Chapter 4 - "I am..."
Present Day: Year 523 A.B
Kahnyne knocks on the large set of reinforced wooden doors to the enclosure before opening them. The knock echoes throughout the room on the other side.
The walls are covered with various swords, shields, sets of armor, and an assortment of other items. Sunlight from the high windows illuminate the edges of the room brightly, while some parts of the room are bathed in soft shadows. In the center of the room, within a large square arena drawn in chalk, Sirian stands facing Kahnyne as he enters. Airis watches nearby at the arena’s edge.
Kahnyne steps into the arena and stops at an arm’s length from Sirian.
“The terms of this duel are simple and as follows: anything goes and the duel will be decided when one of you is incapacitated or at a checkmate.”
Airis raises her hand in preparation to start the match.
Kahnyne and Sirian point their palms towards each other’s chests.
“I consider myself a businessman before a noble, Kahnyne. Something has changed about you, but I am hoping to see that you aren’t all talk. And if you do win, this is the very room you’ll be training the boy in. But if you lose, the Calibrations will continue.”
“You will not be disappointed, sir.”
They lower their hands and separate, walking to opposite ends of the ring.
Airis quickly lowers her hand.
Sirian pivots on the ball of his foot, stirring the air around him and dashes towards Kahnyne in an attempt to flank his right side.
Kahnyne tries to hold his ground, firing a barrage of astral waves, but Sirian rapidly changes his pace, dodging them all without a scratch and closing the distance between them.
A flurry of punches overwhelm Kahnyne who narrowly evades them in the midst of looking for an opening. He leaps backwards, which prompts Sirian to fire a blast at him that he cannot evade in midair. It is the opening that he was looking for; before Sirian can fire, Kahnyne uses two powerful kicks. The first kick sends a wave of energy to strike Sirian’s leg, causing him to kneel and miss the blast he was preparing. It smashes against the ceiling of the enclosure sending a dusty, debris-filled shower below. The second propels him back towards the ground where he begins his counterattack.
Kahnyne drives his heel into Sirian’s blocking forearm with the force created by him being airborne. He knows the blow would have broken his arm, but he reinforces it with astral energy in the form of a gauntlet and rises back to his feet. Kahnyne doesn’t dare to let up his assault;
If Sirian can regain his balance, his speed at this distance will be a problem. He strikes at Sirian’s joints and follows up with a palmed attack to his chest sending him tumbling to the ground before he can retaliate.
Sirian rolls to avoid the blasts chasing him when suddenly they stop and he hits the wall of the training room. He looks up and sees Kahnyne forming a sword in his hands, his figure blocking the sunlight and casting a shadow over him.
Sirian reciprocates, easily blocking his attack, parrying and hitting him with the pommel of his sword with enough force to send him flying back into the center of the ring.
“How dare you, Kahnyne. To challenge me in swordplay,”
Sirian’s grip tightens on his weapon, and the blade shines a brighter and brighter purple until it burns a holy white.
“What type of game are you playing? Who do you think you are?”
Kahnyne rises to his feet, seemingly unfazed by the previous attack. With his right hand, he clutches his chest, in his mind, he rekindles the flame in his heart with an old promise etched upon his soul:
“Hinged and fastened by the paradigms of uniformity, I had believed everything in this world to be bland, black and white in color. Yet you, as powerless as you were, had torn all my expectations to pieces. In that moment so long, for you and for everything unknown and beautiful in this world I had yet to learn, I told myself that nothing would else escape my mind. Now, shamefully, here I am apologizing for my own fickleness. Return to me, unhinge yourself, scatter about… Book of Thoth”
“I am Kahnyne Einzloss, sir,” a book of astral energy flips to life in his hand in a viscous, yet calculated dance, “the Scholar.”
The pages begin to separate from the book and surround him.
A high-speed exchange begins. Sirian bolts straight towards Kahnyne, brandishing his sword in a stance that radiates the of generations of perfection that he has become so proud of. The loud bang of him breaking the sound barrier reverberates through the air with his first step.
A horde of pages flutter in his way to stop him; he chops and slashes at them, while simultaneously being cut himself by their razor-sharp edges.
Soon, no more remain except for the ones directly behind Kahnyne. Sirian continues his mad dash towards the eye of the storm, readying an attack for Kahnyne’s torso.
Right as Kahnyne is about to be cut, he moves the cover of his book and its remaining pages to where he would be struck.
Suddenly, at a speed faster than the limits of what the eyes can follow, Sirian changes the course of his blade, stopping just short of Kahnyne’s neck, when Airis calls out to them.
“The duel has been decided...”
Sirian smirks, lowering his blade and returning to a normal stance.
“You’ve been bested, Sirian.” she continues.
He turns to look at Airis in outrage, but at that moment he notices a purple glare behind him out of the corner of his eye. All of the pages that he thought he had slashed and destroyed now congregate in a mass filling his entire field of vision only inches behind him. He turns around completely to see that every page that he severed was not destroyed but only split into more pieces and pushed out of his quickly-changing field of vision, alluding to their destruction.
“I see... so it was over as soon as I was provoked then?”
