Disclaimer: So I use characters from other stories that don’t belong to me. So what? I’m not getting paid for this.
< >: Thoughts
World Tour Part 11
Gathering of Magic
“So you’re going to be my teachers?” Kasumi asked after the Grimbards had announced that they were going to take over her magical training.
“Indeed.” Parelle nodded. “From what our cousin has told us, you have quite the gift of sorcery.”
“And it will be our job to help you bring out that gift to its utmost potential.” Tyselli said.
“Well then, if that’s the case, then I shall leave you in their more-than-capable hands.” Henry the Halfling said as he gave her a wave goodbye.
“You won’t be training me anymore?” The eldest Tendo girl asked.
“Oh don’t worry! The Grimbard Sisters are among the best in the magic business. They’re more than qualified to finish your preparations for the Apprenticeship Games.”
Girella then pointed to Kasumi’s limiter bracelet. “And it’s a good thing we came when we did. It looks like we’re going to need to whip up a Grimbard Special to help you control your mana reserves.”
“A Grimbard Special?”
“Your limiter bracelet is already being strained. Look at the Rune Stones.”
Soun’s daughter did so and gasped as she noticed that the gemstones on the bracelet were already developing cracks on their surfaces.
“We knew you had a lot of potential Miss Tendo, but to strain a Level Four Limiter means you’re in a class above the normal apprentice!” Girella turned to the Halfling. “In order for us to create a Sealing Spell to properly restrain her powers, we’re going to need to gauge her maximum potential.”
The oldest Grimbard Sister nodded. “Henry, you don’t mind if we make a bit of a mess in your pocket dimension, do you?”
“How big of a mess are you talking about?”
“You may want to move everything of value OUT of there.”
The storekeeper nodded in understanding as he turned to Happosai. “Old friend, could you give me a hand in moving all my barrels of mead and ale?”
The old pervert nodded. “Good idea to save the booze!”
A little while later, Kasumi found herself standing in the middle of an elaborate circle with several hundred Rune Inscriptions drawn into the ground. Standing some distance away, the Grimbards were preparing to activate the spell to gauge her full magical potential. Happosai, Cologne and Henry watched from the safety of another protective ring of power.
“Now, do you understand? Under NO circumstances are you to move from that circle!” Parelle instructed as they were about to activate the spell.
The oldest of Soun Tendo’s children nodded as she remembered what happened to her sister Akane.
The three witches then began chanting in a language that had been long-forgotten by mankind. The runes started to emit massive amounts of eldritch energy as the protective fields were activated. In the center of the circle, Kasumi felt an enormous amount of power surging through her very being as the hidden amounts of mana were gradually being drawn out.
At first, all seemed to be going well as the Grimbards had everything under control. However, as the spell continued, they began to show signs of worry as more and more mana appeared. It wasn’t long before the entire dimension became saturated with Kasumi’s magic. And the power kept on building! The Rune Symbols began to indicate a potential overload as the girl’s total ability was unleashed at its utmost level.
“Uh-oh!” The witch trio said as Kasumi emitted a flare of light similar to the center of a nuclear explosion.
In Ala Maron…
“Cool!” Nabiki the Werewolf said as she was treated to a spectacular show. Human-made fireworks and 3D displays were as crude as cave paintings compared to magical demonstrations.
Standing on a large stage, two wizards were deftly manipulating fire and water streams as if they were alive. They formed intricate patterns and made the streams dance in a lively manner. The one who controlled the flames was dressed in robes of black and red, while wielding a large, black, wooden staff. His counterpart was dressed in blue and white robes, while holding up a golden cane. Both looked to be about in their eighties, but moved about as if they were half their true ages.
The streams of fire and water curved and moved about like snakes, yet they did not cancel each other out. They made incredible designs in the air and Nabiki could scarcely believe how such opposing elements could work with each other.
Then another element was added as a third wizard appeared on stage. He was dressed in golden robes with black trim. He held out a white staff and began making birds of light appear and flutter about the fire and water streams. Adding rainbow streams trailing behind his light constructs made the display even more beautiful.
Soun’s daughter and Matthew couldn’t help but applaud with the rest of the crowds as the show continued. An hour later, the pair began to tour around the grounds near the Wizard’s Coliseum.
“Whoa! There are so many stands! The festivals back home don’t even compare!” The middle Tendo child remarked and the swirling throngs of activity. Sellers were using bullhorns and sound amplification spells to advertise their wares. Displays and acts were taking place every minute of every hour.
“They’re just feeling the waters right now.” Matthew commented. “What you’re seeing right now are the small businesses and independent sellers. Pretty soon, they’re going to be overshadowed by the bigger businesses, high-rate carnivals and shows. Let me tell you, it may seem really busy, but this is NOTHING compared to the opening ceremonies of the Apprenticeship Games.”
At the mention of the games, Nabiki took on an introspective expression as she thought about her older sister. In only a few days, Kasumi would be here in the Makai, competing in these competitions.
She could only imagine the kind of training her sibling was undergoing this very moment.
Back on Earth…
“There! That should do it!” Tyselli said as she and her sisters completed their latest creation.
Kasumi looked down at the back of her right hand. Although she had never thought about getting a tattoo, the Grimbard Sisters insisted that the mystical seal was necessary to keep the massive stores of mana within her in check. They couldn’t risk another blow up like the last time.
Henry’s pocket dimension now sported a huge crater that was about the size of a city block and was approximately forty feet deep. The Halfling, the Amazon Elder and the Perverted Master of the Anything Goes were thankful that the protection spells had been able to contain the blast. Henry could only shake his head as he gazed upon Kasumi’s limiter. The trio were quietly sitting nearby and sipping tea.
“A Level Seven Seal! To think she would require a limiter of THAT caliber. I had no idea that I was training a nuclear warhead.”
“Indeed.” Parelle said as she and her sisters, along with Kasumi, approached them. They all sat down to enjoy a cup of tea. “But all in all, you did a decent job of teaching her the basics. You gave us a good foundation to work on.”
“Oh, and we’ll see to it that hole is filled in by the end of today.” Girella added.
Henry nodded to his former pupil. “Lass, I meant no disrespect with that ‘nuclear warhead’ reference. It’s just that I don’t know of anything else to compare your potential to.”
“It’s all right Henry. I understand.” She took a sip of tea and marveled at its unearthly flavor. “Oh, this is nice! I must remember to buy some later.” She glanced back down at her seal. “So this will keep my magic from overflowing?”
“That’s right, our little sorceress in the making.” The eldest witch said as she took a sip from her cup. “You see, when a child is born with the gift of magic, he or she is also born with a small amount of mana.”
Tyselli nodded. “Normally, at around five or six years of age, a child begins to discover how to manipulate the mana within his or her body, as well as the mana flows in the environment, such as a Ley Line. This is mostly by accident and trial-and-error.”
“Of course,” Girella said, “When you’re talking about a kindergartener, you don’t expect their magic skills to be all that great, and their mana stores become depleted really fast. This serves a kind of internal limiter. They start to learn how to save their mana and use just enough to do the job.”
“At that point, if the child is lucky enough, he or she will get the proper guidance from a master.” Parelle added. “As his or her skills, knowledge and endurance increases, so does the mana levels within the body. But you are different, Kasumi.” She pointed to the brown-haired girl with a withered finger.
“There’s no doubt that you have the gift of magic.” The middle witch sister remarked. “We’re guessing that you may have inherited that gift from a distant bloodline.”
“A distant bloodline?” Kasumi thought for a moment about her father and shook her head. “I don’t think Father has any priests, magicians or monks in his family tree.”
“How about your mother’s side?” Tyselli asked.
“I don’t know much about mother’s family, ever since she died, and I had to take care of the house.”
The Grimbard Sisters nodded to each other as they mentally made a note to research Kasumi’s maternal ancestry later. The oldest among them continued with their speculations.
