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Between the caretakers' desire to take advantage of my talents, forcing my hand by making life extremely difficult when I refused to cater to their demands; the other girls at the orphanage, most of whom displayed a jealous animosity towards me; and the hopelessness of knowing I really couldn't leave, because I'd be hunted down and killed for reasons unknown to me, I felt the pressures of my situation choking the life out of me. At one point, I even considered ending my existence here; at least then I'd get to meet my mother for the first time. But then I met Serenity, a girl who would save my life by becoming my first true friend at the orphanage.
Serenity definitely lived up to her name. She exuded a joyful tranquility in spirit that surpassed all logic and understanding. The girls constantly ridiculed her due to her small stature and quiet demeanor, yet she didn't allow their antagonizing to dictate her emotional state. The caretakers deemed her worthless due to her lack of an exploitable ability, so they often handed her insanely difficult or ridiculously grotesque tasks and slammed her with ludicrous punishments when she failed to complete them. Still, through it all, Serenity maintained her unwavering joy—she never complained once.
I wanted that same peace, that same unshakable spirit that could never be broken. The answer, which she revealed to me over time, turned out to be quite simple. "When facing harsh times," I remember her saying to me once, "You need to find a happy place." Eventually I learned that this 'happy place' should involve a memory, a dream, or a passion that's so strongly tied to my emotions that it envelopes my mind, body, and soul, syncing them in perfect harmony. The mere thought of it had to be enough to release me from the stressful, binding cares of this world and take me to a place where my mind felt at ease, my body relaxed, and my spirit at peace. For Serenity, the loving memory of times spent with her deceased parents took her there. For me, it was the memory of my father, the dream of someday meeting my mother, and the passion I held for dancing that lifted me to that place.
Thanks to Serenity's help, the girls' insults began to fall on deaf ears. I remembered my father's comforting voice when they made every effort to trash my self-worth. Imagining my mother's radiant, angelic appearance brought smiles to my face at times when I'd usually shed tears. Even today Serenity's influence aides me during hard times. Thoughts of dancing flood my mind whenever I need a mental release. Sometimes I return from my happy place to find that my body danced along with the dream.
During the finals, the judges frequently commented on my stage presence, stating that I had a natural ability to captivate my audience. The real truth, however, was much more than that. I don't know how to explain it to you other than to say that I could "feel" everything that went on around me. Kind of gave the term "In tune with my surroundings" a whole new meaning, if ya' know what I'm sayin'.
Whenever a camera swept by, I sensed it and adjusted myself to just the right angle to give the cameramen the perfect pose, angle, and lighting for their shots. The comment was made that everyone who watched me on TV felt as though I sang to them personally. I somehow knew the emotions of my audience, especially those within the first four of five rows. If an individual wasn't enjoying my performance I knew about it, then I added spice to my routine to win them over as well. I could never figure out how I why, but I ALWAYS knew WHEN I'd gotten their approval.
For those reasons, victory was all but assured. Reading the audience caused my popularity to skyrocket, because I never allowed anyone to leave unentertained. Life was good. I was dancing for fun again of my own free will, and the happiness I'd known prior to my stay at the orphanage began to return to me after nearly a decade's absence. Unfortunately, that pleasure would be short lived...
That was before the fateful day when my past would catch up to me.
It happened at what was to be the new City Hall Building. The usually routine of hearing questions and giving answers was suddenly interrupted by a vague whisper. "Celeste," the faint voice spoke to my mind, "you're in danger here." I ignored the mysterious, yet strangely familiar voice at first, passing it off as one of my random daydreams. "Celeste!" this time the voiced echoed through my head with a thunderous boom, "You must leave here at once, there's no time to wa..." The voice cut off suddenly just as I sensed eleven individuals approach the site. I mentally scanned the area, trying to get an idea of who they were. The six individuals at my three and at my six definitely harbored evil intent towards me. Straight ahead were four more dark auras converging on a fifth, who I recognized to be my father.
"Daddy!" I exclaimed, as I ran in his direction with tears in my eyes. But my newfound hope quickly turned to despair as the dark auras surrounded my father and closed in. As I drew nearer, their murderous intent flooded my senses freezing me in my tracks while I quivered in fear.
"Your father is finished," scowled a deep, horrifying voice, "but not to worry, you'll soon join him in the other realm." A terrifying laugh followed as my father's aura vanished. I fell to my knees sobbing, wishing that I could've done something to save him. But it was too late; my father was gone again—this time for good. With their primary target destroyed, the ten assassins focused their efforts on me. I felt them probing my mind to try to get a beat on my location, and I knew that my time was running out.
