I had run out of water a few hours ago, and being in the middle of the desert, I'm quite lucky that I had just found a village. I walked into a restaurant and wiped the slick sweat off of my forehead with my sleeve.
I threw money on the counter, requesting water. The store owner chuckled and commented that I seemed to be having quite a day, before signaling me to wait while he left to go get it. When he returned he carried a six liter jug full of water. He pushed the money across the counter toward me and told me to keep it.
"I like to repay my debts as quickly as I can... I don't like to owe anything to anyone," I insisted. "You don't owe anyone anything, I'm happy enough just helping a young girl travelling to the desert and besides, water's free here."
I nodded and pulled two silver flasks out of my travel pack. I tilted the jug over and began pouring it into the flasks.
"What's your name, Milady?" He asked with asked soft smile.
"Kalysta Akayama (緋山 かりすた, Akayama Karisuta), umm, and yours is?"
"My name's Kenji Kiyama (Kiyama Kenji, 城山 賢士)," he responded blankly.
"Well, see you," I said, turning away, and exposing to him, the sheathed Wakizashi (A curved Japanese short sword) fastened to my back by a strap over my right shoulder.
"I see you wield a blade," he commented, "what do ya say about a little... test?" I didn't turn around, "What kind of test?"
"It is little more than a test of your skill, I assure you," he answered. I turned and walked back to the counter. He opened the gate leading behind the counter and let me in, and we continued out the back door.
After I went through the back door, I realized that instead of leading outside as I had expected, it lead to another room. And when I turned my head to see Kenji, he was gone. I turned back to the next door in front of me which read "Training Grounds."
I pushed my shoulder against the solid iron door until it opened revealing a large grassy field surrounded by brick walls on all sides.
Walking toward the middle of the field I suddenly heard the sound of movement behind me, quickly turning and simultaneously unsheathing my sword to strike the source of the noise, I realized it was Kenji.
He'd managed to catch the blade with his bare hand and pull it past him, tearing it out of my left hand and sending it flying into the ground behind him. He then delivered a swift two-fingered jab to my abdomen forcing heavy, raspy breaths.
"You did well, especially for someone so young," he said, complimenting me. He turned to go back inside, "Come with me, we'll getcha cleaned up."
"Don't talk like it's over," I replied. When he turned to look I had disappeared, I jumped up from behind him and he turned to block my hand strike with his own hand, I caught it and lifted him into the air throwing him into the air behind me. He landed on his back this time. I picked up my sword and threw it toward him; it landed in the ground inches from his neck.
He gave an odd smile and sat upright. "You win." He ruffled his messy hair with his hand and grinned, "You're quite efficient in battle... that probably has something to do with your healthy figure," he gave a sarcastic smile, "slender yet curvaceous."
I silenced him with a foot planted on his face, which made his nose start bleeding.
Taking a close look at him I realized that should be about twenty years old, and his red hair glowed in the sun, however, he held the expression of a hyperactive child. "So, why are you traveling, Kalysta?"
I paused and my expression became full of resolve, "because I'm traveling to the Royal Realm."
"Isn't that the realm that the Royal Family resides in?"
I wore a blank expression, "Yep, I plan to kill the king, 'cause he had my parents assassinated."
"What – eh, wait a minute - how can you get there?," he asked looking at me quizzically.
"It's a parallel world that only the descendants of the ancient Royal Family are able to enter."
I pulled the black fingerless gloves off of my hands and showed him the back of my left hand, which has a black marking reading '穿空門' which means 'Sky Piercing Gate' and is pronounced 'Senkuumon.'
"B-but that seal is limited to descendants of the Royal Family, so you would have to be... one of them."
I pointed the hand into the air, "The king had my parents killed when I was a baby, my aunt took me in until her own death of natural causes, the king is my uncle, and so, I'm now able to avenge them all, by ending his life."
"I see, so it's decided then," he said turning his head so that his hair reflected the sun. I looked at him, confused.
"You're going to be my disciple, and train under my guidance, until you're ready for this journey of yours," he picked up my sword by the blade, using his bare hands once again and handed me the hilt, "and when the time comes that you're ready, I'll go too and journey alongside you."
"Whoa, really?" I stared at him in disbelief. "I just met you."
"That's true, but you've already proven yourself capable of learning these things," he ruffled his hair again and smiled, his teeth glinted in the light, "and you'll be proud to know you're the first one who's passed this test."
"I want to learn to use the Tetsukotsu Technique (Tetsukotsu is written as: "鉄骨," meaning "Iron Bone") the way you do," I said quickly after he'd finished speaking.
"Are you referring to the way I can catch a sword in my hand?" He looked confused, "I didn't know the technique had a name, I'd actually thought I created it myself."
"I suppose I could probably teach you the secret behind it," he said, with a finger on his chin, "maybe later, first, there are many basic things you need to learn." He stared at me curiously, "Where exactly have you seen the technique used before, Kalysta?"
"My mother used to use it in combat training, and after years of watching her, I could never grasp the technique myself," I explained.
"Well, since you've got nowhere to live, I suppose I know a place you could stay for now," He said, standing up and walking over to the door. He pushed the heavy door open with a single finger, and is closed on it's own behind him. I sheathed my Wakizashi and approached the door, and used my shoulder, once again to force the door open and wound up in the room from before. He had disappeared, once again. When I pushed open the wooden door leading back the the counted I saw him, wearing entirely different attire, standing at the restraunt's entrance.
"Whoops, I forgot to change the sign to CLOSED," he said flipping it. He looked over to me, "So, you coming to see your new home or not?"
"Uh-y-yeah," I said pushing to the counter gate and walking to him, "Let's go."
We pushed through the clear glass doors and out into the scorching heat, "wait, I just noticed something, it's blistering heat out here whereas in the Training Grounds, which are just on the other side of the building, It's all green grass and a cool breeze."
"I work in mysterious ways, but trust me, that'll make sense one day," He answered vaguely.