“In any case, Kasumi, when you were born, you were also given an amount of mana reserve, just like any other potential magic-user. Considering to what our scrying spell revealed, you were born with a MUCH bigger amount of internal mana that normal. However, it was contained in a latent form, which explains why you did not discover it until much later.”
The youngest of the Grimbards nodded. “We’re also speculating that the mana within you has been steadily increasing for the last nineteen years or so. You’ve never used any of it, so it’s gone unchecked for nearly two decades.”
Girella then thought of something. “Hmmm, almost twenty years of unchecked mana buildup? I find it hard to believe that her surroundings and the people she interacted with were not affected for all those years. Tell me Kasumi, did you ever encounter any STRANGE happenings or occurrences that had no reasonable explanation?”
“Well, I can’t say that I have.” Soun’s daughter answered. “I mean, I’ve been going shopping, keeping house, cooking for the family and taking them to see Dr. Tofu whenever someone was hurt. Though, there was one thing that puzzled me.”
“What is it?”
“For some reason, all of his other patients would cancel or postpone their appointments whenever I came to his clinic. I couldn’t figure out why.”
The Grimbards gave each other a knowing smile as Parelle held out her cane.
“Young one, would you mind if I projected your most recent encounter with this Dr. Tofu?”
After giving her assent, Kasumi watched as Parelle chanted a short spell and made Kasumi’s last encounter with the good chiropractor appear for all to see. It looked as if they were watching a holographic image. It was just after she had returned to Tokyo once her family and Genma were rid of that horrid smell. Kasumi had decided to bring some fresh-baked cookies to the good physician.
However, as soon as she entered the clinic, the elderly patients all turned deathly white and began running for their lives. And when Dr. Tofu entered the waiting room, his glasses fogged up and he began shredding the report in his hands. It wasn’t long before he was running and hollering through the streets with his skeleton Betty.
After making the image disappear, everyone looked at Kasumi, as she continued to wonder why Dr. Tofu suddenly ran out on his patients.
“Well that explains that.” Girelle commented.
“Explains what?” Kasumi asked.
“Come now, Child. You are NOT that ignorant. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve ALWAYS known. Am I right?”
The eldest of Soun’s children said nothing for the longest time, and then finally nodded. “I always wondered why he acted like that around me and only me. Are you saying that I’m the cause of his madness?”
“Not intentionally.” Girelle corrected. “But I think that the massive stores of mana within you have been releasing tiny doses periodically. Those who are spiritually sensitive will feel those sparks of magic. I’m guessing this Dr. Tofu is especially sensitive to have a reaction like that.”
“So does that mean I have to stay away from him?”
“Not necessarily. That Level Seven Limiter we slapped on you should keep any excess mana from escaping. You shouldn’t have any problems the next time you visit his clinic.”
Kasumi smiled as she looked down at the back of her hand. To those who had no magical talent or sensitivity, they would see nothing but bare skin. To those who had the gift, one would see an intricate circular pattern of runes and other mystic symbols. The center of the seal was a yin/yang symbol within a star-shaped pentagram. The main border had a ring of Rune symbols and triangles. And on the outer edges were several smaller rings of stars, and more runes. On her wrist was a trio of thin diagonal bands.
It was one of the most complicated limiters the Grimbard Sisters had come up with. They had assured Kasumi that she would able to remove the first three levels on her own, namely the three bands. This would allow her to conduct elementary to third-year beginner-type spells with ease. The fourth and fifth levels of the seal, (the outer rings), would permit powerful intermediate spells such as attack and defensive for a limited time. They would automatically re-engage once the crisis is over. As for the final two levels, only the Grimbards were permitted to remove them, or when Kasumi attained enough experience to remove them herself. The only other time they could disengage is in a very DIRE emergency. The witch sisters hoped that situation would never occur.
After finishing their tea, Parelle, Girella and Tyselli got to their feet and addressed their student.
“The time has come to begin your lessons under us, Kasumi Tendo.” The oldest witch announced. “I shall be your instructor on elemental attacks, defense, recovery and endurance. You could say that I will be your drill sergeant in Sorcery Boot Camp. I must warn you here and now, whatever hardships you had endured under Henry’s tutelage will be as NOTHING compared to what I am going to have you undergo in the next three months.”
“I expect no less, from someone whom Henry highly praises.” The brown-haired girl said as she got to her feet.
The middle witch sister then spoke.
“I will see to your education and training in divination and spiritual ability. Parelle will push your physical body to its limits, while I shall train your mind and awareness. When I am done, you will have mastery over all the fundamentals of the astral plane, future prediction and sensing that which cannot be perceived by one’s eyes, ears, nose, tongue or hands.”
Tyselli then added her own input.
“Henry has told us that you have a talent for potions. However, even a gifted student can still learn new things. I shall increase your knowledge on ingredients, methods and effects. I shall also be your trainer in terms of magical artifacts, enchantments and alchemy. Furthermore, I will also instruct you in working with a familiar.”
“A familiar?” Kasumi asked.
“You shall learn that having an animal partner will be quite helpful and give you support when you need it. For now, the bond you will form with a familiar will only be temporary, but eventually you will make a permanent one.”
“But for now, our first task is to have you undergo the Blood Oath Ceremony.” Parelle pointed out. “You will not be able to pass through to the Makai without it.”
“What do I have to do?” Soun’s daughter asked.
“Nothing more than stand where you are.”
Parelle gestured to her siblings, who each walked over to position themselves around Kasumi. The three sisters then struck the ground with their canes, causing rings of light to appear around the apprentice sorceress. The Tendo girl soon found herself being levitated above the soil, and floating five feet in the air. With a quick swipe from her cane, Parelle made a small cut appear on the underside of Kasumi’s left forearm.
“With the authority granted to us, I hereby draw this contract in blood.”
“Do ye understand that in violating this oath, ye will forfeit all knowledge of the Makai, the Old Races and thy magic?” Girella asked.
“I understand.” Kasumi nodded.
“Do ye swear to never speak of the Makai, or of the Old Races to those who do not have the same knowledge?” Tyselli inquired.
The three witches nodded as their eyes glowed with an eerie blue light. Kasumi’s soul was then tested for her utmost sincerity and trustworthiness. To fail such a test would leave irrevocable damage to her life essence. However, there were none present that doubted her ability to keep her vow. She was then gently lowered to the ground as Parelle completed the ceremony.
“Ye have passed the final test and ye are deemed worthy! I hereby seal the Oath of Blood.”
The cut on her arm immediately stopped bleeding and sealed itself up, leaving nothing but a very small and thin scar. Kasumi looked down and saw the new imprint on her skin. To normal eyes, it was nothing but a tiny line. However, to her eyes, it was a pattern of Rune symbols which read:
“And now, Kasumi Tendo,” Parelle said as the rings of light faded away. “Your training shall commence.”
In the Makai…
The gigantic beast let off a roar and toppled over after received a blow to the head. It made a tremendous thump on the ground and caused a huge cloud of dust to be kicked up. The monster let off a groan as it lapsed into an unconscious state. Clea Bodaryl dusted herself off after the light workout.
As she was traveling to Ala Maron on foot, the Lizardgirl had decided to get in some extra battle training. In addition to her magical ability, she was also trained as a warrior and had sword skills that would make Kuno drop to his knees and start calling her sensei. Although her uncle wanted her to focus more on spellcasting, she could never resist a chance to cut loose with her physical skills.
She had made good time and figured that she would arrive at Ala Maron the day before registration. That would give her enough time to check out the sights and the competition. Since she only had a limited amount of time to rest and eat on her journey, she decided not to devour the huge beast she had just defeated, opting instead to eat the food she had in her pack. By the time the monster regained consciousness, she would be long gone.
