping her, but more than that it disgusted her. She knew how to use it and yet she felt like she was disrespecting it by not using it to its full potential.
After about ten minutes of the same movements, Danny threw a hit so hard that the scythe flew out of her hand, landing with a clang somewhere behind her. He lowered his knife and sheathed it. He didn’t even seem tired this time. “It seems you’ll do better with a classic weapon such as the knife or sword.” He seemed surprised that she hadn’t done well with the scythe for some reason.
“Yeah…” she smiled, disappointed. “I guess I was just better with those two.”
Danny went over to retrieve the scythe. Suddenly he had gotten very quiet. Something was bothering him, but she knew he wouldn’t say. He touched the scythe and the mark on his hand glowed green, forcing the weapon to disappear. He came over to her and extracted a new weapon from the ground. It was a beautiful knife with a red hilt, just like the one she had trained with the other day, except for the color.
“This will be your weapon Andrea, the knife. You showed exceptional skill with it.” He handed it to her, a glint of sadness in his eyes. “Let me teach you some techniques to help you fight with it.”
She felt honored to learn a weapon from someone who had mastered it and knew she’d need the training in it. For a few more days, Danny taught her basics of the knife and how she could use it. He also made sure she could stand her ground in a fight against both him and any Lori they encountered. All the while, he looked sad, as if something was bothering him.
On the fourth day of their training after they’d finished sparring, she asked, “Danny, what’s wrong?”
In that moment, the same cold feeling returned to his aura and his personality. It was as if he was trying not to know her. “Andrea, I’ve been here too long and it’s time for me to go back. I’ve taught you all you can learn about fighting the Lori, and you’ve gotten quite good. It’ll be your job to protect this town now.”
Drea knitted her eyebrows in concern and understanding. “I knew you’d have to leave sometime…” She looked down before returning her gaze to his face. “Why did you try to teach me the scythe if I had done well with the knife? What was the point if you’d been here too long?”
She felt broken up; she’d miss him just as she missed her brother. This was coming, she sighed, it’s time for him to leave.
“You did so well with the other two weapons, I wanted to see if you were capable of fighting with a different style of weapon. You weren’t able to use it as I had hoped though. The knife was your overall best weapon.” He looked down, and back up at her. “Even if I stayed too long, it’s my job to teach you how to fight, and I think I’ve accomplished this task. I’ll be leaving tonight. Take care of yourself Andrea.”
Before she could say anything, Danny jumped off, leaving her alone. He didn’t even look her in the eyes. Drea sighed and changed her clothes back, missing him already. She didn’t know what it was, but knowing he’d be gone made her heart ache. They’d become friends, and she didn’t want to lose anyone else. She slowly began her walk home, not feeling up to running today with all those thoughts bouncing around in her head. She knew he’d have to leave one day, but she didn’t realize how much it’d actually hurt.

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Danny had jumped off before Drea could say anything; he just couldn’t take that sad look in her eyes. He had fully expected her to do well with the scythe, but for whatever reason, she fumbled. He thought she could’ve been the Weaponsmaster, but she just couldn’t do it, so he had to teach her the knife.

Danny was disappointed in the fact that she wasn’t the Weaponsmaster, but more than that, he was broken up by the fact that he’d have to leave. He’d gotten so attached to Drea in the short time he’d been with her. They were friends. Maybe he loved her, and maybe he didn’t, but none of it mattered anymore. He’d never see her again and that was a reality.

Forget about her, he told himself. Yet he couldn’t; there was something about her that made her special. Maybe it was her past and how he met her that night. There was something that drew him to her. He’d never been able to forget Drea, especially after she’d punched him at nine years old.

She presented herself as strong willed and cold, and yet she had so much life in her. She had gotten used to hiding it all. Danny knew that she was special, and wanted to get to know her even more, but there was no time. He was one of their leader’s top fighters, and couldn’t afford to stay on Earth much longer. He’d only been sent out to Earth to try and find the Weaponsmaster in Koracan’s time of need, but he’d found Drea. Something made him feel as though she was much more worth it, yet he knew he should’ve been more focused on his mission.

Who was she to sway him? He sighed. There was just no deciding. He knew what he had to do, yet it felt wrong. He wanted to stay with Drea. What have I become…

Drea sat up in her bed that night, unable to sleep. She sat on her windowsill, wondering if Danny would come to say goodbye. She doubted it; after all, this was just a job for him. He’d become like a hero to her, always helping her out of trouble. It’d be weird facing the Lori by herself, but she knew she was ready.

She sighed. I can’t let him leave without saying goodbye. Drea looked down at herself. She was in some basketball shorts and a t-shirt. Good enough. She jumped out of the window. She used the quickstep since he was probably getting ready to leave, if he wasn’t already gone. It was too dark for anyone to see her anyway. Hopefully he was still there. She ran to the waterfall, feeling the release of aura. It was Danny’s.

As she got close, she saw a green portal perpendicular to the rocky ground. It was much bigger than the previous ones he created. Danny was standing in front of it, ready to go in. She didn’t know if she could reach him with her mind, so she yelled, “Danny!” as she touched down, panting.

He turned around to look at her with a surprised look on his face, but said nothing. Drea took a second to regain her breath, and then ran over to him. The portal was still, not windy like she imagined. They stood in front of it, the moonlight standing over them.
“Andrea… what are you doing here?” he asked incredulously.

“I came to say goodbye. We are friends, aren’t we?”

He smiled. “We are.”

“Don’t forget me.” Drea smiled and laughed a little, sniffing away tears. She hadn’t cared for anyone so much since Karen.

“I don’t think that could ever happen,” he said with a ghost of a smile still playing on his lips.

The two of them smiled. Danny held his hand out to say goodbye, but she leaned in to give him a hug. He stiffened, but hugged her back after a little while. They stood there for a few minutes until they parted and the moonlight shone once again between them.

Drea stood back while Danny entered the portal. In a flash of light, he was gone. Gone forever. Drea fell to her knees and took a deep breath. Danny just reminded her so much of her brother, but it was more than that. He was more to her than just a friend, and there was nothing she could do now. He was gone, but there was no way she’d ever be able to forget him.

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Drea went to school the next day, noticing Danny’s absence more than anything. She walked around feeling like she’d lost someone precious to her, but of course she had. School seemed unimportant now, more monotonous than ever before. There was nothing to look forward too, no training to go to. The only highlight of her day was when she excused herself to kill a Lori.
She sighed on her walk home. It just wasn’t the same. Both Jackie and Karen had noticed a change in her attitude, but neither of them said anything about it. Drea was feeling more alone than ever.
In the next few days, this feeling continued, but the appearances of the Lori were becoming more frequent. More frequent Lori visits meant more excuses from class, and more excuses from class meant more trouble for her. Luckily, she’d gotten used to getting those stares teachers and students gave her whenever she made up some excuse to cut class. Her parents questioned her a lot though, but just told them the same excuses she gave her teachers.
One morning, a particularly powerful Lori appeared. Drea bit her lip. I have to go. Here goes nothing. She got up and ran out of the room, noticing Karen’s stare. She got to the door, only to be met by Ms. Kray. “And where do you think you’re going Andrea?”
Wow this is not turning out how I wanted it to. “Well,” she said. “I uh left my book outside! Need to get it.” She smiled one of those fake smiles she’d gotten good at over the past few weeks. Ms. Kray only stared at her and grabbed a book out of her arms. She held it up and waved it in her face. “Isn’t this the book?” She said accusingly.
Oh, hadn’t thought about that… “Well um it’s a different one.” She grabbed the one Kray had and ran out to “retrieve” the other one. Hopefully this’ll be quick, she thought as she jumped out of the school yard in her Kaienshi uniform and black mask. This Lori wasn’t far away, so she didn’t even have to use the quickstep. She arrived to see a Lori a little bigger than her, waiting in between some buildings.
She took out her knife where she had clipped it to her pants. Every time she used it, it reminded her of Danny. Drea faced the Lori, staring it down. She moved quickly, slashing right through its chest. Like all the others, it was gone. How could it be gone so fast? She had felt some fairly powerful aura.
She sucked in her breath. Her vision was changing again. The trees and buildings morphed into a dark background with shadows standing in front of her. The one in front said, “It’s almost time, and now you need to learn.”
“Learn about what?” yelled Drea. “Who are you?”
“We were what you are. Now you need to know how to control the power you’ve been hiding.”
Drea didn’t understand, but she did recognize that voice. It was the woman’s voice from her first vision. “You’ve spoken to me before. You know what these visions and voices are.”
“I do, we do.” The shadow sighed in frustration. “Now isn’t the time, you’re still in trouble.” It came forward and touched her shoulder, sending chills through her spine.
“Let us guide you for now. We’ll show you what to do.”
Drea’s vision blinked back to reality. She twisted her body around to defend herself from the other Lori she had sensed. Her eyes widened. Drea was holding a long sword in place of her knife, holding the beast at bay with the new reach of the weapon.
She maneuvered out from under it, and sped towards it. Her senses were heightened, her reflexes quickened. She stabbed it in the chest, watching it disappear into dust. As she pulled her weapon out, it changed back into the knife she carried.
Drea sheathed it, wondering what happened. Those voices haunted her mind. They knew what this was about, and it seemed they were finally going to tell her. She tried to listen to them again, but of course they were done talking. Based on what they said though, she knew she’d be hearing from them soon.
She jumped across a few buildings and changed herself back before she touched down and ran towards the school gate. She hadn’t been gone for too long this time. Just as Drea was about to grab her school stuff in the bushes, someone grabbed her by the shirt. She spun around to face her assailant, but found Karen instead. Karen stared at her with fierce eyes holding unwavering suspicion and anger. This is not going to turn out well, thought Drea.
“I thought you were just getting your book,” Karen said accusingly.
“I was…” Drea said quietly. She turned around fully and Karen let go of her shirt.
“Then why were you outside the gates?”
Drea had no answer to that question. Maybe it’s time to tell her… She took a breath, preparing to tell Karen everything when…
“She was helping me find something that I lost.” The both of them looked toward the gates at a tall man in a loose black suit. He would’ve looked like a business man if it wasn’t for his unruly, fiery orange red hair and earrings. He stepped next to Drea, standing firm with a sly smile. There was something strange and familiar about him.
She reached out with her mind to see who he was. She got in surprisingly easy with little resistance. Once she entered, a series of visions and thoughts hit her, but they came in too fast for her to interpret any of them.
What? She heard him think in a mocking tone. You don’t remember me just yet? He took his gaze off of Karen for a moment and smiled down at her, but it was almost like a smirk.
Why should I remember you? Drea knitted her eyebrows.
Because I’ve been a part of you for quite some time.
She didn’t understand fully, but she could tell he knew something she wanted to know.
Don’t get too excited. He looked up. Don’t worry, you will know soon.
His look challenged Karen, but she didn’t back down. Instead, she grabbed Drea by the arm and dragged her toward the buildings. When Drea looked back, the red headed man was gone.
Karen propelled Drea in front of her. “What’s wrong with you lately? You run out of class, you space out a lot, and you just don’t seem like yourself.” Drea could understand Karen’s concern, but after the visit with that man, she knew she just couldn’t tell Karen yet.
“I’m fine Karen, there’s just a lot on my mind lately. I can’t tell you what it is just yet, but I promise I’ll tell you soon.” On that Drea was telling the truth.
Karen sighed and said, “Ok Drea, but I just want you to be ok. You know how we all worry about you sometimes.”
Everyone had worried about her since her brother, and would probably never stop. “I know,” said Drea as she grabbed her books and they walked back to class.
She wasn’t lying completely though. Drea really did have a lot to think about, especially with the presences coming alive. She’d learn soon, but she wondered why it was so important. She wondered why she felt like she was running out of time.

In the next few days, Drea continued to look for those voices in her mind, but they didn’t speak with her again. Even when she fought the Lori they remained quiet.
That night was different though. Drea lay in her bed, staring at the ceiling. It had been about a week since Danny left, and her days were finally returning to what they had been before he’d shown up. Her strange sense of normalcy was short-lived though.
Drea closed her eyes and fell into sleep, trying to relax her mind and body. Instead, she found herself in a forest surrounded by tall, green trees with the suffocating smell of spring around her. A small path wound through the trees as the sun shone brilliantly in the sky. It was absolutely beautiful and incredibly peaceful.

She felt she just might be able to relax until a series of auras came to her, though they weren’t dark like the Lori. They felt like her aura, yet were much more complex.
Then a woman appeared in front of her. It was the Japanese-looking woman she saw in her mind a few weeks ago. She still wore her hair in a tight bun, but was dressed in a loose red top with army green pants. The young man she saw materialized next to the woman. He was young, but Drea could tell he was wise with his knowing, yet kind eyes. A few others stood next in the background, all of them staring at her intently.

This is a dream isn’t it? thought Drea helplessly.

“Yes, you’re dreaming,” said the Japanese woman with a smile. Her voice echoed through the forest despite its low volume.

“Who are all of you?” asked Drea aloud this time. There really wasn’t a point in thinking if they could hear her thoughts anyway.

“We are the ones you saw in your mind,” she responded simply, as if it were obvious.

“Why string me along for so long? Why give me these visions and messages without telling me what they mean?”

“You needed a little more time.” She raised her head, looking Drea right in the eyes. “It’s time you know what you are. In response to your question earlier, we are the former Weaponsmasters.” She gestured with her hands to the people around her.

Had she heard right? The Weaponsmasters were visiting her in her dreams. How realistic. “So what, do all Kaienshi get visited by the Weaponsmasters in their dreams?” She was being sarcastic now.

The woman laughed and the man smiled. “Don’t be silly, that’d be way too much work! Don’t you understand? You are the new Weaponsmaster.”

Drea would’ve continued her sarcasm, she would’ve denied it, she would’ve argued, but she only stood there, paralyzed. As much as she wanted not to believe it, she knew what they said was true. It felt right to hear them say that, and she could feel the truth in their words. So many thoughts, worries, and fears began to assault her. She barely thought she could be a Kaienshi, and now she would have to be the Weaponsmaster.

The young man stepped towards her and put a hand on her shoulder. He practically towered over her, he was so tall. He looked into her eyes and said, “I know what you must be feeling. It’s all incredibly overwhelming. We all know you are capable though.”

She looked at him, questions in her eyes. He chuckled. “I suppose we haven’t fully introduced ourselves. I’m Shawn, the first human Weaponsmaster.” The woman stepped up beside them. “And I am Korena, the first female Weaponsmaster.”

Drea looked at Shawn and studied him for a moment. He had been a human like her and understood how she felt. She looked at Korena next. She was the first woman, which means she had a lot to prove. That’s when Drea realized that she herself was the first human female. Talk about having something to prove.

The two of them looked down at her. Korena was only slightly taller than her. She spoke, “We’ve shown you visions of our lives. Do you remember?”

The visions… The first two that she had were the one where she went to the throne room and the one where she was sparring with the girl. Korena and Shawn’s voices were familiar, and now she knew why. She was in Korena’s body when she went to the throne room and she was in Shawn’s when he was sparring with the young girl.

“I was one of the most powerful Weaponsmasters to the surprise of many,” said Korena.
“And I was one of the most tactical,” said Shawn.

Korena looked Drea in the eyes. “You have great power Andrea, and now it is our job to teach you how to use it.”

Drea was having a hard time believing everything. She was supposed to be a real hero now and was supposed to protect everyone. She’d only wanted to keep her family safe, but now she’d be keeping everyone safe.

“How?” asked Drea. “How will you teach me?”

“Through your subconscious, otherwise known as your dreams. You’ll wake up remembering everything you’ve done here as if you were awake, but you should probably try a few of these things in the real world to be sure you can use them.”

Drea was already feeling pretty overwhelmed, but she did have one more question: “What will you teach me?”

“Everything you need to know to fight and protect,” said Korena, a stern smile plastered on her lips.

“Do you know what this job entails?” asked Shawn. He was looking more serious than she’d seen him. Drea hesitated, so he continued. “You’ll need to be able to kill off these Lori without hesitation, and when the time comes, you’ll need to be able to fight their leader. Can you do that?”

Fight their leader, Alka? She was their only hope, but she couldn’t stop the flood of doubts flowing through her mind. She’d only been a Kaienshi for a few weeks and now she’d have to defeat the Lori’s leader? Even though they didn’t have all the artifacts, they were only one away, and there was a pretty good chance they’d find the last one.

“How can I beat something like that?” Drea felt defeated.

“We will teach you.” Korena looked straight into her eyes. “You have the most power of any of us. You will be one of the strongest.”

Drea hesitated. She was speaking to two of the stronges Weaponsmasters and they were saying she’d be stronger. She wasn’t sure if she believed them, but thought it was worth a shot. “If you’re willing to teach me, then I’m willing to learn. I’ll do everything I can.” She didn’t really want so much responsibility, but she didn’t want to let anyone down either. She didn’t have too much of a choice.

The two of them smiled. “Very well,” answered Korena. “We’ll be coming to you in your dreams to show you what to do. Be aware that we can contact you when you’re awake as well.”

“We can also put you to sleep if we need to.” Shawn said nonchalantly. “That’ll only be when it’s urgent though.”

Drea nodded. “Are we starting now?”

Korena shook her head. “There’s not enough time. It’s morning. Now wake up. Wake up!”

Drea sat up to find herself in her bed, the sun streaking through the window. The last thing she remembered was Korena’s smile and the wistful tone in her voice.

So I’m the new Weaponsmaster… she thought. How strange. It was a surreal feeling to know that she was so important. She got up out of bed, going through her normal morning schedule. Her life almost felt like a dream now that it had become so distorted.

The day proceeded normally with not even a Lori around. The normalcy almost seemed like a false reality to Drea as the information she had received whirled around in her head. She still couldn’t believe that she was the Weaponsmaster, that she was the Kaienshi’s hope. What a heavy burden it was to carry.

That afternoon, Drea went to the waterfall to try and practice materializing the weapons. Korena and Shawn hadn’t shown her what to do, but she’d known about it since her fight with the Lori a few weeks back. She’d tried a few times prior, but was never able to do it. It seemed like it was what made her the Weaponsmaster, so she figured she should try to do it.

The only way she knew how to learn new things was to meditate and extend her mind. If anything, it’d help her to clear her head. Pictures and images, along with motions came to her; her mind was once again flooded with memories. She saw Shawn with the young girl, Korena with a man and hundreds of other Weaponsmasters. Thousands of weapons came into her mind: the staff, tons of different scythes, swords and knives, shuriken, every weapon imaginable. Drea knew how to use them, but there were just so many to go through.

After about an hour, Drea felt completely overloaded trying to process names and weapons. She stopped extending her mind, but still sat with her eyes closed so she didn’t faint or something. That’s when her cell phone went off in her bag. She opened her eyes slowly, the meager light stinging her pupils.

It was Jackie. “Hey Jackie what do you need?” Her voice cracked a little from not speaking for a while.

“Where are you, I thought you were coming home.”

That’s right. Without Danny, Drea had to come home on time every day. She forgot. “Um, I was just looking over something with Karen, I’ll be home in a few.”

She clicked the phone off before Jackie could respond. Here she was trying to live two lives at once. It seemed impossible to try and be that hero while being just another normal high school girl. Jackie’s phone call was just another reminder of that.

Drea picked up her bag and ran home, still thinking about all those visions. Hopefully that night she’d learn how to fight like a real Weaponsmaster. Hopefully she’d learn the answers to all her questions.

Drea dreamt of the same forest that night, but this time, only Shawn and Korena were with her. It seemed they would be her teachers.
Shawn sat over by one of the trees while Korena stood with Drea in the center of the clearing. It was obvious Shawn was a more laid back type of person.

“What are we starting with?” asked Drea.

“Information,” responded Korena. She motioned for her to sit by Shawn. “Do you know why you’ve been able to remember the weapons you’ve been using?”
Drea thought for a moment before Korena continued. She really didn’t know how she knew how to fight, she just knew how. “You’ve been remembering our memories,” said Korena. “See, all Weaponsmasters stay alive in the form of a spirit for the next Weaponsmaster. It is both a curse and a blessing to live on in this way, but it is our job even after death to pass our knowledge on. So when someone new becomes Weaponsmaster, all of us who’ve died as Weaponsmasters become part of them. We are then able to share our memories with that person, despite our uh passing. Our spirits are with you, not our bodies.”
She walked around for a moment before returning her attention to Drea. “All the times you’ve been in trouble, we’ve used our memories and power to help you out. We’ve been guiding you.”
So Korena and Shawn were the reasons Drea was able to kick over Crystal and fight with Danny and otherwise look like she knew what she was doing. She was amazed that their memories had helped her so much, and that she was able to remember things that happened a lifetime ago or longer. It made her feel like she wasn’t human, but more than that, it made her feel like she had accomplished nothing on her own.
Seeing the look on her face, Shawn said, “Don’t think that what we’ve shown you is the extent of your power. We may’ve helped you out, but you still did that stuff on your own. We only helped you regain our memories. You did everything else alone.”
She wasn’t sure if he was just lying to make her feel better, but judging from his now serious face, she decided to believe him.
“Did you help me conjure up the golden shuriken?” It had been a question that bothered her since that night.
The two of them looked at each other for a moment, serious expressions on their faces. Korena was the one to respond. “We showed you how to create weapons, but you were the one who actually materialized the shuriken itself. You’ll need more training though if you are to do it again.” They looked a bit frazzled, as if she had asked a strange question, but didn’t say any more.
Korena interrupted the silence. “As Weaponsmasters, we also have a weapon that is our favorite.” She held her hand up to reveal three thick needles in between her knuckles as Shawn held up a staff engraved with etchings. “We learn these weapons, and then pass our knowledge down to the next, becoming masters at every aspect of the one weapon. Of course we are still considered masters at every other weapon, but there will always be one that we prefer to fight with. This allows the next Weaponsmasters to gain even more knowledge on a specific weapon. For instance,” she got up and motioned for Drea to do so as well, “I want you to throw these needles at that tree to make a straight line.”

Drea took the needles from her hand and automatically remembered how to use them. She threw them against the tree, taking a perfect stance, and the needles landed in a vertical line up the tree. Her precision with the needles brought up one nagging question though. “If I know how to use every weapon, then why couldn’t I figure out how to use the scythe? Any why didn’t I remember enough about the sword of knife to be a master with them?” She’d at least been able to wield the sword and knife, but now well enough to be considered a Weaponsmaster, and the scythe felt anything but comfortable in her hands.

Korena and Shawn looked at each other, wondering who would answer. Shawn decided to. “We stopped you from remembering your complete fighting skills.”

Drea thought he’d explain, but he just kind of sat there and looked at her. Korena picked up where he left off. She could tell from their aura that they felt kind of guilty. “That boy training you thought you might be the Weaponsmaster, which is why he wanted to train you with three weapons. It’s not natural for a new student to know so much about the sword and knife without training, so he wanted to see how you knew.” She paused. “He would’ve taken you to Koracan if he found it was you. You don’t know enough to take on such a role yet, which is why we’re here.”

Shawn spoke, a sense of strength in his voice, “We let you remember some things on the sword and knife in the hope that you’d accept our words here. That’s also why you are so good at martial arts. That was my specialty.”
Korena looked Drea straight in the eyes. “If we’d let you remember everything about those weapons you’d used, it would’ve been obvious what you are, and to quench his suspicion, we couldn’t let you remember the scythe. Fear not though, as you learn more here, you will remember your mastery of these weapons.”

Drea wasn’t mad, in fact she was grateful they hadn’t let her move on without the proper training. It already scared her to just be a Kaienshi. “But wouldn’t I have to go to Koracan anyway?”

“It is your choice,” said Korena. “You may remain an anonymous until you are needed as Weaponsmaster, or you may join them in Koracan. It is our job to see that you are ready to make the choice when it comes.”

The relief Drea felt surprised her. She thought she was like a hero, but she didn’t even want to tear herself away from her average life. She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up to see Shawn with his comforting smile and kind eyes. “I was human too, you know. It’s only natural to keep hold of what we know. Change is one of our greatest challenges.”

That’s right, thought Drea. She kept forgetting that Shawn was human like her. He understood probably more than anyone else.

“So who was the woman I saw in my visions of you?” wondered Drea. She had been in Shawn’s body once, and fought with the girl.

Immediately after she asked the question though, she regretted it. He looked to the sky with a type of longing. “Do not feel guilty for you curiosity. She died and I continued on. She was my girlfriend. The vision you saw was before I knew I was the Weaponsmaster. After that...”

“What happened to her?”

“I didn’t see her again for so many long years. I didn’t want her to get hurt because of me, so I insisted she stay on Earth. She passed away long before me due to the dimensions. That was centuries ago.”

“Who was the man I saw in your picture Korena? And what were you doing in that vision?”

She also looked down with a similar longing. Drea could only imagine being alive for so long without the pain of losing everyone ever leaving. “That man was my husband in Koracan. When I became Weaponsmaster, he was thrilled, but I had some doubts.” She looked up at Drea, and for the first time, looked devoid of life. “I knew it was a great honor, but they told me that I couldn’t have children with my new role. I argued with them bitterly about it to no avail. I was just too important to not fight for nine months.”

A well of sadness came up in Drea. She could only imagine being told that she couldn’t do what she wanted “for the good of the people.”

“So I suppose if I am older and Alka still hasn’t woken, it will be the same with me?”

Korena only nodded. “It is like this for all female Weaponsmasters.” It was clear she felt broken up. She spoke again suddenly, “In that vision, I was in Koracan. I was speaking to the previous ruler, Keyna, about a mission I’d been on.”
Feeling kind of awkward, Drea changed the subject, “Danny told me that if someone gains the right amount of power, they can become Weaponsmaster and steal the power of the previous one.”
Both of their faces seemed to brighten with the question. Shawn answered now, “That’s true. Only one Weaponsmaster can be in existence at a time, but those who’ve lost their power may go on living. Not anyone can be the Weaponsmaster though.”
“The person who is destined to be it will gain the power, not just any Kaienshi who is strong enough,” Korena finished.

“So when did the last Weaponsmaster lose their power?” Drea knew Danny mentioned something about them not having one for a while, but he didn’t go into much detail on the Weaponsmasters. She wanted to know how long she should’ve known.

Korena seemed to sense that. She said gingerly, “It’s been about six years since the old one lost his power. That’s when you gained enough power to be the Weaponsmaster.”

“But I was nine. I didn’t even know how to use any of the power until a month or two ago.” Drea stared at them with her mouth open.

“You never activated it, but you still had it. When you began to learn, it became more prominent in you, which is why it’s taken this long to find you.”

So Drea was the new Weaponsmaster in a long line of them, and she was supposed to be throwing weapons when she was nine. She felt bad that she hadn’t known sooner, but was happy that she at least got six years of normalcy.
Despite this, she was still unhappy that she had no idea how to take on the role she was given. It pleased her that Shawn and Korena were there to help her, but she felt as though she’d let people down for not being there.
It occurred to her that it had been six years since her powers became strong and six years ago was when Kevin died. That Lori was sent to kill her that night, but it felt Kevin’s power instead. It was her fault he died. She sniffed and wiped her eyes, trying to prevent the tears threatening to come.

Korena and Shawn both looked at her, sympathy in their eyes. They must’ve had access to her memories as she had to theirs; they knew. Drea took a deep breath to clear her head and continued on.
Now her long list of questions had come down to just one: “So how come all the artifacts have never been put together? It’s been centuries.”

Shawn answered this one. “They are too difficult to find, for Kaien did a good job. We all must train to fight Alka on the off chance all seven somehow come together. Unfortunately, they have six now, meaning that it’ll probably be you or the next Weaponsmaster that must fight.”

Drea didn’t want to believe it, but she accepted the fact that it would probably be her who fought Alka. They had all but one piece, and it probably wouldn’t take too long for them to find the last one, if they hadn’t already found it. She really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Fight or die, it wasn’t a hard choice to make.

“Now we can start showing you what to do,” said Korena.

“Know that we can also reach you when you meditate like you did yesterday. If you want to learn during the day, that’s the easiest way we can reach you,” Shawn said as he got up.

“First we must teach you how to use any weapon and how to make them appear in your hands.” Now both Shawn and Korena stood over her, finally ready begin the training. “Once you start fighting again, you’ll remember more, but we’ll be giving you pieces of memory here and there to move things along.”

“Very well. Then teach me,” replied Drea, a new confidence shining in her eyes. All her nerves had gone to be replaced by a sense of duty. This was something she had to do, not just for those who needed her help, but for her brother long gone.

“Not quite yet sweetie,” Korena said in a sweet voice. “There’s someone you haven’t met yet.”

A crunch of grass sounded from behind her. Drea turned. But nothing was there.

What are you looking at?

Drea spun around to see a beautiful black horse right in front of her. Its eyes were glowing red and that its coat was the color of midnight shadows. When it shifted, its body seemed to shimmer, as if it really wasn’t there. It was like it really was made of shadows. It stood majestically, waiting for her response.

Who are you? She asked in her mind. She recognized the voice from somewhere.

My name is Zen. I am the Guardian of Fire and your guardian as well. He shifted his hooves, staring straight through her. She remembered Danny saying something about this Zen, and about how he stayed with the Weaponsmaster. She almost felt star-struck talking with someone who was held in such high esteem.

She couldn’t help herself; she reached out and touched its snout. Once she put her hand on it, she felt the animal’s energy course through her body, or was it a spirit? Whatever. She automatically felt the connection with him.

I thought you were special young one. It closed its eyes in contentment.

What do you do as my Guardian? She removed her hand and waited for the reply.

He reopened his eyes and stared for a moment. I will protect and assist you. I am a part of you now, just as you are a part of me. I will do my best not to let you get hurt. That being said, you also gain abilities no other Kaienshi has. This is what makes you special as Weaponsmaster.

More abilities? Drea sighed. She didn’t even know how to use the abilities she had as a Kaienshi, and now she had even more to learn as Weaponsmaster. A hole of uncertainty opened up inside her.

Zen seemed to sense this, and shuffled a few feet closer to her. Do not be afraid. You are stronger than you think and you will learn quickly. Besides, you’ve already done well fighting the Lori.

If someone who had been with all the other Weaponsmasters had faith in her, she figured she might as well try. He didn’t seem like the type of person to bond with idiots.

So let me try and get this straight, she said. You bond with me and live inside me? It was a strange thought.

In a way. He paused, trying to figure out how to explain it. I live inside your mind, both my physical form and my mind itself. I can share your thoughts and feelings and even merge with you. That’s a bit more complicated though. One thing you should know though is that to connect with you, I’ll need to mark your body with a type of tattoo. It allows me to be part of you as Weaponsmaster. You’ll feel my aura in that spot.

Great, thought Drea. Now she’d have to explain a tattoo to her parents as well.

It can be hidden if that’s what worries you. He wasn’t lying, he was privy to her thoughts.

Well I have a spirit inside of me. Doesn’t that make me possessed? Whatever.

“Zen can help you in your world as well,” Korena said with a smile. She patted Zen on the head, reminding Drea that she too had lived with Zen. She wondered how many years it had been since they had seen the other, for once the Weaponsmasters powers were transferred, she assumed so was Zen. “He has another form,” she said, returning her attention to Drea.

Another form?

As yes. He slowly lowered his horsey head until his whole body caught flame. His figure began to change as he got taller and narrower. The flames engulfed him completely, licking his black coat until they began to die out. The shape of a man emerged from the embers with fiery orange red hair standing on his head. He was dressed in a casual black suit with a few earrings hanging from his ears. The fire disappeared into him without even burning him, and without even a char or ash.

When she saw him, Drea let her mouth drop. “You’re that guy from school!” Of course it would be him.

“Are you really that surprised? He said casually. He stood next to Korena. He was taller than her but shorter than Shawn. From the smile on his face, it was clear he had so many secrets still hidden from her.

“I suppose not… But why pretend to be some random guy at the school yard?”

“Eh you weren’t ready to know yet. Besides,” he said with a smile, “it was fun to meet your friend.”

He looked up at the sky and his face grew serious. “It’s time you learn how to create weapons with my fire. Time grows short. Korena, Shawn, let’s begin.” Zen’s eyes glowed red and her turned to ashes that swirled around her and disappeared. An instant later, Drea felt his presence within her.
Korena spoke first as Shawn came to join them. “To materialize a weapon, you must imagine it in your hands. You must visualize what it looks like and what it feels like. Pick a weapon Andrea. Any weapon and visualize it in your mind.”
Drea did as instructed. “Once you know what you want to create, send the aura out of your fingertips, just as you’d do when you quickstep.” She demonstrated by holding her hand out and creating a sword. “Your weapon is created out of your aura. Make it disappear by taking your aura back.” Her sword disappeared in a rush.
Drea took a breath and directed the aura to her fingertips. She found it wasn’t very difficult with all the times she remembered doing it. Quicker than an eye could blink, a knife was in her hand, surrounded by shimmering flames. They disappeared just as quickly as they had come.
She looked down at her hand to see that it wasn’t burnt or even hot. Fire will no longer harm you young one, Zen spoke in her mind. As Weaponsmaster, you now control fire.
She continued to look at her hands in disbelief. I control fire…
“Nice job Andrea,” Shawn said as he watched. Drea looked up to see their faces. They looked pleased. She also noticed though that Korena’s weapon didn’t appear in fire as hers did.
She had only one more question to ask. “After you lost your power,” she began slowly, “what did you do?”
They didn’t seem as unhappy as she thought they’d be when she asked that question. Shawn smiled and said, “We became regular Kaienshi who couldn’t create weapons, but could fight with any weapon. It was a difficult transition, but we had hundreds of years to get used to it.”

Drea nodded, feeling pleased. She was feeling tired now, even though she hadn’t done too much. She was sleeping too. How redundant.
There is much you must know Andrea and much I can teach you. You will soon know how to control my fire and how to fight like a true Weaponsmaster. I will help you all I can, and try to heal you when you are hurt, but remember, you must do this on your own. He paused.
I’ll be with you, but time is short Andrea. He weapon dissolved into ash and disappeared in her hand. Drea looked over to Korena. She nodded and Drea’s vision changed back to that of her room. Her familiar surroundings left her feeling empty somehow. She would start her training the next night, though she wasn’t really sure she had time to waste.

Drea sat in her english class, trying to focus on the lesson, but she wasn’t really getting anywhere. It was hard to just sit there and pretend that the biggest problem in her life was the test she’d have. The fact that she fought the Lori and that she was the Weaponsmaster gave her new perspective of the world. Suddenly her problems weren’t as important as they used to be.

You’ve grown quite a lot, Zen said proudly. You have the mindset of a true hero.

Drea sighed. I wish that were true.

Are you alright?

Yeah… I just feel like I’m wasting time. My brother was killed because I had no idea about what I was. It’s been six years and I still barely know what I’m doing.

Zen was quiet for some time, letting her think in peace. Then he said something unexpected, If you want to do some training quickly, I can pull you into your subconscious for a little while. It’ll look like your sleeping.

Drea knew what she wanted even before he finished. Yes. I need to know how to be the Weaponsmaster.

Very well. She had her head propped up in her hands as her vision changed. She lost all feeling of her body as she entered the forest. It was foggy this time. Korena stood by one of the trees, but Shawn wasn’t around. Zen stayed in her instead of materializing.

“Why are you in such a rush Andrea?” Korena seemed surprised to be there. Couldn’t blame her.

“I just feel like I need to know what to do. I need to be strong so I can protect everyone.” For the first time in what seemed like so long, Drea’s eyes shone with unrelenting determination. She actually felt ready.

“Alright,” said Korena. “Then let’s practice creating weapons.”

Korena stood beside her, keeping a close eye on her throughout the training. Drea continued to think of new weapons, redirecting the aura into her hands many times. Each time, a new one appeared and she would swing it a few times to remember it.

“Now try letting aura loose in both hands,” Korena said. “Then you can form two-handed weapons.”

Drea did as instructed, thinking of a double scythe. When it appeared out of the fire, two beautiful scythes were in her hands. Their black handles were connected by chains to her arms with the sliver-black blades shining beautifully. Drea hadn’t thought of the detail of this weapon, but she was glad it had appeared. She threw it a few times, using the chain to pull it back. It was a magnificent weapon.

“Now try a new one,” Korena instructed.

Drea was reluctant to release the aura, but she did, making the weapon disappear in a rush of flames. Then she sent more out, but directed it to her whole hand by accident. Before she could stop it, her black fingerless gloves had turned to gauntlets with small spikes sitting on the knuckles.
Korena came over to her. “Ah, what a special weapon. This relies on the skills you have with physical fighting, and because of that, is not used by many. It may come in handy to you sometime though.”

Drea loved the feel of the gloves on her hands. She threw a few punches and watched the energy emanated off them. They were completely different than any other weapon she’d tried and piqued her interest. She was about to make them disappear when she felt her breath catch in her chest and fell to her knees, holding her head.

“What’s going on?” She felt like she was being ripped out of her body. It was painful as the migraine sprang up.

“You’re waking up. Your body’s pulling your mind back.” Korena stepped towards her. “Don’t resist Andrea. I’ll see you tonight.”

That’s when Drea found herself sitting up in her desk, Mr. Devon leaning over her with an irritated look. She looked around to see everyone staring. Literally everyone. “What’s going on?” asked Drea, feeling stupid.

