Continue on this mysterious journey, in a peculiar world with the Old man and Little girl!
“The Path of the Arts”
12 weeks have passed since the Little Girl asked the Old Man about going back to the Falls. With both having constant reminders of the visions they received back then, neither of them would speak to the other about it. During that time, the Old Man concluded that he needed to train his partner more; traveling to the ruins would be much different than before. The Little Girl was entirely determined to grow; she had promised herself that she would not be her obstacle. Ever since she was able to walk, he has taught her the ways of Semita De Artium; she had fully embraced the words of it. He now had to increase her vessel to another level.
Although the valley was a precarious mystery to the outside world, there were still people and creatures who lived here beside our peculiar pair. Most of the citizens are supportive and very close-knit. In addition to the witches, there were small sects of druids, displaced descendants of defeated nobles, nomads, and every so often one will come across things you didn’t think existed in this realm. Once, the Little Girl told a story of how she had a conversation with a tree. The Old Man never believed her, but the Little Girl swore that she had spoken with the woman of the tree. She told her about her long lost love who used to come by every week, sat between her ascended roots and recount stories of ancient battles, recite poetry and sing hymns of love.
This world can be very unknown, which is why, in addition to the barrier spells, the Old Man also built defensive snares around the living quarters and training grounds. The entrapments were covert trenches filled with crisscrossed wooden spikes and beds of caltrops. He had also laid tripwire to keep enemies at bay. If an enemy were to get past those hellish contraptions, they would have to deal with landmines, poison arrows, darts, and phosphorus bombs with enough poison and smoke to take down five elephants and blind an entire company of soldiers. With this much protection, it made it easy for him to focus on the new creations and teaching regimens he had developed.
The Old Man needed assistance manufacturing and bringing his inventions to fruition. He went out to seek the group that helped him configure the traps he set around their encampment. This was a family of builders who descended from a renowned pedigree from the Eastern Plateau. They were known for their architectural prowess and artisanship. Their people were slaughtered and forced out of their verdant land by a tyrant and his four generals. This family is the only offspring left from the group of nations that assisted the lost empire, during the creation of the Great Temples. When the land was raided, the head of the family was executed at the gallows for not betraying the King of the East. Before he was captured, he gave one last order to his manservant; that was to get his wife and children out of the country. The women of this land, those belonging to an artisan family line, had the critical task of inscribing and transcribing their techniques onto hidden scrolls and in different coding. His wife not only gathered the manuscripts of the artisan’s guild but also secured secret materials passed down through their family.
“I’m headed out,” The Old Man said to her.
“How long will you be Pop?” she asked with concern.
“I should be back by noon with the crew, and then we can start the construct.”
“Don’t you have to cross the main river?” the Little Girl asked.
“Yes, why do you ask?” the Old Man said with a confused look.
“The tributaries flood this time of the season, just want you to be careful Pop.”
“I appreciate the concern. I forgot about that!”
The artisan family lived on the Southside of the valley, and it wouldn’t take that long to reach them. He can surely send a message to them by other means, but he respected this family very much and would rather speak to them in person. He approached the main river of Nardoj and saw an elderly man struggling with his boat. The river seemed angry as it sent harsh rapids against the edges of the riverbanks.
“Argh!” the elderly man groaned and wailed as he tried to paddle back to the side of the river. A massive surge roared down the middle of the watercourse.
“He’s gonna go under!” he thought to himself.
“HOLD ON,” yelled the Old Man.
“Chorus Aqua,” the Old Man uttered, as he threw his bag in the air, leaped, and ran across the river surface. Waves shot at him from the left, and he gracefully dodged, another wave came crashing from the right, and he did a pirouette-like somersault and evaded it while landing on the tip of a rock that was protruding out of the water. He had the elderly man in his sight, the surge did as well, carrying a massive tree with it.
