Strength! Speed! What!?!?
Gumi Megpoid was worried.
But that was nothing new. She was a worrywart. She worried about a lot of things. Usually it was something petty, like worrying about what to make for dinner or how she was going to get ahold of a new part for her scooter. This was different, though. This time it was… well, at least it could be… serious.
She hadn’t heard from Miku in far too long. The last time they'd spoken Miku had been traversing through the “Assassin’s Forest”, thusly named due to the rumors that the so-called ‘Legendary Assassin’ lived there.
Gumi wasn't sure where exactly it placed, but 'assassin' was rapidly climbing the ladder of her least favorite words, currently beating out 'teat' and being just behind 'mangrove'.
It was Miku's fault. The girl had regaled her endlessly with the tales she had supposedly heard of the assassin’s amazing abilities and flawless skill. Personally Gumi thought the whole thing sounded like a load of rubbish.
Really, what were the odds that an incredibly dangerous former assassin had suddenly decided to up and leave their no doubt glamorous and exciting lifestyle for complete anonymity secluded in a forest? It was the kind of thing you’d expect to see in a television show, not real life. In her opinion the whole thing seemed a little too far-fetched to be true.
Miku had informed her that due to the low battery life of the walkie she probably wouldn’t be able to contact her for several days at least since, as she had complained several times, there was nowhere to charge a phone in a forest.
Gumi assumed they would be out of contact for a while, but four days? Wasn’t that just a little too long? It couldn’t be that something terrible had happened to her, could it?
Her mind suddenly filled, unbidden, with images of Miku in all manner of awful situations. What if she was in trouble somehow? What if she had fallen off a cliff and broken her leg and now lay there, trapped, with no one to help her? Good God! What was she doing just sitting here? She had to save her!
As if sensing the teen’s rapidly escalating mental panic, the scrap metal phone on the desk in front of her started to ring...
...Or at least clang loudly in a vain attempt to sound like it was ringing. It got her attention, at least.
Scrambling to pick it up, Gumi only succeeded in accidentally swatting it away from her, knocking it off into the space behind her desk. It clattered against the wall as it fell, still making a most terrible noise. She practically knocked over the chair she had been sitting in as she dove beneath the desk to get to the device, as well as sending a couple of her little projects all over the place in the process.
“Hello? Hello? Miku are you- OW!” she yelled, smacking her head against the underside of the desk as she sat up.
“Gumi! Is that you?” it was Miku. She was okay! And she sounded... excited?
“Who else would it be?” she answered sarcastically. “Do you realize how long it’s been since you called? You had me worried sick!”
Miku wasn’t listening.
“Guess what! I found the Legendary Assassin! And you know what else? He’s a she! And you know what else else? She agreed to be my teacher!”
"I really worry about you, you know? You really need to think about how other people feel when you do things like..." she paused, Miku's words finally registering. "Wait... really? You mean there's legitimately someone living in that forest that calls themselves a legendary assassin?"
"Yep!" Miku confirmed happily. Gumi could practically hear her bobbing her head up and down in glee.
The teen genius was speechless. Sure, she'd supported Miku in her decision to search for a teacher. She was her best friend, after all. Never once, however, had she actually considered that Miku might actually find something. The idea was absurd!
"Thats... uhm... uh... unexpected" she offered lamely. Really there were no words.
“Yeah! I know! You wouldn’t believe what I had to do to get her to say yes. It wasn’t easy. I don’t think that anyone that isn’t me could have done it” said Miku, recalling the last several days. “I can finally use my left arm again though!”
“You can finally what?” Gumi gasped, praying she had misheard.
“It was just an accident, don’t worry about it!” said Miku dismissively. “Anyways, let me tell you about what happened when I got here! You won’t believe it! After the bandits attacked me, we went-“
And she was off.
“Miku wait, there’s something important that I have to…” Gumi began, but it was too late. Miku had already launched into a full explanation of everything that had happened since Luka had rescued her.
The green-haired girl sighed. Knowing her best friend, there was little hope of stopping her now that she had started. With no other recourse Gumi settled in for what was sure to be a most riveting tale…
Three Days Earlier...
Miku awoke on something soft for the first time in a long while. She didn’t immediately remember where she was, but was content to bask in the gloriousness of waking up on something other than a dirt mattress.
She didn’t want to ever move away from that wonderful, blissful sensation, but as her mind slowly began to shake off the shackles of drowsiness and recall the previous day’s events, simply laying in bed quickly began to seem a lot less interesting.
Rubbing the sleep from her eyes she sat slowly upright and assessed her unfamiliar surroundings. She remembered that she had followed Luka back to her house (how something so big as a house had been constructed in the middle of the forest without anyone noticing was beyond her) and had crashed almost immediately in the guest bedroom that Luka had pointed her to.
A glance towards the corner of the room revealed her clothes, folded, resting atop a small stool. Looking down at herself, she observed that she was wearing a pair of pink pajamas that were far too large for her. They must be Luka’s she thought to herself, is everything she owns pink? She must have been pretty tired; she didn’t even remember changing into them.
Investigating further, she appeared to be in a small bedroom with sparse furnishings, though what little furniture there was lent it a decidedly strange atmosphere. There was a vanity crafted out of some kind of strange green wood and a dresser made of the same. On the wall hung some shelves with small figurines on them. All of them were animals, painstakingly detailed and looking as though they had been crafted by hand in some distant foreign country.
On top of the dresser sat a small framed picture of Luka (looking more than a few years younger, Miku noted) holding an enormous fish while standing on the deck of a rather large fishing vessel. She was smiling proudly and displaying her catch to the camera. Miku briefly wondered how many places Luka had been in her life. Judging from the items in this room alone, it seemed like a lot. Where had she traveled to? Had she been all over the world? She would have to ask her later.
