23.1: Hand-to-Hand

“There you go, Elijah! You’ve gotten much stronger!” Solana cheered me on as I pummeled the training bag with my fists. In these past few weeks, I got used to the grueling hours we devoted to my training. The results, however, were astounding. Not only did I manage to build up my natural endurance, I could visibly see Solana slide backwards a bit whenever my fist connected with the bag.

After a few more punches, Solana tossed the bag to the side, “I think you’re finally ready.”

“Ready for what?” I squinted my eyes in confusion.

Solana walked to the edge of the tent, and rummaged through the box of training supplies.

“Aha!” She grinned, pulling out a pair of sparring equipment.

“You want me to fight you?”

“Well, how else are you going to get real combat experience? We’ve worked on building your danger reflex, channeling your Essence, and your physical strength and endurance. Now, if you truly want to go to New Perfi—which might not even happen because the Rogue conflict is dying down—you need to be able to defend yourself against these Rogues.”

Solana tossed a set of sparring gear to me, and I frowned, “Can I ask a question before we start?”

“Sure. What about?” She asked as she tied gloves to her hands.

“No one ever really told me why the Order is fighting the Rogues in New Perfi.”

“Hm, good question,” Solana searched her mind for the answer, “I was told that the Rogues were trying to raze New Perfi. If I wasn’t in Crucani when the conflict ensued, I would have a better answer for you. Maybe you can find Celeste later and have her explain it. Now get your training gear on.”

I wasn’t too fond about going to speak to Celeste. She said weeks ago that she got over whatever was bothering her, but part of me still thought that she would rather go about her day without me. That feeling has only gotten stronger with the rest of my body.

I carefully wrapped the training gear around my body, keeping it tight enough to protect me from Solana’s blows, which I was sure would be much more powerful than my own.

Solana noticed my caution and chuckled, “Pretty tight there, don’t you think?”

“There’s no healer in sight, so I’m taking precautionary measures.”

“Oh please, I’m not going to break any bones. I’m not a Red. You should be worried for when you move onto the blue tent, where I might accidentally chop your arm off.”

I gulped at the thought of us swordfighting. Solana could probably skewer me with ease.


I crouched into a fighting stance, then sent a nervous nod her way. Immediately, Solana charged towards me, forcing me to flinch backwards from the sudden movement.

Her body quickly dropped to the ground as she tried to sweep me off of my feet. Seeing this, I jumped over her leg, sending a flying kick to her face.

Solana deflected my leg with her left arm, leaving me off-balance. She grabbed my leg and pushed it over my head, knocking me over. In a split second, she manifested some Essence in her right fist, sending it towards the ground. I rolled out of the way just in time, only for her to send another punch right to my face. I pulled my forearms over my face to block the punch, but now I could not see.

I called upon the danger reflex to take control again. My surroundings meant nothing anymore. I could feel a breeze coming from my side. Solana’s leg, getting ready to kick me in my temple. To combat this, I tumbled forward and grabbed Solana’s Achilles. I tossed it to the side, sending Solana spinning in that direction.

Doing that was a mistake.

My vision became blurry out of nowhere. I didn’t even feel the impact, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that she sent a left hook right into the side of my head. Solana used the momentum I gave her to nearly knock me unconscious.

“Mastering the danger reflex isn’t as simple as dodging a few logs. When going against another Essence user, it becomes a battle of wits. You did pretty well, up until you got ahead of yourself. I’m glad you didn’t underestimate because I’m primarily a swordfighter. All of us Guardians have gone through the same basic training regimen.”

My eyes grew heavy. I could feel my consciousness escaping me.


Everything went black.

The End

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