As she ate from the stew she had prepared previously, she considered its taste and texture. Clea’s people were primarily hunters, with some farming ability. They didn’t have much in the way of food preparation, other than roasting their kills over the fire, making simple stews, and preserving meat as sausage and jerky. The only times they were exposed to more refined cuisine were during the occasional encounters with traders and visits to the larger cities. The reptilian girl had acquired a taste for such advanced methods of cooking and had aspired in her spare time to duplicate those flavors.
However, with limited access to spices and no one to teach her how to prepare such comestibles, Clea’s cuisine was usually simple and lacking in taste. It was edible and filling, but was rather dull. As she finished off her meal and prepared to leave the area, she began to wonder if she could find some books on the subject in Ala Maron, or better yet, someone who could teach her how to cook.
In Henry’s Pocket Dimension…
“Most impressive, Young One. I’ve never seen anyone whip up a batch of base potion so quickly.” Tyselli commented as she and her pupil worked at a lab table that was set up.
“I’ve had a lot of practice, when it comes to cooking.” Kasumi said as she finished creating the foundation that they would use in her potion-making. “After I got the fundamentals of mixing potions memorized, I’ve been experimenting with some ingredients.”
“Hmmm, maybe you should start writing a Magic Potion Cookbook.” The youngest of the Grimbards mused. “I’d certainly read it. Henry has told me that you’ve created several different potions with a few common ingredients. Now, let me introduce you to some of the more UNCOMMON ingredients.”
With a wave of her staff, she made a toad appear on the table in a puff of smoke before them. However, this was unlike any toad the Tendo girl had ever seen before. For one thing, this amphibian had three pairs or eyes, was colored purple and had horns.
“Ah yes.” The witch nodded. “Nothing like saliva from a Tenkalian Demon Toad to make a proper truth formula.”
Speaking of demons…
Jason Blackstorm growled after finishing off his latest opponents. The foolhardy goblin horde that had dared cross his path now sported a huge assortment of bruises, broken bones and scorch marks all over their bodies. They were lying in a pile as the half-demon continued on his journey to the Apprenticeship Games.
He had been making his way through the Inferno Valley of the province of Tenkaila, when the goblins blocked his path and demanded payment to pass through. Jason paid them in the currency of pain. In addition to his fire-based powers, Jason possessed superhuman strength and durability. He had also been trained in some of the most brutal forms of martial arts the Makai had to offer. As a result, he could go toe-to-toe with some of the deadliest residents of the Makai and expect to be the victor.
Jason gave the goblins a snort of disgust as he nonchalantly kicked one of them out of the way as he headed out. The only reason why he had not incinerated the impudent lot was due to his mother’s influence. Though he had a fiery temper that matched his flame abilities, his conscience had been tempered by his human parent. He had yet to take a sentient being’s life and didn’t feel that it was necessary. He would rough up anyone who dared to challenge him, but he wasn’t going to cross the line into becoming a killer.
His father was one of the highest-ranking demon nobles of the Other Realm and was not known for showing mercy. However, many of the Makai’s denizens were quite surprised when Argus Blackstorm took a human shrine maiden as his wife. Much to the chagrin of those who protested the appearance of a human without a Blood Oath, Lord Belial did not object when his noble brought her to his world. Since his word was the supreme law of the land, everyone had to accept the human named Shidori Maseraki. There was one stipulation though. Since Argus had brought her to the Makai without a Blood Oath, Shidori was therefore bound to the Other Realm and would not be permitted to ever return to the Human Realm.
Ever since his son was born, Argus had hoped that his heir would succeed him, though Jason had other plans for his life and didn’t want to get involved in his father’s politics. The final straw was when his sire announced that Jason would be betrothed to the daughter of another demon lord. After a very big blowup, (literally, since Jason blew the roof off the castle), the half-human, half-demon teenager departed to blow off steam on any unfortunate soul that crossed his path. Eventually, he decided to take part in the Apprenticeship, if only to get away from his overbearing parents.
Just as he was about to exit the valley, a very big obstacle came crashing down in front of him. Its three heads let off a combined, high pitched series of shrieks as it advanced on its intended prey. The beast was about fifty feet long, weighed in at about 70 tons, had scaly skin, claws, and had huge, bat-like wings. Streams of flame and acid were emitted from its mouths and each head had glowing red eyes.
“Valley Tri-Dragon.” The demonoid adolescent growled. “Great, three headaches for the price of one. Fine then! Bring it on! I was wondering what I was going to have for dinner.”
The beast let off another trio of roars as it charged.
Then things got violent.
Back to the Human World….
“Hmmm, you’re STILL using too much mana.” Parelle commented as she stared at the smoking hole in the ground.
Kasumi sheepishly shrugged her shoulders. The exercise had been a simple one. She had been given the task of hitting several distant targets with fireballs. However, after removing the first three levels of her limiter, she had blown all of the targets up with her first shot. Although it wasn’t nearly as big as her previous attempts, the projectile still exploded with all the destructive force of an artillery shell. This was supposed to be an exercise in accuracy, not sheer firepower.
“Well, at least we know that the seal we created is doing its job of holding back the majority of your power. You might have blown the entire pocket dimension to ashes if it wasn’t restricting you.” The eldest witch sister mused. “However, that still leaves you with a substantial amount of mana on hand to work with.”
“I’m sorry Sensei.” The brown-haired girl apologized. “I just can’t seem to get it any smaller. I know how the spell works, and I just can’t see myself at doing anything but my best.”
“Normally, doing your best and giving it your all would be commendable and even encouraged during the training process.” Parelle agreed. “This helps the student gain more experience and build up his or her mana reserves. However, in your case, it’s the reverse. You already have an unbelievable amount of mana and it’s quite difficult for you to train yourself to hold back.”
“May we suggest something?”
Both turned to see Happosai and Cologne standing nearby. At this point, Henry had returned to his shop.
“What is it, Cousin?”
Cologne nodded to her distant relative. “The seal you and your sisters had created is doing an excellent job of keeping Kasumi’s magical power in check. However, it is doing very little in helping her restrict her mental output.”
Happosai added his output. “Both Cologne and I have observed Kasumi in her daily life and she’s quite the diligent worker and student. She always completes her tasks to the best of her ability.”
“She’s been trained since she was young to do her best, else her family would suffer. It’s that mindset which is now hampering her ability to effectively control the amount of mana needed to cast spells.”
“What she needs right now is to unlearn that principle and start fresh. We’ve got a few meditation techniques that might help.”
The Amazon Elder gave Soun and Genma’s master a bit of a suspicious look. “Just so you know Happy, I expect you to be on your best behavior and NOT corrupt Kasumi with your vices.”
“Unless he WANTS to go back to a diet of mealworms and flies.” Parelle added.
Happosai shuddered a bit at the memory of being turned into a toad for 12 months. The old pervert raised his right hand up and showed his Blood Oath scar. “Wouldn’t DREAM of it. I’m not going to ruin such a promising sorceress.”
“Good. Now let us begin.”
A little later…
After going through several dozen mediation techniques and mental restriction exercises with Cologne and Happosai, Kasumi was ready to try the fireball accuracy test again. Some fifty yards away was a set of round, metal disks; mounted on wooden poles. They were about a foot in diameter, and half of them were colored red, while the others were blue. They were arranged in a random pattern and she was instructed to hit only the blue ones, while leaving the red ones intact.
Taking a deep breath, Kasumi held out her wand and began focusing her power at its tip. With a wave and a flick, she released a fireball that was about the size of a basketball.
<Still a little too much power!> Parelle thought as she initially assumed that the mediation techniques had failed. Then her student surprised her.
Realizing that she had just conjured up a fireball that could obliterate a large car, Kasumi immediately tried to make the projectile disperse its energy. However, it was too late as it sped toward the center target like a rocket. At that moment, she got a flash of inspiration.
