In this chapter you will find out a bit about Pawe's past. There is also a new technique that Sainto and Mina learn, which will turn out to be quite useful. I added a small flashback to add some importance to the story, and it has to do with Mina and Sain again.

It took me quite a while to upload the next couple of them, but that's only because I have to proofread them more than once. I try to add as much detail as possible and fix any grammar and spelling errors. Enjoy.


Chapter 10
“Now that you have passed the second challenge, you will continue to use that ability acquired as you progress through the next couple of challenges,” Pawe bellowed in his commander sounding tone.

Mina no longer smiled or said anything. She just nodded and I did the same. We no longer thought of this as a training session, but more of a survival challenge. Now we needed to be serious about it or else it could cost us our lives.

“Hey chief,” I told Pawe in a mocking tone. “How many more challenges are we going to have to do, and what will be the purpose of each,” I said with a groan since each word hurt as I talked.

“You have mastered detecting really low energies during your first challenge. That will help you detect spirits easier. Second test was to hide your own which works defensively as well as offensively.” He made it sound so much easier than it actually was.

“Third test will raise your energy in case you are ever engaged in combat which will also raise your arsenal of abilities. Fourth test will train you in some basic maneuvers that will let you use your energy as a weapon during battle, and the last and final test will teach you how to heal injuries at the cost of spiritual energy,” Pawe said finishing his mission briefing.

“Wait a minute, can’t you just teach us that last one now?” asked Mina

“I would teach it to you, but I don’t think you are ready for that yet; it requires a lot of energy.”

“We don’t care, just teach us the stupid technique already,” I demanded with a painful tone in my voice.

“Fine, I’ll first teach it to the girl so she could fix you up,” explained Pawe. “Hold out your hand in front of the area you want to heal and place your other palm over your hand. Then concentrate and gather energy in the palm of your hand. Now you have to be careful because once you start gathering energy in your hand, you have to make sure you concentrate on healing. Otherwise you might gather energy and it will behave as an explosive. I wanted to hold off on teaching you this technique last because it requires more concentration than using your energy as a weapon, but you guys insisted. However, if you blow him to smithereens you better not come crying to me.”

Mina didn’t even respond, she just got on to the task at hand, and I felt the last bit of consciousness left in me slip away.

When I awoke dawn was already setting in. I guess Pawe had let us rest after all since he threatened to impose another challenge of his right after the other one. I moved and was prepared to feel the pain of yesterday’s ordeal, but to my surprise I felt good. I actually felt better than good, I felt phenomenal. It was then that I noticed Mina sleeping right next to me. She must have made it so that I used her lap as a pillow and she was resting her head on the side of a tree. I was about to wake her up when Pawe suddenly interrupted.

“Let her sleep, she wasted a lot of energy”, he said and continued. “That girl is tough I’ll give her that. She was able to learn a technique that I wasn’t sure you two would be able to use until way later. You should really thank her for what she did. She managed to heal your wounds and when I told her that she did a good job, she kept on going. Said something about not stopping until you were good as new and even managed to seal the laceration. Thanks to her you won’t have to live with a horrible scar down your back.”

“Well I wouldn’t have gotten such a nasty bruise if you hadn’t summoned that thing on us,” I retaliated.

“That thing that you fought wasn’t even the real deal. It was given to me by the eagle spirit to train those whom I sought. It is apparently known as a level one training spirit. I suppose it is used to train those who are barely learning about spirit, but I am not sure myself. Besides, the point is that you couldn’t even take down a level one puppet, so what makes you think you can take on an actual demon?” he said in a pissed off mood.

“Well I am not going to go around picking fights with demons,” I retaliated once more.

“Oh don’t worry, you don’t have to pick a fight with a demon, they’ll bring the fight to you.”

“We haven’t run into any demons, so I’m pretty sure we’ll be fine. We don’t need this training anymore, we are done. Why are we even doing this?” I asked.

“To get stronger, that’s why,” he answered.

“But why, what for? What’s strength got to do with it anyway?”

“Because that way you won’t have to watch your family get killed; so you will actually be able to do something rather than have that thought in your mind that you couldn’t do anything to save them!” he shouted and I realized that I had struck a nerve.

