Shane had watched the young man in the empty room, his eyes filled with wonder as the young man continued training, throwing punches and kicks at invisible targets. The boy admired the seemingly random pattern in fluid motions. He could imagine the hapless thugs that charged in on the man as he continued to practice as if the child wasn't there. He finally stopped in a defensive stance, as if he had defeated everyone around him and keeping his guard up for more.
“Cool!” Shane called out, his excitement getting the best of him and breaking the man's concentration.
The young man looked at the entrance, seeing the child standing at it, sweat pouring out of his veins from the workout. “Hey, Shane. Didn't know you were there,” the young man apologized, you could see his build through his shirt, not bulky but enough to look imposing nonetheless.
“Can you teach me how to do that, Caleb?” Shane asked. He took a couple of punches, before spinning around and losing his balance in trying to kick and landed on his back on the concrete floor, only covered by a thick carpet.
“Are you okay?” Caleb asked. Shane nodded and got up. He smiled and shook his head at the child's excitement. “Nice try there, kiddo, but it takes years of practice just to get where I'm at. If you're serious, you would need to learn the basics, like how to properly punch and kick, and more importantly, how to defend.”
Shane blinked at him in confusion. “Defend? Why not just beat up the other guy first?” Shane asked.
Caleb shook his head. The kid wasn't bright, but having spent enough time with him, he knew he understood better than he let on. “Let me show you. I want you to try to hit me.”
Shane took a step back, wondering why he would do that. He looked a little scared after seeing all that Caleb pulled. “Don't worry. I'm not going to attack,” Caleb chuckled. “Just let me show you something.”
Shane nodded and walked up to Caleb and stood in some imitation of the defensive stance Caleb stood in earlier. However a few things were different and it left Shane open in several ways the man could take advantage of easily. He'd have to teach Shane a proper stance until the child could figure out his own technique.
Shane suddenly lashed out with a weak punch, but Caleb quickly swung his arm sideways to deflect the child's fist. Shane looked on in confusion. “What?” Caleb asked. “I told you I wouldn't attack and I did it. Try to hit me again.”
Shane nodded, still unsure. This time he went for a clumsy looking kick. Caleb effortlessly raised another arm to stop it, holding the child until he could lower his foot without falling. As the exercise kept going, Shane's attacks started to slowly get sharper and less clumsy. This forced Caleb to move faster to block and dodge Shane's attacks. Despite that, Shane's attacks were too linear for Caleb not to see them coming.
Eventually Shane got an idea. Smirking, he tried to throw another punched aimed at Caleb's face, but as he did, Shane missed the block and Caleb's face beginning. Then Shane turned around and aimed a sharp kick up for the side of the head. Caught by surprise, Caleb reared his head back suddenly as the kick flew by and threw Shane onto the floor once again. Caleb looked on with further surprise at the child's learning from what he was doing.
Shane brushed himself off as he stood at his feet. “That's enough, kiddo. Did you see what I was doing?”
Shane nodded. “You prevented me from hitting you. If you can do that, you're more likely to win a fight.”
“And it took you that long to figure it out? A little slow today?” Caleb half-joked.
Shane shook his head. “I figured it out earlier. I was just trying to get past your defense.”
Caleb was impressed. Perhaps the child could learn more than just the basics. Nothing overly advanced, but he figured if he could teach Shane one more thing, the child could slowly come into his own and find his own style.
“So, why did you want to hit me?” Caleb asked, curious as to the child's answer.
“It's not like I wanted to really, but...you made it difficult. The harder you made it, the more I wanted to try,” Shane told him.
Caleb grinned. He liked the answer he got from the child. “Sit down, Shane. I've got something else to teach you.” Shane did as he said, sitting cross-legged on the floor as Caleb followed suit, slower than the child. “Now, watch closely. It may not look like I'm doing anything, but watch.”
Shane remained silent as Caleb focused, closing his eyes. Shane didn't see much and seemed confused as Caleb just sat there, controlling his breathing. Several moments had passed with nothing happening, but Shane started feeling what seemed like a breeze, slowly picking up. As it picked up even faster, Caleb's body appeared to glow with something Shane had problem putting into words. It was as if the air around Caleb. “Whoa...” was Shane's only quiet remark. The glow stopped as Caleb opened his eyes.
“Martial arts relies on a calm mind and patience You have to wait for openings and take advantage of them. If you let your emotions get the best of you, you can't win a fight. However, if you take that a step further, you could do something like that,” Caleb explained.
