Chapter 100: Gifts
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Chapter 100: Gifts

 

Time passed by as air prodigiously entered her lungs. The young girl swallowed the air in mouthfuls as if she was just brought back to the surface from the depths of the ocean.

 

In Yela’s ears, the chatter of Balon and his sisters had returned, along with the sound of her own voice. 

 

That return in sound, brought her mind great relief. 

 

When the transparent fist collided with her stunned face, the silence of death momentarily engulfed her sense of hearing. At that moment, every sound in existence had disappeared, and although she could not hear her own heartbeat, she felt it within her chest that it had stopped. 

 

‘Wha– What was that?’ The girl thought to herself as she gripped one hand with the other, comforting her shaking hands. 

 

The extreme tension within her mind and body had yet to dissipate, and naturally like most traumatic events, it was supposed to linger for some time.   

 

Breathing in deeply before exhaling just as deep, she closed her eyes while intently clearing her mind. It took her some time to fully calm herself, but as she did so, Balon looked at her with eyes of slight surprise. 

 

Sitting on the stone throne he nodded slightly in approval, thinking to himself, ‘Good. She was able to bring herself out of that state on her own.’ 

 

‘Hmph. I did not think she would be able to do it by herself.’ 

 

‘...But still, why did she react so extremely? Shadow sparring should not be so frightening.’ 

 

He looked at his young apprentice intently, before brushing it off from his mind. As always he chalked this up to her eccentric personality. For on more than one occasion, Balon had caught her oddly giggling to herself or experiencing unusual mood swings. While he found it strange, it was not too out of place. Traveling the various kingdoms within Agni’s empire had exposed him to many eccentric personalities. 

 

‘An overactive imagination? Mm, whatever…’ 

 

Unknown to Balon, his analysis was slightly correct but not completely…

 

Yela, took this brief moment of respite to regain her bearings. In the process she also started to ponder upon the mystery of what just happened. 

 

Of course, she couldn’t properly explain to herself what had happened like some truth seeker of the universe’s mysteries, but she could however, tell herself what not to do again.

 

‘O– Okay, I…I made a mistake…’ 

 

‘I shouldn’t have done…whatever I just did…’ She breathed out calmly. 

 

‘Bu– But I can’t stop now! I was doing really well before.’ 

 

‘Just…Don’t do that same thing again! Yeah…’ 

 

Like a toddler learning to walk, she stumblingly proceeded forward. 

 

The little girl opened her eyes just to close them once again, searching her mind for opponents that did not have the capability to kill her on sight. 

 

Interestingly, although she was reviewing her memories for fighters, the first person that appeared in her mind was no fighter at all. Instead, the person who appeared was a sweet and harmless boy, with a figure that was no more than skin, bones, and blonde hair. 

 

Within her mind, his skinny figure and soft gentle smile brought her a wave of sweet emotions, and a gushing reinvigorated sense of determination. 

 

‘Oh, Cole…’

 

‘I’m going to get so strong…and then I can protect the both of us!’ 

 

Indeed, one of the sweet girl’s motivations for walking the path of strength and power, was to protect the ones she loved. This included her mother, her little sister, and of course, the boy she had a crush on. 

 

Interestingly, if her will and resolve to protect others and serve as guardian was strong enough, she could easily surpass the seventy-seventh step of the dragon’s dance. 

 

Though…life was a series of events that relentlessly questioned the path of an individual. Whether Yela could keep that determination to protect others instead of hurting them, was an answer that only time would reveal…

 

“Hehehehe…” She audibly giggled. 

 

At this very moment the little girl was fantasizing at how cool she was going to look at the thought of saving her crush from some mean bullies. 

 

Within her daydream, her hair was flowing in the wind and her cool back was turned to him as she caught the hurling fist of a ruffian. 

 

“Hehe…hehe!” 

 

Balon saw this and shrugged it off, but from afar Monti watched as the girl chuckled to herself whilst closing her eyes.

 

‘Is…imaginary sparring that fun?’ The extremely average young man thought to himself. 

 

In the next moment however, a deep sigh came out of Yela’s lips, along with a sulking frown at the thought of their last time together. ‘I wonder how he’s doing…’ 

 

‘...Her mood changed pretty fast.’ Monti observed. 

 

‘Oh and his red-haired friend! The mean but actually kind mister. Cole seems pretty worried about hi—’ 

 

‘Huh!?!?’ 

 

Within her mind, a violent cyclone of energy started to whip and lash, gathering into the form of a familiar figure. 

 

There was a clear difference between this one and the last imagined outline. The last one was made from calm, light-blue transparent fire, but this one was made out of intense, red auric flames. 

 

The light-blue flame was a blank slate of creation using Yela’s imagination, while this red auric flame was noticeably different. It was more full of life and had its own personality. Its powerful intensity was like a form of identity, like an energy signature. 