“Chorus Caeli,” he intoned, vaulting with one foot off the rock and running on what seemed to be the droplets of the water that was splashing through the atmosphere, grabbing the elderly man right when the log hit the boat; part of the wood came directly at him. The Old Man spun away, avoiding a collision while sending a fierce palm strike straight through the log without even touching it, shattering it to splinters. Landing on the river’s edge and he sat the elderly man down as he gasped for air. The Old Man put his arm in the sky and caught his bag that he threw from the other side of the river.
“Are you alright, sir?” the Old Man asked with care and concern.
“My god, yes, I thought I was gonna die!” said the elderly man.
“Sir, why were you out here all by yourself fishing?”
“My masters have gone into the city to sell goods and speak with the Commissioner. I needed to procure food for this evening.”
“Aye, okay. When you say, masters… who might that be?” asked the Old Man. The elderly man looked familiar… but he wasn’t quite sure.
“I must not say, sir. I do apologize.” the elderly man said cautiously.
The Old Man lifted his hood and covering, revealing his appearance.
“Oh my god, Head Magus, I am so sorry. I didn’t know it was you, please forgive me!” the elderly man suddenly was overcome with fear.
“I thought that was you, your face seems a little different than before.”
“ I know, Sir, let's just say the effects of the void isn’t that kind to my everchanging emotions?
“It’s okay, this was a hectic situation, but it was also good timing; I was coming here to see your masters anyway.”
“That’s great; that’s great; I will take you there!” said the elderly man.
“Thank you so much.”, said the Old Man.
“Oh no, all the fish I caught are gone! What the hell am I going to do?!”
“Bahahaha,” chuckled the Old Man, “Don’t Worry, I brought enough food for everyone to
enjoy this evening.”
The Old Man brought with him three marinated wild turkey that he received from the barter-house, along with ingredients to make loaves of bread and casseroles.
“Oh, my goodness, Head Magus, you are a lifesaver!” said the elderly man bowing down to the Old Man.
The two walked through the Hills of Woe and set about a trail that led them to what seemed like a sea of crimson willow branches and ginormous cedar trees. The elderly man navigated them through the odd forest using a unique compass. Finally, there appeared the gated artisan compound. Two marble statues resembling tradesmen, facing each other at the entrance of the dwelling, clutching saws and sledgehammers in their hands. The saws met at the top, and the hammers met in the middle, forming what resembled a pyramid. “Sheesh, its been a while since I’ve been here, but I didn’t think they got this far in the plans!” the Old Man thought to himself. The elderly servant opened a small door in the base of the right statue and moved around metal levers and knobs weirdly. “Is that the security system that I proposed?” the Old Man asked himself.
“My apologies Head Magus; I needed to input the master codes so we wouldn’t be treated as intruders while walking to the front door,” said the elderly servant. “Indeed!” the Old Man replied. As they approached the door, they were greeted by the family with open palms and arms. The Old Man delivered the goods that he had brought with him as a gift and let them know of the river rescue that occurred.
“Thank you so much for saving Ahmed and giving us this food, this is more than generous, you didn’t have to go this far,” said Teta Zoona, the mother of the artisan sons and current leader of the Artisans Guild.
“It is nothing; it is the least that I could do; you and your family have helped us so much over the years; I am grateful,” the Old Man replied, bowing his head.
“Stop with the formalities, your family!” she said, patting him on the cheeks of his face.
“It’s so good to see you again, my boy, you look healthy. Are you still working that active job with that knucklehead partner of yours?” she said jokingly with a smile as she sat in her chair.
“Bahahaha, yes ma’am, we are still working together; it isn’t getting any easier, though. That is another reason why I came here. I wanted to request the assistance of the guild again. I have some particularly important projects, and I can use everyone’s help.”, the Old Man replied.
“No need to sugar coat anything, I can feel it in the air. The Artisans Guild is at your full disposal. I will open my archives as well just in case you need me.”
