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       Chapter 6
Unfathomable Power

       "He/she does look badass in that outfit," the newly paired Guardians thought together.


       They walked in unison down a brick-laid road behind the academy. A quiet road surrounded by sprung trees, long scapes of grass, and the chirping of birds in the distance. Several students casually passed them by as they headed to their meeting point. Their new look caught the eyes of the other uncomfortably as they snuck peeks at each other. Their caught glances stretched the time of their stroll from embarrassment. 


       She decided to cut her hair. It makes sense. Her hair used to almost touch the floor and would have gotten in the way while fighting. Probably why she dropped it to her shoulders.


       Why didn’t he cut that hair of his? It’s so unruly. Like an unkindness of ravens down his back. I wonder if he even brushed it? Probably not. It’s too long to do anything with it besides letting it hang down loosely like that.


       She does have pretty eyes. It was the first thing I noticed when we met. An unusual shade of green. Almost neon-like. But why are theis the tips of her pink hair the same color? A fashion statement?


       I didn’t know he was taller than me. An inch maybe, now that we're side by side. I guess he’s hitting puberty. About seventy inches I would say. I wonder how much taller he will get?.


       She has a hooded cloak. I wonder if I should have done the same thing?. No, I already think it’s flashy as it is. But on her….

       Did they cut the sleeves on his cloak with a machete? The ends are so frayed and uneven. Should I point it out? On second thought, it kinda fits him, strangely. It does guess it compliment his arms, I guess. He must have done physical labor before he came here. He said he was from a mining village. Did he work as well?


       Goosebumps developed on his body as he felt the female eyes of his partner examining his body. A jolt of imagined electricity ran up his back secretly enjoying the attention. Doing his best to sneak another peek at her.


       I don’t know if she thought through her color scheme well enough. Even though her uniform suggests blending in the night, with its dark colors, she went with a bright stitching color. Wouldn’t that take away its overall effectiveness in the dark of night? Maybe it’s too small to see it? But the entire inside of her cloak is that same shade. Is it her favorite color or something?


       Armored blue gauntlets. Does he plan on fighting hand-to-hand to support me in battle? Maybe to help reduce damage taken if he got hit?


       That one-piece suit really does emphasize her body. His eyes ogled longer than they should have. Not being missed by a brighten-faced Kana. I mean build. It emphasizes her build. It’s simple but very efficient in fighting. Even with the minute armor over the major exposed areas, they’re scaled to keep the full range of mobility.


       Shitabaki-styled pants tucked into standard-issued 10-inch Guardian combat boots. A tight shoulder cut shirt tucked in. What's with him and sleeves? All in all, it looks like he went for full practicality in the field.




       “Man, where is this training field?” Kenichi sighed, finally tired of the silence. “We're so far away from the school. We’ve been heading in this direction for a while now.” 


       No more were there stretches of grass on the ground. In its place were endless miles of brown crusty topsoil. The many trees they were surrounded by now stood sparsely in the area. No more students talking about their day as they interacted with others. Just pattered steps as they continued.


       “Ya, I know. Doesn’t even look like we are on school grounds anymore.”


       “No,; just looks like a barren wasteland here. Nothing but a few trees and boulders here and there. Hey, with so much going on these past few days, I don’t know if I had a chance to properly introduce myself to you. I’m Kenichi Solveri.”


       “Solveri. Like the political powerhouse family Solveri?”


       “One and the same. I’m sure you remember from yesterday; I’m only adopted into the family.”


       “Wow, I bet you had a pretty nice life growing up with them, huh? If I remember, the guy you were with, you called him your best friend and brother. Is he also in the Solveri family?”


       “Yes, he’s the youngest of the main family. He and I are roughly the same age, so naturally, we grew close to each other.”


       “Strange. Why would y’all want to become Guardians in the first place? A family like that, I’m sure your lives would have been spoon-fed to you two.”


       Kenichi took a moment to think. Rubbing his chin out of habit. His long unbroken gaze afforded Kana a few quicker peeks.


       “My dreams aren’t as noble as Akito's. He wants to forge his own path outside of family politics. Our older brother and sister are already prominent figureheads in their respective fields poised to take over after our parents retire. He wants to increase the family's prestige by exploring new lands. Finding the ‘next big mineral’ as he says, in those lands to trade. Being a Guardian provides a means to travel to those lands and safely.