Before the thought could really take hold, however, Miku caught a positively enchanting smell coming from elsewhere in the house. Influenced by the growing pit in her stomach, she quickly decided that further investigation was in order.
After getting dressed (she noticed that her clothes had been washed) she exited the room into a long hallway. Upon reaching the end, she found what must be the living room. It was an average affair. Couches, chairs, a few bookshelves, television, computer… wait… television? Computer? In the middle of the forest!?!? How the hell did that work? Then again… how did Luka have a secret house in the first place?
Deciding it wasn’t important enough to worry about at the moment, Miku hung a right towards what she assumed was the kitchen, if the sounds and smells were any indication.
The sight that met her eyes upon entering the room made it difficult not to laugh. Luka, wearing an apron (pink, obviously), was holding a frying pan and dancing exuberantly to the music presumably playing through her headphones. Apparently, the ornate earpieces were part of her ensemble at all hours of the day… interesting.
The overpowering smell turned out to be bacon, several strips sizzling in the pan. Miku, having not had hand-cooked food in a considerable length of time, was understandably drawn to them.
As one of her more intense dance steps brought her into a spin, Luka finally took notice of the teenager practically salivating in the hallway. She paused mid-turn, posed awkwardly on one leg.
“Oh! You’re awake!” she said. “Did you… uh… sleep well?”
“Are you kidding?” Miku replied. “I’ve been on the ground for like… a month, I think? I wouldn’t have cared if I’d had to sleep on the floor.”
“Good to hear” said Luka, turning back around, “I’ve come up with a suitable… uhh… test for you to do, I think. It’s a bit short notice, so it won’t be as er… intense as what I would normally give, but I think it will suffice.” There was, of course, no such thing as what she would ‘normally give,’ but such an admission was at this point out of the question.
Luka carried the frying pan over to a large dining table and shoveled the bacon onto a plate. The rest of the table was already covered with assorted breakfast foods, and was conveniently set for two.
In what was quickly becoming a theme that morning Miku wondered how Luka could afford to buy that much food, living out in the middle of nowhere. Again, the prospect of quelling the beast rising in her belly put those thoughts aside.
As she sat down, Miku was in awe. She hadn’t had a real meal in ages, and she found herself nearly drooling as she looked over the array. Wait, check that, she was drooling. Without waiting for Luka’s approval she dove straight in.
Luka noted, looking both simultaneously disgusted and impressed, that the girl at her table appeared to have basically no proper manners when it came to eating. It bordered on vicious, the way Miku tore into her food. The spectacle reminded her more of some wild animal attacking a potential meal rather than the polite breakfast she had assumed it would be.
As they ate, though Luka thought that ‘ate’ was a less accurate descriptor than ‘brutalized’ in Miku’s case, they discussed many things, but Luka was strangely silent on just what she had in store for the girl’s “test”, and refused to divulge the secret despite any of Miku’s prodding.
The end of the meal saw Miku’s half of the table resembling a battlefield. Luka shuddered. She would have sworn that she saw blood, had a bottle of ketchup not been present, though given the spectacle she had just witnessed it wouldn’t have surprised her anyways.
After they were finished, Luka picked up the dishes, or rather the remains, and placed them in the sink. She would deal with them later.
With a sigh she turned to face the eager young girl that was eyeing her expectantly now that the distraction provided by food was absent. “Very well” she said, attempting to hide the reluctance in her tone. “I suppose it’s time to begin. Go wait outside and I will join you once I’ve finished my… uh… preparations.”
She groaned inwardly, the surrealism of the situation not lost on her. It was difficult to sound convincing when she had only come up with any of the supposed “tests” the previous night. Fortunately, perception didn’t seem to be this girl’s strong suit, a fact which Luka was grateful for.
Miku, however, couldn’t have been happier. She couldn’t wait for her trials to begin, and it was with a spring in her step that she walked outside to wait for her (hopefully) future mentor to join her.
As she passed the threshold of the door and wandered out into the yard, a splash of color caught her eye and she turned to look back at the house.
In the darkness of their arrival during the previous evening she had been unable to make out anything noticeable about the exterior of the building. Now, however, the house stood in full view in the light of day, and it was a strange sight.
It stood two stories tall with one side wall entirely dominated by an enormous stone water wheel that currently stood motionless in the absence of any sort of body of water to power it.
Looking around, Miku couldn’t see any indication that there had ever been a river here, let alone now. In any case the point was hardly worth considering in light of the fact that no one in their right mind would construct a water wheel out of stone anyways. It looked enormously heavy and it was a wonder in itself that the house was able to support the thing.
As out of place as the wheel was, however, it was not what had caught Miku’s attention. Regardless of what they may have been supporting the walls were eye-catching in their own right.
The entire house was covered from foundation to roof in drawings of every sort of creature imaginable, as well as few that Miku was quite sure she had never even dreamed of. Animals of all shapes and sizes posed in a massive collage of vibrant color.
Most noticeable was the entire front wall of the house which was dominated by a gigantic tiger, its jaws gaping as it let out a proud roar. Around the side of the house stood a bear, rearing up on its hind legs as a menagerie of other, smaller creatures played over the rest of the wall in a portrait of nature.
Miku wondered silently what Luka’s obsession with animals was about. Not only these paintings, but everywhere inside the house as well was filled with figurines and drawings of every type of wildlife.
She walked back around to examine the stone wheel in closer detail, and a glint of metal caught her eye. Moving nearer she discovered… actually, what was that thing? Some kind of… metal box?
“I see you found the generator” came Luka’s voice from behind her.
“Gener… ator?” replied Miku.
