Reforging The Broken

Chapter 6, The Realization.

A few hours had passed since the boy had last freaked out. The sun had risen from the east, now hanging directly above them. Aatazaz had left on a hunt with Thornpest, leaving Alessia and the boy alone at the camp. Alessia got busy practicing with her swordplay, her blade cutting through the air with a whistle periodically.

Alessia closed her eyes, gathering her spirit and pushing it into her arms. Then, she would take a powerful step forwards and swing her blade down, slicing an imaginary monster in two with an empowered strike. Then, she would take a step backwards, retract her spirit back to her soul and take her stance once more, all without saying a word.

She repeated this sequence, over and over. Channel her spirit, step, swing, retreat, and repeat. From next to the dwindling fire, a black haired boy looked at her with deadpan eyes, his despondent expression unchanging as she performed her routine endlessly. There was no visible improvement in the speed or power of her swings, or at least none that he could see. To him, she was just doing the same thing, over and over again for hours on end and getting nowhere. He had nothing else to do, and even if he did, he didn have the energy to do anything anyways. So he sat, watching her toil away with her sword.

He should have eventually gotten bored. Yet, he couldn look away. It wasn because of her looks, her sword form, or even her white spirit aura. It was because of her attitude towards training. Despite nothing actively improving, she still kept practicing. Like Sisyphus pushing his boulder to the top of a hill, only for it to roll back down. After every swing with no progress, she would reset herself and try again. She looked like a fool, and yet, he couldn stop watching her. He couldn take his eyes off her white radiant aura, just as pure as her will.

A few hours pass and Alessia stops her training with an exhausted sigh. Her spirit was nearly depleted, so she had called it quits before she passed out. As she turned around, she met the gaze of her spectator. His lifeless eyes stared into hers for a moment before going to the ground.

He mumbled an apology. It was rude to stare. ”Sorry. ”

Alessia smiled. ”Its fine, I was so focused I barely noticed I had an audience. What do you think about my form? ”

”I don remember anything about swordplay. My comments wouldn have any meaning. ” His eyes still locked on the ground.

”Even so, Id still like to hear what you think. ”

The boy went silent for a few seconds, his expression betraying his anxiety. Under Alessias expecting eyes, he eventually forced himself to speak. ”I think you
e too tense. When you swing, you always hold yourself up straight, which is good, but being too rigid will make it hard to strike. You need to relax a little bit, let go of some tension in your muscles. ”

His voice was soft and quiet, barely audible over the crackling flames. He waited for her to laugh his advice off, to call it nonsense, or even flat out ignore him. The boy looked up with an anxious expression, readying himself to see her disappointed, annoyed, or amused face.

Instead, she nodded with a hand on her chin. ”Relax . . . alright, I can try that. ”

Then, she took her stance again. She tried relaxing her shoulders, then her legs, her arms, and finally her entire body. With each movement, she felt a little less tense, and with every motion, her movements became smoother, if only a tiny bit. After a few minutes, Alessia turned back to him with a grin plastered over her face.

”That felt better! Got any other tips Mr. No Talent? ”

The boy stared at her with a stunned expression. ”You . . . actually listened. ”

Alexia tilted her head to the side. ”Why wouldn I? ”

”Because Im . . . me. Ive never been good at anything. Im usele- ”

Alessia suddenly interrupted him. ”Stop that, please. ”

The boy looks up, startled. Alessia was looking at him with uncharacteristically serious eyes.

”Its okay to lack talent. Its okay to be useless. Its okay to be weak, but you can let those things define you. If you believe that your weak, useless, and stupid, youll become weak, useless, and stupid. Its a self-fulfilling prophecy. Aatazaz once told me that the first step to doing anything is to believe in yourself; to trust that you have what it takes inside your heart. ”

The boy looks down, unable to hold her gaze. His face is wracked with shame. ”Believing in myself doesn change what I am. Believing that a piece of coal can become a diamond won change the fact that its coal. ”

Alessia gently pushed his chin up so that he would meet her gaze, startling the boy once more with her unexpected proximity. The boy was unable to avoid her stare now. Her blue eyes seemed to see straight through him.

”Do you trust me? ”

Alessia was a naive idiot, someone who was blind to the true nature of the world. The boy was about to give the obvious answer, but for some reason, he couldn . Whenever he would try to speak, his tongue refused to move.

This was the person who had saved him thrice over, twice from himself. Even if for a stupid reason, this person had repeatidly come to his rescue. Against all logic and reason, the boy murmured his answer truthfully.

