“Stay focused,” Castor says as I sigh deeply.
I watch him from across the room. Despite the distance, I see how furrowed his brow is. Large, bushy, silver eyebrows descend over eyes the color of alluvial mud, making his displeasure obvious.
Despite how aged and gray and old Castor has become, his gaze always flashes with the fire of youth. And, when I’m around, frustration.
“Yin, focus,” he says once more, making his lips press hard around each word, his voice little more than a terse breath of air.
He’s always this way when I train. Ever since I can remember, Castor has pushed me on and on. It’s not because he thinks I’m lazy, nor does he believe I need encouragement.
It’s because of what awaits me.
I’m the Savior.
A sorcerer, I can command magic and summon spirits. On the final day of the age, I will summon Gaea, mother of all spirits. I will fight alongside her to hold back the Night.
So, yeah, there’s a lot of pressure on me.
Crossing my arms, I lean backward until my shoulders press against the wall behind me. The wood is cool, and it’s nice to rest my body after such a hard workout.
“Yin,” Castor’s voice becomes even deeper and seems to rumble through the floor itself.
Letting out a long sigh, I push myself forward, close my eyes briefly, and reply with a shrug.
Then I surge forward and attack.
Around my left wrist is a simple bangle. Silver blue with lines of light pulsing through it, it’s far beyond anything our age can produce. It’s a remnant of those that came before. An ancient race who inhabited the land long ago.
The bangle enables me to cast spells. All sorcerers have such devices clamped around their wrists from birth. By early childhood, they can no longer be removed, as the body and device grow as one.
As I race forward, bare feet leaving sweaty footprints on the mat, I command the bangle.
Power surges through it. All it takes is a thought.
With a great cry, I thrust forward. As I do, energy erupts from my fingertips.
Real, burning, crackling, power. It shoots out, spinning around itself like a hurricane.
Castor, eyes wide, jumps back. The sound of his simple leather shoes squeaking across the mat fills the room. He doesn’t scream. He doesn’t shout. He doesn’t even grunt.
He’s the epitome of the competent warrior: silent, deadly, and ever watchful.
Despite the power of my move, Castor dodges. And despite his age, he somehow flips, planting his hands into the mat and tumbling forward like a cat in play. With speed impossible for an ordinary man, let alone a geriatric, he closes the distance between us.
I skip backward, my bare feet leaving two sweaty footprints imprinted into the worn blue mat.
He sweeps toward me with a fast kick. It flashes a mere centimeter from my nose, sending a sharp blast of air into my loose black hair.
Again I send the power arcing through my hand. I close one fist as I punch forward with the bangle, an arc of energy spewing forth from the center of my palm.
Castor twists to the side, and my blast races past his left shoulder, doing nothing more than ruffling his long, gray beard.
“Crap,” I curse as I try again. Once more I command the bangle, black bursts of energy crackling high over my skin.
“Don’t become flustered,” Castor warns me as he expertly rolls to the side, the soft thump of his body hitting the mat the only sound he makes.
Gritting my teeth, I try to catch Castor again with another blast, and then another.
They just eat into the mat, bursting through the stuffing and cracking the wood underneath, or they sink deep into the far wall, leaving nothing but a softly smoking crater behind.
No matter how hard I try, I just can’t hit him.
If I can’t hit Castor, then I have absolutely no hope against the Night.
While Castor is training me – and knows when to stop – the Night will not hold back. It will come for my blood, my bones, and my destiny.
It will steal the soul that resides within, and it will end the ages of light.
The Night is a vestige from the days of old. It comes from the same ancient time of my bangle.
Just as I spring up, and in desperation punch a wall of crackling blue energy straight at Castor’s chest, he springs forward.
He is wearing special silver armor over his chest, legs, and arms. Snow-white symbols are emblazoned across it, and whenever the light strikes them, they dance like ice-cold flame.
They aren’t just there for decoration: they absorb my blasts, making sure any errant burst of energy doesn’t fry Castor’s beard and take his chin with it.
Still, a well-placed blast should knock him off his feet.
Should being the operative word.
But this one doesn’t.
With nothing more than a slight grunt, Castor pivots on his foot, and leaps up, meeting my volley right in the chest. It slams against his breastplate, rattling it in place. Shots of blue and black, flame-like energy disburse over the metal, making those snow-white symbols suddenly glow with an eerie brilliance. Then Castor flashes forward, lands but a few centimeters in front of me, spins, and knocks me across the jaw with a powerful punch. “You need to keep on your toes. You might be a sorcerer, but you must rely on more than your power.”
Even though I’m expecting it, I double back, surprise shaking through me. I try to keep my balance.
With an almighty crack that rings through our empty training hall, I fall.
I don’t stay on the ground, though; I get up, pushing to my feet before Castor can pin me.
I double back, keeping light on my toes. As I do, I try to command the bangle. I can’t win this fight without it.
I must find the balance to keep dodging Castor while also calling upon the mental control to command the bangle and access its incredible power. So I clench my left fist as tight as I can, concentrating with all my might on the smooth metal band that’s half embedded in my wrist.
As I fight Castor, I flip and pounce and jump. Technically I don’t have to – I could just stay stationary and call upon enough power to slam him against the far wall. I’m not that stupid, however – Castor would cripple me before I even have the chance to raise my hand. As he said before – I have to stay on my feet. If I remain still in battle, I’ll be a fine target for an arrow or gun. Plus, it takes time and will-power to command the bangle, and even the most proficient of warriors can’t send out a constant barrage of power. They must bide their time, calculate their shots, and most importantly, stay out of range of their foe’s weapons.
As I take a step back and thumb my sweat-caked nose, nostrils flaring as I stare at Castor, I calculate my next move.
We train for the next hour. I never beat him. Despite the force I can call on, and the incredible power of my ancient bangle, Castor is too quick, too trained, and too smart.
But that’s the point. He is there to teach me what he can. If I don’t learn, everyone loses.
The rest of Yin and Yang: A Fool’s Beginning is currently available from most ebook retailers.