Learning to Walk Again

By: Sinead

Chapter One

Normal days are boring. Then again, what is normal?

Let's not get into that discussion.

For me a "normal" day, is one that I don't get killed in an arena fight. A "normal" day, is when I gain at least two more bruises, from relentless opponents, who really do want to kill me. A "normal" day is one in which I go home, finish work that I have left over from the day, and go to bed.

This is the account in which my "normal" days proved to be a shadow of the true world, as they ended, and I started to truly live.

The man attacked, his rather large sword descending upon me quickly. He was large and agile, a combination that many smaller and agile fighters learn to be wary about. I dodged his sword, and then thrust quickly, resting the tip at the base of his neck, actually letting it graze the metal, saying nothing.

He lowered his sword, then growled in a voice that portrayed his irritation of being beaten by me yet again. "I submit."

He pulled his helmet off, and we bowed to each other. I never show my face. It isn't required. Even if it were, I wouldn't.

"Brute," which was his nick-name, didn't care much for losing, and his next opponent would suffer because of my win. As for the nick-name issue, all arena fighters take one on. You have Brute, then Spike, Traitor, Bullwhip, Death-Bringer, Fear, Free-Fall, and so many others. The list of names are endless, but the seven others that I've named, are the ones in my group, that we called a platoon.

They have no idea that I'm a girl.

I always come, with the armor racks, the polish, everything that my fighting-self needs to fight. They also think that I "relieve" my fighting-self's needs, and have tried a few moves before. I'm not going to admit that I'm all that bad to look at, but I'm not one to just go off and spend a few hours sucking face, among other things, with a sweaty fighter. That would violate everything that I hold dear to me. I'm a virgin, and I'm staying that way until my wedding night. My friends are threatening to get me married off fast.

"KEDAKAI!!!"

I glared at the short fighter. I was only about five-five, but I mean . . . seriously. He was only five straight . . . if that. It was Fear. And that short cretin can bellow.

I didn't reply. I never speak. It freaks the others out, since they like to hurl insults at each other as they battle. I say nothing, while they try to make up for my silence. It's quite hilarious, once you understand that I'm a female.

"You bein' a chicken? A wuss? A girlie?!"

They try to tempt me into yelling back, revealing my voice, something that they could hold me to. I grinned beneath my helmet, and attacked silently, my sword in a defensive position, though. I knew his fighting style, and I played into it. He thrust the tip of the sword at me, but I flipped over his attack, hitting the back of his helmet with the pommel of my sword as I did so.

He yelled, and whirled, but it was too late. I ricocheted off of the fencing, and was back on the first side that I was on, with the edge of my sword grazing his throat, as I was holding the back of his head still with my left hand, and my right was over shoulder, holding the sword at his neck. He sighed. "I submit."

I drew the sword away, and turned, to leave through the opposite door in the fence. Members of other two platoons also called this training ground their home arena. I've fought against every other fighter here, each multiple times, winning at least once with each of them. Every single one of the fighters did one of two things: They got out of my way, or they tried to make something about my fighting skills.

Just as Fang was doing now.

"Kedakai, you poor, innocent little boy. Do you know what I saw yesterday?"

Little old me, bringing in everything for fighting.

"A cute little girl, bringing in everything for fighting. Guess what I did?"

You started to hit on me, you sexless donkey.

"I started to hit on the girl. Guess what she did?"

You idiot. I promptly kicked you in the balls.

"She kissed me."

One of the other fighters, one who didn't care much about winning or losing, but instead just fought because he could, snorted, and pulled his helmet off. He always gave me a challenge, and I always took the challenge. We fought each other a lot, doing multiple rounds. Sometimes I won, sometimes he did. Another thing that he did, was let my silence be, and not fling insults at me, to try to get me enraged. We were comrades, in a way, even though we were on separate platoons.

He sighed, saying, "Bull, Fang. I saw you. She kicked you right in the gonads! And what did you do? You crumbled, on all fours, holding yourself and ready to bawl like a baby."

I shook my head, and brushed past him, while surrounding fighters began laughing. Like my Japanese nick-name's meaning, noble, I don't lower myself to their level. The one who defended me caught up with me. "Hey! Not even a 'thank-you'? C'mon, Kedakai, speak once in a while."

I turned, and looked at him. He could see my eyes. I know that he could. I gave him a questioning look, and he chuckled. "For a guy, you've got expressive eyes."

I altered the look, so that I appeared bored. He grinned, and said, "So, you mute by birth, or by choice?"

