Chapter 35 Blood Fire

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The following day Kiphy sends Ime to run around the lake twice. When he returns, Kiphy has him do one hundred push-ups. Once Ime finishes, Kiphy send him off for two more laps. Again when Ime returns he drops to the ground for another hundred push-ups. This continues until Ime has finished ten laps and five hundred push-ups.

Kiphy lets Ime rest for a few minutes as he fills two buckets with water. “We’re going to jog up the mountain side. You’ll carry these buckets up and back down. When we make it back down you’ll do thirty push-ups then immediately pick up the buckets and head up again. We’ll do this ten times. Let’s go.”

Handing Ime the two buckets hanging from the ends of a thick staff, Kiphy takes off at a light jog. Ime catches up and finds the sloshing water in the buckets making it hard for him to find a perfect balance. He feels water hitting him and he nearly drops one bucket as his footing slides on the rocky mountainside. The climb up is exhausting and Ime is grateful when Kiphy turns them around to head back down. Once they reach the bottom, Ime drops the buckets to the ground, spilling the water and collapses to his hands and knees.

“Push-ups. Thirty and then back on your feet,” Kiphy demands. He takes the buckets to refill them as Ime reluctantly begins.

They continue the exercise until finally Ime finishes his last set of thirty push-ups. His arms barely managed to lift him for the last two sets and several times the buckets fell off the staffs, sending him to the ground as he climbed the mountainside. As soon as Ime struggles to complete his final push-up he collapses to the ground, breathing heavily. Sweat soaks his clothing and his head is light.

He doesn’t remember passing out, but Kiphy kicking him in the side wakes him with a start. Kiphy holds out a cooked piece of meat and bread. “Eat.”

Ime sits up, feeling his muscles tighten painfully. He takes the food and eats in silence.

“How are you feeling, boy?”

Drinking a large gulp of water, Ime wipes the sweat from his forehead. “Sore and a little angry. I thought I was in better shape than this.”

“This training is meant to wear you out. The fact you completed everything I asked of you on the first day is impressive. Most would’ve stopped after the first run up the mountain. Be proud of that.”

“Impressed enough to move on to magic?”

An amused smile appears on Kiphy’s lips. “No. But it means I may move on to more severe training earlier than I planned. Training the body usually takes two and a half months. You might be able to lower it to one and half month if you keep up this pace.”

Ime moves his arms above his head, feeling the burning sensation of worked muscles. His legs feel heavy and he wonders if he’ll be able to stand.

Finishing his meal, Kiphy stands and stretches. “Take your time with your meal. There’s more food in the basket behind you. Eat, replenish your strength and then we’ll move on.”

Without answering, Ime grabs the small basket and takes out two more helpings of food. Kiphy sits away from him, meditating. Once Ime’s stomach can fit no more food, he stands. His legs shake at first, but Ime stretches the sore muscles and practices a few kicks.

Kiphy appears in front of him, his eyes glowing with anticipation. “The afternoon is for sparring. When you’re ready, attack.”

The match ends quickly with Ime’s muscles sore and slow to respond. He can’t even come close to landing a hit on Kiphy and the old man doesn’t go easy on him. He fights with full strength, throwing Ime roughly to the ground. But Kiphy is careful not to cause any serious wounds.

Once Ime can’t stand any longer, Kiphy allows him to rest. Ime sleeps for a few hours before Kiphy awakens him for another meal. They don’t talk while they eat. Ime’s muscles scream at him and he winces as he lifts handfuls of food to his mouth.

To Ime’s great relief, the next part of training is meditation.

“The goal of this training is to give you a deeper connection to your body. In order to do that you need to listen to your body. But if you think this is simply more time to sleep then be prepared for very rude awakenings,” Kiphy explains.

Ime finds a flat, smooth rock next to the lake and sits in silence. He concentrates, feeling each ache from every muscle in his body. But as distracting as the pain is, he can’t keep his mind from drifting back to Kellahn and Meah. He wonders what she and the group is doing as he sits on a rock.

A smack on his head brings Ime back to the lake. He turns angrily to Kiphy. “I wasn’t sleeping.”

“You weren’t listening to your body either. Don’t worry about them. They can handle everything.” Kiphy walks away.

Releasing an aggravated sigh, Ime closes his eyes and listens. Hours pass and the sun disappears behind the mountains. Kiphy has Ime run five laps around the lake. With his legs weak from the day, Ime finishes the laps well after the moon has risen high in the sky. He washes in the lake and then collapses to the ground by the small fire Kiphy has lit. As soon as his head hits the earth he is asleep.

Five days of the same workout schedule pass. Ime’s muscles fight him the second and third day of training, but by the fourth and fifth he finds everything easier. His muscles hurt less and his stamina increases.

The eighth day of training the two men rest. Ime sleeps for most of it, but when he wakes he finds the lack of movement unbearable and swims a few laps in the lake to stretch his healing muscles. Kiphy allows it on the condition Ime only does enough to warm his muscles, not work them.

The morning of the first day of the second week of training Kiphy changes the fifty push-ups after every two laps to one hundred. The jog up the mountain now requires Ime to carry four buckets of water instead of two and with thirty push-ups instead of fifteen waiting for him at the bottom.

They eat lunch, but instead of having food waiting, Kiphy has Ime catch his own food. He gives him a knife and Ime manages to catch a deer and several fish.

After their meal, Kiphy adds weight lifting. Ime lifts different sized boulders not only with his arms, but also with his legs. Then they spar. The ground Ime gained from the final two days of the previous week are gone as his muscles ache from new pains. He is able to take more hits, but he still can’t come close to hitting Kiphy.

