Tyler McNierney, 13 yrs old
In our world, the sword is utmost. Those who discard their swords, those who would trade their sword for their life, are dismissed as fools and cowards. If you graduate school, you will transfer to the Academy, and depending on your strength, the Academy will decide your obligation in life. The most novel out of these duties is the Shifter Killing duty. A Shifter is a foul beast that devours the souls inside humans and animals. If the chakra is stolen, it is possible for that Shifter to mimic the living organism perfectly. Thus, those creatures are called Shifters. When my brother’s chakra was taken away by the Shifters, vividly remembering his lifeless body, I swore to myself. I will take the revenge for my brother. So, I must get into the Academy, and I will be getting the obligation of Shifter Killing, no matter what.
“Everyone, congratulations on your graduation. From this point onward, you will be going to the Academy. To recognize your school graduation, we will be giving to you the Academy uniform. Also, as another recognition for your graduations, your parents have prepared for you your one and only sword. Please follow my instructions. Once again, congratulations on your graduation.”
My pride was so great that I failed to maintain it within myself. I graduated a year before the average age. Most everyone else was 14 years old, but I, along with a few others, were able to achieve their own sword at the age of 13. I waved at Nick, who was a graduate the same age as me. Seeing me, he smiled, and waved back. Looking up front, I could see my father’s face smiling. And, inside his hands was a black box, which illuminated beautifully with the sunlight. The beating of my heart grew louder and louder.
“Fathers, please take a step forward.”
The row of fathers in front of us took a step forward.
“Graduates, please take a step forward.”
We all took one step forward. I was only an arm’s length away from my father.
“Fathers, please give the swords to the graduates.”
In silence, the fathers handed to us our swords, using both hands in respect. Bowing, we accepted the swords with our two hands. At the moment of acceptance, I lifted my tearful face so that I was eye level to my father. My father did not say anything, but from his expression, I could perceive what he was telling me.
“Asuka, you did well. Congratulations for graduating at age 13.”
Triumphantly, I gave my thanks to my father, and obediently, I returned back to my seat. Afterwards, we graduates received our uniforms, and the impatient graduates immediately changed into their new clothing. But, knowing that the Academy would start in a mere week, I could not fool around. Along with this school, there are four other schools, and out of the five, this school is rated to be the 3rd best overall. Unfortunately, because your school is decided by the place you live, going to the best school was not possible for me. On top of this, I was a year younger their nearly everyone else, so that would mean sacrificing a year of training.
After informing my father that I was leaving, I neatly put my uniform in my bag. But, because this sword is too valuable, keeping it in the case, I clutched it protectively in my hand.
Right before I passed through the gates of the school, Nick came to my side. Turning to the side, I saw Nick holding an impressive sword with a hand.
“Hey, Asuka, look at this sword! This razor-sharp blade! Using this blade, I will most surely annihilate the Shifters!”
I frowned slightly.
“Sheathe your sword. A sword is not a tool used to impress or flaunt. Think of that sword as a part of your body. Displaying one’s body to impress is undignified. You use your sword to practice and cut.”
Looking slightly downhearted, Nick put his sword back in its sheath.
“Sorry. I lost my composure due to my great excitement.”
“No need to apologize. Now, I am in a bit of a hurry, so let us say farewell here. Let us meet at the Academy.”
Nick nodded, and wandered off.
Along the way back home, a rough voice came from behind.
“Hey, Asuka. You look happy. Congratulations for your graduation.”
Looking back, I saw Gen-tarou, Shou-tarou, and Dai-tarou laughing maliciously.
“What is it this time?”
“Well, well, please don’t treat me like a criminal. I just had a little interest in that sword you are holding.”
“What? Why do you hold interest in my sword?”
“Are you blind, or what? Look! There is Kiyomasa’s logo on that case! That sword was created by that genius swordsmith! A mere 13 year old should not be holding a sword like that! Give it to me!”
Like Gen-tarou had said, Kiyomasa’s logo, a cherry blossom within a circle, was imprinted with silver ink. My hastiness prevented me from acknowledging even the swordsmith’s name? That is unacceptable. But, how in the world did father convince that swordsmith. It is a miracle that a child like me is clutching Kiyomasa’s sword. Anyhow, because my father had trusted me with this sword, I will most definitely not give this sword to a person like Gen-tarou.
