Vocal Vision

Unsettling Rumors, The Training Begins!

“And that’s what happened” Miku finished explaining to Gumi.

Though she had started off the conversation worried, Gumi now found herself considerably more at ease. Indeed, she could hardly fathom why she had bothered worrying in the first place. Miku, as per usual, had woven an intense and life threatening narrative by embellishing the details of a far less impressive story. Though in this case “embellishing” might have been putting it lightly.

Miku’s explanation had consisted primarily of descriptions of her epic successes against all odds during her “tests” (complete with sound effects) along with a (curiously short) explanation of how she had expertly and maturely handled Luka’s fragile emotional state despite usually being less adept at dealing with such things than a toddler.

But Gumi was a sharp cookie, and she was able to discern most of what had actually happened from the explosive action movie Miku had made it out to be.

She had been attacked, certainly, that much was obvious. Luka, being both willing and capable of defending Miku had jumped in to save her. Being that she actually had turned out to be who Miku said she was, and considering the staggering and nigh on comical ineptitude displayed by the would-be assaulters, the fight was a short one.

The next part was a little fuzzy. Gumi wasn’t really sure how Luka or anyone else for that matter could have possibly “accidentally” agreed to put Miku through a series of tests, (and Miku’s ridiculously over-dramatized version of events certainly hadn’t helped where clarity was concerned) but she wasn’t about to ask her friend to go over it a second time.

The tests themselves, impossible as they should have been, proved to be inadequate in stopping Miku. Gumi smiled inwardly. If there was one thing that the girl didn’t have to embellish, it was her natural ability. When Miku actually applied herself failure was a rare thing.

The rest of the story had been a quickly glossed-over account of Miku yelling, Luka crying, and a suspiciously hurried explanation that Miku was, in fact, and against all odds a genius when it came to emotional crises and she should “probably totes be a psychiatrist if she weren’t such an amazing fighter.”

Gumi was fairly certain that she had strained something rolling her eyes so hard.

After all was said and done, the only part of Miku’s story that wasn’t a gross exaggeration was the part where she called Gumi after it was all over.

Exaggeration aside, however, the tale was a remarkable one. The fact that a person actually possessing such a ludicrous title as “Legendary Assassin” existed in this day and age was unbelievable enough. The further addition of agreeing to train her friend in Vocaloid combat following the completion of three comic book-esque trials to prove her worth simply made the entire situation even more difficult to accept.

People didn’t act that way! What sort of sane individual sequesters themselves in the woods for over a decade, cutting off nearly all human contact, and then decides to show herself to the one person in the world who happens to be searching for her? If Gumi didn’t know better, she would have assumed that the entire thing was an elaborate prank and was just Miku’s latest attempt to get one over on her.

Whatever the case, she’d have to consider the finer details at a later date. As riveting as Gumi was sure Miku found her own tale to be, there was a far more pressing matter at hand.

Gumi sighed irritably. She had very much wanted to bring it up some two and a half hours previously but had been unable to get a word in edgewise.

“Miku, it’s great and all that you got the legendary assassin to teach you, really, I’m super impressed and you’re probably going to be the greatest Vocaloid ever but there’s something really important that I have to tell you!” she said forcefully.

“Can’t it wait?” Miku replied, “I’m basking in the glow of my own accomplishment here!”

“No! It can’t wait! You’ve been gone so you don’t know what’s happened!” said Gumi, a telltale and all-too-familiar note of worry making its way into her speech, “You haven’t heard what they’re saying! What everyone’s saying!”

Miku wasn’t the worrying type, and she was no stranger to Gumi’s penchant for undue stress over small matters, but something in the tone of her friend’s voice told her that this time was different. She could tell that Gumi sincerely believed that there was something seriously amiss.

“Slow down, what who’s saying?” asked Miku quizzically, “What do you mean?”

“It’s all over the news. I couldn’t believe it myself at first. I mean… I still don’t believe it, it’s ridiculous, insane even. It doesn’t make any logical sense but nobody seems to care!”

“Whoa whoa whoa! Hold up!” Miku said, starting to become genuinely concerned. This was a little much, even for her best friend. “Start from the beginning, what’s going on over there?”

“It started a few days ago, after the last time we spoke” said Gumi, a slight note of panic creeping into her voice. “I thought it was just a hoax when I first saw it and now they’re calling it the great crisis of our time! They’re saying that… oh, God, I can’t believe I’m saying this but they’re saying that Vocaloidism is a disease!”

