Mahou mo Ken
All rights to Harry Potter and its world, characters, and settings belong to JK Rowling.
Chapter One - Ken
At number four, Privet Drive, a sixteen-year-old boy with intense green eyes, unruly black hair, and a lightning bolt-shaped scar turned over in his bed, tugging the covers closer to his body as he closed his eyes, willing himself to sleep. Furiously, the boy hoped he wouldn't have nightmares this night… but he was sure his hopes would be for naught.
Finally, sleep overtook his unruly thoughts and he fell into a deep, dark slumber.
As the nightmares claimed him, he could see the one person he cherished, his one last remaining relative fall through a rectangular portal, never to be seen again. His dream-self screamed, and for the first time screaming at somebody else to help him.
A cold shiver made its way up his spine then, and his nightmare shattered, to be replaced by total and utter darkness.
And he was not alone… the boy scanned around, sure that he was somehow awake now, where he had been asleep before. He could not see anyone, but the ghostly presence to his senses remained.
"Hello? Who's there?" he tried, somehow not believing that he would receive an answer.
To his surprise, the presence intensified in strength, as if it were trying to find him as badly as he was trying to find it.
"Anybody?" he tried again, to see if the mysterious presence would increase in strength again, hoping that he would be able to locate it then.
The presence did indeed increase in strength, yet he no longer needed to look for it, as it… found him.
A classic, Asian woman appeared before him, dressed in what looked to the boy like a loose-fitting traditional Japanese garment of some sorts. A staff was in her right hand, at least two meters in height and made out of darkened wood. In her left hand, she held a Katana, the curved sword of Japanese tradition.
The boy swallowed deeply, this mysterious Asian woman's power visible even to his undeveloped senses. "Eh… hi," he tried.
She dipped her head. "Good… evening… to you as well," she answered with precise tones, looking around and somehow finding the correct greeting. He had the impression that it was nowhere near night for this woman. "May I have the name of the person who sent a cry for help halfway around the world?" she asked.
The boy swallowed, somehow knowing that she was talking about him, and confirming his thoughts about her being nowhere near evening at the same time. "Eh… Harry. Harry Potter," he whispered, looking at, what he thought, was the ground. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to…"
"I know you did not mean to disturb me," the woman replied, not letting him finish his statement. "And I do not hold it against you." She smiled slightly at him as he shot her a very surprised look. "And yes, I can read your mind… now, I am most curious. You have the power to shoot a cry for help halfway around the world, yet you do not have the power to protect yourself…"
Harry couldn't help himself, and thought about the Occlumency lessons he had 'enjoyed' at the hand of one of his teachers, a professor named Severus Snape. The woman's eyes went big, as the entire story seemed to roll out of his mind at full speed, her one question triggering the entire set of events, and the associated memories. His mind did what it did best… associate. The more Harry tried not to think about it, the more his mind conjured up the images he was not supposed to think about.
Finally, he just stood there, looking at his feet, panting, as the entire story just retold itself before his mind's eye. He startled when a single hand rested upon his shoulder. The mysterious woman had approached, and put her hand on his shoulder. She looked at him with sympathy.
"I am the first to admit that memories might be tainted by the person's interpretation of events," she stated calmly. "However, I can not see how memories such as these could be misinterpreted. Not to mention the fact that all the evidence to the truth is right here… instead of protecting your mind, your Professor only opened your mind further. You are wide open and unprotected, and that is why I can be here, and look through your mind, even though we are half a world apart."
He just nodded, too numb to talk. "Do you still want help?" she then asked. "I realize this was part of your dream. However, I am in the position to help you… train you… and perhaps we can have your valuable mind shielded by the time the next school year starts."
Harry looked up at her. "Do you… do you mean that?" As she nodded, he brightened, but then immediately sobered up. "But… who are you?"
She bowed regally, her introduction flowing off her lips as if born to it. "Mahou mo Ken, Consult to the Government of Japan, and First Bodyguard to the Emperor of Japan."
"Eh…" Harry stammered at the woman. "Wow," he finally managed. "Mahou…"
She smiled at him. "Mahou mo Ken," she repeated. "Magic and Sword. It is my title… and my name is mine alone."
He nodded, able to understand why someone would want to go by a title and make sure their names were kept private. He decided to try again. "So… how does everybody call you? Mahou? Ken?"
"Sensei," the woman replied levelly. "Or 'Sir'. His Imperial Majesty calls me 'Ken'."
Harry swallowed, understanding instinctively how much it meant for her to tell him how the emperor called her. He nodded. "I understand… ma'am."
She smiled daintily at him again. "In here, we are most definitely private. You may call me Ken."
Harry swallowed, nodding dumbly. "T-thank you, Ken."
She smiled at him, that thin and graceful smile he had somehow became attached to, even in such a short time. "First of all," she said, becoming all business, "I will teach you how to properly shield your mind. It just will not do to have you run around with a mind stripped of all defenses. Basically, it means that I will have to teach you both Legilimancy and Occlumancy... after all, there is much more than just those two skills that I can teach you."
"You... you will teach me more than just that?" Harry asked, somewhat shocked. "I-I mean, gladly! But, only if it's not too much of a bother..."
Her image seemed to become semi-transparent for just a second. "I was meditating, listening in to the voice of the universe around me. That was how I was able to detect you. You are no bother... the things you went through have been enough, and I have decided to help you." Her deep, black eyes settled on him, as if they looked through his very soul. "Unless you do not want me to help you, that is."
"Of course I want you to help me!" Harry shouted. "I mean, this is the first time someone like you has offered to help me, and the things I can learn from you..."
That enigmatic smile again, and Harry's talking trailed off. "I will teach you a variety of skills, using a technique that will be neither easy nor pleasant, but one that has been made possible due to your... unique condition. Because you don't have mental shielding, it is possible for me to transfer some of my knowledge to you. It takes time and energy... and it will most definitely leave you sick after each session, but your progress will be remarkable." She looked at him again. "Are you sure you wish to continue?"
Harry stood there, transfixed, staring at this Asian woman for close to ten seconds, somehow digesting everything she said. Something jumped out at him. "But... you said that you would teach me to shield myself... wouldn't it be impossible for you to teach me after that?"
She smiled wider at him. "You are a smart person, Harry Potter, and I'm pleased you ask that question. However, you did not think far enough." She stopped talking, looking at him, as if waiting for him to figure it out by himself. After five seconds, when it was obvious he wouldn't say anything, she went on. "I will be the one to teach you about reading and protecting minds... of course I will also teach you to allow people you trust absolutely to access your mind directly. And that, my young student, will be harder than learning the rest of the skills combined. Unfortunately, your safety has precedence. I will first teach you shields. Then I will instruct you on how to let people in... the old fashioned way, through verbal transfer. As soon as you clear that, I will start teaching you other things."
Harry just nodded.
Ken smiled reassuringly at him, placing her hand on his shoulder again. "Now, sleep, my young student. You need rest, so that we can start tomorrow."
Harry stared at his feet again, the all-encompassing blackness still not forming a decent floor for Harry to look at. He swallowed. "I..." he tried, voice faltering as he tried to tell his new teacher. He licked his lips; tried again. "I haven't gotten much sleep," he finally said. "The nightmares..."
Ken lifted his chin with her free hand. "Harry, there is nothing wrong with feeling sad about losing someone. There is nothing wrong with missing that person either. You just lost someone incredibly important to you, and it is eating at you. It is understandable. But you can not let that sadness eat you alive. Remember your loved ones, Harry. Honor them, and live to the best of your abilities. And that is how you can bring them joy, as they are, without a doubt, watching you from the afterlife." She smiled sadly. '"But it hasn't been long enough for such philosophy lessons yet. You still ache for this death. " She sighed deeply, and the blackness seemed to deepen in color, if such a thing was possible. "Sleep, Harry, and I will keep you safe."
Her image vanished before he had a chance to thank her, for everything, when the blackness encroached on his mind, and Harry's consciousness faded, vaguely aware of a falling sensation before sleeping a deep and restful sleep.
He awoke the next morning, feeling remarkably rested for the first time since a long time. He could feel the all-encompassing darkness that had shielded him during the night fall away at the precise moment he opened his eyes. Not knowing what Ken had done to him, but sincerely grateful for it, Harry got up from the rickety bed that he had been provided with.
