Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A trip to the Mountains

So I am going to try and blog more often now, leaving things till the end makes me leave out too much. So from now on will try and write more frequently.

Happenings of last week had led me to realize that I needed to train myself, my mind, to further knowledge. There in laid a predicament, in order to do this, solitude was a must, the kind I could not attain in a town setting. I remembered from my wandering to babbage that there was a large wooded mountain a half days walk from the outskirts of town. This was a place of serenity, a perfect place to clear my mind and focus. There was one other thing though, Orchid. With all that has been going on I could not very well leave her at home, lone, all week. There was not a safe aspect to that. I approached her about it Sunday morning, wondering if she would like to go on a trip to the mountains for a few days. She of course was thrilled at the idea yet at the same time apprehensive. She wanted to stay around to try and deal with what is going on at home immediately. We both happened to focus on a corner of the bedroom at the same time, where we store our weapons. There laid my bow and sword, as well as a few knives. The one that caught our eyes how ever, were a pair of daggers that Orchid had come across a couple of months prior, and fell in love with. We both knew it was time she learnt to defend herself better, and she asked me to teach her as I was about to ask her if she would like to come with me to learn. It would seem we both thought it a good idea that she learnt to protect herself f need be. That day I set out to acquire the provisions for this journey, a tent, food, as well as a bit of first aid, if it was needed. That night while I was out, Orchid had a visit, one that only reaffirmed our need to train.

The next morning Orchid sent a letter to beq, brief and very vague. We wanted her to know we were gone, but where and why, that was pertinent that she did not know. We left our home, with our provisions, weapons, and only our clothes on our backs. Orchid found a old dress she had, that if it got tattered, it would be fine, and I wore my attire that I had worn when I came to babbage. Aye, it is winter, and it would be cold with a shirt not on my back, but I realized that fire bending is truly the manipulation of heat, not just fire. In this I have figured that I can keep myself warm from the inside without the need for cover, Orchid not so lucky, she even brought a cape to wrap around herself. We walked for hours, much of which was up steep and jagged terrain; the determination to reach our point was the first part of our training. We reached a plateau on the mountain side, snow covered and wooded. We quickly set up a tent, but as soon as we had done that we set off to training. I needed to gauge how much ability to protect herself she had. We agreed that while we both were there that we would not hold it against each other if we did strike each other; in fact, I encouraged her to hit me. I told her that we were going to fight right then and there, though I would move considerably slower than normal, though I would not pull my strikes, if they were to hit her, they would. There were two points to this, I wanted to see her abilities at the present, but as well, I wanted her to hit me, the biggest thing I wanted her to do by the time we left was for her to hit me without holding back in a fight, where I was not holding back on my speed, though power yes. Though I was moving slow I landed a few blows on her, and she did manage to get a slight shot at my side, though she had held back much. That is what I told her she needed to work on, as well as keeping her guard up always, as my fist pressed into her stomach. That is where our training began. ((Now I will not recount ever occurrence, every strike, that would become boring, I will simply introduce exercises and how they helped/ played out)).

I told her that the most important part of fighting, above all else is the mind. You have to be prepared to strike anyone, despite the feeling or regret for hitting another. That fear of striking someone must be overcome and replaced with the ability to strike when necessary. We discussed this for quite a while, and then I decided that we needed to exercise these thoughts. I stood up and put a blind fold on her, to help her not see who I was in her mind, as well as to make her have to feel what she was doing and not just see it. Being able to feel what you do gives one a greater understanding of the body, how it works and how it affects the other. I came up behind her and held her in a bear hug and challenged her to get free. She seemed hesitant to try and do anything, so I grabbed her shirt from the bottom and ripped a strip of it off across her stomach, hoping to provoke her to do something. She finally tried to sweep my leg away, but not the best move when someone is holding you. I let myself fall back, still holding her, her wiggling in the process, spinning to face me as I rolled over to be on top. I told her to still try and get out and there she made a mistake that can lead to much hurt, she tried to turn her body to throw me off but turned too far, and I pushed her to her stomach, I on her back, a very dangerous spot to be in. I told her what she had gotten herself into and she tried to wiggle free, my body in more control than the previous position. I told her that everyone had a certain weakness, if you hit the nose it will surly cause tears to well in the eyes, giving a brief chance to push out, that she should try to head but my nose since it was directly behind her head. She quickly thrust her head back, not holding back the least which made me smile a bit, despite the amount of blood that flowed from my nose now. She stood up and looked from under the blindfold at me, and looked concerned as I winked and drew my bow.

