Chapter 14: Beyond Friendship, Beyond Family
Location: Arcadia Military Academy: Training room # 47
Another crack filled the room as Ben crashed to the floor with a loud thump. This time he was not as quick to get up from that last attack. Struggling to keep his head up his whole body ached. A small pain rose above the rest as sweat dripped on his split lip causing it to burn. Using both arms he pushed his body up and rested on his knees.
“You’re still holding back!” Reeza’s voice rang in his ears.
She appeared in front of him wearing her regular Ionian cloths but this time they were blue with red stripes and no dragon design. She rushed at him with her left hand held near her side and holding out like a blade. Ben could see the blue energy forming around the tip of her middle finger and brought his arms up in a cross formation to block the attack. He closed his eyes when her heard a loud crunching sound and felt a cold chill take over his body. In front of him was a wall of ice which had a grid pattern weaved into it. Reeza’s hand was just barely poking though the wall. Both Ben and Reeza turned to the direction of Yui who was now standing but relying on the staff to hold her up. Her hand was still aimed at where she built the wall to protect Ben.
“So you finally regained consciousness. Nice timing, I was about to end our training session for the day.” She said with complete confidence.
Ben saw the moment to strike and knew he was more than able to break this wall down and get the jump on her. Mustering up the needed power he focused it on his right hand and busted through the gridded wall and still moving true to his target. This sense of victory was short lived as Reeza quickly moved to her left and grasped Ben’s wrist with her hand. She wasn’t putting too much power behind her as she pull the hand forward to get Ben off balance.
“On no I have seen this before!” He thought to himself as flash backs to her fight with Chalmer came into mind. Now knowing her next move he was sure he was not fast enough to counter the move but he could brace himself to avoid too much damage. Reeza brought her right leg up and slammed it against his back sending him crashing into the ground yet again. He was sure she had not noticed his sudden shift in power and he would use that to his advantage. Before he could act, he saw Reeza jump as a flurry of ice shards flew past where she was standing. Yui was standing on her own two feet again and her hand spread wide as a ring of blue energy spun around her palm. Another volley of shards erupted from her palm and flew towards Reeza. She caught herself on the ceiling just in time to see the attack happen. She shoved off the ceiling and the ice lodged firmly in the stone roof.
She landed firmly on her feet in a crouching position and quickly pushed off in a sprint towards Yui. Hoping to have caught her off guard Reeza swung her right leg around pivoting on her left foot that would have landed a powerful blow to her face if not for the quick reaction of Yui deflecting the attack with her staff. Seizing the moment of surprise Yui brought her staff around and tripped the other leg causing Reeza fall to the ground. She lifted the staff back up and quickly slamming back down at Reeza’s body like a stake. Acting faster than Yui could counter She deflected the staff with her left palm. Then in a lighting quick motion she brought her leg and brought to bear the full force of her kick to the side of her head. Yui groaned a painful heartbreaking groan as she stumbled to her left. Reeza felt guilty for hitting her so hard, but this was how they agreed to train. If either of them were to get stronger she would have to stop holding back. With that thought she performed a flip and landed on her feet. Wasting no time she moved in for the final strike. She wished, she knew this would be where her guesses about them would be proven. That placed in a life or death situation one of them would finally let go and let their power out.
Yui was barely sitting up and her staff was nowhere near her. Reeza was moving so fast towards her. In seconds she would overwhelm her and she had no way of defending herself. Reeza was now two maybe three steps away. Yui heart was racing trying to brace her for the pain that was about come when suddenly it felt as if the room had gotten heavy. Like gravity itself was weighing her down and it was only getting worse.
Reeza felt the change in the room. To her it wasn’t a gravimetric change; it was a spike is spiritual power. That was the only way to describe this feeling. But whose was spiking? This small room and everyone so close together it was hard to pinpoint the source. Then the answer was all too clear to her. As if a ghost in the night a faded image of Ben appeared to her right. Then it became solid and he checked her with his shoulder sending her off her feet and tumbling towards the wall. After four or five painful spins with the stone floor she bounced one more time to hit the stone wall. Reeza lay there for what seemed like an eternity. Ben started to move towards her but stopped to see Yui struggling to get back on her feet. Knowing he had not hit her hard enough to cause any real damage he moved over to help her up.
Reeza’s still body started to move as she recovered from the shock of the last attack. Where one would expect anger or embarrassment, she only smiled knowing that she finally got one of them to start trusting in themselves. They were not paying her any attention. This was a perfect chance to catch them off guard. She quickly started to race towards the two. Yui was just getting to her feet when she felt the change in the air again and she assumed Ben was too by the look on his face. Before she could say anything the hands that were holding her up pushed her away right as the fist of Reeza appeared where her face was just at. Yui tumbled backwards as she tried to stabilize herself to see what was going on. She could hear the impact of body hits as blow after blow was landed. When could finally focus on the fight she was amazed to see both of them still standing and engaged in close quarters combat. The fight should have been one sided given how badly they were being beaten, but Ben was still standing and blocking every hit she threw at him.
