Adventure Girl/Do I Have To

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Do I Have To?

"<Do I have to?>"

Fiona Danger-Hunter looked up at Sensei pitifully, her small hands clenched into fists. Sensei Makiwara Seizen looked down at her through narrowed eyes, his bald head glinting in the bright, hot Okinawa sun. Although he was very short, Makiwara still loomed over the six year-old girl.

"<Do you have to?>" he muttered in Japanese. "<Do you HAVE to? No, little chicken, you do not HAVE to! And when assassins come for you in the night, you do not HAVE to defend yourself. You can cluck for them and beg them not to strangle you.>"

A tear rolled down Fiona's cheek, leaving a clean trail in the grime and sweat that covered her sun-browned skin. "<But Sensei...>"

Makiwara crossed his arms, a movement that always indicated a decision point for his students. "<Do, or go home. I have students who would walk across broken glass for this privilege. Shall I telephone your mother?>"

The thought of her mother's disappointment was too much to bear -- Madeline Danger was an adoring mother, but the life that her daughter was forced to lead made for harsh decisions. Fiona adjusted her gi and stepped into the sparring ring. Her opponent, a bored-looking village boy of thirteen, pretended surprise and favored her with a sneer. Acutely aware of Sensei's presence behind her, Fiona bowed deeply and then stepped back into a deep back stance. Her thin legs, strong from a long summer of training, flexed like fresh bamboo. The village boy reared back into a high cat stance, his hands raised to emphasize the difference in their heights.

Sensei clapped his hands. "Hajime!"

Two seconds passed, and neither combatant moved. Fiona stared intently, her small fists held in front of her in a traditional fighting stance. Her opponent strained forward eagerly, examining her for openings. A mild breeze blew through the dojo, displacing for a moment the stifling heat and humidity, and and at that moment the boy pounced.

He was not subtle. His front leg lashed out at Fiona's center of mass, a battering ram against her six year-old frame. If she attempted a hard block, it would shatter her forearms, and so she deftly guided the kick aside with open hands. The follow-up was just as predictable -- a smashing hammer fist from his raised hands, intended to knock out an opponent that the boy fully expected to be doubled over by the kick. But Fiona was already inside his guard, the hammer fist useless behind her. She drove a hard side kick into the boy's knee, buckling him, and then punched him hard in the midsection three times. On the third blow, she heard him grunt. Fiona ducked out of his guard and and backed away, as the boy recovered to a shaky back stance.

"<Stop!>" Sensei barked. He walked up behind Fiona and cuffed her on the back of the head. His hands, gnarled and brown like the roots of a tree, were as hard as steel. Her ears rang with the blow.

"<What was that? >" Makiwara demanded.

"<My counter attack, Sensei,>" Fiona whispered, confused. She thought it an excellent counter.

"< I did not hear you, little chicken.>"

"<My counter-attack, Sensei!>"

Makiwara stared down at her and exhaled heavily though his nose. His disappointment was palpable as he stared at her through heavily lidded eyes, his forehead creased. Fiona, standing at attention, felt her muscles tense -- if Sensei attacked her, she was expected to defend herself.

After a long moment, Makiwara leaned down until his face was inches from hers. "<He is still standing.>"

Fiona dare not move.

"<He is still standing,>" Sensei said again. "<And you danced away from him, little chicken.>"

"<But Sensei,>" Fiona ventured, "<We are just sparring.>"

Sensei's face turned ruddy, and he scowled. If it had been allowed, Fiona would have backed away from him, but she was compelled to remain at attention. Even her opponent had lost his smirk, and he averted his eyes from the sight of the teacher's fury.

Sensei spoke very slowly. "<When the time comes to use, you will do what you have practiced. You will dance away from an assassin and he will take out his gun and shoot you. This is not acceptable to me -- I will not have it known that Makiwara Seizen's students can be killed with mere bullets.>"

Sensei stood up straight, still scowling, and walked to the center of the sparring ring. "<You are expected to control yourself, little chicken. You will not kill my students. You will not maim them. But you will not walk away from them until they are unconscious, or are begging you to release them. Is that clear?>"

Fiona felt the cloud of menace pass -- Sensei would merely instruct her. A tear of relief slid down her cheek. "Hai, Sensei."

"<Very good, little chicken. Now pay attention -- this is a proper response to that attack.>" And with that, Sensei grabbed the village boy and tossed him over his hip as though the boy weighed no more than a feather.

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