Several seconds of silence followed Gumi’s statement during which Miku blinked several times and then rolled her eyes. And here she had thought that maybe Gumi might actually have some sort of problem. This was apparently just another of her conspiracy theories.

“Oh yeah, real important” said Miku with a slight chuckle. “Geez, I swear you’ll get worked up over anything.”

“Miku, I’m being serious here!” said Gumi, and her tone backed it up. “They’re saying that being a Vocaloid is a genetic disorder!”

“That’s insane!” said Miku dismissively, “I’m a Vocaloid, Gumi. Heck, so are you! There’s nothing wrong with us! It’s just a hoax.”

“That’s what I thought at first too” said Gumi, her nervousness more evident than ever, “but it’s not going away! There’ve been tests, documentation, expert testimony, and all of it’s fake, I know it. It has to be! All of the dozens of doctors and scientists and the World Health Organization are just… faking it… they’re not… they can’t… Even the world’s leading geneticist has confirmed it but he has to be lying and I don’t know how to deal with this for God’s sake help me Miku!

Gumi was really working herself into a frenzy. Miku quickly spoke up. “Ok, ok. Calm down. Deep breaths. It’s going to be fine. I mean, why should we believe that guy?”

“...Because he’s the world’s leading geneticist!” Gumi practically shouted into the receiver. “You aren’t helping! People are starting to think it’s contagious!”

“Contagious?” said Miku, “I may not be the smartest person in the world but genetic disorders aren’t contagious, right? I’m supposed to believe that I lived in a town full of people for most of my life with a contagious disease and no one got it?”

“Of course it isn’t contagious!” said Gumi exasperatedly. “But people get scared easily!”

“Ok then, what if it is a disease?” asked Miku, “Why is it dangerous?”

“I don’t know!” said Gumi, “Nobody does! All I’ve heard is what’s on the news. That’s not the issue. I’m not worried about Vocaloidism actually being a dangerous disease because that’s crazy and screw that guy and his credible knowledge of the human genome! This is why I work with electronics! They don’t mutate!”

“We aren’t mutants, Gumi” said Miku, trying desperately to get her friend to calm down. “I mean, sure, I wouldn’t exactly say we’re normal either but-”

“And that isn’t even the worst part!” Gumi continued, cutting Miku off. “Even if Vocaloidism were dangerous, which it isn’t, that isn’t the most pressing issue. People are freaking out about this! They’re letting their emotions get the better of them. They’re starting to panic based on clearly falsified evidence. Who does that!?!?”

“I could think of someone…” Miku muttered darkly.

“And now there are groups that want the government or the military to get involved. Some cities and towns are on the verge of rioting already, I’m sure. It’s only a matter of time before they declare martial law and-”

“Ok, enough! Has anything actually happened yet?” asked Miku.

“Well, no, of course not yet but I’m sure that it can’t be very-” Gumi began.

“Not finished!” Miku interrupted her. “Nothing’s happened? Nothing is being done yet? Then what’s the issue? If nothing’s happened then there’s nothing to be worried about.”

“But what if-”

“No buts!” Miku continued, “If there’s nothing happening yet then why are you freaking out?”

“What about all the people who are calling for government quarantine?” Gumi asked, “Don’t I have a right to be worried about that? I mean, I’m a Vocaloid, aren’t I? What if they come for me?”

“Gumi, there’s a difference between being afraid and being prepared” responded Miku. “I swear, for being a genius you’re not too bright sometimes.”

In an instant, Gumi knew she was right. Miku was right like she always was (regarding things not academically-related, at least). Miku knew there was no reason for her to worry, only to prepare for what might happen. Honestly, Vocaloidism a disease? The idea itself was ridiculous. It was crazy! Who listened to the news these days anyway?

“I understand that this has got to be a strange situation for you, but I promise that things will work out” Miku said.

“How do you know that?” Gumi asked, still unsure.

“I don’t” said Miku, “I don’t know how, but they will.”

In spite of herself, Gumi smiled.

“That’s just like you” she said, “Always so sure of everything.”

“Have I ever been wrong?” asked Miku.

“Only on every algebra equation you’ve ever attempted to solve” Gumi joked. Somehow she felt better now. Talking to Miku always seemed to have that effect on her.

“Yeah, well, thank God I’m not aiming to be a mathematician” said Miku, now smiling herself, “Anyways, my new teacher is probably wondering where I am. It’s been three hours since I shut myself in my room. You’re cool now, right?”