“Certainly” said Luka, stepping up beside her. “How do you suppose I managed to cook breakfast? Take a shower? Have lights?” She lightly patted the device. “This provides me with all the electricity I need.”
Miku may not have been the sharpest tool in the shed, but even she had paid enough attention in school to know that you couldn’t just hook something up to a box and have it produce energy forever.
“So it just… makes it?” she asked, understandably skeptical.
“Of course it doesn’t silly. That’s what the wheel is for!” said Luka, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Right. So the big water wheel with no water powers the house…” said Miku, raising an eyebrow.
“Water wheel?” said Luka with a mischievous glint in her eye, “Who ever said anything about water?”
With that Luka walked up to the giant wheel, pulled up her sleeves, and grabbed hold of it. Surely she couldn’t be intending to turn the thing manually? That was even less plausible than the infinite power box.
“Well I just sorta assumed…” said Miku, trailing off.
“You should never assume things…” said Luka, with a slight smirk. Miku’s eyes saw a bright pink glow flare up around her.
Then, with one powerful motion, Luka spun the wheel.
“WHAT THE HELL!?!?!” yelled Miku, watching as the wheel spun so fast that it was a wonder it didn’t come spinning right off the wall it was attached to.
An audible hum filled the air as the generator recieved a new flow of power. The lights in the house flickered slightly.
Luka turned around and looked at Miku. “That should last for a few days” she said with a smile.
“H-H-How did you do that?” asked Miku. It wasn’t possible. The sheer amount of strength someone would need to turn something that heavy...
“I am very strong” Luka replied cooly.
“Well, yeah… I kind of figured, but that wheel must weigh…”
“Nearly three tons?” Luka interrupted with another small smirk. “You would be correct.”
Miku was in awe. Not even in her wildest imagination did she ever think that things like this were possible. She had always known that there were strong Vocaloids out there, but this? Miku had read comic books where the heroes couldn’t do that.
“Anyways, let’s get down to business” said Luka. She noticed how much easier it was to seem like she knew what she was doing when her audience was speechless.
“I have three tests for you. In order to establish what your basic abilities are at the present time, I have devised a test for speed, a test for strength, and one that you will only find out about if you make it through the first two.”
And it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination that this girl couldn’t make it through the first two, Luka told herself.
“Ok, so what do I-” Miku began, but Luka cut her off.
“Ah ah ah. The first test is about speed and I’m sure that you’re going to want as much time as you can get. Save your questions for later” said Luka. “In the interest of testing your speed, I have a very straightforward task for you to complete. You’ll recall that when you first entered this forest you passed a large sign at the entrance. I have placed a small red rock on top of this sign. I want you to bring it to me.”
Miku sighed. And here she was thinking that she wouldn’t have to spend any more nights shaking twigs and bugs out of her clothes. The entrance must have been thirty miles away. Another night in nature’s bounty was imminent, it seemed.
Wait a second… a thought occurred to her.
“When the hell did you have time to put a rock on top of that?” asked Miku, confused.
“This morning, before you woke up” Luka replied without missing a beat.
Of course she had.
“Ah, also, before I forget, since this is a test of speed, it’s only natural that there should be a time limit” said Luka failing to entirely hide her satisfied grin, “So if you can’t get back here with the stone before midnight, you fail.”
“MIDNIGHT!?!?!? But that’s…”
“Less than twelve hours away?” Luka interrupted again in that infuriating way she had, “Yes, I do believe that’s right. Best to get moving! Good luck!”
“But how the heck am I supposed to-” Miku began.
“GO!” shouted Luka, still smiling.
Miku, realizing that this was the best chance that she was going to get, took off at top speed.
Luka watched her figure grow smaller as she ran off in the direction of the forest entrance. If this didn’t get this girl off her case, nothing would. Luka mentally scolded herself for allowing herself to be this underhanded. If she had just told the girl no in the first place, then this wouldn’t even be happening.
Still, she supposed it didn’t matter now, at any rate. There was no way, naturally talented or not, that a sixteen year-old girl was going to be able to run a sixty mile round trip within twelve hours. It was regrettable. Miku had real potential.
But Luka had chosen a life of seclusion for a reason.
A shadow passed over her face as she watched Miku’s form get swallowed up by the treeline. That girl deserved someone better than her...
Luka looked at the clock. Miku had been gone for almost twelve hours now. It was nearing the agreed time and Luka was steeling herself to give a harsh denial to Miku’s notions of becoming her apprentice. She knew that she couldn’t take her in, but that didn’t stop her from feeling bad about what she was doing. She wasn’t going to get any sleep that night.
She briefly wondered if what she was doing was really the right thing. She knew very well that she should have just refused Miku’s initial proposal, but something had stopped her. Frankly, she couldn’t imagine what she had been thinking. The more she dwelled on it, the worse she felt.
No, she thought, what’s done is done. For now, she had better start thinking of a proper rejection. After all, it wasn’t like Miku was going to be back to the house before morning; that would be ridiculous.
There was a knock at the door. Her blood ran cold.
Slowly, hesitantly, not daring to believe it, she walked over to the door, grasped the knob, and turned.
It wasn’t possible. Her eyes were lying to her, she was sure of it. Against all odds, there she was. Miku stood in the doorway, framed by the moonlight. Her breathing was heavy, she was covered in sweat, her clothes were dirty and torn, and she looked to be nearly on the verge of collapse, but in her left hand, clasped in a white-knuckled death grip, was the very stone Luka had asked her to retrieve.
Miku slowly extended this hand, opened it, and let the rock clatter to the floor. Her eyes never once left those of the Vocaloid master.
“Done…” she said, and passed out on the spot.
Luka was dumbfounded. She hardly dared to look at the time but she didn’t have to. She already knew.
The clock chimed midnight.