As the headwoman and leader of the Artisans Guild, Teta Zoona was given secret knowledge that allowed her to manipulate the terrain to grow certain materials that didn’t flourish in the region. This allowed the guild to complete massive builds sooner for clients because they did not have to travel to faraway countries to obtain different and unique resources. She also had the power to change the very nature of an object to suit their needs.
“I must ask, though…please take them fully under your wing. Ever since that skirmish at the Hills of Woe some time ago, the training you gave them worked immensely. As you can see, they are more focused and disciplined…they even completed the security layout you recommended. That would have normally taken them a full year! They completed the construction in four and a half months!”
“I have no qualms with that Teta, I am fully prepared to make them my disciples.” The Old Man replied with a slight nod.
“Wonderful, my son, its the season; we all must be ready for the storm that is coming.”
“The irony,” she said.
“What’s that?” he turned his head with an inquisitive look.
“They went into the city today.”
“Right, Ahmed said they went to go see the Commissioner, was everything okay?”
“Ha! Yes. They went to fill out the applications and pay their fees to receive an agent license. They said ever since you showed them the Path, they wanted to follow you.”
“Shit, that is, ironic.”
“Ah, Yes, so get these guys on point son, if they are not occupied working or building something with their hands, they tend to get buck wild!”
“Bahahaha, thoroughly noted, Teta!”
The Old Man had recruited the offspring of the Artisan’s Guild and was determined to get his newly formed team ready for the upcoming operations. The brothers and other guild members grabbed their belongings. They had packed the necessary tools, machines, materials, and prepared their wagon for the journey back to the campgrounds. On the way there, the Old Man showed them the layouts and plans for the training ground and new weapons. These brothers and members of the Artisans Guild are well known in the valley and surrounding cities for the constructs and buildings that they create and erect for the parliament, five families, and other local governments.
In charge of carpentry and masonry was Hakim Amar, the middle child. In the care of metals and welding, Hakim Hadad, the eldest son. Last but not least, was Hakim Khaliq, the youngest child, the engineer, and mastermind who will bring all the mechanical systems to life. Khaliq orchestrated the operations to help carry the finished parts to the platforms and foundations of each training machine. Once all the wood, brick, and metal pieces were carved, laid, and forged, Khaliq created the training engines, consisting of intricate gears and pulley systems. The rest of the children assisted the three sons and the Old Man with labor. They were able to finish within 30 days.
During the time of the construction period the brothers and members of the guild asked the Old Man questions morning, noon, and night; insomuch that when he woke up and came out of his room at dawn, one of them, usually the engineer, was always asleep in front of his door.
“Master, how did you come up with all these designs, modifications, and blueprints for the weapons and machines?” asked Khaliq, the youngest brother.
“They just came to me young one, as if it were a memory," replied the Old Man.
“Sir, that is quite a vivid memory, he said.
“I know. It can’t be helped. We all have a void that we cannot escape. From time to time, these visions or memories just show up, or rather come back to us.”
The void that the Old Man spoke of was the feeling that something was missing from their life. Some time ago, many people in this world woke up one day lost, empty, bewildered, and perplexed. Some couldn’t remember their names, family members, or even where they lived. Some lost all sense of time, some started to age differently, and some got affected in mysterious ways. It was an unpleasant time for everyone. Ever since then, around this time of year, everyone feels this overwhelming sense of anguish and worry; thoughts of a bad omen reside in their psyche. Recalling the time their bodies were present, but their minds have gone.
The Old Man expounded on the verses of The Path during the construction period, informing them to absorb the information and apply it to their everyday life.
“Master, why were these scrolls…papers and books even created?” asked Khaliq while looking around.
“This collection of ancient knowledge was gathered and passed down through the ages and contained words to help a person have a proper sense of morality and civility. Don’t you think it is necessary seeing the world we live in?
“Yes Master, but why doesn’t everyone follow it, don’t we all need to be moral and civil to one another?”