For once, he didn't hate his adopted family, the Dursleys, for what they had done to him. Rather, he felt a sincere and heartfelt pity for them, for their small minds, and their fear of him and everything unusual and what they considered to be abnormal. After getting dressed in one of the few outfits he had that didn't hang off him like rags, Harry sneaked out of the house. He needed to go someplace, and he couldn't allow himself to be sidetracked... or stopped.
Fifteen minutes later, he walked up to the local library, He didn't have a library card, and getting one would be awkward, with all the questions that would no doubt be asked. As such, he contented himself with checking the resources on-site, checking various books and making notes. As he read more and more, his list of notes got steadily larger and larger, and his amazement grew and grew.
Suddenly, he looked up, and threw a look at the clock. It was after four... he had been at the library since nine am! Not believing that he had actually spent as much time here as he had, Harry set for a jog back 'home', mentally berating himself for turning into Hermione Granger, one of his best friends and certified study-head.
He sneaked back in, and settled in his closed bedroom, eating some of the food that had been shoved through the cat flap built into his door. It was cold, probably had been cold well before it had been shoved through his door, but he still ate it. His day at the library had worn him out... and his stomach whole-heartedly hated him for skipping on lunch.
By eight, he was so tired that he lay on his back in bed, closing his eyes, and preparing to fall asleep. As he rested, he thought about Ken for a few moments, wondering if he would ever meet her again. She had been adamant about helping him, incredibly sure of herself that she would be able to contact him again, seemingly at will, even. But now, at night, and after his day at the library, he was beginning to wonder about the logistics of the enterprise... Japan was on the other side of the world, and this time there would be no cry for help from his part. At least, he hoped there wouldn't be... last time had been bad enough.
Sleep overcame his troubled mind soon after, and as he drifted off into the comfortable blackness of deep sleep... Harry was interrupted.
Finding himself back in the somewhat-familiar black environment of their first meeting, Harry looked at Mahou mo Ken, looking identical to what she looked like yesterday.
"Good evening to you, Mister Potter," she stated calmly, her thin lips drawn into a small smile.
Her tone had been calm and collected, and Harry realized that she meant nothing other than the flat truth of her statement. Usually he resented being called with his last name, especially when it was preceded by the word 'mister', however, this time, he found he did not mind it.
"Good morning, Ken," Harry replied. He swallowed. After everything he had learned at the library today, it just didn't feel right to call her that anymore. He drew a breath, Ken obviously realizing that he had something to say, and remaining silent as he collected himself. "I went to to the library today," he said, halfway expecting her to crack a joke about it, as his friends would do. To his surprise, she just nodded at him. "I read up on Japan and its customs. I learned a lot... especially about ways of addressing people."
He glanced at her face, not expecting the pleased smile on her face. Strengthened by the unexpected approval, he went on. "Shouldn't I call you Sensei?"
She dipped her head. "It is true that a teacher is usually called 'Sensei' in Japan, however... I was willing to make allowances for you, as you are not of Japanese decent."
He felt anger rising within him, but bit down hard on it. "I am tired of people making allowances for me," he grunted darkly, not wholly succeeding in calming himself down. He drew another breath, expecting her to berate him like some of teachers, or try and placate him, as the Headmaster was wont to do. Instead, she remained silent, watching him as he worked himself out. Finally, he drew a deep breath in this strange place. "Is that because I am a Gaijin?"
She dipped her head in answer to his last question, totally ignoring his emotional outburst. "Yes," she admitted. "You are Gaijin, a foreigner. You are not expected to hold yourself to the same laws and ways as we do."
He grimaced angrily, almost lashing out again. "We will need to work on emotional control," she stated calmly. "Occlumency will help you."
Harry struggled with his anger as he tried to formulate a response. As suddenly as it had come up, his anger died down, at the same time that her hand was placed on his shoulder. "You have been hurt greatly, Mr. Potter. Your rage is understandable."
"It-it is?" he asked, dumbstruck.
She nodded. "It is. And I will help you overcome it."
"Thank you," Harry whispered, looking at the ground again. "Sensei."
To his surprise, she did not answer, and he risked a glance up at her face. She looked pleased. "You are welcome," she replied levelly. "Mr. Potter."
He grimaced. "Call me Harry," he replied. "Please?"
She chuckled once. "Harry," she said, nodding. "Come, let us begin." She motioned, and the surrounding darkness faded away, to be replaced by an odd grassy plain, the grass completely blue and the sky an odd orange. "First, we must build up your mental imagery, a place for your mind and your soul to be safe within itself."
Harry nodded. "Where... where is this?"
She smiled. "This is your mind, Harry. It can be anything you want it to be. It can be a wide-open plain, accessible to all, or it can be as secure as the Imperial Vaults. And that is why I am here... to teach you how to do that." She looked around. "As you can see, at this moment, your mind is a wasteland, wide open, all structures removed by the horror instilled upon you these last few years. Even the colors have been decimated..." her voice trailed off, and she shook her head. "What a waste. A blood-red sun, orange sky, and blue grass. Your Professor Snape does not do half work, I must give him that," she stated calmly.
Even though Harry had only known this woman for a couple of hours, and even then, only in his mind, he understood instinctively that Snape should better stay away from this woman. She turned, and looked at him. "Come, Harry. Let's begin. First, close your eyes, and focus on what you want this place to be..."
Harry didn't have a wild imagination, thanks to a childhood spent without books or television or any of the other things that most people take for granted.
One thing he did have, was a place where he felt safe. Or somewhat, anyway.
Thinking about the place where he felt the safest, he felt a curious tingle spread through his body, even though he knew it was not his real body. When he opened his eyes, he grinned.
Hogwarts castle looked exactly the way it did in reality, its ancient walls straight and true as they reached for the skies, the deep lake behind it reflecting the strange orange-red skies without fault, and the Forbidden Forest off to one side no doubt housing the most diverse and dangerous magical animals.
"Interesting," Ken said levelly, glancing from the castle to him. "Are you sure that the teachings you have received were all that you showed me?"
Harry nodded, grinning widely. For the first time since Sirius' death, he felt better about himself. He blinked, and looked at his teacher. "I feel better," he said without thinking about why he said it. She nodded at him.
"Of course you do, my student," she answered calmly. "You finally have a center, a point of balance, in your mind. Every person has one, usually subconsciously creating one when they need it and tearing it down when no longer of use. It usually is a place where they feel safe, comforted, or at peace. Not uncommonly, it involves members of family or close friends." She looked at the castle again. "Your mind was damaged to the point where it could no longer create such a safe point on its own. As I instructed you to do so, it has started healing."
She motioned to the skies. "Look."
Slowly, but visible to their eyes, the color of the skies changed, slowly lifting in color. The blood-red sun, too, changed to something more suited to reality. It was slow going, but Harry could notice the definite improvement. "Good. You are healing. Now we begin our training, for real, this time."
He nodded. "Of course, Ken Sensei."
She smiled indulgently at him, then nodded briefly. "You have created a castle as your permanent safe-point on your first try in the Mental Landscape. If you can do just as well with the rest of your lessons, we can being our real lessons in no time." She ginned at him, and it sent shivers down his spine. It was most definitely not a nice grin. "We will show those teachers of yours, and we will show that dark wizard that keeps targeting you."
He swallowed. "K-Ken Sensei?" he couldn't bring himself to ask anything, and just stated her name in fear and confusion.
"My apologies," she sated calmly, back to her normal self. "I hate meddlers and people who run other people's lives for them. I have dealt with my share of those... and I have a great dislike for them. People's destinies are their own, and no truth sayer or clairvoyant can change that, and people such as your Dumbledore, your teachers and your enemies had better get that through their thick skulls." She smiled mirthlessly at him, and this time, Harry could feel the dark amusement in her facial expression. "Harry, I am going to show you how to do things your Western Wizards have never even thought about."
He looked at her in disbelief. Her mirthless smile grew in amusement. "Western Philosophy has always been about power. They invented armor, and broadswords. They invented tanks, and invented sports such as boxing. Strength and endurance, as if they were mindless idiots. The same thing goes for magic. They favor killing curses, pain curses, and straightforward charms and hexes and other spells. Throw sufficient power at something, and every problem can be dealt with."
