Eternal Courage

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Chapter 14: A Guiding Flame

Saku was recovering from his burning pain that has been becoming more frequent and each time more severely. It was merely brief as Saku stood up straight looking much better but Aureline wondered “Saku are you okay? That looked rather painful”

“don’t worry I’ll be fine” said Saku although Aureline didn’t feel much relief

“It could be due to all the stress. You fought with Mia and then got attacked by Kieran” said Aureline “I feel a bit bad now”

“hey no sweat. If push comes to shove I can always just sit out the match” said Saku easing her worry slightly “so whose your opponent again?”

“That would be me”

They both turned to see a girl walking towards them. The girl, about seventeen, had fiery red hair in a very thick ponytail of hair down to her shoulders. She had blue eyes and her uniform was the same except black and grey. She had a slim figure with a well-endowed bust. As she spoke she seemed to have a lot of confidence in her words “So you the girl are my next opponent?”

“yes and you must be Jessamine” said Aureline in an unwary tone

“You can drop the attitude I was merely asking. I’m guessing you’re not the friendly type”

Aureline wanted to retort, she looked annoyed and angry but then it simply left her she could found no answer. As if Jessamine could sense this “hey it’s okay. I just get caught in the moment. I’m guessing you got the assist card too” Jessamine displayed a card with the word ALLY “I’ve decided…not to use mine. I couldn’t any trustworthy friends on my level. Which I meant…no aura-fighting friends” Saku could tell she tried to recover from her conceited comment “So have you decided to use yours?” Jessamine then looked at Aureline. Aureline appeared to be unable to answer but then Jessamine looked at Saku “It’s you isn’t it?” Saku nodded

“yeah that’s right. She just asked me. I’m Saku Stritos” he then gestured a hand towards her “nice to meet you”

Jessamine looked a bit awkward which Saku noticed “What’s wrong?” Jessamine saw his face and then shrugged off her uneasiness

“no sorry it’s my first time meeting a guy with manners” said Jessamine slightly shaking her hand with a smile “the name is Jessamine. I’m from an academy up far to the north” As Jessamine let go she observed him “hmm”

“What…what is it?”

“Your gaze hasn’t wandered down once” as she said that Saku looked down to her large chest “Oh strike that last comment” she said with a smirk and folding her arms “they are quite impressive aren’t they? It’s impolite to look you know”

“What do you expect me to do when you point it out?” said Saku annoyed with a red face to which Jessamine gave a sort of grin

“You have got a point sorry. So Saku do you mind if we talked for a minute…just quickly?”

“yeah just give me a moment” said Saku to which Jessamine nodded and walked ahead.

Saku then turned to Aureline. Aureline looked like she was lacking in energy “Aureline are you okay?” she looked startled

“yeah…I’m fine”

“are you sure okay? Because I’d be willing to help if you’d like” she gave a small smile which made Saku worry

“DOn’t worry I’ll be fine” said Aureline walking past him “I’m going to warm up. The fight will be on in twenty minutes…I’ll…see you there” Saku just watched her go with worry and pity in his heart

“That smile…it was…not even a proper smile”

As Saku walked the other way Jessamine was leaning against the wall waited “You wanted to talk to me? What about?” Jessamine had a slightly sad face and she appeared to be fidgeting

“It’s about Aureline” Jessamine looked to be having difficulty speaking “I’ll start with this. How well do you know her?” Saku was caught off-guard by her question and unprepared for her question. Saku began searching for the correct answer but…only one came to mind

“not much” as Saku said this more words came to mind “It’s like…she made this, I don’t know barrier all around her. It’s like all her life is in this barrier and…she doesn’t how to act outside it. She…tries to reach out but…it’s like…” Saku placed a hand over his heart “she doesn’t know…how to live outside it”

Jessamine just gave a nod and a sigh “so…it’s true” Jessamine turned towards Saku “me and…Aureline come from the same village you see. I didn’t know her personally but…I knew of her. The village where we came from, was strict in training their aura fighters. It was…hard but fair” she said reassuringly but then appeared to struggle to say the next part

“so…what about Aureline? I mean…you look fine” Jessamine for a brief moment turned pink “You don’t appear sad” Jessamine reacted a little

“Oh you mean…behavioural wise…” Jessamine cleared her throat “yes well…it’s not my place to say really about Aureline. But…you…seem like a genuinely good person to me”

Saku tilted his head “well thank you but…how did you know?”