“That is true, Khaliq. One would think that, but some people have their sense of morality, and it may differ from what we believe is right or wrong. The Path isn’t for everyone, nor was it made for everyone.
“When are we going to read the pages that are sealed. You know, the scripts that you spoke of back then?” asked Hadad.
“I will teach you everything you need to know, Hakim Hadad…you and your brothers. Those pages you speak of are sealed away for a reason, but they are part of the lessons I have prepared. You all will be getting those very shortly. They contain relatable and relevant stories of ancient men, women, and civilizations riddled with trials and tribulations.”, explained the Old Man.
“How do we know if these words or stories are even true? Who wrote ‘em? How do we know some alien ain’t just give us these books to keep us occupied?!” exclaimed Amar, with his arms flailing in the air.
“You dare to say that Hakim Amar, but when we showed you the details of what happened to your people in the past was afore written within the threads of these pages, you immediately were taken aback. Never forget your first passion… meaning, never forget the thing that originally lit the spark within your vessel that made you believe!”
The Old Man was showing a side of him that they usually didn’t see. He was extremely passionate and filled with more zeal than ever before. Even the Little Girl knew what time it was. This time around, everything was getting much... more… real.
Expert scribes of the path recorded long lost treaties and endless battles. Genius magi, who foresaw the past, present, and future, predicted and prevented wars, orated dark sentences, left spiritual prayers, invocations, and parables. Rulers who lived by the words of these pages left narratives of moral triumph and military victories, aphorisms of love and hate, songs of thanksgiving, and precepts of blessings and curses. Through meditation, study, training, application of these verses by instilling them inside of the entire being, one can be granted clandestine understanding and knowledge of the universe and beyond. Not only that, being chosen can cause someone to be endowed with the power to exceed usual limitations and gain abilities that will push the pillars of the mind, body, and soul. Only then can that chosen person become a true master of the Semita De Artium.
In the past, forefathers that have obtained mastery were moved to share what they were given to future potential masters and warriors of The Path. They created encrypted scrolls filled with specific information that only masters can decipher and divulge to the coming generations. Within the manuscripts, the text and depictions showed systems of warfare and gave alternate names to the pillars: the body, corpus; the mind, animo; and the soul, vita. Altogether this class of fighting is called the Certamina. These offensive and defensive moves were categorized and called skills or arte'; they push the boundaries of the pillars. Depending on the person, it’s possible to unlock techniques that have not been seen in this era of time.
The first week comprised of various mental procedures and structures created to assess one’s mind, in preparation for exigent and severe circumstances. A precursor of the ordeals soon to come forth. These vigorous exercises stood upon the pillar of the mind.
“If you can get through these tests, then you will be a suitable servant that can withstand the many branches of Certamina Arte,” said the Old Man. Loosely translated, it meant “Combat Skill.”
One of the sessions involved the Old Man placing all four of his disciples in the machine known as the “hydrothrone.” The hydrothrone was a device that bound the person, attached wires to their vital spots, pressure points, and submerged the body in a sphere of liquid. The wires received synapse signals and minimal electrical waves from a motherboard powered by the energies of the operator. Once the machine is activated, the person's mind will be tested to the extreme with perplexing visions, puzzling ordeals, and semi-terrifying mental images. The liquid is supposed to help increase the chances of activating latent or new-found supernatural abilities. If the vessel survives and passes these assessments, they will have reached a higher level within the Certamina Animo Arte.
The four pupils have never gone through a mental experience, such as this…
[“Stop! What are you doing?
Get your hands off me! Shit, they got them too!
No! Who is he holding?” --]
[“Why do I see this?
Why do I have to relive this slaughter?
I don’t want to see this!
Leave him alone, let him down from there!
[“How did I get here?
Who are these people in the chairs? Isn’t that the priest, Masters friend?
Why is he here?
What’s that on the stage its... it’s beautiful!
The sudden noise of birds cawing and the sound of wings flapping through the air flood the eardrums.
What? What is that noise?
