Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
Cecilia woke up in her bed drenched in sweat. The sun burned brightly, much hotter than usual. She raised her hand up and rotated back and forth. She was...asleep. When was the last time she slept so solemnly like this? Never, this was a first. Jennifer Reese knocked her out when they fought because they had to finish up their fight. Speaking of which, with the power of Ki, she detected said person’s presence in the orphanage. More specifically in the living room.
She made ruckus rushing down the stairs while dressing herself up the process, practically banging herself against the walls every step of the way. Ren and Jennifer were seated in the living room with a mountain of takeout stacked on the floor. She joined them, as they seemingly had something important to discuss. In her case, she was conflicted between the discussion and the takeouts.Jennifer was still covered head to toe, not a single millimeter of her body was revealed except for her face and the front strands of her hair now that they sat directly across from each other. Even then, it was difficult to see due to the hood. Ren was able to catch a glimpse of her eyes though. They were...eerie. The iris and pupil were both grayed out into a hazy spectral. It looked like she could stare into your soul and consume it.
“I suppose I should start with an apology,” said Jennifer.
Her voice was still as haunting as the first time she spoke. Even though Ren had already gone through introductions when Jennifer first arrived, it still sent shivers down his spine.
“Forgive me for the sudden violence yesterday.”
“Had Cecilia been any other person, you would have killed them in the first second of the fight,” Ren crossed his arms. “Apology accepted though.”
“But of course. I wouldn’t have fought anyone like that unless it was Cecilia. After all, only those who use Ki can tell when they’ve sensed each other’s presence.”
Ren looked coldly at Cecilia, who was now on her seventeenth plate. She gave a quick glance at Ren, but pretended their eyes didn’t meet. She knew that Ren knew that she already knew who Jennifer was as soon as she dropped from the sky.
“I’m sure you have a lot of questions, but first, I believe introductions are in order,” said Jennifer.
“We already know who you are,” said Ren.
“Jennifer Reese. The woman that single handedly ended the war between the Laggers and the Innovators. You were granted the title “Legion” and deemed the strongest human recorded in history,” Cecilia said in a single breath with her mouth full of food.
“My!” Jennifer said, astonished. “I thought after all these years everyone had forgotten about me.”
“My little sister saw your tutorials and trained every day just so she could have the chance to fight you.”
Jennifer directed her attention towards Cecilia, who was now on her nineteenth plate of food somehow. “Curious. It’s not everyday I meet a girl who enjoys fighting as much as I do.”
“That’s because I want to be a hero like you!” She said cheerfully with her mouth full. She was stuck in a struggle between fan-girling and eating.Her remark left Jennifer silent; Ren knew it all too well. It was the same silence he retreated to when Cecilia said she wanted to be a hero like him long ago. Something happened to Jennifer, and that lead to the disappearance of “Legion.” If Ren had to guess, now that she returned, something was about to happen. The abomination yesterday was proof that it had already started.
“I am no hero,” said Jennifer. “And you should aspire to something else other than that.”
Ren was surprised by Jennifer’s words. So even she couldn’t handle it.
Cecilia’s fork stopped just inches before her mouth. Her head jerked backwards slowly as if someone flicked her forehead. “What happened to you?”
If it wasn’t already obvious enough, everything had changed about Jennifer. Personality, voice, appearance- completely different in comparison to her bright and shining figure from her celebrity days. From optimistic and confident to negative and weary, a lovely high voice that everyone loved to hear, to a ghostly hollow. Her beautiful curves and slender body that made everybody jealous and lust for her, now covered and hidden under a layer of thick and dirty clothes.
Ren guessed that the burdens of being a hero crashed down on Jennifer, and she couldn’t handle it. He could be wrong though, everything was up for interpretation until she decided to share. He looked at Cecilia, who appeared to have taken a break from the food, and now participated actively in this short bit of the meeting. He had expected her to go crazy and fangirl over Jennifer, but it was clear to both of them that the Jennifer they knew was no more.
“A lot of things, but that’s not important,” responded Jennifer.
“I think it’s very important,” Cecilia snapped. She placed her twentieth takeout container down and leaned forward with her elbows on her knee. “I can’t ignore the current ‘you’ that’s in front of me. The Jennifer I knew was a shining example of a positive and active life. Jennifer Reese motivated people to become better and stronger than the person they were yesterday. I don’t know what happened to you, but no one can help you if you stay reserved and disappear for over a decade. So you have to either open up and change, or stay the way you are. Your choice.”
