On The Revolution of Heavenly Spears: Part One
The Techo Master welcomed Ryshu with his usual nod.
Normally, after Ryshu the Nimmo entered the school’s wooden doors half an hour before the official opening time, he would meditate privately in the tranquillity of dawn, closing his eyes and slowly taking in the fresh breezes that rolled in through the window, pausing every so often to change his current position. As an instructor, this was something expected of him; appreciating silence, after all, did help boost one’s endurance. And then the young students, most of them taking care to arrive on the dot, would walk into the room in groups of two and three, eager for what the day would bring them. Even though, rather cleverly, Ryshu always fulfilled their expectations by giving them something unexpected. Yet no matter how abruptly or smoothly the training sessions might end, there were always reasons for everything he planned. Ryshu never discussed these out loud, so it was up to the brightest of students to understand his motives.
Today, however, the Techo Master stopped Ryshu before he could even enter his chambers and plan the day’s programmes. “Come here, quickly,” he whispered, urging Ryshu along with unusual force. Shocked, Ryshu stared. But the Techo Master did not look him in the eye, much less clarified his rapidly expanding doubts.
Just like that, Ryshu knew something was wrong; the generally unfazed Techo Master would never have broken the flow of events at this time of day. No, never with such an anxious, unnatural manner. But why? What had happened? As they walked to the hardly-used room with concrete, eavesdropping-proof walls, their clattering footsteps breaking the eerie silence, dread started forming in the pit of Ryshu’s stomach as he tried unsuccessfully to recall the rare days when a similar event had occurred: a few years back, when some dark creature had struck without warning, when the Draik Warrior – Ryshu could not remember his name – had sent an S.O.S signal for their help, when… when… He felt giddy, though not with excitement or even nervousness, but with deep, unspeakable fear.
Whatever happened now was not something Ryshu wanted to find out.***
The Techo Master took his meditating position in the center of the room and motioned for Ryshu to do the same in front of him.
Still not meeting Ryshu’s scrutinising gaze, he said, “I will not beat about the bush. Reports about a strange occurrence in Krawk Island suggest that Captain Scarblade, the evil pirate, is up to something. Even Captain Threelegs, my long-time rival whom I have contacted in hopes of getting more information, knows nothing about this. Nothing useful to me, at least.”
The silence that followed did not help ease Ryshu’s rising sense of panic in the least. He knew that the Master wanted him to ponder over the words and say something in response, but his own emotions were getting to the better of him. He kept quiet and still as a statue.
The Techo Master continued gravely. “I sense that this incident has much more to it than meets the eye. As you probably know, Captain Scarblade has not struck since the attack on Maraqua, which was a very, very long time ago. He may be planning something on a much larger scale, and of course, we cannot just let all our students investigate. That would be too obvious, and blow our cover with just the slightest slip from any of our members.”
Finally finding himself able to move, Ryshu nodded slightly. Uncertainly.
“As such, only one of us, with enhanced training, will go on this journey alone. You.”
“Me? But why me?” Ryshu burst out, with wide eyes. His heart was thumping rapidly now, and his breaths came quickly.
It was only at this moment that the Techo Master met his gaze, with an expression bright as day. One Ryshu would never forget, not even in the periods of hardship he would soon face.
“Ryshu, we both know that you have been my best student in this school since the day you arrived. Only you, and you alone, have the dexterity and the passion to undergo the intensive training I am about to offer you, let alone the mission itself. That is, of course, if you get that far.”
Ryshu was hardly listening. His head was still spinning from the Master’s words. Yet even in this blur-headed state he caught the sudden glint in the Techo Master’s eyes.
“Let me be honest with you, Ryshu. I will not be kind to you. Not over the course of the next few days. You’ll see. I do not wish to become your enemy, but after this period you may wish to be mine.”
The Master’s expression softened, though just barely. “Still, I believe it will be nothing less than you can handle. I have full confidence in your abilities.”