“Your mannerisms” said Jessamine “You didn’t judge me at all and extended your hand. Plus your vibe feels rather good. That you’re not a drooling idiot like every other man on this campus. And…because you sound like you care about Aureline” Saku thought about this

“Well…I am worried about her. However more than anything I want to know why she is the way she is” Jessamine looked a little reassured but still looked rather down

“Like I said it’s not my place but…I need to say something” Jessamine appeared to be struggling “I know from hearing about you you’ve had a hard time, but you still had those who would help you”

“yeah…in the end I still had my family said Saku thinking about Aries, Lexi and his mother.

“Well…say hypothetically if you didn’t have anyone to help you…at all”

Saku wasn’t sure how to interpret this “so…what do you mean? That Aureline didn’t have a single person to help her?” as Saku was about to speak again “so no on-”Jessamine cut him off

“I’ll leave you to ponder. The last thing I want for you to worry” Jessamine’s tone picked up “because if anything I don’t want you to brood and be distracted” she now sounded confident and energetic “just keep being there when she does reach out”

“yeah, she does keep trying to reach out. The least I can do is be there when she does” Jessamine that jabbed his shoulder

“That’s the spirit but as minor warning. As soon as I get going, I may become a bit…over eager” Saku smirked in response as Jessamine walked on “I’ll see you in the fight” Jessamine waved to him as she left.

Jessamine walked along the corridor “see…what did I tell you?” she saw Ms Reapa waiting for her “What do you think of him?”

“he’s…definitely not what I expected. I think I may reconsider your offer after all Ms Reapa” said Jessamine “although the request you asked me to do…you still haven’t explained”

“don’t worry it’s not fixing the match or anything” said Ms Reapa reassuringly “I’d just like to hear your observation nothing more”

“Okay, that’s fine. You are aware though once I get going…I may be caught in the moment but I’ll do my best” Jessamine began to walk on “just have it ready by the time I finish”

The match was close to starting with the headmaster calling out, “let the fourth match be underway. From our own academy we have Aureline Dawn” Aureline wondered into the stands with a strange air of seriousness to her almost ignoring the cheers roaring from the crowds “and from the far north we have Jessamine Hayes” the cheers continued as she confidently strode out into the stands “now both of these people have been given the option of an assistant but only time will tell if they have used it. Now begin!”

With that Jessamine flexed her hands to which her hands seemed to be set alight by flames. Aureline rose her hands up and then behind her to make two almost-long daggers of purple. Then they began and charged. The match started off fiercely as a fire punch and aura dagger collided before deflecting each other off.

Jessamine had an almost unnatural grin “well at least you’re not slacking so how about I get started” Jessamine put her hands behind her and a leg forward, then in a single movement appeared a few feet behind Aureline “Friction flare!” Jessamine snapped her fingers to which a path of flames, from where she ran, rose up from the ground sending Aureline into the air.

Aureline simply rolled and landed on the feet, from the air, looking hardly affected. Jessamine looked quite pleased “You barely felt that I see. So bring it…come on I’m waiting” Aureline threw one of her daggers at Jessamine who simply ducked as it impaled into the ground “nah, ah, ha you have to do better than that” Jessamine opened her hand and clenched it as she waved it upwards. As she did a column of fire burst from the ground to Aureline…who strangely vanished from sight “What the…?” suddenly Aureline appeared where her second dagger was and then sliced at Jessamine’s back.

Jessamine flinched from the slice which allowed Aureline to grab her shoulder. Jessamine appeared to be getting a little weak just from Aureline’s touch then Aureline let go and side-kicked Jessamine along the floor. Jessamine quickly recovered and attempted to shoot a flame…but it was rather small and weak. However as Aureline thrust a hand forward a purple like flame burst out of her hand forcing Jessamine to dodge.