They eat dinner, Kiphy kindly cooking left over meat from earlier. Ime meditates, keeping his mind on his task and feeling the blood flow through his growing muscles. Blisters on his feet and hands toughen and new calluses form. Kiphy has him run ten laps around the lake and swim ten laps before sleep.

The second week goes by faster and Ime notices a change in his fights. He’s able to keep up with Kiphy’s speed much better even though he can’t land a hit. He even nearly catches Kiphy in a chokehold when he spots a chance to get in behind the old man.

The eighth day is for resting, but Ime decides to hunt for more food for the final week. Kiphy joins him for fishing and Ime tells him about their travels from the Arena. Kiphy is particularly interested in the tales about the cave beasts, asking curious questions.

The third week is similar to the second week, but with the addition of fifty push-ups after every odd lap and one hundred after every even lap in the morning, rocks instead of water in his buckets, heavier boulders to lift, and fifteen laps of swimming after dinner.

The eighth day for resting Ime uses for more meditation and a few hours of practicing new fighting movements. He practices moves he’s seen Kiphy using and uses a thick tree trunk as a sparring partner.

The fourth week begins with more additions. Run ten laps with one hundred push-ups after every odd lap and two hundred push-ups after every even lap. Swim five laps across the lake. Run up the mountain, no buckets, however at the top Ime is required to do thirty push-ups followed by twenty sit-ups and at the bottom he does sixty push-ups and twenty sit-ups.

Meal then lifting more boulders with arms and legs, increasing the weights higher than the previous week. Sparring follows, but Kiphy now forces Ime to wear arm and leg bands made from heavy stones. Dinner follows then meditation. After meditation it’s ten laps running and twenty laps swimming before sleep.

The thirty-third day of training dawns and when Ime awakes, Kiphy is gone. It doesn’t take Ime long to discover where the old man’s gone. In the dark of the early morning, the light from a small fire is seen on the mountainside. Ime makes his way up the familiar incline to where Kiphy stands waiting for him.

“No training today. Only fighting. Attack me.”

Ime is confused. “I can still profit from more training. Why do you only want to fight now?”

Sneering, Kiphy attacks, knocking Ime back, but not to the ground. “Attack me or I will kill you.” He kicks at Ime’s neck, holding no strength back. He’s aiming to break Ime’s neck.

Reacting quickly, Ime dodges and lunges for Kiphy. They fight ferociously. Kiphy starts strong, keeping Ime on high alert. But Ime realizes his arms and legs respond much faster now that the arm and leg bands are gone.

Kiphy forces Ime to the edge of the mountain. Ime allows Kiphy to land a kick on his side, but he grabs the leg before it causes damage and shifts his weight to throw Kiphy away from him, a move Kiphy used many times on Ime in the past three weeks.

Recovering quickly, Kiphy closes the distance between the two in a second and kicks Ime’s legs out from under him. Ime uses the momentum of falling to the ground to roll away from the edge and leaps to his feet behind Kiphy. Without missing a beat, Kiphy throws a punch, turning to face Ime. Ime maneuvers back a few steps, feeling the breeze from Kiphy’s punch. He waits, readying himself for Kiphy’s next attack.

Kiphy runs at him, readying another punch. As Kiphy swings, Ime drops to the ground, leaning to the left and sticking his right leg out. With his momentum, Kiphy can’t stop and trips over the extended leg. Slamming a hand to the ground, Kiphy cartwheels into his feet. As he pulls his hand from the ground, Ime grabs Kiphy’s wrist, using the old man’s momentum to pull him to his feet. He lifts a leg straight in the air and brings it down on Kiphy, holding the wrist tight. But Kiphy catches the leg in his free hand. Ime tries to twist Kiphy’s hand to immobilize the old man.

Kiphy jumps up and places both feet on Ime’s chest. Ime loses his balance and leans back to counter balance. Kiphy leans forward, throwing off Ime’s balance so he starts falling back. Ime releases Kiphy’s wrist and tries to catch himself. Kiphy drops his feet to the ground and, now holding Ime’s leg with both hands, he lifts Ime over his head and swings him towards the ground. Ime throws both hands in front of him, meeting the hard earth and immediately kicks at Kiphy with his free leg. He hits the old man in the stomach and Kiphy’s knocked back, releasing Ime’s leg.

Standing, Ime leaps for Kiphy and punches from all sides. Kiphy has trouble blocking every hit as he gasps for air, but he quickly learns the pattern of Ime’s hits. When he raises his arm to block a hit, Ime adds a kick, changing the pattern. Kiphy barely manages to block, but Ime grabs his arms and slams his head into Kiphy’s face. Kiphy notices the hit at the last second and turns his head slightly to prevent a broken nose.

Kiphy stumbles back, but Ime pulls him close and knees him in the gut. Kiphy fights to stay on his feet as Ime places his leg behind Kiphy’s. Ime slams Kiphy to the ground, kneeing him again in the stomach as he lands.

He pulls a fist back, aiming for Kiphy’s nose. As he throws all of his strength into the punch the air sizzles around him.

Stopping the punch inches from Kiphy’s face, Ime jumps back. Fire covers Kiphy’s body and chases Ime. Ime dodges the surge of flames and watches them disappear over the lake. Breathing hard, Ime faces Kiphy.

The flames around Kiphy’s body disperse as he stands, holding his stomach. Blood rolls down from a cut on his eyebrow and he smiles. “Be proud, Ime. You’re the first to ever force me to use magic while still in the first lesson.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means you’re ready for lesson two.”

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