She was silent for a few seconds, letting him digest her breakdown of the western culture. She drew a breath, and continued. "Eastern Philosophy favors the smoothness of nature, going with the flow, and disrupting it, instead of trying to stop it altogether. A boxer may be able to knock out a martial artist in one strike, but that involves hitting the target, first. A reasonable Martial Artist will side-step the powerful punch, and break the arm before the boxer will know what hit him. In magic, Westerners favor Protego, the Shield Charm. Us easterners will divert a curse around us, guide it into something harmless, either behind us, or the ground."
"I will show you how to bend magic into shapes you never thought of, and I will show you uses that involve so much control over your magic that it will make your fingers bleed. As with the true martial arts, Eastern Magic is not as easy nor as straightforward as the Western Approach, but the results are so much greater."
Harry swallowed. "Wow."
She grinned, and nodded. "Accurate description," she stated, smiling. "I know you are curious, and I know you will not learn anything unless I abate that curiosity. I will show you... and then we will get back to training, agreed?"
He nodded vigorously. "Allow me to show you the use of Japanese Seals," she said, calmly, drawing something out of thin air with the hand that wasn't holding a staff. It looked the shape of a regular playing card, only three times the size.
"Mahou mo Ken the Plasmatizer asks the Seal, what are you?"
Magic washed over the Seal, and a deep masculine voice growled through the skies as Kanji-symbols filled the previously plain-white card. "I am Burning Hell, bringing Punishment to the Wicked! I ride through the Skies in a Chariot of Fire!" A fireball, greater and bigger than Harry had ever seen them, leaped from the woman's fingers, dashing through the skies and disintegrating a nearby rock, striking it directly into dust.
"W... without a wand," Harry whispered.
"Yes," she stated calmly. "Seals do not require wands. As a trade-off, the spell itself is longer, and the incantation takes precious seconds to finish. It is useful as some sort of artillery, to bombard your opponent from far away, before he is within range of wand-casting."
Harry nodded, realizing at once how much she was going to teach him, and how different the magics he was going to learn would be. He turned to her. "Could you show me more? Please, Sensei?"
She glared at him. "I will demonstrate more when you finish your next lesson." She pointed to the rock she had just struck into gravel. "Rebuild that rock. And no, I don't want you creating another rock. I want you to rebuild that rock."
He nodded dejectedly. That had been their deal, and he had tried to come back on it. Feeling somewhat ashamed of himself, he nodded. "I'm sorry, Sensei."
She sighed. "I understand how different everything is, Harry. But remember that you can't learn from watching me. You must learn to do things yourself."
He focused on the rock instead of answering her. Squinting, and finally closing, his eyes, his focus sharpened. Incredibly, his awareness of the rock increased, and he started to feel the outline of the different pieces of gravel... and at once, the whole picture formed in his mind, and he clamped down on it.
The next thing he knew, his behind hit the blueish-green grass of the Hogwarts he had created in his mind. He opened his eyes, panting deeply, as he started at the spot where he had recreated a rock.
"Impressive work for your first time," Ken said, nodding in approval. "That was a lot harder a challenge than the creation of your permanent safe-point was. Congratulations." She looked at him. "I will show you another thing that you will learn, just as I promised."
Harry nodded, still panting and sweating with exertion, but managing to get himself back on his legs to witness her next demonstration. She lifted her staff off the ground, and turned around, looking for a good target. Was it his imagination, or did she limp in her right knee? He ignored it. He wanted to witness her demonstration.
Finally, she seemed to have found something. "That tree... it's not a regular tree, is it?"
"It's the Whomping Willow," Harry explained. "Come too close to it, and it will hit you, and injure you tremendously." He bit back on the sadness as his memory filled in the rest of the story... how it hid the entrance to the secret tunnel leading to the Shrieking Shack, where his father, his Godfather, and their friends, used to gather. He swallowed back the guilt at the loss of his godfather, Sirius Black.
Ken put her free hand on his shoulder. "We will make new memories for you, Harry. Happy ones. But in order to do that, we will first need you to learn to survive." She brandished her staff, hefting it in the air, and turning the head to the Whomping Willow, a fairly great distance away. "Kuzuryusen."
No less than nine blue-white flashes left the head of her staff, all of them curling away, and hitting the tree at a different side and angle, reducing it to a pile of lumber in just a few seconds. "That is Kuzuryusen, the Nine-headed Dragon flash. It's a great spell to use when cutting vegetables or fruits... but it comes into its own when used against opponents. It will attack from nine different points simultaneously. From the left shoulder, it will go down, slantwise to the right, towards the right hip. At the head, it will go straight down. At the right shoulder, it will go slantwise to the left, towards the left hip. At the right side, it will go straight to the left. At the right hip, it will go slantwise up to the left, meeting the slantwise down slash from the left shoulder. At the groin, it will move straight up, meeting the one coming down from the head. At the left hip, it will go slantwise up to the right, meeting the one from the right shoulder. At the left side, it will go straight to the right, meeting the one from the right side. The ninth and final beam is a straight thrust to the center of the body."
She swallowed, licking her lips after her lengthy explanation. "It will break any and all defenses. Nine simultaneous attacks are impossible to stop. At worst, your opponent will be injured lightly. At best, he will be split apart like that tree." She turned to him. "Now... grow it back."
He groaned. "And I can't grow a new one, right?"
"You're learning," Ken said, grinning in approval as Harry got to work. For some reason, it felt easier to do than the rock had been, but Harry didn't comment on it. He just subscribed it to the fact that the second time was supposed to be easier than the first.
"Good, Harry," Ken replied with a small nod of her head. "You're learning fast. Now, what we must learn first is how to protect your mind." She motioned around. "This is a permanent safe-point, created out of your conscious will, not your subconscious desire. Therefore, it will reflect your physical state... and your physical state will reflect your mental state. Notice the color of the sky, the grass, and the walls."
Harry looked around, at the orange sky without a single cloud in it, the orange-red sun, the blue grass, and the purple stones of Hogwarts castle. Slowly, all of them were growing toward their natural colors. He nodded at her after finishing his inspection.
"As we progress, your mind will gain strength, and it will gain a hold over your body. You will be able to direct your body's healing efforts. You will be able to have some measure of control over your autonomous processes. And with that control will come greater strength. However, it will come at a price."
Harry swallowed, and almost wanted to come back on their deal. That last statement had been made with such cold finality that it had sent shivers down his spine. "What do you mean, Ken-Sensei?"
"As your mind gains strength, so will your body. However, such strength comes at a price. The hours of hard work will go to the detriment of friends and loved ones, locked in a meditative state. Indeed, especially these first few months, you will do little else. We must strengthen you, repair the damage that was done to you, and in order to do that, time is needed. Time we do not have, and we must draw upon the fact that your body is still young and can still recuperate incredibly fast if it needs to. Then, and only then, will we begin combat training."
Harry nodded, for a moment fearful of what would be asked of him. He swallowed. "The next couple of months, I don't have anything better to do anyway... so let's get training, Ken-Sensei!"
She nodded, a pleased smile on her face. "Unfortunately, I must leave you, my duties call me. Before our next meeting, I want you to turn these colors back to normal. Turn the sky blue, the grass green, and the stones gray-black. After you do that, you can sleep." She grinned devilishly then. "I will either find you still working, or I will wake you when our next meeting is at hand."
Harry nodded, almost feeling excited about doing homework for a change. Mucking around in this mental landscape seemed like such an interesting challenge that he simply couldn't resist the temptation. With a final nod, Ken blurred and vanished from his mindscape, and Harry looked around. Finally deciding, he sat down, and stared at the purplish walls of Hogwarts, and put his concentration on changing the color of the stones.
It was many hours later that Harry's eyes snapped open. He groaned as he lifted himself out of bed, swaying and turning as his legs seemingly refused to carry his weight. Crashing into a wall, he clung to it as if it were a life-preserver, trying to force himself upright. He felt sick, incredibly so, and stumbled into the bathroom. Taking one look in the mirror, he almost vomited right there and then. The color of his skin was an ashen gray, his usually vibrant green eyes lay deep and cold in their sockets, and deep, black bags were visible all around them.
Stumbling over to the toilet, he finally let his stomach do as it wished. Heaving the contents of an empty stomach was not a pleasant experience to Harry, and one he fought with every fiber of his being. It took him five long minutes before his raging body had settled down, and he lay panting on the bathroom floor, too exhausted to try and make the trip back.