“I will not give this to you. Your actions are against the rules. Also, your hard-working fathers gave you that sword you are holding. Please be prepared.”
The three snorted a disgusting laugh, and unsheathed their swords.
“Unsheathe that sword.”
I shook my head.
“Foul blood is sufficient with Shifters.”
The three glared at me wrathfully and raged.
“You punk! We will beat the pulp out of you!”
Aiming for my head, Gen-tarou brought down the sword swiftly. But, at this level of speed, cutting me is impossible. Ducking to the side, Gen-tarou could not even touch a strand of my hair. Due to the swing, Gen-tarou’s body lost balance. Right at that moment, I aimed for Gen-tarou’s leg and swung my feet at blinding speed. Screeching in agony, Gen-tarou fell to the ground. Shou-tarou, who was running at full speed, rammed into Gen-tarou’s body, and so the two toppled over each other. Dai-tarou, who was behind Shou-tarou, mustered his power, and thrust the blade with full force, aiming my stomach. I side-stepped and evaded the attack with ease, and stopping the sword with my side, threw a punch at his face. Dai-tarou, who lost conscious, collapsed on top of Gen-tarou and Shou-tarou, who were struggling to get back up.
Without a moment to spare, I quickly grabbed the case, and sprinted off before they could catch me. I continued the all-out-sprint until the angry shouts and screams disappeared.
At last, I saw my house coming into view. Closing the door behind me, I gently rested the case on the carpet floor, and quietly knelt down in my room. This was the moment of my destiny; I could not ignore the feeling of spiders crawling on my back and neck. Carefully, I lifted the lid that concealed the hidden treasure. Shifting my gaze, I finally let myself see the sword. My jaws dropped.
The hilt of the sword was intricately decorated with silk of unbelievable quality. The thread seemed to form a shape of thunder. The sheath was skillfully created with metal, and was shaped in such a way that it looked like dragon scales. Clumsily, I let my fingers curl around the hilt and sheath. At the moment of contact, a queer, itching feeling erupted in my body, and my entire body started to quiver. The quivering turned into shaking, and suddenly my mind became blank with fear and nausea. The amount of chakra within this sword was immense. Maybe, I do not have the capability of yielding this sword. Wait, no. I was able to obtain this sword from my father because I was able to grow that much. If I do not fight this sword’s spirit, my father would be disappointed. I must fight!
Concentrating, I closed my eyes. Within the darkness that blanketed my body, a spark bloomed. Without further warning, the spark flared brilliantly, so that I could not see for several seconds. When the blinding light faded, I opened my eyes slightly, and was bewildered to the point that I could not speak. The creature floating before me was a majestic dragon, encircled by a swirling storm of lighting and thunder. I could do nothing but bow until my forehead hit the ground. I was too afraid to tear my gaze off of the ground.
“Look into my eyes. There is no reason to be scared.”
My eyes widened. Could he read my emotions and thoughts? Submissively, I looked up, and rested my gaze on the dragon’s silver eyes.
“I am the true form of the sword you hold. You are here because you touched that sword.”
Panic-stricken, I started to ramble without thought.
“Dragon lord, similar to the way that I can use my hands and legs, how would I be able to master this sword? I do not want to be like those people who swing their swords carelessly as if their sword is a lifeless tool.”
The dragon seemed to smile.
“You think and love a sword as if it is a part of your body. I like that. You will not be able to master this sword immediately, but let us begin with names. Merely knowing the name of a sword can make a difference. If the brain does not know the name of a body part, not only will you not be able to use that body part, you will not know where to begin. So, let us trade. If you tell me your name, I will tell you mine.”
“Y-yes! My name is Kuroiwa Asuka. Thank you in advance.
The dragon nodded.
“I see. Now, Kuroiwa Asuka, this is the name of the sword. Lightning Dragon (Ikazuchiryuu). Never forget the name. I will not repeat myself.”
Before giving any gratitude to the dragon, I was suddenly overcome with a tugging sensation behind my back. Swiveling my head backward, I saw my father standing behind me, gazing at Lightning Dragon intently.
“Father, my deepest apology! I selfishly opened this case without any confirmation.”
My father turned his head and smiled.
“It is fine, Asuka. It is your sword after all. Well, you seem to be joyful. Were you able to speak to the sword?”
