The experience from the forest came flooding back into my mind fresh as if it just happened. Fear, anxiety, and pain began to overtake me, when suddenly “Tap..Tap” the sound of footsteps came near. Lifting my head I noticed my surroundings, a white room with beds spread in a circle with machines by the side like the one I am currently connected to. Looking to my left I see Tyler, Daniel, and Eric laying on beds next to me.
“Quiet boy now is not the time.”
Before I could call out to them, soldiers accompanied by a doctor and nurse walked into the room. The nurse walked over to the others who began to wake up, she questioned them about their experience while checking their bodies making sure there are no abnormalities. As I am tuned in to the conversation the doctor walks to the side of my bed and begins to examine me.
“Any abnormalities? Pain, feelings of fatigue?”
“No, I feel fine…but what happened exactly? I remember being in the forest where we were killed by a giant snake but now we are here?….”
“Ah, yes that would be the machinery at work. These machines use mana to create an astral projection allowing us to train this new generation of special soldiers. That room you were in can be changed to any type of biome, cities, and villages can be recreated as well. During cases of death or recall the mana escapes the projection returning to the original body retaining all memories and experience.”
“Whenever I killed an animal my body seemed to absorb the mana released into the surroundings is that the work of the machines as well?”
“No, not exactly. That is from the mana core we placed into your body when you were brought to this military ship to be trained. It allows one’s body to absorb pools of mana in the surroundings, such as the case when the animals released theirs upon death. Taking the absorbed mana it manually circulates condensing it with your own, strengthening the body, and quality of mana.”
“But why me? There were to girls with me the day I came, where are they?”
“I don’t know boy but now is not the time, we have other matters, let us finish the physical and collect your information…Name?”
“Hmm..okay, black medium length hair, hazel eyes, on the short side…alright, that is everything we need. Put on these fatigues then follow these soldiers back to your bunks. He’s all yours boys”
After saying those words the doctor turned around and left the room taking the nurse along with him. The other boys and I put on our new uniform then walked over to the soldiers.
“Line up single file in front of the door!”
One of the soldiers shouted out for us to line up, after we completed the instructions the soldiers led us back to our bunks.
“Alright, ladies lights out in 10!”
The soldier’s voice carries, echoing throughout the hallway. Once he was gone Tyler, Daniel, Eric and I moved to the end of our bunks discussing what had happened, sharing the information we collected so far before each of us slipped away into a deep sleep. Moments later I open my eyes to a familiar scene while sitting under a cherry blossom tree with Liza hugging my gut.
“Hmm…they must be tired from playing. Well… it does seem like the sun has begun setting. I suppose we can sit here a little longer before heading in.”
“No, they are not sleeping they just cannot respond…”
I hear a familiar voice from in front of me, I raise my head opening my eyes in shock, the figure in front of me is a spitting image of myself.
“I am your opposite..I am Okin”
“I..I don’t understand, what do you mean by my opposite?”
“You are the light…I am the darkness. You are hope….I am despair.”
“Where did you come from? How are you here? Where are we exactly?”
“We are in your dream…Created by your subconscious just as I. I come from all your hate, desire, pain and sadness. I have been around a long time but only recently have I grown enough to begin morphing into my own entity.”
“What do you plan to do?”
“For I am just another one of your personalities. I will reside in your dreams for when I am needed…Rely on me, I will protect us destroying anything, or anyone in our path.”
“BANG!…CLANK!” Jolted awake by the sound of the cell door opening I lift my body slamming my head onto the top bunk
“Time for another day ladies! Let’s get going! Outfits on, then line up at the cell door. You have three minutes, GO!”
The four of us jumped from our bunks shoving our limbs into our uniforms before lining up as instructed. The soldiers lead us down the usual hallway until we got to an intersection taking a left. After a few minutes of walking, we were brought to a dining hall.
“Line up over with those other children, after eating you and the other children will be brought to the projection rooms for training”
After speaking the soldiers walked to the side of the room where they watched over the dining hall. Seeing the soldiers walk away we begin walking over to the line to obtain our breakfast. While doing so a boy who looks to be around my age collided with another boy who looked a few years older, causing him to fall onto his bottom. Standing back up the younger boy yells out to the older boy.
