That was the first time I thought I was going to die. Death is a constant in my world, not every student makes it out of the Burrow. Although Dame was a harsh teacher, she preferred to let us live another day to learn from our errors than to let us die. I never had to worry about dying with her, but she wasn’t the one trying to punish me; Hoshi was, and I knew he didn’t have any problem killing a student, especially one that wasn’t his, one responsible for harming one of his own.
I used to think that the trainers were untouchable; most of us did; they were capable of things that we could not even begin to comprehend. I had seen Dame accomplished feats that I thought impossible, not even my entire group attacking at the same time could touch her, not to talk about harming her. Hoshi was the same; his strength and power were legendary, when his ability as a trainer got into question, his power didn’t. The other trainers were afraid of him; none of them dare to cross him. And I had done what they wouldn’t, I have unleashed his fury.
It didn’t matter I was right or that I had done nothing but defend myself and follow orders, to Hoshi, I was the one that had harmed his best student, and ruined his opportunity for redemption. Unzeta’s wounds would take weeks to heal. He wouldn’t be ready in time for the test.
“Please Sir, release her. She was just defending herself; she meant no harm,” said Decaro. As the one responsible for the group, his job was to take care of the group, Dame had taught us to take care of those under us and Decaro took his job seriously, not like me that despite being Pentiota’s superior had let her come to harm.
“Go away kid, what I do is none of your business,” said Hoshi as he tightened his grip on me. I couldn’t breathe; the air wasn’t getting to my lungs, and my head felt as if it was going to explode. I could hear Decaro talking, but I wasn’t able to understand his words. Suddenly, Hoshi threw me away. I hit someone and then fell to the ground. As soon as I was free of Hoshi’s grip, I occupied myself in getting air into my lungs.
“Kill them all” ordered Hoshi his group, “I don’t want any of them alive.” As I heard his words, my mind cleared, and I was ready to fight again.
I landed on Decaro. I suspected he had tried to catch me to protect me from further harm, and then, as Hoshi’s group surrounded us, he helped me to get up. I realized as I saw Hoshi’s group that we were at a disadvantage, they were older and more experienced. Besides, they had Hoshi on their side.
“What are we going to do Decaro?” I whispered to him, trying not to attract Hoshi’s attention.
“We need Dame; she will know how to handle this. Someone will have to fetch her as the rest hold on.
“But we are surrounded’” I protested. “How are we going to get to Dame?”
“We just need a distraction so Trinu can get away” he explained.
It made sense. Trinu had the ability to locate anyone anywhere, and she would know where to find Dame. I remembered that Decaro wasn’t second in command just because he was older than the rest of us, he could think and take decisions under pressure. He always knew what to do. Even so, I was worried that even if Trinu could find Dame, Hoshi would kill the rest of us before they returned, if there were only students I knew we could manage, but with him, we didn’t stand a chance. If I could get Hoshi away from there, maybe the rest of the group could survive.
Decaro told the plan to Opteta, and he relayed it to the rest of us by telepathy. The plan was pretty simple, as soon as the other group attacked us, we were going to focus on a single side, attracting their attention and creating an exit for Trinu. I had my own plan; I was going to try to escape along with Trinu and hopefully attract Hoshi or at least enough people for the rest to have a chance.
We didn’t have to wait long before Hoshi’s group attacked us; they attacked from different flanks, all of them at the same time, with a surprising coordination. I had no doubt they had practiced the formation before, and we had a hard time looking for the opening necessary for Trinu to get away. It wasn’t until I started to run too that Hoshi’s group lost concentration and gave us the openings we needed to escape.
“You three, go after her, I’ll get the other one” ordered Hoshi as I was getting away. At least the plan had worked. I just had to survive long enough for Dame to help me.
As I was getting away I felt Opteta’s mind brushing mine, and I opened my senses to him.
“What are you doing?” I felt his voice in my mind.
“I’m getting Hoshi away from you and Trinu. I am giving you a chance.”
“Are you crazy? Hoshi is going to kill you.”
“Isn’t one dead better than many? It’s me Hoshi is after, I don’t want everyone paying for my mistake.” I wasn’t trying to be a martyr. I was just trying to do the right thing. I was afraid; I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want Hoshi to catch me and kill me, but I had to do what I thought was right.
“That wasn’t the plan,” said Opteta “If you survive Hoshi, then Decaro is going to make you pay for disobeying his orders.”
I knew Opteta was right, I could imagine Decaro being mad at me, but if I could survive Hoshi, then Decaro wouldn’t be a problem.