“Yes! I learned the name of this sword when I spoke to its spirit.”
“I see. Now, what is the name of that sword?”
“It is the Lightning Dragon.”
Lightning Dragon once again quivered in my palm, but this time, a feeling of warmth spread through my body. Looking at my father’s face, it almost seemed as if he was proud of me.
“Unsheathe your sword.”
Nodding, I gently put my hand on the sheath. With that, I swiftly pulled the sword out of its sheath. Gazing at the sword, I choked on my breath, and could not breathe for several seconds. My father’s eyes spread widely.
The sword was created with a mystical and peculiar metal. Its transparency made it look like glass, and the very edge of the blade was as thin as a sheet of paper. The sunlight danced with the sword in a beautiful way, and the chakra that unconsciously flowed out of my body seemed to be gathered and stored within the blade.
I stared at my father for any explanation.
“What is this sword?”
My father was already flipping through the pages of a thick book. At around the end of the book, my father stopped turning the pages and started to read attentively. Occasionally, father would raise his head and look at the sword. Finally, father closed the book, and started speaking to me.
“Asuka, that sword is created by the world’s rarest and strongest substance. At first I thought that it was a Crystal Blade, but a Crystal Blade does not have those characteristics. That substance can not only absorb chakra, but it can also generate chakra, so the blade can cut even without contact. That is because the chakra cocooning that sword is immensely powerful. There is only one other person besides you who has wielded a sword made of this substance.”
“Who is that person?”
“It is her Majesty Patrina.”
“Her Majesty Patrina! That legendary-”
“Yes. That is why that substance is called Diamond Patrina. Where in the world could that Kiyomasa find substance like this? If a mine for this substance has been discovered, mankind’s chance of survival would easily increase ten fold.”
Father put on the hat he used for outdoors, and hastily changed into his Hitatare.”
“I will be going to Kiyomasa’s place. You may train with that sword, but for your safety, do it in a wide area.”
When father departed, I closed my eyes again and spoke to the Dragon Lord.
“Dragon Lord, I would like to ask one more question. May I?”
The dragon, which looked to have been sleeping, gawked at me with bewilderment.
“You can already come to this place at will?”
“Er, um, yes. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can see your body.”
The dragon looked mildly impressed.
“Very well. What is that question?
“Ah yes, well…”
“Speak to me thoroughly.”
“Yes! I’m sorry… Can you tell me the ways of this sword as my master?”
“Me as your master… Why do you want to master this sword so quickly?”
“Yes! The Academy starts in one week. If I completely absorb your teachings within this week, I think I would stand out in the Academy. My dream is to earn the obligation of Shifter Killing. If I cannot exceed my current level, I will not be able to take revenge for my brother! Please! Please be my master!”
“If you want to take revenge for your brother so badly, it cannot be helped. I shall teach you the basics.”
The stress and pressure that was building up in my body immediately dispersed. Realizing the fact that I was not breathing, I inhaled deeply.
“Thank you very much! So, when will we begin our training?”
“Tomorrow morning, go to the biggest place that you can find. There, I shall teach you this blade’s most fundamental move, Lightning Blast.”
“Lightning Blast… I understand! Sorry for any disruption. Tomorrow morning, we shall meet again.”
After what seemed like forever, the night sky finally began to turn light blue, indicating the start of the morning. Father and mother were still sleeping, so I silently crept outside with the sword.
The cool morning evaporated any sense of drowsiness, and the fact that I was learning the power of this sword kept my heart thumping. There was nobody in sight. It was a quiet and peaceful morning.
If I take a right here, there will be a flat, wide grassland. As I turned the corner and looked forward, a person about my height was walking slowly. The outstanding sword that person was holding released a peculiar chakra, and it seemed as if the person was hiding his or her face. Next to the person were two body guards, who were marching casually with one hand on their sheath. The main person had a symbol that represented a successful graduation from the top school out of the five, and that person seemed to move as if I did not exist, walking forward without so much as a glance. Likewise, I ignored the three, and I strut confidently forward. At the last moment, I was able to confirm the fact that the person in the middle had silver hair.
At last, we arrived at the prairie, and putting the sword on the ground, I knelt and closed my eyes. Opening them, I saw the dragon’s face looking at me. Lowering my eyes, I reported to the dragon.