“You wouldn’t wake up Ms. Swift, and you shouldn’t be sleeping in my class anyway.” That look of annoyance could’ve turned her to stone if he was trying hard enough. Drea had had enough of this. There was no reason she should be singled out and was tired of being looked down upon, even if she had been “sleeping.” She had no desire to relive the childhood humiliation and embarrassment her classmates instigated due to her quiet demeanor either.
She was about to say something when the twang of Lori aura hit her. There was one close by, so close that she didn’t have time to argue with the snake-tongued teacher.

“I guess I’ll just leave then,” Drea said with attitude as she grabbed her stuff and walked to the door.

“Ms. Swift!” Mr. Devon said with that stern teacher voice. He seemed pretty mad this time, judging from the enunciation of his words. She turned on her heels to face him, a sarcastic look on her face. It was almost fun to be a bad kid. Then he came up to her and grabbed her by the arm. Roughly. “You will not be getting out of my class again. I am tired of your blatant disrespect. Now sit so I can continue.”

Drea hesitated, but Mr. Devon turned her around and stood in front of the door. How am I supposed to get out of this? She wasn’t a troublemaker, and despite her attitude, she didn’t like the way he treated her. She was going to turn around when a voice at the door said, “And who do you think you are?”

It was the most cocky, most disrespectful, and most mocking voice Drea had ever heard, and she knew exactly who it belonged to. Her eyes widened when she saw the red hair and black suit standing in the doorway. Zen! She hadn’t even summoned him, or she thought she hadn’t.

“Excuse me?” Mr. Devon did not like to be questioned.

“You treat her like she’s done something absolutely horrendous. It’s not like every other kid here wasn’t bored, they just never put their heads down.” Giggles and laughs echoed through the classroom. Mr. Devon had met his match. He was about to say something else when Zen continued, “You don’t know her business. I doubt a jerk like you cares anyway.”

Mr. Devon hesitated. He didn’t know how to respond to that. “I need to borrow Andrea though.” He smiled devilishly. “We’re distant relatives. Family issue.” She stepped over to him and they walked out.

As soon as they got a few feet away from the room, they started running down the hallway. “Thank you,” Drea said with a sideways glance and a smile.

He looked over to her with a devious smile. “Eh I don’t like that guy. He wasn’t teaching anything important and you needed a way out.” Zen chuckled a little and began to dissolve as they ran. “Now go kill that Lori.” And he was gone.
An instant later, Drea felt a burning in her shoulder and pulled up her sleeve. A swirling black mark the size of her hand was burned into her shoulder. It looked like living black flames that shimmered and expanded in the light. They seemed to climb down her arm as she watched. Zen… That was his mark.
We are bonded. Anytime you need me, I will protect you, she heard him whisper. The mark blended into her skin and disappeared.
Thank you. She turned the corner and down the stairs, rushing to make up lost time.
Back at the classroom door, Karen stood watching. The red headed man who had spoken with them outside the school had come to get her, but how else did she know him? She went with him like this was something normal, but it wasn’t. She never slept in class either. Then the strangest thing happened. As Karen watched them run down the hall, the man disappeared. He just dissolved into dust and surrounded Drea. Then she lifted up her sleeve to look at something and ran down the stairs.
Karen had known that something was weird, but this confirmed it. It was time to do some checking around. To do that, she would need some help, and she had the perfect person in mind.

*
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Drea had arrived to see a huge Lori, one as big as a small shed. She couldn’t decide which weapon to use with so many new options. She could’ve used Danny’s knife if she wanted, since she kept it strapped to her leg. Even though she had an infinite amount of weapons, she wouldn’t get rid of that one. She just ended up using the needles Korena used to test them out. They were certainly a tactical weapon, and while they weren’t the easiest to use, they had a nice feel.
As Drea walked away and changed back to her school clothes, she began to realize how good she had gotten with these weapons. She’d only been training in her dreams for a few nights, but with all the previous memories of Weaponsmasters piling in her head, she felt like she’d known to use them for years. Her confidence was rising as she learned more and more about each weapon.
Hopefully that meant she was becoming a real Weaponsmaster, for with each day that went on, Drea felt like she was losing more and more time.

In her dreams that night, Drea sparred with Shawn and Korena as she worked to be stronger. They obviously had the upper hand, but that didn’t mean she would give up. In the midst of her battle with Shawn, Drea switched to the spiked gloves, seeing that it’d be difficult for Shawn to match her short range weapon with his staff. He changed his weapon to the sword, giving Drea a greater challenge.
As he lowered it to her shoulder, she caught it in her hand, but it didn’t cut her. The gloves were strong enough not to be cut. No wonder they felt so heavy. Drea pulled her hand back like she was going to punch him, but she got close, flames flew from her hand and hit him in the abdomen.
Nice job Andrea, said Zen in her mind. He was conscious of the entire fight.
She smiled; it felt like she was finally getting it. Shawn smiled too and she dropped his weapon. “You’ve done very well Andrea. You’ve learned not only how to use your weapons, but how to use them strategically.”
“Yes,” said Korena. “You’re doing well, especially considering the amount of time you’ve been training. It seems you’ve even started to use Zen’s fire. It’ll help you a lot in the battles to come.”
The word “battles” made her uneasy, but she knew that soon things would get rough when the Lori discovered her new reputation as Weaponsmaster. Korena and Shawn smiled at her as she opened her eyes to her room.
After she changed and went downstairs, she noticed Jackie was avoiding her eyes. It was weird, and as they walked to school, she still said nothing. Unfortunately, Drea compromised a bit of her relationship with Jackie in her new job as a Weaponsmaster. If only things worked out easy every time.
She did like how much better she’d gotten though. She was nowhere near the level of true Weaponsmaster, but she was learning quickly. After all, normal Weaponsmasters trained for many years. She glanced down at Jackie. I wish I could tell her. It’d make things so much easier. She sighed. Not telling her was the only way to keep her safe, even if it tore Drea apart. Jackie didn’t even know what had really happened with Kevin, and that’s what hurt Drea the most.
They parted at the gates, but Drea saw Jackie run off somewhere else instead of waiting for her friends. She narrowed her eyes; something was going on. As she went into the high school area, Karen wasn’t around either. After her episode with Mr. Devon yesterday, she would’ve expected Karen to say something, but she hadn’t even texted her. She couldn’t blame Karen for keeping secrets, though she’d like to know what they were. She sighed. That must’ve been what Jackie and Karen were feeling about her. There was no winning.
Drea got to homeroom and waited by herself. She hadn’t realized how much she relished in Karen’s company each day. It wasn’t until just before class started that Karen rushed in and sat down. When Drea caught Karen’s eye, she only smiled in Drea’s direction innocently. Something was definitely going on, but Karen would never tell her.
The day passed by pretty slowly. There was a strange absence of Lori that day. Drea fingered her golden shuriken; it stayed cool under her collar. Zen stayed quiet that day too, probably just as bored as she was.
After the day was over, Drea went over to the waterfall to meditate. It had become a routine method she used to calm herself down. She used it to get closer to the other Weaponsmasters within her also, learning who they were and even more about the multitude of weaponry. It no longer overwhelmed her when she did this as she got better and better as connecting with each Weaponsmaster while they shared their knowledge.
When she was finished, she ran to one of the side streets near the school to walk home through the park. The sun was setting nicely; Drea hadn’t realized how long she’d been training. With her luck, she’d be apprehended by Jackie as soon as she got home.
As she began her walk, she heard a voice say, “Andrea!” Drea turned to see Karen running towards her with Jackie by her side. She wasn’t even home yet and they were already following her.
“Um hi guys…” Drea stumbled. She really wasn’t sure of what to say. “What are you doing here?”
“Look,” said Karen harshly. It was unlike her to be so coarse. “We’re tired of you lying to us.” Drea was about to respond when Karen continued, “Yesterday I saw the man disappear into dust when you ran down the hallway. He was the same guy who was conveniently around when I was questioning you earlier.”
“And I know you were hurt before,” said Jackie sternly.
“Plus you’ve been running out of class and going off alone a lot lately.” Karen wasn’t budging; she was really ticked. “Why don’t you tell us what’s going on?”
Drea was stuck between that rock and hard place. She couldn’t tell them if she wanted to help keep them safe, but they wouldn’t give up if she didn’t give them what they were looking for. She sighed. There was only one thing to do.
She was about to tell them everything when she felt the approach of some overwhelmingly dark aura. There were two Lori this time, and their skill levels were incredibly strong.
Karen’s voice interrupted her beating heart. “Hey. Drea?” The two of them were in danger if they stayed. The Lori surrounded the three of them, getting closer and closer to boxing them in. She had to get Karen and Jackie to leave. She couldn’t put them in more danger, but how could she convince them to go?
“Karen, Jackie, we can talk later, but now I need the two of you to leave,” said Drea in a stern voice. She looked around as she said it, trying to see where the Lori might appear from.
They just looked at her like she’d gone crazy. “What are you talking about Drea?” snapped Karen. Now she was mad, but Drea had no time for that. The Lori were had surrounded them, and she had run out of options.
She heard the clang before she even realized what happened. She held a sword behind her head and was holding off one of the Lori with it. It also had its own sword, and stared at her with wild eyes that she could sense without having to look. Karen and Jackie stared at it with incredible fear, unable to speak. Drea was determined to get rid of it before it hurt two of the most important people in her life.
She whirled on it, trying to kick it back, but it jumped out of the way before she had the chance. It possessed incredible speed. Drea faced it and morphed her weapon into the two scythes with chains while changing into her Kaienshi uniform. She threw a scythe at it a moment before used her quickstep to get close. It couldn’t counter it in time, and she was able slash its arm, spewing blood. Drea thought she had done well until a second Lori came up behind her and grabbed her by the chest with terrible force, pulling her backwards and forcing her to release her weapons. She struggled in its grasp, then with Zen’s help, heated up her body and forced it to let go.
She wasn’t ready to give up. Drea grabbed a scythe before she turned and threw it, spouting fire. They flinched back, but one of them was able to come up behind her and slashed her back from her right shoulder to her left lung. It wasn’t deep, but it was painful. She could feel the crimson liquid drip down her back as she turned and slashed, forcing it away.
Drea took a knee, feeling weaker. She let her scythes disappear.
“Did you forget about something?” A familiar voice sounded behind her and she realized there was another aura present. She saw the other two Lori back off and hide in the trees as she cursed herself for not paying closer attention.
Drea turned to see her old classmate Drake holding both Karen and Jackie in a headlock, with a knife in each of his hands. Her heart began to beat hard in her chest, and her back was burning, but she didn’t want to show her fear or pain. She steeled herself with Zen’s help and spoke with all the power she had in her voice. “Let them go.”
“Why should I?” he responded with a mocking smile. He looked normal except for his eyes. They had red pupils and shone with hatred. Both Karen and Jackie looked really freaked out, but they didn’t struggle. They remained still in his iron grip. Drea just hoped they were okay.
“Isn’t your fight with me? Why bring them into it?”
“You already know the answer to that question,” he snickered. “How much harder do you think it would be to subdue you without them? I think you understand: they are your kryptonite.”
She tightened her jaw; he had spoken true. Drea would do anything for the two of them and would never let them get hurt. He was using them as hostages.
“What do you want?” she asked, even though she already knew the answer to that question too.
A disgusting smile spread across his face, cracking his skin like nothing more than an eggshell. “You.” Drake tightened his grip on the two of them, and she heard Jackie yelp.
“What, your friends won’t be joining us?” Drea asked in a mocking tone.
“There’s no need; you won’t be able to win. Besides, I want to fight you by myself.”
She didn’t really want to fight him in front of the two of them, but rationalized that it would be the only way to free them. As she stared at Drake, to her dismay, she realized that he was truthful in his ego-building though. He was incredibly strong and had aura blacker than night. If she was to beat him, it wouldn’t be easy.
She took a fighting stance and he yelled, “Let’s begin!” He shoved Jackie and Karen against a far tree on the periphery of the forest where they sunk down and remained huddled. Drea was glad that they would be out of the way, but it was still up to her to save them.
Can you help me Zen?
Do not worry, I am here. Be careful though, this one is strong, stronger than even the strongest you’ve faced.
His words didn’t make her feel much better, but her dread worsened when she saw Drake change himself into his Lori form. He grew taller and wider at the same time, sporting midnight blue fur, three inch fangs, and two inch claws. In both of his hands, he held two swords. This would be a whole new fight.
Drea drew her scythes out of fire again, lighting up the night for just a moment before she charged. The hard metal sparkled in her hands as she brought it in close. Drake was no pushover though. He raised his knives and skillfully deflected her scythes. She jumped back a few feet and used the chains on the handles to throw both weapons at once, but found that her target had disappeared.
Her back burned as she turned quickly and formed the gauntlets, using them as a shield to hold up in front of her as Drake tried desperately to cut through them. She could feel the blood dripping down her back. When he failed, he resorted to other methods. He kicked her in the stomach with the hooked claws on his feet, sending her flying. She rolled to a stop on the ground before she could regain her footing. A touch to her stomach revealed droplets of blood and a few gashes. It was nothing serious, but it was just as painful as the one on her back.
I will try to heal your back and stomach, Zen said. Give me time, and they will no longer bother you.
She sent him her thank you and turned her attention back to the fight. Drake knew that he had put her on the defensive, and she didn’t like it. She had to find a way to gain the upper hand.
For countless minutes they clashed, each trying to outdo the other. Drea was still on the defensive, but she was able to tire him out a little with her superior speed. After a few more minutes, the wound on her stomach no longer hurt and the wound on her back was gone. Zen had healed her. That didn’t solve all her problems, but it did help. Now she had to figure how to win.
I know you haven’t had much training in terms of my fire, young Andrea, but you’ll need to use it to win this fight.
How?
Get angry, was his advice. Fire is an element that works on emotion and is representative of rage and anger. It can flare up if you’re that angry, and if you can support it, it’ll stay lit.
I thought in a fight you were supposed to keep your cool, she said in a panic as Drake and her clashed again.
You need to know how to control your emotions, but when used properly, they can be a powerful tool. Control them, don’t let them control you.
She hesitated. She had plenty of things to aggravate her, but she wondered if she could keep herself under control. It only took one look at her sister and best friend to force those thoughts away. I have to stay in control. Losing myself is not an option.
Drea took a deep breath and cleared her mind before using her sister and friend’s abduction, the appearance of the Lori, and her brother’s death to fuel a rage so deep down that she hadn’t even known it existed. She clenched her fists as she felt the rage course through her body uncontrollably. She felt the familiar burn on her shoulder and within a few seconds, she was on fire. Not all of her though, just down her back and arms. The fire covered her like a blanket would; not hiding her, but resting on her. She looked at her arm and saw Zen’s mark lit in red, shimmering and glowing. Just like before, the fire wasn’t hot, and she didn’t fear being touched by it. Drea wondered at this for a moment, since being on fire was probably a fear instilled in mankind since the very beginning.
She didn’t have time to think on it, for Drake rushed at her with his silent knives aiming for her fiery skin. Using her anger to fuel her, Drea created a shuriken in her hands. Not the golden one, but it would work all the same. It set fire in her hands as she threw it straight for Drake’s chest. He was able to dodge, but not completely; it opened up a big gash on his arm.
He didn’t stop, but continued to advance, the sight of his own blood doing nothing to deter him. Drea changed her weapon to the sword and held it out in front of her, bracing for impact. The two of them hit head on, but Drake was much stronger and bigger than her. He pushed her back, the dirt gathering at her heels. Finally, she stopped. Her arms were shaking from the effort, but she held her stance. She wouldn’t let him beat her, not with so much on the line.
In a sly move that she had learned from Shawn, Drea held the sword for a moment with one hand and drew a staff with the other. She couldn’t hold her sword for more than a few seconds with only one arm, but she only needed a few seconds. Drea extended the staff and sent it straight into his stomach with all her strength. Drake almost doubled over, but held his stance. His moment of hesitation was all she needed though. She changed her staff to a double-edged sword, which pierced through his skin like it was paper.
Blood waterfalls spurted out of his stomach, splashing the ground in front of him. While he was distracted, Drea knocked the knife out of his hand with her sword and pushed on the other sword even harder, hoping it would go through to the other side. She didn’t get that lucky.
Drake stopped her momentum and stood while she regained her breath. The sword was deep in his gut, and the fire she produced was spreading. She was about to end it with a stab to his heart when he disappeared again. The action only made her mad. What point was there to disappearing if she still had the upper hand? If he was going to reappear behind her again, she already knew that trick. That’s when it occurred to her: Jackie and Karen. He was going for her heart.
Drea rushed to them, seeing the horrified looks on their faces. She was on fire after all. She took her stance a few feet in front of them and drew her scythe as Drake smashed into her with his sword. The clang reverberated loudly in her ears.
Unexpectedly, she saw Drake smile in his wolfish attire. He puffed up his chest and let loose a roar like she had never heard before. It sounded like the screams of children and the fear that sits in the hearts of men. It sounded like nails on a chalkboard and the grim reaper coming to take his payment.
Without her consent, she felt her fire extinguish. The night grew dark around them as he continued his roar. Dimly, Drea realized that the roar was sucking the oxygen out of the air, destroying her fire.
A scream from behind her suddenly caught her attention. She was sure it was fairly loud, but she couldn’t hear very much over the din of Drake’s roar.
Drake ended his roar and while she was distracted, knocked her in her chest and sent her back into Karen and Jackie. She slid to a stop in front of them, her hair covering her face as she lay on her back.
Maybe they thought she was dead, maybe she was dead, but she heard Jackie say in a whimper, “D-Drea?”
She rolled over in exhaustion. “Are the two of you alright?” She noticed that she was coughing up blood on the dirt as she spoke. She lifted herself, shoving her hair out of her face. The two of them looked like they’d seen a ghost. Her secret had been revealed.
Neither of them said a word until Karen whispered again, “Drea?”
Drea only nodded and rose to her hands and knees. “I’ll be ok. I promise. I’ll keep you guys safe.”
She jumped towards the place where Drake was now, not waiting for their response. She would have to explain later, but for now, she had only one goal in mind: kill. She sped towards Drake, who had turned his back to her, and grabbed Danny’s knife out of the ankle strap she kept it in. Korena and Shawn joined their spirits and energies with hers, giving her the strength to move faster than he could sense. Before Drake even knew what was going on, Drea had plunged the knife through his heart and ribs. She felt them crack as she stood on his back twisting the knife in deeper.
He growled for a moment and she twisted the knife even further. He trembled before he said in a low voice, “This isn’t over. Even if you’ve beaten me, you haven’t won.”
She only had to wonder what he meant for a moment. The two Lori who had been hiding rushed out towards her as she pulled her knife out and jumped backwards. She flicked the blood of her knife before hiding it again.
Drake’s body began to turn to dust as he disintegrated and died. It disappeared in the wind. Drea’s pleasure was short-lived though. The two Lori turned on her with their glowing red eyes. They hadn’t expected their leader to die, and now that he had, they were pissed off.
She looked around, trying to gage their movements. They had been working as a team to take her down before Drake jumped in, but there was no telling what they would do now. She exchanged her scythe for the spiked gloves and began shooting fire balls out of her hands, desperately trying to take them down quickly. Just as she finished, she noticed one of them had disappeared and her eyes widened. It had gotten away while she was distracted and unfortunately, she knew exactly where it was going.
No! There wasn’t enough time to stop it. Drea found herself standing in front of Karen and Jackie again. On top of her shoulder was the sword. It had cut through the skin, and this time it went deeper. The blood spurted out, the red liquid dripping down and staining even the black clothing. They knew where her heart was now, and they would use that to defeat her. She began to breathe heavy, the wound on her shoulder beginning to burn.
Andrea! That blade was poisoned and your energy is fading. Now Zen seriously sounded scared.
What can I do? Asked Drea. Her words were slurring and she was feeling sluggish.
Zen remained quiet, but maybe it was just her losing her head. Spots began to appear in front of her eyes, and she involuntarily fell forward, hitting the ground harder than she thought she would. Drea tried to get up, but she could barely get up on her elbows. She could barely even move. Her whole body felt as though cement had been poured into it as she looked up to get a glimpse of her captor. Her brown-black hair overshadowed her face as she saw the Lori’s eyes glowing red in the dark, a menacing smile staring down at her. Blood was gushing out of her shoulder, but it wouldn’t be enough to kill her. Their objective was her capture.
The poison was moving through her body fast; she had been doomed from the moment she moved to protect Jackie and Karen. A strong hand clamped around her arm, or maybe it was a claw. It dragged her off the ground and sat her up where it forced her to look it in the eyes. Her feet were lifted off the ground, making it even harder to breathe. Those eyes stared at her as if she was just a treasure and tool.
Drea wanted to get away, to protect Karen and Jackie, but her thoughts were clouded and her body was leaden.
“You’re ours now,” it growled, its words warping in her mind. She was nodding in and out of consciousness now, her eyes struggling to stay open with the anger and confusion splattered all over her face. She heard Karen and Jackie screaming her name hysterically, tears probably streaming down their faces.
The Lori took out a type of rope laced with aura and used it to tie her hands behind her back. She was breathing heavily. When it finished, it inspected her quickly and its cold claw weaseled around her neck and until it found what it was looking for. It pulled out her shuriken charm, a terrible smile capturing its features. Her heart stopped; that was what it was after?
Then it hoisted Drea over its shoulder, forcing all the blood to her head. She saw the other one use its claw to open a rift in space, dark purple light streaming out of it. It felt menacing and evil, with so much dark aura streaming out, it could suffocate her. It was like the portal Danny used, except it was much, much darker.
Where are we going? thought Drea weakly. Her voice was just a whisper in her mind and she couldn’t even form the words anymore. She took one look at Karen and Jackie just before she blacked out.

Jackie stared at the space where Drea used to be. Her blood stained the ground in front of the two of them, acting as a permanent reminder of her. Jackie barely understood what happened, but she did know one thing: Drea had been taken. Those monsters took her through some portal and she was gone. That was after some deadly weapons just magically appeared in her hands and she set herself on fire.
“That must’ve been her secret…” said Karen quietly. She sounded dumbfounded, as if she was in some sort of trance. Jackie looked over to her. She was on her hands and knees, looking over to where Drea had been. It was dark now, and the streetlights were beginning to flicker on.
“But why wouldn’t she tell us?” wondered Jackie aloud, sounding just as surprised as Karen. She thought her and her sister shared everything.
“Based on what just happened,” Karen paused and looked around. “She didn’t want to put us in danger. And she was probably scared of what we’d think.”
Karen made perfect sense. If those monsters were after her, it was plausible that they would come after anyone Drea knew. And with those powers, it was easy to assume she didn’t want anyone to know about them. Jackie only wished she could’ve protected Drea like Drea tried to protect her.
“We have to do something,” said Jackie, more tears threatening to pour down her cheeks. Karen didn’t respond, but only looked at Jackie sadly. She pulled her in close as they sobbed silently.
“Have faith,” she said. “Drea will find her way back. I know she will.” The two of them sat there, each feeling like they’d lost a piece of themselves.
“I won’t lose her too,” whispered Jackie. The pain in her heart was spreading like poison. She only hoped Karen was right.

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The darkness swirled around her, pushing her and stabbing her with pain. Drea tried to open her eyes, but it felt like they were glued closed. Her whole body felt weak and unnaturally heavy. She tried to remember where she was supposed to be, but nothing came to mind. Everything felt empty, even her heart.
A voice came to her from somewhere far away. “Wake up,” it growled. She felt herself being shaken, but she didn’t wake until a shock of aura was sent through her body. She opened her eyes slowly and blinked a few times to get rid of the blurriness. She was still in her Kaienshi uniform, but it had been torn in a few places. Two Lori were on either side of her holding her up by her arms and her hands were still bound.
Wait, she thought, still bound. Drea looked around her for the first time, trying to discern her surroundings. She was in a small white room with a type of pedestal in the middle. Six golden objects sat atop it at different levels, shining beautifully under a few dim lights in the ceiling. They sparkled with otherworldly light, but there was something familiar about them, Drea just couldn’t remember.
“Where am I?” she squeaked out.
The Lori only looked at her, pulled her face close to its own, and put her back sharply. Her memory slammed back into her. She was the Weaponsmaster, and they had taken her for her blood. She had gotten hurt in front of Jackie and Karen, and they had seen who she was. Hopefully they’ll understand when I get back… if I get back. No, I can’t think like that. I can’t give up hope.
Her shoulder was burning, and she looked over to see that the blood had crusted over, but it hadn’t been bandaged or anything. They wanted her alive to resurrect Alka, but that didn’t mean they cared if she was hurt. At least she’d be alive for a least a little longer. Once they had all seven artifacts though, she’d be nothing more than bait.
She looked over at the six shiny, golden objects sitting on the pedestal. They all sparkled with otherworldly brilliance. As she looked, she noted all the objects: a little vest, a small sword, a set of shoulder pads, some golden chain link pants, a set of gloves, and some boots. She’d never seen them before, but there was something about each little object that was familiar. A few of them appeared in the previous Weaponsmasters’ memories even.
That’s when it came to her. There were six objects. The Lori had six out of the seven artifacts and all six were the objects Danny had listed for her. Only one was missing: the shuriken. And with a start, she realized why they looked so familiar. They all looked like they were made of the same brilliant gold her shuriken was made out of. It couldn’t be possible, but there was no other explanation: she possessed the last artifact.
She closed her eyes and felt the shuriken still resting on her chest. Drea breathed out a sigh of relief. It was possible they didn’t know she had it, but if they did, she was done for. She’d have to fight Alka. She didn’t want it to be taken away for other reasons though. It was her last reminder of Kevin. Yet she had a sinking feeling that they knew what it was. Judging from the way the Lori who had taken her had pulled it out of her shirt, they knew.
Drea looked around the room; a doorway was on the opposite side, but she had no strength to fight her way out. More Lori were probably guarding the door anyway. She couldn’t even contact Zen or feel her own aura. She narrowed her eyes, feeling angry. Helplessness was probably the worst feeling in the world.
The door across from her opened suddenly, and a slender, tall Lori stepped through. It had eyes that were all black, and it was looking at her with such contempt she felt as though she could melt under its gaze. Then it smiled, displaying long rows of incisors, teeth that could rip through her in a second.
“It seems we’ve found the final pieces to our puzzle.” It walked around the room as if contemplating something, its deep voice reverberating across the walls. “Your kind has prevented us for centuries from giving our true leader new life. But now that we have you,” it lifted her head with one long, shiny black claw, “we can finally take power once again.”
“Not happening,” Drea spoke loudly.
It turned quick as lightning and slashed her cheek. It was a few seconds after that she even felt the sting. The crimson blood dripped down her face and chin, landing like little raindrops on the white tile floor. It smeared the blood on her cheek, and looked at the dark liquid staining its hand. “Your fate is sealed.”
Talk about having an air of finality. “How did you find me?” asserted Drea, a scowl on her face.
“Do you remember that night when you summoned the golden shuriken?” Drea remembered that like it was yesterday. That Lori was the one who tricked her with the little girl and stabbed her in the thigh. She had used a golden shuriken to get rid of it. She hadn’t known then where the shuriken had come from.
“We tracked the feel of an incredibly powerful weapon, a weapon like that of Alka’s, to your location. Only the Weaponsmaster can make them materialize, so when we found our weapon, we found you.” It smiled terribly, rejoicing at her ignorant mistake. If she hadn’t used that shuriken, they wouldn’t have found her.
Her necklace started burning against her chest, like it was scared. It hadn’t been burning before, despite the huge amounts of Lori aura surrounding them. The other artifacts began to glow a little brighter then, making Drea wonder if all the artifacts reacted to the dark aura like her shuriken did. The Lori spoke quietly, “Now you can feel the consequences of your foolishness.”
The slender one came up to her and put its hand around her neck. It reached into her shirt and pulled out her golden chain and charm. “Such a powerful weapon that you wear like jewelry,” It lamented. It smiled and yanked her charm off her neck. The shuriken was placed with the other artifacts, the chain still attached to it.
Drea’s tried desperately to break free, but couldn’t. They two of them were too strong. It tore her heart in two to lose that familiar weight around her neck.
“Now we will find our way to your body, Alka, and it will be the Lori who have the power.” It was looking at the sky, as if there long-dead leader was in some demented version of heaven. It looked behind itself after a few moments to see Drea still there with her two guards. “Take her away. We’ll need her later when we discern the location of the body.” They dragged her out of the room as she struggled. She tried to shoot aura out of her hands, but the restraints must’ve prevented it.
As they dragged her down the hallway, she had to stop struggling. Drea hadn’t eaten in she didn’t know how long and it felt like those ropes were draining her energy. Their grips weren’t exactly loosening either.
They went down many winding hallways, dotted with countless doors. After a few minutes, they threw her into a pitch black room like she was some piece of trash. She felt around to find that there were no windows, and the door was made to blend into the wall. She was completely locked in.
Drea just lay on the floor on her side. Her hands were still behind her back and it was getting increasingly uncomfortable. The floor was hard and cold and her shoulder was still wet with blood. The wound was deep and she was in a lot of pain.
Drea could barely sleep that night with everything on her mind, but what bothered her the most was the loss of her precious shuriken. That shuriken was all she had left of her brother, and now she didn’t even have that. The hole in her heart reopened, and it hurt just as much as the day Kevin died. She almost wished it had been her back then instead of him.

Drea’s dreams were filled with darkness and despair, feelings that reflected her mood. She felt like there was no way out of this bleak situation. In intervals she kept hearing whispers, or maybe it was someone yelling, but from far away. Whichever it was, she couldn’t focus enough to listen properly, but it felt urgent. The only thing she was really able to focus on was the growing hole in her heart.
She was awakened by the loud noise of the door clanging open. One human stepped inside, leaving the door open and letting the light stream in. It took Drea a minute to remember that they could transform themselves into humans, and took her another minute to realize who the human was. The blond hair and smug expression gave it away: it was Crystal. Drea hadn’t seen her since she kicked her over that day in school so long ago. It all felt like a dream now.
“Surprised to see me?” she cackled.
Drea could only lie on the floor as she stared.
“I said,” Crystal came over to Drea and grabbed her by her collar, dragging her to her feet, “surprised to see me?”
Drea spat out, “Not in the least,” between gritted teeth.
Crystal released her shirt and threw her back. She stayed on her feet. “You killed Drake then. Good job. We didn’t think you had gotten so good.” The death of a comrade seemed like nothing to her. It was seriously like she had no soul.
“Well it doesn’t matter how good you are, you won’t be leaving here. You’ll die by the hand of Alka before you are set free.” Crystal smiled and came towards her. “Before that though, you’re going to pay for what you did to me in that idiotic school and for what your little friend did to my arm.”
She advanced, stopping right in front of Drea. Drea stood and stared at her, unsure of what to expect. In a flash, Crystal punched Drea right on her face. “You think you’re so great don’t you?” she taunted. She gave Drea a punch in the stomach, knocking the air out of her lungs. Drea’s legs gave out for a moment, but before she hit the ground, Crystal knocked her in the chin with her knee. Drea was pushed towards the wall, taking hit after hit in her stomach, chest, and face. Her shoulder was burning and she could taste the blood in her mouth.
She felt her back hit the wall and the incessant hits ceased. Drea knew that she was bruised where she had been hit, and she probably had a black eye. Blood streamed from the corners of her mouth and her arms were sore from being tied behind her back. The wound on her shoulder had reopened and blood dripped slowly down her chest and back.
Her head drooped, but Crystal grabbed her hair and forced her to look up. “Nice eye sweetheart.” She grabbed Drea’s head and knocked her against the wall one more time before she walked back out into the light. Drea slid to the floor in pain for only a few moments before a new Lori walked in. Her head was throbbing and her vision was flickering. She felt lightheaded and weak, as if her soul was slowly evaporating and disappearing.
The Lori grabbed her by the arm and forced her to her feet. It made no effort to look her in the eyes, but only grabbed her dejectedly, acting as if she wasn’t even there. It made her walk, and when she couldn’t, it simply dragged her by her arm. She still felt defiant and angry, but was too weak to truly act on her emotions. She couldn’t do anything besides go along with the Lori.
It brought her into a new room, still white, that looked like a throne room. There were no windows, with the room itself being lit by just a few dim lights. A low throne sat at the end of the room. It looked like the throne room she saw in her visions, but it wasn’t the same. Something about it made it different.
The Lori holding her dropped her on the floor and left, leaving her alone. She could still feel the throbbing in her body, but forced herself to focus. Luckily, it had dropped her in a sitting position, and she was able to take in the entirety of the room. Drea’s heart beat in her chest; she was anxious about what would happen, and curious as to her fate.
Before she could think further on it, the slender Lori with the midnight eyes stepped into the room. Its fur looked darker in the lighting. It was almost black. It walked up to her, but before it could open its big mouth, she asked, “Who are you?”
The question didn’t take it by surprise like she’d hoped. It just stopped in front of her and said proudly, “I am Rikta, current leader of the Lori.” Rikta circled her. “We’ve finally found the one we’ve been looking for and the last artifact we need to achieve our plans. It won’t be long now.”
Rikta reared on her, pulling her to her feet by grabbing her shirt. He looked her straight in the eyes and smiled. “We got fortunate to get such and inexperienced one.”
He threw her over to the wall and she stayed on her feet. Everything was painful with the beating she had received as she struggled to stay on her feet. She couldn’t believe she’d been so stupid as to let them find her by using her charm as a weapon, but there was nothing she could do about it now; she was toast.
Suddenly another Lori came in and interrupted. Rikta listened for a moment before he motioned the Lori to a darker corner of the room. Drea could hear them whispering in the corner, their backs turned to her. They didn’t want her to hear something and they thought she could do nothing. She really couldn’t. There were no windows or exits besides the locked door and she was too weak to do anything. There had to be a way out, but right now, she couldn’t think of what it was, never mind how to find it.
Andrea! Can you hear me?
She looked up. Rikta hadn’t moved. He hadn’t heard it. The voice was in her head. It wasn’t Zen’s voice, which sparked some worry in her heart, but it was still a huge relief to hear it, especially since she knew whose it was.
Shawn! Where’s Zen?
He’s alright, just weakened. Shawn paused. We have to get you out of here before they take you to Alka. I have no doubt you could fight him now if you needed to, but your chances of winning are slim. It’s not your time to die.
Shawn’s words struck a chord of finality in her. Drea wasn’t ready to fight a monster as powerful as Alka. Not yet. And if she couldn’t escape from this, she’d be forced to resurrect their leader and fight him, something she knew she wasn’t ready for. The word “die” was a poison in her mind. Just saying it made her feel like it’d happen pretty soon.
What can I do? She was getting more scared by the second that she wouldn’t make it back as Rikta’s conversation dragged on.
Shawn paused then responded, realizing the lack of time. We only have a few minutes to do this while his back is turned. Lucky for us he’s arrogant. The other Weaponsmasters and I are going to push our aura out through your wrists to negate the dark aura holding your hands. You need to materialize a dagger in your hand and I’ll tell you what to do from there.
I’ll try anything at this point. Drea felt the aura seethe through her veins and gather in her wrists. The change in aura forced the dark aura away and broke the ropes. She slowly moved her arms in front of her; they were bent back for so long that they hurt. The blood on her shoulder cracked from the movement, but thankfully it wasn’t bleeding too much. Drea felt lightheaded from the loss of blood, but made the knife appear anyway out of flames. She felt Zen’s mark burn, giving her hope.
Ok, what do I do?
Remove your glove. She did as she was told and tucked it in her pants. Her arms creaked as she moved.
Now you need to use that knife to cut the mark used for travelling dimensions into your hand. We can guide your hand with our memories. He paused. I know this is painful, but it’s the only way to escape without them catching you.
He was right, but she really didn’t want to do it. Drea would have to cut herself with a knife if she was to get out; she’d have to scar herself. She was in enough pain already, but she had no other choice. It was either cut herself or be killed. Her heart beat frantically as she responded, Ok. Take control of my arm, but make it fast.
I’m sorry Andrea, you have enough scars. She could feel Shawn’s sorrow as she lost control of her arm. It was as if she’d broken her arm and lost all feeling in it as the veins and muscles tingled. Drea could only imagine what if would feel like if she lost control of her whole body.
The other consciousnesses within her took the dagger in her grip and pressed it against her smooth palm. At first it felt like the pinch of a needle, but then the knife dragged along her palm in smooth lines, ripping into her skin. Blood dripped out of her hand quickly, making her feel lightheaded at the thought of what she was doing. Her hand shook as she tried to keep her muscles rigid.
The knife ripped through her skin quickly as Shawn and the other Weaponsmasters tried to minimize her pain. Her heartbeat traveled to her hand, just like it always did when she hurt herself.
The blood dripped deliberately and slow, staining the white tiling on the ground. It pooled in her palm. In less than thirty seconds the mark was complete. It was the same Japanese symbol she’d seen tattooed on Danny’s hand, except hers was a permanent reminder of her time in the Lori prison. Drea looked up to see that Rikta was almost done. It felt like it’d been such a long time since he had left her, when it’d only been probably about a few minutes.
She released the dagger and it disappeared into nothing. Her hand shook and her breathing was ragged. Then Korena’s voice came to her, Andrea! You have the mark now! You only need to think of a place in Koracan and we will help you activate the portal to get you through.
Wait, why not go home? At that point, that was the only place she really wanted to be.
You’re hurt and they can heal you. The Lori will come after you in your world anyway, and destroy more and more of it until you cooperate without complaint. She sighed. I know you want to go back, but this is the only way to give you the training you’ll need to fight Alka. They’ll never stop coming after you as long as they know who you are, but it’s your choice of when you must fight.
Drea sighed. Korena was right, no matter how much she hated it. She had to go to Koracan if she wanted to be safe and gain strength. It was her only choice if she wanted to keep everyone safe. Alright Korena, but I’ve never been to Koracan, I don’t know what to think of!
Do you remember the vision I showed you? Drea sent a signal of yes.
Alright, now picture the throne room you saw me in clearly and we can take you there. Drea paused and thought. Hurry Andrea, we don’t have time!
Alright I have it!
Very well. Hold out your hand in front of you and we’ll get going. Drea did as instructed just when Rikta turned around. He had an undeniable look of surprise and began to run towards her to stop her. He was moving incredibly fast.
Korena! screamed Drea. In a rush, the aura spewed out of her hand, forming a rough circle that was the portal. It shone green with specks of black spiraling through it.
Drea didn’t even have time to hesitate with only seconds before he grabbed her. Time felt like it was moving in slow motion as she raced through the portal. When she touched it, it sucked her in and immediately closed behind her.
Rikta stopped in the space where she used to be and cursed himself. He roared so loud, the stone and tiles cracked. He had let the greatest prize they’d ever had get away, but it wouldn’t be for long. Now that they knew who she was, she wouldn’t last for much longer.