We were in snow and my foot steps were easily heard, I wanted her to put the blind fold back on and listen for me, to point at me as soon as I stopped. If she pointed to me I would continue on but if she missed I would send an arrow past her, to shock her. Many times if you feel a sense of fear your body reacts faster and you learn more, that s what I played off. I wanted to force her to concentrate more. Her first attempt she did point at me but I then walked a bit further away and she missed a few times in a row, arrows whizzing past as she missed. She then realized that he own moments were clouding her ears, so she stopped and concentrated, her points hitting me almost constantly. I then tested her ability to discern from sounds, to truly be aware of what was around her. I took a few steps but sat down and threw rocks at increasing distances. She pointed to where the last rock had been and an arrow brushed her hair from a different directions. She realized then that something was going on and listened closer, discerning the sounds, this time pointing to where the rocks were coming from, the sound of my arms throwing giving me away. She was a quick learner, I was impressed. I stood up and ran towards her, wanting to see her reaction. She froze momentarily but then stepped to the side as I jumped and landed where she had just stood. I told her to remove her blind fold and we sat and I talked to her about what had just happened. That it is good that she moved but sometimes it is also good to flee, a smart fighter knows when they are in over their head, but the fact that she did move was positive.

I put down my bow and drew my sword, she needed to learn to dodge better, one of the important parts of fighting, is not getting hit. I wanted to play off the fear again so she was to dodge the slices of my blade. I started slow and increased speed, she dodged sloppily at first, but as time passed she moved more fluidly and gracefully, dodging effortlessly until she stumbled on her own feet. She was in the range of my blade and I had to pull the sword back as far as I could, the very tip catching the cloth that made up her shirt, cutting and tearing a bit of it just below her chest. She was a bit shocked to say the least but I made her continue, if she had stopped it might have gotten to her mind, and I didn’t not want that to happen, so we continued our training.

It was getting dark by then, so after the dodging practice we settled in our tent and ate. As soon as Orchid had fallen asleep I left the tent and walked a bit from it, though I still kept it in sight. I sat down and focused my mind; I wanted to somehow strengthen my fire balls, those that sent one small ball from my hand. I wanted to make it so that it did not just send one from my hand but many at the same time. This would prove to be a difficult feat. I tried for a couple of hours to simply focus enough heat in the form of flames in my hand, to contain enough force to be able to produce what I desired. Many times I tried to have the flames dissipate before it reached the peak, or, instead, not be able to hold the form, the ball shooting fire in many directions, time with enough force to throw me back. It would seem this would take time and it would be hard on my body in the process. I continued to try and finally reached the point where I could manifest enough compressed heat in my hand. The ability to hold the shape at the peak I did not have yet, almost every time the energy maxed, the bal could not sustain its shape and expelled its energy in a quiet wave of fire, that sent me flying many times, sometimes just backwards, other times through the air, hitting into the scenery. Though my body was being beaten I knew in my head to continue or else the progress of the night might have been lost and would have to start over the next night. I continued and struggled to hold the form, the length of time I could hold it growing, yet still far too short. Then came a time of pure amazement, I focused as hard as I could compressing the heat in my hand until the peak of its energy had been reached, my hand shook, but I held it, I stared in amazement, still and always will be confounded as to how this was humanly possible. I threw that ball it landing in front of me a ways. As it hit it looks like one of my normal fireballs until multiple shot out from when it had came in contact with the ground. These balls crashed to the ground, sending fire out in many directions, the area that had originally been struck emitting a strange colored flame. I was able to produce such effect multiple times, the snow on the ground melting. I had accomplished much in that night, it was time to rest a few hours for the next day, and let the falling snow cover the ground again.