Jessamine was jumping and avoiding the purple flames that Aureline was firing. Marina noted this “I wasn’t aware that Aureline was a fire user as well”

“I don’t know Marina” said Scarlet “there’s something…not quite right about these flames” Aureline began to cringe and stagger in place

“I suggest letting go” said Jessamine “You know as well as I do you can’t take the strain…especially that power anyway” Aureline grimaced and relaxed her hand to which a purple flame seemed to seep away landing on the floor. As Aureline let go of the flame she ran forward with Jessamine running at her. The two pulled their hands back and together each landed a punch in each other’s faces, the clash resulted into the two being sent along the ground.

The two got quickly got up wiping their chins, Aureline having an odd smile “wow, it’s about time I finally got a challenge. I might be able to enjoy myself”

“Same here Aureline” said Jessamine “It’s about time I could let myself go” she produced her flames and Aureline held her daggers. “so how about this?” Jessamine fired two balls of flame forward

“yes I am going to enjoy myself” said Aureline in a scary tone “so I’m going to let you have this” she threw her two aura daggers directly at the flames. Then both Jessamine and Aureline put their hands together before speaking together

“secret art...” then they both spread their hands making their flames and knives, respectively, turn into hundred duplicates “hundred duplication!”

Suddenly a hundred flames and knives materialised both going for their intended targets however instead of a collision the flames and knives passed through each other…but not unaffected. The flames took on a purple shade while the daggers appeared to be on fire. Both girls were pelted by the hundred attacks both being covered in smoke.

Both girls materialised from the smoke, badly injured and somewhat fatigued. As they stood up straight, shakily, their second warnings came up. Jessamine looked at it “That must have hurt. We skipped the first warning and went straight to the second” Aureline looked a bit worse “it didn’t help that our attacks strengthened each other’s but this is where it ends” Jessamine raised her arms and then thrust them down becoming covered in a yellow flame.

As Aureline looked at Jessamine her eyes widened and seemed to be filled with fear “I am going to burn you and end this battle” as Aureline looked on, an image kept flashing before her eyes “now…for my special move” the flame from Jessamine extruded upwards and formed a sort of jagged head “Searing Scorcher!” the jagged flame-like head then seemed to spew searing yellow flames at Aureline which went along the ground. Aureline wanted to move but her body remained paralysed and frozen. All she could see was a vast dark forest surrounded by flames rooting her to the ground

“No…No…please…someone” as the flames approached her she suddenly felt something grab her and move her out of the way as the flames scorched the ground where she was.

Mia from her place had a small smile “I have a feeling that’s where Saku was”

“At this rate” said Sophie “Saku is going to wear himself out at this rate with all the continuous matches”

“I have a feeling that…Jessamine knows this” said Mia making both Anastasia and Sophie turn to her

“how do you know that?” asked Anastasia

“call it…intuition”

As the flames missed Aureline she looked up to see Saku holding her “are you alright?” she didn’t respond as he looked at the black scorch mark “jeez she wasn’t kidding about being over eager” Aureline then looked annoyed and pushed Saku away

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Saku was taken aback by her tone “I didn’t call for your help nor do I need it” Jessamine looked at Aureline and thought

“She’s just as bad as I thought. I’ve got to push it along”

ohhh it looks like the partners are having a squabble” mocked Jessamine “This fight is still on you know” Aureline stood up and charged at Jessamine with aura daggers in hand

“yes you’re right. So let’s keep going” she left Saku behind.

Aureline began slicing at Jessamine who was, with some ease, avoiding Aureline’s attacks “yes, yes come on. As soon as I hit you, I will be able to enjoy myself” said Aureline in a slightly possessed tone “now come on, let me see your pain” Jessamine with a snigger tripped up Aureline

“oops your falling over” Jessamine then thrust her hands into Aureline “let me help you fall…harder!” Jessamine let loose a strong burst of flames sending Aureline flying through the air. As Aureline flew through the air Saku ran to her and managed to catch but the momentum of her flight path made Saku scrape backwards by his feet.

Saku cringed as he stopped and put her down “dam my body hurts. It doesn’t help we’re already past seventy-percent” he then put Aureline down “hey are you alright?” Aureline looked bewildered

“why…why did you?” asked Aureline bewildered

“Well…you were about to land hard on the ground” said Saku while Aureline then clenched her hand “so I just naturally…” Aureline then punched him in the face

“I’ve told you before I don’t need your help!” mostly of the audience was in shock “now leave me alone!” with that Aureline resumed her fight.