Taken aback by Cecilia’s words, there was a short moment of silence before Jennifer responded. “You’re quite mature for your age.”
“You can thank Ren here for ruining my childhood.” Cecilia returned her attention to the takeout.
“What did you do to her?”
“I raised her,” Ren said proudly. “With no finance, education, or proper guidance, our future is grim.”
“So you sacrificed your childhood and adolescence.”
Ren nodded. “A small sacrifice if it meant we could get a head start for the future. I made a promise to my dad after all.” He patted Cecilia’s head, who returned to eating. “To look after her.”
“No child should ever be burdened with such responsibility.”
The room fell silent again. Jennifer’s last words sunk deeply into Ren. It was the same message everyone around him always told him. He knew they were right, but it was a mistake they couldn’t afford to make. In order to avoid struggles in the future, they had to start as early as possible. In order to secure a prosperous occupation, they had to develop skills immediately, and forgo childish and immature habits.
“Anyways, why are you here?” Asked Ren. “What was that ‘thing’ Cecilia fought yesterday?”
“That ‘thing’ that Cecilia fought yesterday is an abomination. A mindless creature that only knows how to kill.”
“That’s... not quite right,” Cecilia interjected. “This ‘abomination’ was once human. Our Ki ability let’s use detect heat signatures of living things, and humans generally have the same feeling.”
Jennifer let out a long and loud breath of air that made it obvious how annoyed she was to hear that.
“I’m... sure she already knows that,” said Ren.
“It was a person. The abomination is the result of a mutation due to a child gifted with magic using too much magic.”
Ren held his breath and Cecilia stopped eating at that piece of information.
“Are you saying, we’ll end up like that one day?” Cecilia.
“Not necessarily. So long as you control how much magic you use, your body won’t mutate. First symptoms of mutation are the loss of feeling in a limb. So long as you take a break and not use any magic after the first symptom, you’ll be fine. Once your body undergoes the first stage of puberty, any chance of mutation is zero.”
Cecilia trembled all over. It wasn’t very obvious, but it was the first time Ren had seen Cecilia react like this; except when it was cold.
“What about Cecilia then?” Asked Ren. “As far as I know her magic is active at all times, and she’s never shown any of those symptoms.”
“Cecilia? She possesses magic?” Jennifer asked, shocked at the fact.
What seemed at first was a slight disappointment, instead brought a disgustingly happy sneer on Ren’s face. He had higher expectations of Jennifer Reese, he figured that someone of her caliber and a fight with Cecilia would have made it obvious she had magic. At the same time, he had never felt so giddy before. He tried to hold himself back, could not contain his hearty laughter. After all, this was his moment to finally show off off his intelligence. All those years of theories, research, and craft, he had no one to share it with. There was Cecilia, but she often fell asleep within three minutes of speech.
“In that case, let me tell you everything about us!” Ren boasted. “Let me tell you how Cecilia was able to learn Ki in only five years, Legion!” He bragged and pointed at her. “How long have you been practicing martial art?”
She sat silently for a moment, probably to count the years that went by. That said, he only asked her for a more dramatic effect. To include his audience into his little speech. He already knew the answer. She started at the age of five, and her most notable achievement, Ki, was discovered at twenty-five. Which meant fifty-five years since she started. All of her history was on the internet after all.
“I’d estimate fifty-five years,” said Jennifer.
“Fifty-five years,” Ren repeated. “A year is three hundred and sixty-five days, excluding leap years. That’s 20,075 days for you in total. A day has twenty-four hours, that makes total 481,800 hours. If you were to deduct that amount with two days of rest a week, and twelve hours of other activities on the same day you practice martial arts, is it safe to say you practiced approximately 172,260 hours your entire life?”
“I can safely say I’m impressed with your arithmetic, but go on,” Jennifer praised.
“Cecilia here has only practiced for five years, ever since a particular accident. That is 1825 days, that is 43,800 hours of training! With only five years of training, she has covered a quarter of your entire martial art career!”
“Shh,” Ren pushed his finger at Jennifer. He sneered after the room went silent. “There’s a reason why I never applied the same formula to her. You see, this is where Cecilia’s magic comes into play; regeneration magic.”
