Flame and Shadow

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Chapter 10

What is The Shadowy One supposed to do? I wonder. Hopefully it has something to do with a warm bed. The cold Ontario morning chilled me to the bone, but it didn’t seem like the hero of an ancient prophecy should be asking to go inside and sleep. I waited for Sagar to make the first move.

The man watched the dull grey morning fade into being, until he must have realized how cold I was.

“Whoops! Sorry! Let’s get inside. I’ll show you to your room. I bet you’re tired.”

He walked toward the closest door of the building, which happened to be the same one we came from. We must have made a full lap around the one-time factory. I turned to follow him, and for a moment, my eyes caught a brief glimpse of something in a window above us. I did a quick double-take, but there was nothing now. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it looked like a pair of watching eyes. And maybe a flash of yellow hair? Hm.

Whatever. It’s gone now. I marched after my trainer as he opened the door back into the gym. The other students were nowhere to be seen. Hm. I guess they either went to breakfast, or they operate on some kind of nocturnal schedule. Well, I didn’t care. I just wanted to get some sleep.

We walked across the open area uneventfully, until I heard a voice from behind me.

“Hey, idiot! Heads up!”

With a move like lightning, I dodged my head to the right, and caught a 5 pound weight plate out of the air. I turned around to see the boy Geoffrey standing a few feet away. He had thrown the plate at my head like a Frisbee. Hanson walked out of a side room and approached me.

“Not a bad catch, boy! I’m pretty impressed!”

Sagar spoke with an irritated voice.

“Not now, Hanson! Can’t you see he’s exhausted?”

“Well, if he’s really the Shadowy One, he needs to work!” The man sneered. “He can’t take the day off, just because you think he’s something special.”

Hanson then turned his gaze on me. “Listen, kid. If you’re going to stay here, you live by my rules! Nobody here is more special than anyone else. God is no respecter of persons! The only way to earn his favor, is to work for it! Even you! If that prophecy is true, and you’re the one who’s going to bring about the cleansing of the world, then you’re gonna have to prove it!”

With that, he nodded to Geoffrey.

“OK. Let’s see how you fare against someone who’s been trained for years!”

Sagar’s face showed that he disapproved of this, but there was nothing he could do as his superior led Geoffrey and myself to a sparring mat. Honestly, I wish that I could have just avoided this, but there was no way I could back down now. My mind was out of it, and I was sluggish from fatigue. It didn’t help that I had no combat training whatsoever. I was probably going to get my butt kicked.

The other boy took a fighting pose, and I tried to fake one. Well, if I’m going to get humiliated, at least I would try to look like I knew what I was doing. My opponent made the first move. He came in fast with a right punch, like he wanted to finish the fight in one strike. Suddenly, something in my head snapped. I quickly blocked the fist. He followed with a left punch, which I also easily blocked.

Frustrated, he increased his speed of attack, throwing several more strikes. Even though I didn’t know how to fight against someone who actually had training, it just came naturally. Geoffrey shouted and tried to kick me with a right roundhouse. I knocked it away. He tried one last wild punch, which I defended and countered with a palm strike to his stomach.

My opponent fell backward on his buttocks, stunned. I looked around for Sagar, to find that he, Hanson, and the other students were all observing me. The adults looked elated, but Kazushita and Rachael were absolutely furious.

“Very impressive, for someone who’s never fought anyone who knew what they were doing before.” Hanson praised. “Now, who’s next?”

Geoffrey crawled off the mat, and Rachael immediately leapt onto it.

“Come on! You beat that weakling, but you don’t stand a chance against me!” She challenged.

“Uh, OK.”

Rachael was faster than her classmate was, but the match ended just about the same; her on the floor, and me standing self-consciously alone.

“Alright, Kazushita. Now’s your chance.” Hanson motioned for the muscular boy to take the mat.

Rachael forced back angry tears as she scrambled out of the way. Kazushita stood across from me, staring down with contempt. The burley boy probably had 8 inches on me, and I had reason to suspect that he had to shave at least twice a week. I had the feeling this fight wouldn’t go like the last two. Oh, well, here goes nothing. Instead of waiting for the stronger opponent to make the first move this time, I rushed forward and put my fist into his midsection. He gasped, but didn’t go down. He swung his arms down to hit me, and I was barely able to deflect them. I delivered a low kick to his knee.

The tough young fighter ignored my kick, and grabbed me by my shoulders. He started to lift me off the ground. Staying calm, I pushed off his chest with my legs, and freed myself. With a bit of distance between us, I ran forward and jumped into the air. I faked a jumping front kick, and instead came with a super-man punch to his unguarded face.

The bigger fighter went down, and tumbled out of the fight. Again, I stood alone on the mat, very surprised that I was victorious. Honestly, I didn’t know what happened. I didn’t know how to fight; it just came naturally.

“Well, Dani, let’s see if you can do anything.” Hanson commanded with a bit of amazement.

The last remaining girl happily bounced up to the mat. I looked at her, trying to figure her out. She wasn’t like the others. There was no malice in her eyes, or hatred on her face. She actually looked excited and joyful for some reason.

Without warning, she dashed quickly toward me and launched herself in a flying leap. I had no idea what to do in this situation, and she tackle-hugged me to the ground.

In an instant, the girl was sitting on top of my chest, her blue eyes looking right into mine of steely gray.

“That was amazing! No one’s ever beaten Kazushita like that before! Wow! You’re-you’re- you’re so cool!” She gushed like some kind of fangirl.

“Um…thanks…” I blew some of her long golden hair out of my face. “Could you get off of me?”

“Oh, OK!”

She jumped off my body, and I gasped as the wind was knocked out of my chest.

“What is with this girl?” I wondered. I climbed to my feet to face my instructors.

“Aside from that last…performance, that was very remarkable. You said you have no combat experience?” Hanson questioned.

“No, unless you count getting beat up on the streets as combat experience.”

“Hm…I see. Then how did you do that?”

Hanson looked thoughtful, but Sagar was beaming with pride. He gave me a silent thumbs up from behind his superior. I could tell that he was pleasantly surprised, but not nearly as much as I was. I could offer no explanation for my abilities, so I just shrugged my shoulders.

“I dunno. It just happened.”

“Things don’t just happen.” Hanson snapped. “Just like the only way to God is by doing good deeds, the only way to become stronger is through hard work and training. You don’t just magically get that good.”

He flipped around and got in Sagar’s face.

“You taught him that! You just wanted to make me look like a fool, you son of a bitch!”

Sagar stood his ground.

“No, sir. I haven’t showed him one single move. That was all him. Maybe he is the Shadowy One.”

Hanson shoved Sagar backward. “Don’t lie to me! I can easily see that he knows what he’s doing. Shadowy One or not, blind faith means nothing without action! The Bible itself says ‘Faith without works is dead’! Simply believing something means nothing without actions to back it up!”

The angry man turned back to me.

“You’ve got a long way to go before you’re ready! That son of a bitch may have given you a head start, but only one of you can become a full agent, and no ’prophecy ‘is going to help you with that. You have to be the best, or ’The Shadowy One’ is going to be spending his life cleaning bathrooms and wiping down tables!”

Hanson’s attitude and tone stirred up a defiant fury within me. He’s going to yell at the man who saved my life, and challenge me? I’ll show him. I’ll show him that I can earn my promotion, and my salvation.

“Yes sir. I’ll be the one you make the agent. You can count on it.”

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