“Get ready Kei.” My father yelled, his hands on his hips and his serious eyes scanning the dojo . His eyes lingered on Data and Brand before they moved over to me and Zane, who was standing across from me. “I am not here to coddle you. I will not kiss your boo-boos. I am here to teach you how to fight and if you pay an ounce of attention, you might learn something. If you want to see your grandfather, you have to get my approval.”
“You first, Kei mou.” Zane said, nodding to me. My eyes narrowed before I moved. Zane flung his arm up to his right side, catching my kick. I was slightly surprised when the force of my kick actually knocked him back. I didn’t wait for him to recover, slashing and swiping my fists like they were extensions of my arms. Zane bobbed and weaved, trying to read my movements. I tried to keep my facial expression stone cold and unreadable, but the demon blood in my throbbed beneath the surface, excited for the fight.
Zane’s back almost collided with the wall but his arm somehow moved and knocked me off balance. A frustrated growl escaped my lips. I felt my wings escape their confinement and moved with inhuman speed. Zane didn’t move this time, he hooked his leg and tried to throw me but I dug one grabbed onto his leg and conjured fire at the tips of my fingers, burning away his pants and singing his skin. A sharp hiss escaped his lips as he was caught off balance and fell down, dragging me with him. He rolled onto his back, and immediately got back to his feet, reaching out a hand as if to touch me.
“You suck at this.” Zane stated. I panted as I wiped the sweat out of my face. This training session wasn’t helping at all. I didn’t possess super speed or cat-like reflexes.
“I’m going again!” I nodded my head, digging my tennis shoes into the laminated floor.
Zane pulled his hand back and threw it forward, launching a barrage of fire towards me. I ran forward, waving my hand, stopping the fire where is was. “Create a shield!” Zane shouted as the fire quickly dissolved into smoke around us. I threw my arms up, visualizing a shield in my mind encasing me just as my dad had showed me. The fire jumped out towards me like daggers but stopped, hitting an invisible force. I smiled, surprised by my own ability.
“Move Kei!” Cabe shouted on the sidelines. My head snapped up as another series of fire daggers hurled towards me. I turned, trying to change directions sharply but I lost my traction on the floor. My chest smacked the floor hard, knocking the wind out of me. I gasped from the pain as the fire hit my wings and began to singe my feathers..
“Zane!” Cabe shouted as he rushed over, pulling me up to my feet. “Can’t you take it easy?”
“That was easy.” Zane countered as he walked forward. He tucked his left hand in his pocket as he tapped my forehead. Instantly, the fire rushed off of me. “You don’t want to see me when I’m serious.” The pair traded glares. I had never understood their animosity towards each other. Brand popped up from his lounging posture on the sidelines.
“She’s improving.” He pointed out as he crossed his legs and yawned.
“Anyone can improve from zero.” My dad added, “Would he be better with weapons?” He asked, a blade glistening in the soft light.
“He’s more likely to cut himself than his opponent.” Cabe responded as he snapped his fingers. The dagger shimmered in my dad’s hand before appearing in Cabe’s.
“Hey, I’m right here!” I shouted, waving my arms. Neither my dad nor Cabe acknowledged me, still deep in thought. “Zane,” I whined, “help me out here.”
“Let’s move away from all this dodging and weapons stuff.” He offered, arching his back. “Attack me.” I furrowed my eyebrows and looked around. Attack him with what? Zane sighed, he slightly slid his legs apart and lifted a hand. “With your hands, little bird.”
I looked at my hands and then at Zane. “You’re not going to hurt me again? Are you?”
Zane sighed again, “No,” he paused then amended his statement, “well, not too much. Now, hurry.” I grumbled under my breath and put my hands up. I took a series of quick steps forward, but Zane disappeared from my sight. There was a light touch of skin on my neck. I whipped around and found Zane behind me.
“Be quicker,” he whispered into my ear, trailing his fingers down my neck before disappearing again.
“That’s not fair! I can’t teleport like you can.”
“No fight is fair.” He tilted his head and grinned. I tightened my fists and groaned before sighing. I reached for my powers and pulled. My wings appeared once again and my skin crawled with ink. He dodged just before I tried to hit him, he slinked low to the floor, dodging as each kick that came towards him.
I followed his trail, throwing punches and kicks as I deemed fit. I was not watching where I was headed, and my feet hit something and I went down, hard. Losing all concentration, I pulled my burning face off the ground and looked up. Data sat against the bleachers, and finger waved at me, his legs were up near his chest. It seemed I had tripped over his legs.
“I can’t tell if that was on purpose or not,” I muttered, flipping my black hair out of my eyes. He grinned at me and tapped my leg where it was near his hand.
“I’m not saying,” he chuckled, “but dragon boy is now on the offensive.” I jerked my head back toward Zane and found him mere inches from my face.