Saku was rubbing his cheek while Anastasia frowned on Aureline “how dare she strike him. Saku is her partner!”

“I don’t see why Saku even bothers” said Sophie equally as annoyed while Mia watched on. As this point Aureline had managed to deflect Jessamine backwards

“I don’t think so Aureline” Jessamine said as she then spread her whole body, coating it in flames and then flew through the air to Aureline. Aureline once again was helpless but at the last moment a beam of white hit Jessamine knocking her of course.

Jessamine landed without much injury while Aureline once again looked dazed but then turned angry as she marched over to Saku “Do I really need to repeat myself?” Saku noticed something odd as he watched her “I work alone! I don’t need help…especially not from you! So you tell me why do you feel the need to keep interrupting?”

“Because your my friend!” said Saku with great strength and determination. The strength of his voice seemed to shock Aureline

“Your…my…friend?” Mia looked at Aureline’s face

“Aureline…if there’s anyone who can come close to feeling your pain…it’s Saku. Don’t push him away”

Aureline seemed well and truly lost by this comment “I don’t…understand” a swirl of different emotions filled up throughout Aureline as her fists clenched “no…no” she then began punching Saku who just blocked her attacks “No I do better by myself…I’ve…always been by myself. I don’t need anyone…and least of all…you!” as Aureline threw her last punch…Saku caught it.

Aureline’s arm trembled and her eyes shook as she fell to her knees “I don’t…need anyone…”

“Her barrier is shattering before my eyes. Saku is really close…just got to push it Jessamine put her hands out and together

“alright you two…this is the end!” a ball of swirling flames began forming and growing in size “with this shot, it marks the end of this match!” the sphere was about 4ft in diameter as Aureline and Saku looked towards it “now time to lose…Chaotic Flames!” a large torrent like beam of flames shot of the sphere. Saku looked to the incoming surge and then, quickly, shielded Aureline from the flames with his body by holding her.

Saku cringed from the flames which hit his whole back, holding Aureline to make sure she wasn’t getting hurt. Aureline was dumbfounded. Why? Is he shielding me? Doesn’t he get it that I’ll feel it too…huh? She gasped as she saw an aura glove on the ground “That’s…his!” Aureline looked at Saku’s face as he cringed against the fierce flames “he’s…really shielding me?” she shook her head and began trying to shake him off “Saku…Saku let go of me! I told you I don’t need you!”

“I’m not letting go” said Saku again determined “I won’t let you get hurt”

“Why…Why go all to all this much trouble for me?”

“I’ve told you already…your my friend Aureline!” said Saku. Aureline just looked shocked.

Saku then began to speak “Aureline…I know you aren’t angry. If anything…you’re sad. I saw it…when you struck me. Your arm was trembling and your eyes were full of fear” it seemed Saku had guessed right as Aureline eyes widened “It’s horrible isn’t it? Being alone. It’s drives you mad, when no-one is around to show you the way out of the dark”

“No…no you’re wrong”

Aureline once more began squirming but Saku stubbornly still shielded her from the flames “You don’t know what’s it like” her voice sounded forced and almost scared “At least you had a family, I…I didn’t have anyone” her angry image turned fragile “so how could you know? How could you?”

“Your right…I don’t know. It’s true I probably only feel partially what you’re going through…but that just gives me more reason” he then ease his grip slightly around her “I know of the pain of being alone…so I can only think of how much it hurts for you”

Aureline was in shock and as her anger simply petered out. Her eyes were widened, her body shook and her arms just dropped down to her sides. The flames has also died down as Jessamine’s fatigue caught up with her. Jessamine was breathing heavily still in pose but then fell to her knees. As Saku came away Jessamine saw Aureline’s face and secretly cheered in her mind. “Come on Saku…Come on you can do it”

Saku cringed a little but looked at Aureline with a smiling face “Aureline. Like I said I don’t know what you’re going through, but more than anything…I want to be there for you. I want to help you…just like you did me” Aureline looked stunned as Saku looked at her “during that day, when all my friends were injured…I felt really lost. I was in a dark place and unable to think or see anything. Then you came along”