Finally gathering the courage long minutes later, he crawled back to his bedroom, and made it into his bed before dropping out like a light, having never felt so sick before in his life.
For his comfort, he got way too little sleep as Ken burst into one of his dreams and demanded attention. He woke up to his mindscape, the air a pale blue, the grass a pale shot of green, and the walls a grayish black.
"Not bad," Ken nodded, before looking down at him. "How are you feeling?"
"Sick," he croaked.
She nodded again. "I bet. Don't worry, you'll get used to feeling like that... it's the downside of learning in mindscape." She put a hand on his shoulder. "We'll ease off once you're at Hogwarts. But, as you said, while you're at those normals' home, you have nothing else to do. Just make sure you eat next time, okay?"
"Eat?" Harry groaned, feeling sick again. "I can't eat, not like this."
"You are only as sick as you allow yourself to be, Harry," Ken told him calmly. "Your body is reacting to your mind, and your mind in turn, is reacting to your body. They have been ignoring each other for so long that they don't know how to live together. It will get better, I promise." She looked around once again. "You really did a good job, for a first-timer. I didn't expect you to be able to finish it, to be honest."
Harry just nodded, too sick to speak, but secretly happy that she was being straight with him. "Next lesson," she said, grinning at his sick look. "I want you to picture one room in that castle. One room where you feel safest of all, one room where you can not imagine ever being hurt. That room will be your strong point."
He looked at her. "I... don't know any rooms like that..."
She shook her head. "It doesn't have to be in the real world. But in here, this is your mind, Harry. This is where you will defend your mind. I want you to build, inside that castle, one room where you feel absolutely and unconditionally safe. We will build that up to be your strong point, slowly, the two of us. I will show you mental defenses, and you will implement them, slowly, one by one, into this room. But first, you are the one who must create it."
He nodded, and closed his eyes, trying to picture a room, any room, where he could feel completely and absolutely safe. He pretty much dismissed the dorms immediately, as he did with the Great Hall where all the meals took place. He ignored the classrooms and the hallways, and he ignored the Common Rooms and dormiories of the children of the other houses. Finally, he was left with only a couple of options, and one of those startled him.
But this was his mind... and he had to say that even in the real world, it was where he would, without a doubt, be the safest, if only he had ready access to it. He opened his eyes, and looked at Ken. "I have a room."
She smiled at him, and nodded. As he started walking towards the castle, she took two steps and stopped him. Those two steps were all it took, but his impression of yesterday was confirmed.
She limped in her right leg.
She noticed his glancing at her leg, and nodded. "Battlefield healing," she explained. "I was weeks away from a Healer, and had to do it myself. I'm a good fighter, Harry, but a lousy Healer. They could fix me later, of course, but I chose to keep it, as a symbol of the months I spent fighting for my cause."
He just swallowed, and nodded stiffly. "Now," she went on in exactly the same tone, as if she hadn't just told him about a nearly-crippling injury. "This is your mind. We do not walk. We shift locations. Think of the room you want us to be in, and picture us there. Focus... and focus hard, and it will be so."
Harry closed his eyes, wishing to think about the room he had in mind. Time and again, his mind went back to Ken's injury. Time and again, he refocused his mind on the room. Finally, his determination paid off, and for a while, he even forgot about how sick he had been, and how bad he still felt. Picturing the two of them there was easier, but he focused on it with an almost fanatical determination now, hoping not to disappoint Ken, his teacher, who was projecting herself into his mind from half a world away in order to teach him. He wanted her efforts to be worth something, and not be a waste of time.
She touched his shoulder, and Harry startled. Opening his eyes and letting out a small yelp, he found the two of them in the room he had pictured.
"Nice," Ken commented.
"It's the Headmaster's office," he whispered. "Without the Headmaster, it's probably the safest room in Hogwarts. " He looked around. The office was bereft of the pictures of the previous headmasters, and all the items that Headmaster Dumbledore kept were gone as well. The room looked barren, with only the desk and the perch of the Headmaster's Phoenix. For a moment, he wished for Fawkes.
"I can see that," Ken replied levelly. "Come, I'll begin our lesson on mental defenses, then leave you to build them." She looked at him. "But don't forget, you want me to be able to come in. I will show you what you need to do. Don't make a mistake, or this will be the last meeting we have... we won't be able to communicate if you mess up."
He swallowed, and vowed silently to pay extra attention to her, even more than he usually did.
A couple of hours later, Ken stepped back. "That's the basis for mental defense, Harry. Now I want you to build up your first level defenses, just around this room. This is your strong point, the heart of your mental defenses. We will need to build it up first."
Harry nodded. "The strong point is where the mental defenses are anchored, and it is where the strongest and oldest shields are located," he said. "Upon that anchor, the other shields are built, interconnecting to drain away excess energy and protect each other in layers. The strong point, the anchor, is also where your core personality should be located, so it is protected the most. The most important memories are located there as well... and we can't protect them all because that would take too much energy."
Ken nodded with a smile on her face. "You were paying very good attention, Harry. More impressive even, considering that you haven't eaten in over a day, and the state you were in when I contacted you." She grinned wider at him. "I'll show you another technique I intend to teach you as a reward." She motioned to the window. "Picture us back outside."
This time, it didn't take him that much work, and once again Harry subscribed it to the fact that the second time, something was a lot easier than the first time. They reappeared back where they were when they entered.
"This will be in one of our later lessons," Ken said. "Advanced manipulation of the Element of Air." She drew a breath, let it out. "Please be quiet, the amount of concentration is immense, and even though I can do this under combat conditions, doing it in your mind half a world away is... tiring."
He nodded, and took a step back, feeling something... shift within his teacher. Her staff appeared in her hand, materializing out of thin air. As she lifted it, her hair started moving on a magical wind that seemed to come from her body. Her lips moved silently, but Harry still felt something warp around her, tugging at her kimono, while simultaneously moving out from her, dragging at his robes and pulling at his hair. Turning his head so the wind wouldn't cut off his breath, Harry managed to keep watching as Ken jabbed her staff at the skies, screaming her spell.
A single bolt of pure light seemed to knife through the air, turning the Whomping Willow to ashes, while going on, burning the ground that was a full meter beneath it, before the lightning bolt hit a rock, smiting it to dust.
"Lightning," she said, grinning at the shocked look on his face. "And that is real lightning, not some half-ass concoction your Western Wizards would have you pass off as lightning."
"Wow," Harry breathed.
She grinned, and clapped him on the shoulder. "It's time I go to my duties. This lesson has been most enjoyable for me... you are a most dedicated pupil. Now, go to protecting your strong point, and we will continue this with lesson two tomorrow."
Harry just nodded, bidding her goodbye even as her shape was already blurring and vanishing.
He remained alone, thinking, for close to five minutes after his teacher had left. After all she had shown and told him, he took a while to digest everything before shifting back to the Headmaster's office, sinking into the chair that was Dumbledore's in real life, and closing his eyes. Before his mind, a map was pictured, a map of Hogwarts and its surrounding grounds, built to perfection after years of studying a piece of Parchment known as the Marauder's Map, a magical map that showed the grounds, all of its secret passages, and the location of everyone on the grounds.
This time, the Marauder's Map was devoid of life, bar one, himself, sitting in Dumbledore's office. He grinned for just a few seconds, and let the Map drift from his mind. Focusing back on the task at hand, he started building shields, following the outlay that Ken had shown him.
He didn't know how long he was at it. All he knew was that, at one point, he stopped and admired his handiwork. The shields he had constructed clung to the walls of this mindscape office, reaching out and covering everything in a rough sphere of interconnected shields. By themselves, they were straight and flat, but Harry had woven them together to form a nearly perfect sphere, building and putting pressure on each and every one.
He smiled slightly. This would allow his shields to absorb the damage of their neighbors, and it's neighbor's neighbors. He knew of himself that his shields were of mediocre quality at best, but he hoped that this formation would allow them to survive for a longer time.
As he sat there, admiring the shining white of the mental shielding, he frowned, and started thinking. Just how did shields hold out an attack? He had blindly assumed that Legilimency would put some kind of pressure on his shields, and he had constructed them as such.
Even though Harry wasn't the brightest student in Hogwarts, he still was an above-average student, and he realized that pressure was one thing. What if his shields were attacked in some other fashion? Say... pulling, instead of pushing? Or what if, his shields were attacked by some kind of mental knife, cutting, instead of pushing?
