Marken lowered his hands to his sides as he raised his head to look at his opponent. He smiled; he felt pity for most of his opponents’ but this was an upperclassman. Tsune had bragged about beating him. Now Marken stared as he panted. His tutors looked on in amazement. “Why is he this good?” One of them asked dumbfounded by what he was seeing.
‘It must be the Shintaza giving him the edge.” The other replied.
They were right in a way. The Shintaza or fighter’s eye was a genetic gift which ran within the Degal clan. It gave the owner the ability to see every potential attack his opponent could attempt at one time. Marcus had honed the gift so much that he could predict the attacks of most of his opponents. For this fight he refused to use it. The difference was in their skill alone. “Give up yet?” Marken sneered at his opponent who was still gasping for breath.
“No.' Tsune replied. Drenched in sweat he struggled to accept that he was being beaten by a boy four years his junior. He had never been beaten like this, and despite being a closed match with he knew news would get out about his defeat at the hands of the “Michinza” . One of the stout detractors from this need of this title, he had placed himself as the self-proclaimed champion of those not born with special gifts; the one who needed to prove that with hard work and training any gift can be beaten.
There must be a chink. Tsune thought to himself. Raising himself up using his sword as a prop, Tsune returned to his fighting stance. Marken remained in his relaxed stance, proclaiming his dominance. He would give Tsune no respect. “I’m giving you a handicap.” Marken said. “See if you can land a blow on me.”
Angered by the comment, Tsune charged towards Marken. Multiple images of himself sprung from his body moving in the same direction he did. Metitock was a common move used by advanced aura mages in an attempt to hide their movement. Unmoved by the technique Marken stood motionless. “A word of advice.” Marken said “ If you are going to use a move often, be sure not to use the same pattern each time.” As the images of Tsune surrounded him, Marken threw his wakisashi to into the ground to the left of a copy of Tsune.With a groan from Tsune's lips the illusion broke. How did he know that was me?
Regaining his focus he noticed that Marken was heading for him. Unarmed? The arrogance of this boy. He entered his attacking stance as Marken closed in. he threw a jab at Tsune’s face, hoping he would take the bait. Sure enough he did. He swung his katana towards Marken’s hand, believing that he would remove it. As it struck Marken's hand, the din of metal hitting metal rang through the sparring hall. arken brought up his left which was full of the aura he had absorbed from the air, aiming his punch for Tsune’s sword. “Blasriter” .Marken shouted as his hand hit the sword. The aura left his hand like a lightning bolt, resting in the sword's blade, shattering it to pieces. The shock-wave pushed both Marken and Tsune back.
“You are useless at hand to hand Tsune.” Marken yelled. “Give up and we can...” An aura blast whizzed by his left ear, his long black hair twirling in the aftershock. “ I am not giving into you.” Tsune replied his hands still glowing with his own aura. “I guess I have to use it” Tsune thought. “Let’s see how you deal with this!” The glow of his aura extended over his body, growing more intense until it disappeared. With a wry smile he dashed into Marken again with increased pace.
Marken greeted the surge in his opponents speed with a sigh. He wished he didn’t have to prove himself as a warrior outside of his gift. Everyone looked upon him with envy because of the elders doting. Most of the clan had no idea about the pain his gift had brought him. The Shitaza was a blessing to everyone but its owner. He resigned himself to prepare for Tsune’s onslaught. Marken had seen this technique before. Zenkfriege was used to subjugate opponents by using one's aura to amplify their physical condition. Marken had used it before in the fight, unnoticed by Tsune. “He’ll try to overpower me first.” Marken thought. A flurry of punches came from Tsune’s fists, Marken parrying them without difficulty. His fighting style was very graceful; the rhythm of his movements appearing choreographed. Its beauty however belied the savagery of his style's creed: complete destruction with minimal effort.
The sound of a broken bone echoed through the hall. Tsune's hand managed to land one punch to Marken’s face, sending him reeling into the far corner of the room. “Ha!” Tsune shouted “The fight's not over yet.”
Marken lifted his head to look at Tsune. His cheek had already begun to swell. “If this is all you have, the fight is over.” Marken replied. “ Ask yourself this. Did I attack you even once just now?”
The realisation tore Tsune to shreds. Marken never attacked. Marken walked towards him while muttering under his breath. He was chanting. Tsune realised what was coming and was afraid.
He rushed into Marken again attempting to finish him before he could finish chanting. His attacks met with dodges and parries as the aura around Marken's body increased . “My turn.” Marken shouted. His blocks and parries turned into punches and kicks of his own, forcing Tsune onto the back foot. He struggled to match the pace of the attack. The opening that Marken was searching for came. Dropping his guard he allowed one of Tsune’s punches to come though his defence. Dodging it by dropping his left shoulder he stepped forward, aiming his straight right at the centre of Tsune’s chest. As he made contact, Marken shouted the name of the technique. “Zehsieglen” .
Tsune, still conscious, stood frozen, his right hand still extended. “ It will take some time before your aura flows normally again. Maybe you will move in a day or two.” Marken said as he walked away from his opponent. Looking up at his father and the elders seated in the far corner of the hall he shouted “ Is that good enough for your father.”
“ You will address me by my title boy!” Degen snapped back.
“ Sorry Fuhri ! Forgive my impudence” Marken chimed. “ Was my performance satisfactory?”
“ You baited him too long. You respected him too much. This should have been over in seconds.”
“ True.” Marken replied. “ But I chose to respect his rank as an upperclassman. “
“Very well . You displayed enough technical skill to be awarded the title of Intermediate Master. Expect a tougher time in training.”
“ Hooray! Can I leave now?” Marken replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Very well. Training starts tomorrow at six.” Degen banged his sceptre on the floor of the hall signalling the end of the test. As the elders turned to leave, Marken left through the door on the opposite side of the hall. He was getting tired of all of this; the training, the meetings with the island’s leaders. It was all meaningless to him. He just wanted to be happy and to be with her.
He saw her. Her blue eyes stared into his, as if she was examining his soul. “ Are you alright babe?” Rema asked while reaching out to touch his broken cheekbone.
“ It stings but ill be fine.” Marken replied. “ Suffered worse because of all of this.”
She reached out her hand grabbing his bruised fingers. “Come on, I’ll take you to the infirmary.”
"Okay.” He replied. He felt better already.