After finding a place to hide, I went to my happy place to buy some time by leading my pursuers on a wild goose chase. I never would've guessed that my sub-conscience would send a mental S.O.S. while in this state. I was later found by Elwin D'Larthi, leader of one of the search parties that'd been dispatched to find and return me to SLJ headquarters.
When I came to, I vowed to avenge my father's death.
Miss Elwin spent the next five months training me in the martial arts. I had a natural tendency to avoid oncoming danger by just dancing, so we didn't focus much on defense. You know how the saying goes: "If it's not broken, don't fix it." I'd say that, out of our eight hour daily sessions, I probably spent one or two of those hours honing my defensive abilities. We used the rest of the time to incorporate offensive techniques into my dancing. By the end of the two months, I'd developed into an extremely proficient fighter—enough to spar with Miss Elwin herself and hold my own for awhile.
My body responded very positively to this intense training. My agility and endurance reached their peaks. I could move in ways impossible (even) to me before and maintain that motion for much longer periods of time. Perhaps the greatest, and most surprising, improvement involved my increased strength. The results of my conditioning caused my father's strength to begin revealing itself in me for the first time ever.
Naturally, I wanted to test the limits of this newfound power, so I went to the training room to find out just how strong I'd become. I started off with some of the typical tasks regular martial artists would take on, like breaking wooden boards. No matter how many I stacked on top of each other, the end result never changed. Technically, I couldn't punch or kick through any of them, because as soon as I made contact, the wood was reduced to nothing more than a pile of sawdust. In addition, I left several craters where my strikes had impacted with the floor—good thing it's built with whatever alloy they used. I figured a car would last longer, and was pleasantly surprised to find out how wrong I was. One swift kick totaled any vehicle while the force of the collision produced a shockwave potent enough to crush all unprotected items in the immediate vicinity.
I found my next teacher in less than an hour.
Dr. Timothy was probably one of the most well known and respected detectives that the Sentinels had to offer, and he was also a brilliant tactician to boot—so much so that EVERYONE I turned to pointed me in his direction. Upon greeting him, he wasted no time in showing me why.
"Let's see here...Celeste Ivory, orphan with few friends grows up to become Khazan's sweetheart—but the story doesn't end there. He finally makes contact with you after a twelve year hiatus only to be killed by some unknown group of villains—whom you want to track down to return the favor—before you get a chance to see his face. Does that about sum it up?"
"...In a nutshell, sir." I couldn't believe how much he already knew. I concluded that he was the type of character to know more about you than you know about yourself, and I needed to become that same person in order to reach my new goals.
Seven months. That's how long it took for me to master just the basics of Dr. Timothy's craft. But I did, and it paid great dividends. I developed into a decent gumshoe in my own right, and my increased attentiveness had its perks in battle as well. I started noticing weak points to exploit in my opponents; before long, seeing these openings became second nature to me. Between this attention to detail, my colossal strength, and the techniques Miss Elwin taught me, I had grown into the perfect combat soldier.
After nearly a year of training, the time had finally arrived. I was ready to embark on my journey. The prey would soon become the predator; the hunters soon the hunted.
Still, I press on. I can't run the risk of losing this valuable intel, regardless of how dangerous the situation might become. I consider calling in for backup, but it's already too late. I sense a platoon of troops bearing down on me with malicious intent. No time to react; I'm quickly surrounded. They must've teleported here somehow, because there's no way so many dark, powerful auras could've escaped my senses—especially since their essence matches the ones from before.
I can see them all now. About twenty or more warriors dressed in some type of dark garb with demonic-looking masks or helms covering their faces or foreheads. Despite their ninja-like appearance, most of them are armed with some pretty hi-tech weaponry. I see balls of fire, ice spears, wind vortexes, and the like begin to form in the hands of the unarmed ones. It's painfully clear that these guys have no intention of letting me escape this time.
As they take aim, I begin to wonder if there's any truth to the myth of a person's life flashing before his eyes as he faces death. Suddenly, I feel them coming, the instruments of my demise approaching from every conceivable direction and flooding the air like rain on a stormy day. As the moment of impact arrives I find myself flashing back to the final day of the Khazan Idol competition, and the greatest performance of my career.
Guess the myth holds true after all...
(Khazan Arena, around this time last year)
"Good evening folks, I'm Sila."
"And I'm Paundy, broadcasting live from the Khazan Idol finale."
"Ladies and gentlemen, the moment that we've all been waiting for has finally arrived! Celeste Ivory a.k.a. 'The Goddess of the Dance,' will soon deliver on her promise to produce the performance of a lifetime."
"That's right, I don't know what, or if, she'll sing anything tonight, but who cares about that anyway? I can't wait to see the routine she's choreographed. Ooh, here she comes! The crowd goes silent as she takes her introductory position."