The girl slept soundly in the bedroom down the hall. After putting her in bed, Luka had gone back out to the kitchen and poured herself a strong drink from the bottle she kept at the back of the cabinet. Gods knew she needed it after what had happened earlier.
No matter how many times she went over it in her head, there was just no way she could make sense of it. At its shortest distance, the trip Miku had made was sixty miles long. But that was assuming that one moved in a straight line from the house to the forest entrance. Taking the path, the trip was closer to eighty miles. She must have gone straight there, but how? That route was nothing but dense forest and rough terrain. There was no way someone could simply plow their way through.
She gritted her teeth. Judging by the state that she had returned to the house in, Miku had found a way.
The fact stood that the girl had indeed completed the task Luka had given her. The stone wasn’t fake, so the only explanation was that she had gone all the way there and back again.
Luka took a sip from her glass and grudgingly brought the more pressing issue to the forefront of her thoughts. Since Miku had indeed completed the task set to her, she was entitled to a second test.
Luka needed to put stop to this before it went any further.
I suppose I could always just refuse. She mused. I don’t have any obligation to this girl. But even as she thought this she knew it was a lie. She had taken on an obligation to this girl the instant she had saved her from those men.
“A Oniigasen napermo…” she muttered under her breath. “Gods, Haku, why couldn’t I have been like you for once?”
The taste of her drink soured in her mouth the instant the name passed her lips. This was hardly the time to be bringing up the past. She scowled at the glass in front of her. Alcohol when she needed to keep a clear head, what was she thinking?
Besides, if there was anyone that was acting like Haku it was the girl herself-
Luke winced. She’d just had to think it, hadn’t she? The last thing she needed now was to start comparing Miku to her....
It didn’t matter. Reminiscent of old acquaintances or not, Miku was without question going to be asking to take on the next test. Too bad Luka hadn’t thought she would even make it through the first one. She hadn’t made a second “test” at all.
She had told Miku that she had a “Speed” test, a “Strength” test, and a “Mystery” test in store for her, but she hadn’t really planned for the contingency that Miku made it this far. According to her own (however ill-thought out) words, the next test should be about strength, but what could she possibly…
Oh… that might work...
Luka chuckled to herself, while at the same time feeling a little guilty. She couldn’t possibly ask the girl to do it, there’s no way she could. The strongest man in the world wouldn’t be up to the task. But desperate times called for desperate measures, so Luka got up out of her chair and started preparing.
She just hoped that she could use up enough electricity before Miku woke up.
The Next Morning
Miku awoke to house that was much different than the one she had collapsed in the previous evening. It was… louder. She could hear the television (cable, another thing that Luka shouldn’t have had) and the stereo blaring. The washer and dryer were both on as well. Upon leaving her room, she discovered that not only was the house loud, it was also bright. In fact it seemed as if every light in the house was on. It was freezing too. Not surprising. She could hear the hum of the air conditioner running full blast.
As she entered the dining room, she spotted Luka sitting at her computer (Internet access too? What black magic was this!?!).
It was more than a little unnerving. The woman sat hunched before the screen, everything electrical in the room either blaring, shining, or some combination of the two.
“So…” Miku ventured, taking a hesitant step into the room, “Trying to break the world record for the highest electric bill? Heh… hehe…”
The forced laugh died on her lips as Luka turned around to look at her. It took a considerable effort to prevent herself from taking a step backwards.
The woman looked terrible. Dark circles under her eyes indicated that she’d gotten either no sleep or very little. Still, a slightly manic light shone in her eyes as she gazed at Miku from across the room. Luka smiled, the overall effect being more creepy than reassuring.
“Oh, you’re awake! This is part of your next test.” Luka replied.
“It’s part… of my next test?” asked Miku, understandably confused.
“Oh yes” Luka said, “Don’t worry, you’ll see soon enough.”
Miku was very confused (and well on the way to freaked out) about what the woman’s strange behavior could possibly have to do with a test of any sort. Still, she’d come this far.
“Yeah… I’ll bet… Hey, could I like, take a shower and change my clothes before we start?” she said, “I mean, these aren’t exactly cutting it anymore” she indicated her torn clothing.
Luka’s expression was downright predatory.
"By all means. The restroom is up the stairs, first door on your left” said Luka sweetly. Miku caught the hint of mischievousness in her voice, “Use as much hot water as you need, take your time!”
Yeah, that’s right, use as much water as you want. Take a nice long shower she thought to herself, the corner of her mouth twitching with the hint of a smile. She’d be rid of this girl today, she was sure of it.
It was an hour later that Miku emerged from the bathroom wearing one of her spare sets of clothes. As she walked downstairs, Miku noticed that the appliances and fixtures that had previously been on throughout the house had been turned off. Luka was also nowhere to be seen. Upon entering the kitchen a sheet of paper on the table caught her eye.
Considering what she had gone through the previous day, Miku allowed herself a small shiver of nervousness at the prospect of a second such test. All of that running. So much of it. She hadn’t a clue how long it had taken her. Hours? Days? It felt like the latter, though common sense urged the former.
And now it was time to prove herself again with whatever Luka was going to throw at her.
The mystery of exactly what the test entailed was solved almost immediately when Miku walked out the front door. She looked to her left and there was Luka standing with her arms folded looking at Miku with a bit of a smirk.
“Finally decided to show yourself, I see” she said, unable to keep herself from smiling.
The blue-haired teen was about to give her a snarky retort but faltered when she noticed what Luka was standing next to.
The pieces fell into place, and Miku wasn’t sure she liked what she saw.
Directly next to Luka was the enormous stone wheel that powered the generator. It was at that moment that the words “test of strength” took on a whole new meaning.