“Nice, but...what can I do with that?” Shane asked.
Caleb just shook his head with a smile. “That's for you to find out. It's got a wide range of uses, but how you use it is up to you.” Then Caleb motioned. “Why don't you try? Just relax and clear your mind. If you quietly focus, you'll figure it out.”
Shane nodded and continued to sit still. He kept his breathing controlled, focusing on it as he tried to clear his mind. It took awhile, a lot longer than it did for Caleb for Shane to even feel something. He couldn't quite 'grab' it, but he felt something, like an intangible veil or something over his body. He kept focusing to try to get more of it, trying to feel the rush through his body.
He opened his eyes, only to see Caleb looking at him with a smile. “So, did you feel it?”
Shane looked at him in confusion. “Didn't you see it?” he asked, thinking the same thing happened to him as he saw Caleb do.
“Nope, it doesn't easily appear in a visible form. But if you felt it, you've at least touched on it,” Caleb reassured him. “I would continue meditating like that to get yourself more immersed into it. When you do, you'll find a lot more opened up to you than you ever thought.”
Shane nodded, before looking around, seeing the tint of light coming into the room had changed. He wondered how long it had been since he closed his eyes. “It's getting late. You should get home,” Caleb told him.
Shane nodded and got up, reluctance showing in his eyes. “Bye, Caleb. I'll see you tomorrow,” Shane said, walking towards the entrance to the empty room.
Caleb watched as the child left, secretly hoping that the child was right.
As he opened the door to his apartment, Shane heard the deafening noise of his parents' shouting. He quietly closed the door, not wanting to draw attention to himself, before slipping into his bedroom. The child didn't know what the argument was over this time, nor did he want to know. He just wanted to get away. Closing his bedroom door did nothing to muffle it.
Shane dove onto his bed and reached for the pillow, but even through the thick fabric and stuffing, he could still hear the shouting. He wanted his parents to stop their fighting so badly, but he knew they would just yell at him if he tried to. He hated returning home. He loved his parents, but he hated when they did this.
Then the child uncovered his head and sat up. He figured if he couldn't block out the yelling, he could at least try to relax himself. Shane sat cross-legged like he did with Caleb earlier, and closing his eyes. He brought his breath into a slow and controlled rhythm. He focused just on that, attempting to clear his own thoughts. He heard the shouting match going on still, but it became easier to ignore as he narrowed his world to nothing more than his breathing.
The tingling sensation of that intangible veil started a lot easier than it did before. Instead of opening his eyes in surprise, he continued to meditate, wanting to immerse himself into the sensation, to lose himself into it. This invisible blanket seemed to shelter him from the world around him, like he had escaped it without leaving his room.
However, his 'world' started to grow around him as he continued meditating. It was like he had grown a spiritual sense, starting to feel more sources of this force around him. He felt two others at first, as if only a few feet away, then he felt more as if this new world was slowly growing. Shane was curious about what each of them were as they appeared, above, below, everywhere. The force of each one varied in ways he couldn't understand.
He noticed one of the closest ones coming closer to him. Wanting to see what it was, he suddenly opened his eyes. He noticed the light that was outside his window was gone, replaced by the city lights that masked the darkness of night. He looked in the direction he felt that force was coming from...towards his bedroom door. His father peeked his head in the door. “Where were you?” the man asked.
“I've been home for awhile now,” he said. He so badly wanted to tell him that he'd have noticed him if he weren't too busy fighting with his mother, but that would've just angered the man.
“Come on. We're going out to grab something for dinner,” he said.
“Where's Mom?” Shane asked.
Shane's father paused for a moment. “She went out for the evening. She'll be back by the time you wake up.”
Shane nodded as he followed the man out of the apartment. However, now that he had relaxed, even without closing his eyes, he felt that intangible force, coming from his father. Shane held back his surprise, opting to ask Caleb about what it was tomorrow.
Shane had run up the stairs almost flat out the next, too many questions on his mind as he reached the top of the flight leading to Caleb's floor. He didn't miss a beat as he continued to sprint down the empty hallway towards Caleb's gym. He nearly missed the open door and turned around to rush in, only to find the place empty.
“Caleb?” Shane called out, looking around the place. It seemed like it hadn't been used since the previous day. A full-sized punching bag barely swung from the corner of the room, but otherwise, the large room was completely empty. “Where are you?” Shane asked.
