Eternal Courage

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Chapter 20: The Shadows Lengthen

The academy was proceeding as normal with standard lessons now resuming. The situation surrounding Saku had now calmed to a point where the students didn’t jump as much as Saku turned a corner notice but they would still give Saku glances as he turned his backs to them. Saku had also become more comfortable as his friends continued to support him. Saku friends had become happier following yesterday’s events…but for one of his friends…she had many worries.

Anastasia couldn’t help but think at the conversation she had overheard the night before “Why didn’t Saku simply turn down Kieran’s invitation? Hasn’t he seen the extremes that the shadow league is willing to go to. Kieran must’ve really appealed to Saku. Kieran did sound very sincere, I bet he too must feel some hatred towards those who caused him pain…but Saku can’t”

Anastasia…Anastasia” Anastasia snapped out of her daze to see Sophie calling to her “It’s time to go the lesson is over”

“Oh sorry, I was somewhere else just then. So what should we do today Saku?” Saku was also lost in thought “Saku…hello?”

“huh…oh sorry what?” Mia behind them noticed Saku’s and Anastasia’s reactions

“You two seem…distracted today”

Jessamine who was sat next to Aureline heard this and rushed downwards “have you two been…meeting in secret?” said Jessamine before then looking annoyed “look Princess, if you been meeting my Saku in secret. You are mincemeat so fess up. You had a private get together, trying the one up on us all!” Anastasia then looked annoyed but didn’t rise up

“No we didn’t for your information. Besides what I would gain from one upping you? I just have a lot on my mind that’s all” Jessamine closely observed her Anastasia’s face

“hmm…you look sincere” said Jessamine “alright I’ll ask you then Saku. Did Princess knock on your door?”

“No she didn’t. I was…on my own” Anastasia narrowed her eyes “Anastasia didn’t meet up with me”

Jessamine leaned in very close to Saku but his expression didn’t change “well you aren’t nervous so you’re not lying”

“Interesting interrogation tactic” said Mia walking down “So Saku, what is on your mind then?” Saku looked away from everyone

“well…it’s…complicated” said Saku “And the fact…we still have a seat missing” Mia folded her arms and looked serious

“Jason haven’t been seen since the tournament. I’ve also heard Ivy has gone missing too. How about you Aureline?” asked Mia

“I’ve heard that Ivy and Jason are sick but that’s it. No-one has seen hide or hair of them” Jessamine then pressed her hand to her chin in thought

“You don’t think…they were kidnapped do you?”

This idea had a unsettling effect on the group as Jessamine spoke “don’t forget I was kidnapped by some garbed people”

“That was when Saku rescued you right?” asked Sophie receiving a nod “You also said they had almost drained your aura too. But now that I think about it…how did they do that? And why?” this question hadn’t occurred among the group with Anastasia thinking

“Aura is essentially blood in one form” said Anastasia “the only way to drain aura…is through voluntary means”

“which means” said Mia “tiring yourself out or draining your aura dry. Jessamine do you remember anything at all?”

“nope” said Jessamine shrugging her arms “only a sensation of a needle”

“Which is also rather silly too” said Mia in serious thought “although it supposedly possible to store aura power, it immediately disperses and dissipates once left the body”

The tone of the group was lost in confusion until Mia spoke “well it’s no use thinking about. You can’t solve a crime, when there’s no clues to work on. So we should leave it be for now” Sophie nodded and smiled

“yeah she’s right” said Sophie “Anyway we should resume training…all of us”

“twin-tails has got a point” said Jessamine while Sophie pouted at her nick-name “We have got a tournament to win after all. And I’ve heard they are almost done with the new in-door tournament grounds”

“Well, shall we go then?” said Mia happily “it’ll help if we keep each-other in good condition” with several nods the group funnelled their way out of the classroom.

The large group were all gathered in the training hall pairing off into sets of twos. They were each generally sparring or exercising their aura powers making sure they were in tip-top condition. Jessamine and Aureline were fighting each other and practising their special techniques. Anastasia paired up with Mia. Anastasia would practise her power while Mia would traverse the plants and vines she made. Sophie and Saku were generally practising combat techniques and aura abilities.

Sophie noticed Saku was still in thought as they practised “Saku…has something happened recently?” asked Sophie as Saku dodged her blow and struck back

“You could…say that I guess” Sophie deflected his attacks at the wrist “I’m just…worried about the future. I mean, I can still feel everyone’s eyes all looking at me when I so much as turnaround”

“You’re still bothered about that aren’t you? What about your power is that still bothering you”

“well not as much I guess” said Saku with a hint of hesitation “well it’s my power, I’ve got to accept it”

“That’s the spirit” said Sophie encouragingly “just take it one step at a time” Sophie had deflected Saku backwards “alright shoot me with a beam” Sophie surrounded herself in a tornado of air while Saku prepared to fire a beam.