       “I see. So why are you here?”




       The beeping of their GPS locators alerted them to their final destination.


       “Looks like we’re not the only ones here,.” Kana interrupted. 


       “There’s another team already here. Do you think we will be working with them?”


       “I don’t know. Maybe.”


       They stopped a distance away, peering in the direction of the unknown pair ahead of them.


       “But I thought we would be training against the ASTERs we saw at orientation? Do you think we should greet them?”


       “Let’s just wait at that tree for our instructor for now. Maybe they’re only here because they’re meeting with someone else.” Kana replied, making her way under the tree.




       Both teams sat away from each other waiting for their respected instructors to arrive. Time dragged on in the merciless quiet as the appointed time finally came.


       “Ahh, I see both teams have made it here and on time, I might add,” a deep voice introduced.


       Both teams looked towards the familiar voice of Kiyoshi walking up behind them.


       “Good, good; at least it looks like I got recrui–ahem, I mean students,” Kiyoshi corrected, “this year that know how to read a clock.”


       The two teams convened in front ofushered to Kiyoshi.


       So they were waiting for him as well, the new Guardians thought.


       “So let’s get down to the mission at hand. I am Kiyoshi Fuktaru, as you know. What you don’t know is that from here out I will be your instructor at SMA. As your instructor, you will look upon me as your father, your mother, your principal, and your leader.”


       “For all senses and purposes, I am everything you need during your time here. Your training, orders, missions, progress checks, and everything you do at this academy will be under my direct guidance and order.”


       Kenichi felt a cold sweat run down his back, staring at his new teacher. The touch of fear he had when Kiyoshi spoke at orientation wrapped itself around him again.


       Of all the instructors they should have at this school we get stuck with the scariest one! Just calm down. Don’t be the only one here that appears scared. Kenichi thought, wiping his palms against his pants.


       Can he calm down already? Kana thought. I can hear his heart pounding from here.


       Kenichi peered at his partner. How is she so calm? Does she not fear him as I do? And those other two. Kenichi turned in their direction. They don’t seem nervous at all. Is it just me? Calm down. All he’s doing is talking. This is a new chapter in your life. It’s time to step up and be the new you.


       “Sato Kumari!”




       Kikimori Chibansou!”


       “Yes, sir”


       “You will be designated as Team Three Alpha. Call sign Gaia. Kana Miyamoto. Kenichi Solveri!”






       “You are designated Team Three Beta. Call sign Uranus,” Kiyoshi informed. “Yes, Mrs. Miyamoto?” He called, upon seeing her hand raised.


       “What exactly is the call sign for?”


       “We are a special unit within SMA. For now, the official function of our unit is classified, even from me. But the purpose of our training is primarily to get your Shakti at the level of team Gaia.”


       So we can’t even be trusted with what we are going to be doing in the future. Kenichi couldn’t help but feel slighted by that statement. Even if he didn’t say it.


       “Team Uranus, you are already a year behind team Gaia in terms of your basic training. So you will train against them as a way to gauge where you are currently and where you are expected to be in an equivalent time.”


       So they have a year of training already. I wonder just how strong they got. It would seem she and I are already at a big disadvantage. But how far exactly? Kenichi did his best to stare sideways at Team Gaia, to not get caught.


       “With that being said, we have ways to accelerate your training in order to catch up to your counterpart in a shorter time. Although nothing we do will have any meaning if you don’t take your training seriously. Follow through with every last ounce of determination within your being at everything we do.”


       “Umm, Mr. Fuktaru?” Kana asked with her hand again raised.


       “For future reference, you will refer to me as sensei or master. But go ahead, Mrs. Miyamoto.”


       “What exactly makes a Guardian different from a normal civilian? So far, I haven’t noticed anything that would allow me to fight any differently than what I would have been able to do before the ritual.”


       An astute observation from her. Kiyoshi stared at Kana calling upon the information he read about his new student.


       From her records, she is from farming land west of here. Lahar Village if memory serves. Fifteen years old. Preliminary test attributes her with a fire affinity. Also with an interesting illusionary projection ability. The physically strongest recruit we’ve had since the program's inception, physically-speaking. Razor-sharp reflexes. With proper training, she will be very dangerous on the battlefield.