“Tell Decaro I’m sorry. I just thought this was our best chance and knew he wouldn’t approve. Bye, wish me luck.”
I could hear Opteta loud and clear in my mind, but as soon as I severed the mental connection, I realized that the sounds of the battle were far away, I also noticed that there was no sound of anyone behind me. I stopped and turned around to look for Hoshi. It was a big mistake. As soon as I turned I received a punch to the stomach, I was breathless and bend over in pain, I felt another hit in my back and fell on the ground. A kick turned me over, and I finally could see Hoshi. He had a weird smile on his face; I could see the madness in his eyes, and I had the horrible certainty that he was going to kill me.
Hoshi was beating me, mercilessly, relentlessly. I was screaming, asking for help. I cried out until my throat was raspy and painful. After what felt like an eternity later he started to choke me. There were many ways of killing me, but I guess he wanted something more personal; he wanted to choke the life out of me. I was hurting all over my body, but I felt something especially painful in my arm. I looked and saw some kind of crystal breaking out of the ground; I had hit it, and it had cut my arm. It was sharp and I wished I could use it against Hoshi, but it was in the ground. I couldn’t use it. I wasn’t strong enough; I was just a kid, caught up in an uneven fight.
Despite everything I knew and everything I could do, I was just starting to get a hold of my power. I haven’t gotten hold of my full potential; I didn’t even know how most of what I could do worked. I fixated on the idea of using the crystal to stop Hoshi, of yanking it out of the ground and wielding it like a weapon, but I was too tired. I was fighting for survival and losing, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I drifted into unconsciousness and my last thought was ‘if only I could stab Hoshi with that crystal…’
I felt waves of pain coursing through my body as someone moved me. I tried to scream, but no sound got out of my mouth.
“What the hell happened here” asked a young man. I thought I was dead, at the entrance of the underworld.
“It’s obvious; the little girl just killed Hoshi” answered a woman, but her words didn’t make any sense. The logical conclusion was that I was dead, Hoshi had killed me.
I felt pain; they were dressed my wounds, and it sent new waves of pain coursing through my body. I opened my eyes, but couldn’t believe what I was seeing; Hoshi was dead. A translucent crystal had risen from the ground and stabbed Hoshi’s heart. In his face, I could still see the surprise and incredulity he should have felt in his last moments of life.
“The mind is capable of incredible things my child, especially when it runs out of options.” The woman was standing next to Hoshi. The young man was the one tending to my wounds.
I have never seen them before, but I recognized them, at least I knew what they were. They weren’t in uniform like the trainers or the rest of us. They were wearing dark tunics under dark capes. Hers was dark green; his was navy blue. Their tunics marked them as oracles, seers, I have seen them crossing the caverns before.
“The probabilities of you defeating Hoshi were close to none, but you did it. That’s remarkable,” she said to me.
“It wasn’t me. I don’t know what happened” I answered.
“But you did, my little one,” she smiled at me, “it was your inner power. Your subconscious did it. However, you’re not out of danger yet. They will come for you. The probabilities of you dying today are still pretty high. Tell me child, do you want to live?”
“Of course I want to live” I said. The young man gave me something to drink, and I took the time to think about what was happening. “Dame will arrive any minute now. She will help me. I know she will.”
“She won’t make it in time,” she sounded so sure of her words, “you only have two options little one. You can wait here and get killed, or you can run away. If you go now you still have a small chance of survival. It depends of the lady Destiny, if she keeps smiling upon you, then you may make it to the other side.
“The other side?” The pain was getting numb. I was feeling better, and my mind was getting clearer. “What are you saying? What do you want me to do?”
“It’s simple child; you have to cross the caverns and get to the other side. You have to pass the test that marks you as a member of our clan.”
“But I can’t. I’m too young to be in the race,” I protested. “Besides, the test is going to be in two days, and you say that I don’t have time.
“The test is about getting to the Palace, when or how doesn’t really matter, is about surviving long enough to finish” the young man sounded angry, but I didn’t know if he was mad at me or the women “But you won’t make it. You’re just a child, and you’re alone.”
“Her chances are better there than here,” said the woman. She used a tone that left no room for retort. She looked at me and smiled at me “We can take you to the exit and point you the way, but it is you who have to decide what to do.”
I really had no choice. It was either die or get into a suicide mission. The whole day had been crazy, but after a moment, I realized that I had really nothing to lose, if I was going to die, at least I was going to die fighting.
“Show me the way” I finally said.
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