“Regeneration?” Jennifer repeated blandly.
“From the sound of your tone, you’re trying to understand why regeneration is the key. I understand, all of us humans have regeneration built into our DNA, but Cecilia is special. Her regeneration doesn’t simply heal injuries. It restores everything about her! Every injury she suffers is recovered at a godly rate, every stamina she uses is instantly replenished. In fact, her regeneration magic is so powerful that it even prevents the release of melatonin!”
“So she can’t sleep?” Asked Jennifer.
“Unfortunately not. The thing about Cecilia’s regeneration is that it prevents any form of weakening. Weariness, and exhaustion can be considered a form of weakness, so her regeneration magic prevents her from ever feeling fatigue.”
“I see, go on.”
“When the human body rests, your body replenishes itself. Rest too much, and your body weakens. However, her magic prevents her body from growing weaker. So what happens when you have a martial artist who can never feel fatigued. A martial artist who is constantly exercising at 100%, or even 300% at all times! A martial artist who never weakens no matter how much she lazes around!
“Over the years that I trained Cecilia, I devised impossible training regimen for normal people due to human limitations. Cecilia can disregard any normal human limitations! She’s the ultimate form of a limit breaker!
“Earlier, I mentioned that her regeneration magic prevents her from producing melatonin. Well, guess what, every night when everybody is asleep, Cecilia spends that time in deep meditation. Unfortunately that’s the closest thing she can get to actively trying to sleep. As far as I know, Cecilia uses that deep meditation time to mentally imagine fights. At least, I think she still does that. Regardless, she has toughened not only her physical, but also her mental state as well.”
“I see, so the reason why Cecilia isn’t a hulking mass of muscle is thanks to her regeneration magic,” Jennifer joined in. “Muscles gain mass from swelling and blood transporting nutrients. For her, there is no swelling. Her body merely adapts and change according to how much she consumes.”
They both looked at Cecilia, who seemed embarrassed at the fact that Ren was boasting about her, and hid her face behind the takeout box.
“I expect nothing less from the woman who holds the title of “Legion.” Once again! If we were to compare the 172,260 hours of training you did to Cecilia’s 43,800 hours. She completed a quarter of your entire life’s training. Now think about this, how much training did you do by the age of ten? By your age, Cecilia trained three times more than you did. In fact, she has the same amount of hours you spent at the age of fifteen. That’s not even including the fact that Cecilia has been able to train without ever feeling encumbered by fatigue and strain.”
“That explains all the food she ate in the past ten minutes,” Jennifer joked.
Throughout the entire speech, Cecilia had consumed three more plates of takeout and was now on her twenty-sixth plate.
Jennifer gripped her hands on top of her knees, and tilted her head down.
“I admit, it’s hard to believe that there’s someone out there like Cecilia.”
“Is it?” Asked Ren. “Just so you know, I’m not done yet. I have a lot of things to say.”
There was no reaction from Jennifer, but her silence alone told him that he had the green light.
“How did you know the abominations are magically gifted children who used too much magic?”
That question alone made Jennifer look up and give him her undivided attention.
“Why children to be exact? How do you know we won’t mutate when we’re adults? Where are you getting this information from?”
“How much do you know?” Asked Jennifer.
Ren leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, and chin nested atop his hands.
“I think you’re preparing us for something,” said Ren. “I was five during the Bloody Holiday. I saw an angel, it heard my prayer after an unfortunate incident with Cecilia.”
Cecilia choked on her food after a huge swallow. She then stacked her plate on top of whatever amount it was now.
“Angels aren’t supposed to exist, right? They’re mythical, religious beings created by human fantasy. They’re the messengers of God, a deity that humans pray to and seek guidance from. A higher being brewed by our figment of imagination to provide relief and answers when there are none. They aren’t supposed to exist. Yet, I saw one before my very eyes.
“As I raised Cecilia, it became apparent to me that we weren’t alone in this world. I didn’t know if I was crazy or not, but the fact that magic existed and the Bloody Holiday occurred was a very strong anchor. But... you know what sealed the deal? What convinced me that something was going on behind the scenes?
