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The same day I had heard about the Chi-Blockers, I decided to make my move.
The sun dived behind the skyscrapers, and I took the trolley down to the bookstore. There was only one relatively close, and I could only hope that it was the right one. I walked in slowly, and the librarian seemed just about ready to leave. He was slightly overweight, and was almost bald, holding on to a little bit of grey hair. He lacked wrinkles, but wore a tiny pair of glasses balanced on his nose. Surrounding him, were hundreds of books on anything I could have wanted to know.
I breathed deeply, and approached him at his desk.
"Now, what's a nice little girl doing out and about at this time of night, hm? I'm just about to close up. Is there something I can interest you in, quickly?"
"Yeah, actually, do you have any books on the great wars of our time?" I asked, a bit shaky and nervous, praying to the spirits that I had found the right bookstore. I could have sworn I saw something light up in the librarian's eye, he maybe even stood up a bit straighter.
"I sure do!" He said, and then he got out of his little librarian's corner and walked across the store and pulled something out. He then walked back to his corner and put it on the desk separating me from him. Like the protester said, I didn't accept the book.
"Say, do you like history?" He asked. "I may have some more books that interest you..."
"Yes. I said immediately. I thought I saw an almost smile begin to light up his face.
"Great, what nation do you think is the most fascin—?"
"Earth." I interrupted him, blushing as I realized I had.
"Now, how about that book, I have some special ones in the back? Here, let me get you one on the Earth Kingdom..." Then he walked out again and grabbed a different book. Without even reading the title, I said
"No thank you, I've already read it, and it was quite dull." I said. My heart thumped against my chest, hoping that I was doing everything well, and that he wouldn't see through my ruse.
"Shall I take you to the back to find a different one?"
"Yes, sir." I said, and he took me to the back. Inside, there was a door.
"Welcome sister, the era of Equality is upon us." He bowed, and then opened up the door, which lead to a long tunnel.
"Next time you want to enter, just say Oh-Six-Seven, that's your new Equalist number, okay? The training area is just down there." He said pointing.
I slowly walked down the hallway, and I saw a bunch of people jabbing at each other, and dodging. On the wall, there was a huge poster of Amon, and smaller ones with a calligraphy logo, and they each had some writing beneath them. They all stood up to look at me, and one who was obviously in charge came toward me. He was wearing a full suit, with a green body and a mask. I supposed this was standard Equalist apparel.
"Welcome, sister, what services have you provided to the Equalists? And what is your number?"
"I'm Zero-Six-Seven. And... I'm sort of new to the whole Equalist thing. I saw a protester in the park, talking about the Chi-Blockers. I thought it was fascinating, and that the Equalists in general were."
"Well, that's just sixty-seven. And, okay, we don't usually get many new Equalists, but, if you're good, you'll fit in just fine." He paused, and began pointing things out. "Those are our training stands," he said pointing at some long poles with two pads on them.
"Those gloves are what we use to avoid accidentally blocking any trainees. And that over there, is C-BAT-D." He pointed to a device that looked like a realistic, life-size dummy. He called it see-bat-dee, and I wondered what it did.
"The C-BAT-D stands for Chi-Blocker Automatic Training Device. It is designed so when you hit all a chi-point, its eyes will light up to let you know that you hit the right spot, got it?" I nodded, wondering who would be rich enough to donate such an item.
"Now, I'm going to teach you the basics. Our art is based on flexibility, and being able to evade attack. You should be able to avoid all attacks, and then be able to strike at the last moment. Let's practice some sparring, shall we?" I nodded, and he continued.
"You want to hit right along the chi-paths. The chi path starts at the forehead," He said, walking over the C-BAT-D, and touching its forehead. "Then goes upward along the head in a straight line to the back of the neck, and continues all the way down the back. He then grabbed the arms of the machine, and pulled one of them up until it snapped into place. "The path goes out to the arms, and loops around it the top, flowing out in a steady path to the hands. The same applies to the legs."
"I want you to attempt to block the Chi in my right arm. In the meantime, I will be throwing these discs" he said, pausing to shuffle through a bag sitting on a bench nearby, "at you... which will symbolize bending." He said while grabbing the discs out of a bag in the corner of the room.
"And... Go!" He threw the discs at me, and I found them easy to dodge. I approached him, ducking and swerving from the discs, and gave him to soft taps with my knuckles on his thigh and forearm." He stopped throwing the discs to correct me.
"Wow, great dodging, you're a natural!" He said. "However, you want to make your jabs harder, so that you can actually block some chi."
Taking his words to heart, I repeated them in my head as he began to throw the discs again. Dodging and swerving from the flying sticks, I snuck up behind, ready to give a nice hard jab to the soldier. However, right when I was about to strike he swerved around and grabbed my arm.
"Not that hard." He said, "That will slow you down, and it won't do anything besides leave a bruise. You want to go strong but not too strong. Small and precise jabs that are quick, so multiples can be instituted in seconds. It's the best technique, because the chi paths can't defend themselves from it. They have defenses from strong direct attacks and weak ones, but not our kind of jabs aimed at pressure points. You'll learn more about those later."
"Okay." I said, and attempted to strike him down. He threw the discs again, and I snuck up and attempted to strike him, following his advice. I managed to get a small jab in on the right arm, before he whirled around and started throwing discs again. I ducked down, and attempted to jab again with my hand.
The teacher removed his mask, and I was greeted with a sweaty tan face with wet brown hair to match. He began to fan himself with the mask, before putting it back on.
"Good work." He said. "Just try using a similar technique, and one day, I'm sure you'll get it."
I continued to train with the man —who revealed to me that his name was Jakobe— for quite a while. I quickly became frustrated that I hadn't mastered the technique yet.
"Don't worry, it usually takes at least a week to get the technique down, and another week to learn how to dodge. Which you already seem to have mastered." I accepted his flattery, but I was still frustrated with myself. We continued to train
"I'm going to take a break, I'm tuckered out. Here, you stay and practice on the C-BAT-D." He panted, and then moved the arms of the device around to get it into an attacking position. "When you're doing it correctly, its forehead will light up green, and when you're doing it wrong, it goes red. Two beeps mean you were doing it too hard, one beep not hard enough. You can practice. There are little censors in all of the pressure points that can block bending, plus the two spots we like practice beginners on. You can try hitting those." Then he took of his mask and went to go get some water.
I felt awkward practicing on the machine, while everyone else seemed to have a partner. I hit the dummy, and at first nothing happened, but later a small dot on his forehead began to light up red. I continued to hit the machine, and each time the device beeped once. Frustrated, I hit harder, but it just began to beep twice each hit. I quickly became frustrated, at the thing, but I realized I was going nowhere.
After a ton of failed hits, I was completely exhausted. Almost everyone else had gone home, except for Jakobe and this other student he was working with. I bid him goodbye, left the cellar of the bookstore and headed home.
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