“Yeah” Gumi replied, genuinely feeling relieved. “I guess I just needed someone to tell me to stop thinking so hard.”

Gumi paused for a moment. “Wait a second, your room?” Miku hadn’t been Luka’s apprentice for half a day yet and here she was already claiming portions of the woman’s house. “Are you sure you aren’t just being graciously allowed to sleep there?”

“Nope, totally mine” Miku replied with a grin. “I think we’ll have to do something about the walls, though. Pink really isn’t my color. Hey, I’ll call you again tomorrow. Talk to you later.”

Miku pressed the end call button on the phone-shaped contraption. It was so awesome to be able to speak to Gumi again after so long. She missed her a lot, but she would manage.

She mulled over her friend’s concerns in her head. Even though she had told Gumi not to worry she couldn’t deny that it was strange. How could the government possibly think that Vocaloidism was a disease? Putting something like that on national television was a surefire way to cause undue panic.

She got off the bed and opened the door. A quick trip down the hallway found Luka in the living room lying on the couch with a bowl of popcorn watching some dramatic-looking crime show. The thought occurred to her that television had most likely been a welcome companion during the woman’s years of isolation. Miku still didn’t know how it was possible for Luka to have cable, living this far away from the nearest town, though. She made a mental note to ask her about it later.

The scene struck Miku as strange, for a moment. The image in front of her of Luka acting… well, normal, was a stark contrast to the woman with fiery eyes who had effortlessly rescued her from a group of bandits (highwaymen?).

“Look who finally decided to come out of hiding” said Luka, looking behind her. “Odd, I thought I was the hermit here.”

The casual greeting served only to further accentuate the fact that no matter how strange or surreal this woman seemed to be, she was still a regular person at heart.

“Cut me some slack” said Miku, shaking herself out of her reverie. “I haven’t talked to Gumi in forever.”

Miku walked around the couch and plopped herself down on the opposite end. “She said something that I wanted to ask you about, actually.”

“What might that be?” asked Luka, turning the volume down on the TV.

“I mean, don’t get me wrong, Gumi is smart and all but she’s really bad about worrying about stuff so don’t take it too seriously, but she was talking about the military and how they’re saying Vocaloidism is-”

“A disease?” Luka interrupted her. Miku nodded. “Yes, I saw that as well” said Luka, her tone one of disgust, “It’s nothing to worry about, just something else to complain over. Give it a few days, it will blow over.”

“You really think that’s all it is?” asked Miku.

Luka nodded. “It’s the problem with people, unfortunately. It doesn’t matter if something is happening far away. If it can’t affect them, it isn’t their concern. Then when something happens close to home, like this Vocaloid crisis nonsense, they panic and it suddenly becomes far more important.

Miku weighed Luka’s appraisal. All things considered, she couldn’t help but think that it sounded a bit jaded.

“I don’t think it’s like that” she replied. “I think they’re just scared. They aren’t trying to be uncaring or anything.”

“Perhaps not” Luka conceded, shrugging. “You’ll have to forgive me if I come off as cynical. Maybe I’ve just seen too much selfishness to think otherwise. The fabric of humanity makes ugly clothing.”

Luka brightened up. “In any case, there is still the issue of your training. Truth be told-”

“That’s a nice change” muttered Miku under her breath. Luka shushed her.

“Truth be told, I’ve never trained anyone before. So if it seems like I know what I’m doing, don’t let appearances fool you.”

“Don’t worry, if you feel like you can’t do it we’ll just switch and I’ll be the teacher” said Miku with a smirk.

“Don’t get too cocky. I might just break your arm for real this time” said Luka, but there was no hostility in her voice. “You should go to bed. If I’m actually going to teach you to fight, then you’re going to be up pretty early.”

“Are you seriously giving me a bedtime?” asked Miku.

“No, but I am giving you a wake up time. It’s up to you if you’re well rested when it gets here.” She replied.

As much as she hated being told what to do, Miku knew Luka was right. So she bid her goodnight and headed back to “her room”.

Luka had told her that there was nothing to it, and she had assured Gumi of the same, but at the back of her mind she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to this “disease” scare than met the eye. Putting it aside, she decided to concentrate on the present instead. After all, she had to start planning for her no doubt meteoric rise to fame and glory after she had finished Luka’s training.