Drea spun endlessly in the portal. She barely knew what was going on, and the pain in her body was throbbing. When she entered, it felt like a shiver was sent through her body as the pressure squeezed and compressed her. It was difficult to keep her eyes open, so she didn’t. Her whole body tingled as she traveled through the narrow tunnel.
After about a minute or so, Drea heard Korena say, We’re here. Her voice was Drea’s last shred of hope, giving her the strength to at least open her eyes. She was able to see the opening just before she sped through. She couldn’t see anyone, but she did feel a few auras in the room. She was too weak to distinguish anything though. Drea’s back hit the ground with bone-crushing force; incredible pain bloomed up her back and in her ribs. She’d probably broken some of them.
Drea felt her breath come in gasps. The fall had ignited all of the pain in her body, worsening the cut on her shoulder and the bruises Crystal gave her. She lay on the light blue tile and stared off through the curtain of her hair. Some talking occurred, followed by faint footsteps approaching her. Before she could even say anything, she blacked out.

*
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Danny woke up that morning and stretched. It had been over two weeks since he’d been back to Koracan, but something still felt off. He was one of their leader’s, Wren’s, top guards along with three others. They all looked like they were about sixteen or seventeen, but they had been alive a lot longer than that. They were strong, and were specifically selected due to their skill. It was their job to protect the Leader and go on serious missions. Many of the Kaienshi were out looking for the last artifact, so he’d been given the mission of training Drea. He’d given his report when he’d gotten back, and now it was officially over.
Danny left his room and met Shena, John, and Toni, the other three guards. They greeted him happily. They’d been best friends since they were chosen as Wren’s guards.
“ Hey Daniel, it seems like Wren has something important for us today. Confidential meeting.” That was Shena in her tough exterior. She always sounded confident and calm.
Everyone there always called him by the name Daniel too. It reminded him of how Drea was the first one to give him that nickname of Danny, as hard as that was to believe.
“Yeah, we haven’t had one of those in a while,” said John. He was taller than the rest of them by about a foot, but was one of the kindest souls Danny knew.
“Must be something big this time,” said Danny.
He was about to say more when Toni interrupted, “Well why don’t we talk about something else on our way?” She smiled as usual, her blonde hair shining in her ponytail. Toni was the most upbeat person Danny had ever met, kind of like Drea’s friend Karen. She liked to talk about things other than her work a lot, making it sound like she was trying to escape the truth of her work. It was the complete opposite in fact; she loved and appreciated her work, but she’d lost a lot because of the Lori. She knew pain, and she hated causing it or letting it happen to others. That’s why she fought: to help people who can’t help themselves, and that’s why she loved it.
The four of them walked quietly to the throne room, talking in their minds to each other about random things. They didn’t want to look unprofessional; they were at work now.
In a few minutes, they stood in front of the old wooden double doors that led to the throne room. Danny stepped up and said to the two armed guards, “Reporting for duty.”
They nodded and pushed open the doors, allowing the four of them in. The doors shut behind them with a boom. Danny looked forward and saw Wren up on the throne. She was a slender woman with silky brown hair and pale skin. Despite her appearance though, she was a well-trained fighter and knew what she was doing.
Wren stood and stepped down from her pale blue throne. The whole room was in shades of blue, all sparkling and shining in the streaks of sunlight that filtered in from the narrow windows high above them.
Danny, John, Toni, and Shena stood side by side, about five feet apart, to face her. They knelt until she gave the signal for them to rise. “Today we must discuss finding the new Weaonsmaster and the last artifact. No one has yet found them, and we must make sure that the Lori don’t get to them before we do.”
Wren talked for a while about new strategies and different ways to implement them with the four of them chiming in periodically. All of a sudden, Toni burst out, “Miss Wren! A portal is opening in this room. It’s from the Lori dimension.”
Toni was an excellent tracker, and could feel the aura of just about anything. She was also able to feel the opening and closing of portals from miles away, which was why she was such a valuable asset. She stood at attention, focusing on what was coming through.
“But that doesn’t make sense,” interjected John. “What kind of Lori would come here on a suicidal mission? They know our strength.”
“I don’t know whose aura this is, but it’s not Lori. It’s Kaienshi, but it’s different.” All of them looked around at each other and then as Wren, waiting for her orders. “Toni, where is the portal opening?”
Toni stared off into space, focusing on the location of the portal. In less than thirty seconds, she pointed to a space high up in the center of them room. “There. The portal is almost open.”
“Surround it. Apprehend whoever or whatever comes out. Don’t let it get away.” Wren stepped down from her throne and stood in front of it while the four of them formed a circle around the area where the portal would be open.
Within minutes, a green light they knew was the portal ripped open in the ceiling. It was roughly shaped, as if whoever created it had been rushed or was simply inexperienced. The four of them waited in anticipation of what would come out of the portal.
A black clad figure shot out of it at light speed and smacked against the ground with a thud. It was a girl. She landed on her back and was still. Danny saw that she was in a Kaienshi uniform, but it was torn in places. He also saw that she wore black fingerless gloves on her hands. There was only one person her knew that wore those gloves, but what would she be doing here?
“Get up,” commanded Wren coldly. The girl didn’t move.
Danny’s heart began to beat faster than he thought possible as he thought the unthinkable. It looked exactly like Andrea, but there was no feeling in her aura and no way for him to be sure. She lay completely still. Even from far away he could see that she was bleeding in a few places, fresh blood streaming from her hand.
“She’s knocked out,” said John calmly.
Wren stood and thought for a moment. “This could be some sort of trap, but we can’t take the chance of letting a Kaienshi die.” She motioned to the girl, watching her drip slowly from her body and onto the baby blue tiles. “Daniel, examine her. We need to know why she’s here.”
Danny walked over kneeled down next to the girl. He pushed her hair out of her face. His eyes widened and his heart beat out of his chest when he saw who it was. Shena noticed it right away. “What’s wrong?”
Danny hesitated for a moment, but tried not to betray his emotions, “I trained this girl not long ago. Her name is Andrea.” He looked at the others; now they really didn’t know what to do.
“Why is she here?” Wren asked suspiciously.
“I don’t know.” He examined her bloody hand. He could make out the cuts that formed the mark of the portal through the blood. “I never showed her this mark, or at least not closely enough for her to copy it. Without it in front of her, I don’t know how she could’ve done this, or why she had to for that matter.”
“Is there a reason the Lori would be after her?”
“Some higher level Lori were after her when I trained her, but I never knew why they followed her. She has an incredible amount of aura, but I assumed that was the only thing drawing them to her.”
“Well she came from the Lori dimension,” John said. “Maybe they captured her and she got away somehow.”
It was quiet for a while then as Danny looked at her other wounds. None of them were fatal, but he could tell that the one on her shoulder had been open for too long. She’d already lost a lot of blood and the fall from the portal must’ve broken some ribs.
“Well, why don’t we look at her shoulder,” said Toni as she knelt down on the opposite side of her. Toni had that sixth sense of feeling when something was wrong, and she knew something was bothering Danny about seeing Drea again.
She carefully peeled back the sticky fabric on Drea’s shoulder, trying to avoid causing her anymore pain. What does she mean to you?
Danny looked up into Toni’s eyes. She met his gaze and raised an eyebrow. We’re just friends, said Danny unconvincingly as he set his gaze on Drea again. Her black eye made his heart ache as he checked her pulse.
As if. I can tell you at least want to be much more than that.
Danny exhaled and watched as Toni peeled off the last of the bloody fabric of the tank top and peeled it back. She gasped immediately as she wiped some of the blood from Drea’s shoulder.
“What is it?” asked Shena.
“I-It’s,” stumbled Toni, her eyes wide. Danny wiped off some more of the blood with his hand. On Drea’s arm was an unfamiliar mark. It was pitch black, giving the appearance of living flames dancing up her arm. It was beautiful, yet lethal looking, emitting an aura all its own.
“It’s the mark of the Fire Guardian,” said Wren. Even she looked a little surprised seeing the swirling curls of night. She hesitated. “The mark of the Fire Guardian, of Zen, is only granted to the Weaponsmaster.”
“Is she the Weaponsmaster?” John asked, never taking his eyes off Drea.
“She must be,” said Wren.
The four of them didn’t know how to respond. Shena jumped in first: “But she’s human. She looked like she’s maybe fifteen, so that means that she’d have to be nine when she gained enough power to be qualified as the Weaponsmaster. That’s when Luke lost his power.” She gestured to Drea. “How could this girl be so strong at such a young age? And why wouldn’t we have noticed it by now?”
Shena ended up looking at Danny; she knew he was to blame for not bringing Drea to them sooner. She had been exceptional during their training, but he didn’t think she was the Weaponsmaster after failing to use the scythe. Maybe he should have paid closer attention. Danny wondered what had caused him to mess up so badly. He thought about how he felt about Drea, about what those feelings were. Maybe he’d lost his touch.
He hung his head in dismay and shame. “I accept responsibility for not discovering her. I was the one who tried to save her brother six years ago, and I should’ve known she was the one.”
Wren exhaled sharply. They all knew about his failed mission, but now they knew he had almost let the Weaponsmaster fall into the hands of the Lori.
“You will be spoken to about this later and reprimanded. Right now it is your job to heal her before we bring her to the infirmary.” Danny would get an earful about this whole thing, and he knew it. Great, he thought as he sighed and continued to fix her up, starting at her shoulder and her serene face. Healing her again reminded him of that night she’d killed one of the higher Lori.
It took him a while to fix her up completely, but they waited there with him nonetheless. Eventually Wren said, “We will discuss this and our strategy concerning this tomorrow. She’ll need proper training when she heals and she’ll need to tell us what happened when she wakes. The rest of you are dismissed.” She looked down at Danny. “Daniel, I will have some medics come in and help you. Then she’ll be transported to a room.”
Wren walked back behind her throne into the shadows and disappeared. Toni, John, and Shena all took a seat around Danny. It seemed they would wait with him. He looked around to see smiles and looks of sympathy trained on him. He smiled playfully back.
Drea lay motionless as he healed her. She had been hurt badly by the Lori and she had a lot of bruises and cuts that needed to be fixed. As Danny looked at her, he wondered if she even knew she was the Weaponsmaster. If she did, then why hadn’t she told him?
What other secrets are you keeping?

Drea groaned and opened her eyes slowly. Her eyes refocused and for a moment, she stared at the ceiling. Her mind was working slowly, and it took a moment for her brain to start working again. She could see that she was in a little room on a downgraded hospital bed, with a window to her right and a little dresser to her left. It was calming.
How did I get here? she thought as she sat up slowly. She noticed that her shoulder and back were bandaged along with her hand. They felt sore, but they didn’t hurt. Her ribs felt ok too, which surprised her after that fall. She groaned and combed her hair back with her fingers. She felt like a mess.
She was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. Where’s my Kaienshi uniform? Drea rubbed the sleep from her eyes and looked out the window. The sky was a beautiful pale blue and she could hear the beautiful chirping of the birds. Her room was far from the ground and the building itself was surrounded by many other buildings. Trees were spread through the city, shooting off pops of green against the rooftops.
Drea slid her legs across the right side of her bed and stared out the window. Wherever I am, it seems all too peaceful. None of it seemed real as she remembered her pain and imprisonment in the Lori world.
She tried to stand; her legs felt like they hadn’t been used in days. After she walked a few steps, her leg gave out. She thought she’d hit the floor, when someone caught her. Drea looked up to see Zen standing there in his human form, a sad look in his eyes.
As he helped her to the bed, she noticed he looked tired; his hair was a mess, his eyes had bags, and his movements were strained. He still wore the black jacket with the white undershirt that looked like a suit.
“Are you alright Andrea?” he asked after she sat. His voice sounded raspy.
“I should be asking you that question.”
He sighed. “I’ve been giving you some energy to keep you strong. Another Kaienshi healed up your wounds.”
She slanted her eyebrows. “So am I in Koracan?”
He nodded. It unnerved her that she was so far away from home especially considering that she was in another dimension altogether.
“What happened while I was out?” asked Drea, looking up at him.
He explained how she hit the ground and how they’d figured out her power as Weaponsmaster. Then they’d healed her and brought her to the infirmary. “I wish I could’ve kept you safe Andrea.” Zen looked truly defeated as he looked down at her with guilt.
Drea rose slowly so she could meet his eyes easier. “You protected me Zen. None of this is your fault, and don’t think that it is. You’re a part of me Zen, and I can feel every ounce of your sadness pierce my heart like needles. You did what you could, but it was I who should’ve been stronger. If I was stronger I could’ve used your power better.” She smiled up at him. “I’ll get stronger so that you won’t always need to protect me.”
He smiled and she hugged him. He embraced her slowly, as if his every movement pained him.
“I will teach you more to help the both of us get stronger Andrea.”
“Very well, but when?” Drea was ready for anything; she only wanted to be strong.
“Whenever you’re ready. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of time now. We’ll have to learn as soon as possible.”
Drea understood what he meant right away. Her necklace had been the last artifact, meaning that the Lori now had all seven. Soon they would be coming after her and she had to be ready if she was to fight them off. They were probably pissed that she gotten away and they’d come with a vengeance.
“Someone’s coming,” said Zen as he looked to the door. “Learn what you can here, and we will start right away. Be ready.” He disappeared into dust that surrounded her and moved into her. She turned to see four Kaienshi standing inside the door just as the remains of the ash became part of her.
There were two girls and two guys. One girl was a brunette who stood with a calm sense of confidence and the other was a blonde with kind, knowing eyes. One of the guys was taller than the rest with dirty blonde, almost light brown hair. He looked confident, yet kind and smart. The last one looked familiar with his jet black hair and sparkling green eyes.
“Danny?” she asked slowly, as if the word was foreign on her tongue.
The other three immediately looked at him as if the nickname “Danny” was a foreign concept. He stepped forward and stopped on the other side of the bed. She still stood and watched.
It was him, but he felt different. It was like he’d gotten colder. He also looked tired, a little like Zen had.
“You healed me didn’t you?”
He didn’t respond, but only watched her.
“Answer me,” she said, anger spiking through her voice. She hated the way he ignored her, as if she didn’t even exist. She’d felt that feeling before and had no desire to relive it.
The other three Kaienshi stood there quietly, waiting for something to happen.
Drea clenched her hand and released some aura. In less than a millisecond, she had her sword trained on his neck. She would never try to kill him, but she wanted him to stop ignoring her. Drea felt a calm sense of confidence exude from her, making her feel strong and empowered. She stood tall and narrowed her eyes coldly at him as she forced the sword to disappear. It felt like a century had passed since they’d see each other.
“You are the true Weaponsmaster,” Danny said calmly. He almost seemed sad when he said it, like he regretted the words coming out of his mouth.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
He sounded hurt, yet his facial expression didn’t show it. He knew very well how to hide his emotions.
“Change is hard,” was all she said as she turned fully to face him. Drea knew he understood.
As she looked closer, she could make out Danny’s look of remorse and even anger, as if he’d been punished. She reasoned that he was probably reprimanded for not bringing her back. He was the one who trained her, and he probably took the blame for not realizing who she was. She knew she should feel bad, but she couldn’t. She had done what needed to be done, and she wouldn’t feel bad about it.
Drea tried to move towards Danny, but a piercing pain stopped her. It crackled through her body like lightning, paralyzing her limbs. She fell forward, but had just enough strength to stop herself from hitting the ground.
Drea spread her aura through her hands and made a scythe appear just before she landed on the cold, hard floor. The end of it hit the ground with a thud as she put all her weight on it and used it to keep herself upright. It shook slightly as her hands shook; it was painfully obvious how much energy she’d lost.
The scythe she created was at least eight feet tall with two curved blades. It was a crude weapon, used only for head on fighting.
She breathed heavily, but found the strength to pull herself to full height as she held on tightly to the scythe. Drea then lifted it off the ground and held it up before it disintegrated into ash. The four other Kaienshi, including Danny, stared at her incredulously, like she’d just sprouted wings or something.
After about a minute of awkward staring, the blonde one came up to her and said, “Well I’m Toni. It’s so nice to meet you!” She smiled at her then at Danny. His expression darkened. “And that one is John,” referring to the other guy, “and her name is Shena,” referring to the brunette.
“We’re so glad we found you, especially before those Lori forced you to fight Alka. And Danny fixed you up completely.” Her immense kindness made Drea smile. It wasn’t something she was used to. “Why don’t you rest for a little while, and then we can start some proper Weaponsmaster training.”
Normally Drea would’ve agreed to that in a heartbeat, especially since she was so tired, but there was something else on her mind. It hadn’t left her mind since she had woken up. “I’m sorry, but we have no time for rest. I need to learn, and it must be done quickly.”
Toni looked at her confused. Then Shena said with a bored look on her face, “Why, what’s the rush?”
Drea clenched her hand in front of her neck where her charm always used to be, unconsciously fiddling with that spot. “The Lori have to last artifact.”
There was a moment of intense silence. Danny and the others looked at Drea with surprise. No one moved.
“How do you know this?” asked John. He sounded suspicious of her, but she could tell he was worried it might be true.
Drea looked him straight in the eyes. She had no more fear. She was a different person, with a confidence and strength that would usually need to be gained after many years of combat. It surprised even her. She could kill the Lori now with little hesitation.
“I was in possession of the shuriken. They took it from me.” Drea looked down. She was ashamed, but tried not to show it. It would be all her fault if Alka was resurrected.
“How could you let them take it from you?” Shena’s words pounced on her like a lion as her eyes accused her and shamed her.
Drea sighed. “Believe me, I never wanted to let that shuriken leave my neck. It meant more to me than you would ever understand.”
Shena narrowed her eyes, but dropped the subject. Drea lowered her eyes to avoid looking anyone in the face. “I need to get stronger.” She raised her head. “They will come after me, and I need to be ready. There’s no more time to rest.”
“Very well,” said Danny. “Then let’s begin.”

Drea was taken through the city to get to the training area after she changed back into a brand new Kaienshi uniform. All she could do was gawk and stare at everything around her. They were in a forest, but it was more industrialized with the wooded buildings dotted in a seemingly random pattern. Some looked older and some newer, but they exuded the feeling of history. Some of them stayed brown like the bark, but others were white or gray with a blue or green roof. It left Drea wondering if they’d built all this themselves. It had certainly advanced since she had been in Korena’s body.
They walked with the two girls in the front and the two guys in the back. Drea was stuck in the center by herself. She felt alone. Danny’s actions left her wondering if they were still friends, but she knew she couldn’t let it distract her from her training.
They arrived at the training area in about ten minutes, which was an underground room the size of an Olympic swimming pool. The ceiling, walls, and floor were all gray. A stairwell led them into the darkness until someone hit a light switch on the side of the wall, igniting small, round lights at regular intervals.
“It’s nice that you’ve finally come,” said a strong female voice. She walked down from another set of stairs off to the left and stood in front of them, spewing confidence and leadership. This woman must’ve been the ruler of Koracan.
Drea noticed that her four escorts had kneeled behind her, but she didn’t feel a need to do the same. Danny and the others hadn’t told her anything about this woman, but it was obvious she was in charge. Drea stood tall as this woman walked toward her, a stern expression on her face.
“Why haven’t you kneeled?” It wasn’t an accusation, but an honest question.
“I see no reason to kneel to someone whom I have no knowledge of.” Drea straightened her back and looked the woman in the eyes.
The woman raised an eyebrow. “You’re an interesting one. Crafty with your words.” The woman stood next to Drea to address the four others: “Why haven’t you told her about me?”
They all hesitated, so she continued, “I received a report that the Lori now have all the artifacts, but you shouldn’t have taken her here without my permission. Exactly how much of her situation have you really told her?”
The four of them looked away and hesitated again. It was clear that none of them could respond. Shena looked up to try and answer, but the woman cut her off. “I will do this myself.”
Quicker than Drea could see, the woman reached out and grabbed her face, covering it with her hand. Drea could see through the slots in her fingers for about a second before her vision changed again. It had been a while since her last vision, but the woman had caused this one. She could feel her body fall to the ground limply. It must’ve looked like she was dead.
Drea eyes remained open this time, but she still couldn’t see out of them. She was aware of her entire body, but her other senses had been taken from her. She could only see blackness.
Images and information began to pour into her mind incessantly, jumbling themselves together in a mush. S- stop! She yelled, but nothing happened. There was no response, and when she realized they weren’t stopping, she tried to calm down and absorb it in.
It slowed down gradually, giving Drea the chance to actually make sense of it. She saw the woman who gave her the vision and heard a voice say “Wren.” That must’ve been her name. Judging from the images, Wren became the leader of the Kaienshi many years ago when her parents passed. She was known for her immense power and leadership.
That’s when Drea saw images of Koracan. It was where they trained all the Kaienshi. She could see all the former Weaponsmasters and their training there. It seeped into her mind and burrowed into her skull. She instantly knew how they trained and what she would need to do to be even stronger than them.
The images blurred out of control without her intent suddenly. Drea had no control over what she was seeing anymore, but was still somehow able to remember it. She felt herself blink a few times until her vision began to come back into focus. She was lying on her side, looking out in front of her. Danny, Shena, John, and Toni were still kneeling, but were looking up at something now when they weren’t looking at her.
Wren was speaking. “You know you have no place doing this. She needs to see that.” Her calm expression was irritating, but it was even more annoying to the person standing across from her. Zen was in his horse form and she could tell he was just about ready to explode. He kept his hands clenched and his eyes trained on Wren. Drea knew he had an incredibly short temper, and that calm expression she wore wasn’t helping.
He didn’t respond, but just stood there, livid with anger. Drea had to do something before this got out of control. She tried to rise, but her body was weak and only got up on her elbows, her liquid-like brown hair still touching the cement.
“Zen,” she said as loud as she could muster, but her voice was scratchy and weak. Drea tried to rise further, but couldn’t. She flipped her hair out of her face and looked straight at him. His anger instantly turned to concern.
Drea took a few seconds to catch her breath, keeping her eyes on Zen. She continued to rise, feeling her strength seep back into her. Zen stood silently with Wren as she rose, whose expression hadn’t changed. She formed a staff with his fire to help her get to her feet. Once she had risen, she nodded almost imperceptibly to Zen. He looked back at Wren with contempt, and turned himself to dust which dissolved into Drea. She rose to her full height, which was about a foot less than Wren, and looked at her sharply.
“And I don’t care who you are, you have no right to speak to him like that or knock me out. If you want my help or cooperation, you need to respect me like you want me to respect you.” It was immediately obvious that Wren had never been talked to like that by a “subordinate.”
Wren came up to Drea menacingly, looking down on her with those piercing auburn eyes. The four others in the background stared at them, sitting so still that they looked like they’d stopped breathing. They probably did, thought Drea. Wren stopped a few inches in front of her, forcing Drea to look up in order to see her eyes.
“Very well,” she said quietly. “I didn’t come here to fight with the Weaponsmaster, but I did what needed to be done.” Then Drea heard her say, You will need listen to me if you want to keep yourself and everyone else safe.
Wren turned to address Danny and others then, “Train her. If the Lori really do have the last artifact, she’ll need to learn quickly.” She turned and went through the stairway that she entered from. She would probably be watching from somewhere.
“Wow Andrea,” said John with a smile on his face. “I’ve never seen anyone talk back to Wren before.”
“Yeah, you’d better keep yourself in check if you want to last around here,” Shena said as if she knew everything.
It was quiet for a few minutes until Toni said, “Well why don’t we get started with your training?”

*
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The first matchup was between Shena and Drea. This should be interesting, thought Drea as she waited for Shena to draw her weapon. Danny, John, and Toni had gone into the other room to watch. It was only a small room with a piece of Plexiglas so they could see the fight. Nothing too special.
Shena reached over her back and drew her huge sapphire blue sword. It was about three feet long and at least half a foot wide, its blue sparkles glowing under the dim light.
Of course she would have a weapon like that. It matched her attitude. Abrasive and tough.
This was her first real fight with a Kaienshi, but Drea didn’t miss a beat. She let her aura flow through her veins and into her hands. It filled her with energy and made her feel strong.
There was a pang in her heart as she thought about her previous battles with Danny. She missed his friendship, but he didn’t seem to care too much for her anymore. It was time to prove herself, and she wouldn’t let her emotions get in her way.
The huge axe-like scythe that she loved appeared in her right hand with the chain hanging from the handle wrapped around her arm. In the other hand, the spiked glove appeared. She had gotten very used to these weapons, and had a hunch these would be the two she mastered.
Shena narrowed her eyebrows and took the first strike. She’s fast! thought Drea as Shena rushed towards her. Drea barely had time to raise her weapon to block Shena’s attack. Metal clashed on metal as their weapons collided in a shower of orange sparks. Her expression turned from anger to surprise as Shena outmaneuvered her and kicked her backwards. She rushed to Drea, not missing a beat. Drea jumped and rolled out of the way, landing in a kneeling position.
She really will kill me. Drea was breathing hard. This battle just started; I’m not going to lose yet.
Drea rose to her feet, keeping her eyes locked on Shena. This was a serious fight for her, and Drea wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of knowing she had won.
Drea ran towards her, closing her eyes to focus only on Shena’s aura. Got you. Drea heard the metal clash as she hit Shena. She opened her eyes to see Shena trying to keep her weapon up while Drea pushed it down.
That’s when Shena dropped her weapon and disappeared. Before Drea knew what happened, Shena was behind her, ready to go for the kill.
Drea let her weapons disintegrate and turned to block the hit. This would be a battle of martial arts. The two of them tried for what seemed like forever to get the upper hand in the battle of the hands and feet. Drea had gotten so much of her skill from Shawn, and now it was coming in handy. She was tiring down Shena, until Shena got a hold of her sword again anyway.
Shena looked extremely tired of this, but Drea wasn’t going to give up so easily. Shena rushed towards her at light speed; it really looked like she was actually bent on killing Drea now, which was very possible. She didn’t even wait for Drea to draw her weapon, but luckily Drea had time to react before she was cut into strips.
She drew her thin dagger that Danny had given her so long ago from her ankle strap. I’ll end this now, she thought as she planned out her next attack.
Shena came in close, trying to get her shoulder, but Drea bent down out of her way, giving her the perfect chance to stab Shena in the stomach. A millisecond before Drea stopped and called truce, Shena used her speed to get out of the way and came up behind Drea. She grabbed Drea by the neck and threw her back against the wall, hard.
Drea felt the wind race out her, as if it was scared to even be caught in her lungs. She fell on her side, gasping for air. Shena had grabbed her throat harder than she thought. Her knife clattered to the floor.
Drea got up on her elbows and stared at Shena with contempt. She didn’t even look like she cared that she’d won.
“If you can’t even beat me, you don’t deserve to be Weaponsmaster.” She walked out of the room and up to where the others had been watching.
Drea was so angry that she let fire escape freely out of her hands by accident, making her fists glowing balls of red and orange. She lifted one to look at it; her hand was completely immersed in fire, yet she wasn’t burning. It was beautiful and strange at the same time. Zen. We really must be one.
She felt his agreement emanate from his aura. Will you help me be stronger? I have to get stronger, I need to be stronger…
Zen made no comment, but she could feel his “yes” in his aura. Drea wanted to save everyone, and as angry as it made her to admit it, Shena was right. If Drea couldn’t beat her, she had no hope of beating Alka.
I will become stronger, and I will prove all of you wrong.

Danny stared at Drea lying on her side through the Plexiglas. She kept clenching and unclenching her fists as she slowly tried to get up, failing each time.
Shena walked in the room quietly. She didn’t say a word as they stared at her in disbelief. None of them thought she’d go that far.
“Shouldn’t we go help her?” asked Toni with a concerned look on her face.
“No,” responded Shena. She neither seemed proud nor unhappy at what she’d done. She only looked impassive. “She needs to learn for herself.”
The four of them stood there in silence. John spoke next, “Well you can’t say she isn’t determined.” He nodded towards Drea. She was half way up now, using a staff as an anchor. Danny remembered that determined look on her face, that look that meant she would never give up, but it was different now. When Danny looked at her, she looked truly alone. She wasn’t smiling and laughing like he remembered her, she was angry and cold. Drea had put a barrier around herself. She wasn’t happy in Koracan and the way they were treating her wasn’t helping. She’d closed herself off and made her heart stone once again.
Danny felt a pang of guilt go through him; she was feeling this way because of him. He sighed and turned his attention back to the others.
“What’ll we do with her now?” asked John.
“She’ll have to rest until tomorrow,” said Danny. “Then this training can resume.”
They nodded and went to go get her. She had made it to her feet now, and stared in contempt at the four of them, including Danny. His heart dropped.
“You need to rest for a while Andrea. You can continue tomorrow.” Shena looked adamant.
Drea stood straight. “Fine.” She made her staff disappear, but it was only for a second before she fell forward. Toni caught her before she hit the ground and looked down at her with her unwavering kind eyes. Drea’s expression softened for a moment before she hardened her expression again. Toni helped her up and let her lean on her as they walked back.
Danny just wished he could get Drea to trust him like that again.

*
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Drea woke in the middle of the night. She couldn’t sleep. She had been taken to the center of town where the base of operations was. It was where all the working Kaienshi got their missions, but there were rooms also. Drea was sleeping on a couch in a sitting room by herself. Toni had offered to stay with her, but Drea wanted to be alone.
Toni really had been very kind to her though, and Drea was happy to have her around. Maybe it would’ve been better if Toni had trained her. Maybe.
Drea got up off the couch and looked down at herself. She was still in her Kaienshi uniform, and was feeling stronger. Now I can do some training without them watching me, she thought as she left the room and raced out into the open.
It was a crisp night as the stars shone the way. A few assorted streetlights popped up every now and again in the trees, reminding Drea of the similarities to the real world. The trees dotted the dirt pathways as she ran over the rooftops, eventually entering the forest where the underground training room was.
She got down to the bottom and flicked the switch, turning on the dim lights. It was quiet; just like she liked it.
“Zen?” Her voice echoed off the empty walls.
What is it you need?
You don’t already know?
He made a sound that sounded like a smirk. Very funny.
Zen began to rise out of the ground in the form of ashes, taking the shape of the black horse. As he assumed his true form, he set himself alight for a moment, lighting up the dim room. He whinnied with delight as the flames dissipated and his black coat sparkled like the ashes he had rose out of. Drea had never seen a more beautiful creature.

Mmmm, it feels wonderful to be in the open. Playing human wasn’t all that bad though.

“Well, what do we begin with?” Drea was curious as to what more they could do as a team.

He turned to face her, his piercing red eyes glowing. There is one thing that I haven’t yet showed you how to do.

Before Drea had time to question him, he turned to fire and surrounded her. Slowly he hardened around her body.

The fire dimmed to embers and she looked to see what he had done. She was outfitted in shimmering black armor, covering her almost completely. She had on black boots and a short, chainmail skirt. Her chest was covered in black armor with thick shoulder pads. She wore black, fingerless metal gloves to let her to hold her weapons. A huge collar went around her neck where her collar bones were. The rest of her legs, arms, and stomach were covered with a light, thin black chainmail that looked almost like legging material.

She gasped at the armor; it was amazingly beautiful, shining like Zen’s coat.

Do you like it? he asked.

It’s beautiful…

This armor is another one of my forms. I am your armor. More fire extended to her head, forming the shape of a helmet. It looked like a horse’s head, with the nose extended over the top of her head and real glowing red eyes on the sides of it. The black metal covered her chin and the sides of her face, strapping on to the back of her neck as well. It was like her face was in the horse’s mouth.

This is all of it, but I generally don’t like to use the helmet. I find it more complicated. He made it disappear then, and emitted his ancient aura throughout the rest of the armor, forcing her to shiver with his force. Now she knew why she had chosen the horse as a mask so long ago.

How do I use it?

Tell me when you need it and I will make it happen. This is for defense, used to help you fight without worrying about getting wounded. He sounded proud, but something about this worried Drea.

But if the armor is you, then every time you get hit, won’t you get hurt? The last thing she wanted to do was cause him more pain.

There is a limit to my endurance, but when I hit that limit, the armor will just disappear. The fire you use will still work, but it might be weaker. He hesitated. I will get worn out, but not very quickly. There is no need to worry.

Very well. I’ll try my best to keep you from getting hit, but I can’t promise anything. My resolve cannot waver any more. It’ll only lead to trouble.

Very wise young one. Get used to wearing and fighting with this armor. The extra weight may cause you trouble.

Drea nodded and drew a sword to practice some movements. She ran to the wall and swung upwards, feeling the added weight of the armor on her arms, yet it was still a familiar feeling. She knew the black armor belonged on her.

In her mind, Drea saw countless enemies in front of her as she trained. She slashed and cut, breaking down every single one of them. She felt stronger than she ever had before with Zen’s armor encasing her, switching between swords to knives to every other weapon she could think of.

It felt like she trained for hours as she moved effortlessly around the room, in an endless dance all her own. It was comforting to fight and train, and she enjoyed it more and more each time she drew a weapon. It frightened her, yet excited her that she loved to fight so much. It didn’t seem natural to enjoy fighting, but she didn’t enjoy it to kill, she loved it for the sport.

Eventually, Drea felt to her knees in exhaustion, watching the spear she was holding turn to dust. Her armor was next, turning back to the ash it had come from and dissolving into her.

You alright Zen?

Of course, he said somewhat smugly. You’re the one who seems tired.

Drea smiled, but was so focused on Zen and her weariness, that she didn’t notice the footsteps echoing down the stairs, or the familiar aura approaching. Her back was to the stairs, but she recognized the voice that spoke immediately, “I thought I’d find you here.”

Drea didn’t turn, but responded, “How cliché, do you know how many people in the movies say that?”

He didn’t turn or move, but remained still, waiting for Drea to acknowledge him. She sighed and rose to face him, pushing her sweaty hair out of her face. Danny stood there in black shorts and a black tee.

“What do you want?” asked Drea without emotion.

“I want to talk with you.” He seemed almost sad as he said it, but he didn’t show it in his facial expression. “What happened to you? You seem so… different. What happened before you got here?”

Drea’s heart dropped out of guilt in time with her eyes. It seemed Danny at least tried to care, or he wouldn’t have even come down to talk with her.

She looked back up at him and he motioned towards the wall. He sat first and she joined him. It was quiet for a while, but Danny didn’t push her to speak, he just sat and waited for her to be ready. She began with how she learned she was the Weaponsmaster, and how she hid her visions from him. She led into the training she received in her dreams, and then went into the park and how Karen and Jackie confronted her. She told of how she killed Drake before they caught and captured her, how they stole her necklace, and how that forced her to engrave the portal mark into her hand to escape.

He remained quiet for some time, staring off into the distance. “I can’t believe I put them in danger like that,” Drea mused, referring to Jackie and Karen. “And now they probably think I’m dead.” She let her head rest against the wall and closed her eyes briefly. “And now those Lori have the one thing that I had left of my brother.” She reached of reflexively to touch the necklace that was no longer there, and put her hand down in a mixture of anger and sadness.

“None of this is your fault you know.” Danny sounded truly sorry for what she’d been through. “What happened was because of them, and now you just need to make sure Karen and Jackie understand. It’s not like you could’ve kept your secret from them forever.”

Drea smiled. He always seemed to find a way to make her smile. “And you’ll always have your memories of your brother. They may fade, but they will never disappear.”

Drea paused and felt herself calm. He definitely had a way with words. “Thank you,” she said quietly, almost in a whisper.

