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UNDER CONSTRUCTION

This article, K21 - Impeccable Corruption, is still being written by its owner Solomus-BlackWing. They apologise for the inconvenience.

Cast (In Order of Appearance)
K21LOGOV2.2
IllSkillz - Gifts & Curses04:08

IllSkillz - Gifts & Curses

Before his life at Ghost_K, Li-Pau Nao lived his life like any ordinary Chinese child should have in Sector III, but all innocence is lost eventually, and Li-Pau shall soon see what the world has come to when his life is turned inside out.

Chapter 1

The first thing I heard as I opened my eyes was the sound of a partridge chirping, the second being the dozens of vehicles driving down the street. I let out a long drawn out yawn before sitting up straight. I looked out the window to find what I always loved about my room. The tall, tightly knit silver spires of Shanghai glistened with bright red and gold lights, along with the sunlight reflecting off the spires whitewash. I stretched my arms before digging my toes into my fur slippers. I stood up, immediately regretting the decision to do so as my blood finally reached my head. Dizziness overcame me and my vision was blurred for a few seconds before finally returning. With my vision returned, I quickly paced over to my bedroom door and opened it, proceeding to walk downstairs to the main floor. As I did so, I was greeted with an all too familiar sound.

Around the corner, I heard my mother and father embroiled in yet another argument about moving to Japan. Dad was adamant that we did so, for it would aid his career, while mom always insisted that we would be safer in Shanghai.

“For the last time Jon-Tai,” My mother snapped. “It’s too dangerous! Even with your ties with them, we’re still not safe! You know how much bad blood there is between the Chinese and the Japanese.”

“Regardless,” I heard my father reply. “My superiors are starting to get worried."

I let out a sigh before turning the corner and walking into the kitchen. “Morning.” I mumbled, before opening the cabinet containing the glass cups.

“Good morning Li-Pau.” My mother beamed, obviously hoping I hadn’t heard her arguing with dad.

“Morning son.” My father grumbled, barely trying to hide the venom still perched in his voice.

“Good morning.” I repeated, before turning the nob on the sink and pouring myself a glass of water, and proceeding to sit down.

“How was your sleep?” Mom asked, trying to make conversation. “Fine,” I told her. “You?”

“I slept wonderfully, thank you.” My mother smiled.

“You sure? Sounds like the two of you woke up on the wrong side of the bed from what I heard.” I grumbled.

Mom let out a sigh, before taking her seat at the table. My father simply grunted, before taking out the toaster and plugging it in. “I thought as much, how much did you hear?” My father asked.

“From the bad blood between the Chinese and Japanese to you being a plasma elemental.” I told him.

My father let out a sigh, before pulling out a package of bread and slotting two pieces into the toaster. He then turned around and looked at me since I had walked into the kitchen. The first thing I noticed was the sign of insomnia in his eyes, along with the dark rings around his eyes.

“You’re tired.” I pointed out.

He gave me a smile, but there was no humor in his expression. “No, really? What gave it away?”

At that, the toaster made its distinctive popping noise, and my father turned to take out the two pieces of toast from the machine, before placing them on a plate, and pulling out a kitchen knife.

“Son, you know the nature of my work, don’t you?” My father asked as he began to spread butter upon the freshly crisped toast.

“Yes dad.” I replied, before taking a sip from my glass of water.

He nodded. “The organization I work for is…sensitive about its members. They always want to know where you are, and when you’ll be back,” He smiled then. “Think of your mother and myself when you skip school to run around rooftops for the rest of the day.”

My mother sighed. “You should really stop doing that, sweetheart.” She told me. I let out a slight chuckle. “What point is there in learning about stuff that won’t help me in the future?”

“Enough,” my father cut in. “That’s not where I was going with this.”

“Yes dad…” I mumbled, before taking another sip of water.

“As I was saying,” He pursed his lips. “The organization wants to know where its members are twenty-four seven. Living in Shanghai is difficult, since they’re based in Japan.”

I rolled my eyes. Here it comes. I thought to myself.

“That’s why I want us to move to Japan, otherwise the organization will get even more suspicious, and…things will happen, bad things.” As he finished his statement, he turned around and handed me one of the plates, which had one of the pieces of toast he had made. My father then took his seat at the table, and began to eat his breakfast.

“Dad,” I said.

“Yes?” He asked.

“Why do you call the PDC ‘the organization?’ You could simply call them by their actual name.”

“Sweetheart,” My mother cut in. “It’s complicated. Just let us worry about it. You worry about what you need to work on…”

“Like your schoolwork.”

Before I had a chance to respond, a ringing noise sounded off. I turned to find an alarm clock with the current time stapled upon it, in flashing red lights. My mother stood up and turned the clock off before turning back to me.

“We’ll have to talk about this later. Get dressed, you have school.” She told me, before walking out of the kitchen. She suddenly stopped at the doorframe and turned around to look at me. “And please, try to stay in school this time.”