I awoke the next morning to the sight of Orchid still fast asleep, it appeared that the previous day had taken a great deal out of her. She did rise shortly after I did, I must have been too loud rustling in the bag we brought to get the food out and ready by the time she awoke. We ate and after a short time of discussion we went to training again. We repeated the exercises of the day before briefly. Repetition is key to ingrain something in the mind, so we went over the dodging, the perception, the striking. After we had gone over that we started on blade work. She had two very large daggers, appearing to be of Arabian origins, yet she did not know how to use them effectively. For a good portion of the morning we went over basic attacking, striking, slashing, and the details far too monotonous. She lacked a few things that were vital to wielding weapons, a good combination of speed, accuracy, and power. I, again not fond of easy drills, presented her with a difficult task. I tied a rope to the end of an arrow, and challenged her to cut it, nothing fancy in the process, just to cut the arrow as it pasted her. She looked almost scared at the thought but I assured her I was not joking and we started the exercise. I shot the arrow many times, her far too slow in her reaction, or slicing at the arrow before it had even gotten close enough. What she needed to do was not cut at where the arrow was but where it was to be, to anticipate its movement. We continued, once reeling in the arrow to find a gouge in it. She was getting better, a few more time and I could tell that he speed was increasing, and the ability to anticipate was getting better. I launched the arrow one more time, I watched as she brought one blade up at it, slicing the arrow in two. I smile as drew another arrow, not bothering to reel in the other, I knew the result at the end and was proud, and confident she could do it again, confident enough to not tie the arrow. She did not let me down as she cut this one as well.

We took a short break, as we had worked a great deal already that day. We talked about how if you wield two blades then you cannot let one lack as to improve the skill of the other, both must be as great. She got up to walk to where we had been working and I followed a few steps before reaching down and grabbing a pile of snow, forming a snow ball. She was to now to practice hitting a moving target that had a path that was not as concrete as an arrow’s. She stopped and I tossed the snowball underhand slowly to her, her blade glancing the top of the ball, so I threw another, this one being hit more squarely. She then made the critical mistake of mocking the teacher. She said, “I can hit these a lot easier now, you don’t throw as fast as your arrows travel.” The snow ball I had in my hand at that time raced through the air and hit her face, snow exploding everywhere. She got the point and readied herself again, me throwing snowballs at a higher speed. She was hitting them cleanly, though at first she seemed to not be fond of the snow showering her after she slashed it. I told her to not be scared of the splatter, it is unavoidable. She shuttered a bit as the thought of blood not snow flowed through her mind, the thought of her slicing someone and blood spraying on her in her mind. She shook it off and readied herself again to slice more of the snowballs, a bit more willing to take the snow that was expelled from each slice. She was doing well but it was time to work on both hands. I picked up snow in both hands and tossed them at her, her slicing one but missing the other horribly. She was focusing on one more than the other, she needed to not see them as two separate targets, but more as one, that had two points to hit. I threw one snow ball telling her to hit it with both her blades. She looked a bit confused but I threw it at her, not giving her time to be. She swung on blade, cutting the ball in two, before slicing through one of the halves that was separating. I informed her that she had made two targets out of one larger one in her mind, that she didn’t see it as two separate attacks, but a continuation of the other. I threw two this time, though they were in close group. She hit them nicely, and began to throw more, at different distances. She was improving at great speed, impressing me greatly. We continued this to the point where I constantly threw balls at her, miss occasionally, but hitting most of them. I then placed my hands under the snow and threw a wall of snow towards here, the targets too high in number; I wanted to test if she had learnt from the day before. She saw it coming, running to the side to avoid it, only catching a bit of it on her shoulder, she was smart, and I was very proud. By then it was starting to grow dark and we had sat down by a fire we made. We had gotten out a bit of food and began to eat when we heard a distinct growl of a wolf. The sound appeared to circle the camp; we both drew our blades, not knowing if it was one or many. There was rustling and we looked as a rather large but thin and mangy wolf stepped out, teeth bared and snarling. It looked hungry as it had not eaten in a great deal of time. I had not finished the food I was eating so I threw it to it, in hopes that it would eat and leave, a mistake. It ate fast but it wanted more, and I was not about to give up any more, as we needed it for the coming days. The wolf inched forward and lounged toward me snapping his jaws, I kicked him aside and he turned to face Orchid. I knew this would not end well, we wanted out food, all of it, and wasn’t to leave without it. It stepped back a bit, Orchid had her blades out, in case blood needed to be drawn by them for the first time, but it was not necessary. The wolf jumped at her, her face ready for it, getting ready to strike as it flew in the air towards her. It never reached her, my sword came down on its back while it was in air, slicing it in two, though she had began a slice of her own, which would have caught the wolf’s neck, but instead caught its ear as it fell at her feet. I breathed a bit hard, blood dripping from my sword, Orchid still in a bit of shock at what had just happened, at the bravery she had shown. We thought about keeping the body in camp, to cook for further sustenance, but as our other food had attracted it, we though it better to place the body far from camp, as to not attract larger animals. We carried the corpse, in two pieces into the woods, leaving it in the open for the forest to eat a meal as well.

