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Chapter 21: Darkness
palladian23 wrote in superwebnovel
Author's Notes: Bad language, derogatory language, graphic descriptions of violence

Maybe as compensation for the last one being long, this one ended up a bit shorter than normal, but I hope you all enjoy it nonetheless.

As always, big thanks to my wonderful editor gwoman for her work on this chapter!

Back to Chapter 20

After the light disappeared, it took a long time for anything to resolve. The darkness seemed complete; Lex couldn't see her own hand in front of her face, or any of the rest of her body. After what felt like an age, she realized she stood on something and looked down to see her own bare feet on a wooden floor like the one in the martial arts studio. Nothing could be seen in the near or far distance, which vanished away into the dark, but she could see her own limbs again and she had a floor to stand on.

Lex smiled to herself, feeling good about that last part at least. She tried to figure out her location and what she was supposed to be doing, but as she did, her head felt as if she'd been pierced through with a spike under her chin that came out through the top of her brain, and she fell to her knees, clutching her hair until the pain subsided again. Deciding to abandon that line of thought as she began to feel normal once more, Lex instead planned to continue work on the form that Mr. Chen had challenged her to create, rather than stand around with nothing to do.

She felt it had been coming along well, but she hadn't completed it yet. Lex knew she would probably have been further along or have completed it by then if she hadn't been trying to engineer an escape at the same time, but maybe now she would have time to finish. She began by running through what had been completed, and Lex felt her body relax as she slid into the now-familiar movements. As she raised her right arm in a block, however, Lex felt her shoulder stiffen, throwing off the normal arc, as an all-too-familiar voice broke into her workout.

“What the hell is that weak form that you're doing? It looks like some ballet shit.”

As usual, her father's voice seemed to ruin everything it touched, but for some reason, Lex didn't panic like she used to. In this place, somehow nothing seemed strange or odd. She felt as if anything might happen as she turned her face up to look her father in the eye.

“Actually,” she said calmly, “this is a form I created.”

“You created,” he said mockingly, while standing up straight and broadening his shoulders, a familiar move to Lex meant to intimidate, she knew. “What the hell for?”

“To defeat you,” Lex replied, launching into the first move of her form.

He was caught off-guard by her swift attack and by the fact that one of her fists thrown at his chest turned into a pointed striking attack on the right at the last moment, hitting a pressure point and numbing the muscles of that shoulder and arm. Her father roared then and came at her just as Lex had suspected, and she used her sticking hands and feet technique to control and redirect a number of quick blows, redirecting the hard punches and kicks he tried to hit her with.

“You're going to lose, Alex, you piece of shit,” he yelled, continuing to come at her with a series of strikes meant to be withering. “You're weak. God knows I tried to train it out of you, but you're weak! You always have been.”

Lex ignored his words, continuing to work her form, and to her dismay found that most of the hard blows she directed against her father didn't have much effect. The sticking hands and feet seemed to work best, and most pressure-point hits and joint locks also seemed effective. Remember this, Lex told herself as she pressed her attack.

She held her own, taking a few blows but giving more, until she ran up against the end of her form. As Lex hesitated for a split second, her father turned and jammed a large fist into her left kidney. Doubling over from the pain, he knocked her legs out from under her. Lex struggled to get back to her feet from under a hail of blows, finally falling back to her knees as the pain in her head started to return.

“That was almost too easy,” she heard her father saying then, through his laughter.

After that, Lex couldn't be too sure of what happened for a while, but eventually found herself staring down at her bare feet on the wooden floor again. She checked herself for the expected bruises and found none. Upon stretching and trying her muscles, Lex found everything in good working order, but she felt more tired than she had been before her fight with her father. Shaking off her thoughts, Lex began to stretch out in preparation for more practice when she heard a voice.

“Hey, Lex,” Casey's said.

Looking everywhere, Lex only saw darkness. “Casey?” she asked the nothingness. “Where are you?”

“I'm right here,” a voice returned faintly, and then Lex saw her friend. Casey seemed mostly an outline, ghostly at first, but in a moment she solidified. Hugging her friend, Lex noticed Casey was smiling but still looking worried as their eyes met. Lex sighed as she stepped back.

“My idiotic father was here. I did fine at first, with the new form you helped me put together, but he beat me at the end.”