       “A very good question, Mrs. Miyamoto. In time, your training will unlock the potential you possess being newly awakened. How about instead of trying to explain the differences, I provide you an example of what you are now? Will that suffice?”


       “Yes, Mr. Kiyo–I mean, sensei,” Kana replied.


       “Alright, follow me, teams,” Kiyoshi invitedspoke, spinning in their new direction and walking off.



      Both teams emulated Mr. Kiyoshi. Following at their own pace behind him. One team, was more excited than the other, finally getting an answer to what they both wanted to know.


       “Hey, where do you think he’s taking us?” Kenichi asked. No longer able to stand the long silence.


       “I don’t know. I can only presume it’s somewhere to show off this fancy power.”


       “Since you brought it up, I also haven’t noticed any changes to my body or anything. In all honesty, I feel drained more so than I usually do.”


       “Ya, same here,” Kana said, rubbing her chin in thought. “Maybe we haven’t fully recovered or something from the Awakening ritual. But still, I don’t see how we can fight on par with demons or monsters of any kind even with three years of training. Shhh, we’re stopping.”


       I wasn’t even the one talking. He thought, stopping behind her.


       The group arrived in the middle of a device embedded in the ground. Mr. Kiyoshi's posture didn’t change as he stared down at the device.


       Kenichi crouched to examine the strange object. I wonder what this is here for? It’s very unusual, nothing I’ve seen before during my travels.


       The raven-haired Guardian placed his hands down. Running his fingers along its rough cool surface. It’s not mechanical. Made of some kind of stone.


       He straightened as his eyes examined the entirety of its surface. About a twenty-meter diameter with markings carved along its circular borders. Broken into seven rings going about a third of the way to its solid center. With those same strange markings on each ring.


       Looking in his partner’s direction, he knew she was trying to figure out the same. “Hey, you’ve seen markings like these before?” Kenichi asked.


       “No, I haven’t. They don’t look like ancient text or anything. Maybe an incantation? Since you're from a mining family, have you ever seen a stone like this?”


       “Can’t say that I’ve had. From its dark silver appearance, it would suggest it’s made from a type of Amari or Zalight stone. But those are much softer. This stone feels as hard as carbon steel. I’ve never seen a rock made of this mineral before in this land.”


       “Why do you think they have a giant boulder sitting on it?” Kana asked, unable to ignore the large ridiculous elephant. 


       Mr. Kiyoshi rotated, crossing his arms behind his back. Both teams straightened now that his gaze had settledwas on them. 


  “This is known as a Transportation Operating Point. T.O.P. for shorthand. These devices come before our understanding of modern world history.”


       Team Uranus' shocked look did not escape Kiyoshi’s eyes.


       But our history dates back thousands of years. It's that old? It’s in such great shape; as if it was cut from its rock today! Kenichi thought.


       “These date back older than any textbook we have on ancient history. Over the millennium, scientists have uncovered a few of the secrets surrounding this device. There are exactly thirty-four of these T.O.P.s around the land of Souchiban. They allow Guardians to travel to any accessible T.O.P.s located throughout the region instantaneously. This one is designated T.O.P. three.”


       “Wow, who knew something this amazing existed? How come I’ve never heard about something like this?” he muttered. Wait. “Sensei!” Kenichi's hand had shotwas up, ready to have his burning question answered.


       Kenichi Solveri. Age 15. Adopted child of Thomas and Martha Solveri. Never thought I would see someone whose family controls the mining Providence of Tudigong as a student here. He was a person of interest due to his abrupt adoption into the Solveri’s; a family who has never talked about adoption in public. Plus already have three children of their own. He was an orphan, but not registered in the Cathedral’s database. Yet somehow, with no parents reported missing or killed, this child ended up in one of the most influential families here. 


       Kiyoshi eyed the long-haired guardian, examining his features.


       He is the support partner of Kana Miyamoto. His test revealed a small anomaly. He has a water affinity yet it was so low it barely registered on the test. Shakti-type is gravity manipulation and enhancement. Above average strength. A true unpolished gem if I’ve ever seen one.