Reeza was trying to trip him up. First a right hook then a shot to the side. No matter what combination she was using he would just catch or deflect her punches. It wasn’t until she started to pay attention that she noticed his energy level was not going down nor was it going up. It almost felt like he was on the same level as her. She was master at reading or detecting people’s energy levels, but at close proximity anyone with just a little training can pick up on these things. She wanted to test this theory now. She had been holding back quite a bit to allow both of them to fight her on equal ground, but now it was time to step up her game. Slow bleeding in more power to her punch she went straight for his face hitting him on the left cheek and forcing him to stumble back and groan. Feeling a little disappointed by what just happened she almost dropped her strength back down. Something inside her said to try one more time and with the same amount of force. This time she felt a sudden jolt coming from Ben and he caught her attack mid punch. It was starting to make sense to her, he was holding back but when she hit him, he was able to gauge how much power was behind her attack and match it to defend himself. If he had this power all along why was he not using it? She started to run questions through her head about what potential he might have and almost forgot to pay attention to Yui. The air became cooler almost like someone opened a freezer on a hot day. Landing one more hit that again Ben blocked she looked around but could see no attack. Then horrible realization came over her as Ben was not letting go of her hand. Trying to figure out what was going and struggling to get free her mind was overloading. Then as if the light bulb that you see all the time on the vids came on over her head she looked up to see two swirling pools of blue energy.
“The attack was coming from above!” She yelled in her head.
Now her task was clear, break free. Jumping up with her legs pulled up to her chest she waited till they were in perfect aim of his chest. Putting enough strength that she knew he would not be able to counter at his current level slammed both of her feet into his chest.
The attack was all too quick and Ben did not have to time to defend himself properly. The pain the hit brought was enough to make him wish he was knocked unconscious as the air from his lungs rushed out causing them to burn. Letting her go the force pushed him back just out of the way of the attack. Likewise Reeza was able to use the force of her kick to easily clear the attack area.
“That was too close for comfort.” She told herself.
Taking the moment she bought herself by incapacitating Ben and Yui still regaining her strength she started to replay the events in her head. To her surprise she was quite proud of both of them for coming up with a plan without communication. They were really starting to act like a team. Her moment of rest was over as Yui positioned herself for another assault. This time she was going for long distance. More swirls of energy and ice formed around her staff as the crystal end was pointed at Reeza. Surely she knew that she was too fast for the head on approach? Thrusting the staff forward a large stream of ice energy shot out in a violent beam. The beam struck the ground and formed a giant ice wall that could have done some damage if it had hit her; but Reeza easily dodged the blast. Then out of nowhere the trap was sprung. Grabbing her in a tight bear like hug Ben grabbed hold of her in hopes of preventing her from dodging the next blast.
“Now Yui, I can’t hold her for long!” he commanded.
Ben tried to lift her up so her feet were not able to touch the ground while Yui lined up another shot. This time the blast was short and controlled. Reeza struggled to break free but quickly came to accept that no matter what happened now she was going to be struck and the match would be over. The blue bolt struck the two causing an ice tomb to form around their chest area and bleed down to their feet.
It was cold, so very cold. If Ben had not sacrificed himself to win the match it would be much colder but the added body heat eased the pain a little. That moment passed quickly as both of them stated to shiver and teeth started to chatter.
“Y..Y..Yui...could…y…you?” Ben tried to work out.
Yui realized she needed to break them free. Gathering up the strength after that last attack she limped over to the captive duo and placed her hand on the ice tomb and it shattered freeing the two. They fell to the floor hard but quickly balled up in a fetal position trying to warm up with body heat. Yui saw the two and chuckled a little on the inside before walking over to them and helping them up.
Walking them out of the training room so they could warm up in the sun the light was almost blinding after being in the dimly lit room. Sighs of relief and small comments on how great the sun was came from both Ben and Reeza. After they walked around for a few minutes they found a set of empty benches and sat down to reflect on the situation.
“So…how did we do?” Yui asked with hesitation in her voice.
Reeza turned to look at her and smiled, “Well how do you think you did?”
“Well I think I am dead.” Ben said trying to be funny.
“And I think I killed him…and you. Sorry.” She apologized.
Both of them now looked as if they failed some huge test. Reeza was surprised at how they were reacting. With their performance in the last match she would have thought they would be thrilled they won a match.
“What if I told you that you did everything right. Even right now you two are have grown a lot in the short time we have been training.” She said reassuringly.
Both of them took a moment to think about what she said then looked at her with a look of confusing and excitement.
“How so?” Yui asked
“I can tell you two have trained together. You both are starting instinctively know when the other person is going to attack and how. Ben is more of a close quarter combatant and you are a distance fighter. Whenever he placed me in a stalemate you took advantage of the situation. Also, by your practice sessions he knew the strength of you barrier. By having that information at hand he was able to gain a momentary upper hand on the situation.”
She placed her hand on her shoulder. “You have shown the most growth on the battlefield in tactics. You see the opening and take the shot. When your friends are in danger you know just what defense to throw up. Your ability to see the battlefield as a whole is your greatest strength.” She said with confidence.