“So… roulette?” she tried at a joke, but her smile faded almost immediately. “Yeah, didn’t think so…”
“You catch on quick.” Said Luka, still smiling “Let me explain. As you already know, this wheel weighs nearly three tons. Most definitely outside the abilities of a normal human being. However, as you also know, I can move it using vocal energy. ‘Strength’ for a Vocaloid isn’t just strength in the physical sense. It’s all the force their powers can lend them as well. As such, I want you to show me how much ‘strength’ you have by spinning this wheel.”
“Can’t I just buy a vowel instead?” Miku asked, her smile holding this time. Sure the thing was heavy, but it couldn’t be that difficult to make just one rotation. “But seriously, is that it? I think I can-”
“You didn’t let me finish!” Luka interrupted, waggling a finger with the ghost of a smile. “Just spinning the wheel isn’t enough. The wheel is hooked up to the generator that provides power to my house. Spinning it enough will charge the generator. But there’s a catch.”
Miku sighed. Of course there was.
“You might be wondering why I had everything in the house running all night. The answer is that I was attempting to drain as much of the generator’s reserve as possible. As things stand, I was only able to use half of what it has, but that should be more than enough.”
Luka’s expression hardened slightly. “Your job is to fill it up again.”
It was hardly fair, asking her to accomplish something so obviously arranged against her. The Vocaloid master prepared herself for the cry of protest that she was sure the girl would raise.
It never came.
What Miku did instead scared Luka. No whining. No complaints. The girl merely glanced at the wheel, cracked her knuckles, and smiled.
“That it?” She asked, fire in her eyes. “Sounds fun.”
Luka did not know from what unnatural reserves this girl drew her willpower, but it was becoming very troublesome. She narrowed her eyes.
As Miku approached the wheel to begin, Luka spoke one more time.
“One more thing” she said, hoping to provoke at least a small bit of nervousness, “This test has a time limit too. Finish charging the generator by midnight, or you fail. Good luck.”
Arrogant little brat. She couldn’t help but think to herself. Even so, Luka found herself beginning to develop a grudging admiration of the girl’s spirit.
Miku was ready this time. Running through a thick forest for hours on end was not her idea of a productive exercise but this… this was right up her alley. She was sure that she could do this. When it came to brute strength, no one topped her. She might not have been the most tactical person, but if something needed smashing then one needed to look no further than Miku Hatsune.
Still smiling, she walked up to the wheel and grabbed it, acquainting herself with the feel of the thick stone. She readied herself for the effort.
1… 2… 3! She pushed as hard as she could.
The wheel didn’t move an inch.
Well, she hadn’t expected to get it on her first try, but there was still plenty of time.
Five Hours Later
Things were not going as planned.
Miku had still been completely unsuccessful in moving the wheel even a little. The thing was enormously heavy, and she was rapidly running out of ideas.
Her initial confidence had since begun to fade and she was starting to become worried.
What was it that Luka had said to her before she started?
“’Strength’ for a Vocaloid isn’t just strength in the physical sense. It’s all the force their powers can lend them as well.”
That gave her an idea. Releasing her futile grip on the stone she retreated about ten feet away from the base of the wheel and took aim at one of the spokes.
For several seconds, nothing happened. Come on... She thought. I know I'm not that exhausted. Spark, damn you...
Miku closed her eyes and concentrated. Then she felt it. A low, throbbing bassline filled her ears and slowly began to grow. The beats came in time with the pulse of her heart and as they built in intensity so too did her blood begin to flow faster.
A soft tingle started at her shoulder and spread down her arm, carrying with it a faint blue glow that soon enveloped her hand and started to expand.
The beat continued, each pulse causing the glow encasing her arm to shine brighter and brighter.
Miku began to sweat. It wasn’t often that she gathered this much power at once. The tingling sensation was becoming more of a dull burning.
After a minute it was starting to hurt, and Miku took careful aim before releasing the pent-up bolt of energy.
The blast flew true and hit its mark in the center of one of the wheel’s spokes. The whole structure shook, along with the house, as if it had been hit by a small earthquake.
“Oi! What was that?” she heard Luka exclaim from inside, “Are you trying to break it?”
Miku didn’t hear her. Her strategy had worked, the wheel had moved. Only about a quarter turn, but it had moved. She smiled. Now she was getting somewhere.
An hour later, however, she ran into another problem. By repeating the same strategy over and over, Miku could manage almost half a turn per blast. She checked the generator’s power meter and noted with dismay that she had only succeeded in generating a pathetic 3% of the maximum charge. Apparently the speed with which the wheel turned made more of a difference than she had anticipated.
That was unfortunate. She could get the wheel to start spinning, but she couldn’t keep up the momentum. At the rate she was going she wouldn’t finish by noon the next day, let alone midnight.
Letting out a sigh, Miku sat down on the ground. What would Gumi do in this situation? She was sure the goggle-headed genius would be able to come up with something. Physics surely held the solution somewhere.
Miku had always taken her best naps in physics.
The blue-haired teen had never really been one to pay attention in class, or really to be awake in class for that matter, but she somehow found her thoughts wandering back to the few times she had actually managed to strain her attention span enough to glean some useful information.
There were three laws of motion, or was it four? No, no, three, she was sure of it. She couldn’t for the life of her remember the other two, but like a diamond in the rough one of them had managed to stick out:
An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and an object at rest tends to stay at rest. She swore to herself to never admit to Gumi that school had actually helped her.
That was the key. She didn’t need to keep charging up to maximum power every time she wanted to move the thing, that took too long and gave the wheel time to stop moving. A smaller blast should serve to keep the wheel’s momentum from dwindling.
She gave the stone before her a defiant glare and once again began charging up a big wave of energy. When she could contain it no longer she released the blast directly at the wheel, but this time she didn’t stop. Without waiting, she fired a much weaker, much faster blast from her opposite hand.