I didn’t say anything for a while; I just stood there looking at Mina. Her hands were a bit rough; perhaps from all the effort she used to heal me up. Pawe was just looking out into the woods and he began talking with his hands behind him and his back towards me.

“We used to belong to a big tribe when I was very young. I was too young to remember, but father always told me how peaceful it was. However, father got exiled when they found out that he was planning to assassinate the next in line to be the chief. He always told me how the next in line was planning on leading a revolution, but what father wanted was to keep the peace that was formed from the alliance with neighboring tribes. Mother decided to stay in the village since she said she didn’t want anything to do with an assassin like him. So father was forced out of the village and he took my brother and I along with him. He was a strong man and was able to call upon many different kinds of spirits; it seemed he was loved by the spirits of our ancestors. Then one terrible day my father went to hunt except he came back injured. He said he ran into a neighboring tribe who was at war right now with the tribe we used to belong to. Father managed to take them all down, but he returned home bruised and battered.”

Apparently Pawe had been aware about spirits and energy ever since he was little. It was no surprise then that he was really strong.

“The next thing I knew, a bunch of demons started materializing into the horizon. I don’t know if they were stalking us or if someone else had led them to our encampment, but they caught us off guard. They quickly overwhelmed my father, who fought and took down as many as he could until the last second. My brother and I watched helplessly as father was brought to his knees, and was killed. The demons probably didn’t know we were inside the den, so we could have been safe, but my little brother couldn’t take it. He ran over to where father’s body lay, and held on to him with all his might.”

Perhaps this was why Pawe was mysterious and cruel. He has had some problems in his past, and it felt as if he was trying to prevent us from making the same mistake he had.

“The demons watched my brother who was still cradling my father’s body, and decided to have more fun. If I had more courage I would have run out and saved my brother, but the technique’s we learned from father weren’t strong enough to take such a massive group of demons down. I stared in horror as the demons tortured my brother’s body, and they continued to mess around with it even after he died. I will never forget that day; the day I did nothing. Eventually I will atone for that sin, but for right now I will do all that I am asked off from my ancestors, to live up to father’s wishes, and to regain the respect of our forefathers.”

Perhaps now I understood where he came from. He pushed us to our limits to try and make us stronger than we could ever be. However, that gave him no right to almost have us killed during an exercise.

“I understand now, thanks for sharing something like that,” I said. “After hearing that I guess I have to continue the training whether I like it or not.”

“I don’t want you to pity me. If you really don’t want to continue then go home already”, he said.

“You’re wrong, I don’t pity you. In fact I have a bit of respect for you now. The reason I am staying is not because of you, but because I have something I want to protect,” I said as I looked at Mina.

“Let me guess, you want to protect the girl, right?”, he said without even turning around. Somehow he managed to know what I was talking about.

I didn’t say anything; I just smiled and kept looking at Mina sleeping peacefully.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if that girl was the one that ended up saving you, you slacker,” He told me making me sound like such a weakling.

“You still haven’t learned the healing technique yet, and that girl wasted all of her energy on you that she didn’t have enough to heal herself. So how about you return her the favor?”

I remembered what he said, and I imitated Mina’s movements just as she had done when she healed me up. I put my palm over my hand and began gathering energy. As I continued it got harder and harder to control my energy, and my hands shook more violently as I kept acquiring more and more spirit energy.

“I’m doing this for Mina’s sake. I am repaying her a favor, don’t mess up, you can do this,” I told myself.

It seemed to work because I was able to concentrate on the task at hand, and her small cuts and bruises began vanishing one by one. For a second I almost lost concentration, and I was worried I would hurt Mina, but I kept thinking to myself that I needed to heal her, and it was my fault she got hurt in the first place. If I hadn’t been so careless in the last ordeal none of this would have happened. I just wished that Mina wouldn’t hate me for letting her get injured, and that she wouldn’t think of me as such a weakling.

Though it took me a while, I managed to heal Mina completely. It took most of my energy, but I managed to do it. Mina looked so peaceful sitting down and lying next to the tree. I only wished the healing technique was effective on clothes as well. I no longer had a shirt and my shorts were all tattered from the bottom. Mina’s blouse was all dirty and had cuts and scrapes almost everywhere, and her skirt was muddy and torn.

