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“Alright, breaks over. Hope you caught your breath.”

 

Callum spoke, cracking his knuckles before readjusting the wooden sword in his grip.

Come on, kid, just swing already. You’re just barely stronger than me as it stands.

Callum thought to himself; his stats displayed just on the left side of his vision. Knowing Kiyomi’s strength, he was given an opportunity to fight someone that actually rivaled his own. He was currently his party's offensive member of the vanguard for a reason. Ranking the ‘Revenants’ by physical strength from weakest to strongest, it was Chessa, Hatsumi, Stanis, Avery, then Callum himself. Both himself and Stanis were given blessings by Solah around the time of the purges. Stanis received ‘iron skin,’ which made him excel as the tank even further, whilst Callum received greatly enhanced strength. This was the reason he was trying to press Kiyomi to actually strike at him with full strength; he was one of the few who could actually take the brunt of her force. Initially, he intended just to teach her how to fight, but when it came to her strength, it fell on him to help her temper that as well.

 

If she hesitates on the wrong person or thing, she’ll end up being killed. Don’t pay mind to her crying damnit! This is for her own good.

He continued thinking about his own actions as the child in front of him continued to drink from the waterskin he had just tossed her.

 

She needs this, withholding the fact that she hesitates. If she were to get in a fight or not learn how to handle herself properly, she could just as easily unintentionally kill someone. I cant teach her to control it much easier without knowing its height.

Callum brushed away a stream of sweat that had suddenly gathered at his brow.

 

But she’s also tougher than I expected, she has a higher threshold for pain. Like her body’s actually experienced it before.

The child was just bringing the waterskin from her lips and resealing it. In various places across her body, heavy bruising and light cuts were seen. Aside from this, she was flinching when moving in certain ways. Callum was able to tell something was cracked or fractured; her HP was giving a good indication of that as he could see it for the time being thanks to a party spell that Kelly cast before they started.

 

Several hundred HP left…She’s got a cracked or broken rib, internal bleeding, maybe a concussion?

This kind of injury was normal for prolonged training. It's why Callum hired Kelly to be on standby. But Kiyomi putting up with this many accumulating injuries on the first session was completely unexpected.

 

“Done?”

 

Callum asked as Kiyomi tossed the now empty waterskin to the side.

 

“Hahhh, ready!”

 

Kiyomi responded weakly, still catching her breath.

It’s kind of cute that she still tries to act tough. It makes me feel even worse about her getting hurt.

 

“Okay, set, when you’re ready.”

 

Maybe I should just stop, even if she doesn’t make this one.

Callum pondered, readying his stance to receive whatever blow Kiyomi was going to throw.

 


 

Okay, you can do this! Breath in.

I was trying to control my breathing for this, inhaling to regain my composure. Following a cadence I remembered when I would drill with my rifle and pistol. At the top of my inhale, I clenched on the grip of the wooden sword while doing my best not to splinter the wood itself from the strain.

 

Come on, stop treating this like a game. He’s supposed to be some kind of ‘master swordsmen, ’ isn’t he? We’re just some little girl; he can handle whatever we throw at him.

With that thought, I then exhaled. The bottom of my breath marking when I kicked off from my position and closing the three meters or so between us. True to how he’d maintained his position for almost the entire day, Callum didn’t bother moving. It was left to me to press the attack, not him.

 

One more step. Plant!

Roughly three steps away, I planted my lead foot.

 

Rotate!

Kicking off with my trail foot, I began the same full-body motion that I’d maintained almost every other strike. Each time, I hesitated on the final push-off, afraid I’d go a little too far. Of the possible mistake I could make in actually managing to hurt Callum.

 

Follow through, damnit!

Something clicked, not something new. But something that I’d dealt with on earth, I was able to move past everything for that moment. The hesitation, the background, everything. ‘Land this swing, destroy what you’re are attacking’ was the singular goal in mind. Least of all places I expected it to trigger, was here, with almost nothing to stimulate that intent.