“I guess I just reverted back to what I’m used to.” Drea looked out to the other end of the room, her mind an ocean of thoughts. “Ever since Kevin passed, I’ve held it all in for so long. I guess I just go back to doing that naturally.” She knew she closed herself off to feel safe, and that’s what she had been doing since she came to Koracan.

Danny only remained quiet. He sighed heavily before he said mournfully, “To tell you the truth, Andrea, I’ve always felt guilty about the way you’ve lived. So much would’ve been changed if only I had been on time all those years ago.”

Drea released her breath and looked at him with empathy, feeling almost sorry for him. Their guilt in her brother’s death had grown over the years, infecting them both with its monstrous tendrils.

She moved right up next to him and forced him to look her in the eyes. “There’s no need for you to take on everything. Let’s share our pain. The both of us shouldn’t be feeling like this.” Drea smiled, then blushed and got up quickly before Danny could see it. He was quick to follow.

She turned before they went up the stairs. “And why are you acting different? You definitely haven’t seemed happy to see me.”

“What do you mean?” Drea looked at him in disbelief. He actually seemed like he didn’t notice his change in attitude.

“Wow,” was all she could say as she turned to walk out.

“Andrea, there is one question that’s been bothering me.” Her back was to him, but she turned around. “How did the Lori find you and the shuriken?”

Drea looked down. She was ashamed of her loss and her mistake. It could cost her and many others their lives. She looked everywhere but at his face while she told him about how they felt the shuriken’s strength when she used it that rainy night, and how they used that to find her.

Before he could say anything, Drea got caught up in her memories. “The artifacts were absolutely beautiful. They were sparkling under the light. The palace was like a version on this place, but in pure white. Everything was stark white,” she looked at the new scar engraved in her hand, “I only got out by chance.”

Danny gave her a sad smile. “All that matters now is that you’re safe.” He paused. “Why don’t you lie down for a little while? You must be tired, and we won’t be going any easier on you.” He smirked and she smiled back.

“Fine, but I will beat you guys. I think I’ve already beaten you.” She trotted out towards the door.

“That was only because I was training you. I couldn’t crush your confidence when you were just starting.” He followed her out.

“We’ll just have to see about that,” laughed Drea as they ran back to the little palace headquarters together, the moonlight washing over them like liquid silver.

Drea slept soundly for the rest of that night, her dreams peaceful and calm. It had been such a long time since she’d slept so well.

She was awakened by the feeling of multiple auras. It scared her for a moment before she remembered where she was. Drea opened her eyes and saw Danny, Toni, Shena, and John standing near the door in a tight circle. They were speaking in hushed tones, but the real question was if they didn’t want to wake her up or if they didn’t want her to hear.

She sat up and looked at them with wary eyes. John noticed she’d awoken and they all looked towards her. It was quiet now. They didn’t look too serious, and Danny even looked a little nonchalant.

“What?” It had been quiet for about a minute now.

“Oh, nothing,” said Shena. She walked over and stood next to Drea. “Are you ready for another day?”

Drea changed to her Kaienshi uniform and put her hair up. Her bangs hung down the side of her face. What were you guys talking about? Drea asked Danny as they left.

Ugh, nothing important. Danny definitely sounded like he didn’t like that conversation.

Drea thought it was suspicious, but she shrugged it off and continued walking with them. She thought they would take her back down to the training room, but instead they led her somewhere else.

They headed through a part of the town that looked older and more run down, with wooden houses that resembled the ones Drea saw in Korena’s vision. It was like they were leaving the city, but Drea knew they weren’t going that far.

That’s when they came upon the exact same place that Korena had been. Drea’s vision automatically changed to what she’d seen through Korena’s eyes. She fell to her knees as more memories of this place flooded into her. She couldn’t stop the searing pain from spreading relentlessly through her skull as she held her head.

Someone knelt down next to her, but she couldn’t tell who it was as her vision switched between memories and reality. She remained on the ground with her eyes closed until the pain began to subside. Drea opened her eyes to see her knees. She realized that she was sitting on the ground with her head between her hands, her elbows on her thighs.

Drea looked up, her vision still a little blurry, to see Danny sitting next to her, that same concerned look on his face that she remembered. She got on her hands and knees and stood with his help. They all looked concerned.

“Andrea, are you alright?” Danny asked quietly.

“I-I’m fine,” she responded slowly as she looked around. She only saw the houses now, not another soul in sight.

“What happened?” asked John.

It was obvious she couldn’t lie her way out of this one. There was no need to lie anymore anyway. “I have visions sometimes,” she began. “One of the previous Weaponsmasters, Korena, showed me a vision of her walking through this place a while ago. It all just came back to me….”

“Wait, you get visions of previous Weaponsmasters?” Now even Shena was looking interested. She approached Drea with new curiosity.

“Yes,” Drea said slowly, rubbing her eyes. “It’s like I’m in their bodies sometimes.” No one said anything else, but Toni kept looking at her with round eyes.

“You’ve met Korena?” she seemed so surprised.

Danny sighed and smiled before Drea could answer. “Toni uses needles like Korena did. She idolizes her.”

“Oh,” said Toni. She blushed. “I’m sorry! We should keep going.” She started walking off towards the direction they had been going before Drea fell. Everyone else followed. Toni seemed embarrassed at how excited she’d gotten.

As they walked on, Drea felt an incredible amount of aura around her, getting stronger the closer they got to their destination. She looked around at the others and wondered if they felt it too. Her vision continued to switch between reality and memories, but they were no longer as strong, and no longer caused her pain. It didn’t make much of a difference though, since the scenery was almost the same anyway.

They arrived at a tall wooden building with large wooden doors. It was the same one that Drea had seen in her vision of Korena. “Hold on.” Drea stopped in front of the doors. The four of them looked back at her.

“When Korena visited this place, this is where the throne room was, but now it’s in the city. How can that be? And what is this place now?”

“Korena was Weaponsmaster centuries ago. Things have changed since then,” Danny said in an almost sad way. “As for what this place is, you’ll find out soon enough.”

Drea had a ton more questions, but she knew she couldn’t ask Danny. He wouldn’t be able to answer them.

Shawn! Where are you? I need to know a few things.

He was quiet. Everyone was still staring at her as she carried out her one-sided conversation in her head.

SHAWN! She screamed in her mind. Ashes formed around her as she heard Zen speak, Wait. He’s going to use my ashes to materialize.

Why does her want to take a human form? He could just talk to me in my mind.

That won’t work in this place. Besides, this is the only place he can take a real form.
The shape of Shawn’s tall body materialized in front of her. He looked towards Drea and her awestruck crew and smiled. He seemed genuinely happy to be in the form of a human again.

“Shawn,” Drea smiled and walked up towards him. She gave him a hug, confirming that he was real.

“Andrea,” he stood nonchalantly like he always did. “It’s been so long since I’ve been able to be in this world.”

“Y-you’re Shawn, the first human Weaponsmaster,” stuttered John.

“Indeed I am.” He focused his attention on Drea again. “We should talk. There are some things you have yet to learn.”

Shawn and Drea sat in the clearing in front of the temple on two tree stumps. Shena, John, Danny, and Toni stood a little ways away, mumbling amongst themselves. It was a little too obvious the four of them were a little freaked out, but Drea was happy Shawn was around.

“There are a few things we still haven’t told you Andrea.”

She raised her eyebrows in question. “This temple is no longer the throne room you saw in Korena’s memories, as you’ve figured out.”

He gestured towards the temple, “This room was reconstructed maybe a little over a century ago. Once they saw that out Koracan was growing, they knew they had to expand. A new headquarters was made in the center of the clearing and the town was built. This temple is now a shrine.”

“A shrine for what?” asked Drea.

“For the Weaponsmasters of the past,” Shawn said seriously. “Do you remember what Zen told you when you asked for me?”

She remembered. He’d said how this was the only place Shawn could materialize, and that he couldn’t speak in her mind here. She nodded.

“Because this place is for the previous Weaponsmasters, our spirits generally reside here or with the current Weaponsmaster. When the current Weaponsmaster enters this place, we are able to take a human form from their aura.” He paused. “We cannot speak in your mind here because of how many of us there are. It would destroy your mind easily.”

She took a moment to take in what he said, thinking about how long it must’ve been since they’d been alive. As if in answer, Shawn said reflectively, “It’s been over two decades since I’ve actually been here.”

“Wait,” she interrupted, “Two decades? But didn’t I take the last Weaponsmaster’s powers about six years ago?”

“Yes. Though Luke never rose to his full potential. He didn’t like to come here because he didn’t try to understand us. He had lost a lot before becoming Weaponsmaster, and had no desire for more strength. He was drained and we could do nothing to help him. We got along well enough, but even Zen was happy to leave him so soon. We all needed someone stronger, and Luke just couldn’t fulfill that. He’d only been Weaponsmaster for about fifteen years.”

“Um, only? Fifteen years is a lot of time.” At this point in her life, Drea couldn’t even imagine living another fifteen years.

“Time transcends us. Fifteen years for you is not fifteen years for us.”

At his words, something came to her mind. “So when I die… Korena told me once that I would also be a spirit. Is that true?”
Shawn looked down, sadness in his eyes. “Yes. You will be like us. It’s definitely a burden, but it’s fulfilling. To pass your knowledge on… it’s priceless.”
It was strangely quiet then, so Drea decided to change the subject. “So whenever I come here, you can become real again?”

“Yes, but the more of us you summon, the weaker you will get. Keep that in mind.” He almost said it as a warning.

“Something tells me you didn’t materialize just to tell me this,” Drea said warily.

“No.” He looked over at Danny and the others. “All new Weaponsmasters come here. Any normal Kaienshi can open the doors, but only Weaponsmasters can see beyond the black that other Kaienshi see. Only Weaponsmasters are allowed within the Shrine, which is why no one else knows what’s in it besides us. When you leave, you will be prevented from speaking about this place with a sealing mark. You’ll learn more about it in there.”

Great, another mark. She already had one on her shoulder. He stared at her with an even more serious expression. “In there are all the secrets of the Weaponsmasters, hence the seal. No one can ever find out about them. Knowledge is a heavy burden to bear.” He looked towards the Shrine, then back at her, as if expecting her to say no.

She rose. “Then take me in there.”

He also rose. “Very well, but it only makes sense for one more Weaponsmaster to lead you in with me. Will you summon her?”

At this point, Danny and the others were watching them, standing nearer. They knew what she needed to do, and that they couldn’t come with her. “Will you wait for me?” she asked them.

Danny smiled. “Of course.”

She smiled back and turned her attention to Shawn. She knew what she had to do. Drea focused on a picture of Korena in her head, and released the aura out of her body.

She formed from ashes in front of Drea, her real life beauty in her angled face unbelievable. She looked calm and confident like she always did, but with a measured sense of happiness.

“Are you ready?” she said sweetly. She reminded Drea of her mom.

Drea nodded as Korena and Shawn got on either side of her. The three of them stepped towards the doors. Korena and Shawn stepped ahead and placed their hands on the door. Drea felt the aura leave them as the doors swung open slowly on rusty hinges.

She looked back at the other four one last time. Toni looked like she just might faint, but the others stared with interest at the doors. They seemed confused. Drea looked to see torches and a round room in front of her, but she guessed they weren’t able to see that.

Shawn and Korena looked at her, and she entered the Shrine. As she walked by them, they turned to ashes and returned to her. She walked alone into the Shrine, into the darkness, hearing the creak and boom as the doors shut behind her.

As soon as the doors closed, the torches were snuffed and it was dark in the room. Once her vision readjusted to the darkness, Drea found herself in a huge cylindrical room, probably about fifteen meters in diameter with skyscraper height. It wasn’t this tall from the outside, she thought in confusion. This must be part of the trick of it. If this place was so important, they probably didn’t want to draw attention to it, so from the outside it was small, but on the inside, it was huge and imposing.

There was a series of winding platforms going up the walls and across the cylinder, interrupting the smooth walls. On each platform were countless white statues. They were of people, tens of thousands of people.

Were you all Weaponsmasters?

Drea noticed as Korena and Shawn appeared on either side of her, while other spirits formed a circle around the perimeter of the room. They had materialized from their statue. They knelt and forced the aura out of their hands, lighting up a design on the floor that Drea hadn’t noticed before.

It looked absolutely ancient as it glowed like lava, providing the only light in the room. From the floor came a figure out of ash. It took the form of a human, absorbing the light as it took shape. Finally, he was fully formed and the surrounding spirits fled back to their statue on the winding platforms. Korena and Shawn stepped back and stood at the doors, leaving only Drea with the man.

He was tall with short black hair and kind eyes, yet she could tell he was fierce and trained. It was dark again in the room as he stepped towards her.

He stepped just a few feet in front of her and looked her in the eyes, as if examining her. Then he spoke in a voice of power, “You are definitely one of a kind, young Weaponsmaster. It’s not often I see one so young with so much potential.” He had the voice of young man.

“W-who are you?” Drea stammered.

He smiled and chuckled. “I forgot you’ve only learned about your abilities recently. I am Kaien, the first Weaponsmaster.”

Drea wondered if she had heard right. He was Kaien? The very first Weaponsmaster who started all this and sacrificed himself to save everyone from Alka? It’s not that he didn’t look tough, he just looked so young.

He smiled as she stared with wide eyes. “It’s very refreshing to see such a young face, but these are grave times. I understand the Lori have all of Alka’s belongings and will come after you to resurrect him.”

She nodded in affirmation.

“Then here you will learn what you need to.” He gestured to the statues gathered around. “This is where the souls of the previous Weaponsmasters are sealed once they die. When we are called upon, we must come. A statue of us is created from our aura, which binds us to the Shrine. Our minds then live on in each Weaponsmaster to come.

“We generally bond with Weaponsmasters who are similar to ourselves, which is why Korena and Shawn have been watching over you. You are in both of their situations.”

Drea nodded, trying to make sense of it.

“Are you ready to know why you are truly here?”

“Yes,” she whispered, her heart calming down slowly.

“Then I will show you.” His eyes glowed light blue as he looked into hers, taking her spirit out of her body. She felt herself rise, but saw that she was still standing in the room with Kaien. All of a sudden, she was standing under the moonlight on a rocky plain.

Kaien was there, but he didn’t notice her. Then she saw his spirit standing beside her. “Where are we?” Her voice echoed as if she was submerged underwater.

“Watch,” was his only response. She did and saw a huge creature standing across from the human Kaien. It looked like a huge wolf, with eyes that glinted in the darkness. It wore golden armor and wielded golden weapons, but looked just as beat up as he did. Then she realized that this was the final scene in the battle Kaien had with Alka centuries ago.

Kaien held a sword. Drea thought he was going to attack Alka, but instead he skirted around him. Alka must’ve thought he was attacking too though, so he threw the shuriken. Kaien dodged and threw the sword in the ground, missing on purpose. He did this three more times until a circle of swords surrounded Alka. He drew one more, but instead of doing a false attack again, he stabbed it into the ground and released his aura. A circle of blue light formed around Alka and enveloped him. Kaien stepped inside the circle and said, “I’m taking you with me.”

He ran up to Alka, who managed to slash his chest, and stabbed him in the heart Around his knife appeared a special sign. Drea memorized the sign instantly. The circle got smaller until it was only as big as the two of them. Then it smashed into the two of them at light speed and they disappeared into nothing. Alka’s armor reduced in size as it lost its power and shot out in all directions. Only a scroll of paper remained where the they once were.

“I did this to beat Alka so long ago. All I could do to win was to seal him,” Kaien said, his voice echoing like Drea’s had done before.

She looked at him as he stared at the scroll. “If you must fight him, which I know will happen, and you cannot beat him,” he paused, looking at her sadly, “You need to seal him and take him with you. You cannot let him roam free.”

Give up my life… Drea thought. It was saddened her to think that she might have to relinquish her own life to safe others, but that was the price she would pay. “How do you know I will fight him?”

“I have seen it. I don’t know how it ends, but I do know it will happen. You will only be the second Weaponsmaster to ever face him.”

She nodded absentmindedly. He was the only one who had fought Alka, and no matter how great Shawn and Korena were, he was right, they still hadn’t fought the ultimate fight against Alka. It sent a rock down her heart like lead. Knowledge definitely was a burden.

Her vision began to change once again as she felt her spirit spanning time and space with Kaien next to her. She was taken through the years to see the lineage of Weaponsmasters and their different weapons. Drea wondered what else was important that he needed to show her; she’d seen all these people before.

Then her spirit came to a halt in a forest somewhere. Kaien stood next to her. He nodded and pointed up. She looked, and in that instant, she felt her body crumple under the pressure of shooting to the sky.

Within minutes, Drea found herself standing on what appeared to be a cloud. Condensation coated her. She looked around, but it was completely empty. She was scared to walk though, for fear that she would fall through.

“Do not be afraid.” Kaien was now next to her, staring straight ahead.

“Why are we here? I don’t see anything important…” There were only puffy clouds all around.

“Look closer and you will find what you seek.” She sighed. She hated obscure riddles. Nevertheless, she focused.

When she could still see nothing, she sighed and turned to Kaien, but he wasn’t there. For a moment, she freaked out until she saw three giant snakes slither towards her. They were each a foot long in diameter, one red, one blue, and one green. The three snakes surrounded her, filling her ears with their hissing.

Drea tensed. She didn’t know what they would do, but she wasn’t eager to find out. The blue one approached her slowly and whispered in her ear, coiling around her chest. Its hot breath sent shivers down her spine. “Well, well, well, welcome young one.”

It unwrapped itself and joined the others in their endless dance around her. She remained quiet, hypnotized in the swirling colors. The red one spoke next, never stopping in its movement, “You’re the Weaponsmaster, aren’t you? Aren’t you scared? Don’t you think you’ll die when you must face Alka? They’ve already told you you’ll have to.”

Drea’s heart beat faster. That was a fear she had every day, but there was no way she would ever admit it to herself.

The green one spoke next. “I don’t understand, why do you want to fight Alka? If you joined him, the two of you could be the most powerful force in the world. You could eliminate those foolish Kaienshi who let your brother die.”

It laughed as it slithered, creating a truly terrifying sound. Drea felt herself harden as she listened to their words. What are these snakes trying to do?

“Come on, little girl, don’t you miss that stupid little brother of yours? Or do you just not care about him anymore,” continued the green one.

Drea let her anger take control and threw a knife at it. It missed and went through the clouds.

“Yes,” said the blue one, “Don’t you want to be worshipped? You deserve it anyway. You are the one who must defeat Alka, and you should be treated as such. Forget about joining Alka when you can have everything you desire with those Kaienshi.”

She was wary of their words. She didn’t desire power like others did, but even she could see the reason in their words. It’s like their trying to get me to give in… she mused. Give in…

“Maybe you’re right,” she said aloud. “Why should I fight Alka? Why should I kill myself? They can do it. They can die like Kevin did. Until then, I will be treated like the savior I am.” Her face remained expressionless, her tone even.

She could hear them snicker and sneer as they slowed and stopped. They coiled around her, wrapping her in their cold, scaly skin. “I could betray them,” she said. She spoke, raising her voice. “But I don’t need power. I don’t need recognition. I won’t let myself be destroyed by my fear.” Their agitation increased as they restricted her, coiling around her body so tightly that she almost couldn’t breathe.

Drea felt her breath stop in her chest as she tried desperately to get air. Her lungs began to burn as her heart beat rapidly in her chest. The snakes surrounded her from head to toe, sealing her in darkness.

Drea tried to struggle but couldn’t move. She was paralyzed. All of a sudden, she felt the pressure around her release. When she opened her eyes, she coughed and gasped for air. Her heart beat as her chest rose and fell rapidly. She could feel someone’s arms holding her up as her legs gave out and she fell forward.

In a few minutes, she was breathing again and her vision was clear. In front of her were the three snakes, all staring at her with knowing eyes. She looked to see Kaien beside her, holding her up. When he saw that she could stand, he released her and she stood straight.

“Do you know what happened?” he asked.

She narrowed her eyes and said slowly, “Yes, I think I do.” She pointed to the red one. “Fear,” then to the green, “temptation,” and to the blue, “greed.” Each of the snakes were representations of the qualities of corruption.

Kaien smiled. “Well done.” The three snakes transformed into three men. They stood tall in their all white clothing. One was an old man, one was about forty, and the other was maybe sixty. All three looked fit and capable. They wore stern expressions, but stared at her with kind eyes.

The oldest one spoke, “You did extremely well, especially for one so young. Tell me, what is your name?”

She stuttered, “A-Andrea Swift.”

He smiled. “Well Miss Andrea, you might be the youngest Weaponsmaster we’ve ever seen, but you passed out test nonetheless. Congratulations.”

“What do you mean?” she spoke.

The youngest one answered now. “Not every Weaponsmaster is pure of heart. Some desire power or let fear dictate them. If it is fear that controls them, we will strip them of their power and give it to someone more worthy. If it is power…”

“We will kill them,” finished the middle-aged one.

She shuddered. She’d gotten really close to dying by their hands. What a terrible way to die…

“Oh we forgot to introduce ourselves,” the young one said. He seemed the most upbeat out of the three. “We have no names; we were stripped of them long ago. We were the first three to fall for this trap. We gave in to greed, temptation, or fear, and have suffered because of it. We now remain as judges for those who pass here.”

Drea looked at each of them. None of them looked especially bad, they even looked kind, but they made one point clear: those terrible qualities can hide deep below the surface.

“You passed with flying colors,” said the middle-aged man. “For a moment we thought we’d have to kill you, but you’re more tenacious than we thought.”

“Um thank you?”

“Anyway, you’re fine. You’ll make a fine Weaponsmaster,” said the old one. “But be careful. Don’t let your emotions get too much in the way.”

The three of them stepped towards her and she flinched back. Kaien put his hand on her back and said, “Do not be afraid.”

The approached her and circled her. “As Weaponsmaster, you will be granted the knowledge you need.” They spoke as one and their eyes lit up in green, red, and blue. They placed their hands around her and she could feel their aura come towards her. It enveloped her, taking control of her and shoving itself into even the darkest corners of her mind.

She could hear words and voices as their consciousnesses became a part of hers. Memories began to slip into her mind as the information seeped through her skull. Drea could feel her head begin to hurt as she tried to process the information. She saw more of the Weaponsmaster history, along with different techniques and abilities.

“When you need to know something, you will know,” they said in unison. Their voice sounded no louder than a whisper now.

Her vision went black and suddenly flashed back to the Shrine. She was standing as she had been earlier, with Kaien in front of her. Drea took a quick breath as if she hadn’t been breathing, and looked around. Her heart was beating loudly in her ears.
“There is one more thing you must see before you leave.” Kaien pulled out a scroll from his tunic and held it up in front of him.

“This is the scroll you saw drop when Alka and I disappeared. It contains everything about the battle I fought with Alka and the secrets about the Weaponsmasters.” He held it out to her. “It has been passed to each Weaponsmaster. It is yours until your time is up. Then it will automatically reappear here.”

Drea grabbed it and saw it had a seal etched in a strange symbol. “Only you can open that scroll Andrea. Anyone else who tries will be set on fire by a fire that cannot be put out. Never let anyone see it, for greed is powerful.”

He gestured to the inky, wax-like seal that kept it shut. “That will serve as a warning to anyone who tries to open it, but nevertheless do not let anyone see it.” Drea stared down at it. It felt like it weighed a hundred pounds; it was like a death knell ringing in her hands, humming with power.

“Open it when the time is right. When you feel you are in need of knowledge, open the scroll and read it. It will help you.”

Drea nodded, feeling numb. She knew she’d need to open it because she knew she’d have to fight Alka.

That’s when Kaien put his hand under her chin and gently nudged her head up so she would look him in the eye. He reminded Drea of when she was a little girl. Her dad would always lift her chin like that when she cried and smile to make her feel better. Now she felt even more homesick.

“I know it’s scary. It’s worse for you than it has been for any other Weaponsmaster, but we will always stand behind you, and we will do everything to keep you alive. You’re too young to lose your life in a meaningless war of ages past. Never forget your strength. Never forget why you want to fight, and who you’re fighting for.”

He was talking about her family, about Kevin, about the other Kaienshi. She always wanted to be a hero, and now she had her chance. She exhaled. “I’ll never forget. I’ll keep them safe.”
Kaien straightened, a sad look in his eyes. “If you ever want to know something, think back to your time in the clouds and it should come to you. Anything else you need to know will be in that scroll.”
Drea nodded. She still felt numb, but she was no longer overwhelmed. She felt like a changed person after her experience. “When you know things, you change,” Kaien said. He always talked like he was reading her thoughts.
“It’s time for you to go Andrea. I’ve taught you what you need to know, but whenever you want help or someone to talk with, come here and we will be here.” He smiled, making Drea smile as well. It gave her comfort to know that she could speak with him whenever she visited.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Kaien reached out his hand over her face. All Drea felt was a rush of power before she blacked out.

Drea woke up on a cold, hard floor. She groaned, feeling the throbbing in her head pulsate throughout her body. She got to her hands and knees and looked around. She was still in the Shrine, but now she was alone. Or at least she thought she was.
Korena and Shawn appeared on either side of her, staring down at her. They each got to their knees to look her in the eyes. “H-how long has it been?” Drea felt like she was getting weaker by the moment.
“Only a few hours since you entered,” said Shawn.
Drea knitted her eyebrows. A few hours? It hadn’t felt like it’d been that long. She swallowed, feeling the dryness of her tongue. It tasted metallic, like bile, but she didn’t remember throwing up.
“You now have the seal on your tongue,” Korena said quietly. She held up a shattered piece of mirror for Drea to see.
Drea stuck out her tongue and opened her mouth wide. She saw a black Japanese mark etched onto her tongue like a tattoo. It didn’t hurt, but it would raise questions if any of her family saw it. She put her tongue back in her mouth and stared up at Korena and Shawn.
They understood the burden she carried, for they also had the mark. Drea rose slowly to her feet, refusing their help. She stared around, feeling like she was still out of her body. She felt like she still wasn’t herself.
“You should be feeling like yourself again soon,” said Korena.
Drea nodded and smiled halfheartedly. “Now you need to go back through. Once your outside, your friends can help you.”
“Help me with what?”
“You’ll see,” said Shawn. “We’ll still be with you wherever you go-”
“-but come here if you want to see us. We won’t leave you alone,” said Korena.
Drea nodded and turned slowly towards the doors. Korena and Shawn extended their hands out, emitting their aura on either side of her. The doors creaked open slowly as Drea looked over to Korena, then Shawn. The two of them nodded as the light of the outside enveloped Drea. She walked towards it alone, ready to get back to her world.


*
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Danny stood outside, waiting for Drea. It had been a few hours now, so it was about noon. He hadn’t expected her to be in there that long, but whatever she was doing, it must’ve been important. It was obvious the others were getting restless.

Shena kept pacing while John and Toni talked. Danny just watched them, thinking.
“Hey, you two, come over here!” yelled Toni. Shena and Danny looked at each other before they migrated over to where Toni and John sat.
“What is it?” asked Shena. She had to be the most annoyed.
“Well aren’t you testy,” Toni teased with her playful smile.
Shena rolled her eyes and refocused her attention back to Toni. “Well we were thinking we’d have a little talk with you Daniel,” said Toni.
“About what?” he replied nonchalantly.
“You and Andrea,” she raised her eyebrows as she said it.
Danny only rolled his eyes thinking, Not this again. They had questioned him before about her. It was getting a little old.
“I’m not into her,” he said, trying to keep his tone even.
“Come on-” Toni was interrupted by the creaking of the old wooden doors opening. The four of them stood up and gathered around the entrance. They opened slower than Danny thought possible as the four of them stared into what still looked like darkness.
After a few minutes, the doors opened fully and Drea began to step out. She put her hand over her face to shade her eyes and squinted. Maybe it was just all darkness in there.
She stepped out and walked over to them, looking relieved to see the four of them still there. “Andrea, are you ok?” asked Danny. She wasn’t looking quite herself.
“Fine,” she said smiling, but Danny could tell she was faking. He wondered what she’d seen in there, but there was no way he’d ever be able to know.
“Well why don’t we go back for some training?” Shena said casually.
“Sure…” said Drea just as her legs gave out and she fell forward. Danny caught her before she hit the ground and set her down on her back. He checked her vital signs and her heartbeat. She seemed fine, just incredibly weak.
“Is she ok?” asked Toni with concern.
“She’ll be fine, but she has to rest. Whatever was in there drained a lot of her energy.” Danny stared at her contemplatively.
“Let’s get her back to headquarters,” said John.
“Probably a good idea,” a woman’s voice said. All four of them turned around to see a woman dressed in tight shorts and a white top with bandages on her arms and a headband. It was Korena, the first female Weaponsmaster.
She came up to them and knelt by Drea. “This place may be one of the Weaponsmasters greatest tools, but it drains a lot of energy. She’ll be out for a few hours.” Korena looked up at the four of them, expressionless.
“Then let’s go,” said Danny as he picked up Drea in his arms. Korena nodded and smiled as she disappeared into dust and the four of them took off.

Drea’s dreams were filled with a mess of colors, numbers, and words, all blurring together like paint. Different bits of information kept bouncing through her mind at random intervals as she tossed and turned in a restless sleep.
After hours of unrest, she felt the dreams dissipate as her mind began to work again. In a burst of light, the dark dreams ended and bits of light broke through. She opened her eyes and waited for her vision to come into focus.
Drea was in a dimly lit room, lying on her back. She was on a bed. She sat up and looked around. A set of curtains were cutting off the light, while a small bed lamp sat by her side. She put her head in her hands and just sat for a little while, trying to remember what she was dreaming about.
It all felt like it was important in some way, but Drea just couldn’t remember. She sat there for some time before she slipped out of bed and rubbed her eyes. She was dressed in the shorts and t-shirt that she had been wearing before, but she didn’t feel like changing them.
She slipped out of bed and went to the door. The hallway was completely empty. Since no one was around, she slipped out the door and began to walk past the multitude of doorways. It was quiet, which felt strange to Drea somehow; she thought someone would be watching her.
As she walked further and further, Drea felt her head beginning to hurt. She leaned against the wall, trying to regain her composure, but when she reopened her eyes, she didn’t see the long hallways anymore. She saw long shadows reaching for her from every direction, whispering her name. She began to run down the hallway, trying to escape it all. She saw symbols erupting from the walls, but she didn’t stay long enough to see what they were.

She suddenly whacked into something hard and the vision faded. She blinked a few times until her eyes refocused. Drea was lying on the floor with a tall man standing over her. She sat up to see that he was slender with short brown hair. He looked tired, as if he hadn’t slept in weeks with the bags under his eyes. His hair was ruffled like he’d just got out of bed, and his clothing made him appear like he just didn’t care.
He reached down to help her up. She took his hand and was surprised at his strength. He was strong, but he sure didn’t look it. “Are you alright?” he asked her.
He seemed familiar somehow, but Drea just couldn’t remember why. “W-who are you?”
“My name is Luke,” he said.
“Luke…” Drea looked down. “Like the previous Weaponsmaster?”
He smiled warmly and chuckled without responding. “And I suppose you’re Andrea, the new Weaponsmaster everyone’s been talking about.”
Drea felt like her world had been turned upside down. She was standing in front of the guy whose powers she had stolen. Imagine how bad that felt.
She started to say something when he interrupted, “Why don’t we talk in my room. It’s just a little farther from here.”
He took her down the hall and down some stairs to the part of the headquarters that seemed more lived in. Wherever she was before, it seemed like the hospital or something. They entered a fairly spacious room with white walls. It was fairly bland.
“This is where you live?” she asked as she sat at his small round dining table.
“Yes. I may not be Weaponsmaster anymore, but I still have a room here.”
“I’m sorry I took your powers,” she blurted out before she could stop herself. “You’d still be the Weaponsmaster if it wasn’t for me.”
He looked at her without showing his emotions. “I’m not unhappy that I lost my abilities.” Drea looked up at him in surprise. “My head wasn’t in that after the death of my family. I would’ve only caused the deaths of many more Kaienshi.” He sighed sadly. “It’s just too bad someone so young took my place.”
His eyes were full of regret and sadness. He was not at all as Drea had envisioned him. Luke looked around before meeting her eyes again. “I never thought someone young like you would be robbed of their childhood. I’m sorry.”
“I understand,” she whispered, sadness lacing her voice. “What happened to her family?”
He sighed slowly. It was clear he had a hard time talking about it. She thought he wouldn’t answer, but after a few minutes of silence, he said, “My wife was also a Kaienshi. The two of us would fight together from time to time. We had a daughter. She was ten years old in your years. One day I was on a mission. It was dangerous. We were supposed to capture the spies we’d found and bring them back for questioning, but one escaped. I first went to my family to make sure they were safe, and that’s where I found him.” He paused and took a deep breath. “They were still alive when I arrived. He slit their throats in front of me, before I could stop him…”
Drea felt her heart stop as she saw a single tear slide down his cheek. He’d lost everything, and that’s exactly what she feared would happen to her.
After another minute, he wiped his eyes and smiled a sad smile. “Do not be afraid. You are much stronger than I. You will save those close to you.”
He looked up into the sky. “I’ve wanted to repay everyone for my uselessness over the past six years, but I see of no way to do that now. I wish I could’ve been a better Weaponsmaster , but I just couldn’t move forward from my loss.” Drea could feel his sadness. He’d lost his chance to do good. He’d lost everything.
“It’s never too late Luke. It’s never too late,” Drea muttered almost to herself, as all her thoughts about her brother fluttered around in her head.
“I’m sorry,” he said again.
“For what?” he couldn’t possibly know about Kevin.
“For the pain this power has caused you.” He truly empathized with her. Then he changed the subject: “Why were you running down the hallway?”
“I was seeing shadows and symbols. I think I’m going crazy.” Drea looked down into her lap, thinking about what she must’ve looked like.
“You just entered the Shrine,” Luke said knowingly.
“How did you know?” Drea snapped cautiously.
“There’s so much in there, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed. I assume you did well on the test?”
She nodded and smiled.
“I was able to pass their test, but I knew I couldn’t fulfill even my own potential as Weaponsmaster,” he said with disappointment. “I really never had a chance.” He looked up with his ever sad eyes. “Your mind is just trying to process all the information. You’ll be seeing things like that for some time, at least until it all really seeps into you. Be careful though; those visions may cause you to do something you regret if you’re not seeing straight.”
He said all of this as if he’d been through it before, and maybe he had.
“When I entered the Shrine,” he continued on, “The snakes surprised me, but I passed nonetheless. Their knowledge is what scared me.”
When Drea heard him say that her breath caught in her chest. She hadn’t ever expected to hear anyone speak about the Shrine, mostly because they couldn’t. She’d forgotten that they both had been inside, and they both knew all those secrets.
“So you still have the mark?”
He stuck out his tongue and there it was: the black symbol. “It never leaves.”
There was another moment of silence. “I wish I could ask you so many things,” Drea said sadly, “but I don’t know what to ask. I can’t even process the things happening in my own head.” She felt defeated, more so than she’d have thought.
He stared at her with his great still eyes, making her feel like someone of power, like a hero. “You don’t need to ask me anything. I know you’ll be a great Weaponsmaster, despite your young age. Never underestimate yourself.”
Drea looked into his eyes. He said everything he needed to say just by looking into her. She smiled sadly as he said, “I’ll be around any time you need me. Don’t hesitate to give me a call when you’re feeling down or confused. I know I wasn’t the greatest Weaponsmaster, but I will do what I can to help.”
Drea felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude towards Luke. He’d only known her for a short time as the girl who stole his powers and yet he was so kind to her. Maybe he wasn’t the greatest Weaponsmaster, but he was a great person.
Then he looked up all of a sudden and stood. “It seems your friends are out looking for you.”
Drea’s eyes widened as she remembered that she just left her room and ran down some random hallways until she bumped into Luke. She didn’t even really know where she was.
“Don’t worry,” said Luke as he sat back down. “They can trace your aura. They’ll find you here.”
They talked for a while after that about what they’d seen and their time as Weaponsmasters. It was nice to chat about the things she’d seen, for she’d never be able to do that with anyone else.
After about another hour, there was a knock on the door. Don’t let him hear you, Zen whispered as a flame went down her throat. Understood. She responded.
Luke got up to get it and Danny and John rushed in. They both looked at her angrily, no doubt because they’d spent quite a while looking for her.
“So…” she said casually. “How’s it going?”
“Why did you leave that room?” spouted Danny.
“It’s not like anyone was there to stop me. Besides, I was just talking to Luke.” She looked over to him as he came over and stood in between her and them. He reminded her of a father; strong, yet humble, kind, yet tough.
Danny looked down nonchalantly, thinking probably. John sighed. “Well, I guess she didn’t cause any harm. Thanks for finding her Luke.”
He nodded and looked into Drea’s eyes again. Going into that Shrine gave you so much information. Remember to keep it under control. He stared at her with his kind eyes, searching her face. Until we meet again, young Andrea.
Luke stood and backed up. Drea stood after him and followed John and Danny out. As the door closed she whispered to him, Thank you. He smiled and shut the door, leaving the three of them alone.
Danny and John walked on either side of her, as they lead her down the endless hallways. It was incredibly quiet, but that gave Drea some time to think.
Luke’s sad eyes made her want save every Kaienshi and human out there from the pain he felt. She knew she couldn’t do that, and she knew it would tear her up on the inside. She would save as many as she could, but that would never be enough.