Five o’ clock AM came earlier than Miku had expected. Luka, contrary to her usual lax attitude, was a drill sergeant when it came to mornings. A still half-asleep Miku was herded from the bathroom to the kitchen and out the front door in a matter of minutes.

Blinking groggily in the misty pre-dawn, Miku was acutely aware of just how absolutely unpleasant it was to be outside in the cold, wet, grass rather than a nice warm bed. She hoped the sun would rise soon, at least then it might warm up a bit.

Luka, however, seemed to be positively brimming with energy. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly as she took in nature’s tranquility. It felt good to be up early again. She hadn’t done any serious training like this in years and the expectancy was exciting.

Where the training itself was concerned Luka had a few ideas, but was forced to accept that it would have to come mostly as they went along. It had been a long time since she had trained under someone herself, but she was certain that with a little practice she could shake the rust off.

Even so, there was the issue of Miku’s left arm being in a sling, which put most any form of physical exercise or combat off the table. This being the case, Luka had decided that they would begin with energy manipulation. It was one of her specialties, and something that she was confident that she could teach even if she hadn’t before.

She would wait awhile before getting into anything too advanced. A good physical base was essential for what she wanted to do later, and while Miku was certainly in good shape Luka knew that the strain might be overly much for a body that wasn’t used to the stress.

As it were, a few basic control exercises would provide a solid basis for later, as well as serve as a good starting point.

She spun around to face Miku, who was still standing a few feet from the front door looking like a zombie.

“Alright! Are we ready to get started then?” Luka asked, beaming at Miku, who responded by giving Luka her most professional unfocused stare.

Greeted by said stare, Luka replied “I’ll assume that means yes…”

“Anyway,” She continued, “Before we begin there’s something that I feel I need to tell you. As I said before, I’m terribly sorry about your arm. It was an accident in this case, but it raises an important point: compared to the injuries that you can sustain in real fights against powerful opponents a dislocated shoulder is relatively minor. I feel that it’s only fair to warn you now that during your time with me, I’m not going to go easy on you. You will probably get hurt all the time during your training. The upside is that by the time we’re done, you’ll be able to take more punishment than you ever thought possible.”

Miku continued to look bleary-eyed.

“Of course, the point in any fight is to try and avoid getting hit in the first place, but it’s unreasonable to think that it will never happen. So I’m going to toughen you up enough that you’ll be able to take a beating and keep getting back up.”

Miku, even as tired as she was, liked the way that sounded. Not necessarily the part about taking a beating, but the part about getting up sounded good.

Perking up slightly, Miku smirked. “I can take the pain. You can go ahead and give me what you’ve got.”

Luka matched Miku’s expression. “Confidence is good. Don’t get ahead of yourself though.”

Miku snorted. “I mean it. I’ll take whatever you-”

She didn’t even have time to register that Luka had moved before the woman’s fist was planted squarely into her gut. The blow didn’t carry nearly as much force as the blast from before, but it was plenty to drop Miku where she stood.

As she lay on the ground clutching her abdomen and trying to breathe with the wind knocked out of her, Miku heard Luka say “I may have forgotten to mention that more often than not I will be the reason that you’re hurt.”

Miku tried to speak but barely managed a pained sputtering noise before she coughed several times. Luka smiled down at her. “When we’re done, you won’t even feel a blow as weak as that.”

If that was weak, Miku could scarcely imagine Luka’s definition of strong. Still, as painful as it was, it certainly put everything into perspective. There was no doubt that Luka had been keeping herself in check during Miku’s third test.

Far from dampening her spirits, however, the realization only fueled Miku’s desire to learn even more. If it was going to hurt… well, just call it an occupational hazard.

Luka turned around and started to walk back towards the house. She would give Miku a few minutes to steady herself before they started training.

“Hold on… don’t go anywhere... ” wheezed Miku’s voice from behind her.

Luka turned around and was surprised to see Miku already back on her feet.

“I got it… I got it...” she wheezed, determined not to show weakness despite the obvious discomfort. “We’re good. Oh… I’ve never actually felt my internal organs before... “

“You certainly are the real deal aren’t you...” said Luka. It wasn’t a question. She smiled. “Alright then, if you know what to expect then let us get started.”

Despite the pain in her stomach, Miku was excited. This was what she had come for, and she’d be damned if she was going to give up just because it hurt.

“It’s about time” said Miku with a smile, getting her breathing back under control.

