I fought in the simulator until I was abruptly interrupted by the room fading to black. It was strange, once you are immersed in the simulated world, a sudden outage of the power makes you feel a strong disconnect from the world around you. Light burst through the doorway of the simulator and the silhouette of Jushara stood, blackened by the bright light behind her. She walked in and helped me to my feet. “Sha’ayr, how long have you been in here?” I shook my head and pulled my arm away from her. “I don’t remember, but I am fine, let me continue training.” I turned away, but Jushara grabbed my shoulders and threw me to the ground with an abrupt pull backwards. Sha’ayr, Vea’ayr is here and needs to speak with you. Just you. Do you understand?”
Suddenly the gravity of the situation came crashing down upon me. I nodded my head nervously and stood to face the door, to face the beast. When I exited the room, Vea’ayr sat in a shroud and my heart stopped for a moment. It was the same shroud worn in my dream. Did she know somehow? How could she? I looked at her and her hood fell back just enough to see her mouth and eyes. Her eyes had a hollowness to them I had not noticed before, almost like they were made of glass. “I’ve been learning plenty about you, sis. So, what have you learned about me?” As she spoke I looked around and saw that Jushara had left and we were now alone. “I knew your mental abilities would be powerful, but I never suspected this.” As she spoke my heart sank. “What do you mean, Vea’ayr?” She laughed and blinked twice, her eyes flashing in and out of metamorphosis. “I saw your clairvoyance, quite a useful trick. You can actually read minds. I can too, now. I knew when we melded our abilities would transfer over, but I never knew it would be like this. And so fast! I thought it would be turns upon turns before I even noticed. A pity though, your memories. They are always so… passé. I noticed though, that only memories before the meld are accessible. So I wonder, sweet sister, what dreams have you had about me?”
I looked at her with false confusion. “I don’t know what you are talking about Vea’ayr.” She laughed and clicked her tongue, shaking her finger at me in a playfully menacing way. “Now, now… No need to lie. I already know you have had the dreams. I know because I can see your thirst for battle. I can also see you trying to suppress the urge to attack me right now. You are right to, you know. That stunt I pulled with Brindel really was uncalled for. I wouldn’t blame you at all for attacking me, or for wanting to leave.”
I clinched my jaw and tightened my fists around the handles of my weapons. “Even if I did want to leave, I don’t have anywhere to go now, remember? My father is dead, my mother is a lying bashakai, and Brindel is here with me. Besides, my hatred for you right now is no reason to turn my back on the revolution. We do have the same end goal in mind, regardless of how unnecessary your methods are Vea’ayr.”
“Unnecessary? I am offended! Uncalled for yes, but still very, very necessary. Think about how much we learned! You can’t hurt me and I can’t hurt you. You cannot read my thoughts and, from what I have observed, any of the other Officers’ thoughts either. You can even heal your boyfriend whenever he is in pain.” The knot in my stomach tightened and I swallowed hard trying to release it. “Oh don’t look so surprised, it was easy to figure out. The power of your attacks would take at least a few rotes to heal, yet he was walking, running, even flying the next day. I wish you would’ve shared this information, perhaps I could’ve been working on learning it. I actually did try, though, but my skills aren’t that evolved yet. A pity, really.”
I could feel my pulse in the corner of my eye as my breathing sped up and my rage began to bubble up again. She smiled and walked past me into the center of the simulator. The door, sensing no one was nearby, slammed shut. “Load simulation empty battleground.” Suddenly a field appeared around her and she drew two larger-than-average daggers from beneath her shroud, both with blunted training edges. “Let’s see how your training is coming. No tricks or distractions this time, just me and you.”
As soon as the words left her lips, I spun the whip around me and cracked it toward her. She deflected it with the flat of her right blade and lunged forward with the left. As she did I spun the whip in a circle, making a loop around the path of her arm, then slid past her grabbing her arm with the whip and pulling it down. As I did her right hand came down and the blade barely missed my face.
I stood and pulled up on the whip, flipping her onto her back. I lunged forward aggressively and tried to sink the curved blade into her chest, but she crossed her swords and parried my strike, throwing my hand to the side. As she did, she brought her right hand back across my face, the dull blade hitting hard enough to still break skin. I stumbled back and shook my head, then snapped the whip straight up, reversed the polarity, then quickly re-engaged it to add momentum to my downward swing. The whip moved faster than she could turn to face it and caught her right shoulder. As I spun the whip back toward me, a small line of blood traced the grass of the simulator. Somehow she seemed completely un-phased.
“Once you are in a real battle you will learn to shut out pain entirely. Nothing will hurt you, nothing will stop you, and nothing will defer you. I hope we are side by side again when that happens Sha’ayr. I don’t want you mad at me forever.” As she finished her sentence she lunged at me with both blades brought high. I raised my curved blade to block them, but before they even made contact she twisted the blades backwards and instead brought her arms down and crossed them against my torso, dragging both blades across my stomach. “And I believe that is a fatal blow. You fought well though Sha’ayr, but you still have a lot to learn.”
Her smile faded away as mine appeared. “Vea’ayr, you have to understand that to achieve our end goal we will have to make sacrifices and, possibly, may even have to sacrifice ourselves. I would be dead, but so would you, and being the leader of this regime my sacrifice would be well worth it.” As I spoke, I hit the release button on my whip, which I had pointed toward her chin. The training blade shot out and hit her chin hard enough to knock her backwards and cause her chin to start bleeding. I stood, helped her to her feet, and she hugged me. At first my whole body tensed up and I almost pushed her away, but I hesitantly embraced her. “I can see myself in you. Your fervor and your style. I will train harder to ensure that I always present you with a challenge. Again, I hope you are by my side on the battlefield and I really am sorry about the Brindel thing. I will send Jushara back in.”
As she walked out, Jushara was standing on the other side of the door waiting and before Vea’ayr could even react, Jushara punched her in the face hard enough to bring her to one knee. Vea’ayr laughed and stood back up, blood now coming from her lips, nose, and chin. “By the way, Sha’ayr, remember how I said I couldn’t master that whole healing thing?” I watched, amazed, as her lip, chin, and nose meshed back together. She wiped the blood away and revealed an unharmed face. “That wasn’t entirely true. I can’t heal mental attacks like you, but I can heal my own physical wounds. That should prove quite useful, don’t you think? Remember what I said Sha’ayr, and don’t forget we are still fighting for the same thing.”