No, he’s supposed to be imprisoned! Watch out! Get down!” ---]
[“Hmmmmm…. A room with no ceiling, no walls, no floor, huh?
Is this supposed to scare me?
What are these pages flying around?
Some sort of game? No, a puzzle of some sort.
The sounds of wind and air around the room start swirling together
No, this is a book.
I never saw this book before!
That eye in the middle is quite creepy. It is looking right at me!
I must touch it, no... I can’t! No, I have to!
Ok, here I go…
Sudden flashes of light and thousands of images projected onto the room.
AHHH shit, my eyes, I can’t see!
You can see it just fine. Open your eyes!
What? Why are you here? Leave me the fuck alone!
STOP FOLLOWING ME, STAY OUTTA MY HEAD!!!
Yesses, greeting’s, huh, young woman.
Huh, we meet yet again.
This is good!
Yesses, this is good, hmm!
I wasn’t finished...
huh… with YOU!]
Those who had the mental fortitude to overcome the previous challenges now are qualified and ready to endure the Old Man’s harsh course for the body; Certamina Corpus Arte. For two long weeks, which seemed like months to the disciples, they suffered tortuous frame building machines, obstacles, and exercises that pulled, stretched, and ripped their forearms, chest, stomach, back, and legs. They thoroughly endured cruel methods that forced them to strengthen their fingertips and toes. They could feel the pain from the top of the body on down; ligaments, sinews, tendons, and even their cartilage felt the agony.
“The Path will make you!”
(“Yeah, make your cuticles scream!”) Amar uttered to himself.
“The Path will guide you!”
(“Yeah, guide you to a sea of agonizing thoughts of regret!”), said Hadad.
“The Path will elevate you! Are you ready?” the Old Man shouted.
“Yes Sir!” said the four disciples in unison, as they all were sweating profusely in their horse stances, their arms pointed out, away from their bodies, fists closed tight, holding iron handles that had a metal shell forged around it. It resembled a navy ship cannonball but was five times larger. All you could hear throughout the evening was hollering, yelps, and screaming as they endured it and held the training stance on top of eight 30-foot-high wooden pillars.
“Can you endure?” “Yes, Sir!”
“Will you endure?” “Yes, Sir!”
“Must you endure?” “Yes, Sir!”
The Old Man had the students lowered into large birch basins filled with a healing elixir that was made from various herbs and ointments. This was done to reset the body that has been shocked, and to set the new muscles in order of the levels the student has gained. It gave their broken bodies some much-needed rejuvenation. He also made tonics for them to drink to help hydrate and to alleviate some of the internal pain. After each grueling session, they would continue this healing process. After the pupils have had their breaks, the Old Man would introduce them to various fighting styles that were created from the Certamina Corpus Arte.
The Old Man taught and sparred with his disciples one by one. He needed to get a sense of what forms of fighting were best suited for them all; he needed to assess who can be a hybrid to incorporate multiple styles. He also wanted to see what they can develop based on their personalities.
“Owwww, why you gotta hit so hard!”, Amar said, shaking off his right hand.
“This is “Certo,” otherwise known as Defensive Fist. This fighting style uses the opponents’ weight, force, and attacks against him. You will be learning this style first. As a DRIFT agent, if you can avoid being the aggressor, it makes out to be a better situation in the end. Oh, and all I did was block your attack.”
“You call that a block! Geez!”
“Yeah, you attacked him, Amar, stop bitchin.”, said Hadad with a straight face.
“Ugh, I can’t stand your boring ass.”
“Focus!” yelled Khaliq.
“I am focused, sheesh! He has that Old Man strength. His fists feel like rocks!”
“Oh my god, shut up! And, why is she sitting down over there like a little princess, looking down on us!”, said Amar tooting his lips to the side like a child.
“Isn’t it obvious.”, thought Hadad.
“That’s because she’s better than you.”, said the Old Man.
“What?! Awwwww.”, Amar pouted.