Chapter 2

I walked through the halls, in the opposite direction of the rest of the students. A large backpack was slung around my shoulder, housing the things that I needed. As I continued to walk, I took into account one of the many traits in which I hated about my school: There was a school uniform. Each student wore the exact same milky white plaid shirt, dark grey trousers, and tie, with the girls wearing a similar shirt and skirt of the same fabric as the pants. On occasion, one of my classmates would slow down and ask where I was going, and I would tell them all the same thing.

“I’m just going to the washroom.” I would call over my shoulder as I continued to walk through the crowd.

On one specific occasion I accidently bumped into one of my classmates, who proceeded to look at me with discontent, before continuing to walk towards the classroom. I noticed various posters, ranging from science projects to announcing the school dance on Friday, each a different color than the last. Eventually I made my way to the restroom, and entered.

The washroom was a bright white in color, with a marble tabletop housing the sinks. Thankfully, no one was in the washroom, and I was left alone. Taking my backpack, I walked into one of the stalls and shut the door. Dropping my pack on the tiled floor, I opened it to find the various items I had stuffed in it before I had left home to come to school.

The first of the items that I found was a dark grey and black striped t-shirt. I unbuttoned my plaid shirt, before removing it and tossing it on the floor. Under that shirt was a white t-shirt of a similar color. I pulled the shirt over my head before removing it, making a similar gesture from beforehand by throwing it next to my shirt. A then proceeded to put my head through the collar of the striped shirt, and my arms through the sleeves.

With my new shirt on, I returned to dig through my backpack, before I found the next item I was looking for. Inside my backpack was a folded grey hoodie, with an all too familiar red strip pattern weaved into the sleeves. I ran my arms through the sleeves as I did with my striped t-shirt. With my hoodie on, I threw the hood over my head, obscuring my eyes and the bridge of my nose.

I found the final item I had packed. At the very bottom of my backpack was a role of hospital tape. Taking the role, I began to tear away stripes of the fabric, wrapping them around the palms of my hands.

Once I finished, I threw my backpack over my shoulder and exited the bathroom stall in my new attire, double checking to make sure no one had entered while I was busy getting dressed. I smiled as I realized I was in the clear. Opening the door to the hallway, I looked around to see if anyone was left in the hallways. My luck just got better and better as no one was wandering the hallways, no doubt everyone was in their designated classroom.

Bolting towards the nearest exit, I was ever so cautious to make sure I didn’t run into any tardy students or teachers. I was also ever cautious to keep out of sight from the various security cameras scattered across the halls. Eventually, I made it outside, and bent and began a crouched sprint.

I made my way around the school to find a ladder leading up to the roof. Gripping the handles, I hoisted myself upwards before starting my climb. The sun was shining brightly in the greyish blue sky, but thankfully my hood kept most of the light from reaching my eyes. I soon made my way to the end of the ladder, and peeked my head up, looking around, ever so cautious of anything or anyone.

Thankfully, like the hallways inside, the roof was clear from any nuisances. Grabbing hold of the end of the ladder I climbed up to the roof and stood up straight. From the building’s roof, I was given a view of the empty streets below, and the skyscraper buildings above. Smiling, I broke into a sprint, knowing exactly where I was headed. At the end of the roof’s parapet was a tall, slender fargesii tree. While these trees usually grew in provinces such as Hubei or Shaanxi, this particular tree had been imported from one of those provinces and had been planted next to my school. Why they had done this or how was beyond me, but I appreciated the gesture, and the tree was tall enough for me to reach the roof of the next building, which would have otherwise been too tall.

Backing up roughly twelve feet, I proceeded to break into a full-fledged sprint, before jumping from the parapet and into the fargesii tree. I shot my arms forwards and latched onto the branch that I could reach. Grabbing hold of the tree branch, I was thankful in the case that it was more comparable to an extra trunk than a simple branch. Pulling myself upwards, I sat down for a moment and examined the Pinophyta.

The various branches were able to block out the sunlight, so I removed the hood from my scalp, and picked out the annoying needle leaves that had made their way into my hair. Standing up into a crouch, I hugged the tree-trunk with my left arm, and grabbed hold of the branch I was standing on with my right. Looking around to see if there was another branch that I could use to gain height, I let out an exaggerated sigh as I noticed the only branches in front of me were equivalent to twigs. With no other options, I decided to climb up the tree trunk, grabbing hold of any sturdy branches above me as I climbed.

Eventually, I made my way to the top of the tree, and proceeded to flip my hood back over my head, as the branches no longer provided cover from the sunlight. I gave a half-hearted smile as I noticed the nearest building’s rooftop no more than two meters away from where I was perched. Taking in a deep breath, and letting go of the tree trunk, I leapt forwards, my bandaged hands outward, ready to grab hold of the building’s parapet. I breathed in a sigh of relief as my hands gripped solid concrete, before hoisting myself onto the rooftop.

Taking in the scenery around me, I started to sprint forwards, occasionally jumping to a new rooftop or stopping to take a drink from a water bottle I had packed in my backpack. Letting out a sigh I sat down and looked down at the streets below once more. I leaned against an air vent and took a sip of my water yet again. I pulled back the sleeve of my hoodie to check the time on my electrical watch.

