Now that Mac and Schnee have finally joined Aorki's apprentices, they're ready to get started with the learning... but energy control isn't as easy as it looks. What will they do as Mac struggles with learning and Schnee struggles with finding her place in the group?
- Mackenzie the Tiger
- Schnee the Hedgehog
- Vitos Aorki the Lemur
- Amelia Aorki the Lemur
- Jamal Boozeton the Falcon
- Buster Cojol the Hippo
It was a sandy area with no trees in sight, early in the morning (about 7 AM), and two teenagers were sparring. One of them was a brown-furred, brown-eyed tiger with brown hair at the top of his head that fell to the sides. He wore a black singlet and black gym shorts that read "Reaganne" on them in flowing golden letters for all to see. The other one was an orange-feathered falcon with red highlights at the end of his wings, along with salmon pink bangs across his forehead, who didn't wear pants but had an open beige jacket with red, curvy lines at the end of the sleeves.
Watching the duo go at it were four more characters; a white hedgehog with upwards-going quills wearing clothes similar to the tiger's, a green hippo who wore neon-orange clothing and an orange star patch around his right eye, a pink-furred and orange-striped lemur with ginger hair tied in a bun over her head and freckles, and an elderly purple-furred and blue-striped lemur who had a similar appearance to the latter, but with far less hair.
Mackenzie Hartley the Tiger was regaining his footing after being hit by a punch from Jamal Boozeton the Falcon, who crossed his arms and cocked his head. "You losin' speed, Hartley?"
"You wish I was," Mac replied with a growl before charging at Jamal.
Jamal raised his arms, and Mac did a series of movements; a chop to the shoulder, which Jamal deflected with his wing, a punch to the cheek, that Jamal dodged by moving to the side, a hook with his other fist to Jamal's other cheek, which Jamal blocked with his wing, and finally, an immature bonk on the head, which Jamal simply caught.
"You've got to be better than that if you wanna-"
Jamal was quickly shut up when Mac headbutted forward, knocking Jamal onto his butt, clutching his beak. Mac rubbed his head as well. Turns out beaks aren't that fun to headbutt...
Jamal grunted, fluttering his wings to quickly get back onto his feet. Mac entered a defensive position, seeing the prepared falcon, but Jamal simply smiled proudly and walked forward. Within seconds, the two were face to face.
"Lucky hit, Hartley," Jamal said, getting what Mac thought was a little too close to his face. "But... you still couldn't beat me if you tried. I'm ending this."
"By showing me how much your breath stinks? Get outta my face, dude," shot back Mac.
Jamal frowned, and his right wind began to glow white and orange, covered in energy. With unnatural speed, Jamal put a single wing-finger-thing in front of Mac's face and flicked him, releasing all of the stored energy. Mac was launched by the attack, being sent flying through the air with flailing limbs before hitting the ground on his side. "Ugh..."
"That's it for that match!" Vitos Aorki, the elderly lemur, announced. He stood up, wearing a long, cloak-like brown garment that blew in the wind.
Mac rolled onto his butt, beginning to sit up and watching what was unfolding afterwards. Jamal walked to Buster and Amelia triumphantly, and while Buster was clapping furiously for his fellow apprentice, Amelia just looked bored. Aorki began talking to Jamal, and Schnee ran to Mac, a pitiul smile on her face.
"Hey, Mac, nice job out there!" Schnee congratulated, giving him and handshake and pulling him up simultaneously. "You got some good hits in!"
"God, that's the pre-training exercise?" Mac asked himself, thinking out loud and rubbing his head. "Ugh... Jamal really hit me hard with that last hit."
"You did way better than you did the last time you guys fought without that blue transformation thing," Schnee persuaded. "You are getting better at this stuff, Mac, don't sweat it."
"I appreciate it, Schnee, I really do," Mac told her, his head feeling better again. "But good hits in aren't enough. I'm gonna beat him into the ground, all on my own someday!" He punched his fist into his palm. "Plus, today's the first day of energy training! I'll have a leg up on him in no time!"
"That's the spirit!" Schnee exclaimed, giving Mac a fist-bump before they headed off to Aorki and the others. It'd been three days since Mac had passed the trial and been allowed to train with Aorki, and he'd spent his time doing physical training. Mac didn't know how long his daughter, Amelia, and the other two boys had been with him, but they were clearly ahead of him; things that pushed Mac beyond the limits was like kindergarten math to them.