Saku had a wide and pure smile “You didn’t know how to cheer me up but you still tried anyway. I was so happy…that you were worried about me. That’s when I decided to be your friend.” Saku then gently embraced her “I won’t let you be alone anymore. You want to be angry…be angry, if you want to be sad…be sad just know I’ll be there to listen. Whenever you want. As your friend”

Aureline’s whole body was stiff and frozen. Every word that Saku spoke had etched their way into her brain. As your friend, was constantly repeating in a gentle volume all throughout her mind. To Aureline, the world was dark place within a sort of dome. On the outside were the muffled voices of people and the bright shade of light. To Aureline she was trapped within this dome of which she couldn’t leave…or hope to leave. She would reach out, hoping someone would grab her hand…and guide her out of this dark place but…nothing would happen.

Aureline slowly regressed into the darkness and began to accept it as her way of life but then suddenly through the bubble…a hand emerged. The hand gave a gentle vibe of warmth and light but for Aureline this hand was a mere intrusion in her dark home. She kept pushing it away but the hand would keep coming back, neither forcing her or asking her to take it. It just remained there, the hand scared her but…she felt a sense of longing…one she yearned for, for so long.

Aureline slowly reached out for the hand, her trembling as she reached towards it. She would inch forwards and then retreat it out of fear but still slowly moved towards it. Aureline then gently rested her hand on the golden hand which gently enclosed it’s fingers and then with a grip pulled her out of the darkness…and into the bright light. Her eyes were blinded by the light but she could a warm feeling surround her. Then within the light a voice spoke clearly “You’re my friend” with these words…the many years of sadness, and pain, began to emerge in her eyes, before the world dimmed and the stadium came back into view.

Aureline was now quietly crying, with much fragility and weakness while Saku held her gently. All the pain she seemed to have kept hidden just poured out of her eyes, landing softly on her clothes or floor. From the stands Sophie looked at Aureline weeping and felt much sympathy “she looks…so frail in Saku’s arms”

“Yeah I know” said Anastasia weepy eyed “It’s like...picturing a once great wall that is crumbling before our eyes. Revealing…just a scared girl behind in”

“Aureline was…one of the people I rescued” said Mia somewhat sadly her “when I found her, her clothes were tattered and her body covered in scrapes and bruises. Mentally she had closed herself off to the world aswell. All I know is…when I found her…she had been there…for a very long time”

Back down at the grounds Aureline was still gently crying when Jessamine walked over. Saku looked up at her “hey Jessamine” Jessamine face looked a mixture of happy and relieved “I think you win this match, Aureline needs a bit of time right now” Saku raised his hand up high signalling surrender

“Well that’s the fourth match folks” called out the Headmaster “Since Aureline’s partner has surrendered Jessamine wins by default” as the crowd cheered Jessamine knelt down to Aureline

“Saku…thank you” Saku felt as if a great worry had been lifted from Jessamine’s heart “I can finally make my decision now all the easier” Saku looked confused but still smiled

“I’m glad I could help” he stood up and gently held onto Aureline “I’ll take Aureline up to my friends” Jessamine looked at Saku

“look after her okay? Since you’ll be seeing more of me, I’ll belt you one if you don’t” Saku nodded “well I’ll take my leave” she began to walk away “I’ll see you later” Jessamine glanced back “Good for Aureline, good for you”

As Jessamine approached the hallway she watched Saku guide Aureline down the other one. “Well how was he?” Jessamine turned to Ms Reapa, who was waiting for her, to which Jessamine smiled

“Much more than I ever thought…and to answer your previous question…it’s yes. I am not missing out on this opportunity that’s for sure” Ms Reapa smiled and folded her arms

“I had a feeling you would say that. Now as for the observation…” Jessamine looked oddly serious “I take it you confirmed my suspicions”

“yeah I did”

“Then…I am going to need your help more than anything” Jessamine looked serious and confused

“The way you’re saying it’s very bad but…you still haven’t told me what it is yet”

Ms Reapa didn’t reply to her question to which Jessamine took the hint “It’s beyond the point of being bad isn’t it?” Ms Reapa nodded “so why do you feel I can help?”