As Saku charged his energy sphere he remembered Kieran’s invitation. What should I do? No it’s obvious I should turn it down. Saku tried to get serious as his energy blast pulsed in his hands. But…will the world really accept me? I mean, the whole world ridiculed me. This whole academy and even my own family fear me. If only I didn’t have that seal placed…then. Sophie noticed Saku was distracted

“Saku…Saku…Saku!” Saku jumped from the volume of her voice and unintentionally fired his beam. The beam however wasn’t aimed properly as it went past Sophie towards Anastasia

“Anastasia look out!” called Saku but Anastasia didn’t notice the beam coming towards her as it hit her.

Everyone gathered round Anastasia as she was enveloped in the smoke of the blast. Mia jumped down from a thick vine to Anastasia “Anastasia…Anastasia are you alright?” the smoke cleared to show Anastasia completely unharmed with her arms crossed

“hey Princess? You know you’re alright…right?” said Jessamine with Anastasia noticing this. Anastasia checked herself over

“I’m not even hurt. No I’m absolutely fine” Sophie breathed out in relief

“That’s a relief” Sophie then looked at Saku annoyed “You’ve got to be careful Saku. You could really hurt someone” Saku then rushed to Anastasia

“look…I’m really sorry about that”

Anastasia smile reassuring him “look see I’m fine. I’m not hurt anyway”

“thank goodness” said Saku in relief while Jessamine looked worried

“Whatever is bugging you is really eating at you isn’t it?” said Jessamine “are you feeling okay?” Mia then walked to him

“come on, let’s go for some air” Saku just nodded as Mia guided him out, Anastasia looking worriedly at him

He’s really giving that offer some thought isn’t he? Saku must feel he can relate to Kieran from what he said” Jessamine then spoke

“What’s the matter with him anyway?”

“No idea” said Aureline “he must just be feeling uncomfortable. It doesn’t help with the whole academy staring at him. Although it’s odd Anastasia that you didn’t get even get hurt”

“yeah…me too” said Anastasia looking at Mia and Saku walking away.

Mia had led Saku to the outside campus of the academy. The day was sunny and the sky was clear. Mia stretched her arms “breathe that clean air. I prefer places away from the city, without all the fumes and smoke”

“Yeah…I guess so” said Saku quietly “I’m just…a bit lost”

“Can you tell me what’s eating you please?” asked Mia

“well…I got asked something. Something…particularly life changing” Mia was trying to analyse his words “It’s the kind of question I would have said no to…if events haven’t had transpired”

“I’m…not quite sure I understand. But basically due to recent events…you don’t know how to answer this question” Saku nodded “What…was the question?” Mia slowly asked.

As Saku was about to open his mouth “Saku…Saku!” the two noticed Lexi calling to them “there you are” Mochi was also alongside Lexi

“Big Brother hello” she waved to him

“hey there Mochi. What are you two doing here?” asked Saku

“I came to give her to you” said Lexi, wearing no jumper, “I’ve got my own training to do and I can’t babysit at the same time”

“Same for me you know” said Saku a little annoyed by her behaviour

“I think I need it a bit more than you” said Lexi flicking her hair “All the training for you is going to be a waste of time. I mean as soon as you meet me, you’ve pretty much lost”

Saku reacted to this and went to her “Why are you so certain that you’re going to win? For all you know, I could be the one to beat you” Lexi let out an obnoxious laugh

“You beat me, that I’d like to see” Lexi prepared herself in a fighting stance “come on, let’s see how good you’ve become” Saku flexed his arms and prepared himself too. Mia then gestured to Mochi

“Mochi come on out of the way” Mochi nodded and ran to her “these two definitely don’t get along”

“Are they going to fight?” asked Mochi

“yes but it’s only a innocent sparing match” Mochi nodded reassured.

The stood a few steps away from each other and then…Lexi started. Lexi began rushing in thrusting punches and blows to which Saku easily deflected and blocked before kicking her in the chest sending her backwards. Lexi flipped in the air and landed on her feet as Saku rushed in. Saku began striking with Lexi blocking his attacks but then Saku with a low sweep tripped her up before then grabbing her leg and throwing her through the air.

Lexi use her hands to springboard off the floor to land on her feet. Lexi grinned “it seems you’ve improve a little so…” Lexi’s body generated the green electricity “let’s continue” with improved speed Lexi began striking out at Saku who to her surprise was easily dodging her attacks “will you hold still” Lexi send forward a forward right hook which Saku blocked but the force made him jump backward scraping along the floor.