 

Only mere moments passed but tiny miniscule details rapidly formed on it. Quickly, the vague outline grew into an exact replica of the present-state red haired fighter. 

 

Yela stared at the thing, stunned. 

 

‘I didn't mean to think of him!’

 

‘He’s going to punch my face and it's going to explode!’ The girl senselessly panicked. The potential carnage that the figure in front of her could bring was already fully imprinted onto her mind. 

 

And in that same moment, mysteriously, a black heart started to thunderously beat within his red auric body, and a bright red glow beamed out from his left eye like a flashlight, meeting the trembling little girl’s gaze. 

 

The red light shined on the girl like a deer in headlights. 

 

This feeling was unnatural and mysterious. She made no effort to make an etheric body within her mind, so her perception of sight was omnidirectional, only limited by her imagination. Yet oddly enough, that did not stop her from feeling as if she was caught doing something she shouldn’t. 

 

Like a flashlight in the dark night shining on a thief, the red light permeated the endless stretching plane of her mind, its red glow exposing her miscreant actions. 

 

Yela did not question why such a thing was emitting from his eye, and she did not think too deeply about the matter either.  One reason was because she knew her own teacher had powers above what could be called normal, and another reason was because she was currently too frightened to think.

 

Additionally, this version of Zan should have been impossible for Yela’s mind to subconsciously replicate. The red-haired fighter did not gain his eldritch powers until after his clash with her teacher. There was no way for Yela to know about any of his abilities, whether it was the black heart or his red glowing eye. 

 

Though rightly so, she did not need to know about those abilities to be scared to death.

 

It was illogical, but the loud beating of his heart echoed boomingly in her ears despite him being just an imagined figure, and now her own heart was beating at a thousand pulses a minute at the thing’s brightly lit, red gaze. 

 

‘No! No! No! No! NO!’ The girl finally snapped out of it.

 

Not wanting to experience the terrible feeling of death again, she tried vehemently to scatter, dissolve and disperse the figure, all but to no avail. 

 

‘Why!? Why?! Why!?’

 

‘Why isn’t it working!? Why isn’t he going away!?’

 

No matter how much she willed her mind, he was not affected. Her efforts to wash him away were the same as the ocean’s waves crashing against a tall stone cliff of a mountain. 

 

Her anxious, frightened eyes matched his gaze again. 

 

The figure bathed in red light stared at her with a hint of confusion and surprise, and this only freaked the young girl out even more. 

 

She herself began to think that the person in front of her wasn’t created by the creative force of her imagination, and she was half correct. 

 

The figure stared at her intently one more time, and she felt his eyes observing her. It was not at all unlike an actual person staring at her. 

 

In the next moment, Yela saw that thing made out of red intense light move. 

 

Putting her arms across her face she prepared for the worst, totally expecting to be savagely assaulted with another flying fist connecting to her face again. To her great relief though, the moment never came. 

 

Instead, she watched as the bright entity turned his back on her, choosing to gaze at the endless plane of nothingness rather than to look at the humble girl.  

 

Yela was relieved but at the same time confused. All the constructs of people she made were created with the intention of sparring with her, so why did this construct of Cole’s red haired not attack her? 

 

She looked at him once again. Observing him more closely now that it was confirmed he had no hostile intentions. 

 

The figure of red light and flame was looking at something. Something…far off in the distance, but she did not know what. 

 

In the next moment he closed his eyes, and as if he was a real person with their own free will, he dissolved himself from Yela’s mind. 

 

Like doors that finally unlocked, the girl’s eyes flung open. She was incomparably relieved to find that the manifestation of Cole’s red haired friend did not appear before her in reality, but in that same moment her sixth sense shook her body, and she swung her head towards the direction of her teacher. 

 

The tall, solemn man responded by looking at her confused and panicked eyes. While she looked towards his direction, he could tell that she was not looking specifically at him.

 

‘Unusual…but whatever.’ He looked away, once again dismissing his disciple’s behavior to her odd personality. 

 

Besides that, there was something more important to properly place his attention to. His superhuman hearing picked up on the distant echoes of a hundred disorderly footsteps. 

 

The girl continued to stare. Yela’s sight collided with the gray surface of the walls, but another, mysterious perception went beyond the stone, and beyond distance and time itself, to feel the presence of another from an untold distance away. 

 

The wonder of it all confounded her, and adding to that mystery, was the understanding that she could perceive who exactly she was sensing from hundreds of miles away. 

 

As the feeling of his presence dissipated from her mind however, the sound of a hundred footsteps started to rise. 

 

Monti and the other few men stood at attention, straight as boards, while Balon and his sisters looked in silent observation towards the tunnel entrance of his roughly made throne room. 

 

There at the opening, were a hundred roughly outfitted mercenaries, and guarded fiercely in the center, was a man draped in luxurious colorful silks and fabrics. 

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