She walked several paces across the room and turned to face me.
She waited a few seconds and charged at me. I was taller than her and bigger than her, but I knew the kind of force she was capable of. She may not have been coming at me full force, but everything in me said that I didn’t want to find out. Still, I was only barely able to jump out of the way.
I landed on the floor like a sack of potatoes.
“What was that? I said defend yourself.”
I rolled over to face her.
“I dodged you.”
She immediately jumped at me and before I could do anything she had stopped her fist just short of flattening my face.
“A dodge that immobilizes you is no dodge at all. And where was your Shadowskin? Where was all the martial arts you learned.”
“I don’t know.”
She was right. That was a pretty pathetic showing.
“These things have to be muscle memory, because there will come a time when you won’t see the attack until the last second.”
I got to my feet, brushed myself off, and put on the Shadowskin. It was still an amazing experience to be wearing my shadow. After a short moment of wonder, I looked up to see Aria charging me again. I had no time to respond and she struck me. I flew across the room and slammed into the opposite wall. I slid to my knees and struggled to find my breath. She knelt beside me and rubbed my shoulder while I struggled. The Shadowskin protected me but I still felt that one. In fact, on this side, I realized my senses were sharper. The pain more vivid. There was a natural dulling effect on my senses in the Shadowverse which was only amplified by wearing my shadow. Now, though the Shadowskin still filtered sensory information, what got through was much sharper. All that to say, it hurt getting punched by her. It hurt slamming into the wall. It was what I needed, though.
It had become starkly apparent that I had gotten lazy. I had let all these abilities go to waste. I had done all the things I said I would never do. What good was all this power if I wasn’t prepared to use it to help people. What good would I be to the team in this state?
“How did that feel?”
“Oh my gosh! Are you alright? Did I hurt you?”
“No, no… Well, yes, but not more than I needed. I just can’t believe how rusty I’ve gotten. Maybe I had gotten lucky all those times. I feel stupid.”
“I didn’t know you back then, but I know you now. You aren’t stupid and you just need to get back up and we will take it from the top.”
I got up and we took it from the top. I tried to put on my game face, but I just wasn’t feeling it at first. It wasn’t until we really got to sparring that it started to come back. The focus and the resolve. Turns out, it was just rust. That, and I’d never fought someone that strong. Everytime I tried to take her head on, she easily overpowered me. It was as if I was a child. I had to be sneaky with her. I had to avoid every attempt of hers to draw me in. She was really good, though. I spent the rest of that afternoon being tossed around like a ragdoll, but in the process I began to remember all the dreams I had. There was a reason I was blessed with powers and I couldn’t let them go to waste.
After my lessons, we walked back to the main building to get some drinks.
“I want to thank you.” I said. “That felt really really good.”
“I beat you up pretty badly.”
“That you did. Even so, you reminded me what I was supposed to be doing with my powers. I had lost sight of that path a long time ago.”
“You’re welcome. I’m glad I was able to do that for you. I’m sorry if I ever went overboard.”
“No, you were fine. Just the right amount of force. It must’ve taken a long time to master.”
“I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it.”
“Was it difficult to learn?”
“It was very… hard. I should really go. I’ve got things to do at home.”
She stood up from her seat in the kitchen and made for the exit. I wasn’t expecting any of that.
“I’ll walk you to your car.”
The walk to her car was a silent walk. I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t want to push the subject. She would tell me when she was ready. I just moved beside her and put my arm around her waist. She rested her head on my shoulder and we walked. When we got to her car she turned to nestle her head against my chest while I held her.
“I love you.” I said.
“I love you, too.”