“Glad to see you’re not quite as soft as you look” said Luka, “But even though I would love to keep beating you up, we’ll be starting with something more tame. I did want to begin with some basic fighting technique, but seeing as your arm is still in a sling, that’s hardly an option. Instead I’d like to address something that I noticed during your ‘tests’.”

“So you were actually paying attention” said Miku, grinning.

Ignoring the jab, Luka drew some energy into her hand and held it there. In Miku’s eyes it pulsed slightly, glowing pink.

“Under normal circumstances I would have to use considerably more energy than this to make a visual aid” said Luka. “Both of us, however, are able to use vocal vision, so this should do just fine.”

“What’s vocal vision?” asked Miku. “You said that the other day too when we met. What does that mean?”

Luka stopped. That was right. Miku didn’t even realize that she had any sort of remarkable ability. She looked the girl up and down for a moment. How strange it was that such amazing natural talent could come in such an odd package. “You… really don’t know?”

Miku raised an eyebrow. “Should I?”

Luka thought about it for a moment. “Well… yes and no. It’s not exactly common knowledge, but haven’t you ever thought it was strange that others couldn’t always see when you used your powers?”

Miku looked confused. “They couldn’t? Then why did I always get yelled at to stop making flashing lights in the middle of the night? And to not shoot glowing stuff at the neighbor’s cat?”

Luka stood for moment, simply staring at Miku. “Are you meaning to tell me that you’ve never used vocal energy in such a way that others couldn’t see it?”

Miku didn’t even hesitate. “Not really. I mean, sure, I do that rock floating thing sometimes but why would I not want people to see what I’m doing?”

Luka simply stared. “I… I’m not sure what to say to that… Did the thought of not destroying something ever even enter your mind?”

“Not sure if you noticed” said Miku, raising an eyebrow, “but breaking stuff is sort of my thing.”

“Noted” said Luka flatly. “Well since the concept of holding back seems entirely foreign to you I guess we’ll have to start at the beginning.”

Summoning another glowing ball into her hand, Luka continued. “I’ll assume that you at least know how to do this?”

Miku frowned and created a ball of her own. It glowed a bright blue, much brighter than Lukas.

“Now try and tone it down. Use less energy.”

Doing as she was bid, Miku dialed back the energy flowing into her hand. The orb dimmed considerably.

“I don’t get it.”

“If you did we wouldn’t be doing this” said Luka. “Try taking a little more away.”

As Miku again decreased the energy supplied to the orb it began to lose definite shape. It resembled less of a ball and more of an amorphous blob.

“There. Now what can you tell me about it?”

Miku stared at her hand. “It’s… uhh… almost gone? I can’t even feel it anymore.”

“It’s not almost gone” said Luka. “That’s the amount of energy an average vocaloid would use. You’re just so used to overdoing it that you don’t know what it feels like. What you’re holding there is called uncondensed vocal energy. It isn’t concentrated enough to be visible to the naked eye.”

“But I can see it just fine.”

“You can always see it. For everyone else, what’s in your hand right now is invisible. Normally it would take someone years of advanced vocal energy manipulation training to be able to do what you can without even trying. Even then it’s not something that’s always on. If I wasn’t intending to I wouldn’t be able to see it either.”

Luka gave Miku an admonishing look. “Some vocaloids struggle to make even this much energy. I shudder to think what would have happened to your neighbor’s cat had you actually hit it.”

“I didn’t hurt it!” said Miku defensively, then faltered. “Er… mostly. It lived at least.”

Again Luka simply stared. “In any case…” she continued, “Uncondensed energy isn’t what we’ll be using. If you really want to cause some damage, which would obviously be advantageous if someone is trying to do the same to you, you’ll need the type of energy that you’re apparently very familiar with: condensed vocal energy.”

For a third time Luka brought a glowing pink orb to life in her hand. It was noticeably brighter than before. “The obvious difference is that this is dense enough to see without any sort of aid. It’s also a lot more dangerous.”

“It’s a simple matter to just toss it at something.” Luka raised her palm. With a rush of air she pushed forward and let the orb fly. The blast went whistling into the nearby treeline, impacting solidly into the trunk of a tree and shattering a section of bark.

Drawing another small sphere of energy into her hand, she again held it there. “But what if I’m not in a position where I can easily throw my energy at a target, like if there’s an enemy behind me? It shouldn’t be a problem.”

Luka thrust her elbow backwards. As she did so, the energy rippled back along her arm, leaving her body at the joint. The blast flew a short way and then disappeared.

