After the sparring match with Master Jadock, Michio hiked high into the mountains to face what he knew would be his greatest test. Normally he’d enjoy the opportunity to go into the wilderness to contemplate, but right now he was too worried about Toemeka. Continuing his training, rather than leaving to make sure his wife was safe, turned out to be harder than any of the other tests he’d taken.
He’d fasted to purify himself, but instead of feeling calm, he felt irritated and impatient. He trudged on, swatting the insects that buzzed around his head. The weather was turning cold with the coming of night and he wished he had a jacket. After awhile he decided he wasn’t gaining anything by exposing himself to the elements and began searching for shelter.
Michio found a cave that was once used by an animal and cleaned it out to make it suitable. Then he gathered firewood and kindling. He started a fire by briskly rubbing the end of a stick back and forth in a hollow on a piece of wood until a small flame flared up. He fed the fire small twigs and bark until it grew into a warm blaze.
A small, round stone caught his eye. He picked it up and held it near the firelight to inspect it more closely. Rays of blue light shot out from it.
Michio drowsily leaned against the rock wall, warm for the first time since he’d left the monastery. He rubbed his thumb absentmindedly against the smooth stone. As he watched the orange flames rose higher and higher until they were over seven feet high. Alarmed, he scrambled away from the fire. What was happening? How could a small fire suddenly turn into a raging bonfire? Did the stone have some sort of power?
Fiery red eyes and demon-like fangs appeared in the blaze, then the flames changed into the shape of an enormous, black, scaly body. The snarling beast stood on its hind legs and raised its enormous claws. Raw power blasted from the entity. It let out a blood-curdling scream and leapt at Michio, grabbing him and hurling him across the cave. Michio slammed against the wall—the wind knocked out of him. His lungs screamed with pain as he tried to breathe. Straightening his aching back, he finally drew in a gasp of blessed air.
Michio took a few deep breaths before staggering to his feet. He surrounded himself with a shield of Light, then threw a blast of energy at the monster. The energy spear shot through the creature, but instead of killing it, the beast only became stronger, larger and more powerful.
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