(Akumu: nightmare in Japanese)
3 years ago…
"Sora, you need to breathe. Face your fears." The Sensei called to his pupil.
Meanwhile, 30 feet in the air, Sora stood wobbling on a tightrope looking down towards the forest floor, his forehead coldly sweating with fear.
Adam, Kenzo, and Faris looked up at him from the safety of the ground alongside their Sensei. All of them were filled with anticipation, but also worry for the youngest member of their team.
"Tell me again why Sora has to be up there? Don't heights scare him?" Faris spoke up, but not breaking his gaze off the tightrope above.
"His fear is exactly why he's doing this. If he cannot conquer his fear of heights, then he'll never prosper as a warrior." Sensei answered.
Sora gulped, and took another shaky step forward. "Don't look down, you're almost their Sora." he urged himself on.
He took another step, then another, and the boys down below started to smile as they saw their friend close to the end. "C'mon Sora," they muttered.
However, Sora's eyes strayed down, and his eyes met with the ground. His vision started to blur, and his foot slipped from the rope. Losing the rest of his footing, Sora plummeted to the ground, however his yell for help was lost in the wind, and he squeezed his eyes shut waiting for the pain.
Sora gasped awake, and the first thing he felt was the cold stone surface pressing against the side of his face, and his hands.
His head throbbed with pain as he sat up onto his knees, and as he rubbed his temple, he scanned his surroundings; he was in some sort of tunnel, dimly lit with blue fire torches.
The throbbing subsided enough that Sora was able to get to his feet. He felt his clothes; still had his weapons.
"Kenzo! Adam! Faris!" he shouted. The only answer was his own echo, bouncing off the tunnel walls.
Sora's breathing quickened, however his Sensei's words filled his mind. "Sora, you need to breathe...."
So, Sora did just that; he closed his eyes, and inhaled through his nose, and then exhaled deeply out of his mouth until his mind, heart, and soul were calm.
Once his breathing evened out, Sora started to sprint down the tunnel, following the blue lit torches' path.
However, what they led to caused Sora to forget his Sensei's advice; he barely had time to halt.
It was a deep, dark cavern with the only way to get across was a thin tightrope.
Sora's heart nearly stopped, and his head was immediately drenched in a cold sweat.
Kenzo dragged his fingertips along the tunnel walls as he walked down its path.
He had to find the others; they would probably need each like last time to get through his test.
A blood-curdling scream pierced the quiet air, causing Kenzo to flinch and stop in his tracks.
That scream; it didn't sound like any of his friends, however, it was vaguely familiar.
Kenzo broke into a sprint down the tunnel, until it opened up into a bigger room. He skidded to a stop at the edge of the tunnel, and his eyes went wide when he saw what was in the middle.
A wolf looking monster had a young, female warrior by the throat, and a sword was shattered on the floor.
The female warrior turned weakly towards Kenzo, and the young boy recognized her in an instant.
It was his older sister, who had died ten years ago; Jasmine!
" Run K...Kenzo," she muttered, her hand reaching towards her younger brother.
"Jasmine?" Kenzo questioned. He then realized that it wasn't just his sister; the whole scene playing out in front of him was a representation of how she was killed.
10 years ago…
Kenzo looked at Jasmine with terror in his eyes, as the older sister raised a single finger up on her lips, telling her young brother to be quiet.
The wolf monster they were hiding from, sniffed the air in search of its prey.
"Kenzo, when I say to, run." Jasmine whispered, not breaking her gaze off the monster, who was stalking closer to the tree, the two were hiding behind.
Kenzo was too scared to speak, and didn't understand the entirety of the situation. Jasmine unsheathed her katana, and ran out into the open, catching the wolf monster’s attention.
“Run Kenzo!” she shouted; at the order, Kenzo sprinted away from the monster and his sister. He kept running as he heard the tussle behind him, however, it was the scream that had caused him to stop, and turn around.
Kenzo shook his head; he couldn’t relive that day, not again.