“But what about you?” Ryshu finally managed, in between deep breaths. But deep in his mind, he already knew the response he would receive: that the Master had to stay behind to run the school and keep everything normal. If it had been a less urgent moment, he might have marvelled at his unusually quick thinking, especially when facing such strong adversity.
Alas, it might as well have been a nightmare.
Indeed, as if reading his mind, the Techo Master smiled as he got up, pausing only when he reached the door. “I think you know the answer to that.”
And in his place, returning Ryshu’s bemused stare with a cool gaze, was the Shadow Usul.***
Ryshu’s heart stopped for an instant. An instant only. But still an instant.
The Shadow Usul laughed. “I sense your fear. That is never a good thing.”
The Nimmo did not hesitate a moment longer, stretching his arms as he prepared to fight. “Why are you here, and what have you done to the Master?” he positively growled, suddenly remembering that the Shadow Usul was the criminal who had caused him trouble once in the dead of night, the one he had been trying to recall back then. Anger in the form of strength grew in his chest.
He expected the Usul to start her onslaught of attacks at any time. Instead, he got a response.
“Relax. I have been tasked by your Master to train you as much as possible with my element, which as you know, is darkness.”
Ryshu’s ears perked up in surprise, though he kept his eyes narrowed in distasteful distrust.
The Usul continued, ignoring Ryshu’s glare. “He also mentioned something about inviting Neopians of different elements to expose you to as many attack forms as possible.” She shrugged. “Whatever. If he hadn’t helped me get something I needed, I would never have agreed to this.”
Ryshu could tell, however, she was speaking the truth, and slowly put down his arms, which were at that time ready for combat. He pondered over her words privately.
Strange that the Master would consider requesting more teachers for me, when I believe he could teach me himself… Guess he’s really serious about – OW!
A sudden kick from behind knocked the breath out of Ryshu. Even without turning around, he knew the Usul had appeared somewhere in the shadows behind him and cunningly made the first strike. He silently chided himself for trusting his opponent a little too much, even if it was, technically speaking, the polite thing to do. The Usul gave voice to his thoughts, not smugly altogether though it was clear that she was relishing the moment.
“Lesson number one. Never let your guard down.”
He took a deep breath, readying himself for a possible attack as the Master had taught him a long time ago. His timing was so perfect that when it came, he might as well have foreseen it. Ryshu caught the Usul’s paws firmly and gracefully reflected the damage back to the Usul, who took it in surprise.
“Good. You’re learning. Lesson number two…”
Ryshu stared as his opponent appeared to vanish into the ground. He looked around in confusion, never noticing the shape of a Usul swim past him. In his defence, though, it was late afternoon and hence quite dark in that room.
So it was that for the second time that day, he was attacked without his full awareness. Ryshu fell, landing at a spot about a metre away from where the grinning Usul stood.
“…blend into the darkness.”***
A full day of battles with the Usul had finally concluded, and though defeated in many mini-matches, Ryshu had to admit that it had been a valuable learning experience. As he did many times in the Battledome, he shook hands solemnly with his opponent, who, though admittedly grudging, was also thankful for having trained with him.
But there was yet another surprise awaiting Ryshu.
Just before the Usul vanished, she caught herself. “Oh! I almost forgot. I’m supposed to provide you with something manifested from the realms of darkness. ” With that, she handed the Nimmo a shield.
The legendary Shadow Shield.
“Don’t lose it, or you’ll be haunted by me for the rest of your life,” she threatened good-naturedly, winking as she took her leave. “Keep the might and the night in you.” He watched her blend into the shadows as easily as if it were a pool of water.
It just so happened that at that moment, the last student at the Training School had finished his courses, closing the door a little too forcefully than he/she had intended. Perhaps he/she was eager to return home after a tiring day, as Ryshu was.
The gust of wind breezed into the room Ryshu was in, albeit slowly fading away, as if it were whispering a dreadfully important secret of the distant future.
To be continued…