2:21 pm. Read upon the device.

My classes would end at 3 pm, so I still had over half an hour before I had to return to catch the bus home. Looking up at the sky, I narrowed my eyes to protect them from the sudden burst of sunlight, before directing my vision somewhere else. I caught sight of a group of clouds, and proceeded to gaze at them for what seemed like days.

Enthralled and drowsy from the slow moving figures, I was helpless to stop myself form falling asleep.

Chapter 3

I woke up to the sound of car alarms, and sprang to my feet. I looked up into the sky to find it was no longer a light blue covered with clouds, but a dark grey dotted with stars. Panicking, I checked my watch, wondering what time it was.

9:47 pm. My watch told me.

I shot up to my feet, turned, grabbed my duffle bag, and bolted away from my resting spot, backtracking to the school. I mirrored my previous actions by jumping from rooftop to rooftop, eventually making my way back to the tip of the tree I had climbed up. Without thinking, I leapt forwards and grabbed hold of the tree trunk, before shimmying down, being careful as I did so. I eventually made my way to the base of the tree, before sprinting down the sidewalk. As I continued my sprint home, I couldn’t help but look out into the night sky at the hundreds of stars that stared back down at me. I shook my head, before focusing on my trip home. Eventually, after a good forty-five minutes of nonstop running, and slowed down before coming to a halt, gasping for oxygen to reach my lungs. I heard a car from behind me, before hearing a car horn after.

I turned around, and my eyes widened at the sight before me. A black Geely Tiger GT automotive, driven by a man that I hadn’t seen in ages. The car window descended and a man looked at me, a mixture of surprise and relief in his amethyst eyes.

“Li-Pau?” The man called. “Is that you?”

“Uncle Cai-Jie?” I asked, my voice cracking.

“My God, it is you! Hop in son, hop in.” The old man joyously replied.

The back door of the car opened and I stumbled in, before grabbing hold of the seat belt and locking it in place. The car began to drive forwards, and I noticed my uncle take the rear-view mirror and reposition it.

“By God Nao, you look well done in.” He told me flatly.

“I’ve been running nonstop for over half an hour, so yes, I imagine I look pretty bad,” I looked up into the mirror. “What are you doing here, uncle? I mean, you live all the way out in Nanjing.”

He let out a scoff. “What do you mean, ‘What am I doing here?’ Your parents are worried sick about you, since you didn’t return from school earlier today. What were you doing? Running away from home?”

“What? No! I…” I stopped speaking midsentence, looking down at my fingers, before letting out a sigh. “I was skipping classes.”

“You did a lot more than skip classes, young man. It’s already past ten, what were you doing for the past seven hours?”

I nearly laughed. “Sleeping.”

My uncle broke out into a rain of laughter. “Sleeping? Dear oh dear, Li-Pau, good luck trying to explain that to your parents.”

I let out a groan, before sitting back in the car-seat. “Yeah, thanks.”

*

My uncle parked outside of my house, before exiting the car and opening the door behind him, allowing me to exit. The two of us left the vehicle and walked up to the house door. Cai-Jie rang the doorbell and the two of us stood silently for about fifteen second before it opened. I was met with my mother, who proceeded to look at my uncle and back at me, before bringing her hand up to her mouth and letting out a sigh of relief.

“Thank you, Cai-Jie,” She told my uncle. “Please, both of you come in. Can I get you a drink, Cai-Jie?”

“Not tonight, Meili-Kei,” My uncle smiled warmly as he entered my family’s house. “It’s a long drive home, but I’ll stick around for a chat.”

We all walked into the kitchen, and my face paled as I saw my father sitting back in a chair, his right hand on the table, his left holding a cell phone. His gaze briefly met mine, and he gave a slight nod. He then looked up at my uncle and waved with his right hand. I took a seat across from my father, before leaning forwards and bringing my hands up to my mouth, looking out the window, listening to the conversation my father was having with whoever was on the other end of the phone.

“I understand,” My father was saying. “You don’t need to worry, I’ll be there.”

A pause, the only noise was my uncle taking a seat and my mother digging through the kitchen cabinet for a glass cup.

My father suddenly let out a sigh. “I understand. Yes, look, I’ll call you back tomorrow. No, n-…Majis, tomorrow. Alright? Good. Yeah, you two. Night.” My father pressed a button and hung up the phone, before placing it on the table and bringing his hands up to his temples, sighing.

“Rough day?” My uncle inquired.

My father let out a gruff laugh. “It always is, the RWA are starting to become more aggressive, and command wants all available soldiers to Japan, bring the fight to them.”

My uncle nodded. “I imagine Majis is breathing down your throat about this, we both know he wants your position of command.”

“Don’t get me started Cai-Jie.” My father told him.

“Mmm.” Was my uncle’s response.

“So then,” My father smiled before taking a sip of his wine, looking at me in the eye. “Where were you, exactly?” He asked me.

“…Skipping classes.” I mumbled, avoiding eye contact by twiddling my thumbs.