Mac was already improving, but every time he did their exercises, he wanted to experience that rush again. The second time he'd faced off against Jamal, something triggered inside of him; some kind of transformation! Mac had only seen exciting transformations on TV by famous heroes like Sonic the Hedgehog, and now he had one of his own! Mac was giddy, and it motivated him to work even harder on the training.
Well... now it looked like he had to work for it. In the three days they'd been with Aorki, no matter how tired Mac got, that transformation - the awesome transformation - hadn't awoken since. Mac didn't let that fact get him down, though, as he and Schnee walked to Aorki from behind, who was still talking to his original disciples. Mac and Schnee walked into his line of view.
"Mac! Schnee! Glad that Jamal didn't rough you up too much," honestly greeted Aorki. "As you know, today will be the day we begin energy training. I'm going to teach you along with your fellow peers as review; I believe that will significantly increase the odds of success." Aorki took a large wooden stick out of his black cloth and began to walk to another location, looking back. "Now, follow me!"
Before long, the group of six had entered Cyclos Village. The newcomer teenagers were told by their new teacher that he and his group of apprentices traveled all around the world, and Cyclos was one of their more recent areas where they were staying. Mac could relate; before he left his family, the world-famous Hartleys traveled everywhere, to the point where it got quite tiring. Schnee, on the other hand, wished she could relate... she would've done anything to get away from where she was staying.
Aorki directed the young quintet through the village, waving to people of all ages and species as he passed by. Before long, the group was in a dry, open area... that was strangely accompanied by six separate tree stumps, one a good distance from the others. Aorki jumped onto the isolated stump with a mighty hop before turning to face his students.
"Mac!" Aorki began, grabbing the tiger's attention with ease (as there wasn't much of anything else to focus on in the barren environment). "As I told you, the Solvage Tribe has been practicing energy manipulation for years. It flows through all of us, and with enough training, you'll be able to access it." Aorki flipped his hand so his palm would face upwards, a purplish-bluish, wispy energy floated around the lemur's hands. Aorki smiled. Then, just as suddenly, Aorki stopped smiling, his expression growing disappointed and cold. "For those with Solvage Tribe blood, it's simple heredity. Nothing impressive for someone such as myself. By the time you learn how to do something as simple as this-" The energy glowed brighter, but Aorki's face didn't react at all. "You'll have struggled quite a bit more than I did when I was learning." Aorki shook his head disapprovingly, and the energy was dispelled. Then, like he was bipolar, his eyes glimmered with hope, looking at his future students with glee and making Mac flinch a little. "That's what makes these lessons so fruitful."
Aorki pointed at Amelia, who was listening intently with iron focus. "My daughter, Amelia, has excellent energy control, far surpassing anyone in the tribe at her age due to her exposure to the world!" Amelia blushed and smiled, and Jamal elbowed Amelia in the shoulder lightly, giving her a look of congratulations. Mac grumbled and folded his arms.
Aorki then, with both of his hands, pointed at Jamal and Buster, whose eyes were opened in surprise. "And my other two students have no relation to the tribe at all, and yet they still find new ways to reimagine what I've known for decades with methods I've never seen before!" Buster blushed, and Schnee patted him on the back. Amelia elbowed Jamal, copying his actions, and the two grinned at each other for a long enough period of time Mac rolled his eyes... though his bad mood was soon made less hostile.
Finally, Aorki pointed at Schnee and Mac, who were expecting to be complimented even less. "And let's not forget Schnee Ainekas and Mackenzie Hartley!"
"Oh, Mackenzie, truly the name that m-makes me qu-quiver in my boots!" Jamal mocked, shivering intensely with a faux look of fear in his eyes. He was joined by a guffaw from Buster and a reluctant smile from Amelia. Schnee shook her head at the falcon, and Mac glared daggers at him.
Mac raised a foolhardy fist. "Hey, it's not my fault my parents-"
"Settle down, boys," Aorki ordered, bringing his hand in a descending motion that oddly soothed the arguing duo as they turned to listen. "If I may return to my speech, Schnee is the first female-" Amelia's eyes opened a bit wider, and Aorki noticed, chuckling. "-not directly related to me who decided to stick around, and Mac... oh, Mac, you..." Aorki looked at the brown-furred tiger with wonder. "...you just amaze me."