Using what she had learned from Happosai and Cologne’s meditation techniques, she focused her psychic power, and caused the fireball to explode into smaller versions of itself, halfway toward the targets. Then the mini-fireballs were simultaneously directed toward their final destination. Taking care of the family and the house chores had taught Kasumi how to multitask.
Every blue disk was hit and exploded, but the red ones were left unscathed.
Kasumi let off a sigh of relief as she had succeeded in completing the task. Though it was not in the way Parelle and the others had expected. The three stared in total disbelief.
The eldest of the Grimbards was silent for a long time, before finally voicing out her approval. “Not bad Young One. Though that was still a bit much, you have substantially improved in terms of control. I was expecting another massive explosion. That was an impressive display of ingenuity. The judges at the games will be looking for that.”
“I was impressed too.” Happosai said. “You turned your bazooka blast into a set of guided missiles!”
“Pardon?” Soun’s daughter said in confusion.
“What Happy is trying to say is that you compensated for that mistake you made in your fireball’s power.” Cologne explained. “You took our meditation techniques and used them; not restrict the overall force, but rather divide it into smaller portions. You also guided each potion to its target simultaneously. We were expecting you to fire off several fireballs, but you got all the right targets with just one! Amazing!”
Nearby, the other two witches were also impressed at their student’s quick thinking. It was at that point that they decided to step up in Kasumi’s training.
It was time for her to fight.
In the Makai…
Matthew wiped his brow after his fight with the apprentice wizard. The Apprenticeship Games hopeful had wanted to get in a practice match before registering, which was going to take place in two days. Though his talent with combat magic was impressive, he proved to be no match for the werewolf.
The young magician winced as he tried to get up. He was on his hands and knees after the lycanthrope had battered his way through his magical force shield. It was enough to stop fireballs and lightning strikes, but proved ineffective against the Beast Cannon. It was just fortunate for the aspiring sorcerer that Jon’s son had been holding back.
“You okay?” Matthew asked as he extended a hand to his opponent.
His magic-using adversary nodded as he took the offered hand up and got to his feet. “I am fine. Thank you very much. I learned a lot from this match. I wasn’t expecting such a powerful attack, but I should have known that the son of Jon Talbain would be so formidable. You’ve been an inspiration and it was an honor to test my skills against yours.”
“It was a good match.”
The young wizard shyly took out a small notepad and a quill from his robes and offered them to Matthew. “Uhm, I hope you don’t think I am presumptuous or anything, but may I have your autograph?”
Jon’s offspring shrugged as he took the items and quickly scrawled his signature on the pad. He then gave them back to his opponent as he quickly bowed and began walking away.
“Thank you very much, Matthew Talbain.”
“Good luck in the games.”
As the wizard trainee departed, Matthew resumed his tour of the grounds around the coliseum with Nabiki.
“Wow. You’re pretty famous in the Makai.” Soun’s daughter commented. “That was the fourth match in the last two hours. And they all wanted your autograph afterwards.”
Her boyfriend shrugged his shoulders. “Well, I’ve been around the fighting circles here and on Earth. And when you happen to be the son of a Makai Noble, you kind of draw a lot of attention.”
“So does that mean you’re royalty?”
“Sort of. Dad’s got about the same level of authority as an Earl or high-ranking Baron. I’ve made a lot of friends among the upper class of Makai society. Although there’s one guy who I hope we don’t meet with.”
“He’s the son of a Demon Lord and a human. He’s not really a bad sort, but he’s got a lot of anger issues.”
“Like my sister Akane?”
“Hah! Compared to Jason Blackstorm, your sister would be considered a pacifist!”
Nabiki gave Matthew a look of total disbelief. Someone who was more violent than her younger sister? “You’re kidding, right?”
“No I am not. When he gets angry enough, he becomes a walking nuclear war. Your sister wouldn’t stand a chance against him. He’d reduce her to a pile of cinders in a heartbeat. The only saving grace is the fact that Jason refuses to take a sentient life. He won’t kill outright.”
“That’s good to know.”
“But that doesn’t mean that he WON’T rough his opponent up to within an inch of his life. I should know. I went head-to-head against him one time.”
“Don’t know. Being a half-demon gives him tremendous endurance. Then again, being a fast-healing werewolf has its own advantages. We nearly pounded each other into comas before our fathers stopped the fight. We tore up a LOT of the landscape.”
“ What were you fighting about?”
Matthew took on an introspective expression as he remembered back to his younger days. Finally he shrugged. “You know, for the life of me, I can’t really recall the reason. I was only nine at the time. It’s all a big blur. And the funny thing is, Jason doesn’t remember either.”
“You both can’t remember why you were fighting?”
“I think my Dad and Jason’s Dad did something to us to make us forget that incident. I’ve asked Dad to tell me what happened, but he never talks about it. However, even though Jason can’t remember the reason, he still remembers the outcome of our fight. As far as my opponent was concerned, a draw was just as bad as losing. It was unacceptable for him and he’s been after me for some time for a rematch. I guess it’s that demon pride of his. There are just some things one can’t let go.”
In another part of the fairgrounds…
“Mmmm-mm!” Felicia said as she took another bite from her snack and savored its taste. “It’s been a long time since I had a krylot kabob!”
“Careful Kitty.” Morrigan warned as she walked alongside Matthew’s father and the catwoman. They were all in their nonhuman appearances, but no one paid any attention. “You eat too many of those and you’ll become one FAT cat.”
“Not a chance! In my line of work, I get plenty of exercise!” The superstar of Las Vegas said as she finished off her third kabob and started to work on her fourth and last one. “Say, where’s that little succubus daughter of yours?”
The green-haired woman with bat wings on her back and head gave a nonchalant wave with her right hand. “She went off to visit some friends of hers; some of whom will be competing in the games. She also wanted to pass on a message to her grandfather and my father, Lord Belial. He’ll be here in two days to take part in the judging.”
“If your father is coming here, then that might make it easier for us to get the next fragment of the medallion.” Jon commented as he casually munched on a meat tart.
“Yes, I’m certain that Father would be VERY happy to meet with you, Jon.” Morrigan said in a very seductive tone. “He’s still yearning for some more grandchildren.”
The werewolf nearly choked on his next bite, but managed to swallow it. Beside him, Felicia’s eyes narrowed. Her tail stiffened a bit and the fur on her body bristled somewhat.
Since Matthew’s father was technically unmarried, that made him fair game for any woman, human or Darkstalker.
Back in the Human World…
Kasumi was breathing hard as she ducked behind a grove of trees. At this point, she was thankful for her new sorceress outfit. Her regular clothes would have never held up under the conditions she was now in. Especially when she had three powerful witches throwing elemental attacks at her.
Parelle and her sisters wasted no time in starting Kasumi’s magic battle training. Though she disliked the thought of even raising a hand to cause harm to others, the gentle girl knew that she couldn’t keep dodging and running forever. She began to wonder if this is how Akane must have felt when she began her martial arts training.
High above, Tyselli rode in the traditional manner of a magic broom as she scanned the forest below. She nodded as she locked onto her pupil’s essence and sent down a spell which rained down ice fragments. Anything they touched immediately froze solid. Soun’s daughter barely managed a teleportation spell to get her out of the immediate area.
She wasn’t given a moment’s rest when she reappeared in an open space. Girella came about on a flying carpet she had picked up in Baghdad. She cast a spell which caused several boulders to come hurtling at her target. By reflex, the Tendo girl used her levitation skills to turn them aside. The middle witch sister nodded. Defensively, Kasumi’s mystic skills were adequate.
However, the eldest of the Grimbards proved at that moment, that defending against direct attacks alone was not enough to win a magical fight. Appearing suddenly behind Kasumi, Parelle raised her cane and gave her student a sharp rap on the head.
Kasumi winced in pain as she sank to her knees and started to rub the back of her skull.