He grunted. He would have to make sure that his shields would keep under any circumstances. This was not a job he could do half-hearted... Mahou mo Ken, the bodyguard to the Japanese Emperor, was tutoring him, and he was not about to fail that chance!
Standing up, he felt no side-effects of remaining in the chair for the time it had taken him to lace his shields together. Stepping around the desk, he looked at it from the side he had seen so many times, each and every time he had been summoned in to see the Headmaster. He glanced at the ground beneath the desk, and decided that it was the center of this room... and therefore, it would be the center of his protections.
Building a single anchor point straight into the Hogwart's floor wasn't easy, but somehow, he pulled it off. His single anchor, a vicious rock-like ring, was now fused so solidly into the structure of this mental Hogwarts that it formed a single entity with it, and Harry felt somewhat confident that it would survive as long as his mental Hogwarts would.
Slowly, he started lacing tendrils of mental energy, not drawn out shields but single strands of energy, from the ring to the shields, anchoring them in place against being pulled outward. As he worked, he could feel no pain and no exhaustion, finally taken by a project that would change his life, feeling confident and powerful, and oh so good about himself.
After he finished, another indeterminable amount of time had passed, and he admired his structure. Suddenly he realized that these ropes of mental energy were unlike ordinary, or even wizarding, ropes... they looked solid, straight as arrows, and rigid, like concrete.
He put some force on one. It didn't budge as he put his entire weight on it, dangling from the thin mental strand like a monkey would dangle from a tree branch. Somehow feeling foolish for not having noticed this as he worked, Harry sat down and thought about this some more.
Now safely warded against pulling, each of his individual shields had been anchored at even intervals to the central anchor point, Dumbledore's Office now looking quite full, but nowhere near crowded. However, it was the implications of the mental strands that got Harry thinking.
The shields were now firmly anchored, and couldn't be pulled outward. However... the strands were rigid, and would keep the shields in place against the other side as well! He grinned suddenly. Without realizing it, he had made his hollow sphere into an almost solid one.
He hadn't found any solutions against cutting yet, and that fact bugged him a little. Suddenly, he yawned, and fatigue and illness hit him like a sledgehammer. He grinned, and shook his head. "I've done enough for one night, I think," he muttered to himself, allowing his handiwork one final look before vanishing.
Out in the real world, Harry barely made it to the toilet in time, his empty stomach heaving violently again. After long minutes, the shaking subsided, and his body calmed down, and Harry risked a glance at his wristwatch.
Assured that his aunt, uncle, and cousin were asleep, Harry stole downstairs, into the kitchen, and decided to take Ken's advice. He forced a piece of bread down his throat. The moment his stomach had food in it, it made its presence known in a less violent and more natural way, and Harry realized he was starving.
It was four thirty when he pulled the covers over him, smiling, as he thought about the huge amount of food he had ingested, not realizing it should have been physically impossible for him to do so.
He awoke not four hours later, as someone started pounded on his door. "Open this door, you ungrateful brat, or I will break it down!"
Harry's aching eyes closed against the harsh light. Slowly, he groaned and lifted himself out of bed. Squinting painfully against the pounding headache, Harry moved to open the door, the incessant pounding hardly rising above the pounding of the blood in his ears.
"Yes?" he asked, his voice a harsh whisper as Uncle Vernon, all hundred plus kilograms of him, stumbled at the sudden opening of the door.
"Did you eat..." His voice trailed off as he took note of Harry, the squinting, blood-shot eyes, the pale, gray skin, the hunched appearance. "You look like crap boy."
"Thanks," Harry muttered calmly, moving to turn and close the door, wishing to just go right back to sleep.
"Don't you ignore me, boy!" Vernon hollered, grabbing Harry's shoulder, and holding him in place. "Did you eat all the food in the kitchen!?"
Harry didn't move, unable to get out of Vernon's grip even if he was totally fit, let alone now that he was feeling as sick as a dog. "Do I look like I can eat?" he muttered, not doing anything to hide the state he was in.
Vernon muttered under his breath, and released Harry, having to hand it to the boy that he was right about that. The big man didn't appreciate Harry for it, though.
The next moment, pain blossomed across his cheek, and Harry felt the world tumble upside-down for just a few seconds before hitting the ground. "Don't smart-mouth me, boy."
Harry kicked the door shut after Vernon's retreating back, somehow making it back into his bed, right before he passed out.
The all-encompassing darkness of the deep sleep had enveloped him completely, and Harry didn't feel pain or sick. Nor did he dream.
When he 'awoke' in the mindscape, he managed a small smile at Ken. "Good to see you, Ken-Sensei," he whispered, not even feeling up to his full strength, even in mindscape.
She just looked at him for a few seconds. "What happened?"
"I ate," he replied in his harsh whisper, sounding like it was moving through a cheese grater. "And my uncle found out."
She sighed, but the look on her face made Harry even more resolute to stay on this woman's good side. "You are only as sick or as wounded in here as you allow yourself to be," she repeated yesterday's lesson. "Before we go look at your shields, I want you to heal your mental self. As long as your mental self is okay, your body will be, too."
He nodded, and closed his eyes.
Five minutes later, he was indeed feeling a lot better. He looked up, and smiled at Ken. "Thank you, Sensei."
She dipped her head. "You're welcome, my young student. Come, let us see the status of your shields."
Harry nodded, and closed his eyes, willing them to his strong point. To his utter surprise, he was alone there, Ken not having come with him.
Surprised, he looked around. "Ken-Sensei? Where are you?" He didn't receive a reply, and tried again five seconds later. "Ken-Sensei?"
Something pounded on his shields, and he frowned, wishing himself to be where the disturbance was.
"Good, that got your attention," Ken replied levelly, smiling slightly. "These are very good shields, Harry. No, I should say... they are incredible shields, especially for someone with so little formal training. I'll teach you some more things, of course, to increase the strength of your shields, as well as how to conserve your mental energy. You can't go running around with all your shields on at full blast... you'll drive yourself insane. But first... I think, this has earned a reward." She motioned to a wall. "Bring us outside."
Harry nodded, and half a second later, they were back at their initial spot. He had to admit, he was getting rather good at moving through his mindscape.
"As always, for a job well done, I will demonstrate a technique to you." Ken lifted her sword. "A sword technique, this time." She drew her katana, and turned to look at the Whomping Willow. Her right foot stepped forward... and then she vanished. The next moment, Harry saw her near the Whomping Willow, one of its branches on the ground form where it had obviously had tried to hit her.
To Harry's surprise, the tree made no further attacks, and Ken remained standing there, in a crouch with her sword tip to the ground, held in a double-handed grip.
Slowly, a slantwise slash became visible, the tree slowly slipping apart, hitting the ground soon after, cut neatly in half. Ken 'stepped' back next to him.
He stared at her. The speed at which she had reached the tree, cutting off one of its branches and defeating it in the same slash, was incredible.
"I showed you two techniques," she stated calmly. "Shinpou, the flash step."
Harry swallowed. "Is that like Apparition?"
She shook her head. "It's an incredibly fast, incredibly short-range teleportation. Think of it like taking a magically enhanced step... an incredibly fast step. You don't teleport per se... but you move so fast that everybody will think you have. Unless your opponent is trained in a similar technique, he or she will not be able to keep up."
He swallowed again, and nodded.
"The second technique I showed you is the downward slash. I will teach you how to put similar power, speed, and accuracy behind your swings."
He stared at her with open mouth, not believing his sheer luck that his teacher would teach him how to use a sword as well! "T-thank you, Ken-Sensei," he whispered.
She nodded, understanding where his shocked look came from. "You're welcome, Harry."
"C-can I ask one more question? And you don't have to answer if you don't want to..."
She looked curiously at him. "I'm not going to like this question, am I?" she asked, with a small smile. "Doesn't matter. Ask. The worst I can do is tell you 'no'."
He nodded. "You're so incredibly strong... and you're going to teach me so many incredible things... are all Japanese Wizards as strong as you? And if they are... why haven't you taken over the world by now?" he asked the last part with complete seriousness, his psyche so ingrained by Voldemort and cohorts that he had a lot of trouble believing in the kindness of people.
