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They appeared as the smallest of lights in a field of darkness, the quietest of thrums in complete silence. One, a small flickering of a candle flame, lay flat near the ground, likely hiding under shrubbery. The other stood a mere ten meters away, right where the center of the clearing would be.

And their lux shone as brightly as a burning star in the sky.

Satsuki opened her eyes, and her mental visual of those around her vanished. She glowered at the leaves covering her view, mentally cursing the constellations. She glowered at the leaves covering her view, mentally cursing the greater constellations. Once again, she had failed to hold onto her ability to sense lux. This shouldn’t be so hard!

“Look at the great Satsuki Kazoku. So great that she lost the ability to use her own techniques! Hahaha!”

Satsuki gritted her teeth, shoving away the words of a stuck-up distant cousin. No matter what, she would figure this out. Without closing her eyes, she willed her inner sight to reach out, to pinpoint the exact locations rather than having a faint awareness like most Astrals did.

That faint sense saved her just in time. A tickle of awareness told her there was lux nearby, which could only mean one thing. She dropped off her tree branch, catching it with one hand to swing to another. She hopped across a couple of others before she turned to face where she’d come from.

Keisuke crouched on her old tree branch, head tilted. Orange strands of hair had escaped his pony tail, with two persistent strands falling over his eye. He flicked it out of the way and smirked down at her.

“Get a little distracted there?”

Satsuki answered by concentrating lux into her hands. “Lux Skill: Energy Blades!” An emerald green light flashed in her hands, condensing to form stake-like blades. She chucked one and then the other at Keisuke.

He jumped up and over them. His easy, relaxed posture gave the impression he was moving slow, but he was before her in less than a second. He grinned.

“Hi.”

Satsuki struck at those pearly-whites he was determined to show off. He stepped out of the range of the first fist and brushed the second one to the side. Satsuki had good balance, but even she struggled to right herself on the tree limb.

Okay, maybe hiding in the trees hadn’t been her greatest of ideas. Not that she’d had many other options in a forest, though.

Creating a couple more Energy Blades, she threw them at Keisuke as a distraction. While he dodged them with annoying ease, she flung herself backward, penetrating the leafy wall that was meant to hide her earlier.

She landed in the clearing where Keisuke had stood when she first sensed him. Keisuke himself strolled out from the tree line. His hands were in his pockets, and an easy smile spread across his face. Anger sparked, not at him, but at her own inability to make him take this more seriously.

She reached for her own lux, willing it to her arms. “Aura Radiance: Guardian’s Gauntlets!” A two-inch thick translucent green aura flared around her forearms, taking the shape of gauntlets. Rounded bulbs stuck out where her knuckles were. If she’d chosen, she could have made them spikes, but she didn’t want to go that far for a sparring session.

But oh, how Keisuke’s smug smirk tempted her.

“Show me what you’ve got,” he said.

She charged. Knowing he would expect a fist attack because of her gauntlets, she feinted a strike before dropping into a crouch and swiping out with her leg. He stepped just out of reach before swinging a kick of his own at her head. She blocked with her forearm and shoved up against his leg, but he used the new momentum to backflip away.

Satsuki was on him before he could touch the ground. Fists held up, she delivered a quick one-two jab at the same time as casting a quick spell. “Aura Radiance: Phantom Strike!”

Her initial hit didn’t quite reach their target as Keisuke moved back, but the gauntlets around her arms shot forward. Keisuke managed to dodge the first, but the second caught him hard in the shoulder. He grunted, shifting back half a step, but recovered quickly. Hand snapping out, he took hold of Satsuki’s forearm. With a strong grip and hard pivot, he flung her.

She scrambled to find friction with the ground, but she hadn’t taken her eyes off Keisuke the entire time, and that proved a mistake. She didn’t see the object she smashed into until she smashed into it.

“Satsuki, that hurt,” a voice whined. A gangly boy with glasses and spiky orange hair sprawled on the ground under Satsuki.

She blew out an irritated huff and shoved a black strand of hair that had come loose behind her ear. “It’s not like I did it on purpose. Your brother threw me.”

“But I’d been trying so hard to be sneaky.” Touma dropped his head back on the ground, a pout on his lips.

“Trying is the operative word there.” Keisuke stood in the center of the field still, one leg crossed over the other and hands steepled behind his head. “Nice try waiting until I was focused on fighting, though.”

“Wasn’t very successful,” Touma grumbled.

“Neither is laying here doing nothing.” Satsuki got to her feet and extended a hand to Touma. “Come on.”

Touma took her hand, and she pulled him up. Keisuke grinned, held up an arm, and made a “come-at-me" motion.

Satsuki attacked first, jumping in the air to deliver a kick. Keisuke blocked it with a forearm, then hopped up to avoid a tackle from Touma. Before Touma could escape, Keisuke used the other boy’s back as a springboard to get higher, ramming his knee into Satsuki’s stomach.

She hit the ground hard on her back, and if there was any air left in her after the knee, there wasn’t anymore. She rolled on her side, wincing as she gasped for air. Keisuke had been careful to only hit hard enough to wind her without causing damage, and her blood burned. This was still too easy for him.

It wouldn’t be this simple if she could just use Ancestral Magic...

Satsuki gave an angry shake of her head and shot to her feet. If-onlys didn’t win fights. Raising her arms, she growled, “Aura Radiance: Guardian’s Gauntlets!” She raced forward after the magic had formed the energy gauntlets, determined to win this fight.

Or, at the very least, knock that smug smirk from Keisuke’s face.

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About the author

Cross-Warrior

Bio: A dragon disguised as a 25-year-old human. Fantasy fanatic. Jesus Freak. Procrastination Master. Writer primarily on Wattpad under Cross-Warrior but trying out other sites as well. Pfp is fanart by a friend.

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