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When Kyane got home from school she changed right back into her gi and entered the dojo. Sensei Shaotoro sat on his legs at a coffee table. He watched Kyane go over to the wall of training stands. She let out multiple punches followed by angry screams and grunts. She moved to a training stand with protruding wooden poles along the front. She practiced blocking and punching around them. Each hit was quickly followed by a grunt, yell, or pained scream. It sounded like a thunderstorm right on top of them. Shaotoro took a sip from his drink in front of him and watched her hit away at the training stands. Her anger came in waves when she punched and pounded away at the wooden posts. She spun on the balls of her right foot and knocked the cheek of a full-body training mannequin with the heel of her left foot. The mannequin bobbed from side to side. She pivoted around to have her back face the doll, she wrapped her arms around its neck, flipped it over her back and onto the ground. She proceeded to wail on the mannequin’s neck. At the end of a series of punches her right hand ripped through the reinforced foam and into the metal spine. She yelped in the agony.
Shaotoro poured some of his tea into a small empty cup. Steam wafted off it like hot skin in winter. He shuffled over, keeping the cup steady in his hand. The closer he got to his granddaughter the thicker he felt her radiant vitriol. He stopped at the foot of the downed mannequin and extended the hand with the cup of tea. Kyane’s breath forced the steam toward him. “This is lemon balm tea,” he said as if unaware of anger facing him. “This will help calm the nerves.”
Kyane pushed the hair off her face. “Don’t you drink like green tea, or ginseng tea or something? Oolong,” she added to the list of vaguely Asian teas she heard of.
Shaotoro shook his head. “Have you had any of those teas before? They are awfully bland.”
“I’ll take your word,” Kyane said. She massaged her injured knuckle. “I need to get back to training.” She stepped back and, without looking, backhanded one of the wooden posts.
“I insist,” her Sensei replied. She ignored him. He jumped onto the chest of the foam mannequin and landed like a ballerina. He pushed the drink closer to her face. “I really do insist.”
“No thanks,” she said. Her voice was getting rougher. Her wall of anger was eroding more and more.
“Listen to your Sensei, Oshiego,” he said. He rested the cup on her lips. Kyane felt the steam invade her nostrils and warm her lip.
“I said no, old man!” She swiped at the teacup with her left hand. Shaotoro released his grip on it and caught it with his free hand. He then twisted his right hand and grabbed Kyane’s wrists then spun her like a top. She caught herself on the 180th degree of her turn and backhanded him with her injured right hand. He leaped onto the feet of the mannequin. It sprung up like a pop-up ghost in a haunted house. Kyane’s hand slapped against the hard foam. “Arragghh!” she screamed in pain. “God… damn!” She finished her rotation, stepped around the mannequin, and threw a left hook. Sensei blocked the punch with his right hand. “Dammit!!” she cried. Tears started swelling on her face.
“Ready to drink and relax now?”
“I told you no for the last time!” she said. She went for a kick. Shaotoro blocked the hit with his shin. He kicked his knee into the elbow of her restrained arm. Her arm arched up. He quickly spun around like she had with the mannequin, grabbed her arm with his free hand, and flipped her onto her back. “God! Mother-” Shaotoro placed his heel to her throat. “Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!” She flailed on the ground. “Why am I so weak!”
Shaotoro stepped away and helped his student to her feet and offered the tea to her again. “Drink this!” he said with zero notion of dismissal. “You will feel much better,” he said more reassuringly.
“Thanks,” Kyane mumbled. She snatched the cup and took a deep sip. Her face lit up red. “Holy sh… this is super-hot!” The heat passed from her mouth and she felt her body warm from the inside out.
“It’s fresh.” He walked back over to his table. Kyane followed like a duckling tailing its mother. “Now, would you like to talk about what is actually bothering you, magomsume?”
“I’m too weak!” She slapped the cup onto the table. Its contents sloshed around with some breaking the rim and sprinkling onto the table. “I couldn’t protect those students, or teachers at school at all! Now they are being mourned when I should have been able to save them and not let it come to that, to begin with.”
“Did you have any training before you started wearing the Dieous armor?” He took a sip of his own tea.
“Just kung-fu movies, and Power Rangers, and stuff like that.”
“So then no, you had no training.” He adjusted his seated position. “Why would you then be expected to be on their caliber of heroic skill?”
“Because I’m dawning the suit!” She smacked the table. A horrifying thought crossed her mind. “Plus! Plus, plus, plus the UDCs would have never gone to the school if it wasn’t for me saving Jamie and Desmond in the first place! So, all their deaths are even more my fault now. More than they were, to begin with!” She hit her head on the table. The blotches of spilled tea warmed her. “I can’t go to the vigil thing tonight and see my mistake.”
“I take it you know the adage ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’ Maybe you get more of what that means now. Yes?”
“I thought you would go for a Japanese saying there,” Kyane said.
“Did that saying not work for you?”
Kyane sighed. “No, it did. I guess.” She knocked on the table with her knuckles. “I still can’t go and face them.”
“They do not know you failed them,” Shaotoro said. “They do not even see it as Dieous failing them. They saw it as Dieous saving them.” He took a contemplative sip of his tea. “And even if it is your fault, you did face those consequences head-on. You did everything you could. You put your trust into the people. They see that. They know that.” He tried to sum up his words into a simple sentence. “If being a hero was so easy everyone would be one.”
Kyane took a warm sip of her tea, then smiled. The warmth continued to spread through her body. “Thank you, Sensei,” she said.
Shaotoro shook his head. “No, Kyane. This is advice from grandparent to grandchild. Not from teacher to student.” He shooed her away with his hands. “Now go, you must shower and do homework before this event tonight.”
Kyane got up and left obediently for the first time.