She nodded. "I understand where you're coming from," she answered levelly, and turned to face him, her limp once again showing as she turned. "No, not all Japanese Wizards are as strong as me... but most of them are stronger than a comparable Western Wizard. As to why we haven't taken over the world... why would we do that? Japanese Wizards have always been interested in one thing only... and that is the protection of Japan, our island home." She swallowed. "We didn't even join in World War two, until the end. When the non-magicals invaded us, we threw them off so badly that they could have thrown their entire army against us, and still lose."
She swallowed. "There are just a few of us left. Most of us were concentrated in the magical cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
Harry swallowed. Even he, with his limited education, knew what that meant. "They... they..."
"They nuked us, Harry. Japan surrendered because 95 percent of its magical population, and all of its prominent magical families, were killed by the non-magicals with just two bombs. That, and not the weapons themselves, was the true reason for the surrender." She shook her head. "So much knowledge and power was lost," she said, sadly.
Harry just stood there, silent, not knowing what to say. Noticing his shock, she shook her head.
"Don't feel bad for us, Harry. That event was a horrible curse; yet it was also a blessing at the same time. Before then, the Japanese magical families had divided all power and influence between them, the lesser families and magical people born from non-magical people were treated as second-class. They were servants, almost slaves, by nothing else than their family name. They found the rest of the world not worth their attention, the reason why they kept out of the war until the allies landed on our shores. Then... Japanese magical might, developed through hundreds of years of continuous training, was unleashed."
"The allies' landing was nothing short of disastrous. That was when the bombs dropped... in two fell flashes, we lost ninety-five percent of our power and knowledge. Overnight, the Japanese magical community pulled together, trying to save as much of the old knowledge and power as was possible. Lesser things, like blood and name, were put aside. Of course there were those who clung to the old ways, but they vanished quickly as their power base no longer existed. After we pulled together, we vowed... vowed to train each other, and look out for each other. There are less than a thousand of us, Japanese wizards, even now. We each know each other, as close to one family as we can be. And as mistrusting as we are of non-magicals, so caring we are for each other. That is why I came to help you when you shouted for help... the cry for help of one of our own, even if he is not of our nationality, is not something a modern Japanese wizard would ignore."
"Wow," Harry breathed.
She smiled grimly, then nodded. "Now, let us get on with our next lesson in mental defense... I will show you a couple of new techniques to strengthen your shields. They are incredibly well built, but there are still a couple of things we need to work on."
Harry nodded grimly.
"Put us back in your strong point," she instructed, and he did so, almost without either of them feeling it. She nodded in satisfaction, then motioned for his shields. "What you built here are incredibly resilient shields, able to withstand most direct attacks of brute strength without flinching. However, there are two things we must still work on." She fell silent, allowing him to think about the problem himself.
"Two things, Ken-Sensei?" he asked, confused. "All I can think of would be cutting or slashing... I haven't found a way to strengthen them against that."
She nodded. "Cutting and slashing is indeed one of the things we must work on. The second thing, however, is how to keep your mental integrity intact. Your shields, under direct assault, will be forced to withstand vast amounts of energy, and your opponent, contrary to you, has to focus his energy in a tight spot, instead of protecting a wide area. You must learn how to install conduits that will allow your shields to bleed away these energies they're repelling."
Harry nodding, beginning to understand. "Defending is always worse than attacking..."
"Exactly," Ken replied, a satisfied smile on her face. "You are a quick student. Now, let me show you what to do, and leave you to it."
Harry nodded, and an hour and a half later, his teacher was about to say her goodbyes when he stopped her.
"Ken-Sensei, not that I am ungrateful... but, when will you teach me how to use this in real life? I mean, I still don't know how to get here without falling asleep... and if I am attacked, I don't have time to go to sleep."
Ken nodded. "That is true. However, what I am teaching you is a different technique than what your Professor Snape tried to teach you. I am teaching your mind to protect itself, rather than teaching you to protect it. I will teach you what you need to know once you have perfected these shields. But I think you will learn what you need to know on your own before that." She held up her hand to forestall his objections. "Before you object, if you don't figure it out by yourself, I will teach you what you need to know. I am not cruel... I will teach you what you need to know, and I will do a good job of it, as well."
Harry just nodded gratefully as she vanished.
Immediately, he relocated to his strong point, now so proficient at it that it took but half of a thought before he felt the mindscape alter around him. Looking at the interlocking shields, he understood now how he should alter them next, Ken having explained the final steps on creating strong shields. He smiled slightly at her claim that he was a fast student, that usually it took weeks for someone to reach this stage, but he ignored his own thought after just a few seconds.
He needed to alter his shields, he needed to alter them now, and he needed to do it right. After all, it wasn't until after his mind was shielded that Ken was going to start teaching him, and that was the real treat he had been waiting for... the ability to cast spells that warped the very fabric of reality, not just throwing brute strength at the problem, but attacking things from a different angle, a more powerful yet, at the same time, slower method.
Focusing once more on his shields, they started to warp and alter.
Time passed, and Harry stood there, at the exact center of his strong point, legs spread, body above his anchor point, staring at his shields, willing for them to change, to submit to the strength of the will he never knew he had. The will that Ken was teaching him to access now, the will that warped this very mindscape, the strength of will that returned his strength each time he woke up in the mindscape.
Finally, he sighed, relaxed, and fell into the headmaster's chair, looking with a smile at the results of his work.
Instead of dozens of interlocking flat shields that roughly created a dome, his shields, or rather, his one shield, was now a single entity, a sphere consisting out of interlocking hexagons, each hexagonal shape its own entity in effect. The edges between them were pathways of energy, fueling the shield within the hexagon, yet also taking the strain and distributing it around the entire shield, and finally, down into his anchor point should it become necessary. Ken had assured him that a shield, constructed to these specifications, was virtually impenetrable. Should he choose to, he could maintain the shield up to the very point his mind would shatter under the strain. Of course, at that point, his shield would fail as well, but nothing would be gained from entering a shattered mind, not even able to remember its own name, let alone contain any useful information.
He stood up, knowing that enough time had passed with him admiring his own handiwork. Shifting out of the shields, comfortable in the knowledge that his strong point was protected, and his most precious memories, as well as his core personality, would be safe, he started walking out through the halls of Hogwarts. The best defenses were layered, Ken had explained. No mind would be able to keep up the type of shields that he had put around his strong point around a wide area. Time passed again, but Harry lost all sense of how long it had been, the mindscape protecting him from such little bothers. Finally, he shifted back into his strong point, knelt down over the anchor, and closed his eyes.
The first layer, around his strong point, had been established perfectly now. He focused on spherical shields, and pushed them outward. Traveling through walls, empty rooms, and the very earth on which this mental version of Hogwarts had been built, the shield expanded until Harry breathed out, unable to push it out any further. Immediately, he locked it down at the furthest point it would go, and started connecting it to his anchor via the same mental strands he had used on his primary shields. These secondary shields were tough and strong, and almost gelatinous in mental substance, Harry thought. They would be able to buckle and waver, making it harder to cut through them, and able to dissipate an all-out brute-force attack through 'physical' movement, even though there was not really such a thing in the mindscape, Harry thought.
Stepping out of his secondary shield, back to what was fast becoming his usual spot in here, Harry stood and looked at his mental Hogwarts, the castle directly in front of him, the Whomping Willow visible in the distance, and the Forbidden Forrest off to his side.
"Okay, Harry," he said to himself. "You've got decent first level shields, and your secondary levels are just as good." He drew a breath. "You're not done yet," he berated himself. Squinting, he focused on his mindscape. A trench appeared, reaching around the Hogwarts castle, a drawbridge materializing as if on its own. As the trench deepened, it filled with watter, becoming a moat. Harry grinned. Nothing in this mindscape was as it should be in reality, and only Harry knew that the 'water' in the moat was combustible. His tertiary shields weren't so much shields as they were attacks against intruders, designed to burn to a crisp any mind trying to invade this place.
Turning around, he found his mind reacting to the strengthening he had done to it today, and he reached out with the strength of will he hadn't known a week ago, creating advanced sensors, heeding to Ken's warning. The ground did not exist, and he had to make sure that he kept thinking in three dimensions.
Harry, the Quidditch-star at Hogwarts, was used to thinking three-dimensionally, and he was glad for it. Who knew that flying on a broomstick, trying to dodge two bowling-ball sized Bludgers while simultaneously trying to catch a small, almost impossible to see, Golden Snitch would be good for mental defenses?
