Trial by Fire

Chapter 2

"Hey, give me a chance to counter" Rin yells. It's been three weeks since the attack on Losang, as the intrepid trio proceeds on their journey to find the dark Ki user Dameus, they have taken a break in their journey to assess their current situation and to give Rin a chance to train. Mei has refused to help in the training, as she seemed to be against the idea of Rin coming from the start. So during their downtime it's become Shin's responsibility to train her.

"The enemy's not gonna give you a chance to counter, so you had better get used to fighting by the seat of your pants." Shin yells firing yet another fireball. "So that's your secret to winning so many fights." Mei joked. "Yep, in a fight it's all about instinct knowing when you can strike and when you can't." Shin said ignoring the joke. "Could you be any more vague. When is a good time to strike when the enemy keeps firing barrage after barrage at you." Rin yelled dodging yet another fireball. "It'll come with time and practice, you'll reach a point when you can see the enemy's strike even before they throw it." Shin said plainly like it made perfect sense.

Shin suddenly threw out his aura turning it into a wall of fire heading straight at Rin. Rin couldn't evade and in a flash of insight she threw out her own aura turning it into a wall of ice, negating Shin's wall of fire. But even as she did this Shin had seized the opportunity and had circled around behind her throwing a punch that stopped mere inches from her face. "Not bad but not good enough to defeat me." Shin said. With that the sparring match was over. "You must be aware of your surroundings at all times, just because your opponent is currently in front of you doesn't mean that's where he'll stay." Shin stated. "I understand." Rin said slightly embarassed. "Hey don't worry about this defeat, just learn from it and you'll slowly get better at fighting at the intensity that me and Mei fight at." Shin said. "Hey Shin could you stop pampering your protege and get over here." Mei said angrily. "Alright, i'm coming." Shin said walking over to Mei.

During Shin and Rin's sparring session Mei had been looking over a map, trying to get a trajectory on Dameus path that he had went when he had left Losang. "Figure anything out." Shin said. "Not really, i was hoping that maybe you had heard a rumor that I hadn't, that could give me a better clue on where to go next. Anything at all, no matter how insignificant." Mei said. "Let's see, well one farmer said that he had three cows end stuck up in the same side of the fence. Does that help?" Shin chided. "Will you be serious for once or have you forgotten what that bastard did to Sandie." Mei said but suddenly wished she hadn't. Shin got a serious look on his face. "I haven't forgotten, i might not remember it perfectly but i do remember certain things, like the bodies and that asshole laughing like it was most hilarious thing he had ever seen." Shin said angrily

"everything I heard i already told you or don't you believe me." Shin started. "OR do you think that my fuzzy memory means that i've lost the sense to tell the difference between useful information and total BS. HUH?" Shin said furiously. "No that's..." Mei started but then Shin said. "Forget it, anyway i want some time by myself, so leave me alone for the next hour." Shin said then walked off . After he had gone Mei finally spoke "Damn, I'm an idiot. Huh Rin?" Mei asked. Sitting down Rin was unsure whether she should answer. to be frank Rin was kind of scared of Mei. She was always serious, she also acted like she didn't want Rin to even be in the vicinity of her and Shin. So when Mei went all sentimental like this she was unsure of what to do.

"You listening Rin?" Mei asked. "Well, I think you shoudn't have brought up the past like that, it's still a sensitive area for Shin since he can't clearly remember that night." Rin said cautiously. Mei looked at her then down at the ground, at times Rin wondered if there was maybe something more between Shin and Mei and this was one of those times. "Rin, you need not be afraid of me, if you want to ask something, go ahead and say it." Mei stated. Shocked Rin asked "Well, I was wondering if you hate me or something?" "HUH, what do you mean, why would i have any reason to hate you." Mei inquired. "Well, the way you act towards me it seems to me like you wish i wasn't here." Rin said. "Oh, i'm sorry, i didn't realize i was giving off that kind of vibe. I'm actually glad you came with us, it's always good to see a fellow Ki user stand up for their beliefs no matter the consequences. What you were feeling wasn't aimed at you, I'm just frustrated that Shin acts like this doesn't matter, I know this quest means alot to him, but he doesn't always act like it. Like just now, i was asking him a serious question and he cracks a joke. he's just so frustrating at times." Mei stated. "As long as i've known Shin that's how he's acted. He's always cracking jokes, I think it's his way of getting rid of nervousness." Rin asked.