“You’re cutting it kind of rough aren’t you Lexi?” said Saku with Lexi thrusting her arms forward

“Time for your shock treatment” Lexi then struck Saku with a powerful stream of green lightning. Saku was jerking and twitching from the voltage with Lexi sniggering “I think it’s time you give up now Saku” Saku grimaced from the shocking “I told you it was pointless” Saku became irritated by her words and began resisting her lightning.

Saku slowly got down to his knees and placed one hand on the grass. Then Saku didn’t seem to jerk from the lightning anymore which Lexi noticed “What the?” Lexi then looked at the grass around Saku’s hand to see it jerking “Dam, he’s using the earth to simply guide my lightning” Saku then fired a small beam at Lexi who had to drop her lightning strike to dodge it. Saku got back up off the ground, his body still tingling from the voltage

“so much for that Lexi” said Saku confidently “now it’s my turn” Saku flexed his body producing his white and red aura. Lexi saw this and flinched

“It feels…more powerful than before. But he shouldn’t pose a problem” Lexi put her clenched hands together producing her plasma shield “bring it!” Mia looked at Lexi

“something feels…off. Lexi I know is confident but she’s letting her ego drive her. It as if…she firmly believes she’s the stronger one” Saku was meanwhile held out his hand upwards. Threads of his aura began forming together a swirling sphere of white and red.

Saku had finished and pulled his arm back “let’s see how you cope against this Lexi. Here catch” Saku thrust his hand forward sending the swirling energy at Lexi. Lexi snickered

“You might have smashed it with your aura fist before…but you can’t with that aura blast. Bring it!” the ball collided with her shield rapidly spinning against her shield. Lexi found the force of the sphere to be strong as she felt herself pushed backwards “What is it…with this…thing? How…my lightning should be frying it?” Lexi then found her plasma shield to be cracking “no way…it’s not possible” then suddenly the shield smashed “it can’t be” she found herself hit hard the sphere sending her along the ground.

Saku looked at Lexi “Lexi come on get up. I know that didn’t hurt you, that sphere was just made for force not damage” Lexi wasn’t hurt but was in shock

“He…smashed…my shield” Lexi got up looking pretty angry “How did you do that!? That shield is impregnable to all long-range attacks”

“Until now” corrected Saku to which Lexi lost it

“You should be respecting me Saku!” Lexi crossed her arms and produced her green gauntlets while Mochi began to become scared

“Mia…Lexi is beginning to get really scary” Mia noted her very angry look

“Why is Lexi so angry? I don’t think it was her shield being smashed…I think…it’s actually Saku”

“now let’s continue” said Lexi about to charge forward but then

“Lexi knock it off!”

Lexi turned to Aries who was marching towards her not happy “What are you doing?” Lexi grimaced “I’ve been watching you for the last ten minutes what’s wrong with you?”

“nothing” said Lexi relaxing herself “we were…just sparring”

“That’s sparring?” said Aries putting her hands on her sides “I’ve seen normal fights less violent than that. You too Saku, you got a bit carried away. I mean look at Mochi” Mochi looked a bit afraid as she hid partially Mia.

Saku breathed out and relaxed as his aura dissipated and turned to Mochi “sorry Mochi, I didn’t mean to scare you. I just got a bit carried away” Mochi nodded while Aries turned to Lexi

“so do you mind telling me what happened here?” Lexi didn’t answer

“I’ll tell you” said Saku “she said she was giving me Mochi so she could train. Then Lexi said I don’t need to train since it won’t matter” Aries looked annoyed

“Lexi, do you mind me telling what’s wrong?”

“Just trying to intimidate him that’s all” said Lexi avoiding eye-contact. Aries sighed

“well at least it’s over” meanwhile on the roof of the academy Chloe was watching them. Chloe then took out a speaker

“the new recruit is safely outside and away from the impact zone. Good” said Chloe before grinning “commence the operation”

Aries clapped her hands “alright come on everyone. Let’s go inside for a drink” but as they were about to start suddenly loud booms could be heard all from the academy. Everyone could feel the ground almost shake

“What’s going on?” said Mia “it sounds like a thunderstorm” then as they looked they saw blue-red smoke coming out from all the windows and doors “What is that…it looks like gas?”

“it looks like the gas that hit you all when that Magatsu guy showed up” said Saku as the gas seemed to quickly disperse and disappear

“come on let’s go inside” said Aries as all of them rushed to the academy.