I heard a sudden slam against the countertop, followed by the infuriated words of my mother. “Again!?” She exclaimed. “That’s the third time this week!”

“And judging by your appearance,” My father tapped his fingers against the table. “I’m guessing you were busy free-running again.”

I nodded. “Yes dad.”

“Skipping classes, and free-running!?” My mother nearly screeched. “It’s bad enough that you’re not learning anything with the education that we’re paying for, but now you’re risking getting yourself hurt by running around like some maniac, or worse! And to top that off, who knows what kind of people you could run into! You could be injured, killed even!”

Before I could respond, my father stood up. “That’s enough dear, our son is perfectly capable of taking care of himself if such a situation were to arise.”

“So you’re fine with him skipping classes and getting into fights!?” My mother demanded.

“I never said that!” My father shot back.

They continued to yell and scream at each other, with my uncle trying desperately to calm them both down. I buried my head in my arms, before covering my ears with my hands, trying to drown out my parents arguing. I felt tears build up in my eyes, and let out muffled sobs as they ran  down my cheeks.

This is all my fault. I told myself, knowing it was the truth. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.

My eyes burned as more tears streaked down my cheeks, and I continued to sob as I realized my parents were still arguing. I didn’t want this, I never wanted this. I didn’t mean for it to end like this.

Stop, just stop. I tried to tell them, but the words never left my mouth. Please, just stop it.

They continued to argue, my uncle continued to try and calm them down, and I simply sat down, crying. This shouldn’t be happening, I never should have done what I did, but I had done it anyway. What was I supposed to do now? I wanted them to stop, I tried every so often to tell them that, but again, the words never left my mouth. I arms shivered, and a chill was sent down my spine. I felt alone, and yet, somehow I felt like I was the center of attention.

Suddenly, I heard a loud slap come from my right. My eyes widened, I didn’t see what happened, but somehow I knew. Everything was silent for a moment, just a moment, as the slapping sound seemed to echo for eternity. My hands balled into fists, and I felt a sudden shock run throughout my entire body.

I screamed. I screamed as my hands burned to life with electrical sparks. I screamed as the lights in the kitchen, and throughout the house, were blown out of proportion and burned to life like the stars in the night sky. I screamed as lightning bolts bounced around the kitchen before falling back out of my seat, hitting my head against the tile floor.

Everything went black.

Chapter 4

I awoke, before being greeted by sunlight, something that I had not borne witness for what seemed an eternity.  Pain sparked through my arms like they had just been struck by lightning, and I instantly sat upright, gripping my wrist. I noticed that I sat in a bed which was not my own, and immediately took in my surroundings. The first thing I noticed was a heartbeat monitor which stood up next to my bed, the next were the breathing tubes wedged into my nose. I snorted before grabbing hold of the tubes and taking them out of my nostrils, before lying back down, bringing the back of my hand to my forehead.

“Hospital, huh,” I spoke to myself, before laughing humourlessly. “Just what the heck happened?”

“An elemental outburst.” Came a voice not too far away from where I was sitting.

I bolted up, looking around for the source of the voice, before finding a man leaning against the wall next to the door. The man dressed in a pure white lab coat, and held a clipboard in his hands, jotting down notes I couldn’t see. Blonde hair was cropped to the side, and pale green eyes were visible through a pair a rectangular glasses.

“Sorry?” I asked, acting as though I had not heard him.

The man looked at me, before giving a short nod. “An Elemental outburst, or oversync, which occurs when an elemental exceeds his or her mental capacity upon using their abilities.” The doctor finished before looking back down at his clipboard.

“Elemental, but I’m not an elemental!” I retaliated, dumbfounded.

The doctor chuckled. “Yes you are. You’re abilities just awakened two days ago.”

“Two days ago?” I questioned. “Is that how long I’ve been asleep?”

“Indeed.” The doctor replied.

“My parents,” I cried out. “Where are my parents!?”

“Wait here,” The doctor told me. “I’ll go get them.” With that, he exited the room, before lightly closing the door. I sat back in my bed, groaning as I thought about what the doctor had just told me. An elemental? Me? No, that wasn’t possible. Even though elemental abilities typically awakened from age’s ten through twelve, I hadn’t shown any signs of possessing elemental abilities before. So why now?

Before I could continue thinking, the door burst open and I was greeted by the familiar face of my mother, concern was all too clear in her eyes. Behind her, I noticed my uncle Cai-Jie, a similar expression noticeable.

“Sweetheart, oh my God!” My mother shouted, before grabbing hold of me and hugging me tightly. My uncle walked over and patted me on the head. “Good to have you back, kiddo.” He smiled heartwarmingly.

“Yeah…thanks…” I mumbled. “Where’s dad?”

Both my mother and uncle looked distraught, before looking at each other and giving a slight nod. “He couldn’t make it.” My uncle told me.

“What?’ I asked, confused. “Why!?”

My mother grumbled multiple Chinese curse words, before turning away and letting out a sigh. “He moved to Japan yesterday afternoon.”