Casey nodded. “You know, I should have said this before, but I figured it wasn't any of my business. I think you may have put too many power moves into that form. The things that Mr. Chen taught you will probably be way more effective against your dad. He sounds like he's the same sort of bully as George. Use the same tactics against him—go for his weak spots. Don't attack him where he's strong.”

Lex thought for a moment, then nodded in reply. “Can you help me rework what I have so far?”

“Yeah. I'll try to come at you like George, so maybe it'll help you think like it's your dad.”

The two of them started running through the form and Casey tried to fill in for Lex's dad as best she could, alternately charging at Lex and offering suggestions for areas where she thought the form should be changed.

“Remember,” Casey said as she moved into Lex's mock throat blow, “he'll be even easier to beat than George. Your dad is just an ordinary guy, so he'll have any sensitive area that most people have. Eyes, ears, throat, joints, and so on. It'll be a piece of cake for you.”

“Yeah,” said Lex, unconvinced, sighing and smiling a little sadly.

Casey stopped then and looked directly into Lex's eyes. “Don't try to downplay what you did. That guy nearly beat me to death and you defeated him. And because you won, it gave me courage to do what I did. Your dad is just another bully. I bet there's about as much behind him as there was behind George.”

“I'm sure you're right,” Lex replied, straightening up and looking at Casey with a new confidence. “Let's keep going.”

They continued to work on the form and had reworked everything Lex had completed when Lex felt her strength start to seep away. She stopped and sat down for a moment, but couldn't keep sitting upright.

“I'm sorry, Casey,” she murmured as the darkness closed in again.

“Just get some more rest, Lex. You'll feel better later.”

After that it seemed to be dark for a long time again, and Lex didn't know whether she slept or floated in it. Eventually enough light gathered so that Lex could look down and see her own feet standing on the wooden floor again, however. She yawned and stretched, then went through her new form once quickly to make sure she remembered all of the changes she and Casey had worked on. Smiling when she reached the end of the sequence, Lex jolted forwards a moment later from a blow to the back of her head.

Lex spun quickly to find her father behind her, smiling at her evilly. “Ready to get your ass handed to you again?”

“Are you?” asked Lex, her eyes narrowing.

The very air seemed to vibrate with the stillness for a moment, and then the two of them came together in a blur of movement and the sound of Lex's father shouting obscenities and insults. Casey had been right; the form she and Lex had developed together worked like a charm against the big man. Lex felt her heart sing with pride as she continually directed the bulk of her father's blows away from her and then delivered stinging jabs to his pressure points, locked up his joints, blurred his eyes by hitting near them, and a number of other nasty techniques. However, as they fought, Lex felt her energy being sapped away. It didn't seem to be so much from the few blows her father landed on her, but from his constant, screaming insults.

“You piece of shit, Alex! Did you really think you could get me with such weak shit? Come on now, little pussy girl, just give up and cry already! You'll never beat me, Alex!”

At the end, Lex found herself drawing back as the form abruptly ended, unsure what to do next. She and her father eyed each other from a few feet away, warily, Lex panting and her father standing awkwardly due to some of the pressure point strikes Lex had managed to land on him. When he suddenly faded away into nothing, Lex almost sobbed with relief, but instead just collapsed to the floor as the darkness rushed in everywhere around her.

Although she really had no way to tell, Lex was starting to get worried. The darkness seemed interminable this time around, and finally she tried hard to see again, to get oriented, and gradually saw her feet on the wooden floor once more, seeming to materialize under her from the blackness. The light was even dimmer than it had been, and Lex felt weary in a way she never had before in her life. She started to get scared but instead sat for a few moments, getting her breathing steady, until she felt she was ready to stand again and tried to think. How should the form end? From what Lex had worked up so far, she had been able to keep most of her father's attacks at bay as well as attack his weak points. But, she found she had no idea of where to go next.

“I wish Mr. Chen was here,” she murmured to herself as she began running through her form as it was so far, hoping it would give her inspiration about how to end it.

As she turned naturally during part of the form, Lex stopped suddenly, surprised to see Mr. Chen standing there. He nodded to her.

“Please continue, Lex. I didn't mean to interrupt.”

Lex felt a smile bursting onto her face and nodded at him, picking up near to where she left off. She worked the form through what she'd put together so far, then stopped, looking at her teacher.

“That's all I have so far. I don't know how to end it, yet.”

He looked at her and nodded. “Well, I think what you have so far is a good combination of elements. May I make a few suggestions while I think about what might be needed for a strong finish?”