There were a few awkward seconds on silence, and a tumbleweed blew by inbetween Aorki and the kids, but then the teacher snapped out of his gaze. "Anywho, Mac, as you can see, all of you gathered with me today have a special attribute that's undeniable. Harness that attribute, perservere through the struggles, and I believe you can- no, you will achieve greatness." Aorki sat down criss-cross-applesauce on his tree stump with a look in his eyes that invited and welcomed the others to do the same. "Now, let's get started!"
Didn't think I'd be getting a pep talk after getting my teeth kicked in, but I'm not complaining! thought Mac, jumping onto his tree stump with an exaggerated sliding motion that made the tiger feel cool... until he saw the three veterans get on their stumps with an assortment of flips, rolls, and- Mac didn't even know what Buster did, but it made him look like a fool in comparison. Mac's mood got a little bit better when he saw Schnee struggling to get onto her own stump, though.
Disregarding his inexperience compared to the other three, Mac slid off of his stump and walked over to Schnee, who tried her hardest but was unable to make the jump. "It's.... so high..." desperately explained Schnee, who already had her hands on her knees. "....I can't-"
"Hey, you're gonna let a tree stump beat you after all of this?" questioned Mac, an inquiring look on his face. Upon seeing it, Schnee grunted and did a hop that was extremely mighty compared to her previous ones, landing on her stomach and on the stump. Mac gave her a thumbs-up. "Not too shabby, Schnee."
Schnee gave him a victorious smile, and Mac went and hopped onto his own stump, where he saw the rest of them waiting for him. Amelia was looking at the rich boy like he was the best person in the world, Jamal rolled his eyes once he and Mac made eye contact, and Buster was making- kissy faces?! That's disgusting! How old is this kid, anyway? Mac attempted to remove that from his memory and focused on Aorki, who was now glowing an aura that was practically identical to the one that'd just been on his hand earlier. Aorki's eyes closed, and he entered a meditating pose. "The first step to energy control is unlocking it, making sure that you're able to access it," Aorki explained, not bothering to open his eyes. "If you can't access it, you'll struggle with a lot of my training."
Good to know, Mac jokingly thought... and he grabbed his stump in surprise when he saw the other three, who were in the same pose as him. They all had their own separate auras surrounding them; Jamal's was orange, Amelia's was light pink, and Buster's was tangerine orange. Schnee was simply zoning out, ignoring the others, but Mac was paying close attention.
"Uh, Aorki? Are there any, y'know, more specific directions for that?" Mac pointed at the trio. "It just looks like they're on fire while meditating."
"You've just got to think about the things that soothe you," Aorki clarified, still not opening his eyes. "I've heard from some powerless Mobians that when they're listening to, say, quiet music, they reach a state of... tranquility, you could say. You just need to access that same tranquility while also digging deep to find something more, something bigger than just your physical form. That is how you will find your soul."
Mac smiled at his explanation. Man, if he just explains like that everyday, I'll be able to beat the crap out of Jamal within a couple weeks! Oh, Amelia and Buster'll just be begging to be my friends! Mac closed his eyes and began to focus. What were things that soothed him? Mac honestly... wasn't really sure. At the Hartley Mansions, when he wasn't traveling with his parents, he still had to deal with his triplet sisters, though he only really had to worry about Camille. Marlee hadn't been much of a talker since...
Mac felt something soothe deep inside him, the perfect state of satisfaction. What? How is thinking about that supposed to calm me? That's literally the worst thing that I can think of, and I was put through excruciating pain three separate times within 24 hours before I began training with these guys, and all they've done is try to shoo Schnee and I away!
Mac grumbled, and the images of his new classmates looking and remembering all of his failures rushed through his brain. Amelia's hot, sure, but that Buster kid just has to back up Jamal whenever that guy wants to feel cool... oh, Jamal... Mac began to hear Jamal's irritating laugh through his head, and Mac shook his head rapidly. Ugh! It's like I can even hear him in real life when I think about him! That guy needs to get out of my head! Mac paused... and then he realized he was hearing him in real life!
Mac opened his eyes for the first time in a while, and he looked at his arms. They were covered in an aura like the others, and his was yellow and... static? Mac yelped as a part of his aura detached itself and shot at Buster, to which Jamal stopped his laughter and flew over to the projectile, waving his wing to deflect the potentially harmful blast. Mac looked around; now, everyone was wearing serious expressions, and Schnee held her hands to her mouth.
Aorki began to approach Mac slowly, and Mac stood up, worried. "Aorki, I'm pretty sure my fire thing's not supposed to do this, even though it looks more like a lightning thing- OW!" Mac felt a very sharp pain, like a shock, on his side, and he leaned forward, going onto one knee and wincing heavily.