"What would he have to be nervous about he's a great warrior. so he doesn't have anything to worry about." Mei said. "You think, he's human just like you and me, so doesn't that mean that he gets nervous about things like we do." Rin stated matter of factly. "Hmm, I guess you're right." Mei said going deep into thought.

45 minutes later.

As Shin walked back he began to wonder if maybe he shouldn't have gotten on Mei's case like he had. Reentering the camp Shin noticed Rin was gone. "Where's Rin?" Shin asked. "She went to get some water from a nearby river, listen Shin." Mei started but stopped as she noticed Shin looking intensely towards the river. As Mei turned, Shin took off like bat out of hell.

At the river.

Rin was gathering water when a group of men had tried to grab her. "I don't know what you are trying to do but you better go away now if you know what's good for you." Rin stated. "Heh, or what little girl you gonna get rough." one of the men said. Suddenly the men lunged at her, she dodged and kicked the closest man near her square in his nuts. "OWWWW, YOU LITTLE BITCH YOUR FUCKED." the jewelless man screamed. the remaining men grabbed branches and whatever they could use as weapons. Rin took a fighting stance, the men began to strike at her from all sides. Suddenly the voice of Shin played in her mind 'be aware of your surroundings at all times.' It was very timely because the man behind her was bringing his makeshift club down. Rin turned and did a flip kick sending his club into the air, just as she had done that she felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She ducked just in time to avoid a club to the side of the face.

She planted her elbow in the man behind her's stomach. Sending him reeling, in the commotion of the first two, she had lost track of the other two, she dodged the third one's strike but was struck squarely in the chest by the fourth one. As she fell to the ground she realized she was in trouble, the men had regained there footing and she was still winded from the last strike. As they came at her she knew she had had it. Suddenly the front two men were flung back into the other two by what appeared to be an invisible force.

The force became a visible as Shin and Mei landed in front of her. "The hell do you think you're trying to do to my little sister, YOU SICK FUCKS." Shin said fury in his voice clearly heard. Shin had a principle that he followed of not using Ki against normals, but at that point it looked like Shin was about to eviscerate all of them. "W-w-w-we're sorry, we'll just be going." one of the men said helping his buddies to his feet. After they had left Mei spoke "Looks like you're bluff worked." Rin confused, asked "What bluff?" "Shin would never use his fire ki to hurt normals, but a warrior that knows how to use there ki correctly can intimidate a weaker opponent into believing that the warrior will use there full strength against them. that's what shin used." Mei answered. Rin looked over at Shin who had since walked over to the river to wash the sweat off of his face. He looked completely different right then.

Normally he looked so peaceful, like he wouldn't harm a fly, but a few moments ago he reminded her of that night in Losang. He had the same fury in his aura and eyes then and now, which made her wonder if he had really been bluffing or would he have really used his fire ki against those humans. She had to ask, "Shin were you really bluffing?" Shin stood and looked at her. That look told her all she needed to know, he would have.

Back at the camp.

Mei checked Rin's injuries as Shin sat looking at the ground. He had almost lost his cool at the river, he knew this, he knew he would've opened fire, literally, on those guys if they hadn't backed off. What was running through Shin's mind currently was a pondering of why he had lost his cool. Even if Rin was in danger, he shouldn't have lost his cool like he had.