“As I said before, I noticed something during your tests: you only ever manipulate energy with your hands” said Luka. “To a fully accomplished Vocaloid that isn’t practical. You have to be able to release your energy from anywhere, not just your hands. For example… your feet.”

Luka kicked out to the side and sent a blast of energy out of her foot and into the ground nearby.

“Or perhaps your knee.”

Luka acted as though she was grabbing an imaginary opponent and thrust her knee into where the hypothetical target’s diaphragm would be. A small burst of energy issued forth.

“Or even your head.”

Picking up a small rock, she smashed her head against it. Rather than knocking herself out (as Miku had half-wanted to see) there was a flash of pink and the rock was reduced to nothing more than a pile of dust.

“The point is, you can attack with any part of your body as long you can manipulate your energy efficiently. You can condense your energy better than a vocaloid twice your age and from what I’ve seen you can even use it to increase your strength by a considerable amount.”

Luka frowned. “The problem is that your arms are the only place where you can gather energy effectively. We can try something more advanced later. For right now I want to see you try and focus your energy somewhere you aren’t used to. Try your legs. Don’t release it. Just gather it, hold it, and then let it dissipate.”

That felt good. The thought popped into Luka’s mind. She hadn’t known how she was supposed to act as a teacher, but she found that she rather enjoyed barking out orders. More than just that, though, it felt right.

“I’ll be back in three hours” said Luka, “Show me what you’ve been able to do then.”

“Three hours?” asked Miku incredulously. “That’s like… like three hours!”

“Too long?” Luka queried, raising an eyebrow. “I was under the impression that you were serious about this.”

“Not that it’s just… you want me to just stand here for three hours moving my energy around?” she asked. It sounded a bit boring.

“Of course not!” said Luka, with a sly smile, “Feel free to sit down if you want!”

With that Luka turned around, smiling at her own wit, and walked back into the house.

Miku, however, was not smiling. Was training supposed to be this… uninteresting? Standing in the cold, wet grass by herself in the early morning doing nothing more than moving her energy around? Still… Luka did seem like she knew what she was doing, and Miku had definitely asked for this.

“Didn’t know it was going to be such a snoozefest…” the disgruntled teen muttered under her breath.

Half an hour later, however, Miku was finding that perhaps it wasn’t as boring as she had thought. The sensation of moving energy into her legs was completely new to her, and she wondered why she’d never thought of it before. The power circulating through her calves and thighs made her feel like she could jump twenty feet in the air or run a hundred miles an hour.

And all the while entirely new sounds accompanied her actions. She was so used to the steady, pulsing bass that moved energy through her arms. This was so different. Phantom strings echoed in her ears as she felt wisps of power flowing through her muscles.

Luka had told her not to mess around with it too much, but Miku was finding it increasingly difficult to contain herself. The urge to try running was just too much.

She took a step forward and smiled as the strings changed their tone. She took a few more, breaking into a light jog. The music matched her pace, playing a new note each time her feet hit the ground.

It was intoxicating. The instant she put her foot down, her energy bounced with it, practically propelling it back up of its own will. Each step brought a new sound and a new sensation, and Miku quickly found herself going faster.

She let it happen. She was easily running faster than she ever had before, and she wasn’t even breaking a sweat. If this was what training with Luka was going to be like, then she was more thrilled now than she had ever been.

This is awesome! she cheered inside.

The tree was far less enthusiastic. As enthralled as she had been with the new experience, Miku failed to notice that she was rapidly approaching the edge of the forest surrounding Luka’s house. She threw herself to the side in an attempt to avoid a collision, but found that maneuvering at her new speed was considerably harder than she had anticipated.

She only barely succeeded in avoiding a direct hit, instead sideswiping the trunk with her right shoulder and crashing hard to the ground, rolling through the underbrush for a few feet before coming to rest flat on her back.

Staring up at the early morning light filtering through the branches, Miku huffed, blowing a lock of blue hair out of her face.

“Note to self: burn down the rainforest.”

Struggling to her feet and wincing at the ache in what was now both of her shoulders, Miku composed herself. She was careful to walk, rather than run, around to the back of Luka’s house. Once there she concentrated, once again bringing a low note into her mind and feeling a bit of power gather in her (now slightly sore) legs.

For several minutes, Miku did just as she had been instructed, her less than graceful first attempt compelling her to perhaps tone it down just slightly. Unsurprisingly, however, it wasn’t long before she once again felt the urge to push the boundaries.