I looked at my mother, confusion flowing through my mind as I tried to decipher what my mother had just said, as if she had just spoken in some alien language.

“H-He what?” I asked, feeling tears build up in my eyes. I cursed myself in my mind for allowing such emotions grabbing hold of me tighter than a knight would hold the hilt of his blade.

My mother looked at me sorrowfully, before giving me a tearful smile. “Sweetheart, I’m sorry. The PDC called him to Japan, and he was forced to comply. He wanted to be here…you should’ve seen the face he made when he left.”

“When is he coming back?” I asked her.

“In around seven months, he said that once he got back he’d start to train you in using your elemental abilities. In essence, you’d be homeschooled.” My mother told me, before standing up. “But...we decided that it'd be best for you to attend The Yuánsù Academy, which is meant to train you and others like you in using your abilities."

“Academy?" I blurted. “Like…a military academy?”

“It’ll only be for seven months…” My uncle started.

Exactly! Seven months I’ll have to suffer through that! I can’t go through that.” I cried out.

“It’s to help you.” My mother snapped.

“How!?” I demanded.

“Would you rather have no control of your elemental abilities, and have to see this scene every other day?” My mother questioned.

I opened my mouth to say something, but quickly clammed up and looked down and my hands. I felt a hand press against my shoulder, and looked up to see my mother looking down at me. “Trust me Li-Pau, this is for your own good.”

“Well, come on then.” My uncle motioned for me and my mother to follow. “I want to spend some time with my nephew and sister-in law before I leave for Nanjing.”

*

Zhùyì!” Came a stern, female voice from my left. I stiffened before standing up from my bunk-bed and straightening myself. Thirty-eight other children of the same age, and who wore the same uniform as myself did likewise, before we were greeted by the sight of our instructor. Blood red hair was visible under her peaked cap, and she was dressed in a camouflaged uniform.

More like Military Officer. I told myself as she stopped the end of the formation my class had made. Our instructor turned and looked at each and every one of us individually, not one of us making eye contact with her.

“Each and every one of you,” She began. “Is special in your own way. Whether it be your elemental ability or keidis scale, it matters little to me. What matters to me is that you go through the necessary training and instructions in order to control your abilities and live normal lives like the rest of the world out there. My fellow instructors and I will not stop until each and every one of you has passed, otherwise you’d be too dangerous to run free.” A cruel smile crept upon her face. “So then, are you all ready to get started?”

“Yes ma’am!” The words echoed throughout the sleeping quarters as we left the room, heading towards the field outside.

Chapter 5

I panted and grunted as I crossed the starting line a fifth time, marking my fifth lap around the three kilometer track. I sighed before falling on the grass off to the side, gasping for air to reach my lungs. Thankfully, we were only ordered to run five laps, before having to do eighty push-ups. Afterwards, we were meant to report in and they would test us for our keidis scale. After that, there were a of tasks for teams of four to accomplish.

I let out a large sigh, before sitting upright and grabbing hold of the rucksack tied around my back. I placed it on the ground before digging for the bottle of water that was attached to its side. I unscrewed the cap on the bottle before taking a heavy swig of the cold water. I let out a slight sigh as I finished before placing the bottle back in place and lying down on my stomach, propping my hands on either side of the ground next to my chest, before straightening my legs and pushing myself up and down.

“One…Two…” I began.

*

“Seventy-eight…” I gasped.

“…Seventy-nine…” I wheezed.

“Eighty.” I finished, before falling flat on the grass. I slowly got to my feet, noticing the others as they continued to do push-ups.

“Fifty-nine…” I heard one of my fellow students whimper. “Sixty…”

“Thirty-one…” Another gasped.

I stretched out my arms before walking back towards the academy, stuffing my hands in my uniform’s pockets as I did so. The sky was painted a low level orange as the sun began to set, and the usual sight of skyscrapers and buildings was no longer visible, replaced by what seemed to be endless fields and hills, the only building in sight was the academy itself.

As I continued to walk towards the building, I noticed a group of students ahead of me, roughly six of them, casually talking and joking as they made their way to the academy. I heard them laugh hysterically at what I could only assume was a joke, and scoffed at the thought of anyone enjoying themselves at a place like this.

I brushed the thought aside and raised my head high, ignoring those ahead of me and making my way to the building, before taking my spot in line at the front entrance. I wasn’t surprised to find other students already in place, their heads held high as they stood like statues. Not too long after, the instructor made her way outside, a large, leather-bound book held in her left hand, and a fine tipped pen in her right. She turned and looked at each and every one of us, carefully taking in our expressions and posture without a word. She walked up to one student at a time and asked them a set of questions, before making her way in front of me.

“Your name, Nánhái?” She demanded.

“Li-Pau Nao, ma’am.” I told her, without looking away.

“Blessed Element?” She asked, catching me off guard. My mother had told me before I had been shipped off, and it took me a moment to remember.

“Erh…lightning, ma’am.” I replied hastily.

She stopped writing, looked up at me and stared for a moment, before clamping the book shut. She narrowed her eyes and leaned forwards, giving me a clear view of her brown eyes. “You hesitated.” She whispered.