”Yes. ”

”Then believe me when I say you need to start believing in yourself. You have to at least try. ”

His mouth opens to deny her, but nothing comes out. He tries again, and fails for the second time. He knew he would never live up to her expectations. His abysmal worth as a human being was plain and obvious, why couldn she see that? Why did she have so much faith in him? Her words rang inside his head.

Because its the right thing to do.

She was a fool. It was such a stupid reason for saving him. Justice is a fantasy, something only children believe in. In the real world, people take what they need to survive. In the real world, your own interests come first. In the real world, its survival of the fittest. The weak die and the strong live . . . but then theres Alessia. This naive girl was willing to put her life on the line for him, her only reasoning being that it was the right thing to do. Alessia had been willing to melt a gold coin to save the copper coin. She had been willing to give up a shining diamond to save a dusty piece of coal.

Why? Because it was the right thing to do.

Thats it. There was no other reason. She was a foolish girl who believed in justice. The boy knew that the logical thing to do was explain the true nature of the world, to tell her that hes trash and deserved to be tossed aside, but he couldn . No matter how hard he tried, he couldn get the words out of his mouth. He would open his mouth, but no sound would come out.

Mind versus heart. Logic versus emotion. Facts versus feelings. Truth versus desire.

After a minute of his silence, Alessia spoke again. ”Please. Promise me youll try. ” Alessia pleads with him. The boy only offers an anguished expression in return. For minutes which seemed like hours, silence reigned supreme. Even so, Alessia wouldn break her gaze. Her eyes stayed locked on the boy, defiant.

Eventually, the boy speaks, his words a barely audible whisper. ”I promise. ”


The next day, after a few hours of riding on Snowball and Thornpest, they set up camp once again. The mountains had grown even bigger, like a child entering a growth spurt.

Alessia had begun practicing her sword technique, Aatazaz prepared their dinner, and the boy watched Alessia practice once more. Since he had nothing else to do, Alessia had asked him to keep giving her pointers based on his intuition. Eventually, Alessia took a water break.

”I bet you were a knight in training before you lost your memories. ”

The boy shook his head. ”I don know, that sounds like more than I could handle. ”

Alessia punched him lightly in the shoulder, but it still hurt. ”You
e doing it again. You promised me, remember? ”

The boy nodded while rubbing his shoulder. ”Right . . . sorry. ”

Alessia then stood up and looked at him for a moment. The boy looked up at her questioning.

”What? ”

”Duel me. ”

”Huh? Why? ”

”You keep giving me pointers on my form, so I want to give you a few too. Come on. ” Alessia extends her sword to him, hilt first.

”But . . . ” The boy hesitates for a moment. His eyes flash with doubt, but he can stop remembering her face when she makes him promise that hell try.

He knew he wouldn do anything special. He knew he would be terrible with the blade, and yet, he still got to his feet. He grabbed onto the hilt of the azure long sword, but as soon as Alessia lets go, the blade becomes heavier than he would have liked. The tip almost falls into the dirt, but he manages to keep control just barely by grabbing it with two hands.

”Its heavy. ” the boy mutters.

Alessia nods her head. ”Ah, I forgot you
e so frail right now. ”

She took the sword back from him and added, ”Forget about the sword for now. You won be able to train the correct form if you can even hold it right. ”

As expected, the boy thought to himself. But right as he was about to sit back down, Alessia spoke again.

”But, what we can do is build you some muscles so you can wield the sword. Drop down and give me ten! ”


A few hours later, Alessia and Aatzaz sat around the fire eating their dinner. The boy had already eaten his fill and passed out.

”He seems exhausted. ” Aatazaz commented in-between bites.

Alessia nodded. ”He really surprised me. I only wanted to start off with light training to get his body back into shape, but he really went and fully exerted himself. I had to help him walk back to camp. ”

”Really? ” Aatazaz asked curiously. ”To think he would push himself that hard is . . . unexpected. ”

Alessia frowned. ”Hey! ”

”I have nothing against the boy, Alessia, but even the most hardened warriors break like brittle knives under the torture of the Zelksis. His recovery is . . . abnormal. Tell me, what have you two spoken about? ”

”I made him promise me that hell try to believe in himself, just like you made me all the way back then. Other than that . . . nothing major really. ”

Aatazaz raises his eyebrows. ”And he agreed? ”

Alessia nodded. Aatazaz began to stroke his beard, falling deep into silent thought. Alessia continued munching on her roast wolf. It was tough, but Aatazaz had seasoned it well, making it taste surprisingly good. She ate it slowly, enjoying the food despite its toughness.