       “Ugh, Kiyoshi palmed his head, watching the boy’s increased efforts to get his attention.


       Put your hand down Mr. Solveri. Listen up! We are not in grade school nor are we an official military outfit. If you have a question, just ask it. You don't need permission. If you have any questions, no matter what they are, just ask. The only thing you stand to lose by not asking is your chance to become smarter and stronger in the field.”


       “Sorry, Master. But I was wondering if there is something this convenient for travel, how come it's only limited to Guardians? This would increase the production and manufacturing of just about anything that requires raw resources or food goods to be transported. It would also cut the cost for those said transportations almost completely. I feel like keeping something this critical, in the speed of travel over such a large region, for only the Guardians is a very selfish act.”


       He may not be a Solveri by blood, but there is no doubt that their political nature has rubbed off on him. Kiyoshi allowed a small grin to slip on his face.


       “I presume with your family's beliefs of the world that would be a very selfish thing indeed. But these T.O.P.s. have limitations on them. Anything that is not a living breathing organism, that can control Shakti, can not use these logistical points. Inside the dimensional space between T.O.P.s, anything that's not protected by Shakti is unable to withstand the forces placed upon them, destroying said object.”


       “But!” Kenichi tried interrupting.


       Kiyoshi’s hand went up. “I already know what you're gonna say.” Placing his hand back behind him, his grin grew. He has a sharp mind. Though I’m sure a basic solution he made in his head, he thought of it instantly. A good strategic mind to have in combat. Man, did I hit the jackpot for students this year. I have the brain and brawn team right here. I wonder just how well they will match up to team Giai after a few months of training. No, even with a year of dedicated training for them, they wouldn’t stand a chance against a Prime.


       “Ummm, master?”


       “Ah, yes, you were wondering why we haven’t created some sort of device to use Shakti to protect the object.


       Their teacher approachedwalked towards the first of the inner rings and knelt downeling by it. “In order to use these T.O.P.s you need to complete a few steps first. The first thing you need is the frequency at which these T.O.P.s operate. 


       He reached down, tracing with his finger one of the symbols. “I’m sure you two noticed these markings on each ring.


       The new pair nodded. Both give their undivided attention.


       Kiyoshi raised back off the ground facing his students. “Each of the rings is embedded with specific frequency runes. Depending on how these rings spin, you can match the frequency to a specific T.O.P..”


       “So, how do you move the rings, sensei? I don’t see any way to manually move them.” Kana asked curiously. Her eyes analyzing anyway to spin them.


       “In order to spin the rings, one must pour enough Shakti into the device. But the amount of Shakti needed to move the rings is astounding. Not only do you need to power the device itself, but enough control of your Shakti to keep yourself and your partner protected.”


       “Protected?” Kenichi muttered.


       “T.O.P.s can only be influenced by one user at a time. So for you and your partner to cross safely, the one who should operate the device must have sufficient Shakti amounts and control. This means by the time you use the T.O.P., anyone not level three or higher will be almost drained of their Shakti, unable to move for about seventy-two hours; until they recover.”


       A subtle frown made its way to the face of Kana. Her short-lived hope whisked away. So that throws these things out for any type of real escape plan. This would have been a good way to leave after I found it. Unless… Her eyes found Kenichi beside her.  I can use him to teleport, and then kill him and make my escape. Kill him… Her green eyes drifted to his face. Why does that sound so … Her hand gripped her chest. A twinge of pain pestered inside.


       “There are only three T.O.P.s located in any populated city of Souchiban. Area three is located here in the capital. Area sixteen is located in Valence City and area twenty-nine is in Sipher City. Every other designated logistical point is located in a military hostile territory. Does that answer your question?” He asked, directing his attention back to Kenichi.


       Kenichi, though defeated, didn’t stop from future planning. “Yes, master.”


       “Also, civilians don't possess the necessary Shakti to move one ring. Not a thousand or ten thousand. Let alone all seven for a sustained amount of time. And this academy does not have the numbers to afford losing multiple Guardias for three days for material travel.”


       Kenichi wore the flag of defeat on his face. That last bit of info hurt.


       I guess sensei broke whatever genius idea he was creating. So he even thinks of trying to help civilians even now. He does seem like that type. Kana's brashness overtook her reasoning. Intently staring at Kenichi. A hero who would help anyone in need. To find hope in.