His sensors spread out, as sensitive as he could make them, and he could feel his strong point reacting.
Dropping to one knee, panting with exhaustion, Harry relaxed. That was the last of his jobs here today... even though Ken had told him not to overdo it, and that it was perfectly normal for him to take a couple of days to get everything set up. He hadn't wanted to wait, and here the results were... everything was up, sensors, three lines of defense, and a spot where he could oversee everything should it become necessary.
He hoped that Ken's next lesson would include on how to get here while he was under attack...
He blinked, and left mindscape, totally exhausted.
He awoke halfway through the afternoon, covered in dried sweat, starving, and feeling sicker than he had ever felt before. Crawling out of bed, he wolfed down the food that the Dursleys had shoved through the cat-flap of his door. He tried the door. It was locked, and Harry sighed, knowing that he wouldn't be able to expect any help from them anymore.
He was still starving by the time dinner was shoved through his door, and it vanished too, in less then no time.
Still hungry, Harry had no other choice but to fall asleep again, just as much a prisoner as he had been a couple of years before, back to square one. Wishing himself asleep, he got his wish a couple of hours later. His condition didn't lean itself to staying up into the long hours.
He awoke in the mindscape, parched and hungry, but totally alone. He frowned... how did he get here, if Ken wasn't here to help him? He realized that he entered his mindscape for the first time without help, and it made him feel somewhat giddy on the inside, but that was soon replaced by a feeling of worry.
Why wasn't Ken here? How did he get here? Did he really do it himself? Could he do it at will now? Ken did say that he would probably figure it out by himself, but Harry didn't know if this was the big revelation that she had been hinting at. If it was, it wasn't much of a revelation at all... because now he was even more confused than before, his many questions could do with an answer.
A shudder went through the mindscape then, and Harry bit back a gasp when he fell to the ground with the intensity of it. The clear blue skies turned dark, and Harry felt a foreboding sense of doom spread through the body he had here in this strange place.
"Who's there!?" he demanded the empty skies.
"It is Ken," a female voice stated.
"Ken?" Harry asked, stunned. "Come in!" he shouted. "You don't have to ask permission, you know that!"
She appeared before him, smiling somewhat crookedly. "It is not so much as not wanting to come in," she stated. "I was not able to come in. Your mind has shielded itself."
Harry stared at his teacher. "Then... it worked?"
She nodded. "I have taught you well, because I was still able to find you... You consciously gave me a marker, a way for me to find you... even if your mind itself was protected. It was very... safe of you."
Harry beamed at her praise.
"Now, let's start with the real training," Ken said, her smile not so nice now. "I will begin by teaching you some theory... direct memory transfer style. I must warn you, this is unpleasant. On the other hand, I can teach you the old-fashioned way, but that will take considerably longer."
Harry swallowed, not really feeling up to being even more sick than he already was. "How much longer, Sensei?"
"Years," Ken answered. "It will take years for you to reach any level of proficiency, even if we train in your mindscape, which is able to learn faster than your body is. If we use this technique, I can teach you the basics of what you need to know in a matter of weeks, and then I can teach you the techniques of fighting. The techniques themselves will need to be learned the old-fashioned way, but I can at least give you the background needed to be able to learn them."
Harry nodded. "I understand... if it's a difference between years and months..."
"It is, Harry," Ken said gently, putting one hand on his shoulder. "I must warn you, though. It will be dangerous, as well as unpleasant. Most people would be severely impacted. You, however, have a huge amount of magical and mental reserves, as demonstrated by the speed at which you built up your mental defenses, after being showed the way. You will be impacted, but not to the point a normal person would."
Harry nodded, feeling somewhat better as she explained what would happen, and why she thought he would be able to pull this off. It felt so much better to be talked to in an up-front and honest manner, rather than being manipulated, the way he was usually treated by everybody else. He found himself respecting his teacher even more.
"Okay, Sensei. If you think I can do this."
"I do," she answered levelly.
"Hit me, then," he said, steeling himself for pain, or anything else she would hit him with. To his surprise, nothing happened.
"We will begin later," she answered with a small smile. "I would like your mind to be back to its full strength first. You already put it under severe strain by making it build shields. Now, we should let it recuperate. In the meanwhile, I will visit one of your questions from yesterday... have you figured out how to protect your mind while you are conscious?"
Harry shook his head. "Not really... but I thought I entered here by myself today..."
She nodded, smiling slightly. "I think you did, too. You were here before I arrived at your shields."
"So..." Harry said, thinking. He found that he was getting better at figuring stuff out. Usually, he just let his brainy friend Hermione figure things out. He was more of a rush-in take-charge kind of person. Now he found himself forced to think and figure things out as Ken refused to just hand him the answers easily. She expected him to figure things out by himself, only helping him when he got really stumped at a problem. He found that he remembered better after thinking of the problem first. "So... I can enter here at a conscious thought?"
"I need to learn how to do that, though," he went on, and she nodded at him again. "Can I do it quickly?"
She smiled at him. "Instantaneously, if need be," she answered. "But it will take practice."
"But... if I'm attacked without knowing? Like... from behind?"
"Were you thinking of defense today?" Ken asked.
He frowned, not understanding the question until he thought about it. "Y-you mean... you couldn't get in..."
"Even if you weren't thinking about defending yourself," Ken finished his statement. "Your mind is now protecting itself. However, it is good to train on getting here quickly. If your mind comes under attack while you are not here, you will know... and you will know how deep they are getting as well. Your mind will do things by itself, or you can direct it, if you focus. Clearing your conscious mind and trusting your mental defenses takes practice, but it is easy once you get the hang of it. That is what your Professor Snape was trying to teach you, even though his methods were... anything but forthcoming."
Her voice was frosty again, and Harry once again knew that he wouldn't want to be Snape if this woman was in his vicinity.
Harry awoke, sometime during the next day, feeling sicker than he had ever felt. And these last couple of days, he had already been feeling incredibly sick, so that was saying something. He groaned, and barely managed to roll over in his bed. His stomach growled, showing its displeasure at being starved, and the boy looked at the food that stood, just behind the cat-flap, in his room. Somehow, he couldn't even bring himself to get up and get it.
A couple of hours later, his lethargy had started to recede, and Harry fell out of bed, pulling himself to the food, falling next to it with a big and heavy thump. He stared at the food for close to ten seconds, not even realizing that he was supposed to eat it, just knowing that it would somehow make him feel better.
Finally, his mind kicked in gear, and Harry started to eat mechanically, the food vanishing at an incredible pace, and soon he was faced with an empty plate, this time staring at it, not realizing where the food had gone.
As his digestion started to kick in, and badly needed nutrients filled his body, Harry started to pick up, and he got up and managed to walk back to the bed, falling down into it, sitting upright and putting his throbbing head in his hands. He felt so incredibly sick...
Letting out his breath, he looked around the small room he was in, his gaze settling on his snowy white owl, Hedwig. He croaked a weak grin at her, and tumbled over to where her cage sat, prominently on his dresser. He fell down against the cabinet, somehow managing to lean against it without falling over.
"Hey girl," he muttered at her. The owl big, brown eyes stared at him in mute anger. "Sorry I've ignored you these last couple of days, girl," he apologized to the smart creature. "I've been... busy."
The owl cocked her head, as if to say 'no kidding'. He smiled weakly at her, managing to open the drawer and pass her a couple of her favorite treats. "I'll be busy for a while longer, girl... will you bear with me?" he asked her, somehow feeling that he needed to ask, even though he knew, deep down, that Hedwig's loyalty would never waver, that she would always be there for him. No matter what he did.
The owl cocked her head in the other direction, as if asking 'what do you think?' before nipping at his fingers, and starting to eat the treats he had put in her cage. He smiled at her, his smile genuine, even if it was incredibly weak. As the owl noticed, her brown eyes seemed to take on an air of worry, right before it vanished, and Harry didn't know whether that flash had been actual intelligence, or his own imagination. "I'm sorry I don't have any work for you, girl. I know you want the exercise," he whispered to his snow-white friend. "I just wish that I knew how to tell this to the others without them saying I was crazy. Or too trusting. Or nag at me. Or anything like that." He sighed, and leaned back against the cabinet. "Thanks for listening, Hedwig. You're a great friend," he whispered to the owl, who looked at him as he staggered back to his bed, falling face-down, dropping right back to sleep.
