Cata Maestra

by

bread moment

Forest Arc | Chapter 7: Mock Battle

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"Hey, kiddo."

I turn my head towards the sudden voice. A silhouette stands against a background dyed in the deep scarlet of a setting sun, her hand against her chin as if in thought.

"I know I should have asked you earlier," Celes begins, "but aren't you getting a bit cold in your... thing...?"

...You can't even tell what this is?

She points at my whi-... reddish cloak and the scarf I had returned to my neck; she gave me boots, so I don't need it around my feet anymore. As cloaks don't change like living beings, it's still paper thin and extremely lightweight, and the scarf only serves to cover my neck, not my legs or arms.

I grab some loose cloth from my clothes and wrap it around a pile of snow. It promptly melts, soaking my cloak in water, which soon evaporates as well. Celes' eyes widen slightly as she nods in approval.

"It's enchanted? Lucky you, those can be pretty rare. Make sure you don't lose 'em."

Enchanted...? Another thing I need to learn about, I guess. Yeah, I guess that is pretty lucky. Not cause they're rare, but without them, I definitely would have frozen to death. That being said, the current problem isn't the cold right now. In less than an hour, it'll be night. I have no clue what Celes plans to do concerning the "Night Stalkers" or whatever, but I'm hoping she has a plan, at the very least.

I hug Cata to calm my nerves. She lets out a small meow. At this point, I'm absolutely sure she isn't a normal cat. I mean, she hasn't eaten anything since I first met her, and she's way too smart, almost humanlike, even.

...Whatever. I'll figure that out later.

If I'm correct, the Night Stalkers are the creatures in this forest that create the sounds of wind during night. I've never seen them during the day, so it's safe to say they're only active at night as well. It seems as though everything about them screams stealth. They're active only in the darkness--god knows where they are in the day--and this is just an assumption, but the sound of wind they make could be a way for them to mask the sounds of their movements.

Of course, I have no idea what to do with any of this information. Who do you take me for, some kind of battle-hardened veteran? Hah, too bad. I'm just a frail amnesiac on the brink of insanity. The only thing I can do with this is try and predict the way I'll die.

Suddenly, a voice breaks me out of my thoughts.

"Oi, kid. I just realized something."

I turn to look at Celes.

"Can't you just... write in the snow or something? Just cause you're mute doesn't mean you can't communicate."

...

I want to get mad. I really do. I could have been told this a long time ago, but it's also my fault for not realizing. I can't blame her for something that I forgot as well.

Disappointed in myself, I push my icicle into the snow and start to write.

[Yeah. Thanks.]

Chuckling, Celes watches as I wipe away the marks i wrote into the snow. Maybe she was worried I didn't know how to write. It's a good thing it's one of the few things I didn't forget.

"You can tell me your name now, right? I'm getting tired of calling you 'kid' or whatever."

[It's Maestra.]

"Maestra, huh..."

I tilt my head.

"Ẁ͜͢h̶a̶͝t͘͡ ̵̸̨a̵̵̛n ͟i̧͡n̛͢͟ţ̵̶e̴̶r̴͝e͏͘͢s͢tìn̷͜ǵ̨ n͘͝a̵̢͝mȩ͡.̛͢͏"

I jerk back at the sudden tenseness of her voice, but as I look at her, she looks as though nothing had ever happened.

Was it my imagination...?

...It must have been. I can't imagine this idiot woman being so... serious.

...[What are your plans for dealing with nighttime?]

As Celes read the words scribbled on the ground, the corners of her mouth gradually tilted upwards, eventually forming a twisted grin.

"Pure force, obviously."

...Yeah, I must have been imagining it.

Are you an idiot? Do you have brain damage? Is your personality some kind of musclebrained freak? It's an entire night of those creatures, okay? There's no time to sleep at all, and we can't switch off or anything because, well, I'm me. I can't defend against those... things, and you're going to have to rest eventually.

Seeing the disbelieving look on my face, Celes pats my head.

...Stop that.

"Don't worry about a thing! I've been in this forest for the past week or so, and I haven't died!"

Yet.

But... she really has been here for a week, hasn't she? Her jacket is rather messy, so I wouldn't be surprised if it hasn't been cleaned for a while.

"You too, you said you've been here three days. You haven't died yet either, so what's just another night to us?"

Maybe nothing for you, but for me, I might die.

[What am I supposed to do once the sun sets?]

Celes brings her hand to her chin, suggesting that she's thinking hard for an answer, but judging by the twinkle in her eyes, she's just about to make another joke.

"...Sleep?"

I throw another snowball at her. She catches it between her fingers, and with a small flick, sends it flying back. With me unable to react, it smacks me right in the middle of the chest, knocking me onto my back. Cata walks over and sniffs my face, only to back off, seemingly disinterested.

"Wow, are you some kind of hollow shell? How did you get knocked over by a snowball?"

I scowl at her, but decide to just leave it alone for now. It's best for me to prepare for what's coming, not worry about the present.

...[What do the Night Stalkers look like?]

"Wow, now there's a useful question!"

I stare blankly.

