• It was late in the evening, almost morning and I was exhausted. I had long expended my energy on this training exercise, but the one who taught me tonight would not let it end until he felt I had learned something.
    "Jon, seriously, this is ridiculous," I said, breathlessly. "How could I have learned nothing? We have been here since dawn training and sparring."
    "I will admit, you have learned something---"
    "Good! So let's go!"
    I started to walk off.
    "But," he began again, annoyed. I stopped to listen, my back still turned to him. "You have not learned what I intended to teach you. So we are not finished here."
    I sighed and turned back around to stare at him, more annoyed than he sounded. Jon was a long-time friend, one who had been there for me since long before this accused war had begun, a war for the survival of humanity. Somehow, I felt it was my fault, even when everyone else claimed it was not. He was pale, paler that he used to be before we met, though I am sure he was quite satisfied with his current skin tone. His long black hair was tied back so his face, lean, but stern and muscular, could not be bothered by it. His blue eyes, which were as clear as the Key West Sea used to be, looked back at me with slight annoyance and the same sternness that was reflected by the way his lips tilted into a slight frown. His clothes were too dark to see if he had even broken a sweat all day, and his demeanor was otherwise calm, leading me to believe he had been putting little effort into the match. I sighed again.
    "Fine," a groaned, walking back to take my original position directly in front of him. I looked around the room briefly, studying its familiar structure and interior. A training room, one we had built, or I should say I had built, along with the rest of the small underground haven our group lived in, guarding us from the hell that now existed on the surface world we once called Earth. The open field that surrounded our new home had once been green and alive, the grass and trees shimmering brightly under the clear blue sky and bright sunlight. Now it was nothing more than a barren wasteland, the blue sky replace by one of a stark blood-colored crimson and the sun by a dark star that seemed to bleed its darkness upon the earth and hiding the warmth of the sun.
    We had found this spot shortly after the war had begun, shortly after my powers were unveiled, which had begun roughly around the same time, leading me to believe I was the catalyst that sent the world spiraling into darkness. It had been nothing more than a mound of dirt until my alchemy had transformed it into our underground stone haven, carving out many room sturdy and big enough for any survivors we may find along the way and in the fight. But, as of late, those numbers were fewer and fewer. This room was created as well, in order for us to train. Furthermore, it was strong enough for me to use in the strengthening of my abilities, which Jon was most interested in helping with.
    I then looked down at myself. I had my long brown hair tied back as well, but mine was much, much longer than Jon's, reaching as far as my ankles when not constrained. My white training shirt and shorts were soaked with sweat from the long day of training and sparring. I briefly reached up and felt the outline of my birthmark, the odd golden crescent moon bordered on the left and right by what seemed to be the depiction of wisps of silver flame, a trademark ability of mine.
    I looked back at Jon and breathed deep.
    "I am ready," I said finally.
    "Are you really?" he asked, quirking a brow.
    "As ready as I can be," I replied. "So let’s go."
    "Come on then," he said. "Give me your best shot."
    I took another deep breath and charged at him, faltering only slightly, but enough for him to gain the upper hand. He threw his arm against my chest with a heavy thud, knocking my breath from my lungs and sending me back. I managed to catch my footing and slide to a stop before I hit the wall that was now only a foot behind me. I gasped and coughed for a few moments before I could speak.
    "Ow!" I said, with some effort. "That hurt, a lot!"
    "I will not be playing anymore," he said. "If you want rest, you will learn. And if you do not, I will make you learn."
    "Learn what!?" I shouted. "I don't get it! What more could I learn from this fight than form and the right moves? Really?!"
    Jon sighed and shook his head.
    "You must learn to feel your opponent," he finally replied. "When you feel them, and I mean truly feel the presence, their spirit, their Ki, you can learn to move more fluidly against their movements, to guess where and how they will strike, and how to avoid and counter it. It is simple."
    "Simple!?" I said, my voice raising and octave or two. "How on earth is that a simple concept?"
    "It is a matter of concentration," Jon replied calmly. "You simply need to concentrate on them to feel them. Close your eyes and focus on me. Visualize me through your closed eyes. Feel the energy that flows around and within me. Lose yourself in that feeling and you will begin to feel much more than their movements. You will begin to see them in the back of your eyelids, like a short movie, in spurts at a distance. It is then you will know. Now, try this time. Give me all you've got."
    I breathed deeply once more and closed my eyes, concentrating on Jon, who stood before me, though I could not see him. I did as he instructed, digging deep into my mind and power to feel his presence. When I finally did, I could then see him as though my eyes were open. See his energies and how the flowed around and through his body, like the cycle of a magnet's magnetic energy, but somewhat different. I began to fall into the feeling of that flow, feel myself being lost within it as though it were a dream. I felt my body slide into a defensive stance, my legs sliding apart slowly against the stone as my body crouched, my muscles tense, and my arms take their positions, hovering between my chest and stomach. I could then see the details of his muscles, see them move and suddenly he was upon me. I quickly opened my eyes an threw my arms in front of my head in enough time to block his quick assault, one I was sure to have missed otherwise. I then lowered and thrust one arm, full of energy and strength forward to his chest, connecting harshly and sending him sliding back. I then, cautiously charged him once more, tensing my muscle in a manner that would make him think I was about to attack, but just as I was within arm's reach, I grabbed hold of the arm he was going to use to send me flying backward again, as he had before, and put my weight on catapulting over his head and landing yet another heavy blow on his upper back, and again on his shoulder, sending him forward slightly and down onto one knee. I made a half-circle movement around his right side so that I was once again in front of him. He almost immediately stood to charge again. While blocking with one hand I used the other to grab his arm at the elbow and, my torso turning slightly as I moved, threw him to the ground behind me, a little off to the right. He quickly recovered and charged once more, but in a flash, I dodged and was behind him again with yet another blow to the upper back and shoulder. On one knee he held up his left hand to call the match and I snapped out of the semi-trance state I had been launched into since I first managed to block him. He stood and turned, acting as though his shoulder did not bother him at all, and bowed slightly. I followed a moment later with my own.
    "Very good," he said, the corner of his mouth tilting into a smile. "However, I am somewhat disappointed that I had to instruct you like a child."
    "Well," I began with a slight laugh. "You should know me by now, no matter how much I have grown into being the person I once was before coming here to Earth. I learn in steps, though, one day, your methods may reach me better. Shall we try again another day? Where we left off?"
    "Yeah," Jon replied with a slight nod. "With some food and few days rest, we can resume."
    "Really?" I asked. "You? Rest? How strange to me."
    "Yeah, well, you did a number on my back and neck, so the muscles must rest and recover," he replied. "Come now, let us go eat something."
    I nodded slightly and we walked out of the training room and into the kitchen beyond.