Saku, Mia with Mochi, Aries and Lexi rushed back to the training hall to see the girls coughing from the smoke. Aureline and Sophie were on their knees looking very tired, Jessamine wasn’t coughing as badly and Anastasia seemed unaffected. Saku rushed over “is everyone alright?”

“I…don’t know” said Sophie “I feel…drained for…some reason”

“so do I…” said Aureline a little weakly “I don’t know…what’s wrong”

“What about the rest of you?” asked Aries

“well, I feel alright besides the near asthma attack” said Jessamine “And princess looks unfazed” Saku knelt down to Sophie

“how you doing?”

“I just feel…drained” she said “Can you help me up?” Sophie looked a bit unsteady leaning forward

“whoa steady” said Saku pushing her upwards.

Saku then reacted which Mia noticed in his expression “Saku…what’s the matter?”

“It’s strange but…” said Saku “I can’t feel her aura power” everyone looked a bit surprised “This is so weird”

“Well Two-tails did just she was feeling drained?” said Jessamine “did she have her aura taken away?” Saku shook his head

“no...I don’t think so. I mean if she did she would be in a similar state to what you were Jessamine, near-dead” Jessamine nodded in agreement

“well whatever that stuff was” said Mia “it had the radius and thickness to affect this entire academy” than an obnoxious and familiar voice could be heard

“give the girl a gold star”

The group turned to see Kieran walking to them from a hallway “You…the small group are the only ones unaffected by the jamming cloud. Although oddly I wasn’t expecting this many”

“He has got a point” this came from Chloe who strutted alongside Kieran with a head of silver and stripy blonde hair “At the very best only the Stritos family, Mia and the girl” directing at Mochi who was hiding behind Aries “would be unaffected. What do you think…vice leader?” from the right of Kieran strolled a face which brought a tone of anger to Saku

“Magatsu!”

Izanagi, known to Saku as Magatsu was wearing a dark suit, with a red tie over black neat pants with short dark hair. Notably his right hand was wrapped in bandages “I think it’s rather intriguing how some resisted the…chemical. It warrants investigation…but for a later date”

“Magatsu…what are you doing here?” said Saku in a bitter tone. Chloe heard the name and snickered as her hair turned orange

“Magatsu…really?”

“I think it’s only fair since we’re not hiding anymore” Izanagi bowed a little “I am Izanagi the vice leader”

“So you’re the vice leader” said Aries also serious “of the shadow league” then a new voice emerged

“The shadow league…I quite like that name”

A feeling of dread and evil seemed to be spreading throughout the room. The group of three then separate for a new person to emerge “The shadow league suits us quite well I think”

“and you would be?” asked Jessamine

“I am…the supreme leader of what shall be known as the shadow league” the supreme leader was a fairly tall and well-built individual. The Supreme leader was wearing black leather-like pants and a long sleeved grey jumper with a brown cloak, draping down the back. The supreme leader seemed to wearing a mask, which covered the whole head, only showing the eyes and mouth.

The supreme leader spoke in a masculine tone “Hmm…it seems a rather larger group than I anticipated remained unaffected by the incident”

“What have you done to Sophie and Aureline?” demanded Mia

“It’s not just those two…Mia Anslette” said Izanagi “but this whole school. Although don’t worry…there’s no harm”

“The blue and red gas cloud that you saw” said Kieran “is a special kind of agent that can negate the B.U.S within every person who breathes it. Symptoms include feeling of weakness like those two”

“Although alas” said Izanagi shrugging his arms “It’s only temporary. The students should regain their powers in a couple of days”

This seemed to confuse everyone “Then what’s the point!?” demanded Anastasia

“it because…they are helpless to resist us” said Chloe “and then…we can ascend as the powerful beings of this world...starting with this academy as our battle ground…and research centre”

“so…in English” said Aries looking annoyed “You wish to use these students as guinea pigs?”

The supreme leader walked a few steps forward “B.U.S the natural energy that flows within every person. It grants a user a level of power far higher than an average human. But just like with any kind of power…there are those who squander…and fear it”

“What do you mean?” asked Mia while the supreme leader produced an energy sphere of dark yellow

“For those of us with power…we either squander it…or miss-use it. And to others we are either fear…or ridiculed” said the supreme leader with Saku hearing his words “and for those that thinks there is a middle ground. It’s only terms of morality…otherwise it doesn’t exist”

The supreme leader put out his arms “there are those who accept their powers, use them responsibility and work hard…but they are viewed by the rest of the world…only with ego and jealousy” Kieran than spoke