Mei walked over to Shin and sat in front of him, she had since taken care of Rin's wounds and Rin had gone to sleep. "What's on your mind?" Mei pondered. "The river, you told Rin I was bluffing, but truth be told, I wasn't." Shin said. "I know." Mei started. "I could feel your Ki coming to full strength, you wouldn't do that unless you were itching for a fight." Mei finished. "Then why did you tell Rin i was bluffing?" Shin asked. "What do you think Rin would've thought, if she knew her big brother was going to kill those men?" Mei asked. "I see, I would've been no better than Dameus, in her eyes." Shin said.

Suddenly Mei shivered, even though there was a fire going it was still cold. Shin lifted his cloak and draped it over her shoulders, Mei wrapped the cloak around herself and moved closer Shin who had increased his aura to generate a little heat. "Heh, this brings back memories, when we were younger you would do this when we would sneak out at night to get additional sparring practice." Mei said and looked up at Shin. He looked like he was trying hard to remember what she was talking about. "If you can't remember, that's alright, i'll be your memory." Mei said sympathetically. Shin smiled and said "That's gonna be tough being the memory of two people." He joked. Mei laughed.

Later.

"I'm sorry about losing my temper earlier." Shin said. "Don't worry about it, I should've known that was a sensitive area for you." Mei said. Suddenly a memory flashed in Shin's head, it was an image of himself as a young man and a young girl, who was probably Mei. they were sitting in a field looking up at the stars. "Why does teacher always favor you over me?" The young Mei asked. "I don't know but i wish he didn't, everybody always seem to treat me like i'm special, it's really irritating, i'm just a usual Ki user." young Shin said. "I don't, you're just plain old Shin to me." young Mei said. Shin laughed then said "We better go back, our parents will figure we're out here if we don't." young Shin said. As they got up young Mei kissed young Shin on the cheek.

Back in the present.

Shin had returned to normal to find Mei was holding his shoulders. "Are you alright?" Mei asked with a concerned look on her face. "I just had a flashback." Shin said not wanting to go into it, at least not until he had a better clue on what he had seen. The kiss could have been something between friends or it could mean that Mei had feelings for him back then. "What was the flashback?" Mei asked. "It was nothing, just an image of when we were little kids." Shin said annoyed. Mei knew he was irritated but she had to ask "It wasn't of when I kissed you on the cheek was it." She asked. Shin was shocked that she guessed it. "How did you know?" Shin asked. "It was the most important night for the two of us, that night was the night Sandie was attacked." Mei stated. Shin understood now why that would be the first memory to pop into her mind.

Looking at Mei, Shin felt he had to apologise "I'm sorry Mei." He said. "Why are you apologising?" she asked. "Well while i've been living a normal life, you've been hunting down Dameus, twelve years and we've lived two completely seperate lives. You never really had a childhood, while i was recovering you were already hot on his trail." Shin said sadly. "It's alright you couldn't have done anything about losing your memory." she said. "their's something i want to ask you? Why specifically go after Dameus, from my flashbacks, besides your family, you didn't particularly have any reason to go after Dameus at such a young age. So why?" Shin asked. "That's cruel Shin, I may have not liked life there too much, but you should know that i had more than one reason to go after Dameus." She said. "Why then?" Shin asked.

"I was in the village when Dameus had attacked, my family was killed when they had tried to fight him. I was going to fight him, but i was too afraid. He turned and walked away, as I was about to start crying from embarassment, i saw a flash of black go flying by, that flash was you Shin. After i had gained enough courage, I followed the way you had went, only to see you fall into the river, dead or so i had thought. I tried to fight but I didn't stand a chance, then to add insult to injury, That bastard said to me 'killing you is pointless, live in the shame of your defeat.' after that i dedicated myself to becoming stronger to avenge not only my family but you as well." She finished.