“Watch where you are going you big prick!”
Without replying back the boy clenched his fist swinging directly into the younger boys stomach.
The boy falls clenching his stomach in the fetal position.
“Watch who you speak to like that kid! You, newbies, don’t know how to act at all…it’s the same thing every six months, coming in here thinking you are tough shit for whatever reason..heh. Well, prepared to be humbled, this is the not the place to be overly prideful.”
“I bet you cried, and wet your pants during the first survival training…I’ll let you in on a little tip, that was only to check competence, measuring your current worth. I promise you it gets worse. Good luck kid!”
The two older boy’s walked away chuckling amongst themselves while walking to a seat surrounded by their peers. Glancing over at the soldier none of them bothered to even take any action, they just stood talking amongst themselves.
The rest of the experience was relatively normal, we got to the counter grabbing our food, we managed to find seating where we talked amongst the four of us, still unsure of the others in the vicinity. After about 30 mins of being in the dining hall, the soldier leads us to the projection room where we are instructed to lay on the beds. The doctors and nurses walked around the room hooking each child to the machines. Moments later, I lose consciousness before waking up in the forest again. Except for this time we are all in a clearing together accompanied by soldiers and the sergeant from last time.
“Alright, children after the forest survival competency training we have adequate information on each and every one of you. The general consensus is that the majority of you are weak and soft. As of today, we will begin combat training starting with close quarters combat.”
After one of the lower ranked soldiers discussed the curriculum for today the sergeant stepped forward.
“Everyone stand off to my left shoulder to shoulder.”
We all lined up as we were told to do, after seeing that we finished following instructions the sergeant nodded to one of his subordinates. Who stepped forward pointed at one of the children telling him to come in front of him.
“Child, come at me”
One simple command led everyone into confusion.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean exactly what I told you. Come to attack me! I will not repeat myself again!”
The child even though still confused attempted a punch on the soldier, “Swoosh” the soldier dodged the punch easily following it up with a punch to the child’s gut, “OOF!” the child folds falling to his knees.
“Try again! Put more effort into it!”
Getting up from the ground the boy wobbles forward before sprinting to the soldier throwing out punches in succession. Easily weaving out of the way of the incoming flurry of punches the soldier grabbed the child by the neck slamming him back straight into the ground.
“Alright children, just as in this session you need to learn to hold no fear in battle. You need to have situational awareness and read your opponent. Everyone find a partner, we will begin with takedowns.”
Throughout the rest of the training session, the soldiers guided us in form, and execution of mixed martial arts. My body easily followed the forms quickly building muscle memory being able to easily repeat what was taught. I was especially confident in my stand up game, being an aggressive in-fighter which fits my short body and arms. After hours of training, the soldiers brought us to the dining hall for our supper, before we were lead back to our bunks to rest. Repeating the same process the following morning, although this time the soldiers did not come along for the training leaving the children to train amongst themselves.
Having already memorized everything taught, I gave a hand to Daniel, Tyler, and Eric. Eric and Tyler were used to defending themselves so they did not need as much help since they had some fighting sense already. All that was left was learning the moves. Daniel, on the other hand, being more interested in learning wasn’t very combative. He struggled due to a slow reaction speed and low strength. While I was teaching the three, other children struggling walked up asking if they could join us in practice, and if I could help guide them on some of their flaws.
“Ah, so this is the boy genius huh?”
A loud sarcastic voice came from behind me, I turned to face the person who called out to me
“Would you like to join us? It would be a bit easier for us to work together?”
Without saying anything back the boy swung at my face. I dodged his right fist by sliding on my left knee cupping under his buttocks lifting him vertically over my shoulder, slamming him to the ground. He puts his guard up wrapping his legs around my waist, I throw a punch instantly breaking through his guard dazing him. Seeing that he is not able to react, I continue raining down punches onto his face before his legs fell limp along with the rest of his body as he lay still, blood flowing from his nose and mouth.