Every blow Tumakako landed with the side of her scimitar felt like another broken limb to Dara. The pain amplified by the sun’s demoralizing gaze. Dara’s armor felt heavy on her body the longer their training sessions drug on.
She struggled to move her feet through the vast amounts of sand that covered the ground. Her muscles seemed to give up on her as she tried to block and parry with her lacquered purple broad sword and glittery purple shield. Her sword possessed a gold pommel with a short black tassel out of its end.
A gilded guard and hilt to match, opposite its black grip. Her shield rounded and large enough to protect most of her upper body. On the face of the shield a unique Sun emblem to match the color of her flame.
Adjusting to her new weapons of choice provided a steep learning curve to an already uphill battle. Another fist swept through the air with quickness and precision, providing a punishing sensation on her sky-blue helmet.
Dara crashed down into the soft sand as if being plastered to a wall. Spots celebrated in circles dulling her vision. “Your adversary will provide an even harsher beating than I could dream of giving you.” Tumakako said, impatiently pacing back and forth.
Dara laid still for a moment, before squirming a few paces away to create space and get to her feet. Her crawl was pathetic. Every ounce of her body shook as she wriggled to her knees.
Tumakako covered the distance between them, crashing her knee into Dara’s helmet again, as she had done all day. She appeared to be quite fond of that attack to a lowered foe.
Dara rolled several feet from the force. “What is your greatest asset?” Tumakako asked, not winded or tired at all. She spoke so smooth and confident, like she had been sitting down resting the entire time. Dara continued to crawl away from the fight.
“The Iku?” Dara replied, sniffing, unsure if it was snot, sweat or blood beneath her nose. “If the Iku was removed from your blood, you would still be Dara. Is this true?” Dara nodded, finally reaching her feet. She raised her shield to protect from the next attack.
“Tell me. What advantage do you possess in this confrontation?” Tumakako quizzed some more. Dara didn’t respond. Tumakako asked her the same questions daily during every session. Dara figured she hadn’t answered correctly, since the interrogation never changed.
“What do you know about yourself?” Tumakako pressured. Dara thought deeply. All she could think about was how afraid she was that Tumakako may kill her during training. The pain from her harsh methods produced a mental roadblock.
The soreness even before the sessions began were enough for her to call it quits. Dara proceeded to give the same answer as before. “I know. I’m afraid.” Dara began. “What are you afraid of?” Tumakako inquired, slashing two more times as her target evaded.
Dara gasping for air as she spoke. “I’m afraid you might kill me.” Tumakako smiled. “You fight as if you are afraid of death by my hands. That is the wrong fear. I would have killed you by now if I wished it.” Tumakako said as she feigned another attack.
Dara placed her hands on her hips. Slowly taking in deep breaths. “I figured you wouldn’t want me to be afraid. That to be afraid would be to be weak.” Dara said looking for confirmation. “Where would you have inferred that from my training?” Tumakako asked.
Her range of emotions were gradually displaying themselves the more they worked. Tumakako even occasionally throwing out a playful sound while forcefully knocking her to the ground.
Dara wished she could enjoy the growth of what felt more than just a pupal relationship, but the pain often exceeded any measurement of fun. Dara shrugged her small shoulders.
“Lale told me fear was not in my blood. To get rid of it.” Dara explained. Tumakako shook her head. Eyes closed, she exhaled. “To be fearless is her best advantage. When you are the best warrior on your planet and have the beast at your disposal, you can become fearless. This is her advantage. Not yours. You do not have to become her. You only have to become who you want to be.” Tumakako responded.
“Fei is fearless.” Dara suggested. Tumakako attacked once more, causing Dara to jump aside. “Fei is far from fearless. He covered a great distance to rescue Lale. He chased you away out of fear. He literally wants you dead out of fear you may become stronger than him. He channels his fear into anger. Through anger he fuels his will to overcome any adversary. Do you understand?” Tumakako asked. Dara pondered for a while. Gathering the pieces together.
“So, it’s okay to be afraid?” Dara questioned. Tumakako swiped her blade left and right before she faked again and swept Dara off her feet. Dara landed on her back with a thud, looking up at her teacher. “Not for Lale. Yes, for Fei. Not for me, I don’t have much longer to live. For you? Small, and frail, you tell me.” Tumakako responded.
Dara closed her eyes. She was tired of it all. She didn’t want the power. She didn’t want to train. She just wanted to live and be with her mother. Everything has become too much. The Sun’s rays boiling her skin under her armor. Dara made her way to her feet again.
“I just want to run.” Dara said. She opened her eyes to see her mentor nodding in approval. “So, run.” Tumakako confirmed. Dara tilted her head at her approval. “You approached our fight as if we were equal. As if you stood a chance at protecting yourself from my attacks. You must never allow your opponent or opponents to dictate to you, how you will defeat them. That’s up to you.” Tumakako explained.
Dara finally understood. “If……I run. You cannot catch me.” Dara said. Tumakako disagreed. “You’re sure?” She asked. Dara levitated in the air. Ascending above Tumakako’s head. “I’m sure.” Dara replied.
“This may suffice for Lale. But Fei, as you have shared can cover great distances in one leap. You may not be able to run from the beast. What else do you possess?” Tumakako asked.
Dara flew leisurely around her mentor. Exerting this amount of energy with her armor was extremely difficult. The frustration quickly setting in. “I don’t know. This armor is too heavy.” She said. Dara removed her armor and ignited her red form. Her body felt as if she was weightless.
The flames burning brighter and hotter. The sun began revitalizing her body. Its rays directly curing her fatigue. “The sun.” She whispered. “It’s the sun Tuma. I can manipulate the sun’s energy to feed my power. I actually feel stronger.” She said ecstatically.
