The International Writers Magazine: Continuing our great serial
from beyond death
you haven't read the previous seven chapters start at Chapter
Great Beyond Chapter VIII
possible, poetic justice is the preferred means of liquidation.'
Training was a lot
tougher than I expected it to be. Urimaru took me down to his basement
where the training course stretched off impossibly out of sight. It
was a maze of ropes and tires and rusting junk heaps and dirt piles
and rain forest and crumbling brick tenements and Death Valley and horrible
boiling pits of lava and much, much more. The massive cavern held every
type of climate and landscape imaginable in a brutal series of impossible
scenarios. In the middle where we started was a large, square, sand-covered
flat with a white line running in an unbroken circle; touching the edges
in tangents. There he told me I needed a new body.
"I had a body once, and look where it got me. What do I need with
"Its to keep you from getting soft. Dont worry, this
body will be much improved over your last one."
I gave it form, but he had to guide me. Every cell was built from scratch.
I could exert total control over every function. As the tissue formed
a layer at a time, it became easier rather than harder to consciously
keep it all working properly. Once I learned how the process became
a simple reflex; hardly worth noticing unless something wasnt
working right. Urimaru showed me how to develop the muscles and shape
the bones, tendons and joints for a more efficient and athletic disposition.
It proved worth the effort when later he had me concentrate my volition
on normal physical movements. No levitation or non-physical manipulation.
My flexibility and strength took some getting used to. We also spent
a long time on how I could fuel the physical cells with readily available
energy all around us.
"Just like when youre surfing, and you have this massive
amount of kinetic energy in the form of a wave breaking," he explained,
"and you ride along using some of it to move you on your board.
Its the same principle. There is energy everywhere, largely in
the form of heat and motion. It can be harnessed and used instantly,
or stored up and released later."
He showed me all kinds of tricks that he had learned over a period of
several thousand subjective years. He helped me test the limit of my
new bodys abilities. I could leap easily over hundreds of feet
using only my new leg muscles. I could run almost as quickly as I could
think. He put me through some yoga to show me just how flexible I had
become. My bones would bend if or when I needed them to, and so, appeared
to be unbreakable. My tendons could stretch like surgical tubing. Having
complete control over every level of cell function changed the way in
which I moved and breathed. The speed and strength of my motions changed
the way I fought. I had to relearn everything, but it didnt take
too long. Urimaru was a good teacher.
He told me that exaggeration was the most effective tool in long term
memory retention. Even at the level of depth and complexity with which
I learned things now, this seemed to be true. Everything we went over
was very subtly presented in an extreme. Maximum and minimum limits
were accentuated when I learned new techniques. When he told me I was
ready for the course I was still skeptical about the need for another
body. If I was already dead, what was the point?
He very patiently told me, "Keep your movement down to physical
only. Kill the pain receptors and keep your senses limited to the bodys
standard five. The full course takes a year of subjective time. Start
now and come back in two weeks. Dont retrace your steps, just
return directly to this place in two weeks." He vanished.
The course was brutal. Even with my new high performance body the traps
were deadly and the conditions were so harsh that I began to wonder
if it were possible for a body to survive a year of this sort of steadily
increasing danger. After the first day I wondered what the big deal
was. I couldnt see any reason why limiting my sense of touch would
make a difference. Over the next thirteen days I was too busy to think
about it. At the end of the two weeks Urimaru was waiting for me when
I reappeared in the white circle. He told me to open all of my senses
and examine my body. It was severely damaged. I had cuts and scrapes
all over my arms and legs. My back was torn to ribbons of flesh that
barely clung together, and I was a mass of bruises. I had barely noticed
the damage as I went through the trials. My bodys new senses were
as enhanced as the muscles, bones and organs. I could hear dust settling
all over the cavern, and my eyes could see details from miles away,
or focus in to see cells dividing. My olfactory sense was as sharp as
a bloodhounds. Even so I didnt notice the extent of the
wear and tear I had accumulated. I didnt have the time to dwell
on it out there. He lectured me as I slowly repaired the damage.
"You cant keep your edge without your body. The ability to
feel pain is an essential element in cultivating the instinct for self
preservation. Ask anyone with Hansens disease. You have to develop
the instinct and keep it sharp or you wont last, even with your
unique advantage. You might get by well enough for what you could see
coming, but the dangers come from all directions. They always will."
I set out on the course again with my tail stuck firmly between my legs.
I was still restricted to physical movement and senses, but I was running
my pain receivers at maximum sensitivity. I understood what he meant
and resolved to hone my skills to their finest by the end of the year.
Urimaru insisted that I would have to if I wanted to complete the course.
The year of subjective time did not take stopping for rest into account.
Without the need for sleep, ingestion, re-hydration or waste evacuation,
the body could be constantly bombarded with demanding trials and ceaselessly
conditioned with the ever present threat of Urimarus fatalistic
gizmos. There were a few times when I paused to heal a carelessly received
cut, but the course was designed to keep you moving. I had to learn
to lick my wounds on the run; an ability that I suspected would be something
I would learn to cherish. It seemed that much more than a year had passed
when I at last saw the wide white circle on the sand flat. Urimaru was
He had my sword with him, and another resting on his shoulder. I could
see that it was Japanese steel. I guessed late 1300s; the metal
folded over and over again, producing thousands of fine, strong layers
of edged death. He tossed me my own blade, then removed his from the
saya. Its cold black finish contrasted sharply with the sand as he tossed
it to the ground. The naked blade in his hand fairly glowed with silvery
menace as he brandished it.