“For those whose power is too small” said Kieran “they are viewed as failures and weaklings. And for those with too much they are feared and cast out like a bad disease”

“So that means” said Chloe “they are simply ignored, not classed as part of society. Which is what we represent”

“What Chloe says is correct” said High leader “we were cast out of humanity deemed unworthy to walk among the normal” Izanagi, Chloe, Kieran then pulled up their sleeves displaying a black band on their bare arms “and since we have no place there” the supreme leader than displayed his own band “we will create our own place above civilisation…and prove to the world we exist”

The supreme leader than had a smile “This academy…is home to so many potential students…all with bright futures but they squander their abilities. So…I say…we take it and use it of a better cause”

“That’s crazy” said Jessamine “You’re just going to take everyone’s power for yourselves”

“why not?” said Chloe bluntly “It’s not like they ever use it”

“That’s not the point” said Mia “for most of their lives they dream of making it big, be they lazy or hard-working. You can’t rip away what makes them who they are”

“many people dedicate their lives in B.U.S training” said Aries “there are those who use their powers responsibly”

“so…you’re saying I’m wrong?” said the high leader narrowing his eyes “then prove it to me. I’ve been searching…for a way we outcasts…can live in normal society. So demonstrate this to me”

“huh…what do you mean?” asked Mia

The Supreme leader didn’t reply but instead took a radio from Izanagi “Attention all students…this is the supreme ruler of the shadow league speaking” his voice seem to echo throughout the whole academy “No doubt you’re all tried and woozy…but you know if this is real…if men in black garbs are in your classrooms. Now if I recall you were in the middle of tournament and had reached the quarter finals…so I’d like to continue the tournament…with a new prize. Your fates and futures”

Everyone in the academy had the same look and worry as the supreme leader continued “as of now, there are only six finalists” Mia reacted to this

“Six? That means…two can’t fight. So if Sophie is one, then Ivy is the other”

“And” continued the supreme leader “I’m going to make a few changes. There will now…be three additions. Kieran will be reinserted into the tournament, along with Akihiko.” this brought a small level of confusion to Mia and friends while Saku just continued to listen “I also will be participating. Three fights are simple one-one matches, with one match being two against me”

The supreme ruler cleared his throat and then continued “The rules are also changed, for a start no limit. In other words a person loses if they surrender…or drop. And a person is only healed from their pain…if they win. It’s that simple but just to make things more interesting…there is also a condition. We the shadow league must all be beaten. If the fighters, representing this academy all lose” the supreme leader clenched his hand “Your powers belong to us” audible murmurs could actually be heard from the training hall.

The supreme leader then passed the radio device to Izanagi “This is Izanagi. Vice leader. Well everyone you heard him and hope you’re ready to lend your support. The tournament finals will take place within four hours…once the correct arenas can be done. Oh…wait, yes. It can take place at the internal arenas that have just been remodelled. The roster for the fight will be announced in three hours. So you’d better be ready…and as a minor note. Don’t plan any escape attempts”

Izanagi switched off the radio and put it in his pocket. Kieran then spoke confidently “well that’s the skinny. You guys are all that stand in our way”

“well we beat you once” said Anastasia “we can do it again”

“things…might be different this time” said Chloe as her hair went blue “so until then…see yer” with that the shadow league began to walk away

“hey wait!” demanded Lexi “Why are you doing this!?” only the supreme leader turned round

“do you know what it’s like…to be tossed away? To be rejected? To be…abandoned. We are doing this…” The supreme leader looked at Saku “to show the world that we exist. And to show we have every right to be the fighters…we want to be”

Anastasia turned to Saku as he listened intently to the leaders speech “We are all that’s left. If we don’t cement our place…we will be nothing but a lingering memory. So rest, practise…warm-up” the supreme ruler turned round but held out his hand to them “and be ready” suddenly a large blast of black and yellow shot past them colliding into the floor behind them

As everyone turned round…the same look of fear and worry was upon their faces…as a 8ft crater was present where he had shot his blast. The group turned round to the leader as he disappeared. Mia had a look of worry “well…this could be trouble”

“hey no sweat” said Jessamine “we’ve already beaten Akihiko and that Kieran smuck already. And he even said two of us gang up on him”

“Still” said Aries “he’s nowhere near a pushover. I mean…just look at the crater” Saku however wasn’t paying attention and instead but repeated the words

“to show the world…we exist…” Saku put his hand over his pocket where the black sash still was “and to be…who we want to be” Anastasia couldn’t help but looked at Saku

“Saku…you can’t do it. We need you. Because if you don’t…then many others will feel…the pain you once felt. Aries had noticed the two…and looked with a worried face”

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