”I don understand. He lives, yet his soul is in pieces. His mind is a mess, and yet he pushes forwards anyways. The boys will is stronger than I could have ever imagined. ”

Alessia sighed. ”I know, but he doesn know that. I keep trying to tell him, but he doesn believe me. He only starts to do anything If I ask him too. ”

Aatazaz nodded. ”He views himself as nothing; as worthless. But you are different in his eyes. You saved him from Sessair once and from himself twice. He probably trusts you more than himself. ”

”I hate that about him. Every time I see that self-pitying expression, it makes me want to slap some sense into him! Hes not worthless, why can he see that? ” Alessias eyebrows are furrowed in a V shape as she munches. Aatazaz can help but smile. Ever since she was a kid, she had always been like this, seeing the best in everyone she met. Just like her mother and father. Aatazaz would have to keep an eye out for Alessia so that she didn make the same mistake her parents did.

”Be patient. With time, wounds heal. You
e doing more than enough for him already.

”Yeah, but— ”

”We can talk more about this later. We still need to decide where to go once we leave the boy in Krin. ” Aatazaz said, stopping her before she could launch into another tirade. Then, he pulled a map out of his back and unfurled it in front of Alessia. It was the same map that depicted Asteron. He pointed to two cities beneath Krin, one closer to the ocean and one closer to the mountains.

”Ameidhire is most likely to have other Zaohin beast-men like us since its a port, but that also means more of a chance we run into Canidae assassins. On the other hand, Iadson is a mountain city like Krin. We
e less likely to run into Zaohin beast-men who can help us, but also less likely to meet Canidae resistance. ”

Alessia studied the map for a moment, then looked at Aatazaz. ”What do you think? ”

”I think we shouldn take the risk. We
e in no rush, so going from Krin to Iadson is probably the best move. ”

Alessia nodded. ”I trust your judgment. Once we find somewhere the boy can be safe in Krin, lets go to Iadson. ”

Aatazaz put the map back in his bag. ”Alright. Now, the matter of our funds. ”

The two discussed their own matters deep into the night.


Another day, another few hours of travel via Snowball and Thornpest. Alessia had to help the boy down from Snowball again, since he was so sore even walking was difficult. Whenever he walked on his own, he looked like a waddling duck. The stiffness from riding and soreness from his workout yesterday compounded were no joke.

They make camp for the day. Alessia went to practice, as usual. Since they had left overs from the day before, Aatazaz had no need to hunt, prepare, or cook anything. Once it was time, all he had to do was light a fire and warm the meat up. As of right now, he was keeping it inside a special box made by humans to keep things ice cold. He didn have any idea how the thing worked, human magic used mana. It was vastly more complicated than the straight forward use of spirit. Without anything else to do, he went to help Alessia train. They often sparred whenever he had free time.

When he walked up next to the boy, he was surprised for a moment. Alessias swordplay had changed. Every swing came from a more natural position, rather than rigid, unnatural stances. Her whole body seemed more relaxed before she swung, increasing the acceleration and speed of her swings. It was a minute change, hard for anyone who wasn a warrior to notice, but it still took him by surprise. Aatazaz was never an expert on sword form, since he preferred the axe, so he often let Alessia figure it out herself when they sparred. The way she fought was her own unique style, but now it was changing for the better.

”Youve improved. ” Aatazaz asked.

Alessia beamed at him and then pointed to the boy. ”He taught me a few things. ”

The boy in question shook his head. ”Ive done nothing, Shes just good with the sword. ”

That made Alessia frown. ”Didn I tell you to trust me? Listening to your comments really helped me improve. ”

The boy offered no argument, but didn agree either. He looked away, not daring to meet her gaze. Alessia sighed, then turned to Aatazaz. ”Tell him. ”

”Im no expert with the sword, but I can tell her strikes have gotten faster and more precise. If Alessia only changed after listening to your comments, then perhaps your comments have more value than you realize, boy. ”

The boy looked at the ground, hiding his expression. Alessia smiled, pleased at what Aatazaz had said.

”Now then. ” Aatazaz hoisted his axe from his shoulder. ”Care to spar a little, Alessia? We didn get to practice yesterday. ”

Alessia grinned. ”Obtusum ora. ” A white light covered the edge of her blade, dulling it. Aatazaz did the same. After a brief stare off, Alessia leapt towards Aatazaz, beginning their first spar.

The boy watched the two of them battle, their blades clashing and whirling about. Alessia would dash forwards, thrusting her sword forwards with a flash of white energy. Aatazaz side stepped her attack, hitting her shoulder with the palm of his right hand, sending her flying.