Composing herself, Miku once again gathered energy in her legs and held it there. For a second time she felt the amazing rush of strength and for a second time the vibrato of powerful strings sang in her ears. She was careful to walk, rather than run, around the back of Luka’s house until she spotted a small shed. The shed in itself wasn’t remarkable, but it did have a nice flat roof a good way off the ground. Miku wasn’t entirely certain it was safe, but from where she stood it looked like a solid landing spot.

Flexing her leg muscles, Miku prepared for liftoff. Focusing on landing squarely on top of the shed roof, she flared the energy in her legs and felt her ghostly orchestra crescendo along with her. Smiling in anticipation, she jumped.


Well, at least she’d been right about being able to jump higher, she mused from her new place among some of Luka’s hedges. Overzealous in her newfound strength, she had cleared the shed by at least four feet.

ow… she thought. Well that hadn’t gone quite according to plan. For a second time she had found that applying the precise amount of force necessary was considerably more difficult than it seemed. The bushes she currently resided in had saved her the embarrassment of a broken leg.

A few minutes later, after extricating herself from the bushes and picking the excess detritus from her clothes and her hair, Miku, ever the glutton for punishment, was eager to continue. Luka had told her specifically not to try releasing the energy but really, at this point, that didn’t count for much.

If she could get a good blast off, she was sure she could knock a tree over. She could punch a tree over easily, so kicking one should be even simpler. Once more she felt ethereal bows drawn across incorporeal strings and drew power from them. With sufficient energy concentrated and straining to be unleashed, she was careful to walk (not run!) as she approached a nearby tree. Taking aim, she struck out with a powerful straight left side kick.

At the same moment that her foot made contact with the bark of the tree she released the pent up energy. Rather than a glorious crescendo, however, the strings in her head screeched to a halt as the energy exploded backwards, sending her sprawling.

Having been intimately introduced to the ground for a third time by nothing more than her own stupidity, Miku was understandably miffed. Mostly at herself, of course, but also at trees (Those leafy green bastards. They’re always getting in the way). She couldn’t rightly say exactly where she had gone wrong, but after being bested by plant life for the third time in one day she began to think that perhaps she needed a little more practice.

So Miku, however grudgingly, decided that it was best to actually listen to what Luka had told her and start small. She stood up again and started concentrating her energy. Sure, it was boring, but at least it didn’t involve trees.

A short distance away, behind Miku’s back, one of the house’s curtains fluttered shut. Luka had herself a short laugh as she retreated from her spying post. She had suspected that Miku wouldn’t be able to resist pushing the envelope, but it was still quite entertaining to watch.

After nearly three hours of gathering and dissipating energy in her legs, Miku was beginning to get a feel for how it should be done. Her grasp on the technique was still tenuous at best, but at least she had figured out how to avoid causing explosions. She reasoned that that must be a good sign.

As she began charging up once again, she heard a sound from behind her. It was a slow clapping. She turned around to see Luka standing in the doorway of the house. Having been so concentrated on her task she hadn’t even heard the door open.

Luka walked forward. “That’s very good for a beginner” said Luka, “I thought it would take you at least a day before you got the hang of it.”

“Yeah, it was easy” said Miku with a hint of pride, “In fact, I bet-”

A small blast of energy drilled into her chest, interrupting her and sending her to the ground for the fourth time in one day.

“What the hell was that for!?!?!” yelled Miku.

“Partly because you broke the rules, and partly because I find it very funny” said Luka with a gleam in her eye. “When I say not to mess around I mean it. It won’t be my fault when you run into another tree and give yourself a concussion.”

So Luka had been watching the whole thing. Well great, now she probably wouldn’t ever let her live that down. Miku couldn’t blame her. In retrospect it probably had been quite a show.

Luka extended a hand, offering to help her up. Miku accepted the gesture sheepishly.

“Don’t worry” said Luka, “When the time comes, I’ll break the rules with you. But for now, the only thing you’re going to get from improper control of your energy is hurt.”

Back on her feet, Miku let out a “hmph” and crossed her arms, a redness tinting her cheeks. Luka reached out and patted her head. Ah to be a teenager again she thought.

“Come on, I think you’ll like the next part” said Luka, walking back towards the house.

“Is it knocking over trees?” asked Miku.

“Even better” replied Luka, smiling, “Breakfast.”

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