3

The Hope Destroyer

Weeks passed and I continued to fulfill people's wishes. I talked to more Stars and worked with them. I kept returning to Megan and Marie the whole time. They had been my first and I found a certain attraction to them. I felt so powerful and almost bored now. It was too easy. I found it out one day while lying with Marie. We had just finished and we were having another question and answer session.

"Is it always so easy? I mean is this all I have to do? Effectively whatever I want? I can fly for crying out loud with or without wings."

"There is one memory that I left out of the ones I gave to you Nathan. Would you like it now? I believe that you are now ready."

I was a little shocked and also a little annoyed that she had kept a memory from me but that washed away instantly for how long can you truly stay annoyed with someone you love?

"Yes," I replied. "Give it to me."

She put her hand on my forehead and I received the last of each Wisher's memories. What I received was this…There was someone else that was awakened the same time as me. He was a Destroyer of Hope, or an anti- Wisher. His role was to kill the Wisher and the Stars as well. My job was to grant people's wishes and protect the Stars. I knew nothing of what he looked like or where he may be. Actually, I wasn't even sure it was a he at all. I leapt out of bed and spun to face Marie.

"Marie. I know that you're great at fighting with both weapons and magic. If these memories hold true for all Destroyers of Peace, then he already has learned so much more than I have. I have no idea when he'll strike first and I need to be ready. Please Marie!"

Marie just lied there for a moment staring at me almost as if she was sizing me up. She then got out of bed and was clothed instantly in a Star Training Ghee. She stretched out her hand towards me.

"Take my hand. I'm going to take us to our sacred training grounds. Only battle proven Stars are aloud inside here. Only two other Wishers have been aloud in here. Consider it a great honor."

I took her hand and a symbol appeared in the air in front of us. We were instantly teleported to a place not included in any of the Wisher's memories. It was a large outdoor room. Actually it looked more like a million football fields squished together with a track stretching around it than a room. I turned around and around trying to take it all in.

"Where is this place?" I asked. "There's no place like this on Earth."

"Nor even where the Stars dwell for that matter. As I said before, this is one of our sacred areas. It falls in its own dimension. We can receive anything we need from this place. So say I needed a staff because you were paying more attention to the landscape than me and I needed to hit you…"

She looked to her left and a rack of staffs appeared. One immediately flew to her hand and she smacked me over the head with it. It sent me sprawling and I was already regretting asking for her help. I stood up and faced her again.

"How big is this place?" I asked as I turned around once more.

"Big enough," was her reply. "I want you to do one lap around the track. I expect you back in three hours. If you're back, then you get rewarded. If you don't get back in the allotted time, you take a step back. Understand?"

I understood that most likely the step back was literally a step back when she clobbered me with that thing. Needless to say, I took off as fast as I could. I pounded down the straightaway but couldn't see the turn. No matter how hard I squinted, I couldn't see the turn anywhere. I realized that I just had to run, and run I did.

***

No less than four hours later, I ran panting to where Marie was lounging on a comfy chair. I saw that she had collected many more weapons on racks around her. She checked her timer and set it down again.

"Nathan. Do you have any idea how long you were gone?"

I knew that by that tone of voice, I was well outside the allotted time.

"Five hours?" was my weak guess.

She sat up and showed me the timer. I groaned. The timer read, 12:24:33. Twelve hours, twenty four minutes, and thirty three seconds. Marie sat down again and started the timer.

"Again."

Sixteen times I ran all the way around the track. And each time, I decreased the amount she showed me by a couple of seconds…and each time I was sent sprawling by a whack to the head. I was finally down to 11:54:22, which was still eight hours above where I needed to be. Every time I finished, Marie would ask me if I was tired. Even though I was tired, each time I replied with no. On the seventeenth time around, I nearly collapsed on the last straightaway I was so tired. As soon as I got back, I got to see my time. 17:23:21. I almost fainted right there. I closed my eyes in anticipation of what Marie was going to do. But instead of the crack across the skull that I was expecting, there was a thud at my feet. I opened my eyes and saw a staff lying there. I picked it up and studied it for a moment. Now I was no staff expert, my thing was swords and hand to hand combat, but I could tell that this was a wondrous staff. I looked up just in time to see Marie flying at me with her staff raised. CRACK! I felt some ribs break as she swung her staff into my side. I staggered but she gave me no respite.

She threw herself at me again and again. Each time I barely got my staff there to be smashed out of the way and the feeling of her staff smashing into my body. Finally I was able to get my battered and exhausted body to extend my staff and jab her in the sternum. I heard a crack and she gasped in pain. I immediately dropped my staff and began to apologize. She instantly slammed her staff into my head. I felt my skull split and the world went black.

***

I opened my eyes to find myself still in the training grounds. I saw Marie sitting over me in her chair with her staff in her hand. I felt my head and realized that she had healed it. I also realized that I felt like I'd slept for a week.

"You never apologize when you strike an enemy. Once they're dead for sure, then you can apologize, but never in the middle of a battle. I had you run that distance one, to show you where my standards are, and two, to make you tired and show you what it's like to fight when you can barely stand. Now that you know what my training is like, do you still want to continue? I will think none the less of you if you decide that you want to train with one of the easier teachers."

I thought about it for a moment; I made a conscious decision that no matter what she did, I would never back down. I picked up my staff and stood up. She grinned and stood up as well. She stepped up and placed a kiss on my cheek.

"That was for getting a light lucky hit in."

We stepped away from everything and began to spar again. This time I was able to keep up at least a little bit now that I was more awake and alert, but she was still far better than me. I could tell she was going very easy. A couple of hours later, we sat down for a little break. I was sweating and breathing hard while she was quite relaxed. We took a drink and sat there for about ten minutes. Then we were back up.

"All right Nathan. You know what that felt like. Now I am going to harder on you. Are you ready for this?"

I nodded and let the pain commence. It was a brutal beating. I tried everything I knew, but she was always four steps ahead of me. And then I got another lucky hit to her side while giving myself a broken knee cap. She immediately called a stop and stuck her staff in the ground. She brought her arms down and pulled off her outer shirt. Now she was just in her half skirt and what looked almost like a strapless sports bra.

"Every time you hit me, I will do one more thing for you that you like. Hit me hard enough and I may do more than one thing. Now I am going to go all out on you. Be prepared. Heal yourself and then I will come at you."

I conjured up the symbol and was surprised at how long it took to heal all my injuries. Once I was done, we both picked up our staffs and took up positions. She winked at me and absolutely disappeared from my view. I spun around and she was standing there as calm as could be. That's when I felt it. I felt my ribs and my sternum break and my elbows shatter. I screamed in pain and dropped my staff. I felt her staff connect mercilessly with my head. I picked up my staff again and faced her. As she lashed at me again and again, I tried to throw my staff in the way, but I couldn't even see her move so that was impossible. It was weeks later when we finally called a stop. Her legs had begun to become sore from moving that fast for so long. As we lay completely naked on the bed she had summoned I asked, "How fast can you run once around the track?"

She looked at me and strode over to the track. She tossed me the timer and got ready. I pushed the button and she was off. She got back to me and I stopped the timer. I looked at it and dropped it. She caught it, looked at it, and frowned.

"I can do better," she mumbled.

I was awestruck. Better than a 0:04:15? How do you do that? I went back and lied down with Marie again. She explained later about the time in this place. Back on Earth, hardly any time had passed. Even though we'd been here for a fortnight, only a couple of hours had passed in the other World. When she brought us back, it was just dawn of the night we left. I created a double to go to school for me and slept for the whole day. I decided that the next day I would make some of those house call wishes come true. And I would train the day away.