“Ma’am?” I asked worryingly.

“You hesitated!” She snapped, before sweeping her left leg under both of mine, causing me to trip and fall onto me back. I struggled to sit upright, but found my instructor kneel down and nail her elbow into my chest, causing me to sputter and hack as I fell back to the ground.

“Listen well, whether it be a simple stutter, or if you are slightly hunched over when you stand, I will not tolerate it.” She spoke softly, but harshly. “Understood?”

“What does this have to do with training us in using our elemental abilities?” I snapped back, to which she responded with another elbow to the chest.

“Because you must focus, else you will never amount to anything. This academy is to turn you all into some of the most controlled and skilled elementals,” She snarled. “And in order to reach such a skill level, you must focus. Focus your abilities, focus when you cast your abilities, and so on. Clear?”

I nodded bleakly. “Clear.” I repeated.

She looked down at me for a moment, without saying a word. After that, she nodded before standing up. “To be sure that you understand, I want you to run an extra three laps around the course after dinner. The rest of you, dismissed, we will begin the keidis testing now!”

“Yes ma’am!” The students shouted, bringing their hands to their sides before marching off.

As I struggled to my feet, I received the occasional glance or smirk from one of my classmates as they marched off. I fell into place and made my way inside towards the keidis testing chambers.

*

The Keidis Rating chamber was a large room full of stretchers, with various equipment pieces surrounding each stretcher, and a large screen fixated above each one. To the side of the room was a chart with various words printed upon it, such as alpha, beta, and so on. Our instructor explained that as you went down the greek alphabet, the more powerful you were in elemental capacity, lambda being the highest power level an elemental could achieve. The main entrance and exit was to the left of the room, and we all lined up against the wall in the middle of the room, giving us a clear view of each stretcher, six in total.

The first six students at the end of the right side of the line were motioned to lie down on one of the stretchers, before one of the staff came to sit next to them. After the correct equipment and tools were in place, including a variety of heartbeat monitors and breathing tubes, a variety of numbers would project upon the screen, followed by a number from the ancient greek alphabet, with the words current extent of strength under the numbers. Afterwards, an automated voice would read out the cadet’s name, followed by the information on the screen. After that, a similar process would proceed to unfold, though the words under the numbers were changed to estimated full capacity.

The first to be read out was that of one of the older cadets, who was dressed in the usual uniform, a buzz cut of blonde hair, with his face sported with a variety of scars.

Meng-Tao,” The automated voice pronounced the cadet’s name. “Current extent of strength; Epsilon plus, five hundred and seventy.

A few brief nods were the response of the instructor and staff, along with a few smiles from other cadets. The information on the screen scrambled before a new set of information was visible.

Meng-Tao, estimated full capacity; Zeta minus, six hundred and ten.

After the process repeated itself with the other students, it was finally my turn. I took my spot upon one of the stretchers, and the staff member next to me wrapped the heartbeat monitor cords and straps around my arms and chest, and plugged the breathing tubes into my nostrils and a mask over my mouth. “Lie down.” He told me calmly and professionally, and I complied.

Though I couldn’t see the information above me, I heard the automated voice resound across the room. “Li-Pau Nao,” It spoke. “Current extent of strength; Gamma minus, three hundred and forty.

I heard a group of cadets snicker and chuckle at the information, and felt my face burn up in jealousy and spite, before calming myself down.

No need to get worked up. I told myself as the information sorted itself out upon the screen. I knew some elementals had lower grade keidis ratings than others, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I would probably go up to delta level, maybe epsilon if I was lucky. It wasn’t any reason of concern, I could deal with being a low level elementa-

My thoughts were cut off at the automated voice read out the information on the screen. I saw the rest of the cadets and staff members, my instructor included, pay no attention to it, more focused on the other students’ levels.

Li-Pau Nao,” it read my name out again. “Estimated full capacity; Iota plus maxima, one thousand.

My eyes widened in utter shock and disbelief. Despite the tone of the voice remaining the same throughout the entire sentence, I found the last five words it pronounced echo throughout the chamber more than any of the others. Everyone else in the room had the exact same look on their faces, and all of their eyes turned to stare at me. I noticed my instructor look at me, before looking back down at her book and jot down notes furiously, before looking back up at me again.

“I’ll be damned.” She spoke, and I could tell she was trying to stop herself from smiling. “You are something else, aren’t you?”

Chapter 6

As I took my seat in the mess hall in the back of the chamber, the rest of the students began to strike up conversation with one another while eating the food they had been given. I sat along, taking small bites out of the bread and noodles upon my plate, occasionally catching a few words from the other cadets.

“…by delta minus…” I heard one student say.

“…So tired…” Another muttered.

As I continued to eat and listen, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a group of three boys occasionally look at me while they spoke.

“…So unfair, why the hell does he have such a high rating?” One of them muttered.

“Right? I can imagine the special treatment he’ll get…”

My hands curled into fists as I continued to eat, though I tried to retain some form of tranquility. I heard the last student snicker.