“What happened to be aware of your surroundings at all times?” He asked, he touched my forehead with a finger and pushed. “If this was a real fight, you’d be dead.” He looked over at the three others sitting on the sidelines. “More than once at that.”
“I’m sorry I suck at this.” I groaned. “That’s why I asked for help.”
“Well then, get up,” Zane encouraged, holding out a hand, “and let’s try again.”
Exhausted from a training session, I groaned as I sat down in the dew filled grass. The trees around me were vibrant with fall colors, the red and orange hues like fire. I closed my eyes, feeling serene in this calm area. I could hear the soft crunch of the grass beneath feet. I could feel the air stir around me as he sat down beside me.
“How did you know I was back here?” I asked without opening my eyes, just enjoying the sun on my skin.
“I can tell where you’ve been in these woods.” Zane’s voice was but a whisper as it flowed across my skin. “You have a distinct smell.”
“I smell?” I laughed, my eyes opening slightly to glance at him. “How rude.”
He closed his eyes, flashing me a grin that made my heart flutter.
“No, it’s not like that,” he said to me, the smile on his lips. He opened his eyes as he thought, looking up into the sky, the blue reflecting in his silver eyes. “It’s like the smell of your soul. It smells crisp and clean. With the hint of apples.”
“You smell my soul? Pervert.” He chuckled, smiling and turned his face towards me. His eyes were bright underneath the trees. They seemed to reflect everything the forest was.
“Your soul smells like fate.” He took a deep breath in, smelling me. He didn’t even blink, just stared at me soundlessly. He was so serious, I felt like I needed to be serious too. I ran my hand over the grass, pulling my fingers up along the long strands.
“What do you mean by fate?” It seemed almost odd to say he could smell fate. What was fate to him anyway? Was it because he was a dragon?
“To me, being with you now, in this moment, is fate. That is what it smells like.” he breathed in deeply as the trees swayed in the wind.
I made a face at him, my hands strolling in the grass. “Fate smells like wet grass?”
He gave a loud chuckle, his hand reaching out and twining his fingers through mine. The heat from his touch coursed through me and awakened all of my nerve endings.
“It does to me, but everyone is different. I can smell everything. Others can see it, hear it or taste it. Fate is all about the moments that lead up to the final product. Such as this moment and the moment we met. We met in the forest because you entered it, we got acquainted because of that moment.”
“But there is no such thing as fate.” I whispered thinking of all the gods that controlled us. It could not be called fate with the gods pulling our strings.
“Even if you do not think that there is. It is up to you to decide.”
“No.” Even if I wanted to pull at the strings the gods had attached to me, there was no way to get rid of all of them. I would always have some attached to my soul, telling me where I would go in the future. “That’s not something I can decide.” Zane sat up, and pulled my hand closer to him, his hands were rough today, hotter than normal.
“You can decide whether you walk on a certain road or not.” he told me, “That solely depends on you. That is choosing your fate.”
“You’re crazy.” I informed him. “Nothing is just a bunch of coincidences, it’s all predetermined by the gods. It’s crazy to think otherwise.”
“I’m not crazy as you perceive it.” Zane muttered, “My reality is just different from yours.” He seemed to pause, his eyes glittering. “Please do not go meet your grandfather.”
“You promised you would let me if I passed your test.”
“I want to take back that promise. I want to lock you in the palace and never let you out of my sight.”
“I would hate you then.”
“You don’t understand what your grandfather is capable of. With you he can take more than your powers or your life, he will steal a part of mine as well. So not only could you die, beloved, but a part of me would die with you. Because you were too stubborn to care.”
“I’m too stubborn to care?!” I grumbled, glaring at him, “Who said he would lock me in a palace so that I would not meet anyone? Who tried to lock away all of my powers when I was but a child?”
“I tried to save you, Kei.” Zane admitted solmely. “ You were only nine years old, wandering around Earth Side with blood on your hands and face, your eyes nothing but Shadows of Tartarus. You would have murdered anyone who you passed by and then I would have had to kill you, Kei.” Zane’s eyes glowed with power, his voice almost breaking with emotion. “I would have had to kill a child. Your soul asked me to kill you Kei. It pleaded for me to end your life, to take away the pain, to take away the anger. I was too weak to do anything but bind you to me. The look in your eyes and the hope in your voice made me do what I had never done before. I gave you my heart, Kei, you were only a child and I gave you something that you had no idea how to handle.”
“That was then.” I muttered, sliding upright and pressing my hands on either side of his face. “Now is different. Trust me Zane. I will not leave you, I promise.”
Zane backed away slightly. His eyes changed until his pupils were nothing more than mere slits. He shifted his feet, blazing energy began to escape from him. Rippling darkness, blacker than midnight with highlights of violet coursing through, each tendril of power erupted outward then immediately sucked in towards him. There was a grimace on his face, his body changing within several heartbeats. Where his human body once stood, in his place was a large dragon, it’s silver blue scales glittering in the morning light.