The oldest of the three looked over to one side and asked Cologne and Happosai, who happened to be sitting nearby.
Happosai looked down at an old pocket-watch in his hand. “One minute, thirteen seconds. She managed to survive five seconds longer this time.”
Parelle and her sisters came up to their pupil, each with a disappointed expression on their faces. At that point, Kasumi cast a simple healing spell to ease the pain she was feeling. She stood up to endure another round of chiding.
“Child, we’ve told you time and time again, that you can’t just keep on the defensive.” Parelle stated.
“I know, but I just can’t bring myself to attack.” Soun’s eldest daughter said.
“Well, it’s best that you put aside your reluctance to attack, or we certainly can’t send you to the Apprenticeship Games.” Girella pointed out.
“Those other competitors will have no compunctions in going all-out against you.” Tyselli added.
“May we make a suggestion?” Cologne said.
The trio of witches and their pupil turned to the Elder and the Grandmaster of the Anything Goes.
“What is it, Cousin?” Parelle asked.
The three-hundred-year-old Amazon nodded as she explained. “Perhaps we’ve been going about it the wrong way. Instead of trying to force a type of combat on her, we should instead focus on modifying the fighting style to suit her.”
“I agree.” Happosai said. “I’ve noticed that she’s pretty adept at defensive and evasion tactics. So why not focus on those strengths? In martial arts, there are some styles like akido, jujitsu and judo, which have no inherent attacks of their own, but rather use the strength of the opponent’s attacks against him. Why not adapt those principles to magic?”
The Amazon continued. “And this might help her control the amount of mana she uses for spells. When she does attack, she’ll have better focus.”
The Grimbards considered their suggestions for a few minutes, and then came to an agreement. Then they all focused on Kasumi.
“Well now, let’s see what we can do.” The oldest among them said.
At a small café near the edge of the fairgrounds…
“So when did you arrive?” Lilith asked as she sat with her friend at an outdoor table.
The young witch Serena nodded as she took a sip of her tea. “I just came in through the front gates this morning. I wanted to check out the competition and get settled in before registration.”
“You’re up against some stiff opposition. I’ve heard that Alexia Van Karas will be arriving here tomorrow.” The young succubus commented. “I’ve also heard that Conrad Blanchet will be here as well.”
The teenager with the pointed hat snorted a bit. “I’m not worried about that wimp. And I’m pretty sure I can handle that snob from Van Karas Castle. I’ve gotten a lot stronger since we last met.”
“Oh really?” Morrigan’s daughter commented as she raised a right hand and casually flicked her index finger toward a distant iron sign from across the street. With a concentrated burst of psychic energy, she punched a hole in the center of the metal plate, which was an inch thick. She had shot the equivalent of a 0.50-caliber, armor-piercing bullet.
Serena stared at Lilith casual use of supernatural, mental power, gulped a bit, and said sheepishly, “Uhm, okay so maybe I need a little more training. Hopefully, I’ll do well enough to get a magic-college scholarship. So are you taking part?”
The adolescent succubus shook her head. “Nope. I’m not considered as a novice so I don’t qualify. I’ll be cheering you on.”
“Great! Say, do you think it’s possible that you can introduce me to the Grimbard Sisters? I mean, you’ve been to Castle Talbain, right?”
“Yes, but I think the best people to ask would be the Talbains themselves. They did come with me and my mother to the Makai, along with Felicia.”
Serena took another sip of tea and dreamed of meeting with the Legendary Witch Sisters. Every aspiring sorceress and wizard wanted to attain the mastery of magic that they possessed. Hundreds had applied to become their apprentice, but so far none had been accepted. Even that haughty Alexia had failed to become their student, despite all the dozens of petitions she had sent to Castle Talbain.
What was even more extraordinary was the fact that Parelle, Girella and Tyselli Grimbard had repeatedly turned down offers to become members of the Elder Council of Wizards for the last 150 years. Apparently, they did not want to get involved with the politics and regulations that the Council enforced on all magic users in the Makai and on Earth. Since the sisters rarely came to the Other Realm and remained in the Human World at Castle Talbain, they were out of the jurisdiction of the combined association of magic users.
Due to that freedom, the Grimbards had developed a large number of spells and potions that were unheard of in the general magic circles. That made the Council even more determined to recruit them and why so many novices were begging to be their student. One could only imagine what it was like to be trained by them.
Back in the Human World…
<Good! Very good! She is now thinking several steps ahead of us! And she is using the gifts we had bestowed upon her.>
Parelle was trying a bit harder to blindside her pupil this time around. Though she and her siblings were attacking with novice-level spells, Kasumi was thinking more strategically. In addition to controlling her output on mana, she was utilizing the precognition powers she had developed from Henry’s training and focusing her psychic awareness into the Rune-inscribed ribbon tied to her hair. This allowed her to sense an attack and react accordingly.
Just as the eldest of the witch sisters appeared behind her, Kasumi pulled the hood of her cloak over her head, and vanished from sight. In that split second, Parelle swung her cane and missed.
The Tendo girl reappeared some fifty feet away, just as Tyselli came down from above on her broom and fired off a volley of fireballs. Kasumi took out her own wand, chanted a short spell and waved the instrument in front of her. This caused a temporary rift in reality to appear, which engulfed the flaming projectiles and sealed itself. She whirled about and pointed her wand at Girella as she came on her other side. The rift opened up again in front of her foe and spewed out the fireballs.
The middle Grimbard was a bit surprised to see her sister’s attack redirected toward her. However, she easily defected the fireballs like bothersome flies with her own cane. She let loose with a bolt of lightning that would have been difficult for an advanced novice to counter.
Instead of bringing up a shield to protect herself from the brunt of the blast, Kasumi instead took a more passive approach by using an absorption spell to add the lightning spell’s power to boost her own movements. Whatever amount she couldn’t absorb, she merely dispersed. Just as Tyselli and Parelle launched a barrage of ice shards, the gentle, brown-haired girl shifted from position to another at speeds that impressed both Cologne and Happosai.
Just as the barrage was evaded and Kasumi prepared to counter the next assault, Soun and Genma’s master called out as he held out his pocket-watch.
The three witches and their pupil stopped and took neutral stances. The exercise was finally over.
Kasumi breathed out a sigh of relief. After ten days of intensive training, she had succeeded in lasting 20 minutes against her mentors at novice-level. The techniques she had learned from Cologne and Happosai ‘s idea of turning her opponents’ energy and attacks against each other had worked.
The Grimbards were also impressed with her progress and were beginning to see new potential and possibilities within her.
Perhaps, she might just be… the one.
In the Makai…
“So what’s this Lord Belial like?” Nabiki asked as the two walked together in their werewolf forms.
Matthew shrugged his shoulders a bit. “I haven’t met him personally, but according to what Dad tells me, he’s the supreme ruler of the Makai. His power is supposed to be equal to that of a god, and just about every high-ranking Darkstalker, including my father, respects and or/fears him. There are a few that don’t, but then again, (from what I’ve heard), those kinds of people don’t live very long if they cross him.”
“He’s that terrible?”
“Not so much as terrible as one might think. Dad always speaks highly of him, and he tells me that Belial was the one who gave the title of Makai Nobleman to Marcus Talbain.”
“Marcus Talbain?” The short-haired girl asked. “Wasn’t he the first of your werewolf family? “ Then she realized something. “Wait a minute! You told me that your lycanthrope heritage goes back over 2,000 years! Does that mean…?”
Matthew shrugged his shoulders again. “He’s a Demon Lord. What’s a few hundred centuries to him?”
“Okay. I’ll admit that was kind of a stupid thing to say...”
“It’s all right. Not too many people have seen him in public for over 20 years now. Having him judge this year’s Apprenticeship Games is a rarity. Who knows? You might just get to see him.”