In the next few days, Drea continued to see random numbers and symbols, but she still couldn’t make any sense of them. She’d been trying to meditate to access the information, with no success so far. She didn’t understand it, but kept up with her everyday training. Today was no exception.
Drea was in the underground training area when Shena came in. She stood off to the side as Drea created and threw new weapons. When Drea felt Shena’s aura, she turned to clash swords with her. Shena looked more than ready with her huge sword as Drea held her off with her katana. “Are you ready for that rematch Andrea?”
Drea narrows her eyes angrily. “You’re not going to win this time.” She could already feel her heart beat rising as her anger grew.
“I doubt that,” Shena said. The two of them took their stance across the room as Drea changed her weapon to the scythe and the spiked glove.
“I’ll fight you like a real Weaponsmaster this time.” Drea felt her nerves calm and her mind begin to play out many different possibilities. The Shrine had given her the necessary knowledge, and now she’d be able to use all that information she gained to win.
Drea struck first, feeling completely confident in her movements. It felt like she’d done it a million times, but with her combined memories of the Weaponsmasters past, she kind of had. Shena countered and disappeared, using her speed to try and get around Drea.
Drea knew better now though. She knew exactly where Shena was even though she couldn’t see her. She rushed off as well, moving just as fast as Shena. They clashed in the middle of the room, metal on metal, their faces twisted in rage. Then Drea took her hand with the glove off the scythe and punched in Shena’s direction, releasing a blast of energy and fire.
Shena slid backwards as she took the hit, digging her sword into the ground to act as an anchor. Drea had never seen anyone besides the Lori look so angry, and wondered where Shena’s hatred came from. Before she had time to think about it further, Shena rushed forward in an attempt to surprise her.
Shena disappeared a millisecond before she was supposed hit her, and reappeared behind Drea. Shena raised her sword, only to be blocked by Drea’s staff. Shena’s eyes widened, as if she’d forgotten Drea could change her weapons, but her surprise faded immediately.
Shena tried to maneuver around Drea, but Drea’s reach increased by using the staff. She was able to block and stop Shena from moving her weapon. Drea automatically felt Shawn’s presence in her, remembering every movement he’d used with the staff.
Drea used the staff to get the weapon out of Shena’s hands, and then created her needles. She threw them at Shena, pinning her to the wall by her clothing.
Shena looked even madder at Drea for getting the upper hand, but Drea didn’t give her the chance to turn it around. She rushed forward with a knife and held the cold steel next to Shena’s throat. Her anger unintentionally set the knife on fire, but Drea ignored it, staring straight into Shena’s eyes.
That’s when she heard footsteps behind her. Drea didn’t turn, but she already knew who it was. “What are you guys doing here?” Her voice was completely calm and void of emotion.
The three of them came closer until they were only a few feet behind Drea. “I think you’ve won Andrea,” Danny said calmly.
Instead of answering him, Drea spoke only to Shena. Why do you have such hatred for me?
It’s your fault things have gotten bad in the last six years. Shena looked away from Drea.
How?
Shena sighed. I don’t trust you. A human girl like you who’d never trained or even heard of us until a few months ago, but who apparently was strong enough six years ago? You sat in comfort in your stupid little home while we labored and worked to get stronger. Shena looked back at Drea, her hatred returning to her eyes.
Then after six years, we find a little girl! A girl who doesn’t know what she’s doing and even gives the Lori the last artifact. Even I would’ve made a better Weaponsmaster! You have no idea what you’re doing and you’ll just get us killed and get Alka to rise. Then he’ll kill you and enslave us.
I did just beat you. What makes you so sure I can’t fight?
Shena narrowed her eyes. Without help, you’re nothing.
Drea truly felt like slashing her neck at that moment, a thought that scared her. She didn’t like the fact that actually killing someone sounded good to her. The fire on the knife still blazed, throwing orange shadows on their faces. Danny, Toni, and John continued to stand behind them, observing.
In that moment, Drea’s eyes widened as her vision flickered. Suddenly she felt hordes of information seep into her, the pictures of old Weaponsmasters returning to her mind.
A rush of energy hit her just as her vision returned to normal, paralyzing her mind. The knife dissolved along with the needles, turning to ash. Shena landed back on the ground with a thump and reached to pick up her sword.
Drea felt her arm extend to grab Shena’s wrist, but her eyes were dark. She couldn’t see, but was fully aware of her movements. She wasn’t the one moving though. She could feel Korena’s presence in her mind, taking complete control of her body.
Stop! What are you doing? yelled Drea. There was no response. Drea panicked. She had no idea what to do to get her body back. Something was wrong; Korena had too much control to lose her head over Shena.
It took a moment, but Drea was able to see again. She realized that she was looking through Zen’s eyes. He was trying to resist this outside force, but was having trouble. His vision was distorted with the colors slurring and the blacks and oranges outlining everything, but Drea was able to recognize what was going on.
Shena had grabbed her sword and Drea had grabbed her wrist. Shena looked back at her with such venom she could’ve been related to a snake. She tried to yank her wrist free, but Drea held her wrist tight. Drea felt herself smile treacherously, her own type of hatred forming in her eyes.
“Let go!” yelled Shena, her eyebrows knitted.
Whatever was going on in Korena’s head didn’t allow her to let go. Drea felt her hand heat up.
No! She’d burn Shena’s wrist off if Shena didn’t cut her hand off first.
Thankfully Danny came from behind and grabbed Drea around her chest and abdomen, pulling her back to force her to let go. Drea felt herself release as her vision went black. She was still fully awake though as she saw Korena sitting next to her, her hair strewn and her eyes frightened. She looked younger and more scared than she ever had.
“Korena, what were you doing?” asked Drea tentatively.
“I-I don’t know…” she stuttered. “I wasn’t myself. I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened.” She stared ahead, probably still lost in her head.
Drea was also quiet, lost deep in thought as she pondered what had happened. She felt Korena’s presence, and yet she knew it wasn’t truly Korena. It wasn’t right.
“Something dangerous is going on Andrea.” Korena looked at her with those deep eyes. “I was under complete control. I almost burned through your friend.”
“I know…” Drea looked back at Korena. “We’ll find out what happened, Korena. Don’t worry.”
Korena had straightened out her hair by this point and looked calm and collected as she always did. The only change was the dark bags under her eyes. “You’ve grown so much Andrea.”
“Thanks,” Drea said as she returned back to reality. She still felt Danny’s arms around her, which sent the blood up to her face, but she didn’t move. Shena was on her knees with Toni and John standing over her. Drea suddenly felt an immense feeling of guilt at what she/Korena had done.
It’s not your fault young one, Zen said. It was an accident.
Drea couldn’t believe how kind Zen was to her when she never did anything right. Thanks Zen, for letting me see through your eyes.
He hesitated. It’s a merging technique. Whenever you’re hurt or need help, the two of us can become one for a short amount of time. Like if your lungs are hurt, you can breathe through mine until I can fix you. Be careful though, for the longer we spend merged, the harder it will be to separate. This is only to be used when all other options have been exhausted.
She nodded absentmindedly, consumed in her guilt.
“I’m sorry Danny,” she whispered, still staring at Shena.
“For what?” he said quietly.
“For always disappointing everyone.” Drea continued to stare at Shena, who was bandaging up her wrist with the help of Toni. Apparently Toni had a few healing techniques as well.
“You’ve never been a disappointment Andrea, you only think you’ve been. You carry a heavy burden, unlike the rest of us.” Danny was trying to make her feel better, which she appreciated, but it really wasn’t working.
Danny seemed to realize then that he was still holding her, so he let go slowly. He stood behind her. Her eyes were still glued on Shena. When she was fixed, Shena got up and walked straight up to Drea, staring at her with venom. She shoved Drea out of the way as she walked by and headed up the stairs with Toni and John in tow.
Both Toni and John looked back at Drea with a mixture of sadness, and maybe even fear, and then followed Shena up. Drea sighed and turned to go after them. “Andrea.”
She turned to look at Danny. She felt more tired and broken than ever before, well except for when she realized her brother had died. She just felt drained. “I know that none of us will ever know what you saw in that Shrine, or know what you deal with everyday, but you can’t blame yourself Andrea. Things happen, learn from them.”
“I know,” she said as she walked up the stairs with Danny close behind. She couldn’t get her thoughts straight, but she knew one thing: something really wasn’t right.

Drea dreamt herself next to the waterfall at her home. She missed that place so much it made her heart ache, but that wasn’t the reason she wanted to be there. She wanted to sort through her mind to try and figure out more about what she needed to be doing.
As she looked through her memories the three men gave her, Drea was beginning to see a lot of symbols that were unfamiliar to her. She recognized them from somewhere, but she couldn’t remember what they meant. What are these? She whispered in her mind.
A voice that she recognized as Kaien’s spoke back: These are the hidden symbols. Only those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice know they exist.
Then why do I know about them? I haven’t made any ultimate sacrifices.
Kaien didn’t respond. Instead she felt a rush of energy blow through her, forcing her dream to change.
Drea found herself standing in the house she remembered from her childhood as the house she was in the night Kevin died. The moonlight shone through the windows the way they had so many years ago, masking the rest of the house in shadows.
Drea stood alone in her Kaienshi uniform, illuminated by the moonlight. There were no signs of what had happened and no one was around. She thought this’d be like the recurring nightmare she had sometimes, but instead she heard soft footsteps coming towards her.
She formed a knife in her hand and stood ready to fight. She was beginning to question if this was a dream. After another minute, Drea could see the outline of a person. He was a little taller than her, with dark, short hair. Drea was about to question him when she saw his face.
She lowered her knife as her face unsure of what to think. She couldn’t even speak, but just looked on. He stepped towards her into the moonlight where she could see his entire face exactly the way she remembered it. “Kevin,” she spoke softly, her tears threatening to spill over.
He stepped towards her until they were just a few feet apart. He smiled one of his warm smiles that she remembered seeing so many times before he passed. It was as if nothing had changed after so many years.
“Andrea… it’s been so long since I’ve seen you.” Drea felt like she was being constricted with each moment. Kevin sounded just like she remembered.
“I-is it really you Kevin?” she whispered cautiously. She wanted to believe it so badly, but she didn’t know if she could.
He knitted his eyebrows in confusion. “Why wouldn’t it be me?”
Drea hesitated. Kevin spoke before she had the chance to answer, “You don’t need to answer that.” He smiled. “I know you’ve been hurting for such a long time. I’m so sorry. I couldn’t let you die that night. And now,” he gestured to her uniform, “you’ve grown up to nicely and you’ve learned to fight for yourself.”
Her breath caught in her chest. She was barely breathing. Kevin continued, “I knew you had a fighting spirit, but I never imagined you’d become so strong. You’re a hero Drea.”
She sighed as her weapon dissolved into ash. “I certainly don’t feel like a hero. I can never manage to do anything right.”
He looked straight into her eyes and said, “You’ve had a rough time, but you will make a great Weaponsmaster because of your pain. You know what others feel and will never allow them to feel the way you do. That makes you strong and now you have to believe that. You mess up sometimes, but you always find a way to fix it. That’s what a true hero is.”
Drea looked up at him and smiled. “Thank you.”
He stepped forward, a more serious look forming on his face. “There are troubles ahead of you Drea, worse than anything you’ve faced before. I know you’re strong, but you’re still young and inexperienced.”
Kevin held up a small box the size of his palm. It was black with the “sealed” symbol etched into the top. “This box holds a special type of power in it. Use it in your most dire moment. It’ll give you some strength, but as soon as it wears off, it’ll steal your energy. Be careful when you choose to use it, or it may be the cause of your death.” He looked sad when he said the last line. “I don’t want to see you where I am Drea.”
She took the little box and cradled it in her palms, feeling the energy pulsating through her. She looked up at him, tears spilling down her cheeks. It had been so long since she’d seen Kevin, and she’d never thought she’d see him again. He brought with him all those memories of her past, of the past she tried so desperately to forget.
Kevin reached up and touched her cheek, just like he did the night she watched him die. He wiped her tears, staring into her still, fragile eyes. Drea just stood and let the moment last as long as she could. She didn’t want it to end, but she knew none of it could be anything more than a dream.
He lowered his hand and looked at her. She couldn’t help but to remember him the way she saw him as he died. It tore her heart in two. “I’ll try to visit you again Drea, but I make no promises. I can’t come often, so remember me. Keep that box close to you. No one can open it except for you.”
Drea looked up at him, fresh tears streaming in her eyes. “I never forgot, Kevin.” In that moment her vision blurred and she lost track of where she was. She saw darkness before she became aware of someone shaking her, yelling her name.
Drea woke with a start, sitting up halfway in the red couch they had in the little sitting room. She’d been offered a bed and a room, but she preferred the red couch.
Danny was on the floor, staring at her with that concerned look in his eyes. She almost smiled in seeing it again after so long. Instead, a look of confusion appeared on her face as she wiped her tired eyes, the sleepiness stuck on her face. She felt something wet on her face, realizing it was tears.
Drea wiped them away quickly, suddenly feeling embarrassed in front of Danny. He was still looking at her with those kind eyes full of sympathy and concern, but she couldn’t help but to feel like a child in front of him, helpless and crying.
In her lap she felt the small black box, the energy still vibrating through it. At that moment she knew the dream was real, which meant that Kevin had been real as well. He really did come to me, she thought, the hole in her heart widening.
The tears threatened to come again, but Drea pushed them away; she couldn’t let Danny see her cry again. “Andrea? Are you alright?” He reached up almost timidly and brushed the tears off her face with his thumb, just like Kevin used to do.
It made her heart ache to see that same movement, but it was his touch that made her heart skip a beat. His hands were warm and soft, and as he slid his finger over her cheek, the warmth spread throughout her body, making her heart beat and her breath stop. He removed his fingers quickly, as if he was embarrassed. The touch was fleeting, but Drea had a hard time forgetting it. It made her blush, though she didn’t know if it was from his touch or from her crying.
“I-I’m fine…” Drea stuttered, sniffling. She reached down to touch the little black box under the covers, but as soon as she touched it, it turned into ashes and curved up her wrist. It hardened into a black bracelet, hanging loosely on her arm. It looked like living flames curling around her wrist, the black dull, yet beautiful.
Danny hadn’t seen it, but he noticed the brief loss of Drea’s attention. That seemed to concern him even more. “You were crying in your sleep. I woke you up. Is everything alright?”
He continued to stare in her eyes. He obviously wasn’t convinced by her previous answer. Drea smiled and said, “Of course, just a bad dream.” She was momentarily distracted by the piercing green in his eyes, staring at him for just another second longer before she rose and walked to the door, leaving Danny crouched on the floor next to the couch. He stared at her, maybe a bit sadly, but remained there.
“Shouldn’t we get back to our training?” she asked, trying to change the subject. She couldn’t let her mind wander with everything she had to do; she had to keep training if she was to be ready to fight Alka. It pained her to think she couldn’t think about anything else though. The dream about Kevin had been so real, and she missed him so much, then Danny with his concern, but she had to be ready if the time came. She sighed, wishing she didn’t have to feel so pressured.
Danny’s face went back to seriousness as he stood up. “Of course.” He stood and walked past her, waiting for her to follow. She changed her clothing quickly and followed. Danny was already dressed.
He led her down the hallways. All the while she was thinking about Kevin and Danny. They were actually pretty similar, with the same caring eyes and strong personalities. Danny was much more guarded though; he kept to himself.
Drea just couldn’t get his green eyes or his look of compassion to leave her head. It was like a virus that had already infected her, a virus that she just couldn’t get rid of.
They walked down to the training room, but this time Shena, John, and Toni weren’t there. Drea looked around as Danny stood on the other end of the room. “Are we training alone today?” Drea asked as she turned to face him.
“Yes,” he said slowly, as if he didn’t even know the words that were coming out of his mouth. “I wanted to test all of my skill against yours. I am by no means the strongest Kaienshi here, but I think I can show you a real fight.”
He smiled, forcing Drea to smile back. “Sounds good. Are you ready to lose?”
“You know this’ll be a real fight right?” He snickered back, a playful tone creeping into his voice.
Drea smiled back, her heart lifting with delight, all her stress and worries melting away, even if only for a little while. “I know.” She drew her scythe and glove as he drew his sword. “Let’s go.”
The two of them clashed in the middle, smiles still spreading on their faces. Until that point, Drea hadn’t realized how happy it made her to battle with him, to just be with him. It made her heart beat faster and her mind go numb with laughter.
She didn’t have too much time to think about that however, after all, she couldn’t let Danny win.

Drea woke up the next morning feeling especially tired. Danny and her had battled for hours after she’d woken yesterday, ending with her victory. She knew she had to win, for Alka would be much stronger than Danny, so she used all of her techniques.
She slipped out of the couch and changed from the t-shirt and shorts she was wearing to her Kaienshi uniform. It always felt weird to her that she really didn’t have to actually change her clothes. She stretched and walked out the door, only to be hit with an incredibly strong feeling of aura.
It brought her to her knees; this aura was black as night, and there was just so much of it. It felt like tons of Lori were converging upon them all at once. Drea’s eyes widened as she realized that the aura was close by. They’ve come, she thought. They’ve finally come to get me. She knew it wouldn’t be long until the Lori came to reclaim her in order to resurrect Alka. Her greatest fears were finally coming alive: she’d have to face Alka, and she’d have to face him soon.
That thought scared her immensely, but it also hardened her resolve. It made her want to fight back. I won’t let more people in this town get hurt because of me. She raised her head and rushed to her feet. She couldn’t run out of the building fast enough.
Drea found herself outside standing atop a balcony. She jumped from the balcony to the top of a building, feeling the dark aura surround her, suffocate her.
She looked around her; she felt the aura, but she couldn’t pinpoint it. It was a combination of some very high level Lori, but it still didn’t make sense that they’d be in the city. To be in a city, near the headquarters with all these high level Kaienshi was suicide.
Even though it was early, there was no way no one else didn’t notice the spike in aura. Drea suddenly felt one of them move towards her and she took out her katana to counter. She felt the vibrations as the swords clashed and she saw a muscular Lori with vicious eyes standing in front of her. Wait, she thought as she looked in front of her. This one has a sword.
The fact that they had weapons was a testament to their skill: this wouldn’t be an easy battle. The only other Lori she fought with a weapon had been Drake, and it had been difficult to beat only him. Now there were many more. She felt another Lori come up behind her, this one just as powerful as the last one.
Drea narrowed her eyes, trying to figure out a way to counter against both. In the second just before it was about to hit her, she quickstepped out of the way, leaving the two of them to clash, or so she thought. The one who came from behind had greater speed, so instead of hitting its partner, it ricocheted off the top of the building and sped towards her.
Drea was still in the air, and nothing was underneath her to help her move out of the way. Before she could even shoot fire out of her hands, it had smashed her in the chest, sending her flying back until she hit something hard. She couldn’t move, it was like she was imprinted in a building, but she forced herself to open her eyes. To her surprise, she hadn’t hit a building. She hadn’t hit anything at all. She was suspended in the air, forced against something.
Drea pushed herself off of the surface, putting her feet up against it to allow her to stay in the air. When she touched it, it sent ripples of light out, and a slight feeling of electricity snaked through her body. It’s a force field. That’s why no one was coming to help. The force field must’ve been keeping their aura locked in so no one could feel it. They’d notice Drea’s absence after a while anyway, but she wondered if by then it’d be too late.
She felt the throbbing in her chest from where it hit her. It was possible that it had broken a few ribs, judging from the spikes of pain shooting through her chest when she moved or breathed. I can’t stop, she thought in between breaths.
Andrea, spoke Zen, a calm, confident feel slipping from his voice. It looks like we are alone in this fight.
I understand, she responded. The two Lori were waiting for her to make the next move, staring at her with their menacing eyes. She knew that there were others though, just waiting for the right chance to capture her.
It’s time to test your skill. You’ve been training for a long time, fighting many Lori, but this will be the test. Let’s see how strong you’ve gotten.
Very well, but you know I don’t have enough experience.
I realize this, but you don’t have time to gain all the experience of battles. Zen paused, and then continued quietly, Even if we make it out of this battle, more will come until they take you with them. Unfortunately, there is no way out. Zen was quiet. He could tell he was referring to one of Drea’s fears, but also her reality. Keep winning, for we cannot give them what they want.
I won’t lose. The stakes are too high.
Then let us fight as the Weaponsmaster should. I’ll try to fix up your ribs.
Drea felt the ash converge around her body, hardening into the shimmering black armor. It covered her from her neck to knees with the chainmail skirt, steel-toed boots, and heavy metal gloves. Little orange streaks glowed in the armor as Zen lit it up with his fire.
Drea looked up, venom in her eyes as she prepared to fight. She forced herself off the wall by spewing fire from her feet, heading towards the one that had just knocked her in the ribs.
The one with the weapon was meant to be the real attacker, while the faster one was meant to be a distraction and deterrence. It didn’t have a means to protect itself besides its ability to move out of the way, giving the Lori with the weapon the job of capturing her. That made it a bigger threat, so she’d have to fight it and defeat it quickly, but the speedy one could cause her even more damage if she ignored it.
The fast Lori bounced out of the way, leaving Drea standing in front of the one with the weapon. It raised its sword, forcing her to bring out her spear. She held it up above her head in order to not get cut in half.
The Lori’s strength was amazing, but Drea had a plan. She quickly sent fire through her spear and the flames spread through the sword to burn its hands. The Lori dropped the sword as Drea ducked out of the way, throwing her spear straight into its heart.
It roared and turned to dust that disappeared in the wind. The speedy one came up behind her, trying to catch her off guard, but she turned and pulled out a small enflamed dagger. She slashed it straight across the chest.
The two of them were gone, but there was no time to rest. Six more Lori materialized out of the shadows, racing towards her, the desire for death shining in their eyes.
Drea’s confidence wavered for a moment; she hadn’t expected so many Lori to be lying in wait for her. Then she felt warmth spread through her chest as her ribs cracked back in place. The breath was knocked out of her as they repositioned themselves. It was painful, but they were healing.
Drea smiled. Thank you Zen. She paused. I only hope it’s not the last time I say that to you.
She felt his resolve shoot back to her. He was committed to that same hope.
She felt his fire come to life in her hands as it transformed into her scythe and glove, the orange light glowing sullenly. The weight of death was in her hands as she took a stance and waited.
The first one came straight for her with a dagger. It battled with her for only a few seconds before another one jumped in. She wrestled with the two of them, throwing flaming punches and slashing incessantly with her scythe. Drea just couldn’t get the upper hand though. Whenever she hit one, another was there to take its place.
All she could remember seeing was their countless glowing red eyes, as destructive as the flames spouting from her hands.
After about an hour, she was getting tired. She’d managed to kill off three of the Lori, but that meant that there were still three left, and they didn’t seem to get tired like her. The strength was seeping from her limbs at too quick a pace, and she knew her stamina wouldn’t hold.
Apparently no one had yet noticed she was gone. Maybe they thought she’d gone to train, but either way she couldn’t last much longer.
She felt Zen’s weakness leak through her; she’d been using his fire to stop herself from taking any damage. At this point she was unharmed, but her reflexes were slowing as her body got heavier and heavier. She couldn’t last.
Drea continued to cut and slash, but in the midst of her weariness, she almost didn’t notice when one of the Lori went off by itself. It waited behind one of the buildings within the barrier while the other two pushed her back towards it.
Drea realized she was moving straight into a trap, but she could do nothing to stop it. She tried to get out of the way, but she wasn’t in time. The hidden one jumped out from behind her as the other two jumped away, and before she could react, it slashed her straight across her chest, through Zen’s armor.
Zen was too weak to continue to uphold her defense as dust slipped out of the place where the claw marks were. The rest of the armor didn’t dissolve, but Drea knew that it would with only a few more hits.
The force of the hit sent her spiraling downwards into a chunk of the empty street that kept her trapped within their game. There was no way out and she was running out of time.

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*
Danny woke up that morning feeling fairly tired after battling with Drea the day before. She’d been able to beat him after all. Even though he’d lost, he smiled in pride. He was the one who trained Drea and now she’d gotten so strong in the few short months since she’d learned to fight.
He went over to the little room Drea liked to sleep in. Danny wondered why she didn’t want an actual room, but understood her reluctance to get too comfortable. She planned on returning to her old life, which sent a throbbing pain to his heart. He still wasn’t completely sure how he felt about her, even though he thought he already knew.
Danny met up with Toni, John, and Shena in the little area where they ate breakfast. It was kind of like a lunchroom, except more compact and probably cleaner. When he got there, he knitted his eyebrows. He had been expecting Drea to be there already.
As he sat down, the others looked at him. Toni blurted out the thing all of them were probably thinking, “Why isn’t Andrea with you?”
“I thought she’d gotten up already.” Danny was starting to get just a little bit worried.
Shena just snorted and continued eating. “She probably went back to train. She’s desperate to be strong.”
It was quiet then. “Maybe we should check the training room,” suggested John, the worry obvious in his voice.
“Good idea,” Toni responded as she rose. Toni had a hard time eating when she was worried, so she just left her food there.
“Yeah,” said Danny as he stuffed a biscuit in his mouth and got up. John was quick to follow, but it was obvious Shena didn’t want to go.
She stood reluctantly and stared them down. “Why should we look for her? There’s no real point.”
“To make sure she’s alright,” responded John.
“I don’t see why that’s necessary if she’s as good as you all seem to believe.” Ever since their last battle, Shena had been even more hostile towards Drea. Danny didn’t understand why, but something told him Drea had some idea.
Danny only narrowed his eyes angrily. He hated how hostile Shena acted towards her, and suddenly felt the urge to punch her across the face. They’d been friends for so long, and Danny only wanted Drea to be part of their friendship.
Shena sighed and walked out, taking her place behind them. Once they got outside, Toni knitted her eyebrows and ran forward. “Where are you going?” yelled John.
Toni didn’t answer, but only continued forward, eventually turning a corner. The three of them exchanged looks before they followed her.
They caught up to Toni in a minute or so. She was stopped in the middle of a walkway, staring ahead, unmoving. The three of them caught up to her and stared at her, waiting for her to do something.
“Is something wrong?” asked Shena. She actually sounded concerned now.
Toni only reached her hand forward and touched the air, or what looked to be the air. Instead it was a wall. It shimmered and rippled out from where she touched it. “It’s a force field. It’s meant to keep aura in, and to stop anyone from getting in or out.”
Before anyone could say anything else, a black-clad figure fell from one of the tall buildings and hit the ground, hard. They got up, blood dripping from their chest underneath dusty black armor. The armor looked familiar to Danny, but he didn’t know why until he saw who it was.
Drea had blood dripping from wide slash marks against her chest. She looked exhausted, like she’d been fighting for hours, but she kept her eyes trained above her. Her face was dirtied from the rubble and she was panting. She could barely use her flames to form a staff that would help her up. It was obvious that she was weak, but Danny still couldn’t feel her aura or the aura of whatever she was looking at.
Suddenly a huge Lori landed beside her in less than a second. She moved to counter it, but could only defend herself for a few seconds before it whacked her in the head with the hilt of its dagger and hit her in her stomach with its foot, forcing her back into one of the buildings.
Chunks of the rock fell around her, spreading dust out from the building. Danny’s heart practically stopped beating. He couldn’t see her anymore, but the Lori stood there waiting for her to move again.
Now the four of them were pressed up against the wall, waiting for Drea to get up. “There has to be a way we can break this shield,” said Danny as he tried to keep his voice even.
Toni looked up to him, trying to think. “There is a way…” She touched the shield then said, “Force fields like this rely on four points of origin to keep them going. Only Kaienshi with high amounts of aura can pour enough in to break them.”
Toni turned to look at the three of them. “We can do that, but it’d drain an incredible amount of energy. We’d be no help to Andrea once we were done. Someone else would have to be available to jump in to help.”
They stared at each other. As far as they knew, no one was around, but they needed all four of them to take the shield down. “At this point it doesn’t matter,” said Shena. “She’ll die if we don’t help, so there’s no point in debating what we should do.”
It was hard to admit, but they had no other options. It was the only thing they could do.
The moving of the building rubble caught Danny’s attention then. The others looked over too.
In a flash, Drea was behind the Lori, standing on its back. It couldn’t even register what happened before she stabbed a huge sword in its back and through its chest out to the other side. It immediately began dissolving into dust, leaving behind the remnants of a terrible growl.
Drea jumped off its back and landed in front of one of the buildings, still staring up. There must’ve been more than just that one. Now the left side of Drea’s face was bleeding from somewhere in her hair where the Lori had struck her with the hilt. It dripped slowly down her chin and face, red rain drops staining the dirt ground.
Her chest was still bleeding badly, but she wasn’t stopping. Then Danny saw the torso piece of her armor disintegrate and turn to dust. She still wore the gloves, boots, and skirt, but the main piece of her armor was gone. She was completely vulnerable.
He saw her clench up her fists in anger and… hopelessness? Drea was tired, and she couldn’t hold on for much longer. Danny just couldn’t help himself anymore. “Andrea!” he yelled, as loud as he could.
She turned her head briefly, her eyes wary and unsure. It looked like she tried to smile, like she tried to tell him she was ok, but she just couldn’t force it to happen. The blood was staining the side of her face, painting her in crimson light.
As quickly as she turned toward him, she looked away, back up to the top of the buildings. Two more Lori jumped down to get her, but she jumped up, forcing them to follow. Now it will be a battle of endurance, thought Danny as she disappeared from sight.

“Let’s go!” yelled John.

“Toni, where are the four origins?” asked Shena, concern sparkling in her voice.

“They’re at the four points of the square! Hurry!” The four of them jumped off in different directions, rushing toward each one of the four corners. They saw how bad of shape Drea was in and they knew they needed to hurry if she was to survive.

All Danny could think was, Andrea, don’t die yet. Don’t die, don’t die…

*
*
*
*
*
Drea jumped up from the city streets, her hope renewed after seeing Danny again. He looked so worried seeing her there, but it seemed like they finally figured out what to do. She tried to reassure them, but it just wasn’t possible. She was in too much pain from her chest and throbbing head.
Two left, she thought, but it still didn’t make her happy. Her torso piece had dissipated, leaving only bits of her armor left. Zen was growing increasingly weak, and she wasn’t doing much better. Her chest was still bleeding badly from the Lori’s claws, and now her head was bleeding from the one she just killed.
It kept dripping down her face as if it would never stop, her vision blurring occasionally when it went in her eyes. Even though she’d killed six of them, that was no consolation. The final two were still incredibly strong, or maybe it just felt that way since she was so weak. Drea had lost so much strength fighting them, but knowing that Danny and the others would be coming to her rescue gave her hope. She only prayed they’d be in time.
The two of them continued to trail her as she ran, trying to find an opening. Their movements seemed flawless, but there had to be a way in. Drea created a staff in the attempt to give herself distance between her and them.
She swung and twirled it, deflecting the Lori’s daggers and swords. The two of them were incredibly smart, like the two that had taken her. It seemed like such a long time ago.
After another ten minutes, Drea saw the force field begin to ripple. Their close, she thought tiredly, but by that time she didn’t feel as though she could go on. Her legs were burning and straining, the muscles snapping and stretching. Her arms were like noodles with every movement of her weapon painful and throbbing. She was completely out of energy. She could barely conjure up anymore weapons, and by this point, all of her armor was gone. Now she stood in her torn Kaienshi uniform, desperately trying to keep herself from dying.
One of the Lori charged her then, which sent off a warning sign: Why aren’t they attacking together? She knew something was wrong, but she was too weak to fight it. The one coming at her looked wide open…
Drea took out the dagger from her ankle sheath that Danny had given her before he left. It was the only thing she could do with her ability to conjure weapons compromised.
She held out the knife, preparing herself to kill the Lori as she jumped straight at it. In an instant, it was turning to dust right before her eyes, but before she could rejoice, she saw the other Lori coming up behind her at top speed. Her eyes widened with understanding: they’d split up on purpose. They wanted her to get distracted so the final Lori could knock her out. She’d fallen right into their trap.
The Lori was closing in on her, ten feet, five feet, it was almost there. I’m out of time, was her final thought as she looked over her shoulder, waiting for it to strike. Time seemed to be moving in slow motion now, delaying the imminent pain.
Then, as if out of thin air, a man jumped behind her. He was one of the guards Wren kept around.
Her brain went fuzzy as she saw the Lori stab the guard in the stomach, going straight through him. His blood spurted everywhere as the Lori pulled out its dagger violently and the guard fell to the ground.
Drea felt empowered, angry, and worried all at once as she used the last bit of energy she had to jump from where she was and use her dagger to kill off the final Lori. It turned to dust in front of her, but before it had even finished disintegrating, Drea was on the ground, rushing toward the man who had fallen.
He lay still and unmoving, the blood pooling around him. Drea rushed towards him as she ignored the pain burning through her legs, chest, and head. Nothing else but this man mattered now.
She kneeled down next to him, putting her hand under his head for support. His eyes were slits as he stared back up at her, breathing heavily. “Hold on,” she said a bit louder than she intended. “I’m not going to let you die.” Her voice felt hollow in the quiet morning.
Drea tried to push some energy out of her hands to heal him, but nothing happened. She had no energy left. Instead she ripped the fabric off her pants below her knees and tied it together. She was pressing it against his stomach when he reached up and grabbed her wrist. She stopped immediately and stared into his solemn eyes. Just by looking in them she could tell that he didn’t want her to try anymore; that he knew it was his time.
All Drea could think about when she saw that look was the way Kevin looked six years ago. It was like he knew there was no way she could save him, no matter what she did. It tore her apart inside to know that she had failed someone yet again. If she hadn’t fallen for their tricks, he wouldn’t have had to save her. It was her fault he was dying.
Tears began to flow slowly and quietly down her face as she leaned in towards him. “Why? Why did you save me? You shouldn’t be dying, it should be me.”
He took a ragged breath and said to her quietly, “It’s my job to keep you safe. I can’t let you die, for you play a much larger role in this game than I.” His answer was exactly what she was afraid of. He had given his life for her because she was the Weaponsmaster. It was his job.
The tears flowed even more violently now, causing Drea to sniffle as she tried endlessly to wipe them away, but she only succeeded in smearing her face with more blood. He spoke in nothing but a whisper once again, coughing up blood as he spoke, “Hey now. Don’t cry. You have such a pretty face, you shouldn’t be crying. You’re so young; you don’t need to be dead yet. Don’t cry. Don’t cry…”
He was fading. He smiled a small sad smile before he said, “Tell my family…” He stuttered, “Tell them, I’m at peace.” Drea felt the life leave him all at once, his consciousness slip away as she held him in her arms.
She wept for him silently, stretching out her hands to close his eyes. Then she laid his head down and rose, feeling more alone than she could remember feeling in a long time. It was so incredibly quiet.
Drea tried to take a step back when her legs gave out and she fell forward, the air racing out of her. She laid next to the man, staring at his still profile, his serene face. She heard frantic footsteps running up beside her. Someone picked her up and she felt a flood of relief miraculously flow through her, but all she could think about was that poor man.
Her last thought was about his words. They wouldn’t leave her even after she blacked out and was swept into a deep sleep.

Danny stayed in the little hospital room Drea was resting in. He sat in the dark in one of the chairs next to her bed with his arms crossed. He was exhausted and kept nodding off by accident. He’d used up so much power breaking down the force field, then had found Drea knocked out on the ground with Corey, one of the top palace guards. He had been dead when Danny and the others showed up, with Drea just barely alive next to him.
He couldn’t leave her, so Danny used the rest of his aura to heal her best he could until help arrived, and had been visiting her for a few days. When he saw her, his breath flew out of his chest. Her blood was pooled around her and she was completely still, lying next to Corey. He was scared that she was dead.
Now it had been about three days since then, and she still hadn’t woken. Without him even realizing it, Toni stepped into the room and opened the curtains behind them, letting in the light. Danny squinted and turned around. Once again it was somehow a beautiful day, despite all the pain there was.
“Why don’t you relax Daniel? You’ve been here for a few hours now.” Toni seemed adamant this time, though she’d seemed adamant the past three times.
“She hasn’t woken up yet,” was all he said.
Toni came up next to him and sat on the edge of Drea’s bed. “Nor will she if you keep waiting here for her. I know you’re worried, but you’ve got to rest. She’s stabilized, but needs time to heal from all the hits she took.”
Danny knew she was right, but he didn’t want to listen. He only wanted to see Drea well and awake again. Toni seemed to realize this, but got up anyway and grabbed his arm. “Come on. You’re coming back with me.”
She forced him up and pulled him out, but he didn’t fight much, he was exhausted. His heart was already yearning to be back in that room, waiting for her. He wondered at what point he had actually fallen in love with her.


*
*
*
*
*

Drea kept sliding in and out of consciousness, but she was never able to wake up fully. Her dreams were filled with sorrow and pain, with the faces of the dead guard and of her brother flashing before her eyes, pulling her back into the darkness. She felt like she was suffocating, and couldn’t sleep restfully no matter how hard she tried.