“call it…an emergency…if things transpire as I think”

“Okay well I’m going to go relax” said Jessamine stretching “and join my new friend on the stands” Ms Reapa smiled then looked onto the stands

“That’s another person, or rather two, that Saku has now changed. The first step is always the most difficult…Aureline. But after that with some help…it’s easy from there on out”

Saku was guiding Aureline up to the stairs and reached the third floor. Aureline then spoke “wait…please for one moment” Saku then let her go. As she looked at him she felt her hand through her purple hair “I…like to say…sorry” Saku tilted his head “it was for…striking you before. You were…only trying to help me and yet…”

“don’t worry about it” said Saku surprising her “it didn’t hurt that much” Aureline still looked ashamed “do you feel any better?” she looked a bit unsure

“I…don’t know yet. It’s like I can finally see the world and I’m just…wary”

“Don’t worry Me, Sophie, Anastasia and Mia will be there with you” she looked really nervous “It’s alright…” he gestured a hand out “we’ll take it slowly” Aureline looked at his face and gingerly reached a hand out. She then gently gripped Saku’s hand as they walked into the stands.

The two emerged at the top with Sophie, Mia and Anastasia waiting. Aureline was still nervous “hey girls. I brought a friend to sit with us” for Aureline it was a rather awkward moment “I thought it would be alright for her to join us”

“don’t worry that’s fine” said Mia smiling “come on and sit down” Mia tapped on the space next to her to which Aureline sat there. Saku sat in his seat next to Sophie and Anastasia

“So Aureline…are you okay?” asked Saku

“Yeah…I guess” replied Aureline

“hey Aureline…” said Sophie trying to find the right words “do you know you were really good out there?” this surprised Aureline “the way you teleported and made all those knives. That was really cool”

“She’s right you know” said Saku “it was like seeing a ninja at work”

“Saku…aren’t ninja’s” said Anastasia thinking “the ones badly garbed in black and red”

“Are you referring to the ones in manga books?” asked Saku “Ninja’s don’t always dress like that you know”

“Oh like your one to talk” said Sophie “knowing you, the only ninja’s you know of are the turtle kind” Saku chuckled and rubbed his head

As Aureline heard the comment Saku saw she gave a small smile. “That smile is so much better…than the one before. So Aureline do you think you could show me that cloning trick sometime” Aureline still smiling gave a small nod

“Yes of course Saku” as Saku watched her smile

“Don’t forget there is always me too” Saku then turned to his left seeing Jessamine sat closely next to him

“Ah…Jessamine?” he said surprised

“hey there Saku…” she was leaning very close to him making Saku nervous “do you mind if I sit here?” Anastasia seemed to look annoyed

“You don’t have to be so close you know” said Anastasia

“I wasn’t asking you princess” retorted Jessamine “I was asking him” Anastasia looked quite perturbed

“all I’m saying is, you could give him a little breathing space”

“Why? Saku doesn’t appear to mind having a lovely girl” said Jessamine with pride and flicking her red ponytail “sitting next to him. Not some upstuck princess” Anastasia stood up annoyed

“At least i have some manners and if anyone is the beautiful one" Anastasia did the same thing as she felt through her hair and folded her arms under her chest "its me"

Then the two glared at one another with the sparks almost visible. Then a new sound broke off their glare…a gently and good sound. They all turned to see Aureline chuckling with a smile. Jessamine looked happy “It’s nice enjoying your time with friends…isn’t it Aureline?” Aureline looked unwary

“of course it is” said Mia surprising her “Your one of our friends now Aureline” Mia placed a hand on Aureline’s shoulder “and don’t forget…okay?” Aureline rubbed her eyes while still smiling. Jessamine looked very relieved

Good for you Aureline…good for you.

In a dorm room, in the academy, Scarlet was on a laptop looking through some files “I hope that girl realises what it is I’m doing. I mean why the urgency” she then found something and scanned through “well…it exists that much is certain. But why would Marina want me to find this?” she then heard a small chime on her laptop “hey I got mail…just click here and…huh? It’s the image of the house from before”

Scarlet clicked on the image and found the picture, of the burning house, was now completely clear and easily visible “so what is it I’m…huh…what…what is this!?” she saw vast red flames engulfing the house but what caught her attention was the object at the centre “Esto es malo, esto es muy malo, this is extremely bad!” Scarlet closed her laptop “I’ve got to get to Marina…otherwise everyone could be in grave danger”

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