That night Orchid could barely sleep, a bit paranoid that another creature might ambush in the night. I held her close until she fell asleep. I laid her down and set to do my own training, this night much closer to the camp, I had some paranoia in my head as well. I thought to improve an ability I had tried against Moriarty, which he had somehow managed to avoid completely. This was a trap of sorts, prior I had been able to set a spot that was triggered by the change of heat, usually someone walking near it. It would send out flames in all directions if it was triggered. Again I sought to compress this even further, to produce a larger result, this time a bit of an explosion. I used what I had learnt the other night to compress the fire traps into a ball that I could hold in my hands. There was one large flaw in this. Though I tried multiple times that night I could not hold the form of this compression for more than a few seconds, though not through lack of trying. The blast created from this sent me flying many times, as I had the night before, hitting against various things in the forest. It would appear that I needed to send these away from me quickly or else its energy would be used against me as well as my adversary. I focused the heat to my hand and sent it sailing away from me with a quick jolt from my hands. It flew for a few second before halting, it appeared that it was absorbing heat from the air around it, it was an amazing sight as the heat was drawn in to only be shot out the next second as it burst, sending fire everywhere, as well as a concussion that traveled a very short distance. I created one once more and was about to send it soaring when I heard a voice say softly “Rip, where are you?” I turned to look at where it had come from to see Orchid peaking out of the tent. I smiled back before it was wiped off my face as I remember the ball of fire behind. I turned around to send it away as quickly as I could, but it was too late, as it sent me flying, landing at the entrance of the tent. I grimaced a bit before saying “I am right here” with a cheesy grin on my face. She had seen the bruises on me the day prior and thought she had done them, she realized then that I had inflicted the harm on myself. “What are you doing Rip?” she asked me as I crawled into the tent lying next to her. I told her that I was training myself, improving my skills, that I needed to improve my skills too. That I was still very inexperienced in fire bending and that I believed it was time that I explored more of it. I remembered people from where I learnt doing amazing things with fire, creating moving beings out of it, massive explosions, whirlwinds of flame, things I could not do in my wildest dreams. However, I did see thing that I thought I might be able to do, and while I was here I wanted to pursue that. I had one more thing I wanted to try, but that would be tomorrow. I joined her and we slept until morning.

When I awoke on Christmas, I looked to my side and Orchid was not there. I looked out the tent and saw here with daggers in hand, prating strikes, kicking using the blades as an extension of her arms. I just sat there watching, it appeared she not only learnt fast, but she might just be natural at using that weapon. It was quite beautiful to watch, he feet sending snow into the air as she moved and kicked, the sky clear and the sunrise casting a brilliant glow upon the sky, making the snow she sent soar glimmer in the light. Her body a silhouette against the sky, a long shadow cast upon the white snow, which had stopped falling for the time.