It seemed to take forever, but Drea finally opened her eyes, only to feel the pain rush back to her. Her whole body ached. The only she could do was look around. She was in the same place she had been in when she first arrived in Koracan. It reminded her of a hospital, but there were no IVs or wires; it was just the bed, a small table and some windows.

She turned her head to see out the windows. It was a sunny day, the buildings winking in the sun. Drea turned back and tried to move. Her legs were stiff from underuse, and the rest of her body protested her attempt at movement.

She felt numb as she worked her way into a sitting position. She could still see the guard’s face haunting her in her mind, but no more tears came. All she felt was guilt. Guilt that she couldn’t kill the Lori herself, guilt that she’d gotten distracted, guilt that he’d given his life just for her. She wasn’t important enough for someone to lose their life over her.

Drea’s heart ached and she didn’t know what to do. She knew that if she didn’t do something, more people would be dying for her sake, and that was the last thing she wanted. More Lori would continue to come, and if she couldn’t protect herself, she had no doubt someone else would. She was the key to Alka now; she was the Weaponsmaster.

I can’t let more people die for me, she thought. I won’t let more people give up their lives. She repeated it like a mantra, but in the back of her mind, she knew there was only one thing she could do if she wanted to keep these people safe. The idea scared her, and she knew it would never work with her new responsibilities. Her only goal now was to keep these people safe, but she didn’t know how to do that without compromising everything she and everyone else had worked for.



Over the next few hours, Drea worked on standing up and walking around. She was determined to get out of the hospital quickly, even though she knew they’d never let her leave willingly.

After a while, she was walking almost normally again; she would’ve been moving fine if not for the soreness and scratches that overwhelmed her body. Her chest was completely covered in bandages while her head had a few wrapped around it like a headband. Both kept throbbing, but Drea wasn’t about to let them stop her.

That was until her vision flickered and she fell forward onto her face. She wasn’t sure what had happened, but she remembered seeing something important in her mind, she just couldn’t remember what it was.

Her chest began to ache as she tried to get up. All the pain returned to her body in a rush, immobilizing her. Drea got up far enough to lean against one of the legs of the bed, where she remained for some time, trying to muster up the strength to get up to the bed.

She tried to stand a few times, but it seemed impossible. She kept falling back down, her chest heaving and her body shaking with the effort. She was just too weak, and that bothered her. That fight drained her strength, leaving her helpless.
After about an hour, she gave up and rested against the pole, waiting for someone to come in. Her thoughts were a tornado. Drea wanted to do something to help, to actually be the Weaponsmaster, but she could do nothing. Having great power made her a prisoner, for her life couldn’t be risked, meaning that everyone had to risk their lives for her.

The rattling of the doorknob knocked Drea out of her thoughts. Finally, she thought with a sense of relief. It definitely wasn’t comfortable sitting on the hard floor leaning on a bed pole. The door cracked open and Drea could hear voices, followed by Danny and Toni. They stopped in their tracks when they saw her on the floor.

Drea felt her whole face go red as she said, “Help,” weakly. The two of them looked at each other before Danny knelt next to her and picked her up in his arms the way he had so long ago. He lifted her gently, his soft hands spreading warmth into her body. She knew she was still red as he placed her on the bed and she readjusted herself to a sitting position.

She hadn’t noticed it before, but Danny was looking incredibly tired and worn out. She knew he healed her, though it looked like he hadn’t even slept recently.

“Are you alright?” she asked. “You look exhausted.”

Danny smiled a little and responded, “You’re the one who should be answering that question. You almost died and you’ve been out three days and you’re already trying to walk?”

The tone of his voice was playful, but at the mention of her almost death and time spent asleep, Drea didn’t feel so good anymore. “I almost died?” Her voice was nothing more than a whisper and she knew she went pale.

Danny’s eyes narrowed as he sighed. Toni touched him by the shoulder and walked out the door solemnly, leaving the two of them alone. Danny sat on the edge of her bed and looked into her eyes. “Yes,” he hesitated, “You were hurt very badly Andrea. It took a while to heal you. What happened?”

Drea took a few minutes to explain how she woke to feel the aura, found out about the force field, and killed off the eight Lori. She choked a little bit when she mentioned the guard, who Danny identified as Corey, and how he’d died in her arms. Her heart immediately sank as she tried to stop the tears from coming again.

Danny listened intently throughout the whole story, waiting patiently for her to finish.
It was quiet for sometime after until he spoke, “It’s not your fault Andrea,” he said gently. “Corey died protecting you. He died at peace.”

“You don’t get it!” yelled Drea, tears beginning to flow slowly down her cheeks. She couldn’t take his calm, cool demeanor, not when she was feeling so guilty about all of it.

“That man, Corey, he gave his life for his job, for a weak little girl that he was assigned to protect at all costs. I’m not worth someone else’s life Danny. I’m just not worth it….” She looked up at him with blurry eyes before she placed her head in her hands and wept.

Danny hesitated and sat further on her bed. He lifted her head and reached up to her face to wipe her tears off slowly. That same spine chilling feeling was sent down her back as she blushed and averted her eyes. Warmth spread through her, making her feel excited and nervous all at once. “Andrea trust me, I understand more than you think. I know it’s difficult, but if we let our emotions get in the way, we’d never be strong enough to face our enemies. It’s unfortunate, but true. And you are strong Andrea, you just have to believe it now.” He stopped for a moment, staring straight into her eyes with his soft, yet piercing green ones. “And you are worth a life. You’re worth so much more than you think.”

Drea smiled as she attempted to release the tension, wiping her tears away with a little laugh. Then she remembered one last thing: “I have to tell his family something. I have to let them know what happened.”

Danny’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Are you sure? His wife and little girl are still very broken up about his death.”

“I have to,” said Drea, as she looked back into his eyes. She needed to tell them no matter how bad it made her feel.

He hesitated then said, “Very well.”

After a few days, Drea was beginning to feel much better. She was able to walk again, and the pain in her head and chest was subsiding steadily. It was a good thing Danny had healed her, for normally she would have been in bed for months.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t allowed to train until she was completely healed, so she trained in her sleep. She worked on gathering more information from Korena and Shawn, and worked to remember more fighting skills and techniques. Neither Korena nor Shawn pushed her too hard when they fought though; they knew how badly she had been hurt.

As they walked towards Corey’s house, Drea’s heart began to jump out of her chest. She’d wanted to tell them what happened, but now that she was getting that opportunity, she couldn’t find a way to calm herself down. She already felt like his death was her fault.

The houses around where he lived were all muted colors, but still outstanding. They stood in lines next to each other, but there was plenty of space for each house. Trees grew around the houses, shrouding everything in a shade of green without obscuring any of the houses.

Danny stopped in front of the houses and looked at her. His expression was unreadable, though Drea could tell he was wondering if she truly wanted to do this. She did.

Drea nodded with a solemn look on her face. She could barely control her breathing with the speed at which her heart was racing. Danny seemed to notice this and smiled one of his warm smiles. Those smiles of his always made Drea feel better, if only for an instant.

Then Danny led Drea to a house off to the left, a soft green color. “Are you ready?” said Danny before he knocked on the door.

All Drea could do was nod again. Her heart was beating much too fast to speak. Danny looked from her to the door and knocked. The sound echoed in the quiet air.

In a few moments, a young woman, maybe in her late twenties, came to the door. She had shiny brown hair, and beautiful eyes, but it was obvious she had been crying. There were slight red circles still around her eyes, and her nose was still red. “Do you need something?”

There was a pause before Danny answered, “Hello Ma’am, we came to speak with you. My friend here,” he gestured to Drea, “was with your husband when he passed.”

The woman didn’t look surprised, relieved, or even sad, she only looked angry and worn out. “My husband died three days ago, and now I only want to help my daughter get through this. I don’t need any more empathy or any more ‘help’ from you Kaienshi. Now if you will,” she began to close the door, but Drea slipped in front of Danny and put her foot in the door.

“Please,” she said softly, trying to keep her voice steady. “I watched his life leave him, and he wanted me to speak with you.” Drea had gotten more confident as she progressed, but knew the wife wasn’t buying it so much.

“If you were there, you’re just looking for a way out of your guilt,” she whispered, “you just want to apologize for not saving him because you feel like you’ve done wrong. I have no intention of satisfying that need of yours.”

She was just about to close the door again when a little girl’s voice said, “Mom! Why don’t you let them in?” The wife looked back and said something to the girl that Drea couldn’t hear then turned back to the two of them. She still didn’t look convinced. The little girl squeezed herself in front of her mother and smiled at the two of them. She was no more than ten years old, and had her mother’s brown hair and her father’s determined eyes.

“Come In!” she said excitedly, practically pushing her mother out of the way. She didn’t look nearly as broken up as her mother had. Danny and Drea exchanged glances before the two of them entered cautiously.

They stood in the foyer, not daring to move any further. The mother looked determined not to say anything, but the little girl seemed kind and open. She smiled, “My name’s Jen. Who are the two of you?”

Danny smiled sweetly and said, “I’m Daniel, and this is my friend Andrea.”

Suddenly Jen’s eyes widened. She stepped up to Drea and looked up with sparkling eyes. “Andrea? Isn’t that the name of the new Weaponsmaster?”

Drea blushed, feeling a little embarrassed that even little kids knew her name. “Um yeah, that’s me.”

Jen smiled as the mom looked at Drea in embarrassment. “Wow, I never thought I’d meet you…”She looked so incredibly excited, it was unreal. Drea’s heart just couldn’t take it. She kneeled down to be at eye level with Jen.

“Um, Jen? I came here to talk with you about your dad. I hope that’s ok.” Immediately Jen’s eyes dropped. Drea wondered whether this was how she’d looked all those years after Kevin’s death.

Jen sighed sadly and put on one of those fake smiles. “Sure, of course it’s ok. What do you need to say?”

Drea could tell that Jen was broken inside, but she was very good at hiding it. Jen reminded her so much of herself when she was that age. Drea glanced up at the mom and stood up. “Corey was a brave man. He jumped right in front of me when the Lori was about to kill me.”

The mother only looked down and away. Drea could feel her pain in her aura before she continued: “I was about to die when he saved me. When he fell,” she paused, getting a little choked up, “a-all I could do was rush down to him and try to save his life. I tried to stop the bleeding, but I couldn’t.”

Now both of them were looking at her, and she couldn’t stop the tears from flowing again. They were silent and few, though they came just as strong. She caught her breath and continued once again, “He said to tell the both of you that he was at peace; that he was alright.”

It was silent then. The mother stared at her, eyes wide as she cried. Drea wiped her tears and looked down at Jen, who looked like she’d already sealed herself off. Drea’s heart went out to her; Jen was just like she was when she was a little girl.

Then she felt a warm, reassuring hand on her shoulder. She looked to see Danny standing there, his eyes sad, but his face level. He sent his aura to her to show his sympathy; he knew how much pain she was in.

Drea took a deep breath and said to the mother, “Do you mind if I speak with Jen for a little while?”

Her mother paused for a second then seemed to catch her composure. “S-sure. It should be ok.”

Danny stepped up to her. “Why don’t we sit? I know this is a lot to absorb.”

The mother nodded as Drea turned looked Jen in the eyes. “Will you take me up to your room?”

Jen only turned around and led her up the stairs to the left. Drea narrowed her eyes and followed, cautiously stepping up behind Jen.

Jen stopped at a plain white door. She opened the door to reveal a nice room: orange walls, a small pink and orange bed with tons of pillows, one window in the front and one to the side, a little desk and chair and a fluffy yellow rug. She definitely had an outgoing personality.

Jen sat on her bed, still keeping her fake smile plastered on her face. “What’d you want to talk about?”

Drea sighed nervously and sat in the desk chair. She’d been good with kids, but now she felt uneasy. She wasn’t Jen’s mom. “I know what you’re going through. I lost my brother when I was nine years old, just a year younger than you.”

Jen’s smile disappeared and she looked at Drea with her big eyes, tears finally on the verge of falling. She spoke quietly, “You lost your brother?”

Drea lowered her eyes. It was painful to talk about what happened, but if she could help someone else, it just might be worth it. She explained what happened that night so many years ago, and how she’d been unable to do anything. The pain in her heart was like a twisting knife, but she continued on, willing herself to finish.

When she grew quiet, Jen was staring up at her. She was crying now, but for herself or Drea she didn’t know. When she spoke, she spoke as though she was someplace far away. “I-I didn’t know you felt this too. This pain…” she put a hand over her heart, “it’s unbearable, but I can’t show it. I need to be strong for my mom.”

Drea sighed. Jen was just like her. “To cry is not weakness, it’s strength. You’ll only be weak when you try to keep it all locked up.” She paused. “Knowing you’re alright will make your mom happy, and the only way you can be happy is to let it all out.”

Jen remained quiet, but stared at Drea sadly. “I was just like you,” she said. “If you ever need to talk about this, I’ll be around, ok?”

Jen nodded and smiled a little, sniffling. She seemed to understand. Jen reached up and hugged her, causing Drea to stiffen in surprise. Jen was still crying, but had calmed considerably.

They pulled away and Drea said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help. I’m sorry I couldn’t save your father.”

Jen lowered her eyes. Drea could tell she understood.

“Find me if you need me. I promise I’ll be around.” Drea got up and waited for Jen at the door. The two of them went back downstairs to find Jen’s mother and Danny sitting on the couch, talking. When the mother saw them, she rose and went over to the two of them, followed by Danny.

“I-I’m sorry I was so disrespectful to you, I-”

“Don’t say any more,” interrupted Drea. “You shouldn’t be apologizing to me just because of my title.”

The woman smiled and held out her hand. “My name is Cara. It’s nice to meet you Andrea.”

Drea shook it and responded, “And you too.”

Then she and Danny turned to head out the door, waving goodbye. Drea felt good about what she had done, but a little part of what Cara had said was right and it hurt to admit it: she did come to clear some of her guilt. It pained her, but it was more than true.

She looked back to see the monotonous row of houses in the warm afternoon. Only then did Drea begin to feel fatigued again. Danny must’ve realized it since he grabbed her arm to hold her up. “Are you alright?”

She knew he wasn’t just referring to her weariness, but her emotions as well. “Yeah…” she answered slowly. “I think maybe I helped them.”

He smiled warmly. “You did help. Don’t doubt what you’re capable of.”

His words made her heart beat faster. He was so kind to her, and maybe, just maybe, he was right.
She wondered about Danny as they walked. She didn’t exactly know what she was feeling, but she knew that all she wanted was to keep changing lives, if only to make Danny smile.

Danny forced Drea to rest a few more days, despite her objections. She’d wanted to train, but apparently Wren wasn’t letting her escape either, so she remained put. There was nothing she could really do anyway; her body was still too tired to be in a real fight. She only hoped she’d heal in quickly so she could protect everyone.

Wren came to her room a few times to check on her and ask her about what happened, making her disclose everything. It caused a big uproar when everyone found out that eight Lori found a way to get through and no one even noticed. That meant that Kaienshi, namely Toni, Danny, Shena, and John, were positioned outside her room to keep her safe.
Drea hated the fact that they had to protect her, but she hated it more how all the Kaienshi were angrier at the fact that she was almost killed, rather than at the fact that Corey was killed. Her title overshadowed someone who should be getting much more recognition, and for the days when she was bedridden, that was all she could think about.
She wanted to do something to help, but she knew no one would let her risk it. Her life now belonged to everyone who had hopes for her. She had no control, but she would figure something out.
After a few more days of rest, Drea woke early in the morning. It was still dark out, but the moon was shining brightly. She got up and swung her legs out of the bed. She could feel Danny and Toni stationed outside her door, and could hear their soft whispers in the night. She changed her clothing to be in her uniform.
Drea looked out the window, taking in the beautiful night. It was a full moon. She sighed, wishing she could sit out there. She gasped suddenly in surprise as her mind retreated into itself. She felt her body fall as she withdrew into her mind. She found herself standing in darkness, with no up, down, or anything. Something was wrong.
Korena’s figure stepped into view. She ran over to Drea looking panicked. “Andrea what happened?”
Drea narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean? Didn’t you call me here?”
She shook her head. Korena seemed off, but Drea just couldn’t place it. She knew that Korena would never be so panicked. The only time she remembered seeing her like this was when she’d lost control….
She understood, but she was too late. Suddenly a set of strong arms wrapped around her chest and neck. Korena smiled venomously as Drea looked up. It was Shawn who had restrained her. “What are you doing?” she spat as she struggled. His grip wouldn’t loosen. She tried to set herself alight, but Zen’s fire wouldn’t come.
“I’m sorry Andrea, but your time is up.” Shawn tightened his grip. “You’re ours.”
Drea felt an intense pain in the back of her head. She tried to suppress it, but couldn’t. It got stronger with each second until she recognized the minds of Korena and Shawn. They were taking control of her. She focused on her mind training in the attempt to keep them out, but they had many more years on her. She was no match against the both of them.
They took control of her within minutes. Last time when Korena had controlled her in her battle with Shena, she hadn’t allowed Drea to see, but this time she did. Her senses were still hers, but her body wasn’t.
Her hand extended in front of her without her consent. She knew what they were doing. It was the hand the portal mark had been seared into. She screamed out to Zen in her mind, but there was no response. She tried to scream in real life, but her mouth wouldn’t move and her vocal chords wouldn’t work. She couldn’t even contact Danny with the amount of control they had over her.
The power poured out of her hand, forming the shape of the portal in front of her. They have to notice, they have to notice! There was no way Toni and Danny couldn’t sense it.
They sensed it, but it didn’t matter. The moment Korena and Shawn took control of her, she was done for.
She looked Danny in the eyes when he stepped in. She couldn’t tell if he knew what was going on. All she knew was that he saw her escaping. She tried to make him understand with the look in her eyes before she walked into the portal and it disappeared.


*
*
*
*
*
Danny stood in the bedroom panting. Toni stood beside him. It took a minute for his eyes to adjust back to the darkness after the light from Drea’s portal.
“What just happened?” he heard Toni whisper.
He was almost too shocked to respond. “Did you see the look in her eyes?”
She hesitated then said, “Yeah.” Toni took a moment to regain her breath. “I don’t think she did that willingly.”
“Neither do I,” he responded, “but how will we convince the others of this? We were supposed to watch her.”
Toni was silent. “Either way, we failed, so it doesn’t matter what they think. We’re in a lot of trouble.”
Within minutes, Drea’s aura attracted the attention of John, Shena, and Wren. Danny and Toni hung their heads low as they took Wren’s harsh words. They couldn’t even look her in the eyes.
“How could you let her leave? And by herself!”
“She wasn’t doing it willingly,” Danny said slowly.
“And I’m supposed to believe that?” Wren was seething. “The one hope we had disappeared because the two of you weren’t paying close enough attention. The two of you are some of my best fighters and you need to act like it.”
Danny spoke slowly and quietly, “Do you really think she’d betray us? And we didn’t just let her go. Something strange happened.”
Wren sighed. “I don’t know anymore, but I need you guys to straighten out if we’re going to find her. You four, trace her aura and start looking. She’s our last hope and time is running out.”

Drea awoke with her hands above her head. The cold claws of manacles enveloped her wrists and ankles. She blinked her eyes groggily and tried to look around. There was only darkness enveloping her, throwing her back into her black dreams.
She could hear voices in her head, stopping her from falling completely asleep. Andrea, you need to wake up!
They were the voices of a man and a woman. What? she responded. She was confused, and could remember nothing. She didn’t even know her own name anymore.
Please wake up Andrea. It was the woman’s voice alone now.
But who are you? I don’t remember anything.
There was a considerable pause. For a moment, Drea thought she really had gone crazy and was talking with herself.
She could feel someone’s unease, but she wasn’t sure if it was her own or someone else’s. The female spoke again, We needed to do something to help after we realized what we’d done…
Drea didn’t understand, but she didn’t have time to. She felt her body go limp and her mind go blank. Floods of images came back to her and she remembered all at once. Korena. Shawn. The portal.
Anger coursed through her before she could stop it. When she spoke though, she only felt defeat, Why did you do that to me? You made me come here.
Do you remember that time with Shena? said Korena. I knew something was controlling me, and thankfully, we overcame it, but this time was different. It was so much stronger. They took Shawn too. We didn’t even realize what happened until we saw where you were.
We had to fix our mistake, Shawn said, but there was nothing we could do. The Lori would come in to use your memory to their advantage, so we hid it away. We wiped you clean so there was nothing they could find.
Drea took a breath and opened her eyes. It was still dark. She could see nothing, not even the space in front of her. She could feel the cold from the room creep into her bones, making her shudder.
Thank you, but how did they get to you?
We aren’t sure, Korena said. They did something to keep us under control, but whatever it was wore off when we got here.
Drea thought on this for a moment. Korena and Shawn had been controlled easily. Whoever their enemy was, they were strong.
Just then, a door on the far side of the room opened up, bathing Drea in light. She was blinded for a moment, and couldn’t see the Lori who was stepping towards her. She was too weak to do anything other than watch as it came closer.
“Remember me?” She did. Its voice had that same smooth feel that she remembered. Rikta.
“I didn’t tell you this last time, but I needed a way to make sure that if you did happen to escape, I could bring you back to me with little effort.” She didn’t like where this was inevitably going. Rikta smiled and grabbed her by the chin. “When you came to us, you were wounded and weak. All we had to do was administer a special type of poison. It was experimental of course, but it appears to have worked.”
He paused, trying to build up the drama. “We used that poison to control you and the beings within you. All we had to do was keep them under control, and you would be ours, and here you are.”
“But a poison would’ve killed me already,” stuttered Drea, her voice gravelly from disuse. She wondered how long she’d been trapped there.
“This poison was only meant to control, not to kill. It’s already worn off, but it’ll be easy to give you another dose.”
What a foul trick, Zen echoed in her head.
Zen! What happened to you?
Humph. The poison can’t control me, but it can paralyze me. I couldn’t give you any fire.
Do you see any way out of this?
He was quiet, but that silence was all she needed to hear. They were doomed, and she would be the Weaponsmaster to resurrect Alka after so many centuries.
“It won’t be much longer now,” said Rikta. “Soon we will take you to your death, but for now, relax. I’ll give you the poison soon.” He left the room, locking her once again in darkness.
Drea struggled against the chains, trying to melt them, cut them, anything, but nothing would work. She fell limp and noticed a warm liquid dripping down her bare arms. Do doubt it was blood from her wrists. She’d bleed out soon if she stayed there. Maybe that’s the answer, she thought, maybe if I die, it will be better for all of us.
Andrea what are you thinking? Shawn interjected angrily. She’d never really heard him get angry like that before.
I either kill myself or they use me as a human sacrifice and then I die. What other choice do I have?
You are so much stronger than you think Andrea! Korena said. Maybe you can be the Weaponsmaster to finally defeat Alka.
How can I do that in this condition? I can barely lift my head…How do you expect to get out of here without being caught again?
It doesn’t matter, but don’t give up. Shawn was adamant.
Drea tried to listen to him, though she found that she couldn’t anymore. She was feeling lightheaded from the loss of blood and couldn’t focus. Her strength was fading and her last thought became: What a terrible way to die… She blacked out, wondering if she’d ever see the light of day again.
Sometime during the night, she felt the presence of someone else come in. Even in her comatose state, she could feel the pressure on her ankles and wrists release. Gravity pulled her lifeless body to the floor. All she felt was pain, pain in her wrists, pain in her head, and pain in her heart.
When she was about to hit the ground though, someone caught her. Drea felt herself being lifted in someone’s arms, and thought of Danny for a moment before plummeting back down to reality. It was a Lori’s energy that was around her.
She felt warmth and knew a portal had been opened. In only a few seconds, she could feel pressure all around her, compressing her. She was still being held.

The pressure increased and her mind went blank. The arms tightened around her. She thought whoever held her said something, but she didn’t catch it. Her body tumbled into the darkness as her mind followed.

Drea woke on a hard surface. It was cold. She groaned and moved a little, remembering she was no longer chained. She opened her eyes to find that she was in a small stone room with only a glimmer of light in the corner.
She forced herself into a sitting position and leaned herself against the wall behind her. The bandages around her wrists and ankles were soft and warm, their smudge of white almost blending into the darkness.
A door creaked open on the other side of the room. Drea flattened herself against the wall, but realized there was nothing she could do anyway. Whoever had her, had her completely at their mercy; there was no point in opposing them.
A human, a young man, came in to the light. He was about thirty maybe, with deep blonde hair. He was holding a little wooden tray with a cup on it. When he saw she was awake, he smiled a warm smile and knelt down in front of her. She shoved herself against the wall, trying to phase through it.
“It’s ok,” he said in his calming voice. He smiled warmly and set the tray down beside her. “I’ve been healing you these past few days. I’m a friend.” He said with patience, as though he was used to dealing with people like her.
Drea really didn’t know how to respond, so she remained quiet. The man only smiled again and pointed to the tray. “This is some of my special tea. It’ll help you get strong.” With that he left the room, the door creaking closed behind him. She was left alone in the meager light.
After Drea realized he wasn’t coming back, she decided to try the tea. It tasted of berries and roots. It wasn’t the best, but it was good, and not long after she tried it, she felt her strength increase as the warm liquid spread through her body. She drank slowly as her stomach turned. Hunger raked through her, begging her to drink faster, but she knew it was a bad idea. It’d only make her sick if she went too fast.
She drank about half of it before she set it down and closed her eyes. The pain in her body was coming back to her in gasps. She was sore from lying down and felt devoid of energy.
It might’ve been only a few minutes or maybe a few hours, but no one returned. Drea knew she had to get her strength back, so she decided to stand. It was a slow and agonizing process, but she managed to use the wall to help herself up.
As soon as she was standing, the door slowly creaked open again. Her heart skipped a beat; she was too used to enemies popping up everywhere. Light footsteps echoed in the dark room. Drea kept her eyes trained on the space where they emanated.
A young man, about sixteen years old, entered the room. He had long brown hair that covered the left side of his face, but it was short in the back. He was so focused on not spilling the contents of the bowl he was carrying that he didn’t see her standing there. When he looked up and saw her, he let out a yelp and almost dropped his bowl. Almost immediately though, a smile came to his face and he chuckled.
“Do you always like to scare people?” He set the bowl down on the table, the smile plastered on his face.
She remained quiet. “Well,” he said, “maybe I’m the scary one in this light.” He laughed again. His laughter made Drea want to smile. It was beautiful and effortless, but she knew she had to keep a straight face.
He stood by the little bowl that he brought. “Since you’re strong enough to stand, why don’t you come over here and eat a little bit.”
He leaned against the wall while she stood for a moment. “It’s soup, it won’t kill ya.” He stared at her while she stood, smiling playfully.
She began to make her way across the room slowly, feeling embarrassed. He didn’t move or say anything as she sat in the wooden chair and began to eat. It tasted like chicken soup.
When she finished, he said, “Looks like you’re feeling better. It’s been two days since we rescued you.”
“Two days? Rescued?” Her voice cracked as she spoke. She tried to clear her throat and blushed.
He chuckled and smiled again. “Yeah, but let me get Tom to explain.” He was walking out when he turned around and said, “Oh and I’m Mike.”
Mike… she thought. Tom must be the blonde I saw earlier.
It only took a few moments this time for them to come back. The blonde, who must’ve been Tom, walked in first, and Mike followed. “It’s nice to see that you’re moving around.” He acted as though he was much older than thirty, the wise look in his eyes confirming his years of experience. “We’ve been worried about you.” He gestured to Mike. “I can tell you’ve met this troublemaker, but he’s a good kid.” Tom smiled. “Let’s sit.”
Drea pulled out her chair while they sat on the stone table. It was quiet until she asked, “You rescued me?”
Tom smiled. “I admit I helped, but Mike did most of the work.”
“But how? And why?”
Tom sighed. He actually looked troubled.
“You know we’ll have to tell her,” said Mike. The smile had gone from his face.
“I know.” Tom looked back at Drea. “Have you heard of the Lori who turned against Alka? The ones who were turned into humans?”
She nodded.
“How much do you know?”
She thought for a moment, trying to remember what Danny had told her so long ago. “I was told that they went against Alka, so he banished them. They became humans and are said to still wait for the Weaponsmaster to save them.”
“We are still waiting.” Tom paused before he met her eyes. “I am an ancestor of one of the human Lori.”
Now Mike spoke up, “And I’m uh,” he was having trouble saying it. Tom encouraged him to continue. “I’m an actual Lori.” He looked down, as if ashamed. As if to prove his point, he transformed in to a skinny Lori with deep brown fur the color of his hair. He stood at about six feet tall now, almost touching the ceiling. Mike was different from other Lori Drea had seen though. He didn’t feel evil, and he didn’t have an aura of arrogance, and when she looked in to his eyes, he only looked sad and unhappy.
He spoke solemnly, “I was the one who got you out. I work on the inside with the Lori in order to keep up with what’s going on.”
Now Drea was confused. Tom started speaking again, “Those of us who are ancestors of the human Lori work with current Lori to undermine Rikta. Lori like Mike who are unhappy with the way Rikta runs things and who side with Kaien’s ideals work as double agents to help defeat Alka. We’ve even been helping with the artifacts, but that part hasn’t been easy. Of course the Kaienshi don’t know about us, but they wouldn’t accept us anyway. We work to gather information and save any Kaienshi who are captured, including you.”
Mike still looked sad and unhappy, as though he couldn’t get over what he really was. It broke Drea’s heart to see that he was no longer smiling and laughing. “When I learned about what Rikta was doing,” started Mike, “how everyone was meant to be enslaved or killed…. I couldn’t take it. I didn’t want to be a Lori, so I joined up with Tom and the other resisters to fight them.”
Mike looked down at his clawed hand and flexed it. Drea wondered how many human Lori ancestors there actually were amongst the normal humans. “I wish I could be human,” Mike whispered.
Suddenly Drea felt an intense desire to comfort him. She didn’t understand it, but she walked over to him slowly, keeping her eyes trained on him.
She stood in front of him. He stood a foot and a half taller than her. She crouched to get in his line of sight, for he still kept his head down. “You know, my brother was killed by a Lori six years ago, when I was only nine. Ever since I began to remember, I haven’t been able to forgive. All I could think about were those monstrous eyes and dagger-like claws ripping through him like butter.” She took a breath, trying to keep her emotions in check. “But you’ve changed my mind. I know I’ve only known you for a short time, but I see what kind of person you are. Maybe it’s good you’re a Lori. If you weren’t, you couldn’t have saved me and I would’ve been killed. You may look like them, but you’re not one of them. Lori like Rikta are the reason I lost my brother, not Lori like you.” He looked up. “Thank you,” she whispered.
He nodded, but his eyes were still sad.
Drea smiled and blushed, embarrassed. She stepped back and Mike returned to his human form. The smile was back on his face.
She heard Tom sigh. “I can’t believe such a young woman has to carry such a heavy burden.” He inclined his head slightly, as a form of respect, “Weaponsmaster.”
She did the same. Then Mike asked a question that surprised her, “So what will you do now? Will you go back to Koracan?”
Drea knitted her eyebrows; she really didn’t know what to do. If she went back to Koracan, the Lori would only find more creative ways to capture her, but what else could she do? She didn’t want any more people getting hurt like Corey to keep her safe. The only other option would be…
“Will you go to fight Alka?” In Tom’s eyes showed defiance, as if he wanted her to go.
Zen? asked Drea.
It might be the only way to keep everyone safe, including yourself.
What do you mean?
You’ll be living in fear of this battle your entire life. You’ll train and work to fight Alka, only hoping that you can win. Your whole life will be consumed with your fate. Lori will try to take you with them. Can you live with constant attempts on your life?
I-I don’t know… Am I strong enough?
That’s up to you. Choose whichever, but do not choose to fight him simply to avoid future difficulties. If you don’t win…
The seal. I know.
Drea knew she could go back to Koracan and hide, but she also knew that she had a duty as the Weaponsmaster. It was her job to fight Alka, not other people’s job to protect her. She wanted to fight on her terms, not on the Lori’s. The one thing that held her up was the prospect of the seal. From her time in the clouds, she’d learned that if Alka hadn’t been killed in battle, the artifacts could be destroyed by seven special fighters, but no one knew who they were. So if she sealed Alka, someone else would be given the same fate as she. She didn’t know how she would handle that guilt. She knew what to do though, and her time as a captive only confirmed that.
“Yes,” she said slowly. “I think I will.”
Tom let out a breath. Mike looked worried and scared. “Before you ask,” she looked at Mike, “I’m sure.” She smiled for the first time in days, trying to put him at ease.
Mike looked at Tom and his expression got serious. “Let me go with her. I can help.”
“You can do nothing against Alka. He’s much too strong for you.” Tom spoke with a fatherly authority.
“I know I couldn’t help her fight,” Mike said quietly, “but she’ll be hurt after that fight. I can wrap her up. I can make sure she gets there safely.”
Tom sighed. “Very well. But you’re not to interfere in her fight. Do you understand?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Mike cracked a smile and looked at her. “I guess you have a companion.”
Drea smiled back. “I guess so.”
“Before anyone goes anywhere, um…” Tom gestured towards her and she realized they didn’t know her name.
“Andrea, but Drea’s fine.”
Tom nodded, “Andrea needs to rest a bit and get some strength back. You can come upstairs to move around and regain some strength before you leave.”
Tom went upstairs. Mike stood there, smiling at Drea for a minute.
“What?”
He was still smiling. He chuckled. “It’s just that we might be able beat Alka.” He looked down. “You’re giving us a chance.”
With that, Mike climbed the stairs, leaving Drea alone with the light once again.