“I bet I could bloody his nose in less than ten seconds.” He told his friends.

I pounded my left hand against the table before raising my head to glare at them. One of them quickly looked away, as though he was still speaking with his fellow students. The other two simply smirked, the last one shrugged. “You have something to say?” He asked me.

“Yeah, I do actually,” I retorted. “How much are you betting?”

“Excuse me?” He demanded.

“You just told your friends that you bet that you could bloody my nose in less than ten seconds.” I told him, leaning back in my seat. “So, how much are you betting?”

A wicked smile crossed over the cadet’s face as he stood up. “How about tomorrow’s dinner? If I bloody your nose in less than ten seconds, I get your meal tomorrow. Likewise for you if I can’t.”

I stood up myself, dwarfing the other student by a foot at the very least. “Sounds fair.” I told him.

“Count of three?” He asked me.

I took a quick look around, noticing every other student was silent. Their eyes fixed on the two of us. I knew I couldn’t back down now, and looked back at my opponent. I immediately recognized him as one of the students that had completed today’s training before me, as he had been in line before me. Blonde hair was curved  back to the side, and several scars rattled across his right cheek. I breathed in deeply, before nodding. “Sounds good.”

His smile widened, before he nodded slowly. “One…two…” He began, before a large gust of wind followed. “Three.”

Before I could move, a gust of wind slammed into me, sending me crashing down to the floor. I groaned slightly before trying to sit upright, and was too slow to notice the sole of a shoe crash down upon my face. Pain sprang through my face as I cried out and grabbed hold of my now bleeding nose.

“You owe me tomorrow’s dinner, asswipe.” My opponent laughed.

I tried to sit up again, but was kicked in the stomach. I grunted in pain and fell on the floor, before the other cadet started to kicked and stomp on me. Pain flowed through me like a river, and I was hopeless to fight back. After a few minutes, the other two students that my opponent had been talking with joined in and started kicking me as well. Whether it was the back, stomach, or legs, they wouldn’t stop. I brought my arms to cover my face, and noticed the other students doing nothing. Some sat in shock or silence, others cheered the three students and they pounded me to a bloody pulp.

“S-Stop…” I begged in desperation as I felt tears build up in my eyes.

“What’s the matter?” One of the boys chuckled. “Can’t defend yourself? Shame, with such a high keidis rating I expected more of a fight.”

One of their kicks caught me in the ribs, and I screamed in pain. Another broke through my arms and dug its way into my lip, drawing blood. I sat there, feeling kick after kick, pound after pound. I was doomed, the instructor wouldn’t return to bring us to the sleeping quarters for the next half an hour, and it was clear that no one was willing to help me.

It was hopeless, I’d be a mess by the end of this. I hated it here, why did my parents send me here? Why couldn’t I do anything right? I couldn’t talk my parents out of fighting, I couldn’t defend myself from these people?

Words flashed through my mind as I thought this, and I was returned to when my instructor had pounded me to the ground.

“Because you must focus, else you will never amount to anything.” My instructor’s words resounded in my mind.

I opened my eyes and narrowed my eyebrows.

Of course, focus. I told myself. I just need to focus…

Pain still coursed through me as my attackers wouldn’t let up their assault. I slammed my eyes shut and thought of nothing more than using my abilities. Focus, if I couldn’t focus I would never become the elemental this academy was ready to turn me into. I had to focus…

“Focus…” I breathed out.

“Eh?” One of the cadets grumbled. “What the hell did you just say?”

As he ended his sentence, I felt a shock of pain burn into my fingers, and smiled slightly. The same feeling whipped across my entire body, and my eyes opened once more.

“I said,” I shouted. “Get away from me!!

As soon as the words left my mouth, lightning cracked a snarled across my body. The three students screamed as they were electrocuted and sent flying several feet across the room. Lightning was still dancing across my body as I struggled to my feet, wiping my nose and chin clean of the blood that my attackers had drawn. As I stood up straight, the lightning no longer danced across my body, rather it sparked from my fingertips in a fury of light and sparks. I looked down at the three former assaulters, terror evident in their eyes. A terrible smile broke across my lips, which I immediately hid, before raising my right hand.

“My turn.” I told them, before taking a few steps forwards.

“P-Please…” One of them muttered. “Don’t hurt us…”

“That’s rich!” I spat at them. “You go on to beat me until I’m lying down in a puddle of my own blood, and then you beg for forgiveness?!”

“Get away from me!” The first assailant shouted before I felt another gust of wind shatter forwards. I slowed my pace and braced for the worse, before the gust of wind was stopped dead in its tracks by something else I had never expected to see in my life.

A large wall of ice formed in front of me, protecting me from the gust of wind before sending chills down my spine. I turned around and my eyes widened as I found my instructor standing in the doorframe leading out of the mess hall, her arms crossed and her eyes glaring right at me. Despite this, she held a smirk across her face, before shouting one word I was too familiar with.