Shane didn't make a sound as he looked around the room. Shane walked toward the hanging punching bag. He didn't remember it being there, but he knew what it was used for. Shane looked at it before he stood in an awkward defensive stance. Without warning, he punched it, only for him to hit it with his fingers joints. An awkward pain went through his fingers and wrists. Shane quickly pulled back and shook his hand, as if that would ease the pain.
The young boy looked at the punching bag. It shouldn't have hurt as much as it did to punch it. He looked over his curled up hand as if looking at how else he could do things. Then punched the bag again, this time his knuckles hitting the bag. Instead of his hand, pain flared through his wrist, having been bent the moment it hit. As he had done that, Shane learned to straighten his wrist, which not only helped but, caused the punching bag to swing as he hit it. Shane lost himself in hitting the bag, as he figured out how to cause it to swing further each time.
The boy only stopped upon sensing something, moving towards him, feeling the same force he felt when he concentrated the previous night. The force got closer, and just as it approached the door, Caleb walked through, looking stressed, Shane's presence seemed to cause him even more surprise. “Shane?”
“Caleb, what...was that?” Shane asked. “It felt strange, but it's nothing I've felt before.”
Caleb narrowed his eyes, somewhat surprised, but impressed with the child. “You're already sensing my life force. I take it you did a lot of meditating yesterday.” Shane nodded in response to this. “Even though mine is as strong as it is, at least compared to others, it's still impressive you could sense it without having to meditate. It takes a lot of focus and a clear mind to detect most auras.”
“Then, how could I sense yours?” Shane asked, even more confused.
“I train with it more. If you keep practicing, yours can become just as strong, even stronger. However, even then, for someone just becoming aware of that energy, it should still take quite a bit of focus. You're growing faster than I thought you would,” Caleb explained, with a hint of worry in his tone.
Shane wasn't one to miss his mentor's worry. “What's wrong? Did I do something wrong?” he asked.
“No, you're fine. It's nothing to worry about,” Caleb reassured the child, mentally adding 'for now'.
At that moment, both Caleb and Shane looked in the same direction, towards the front of the building. Several stories down, they sensed another force, just as strong as Caleb's, if not stronger. Caleb gulped before telling Shane, “Get out of here. It's not safe here.”
“But what's...” Shane started.
“Just go!” Caleb snapped.
Shane only nodded and walked out of the room. However, instead of heading towards the stairwell, turned the corner and out of sight of the person approaching them. As the force he felt reached the top, he looked around the corner to see an imposing young man, probably about Caleb's age, but looked much bulkier. Shane could sense the man's life force matched the man's build. He had a solemn look, as if he was purely there for business. He glanced towards where Shane was hiding, as Shane peaked out, and for a moment, they locked eyes, before the man turned away.
The man was surrounded by three others, guns in plain sight. Here, if people saw a man with a gun, they went on their own way and didn't bother the men. Usually it meant they were part of some kind of organized gang and were there for business, and no one wanted to get caught up in it. Shane had known that as well, but his curiosity got the better of him. The man they surrounded left him with way too many questions.
The group entered the training room where Caleb waited. Shane crept towards the door and peaked in, trying to see what was going on. “You know our offer, Caleb. You work for the mafia, you can continue to practice as long as you use your skills for our purposes,” the bigger man said.
“Quit the bull shit. Your gang may want me to increase their power, but in reality, you came to eliminate me. You want me to refuse so you can keep me from taking your position.”
The man nodded, as if confirming Caleb was right. “Maybe, but before I end your life, you can tell me if you've been training someone.”
“I didn't teach anyone anything,” Caleb told him.
“Then, you wouldn't mind me killing the kid with the strong spirit,” he told Caleb, before turning to look towards the door as if knowing full well Shane was there.
At that, the room started to fill with a force as if a vacuum filled up the room and throwing the thugs around. The man stood his ground, returning with a force of his own. “Get the kid! This man is mine!”
Shane didn't bother waiting for the guns to come out. He bolted for the stairwell, knowing full well the goons were running after him. He skipped steps despite the risk. His life was worth risking whatever injury he'd sustain from a wipe out. Gunshots rang out as he reached the bottom of the first flight. A bullet ricocheted of the railing just above Shane's head which got him to jump down and round the corner down the second flight of stairs, the concrete wall protecting him for now. He heard the men's footsteps start to follow him down, but as he reached the next floor, he took off around the corner and stopped to hide, hoping the men would give up.
Within the next moments he heard the trio of gun-wielding goons stop on the same floor. “I heard his footsteps stop down here. He's hiding, look for him.”