His sister’s scream filled his ears, so he did the only things he could think of; he covered his ears tightly until they hurt. However, he could still hear her scream, and soon he was on his knees, tears streaming down his face, begging for the screaming to stop.
Adam had a tight grip on his chain weapon, ready to release it on the smallest threat.
“You’re no good…”
He stopped in his tracks and looked around. “Who’s there?” he called out. No one answered.
Adam, after a moment, continued down the path, but the words that he had heard remained with him. “You’re no good Adam, your friends are most likely dead because of you.”
He stopped in his tracks again, but his eyes were squeezed shut, as the words rang out. They were so loud and clear that it was like someone was right there behind him.
“Not even your parents wanted you!”
Upon yelling, Adam swung his chain weapon, and the blade plunged into the stone wall, causing a few broken rocks to clatter on the path.
His breathing heavy, Adam pulled the blade out from the wall, and walked away, silently praying that whatever he heard would stop.
He kept walking, until he reached an open part of the cave, where a dark, hooded figure stood in the middle. “You are worthless, Adam.” it said.
Before Adam was able to react, the figure was in front of him, and a bony, shriveled hand grasped his hair, and pointed a dagger at his throat.
“And you will die being worthless.”
5 years ago…
The young boy turned around, and froze; three taller boys were coming toward him with smirks on their faces.
“What’s the problem? Too scared to say anything?” The leader of the trio mocked. Without giving Adam any time to respond, the leader picked him up by the collar of his gi.
“You’re worthless, you know that. Not even your parents wanted you.” The words cut deep into Adam’s heart, and the worst part was that it was true. He was abandoned at the dojo as a baby with a small paper that said that his name was Adam.
The boy dropped him, and walked away laughing with his friends. Adam swore that he would do everything in his power to keep himself from being worthless.
Faris walked around aimlessly through the tunnels until he came to an open part in the cave.
However, when he stepped in he heard sobbing, causing his eyes to stray to the middle of the room. In the middle, a figure of a boy about Faris’s age was crying over something….or someone.
“Hello?” he called, walking closer.
Faris recognized Kenzo’s headband as he drew closer, and his eyes lit up with joy.
“Kenzo! I’m so happy you’re okay! What are you-” his voice was cut off by “Kenzo” turning around and grabbing Faris by the neck.
“What the-” Faris gasped, as Kenzo pinned him to the wall, anger boiling in his hazel eyes.
“You did this!” he hissed, and Faris’s eyes averted from Kenzo to the middle of the room.
Two bodies laying in blood; Sora and Adam’s bodies lying in blood. Faris’s eyes glazed over with tears as he shook his head.
“I didn’t do it!” he sobbed.
“You weren’t here in time. They died, and you weren’t here to help.” “Kenzo” sneered, tightening his grip on Faris’s throat.
“I’m sorry!” Faris shouted.
6 years ago…
“We can’t do this, Faris. We’re going to get in trouble.” Kenzo shouted, as he, Adam, and Sora climbed the walls surrounding the dojo.
“Not if we come right back. C’mon it will only be for a little bit.” Faris answered, as he and the other boys dropped onto the other side of the wall.
Kenzo groaned in frustration, but followed his friends.
For almost an hour, the boys climbed trees, and playfully fought.
“Alright, c'mon let’s head back before Sensei finds out we’re gone.” Kenzo commanded. The rest of the boys reluctantly nodded.
Sora went first, since he was a little shaky from being a little too high up for his liking, and then Adam next until it was just Kenzo and Faris.
Faris about to slide down until…
The next moment was a bit of a blur; falling, cold wind rushing, and pain.
Faris looked up from the dirt and saw Kenzo; he was unconscious and his head was bleeding.
As Sora and Adam raced to them, Faris shouted, “Ke…Kenzo! I…I’m sorry.”
Four boys trapped with their greatest fear, whether it would be emotional or physical.
The Winter’s Mask sighed; how she wished to make the boys’ suffering cease.
“But this is a part of their test. They’ll figure out how to conquer this Akumu.” she muttered to herself.