"Your focus was interrupted," stated Aorki, still inching closer and closer to the frightened tiger. "Your calmed emotions must've taken quite the drastic turn in order for your aura to become hostile."
"Gee, I wonder who could've caused that?" snarked Amelia, glaring at Jamal (who cleverly responded by looking into the sky and avoiding Amelia's judgement).
"Hey, it was funny!" Jamal defended, holding his winged arms up like the police said he was under arrest. "He was gritting his teeth and everything! C'mon, give me a bone to chew on here!"
Amelia sneered and looked away from Jamal, who (for the first time to Mac and Schnee) showed contempt in his face, and he immediately laid off the conversation. Mac was still looking around in worry, and he felt more sharp apins as Aorki approached him still. "It'll be okay, Mackenzie, it'll be oka-"
"Please don't call me by that- GOD!" Mac requested before yelling once again, clutching his head in misery.
"I'll purify your aura if you just..." Aorki's hand neared Mac's face. "...stay..." It got even closer. "...still..."
Mac was prepared for the pain to go away, but before Aorki's hand made contact with him, a small, blue burst of energy shot out of Mac's hand with enough force that Mac was blasted off of the stump and directly onto his back. Schnee took a sharp intake in, and everyone winced at the impact.
Later that day, Schnee and Mac were in their temporary room, which was red-colored and rather plain. Mac had learned that Schnee was a huge fan of this thing called "anime," and she had several flashy posters on the walls, but other than that it was just a normal room.
Mac grimaced time and time again as Schnee put heavy white bandages on his various wounds. His aura malfunction had left him with scrapes and random patches of darkened fur, and Schnee was doing her best with what little materials Mac had brought along with him. "Hold still, Mac! I might hurt you more if you keep shuffling!"
Despite this warning, Mac continued to squirm. "I still feel static... that was not a fun experience on Day 3."
"Pssh, I bet," agreed Schnee, maneuvering with skill to avoid seriously harming the tiger. "You had a really fast downwards spiral, too. Seriously, I was just watching you five in perfect harmony, watch your auras shine, and then yours turned into lightning or whatever with the drop of a hat!"
"Hey, look on the bright side! At least I was able to 'unlock my latent power' or whatever for a few seconds," joked Mac. "Maybe I'll be able to go for a whole minute next time! Can you imagine how surprised they'll all be when I don't nearly kill myself?"
Mac chuckled a bit at his joke, but Schnee's expression remained rather emotionless. Mac was quick to notice. "...you're not laughing."
"Mac, what went wrong with you right then?" asked Schnee, not wasting any time. Mac reeled back a bit, and his sudden movement caused Schnee to put a bandage on an undamaged area, and Mac felt a jolt of electricity as a bit of blue lightning crackled around the area. "Sorry!" Schnee said quickly.
"I-It's fine!" Mac responded, showing a smile but really just trying to ignore the pain.
"But that doesn't mean you get to avoid my question. What the heck happened back there? Aorki said that the only time your superpower finding gets messed up is when you get ticked off about something, and now you're here smiling like a big ol' electric idiot."
"Hey, not only electric idiots smile!" defended Mac, about to cross his arms but realizing that'd most likely cause Schnee to zap him yet again.
"You know what I mean, Mac," the hedgehog persisted. "I've seen you get hurt way too many times this month because you rushed into something you weren't prepared for, and now I have the chance to defend you, so I'm gonna take it for darn sure!"
"Schnee, I appreciate it, I really do, but..." Mac trailed off, his gaze distant.
He got a flashback suddenly, though it was only scattered images. Sprawled on the ground of a cold, dusty white floor, there was another brown-furred tiger, one with the same fur color as Mac but with yellow eyes. She had long, curly brown hair that fell to her back, and she was only wearing a plain white T-shirt and grey sweatpants. Her face was bruised; in several places, it was purple, and marks showing some type of physical conflict were present all over her body. Even her eyes were only barely opened, and blood trickled from several parts of her mouth.
"Mac? Mac? Maaaaaac?" Schnee repeated, snapping in front of Mac's face several times before she got his attention and he blinked rapidly. "I think all this electricity stuff you've got going on's messing with your head."
"Sorry, sorry," apologized Mac, releasing a large sigh. "...what I was saying is that I appreciate that you care, Schnee, but you don't need to. I'm older than you-"
"Oh don't you dare play that card," interrupted Schnee.