I got up slowly, my body sore from being thrown about the past two nights. I again readied our food and we ate before we began the morning practice. We again did the exercises from the past two days, her precision and abilities increasing rapidly. Our training took us to afternoon, when we rested and I reminded her of something she had told me the first day we were there, that by the time we left she wanted to land a hit on me, during a fight that my speed was not help back. That afternoon was set aside for her to practice her moves, to block what I threw, to attack as I defended, to feel what it is like to have your blade blocked, as well as how to block a blade. Occasionally a grimace would cross my face as she struck me in a spot where I had been hurt by being thrown from a blast. This continued into the early evening, constant sparing, breaks intermittent, to grind into her head everything she had been learning. It grew dark; she asked if I was going to work on my training now. My response was simple, no. The thing I wanted to try was something that I had been on for a good while, and was getting close to actually doing. I needed the heat from around me to do what I was trying, and the best time for that was when the sun was up. She decided that it was time she challenged me to a fight then, so I could focus on what I needed tomorrow. I agreed and we laid down our weapons and put our guards up.

Fists and feet flew everywhere, she was trying her best to hit me but my blocks we a bit too quick. My strength was being withheld but my speed was not. If I threw a kick, it was meant to hit, as were hers. Though she was being hit she did not give up, she even got better. Her blocks began to time better and he strikes were becoming more irregular and harder to predict, she had learnt a great deal the past 3 days and it showed. We exchanged strikes and more and more of my attacks were being blocked. I had blocked her kick and threw her leg to the side, she spun around and the back of her fist slammed into the side of my face. I had never been more proud to be hit before. I smiled back at her, she in a bit of shock, with redness on the side of my face I told her to do it again. She now had the confidence that she could do it and it was not long before I felt her fist pressing into my stomach. A weird feeling when you derive such happiness from being struck. We continued to fight for a while more, until we were both quite tired and we retired for the night.

I awoke on Christmas morning determined to finally accomplish what I had been trying so hard to do. I wanted to compress the heat around me into a ball, and send it flying at my enemy. This was greatly different from anything that I had been doing. Instead of generating the heat myself I was to manipulate what was already in nature. I would never have dreamed of this if I had not seen my teacher show it to me right before I left. It was his last lesson for me, and I was determined to finish it. With Orchid still asleep and the sun rising I sought to find the heat. I stood where I had seen her practicing so elegantly the day before and focused my mind above me, trying to feel the heat, to bend it to my will. I finally felt it and began trying to form it. I had already been able to move it, now I was trying to press it together. I looked up as I did it; occasionally a red light appeared in the sky only to disappear after its brief appearance. I closed my eyes, and breathed deep again, focusing above me, my eyes closed yet still seeing above me. As this was happening Orchid began to stir and watch, she said nothing as she knew I was concentrating immensely. I could feel it, the heat compressing a distance above my head; I dared not open my eyes yet to see anything. I knew I was doing it, my eyes opened slowly as I looked up, a bright red ball formed in the sky, Orchid saw it too, silent in amazement. I raised my hand up to the sky towards the balls and quickly pulled my hand down my body, the ball following the motion of my hand to the ground, it streaking down with a bright red tail, exploding upon hitting the ground, fire spewing everywhere. I sighed deeply and fell to my knees; it had taken a great deal of my energy to attempt that that morning, as my energy had already been low from the nights prior, as well as the days. I walked back to the tent and laid down next to Orchid. I told her that after training your body isn’t fully well, it needs time to rest to get its energy back. We would rest that day, Christmas, and make our way home the next morning. We sat there in the tent, both a bruised and tattered mess, but we were both better for it. We spent that Christmas together, her first Christmas not alone in 2 years, and mine in 6. We enjoyed the mountain scenery, the clean air, as well as each other’s company. Clouds began to roll in and snow began to fall again. The scene was surreal; I could not have wanted it any other way. I was with my fiancĂ©, camping in the beautiful forest as snow fell around us.

The next morning we packed up and made our way home, to return to New Babbage, a bit torn but better for it. It will only be a matter of time to know if our training paid off, at least if it doesn’t, we will know it wasn’t from a lack of trying.

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