Drea rested for a few hours after Mike left. She didn’t sleep, but meditated, talking to Korena and Shawn about her decision. They didn’t like it, but they understood her reasoning and knew it was the best decision for her. They agreed to help rebuild her strength.
She stretched herself out, groaning every time she moved. Her body was still incredibly sore from her time as a prisoner.
When she walked up the stairs, she saw that she was in a small wooden cabin. She entered from a door near a kitchen. There were a few chairs and a table in what would be the living/dining room, and a couple of stools at the kitchen bar. She didn’t see any rooms that lead to bedrooms, but there were a few sleeping bags and pillows spread around the floor. Drea squinted as soon as she came up; the light was blinding compared to the darkness she’d been living in.
It took a few moments, but her eyes were able to adjust. Mike was standing in the kitchen on the other side on the wooden peninsula and Tom was sitting at one of the barstools. They were talking about something, but when they saw her, they got quiet. Mike came over to her with his infamous smile. “You ready for some training?”
Drea thought about asking what they were talking about, but she knew they wouldn’t tell her, so she decided against it, “Sure. Where?”
He grabbed her by the elbow. “C’mon I’ll show you.” Mike dragged her out the door, leaving Tom in the kitchen.
They were plunged into the bright light of the afternoon sun, and once again she was blind. She walked on blindly with Mike leading her.
“We’re here,” she heard him say. She blinked a few times and saw the place he spoke of. They were in a grassy clearing with trees surrounding them on either side. A nice breeze was blowing through the clearing, ruffling their hair. Mike was standing across from her, looking at her expectantly. She couldn’t say anything though; it was as if her body was frozen while the world around her still moved.
“Come on,” Mike’s voice forced her to look him in the eyes. “We have to get your strength back.”
Drea smiled. It’d been a while since she had a good fight.
The two of them fought for hours, with Drea always the victor. When they were done, it was dark. A question came to Drea’s mind as they rested for a moment. “You’re such a good fighter Mike. Did you get so good to get away?”
He looked at her with a quizzical, guarded look in his eyes. She could sense his walls coming up.
“I uh mean how long ago did you leave the Lori?” Drea stood up, hoping he would answer, but he didn’t. Mike only walked inside, not waiting for her to follow, his face completely expressionless.
Drea sighed, regretting she even asked that question. She followed him in the dark back to the cabin, using the fire in her hand to light the way. It rested in her palm, tracing shadows on the trees as she tried to remember which way she was going. The forest was beautiful, even at night, with all the sounds of the animals and the sight of the smoke swirling up into the dark night sky. It was so much different than what she was used to.
She spent some extra time in the forest, looking around in the cool night. It was quiet, and that was something she hadn’t known could be missed so much.
Drea re-entered the house twenty minutes later, putting out her flame when she was close. She stepped in and heard Tom’s voice almost immediately, “There’s a little waterfall in the back if you want to get clean. Take the lantern on the counter.”
“Thank you,” she whispered. “Um where are you?”
“On the floor. Don’t worry, I’m not anywhere you’d step.”
Drea smiled and grabbed the little lantern, stepping silently out the back door. Within ten minutes, she could hear the soft roar of the waterfall Tom spoke of. She lit her hands and set the lantern on low, placing it near the edge of the waterfall. She stripped her clothing and set it near the lantern. It had been so long since she’d changed out of her clothes without doing it with her aura.
She ventured into the cold water, shivering briefly before letting Zen’s fire flow through her body. She smiled. She could never really be cold as long as she had his fire.
As soon as she got her head under the water, she stood and let it flow down her back. The steam rolled off her shoulders as she heated up the cold water and scrubbed herself clean. Then she soaked her clothing in the water, overcome by the sudden desire to get them clean as well.
When she was finished, she stood on the shore and spread the heat through her clothing, drying them off the best she could without setting it on fire. They were still damp when she got dressed, but it wasn’t too bad. On her way back to the cabin, she thought of Danny and the way the two of them used to hang out together in town by the waterfall. She sighed as she thought about dying, and losing him in the process. She could accept her own death, but she couldn’t accept losing those she cared most about.
Drea entered the house and placed the unlit lantern on the counter. She could hear some soft breathing. Tom and Mike must’ve been asleep. She felt another pang of sadness in her heart when she thought of Mike. She hoped she hadn’t offended him, but he shut her down after that. She didn’t want to lose someone else.
She felt her way down to the basement and turned her lantern on low like it’d been when she was resting. She shivered a little and lied down on her side, pulling the sheets up to her chin.
Drea didn’t know how long it had been, but after a while, she heard soft footsteps come down the stairs. She was too tired though, and didn’t want to get up to see who it was. Her dreams were pulling her into darkness, but a soft voice centered in front of her kept her mind awake. “You wanted to know how I left, right?”
She didn’t answer, but let the voice carry her away on its soft melody. “I left the Lori when I was only eight years old in human time. I had been taken on a mission with my father to the human world. He told me we had to enslave the humans if we wanted to be all powerful. Something about that didn’t seem right, but I didn’t question it. We were looking for one of the artifacts, but we encountered a Kaienshi. This Kaienshi was only about my age. He was young, but nevertheless he was unafraid. He took out his little dagger and tried to fight, but he didn’t stand a chance. My father slashed right through him. And he laughed as the child’s blood stained the ground.
“I couldn’t fathom killing the way my father did, so I decided to leave, fearing that I might turn into what I feared most. I knew I couldn’t go to the Kaienshi, they’d never accept me, so I simply left.
“I ran and I ran, going anywhere I could. I blacked out after days of unrest. Tom found me and took me here. He’s been taking care of me ever since, acting as the father I wished I had. He explained the resistance to me and trained me in how to fight. I learned. And I’m happy.”
She heard a slight chuckle and felt a warm hand on her shoulder. “I hope you’re happy too.” The hand lifted and the footsteps echoed back up the stairs. Drea drifted into a deep sleep, letting the darkness take her as she thought his last words.
Hours later, she opened her eyes and stretched. The lantern was still lit in the corner, displaying no change in the time of the day.
Drea bent down and gathered up the makeshift bed into a bundle. She folded it up and set it on the floor. Then she went and turned the lantern off, sending her into the darkness. I can’t waste any more time, she thought. I’ve got to go if I’m to go at all. A few more days will make no difference.
She walked up the stairs to meet Mike and Tom in the kitchen. They were bent down over a map or something.
“I need to leave today.” The two of them looked up immediately. Mike looked worried, but Tom looked as though he expected it.
“But shouldn’t you rest for a few more days?”
Drea smiled. “It won’t make any difference. I need to do this now if I’ll do it at all.”
Tom nodded and went into the kitchen. He bent down behind the counter and grabbed something. Then he came up to Drea and said, “Drink this. It’s what I gave you earlier. It will give you strength.”
It was the root and berries tea. As she drank it, she felt the warmth go through her body, filling her with strength.
She took a breath as she absorbed all the power. It was incredible. She looked Tom in the eyes, “Thank you for all you’ve done. I really appreciate it.”
He smiled and nodded. “I want you to know something though.” He was serious now. “If you happen to beat Alka, you will have a place here. Know that. If you go back to the Kaienshi, please try to keep our existence a secret. If everyone knew, it’d be much more difficult.”
“I understand. I won’t say much, but if I don’t make it-”
“Don’t talk like that,” interjected Mike. He was suddenly beside her. “You’ll be fine.” He was smiling, but she could feel his unease in his aura.
“Well if I don’t,” she said as she turned to face him, “talk to a guy named Danny. He can help you.”
Mike averted his eyes. Tom nodded and they hugged briefly. “You can do this,” he whispered into her hair. “Don’t lose hope, because we haven’t.” She nodded into his shoulder.
They pulled back and looked into each other’s eyes. Tom moved back to the kitchen, keeping his eyes on her.
“I guess this is it,” Mike said.
“I guess it is.” She paused. “But there’s something you need to do for me when you’re with me.”
“Sure, anything.”
Drea looked into his eyes. “There’ll probably be some other Kaienshi looking for me. They’re going to want to bring me back. I don’t want to use up my strength and I don’t want to go back, so I’m going to need your help to restrain them. You might need to fight them until I get to Alka. Be careful though, for once they know you’re a Lori, they’ll try to kill you right away. Stop them from bringing me back. Understand?”
“Of course Drea.” He was still smiling, and she smiled back. The use of her nickname actually startled her a little after so much formality.
“Then let’s go.”
Ever since all the artifacts were put together, Drea could feel trace amounts of Alka’s aura. It was as if the energy of the artifacts was leading her to where she needed to be. She knew where she would need to go.
Drea placed her hand out in front of her and released the aura necessary to form a portal. A shining green circle appeared in front of her and Mike, bathing the entire cabin in its green glow. She nodded to Tom, who nodded back. He looked almost sad as he looked Mike in the eye. Mike smiled and nodded, mouthing, “I’ll be back.”
The two of them stepped into the portal and disappeared into the green light. Drea could feel her body compress as she rushed towards her destination and her fate: Alka.

Drea found herself on the rocky plain surrounded by forest. Mike stood next to her as a slight breeze blew through the rocky clearing. He was quiet, letting her take it all in.
As she looked around, all she could think was: So this is where he’s been hidden all this time. She stepped forward, further from the edge of the forest. Let’s see how strong you really are. She was frightened, she was worried, but she would do this. She would become stone and harden her emotions. Nothing would matter except victory.
Drea breathed deeply. She had to remain focused in order to stop her hands from lighting on fire by accident. She could feel so many memories going through her head from the previous Weaponsmasters, as if they were just as nervous as she. It even became hard for her to distinguish between their realities and hers, but she didn’t care anymore. There was only one thing left to do.
She looked up to Mike. He gave her a small smile, trying to put her at ease, but she could see the fear in his eyes.
“I promise I’ll be back,” she whispered as she looked into his fierce brown eyes.
He only nodded and stepped back slightly. She turned to the middle of the clearing when she heard Mike growl menacingly. She lit her hands alight, ad turned, only to see…
“Danny…” She had a feeling he might show up, but was so surprised she forgot to put her hand out. He was standing there, a firm look on his face. He stared at Mike with contempt as Mike growled and flashed his claws.
He didn’t look at her as he spoke, “Come on Andrea, let’s go home. This Lori can’t make you fight.”
She turned fully to face him, putting her hands out. “This Lori’s name is Mike. He was the one who rescued me after that night.” She paused and looked down before meeting his eyes again. “I was being controlled by Rikta. He was going to take me here to fight. Mike saved me and healed me. How did you find me here?”
“We worked to trace your aura. We thought the Lori had taken you, so we tried to find where Alka was hidden. One of our spies reported it was here and I was sent to keep watch until back up arrived. That doesn’t matter now though, let’s go home. You’re safe now.” He smiled, trying to convince her, but she didn’t smile back.
“I came here on my own. Today I’ll fight Alka.”
Danny was quiet for a moment. He only stared at her and back at Mike. “He convinced you didn’t he?”
She shook her head ever so slightly. “This was my decision. Mike is my friend, no matter what he is. He’s here to help me, if I should need it.”
Mike narrowed his eyes and growled in affirmation. She continued quietly, “It’s my turn to be the Weaponsmaster Danny. The Lori will continue to come after me until they have me. I don’t need anyone else to get hurt protecting me. It’s my job to protect all of you, not the other way around.”
He still stood there, a shocked look on his face. Drea nodded to Mike and stepped forward. Danny stiffened as she approached. Without hesitating, she wrapped her arms around him. He only stood there as she held him. “I know what I’m doing Danny. I’ll come back alive. You don’t need to worry.” She pulled back and put her hand on his cheek. He still didn’t move. “Don’t you have more confidence in the student you trained?”
She caressed his cheek and said, “I’m sorry.”
Drea lit her free hand before Danny noticed and spewed fire over him, knocking him back into one of the trees. The flames transformed themselves into ropes that tied him around the trunk of the tree, keeping him chained in place.
She looked back and said to Mike, “Please keep watch of him for me.”
He stepped to her side and nodded. She turned back to Danny. “Those ropes will not burn you. They’ll heat up the more you struggle, but you won’t be hurt. They’ll dissipate if I get too weak or if I release them, but I promise I’ll be back. I promise I won’t die just yet.”
She took one last look at him; at his soft features, piercing green eyes and strong demeanor. She hardened herself again and smiled to Mike. They embraced briefly before Mike took his position beside Danny.
Drea turned and walked towards the place where she felt Alka’s body. It was over the plain beyond where she could see.
She ascended the plain, not daring to look back in case her resolve should falter. She stepped down to a lower platform, stopping right where she felt all the energy resting.
I’ll come back. I promise, she thought as she knelt down to touch the earth. Power reverberated throughout the rock, vibrating through her charged up hands. He’s here.
None of the previous Weaponsmasters had ever resurrected Alka, so she couldn’t find out how from their memories. She already knew how to do it though. She’d known since she became a Weaponsmaster, but she never realized it until she stared down at the ground.
Drea sighed and took out a knife. She stared at her reflection in the shiny silver blade, twisting it as she watched it reflect the sunlight. She took a breath and slid the icy blade over her hand without the portal mark, creating a thin line of blood in her palm. Only fresh blood from the Weaponsmaster could resurrect Alka, which is why they needed her alive.
The knife disappeared as she held out her hand and squeezed. The blood dripped out of her hand, landing in small drops on the rock. It splattered like rain.
Immediately she felt him awakening in the deep underground rock. She stood and jumped back ten feet, waiting for him to appear. In an instant, the rock erupted, sending shrapnel in all directions.
Drea didn’t even flinch; she only stood at attention, waiting for his grotesque figure to appear. After the dust settled, she began to see bits and pieces of him, though it didn’t take long for her to see all of him.
He was huge, maybe ten feet tall, and muscular with deep purple fur, like a nightmare itself. His eyes were blood red and his claws were about two inches long. He had no weapons or armor. Since the Lori hadn’t forced her to fight, he had none of the artifacts to use, but despite this, his aura was the strongest she’d ever felt.
Drea stood and waited as Alka emerged fully from the rock. He roared menacingly. Finally he turned his head to see her waiting. She could’ve sworn he smiled as they locked eyes.
“This is my challenge after so long? This is the one who’s come to kill me? My imprisonment is finally over.” He growled and looked around. “Where are the other Lori? Don’t tell me you came here of your own accord.”
“I did,” she said calmly.
Alka snickered. “What a fool you are. I’ve been buried for I don’t know how long and a little girl like you comes to set me free. You’re the new Weaponsmaster?”
“I am.”
Alka smiled once again then looked around with a sense of confusion.
“You have no armor. You’ll just have to fight me by yourself since I didn’t let your Lori give you the armor. I’ll take you down myself.”
He laughed. “I don’t think a little one like you could defeat me by herself. Even without my armor, this will be easy.” He turned to face her and a knife appeared in his hand. “You’re not the only one who can conjure weapons.”
“I want no interference in this match,” Drea said boldly. “I don’t want any of my Kaienshi or your Lori getting in the way.”
“Kaienshi? Hmm it has been quite a long time. Very well. We will put up a force field. Let us fight a fair match. You don’t have a chance anyway.”
The both of them stepped forward, stopping about five feet in front of the other. Drea couldn’t take her eyes off of him; it was like staring death in the face and knowing no matter what, it’d find you one day.
They kneeled and put their hands on the ground, sending their energy out through the earth. Even though she’d never done it, Drea knew exactly what to do.
Their energies intermingled as the shield around them took form. It went to the very edge of the plain, extending a mile in every direction. It was clear color mixed with flecks of purple as their auras mixed together.
Drea barely felt a drain in her energy, and she knew Alka hadn’t felt much either. They each had incredibly large amounts of power, foreshadowing a fight like no other. As soon as the shield was formed, both of them jumped back with unforeseen speed, making sure they put enough distance between themselves and the enemy.
Drea stared at Alka with hatred, hatred for his minions, for his legacy, for his existence. She never knew him, but she knew what he was. He was the darkest shadow that existed.
Are you ready for your final fight? Zen said strongly in her mind. He was just as ready as she.
As ready as one can be before they meet death, she responded calmly.
I will share all of my memories with you on this Andrea, Kaien said suddenly, sounding far away. He usually stayed in the temple, so it surprised her that he was with her. I’ll do everything to prevent your death.
As will I, echoed Zen.
They believed in her, so much that they’d do anything to keep her alive. It warmed her heart. She had no other option but to believe in herself now. Thank you, she whispered.
Drea drew a sword to match his knife. The reach would give her the advantage. Kaien, how many weapons can Alka use?
The knife and sword. The others come from his armor. Be careful though, he’s skilled, incredibly skilled, with the two of them.
Noted. She raised her sword as he raised his knife. Drea was finally ready for the battle of her life. She was ready to fight her nightmare, and with any luck, she’d win.

Drea and Alka met in the middle with incredible force. Their weapons clashed, orange sparks flying in all different directions. Alka towered over her, putting all his weight on his weapon.
She pulled away, knowing direct clashes would be detrimental to her. She changed her weapon to a shuriken as she jumped back and threw it straight for him. He dodged and came in close, quick as lightning.
Her eyes caught his movements though, and she drew a new weapon, her needles, to throw. Up close it would cause an incredible amount of damage. She felt Korena take control of her arm as her spirit moved throughout her body.
Drea threw the needles at four pressure points on Alka’s body, slowing him down enough for Drea to pull out a flaming spear, which she plunged into Alka’s gut. He roared in agony, but she knew that wouldn’t be enough to stop him. She felt the spear crunch into him, but she released it and jumped back quickly, sliding to a stop.
Alka increased his energy and forced the spear to fly out. It dissolved in a purple light. Drea had known he would be tough, but she never knew he could do something like that. His stomach reformed suddenly, without even a scratch where she’d stabbed him.
It unnerved her that he could heal himself like that when she couldn’t. She had Zen to help her, but Zen could only go so far. She took out another spear and threw it as quickly as possible, but in a flash, Alka appeared behind her. She was able to sidestep out of the way quickly, though she almost wasn’t fast enough. He threw his knife, just missing her leg, but that wasn’t why he threw it.
Drea saw the aura gathered around the blade and barely had a second before she realized what Alka was doing. She threw up a shield of fire just as it exploded in a cloud of purple, leaving the air smelling acidic.
As the smoke cleared, Drea saw Alka staring at her through a wall of fire.
She stepped back and dissolved the shield, using her hands to absorb the fire.
“You’re doing alright I suppose,” said Alka, “but let’s see how well you do when I’m actually trying.”
He moved faster than he ever had, appearing behind her. Drea barely had time to roll forward and when she did, he was there. He was about to rip open the skin near her collar bone when he hit something hard with a clang. It was her black armor.
It appeared on her body, shimmering like the ashes it was made of. It hadn’t even been scratched by Alka’s claws. In the brief moment of his surprise, Drea was able to send an orb of fire right in his face.
She used that opening to step back and form a huge shuriken in her hand. She set it on fire and hurled it in his direction, but didn’t stop there. She rushed towards him with a dagger right after the shuriken hit, but to her surprise, he was able to grab her by the throat and stop her in her tracks.
Drea stared down at him in contempt as he held her above his head. He still wasn’t hurt, but she noticed a huge decrease in the amount of his aura. Healing himself was taking up a lot of energy. He smiled at her menacingly and threw her across the plains.
She rolled over the hard rock until she came to stop, feeling dizzy. The armor had protected her from a lot of damage, but her cheek had a long narrow scratch on it. Her head had been gashed by her hairline too, the warm red blood dripping down her temple and onto the cold stone. She rose, wobbling a little. She was running out of ideas on how to get the upper hand.
She was panting. Alka was losing energy, but he would still be difficult to beat. Use our weapons Andrea, said Shawn. We can lend you our skill.
She nodded and took out a sword, using it to get close. In an effort to distract him, she took out a dagger and threw it with lighting speed while she charged in, but he didn’t take the bait. He sidestepped the dagger and met her with his sword. They skidded and sparked again before she used her smaller frame to jump out of the way and whack Alka in the back of the head with the staff.
Shawn moved his spirit into her. She used the staff as a pole to spin around as she kicked him straight in the face to knock him down. He fell with a thud, dust spewing everywhere.
Drea took out her scythe and chains and backed up a few feet. She threw the scythe, feeling the disgusting rip as it bit into flesh. She felt him pull on the scythe to try and get her next to him, so she released it, waiting for his figure to appear once again.
Before she even knew what happened, Alka was behind her with his claws raised. She didn’t have time to react as his claws neared her back. Her heat beat frantically as she thought of her friends finding her dead body. To her surprise though, her back shot flames out from where her shoulder blades were, pushing him back far enough for her to get away and surprise him.
She formed her spiked gloves on both hands and went in close, setting both her hands on fire. They glowed orangey-red as she did an uppercut in his ribs, sending him flying into the air. Drea jumped up after him and sent a flaming kick down on his head, watching him hurdle down to the earth.
He landed with a boom as Drea landed lightly about ten feet away. She waited to see if he’d rise, but she knew he would. He had too much aura left to be done for.
Now she started to feel strain on her body. She’d used a lot of energy trying to take down Alka and her body was feeling it. She had to end it quickly if she would end it at all.
In a flash, before Drea’s eyes could even register it, Alka had her throat in his hands and her feet were lifting off the ground again. He stared at her with evil swirling in his eyes. She tried to throw a sword straight at him from her vantage point, but he didn’t give her time.
Alka threw her onto the rock and charged forward. Her sword stuck in the ground somewhere. Drea was able to find her footing, but she couldn’t counter Alka fast enough. He tried to slash up her chest, but the torso piece stood strong, so instead he grabbed her arm like a twig and threw her so far she hit the edge of the force field.
It rippled where she hit. Drea lay there for a second before she tried to get up. Even without any cuts, she was pretty bruised up and a lot of her energy had been drained from attacking. Her legs barely supported her as she stood.
Suddenly Alka was in front of her again. This time when he slashed her, she felt the armor weaken as ashes blew off. Then he grabbed her and threw her head first into the rock. She put her hands out and spewed fire to break her fall, but it only sent her flying in another direction.
She found herself lying on her stomach and looked at her hands. The chainmail gloves had dissolved, leaving her hands with scratches and scrapes. Drea forced herself to her hands and knees, her arms shaking as she slowly rose to her feet and took a stance.
She felt wobbly now and knew she was running out of time to kill him with her diminishing strength. A dark thought then occurred to her. Kaien, she thought. If I must seal him in the end, won’t he once again reawaken with the artifacts?
He will, said Kaien, but as soon as the seal takes affect all seven artifacts will disperse into random places once again. That is how they work due to the seal.
But if I seal him, someone else will have to do this job centuries from now. Unless the seven can find and destroy the artifacts, nothing will change.
Kaien paused. Unfortunately, there is no other way out of it. But know that even if you did succeed in killing Alka, the other Lori would only continue their work in order to avenge his death. It would never end for the Weaponsmaster or the Kaienshi Andrea. You must know that.
I know, but how can I force this burden upon someone else? How can I condemn someone to this same fate?
She felt him sigh. He understood what she was talking about. After all, when he sealed Alka so long ago he condemned her to this fate. You must fight for the battle at hand. We lose the luxury of considering what the future may hold. If you must seal him, then make sure someone else finds a way to keep the artifacts hidden.
Drea knew he was right, but she didn’t want to accept it. All she could think about was her undead soul meeting up with the one who had to fight Alka next.
Right now Alka was advancing toward her, waiting for her to draw a weapon. She took out her combination of scythe and chain and spiked glove. Her next move might be a suicide mission, but it was the only move left.
Drea walked towards him slowly, but didn’t set her weapons on fire. Then she ran straight for him. No tricks. She extended her fist straight to his chest, hoping to sink her knuckles deep into his muscles.
He did exactly what she’d thought he’d do: he raised his knife and slashed straight across her stomach. She felt the ashes dissolve and the blood begin to drip, but she wouldn’t let the pain stop her. She threw the scythe at close range, catching him on his shoulder. Then Drea pulled him in close, as the blood finally spurted in waterfalls from his shoulder.
She plunged her fist straight into him and changed her weapon to another scythe, which cut through his body like butter. Finally she set the both of them on fire, his shoulder and belly spewing ashes mixed with blood.
Alka then raised his claws up her chest, piercing the armor at her shoulders and near her collarbone. More blood flowed down her torso, but she ignored it, trying to keep hold of her weapons.
Drea couldn’t hold on. Alka was about to use his sword to stab her through the stomach, so she had to let go, but that didn’t mean she escaped entirely. His sword made a clean slash on her leg from her ankle to her knee, letting more blood flow out.
She stepped back considerably and fell to her knees. Now she’d been hit in her stomach, chest, and leg, and the blood was beginning to pool around her. Her torso piece had disappeared now, leaving only her chainmail skirt and steely boots, neither of which would last long.
They were getting weak now, both of them approaching their end. Drea had caused a lot of damage to Alka feeling his aura dropped drastically. Now she could see that his shoulder was bleeding tremendously along with his stomach and chest, both of which were bloody and torn up.
They both panted, waiting to see if the other would attack. Instead, Alka began to speak between ragged breaths, “You’ve… done well little one… but there’s… no way you’ll win this… you know I have more strength than you. I… must commend you though… for causing so much damage to me… I never thought… you’d be such a pain.”
Drea knew he was right. She felt the pain blossom and bloom throughout her body and knew she couldn’t keep fighting. She’d bleed out before she could kill him. That only left her one option, the one option she didn’t want to do, but that she resigned herself to from the very beginning.
“I… won’t let you win,” she said slowly as she regained her breath. “I have one last trick up my sleeve.”
Drea stepped closer to him slowly, watching the blood drip down her body and onto the hard ground. She formed a sword in her hands and raised it above her head, stabbing it straight into the ground where her blood pooled.
Alka stared suspiciously while Drea went on, “Maybe you remember this move from your earlier fight. There’s no way I’ll let you go free. Sealing you and me away has become my only option.”
He smirked in her direction and laughed. “What seal? You’ve only stabbed that one sword into the ground. You cannot make a seal like that without the necessary elements. I would’ve thought a fighter like you would know that.”
“I made the seal,” Drea said with the utmost confidence. “I did it throughout out battle, or did you not notice the four other weapons that I didn’t dissolve?”
He looked around to see himself in a circle surrounded by the giant shuriken she’d thrown at the very beginning, the spear she’d thrown, the dagger she’d tried to distract him with, the sword she tried to throw when he had her by the neck and finally, the sword she just put into place.
Alka narrowed his eyes and tried to discount it but Drea could tell that he was getting nervous. “They aren’t all swords, your seal won’t work.”
“You’ve got it wrong,” she said. “The seal only needs five weapons in the right spot, but they don’t have to be all the same.”
Just as she said that, a blue light shot up from around the five weapons, forming the circle of the seal. Drea stepped in. She knew that one step sealed her fate, for now it was impossible for her to step out.
“Let’s die together,” she said without emotion as she stared into his devilish eyes and the blue light rose up into the sky.

Danny sat silently against the tree, waiting impatiently for help to come. Why would Andrea do this? He wondered, his heart beating out of his chest with worry. It was the Lori. He convinced her. He stared at Mike in contempt, who only ignored Danny’s dirty looks and stared ahead at where Drea was.
After a while, Mike turned to face him, but said nothing. He only stared, a contemplative look in his eyes.
“What?” Danny said after a while, looking up at him.
“I’m trying to figure out what she sees in you.” He paused. “I thought you’d be more open-minded. She was able to forgive, so why can’t you?”
“How do you know anything about her past?”
“She told me. Believe it or not, she trusts me.”
Danny looked down at the ground. “Why should she trust you? And why should I? The Lori tried to kill my sister.”
Mike inched down in front of Danny, trying to look him in the eyes, but Danny wouldn’t look back. “We aren’t all the same. When my father cut down an eight-year old Kaienshi, I got out. I’m on your side. As to why she trusts me, I saved her. And why should you trust me? Because she does.”
Mike stood back up and leaned against the tree, leaving Danny to his thoughts. He still wasn’t sure, but he had to know, “She said you saved her. How?”
Mike sighed. “I suppose I can’t tell you everything, but let’s say I was working undercover. I heard the Lori had the Weaponsmaster, so I got her out and brought her to somewhere where she could heal.”
Danny didn’t question him further, but moved his eyes back to where Drea was battling. He couldn’t really see her, but he could feel her aura there. Early on in the fight he’d seen a force field go up, but he’d seen little since then.
A few times he’d seen spouts of fire go up into the sky, but that was it. As much as he hated to admit it, he felt powerless and hopeless. The girl he loved was fighting to the death, and he could do nothing to keep her safe.
Danny sighed in despair. Suddenly he felt four familiar auras appear. Apparently so did Mike, for he tensed and took a position in front of Danny, but he still remained in his human form. Wren, Toni, John, and Shena rushed through the trees to find him tied there with Mike in front of him. This wouldn’t turn out well.
“Back up,” snarled Mike.
Wren narrowed her eyes; she hadn’t known Mike was a Lori since he was able to hide his aura so well.
“I said back up!” Mike’s hands grew into claws as he roared at the four Kaienshi barring his path.
Danny stared at him and realized there was something different about him. A normal Lori would’ve killed Drea, a normal Lori would’ve killed him, a normal Lori would be using him as a shield, but he did none of those things. He stood in front of Danny, as if to protect him. Drea would never trust a normal Lori, so if she could trust this one, then why couldn’t he?
“Mike,” he yelled. He could feel Mike’s aura stiffen at the mention of his name. “I trust you.”
He could tell Mike was unsure. He didn’t move, always keeping his eyes on the enemy. “Why?” It was barely a whisper.
“Because Andrea trusts you and I trust her.”
Mike took a breath and nodded. “Very well.”
Then Toni did something surprising. She stepped towards Mike, coming to a stop only a few feet away from him. She scrunched her eyes. “When we came into the forest, I never felt a Lori’s aura. I’m the best tracker there is and I couldn’t sense you. How did you hide it?”
Mike looked at her as if she was some kind of new species. He growled and bared his teeth again. Toni remained impassive. “Even now you aren’t like a normal Lori. Your name’s Mike?”
“Toni what are you doing?” Wren yelled.
“That’s your name right? Mike?” she ignored Wren completely.
“Yes,” he said cautiously. He took a more defensive position.
Toni turned to the others, turning her back to Mike and giving him the chance to kill her. She knows he won’t do it, thought Danny.
“What harm is there in trusting him? There are more of us than him, and if he truly wanted to, he could’ve killed me by now. Both Daniel and Andrea trust him and that’s enough for me.”
Wren took a breath and relented, “Very well, but don’t try anything Lori.”
Mike growled again and hid his claws and teeth. “I advise you of the same.”
John, Shena and Wren approached as Mike stood behind Danny. Even though Danny couldn’t feel his Lori aura, he could feel his emotions, and could tell Mike was angry and unsure.
Toni looked over at Mike with concern, but then turned her attention back to Danny as she kneeled down in front of him.
“So how do we get you out?”
“I can’t get out until Andrea releases me.”
Toni nodded and walked over to the force field as Shena bent down to test the flaming ropes. “Well we have to find a way to get this field down.” Toni reached out to touch the shield. She closed her eyes. “It’s made from a mixture of both their aura, and I don’t think we could do this without a Lori and Kaienshi equally as powerful as both Alka and Andrea.”
Wren nodded and began to contemplate their next move. Before she could speak though, a bright blue light from inside the force field caught their attention. It was about a mile away with a diameter of maybe fifteen feet. It extended all the way up to the sky, breaking through the clouds and reaching the heavens.
“No…” Mike murmured in shock. His eyes widened as he stepped forward.
Suddenly, Danny felt his restraints loosen. The flames dissolved, setting his arms and hands free. He scrambled up and looked at the others, feeling a sense of dread.
Wren looked at the light and whispered, “Oh no….” She took a glance at Danny and stepped nearer to the light.
After a moment of silence, Shena said to both Wren and Mike, “You know what that is.”
Mike and Wren looked at each other in horror. Mike looked away and Wren replied slowly, “That’s the seal. All the leaders of Koracan are informed of this technique, but only the Weaponsmasters know how to use it. It was Kaien who first used it to seal Alka away.” She looked down, then back up at the four of them. “The seal is a sacrificial move. It requires two souls to make it work.”
As soon as she said it, they all knew what she meant. Drea used it because she knew she couldn’t win, and now she’d be sealed along with the beast she was fighting. She’d be killed when the seal was done.
Danny’s heart instantly plummeted as he dropped to his hands and knees. His eyes widened in fear and pain. How could this be happening? He thought. How can I lose the one I love without being able to do anything? He wanted to cry, but no tears would come.
He felt Toni’s arms wrap around him in comfort. She rested her head on his back as she held him there. I know, she said in her mind. I loved her too.
“Maybe this is what she meant when she said she might not come back,” said Mike in defeat.
They remained silent, watching the blue light move through the clouds. Even Shena’s eyes became teary as she looked down at her feet.
“Can’t we do anything?” John said quietly, though anger laced his words.
Wren only shook her head in loss. “Even if the seal was stopped, Alka would kill her. She’s doing the only thing she believes she can do.” She looked into the distance toward the light again. “We’ll just have to wait for her to finish.”

Finally Alka appeared to be worried. He seemed to understand that if he didn’t kill her before the seal took effect, he’d be sealed for centuries to come.
Immediately Drea felt the seal begin to drain her energy. Her heart slowed as her body became weak and her mind became cloudy. It was getting difficult to think, but she knew she had to keep the seal going and she had to restrain Alka.
Are you quite sure about this Andrea? She heard Zen whisper wistfully.
Yes, she said slowly.
It has been an honor to serve you. I only wish it hadn’t been such a short time.
Drea had never felt such sadness from Zen, but she knew he understood. Like her, he had resigned himself to this decision from the very beginning, despite the difficulty of it. She would be remembered as a sacrifice, but it was her only hope left.
Thank you, she whispered, remembering all the times she’d said it to him, and all the other people she wished she could say it to one last time.
Zen? Are you ready to fight one last time?
Of course. He paused and said, You still have the bracelet your brother gave you?
Drea had completely forgotten she had it with her. She remembered Kevin telling her to be careful with using it, though now she had no other choice.
She placed her hand over the bracelet on her wrist. It dissolved into ashes and reformed into the little black box her brother had given her. It was shiny black like her armor, the power still pulsating inside.
Keep hold on it, said Zen. I’ll tell you when to open it.
Now Drea had to disable Alka with Zen’s help. She took a breath and built up the remaining energy in her body, stealing the strength from the last bits of her armor. They turned to dust around her feet, leaving her completely exposed.
She put her entire trust in Zen as Alka lunged at her, snarling like the rabid animal he was.
Just before he smashed into her, a figure of a flaming horse appeared in front of her and took his full weight. The world shook under her feet as the two giants clashed and Zen set Alka alight with flames. She heard the word, Now! screamed loudly in her mind.
Drea opened the box slowly as Zen kicked Alka in the ribs and he recoiled and stepped back. Zen whinnied and looked back at her just before he disappeared into her. The box glowed with a bright light, illuminating her, but the raw power had nowhere to go and she didn’t know how to control it.
Then she felt Zen take over. He took control of all the raw power and directed it into her hands. Her hands lit themselves on fire and slowly took the form of the deepest shadows in Hell. She suddenly knew what to do.
She threw her hands out and watched as the shadows extended from them in the shape of claws. They grabbed Alka and encased him, sending him flying back against the edge of the circle. The shadows detached from her hands and bound around him like ropes.
The box had given her the strength to restrain Alka with the help of Zen, and now she just had to finish it.
Drea reached down at her ankle and grabbed the dagger Danny had given her. She was now no better than a normal Kaienshi as her power to form weapons dissipated. She lunged at Alka and stabbed her knife deep into his chest. She had a quick flash of Danny, but pushed him out of her mind. She no longer had time to be sad.
Blood spurted from his chest, and he shook. The seal would close on them any second now. There was no way out. Drea used all her remaining strength to keep the knife in his heart, making sure her didn’t break free of her shadows.
“You know,” he spattered, “you could’ve killed me. Your knife is in my heart, so why did you seal me?”
She smiled back weakly, her breathing labored and difficult. “I guess using the seal was the only way to catch you off guard. This knife wouldn’t have been in your heart otherwise. It doesn’t matter now though, for soon we’ll both be residents in the grim reaper’s den.”
They stood still like that for another few minutes, the time dwindling down to nothing as seconds lasted for hours. Only about another minute remained until the seal would close on both of them.
For a moment, Drea thought she felt a disturbance in the seal, but dismissed it as nothing. No one should’ve been able to break that seal… except for maybe one special person.
Before her body could even register it, Drea felt a sharp pain in her chest as someone kicked her tremendously hard. She flew outside the circle, too weak to stop her flight. She then lay on the rocky ground on her stomach, but was too weak to even rise to her hands and knees. She could only rise up on her elbows and look up at blood pooling out of her, the red liquid forming in puddles all around her.
In that instant she understood how futile her efforts were. She hadn’t been able to beat Alka, so she used the seal, and she couldn’t even complete that. A certain sense of relief flooded though her that she was alive, but she didn’t understand it. She had disappointed everyone and she would still end up dying from all of her wounds. She only wondered how Alka had gotten free, and when she looked up, she had her answer.
Luke stood in her place, his hand placed firmly on the knife in Alka’s heart. She could feel his aura maintaining the seal, keeping Alka in place and the seal in effect.
He looked back at Drea with an expression she couldn’t identify. She wasn’t even sure he looked sad as he looked back at her.
Drea tried to yell, but found she wasn’t able to in her gravelly voice. She coughed up blood as she spoke, “How did you get in here? Why are you even here Luke?”
He gave her a ghost of a smile, with some definite sadness in his eyes now. “I know I don’t have a lot of time before this seal closes, but this is one thing I had to do. Not to steal your glory, but to keep you alive. You’re the best Weaponsmaster there’s been in a long time, and you deserve to live. You’re even willing to give up your life for a society you just learned existed. I did nothing in my time as Weaponsmaster, rejecting my own powers, but you… you embraced it fully. I won’t let you die here when you have such a full life ahead of you.”
Drea only stared ahead in disbelief as he exchanged his life for hers. “I- I don’t deserve this. My life isn’t worth this…”
Luke smiled slightly as he shifted the knife and grunted. “You’re worth so much more than you think.” He paused and continued, “I guess it’s a good thing I was a Weaponsmaster since otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten this chance to save you. Only Kaienshi of equal strength can enter a Weaponsmaster’s force field, but luckily, being a previous Weaponsmaster, I got a free pass. Good thing I’ve made myself strong enough for this seal.”
Luke smiled knowingly. He knew what he was doing, and he had accepted his decision completely. Even if he would never believe it, he was a hero, just like he thought she was.
He seemed to smirk, as if he had heard her thoughts. All she could think about was this exchange of life, but she couldn’t stop him. Her body was too weak to even move. All she could do was stare ahead with wild eyes as the time ticked down slowly, the last seconds of Luke’s life slipping away.
“Don’t worry,” he said as he stared straight into her eyes, “Don’t feel guilty because of your decision to come here. This needed to happen, and it would’ve happened soon anyway. This is my contribution; you’ve already given more than enough.”
Drea used the last bit of her strength to get up on her palms, but it was useless. He arms were shaking as she looked forward, trying to memorize the lines of Luke’s face. Courage and even happiness shone brightly in his eyes. He was finally fulfilling the role he’d been yearning to play.
The sound of the aura in the circle got louder, blocking out Drea’s hearing. She saw Luke mouth “thank you” to her as he looked back at Alka, staring into those great evil eyes. Alka still bore his expression of hatred. He had known he had no chance of winning from the time Drea initiated the circle. At that point, he had lost.
Luke’s expression morphed to hatred as he looked into Alka’s eyes. It was time. The seal constricted, getting smaller and smaller until it smashed into the both of them, sealing their spirits in the blue light. It rose to the sky until it disappeared, leaving a scroll behind as it had done centuries earlier with Kaien. It also left a knife; the knife Danny had given her.
Drea reached out and grabbed the hilt of the knife along with the scroll, securing them firmly in her hands. She tried to rise, but to no avail, falling hard on her side. There was blood pooling around her still, flowing from her back, her chest, her leg, and her shoulders, but there was nothing she could do. She was too weak to help herself and would die of blood loss soon.
Right before she passed out, she could feel the aura of the artifacts separate as they moved across the globe to hide for hopefully centuries to come. Alka’s aura also disappeared as his body hid itself deep in the earth once again.
The force field began to break down above her head as their aura dissolved. The last thing she remembered was footsteps and voices resounding from a distance as her vision went black and her body went limp.