 

My entire boy flexed and shifted as it did before, my arms straining to swing the wooden sword as hard as I could. I was aiming for just above Callum’s left hip, thinking that was the best place to land a hit effectively. Of course, he was more than likely going to parry it, but it was the largest target I could make with such little experience with swords. As I swung, Callum’s eyes locked with my own. Almost as soon as my body began the motion of my swing, Callum’s sword arm came down. His sword angling to contact my own as he moved.

 

Wait, with that angle, he’ll be blocking, not parrying. He’ll take the hit full force?!

A hint of doubt wavered in my mind momentarily.

 

No, fuck! Strike him damnit!

I managed to push through my own anxiety and continued without losing power. Time passed slowly at the moment before the swords contacted; I found myself looking back to Callum’s face. He was determined, his mind was made, this was not someone unknowingly stepping into danger. He knew what kind of risk he was putting himself at.

 

I hope you know what you’re doing old man, for both our sakes.

 

When our swords contacted each other, it was something akin to my first experience using my strength some eight months ago. The difference here is that both objects were wooden swords that were enchanted to be more resilient to force. On impact, nothing much happened; it was immediately after the swords began flexing that the force of the impact was heard and the mark of a sudden and abrupt cracking noise. The pressure from the strike was great enough that I felt a shockwave reverberate through my body, and I could feel my sinuses hit by the change in pressure. It was akin to firing a high-pressure cartridge from a rifle; three-three-eight was probably what I would be able to compare the feeling to. After the initial impact was felt, Callum actually pushed away with his own sword, forcing me to lose balance before moving in for a counter.

 

Fuck! Liar! You said no counter-striking!

I had closed my eyes in anticipation of the hit, I had tried on numerous occasions to drag things out or to be cheeky, and each time resulted in the strike just hurting more. However, the feeling of being struck by the wooden sword never came.

 

Huh?

Instead, when I opened my eyes, Callum stood there. He pulled back on his own strike roughly halfway through.

 

Was he going off of reflexes there?

He appeared slightly disheveled, his swept-back hair in a mess and a slight nosebleed. We stood there staring at each other for a moment before both of us began gasping for air.

 

“God damn-ah- that uh-ah- that’s what we were looking for.”

 

Callum said before stabbing his sword into the dirt.

 

“Two points is one hell of a difference.”

 

“Ah-huh?”

 

I found myself questioning before breaths.

 

“Your strength is seventeen, and mine is fifteen. Sorry for the-ah-scare, by the way. That swing threw me off.”

 

Is the difference between a few points that great?

At this point, both of us were now leaning over and barely holding ourselves up by our knees.

 

“Hey, Kelly!”

 

Callum yelled.

 

“Yeah?”

 

She responded as she walked up to us, pulling off her gloves and flexing her fingers.

 

“Coin purse is on the anvil. Y’know that one sandwich cart on the edge of the plaza? Kiyomi’s usual then the smoked chicken for me.”

 

“Gotcha, just let me get her fixed up a real fast.”

 

After Callum told her what to get us, Kelly helped me down onto the ground and lifted my shirt from the back.

 

“Callum, you need to seriously check with Hatsumi before beating on Kiyomi like this. She can’t do this without a dedicated healer.”

 

She scolded Callum, who was now standing back up straight, rolling his shoulders around as if to loosen some built-up tension.

 

“Don’t worry about that. I just needed to push her to actually swing as hard as she could. Now that I know where we stand, it's just going to be training on technique and stamina. Sparring that heavily again can wait till her first hunt.”

 

“Fuuuu, too-ah- afraid of getting your butt whooped by young blood old man?”

 

I found myself teasing as Kelly brought her hands to my back and began healing.

 

“Tch, if the whooping means Hatsumi assaulting me again after the wine incident, yeah. Plenty afraid.”

 

“Touché”

 

That was the first time I saw Mother actively direct her attention at something humanoid. It wasn’t fun, I actually felt really bad afterward for Callum.

“All done! Alright, you two, I’ll be back with your food in an hour max.”