“Like you have told to me, I walked to the place with the widest area this morning.”
The dragon withdrew his face slightly.
“I see. Well, let us start training. We will begin with the characteristics of the sword. Shall I begin?”
“Mm. Of course, Lightning Dragon is a lightning blade. One of the characteristics of this sword is the ability to create lightning directly. The chakra that unconsciously leaves your body is stored inside the blade, and that chakra is converted into minus and positive energy. Thus, if you swing the blade, it is possible to produce lightning. It is the simplest move, and it is called Lightning Cut. Of course, this move is not very effective or strong.”
I listened eagerly.
“To strengthen your lightning, you will need a bigger amount of chakra. To use a move that would defeat an opponent, you will have to forcefully release chakra from your body. This is the first step. The next step is to restrain the released charka. If you cannot contain the chakra that has turned into lightning, the chakra will uncontrollably explode. If you manage to control the lightning, you direct the gathered lightning to your opponent. This is Lightning Blast.”
I nodded vigorously and stood up.
“Understood. May I begin now?”
The dragon nodded, and I opened my eyes in the real world. As the grass danced with the wind, they appeared to be waving its hand.
I grasped the hilt of the Lightning Blade, and I pulled the sword out of its sheathe Concentrating on my blow, I swung my sword to the side. There was a startling noise of snapping that echoed in my eyes, and a blue light glowed brightly for several moments. Several seconds later, I opened my eyes and was taken aback. Everything less than ten meters from me was utterly demolished, turned into gray black powder. If this move is considered ineffective and weak, how strong would the Lightning Blast be?
The dragon spoke into my mind.
“Asuka, you do not have the time to be wonderstruck. A normal person would never be able to achieve Lightning Blast. Even if you have some talent, it would usually take a month to complete. But, I believe that you and this blade can achieve it by next week.”
“Dragon Lord, what about me is so amazing? Aside from graduating the school a year earlier, I believe I do not have any other points that stands out…”
The dragon paused for a moment, then continued to speak.
“I am still not clear about the level of your powers and talent. But, I do have evidence that proves your talent. Just now, your Lightning Cut was only slightly weaker than the normal Lightning blast. This means that your chakra is powerful, and it goes well with this sword.”
My pride sky rocketed with the words of compliment from the dragon.
“Now, let us begin the first stage of Lightning Blast.”
“Very well. Release a steady flow of chakra from your pores. Make sure to keep the amount of chakra minimal, for this is your first time.
I released a steady stream of chakra equivalent to about a tenth of what I have stored in my body. When I used up all the chakra I allowed myself to use, a blue-white circle of light blazed around me in a circle.
“Good. Now, this is the difficult part. Now, you must perform a Lightning Cut. Once the lightning contacts with your chakra, you will have created the Lightning Blast. But, you must be cautious. When fire touches oil, the fire enlarges, and the raging flames become difficult to maintain. The same thing will occur here. Are you prepared?”
“Yes, I will try!”
I slightly weakened the wall of chakra in front of me, and put the excess chakra behind me. This is because if I make a mistake, I would be better off. Taking a step, I drew my sword inward, and promptly swung the blade, yelling wildly.
A magnificent lightning exploded before my eyes, and the lightning rapidly started to spread. To maintain the structure of the lightning, I started to spin my blade in a spiral motion, and before I knew it, I was in the heart of a raging lightning tornado. The grass and dirt scattered on the ground became a part of the tornado, and the chakra attached to the tornado grew taller and wider. If I cannot contain this colossal amount of lightning, the outcome may not be good.
Stabbing my sword into the tornado, I mustered all my strength and made the tornado lean to a side. As if a dragon was diving head first toward the ground, the top part of the tornado was plunging toward the ground. Directly beneath of tornado was a tree roughly 30 meters tall, standing daringly. At the last moment, the lightning tornado seemed to open its mouth. Is this the Lightning Blast?
Without thinking, I yelled the name of the attack.
The tree and lightning crashed upon each other, and the blue white light made the entire morning sky glimmer. The ground shook violently as if there was an earthquake, and the lightning generated a brilliant flame. A wave of debris came storming toward my direction, so I sacrificed my arms to shield my eyes. My hands and wrists started to bleed from the stinging pieces of debris, and I lost my footing on the ground. Unable to move, I was thrown backward by a sudden jerk, and my head collided with a nearby rock. With that, my eyes closed and the world faded into darkness.