“Hahaha, she’s been doing this way longer than us, you fool.”, chuckled Khaliq.
“Whatever!” Amar rolled his eyes, folded his arms, and continued with the tooted lipped pouty face.
“Just so you know, Hakim Amar, I blocked you using my normal fighting strength.
Without having to subtract from what I usually do. If you were the same man that you were before we started, I would have broken your arm with that block. The fact that you got away only shaking your hand, confirms that you are on an entirely different level now than you were before.”
“Oh, Yeah? Hell Yeahh! I can feel it in my bones baby!”, Amar immediately broke out of his funk, cockily flicked his nose, and proceeded to hop up and down on his tippy toes and swaying left and right with his hands in fighting form.
“Let’s do this, Pops!”
“I like your energy, young one, COME AT ME!” said the Old Man smiling.
The Old Man proceeded to teach the brothers the basic styles of fighting that the masters of old have integrated into Certimina Corpus Arte. These are the other basic styles besides “Certo.”
“Batuo,” also known as Feather Palms. Proficiency in this style allows the user to operate as the elements of wind and water in their movements. These stances use dance-like steps to slip through attacks and defenses of your opponent. Advancing in this form can allow them to move as if weightless, and If combined with Certamina Vita Arte, the user can manipulate those two elements themselves.
“Dimicio,” also known as Closed Fist. Using this form, the user has the perfect balance of offense and defense from the beginning using their whole body as a weapon. In the upright style, it requires the person to attack using jabs, hooks, uppercuts, forearms, shoulders, as well as the elbow, thigh, knee, and lower leg. To use this form, training every inch of the body is necessary to be able to use attacks as a block, as well. This style also can be used in its grounded form, which uses offensive and defense grapples with subduing or knocking out the opponent.
“Telum,” is fighting using Weaponry. This style forces a vessel to be well versed using any kind of weapon. The curriculum of this fighting style teaches the user to be a single wielding, dual wielding, triple wielding weapon user, or more. It also shows marksmanship and trajectory attacks for long-distance battles. You must use these weapons as if they were an extension of the body and become one with them.
“Macto,” also known as Death Strikes. This style focuses on the user concentrate on the vital areas and pressure points of their opponent. The vessel uses the tips of their fingers and toes almost as weapons themselves. The pressure and power of the strike and the grip will be equivalent to someone injecting poison into your nervous system.
The Old Man put them in a marathon cadence, forcing them to perform the styles one by one as he calls out the commands.
“Remember whenever you are partnering with a superior in The Path and you are given a fighting order, your response will always be “Bene,” this teaches you form, discipline, respect, and puts you in the correct mindset for whatever situation you are encountering.”
“Ready, Batuo Stance,” Shouted the Old Man.
“Bene!” yelled the brothers as they performed the combinations together.
The Old Man continued through all the forms, and the pupils performed each combination that they were taught. After completing his curriculum with the students, the Old Man allowed them to spar with each other. The brothers seem to have ventured over to the style that they connected with the most. The Old Man took a seat and watched.
While sparring together, the Little Girl and Hakim Amar faced off. Hakim Khaliq, the youngest brother, facilitated the match.
“Remember to use the style that best fits the situation and your opponent. You may go all out. Without the intent to kill.”, said Khaliq with his legs spread, one arm behind his back and one arm in the air ready to signal the match to start.
“This guy does too much,” said Amar.
“Hey, you ready, princess?!”
“I’ve been ready, sir; you talk too damn much!”
“Ooooooo, feisty lips, I like that. How about I knock that weird-ass smile down your throat!”
“Hah, bring it, bitch! said the Little Girl to Amar.
Both opponents get into their stances.
The two of them went back and forth,
blow for blow, hit for hit,
for almost five minutes.
He assaulted; she blocked; she attacked, he thwarted.
At one point, they both grabbed their weapons,
sprinted, and jumped in the air and clashed!