Zhùyì!” She shouted, and every cadet bolted to their feet, even the three I had sent sprawling to the floor. “Dinner’s over cadets, off to bed with you!” As she finished her sentence, she looked back at me and the three students that had been pummeling me. “And you four, come with me. Now.

Chapter 7

I sat in the instructor’s office, which was a large square room with a semi-circle table near the back, with six chairs in front, and one large leather chair behind it. Around the room were a variety of shelves and plaques pressed or attached to the wall. Within the shelves were books and other objects I didn’t care enough to wonder about, and the plaques ranged from awards to pictures. A large, rectangular window was behind the leather chair in the back of the room, giving a clear view of the field below.

The door behind me opened, and my instructor stepped through. I made no move to turn around and look at her, knowing full well that such a move would be the worst course of action. Instead, I kept my head down and focused on my shoes. The instructor grabbed hold of her chair before pulling it out from under the desk, taking her seat. She had a portfolio in her left hand, and a pen in her right. At first she didn’t speak a word, instead flipping the papers that had been thrown in the portfolio: Jotting down notes on some and signing others with her signature. After two minutes of this process, she threw the portfolio off to the side and placed her pen into a pencil holder. She then leaned forwards, sewing her fingers together. Her cold, judgemental eyes moving to glare at me.

“You and your fellow cadets sure made a scene in the cafeteria.” She told me.

“Yes ma’am.” I muttered.

“Some of the other instructors have suggested some punishments for the four of you. One of them even said it would be a good idea if you all went without food for the next three days. Any objections?”

“No ma’am.” I shook my head.

She nodded, before lying back in her leather chair. “I won’t do that though, you’ll need all your strength from here on in.”

“Thank you ma’am.” I bowed my head slightly.

“So then, what was that little scuffle about?” My instructor inquired, grabbing hold of a pen and notepad.

I breathed out, before deciding how to best present my side of the story. Once I had decided on a proper explanation I leaned back, telling the instructor what happened.

*

She finished writing in her notepad before tossing the parchment off to the side. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, cadets tend to be jealous of those with higher potential.”

“Ma’am?”

“Your maximum level, Iota Plus maxima, is by far the highest keidis scale this academy has seen in its lifetime.”

At that, I looked her in the eye, knowing full well that my astonishment would be all too clear. “Really?

She nodded. “Before you, the highest level a cadet ever had was Eta Minus, which is extremely uncommon in itself. That was over thirty years ago.”

“Why is that extremely uncommon?” I asked.

“You ask a lot of questions.” She told me. “Anyway, I’m not too sure myself. All I know is that levels Eta and higher have a one is several thousand chance of appearing. I’ve even heard some people speculate that there can only be one elemental of a certain element can have a keidis rating in the range of Eta or higher at a time.”

“Really?” I stammered, causing my instructor to sigh.

“Look at me, filling your head with lies. No, it’s not true. I remember that a couple of decades ago Sector I had a problem with an Earth Elemental leveling an entire town. Some said his powers were in the Lambda levels, but I don’t believe that such a level is even possible to reach. Consider yourself extremely fortunate, Li-Pau.”

I looked down at my feet, unsure as to what I should say next. I had just been handed so much information, and wasn’t sure how to process it. I was alone, of a different breed among elementals. Were there others like me? Others who held a level of similar or even greater power? I found myself twiddling my thumbs violently as I continued to think about it, and forced my hands to stop moving. “So…there aren’t any other cadets close to my keidis rating?” I asked.

My instructor shook her head. “No, there aren’t. The closest cadet with your scale rating was Meng-Tao, Zeta minus rating.”

“So what’s going to happen to me?”

“Nothing,” My instructor said flatly. “Despite your obvious potential, you’ll be treated like all the other cadets. You and the other high level cadets shall go through an extra session with another instructor first thing in the morning before you join the others. From there, we’ll pair you off into squads who possess elemental abilities that compliment your own.”

“Squads?”

She scoffed. “Yes, squads. Your squadmates will be with you until you finally graduate from this academy. You’ll share the same cabin, be assigned the same missions, and watch each other’s backs.”

“I doubt anyone would want to be in my squad after that scene in the cafeteria.” I chuckled bitterly.

“That’s not up to them to decide,” My instructor pointed out. “Now, you’re dismissed. It’s late and you are going to wake up extra early tomorrow.” She finished her sentence by pointing to the door behind me.

“Yes ma’am.” I nodded before exiting the room.

*

He exited out the front door leading into my office, and I could tell he had no idea what he was in for. I waited for his footsteps to fade away, before I drew out my cellphone and a small scrap piece of paper. I typed in the phone number written down before waiting for the receiver to pick up on the other end. It had been a while since I had called them, and after that incident during the Palace Ambush, they had gone dark. Thankfully, I heard him pick up the phone.

“It’s me, Jiayi…yes sir, apologies sir I just...no sir. Yes sir I understand. I’ll be sure to but before you hang up, there’s something I need to discuss with you. It’s very important.”

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

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Chronology
K21 - Detrimental Adversity · K21 - Soulless Faith · K21 - Impeccable Corruption · ...

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