I didn’t notice that she had tied her hair into two long ponytails. I remembered the last time I saw her do her hair like that. In the beginning she was always changing her hairstyle and eventually she wore her hair like it was now. I told her that it made her look like a little girl, and that she reminded me of a cartoon character I had seen somewhere before. She thought I was teasing her and gave me a gentle shove, and immediately I told her she looked cute. After that whenever she was in a good mood she made her hair into pony tails.

I looked closely and I saw that she was wearing the hair bands I had given her. I happened to find them in some of our old moving boxes and I quickly realized they used to be my mothers. They were pink and had a plastic bunny on it that kind of resembled the Hello Kitty cat.

Dad told me that mom had preserved them from when she was younger just in case they ever had a daughter. I had planned to give them to Mina for her birthday but then I would have to wait until July eleventh, and we were in January when I had found them. There was no way I would remember for that long, so I asked dad if I could give them away to someone and he let me keep them.

I never told Mina the significance of those head bands, but she treated them as prized possessions and she told me she always wore them for good luck. To her it was even more special because it was the first present she had ever received from a friend.

A week after I gave her the head bands, Mina came over to me with a present box.

“I know it’s your birthday today, so I want to know why you didn’t tell me. And I also got you this, I hope you like it,” she said in that happy tone that seemed to annoy me before.

I opened up the box and within it were two matching rings and a bracelet. The bracelet was composed of different stones and beads. Its pattern consisted of a bead followed by a cubed-shaped stone, another bead, three consecutive pink stones, another bead, and another cubed black stone. The pattern repeated all around the bracelet. The rings were different. They were solid silver rings and had a bunch of little holes. It took me a while to realize that the holes made a shape, one ring having a sun while the other ring having a crescent moon.

“The bracelet is composed of pink quartz and a black stone. It is said that putting those stones in that pattern bring the wearer good luck. It also serves as a protection talisman, so that no harm comes to the person who wears it. I had to look for the stones by going to many different shops, but I found them,” she said smiling happily.

“Another good thing about the bracelet is that the wearer can’t ever put it on themselves since the latch can only be screwed in by another person, so once you take it off you won’t be able to put it on yourself.”, she said as she took the bracelet out of the small box and latched it onto my wrist. It looked girly but it wasn’t so bad.

“The rings are different. I happened to find them while window shopping with my friends one day. They all thought it was a waste of money even though they thought it they looked neat. It is said that the two people who wear the rings will always be together, and they’ll be able to sense each other no matter where they are. One of them looks like a sun and the other looks like a crescent moon. Since it’s your birthday I’ll let you choose whichever one you want.”

“Mina and moon both start with an M and so do Sainto and Sun. I think I will choose the Sun one,” I told her.

“Well if you put it that way, then you should keep the moon one,” she said confusing me.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well if you have the moon one, you will always be able to tell where I am, since I am the moon, and I will be able to tell where you are since you are the sun,” she explained.

I looked at Mina who was still sleeping peacefully and saw that she was wearing her ring of the sun on her ring finger. Then I looked at my own hand and saw that I had the moon ring on my ring finger as well. It really looked like we were a married couple having matching rings like this, and it brought a smile to my face. I looked at my other hand and the bracelet she gave me was still there, and I pondered whether it was what kept me from receiving a fatal blow from that damn Minotaur.

I took one last look at Mina and my sight began to get blurry again.

“You are probably feeling the effects of the healing technique. I will explain that more in detail once you both wake up, but for now rest up; you’re going to need it,” Pawe told me as if he was handing out a threat.

I didn’t want Mina to stay in that same position because I knew she would wake up sore. I picked her up and then sat myself with my back against the tree. Then I placed Mina in front of me and put her head on my chest and wrapped my arms around her. I was surprised that she didn’t wake up; either she was a heavy sleeper, or else that technique really took a lot out of you. I held on to her hand for a while and then compared its size to mine. Her hand was narrower and gentler than mine. I kissed her hand and before I dozed off I whispered something.

“Mina, I will always protect you,” I said silently as my consciousness started to fade again.

She moved around for a bit and I embraced her tighter. After a couple of seconds I was out cold again.