Ashley readied herself on the mat in the dojo, dressed in her mom’s old training gear. She crouched while Peter circled around her.
Renato, Hawa, Tara, and her mother stood on the sidelines watching and coaching her through the movements while Jayden and Tara sat on the sidelines. She had never practiced hand-to-hand combat before, but Renato insisted she should learn how to defend herself in case she ran into another situation where her abilities didn’t work.
“Be sure to stay balanced and light on your feet,” Renato instructed. Ashley leaned forward on the balls of her feet as she pivoted to keep Peter in sight.
Peter charged toward her with an aluminum training knife clenched in his hand. Her stomach jumped and she threw up an electric shield. Peter smacked into it and flew across the mat.
Tara stood from her chair and gasped when Peter skidded to a stop. He peered up at Ashley. “No powers, Ashley.” He groaned as he stood. “That’s the whole point of this.”
She lowered her hands, and her shield instantly dropped. “I am so sorry.” She extended her hands toward him. “I got scared, and it just happened.”
Peter tilted his head side to side, stretching his muscles, and then snatched the training weapon off the floor. He gripped it in front of him. “Okay. We’ll go again.”
Ashley nodded and crouched into a fighting stance, distributing the majority of her weight on the balls of her feet to move more quickly. “Okay. Ready.”
Peter charged again.
Ashley leapt to the side and glanced at Renato for instruction. “What now? What if I can’t move out of the way?”
“Then the next course of action should be to subdue your opponent using non-lethal force. We do not kill unless it is our last option.”
Before Ashley could respond, Peter charged at her again, this time wielding the knife in his opposite hand.
Her stomach clenched and she threw a kick that landed right between his legs.
Peter doubled over on the mat.
Josephine laughed. “Well, he’s down.”
Peter rolled on the floor, cupping his groin with his hands. Ashley crouched beside him, hovering her hands over his body. “Oh my God, Peter. I’m so sorry.”
Tara rushed over and knelt beside him. She shot Ashley a glare. “Are you trying to kill him?”
Ashley stood and backed away. She looked at Renato. “I suck at this. Can we stop?”
“Absolutely not.” He stepped forward. “But perhaps it is time for Peter to take a break.”
Tara gripped his arm and helped him get to his feet, guiding him to the closest chair.
Ashley hung her head. “I can’t believe I did that.”
“All right,” Hawa said as she stripped off her jacket and dropped it to the floor, grinning while she approached Ashley on the mat. “My turn.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Ashley asked. “I think I hurt Peter pretty bad.” She bit her lip as Tara activated an ice pack.
Hawa glanced over her shoulder and smirked. “Priceless.”
Ashley sighed. “All right.” She turned her attention back to training. “What next?”
“Transporting isn’t just about moving fast,” Hawa said. “It’s about seeing everything around you in as much detail as possible while moving too fast to be attacked. You will pick out details others can’t, and then use your knowledge against your opponent.”
“I didn’t see details when I was running through Moscow.”
“No offense, but that’s because you suck at transporting.” Hawa stretched her legs as she elaborated. “You were moving fast, but not fast enough. Once you hit that sweet spot, you’ll see a whole new side of your ability.” She gestured to Ashley with a wave of her hand. “Come on. Charge me as fast as you can. No holding back.”
Ashley glanced at her mom, who stood beside Renato.
“Okay.” She turned back to Hawa and crouched like a sprinter on her mark. “Ready?”
Hawa stood casually with her arms crossed. “Just go.”
Ashley burst toward Hawa with all of her strength. It seemed like a split second before she had to screech to a stop so she didn’t crash face first into the mirror lining the back wall. Ashley spun to see Hawa behind her on the other end of the mat.
“You didn’t even see me move, did you?” Hawa asked.
Ashley shook her head.
Hawa glanced around the room. “There’s not enough space in here. We need to move outside for this part.”
“But it’s raining,” Renato said. “Are you sure it is a good idea?”
Hawa shrugged. “A little rain never hurt anyone. Besides, it’ll give her some practice in less than ideal conditions. It won’t always be sunny and dry when she needs to transport.”
“I think we’re gonna stay behind,” Tara said, still nursing Peter.
Peter nodded, his cheeks flushed and the ice pack resting between his legs. He gave her a thumbs up. “I’m good,” he grunted.
Ashley sighed, then turned toward Renato. “I feel so bad.”
Her uncle suppressed a smirk. “He’s a healer. He will be back to new by tomorrow morning.”
She was thankful for that, but it didn’t make her feel any better.