Lex nodded, and the two of them went through a few of the sections together, Mr. Chen making a number of small suggestions that Lex felt made the form flow much better. Afterwards, they were both silent for a moment, and then Mr. Chen spoke.

“My first thought is that when a man goes through life trying never to bend to the forces around him, eventually he will be driven to kneel before them. The wiser man flows with the forces in his life, figuring out how to gently push himself where he wants to go.”

Looking at him speculatively for a moment, Lex's mind started working. Forced to kneel... Suddenly, however, a wave of exhaustion overtook her. She staggered as she looked back at Mr. Chen.

“I'm sorry,” she said, “I'm so tired.”

“Why don't you rest for a while, Lex,” Mr. Chen said, his eyes infinitely sad. “You'll probably feel better when you wake up.”

“Mr. Chen, what's wrong with me?” Lex asked, her voice sounding slurred even to her own ears.

Mr. Chen just looked at her then, assisting her in reaching the floor safely before shrugging one shoulder and shaking his head gently.

The idea that her teacher didn't even know chilled Lex. “I'll get back up in a little while. You'll see. I'll beat him this time. I won't let you down,” she said after a moment, hoping her voice sounded surer than she felt.

“You have done nothing but make me proud from the first day I started to teach you, Lex,” he replied quietly as he faded from view when the light dimmed.

Lex could feel herself smiling even as oblivion overtook her.

Sometime later, she came to the realization that she was just floating. So peaceful, Lex thought, feeling almost insubstantial, as if she could dissolve in the constant blackness surrounding her.

No, a feeling of certainty came to the fore. I won't let go yet.

The struggle seemed to go on forever once again, and Lex felt exhausted by the time she could see her bare feet on the wooden boards. She fell to her knees and rested a while, comforted by listening to her own breathing, hearing it even out and become steadier.

“OK,” she said to no one as she stood. “Time to end it.”

Lex ran through the form as far as she'd completed it and then went through a quick set of steps. She used sticking hands to control her opponent's punches, and then came down with a sharp stomp on the side of his knee. It all ended up with her standing over her opponent, controlling his arms with a joint lock while he knelt on the ground.

She smiled to herself, satisfied with what she'd put together, and started from the middle again to practice the end part. As she turned while ending it, Lex looked up to see her father beginning to materialize from the darkness surrounding her. She just stood ready then, all her muscles relaxed as she waited for him to finish appearing, watching him as he solidified and smirked at her.

“I'm here to give you another lesson, Alex! Aren't you glad?”

“Don't fucking call me that,” Lex snarled, a sudden anger flaring as she waited for him to make the first move.

She anticipated his charge at her and met him, avoiding the bulk of his blows and landing her own strikes to pressure points and other vulnerable areas. This seemed to infuriate him, and her father started shouting and screaming obscenities and insults at her.

“Hey,” Lex finally said, the quiet yet commanding tone of her voice enough to make her father stop in his tracks. “Stop having a fit and fight. I didn't think you were still two years old.”

The look that her father gave her then almost made Lex smirk. She knew that if he could have reached out and killed her at that moment, he would have done it. He came at her with a wordless yell and she found herself easily evading what he had to throw at her. Lex moved surely, her breath coming easily and rhythmically.

He seemed to fall into every trap she set, and Lex either danced gracefully away from his blows or controlled them so that the force went past her. She became worried, though, as each movement seemed to drain a little of her strength, but at length the final sequence neared. By that time, Lex observed her father breathing hard and that the movement in his right arm and left leg seemed impaired. Lex herself breathed calmly and had suffered little damage, but her weariness continued to increase and she hoped she could keep herself moving as quickly as necessary. She waited as her father seemed to collect himself to come at her again. Controlling his movements with sticking hands and feet, Lex barely managed to work his arms into the correct position, and after she stomped on the side of his knee, she joint locked one of his elbows, forcing him to retain his kneeling position.

“Don't make me kick you over and step on your neck,” Lex said with quiet authority.

Her father didn't reply for a few moments as he knelt, almost panting, but finally spat out, “You always were a little monster, you bitch.”

Something in Lex seemed to snap then, and she felt her stomach drop as a tidal wave of rage and adrenaline started to pump through her. She leaned forward a little, causing her father to wince as she pushed a little harder on his arm, and got her mouth close to his ear before shouting back at him.