“The magic academy “Fortissimum Magia,” a school dedicated to those with magic. There’s no information about it no matter where I look. At first, I thought I just imagined it, but I was able to confirm its existence from parents who sent their children off to this tuition free academy. I don’t care about the two of us not being invited to this school, what concerns me is the completion of it. Four years after the Bloody Holiday, while the world rebuilt itself, the school made its appearance. Four years after the tragedy! The exact same time magically gifted individuals discovered their abilities. That’s awfully quick for a large study abroad school, coincidence much?
“But the bigger question is, why? Why is this magic academy necessary? We live in a highly advanced society. Our technology reached the point where everything takes place in VR. In fact, it’s not farfetched to say that our technology is more magical than magic itself. So why is it necessary for a school to dedicate this newfound power? An ability that applies only to the real world. To teach us manners? Fear of our abilities? Concentration camp? None of that is necessary. Why pool so much resource for a tuition free school supported by taxpayer money? If you simply let us live our lives in virtual reality, we’ll never ever have to use our abilities. So why is it necessary for an academy to teach and learn about our own abilities?
“You know what I think? I think you’re preparing us for war. A battle that makes the Bloody Holiday look like child’s play; a true apocalypse. One where only a handful of the population will survive. The reason why this academy appeared so quickly is because there are a few people in power who know of this apocalypse. Magic is our greatest weapon. Am I right?”
The atmosphere became very dense and hard to breathe, probably because he didn’t give himself time to breathe. Ren wanted to know if everything he had pieced together in the past five years were correct. Jennifer was his best judge since she seemed to know what went on behind the scenes. After a moment of silence, Jennifer reached into her thick cloak for a flask, and chugged the contents like a drunk man at a party.
“Kaminari, I can finally see it,” Jennifer uttered beneath her breath. “It’s small, but I can see it.”
Even though it was soft and intended for her, it was still loud enough for both Cecilia and Ren to hear.
“You are absolutely right,” Jennifer admitted. “Ren and Cecilia Asa, what you are about to hear is highly confidential. Information that only world leader’s know, and a handful of powerful people. The highest classification of secrecy. The reason why I have decided to inform you two of this information is because I believe your potentials to be astronomical and necessary for what is to come.”
Ren swallowed his saliva. Cecilia, however seemed to care more about the food.
“Within ten years time, the Lord of Heaven and Hell will unleash their forces on Earth to wage war on mankind. My duty is to search for those with magic and deliver them to the magic academy to hone their potential for the upcoming battle. It is also my duty to kill any who have mutated.
“The reason for this has not been disclosed, but preparation was handed down for generations since the year 2016. Since the danger was stated to arrive well over a thousand years, the world leaders dismissed the threat as a farce in the early 3000’s. At least, until the Bloody Holiday happened. Every country in the world then pooled their resources and labor into Fortissimum Magia as a final act for survival.
Ren, Cecilia, you two are the most outstanding, and promising individuals that I have encountered on my journeys. Ren, I personally invite you to the magic school Fortissimum Magia. I’m sure the principal would have no complaints if you were to attend his academy.”
“What about me?” Asked Cecilia.
“You will come with me. If you possess regeneration magic, then you only need to hone your martial skills. It’d be a waste if you went to the academy,” said Jennifer.
Cecilia let out a doubtful hum with a disgruntled look. “I don’t know... I don’t really like you….”
Ren looked at Cecilia, wide-eyed at what he just heard.
“You’re... kind of depressing. Like, the complete opposite of the Jennifer that I looked up to. I don’t want to travel with an empty husk of Jennifer Reese. I want to travel with Legion!
“So that means she’ll come with me, right?” Asked Ren.
“No!” Jennifer snapped. “As far as I know, there wouldn’t be a challenge for her. To greatly increase our chances of survival, I need to personally take Cecilia to train.”
“Then just spar with her at the academy,” said Ren.
“No, I have something else in mind. Something more than just simple sparring. Care to hear?” Jennifer directed the last bit at Cecilia.
“Nope!” Cecilia squeaked. “I’ve got something even better.”
Cecilia put down her last tray of food, got up from the couch, and approached Jennifer so that they were face to face. Well, in this case, face to chest, but she looked up and into Jennifer’s hood with a bright smile and shining confidence.
“It hurts you know, to be told to forget about becoming a hero. Especially from one of the people that inspired me to become one. It hurts even more to see MY hero in such a sorry state. So I’m going to do what any hero would normally do. I’m going to save you.”