“There are no pictures or images of him?”
“Not a one. Belial has forbidden all photographic devices, spells, drawings or anything that could display his face and form. Like I said, he doesn’t appear in public very much, and all previous images of him has been lost or destroyed.”
“So no one knows what he looks like anymore? What about your father? How about his daughter and granddaughter?”
Matthew shook his head. “Dad never speaks about it, and as far as I know, Morrigan and Lilith aren’t talking much about Belial’s absences either. I’ll guess we’ll find out at the games.”
At the mention of the games, Nabiki began to think about her sister Kasumi again. It was still hard for her to believe that her dear sweet sister was training to be a sorceress. It was even harder for her believe that she was going to take part in the Apprenticeship Games and was going to come to the Makai. A part of her couldn’t wait to see her. It had been over a month since she left Japan and she did miss her family. She would definitely cheer Kasumi on during the competition.
Then there was another part of her that was dreading the day her older sibling arrived to the Makai. There was just the slim chance that they would meet, but if they did, there was just no way of explaining to Kasumi how her younger sister ended up in the Other Realm, especially without a Blood Oath. And from there, her secret of being a werewolf would eventually be exposed.
She would just have to wait until things played out.
Back on Earth, Kasumi’s training began to increase in speed and difficulty as the Grimbards put her through her paces and finalize her overall basic skills and magical knowledge.
Five days before the tournament, (relatively speaking in the pocket dimension)…
“Amazing Kasumi! I’ve never seen such high-quality alchemy-produced gold in all my three hundred-plus years!” Tyselli praised as she looked over the small golden bar of metal her student had produced. “I’d rate this to be about 22-karat.”
“Thank you Sensei.” The eldest Tendo child responded in a hesitant tone. “Though I feel like I’m breaking the law by doing this.”
The youngest of the Grimbards considered her disciple and nodded. “So you realize the ramifications of using such a power. Very good, Kasumi. It is comforting to know that my lessons will NOT be misused. There has been many a greedy man who has killed and has been killed in their attempts to possess such a gift.”
Kasumi nodded as she realized that being able to turn lead into precious metals such as gold would not only undermine the world’s economy, but would cause great trouble to herself and all those around her. She made a note to never reveal her talent to Genma or her father.
Four days before the tournament…
Kasumi found it to be a bit unnerving to be staring at herself, from outside of her own body. Her mortal form remained calm and at rest as it sat cross-legged with its eyes closed.
After a few minutes of floating about, she ended the spell as her astral form re-entered her physical body and opened her eyes.
Girella nodded as she addressed her pupil.
“Keep in mind that when you leave your body, you must make certain it is well-guarded with a protection spell. Should it be destroyed, you will be doomed to wander as a spirit forever.”
Three days before the tournament…
“Impressive Young One.” Parelle complimented as she gazed upon the ice sculpture her disciple had created. The statue was that of a huge bird with intricate feather patterns and was surrounded by a corona of colored light.
“Thank you Teacher.”
“I see you have combined both Ice and Light Elements, along with a bit of alchemy. Very nice indeed.”
Two days before the tournament…
“But I can’t accept this, Grandmaster Happosai.” Kasumi protested as she was handed a finely-woven red training gi and white belt.
“Take it child.” The old pervert said with a very polite tone. “You’ve been working extremely hard this past month and that should be rewarded. I only wish that your father and Genma had worked as diligently as you had during their training. You never complained and you did as you were told. I had asked for that Arana seamstress to make this for you before she left. You’ll find it to be a perfect fit. You may not have trained in the martial arts, but as the Grandmaster of the Founding School of the Anything Goes, I hereby declare you as a worthy member. Tonight, I shall teach you some of my advanced meditative katas that will help you in the games. However, should you wish to learn the martial arts, you need only to ask me.”
Cologne nodded as she made a jeweled bracelet appear from one of the sleeves of her robe. “I too was impressed by your rapid advancement in the magical arts and feel that you should be rewarded. Therefore, this bracelet is my gift to you and I hereby recognize you as an honorary member of the Chinese Amazons. Should you ever visit our lands, we would treat you as a Sister Amazon.”
For the umpteenth time since she started on her magical journey, Kasumi was rendered speechless. She then gave the two a respectful bow, just as the Grimbards approached them and the eldest among them spoke up.
“Kasumi Tendo, I speak for my sisters as I hereby declare your training in the basics of sorcery to be complete. “
“You have greatly impressed us, Young One.” Girella said. “And with what we’ve seen over the last few centuries, we’ve VERY hard to impress. “
“You have shown more than decent skill in basic spellcasting in less than three months! A normal novice would have taken more than three years to complete the same exercises.” Tyselli added. “Your diligence and determination will serve you well in the games. A pity we will not be present.”
“You are not coming to the Makai with me?” Kasumi asked with some surprise and disappointment.
Parelle shook her head as she stepped forward and motioned for Kasumi to walk with her, while the others stayed behind. “No, I’m afraid not, my dear. At the moment, we have a more pressing matter to attend to, which concerns your sister.”
“My sister? You mean Nabiki?”
“Actually, I was referring to your youngest sister, Akane. Something to do with a bad luck hex she is under?”
“Oh, I see!” Kasumi quickly caught on. “So not only did you come here to train me for the games, but also to help Elder Cologne undo the hex Akane, Father and Mr. Saotome are now under.”
“Indeed. It was one of the reasons why we didn’t return with Arana through the portal back to the castle. We’ve already made arrangements with Oscar to return home later. Undoing the bad luck curse shouldn’t take more than a day or two.”
“Then, maybe you and your sisters can still come with me to the Makai?” Kasumi asked hopefully. Over the course of her training, she had grown very fond of the Grimbards. They were like the grandmothers she never had. Yes they were stern and strictly disciplined when they taught her magical spells, but they were also gentle and always encouraged her to try her hardest.
“No, Young One. Even if we could, we won’t be journeying to the Other Realm with you.”
The eldest of the Grimbards let off a long, tired sigh. “It would be very nice to see you compete at the games, but due to some unwanted politics, my sisters and I try to limit our treks to Lord Belial’s kingdom. The Elder Council of Wizards has been after our backsides to join them for the last century-and-a-half.”
“Well, why don’t you accept their invitation?”
“We prefer our freedom and do not wish to be held down by all the rules and regulations of the Council. Furthermore, we don’t entirely trust all the Council members, as some may see us as a means to advance their own greedy intentions. However, there is another important matter that we must attend to, and that matter greatly involves you.”
“Indeed. I’ll get straight to the point. Throughout our long lives, Tyselli, Girella and I have received countless petitions from hundreds of aspiring novices to become our disciples. However, we have yet to find one who we have deemed worthy enough to receive the full bulk of our magical lore. What we have taught you so far were just the basics. However, we have long realized that we WON’T be around forever. “
Just as Kasumi was about to speak, the aged woman raised a hand to silence her before continuing on. “Yes, it is possible for us to concoct a spell or potion to extend our life spans further or even make ourselves immortal, but we do NOT wish for a never-ending existence. It would make the task of finding an heir completely pointless. Why bother teaching others and passing on knowledge if the teacher will never die? My sisters and I feel that we have reached our plateau in terms of magic and we cannot advance it any further. An infusion of new blood and new ideas is needed. We are considering retirement and Master Talbane feels that we have long earned it. However, before we hang up our wands, we must train a successor.”
“A successor?” Kasumi repeated, and then realized what Parelle was talking about. “You don’t mean…?”
“I do and my sisters agree. We have discussed it and we offer you the chance to be our official apprentice.”
The eldest of Soun’s children was struck dumb at the offer. It was a total shock to her. She had never seen herself as anyone special, even when studying magic; she didn’t have any aspiring dreams other than furthering her knowledge in the subject. Never in her wildest dreams did she even see herself given the chance to become the pupil of three of the greatest masters of spellcasting.