He shied away from the corner, trying to keep an eye out for them so he could creep quietly. The man that barked the orders stayed near the stairs as the others started to search the floor. Shane crept away to maintain his hiding spot. That stairwell was his only way down. He had to get through them to get to it.
Shane suddenly looked up as he felt immense power flare above him. Caleb and that brute must be fighting now, sensing the explosive force behind their power from each collision. He wondered if he could do that, use that power to increase his own. He had to focus, but how could he focus in a time like this.
If I want to live, I better do it, he thought. Closing his eyes, he fell into a fighting stance, controlling his breath to a steady tempo. He felt the spirit within him surge into full force, his controlled anger becoming a force of nature itself. The moment his eyes opened, he saw the gunman guarding the stairwell, no longer a threat on his life, merely an obstacle to be eliminated. Shane bolted out of hiding with speed he didn't even know he had. Screaming in anger as he rammed his fist into the man's groin. The look on the man's face showed just how off-guard he was from what happened. He screamed in a high pitch, alerting the other two.
This rush, this attack wasn't enough for Shane. His anger wanted more release, to take it out on the man before him, and his friends if they came to his aid. After catching a glimpse of the second man, he rushed down the hall, jumping each step on each side of the hall so as to avoid getting shot. Just as he got close, Shane kicked off the wall across from the second thug, only to launch himself full force at him and tackling him, sending the goon ramming head first into the wall.
As the two hit the ground, Shane rushed back for the stairwell. As much as he wanted more, something was telling him to run, as much as he hated it. However, with as much energy as he had, as he reached the top of the next stairwell down, Shane jumped, clearing the distance of the entire flight of stairs, his legs kicking while in the air before he landed at the bottom of them, rounding the next corner and jumping down the next flight.
He continued down the stairs in similar fashion, catching an incoming couple off-guard as he landed, only a few feet from the entrance. “Excuse me,” Shane said as he bolted past them, nearly knocking them both down as he left through the exit in front of him. He made barely a couple of steps before stop as he looked to the upper floors, where Caleb's training room was.
Shane knew something was wrong, finding only one lifeforce, the brute's. He couldn't sense Caleb at all. Within the next moment, he saw an explosion of brick and mortar as Caleb's body was flung through it with tremendous force. Shane knew he was dead before he saw the body, but ran towards Caleb anyway. The bloodied body landed unceremoniously in the alley, cracking any bones that were still in one piece upon impact.
“No, Caleb,” Shane cried, tears starting to form in his eyes. His body trembled in a turmoil of emotions. Then, he looked back up at the upper floors where the brute stood, glaring down at the two. Shane, unable to fathom the kind of power that could defeat Caleb like this, decided to run. Any longer and he'd end up dead himself.
When he stormed into his home, Shane was met with the familiar sound of his parents arguing. Not even wanting to endure, he stormed into his bedroom and slammed it shut, silencing the quarreling parents as he jumped onto the bed, burying his head beneath the pillow and started crying harder than he ever would. He ignored the banging on his bedroom door accompanied by them yelling to let him into his locked room. Between his exhaustion and grief, he just wanted to bury himself into sleep.
Weeks would pass by. Caleb's death would pass barely even noticed by the community, another statistic in the murder column. Shane's parents eventually divorced, unable to maintain more of the relationship between their differences and the sudden changes in Shane's behavior. Shane himself became more aloof and more of a loner as he seemed to try to figure everything out. He would bury himself into meditation as an escape among other things. No one thought much of it since it wasn't disruptive.
That changed abruptly when Shane's father, now in custody of the boy, was called to his school from work. When he got there he found a boy much larger than Shane crying while holding onto his jaw. His father didn't look happy as he saw Shane, glaring at the crying boy and completely unapologetic look on his face. Staff demanded an explanation that Shane refused to give for breaking his classmate's jaw, insisting even if he told the truth, he wouldn't be believed anyway.
Suspension was discussed among the punishment Shane would go for who stood steadfast in his silence. It disturbed everyone in the room that the child acted like he had made a right decision, but refused to defend himself. As he and his father left, another classmate sporting bruises of his own ran up to Shane and his father. “Thanks, Shane. And...sorry.”
“Whatever,” Shane told him before silently getting into the car, grumbling over his punishment coming up. Shane's father looked confused. The classmate ran off but Shane refused to offer anymore explanation. No one that mattered would listen anyway, so Shane decided to leave the 'truth' to others.