"Wow, even her poses are graceful. I'm starting to believe that she truly is the daughter of a dance goddess. She certainly hasn't given us any reasons to doubt her lineage, that's for sure."
"Nothing special here at first, just your basics. She lifts a straight leg, up in front of her, reaching above her head with the adjacent hand to grab the foot. From this position she springs into the air executing a spectacular move that I can't even put into words. It kind of resembles a pilot's worst nightmare—the death spiral. After landing on the ground in a perfect sideways split, she uses her hands to spring right back up into a triple back-flip somersault. She lands on her toes and curtsies to judges before transitioning into a few of those spinning-dance-kick thingies that those ballerina types like to do so much. Obviously, this is just the warm-up for her."
"Here we go, the music changes and she goes into a pop-lock/robot mix. Very nicely done... Wait a minute, she's leaning forward now. Sixty degrees, Thirty degrees, my God! She's almost parallel to the ground and shows no signs of losing her balance any time soon!"
"Oh my God, now she's doing the splits from that position! Simply amazing! How can her toes withstand all of that pressure? Mine hurt just thinking about..."
"Whoa! Did you just see that!?"
"I did, and I have absolutely no idea how she managed to get air born from that position. I'm even more stunned as to how high she went."
"How? How in God's name do you go from a stance like that into anything other than a face plant, pull off another barrage of twists and somersaults in mid-air, then land in the exact same position as before without seriously injuring your body or—at the very least—flinching at some point?"
"She's the Goddess of the Dance, that's why. After that last flip, Miss Ivory lands upside-down in a perfectly balanced, unwavering handstand. From there she pushes off with her fingers, going air born to prepare for...
"I can't believe my eyes, mid-air break dancing! A fantastic feat within itself, but factor in the speed involved, and I'll bet even her toughest critics will soon change their tune. Any normal individual would go dizzy from spinning so fast that many times while upside-down, but not 'The Goddess."
"Finally the rotations stop as she gently lands on her head. And just when you think you've seen it all, she pushes off of her head, and well, words can't even describe these movements. If you're not watching, then you just plain missed it—end of story. I didn't even know the spine could go in that direction."
"You mean those [many] directions, don't you? If I wasn't convinced before, I'm definitely convinced now. The range and variation of motion Celeste displays has to be divine inheritance. To those of you unlucky enough to miss this spectacular visual, I'll try to paint you a picture: Imagine an individual with the combined flexibility, range, and variety of motion of a slinky and a Rubik's cube. Now imagine that the individual has a grace and fluidity of motion that far surpasses any professional dancer, gymnast, or martial artist. That'll give you a SLIGHT idea of the spectacle I'm witnessing right now."
"Yeah, if you can form a mental image of this person, you might be able to grasp an idea of a fraction of the movements Celeste is capable of. Anyways, we're nearing the end of this performance. As her body 'reconfigures' itself, she lands on her toes and curtsies again as the crowd goes ballistic. Never in my life have I seen such fluid motion from one move to the next, especially when involving these immensely high degrees of difficulty..."
*Flashback fades out as Celeste returns to reality.*
I tend to get lost in my happy place, especially when facing danger. The danger always seems to have passed when I return to reality; this time is no different. I'm now surrounded by a small mob of astonished villains armed with nothing more than clicking pieces of metal. By now, none of them stand any more than five to ten feet away. That must've been REALLY frustrating for them.
It doesn't matter much at this point. About two-thirds of my would-be assassins have fallen victim to the stray attacks that missed their intended mark. The rest will soon wish they had suffered the same fate as those months of training under Elwin D'Larthi bring a harsh end to their crime spree.
Well, as you might have already guessed, I'm no closer to finding my enemies than I was two months ago. But the fact that they went to such great lengths this time must mean that I'm making significant progress. They're out there somewhere; it's only a matter of time until I find them and bring them to justice.
It's a complicated weapon with a simple concept. Basically, the techs down at HQ discovered a way to convert my singing into a destructive force. The "bullets" for this firearm are created in a special studio where my voice is recorded then converted into energy.
Naturally, this process costs money--LOTS of money--so I'm only allowed one clip at a time. That usually provides me somewhere around 18 to 20 shots a month, so needless to say, I only use it for emergency situations.
Most people can go to the firing range everyday and pop off hundreds of rounds each time to acclimate themselves to their weapons and how they work. I get twenty shots a month--if I'm lucky. For this reason, the difficulty of my search (for my father's assassins) has proven to be a blessing in disguise. The extra time has allowed me to develop my aim and get use to the mechanics of my sidearm.