Miku knew that it had worked the instant the blast connected with the wheel. Just as the structure began to slow down the second blast connected and kept the thing spinning. It wasn’t anywhere near the speed she’d seen Luka put into it before, but at this point she’d take what she could get.
It maintained a steady rotation, and Miku, now once again fired up, continued to fire small, quick blasts from either hand. The wheel started to turn faster and groaned as it picked up speed.
That groan echoed through the house. In the living room, a book was closed and placed on the couch next to a very worried pink-haired woman.
This… was not in the plan. There’s no way… there’s just no way… Luka told herself. Nonetheless, her adamant protestations aside, Luka could not stop herself from walking outside to check.
There the girl stood, a look of staunch determination on her face as she blasted away relentlessly at the spokes of the stone wheel.
And it was spinning. Oh Gods it was actually spinning.
Luka didn’t know what to do. Taking a few shaky steps backwards she turned and bolted back into the house, immediately switching on everything electrical that she could think of. The stereo blared, the air conditioning ran full-blast, and every appliance and object with a plug made a cacophony of noise as they whirred, clicked, or whistled.
She cursed herself inwardly. If she’d just said no… but it didn’t matter. She was past the point of just being able to back out.
The wheel gave another wall-shaking groan and Luka’s eyes flew wide. She could kick herself later. She had to put a stop to this!
Luka was very worried. In the last four hours, despite her best efforts to the contrary, Miku had filled the generator up to 80%. Nonetheless, she was reasonably sure that, it having taken four hours for her to manage only 30% of the battery, Miku still wouldn’t be able to make the remaining 20% within the two hours that were left. The vocaloid master was sure that Miku had to be exhausted by now.
Luka was right.
Miku huffed and puffed as she continued her assault on the wheel. It had been spinning pretty fast for the past four hours, and Miku hadn’t let up at all. As such, she was becoming very fatigued from using so much energy. But she couldn’t stop now. There were only two hours left and she had to fill the generator up to 100% no matter what.
But even she could sense that it was was a losing battle. She was nearly dead on her feet from four hours of constant exertion, and she wasn't going to be able to keep it up for much longer. She needed a solution, and fast.
It was time to try something stupid.
An idea came to her. By all accounts it wasn't a very good one, but she knew how she could do it.
She would need to be very close, close enough to touch it. That wasn't a reassuring prospect. She would also need to use more energy than she would normally be comfortable with. There would be a lot of recoil, and she wasn't sure she could even contain that much power in the first place. All in all she could end up hurting herself quite badly.
But she had to try. She approached the wheel slowly, maintaining her assault. She needed to get it spinning faster. It had to be able to support itself while she tried tried to gather enough power.
She doubled her pace. In her head, the bass pumped faster and faster, and each beat was a wave of energy leaving her hand.
More and more the wheel spun, the pace picking up to almost twice what it had been. Miku eyed it nervously. It seemed to be going much faster up close.
Then, all at once, she stopped. She instantly began building up energy, but not releasing it.
It started to hurt very quickly. Her hands began to shake with the effort of holding it back. Miku went far beyond what she had stored up before, her arms and shoulders beginning to burn, but still she kept going.
She cracked open one eye, glowing blue with energy, and saw that the wheel was only spinning about a fourth its original speed and she knew that she had to hurry.
Almost there. Come on damn it! She screamed at herself.
And then she felt it.
She hit a plateau, and knew that she had reached her limit. She grit her teeth. This was going to hurt.
She took her hands, which were now glowing brightly with barely contained energy, and raised them palms out in front of her. She had to connect with the wheel for maximum effect. Fortunately, the wheel was now turning slowly enough that touching it wouldn’t be a problem.
The problem would be what came after.
All at once she leapt forward and slammed her hands into one of the spokes, at the same time releasing all the energy she had stored up.
Inside the house a bright blue flash illuminated the living room, followed an instant later by a deafening boom. The entire house vibrated and shook, picture frames falling from the walls and plaster shaking loose from the ceiling.
Luka leapt for the door, tearing around the edge of the house.
The sight that greeted her eyes nearly made her heart stop.
The wheel was spinning so fast it was a blur. Miku lay on the ground nearly ten feet away, hands smoking.
The wood making up the side of the house was cracked and splintered near the base of the wheel, charred black in places from the force of the blast.
Miku groaned as she sat up. It felt like she had dislocated both of her shoulders. But as she looked up at the wheel, a grin spread across her face.
Luka wasn't smiling. With a strangled cry she rushed to the generator. The power level was rising rapidly.
No no NO! She screamed in her head. This couldn’t be happening! 95… 96… 97... A eto itana! Stop, please!
But stop it did not. Luka’s lips stretched thin in a grimace.
“One hundred percent” she said out loud, her voice shaking, not able to believe it.
From the spot where Miku was laying on the ground, Luka heard it. Laughter. Pure, joyful laughter. Miku was laughing loud and proud, and Luka knew that she had every right to. But enough was enough. This charade had gone on long enough. One way or another it would end tomorrow morning. She knew what she was going to do for the last test, and she didn’t care if it was unfair to the point of being ridiculous. She had allowed it to get to this point, so she was going to have to do something to put a stop to it, even if it meant stepping in herself…
“Miku.” She said, her tone subdued, “Your final test will begin tomorrow morning at Ten o’ clock. Don’t be late.”
With that, she walked back inside, up the stairs, and into her room, from which she did not emerge for the rest of the night.
9:00 AM, The Next Day
Miku awoke much as she had done the past two days. She felt well rested and ready to take on the world.
Something about that felt off.