After a long stretch of silence Kasumi finally found her voice. “I… don’t know what to say. This is all so… sudden. I need time to think.”
Parelle nodded at her hesitation. “There’s no need to rush your decision, Young One. My sisters and I have waited well over three hundred and fifty years to find a proper heir. We can afford to wait until at least after the Apprenticeship Games for your reply.”
“But surely there are others who are far more qualified than myself. You told me that I’m still a novice-class magician. Compared to other beginners, I’m a late-starter at nineteen-years-old.”
“Indeed. It’s a pity that we did not find you fourteen years ago. However, your rapid progress in the magical arts proves that you have an extraordinary gift, and we would like to help you shape those talents to their fullest potential.”
The oldest of the witch trio help up her hand again. “As I have said before, we do not require an immediate answer. It would be best if you were given some time to think about it. If you do win a scholarship to a sorcery college, then we shall not hinder you. Just keep in mind that the offer still stands, even after graduation.”
The brown-haired girl nodded as they slowly walked back to the others to wrap up the training. The Tendo girl was to be given the rest of the time off in the real world before heading out to the Makai the next day.
Later at the Tendo Dojo…
“Now then Kasumi, do as I do.” Happosai instructed as he and the sorceress-to-be stood in basic stances. Their legs were spread apart with their hands held up in a kind of prayer posture.
“Yes, Grandmaster.” Kasumi replied. She was dressed in her new red training gi, with a white belt tied to her waist, and was barefoot. Tied to her hair was her new enchanted, mithril ribbon. She looked quite fetching, but the old pervert was on his best behavior, as he didn’t want to have the wrath of Grimbards upon him again.
“Begin breathing at a slow but even pace. Let your ki flow throughout your body. Now follow my movements.”
Happosai began leading his pupil through a series of exercises he had picked up from some Yoga masters and other meditative schools. He was quite impressed with the grace and precision, in which Soun’s daughter moved. He then led her through some more complex motions, which she mimicked with very little difficulty. After a few minutes, a certain someone came into the dojo.
“What’s going on here?” Akane asked as she was in her yellow training gi.
Both resumed their basic stances as her sister answered.
“Hello Akane. Grandmaster Happosai had offered to teach me some of his advanced meditation katas and techniques.”
“Advanced techniques?!” The short-tempered girl repeated in shock. “Since when were YOU interested in learning the martial arts?! You want to learn how to fight?!”
“Did she SAY she was learning how to fight?” Happosai pointed out. “And martial arts involves more than just defeating your enemy. Kasumi here has been working hard all of her life, and I offered to teach her some of my special relaxation katas to help relieve stress and strengthen her mental and spiritual focus.”
“You won’t even teach me anything, you little chauvinistic pervert!” Akane angrily stated.
“No, I said that you probably wouldn’t survive the training. In any case, this isn’t about combat; this is about exercising the mind and body in order to focus. You’re welcome to join us, if you think you can do it. Though I have to warn you, Kasumi is an absolute natural.”
That last statement irked at Akane’s pride of being the heir to the Tendo School of Anything Goes. She couldn’t let Kasumi of all people, show her up in what was supposed to be her life’s calling. She immediately copied their basic stance.
At that point, Happosai went into a very complex crane stance, with his left leg held up and stood up on his right big toe. Kasumi followed through and duplicated the form. Akane clumsily tried to do the same, but couldn’t hold the position and instantly fell flat on her face.
She furiously got back on her feet and began stomping toward the front of the door.
“Oh, this is so stupid! I don’t need to learn this!”
After she was gone, both teacher and student nodded to each other and continued to go through their motions. Their Blood Oath scars glowed slightly in unison.
“I do wish Akane would be more patient. She would have mastered these moves eventually.”
“That is most unlikely.” Happosai commented. “Though it is true that I prefer that a man to be the heir to my school, I have no objections toward females learning my art as well.” He briefly thought back to a couple of orphaned girls whom he had inspired to train hard. <Hmm, I wonder how Karumi and Natsume are doing?> He then addressed Kasumi with a more serious tone. “I don’ mean to be insulting, but as the Grandmaster, I must be frank. To be a proper student to any school of martial arts, one must have the desire and the ability. Akane lacks both.”
“What do you mean? She trains every day breaking bricks and training dummies. And she is the heir to our family’s school. So that must mean she desires to be a martial artist.”
“No, that is not what I meant. I may have my vices, but I do take my status as a martial artist quite seriously.” The old pervert corrected. “It is true I have seen your sister ‘train’ as you say, but it is not with the aim to raise her spiritual awareness or skill level. She is practically no different than a person jogging or weight-lifting to keep one’s figure or level of strength. I see neither improvement in her fighting ability nor does she further her father’s branch to my founding school. “
“Is that what you meant by having the ability?”
“Indeed. And that also ties in with the desire. She may ‘say’ she is the heir to the Tendo Anything Goes, but that is ONLY because no one else has laid claim to it. Furthermore, she is the only member in this family that practices any semblance of her father’s art at all. She does NOT seek to challenge herself and does NOTHING to improve on her current skills. As far as I know, she has never asked to learn Soun’s more advanced techniques, (though I’m not too certain how advanced they are, if he has any at all).”
Happosai let off a sigh before continuing. “As the Grandmaster, I do reserve the right to either recognize or denounce Akane’s claim to the title of heir to the Anything Goes. I fear that my school is in grave danger of dying out with me.” He then gave Kasumi a thoughtful gaze. “You know, you might be a good candidate to learn the Anything Goes as well. So why hasn’t your father trained you?”
Kasumi shook her head. “I’m afraid that I barely know the basic foundations of the Tendo Anything Goes. Father used to drill me and Nabiki when we were very young and Akane was barely able to walk at the time. My training was cut short when Mother died and I had to begin cooking and keeping house. Nabiki had to deal with the finances when Father stopped teaching other students. Whatever martial arts skills we learned have long become rusty or forgotten.”
“Judging how easily you picked up on my meditation katas and the principals of passive combat during your magical training, I’d say that your body hasn’t completely forgotten everything. And what about your sister Nabiki? I only know of you and Akane. Where is Soun’s other daughter?”
“She’s currently on a training trip with her boyfriend and his father. Last letter she sent us said she was studying in a very faraway land and she didn’t even tell me where. She only said that she’ll be back within a month or so.”
“So who are these people she’s training with?”
“Oscar and those other people work for the Talbane family. Nabiki’s boyfriend is Matthew and his father is head of the Talbane Family. His name I believe is Johnny.”
“Is that a fact?” Happosai gave her a introspective expression. “Well now, if she’s learning from them, then perhaps I might have another candidate to become my successor.”
“You are acquainted with the Talbanes?”
“Let’s just say that we go back quite a bit. Now as to you, I would say that with a bit of polishing and some refresher courses, you just might become a very competent martial artist. So how about it? My offer to train you still stands.”
“That is very kind of you, but I am currently thinking about an offer given to me by the Grimbards. They want me to become their official apprentice.”
“I see. Well then, far be it from me to stop your ascension to becoming an excellent sorceress.”
The very next day…
“WHAT?!” Soun exclaimed after Kasumi made her announcement. “You’re leaving for a week?!”
“Yes, Father.” Kasumi nodded. “I am going away for a while. I feel that I need a vacation; away from home and the family. I haven’t any real time off ever since Mother died. “
“B-But, b-but Kasumi, what about the chores and the cooking?” Soun stuttered. Though the house rules had changed in the last few days, he had been hoping that his oldest daughter would eventually give up this foolishness and things would return to the way they were.
“Oh quit your whining Tendo!” Happosai chided. “You and Genma are grown men, (relatively speaking), so you should be happy that your daughter is finally getting the time off she deserves.”