"Wow, i didn't realise." Shin said. "I never told anyone this but I set out on this journey more for your vengeance than anyone else." Mei said. "Why would it be more for me than anyone else." Shin asked. "well I was always behind in the class, everyone made fun of me because i couldn't use the most basic of Ki techniques. When you started coming to our class, I thought you'd be another person to pick on me, instead you used the teachers regard towards you to be allowed to personally spar with me. The first time we sparred it was almost like today when you sparred with Rin. you beat me easily, but instead of gloating you helped me up and told me where my flaw was. you started using what you knew and taught me how to use my Ki. I was forever in your debt as i was able to fight above the level that everyone else could. I always thought it was funny because you used your influence to start training me but you couldn't stand how they treated you with preference." Mei chuckled. "But when i thought you had died i felt an emptiness inside. Normally when i was depressed i could just find you and you would say something to get me laughing to cheer me up. But you weren't there anymore and I had to stand on my own two feet. I swore that I would kill Dameus for taking the one person i cared about the most out of my life." She said then looked like she wished she hadn't said that last part. Shin sat there stunned by what he had just heard.

"The most, as in." Shin started but wasn't able to finish as Mei took off, her face as red as a cherry. 'does this mean that Mei actually had feelings for me back then, are they still present?' Shin pondered. Shin stood he looked at Rin as if to insure that she would be safe while he was gone. He knew that unless he got to the bottom of this he wouldn't be able to think clearly. Shin locked on Mei's ki and went after her.

In the woods.

'How could i just blurt that out. True i still have feelings for him, but i can't let them get in the way not when we now have the ability to strike a deathblow to Dameus.' Mei thought to herself. Suddenly she felt a familiar ki behind her. She turned to see Dameus. She immediately took her fight stance. "HA, pathetic you think you can fight me by yourself. you didn't stand a chance in Losang or Sandie, so what makes you think you can fight me now." He said. "I don't know but i won't back down like i did in Sandie, COME ON!!" Mei yelled rushing him but was easily countered as Dameus took hold of her and put her into a full nelson. "Ha, i knew you were weak but this is said that you could easily be countered like this. now be a good girl and i won't have to break your neck." He said.

Suddenly, Dameus was struck in the face by a fireball, allowing Mei to get free. As Shin landed, Mei regrouped beside him. Shin didn't waste anytime talking, he immediately launched into an attack against Dameus. Dameus tried to counter but was unable to as Shin's Ki blast had temporarily blinded him. Shin threw punch after punch like a madman within a matter of seconds Dameus's face was bloody and bruised. Suddenly Shin's aura ki began to swirl around him, as Mei watched, she was shocked by what she was seeing. Shin's aura was showing flame like normal but mixed in was hints of darkness. She suddenly realised why everyone in Sandie reverred him, Shin didn't possess the flame Ki, He possessed the super rare Dark flame Ki.

In legend the user of the dark flame ki had the ability to destroy all that stood in his path and not even leave ashes. Shin with his dark flame ki charged, launched into another attack against Dameus. Dameus tried to use his dark ki to inflict damage against Shin but was negated, as Shin drew ever closer to him. Dameus knew he didn't stand a chance against someone that could negate all his attacks. He decided to use his ki to teleport out of the situation. Shin landed where Dameus once stood and returned his aura to normal. as he did, he turned to Mei. "You alright?" He asked. "yeah, thanks for coming when you sensed me in danger, if you had been a second later i think, i think." she stuttered as the reality of what could have happen became clear. she went to her knees realising she could have died with things unfulfilled.

Shin kneeled in front of her, "Shin, there's something i need to do in case i'm killed in battle i don't want to think that i left something undone." Mei said. Shin was about to tell her to not talk like that, but realising it was pointless since they all knew that they could be killed at any time, he decided to let her finish. "what?" He asked. "Shin i want to tell you that I've had feelings for you since we were little. but until recently i didn't realise how strong they were." Mei said. "And?" Shin said. "What i'm trying to say is," Mei said than looked up and finished "I'm in love with you." Shin sat there shocked, but regained his composure. he lightly grasped her shoulders and said "I love you too" Shin said looking deeply into Mei's eyes.

Mei smiled then leaned into him as they both shared a kiss, there forms silhouetted by the moon...

End Chapter 2