”Don leave yourself open to counter attacks. by over extending. Be able to move at all times. ”

Alessia got up and tried again, rapidly approaching him. This time, she swung her blade down from the sky, intent on cleaving Aatazaz into two pieces. Aatazaz put strength into his arm, beginning the motion to parry her blade. The moment his axe began to move, Alessia stopped her downward slash and performed a front kick right into Aatazazs chest. However, he saw through her fient. Aatazaz let go of his axe mid swing, stepped backwards to by himself time, and then grabbed her overextended leg with both his hands. With a light push, Alessia was knocked off her balance and fell to the ground.

”That was better. Try again. ” Aatazaz picked up his axe, and pointed it at Alessia.

The cycle continued. Alessia would run at Aatazaz, try something new, and inevitably get knocked down. It was like watching a lion toss around a kitten. Even so, Alessia would get up and try again every time. The boy stared at their clashing figures, unable to look away. Alessias stubborn attitude in the face of undefeatable adversity remained unchanged. The boys lifeless eyes stared at her.

What was the meaning?

Where was the point?

For the next hour, Alessia battled against Aatazaz. The boy watched from the sidelines. Alessia breathed heavily, exhausted. Aatazaz looked like had just gone for a nice stroll. He beckoned her with his left hand.

Alessia ran towards him, swiftly appearing directly in front of him. Aatazaz swung his axe down, but Alessia dodged it at the last moment, causing Aatazaz to bury his weapon in the dirt. For a split second, Aatzaz had a surprised expression on his face. Reacting quickly, he began to heave it from the earth, but before he could get it out, Alessia put her foot on the poll of the axe, keeping it planted in the earth. Aatazaz put all his bodily strength into his arms, causing veins to suddenly appear. Alessia began to move upwards, but she kept his blade in the earth by jumping, slamming the axe even further into the ground and simultaneously rocketing her at Aatzaz. Her blade accelerated towards Aatazazs head. Aatazaz gave up on his weapon and threw a punch towards Alessias hands. At this moment, Alessias blade suddenly changed direction, its trajectory curving away from his head and towards his chest. She had changed her attack from a vertical down-slash to a horizontal slash at the perfect moment. Aatazazs torso was wide open, the slash had to land. There was nothing he could do but watch Alessis strike land.

Or atleast, thats what she thought. Aatazazs arms suddenly glowed red, and his hands blurred as they reached speeds Alessia couldn track with her eyes. Before she could even blink, Aatazazs hands had clamped down on her blade before it could hit him.

Alessias eyes widened in surprise. Aatazaz looked at her, smiling and shaking his head. This time, he didn push her away. Once he had eliminated the velocity of her attack, he dropped her weapon and spoke.

”Well done. ”

Alessia raised her fists into the air, panting heavily. She turned to the boy who watched from the sidelines. ”Yes! Did you see that? I made him use spirit! I won! ”

The boy watched Alessia with a surprised expression, nodding slightly. All that hard work, rewarded only by Aatazaz to use his magic. Alessia walked over to get water while Aatazaz looked over at the boy.

”Will you remain a spectator or would you care to spar? ”

The boy shook his head. ”I wouldn be able to learn anything. Im not- ” He stopped mid sentence, recalling the words someone had spoken to him.

Please. Promise me youll try.

For a few seconds, the boy was silent. He cursed him stupid illogical mysterious feelings and rose to his feet. His stiff muscles trembled with weakness, but he managed to stand. He approached Aatazaz who was now standing alone.

”Im willing to try. ” The boy murmured.

Aatazazs eyebrows rose ever so slightly. ”Then let us begin. Tell me, what do you know about battle? ”

”Nothing. ”

”Alessia tells me you give her advice on her form. How could someone who knows nothing give advice? ”

The boy paused for a moment. ”Lucky guess? ”

Aatazaz looked at the boy, smiling. ”I think not. Your mind has forgotten, but your instincts haven . Perhaps you were a warrior in training before you met us. ”

”I don know . . . ” He shook his head with uncertainty.

”Only one way to find out. ”

Aatazaz threw a stick to him, about the length of a short sword. The boy took it and held it in his hand. Without hesitation, his body dropped into position. His left leg took a step backward, his foot at a ninety degree angle relative to his body. His hips twisted slightly, causing his right shoulder to point toward Aatazaz. His wooden weapon was held with both hands, resting near his waist. He felt the wood through his palms. He knew exactly where the stick was. In his hands . . . It felt good. Calming.

