For the first time in almost three years Josh was returning to his home. For the first time in almost six years Josh had been robbed of the self-assuredness that he was well known for, he could feel the hesitation in each and every step he took. Of all the things he had faced over his lifetime the act of returning to his villa was one of the most frightful things he had ever done. Each and every step up the path of smoothed stones tested his resolve, each and every step closer to the wooden gates tempted him to turn back and forget this foolish endeavour. He didn’t though, or rather he couldn’t, every fibre of his being was telling him that if he turned back today he would never be able to work up the courage to return ever again.
This was Salvation Villa, this was Josh’s home, seven buildings and a training ground and an expansive garden, it wasn’t the largest place around, but to him, well this was the most sacred place he knew. More than just his home, this place was the last place of worship in the entire land dedicated to the Goddess Kirstaline, the Goddess with whom, the last time he was here, he had been in quite an argument with, an argument which had ended in his banishment from the villa, never to return until she saw fit. Oh the power this Goddess held over his life. Now the moment had arrived, Josh had reached the ornate wooden gate that separated the villa from the outside world, the next moment would decide whether he was welcomed back into his own home, or cast aside once again to wander the world as a vagrant, vanquishing evil as he went. His arm extended slowly, his finger outstretched to their maximum, slowly at a pace a snail would be ashamed of Josh reached out and touched the gate. His eyes closed as he flinched in pre-emption of some mystical force, but no such force came, and instantly all the tension he had been unaware he’d even been holding back fled from his body and he almost collapsed in relief. With the worry over Josh stroked the gate, reacquainting himself with its form, his fingers caressed the flowering vines etched and carved into her surface, green and gold in colour it was a beautiful gate, a gate he himself had carved painstakingly for his Goddess as he rebuilt her place of worship back to its former glory.
Emboldened he pushed the gate open and strode through, straight into his training grounds. Any who visited thought it was strange that the moment they stepped through there was no garden or foyer in which to be greeted, rather an earthen training ground more often than not containing a single martial artist reinforcing his skills against the equipment within. This wasn’t by flaw or mistake, rather it was purely by design, protected by the will of the Goddess the only way into the Villa was through that gate, and once through anyone with evil intent found themselves in a place designed for combat, were the most zealous defender a Goddess could wish for would be waiting for them, in a place where his full power could be unleashed without fear of damaging the beauty that was Salvation Villa. This was Salvation Villa, you came here to be saved or the Goddess help you would need saving.
It hadn’t changed since Josh had left, perfectly square around about 50 metres on each edge, and an earthen dirt floor, solid enough for fighting but soft enough that constant practise wouldn’t cause injuries to the muscles of the legs. Within that 2500 square metres of spaces was training equipment, wooden dummies sat in three rows on two opposite sides, one side marked with the placement of various organs and nerves to train accuracy of blows, on the other side the dummies were segmented with limb like protrusions, these dummies spun when struck, aiming their ‘limbs at the attacker’ dummies for teaching one to attack and defend at the same time. In the centre was a tree ground straight and true out of the ground its foliage high above the tallest man’s head, its trunk thick and its wood tough; Josh had many a memory of toughening the various striking areas of his body by slamming them into the wood over and over again. In one section stood tall thin poles of bamboo where one could test their agility by weaving between them, or their balance by leaping atop them. Most importantly throughout the grounds there were small and large rocks placed at random, half built walls ranging from ankle to knee height, there was no pattern or conceivable layout to these, they were their so that regardless of the training you did, you remained aware of your surroundings, or you payed the price by tripping over an obstacle. There was one last feature, on the side of the ground opposite the gate, was a wall, an epic wall, 2 metres thick and the height of four men tall, and in the centre of it was a door a simple unimportant looking door that opened into the rest of the villa, only if you made it across the grounds alive could you hope to enter the rest of the villa. It was at this wall that his Goddess spoke to him.
“Finally you return to me,” Kirstalines voice was as soft and perfect as ever, the perfect tone and pitch to Josh’s ears. “And not a moment too soon my love, for today right as you return to my embrace I have a Job for you.”
“Anything beloved,” Josh was completely sincere, for this Goddess he would and had killed before, whatever she asked he would inevitably do, even if he argued before he did.
“There are strangers coming here today, they seek the knowledge of magic within my temple, they must not be permitted into the Villa, bar them from the final door.”
“Nothing passes me on this day Beloved, no man that enters this temple today will leave alive, for today I stand as your Guardian” Josh was already checking over his weaponry, ensuring everything was in place.
“Not alone you won’t, these strangers have power, I have summoned help for you on this day,”
“I do not play well with others,”
“And that’s why she called me to help you.” Josh turned to the wall’s door as it opened, and through it walked… anexplosion rocked the training grounds, and the Villa’s front gate, the very gate that Josh had carved himself for his Beloved hurtled past him and embedded itself into the wall mostly shattering on impact. The invaders of Kirstaline’s temple had arrived.