Sparks flew from the metal that banged together.
As they fell from the sky, they both send fierce strikes at each other.
Her dual Kukri blades seem to let out a banshee-like scream
as his dual Chakram blades gave a beastly bellow back!
“This is an intense sparring Master, but I am pretty sure she is holding back,” said Hakim Hadad to the Old Man.
“You are correct in your observation Hadad. She has always had issues in the past with her power. The Path has truly blessed her. Ever since our current training, she has surpassed how she used to be. I have never seen her this poised and disciplined. Know this, she is your superior. She knows this as well. She is fighting at a level to not destroy you all but also not to disrespect your effort and the arts. You should be proud to have a superior and partner like her.”
“Aye, sir, understood.”
“Warriors, Halt!” said Hakim Khaliq signaling that that time was up.
The Little Girl immediately stops her attack.
Hakim Amar continues his assault and throws one of his Chakram against one of the training machines nearby,
the force and trajectory accurately sent the blade directly across her back three times.
They ricocheted back and forth between other devices
that were surrounding the sparring field,
slicing her back and ripping apart her uniform!
“What the hell, Amar, the match is over! yelled Khaliq.
“Sheesh, that attack was exact, how far ahead was he planning that?!”, thought the Hakim Hadad.
“Aww shit, this guy is ridiculous.”, thought the Old Man to himself, closing his eyes and shaking his head. He knew what was about to happen and what he had to do. The Little Girl fell to her knees, holding her arms across her breast, her head low, her back bleeding from the three gashes. The Little Girls’ eyes began to glow red, her locks started to move individually...
“In the real world, there is no referee, timer, or do-overs, right princess! Hahahahaha! you must be ready at any given mo-“
In the blink of an eye, the Little Girl did the quickest roundhouse kick the brothers have ever seen, right in his chest. Amar was sent flying out of the sparring field, crashing through live oak trees, four hills, three boulders, two cottages, and the entire booby-trapped forest outside the Old Man and Little Girls training quarters. You could only imagine how he looked after that! The Old Man sent a medic unit from The Artisan Guild out to retrieve Hakim Amar, tend to his wounds, and was ordered to bring him back to the sparring field. The Little Girl walked over to the medic table, opened a bottle of solution like iodine and isopropyl alcohol, and poured it over her gashes. She allowed them to clean and dress the wound from there.
A couple of hours go past, and the medic team already tended to Hakim Amar’s wounds, brought him back to the training grounds, soaked him in the healing basin, fed him the Old Man’s tonic and wrapped him gauze and a body cast. The Old Man called everyone back to the field to watch one last sparring. As the three brothers stood side by side facing the teacher, the Little Girl was sitting down on a nearby bench watching closely.
“Partner!” said the Old Man.
“Aye, Sir?” hollered the Little Girl. “Please come forth.”
The Little Girl, donned in one of her original battle attires, advanced to approach the center, walking by her teammates. Hakim Amar immediately fell to the ground and put his face in the dirt in an attempt to apologize to her. She suddenly stopped him.
“No need. Hakim Amar. You were right in what you said. I will say this, even though, in certain battles, there may be rules of engagement, there may even be mutual respect between you and your enemy; you never know when the tides of war may change, and you must adapt, but never lose your integrity. Please lift your head, and get to your feet.”
The Little Girl spoke calmly, delicately, respectfully, and gave him these words with an unspoken authority. She walked up to the teacher, a Head Magus of Semita De Artium. The Master Practitioner of all the Certamina Arte.The top Special Agent in Tenomachi, the Western Plains and the Eastern Plateau. He is the esteemed member of the Sancti Lilium, the Old Man that found her and made it so that she could walk again, her partner in arms, and friend; she bowed her head, and they got into their fighting stances.
Within this four-week time frame, these students have accomplished levels of mastery that would take an average person, years to reach. The four disciples wait patiently and listen attentively as their master orates the last words of his curriculum to them.