Awhile after, my eyes opened. Covering my mouth with a hand, I yawned deeply. Looking around, I concluded that I was in a hospital. Expensive, pure white beds were lined-up neatly, and there were stacks of books to my right. To my left was a large window, which illuminated brilliantly with Amaterasu’s heavenly light.
About ten minutes later, I detected distant footsteps coming closer. Moments later, the door suddenly burst open, and a man walked inside. Turning my head away from the window, I gazed into the intruder’s face. Doing so, my heart skipped a beat.
Commander Eregen’s renowned golden eyes were staring back at me.
Sitting up straight, I went onto my knees and lowered my head deeply. My abrupt excitement caused me to hit my forehead against the bedframe, and the shrill pain caused me to flinch. My first encounter with Commander Eregen was not so great.
“Commander Eregen! I am deeply honored to meet you!”
Putting his hands to his hip, Commander Eregen laughed heartily.
“Asuka, will you please raise your head? A bow is too formal for me. Plus, I want to see your cute face too~”
Lifting my head up too quickly, I heard a cracking noise in my neck, and sharp pain flared at the base of my head. Ashamed of myself, my face reddened.
But, Commander Eregen seemed to laugh enjoyably, and took a long drink of water from his canteen.
“Asuka, what is your last name?”
“It is Kuroiwa, sir.”
“I see, I see. Well then, Kuroiwa Asuka, I would like to speak with you for some time. Will that be fine?”
“Most definitely! I will answer any question!”
“Well, that makes my life easier. Let us begin. The sword at your left, can you show it to me?”
Grasping the sheath with both hands, I laid the sword in front of Commander Eregen. Slowly, Commander Eregen attempted to the Lightning Dragon with his index finger. At the moment of contact, angry red lightning lashed out violently, and encircled the sword protectively. With nothing left to do, Commander Eregen withdrew his finger, and ordered me.
“Asuka-kun, will you please touch that sword? I would like to confirm something.”
Nodding, I gently lifted the sword. The buzzing red lightning faded away, and the normal warm feeling spread inside me.
Unable to hide his interest, Commander Eregen asked me once again.
“Asuka-kun, can you unsheathe the sword?”
Swiftly, I pulled the sword out of its sheath, and displayed the blade to Commander Eregen. Staring at the blade, Commander Eregen took another sip of water.
“Ah, it’s a sword of Diamond Patrina. Who made this sword?”
“A swordsmith called Kiyomasa created this sword. My father was going to ask how Kiyomasa obtained Diamond Patrina, but by that time, Kiyomasa was missing.”
Commander Eregen nodded.
“I see. The Diamond Patrina is a man-made element. This means that Patrina herself created this element. Moreover, Patrina has only created one sword. The name of that sword was Lightning Dragon. Let us see, what is the name of that sword?”
For several moments, I was speechless. Was this sword that of Her Majesty Patrina’s? No way! How can someone like me have this legendary sword?
Gulping, I answered.
“As Commander Eregen says, the name of this sword is Lightning Dragon.”
“Mm. But, Asuka-kun, why do you know the name of that sword?”
“I talked to this sword’s spirit, and traded my name for his name.”
“I see. Those who can speak to their sword’s spirit are those who can love their sword. The fact that the sword gave its name to you is also quite impressive.”
“Thank you very much!”
“Alright, let us continue on to question two. The technique you performed at that prairie, it was a pretty powerful move. Who taught you that technique?”
“The sword’s spirit assisted me as my master. It is called Lightning Blast.”
“Ah, I see. Its Patrina’s favorite move. Well, that was rather impressive. Lightning Blast is the most common move people with the power of lightning use. The power of your Lightning Blast was ten times the strength of a normal Lightning Blast. The prairie has a dimension of about 500 meters in length, and 500 meter in width. Your Lightning Blast utterly destroyed forty percent of that prairie, and the remaining sixty percent was covered with debris. The surrounding houses were not damaged, but there was a total of six people injured. There are some people who fear your strength and are calling you a Shifter. But, most of the people do not fear you, but instead fears the power of your sword. So, at around noon, you will have to go to court.
I was not able to speak.