Turning to Ben who was looked somewhat anxious to learn what he had done right.
“And Ben, you have some much potential and I cannot seem to bring it out of you. These last few weeks I have felt such strength in you and yet you seem to fear it. You show such growth one minute and fall back the next. You are more of an enigma than I had realized and yet you have this raw untapped talent. The only times I see you trying to use this is when you see a friend in need. This is very admirable, but one day you might not have someone with you and alone you will die if you continue to fear who you are.” Her voice carried a hint of sadness as she knew it would sting him to hear such truths.
“But you both have shown me something that makes this training worth it. The ability for self sacrifice and the ability to carry it out. By potentially giving up your life to stop a greater foe, you have shown courage that few people, even captains in the military do not have. Also by putting aside personal feelings to be able to make the shot that could end a comrade’s life also take more courage than you know.” When she was finished she just leaned back and rested on the bench.
Her words were bitter sweet to them but something they needed to hear. Then Reeza turned to Yui who was looking concerned at Ben knowing the truth was much harder for him.
“Do you think you could give us a moment?” She asked quietly.
Yui quickly picked up the hint that she needed to find a reason to leave.
“Well, it is a nice walk about to my side of the academy. I could use a nice bath and clean cloths. If it is not too much trouble, I will be heading out?” She asked.
Ben just nodded and Reeza said her goodbyes watching Yui walk off. Turning back to the mentally defeated friend. She bent down so she was at eye level with him.
“Look, I meant what I said. You have this amazing power within you, it might even be more amazing than I have already seen. But it is something that you need to release at your own pace. I cannot force it out of you and you should not force it out without understanding it.” She said with sincere warmth behind her voice.
Ben looked up at her, finally starting to understand her words. She was right about him in a way, he was hiding something and he so wanted to tell her.
“So with that being said if we cannot train you to bring out more of your power on your own, I can at least teach you to utilize what you have.” She said as her voice became stern. Standing up so she towered over him she looked to see if he would react to her proposal.
“It will be hard and with only two weeks left it will be quick and very painful. Hell I am sure by the end of it you will hate me, but I promise you that it will make a difference in the tournament to come.” She said.
Ben looked up at her with a childlike joy in his eyes. She reached her hand out and he grasped it while standing up.
“You really think you can help me better understand my power?” He asked.
“I do.” She said with a smile. “But if you are serious there is something important you must do. I mean “we” must do.”
Ben was confused but still wanted to know more. “Anything, I trust you completely.”
“The techniques I can teach you are for the royal guard and family to know. As our way you must be given permission to learn such things from the King or be accepted into the guard. Since there is neither of them available to us,” She paused for a second to carefully think of her next words, “It would require a life time commitment, to each other. It is known as the warriors bond. It is shared only between two soldiers who pledge to stay at each other’s sides, to share knowledge and wisdom. It is a very old tradition that is not used in today’s rituals.” She again stopped, but this time it was to hold back a torrent of emotions.
Ben could see a tear forming in her eye. Her face was turning red and it was getting harder and harder for her to contain what she was feeling. He continued to hold her hand in hopes it might comfort her. She finally sat back down on the bench and Ben followed her. Taking a moment to see if there was anyone around it was still pretty quiet and no one to make a big deal over what was going on.
“What has you so worked up?” He asked growing more concerned for her current state of mind.
“I…I don’t want you to leave me after this is over.” She said starting to sob.
Ben was more than perplexed over her accusation that he was going to leave her.
“I have lost so much already; my family, my friends, and even my own country is lost to me.” She leaned in and rested herself against his chest like the first night they met.
“I don’t know what I am going to do or where I am going to go after this and you… you have been so nice and your friends have treated me like family. These past few months I don’t think I could have made it without your understanding and kindness. You have become the one thing I can turn to and rely on. I…I…, you are the most important thing in my life Ben and I don’t want to lose that.” She paused to try and compose herself. This was not the time or the place but it was as if reality hit her and all the fear she had been hiding behind her smile just broke free.
Ben was unsure how to take all this in. He was in a state of shock and his body was flying on instinct alone at this point. When he finally calmed his mind, ne noticed he was embracing her in his arms and trying to comfort her.
“I would never leave you Reeza. As long as you needed me I would be here for you.” He said.
Those simple words were all she needed to hear. She trusted him completely and knew he meant what he said. Sitting back up on her own she wiped her eyes trying to look normal again.
“I will teach you what I know, regardless of the tradition. I selfishly wanted you too…” She was cut off by Ben
“I want to. Not only is it important to your customs, but I vowed to stay by John’s side no matter what. I have trained hard to make sure I can keep him safe. These last few months I have gained more strength and control than I ever have before. You are important to me, you are my best friend and I don’t want to lose you either.” He said reaching around and giving her a friendly one armed hug.
Words could not express the joy in Reeza’s heart. For the first time since her people were cut off from her she did not fear being alone anymore. She had friends, a mission, and a partner.