"This isnt the original of course. Just a faithfully reproduced
imitation of one of the finest works of one of the finest sword smiths
I have ever known. The interior of the saya of the original blade was
lined with the same steel, folded as many times. Were it not, the sword
would have sliced through it as soon as it was sheathed. The rules are
different here, and so is the construction of this sword, which is at
once beneficial and unfortunate. However, it serves just as well for
my skill." The katana sliced through the space around him as though
frictionless. I could hear it hum.
"Its beautiful. What are the rules?"
"Survive. Cut or be cut. The only rules that ever truly matter.
This is the last test Ill put you through. After this, if you
make it, well see what develops. For now put that out of your
mind." He stabbed the sword into the air in front of him, which
seemed to hold it in place then turned to disrobe. When the fabric fell
off his shoulders, it revealed a powerfully muscled back and the physique
of a warrior in his prime. His face looked Japanese, but his hair jutted
upward in short, sharp blonde spikes all over his head. The five oclock
shadow was gone. The beer gut had vanished with the kimono. It collapsed
in a pile next to the empty saya. In the instant before the cloth touched
the sand, four thin, well balanced, razor sharp throwing knives flew
from his hands in my direction. I had anticipated them, and dodged them
all easily. I managed to catch one reflexively and returned fire. But
he wasnt there anymore. Neither was his sword. I drew and parried
blindly on my left flank, just in time to deflect a killing blow. Steel
rang against steel as we went back and forth. The tones made up an ugly
symphony of clashing chords; faster and more savage we lashed at each
other. The howl of mutant wind chimes echoed through the air. I could
see his uncovered torso very clearly. Thousands of small white lines
covered his hands. They stood out starkly against tanned skin in a spider
web of scars across his neck and up his arms and shoulders, and on his
chest and stomach. He noticed my interest and made polite conversation
while trying to cut me in half.
"Each scar is for a student. I keep a reminder of all their cuts,
because each one is a success for the master as well as the pupil. If
you can cut me, you can count yourself among the truly dangerous and
the fearfully bad-ass. If not, you have to go through the course again.
Each time I cut you first, you have to return to training. My most difficult
student went through it three times, but he gave me the worst cut."
He indicated a prominent, wide scar that traced down the left side of
his face. It began high on his forehead then ended briefly at the top
of his eye socket and began again, continuing down from his upper cheek
just below his left eye. He used the fraction of a second I spent in
examining the disfiguring wound to put me on the defensive. I had to
jump wildly backwards in a high arc to avoid some particularly close
stabs, but he was at me again almost instantly, fairly flying in a straight
line across the circle to where I landed. I met his attack, and barely
escaped being skewered. This continued for days. I began to learn from
his fighting style, and slowly plotted out a finishing attack. He fell
for a feign, and I planted a nick across his left jaw line, then immediately
pulled back and lowered the weapon. He stopped his attack to examine
the wound. We both knew I pulled the punch, so to speak; I could have
taken off the top of his head. He bowed to me solemnly, and I returned
the courtesy. We retrieved our scabbards and he put his robe back on.
He had a fresh white scar in place of the cut, but no more of the appearance
of the bum I met when he first opened the front door. We flew up out
of the basement and up into the first floor. He led me to a Turkish
bath where we slipped into a large pool of steaming water.
"This is the other reason for having a body." He said as we
began to relax. Not that I needed it. The control I had over every muscle
kept them from cramping or over stretching. No twists or sprains or
hyper-extensions were possible when my mind controlled my body so completely.
I wasnt tired at all. My mind was sharp and focused. I felt invincible
and keenly aware of everything around me. I was more alive than I had
ever been. I wasnt about to argue with the water though. I slipped
under and came to rest flat on my back on the bottom of the pool, staring
up through the water. Urimaru started floating around on the surface.
He circled around lazily above me. "Have you given any thought
to what you want to do next?"
"I want to go after my murderer. If I can stop him, maybe I can
stem the loss of the remaining timelines. Even if I cant, this
guy knows all about me. He knows the people I left behind, and he might
decided to go after them to draw me out. I wont have it."
"Sounds sensible. Would you like to visit the council first? Its
about time I checked in with them. They should know youre in good
"Can they help me find him?"
"Sure. Or we can do it alone if you prefer. I know very well who
it was. I knew he was going to try, but I didnt know when or how.
I expect that when his superiors find out that he failed, hell
want to make himself scarce for a while. It shouldnt take much
effort to find him though."
"Youve known all this time and you didnt tell me?"
"Yes, of course."
"Why for Gods sake?!"
"Because Ive done this many times, and I am wiser today than
I was yesterday. Had I told you, you would have been tempted to rush
off into an impossible fight. Ive seen it before. Dont worry,
youll get your turn at him. Hes been off limits since your
murder. Thats one of the conventions shared by the council. Whenever
possible, poetic justice is the preferred means of liquidation. Ive
provided you with the training, now its up to you to settle the
score if you wish. Or you can defer the task to someone else; theres
a long line of people waiting for this one. Dont worry about your
family. There are people watching them for now. We anticipated you concern,
and we share it. You are a potentially invaluable asset for our side.
Were looking out for you and yours."
"You keep saying we. I should probably meet with the
council, but only with a few at a time at first, and only the ones you
are certain you can trust. Your training course has made me cautious.
I mean paranoid."
© Brodie Parker November 1st 2004
To be continued...
Chapters One & Two of our serialised novel - it begins here
Chapter Three here
Chapter Four here
Chapter five here
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