"-and these are my own problems to figure out. I chose to be here, nobody did that for me, and I'll have to move on by myself," Mac continued, wearing a solemn look on his face. Schnee grumbled, looking like she wasn't believing him entirely, but to stop their conversation, there was a series of knocks on the door.
"I'll get it!" offered Schnee, slapping the last bandage onto Mac's cheek (making the wealthy tiger flinch) before she hopped up and went to grab the door. There, she saw two slightly antagonistic faces; Jamal and Amelia.
Mac felt conflicted at the sight; on the one hand, Amelia! On the other hand, Jamal... Meanwhile, Schnee's cheeriness to greet them dropped extremely quickly. "...are you guys here to make fun of us? I think Mac's been through enough pain today."
"Look, I'm not here to fight, alright?" admitted a sorrowful Jamal. After he said that, Amelia smirked triumphantly.
"I think that there's just something dear Jamal wants to say to Mac," Amelia explained, folding her arms and waiting for the outcome.
Jamal huffed, and Mac swung around, not expecting anything much, and Schnee was still holding the door, ready to slam it on them. Jamal took a single step in the room. "Look, I'm sorry for making you break your aura and everything it... wasn't cool." Amelia grinned, and Mac and Schnee looked rather impressed. Jamal breathed in, preparing for what he was about to say. "andi'mofferingtotrainyouwithamelia"
Mac blinked several times, and then he titled his head to the side. "Did... did you say you wanted me to mop in the rain with Cecilia?"
"Who's Cecilia?" Schnee asked.
Amelia elbowed Jamal in the shoulder, and the falcon sighed. "I noticed you've been struggling a bit, and I'm offerring to help you train outside of Aorki's lessons."
"Okay, but who's Ceci-"
"God, you people are stupid," Jamal muttered, cutting Schnee off. "Amelia's offerring to help too, because two heads are better than one and all that jazz."
Mac stood up, revealing his slightly bandage-covered body to the visitors, and he eyed them up and down. "...why are you doing this? Just a few days ago, Jamal and I were focused on nothing but slapping each other silly, and now you want us to train together? I doubt he'll do anything but set my fur on fire!"
"See, Amelia?" Jamal threw his wings into the air. "Hartley's way too stubborn for this, let's roll-"
"Mac," Amelia interjected, ignoring Jamal completely. "Dad wasn't kidding when he said that you were amazing. In all my years of traveling and practicing with him, I've never seen someone react to energy like you did! That..." Amelia's eyes glimmered with the same hope Aorki's occasionally did; it was easy to tell the two were related, and her expression made Mac unable to suppress a smile. "That's stellar, Mac! And I know, the first days can be rough, but I really think you're destined for greatness here! Jamal's not half-bad, either, and if you let us train you, then I think you'll be great!"
Mac nodded as Amelia spoke; with every word that came out of her mouth (particularly the ones that were praising him) just convinced him further and further to join their cause until he put his hands out, signifying that he'd reached a conclusion. "Okay, okay, you got me. I'll work with you guys with this little extra training."
Amelia released a small shriek of joy, and she ran into the apartment, giving Mac a tight hug that the tiger couldn't admit to not liking. "Oh, thank you so much, Mac! We're all gonna be great!" Amelia let go of Mac. "We'll meet by Ushtry, where you'll see Miss Monsoon's kids playing outside, probably." Amelia turned to Jamal. "Do they still...?"
"Yeah, Hunter went to college but the little ones are still outside all the time," Jamal confirmed.
"Well, look out for crimson-colored goats at Ushtry at about 5 PM tomorrow afternoon," Amelia explained. "We can do the training for a few days and see how it goes! We'll be waiting! Thanks, Mac!"
"Ciao," Jamal continued. And with that, Amelia shut the door, and the duo was gone, leaving Mac and Schnee to their own thoughts.
Mac turned to face Schnee, trying his hardest to not appear giddy, but Schnee waved him off. "Don't worry, you can go, this energy stuff doesn't interest me anyway. I'll be fine, you can go on without me!"
"Nice!" Mac gave her a thumbs-up. "You sure you can handle yourself without your best buddy Mac here, though?"
"I don't need protection anymore than you do," Schnee rationalized.
"Well then, looks like I'm moving forward!"
Mac offerred Schnee a fist bump, and she reciprocated... though when their fists collided, Mac's entire body jolted with blue lightning, making Schnee cringe. "Alright, I'm going to add some more bandages..."