I held up two fingers. Second option.

He nodded. "Hard?"

I shook my head, and the taller fighter asked, "You get angry, right?"

I nodded.

"So why don't you yell back?"

We reached my room, where I've destroyed all of the bugs and things. We were allowed to do that, as long as we provided funds to replace them as soon as we were gone. We're actually paid to fight. You know, liability and all. I've already paid them for the devices, so they leave me alone about that. I nodded towards the door, and he opened it. "Well?"

I pointed, plainly indicating that he should enter. Once the door was closed, I pulled my helmet off, and said, "Because of who I am."

He sat, in all his armor, which is rather painful, and I leaned against a counter. He took a moment to recover, then finally said, "You . . . you really area . . ."

"Hsst!" I held up a hand, then replaced my helmet in a flash, buckling it on easily, all thanks to my boyishly-short hair. The only exception, were my long bangs, that angled downward from my cheeks to my jaw. The doorknob turned, and I reached for the sword behind my shoulder. A familiar head popped in, and I smiled, though she couldn't see it, then nodded once. Two others followed in, and the door was closed again. I removed my helmet again, and said, "You scared me."

The first, a woman of around her mid-thirties, blinked. She was my boss, for work. When I'm not in the arena, I was a manager at one of those stores that you usually would see at the mall, where it has all those "punk" clothing and accessories. Instead, it was about three miles in front of the Pavilion, where I spend my weekends training. It had been a rather large plot of land, and since I was the head manager, not to mention that I had helped with multiple issues in the construction, I was allowed to buy the extra land, and use it. My boss was a distant relative, neither of us know exactly how we're related, and she let me buy the land for a bargain. It was thought that it would go to waste, but I put a Japanese-style house upon it, and then planted a rather lovely garden. Now, it's one of the most beautiful places that people say they've seen. I think that it's only average. I've seen better gardens and such.

Anyway, I ran everything at the store, and whatever paperwork for inventory that I didn't finish during the day, I finished, while at home.

She sighed. "I can't stay long. Neither can you."

"What do you mean?" I asked, now worried. "What's happened? It isn't my mother, is it?"

She shook her head, smiling. "No. You're needed at the Pavilion now, though."

I shook my head. "That's not easily done. You know what I have to do after a fight!"

"You can shower later."

"I reek!"

The fighter that defended me chuckled. "Not that badly, Kedakai!"

I shook my head. "Talon, I told you who I am, because I was informed that I was moving up into your platoon. I need a friend among those ranks. I know that Fang's in your platoon as well."

"Who's dropping out?"

"Kedamono. He was injured last night, in an official fight over at the North PlainFoxBoro arena. His leg's broke, and he has so many cuts, scrapes, and gashes, that he's already had two blood transfusions." I shook my head, and added, "I'm planning to tell him, too, so that he doesn't start to feel bad. I'll be keeping him informed."

"Why are you telling us now?"

"I'm two years in this arena. Not many people last much longer than that."

He shook his head. "You'll last longer than I could ever hope to." I helped him up, and he asked, "How was Kedamono defeated?"

I sighed. "His opponent is being charged for attempted murder. He secretly sharpened the blade of his sword while waiting to enter the arena to fight."

"Dear God . . ."

I nodded, and started to pull off my armor. Talon began blushing, and he said, "Uh . . . should I leave?"

I chuckled. "Unlike you big, buff, brutes of men, I actually wear something worthwhile underneath my armor."

"I'm still trying to get used to the idea that you're a girl."

One of the people who had entered, was my partner that I worked with in the store. She has come and has helped me, when I'm injured from time to time. Her name was Hoshi, and at the moment, her current bangs-color was an iridescent white. She helped with the clasps on my back.

Just as I was pulling the chestplate over my head, the door burst in.

And there stood Fang.

I should have fixed that stupid lock yesterday.

I turned, and executed a neat kick to his chin before he could really take in what I was in. Unfortunately, though, I had already taken off the rubber-soled, metal shoes that I use in the arena. He fell, and Talon closed the door after him. Laughter was heard from the hallway, and I ran behind a screen, finishing removing the rest of the armor, and reaching for my regular clothing. I changed quickly, and then came out, quickly piling the rest of my armor onto the rack. Talon blinked. "You're the girl that Fang was trying to pull a move on."

I nodded, and said, "Look, don't tell. I'm hated enough here already."

He nodded, and I finished pulling the wire mesh over my armor. I opened the door, to see Fang being held up by two others, just as burly as he was. They blinked at me. "Did you . . . uh, knock Fang out?"