 

“See you when you get back Kel’s.”

 

“Thank you, Miss Kelly!”

 

Kelly waved to the two of us as she left, headed out to fetch our meals now that our training was complete.

 

“So, Kiyomi, feel all there?”

 

Callum asked, reaching a hand out to help me back up.

 

“Still exhausted. Mama also won't be happy that my hair is messed up.”

 

“Ah bull, she can clean it up in the bath like she does any other time. You did good today; sorry I pressed you like that.”

 

He apologized as I took his hand, and he began pulling me up.

 

“It’s okay. I’d be like that too if I had to pay women just to talk to me.”

 

And then he proceeded to let go, and I fell back down.

 

“Ooof, stalker crap.”

 

I really hate that I can’t say ‘shit.’

 

Callum picked up the swords and started walking over to one of the benches he had outside his shop.

 

“Speaking of your mother, what was it she was doing on your off days again? I’m surprised that once you finished lessons with Lorn, she didn’t try to watch every time we trained.”

 

Callum asked, falling back into the bench and patting next to him, prompting me to join him. Looking to the bench, it was just under the shade of one of the trees left here. The breeze coupled with it made the perfect place to relax without leaving the city. Sitting next to him, my feet barely touched the ground, so I brought them up onto the bench with me and curling my tail around them.

 

“Mama’s been trying really hard to find some others for me to connect with. She hasn’t had an easy time, though. Only managed to meet one other kid so far, and she was -ah- -how do I put it?”

 

The kid was five and just wanted to play with dolls’, no thanks. I think I’m gonna have a hell of a time interacting with anyone thanks to this whole issue of my mindset not being proper for my body. Faking was easy with adults, other children, not so much.

 

“Not your type?”

 

“Yeah, that. She was much younger than me; I couldn’t blame mamma, though. She’s been trying really hard to find me some friends.”

 

“Damn, I can’t really relate to not having friends. My brother and I met Hatsumi and Chessa because we were all raised in the same village, so I never really was without friends.”

 

Yeah, thanks for pointing out my loneliness, dickhead.

“Eh, if I’m patient, then it won’t be as bad. I could just read or something to pass the time anyway.”

 

We eventually just started making small talk from then on out. While my view of Callum was mixed, he still wasn’t really a person that made bad company. He was quite nice to talk to actually. I had to watch where our conversations went, though. While we were both men in our mid-twenties mentally, we were in two clearly different states of mind and body. I didn’t want to give off any vibe of clearly knowing more than I should, so any amount of information that could out me as not entirely having amnesia had to be kept to my thoughts. This usually resulted in him trying to dumb things down excessively and me telling him he could be a bit more specific with how he talked. Our conversations would usually manage to revolve around normal animals or Callum telling me stories from when the ‘Revenants’ were all still kids themselves.

 

After roughly forty minutes of these back and forth conversations, Kelly rounded the corner with two cloth-wrapped parcels.

 

“Back with the sandwiches! Kiyomi, the vendor, gave me a vial for the au jus. He was sad that his favorite customer didn’t come by to order for herself.”

 

Au jus! Aw ye!

 

French dip sandwiches were my favorite for lunch both pre-war and post-war back on earth. I couldn’t get my hands on swiss here, but at least I could have most of the sandwich still. I nearly cried when I saw it and begged Hatsumi to take me every day for one for a week straight. Apparently, I’d become the vendor’s favored customer, he even wanted me to be his mascot, but I wasn’t too set on it.

 

“Anything else you two will need?”

 

Kelly asked, counting gold that Callum had just given her.

 

“Nah, we’re good from here, Kel’s. Have a good one.”

 

Callum answered, unwrapping his sandwich.

 

“You too, Callum, tell your mom I said ‘hi’ Kiyomi.”

 

“Yes, Miss Kelly, stay safe.”

 

“Always.”

 

With that, Kelly made her way back to the guild. Whilst myself and Callum continued eating our lunches.

This was soon to be our routine from here on out…minus the severe beating and healings…

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