She had pushed herself to her physical limits for two days straight and yet somehow she was managing only the slightest bit of fatigue. Something told her that when she was finally done with all of this and the adrenaline wore off she was going to be more than a little bit sore.
She had other things to think about at the moment, though. For instance, the fact that if she passed today’s test, she would actually be a student of the legendary assassin! She could hardly believe her good luck. When she had set out from her home, she had imagined the task to be nigh on impossible and yet here she was, albeit after a few bumps and bruises, having almost achieved her goal.
Being so close made her nervous. What could Luka think up for the third test? The first had been about speed, and the second about strength, but there was nothing to be said about the third. It could be anything and, considering the events of the previous two days, most likely would be.
To be honest, she was a little frightened of the possibilities. Luka had already given her two devilishly hard tests to complete and she had barely gotten through those. Surely this third test would be a task of absolutely epic proportions.
But what had her concerned the most was that she had seen neither hide nor hair of the woman since the previous evening. The vocaloid master had seemed rather cold when she had told her that her third test would begin at 10 AM sharp. Strange, Miku would have assumed that she would be happier for her.
Whatever the cause for Luka’s less-than-eager demeanor, Miku was sure that it couldn’t be too bad. In any case, she was going to give it her all, and come what may she would complete this test and become Luka’s apprentice if it killed her.
Imbued with a new sense of confidence, and feeling that the only option was victory, Miku got dressed and went downstairs.
Luka stood in the field in front of the house, waiting for the door to open and Miku to emerge, brimming with confidence as she knew the girl would be. But today was different. It didn’t matter how much confidence the girl had because Luka wasn’t going to let her succeed.
This time would be different. This time she controlled all the variables because she was the test. Miku wasn’t going to become her apprentice, and that was final.
Luka’s eyes clouded over for a moment. She still felt guilty. If Haku could see her now...
As she stood there lost in her thoughts the front door opened and out stepped Miku, indeed looking like she was ready to take on the world. The world would be easier than me Luka assured herself.
“Hey! Not to be, you know, rude or anything, but can we start early?” asked Miku. Given her track record, she wanted as much time as possible should there be a time limit.
“Of course, if you’re ready” Luka replied, not quite hiding a hint of coldness in her tone.
“Always” said Miku, stretching her arms and cracking her knuckles.
“Very well, then let me explain” said Luka, “Whereas the other two tests took you all day, you will have only four hours to complete this third test.”
Miku deflated slightly at that. So much for getting a head start.
“This is because this test is much more straightforward. You see, I am the third test. Starting now, you have four hours to land a hit on me. This means any contact at all from grazing my arm to punching me in the face. I will not fight back or attack you, so feel free to try any strategy you wish. You may begin.”
And with that, Luka sat down on the ground, took out a book, and began reading.
“You want me to just… like… hit you?” asked Miku, a little uncertain that she had heard correctly.
“Yes. Anything you wish to try is fair game so go ahead. It would behoove you to hurry up, you only have four hours.”
Miku was dumbfounded. Luka wasn’t even going to fight back? Was her final test seriously to just walk up and touch her? That couldn’t be it. But if it got the woman to train her then she wasn’t about to complain.
As such, Miku walked up to Luka hesitantly and reached out a hand. A split-second tingling in the air was all the warning she got as a powerful unseen force lifted her off of her feet and tossed her away like a ragdoll. She landed several feet away on her back, stunned.
“HEY! What the hell was that!?!?” yelled the blue-haired teen, quickly scrambling back to her feet, “I thought you weren’t going to fight back!”
“Who’s fighting back? I’m simply preventing you from hitting me.” Luka replied, not once looking up from her book, “You didn’t think it would be that easy did you?”
No, I guess not Miku thought to herself. She grit her teeth. It was never the easy way, was it?
Ok then, if that was how she wanted to play it, fine. Miku could play it like that. She backed up a few paces and started a simple beat in her head. She could definitely play it like that. She charged up a small energy blast and threw it at Luka.
It never got close. Luka’s own blast blocked it before it got within ten feet. Undeterred, Miku charged up again and threw two blasts at Luka. Again, there wasn’t even a chance.
Miku was rapidly beginning to understand just how far in over her head she might be. She usually had two ways to solve challenges. Punch it, or, when that failed to work, punch it harder. She was reasonably sure that neither of those were going to work very well here.
It was infuriating. The woman obviously wasn’t even trying. Miku’s vocal vision enhanced sight saw every tiny fluctuation of Luka’s energy as she knocked blast after blast out of the air. The amount of power she was exerting was almost non-existent. Miku needed something she couldn’t just block off hand...
The entire time Luka hadn’t looked away from her book for even a second. She had guessed it was going to be easy, but really? This easy? She had expected a bit more…
An enormous blast of energy came streaking through the air, headed directly for her. The power behind it was impressive, if only a fraction of hers. Without putting her book down she rolled to the side and out of the way of the blast. It sailed past her and impacted nearly twenty feet behind her, exploding in a shower of dirt and grass and leaving a small crater upon contact with the ground.
Before she had time to sit back up another equally powerful blast followed the first and she repeated the maneuver to avoid it.
Well, I almost can’t read my book, I suppose that counts for something… thought Luka.
Miku was nothing if not persistent. A third, even stronger attack plowed past the vocaloid master, digging a deep furrow through the ground.
My yard is going to look terrible after this...
This continued for two hours. The entire time, Luka completely evaded every effort to hit her by ducking, dodging, rolling, deflecting and just generally not being where Miku’s attacks were aimed at. To say that the girl was becoming frustrated would have been an understatement.
Miku huffed and puffed, drops of sweat trailing down her face. She was getting nowhere, and she knew it. At this rate she would run out of steam before she even got close to hitting Luka. She needed a new tactic, so she decided to change things up a bit.