       “With everyone’s questions out of the way, we will now use this device to go to Area four,” Kiyoshi informed.spoke matter-of-factly.


       “Wait, master, is this not the place we are going to be training at?” Kenichi questioned.


       “No. Although we will use this current area to build you up gradually, you will reach a point when it’s no longer safe to train here. Also, you will need to hone your skills in actual combat against real monsters and demons. Area four is located in an area northwest of here. Inhabited by lower-level monsters that we use for actual combat practice. Allowing you to exercise your growing power and build field experience as partners. Of all the T.O.P.s in this region, this is the most suitable for combat training while allowing me to ensure your safety. That is until you can move as a team on your own.”


       She felt it. Kana recognized this feeling all too well. Radiating off him without pause. He’s afraid. Why? 


       This beating of my heart– it’s so loud. Am I … scared? But why? Master is here for our protection. So why are my hairs standing on end? Kenichi fretighted. 


       “Now gather around.”


       Everyone huddled towards Mr. Kiyoshi. Each standing close to their respective partner.


       A few moments passed with neither any sound nor motion.but nothing happened.


       I wonder what he’s doing. He’s just standing there with his eyes closed. Kenichi then felt its presence. Such violent energy! It’s master’s Shakti. And it’s growing. I can see it. Just barely though. Like a sky-blue flame wisping off him. Huh? I can see it on the others too. So this is what it’s like. The power needed to protect us.


       In an instant, they were surrounded by an unknown forest. Dense trees were too high to see the canopy surrounding the area they were currently standing in. No longer surrounded by the silence of empty desert terrain. But now the subtle sounds of the woods. A misty view filled with the unknown threat of danger lay throughout.


       “This must be Area four. But something seems a little … off. Where did that big boulder go?” Looking around, Kenichi's jaw dropped at what he saw. Or rather, Is that smoldering pile of ash on the floor the boulder from earlier? Master wasn't kidding. If it turned that boulder into this then transporting goods is out of the question.


       “This is T.O.P. four. Please follow me and stay close. Do not wander off. And do not touch anything you do not know,” Kiyoshi walked ahead of the group as they followed.



       After forty minutes of walking through the wooded terrain, a clearing revealedopened up to a wide river flowing followed by some mountain ranges in the far distance. It was clear that this area was used as a campsite. An empty fire pit for warmth and cooking and three tents already pitched. A few kitchen plates and pans were stacked on some rocks to the side of the fire pit. 


       “Kana Miyamoto. You asked what makes a guardian different from normal civilians. Right now, for all intents and purposes, you are no different than a regular civilian. What and who you were before coming to this academy is exactly what you currently still are. The Awakening ritual is just that. An awakening. Hard work and training are when you truly come into your own as a Guardian and the power you will eventually wield.


       Kiyoshi took a seat on one of the rocks surrounding the burnt fire pit. The group following his lead sat on the others.


       “Now as to what makes us different from civilians? There are plenty of philosophical morality-based answers for that, all of which you will find out in time. But as for the direct answer as to how you will fight in the future,” he turned his attention to the senior pair, “Kikimori, would you please demonstrate to me the progress you’ve made over the last year?”


       “Yes, Master Kiyoshi,” Kikimori rose from where she sat and. She sauntered away from the group, arriving at the edge of the river.


       She stood quietly at the bank seemingly staring into the distance. Everyone watchedlooking at her closely, each still with anticipationeager to see whatever display of power she was about to exhibit. Everyone having their thoughts on the situation.


       Maybe this will jumpstart my students in their training.


       Watch and learn green horns


       What is she gonna do? Some kind of fighting technique or something?


       She doesn’t look that impressive to me. I bet I could easily take her in a fight.


       As they stared, the same dense aura of Shakti slowly surrounded her body.


       It’s different from sensei’s Shakti. His, though violent, felt light and smooth. Hers seems erratic and deadly. Its color is different too. A dark purple hue. But man does it feel deadly. It’s giving me goosebumps. Kana thought.


       The Shakti grew brighter and stronger with each passing moment. Soon she was nothing more than a glowing purple silhouette. Then just as quickly as it enveloped her, the Shakti broke like shattered glass. revealing what was underneath.