”The Eantupa style . . . quite rare to see these days. ”

”I have no idea what that is. ”

”You may not remember, but your muscles do. Come at me. ”

The boy hesitated, taking a slow step forwards before transitioning into a pitifully slow run. Comparing his speed to Alessias was like comparing a turtle and a rabbit. After a few seconds, he reached Aatazaz and swiped his blade in an uppercut. Aatazaz parried the blade with the back of his left hand while using his right hand to hit the boy square in the chest with a palm strike. It wasn nearly as fast as he had been with Alessia. He had purposely slowed himself down, but even so, the boy was unable to do anything. The strike landed, throwing him onto his back.

”Too predictable. Try Again. ”

The boy got back up slowly, wincing through his teeth. He looked at Aatazaz with desperation. ”But theres no way Ill even touch you. This is pointless. ”

”Through failure, you will learn. ”

The boy didn get up, staring at Aatazaz with confusion and guilt in his eyes. He didn believe it.

”You can do it! ” Alessia cheered from the side lines, enjoying her break. The boy looked over at her, and then back at Aatazaz.

He thought of Alessia when she kept running at Aatazaz. He knew it was stupid; a pointless endeavor. Yet, all he could think about was Alessia, how she kept going after Aatazaz again and again. She put forth monumental effort for such little gain, like removing one pebble from a landslide, or taking one step while climbing a mountain. He wanted so badly to throw in the towel; to stop pushing the boulder up the hill, but something inside him wouldn let him.

What was this feeling?

”Well, boy? ” Aatazazs words brought him back to earth.

There was no hesitation once the boy came back to reality. Against all his own logic, he rose to his feet and faced Aatazaz once again.


The boy panted heavily on one knee, trying to regain his breath. His clothes were drenched in sweat and his heart was having palpitations. The wooden sword definitely felt heavier from when they had first started. Aatazaz stood a couple dozen feet away, cool as a cucumber.

The boy tried to get to his feet, but one of his legs spasmed. He fell back to his knee. For some reason, his body was getting more and more cumbersome. It was like someone had replaced his bones with lead and his muscles with jello. Every breath he took was laborious, making every movement harder than usual. He blinked rapidly, trying to clear his vision. He felt light headed. Even so, he rose to his feet.

He stumbled towards Aatazaz and swung his sword. The blade slowly traced an arc through the air, almost as if the boy was only letting his arm fall instead of putting strength into the attack. Aatazaz didn even bother blocking it. It bounced off of his shoulder harmlessly. The boy, unable to halt his momentum, bounced off the mountain of flesh that was Aatazaz and landed on his back.

”Boy, thats enough. ”

The boy shook his head, pushing himself to his feet again. Alessia had gone until she saw progress. ”Not yet, I can still go on. ”

He was not fine. Aatazaz put a hand on his shoulder, gently pushing the boy into a sitting position. ”You
e exhausted. Any further training would be inefficient. Rest, and when you are refreshed, we can begin training again if you like. ”

The boy shook his head again. ”Im not tired, I can still keep going. ”

e shaking, out of breath, covered in bruises, and drenched in sweat. You need to rest. ”

The boy looked himself over. He blinked in confusion. He brought a hand to all the little nicks, various bruises, and cuts he had picked up from the fight. They barely hurt at all. The pain from these minor injuries was so little that he had tuned them out during his numerous bouts with Aatazaz.

That wasn normal.

He couldn remember exactly why, but alarm bells were going off in his head. His common sense made him believe that his wounds should be hurting more. If he was underestimating his wounds, then it would also make sense that he was underestimating his bodys exhaustion.

Aatazaz watched the boy look over his own wounds in confusion. The memory of the boy scarfing down nearly boiling stew appeared in his mind.

”Boy, can you not feel your own body? ”

”Yes, but . . . it feels wrong . . . these should hurt more. ” The boy rubbed his wounds gingerly, feeling only a tickle of discomfort. The sensation didn feel right. It was as if his whole body was undergoing paresthesia, but without the prickling sensation. It was like a thick sheet of wool had been put over his skin, dulling his sense of touch.

Aatazaz stroked his beard. ”Not feeling pain, or the dampening of pain, would certainly be useful . . . but Its a double edged sword. While you
e able to push yourself farther, you
e ignorant to your bodys real condition. Knowing that, youve definitely enough for today. ”

The boy nodded and fell onto his back, completely spent for the day. Alessia had to help him back to camp since he could barely walk. As the three of them walked back together, a pitch black raven soared above them, gliding through the air in a circular fashion like a vulture who had found a corpse. Its beady red eyes stared at the group before it suddenly veered off course, heading towards the mountains.

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