“You all now have a solid foundation for the Path of the Arts. You have well surpassed the basics that I have taught you and pushed yourselves to the outer limits. We, as humans, are born with restrictions on what we can do and cannot pass them without consequences. For you to go beyond that is only possible due to the power given to you by the Semita De Artium. Through tests, you have shown me that you not only have retained ancient text within you, but you have comprehended it well enough to apply it to your everyday life. You have strengthened yourselves to receive the extended blessings of the pillars; your abilities of these skills rest upon you and the Semita De Artium that has chosen you. It is a way of life in this realm. The information passed down helps individuals and nations govern their vessels and the world around them. Depending on the individual, one can be satisfied with a solid foundation of information and use it to run their life, or one can do what you all have done and become Warriors of The Path!” said the Old Man.
He spoke with sternness and conviction. His partners and disciples fully embraced their roles and were ready to advance.
“Aye!” they roared in unison as they stood there in specially made battle garments specific to their personalities and fighting styles.
Their physiques and mindsets brimming with power, intellect, and a brand-new outlook on life. They all have completed and surpassed the complicated contraptions, impossible obstacle courses, meticulous methods of madness, and the torturous trials of a tumultuous training.
This newly formed team only has an inkling of a clue of what is about to happen to them in this world. The Old Man gave orders to the brothers and the few Artisan Guild members who provided aid and have embraced The Path, to go back to the Southside of the valley to rest and relax. The Old Man briefed them on the upcoming mission and gave them the rendezvous place and time.
“How do you feel, little one? Tomorrow we head out, are you okay?” asked the Old Man.
“I feel calm; I feel at peace. I am most definitely ready to go, Pops!” said Little Girl as she looked at the spots on her arms and hands that were bruised from training.
“That’s good, we have our work cut out for us. I’ve received reports that in the nearby cities there is a groundswell; the atmosphere is tense as local peacekeepers and sentinels have their hands full, trying to quell the excessive amount of crime that has risen in the past months.”
“Guess it’s time to drop in and make a scene then pops!”
“Indeed, little one. Indeed.”
Meanwhile, in the outskirts of town, there is a delivery regiment, hired by the Honshu family, carrying in goods that are to be auctioned off in the Black District.
“LET’S GO! WE ONLY HAVE A FEW DAYS BEFORE THE EVENT. WE HAVE TO CARRY THESE GOODS TO TENOMACHI IMMEDIATELY”
“What are these items anyway, Captain!? The soldier inspects the foreign labels on the crates of the imports. “An auction? In the Black District? Isn’t that kind of reckless?” he thought to himself.
“We just work here, soldier, look at the delivery log and see for yourself if you’re that curious.”, the captain explained.
“THESE ITEMS ARE FUCKING EXPENSIVE AND VERY FRAGILE! WE DON’T NEED ANY MISTA…HEY! HEY! DRIVER WATCH THE DAMN ROAD IN FRONT OF YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!”, the wagon carrying the main pieces of the auction veers off the road and crashes into a nearby ditch. The impact of the crash broke open the crates and left several items jettisoned inside and outside the wagon. Members of the regiment stopped the rest of the caravan in the rear and ran up to the scene.
“Hurry! Make sure the cargo isn’t damaged!”
“You, You and You, go help those guys over there, and YOU, come with me to the front!”
“ugh, what the heck was the driver doing, my fucking back is in SOOO much pain right now…exactly why I didn’t want to ride in the back with these dumb ass crates, ugh…………. what? What is that? It’s…. it looks fantastic.
The curious soldier stretches out his hand.
“… I gotta… I gotta touch it……”
The backdoor to the head wagon crashes open.
“NOOOO, YOU IDIOT, DON’T FUCKIN TOUCH THE ORB WITHOUT USING THE FOR-…………!”,
Sudden flashes of lights, screaming, acute ringing reverberates throughout the area!
The soldier vanishes.
End of Chapter 2