“Based on what I saw, his attack moves as fast as he can think. At the position you two were in at your stalemate, the answer was clear.”
Airis averts her eyes from the sight in front her, no backhanded remarks, none of the usual venom in her fangs, only shock hidden beneath her poker face.
Sirian’s sword shatters in his hands from the immense pressure of his grip, he grits his teeth for a moment, but finds himself smiling. All he can do at this point is clap.
“Excellent. Truly excellent. As frustrating as this defeat may have been for my pride, I cannot deny that the Scholar has started his return. You may use this room starting tomorrow, and as promised, the calibrations are over.”
Kahnyne bows and all of the pages disappear.
“You have my thanks, sir.”
Sirian places a hand on his shoulder.
“Let’s save our thanks for when both ends of our deal are done.”
As he and Airis leave the room, she glances back at Kahnyne as the door closes behind her.
“Now then, let’s clean this room up a bit, shall we?”
Kahnyne tries to take a step forward towards the supply closet on the far end of the room, but is halted by a damp, aching pain where he was last struck.
Under his vest, blood has caked his shirt to his abdomen.
“Or perhaps I should tend to this first.”
Back at his room, Kahnyne sits on his bed to begin treating his wound.
“Just a bloody bruise, luckily,” he chuckles between several winces.
“I guess that went a lot better than I thought.”
As he finishes wrapping his bandage, an odd drowsiness overcomes him in his newly relaxed state, and after what feels like an extremely heavy blink to him, the daytime sun is replaced by the moonlit night sky. Urgent knocks on his door jolt him wide awake.
“Damn it, I fell asleep!” He thinks, messily throwing on the top half of his uniform.
Kahnyne quickly opens the door. “I apologize, I-“
There is no one in sight, but this scene is familiar to him. He looks down and sees Rai looking up at him with a concerned look on his face. Relief and slight guilt wash over him.
“Good evening, Rai! I’m sorry I must have dozed off earlier. Let’s talk as we walk,”
Kahnyne says, blocking Rai’s view of the bloody shirt on his bed and closing the door.
Rai remains silent.
They begin walking towards Rai’s room.
“Kahnyne, what happened?”
Rai asks, sounding almost afraid of an answer.
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” he pauses “,there’s blood on the bottom of your shirt.”
Kahnyne checks and sees that the blood from his wound must have leaked again when he hurried up from bed.
“I was worried. I hadn’t seen anyone since this morning, but something felt odd. A while after you left, it was like I could tell where you and someone else were. It felt like the feeling I get when I use my power. Did mother and father-“
Sensing the conclusion that Rai is coming to, Kahnyne politely interjects.
“I understand where you are coming from. However, there is no need to worry. Rejoice. Today was a good day, Rai. And starting tomorrow, you begin your real training.”
“You mean they actually listened?” Rai exclaims with glee.
“Wait, but what happened to you then?”
“Well, what you were feeling earlier was my soul in combat. When an Ahstralan is in touch with their sense of empathy,” Kahnyne places a hand on Rai’s head, “Or familiar with another person’s soul like in our case, it is possible to roughly sense each other’s whereabouts as well as their condition.”
The two of them arrive at Rai’s room, closing the door behind them to finish their discussion.
Rai sits on his bed.
“So, you were fighting one of them?”
“Yes and no, Rai. I was dueling your father. An honorable match with a deal attached.”
“I get it; but why?”
Kahnyne leans against one of the room’s walls and winces. The unchanged expression on Rai’s face is proof that he didn’t notice.
“I explained that you were ready to proceed, but his doubt wasn’t in you; it was in me. I may have been a bit ahead of myself, but feeling a bit like my old self again, I basically jumped at the chance once I saw that words weren’t enough for him.”
Despite the situation not being exactly lighthearted, Rai finds himself in childish awe of Kahnyne and his story.
Wow, so you must have won right? How strong are you, Kahnyne?”
“Normally, I stay away from power scaling as a means to stay humble, but I guess this leads directly into one of your upcoming lessons,” Kahnyne says with a smile.
Rai listens intently in both anticipation of learning and adding to the image of his idol, looking particularly cool to him at the moment leaning against his room’s wall.
“Years ago, in my prime, I reckon that I may have been able to hold my own against both your mother and father at the same time. But it’s not because I’m particularly physically strong. In fact, from what I hear your mother had your father and I beat in hand-to-hand. However, here’s the point,” Kahnyne explains, raising a finger.
Rai nods his head.
“There are seldom moments when you should treat a battle like raw mathematics, or ‘this is more than that’. It is much more like a game of evolving rock-paper-scissors or chess in most cases. And as such, broad knowledge and creativity are power.” he explains.
Rai raises his hand, smiling.
“A moment ago you said ‘in my prime’, but you’re not old, Kahnyne.”
“I suppose so, huh? I’m actually only two years older than your father, even though these bags under my eyes beg to differ.”
He laughs, using a finger to gently pull at the bottom of his eyelid.
“But we’ll save what I really meant for tomorrow. For now though, let’s catch up. Two years is a long time.”
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