I smirked. "I hit his chin slightly less hard than I hit his balls."

They shuddered, and snickered, while I pushed the rack down the hall. One called after me, "If you ever want a good time, hun . . ."

I turned, and blinked at him. "If you ever feel the need to be castrated . . ."

He winced. "Ooh. Point taken."

I blew him a kiss, and continued pushing the cart down the hall, to the doors. We went to the van, and Talon, who was only about three years older than me, asked, "If you're ever free one night, you know, to see a movie, or something . . ."

I smiled. "Probably. I'll pencil you in sometime, if my work schedule allows it."

He blushed again, and I hopped into the passenger seat, while my boss took the driver's seat. Everyone was amazingly tense. He raised his helmet in tribute to me, and it was my turn to blush. As soon as we were on the highway, I asked, "Why is everyone on such a tightrope?"

"Something's come up."

"What do you mean?"

"Once we get to the Pavilion, you'll see."

"Please tell me. It sounds as if something horrible's happened."

None of the others looked at me. Finally, my boss said, "Something . . . something probably has by now."

I ran through the guard station at the back of the store, not even being bothered to be asked for my ID. They knew me too well to get in my way when I was determined. I wanted to find out why I was wanted here so badly.

I exited out the back of the building, and started running through the Japanese garden that I had helped plan and construct, through volunteering. There was a café in the back of the store, where people could sit and have a latte, or something, and talk about whatever.

However, before I had gotten too far, I saw a figure standing on the path, looking at the scenery. I stopped short, and stared at his back, which had four tan legs crossed over it, each black-spotted.

No way.

It . . . it couldn't be.

Cheetor turned, and looked at me, his face smiling.

He couldn't be real.

"Are you Alessa?"

I nodded, although I knew that I had to be knocked out on the floor of the arena. Cheetor was a character from a television show, an animated Saturday-morning cartoon that aired when my grandfather was a teenager. Not a real person!

"Your mother wanted you. C'mon, this way."

I followed him, and asked, "Can you tell me what's going on?"

"Sorry, guess I can't. It isn't up to me to tell you," he replied over his shoulder.

"Then who will?"

"Optimus."

I sighed, and followed him to the Pavilion, where I saw others. Most were Maximals, but there was one, tall, dark woman, who I had seen before somewhere. I couldn't place her face. The others didn't seem to notice her. She was in the shadows by the east side of the house, since it was rearing sundown. I looked at Optimus, who smiled. "A pleasure to meet you, Miss Alessa."

I shook his outstretched hand, definitely thinking that I was out cold on the floor of the arena. Something was rather odd about this. "Tell me why I find this so bizarre."

My mother was laughing, standing in the doorway of the Pavilion. "Because you're you, that's why! Come on, just remember to–"

She stopped short, and Optimus was moving quickly, to try to protect me. I tripped him, and gripped the sword that was descending. I was going to take any blows that were directed at me, and I wasn't going to let anyone else get hurt.

The double-hand's-length-wide blade's edges cut deeply into my palms, in a diagonal line from the space between my thumb and index fingers, to almost to my wrist on the opposite side of my palm. The pain was almost overwhelming, but I used it instead to clear my mind. In a swift movement, I had gripped the blade with my fingers, and shoved it backwards, causing the pommel to hit the dark-haired woman's forehead. She released it, and I dropped the sword, kneeling, cradling my lacerated palms towards me, trying not to let too much blood drip onto my clothes, even though I didn't see the point in it.

Optimus was just getting up, looking at me strangely. "What did you do?"

"I took the blow that was intended for me. You don't need to be involved," I replied, my voice a whisper. I finally placed a name with the face. She was a secretary at an arena that I did demonstrations at, for beginner fighters, who were just starting to train. "Velika. What are you trying to prove?"

She rushed at me, a dagger in her hands. I lunged to the right, but a stinging pain on my left cheek informed me that I wasn't fast enough. The pain was really starting to get to me. I swore under my breath. This meant that I wasn't going to be able to practice for a while. And I was just getting over my double-injury to my left knee!

She brandished the dagger within her hands dangerously, licking the slightly-bloody blade. "Why? You've beaten my husband every single time, and you haven't thought twice about it!"

My heart missed a beat.

Velika knew.

She took that opportunity, to dash towards me again. I dodged three more swipes, but on the fourth, I tripped over something.

Blackness enveloped me, as a pain beyond describing tore through my chest.