Luka sensed another blast coming from the left and prepared to dodge but then realized that it wasn’t heading for her. It sailed wide right and hit the ground instead. Then another one came soaring through the air and hit the ground on her right. All at once the air was thick with orbs of energy flying every which way.
Without warning one of the blasts landed directly in front of her, sending a small plume of dust exploding upward. A second attack immediately followed, this one sailing directly through the cloud of debris on a collision course with her face.
Luka’s eyes went wide. With only a split second to react she threw herself to the side. The blast passed so close that she felt the whoosh of displaced air as it soared past.
That was close… she thought, her heart pounding. She looked up at Miku. She’s getting creative.
Luka calmly marked her spot in her book and put it away. That had been far too close for comfort. She couldn’t afford to get distracted now.
Miku smiled. That had almost worked. She at least had the vocaloid master’s attention now. Still, that only meant it would be even harder to hit her.
Let’s try it again she thought, charging up once more.
An additional hour later, Miku had achieved nothing but a field covered with craters and red, watery eyes from all the dust in the air which, annoyingly, didn’t seem to affect Luka in the slightest.
“You had best hurry up. You only have an hour left” The woman reminded her.
Miku only growled in response. She hardly needed Luka to tell her that she was on the brink of failure. She knew all too well that her time was running short.
Biting her bottom lip, Miku momentarily stopped her assault. She needed to do something and fast.
Luka watched as Miku began to run in the opposite direction, toward the treeline. She was momentarily confused. What could she possibly be up to now? Her question was answered almost immediately by a loud cracking noise.
She ducked as a small tree flew past her head. Oh, that. she thought as Miku pulverized the roots of another tree with a vicious salvo of energy blasts.
Luka was impressed by how far Miku was willing to go. But no matter how much she rearranged the landscape, it wasn’t going to make a difference. Luka jumped from place to place as it started raining boulders and large pieces of earth.
Luka heard Miku let out a frustrated scream as she ran back towards her. Frontal assault this time, then. Miku ran straight up to Luka and started throwing punches and kicks as fast as she could, but not one of them connected. Luka weaved in and out, easily avoiding the onslaught. She backed up against a boulder and moved to the left just as a fist smashed straight through it.
Miku was getting desperate now. She couldn’t touch her. Why couldn’t she touch her? The woman was like a ghost!
Miku let out another shout of frustration. This wasn’t working! Luka was simply too fast and too skilled for her to hit.
...It was time to try something stupid again.
Luka wondered if Miku would just keep it up until time ran out. She could imagine the look of heartbreak on the young girl’s face when she realized that she had failed. The mental image made her feel downright evil.
It should never have gotten to this point. If she’d just bitten the bullet and refused the girl outright none of this would be happening. Now she was going to have to crush this girl’s aspirations simply because she hadn’t been brave enough to say no.
And then it happened. Distracted as she was by her guilty conscience Luka almost failed to notice the tree trunk laying across the ground behind her. She hopped over it at the last second without missing a beat.
As soon as Luka’s feet touched the ground on the other side of the log Miku charged up a sizeable blast in her right hand, went low, and blasted the tree straight up off the ground into Luka’s face.
Luka’s hand sliced clean through the trunk, shearing it in two. The instant she did, her vision filled with bright blue.
Miku came flying through the air before the two halves of the tree had time to hit the ground. With a cry of victory she thrust one arm forward, her hand blazing with energy.
The whole scene moved in slow motion to Luka’s well-trained eye. The girl’s hand flashed once before the energy contained within blasted out at point blank range.
Luka’s head jerked to the side, the blast of blue passing millimeters from her eye. Her body, trained by years of fighting and self-preservation reflexively carried out the next step.
She smashed one foot into the ground, sending a wave of pure force blasting out in front of her. Instantly all of Miku’s forward momentum stopped.
Miku only had a split second to register of look of confusion before Luka charged up energy in her right hand, stepped forward, and released a blast directly into Miku’s chest.
It all happened in the blink of an eye, Luka acting purely on instinct. The blast was a small one, but a small blast from Luka was far different than a small blast from a sixteen year-old untrained Vocaloid.
Miku flew twenty feet before she hit the ground, then skidded and bounced as she ragdolled across the dirt for an additional fifteen before finally coming to a halt in a cloud of dust.
The girl didn’t move.
Luka was by her side in an instant. “Oh no… no no no…” she said to herself as she hastily turned Miku over. “A Oniigasen napermo please say I didn’t do this…”
She was still breathing, that was good, but she was out cold. She had rapidly growing bruises all over the place from hitting the ground and bouncing. Her elbows and knees were bloody as well as a spot on her left cheek, and one of her arms was bent in a way it shouldn’t have been. That was considerably less good. Luka scooped her up and bolted inside as fast as she could.
Half an hour later, Luka laid Miku’s still unconscious but thankfully alive form into bed. She had cleaned and dressed her wounds, and her left arm was in a sling. It had only been dislocated, but she was going to have to take it easy for a few days.
She was relieved that the girl was going to be ok. She was relieved as well, though now incredibly guilty, that Miku had also failed to complete the test. She was not looking forward to breaking the news to her. After what she had just done, she wouldn’t be surprised if the girl tried to attack her again out of principle.
With a heavy sigh Luka trudged to the bathroom to wash off the dust and exchange her now soiled clothing.
It was only after she had splashed some cold water on her face and looked in the mirror that she noticed it.
She could have sworn that she felt her heart skip a beat.
There, in her reflection, she saw something that shouldn’t have been there, something that couldn’t have been there, but no matter how many times she blinked or long she waited, it wasn’t going away.
Along her cheek ran a long, thin cut.
She had been hit.