“B-But Kasumi!” Her father pleaded. “Where are you going? You can’t afford to travel anywhere!”
“Oh yes she can.” Oscar commented as he entered the living room, along with the rest of the Talbain staff. “My employer has decided to grant Miss Tendo an all-expense paid trip to the destination of her choice.” He gave the old lecher a slight wink, which Happosai caught as he understood that it was all part of the ruse.
Genma perked up as he heard the phrase ‘all expenses paid.’ “Well if that’s the case, then I don’t see why we can’t all accompany her.”
“Excellent idea, Saotome!” Soun agreed. “Akane, go and get your bags packed! We’ll all be…”
The Jusenkyo-cursed man and his friend rubbed the back of their heads after receiving a couple of sharp raps, courtesy of Happosai.
“Weren’t you listening? Kasumi is going on vacation ALONE!”
“No buts! The reason WHY she’s going on vacation is to get AWAY from her home and family! She’s pampered all of you long enough, so it’s time for her to GET some pampering! She is to be free all house responsibilities and cooking duties.”
“Indeed.” Oscar agreed. “The plane ticket and all arrangements are for one person only, and that will be for the eldest child of Soun Tendo. This is repayment for cooking for the Talbane staff before Chef Bennett had arrived. However, the current status quo will not change while Miss Tendo is enjoying her trip.”
Genma gulped a bit. “You mean…?”
“Correct. You, Mr. Tendo and Akane Tendo must still fulfill your obligations to keep up with the household chores, if you wish to partake of Chef Bennett’s fine cuisine.”
“In other words,” The Anything Goes Grandmaster said, “you’ll keep on working for your meals!”
Standing nearby, Akane grumbled. First her sister Nabiki was off traversing the world and increasing her martial arts. Now her other sister was given the chance to travel abroad. It was so unfair! How come she wasn’t given the same opportunity? She was the best martial artist in Nerima!
“So where are you going Kasumi?” Soun asked.
Before she could respond, Happosai cut in.
“None of your beeswax, Tendo! With all the time off she’s accumulated, she could go to the Moon if she wanted to!” He turned to Kasumi. “You will keep in touch, won’t you?”
“Of course, Grandmaster.”
Everyone looked over to where Genma was. He had decided to go get a snack from the fridge. However, his bad luck curse activated due to his greed of getting food without working for it, and somehow, the fridge fell forward on top of him.
The disguised Dragon Man nodded as he addressed Kasumi. “Ah yes, that reminds me. I just received a call from some experts in exorcism and curse removal. They’ll be taking care of this family’s bad luck curse. They’ll be arriving shortly.”
“Not those stupid Amazons again!” Akane exclaimed angrily. Then a ceiling tile dropped on her head. “OW! STUPID BAD LUCK CURSE”
Then several more tiles fell as Akane’s anger increased. Soun immediately went over to calm his daughter down. When her temper finally simmered down to a manageable level, he then turned back to his first child.
“Kasumi, please forget about this vacation nonsense! Stay home and let’s have things go back to the way they were!”
The brown-haired girl stood firm in her convictions, as she shook her head. “No Father, I need to go on this trip and quite frankly, this family needs to learn to take responsibility and fend for itself. I have labored without rest ever since Mother passed away, and I need to get away from home for a while. The current system of reward for work will remain.”
At this point, Soun Tendo was unwilling to accept the fact that his oldest child was now disobeying him, and lost it. Forgetting that the technique was no longer effective, he went into his biggest Demon Head ever.
“YOU WILL NOT GO!”
Kasumi sweetly smiled as she held up her right hand and snapped her fingers. A small, but concentrated burst of mana struck the Demon Head technique squarely in its center, causing it to collapse into nothingness, leaving her childish parent in stunned disbelief.
At that moment, a round of applause was heard as they all looked toward the entrance to the living room to see three old women clapping their hands.
Parelle stood forward and smiled. “Excellent. You have learned to control your magic well Kasumi Tendo. That was a very nice life energy dispersion spell.”
“Who are you?!” Akane asked angrily.
“Forgive our momentary lack of proper manners. I am Parelle, and these my sisters, Girella and Tyselli. We are the Grimbard Sisters, and we come to remove the bad luck hex you had inflicted upon yourself, your father and Genma Saotome.”
Later that morning, after saying her goodbyes to her family, Kasumi left for Henry the Halfling’s Magic Shop, making certain that Soun, Genma and Akane did not follow her. In the end, she didn’t have to bother with casting any spells to lose her pursuers. Akane’s fiancé ‘Ranma’ had joined their group and had gotten them lost halfway.
“Where are we?!” The youngest Tendo asked.
‘Ranma’ looked about as he scratched the back of his head. “That’s funny. I could have SWORN we were following your sister towards the East.”
Soun and Genma took a double-take as to where the sun was positioned. Since it was still near the early morning, they could see the direction in which the sun rose. Then they slapped their foreheads in disgust as they were facing the wrong direction. What was even more discouraging was the fact that they were in a city with a few signs with the name Osaka on them.
Akane reacted in her normal manner.
“RANMA NO BAKA!”
She watched with satisfaction as ‘Ranma’ disappeared into LEO, and then realized that she and her family were still lost.
Back at Henry’s store…
“Well Lass, are you ready for a journey of a lifetime?” Henry asked.
Kasumi nodded. “I’m ready, though I really didn’t like lying to my family.”
“Tut, tut Lass. You didn’t lie to them. You simply told them a variation of the truth. It is a fact that you will be taking a vacation from your housework duties. It’s just that you will also be taking part in the most important competition of your sorcery career. And it’s not like you CAN tell them where you are going.” He pointed to her Blood Oath scar.
Kasumi nodded again as she hefted her shoulder bag where she kept her magical stores of herbs, chemicals and ingredients, as well as portable laboratory equipment. Using a shrinking spell, she had also packed a week’s worth of clothing, some food and other essentials. Though she had a lifetime pass for food and lodgings at Ala Maron, she believed in always being prepared.
She was dressed in her sorceress outfit and took a deep breath as a magical portal began to appear before her in the establishment’s storeroom. The Halfling glanced down at his watch on his right wrist.
“Mmm-hmm! Right on time!”
As the magical gateway became large enough to allow an elephant to go through, a figure came through it. The being was tall and thin, with a bird’s head and red-feathered arms. He was dressed in a red tunic with short sleeves and black leggings. He had no footwear, but had birdlike, taloned feet. Behind him was a group of gnomes, carrying several crates.
“Hello Henry.” The bird man said in a high-pitched voice. “Here’s this month’s shipment from Ala Maron.” He noticed that both the Halfling and another person were toting travel bags. “Are you going somewhere?”
The store owner nodded as he gestured to Kasumi. “I’ll be escorting this fine sorceress-in-training to the Apprenticeship Games.” He then turned to the person in question. “Kasumi, this is my good friend and supplier, Windrem. He’s from the Crimson Bird Clan.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Windrem bowed to her. “So you’re going to the games, eh? My daughter is also taking part. Perhaps you’ll meet with her.” He turned back to Henry. “Now about this month’s shipment…?”
“You can discuss all the details and payment with my head Elf Keena. I’ll be back in a week.” Henry remarked as he addressed Kasumi again. “Ready to go, Lass?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be.” Soun’s daughter said.
The pair then made their way through the portal, just as the last of the shipment was brought in. Then the circle of light faded away, leaving no trace of Kasumi Tendo.
To be continued…
As of now, the Beast Within storyline will be taking a small hiatus as I begin writing the side story to Kasumi’s trip to the Ala Maron. The new story will be called Kasumi Mahō Minarai Teiruzu (Kasumi Magic Apprentice Tales). Don’t worry; we’ll be having appearances from the Beast Within cast as well, so I haven’t forgotten about them. Starting next week or so, we’ll be following the adventures of Kasumi Tendo in the Makai.