“I was a little girl, you asshole! I had to depend on you to take care of me. Instead, all you did was beat up on me and tell me how worthless I was! I loved you and looked up to you, but you tried to thrash the life out of me and make me feel like I was worse than nothing! YOU'RE the monster, you goddamned piece of trash!”

As Lex bent over her father, nearly screaming, an amazing thing happened. Instead of yelling back at her, he bowed his head and cringed, almost looking as if he were trying to get away from her words. Lex paused and then blinked rapidly as the dim light in the room quickly went to almost blinding. Suddenly, her hands were empty and she stumbled, then came to rest in a sitting position on the floor.

She put a hand over her eyes as the light continued getting brighter. After a few moments, it felt as if she was lying down, so Lex struggled to a sit up again. The exhaustion that had fled as she yelled at her father had returned in force, which made it a difficult task, but eventually she made it.

Lex tried blinking her eyes to clear her vision, but the light seemed intensely bright, so she squinted against it instead to see her surroundings. She sat in a small bed, and to her delight she realized she could see everything: the covers, her own hands, and even the lumps that were her feet. As her eyes traveled up her arms, Lex frowned to see a needle taped into one of them, and she visually followed the attached tube up to an IV bag. As her eyes adjusted further, Lex spotted Casey sitting in a chair along the wall a few feet away, engrossed in a paperback. Lex tried to call out to her friend, but when she opened her mouth, she found her throat so dry that she couldn't make a sound. Swallowing a few times with difficulty, she felt relieved to find it seemed to help.

“Casey,” Lex finally managed in a wispy, dry-sounding voice. “Why is it so bright in here?”

At the sound of her name, Casey's head whipped around to stare, the book falling forgotten to the floor. She arrived by Lex's bed in a second, closing the blinds at the window over her head. When Casey turned back towards the bed, Lex could see her friend crying.

“Are you OK?” Lex asked with concern. “What's wrong?”

Casey ran a hand under her eyelids and smiled. “Count on you to be worrying about everyone else. I'm fine, just surprised is all. How are you feeling?”

Thinking about it for a moment before answering, Lex responded, “Tired and thirsty, but OK otherwise.”

Casey nodded, smiling now. “OK, I'll get you some water.” Then, she stopped in her tracks as she had another thought. “Now that I think about it, I've got to talk to Lily first. Let me get Riss so she can do that. She'll want to see you anyway, once I tell her.”

Casey's smile threatened to take her face over as she almost ran out the doorway.

Forward to Chapter 22
Comments about anything you liked or that you thought could be improved are extremely welcome!

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Seems like they got away....


Re: Wonderful chapter!

Thank you, Fiona, I'm so glad you liked it! And yes, they did. :D

...Talk to Lily?

Good catch. More in the next chapter, but nothing about their escape plans went quite as expected. : /

Psycho Gecko is glad to spend as little time in February as possible

Ah yes, weak spots. That reminds me of Snake style. Really, it's just pragmatic to go for all the weak points like that. Just like it's pragmatic to see if there's anything around to use as a weapon. Trash can? Use it. Blender? Use it. Baby? Use it.

And, of course, try to end a fight as quickly as you can. Lex just doesn't seem the type to instantly try to kill someone, so of course she won't punch hard enough in the throat to crush a windpipe, nor will she rip off the ole Richard and two Harrys down below and let him bleed out. Important artery going to that think, which is part of why medicine researched to help with blood pressure instead threatened people with a four hour erection. And I don't mean a Lego marathon.

And as Hercules once demonstrated in a fight with Thor to stop an invasion of dark elves, never be afraid to go for the purple nurple in a combat situation.

Re: Psycho Gecko is glad to spend as little time in February as possible

Yes, it's definitely the way to go, and I have a real love for found weapons. Jackie Chan has always been one of my favorite people to watch in movies for this reason...the one I liked best so far was his stunning use of a folding aluminum ladder. : )

Unfortunately, to her father's everlasting disappointment, Lex is not a killer, and so is unlikely to take that route. Others of her acquaintance might not be so picky, however...

Yay for the purple nurple!

Archive Binge

Just finished reading through the chapters you have done =) i really like Lex. do you have any set date you post at?

So glad you came by to read, and that you've enjoyed it so far. I'm very happy you like Lex so much; she's really come alive for me in writing this, and I'm looking forward to giving everyone more of her story as I continue to post it up. I publish a new chapter on the third Thursday of every month; the next new chapter will be going up on March 20. Hopefully I'll see you then, and thanks for reading and commenting!

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