“I could tell from some of our first sessions the impact it was having on you. When you activated your armor. You were hindering your own advantage. You’re slower, relying too heavily on your weapons and minimal combat experience.” Tumakako educated her.
“But you told me to use it.” Dara retorted, wearing a frown on her face. “And you listened to the person whom you were afraid would potentially kill you?” She asked rhetorically.
Dara thought for a moment. She was beginning to understand. “Dara, you must know and define your enemy before they define you.” Tumakako continued, as she took several attempts to disrupt Dara’s moment of relaxation and Clarity.
“Learn your strengths, use them, adapt only when you feel the need to, not from your enemy’s decision for you. That power doesn’t belong to them.” Tumakako shared with her apprentice. Dara continued to drink in the sun’s energy, like medicine it was healing her wounds. The pain from all her bruises feeling better while significantly boosting her red form.
1“Next, explore my weaknesses.” Tumakako ordered. “This is just as important as knowing who you are. However, your enemy will not spar with you and allow you time to figure this out. You must identify it quickly. Guess wrong and you may die. Understand them and you still may die.” Tumakako imparted to her as she soared through the air.
Dara’s face betraying her confusion. “How do I live?” She asked her mentor. Tumakako remained silent. “What is my weakness?” Tumakako pressured.
“You care about me.” Dara suggested. “You can never hit me as hard as you would your true enemies. I haven’t figured it out. But I can sense you. Through my armor. It’s our link. It helps me feel what your about to do. I’m just not reacting fast enough.” Dara explained.
Tumakako remained silent. Dara’s flames grew hotter and more intense. She was becoming even more comfortable in her red form. “The closer you get to hurting me over my training, the more time you give me to recover. I haven’t had the energy to attack. I think…….” Dara paused. “I think, it’s because I didn’t believe I could actually hurt you. But, you’re the one who can’t hurt me.” Dara said.
“What is Lale’s weakness?” Tumakako asked. Dara flew around, evading Tumakako’s sword. “I don’t think she has one. She is believed to be the best fighter from her planet. No one has ever touched her in combat.” Dara thought harder but struggled none the less.
“She has no powers.” Dara suggested. “What is Lale’s weakness?” Tumakako repeated, keeping up her offense. Dara exhaled in disappointment. “She cares about me.” Dara offered.
“What is Lale’s weakness?” Her mentor repeated. Dara contemplated a while longer. “I don’t know! How can you beat someone who can’t be touched?” Dara said, doing her best to remain airborne. “She doesn’t have a weakness.” Before Tumakako could repeat the question, Dara interrupted.
“Wait! She doesn’t. She is impenetrable. If she is the best warrior, she is so overconfident, there is no need to kill me. She can do it whenever she wants in her mind. If……” Dara explained as she floated back down to the sand. Eye level with Tumakako, she proceeded. “If I fight her. But what if I don’t?” Dara lingered.
Tumakako wasn’t sure where her apprentice was going. Tumakako whisked away her weapon to allow Dara time to expound on her thought process. “If I fight Lale in combat. I will die. Or even if I somehow managed to kill her, it would only enrage Fei, from which we know he draws his strength. His rage will increase his strength, which increases my chances to die beyond fighting Lale. Unless I kill him first.” Dara continued.
“What if I manage to kill Fei first? My power may have no limit. But his does. He is most vulnerable while she is alive, and I possess the most power.” Dara stated as fact.
“I kill him first, Lale’s anger may make her fight harder. But she cannot pursue me, and I would possess a major power advantage. Against my power her combat skills may not be in her favor.” Dara explained.
Tumakako thought about the plan Dara offered. “Tuma, I kill Fei. He is her weakness. Her confidence comes from their bond. If that bond is severed, she can’t defeat someone who can manipulate the power of the sun. With the beast gone, she will finally be vulnerable.” Dara said raising her hands in the air. Her excitement caused her flames to flicker.
Tumakako stared at the child. The flames somehow not harming her despite how close Dara was. “Before long, everyone may fear you.” Tumakako thought to herself. “What is Fei’s weakness?” Tumakako asked her final question. “His anger.” Dara immediately replied.
“His anger causes him to become careless. He tried to rescue Lale without knowing the danger. He attacked me and was burned. His anger is his weakness. He will chase me at all costs. Fei will easily fall into a trap, because until now, there hasn’t been anyone strong enough to stop him. So, I set a trap. With your fighting skill and my power, we can lure him away from Lale, the city, overwhelm him and defeat him. So, we set a trap.” Dara exclaimed proudly.
Tumakako heard the plan. She turned and began to walk away. After a few paces she focused on Dara.
Tumakako raises her palm to the sky as her scimitar materialized in her hand. The elder warrior twirled her weapon and lowered her stance. Dara knew her answer finally satisfied her mentor. She released her red form, dropping in the sand during the process.
She momentarily soaked in the sun’s rays, before activating her armor. Dara thrusted her hands diagonally away from her body. Her shield materialized in one hand. In the other her broad sword in the likeness of the one her mother used. Dara took a step back in her newly developed fighting stance.
“You relinquish your strength? Untouched is not your strength.” Tumakako probed. “You can’t confirm my wounds through my armor either. Maybe I am the untouched.” Dara chuckled. “Confidence unimpeded will get you killed.” Tumakako warned.
Dara nodded in acknowledgement. Dara bashed her sword against her shield engulfing it in a red flame. The red fire gleaming in Tumakako’s eyes. “I’m even more afraid……” Dara began. “I’m afraid you can no longer hurt me.” Tumakako charged at her young apprentice. Dara took to the sky to continue her training.