“I can’t believe this? How immense is the power of this sword? How will mother and father ever forgive me?”
“No need to worry. Your father and mother are not angry. They are worried, of course. The love of a parent is sometimes troublesome for me.”
Panic-stricken, I exclaimed.
“What will be decided at court?”
“One side wants the sword to be destroyed, and wants to have your body checked. Many people are on this side, but I have a different thought in my mind.”
“What is that thought, sir?”
Commander Eregen smiled.
“I would like you to be a part of my special combat team. I now know the enormous talent you have. In order for you to master that talent of yours, I would like to have you train with students similar to you.”
Unable to close my mouth, I could only stare dumbly at Commander Eregen. Did I mishear?
“I-Is that fine with you?”
“Why would I be asking if I was not fine with it?’
Unable to contain my joy, tears started to stream down my cheeks. With this, my dreams will come true!
“Thank you so much! Thank you very, very much!”
“It is a bit too early to be happy, Asuka-kun. Your fate will be decided at the court room. Even I cannot give you the dream you wish would come true, but I will definitely do all that I can.”
“I understand, Commander Eregen. Thank you for believing me.”
Commander Eregen smiled once more, then left the room without another word.
That night, Asuka’s mother and father were pondering deeply.
“I will most definitely not give Asuka’s body to them. Why are all the young ones these days so easily frightened? If they do not get rid of this fear, mankind will be destroyed by the Shifters. Humans just grow weaker and weaker. But, our son is different. Our splendid son that loves his brother, mankind and sword. For Asuka’s wish to come her, cooperating with Eregen was the right choice.”
Asuka’s mother, Helena, spoke out her thoughts.
Asuka’s father, Kasuhi, nodded slightly, and breathed in the pure air of the night.
All of a sudden, the outside window snapped open, and a gale of icy wind came inside. A clocked figure came in from the outside, and closed the window silently.
Before Kasuhi and Helena could say anything, the figure took of his hood. The beast standing before Asuka’s mother and father was most truly horrifying.
“I’m home, father, mother.”
The brother who had died three years ago, Leon, was chuckling wickedly. He carelessly played around with the knife he was holding.
Kasuhi fell to his knees, and Helena covered her mouth with her hands and started to weep.
“How do you feel? What do you feel seeing your son that you two could not save?” Well, whatever. I do not hold any interest in the two of you. Where is your other son, Asuka? I would like to talk with him for a bit…”
Helena turned her head, and Kasuhi gave a murderously stared at Leon’s empty eyes.
“We will never give Asuka to you, you foul monster! How dare you, how dare you make this family suffer so much! I will never forgive you!”
Drawing his sword, Kasuhi charged toward the creature at full speed. Aiming for the neck, Kasuhi screamed and swung his sword. But, seeing the creature’s face… he could not do it. The blade was touching the neck, but no flesh was cut. Leon’s eyes which were shrouded with fear were now glimmering with evil. The father just noticed how close he was to the knife. Kasuhi tried to dodge the blow, but he was a second off. The knife embedded itself deep inside Kasuhi’s chest, and a fountain of blood burst out of the opening. The father was dead before he collapsed to the ground.
“Ah, how troublesome. Of course the father is no help.”
The creature slowly approached Helena’s shivering body.
“Now, Helena. If you tell me where Asuka is, I will spare your life.”
Helena abruptly raised her head. Her eyes were burning uncontrollably with the powerful emotions of love, hatred, and despair.
“Even if you peel my skin of, and beat me hundreds, thousands, millions of times, I will never tell you where Asuka is.”
The beast sighed deeply.
“Ah, I should have known. Well, your existence is no longer necessary.”
Aiming at the skin between her eyes, the creature thrust the knife at a blinding speed. The blade pierced through the skull, and Kuroiwa Helena’s life was over.
The maddened creature returned to its normal form, and spit at the parents.
“What was I thinking? I could have eaten their chakra. I rushed it too quickly.”
Kicking the corpse away from him, the Shifter escaped out of the window. The bloodstained house of the Kuroiwa would tell the horrors that a Shifter can do forever.
That night, Asuka was suddenly overcome with sickness, and his body temperature went two degrees below average. After about ten minutes or so, this abnormality disappeared, but it made Asuka terribly uncertain. Something utterly catastrophic had happened.