[Just tell me.]

"Fine, fine. What do they look like..." Celes taps her fingers. "It's best to describe them as... vaguely humanoid."

[Vaguely?]

"Vaguely. You'll know what I mean when you see one. Other than that, they're just creepy and... dark."

[Because they have to blend in with their surroundings?]

Celes nods.

"If you decide to stay awake and not sleep, make sure to keep an eye out for them. It'll be difficult in the dark."

[It shouldn't be a problem.]

She raises her eyebrow, but I'm quite serious. Ever since I... changed, my eyesight, despite me having only one eye, has become extremely sharp. It's almost overstimulating, especially when combined with all of my other greatly enhanced senses.

By the way, Celes smells bad. Probably because of her fruits.

...I won't tell her that, though.

"Hey, Maestra, do me a favor, will you?"

...[What do you want?]

"Well, I can tell you're not planning to sleep, so..." She laughs playfully. "Why not have a little mock battle just for fun?"

[What? No.]

"Come on, don't be like that! Besides, we're travelling together, aren't we? It'd be good if we knew each others abilities."

Abilities, abilities, what are those?

Oh right. Things that I don't happen to have. All of my battle experience was lost along with my memories, assuming I even had it in the first place. But still, she does have a point. Maybe I can take this time to show her how bad I am. Additionally, I'll be able to see how powerful she is as well.

[Okay. When will we start?]

I look towards Celes, who's sporting another mischevious grin.

"Oh, how about..."

Don't.

"Now!"

Fuck you. I quickly prepare for any incoming attacks.

She vanishes from view, the only things alerting me of her presence being the scent of fruit and the soft crunch of footsteps against the snow. If I were to pay attention, I could closely follow the imprints of her boots in the snow, but it would be far too distracting.

I reach for my hood and pull out an ice shard, one of the many I had stored in preparation for a fight. I follow the sound of footsteps and throw it, only for a flash of silver to fly through the air and reduce the ice to snow. Soon after, Celes blinks into existence right where the ice was destroyed.

Fuck, that's scary.

"Wow, you found me? Not bad, not bad. While it's a shame your strength is lacking, your speed and perception is nothing to cough at."

Of course it isn't. I weigh what, 5 kg? Even though I'm physically weak, 5 kg is 5 kg. Basically nothing if comparing to a normal body weight. I know it's pretty inhuman, but it's not safe to call me fully human anyway. But as she said, the only thing I have going for me is speed and perception. It's not like I can just change my perception, so I'll do all I can to focus on my agility.

I hurl my icicle off to the side. I feel slightly lighter, just a bit nimbler. From the time I've woken up to now, instinct has played a big role in keeping me alive. While I don't like the loss of control, maybe it's best if when fighting, I give it a go. Who knows, it might even have something to do with my lost memories.

Celes approaches once again, this time completely visible. A wooden sword rests in her right hand, her left hand held behind her back, possibly as a handicap.

...I thought it was a metal sword?

...Whatever. Lets do this.


I duck down to the ground, narrowly dodging a strike aimed at my head. My hand swings out as a counter, only finding empty air.

Turning around gives me a view of a sword on a crash course towards my face. I sidestep perpendicular to Celes's direction, letting her weapon graze my cloak. Pretending to trip, I push my hand against the ground and take advantage of my light weight, springing upwards into the air.

Another strike from Celes rockets towards my airborne body, this time aimed at my torso. I twist my body, dodging the blade, and use the leftover momentum to deliver a kick, which fails to land successfully.

Dodge, counter, miss, dodge, counter, miss. Sneak in a strike, but fail to succeed. Pretend to leave an opening. Recieve a blunt attack, only for all of the energy to go towards moving my body rather than injuring.

Gradually, my lacking stamina begins to wane. My muscles ache from overuse, and my senses dull ever so slightly. Celes is... a very good fighter. Compared to me, who's performing techniques I don't remember learning, Celes knows exactly what to do in any situation. Even though my common sense defying body caught her off guard a few times, it only took her a few moments to adapt and adjust.

Recovering from a swift blow, I rush forwards once again.

...Of course, I completely doubt Celes would even remotely be injured by any of my attacks. My claws are really just... nails. Nails, but sharp. They won't be able to get through her jacket at all. How do I know this? Well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out a sword won't cut through a solid cube of metal. It's the same idea here. Some small, sharp claws aren't going to cut through a thick jacket made of who knows what.

I hop over a subtle sweep towards my feet. When landing, I try and stomp on her other foot, only for that to rise as well, pushing me away before I have the chance.

...What I'm trying to say here, is that I never stood a chance in the first place. Despite how it looks, she's faster than me, stronger than me, more durable than me, and more experienced. If she wanted to, she could very well punt me away at any given moment.

I recover, jumping backwards, and begin my assault once agai-

"Alright, I've seen enough."

A chop to my forehead interrupts my movements. I look up at the culprit, only to realize the person I'm looking for is standing behind me. Without my icicle, I resort to using my claws in order to write.

[So, how did I do?]

"Quite frankly, you're terrible."

Die.

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bread moment

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