He was out for hours, probably, before he awoke back in his mindscape, at the exact spot he always materialized, and glanced around. Was it his imagination, or was his mind changing this place? He definitely noticed a small buttercup standing at his feet. It was the only one present in the otherwise pure-green neatly-manicured grassy landscape, its yellow a stark contrast, screaming 'pay attention to me', lost in an otherwise endless ocean of green.
He forget all about his introspection when Ken appeared next to him, a small tug at his mind asking him for permission just a few moments before he granted it automatically, and she appeared.
"Good... evening, Harry," she greeted him.
"Good evening, Ken-Sensei," he replied, dipping his head once, smiling at her. "I know Japanese!" he said, grinning at her; he had figured that out just now, realizing that he had been thinking in Japanese all day. Somehow he had switched back to English to talk to Hedwig... but apart from that, he had been doing his thinking in Japanese.
She smiled. "After what I gave you yesterday, you'd better speak it," she returned, smiling slightly. "I am glad to see you are taking so well to your lessons. Today, we will continue our theoretical transfer. However, there is someone I would like you to meet first."
Harry lifted an eyebrow. "Really? Who, Ken-Sensei? I mean... how will I meet this person?"
She smiled that small smile of hers. "This person is very special to me," she said, Harry at once realizing how much it meant for this woman to say this. "As to how you two will meet... here, of course. If you will allow it."
Harry smiled, realizing how much effort Ken took to avoid giving any information about her mystery guest before he agreed to anything. He realized immediately that Ken hadn't even disclosed her guest's sex. He smiled. "If this person is important to you, Ken-Sensei, then I will trust him or her as well."
She smiled as he played at her avoidance, and dipped her head. She lifted her hand. "Harry Potter, I would like you to meet..." a small tug came at his mind, and he allowed it in. A second figure appeared, slowly taking form, as if this second person had more problems materializing than Ken had. Slowly, the form took shape, the shape of a girl in her mid-teens, looking between fifteen and seventeen, with shoulder-long pitch-black hair and classic oriental features.
Harry swallowed. The girl was dressed in a beautiful blue kimono... and was carrying a sword and a staff. "... my apprentice, Maya," Ken finished the introduction.
"Pleased to meet you," Harry said, in perfect, flawless Japanese. "Welcome to my mind," he added, somehow finding the eloquence to pull the greeting off correctly. Ken's techniques were obviously working, Harry thought to himself, feeling himself more in control over his emotions than ever before.
The girl smiled, bowed at his greeting, and replied in English, "It is a pleasure to be here. Pleased to meet you." He didn't fail to notice that her English was as perfect as his Japanese was, and smiled slightly at Ken, even as he returned the bow.
"It is my intention that Maya will help us greatly in your training," Ken said. "It is great training for her, projecting herself halfway around the world, and she will help you in the practical aspects of the training. Be warned, however... Maya started her apprenticeship under me at age ten, and she will remain as such until she comes of age, at age twenty-one. Meaning that you should not underestimate her."
The girl blushed, shot a glare at Ken, then turned and smiled at Harry. "Don't worry, Harry! Sensei likes to scare people."
Harry smiled halfheartedly, not really knowing what to do with the familiarity between Maya and his... their... teacher. "For now," Ken went on, as if Maya hadn't said anything. "Maya will remain here, sitting, as we transfer the basics, building up the strength of her mind, getting ready to help on the practical side of the training later on."
Harry nodded, not really feeling worried about the girl who would be sitting in his mind, as he and Ken... did their thing.
"But first," Ken said, smiling at him, "I know you are dying for something."
Harry glanced at her, for once unable to follow as to what she was talking about.
Ken smiled at him, realizing his confusion, and turned to Maya. "Harry needs to be strong," Ken explained. "And as such, he likes to see sneak previews of what I am going to be teaching him. As a reward for learning his lessons well, I show him some of the more advanced techniques."
"Oh!" Maya said, smiling broadly, turning to Harry. "Isn't Sensei cool when she does that?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, she is," he replied in Japanese. He found it curious how easy it was for them to speak the other's language... as she spoke English to him, he replied in Japanese, and neither had any problems with that arrangement, apparently.
Ken shook her head at her student and her apprentice, then lifted her staff. "In any case, Harry, this is also a technique I will be teaching you. This school of magic is known as the Demon Arts, designed to fight Demons, as their name implies. The initial incantation is quite long, but once activated, it takes but a trigger phrase to bring forth the effect." She pointed her staff at the Whomping Willow, and Harry almost felt sorry for this poor mental representation. "Ye Lord, Mask of blood and flesh, all creation, flutter of wings, ye who bears the name of Man, Inferno and pandemonium, The sea barrier surges, March on to the south!" Energy lifted around her, and the head of her staff started glowing. "Shakkahou!"
A ball of energy exploded from her staff, reducing the Whomping Willow to ashes, and Harry spared a single thought to rebuild it. It took him not much time to regrow the tree these days, not after how many times it had been burned, stabbed, split, or destroyed in any fashion.
"Shakkahou is the trigger?" Harry asked as the tree regrow.
Ken dipped her head. "You need to activate the spell first, then you can cast it until you lose your focus on it. Usually, that's until the end of the battle," she added the latter with a small smirk. Harry nodded, filing the information away.
He awoke the next morning, he guessed at about ten, even though he couldn't be sure, as he didn't own a watch. Somehow, he felt better. No, that wasn't exactly true. He felt just as bad as he had been feeling for the last week, but now he was getting used to the feeling. Somewhat.
He dragged himself out of bed, ate a little from the stale food that had been placed at his door, and fell down in the only chair his small room had. It faced a small desk, right next to the only window. Harry looked down at his desk, its immaculate surface unmarred by parchment, quills, or books. He didn't feel the need to work on anything for school... Ken was more than taking care of him. He gazed outside, making it a point to ignore the remainder of the bars that had once been in front of the glass, all that remained after a spectacular break-out in his second year.
As Harry felt his attention slip to his training with Ken, he found the world dimming around him, and for a moment, he could see the mental vision of Hogwarts he had built up in his mindscape. He snapped out of his trance when tapping came at his window.
Glancing down at the owl, he opened his window to let the creature in. After taking the parchment from its foot, he gave the owl a couple of owl-treats, something he always had with him, ever since he had Hedwig. It didn't fly off immediately, so Harry guessed it had been instructed to wait for his reply.
He opened the letter.
If it is convenient to you, I shall call at number four, Privet Drive this coming Friday at eleven P.M. to escort
you to the Burrow, where you have been invited to spend the remainder of your school holidays.
If you are agreeable, I should also be glad of your assistance in a matter to which I hope to attend on the way
to the Burrow. I shall explain this more fully when I see you.
Kindly send your answer by return of this owl. Hoping to see you this Friday,
I am yours, most sincerely,
Harry sat there, somewhat stunned, looking at the letter in his hand. These last couple of years, this would have been a blessing the likes of which he couldn't believe. But now... now he wasn't so sure he wanted to leave. As bad as the Dursleys were, they did leave him alone, and that, above all else, is what Harry felt he needed right now. If he went to the Burrow, to the home of his best friend Ron, he wouldn't be alone, he would be sharing a room with others, and nobody would leave him to sleep for three-quarters of a day. Especially not if the rest of his time was spent being sick and eating.
He sighed. What should he do? If he declined, it would be an insult to his friends. If he accepted, he would have a lot of difficulty to get his training from Ken, and the lessons were just starting to get good.
He grabbed a piece of parchment, took out a quill, and started a letter. Five words later, he balled it up, and aimed it at the wastebasket. He started a new one.
He got ten words before he ripped that one, and aimed it for the basket.
An hour later, he had three carefully worded letters, and a wastebasket that was overflowing with bunched up pieces of parchment. The owl was still waiting for him. He tied the letters to the owl's legs, and told him, "This one is for Albus Dumbledore. The second one is for Ronald Weasley and his family. The third one is for Hermione Granger."
The owl dipped its head to show it understood, and flapped out the window. Harry sighed, leaned back in his chair, and closed his eyes. Five minuter later, he was back in his mindscape, not realizing that he had gotten there without falling asleep for the first time.
End of Chapter