       “Wow! She looks fucking cool as hell!” Kenichi beamed in awe at the person now in front of them. “Is that her Guardian form?” He asked aloud.


       “Yes, Kenichi,” Kiyoshi replied, walking between the new students. “A unique form we all possess. What you are witnessing now is the complete form of her armor. She calls it Freya.”


       It was like a custom-made suit of armor and clothing that dressed her body. Sharp and menacing armor-like dragon skin on her body. Purple in color, that radiated with small arcs of lightning. Gauntlets covered her forearms to her elbow. A unique pair of heels continued to the top of her knee. And a horned crown headpiece graced the top of her.


       Okay, I take that back. She looks like a freaking monster right now. Her eyes winced. Where is this heat coming from? Her? No, not her. It’s coming from that object in her hand. What is it? It looks like some freaky-shaped spear. How can she even hold that thing? The heat from even here is unbearable. And why the hell is he staring at her like that? Kana thought, glaring at her partner’s gawked expression.


       “It’s called Gungnir. That spear in her hand. That is the evolved form of her Shirai Ken,” Kiyoshi remarked proudly.


       “How is she able to hold it? Its heat is ridiculous. Even from here,” she asked, shielding her face from the waves of heat Gungnir gave off.


       Kiyoshi continued to stare proudly at his powerful student as she built her Shakti up to a greater height than he last saw.


       Not receiving an answer to her question, Kana looked back at the spectacle she was witnessing. Catching her gazing partner’s shameless gazeface in the process.


       “You might want to get your jaw off the ground.” she snarked. Although I must admit she does look pretty cool. Scary as hell, but cool.


       Kikimori's eyes opened. A smirk grew on her lips as she internally examined her growth over the last few months. I’ve gotten a lot stronger. Even more so than I realized.


       She then began to move. Spinning Gungnir around her body as she moved gracefully between the trail of lightning arcs her spear carved in the air. Her wide swings moved faster as the arcs of lightning grew.


       “She’s so fast. I can’t see what she’s doing.” Kenichi mutters.


       Suddenly she stopped. Facing across the lake. No one moved as they observed her intently. She pulled back on her spear.


       “Kami no Sabaki!” she exclaimed, as she launchedLaunching Gungnir over the river as she yelled those words. Across the wide flowing river, on its way to quickly disappearing in the distance.


       Within a few moments, Kenichi and Kana's eyes widened in disbelief as what looked like the sky itself struck the mountain. An explosion large enough to see from miles away erupted off its surface. Rubble and debris flew everywhere as the echo of its power reached the ears of everyone standing.


       As the smoke whisked itself away with the wind, they saw the massive crater left behind from her attack. Even at such a distance, they bore witness to their power. The difference between them and a true Guardian.


       What was that!? There’s no way. Kenichi couldn’t remove his eyes off the back of Kikimori. That spear she threw caused that giant crater? The mountain range was so far away. Not only did she reach it when she javelinnedchucked Gungnir, but it caused so much damage.


       As the new pair stood in awe, a sudden backlash of wind assaulted their area.


       So strong! Kana knelt trying to keep steady as the storm of wave pressure threatened to blow her away. “Kenichi!” Kana's arm reached out, grabbing her partner who could no longer keep his footing and almost flew past her. “Got you.” Huh? Why did I just grab him? Was I concerned for his safety? No that can’t be it. I barely know him. What's wrong with me today?


       The winds finally halted as the two junior members gained their bearings after experiencing something they thought impossible.


       “This, Kana, is the difference between fighting a monster as a civil vs as a Guardian. This power is what will help you in battle. Learn to control and find the power that has been awakened inside you, and fertilize it with discipline and training.”


       Kiyoshi continued explaining the varying aspects of a Guardian, while someone still stood at the river bank. A mix of disappointment and anger etched on her face. She turned around and strolled back to them. Her labored breathing and dripping sweat were still present.


      Tch, I still can’t blow a hole through it. I put all my power into that attack to impress the newbies, but I still couldn't blow through it. Look at them all fascinated by that. I would be laughed at by such an attack in the field. Tch, What do they know! Kikimori stewed on the rock she sat on. Contemplating on how to get stronger.

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