The five of them stared as the blue light got smaller and disappeared. Danny cried out almost inaudibly, feeling his heart snap in two.
He rose and pulled himself together, forcing himself to close everything off. He had to be strong now. Toni rose also, and even though she didn’t show it, she was broken up inside as well.
The force field broke down slowly, cutting off the barrier that had kept them out for so long. None of them moved. Mike snorted, as if he smelled something bad. John said hoarsely, “What do we do now?” He was trying hard to control his breathing, but wasn’t doing well.
Wren sighed and lowered her head. “We go find any remnants of the battle. All of this must be documented correctly, for Weaponsmaster Andrea’s sake.”
They walked in slowly, fearing the worst.
Mike growled and he suddenly changed, becoming taller as he grew fur. He sniffed the air, “I can smell her.” He pointed straight ahead and looked back at them. Danny wondered if he even knew he had changed forms.
Danny nodded and the six of them went on. They stepped slowly toward where the circle had been, seeing blood and charred rock all around them. Danny felt numb as he walked on, unable to process much of anything.
As they neared the place where the circle should’ve been, they saw a lone figure. “What is that?” asked Shena, squinting her eyes to try and see.
Danny’s eyes widened. “That’s Andrea!” he gasped.
The six of them rushed towards her at light speed, and within a second they were all standing next to her as Danny knelt down to examine her wounds. His hands were shaking as he rolled her onto her back and stared at her quiet face. The side of it was covered in blood and blood was pooling around her from the other wounds she had garnered.
She looked strangely calm for one so hurt and bloodied, but he couldn’t feel her aura at all. Danny reached down to her neck with his hands trembling slightly. No one breathed.
Danny held his thumb to her neck for a few seconds, not feeling anything as the silence got louder and louder in his ears. He was about to call it when he felt a faint pulse under his fingers. He put his head down to her chest to check her heart beat. It was faint, but she was breathing. She was alive.
“She’s alive!” yelled Danny. “Call for some help!”
Danny held out his hands and began to heal the most serious wound, the one in her stomach. Toni knelt next to him. She wasn’t an experienced healer, but she could start to heal the other life threatening wound, the one on her chest.
“How is she alive?” John said with ragged breaths. “I thought you said the one who uses the seal would be sacrificed.”
“That’s how it’s supposed to work…” Wren said slowly. Then she noticed the scroll Drea was clutching. “What is that?” she whispered.
Danny looked up for a second then said, “Leave it. It doesn’t look like she wanted to let it go.”
“We have to see it,” Shena said slowly as she looked at Danny with a look of sympathy. She was able to dislodge it from Drea’s hand and gave it to Wren. Danny noticed that in her other hand, Drea clutched the knife he’d given her. It made him smile, even in the dire circumstances.
Wren took the scroll and began to peel back the opening. Her eyes widened in surprise when she opened it. It was blank. “H-how could this be?” she stammered.
Shena and John stared at it, bewildered expressions on their faces. “Maybe we aren’t meant to see it,” said John as he took it from Wren and rolled it back up.
Danny wiped his brow. He had already used up a lot of his energy just healing her stomach, but he wasn’t prepared to stop and let her die. Toni was panting, sweat dripping down her blonde hair.
“We’re going to need some help here,” Danny said.
“They’re on their way,” Wren said, looking at Danny with concern.
“I won’t let you die Andrea,” he whispered over and over again as he healed her, hoping she would hear him, praying that she’d believe him. His heart had been beating out his chest since he saw her alive. He only hoped he could save her in time.
Mike knelt down next to him and put his hand atop Danny’s. Danny immediately felt his aura increase and looked at Mike in surprise. All of a sudden, even in his Lori form, he didn’t look like such a monster.
Help arrived soon after in the form of five soldiers and five healers. They paused and froze in place when they saw Mike. Mike only stared back up at them and stood up. Danny was breathing hard now. He’d been able to heal her stomach and chest with Toni’s help, but the two of them were useless now.
Even after the help arrived and Mike pulled the two of them away, Danny continued to repeat his mantra in his head, hoping his words could still reach her. He wasn’t fully awake at that point, but could remember being lifted onto someone’s back and being carried back to the hospital through a portal.
His thoughts were a mixture of swirling colors and words as he closed his eyes and rested. His last thought was one of Drea, hoping she had made it.

Drea’s dreams felt like a void as the darkness consumed her. She couldn’t tell where she was or even if she was alive anymore. After an eternity of shadows, Drea found herself standing in the forest that she had trained at in her dreams. It was empty except for her, the leaves shining in the sun, the sunlight twinkling and whispering in the wind.
For the first time in a long time, Drea smiled in happiness. She stepped through the forest, laughing and smiling under the warm sun, feeling wonderful. She found a river after a little while and sat down on the bay in the grass. Her eyes became lost in the motion of the water ebbing and flowing continuously.
She lay on the shore and looked up at the serene sky, wondering why it couldn’t always be like this. “Isn’t it beautiful?” said a voice she recognized.
Drea turned to see Kevin lying next to her, staring up at the sky. She sat up and looked at him, missing him once again. “It is,” she said quietly.
He sat up as well and looked her straight in the eyes. “You’ve made all Kaienshi proud Drea. You’re a hero.”
She looked down at her lap and said, “I’m not quite sure I’m a hero. I couldn’t even kill Alka like I was supposed to.”
“Always modest, aren’t you?” His smiled. “You were able to seal Alka. You. A fifteen year old girl who’s been training for a few months.” His smile was infectious, making Drea smile slowly.
He lifted her chin and said, “Remember what Luke said Drea. Don’t feel guilty; use this chance at life to change the future.” He looked at her solemnly. “You’ve found something great Drea. Keep him close.”
Drea’s heart almost stopped as she began to understand the meaning of his words and blushed. She remembered Danny telling her that he would keep her alive as he put his cool hands over her. She wanted to be with him now more than anything.
She was almost afraid to ask, but as she thought about it, she had to, “Am I… am I… dead?”
She felt genuinely scared before he answered, “No. They were able to heal your wounds and keep you alive. You’re in the hospital now; you’ve been resting for ten days now.”
“Ten days?!” she yelled, her mouth hanging wide open.
Kevin smiled at her like he had when she was little and she complained of something. “You really are just like what I remember Drea, but you’ve grown into a beautiful young woman. Keep your strength. You’ll be the one to change things.”
He rose and started to walk off into the river. “Wait!” yelled Drea as she rose. “Will I ever see you again?”
Kevin turned and smiled at her. “Even if you don’t see me, I’ll always be with you.” He disappeared then, leaving Drea alone.
She stood on the river banks, feeling sad at first. Finally she felt the corners of her mouth lift. She had survived and made everyone proud. Now it was time to go back to them; it was time to wake up.


*
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*
*
*
Drea felt her eyes open slowly. She stared at the ceiling for a moment before all the pain rushed back into her body. She felt weary and numb. She could feel her leg, her chest and stomach and back throb, her muscles crying out when she tried to move.
She sat up slowly and painfully and leaned up against the bed frame. She was in one of the hospital rooms again, resting. Drea looked out the window at the village. People were outside with smiles on their faces, skipping and laughing. She wondered if it was because of her. Her heart swelled with pride and disbelief.
Drea would’ve tried to get out of bed and walk around, but she knew it would be a bad idea. Her body was so sore, she probably couldn’t move more than a few feet on her own, so she just sat and watched. After a moment, she noticed someone watching her and turned her head.
Zen stood in his human form. He was wearing his black suit with a black headband. His hair shone like dancing flames. He remained still, staring at Drea without even the hint of a smile.
“Are you alright Zen?” she asked with concern sparkling in her voice.
He cracked a smile and came toward her slowly. “I should be the one asking you that question.”
She smiled back. “I’m fine Zen, don’t worry. Just a little weak.”
He came to her and sat on the edge of her bed, staring straight through her. “You’ve done well Andrea. You’re a hero now. I’m glad I still have the chance to be with you.”
Drea blushed, feeling grateful for his words. “I look forward to our future adventures Zen.”
He smirked. “As do I.”
Drea shifted and sucked in her breath. Zen suddenly looked serious again. “You’re hurting. Let me fix your soreness. You won’t have such a painful look when you move.”
Drea was about to ask how he could get rid of all the pain when he stepped towards her. His fiery red eyes looked straight into her brown eyes, sparkling with intensity.
Zen turned to ashes in front of her and surrounded her. She felt the ashes move around the places where she had been hurt, surrounding them as they moved into her. Drea immediately felt a cooling sensation throughout her body as the ashes crept into her and Zen spread his presence through her.
When the sensation died down, she felt no pain, only relief. She moved her legs and sat up experimentally, but there was only soreness in her muscles due to disuse.
Drea slipped her legs over the side of the bed and whispered aloud, “Thank you Zen. I have many weapons, but you’re my greatest tool, and more importantly, one of my greatest friends.” She felt his happiness and gratefulness resonate through her, warming her from the inside.
She felt tired suddenly and closed her eyes. In the darkness, she drifted off until she felt herself enter a meditative state. She opened her eyes and saw Shawn and Korena appear in front of her in the forest. They were smiling, but also seemed relieved.
Drea stepped over to them. She didn’t even have to speak; they knew what she wanted to say: that they had helped, that she was grateful, and that she’d work to prevent more lives from being torn apart like pieces of theirs were.
They smiled and said, “Thank you,” together. Drea just couldn’t get used to so many people saying that to her.
“You’re an even better Weaponsmaster than we were,” said Korena.
“You’ll do great in your future,” Shawn said.
“Will I see you again?” Drea didn’t want to let them go; they had been such good friends to her.
“Of course,” said Korena. “We’ll always be with you when you need us, but I have a feeling you won’t be needing us as often.”
Drea smiled; she was happy to know that they wouldn’t leave her just yet. “Go back to your world now,” said Shawn. “There are people waiting to see you.”
Her last image was of them smiling with their knowing eyes reflecting the sheer joy in their hearts. Their one nemesis was gone for centuries to come.
She opened her eyes to the empty hospital room and looked around, blinking a few times to adjust her sight. No one had come and visited her yet, so she went to the window and sat on the windowsill. There were people who were laughing and smiling and playing in the streets.
The twist of the doorknob made her turn her head. It opened to reveal Danny as he stuck his head in the room. He wasn’t wearing his Kaienshi uniform, only some basketball shorts and a white tee. She couldn’t help but to think that it fit him well.
“Andrea, should you really be out of bed?” he said as he walked over to her.
She smiled and laughed a little. “I got a little help with that. I’m just a little sore now.”
His face relaxed visibly, but from his movements, Drea could tell that he was tired. “You used up all your energy healing me,” she stated.
Danny pursed his lips as he took a chair and pulled it over. His face got serious for a moment. He didn’t say anything, but pulled out a scroll and looked at it, perplexed. Then he handed it over to her, waiting for her to open it. She peeled back the seal and stared at what was written on it. For some reason, it didn’t surprise her.
“Can you read it?” asked Danny.
“Of course,” she said looking up at him. “It tells of what happened in that fight. It’s a special characteristic of the seal.” She vaguely remembered Kaien saying something about the scroll.
It only took one look at Danny to see that he couldn’t see it. It must’ve been considered one of the secrets of the Weaponsmasters, meant to be seen only by Weaponsmasters. She wondered why, but as she looked over the scroll, she figured it out. The secrets of the seal were written on the scroll, the seal only Weaponsmasters knew about.
Drea looked in to Danny’s eyes and saw that despite his happiness, he was wondering how she had survived.
She explained pieces of the fight, leaving out the parts about the seal. She had no real desire to feel what fire crawling up her throat felt like. Finally, she came to the part about Luke and explained it slowly: “It only would’ve been another minute before the seal took the two of us when Luke appeared and kicked me out of the way. I hadn’t thought about the possibility that former Weaponsmasters could break into the force field. He exchanged my life for his, but I don’t know if I deserved that.”
Drea looked up at Danny, her eyes sorrowful for the loss, yet no guilt or remorse shown in her now. “He had wanted it. He wanted to prove himself and now he has.”
They sat in silence for a moment, taking in the situation. It felt nice to simply sit in the quiet, to not have so many thoughts to worry about.
“When we found you,” started Danny, “I thought you were dead. You were barely breathing and your wounds were so severe. I didn’t think I could save you… I thought-”
Drea leaned forward and grabbed him by the shirt. “I doesn’t matter what you thought. You saved me.” She pulled him into her and kissed him on the lips. He stiffened at her touch, but after a moment, he relaxed. His lips were firm against hers as he breathed into her.
They pulled away and Drea blushed. “I’m sorry,” she said. “After almost dying I just had to do that.”
He smiled mischievously. “Well I’m very glad you did.”
They laughed a little and he took her hand. She didn’t pull away. Drea felt so different now. She felt much more confident and strong as she stared into those green eyes. She didn’t even feel like herself anymore, but maybe she liked the person she had become.
Danny smiled once again. He came up close to her and they kissed again. Before her fight, she didn’t know if she would ever see him again, but now she knew she had so much time to spend with him.
She felt the passion they held, the desire that each of them had for the other, and the realization that they were both alive and moving forward. The turning of the doorknob interrupted them and they pulled apart quickly to look at the figure of Toni.
Toni stared at them with a smile, as if saying “finally.” Both Danny and Drea blushed. Danny stood. Toni didn’t say anything, but changed the subject, “How are you Andrea?”
“I’m doing much better.” Danny went to sit on the bed as Shena and John came in. Mike came in quietly, as if he was unwelcome. Drea smiled and walked over to him. She gave him a hug and whispered, “Thank you,” before she moved back to the window.
Shena smiled. “We’ve made contact with Mike’s revolutionary friends. They’ll be on our side now, and we’ll learn to work with the Lori.” Mike bowed his head and Drea smiled.
It became quiet. Drea redirected her attention to the window. Danny then explained to them what happened in the fight.
“We thought it might be him,” Shena said sadly, referring to Luke. “No one’s been able to find him.” They looked around at each other, but Drea was still looking out the window.
“Why does everyone seem so happy?” she asked absentmindedly. “Is it because of me?”
“You even have to ask?” said John with a chuckle. “You were able to defeat the most powerful beast we know of. We don’t have to live in fear that he’ll come for us, at least for another couple centuries. Now we know that we’re safe for the time being. You brought us this security.”
Drea continued to look out the window. She’d always wanted to be a hero, though she never expected the overwhelming feelings of gratitude coming from everyone. It was strange to be respected in that way, to have people smile and thank you for your courage.
It was a new feeling to Drea, but she knew that as soon as she returned to her old life, it would disappear. No one would know what she’d done and she’d just go back to being the same quiet girl everyone had known. She smiled at the thought though. It’d be nice to return to her old life and her daily activities. Being a hero was tiring.
She looked back at them and said, “Thank you, but…” she didn’t really know how to say it, so she just spit it out, “I can’t stay here. I just can’t leave my old life behind with my family and friends. They must be worried sick.”
The mood in the room dropped instantly. All eyes went to the floor. Drea didn’t feel like speaking aloud in front of all of them, so she spoke to Danny in his mind. I’m sorry, she said. I really do… I really do like you. I want to be with you so badly, but you have to understand that I can’t just let it all go… I can’t leave it all behind. I can’t hurt them like that, not again.
For the first time in a long time, she felt like the old Drea, and she didn’t like it. She felt like the stupid little girl who wanted to be more than she could ever be. Danny knew just the right thing to say. He spoke aloud, “Don’t be sorry Andrea. I don’t think any of us expected you to stay, but we were all hoping. I promise we’ll visit you if you visit us sometime. This won’t be the end; it’ll only be the beginning.”
He smiled as the other four looked at her and smiled as well. She would miss them all so much.
Shena even came over and sat on the chair near Drea. She looked to avoid Drea’s eyes, but eventually spoke, “I see now that I was wrong. You are an exceptional Weaponsmaster. I’m sorry I blamed you for something that wasn’t your fault.” She sighed and looked away. It was obvious that she was uncomfortable.
Drea touched Shena’s hand hesitantly. “I did end up releasing Alka after all. I am sorry that I couldn’t prevent your sister’s death though.” She bowed her head. “Thank you.”
John came over then and said, “Well then let’s get you back to where you belong.”

After a few days, everything was in order. Drea would be going back to her hometown within the day. Over that time, any time Drea walked through town, she was greeted with tons of “thank you’s” along with laughing and smiling faces. It was almost unrealistic.
Before she left, she met up with Jen and her mother Cara. The two of them seemed to be doing much better since Corey died, and they were nothing but smiles as they spoke to Drea. Jen couldn’t believe she actually knew the Weaponsmaster.
Drea also went and met up with Luke’s family. He had a wife, Gena, and a fifteen year old son, Dave. She thought the two of them would be devastated over Luke’s death, and they were, but they seemed almost happy for him too. Gena explained how Luke had been tormented by his weakness, and they knew he was finally happy to have fulfilled his role.
They weren’t angry at Drea either; they understood what she’d done and what Luke had wanted. Drea just made sure that Luke got his amount of the credit too. When she left them, she felt like she’d done what she’d set out to do, like she’d tied up all the loose ends. It was time for her to go back.
Wren spoke with her before she left also. She’d be departing from the throne room. It was agreed that Danny, Shena, John, and Toni would be coming along too, while Mike started up Kaienshi-Lori relations.
Danny and Wren had spoken about visiting her earlier and came to the conclusion that as long as Danny had time, he’d be allowed to visit whenever he wished. Drea could tell that he’d been seriously thinking about staying on earth with her though. She hoped it’d happen, but didn’t get her hopes up too high. She just didn’t want to age while Danny remained almost ageless.
We’ll see what happens, she thought. Wren thanked her for what she’d done, asking her to come back sometime. Drea agreed of course and was given some sort of device.
“It’ll help you communicate with us when you’re in your world. Put it in your ear and you can spread your mind here to find us, but don’t use it too much because it does drain your strength. If it blinks, that means one of us is looking for you,” said Wren as she handed Drea the Bluetooth-looking device.
“We all have one too,” said Toni as she held hers up with a smile.
Drea felt overcome. “And you’re letting me have one of these? Aren’t you afraid I’ll break it or something?”
“Yes and yes,” said Shena, “but we don’t want to forget you completely.”
Drea smiled and rolled her eyes. She put it in her ear so she wouldn’t forget it. “Andrea,” said Danny. She turned and looked at him with a smile, but she couldn’t help but feel longing in her heart. No matter how much she wanted to return home, it saddened her to leave her new friends. “We should change our clothing to look like your world. We don’t want to stand out more than we already do.”
She laughed and nodded. He looked puzzled, but didn’t ask her about it. When she stopped laughing, Drea became serious. She asked quickly, “How long have I been gone from my world?” That was the one thing that still concerned her.
The four of them looked around. Danny spoke next in a much more hesitant tone, “Well you’ve been here for about two months, so that’s…”
“Three months in your world,” answered Wren.
Drea’s mouth dropped open and her chest constricted. She knew all the color had drained from her face. “T-three months? Oh my god, oh my god…” She couldn’t even speak. Her family probably thought she was dead.
Toni came up to her and grabbed her by the shoulders. “Don’t worry Andrea, several Kaienshi, including myself, have been working on sending you back. We can fix the time problem to send you back to your world two weeks after you were taken. I guess it’s like going back in time by opening a special type of portal. That’s the best we can do though…”
Drea took a breath. “Ok. I can deal with two weeks.” She smiled and swallowed. “Thanks Toni.”
Toni smiled and released Drea.
“Alright,” Drea said as she regained her composure, “Let’s get going.” Danny and the others were still looking at her with concern, but she ignored them. She waved her hand over her head and changed her clothing to be her old school uniform. Danny and the others changed their clothes to be in t-shirts with jeans or skirts.
Drea looked ahead as Wren shook her hand goodbye and stood in front of her throne. She gave Mike one last hug before she put her hand out and opened the portal with the mark engraved on her hand. Drea looked down to see the scar where she had cut her own hand to escape the Lori before she came to Koracan.
It all made her feel very nostalgic. The portal opened to expose a green light. “It’ll open to the park where the Lori kidnapped you from,” said Wren. “Be safe Andrea.”
She nodded as Wren stepped aside. She was ready to go back home. The five of them stepped through the portal. Drea felt herself being carried through space as she made her way back home.


*
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*

Jackie sat in a bench in the park. It had been two weeks since Drea had been missing and she was worried she’d never see her sister again. Her parents had thought someone kidnapped her, and they were kind of right, but Jackie knew what really happened. Those wolf monsters were the ones who took her, maybe even killed her, and she knew she couldn’t even tell anyone what happened. Karen and Jackie had debated whether to tell anyone for some time, but they knew everyone would think they were crazy if they said anything.
Karen had been such a good friend to Jackie with Drea gone too. She’d always been nice to her, and now she felt like a second sister. Karen would come over to comfort their parents or to just hang out with her from time to time. She always knew the right things to say, but Jackie could tell she was hurting just as much as they were.
All Jackie could think about when she thought of Drea was the fact that this was what Drea must’ve felt like whenever she thought about Kevin. Jackie hadn’t known her brother well before he died, but now she knew how much pain Drea must’ve been in for all those years.
“Jackie!” She looked up to see Karen coming towards her. Karen was a cheerful person, but there were red circles around her eyes. She’d been crying too. Drea had been her best friend.
Karen sat next to Jackie on the bench and they sat in silence for a moment. Karen said quietly as she looked over to Jackie with sad eyes, “How you doing Jackie?”
She shrugged. “Not any better.”
Karen sighed. They were both in the same type of pain, meaning that it was hard for them to cheer each other up when neither of them felt too cheery.
Jackie looked over and noticed that Karen was looking at something, perplexed. Her eyebrows were knitted in confusion.
“What?” she asked Karen.
“N-nothing,” she stammered. “I just thought I saw something…” her voice trailed off as something opened in the sky.
It looked kind of like the thing that took Drea two weeks ago. It got bigger by the second, extending its green light over the trees. “Um, what do you think that is?” asked Jackie.
Karen just shook her head. “I have no idea.”
They stared up at it for another minute before they saw five people shoot out of the sky. Karen and Jackie looked at each other momentarily and looked back at the five of them. They really had no idea what to say; all they could think was that they actually had gone crazy.
None of the five had especially graceful landings. They all lay there, groaning a little before one of them got up, laughing.
She sat up and looked at the others as they slowly rose. They all began to smile. The girl looked at the guy who landed next to her. Jackie couldn’t see her face, but she could tell the girl was fond of the guy based on the way she was angled towards him. Her laughter was like music, only stopping for a few seconds when she leaned in to give the guy a quick kiss.
The girl was wearing a school uniform, the kind that the high school kids wore. It struck Jackie as strange, especially since the girl looked familiar from the back, but Jackie didn’t understand why until she turned her head.
When she turned her head, Jackie and Karen saw her face. It was Drea.

When the five of them hit the ground, they laid there for a little while, groaning about the height of the portal. It had been at least ten feet off the ground! Drea sat up and looked around. Everyone was just lying there, and in her joy, Drea began to laugh. She was happy to be back in her world, and looking around at the forest, she couldn’t help but to be happy.
The others sat up slowly and Danny asked, “Are you glad to be back?”
“Yeah. You have no idea,” she said with a smile. She leaned in briefly to kiss him and looked around, still laughing. The warmth of his lips still sent tingles through her.
After she calmed down, she stood and turned around, only to be squeezed to death. She couldn’t breathe as arms entangled her chest and stomach. She recognized Karen’s voice immediately as she said, “You’re alive! Oh my God!” Jackie was squeezing her midsection, crying.
Suddenly Drea felt an unimaginable feeling of guilt as the two of them hugged her as though she’d disappear. She’d left them here without even any explanation.
“I thought you were dead,” sobbed Jackie.
Drea’s eyes dropped as she said, “I’m sorry I left you guys. I didn’t mean to…. I’m so sorry.”
Karen pulled herself away and wiped her eyes. “We’re just glad you’re ok. Everyone thought you’d never come back. Jackie and I thought you were dead…”
Jackie pulled herself away and said, “Don’t ever leave like that again Drea! Please don’t do that again.”
Drea bent down and hugged Jackie. “I’m sorry I left you, but I had some things I needed to do. I hope you’ll forgive me.”
“I could never stay mad at you Drea,” said Jackie. She laughed a little. Drea stood and looked at the two of them. “So I guess I owe the two of you an explanation.”
Karen just looked at her with that “you think?” look. Then she said, “You can tell us about it later. I’m sure your mom and dad want to see that you’re ok.”
Drea had almost forgotten about them. “What are we going to tell them?” Now she was feeling panicked.
“Tell them anything. I’m sure they’ll just be happy to have you back,” Danny said. Drea looked back. She had almost forgotten the four of them were behind her.
She blushed unintentionally as she introduced Danny, then Toni, Shena, and John. “Hey,” said Karen as she stepped in front of Danny and got right in his face, “You were the guy I saw earlier.” She refocused on Drea and smiled in true Karen fashion. “I knew you were going out with him!”
Drea laughed a little nervously as Jackie and Karen said hello to everyone. They actually seemed interested in her new friends, and both looked eager to really meet them. They wanted to talk more, but Shena suggested, “Why don’t we get to know each other a little better after you go see your parents?”
Drea turned and nodded. It was time to get back to her old life, but she wasn’t dreading it, she was looking forward to it. There would be a lot of new twists, and she was ready for all of them.

*
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Danny and the others left so Drea could see her parents again. She thought they’d never stop squeezing her, but she didn’t blame them. After the loss of their oldest child, it’d be devastating to lose their second child too. Drea made up some story about visiting some distant relative so they wouldn’t get the police involved, but she knew after this episode, they surely wouldn’t trust her as much. For the time being though, Danny was right: all they cared about was having her back.
It was night by the time Drea was released to her room with Jackie and Karen in tow. Drea contacted Danny and told him he could come back if he wanted. He said he’d come right over.
During that time, Drea began to explain everything to Jackie and Karen about her powers and what had happened. She started with her mind powers then went into what happened in school, the Lori, her training with Danny, her kidnapping, her time in Koracan and Skynea, and her fight with Alka. They only stared at her with mouths open wide.
“You want me to show you?” Drea said as she stood from her bed. She kind of had a feeling they didn’t really believe her.
They didn’t answer, so Drea just made her scythe and spiked glove appear. The fire licked around her hands, warming her from the inside out. It comforted her to feel Zen’s presence coursing through her again and she smiled. In an instant, they were formed. The chain from the scythe clattered a little, but Drea made sure she kept it quiet. She didn’t want her parents to freak out more than they already were.
Karen got up and looked at her weapons, walking around Drea. “Wow Drea, I really didn’t think you had the fight in you, but here you are with weapons. Jeez…” She was smiling in disbelief as she said it. Drea knew it amazed her.
Jackie had a similar reaction, staring up at the huge weapons in Drea’s hands. She made them disappear, watching their surprised faces as they disintegrated into her hands again. And if you think that’s cool, you’ve seen nothing, she spoke in their minds.
They both looked at her with wide eye as she laughed. “Ok, you have to teach me how to do that,” said Jackie.
“Yeah really!” echoed Karen.
Drea stopped laughing suddenly as she felt something behind her. She turned around to see Zen sitting in his human form in the window. It became quiet as Jackie and Karen looked at him too. They seemed slightly fearful, but they waited to see what Drea would do.
She turned and said, “Zen, I was beginning to think you’d never show.” She was smiling now, speaking playfully as she introduced Jackie and Karen to Zen.
Zen came forward. “Hello.”
“So who exactly are you?” asked Karen, eyeing him suspiciously.
Zen contemplated it for a moment before responding. “I’m the Guardian of Fire. I bond with the Weaponsmasters, so now I am bonded with Andrea. Since I can control fire, Andrea can too now.”
Jackie raised her eyebrows and her mouth fell open in an “O” shape. Drea held her hand out and lit it on fire. She watched the flames dance in her hand, shifting and blending in infinite colors. She extinguished it then and looked at Jackie, who still looked so surprised, she couldn’t even speak.
Drea looked at her little sister, finally feeling as though they were as close as they were before any of this happened. As she looked though, she realized there was something she hadn’t told her. “Zen,” she spoke softly. He understood and turned to ashes, dissolving in her within seconds. Drea became serious and took a breath before she knelt next to Jackie and looked her in the eyes.
She took a minute to explain what had really happened to Kevin, reliving her pain with every word. “I can show you, if you ever want to really see it, but I don’t think you ever will.”
Jackie looked at Drea with sadness. She nodded and averted her eyes. Drea sighed. She had wanted to tell Jackie ever since she found out, but she hated to be the harbinger of bad news. She owed it to Jackie though, and she didn’t regret it.
Drea felt Toni, John, and Shena enter the room quietly while Danny took his spot on the windowsill. They remained quiet as Drea waited to see how Jackie would respond. She’d almost given up when Jackie leapt forward and hugged her.
It was so unexpected that she remained stiff as Jackie said, “Now I know why you feel so guilty all the time; you always thought it was your fault he died.” She pulled away and stared into Drea’s eyes. “It was never your fault Drea. You were just a little kid. You couldn’t have done anything. I’m just glad you were saved in time, otherwise I would’ve lost you both.”
Drea loosened up and hugged her back. She finally allowed someone to share the burden she carried, but she knew that despite what everyone said, she would never be entirely free of her guilt. She was still saddened by Kevin’s death, but now she saw that people didn’t love her any less because of what happened.
She pulled apart from Jackie and went back to her bed. Danny came out of the window and sat next to her. She leaned up against him and he put his hand in hers.
Karen looked at them and shook her head. “I’m never going to get used to this.”
They all laughed as they talked for a while. Toni and Karen got along great, and Jackie was really warming up to Danny. Karen suggested Toni go out with John, which made both of them blush, while Shena warmed up slowly to everyone.
One time when Drea noticed Shena looking up into the stars, she spoke into her mind so Shena could here, I’m sorry you lost your sister, but know that we’ll be here whenever you’re lonely.
Shena looked back at her and smiled. He eyes were sad, but purposeful. She nodded and looked back out before returning her attention to the room.
As Drea sat there on her bed with Danny, she felt truly happy. All her friends were around her, laughing and smiling. She had finally come home to her family and now her sister and best friend knew the one secret Drea had kept under wraps. It relieved her to know that they didn’t see her as a freak. It felt good to have all her secrets, or most of them anyway, out in the open after such a long time of trying to keep them secret.
It’s nice to see you happy, Danny said.
Drea turned and looked into his eyes, snuggling up to him as she positioned herself on his lap. He wrapped his arms around her. I am, but only because you’re here with me. She looked down for a moment in uncertainty. I don’t want you to go…
You still have the communication device?
Drea immediately reached up to her ear to feel it there. She had forgotten all about it just like she thought she would.
Whenever you want to talk, he said, pointing to the one he had in his ear, I’ll be there to listen.
She smiled and moved in close. They kissed for a moment, feeling each other’s lips and the warmth they radiated. When they pulled away, Drea couldn’t help but to smile as their noses touched.
I wish I could freeze this moment in time, but I don’t have that power, she spoke innocently.
Then I suppose we’ll just have to make many more moments like these, he said with a smile as his green eyes pierced her heart.
Drea remembered falling asleep in his arms like that, feeling at peace for the first time in a long time. For once in her life, she wasn’t feeling guilty or sad or worried. She was happy.

Drea woke up and got herself ready like usual. It had been two months since she’d been back, and she was adjusting back to her regular schedule easily.
She looked in the mirror like she did every morning and brushed her hair, wondering what Danny saw in her. She never thought she was anything but average, but every time she was around Danny, he made her feel beautiful. She smiled and got dressed. Now that it was winter, her school uniform was navy pants and with a long sleeved dress shirt.
Drea went downstairs to meet Jackie and her parents. Jackie was as tall as Drea’s shoulders now and was thirteen years old. Her brown hair was just like Drea’s. Drea hadn’t grown much, but she was sixteen now, only one year younger than Danny.
She made her regular cream cheese bagel and sat down to eat. She and Jackie still walked to school together, but now her parents trusted them enough at least to let them be alone sometimes. They’d kept a closer eye on Drea since she “left” but they were starting to loosen up a little. Of course they didn’t know about Danny yet….
Jackie and Drea left soon after they finished eating and walked down the streets to school. They talked in the morning about pretty much everything, including Drea’s role as Weaponsmaster. Jackie seemed incredibly interested in her stories, but there was never enough time in the morning to get through all of them.
Drea also kept in touch with Danny, Toni, John, and Shena by using that device they gave her. It surprised her how well it worked, but it did make her weaker. Mike had visited her a few times in her world too, talking to her about agreements between the Kaienshi and Lori. Since Drea was the Weaponsmaster, she was required to participate in all Kaienshi-Lori discussions. Karen met him too, and to Drea’s surprise, Karen was speechless.
Despite her defeat of Alka, Drea also continued to train after school sometimes by herself at the waterfall and out in the forest sometimes. She even transported herself to a rocky region to train with Zen sometimes too. If she used the fire anywhere else, someone was bound to get suspicious of the scorch marks.
As Drea and Jackie were on their way to school, Drea stopped suddenly. She felt the dark feeling of the Lori’s aura nearby. Jackie looked back. “I’ll see you at school,” said Drea as she jumped off.
She did a quick change and formed the black horse mask for her face; she couldn’t risk anyone recognizing her. She saw the Lori up on a rooftop a few blocks away and killed it with her needles. As she threw them, she felt Korena in her. She always felt like Shawn and Korena were with her, helping her through her days.
Drea rushed back to the school just in time. She’d been late more and more, but Karen and her always came up with some sort of excuse for her lateness and need to leave class.
Drea was even teaching Karen self-defense tactics and how to use a dagger. She had been against it, but Karen begged Drea to teach her. She wanted to know that she could protect herself if need be. Karen would never admit it, but Drea also suspected that she wanted to impress Mike the next time he came.
After school that day, Drea left to go to the waterfall to do some meditating. She’d started doing it more frequently to deal with all the stuff she had going on. Between the multitudes of Lori, her family, friends, school life, Danny, and being Weaponsmaster, she got a little stressed out.
When she got to the waterfall, she stood and looked around. Suddenly, she felt someone’s arms around her and jumped before she realized who it was.
“Hey,” she said smiling. “I didn’t know you were coming!”
Danny let go and she turned to face him. “I wanted to surprise you.”
They kissed quickly and sat with their feet in the water. The two of them talked for a while, and even trained a little. Danny loved to do battle with her and she loved having a real sparring partner.
Drea had to go home after a few hours though since she couldn’t stay out without her parents freaking out. She hadn’t told them about her and Danny since he didn’t actually live on earth, even though they’d be elated to learn that she’d found someone. She wasn’t ready to tell them about Danny yet, but depending on how things worked out, maybe she would.
After dinner, she usually went up to her room and studied for a little while. Danny came to her room through the window when he was around though and spent some more time with her. Sometimes he’d stay overnight, but he made sure he was careful about it. Nothing crazy. Not yet, thought Drea. She loved waking up and seeing him there anyway, even if she was getting up in the middle of the night to deal with some Lori.
One afternoon when Drea was done with school, she went to the waterfall and looked out into the water, mesmerized. It flowed constantly, new water repeatedly replacing the old water, the little fish moving to and fro in the current. As she stood there, she smiled. There was one fish that had gotten blown away, but it used all its energy swimming back to the start of the current and into still waters. That fish reminded Drea of herself. She’d been swept away so easily when she began, and how she never stopped trying until she reached her goal.
She turned to see Danny standing there, looking at her as if he was in a trance. Drea stepped towards him and put her hand on his chest, looking into those pools of fitted green that always drew her into their trance. Every time she looked into them, all she wanted was to pull him in close and kiss him.
Danny smiled and pushed her hair back out of her face tenderly, his touch sending chills through her.
“I have to go back soon Andrea,” he said quietly with his sad green eyes. She knew it broke his heart every time he told her he’d be leaving.
“I know, but it’ll be alright.” Drea looked up at him and smiled. “I know you’ll be back though, and when you come back, we can celebrate.”
He chuckled and they kissed passionately. She was beginning to feel more and more pain each time he left. She wasn’t sure how long she could live without him, since being with him was becoming necessary, like breathing.
They continued kissing as they moved towards the waterfall. Drea’s back was to the water as Danny pushed her closer and closer to the edge with neither of them realizing it. She felt the edge with her foot and fell backwards suddenly, grabbing Danny’s sleeve and pulling him down with her mid-kiss. They hadn’t even noticed how close they were until they both fell in laughing.
Drea sizzled a little when she hit the water. She popped up from under the surface first and came up laughing as Danny wiped his hair out of his eyes and she pushed her hair out of hers.
Drea couldn’t remember a time when she felt happier as she splashed around with Danny in the water. She’d never been with anyone, and now she couldn’t even imagine being with anyone else. Danny just made her happy, happier than she’d been since her brother died.
He could never replace the love she had for her brother, but he gave her a new sense of love that perforated her, swept through her like a storm. She felt elated, and for the first time since her brother died, she felt like she’d changed herself for the better. She felt at peace, like the last bits of the puzzle pieces finally found their place.
Drea knew she could change everyone else too; make them feel that same happiness that she had come to feel. She was strong, she was powerful, and she was ready. It was her time, and she would be the sister, the daughter, the girlfriend, the friend, the hero, everything and anything that everybody wanted.



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