Born Immortal Chapter 7

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Astyr woke up early the next morning to enjoy a jog in the cool misty weather. The sun was already up and shining through the forest canopy and Astyr stayed on the road intending to jog all the way up the driveway and along the dirt road to the paved road that led into town. She jogged along the two-lane blacktop until she reached the other end of the dirt road that looped back to Grima's driveway. The asphalt was the only sign of civilization in the area, people's houses were set far back from the road and the only sign of a home that Astyr could see in most cases was a rusty metal mailbox on top of a wooden post beside a driveway just like Grima's that disappeared into thick woods. She had counted four of these on the way from Grima's driveway to the road and as soon as she turned onto the rutted dirt lane that would bring her the back way home, she began to keep count again.

She had passed three more mailboxes when she began to feel that someone was watching her. She had never been on this part of the road before so she didn't know for sure how much farther she had to run, but she was running. She increased her speed and the trees along the side of the road became a blur in her vision as she passed. The feeling grew stronger and she began to hear footfalls approaching behind her. He glanced over her shoulder and saw a man in a pair of black basketball shorts and trainers gaining on her.

She could tell from his pace that she couldn't outrun him so she brought her speed back down to a jog to let him catch up. She felt silly for letting herself get scared by another early morning jogger. When he was level with her, he slowed his pace and they ran together at a steady speed for a while. Up close, Astyr could see that he was closer to her age than she had thought; he was heavily muscled and appeared to be six feet tall but his skin was smooth and tan and he looked to be no more than nineteen or twenty from the youthful look of his face. His hair was a chestnut brown color that glowed with red and gold highlights where the sun hit it. He had a prominent brow that shadowed his eyes and his nose was straight but almost perky at the end. That and his large, full lips made him look like a teenager, Astyr thought, because his strong jaw line and thick neck definitely didn't look like any teenager she knew. He moved fluidly and was breathing easily despite the exertion of the jog and there was only a fine sheen of sweat on his bare chest that served to emphasize the planes of muscles as they moved beneath his skin.

"Randy" He spoke his name in a breathy way.

"Astyr," she replied. "Nice to meet you."

"You, too," He said. Conversations during a run were by necessity short. "Been here long?" he added.

"A week," she told him.

They had come to Grima's driveway by this point and Astyr indicated that this was where she was stopping. He said "See you next time," and continued on down the road as she headed up the driveway to the house.

When the clearing around the red-stilted structure came into view, she discovered Grima standing on the grassy bank of the river which flowed past the property. Grima was practicing some kind of martial arts with a long wooden stick and Astyr watched in fascination as the older woman swung it around in graceful arcs and powerful swings.

Astyr had practiced martial arts of all kinds ever since she was little. It had helped her deal with the sometimes harsh reality of growing up in a varied string of foster homes. Sometimes the physical exertion and mental control had helped her to mentally overcome the hardships of her nomadic life, and sometimes the training had simply saved her from brutal physical attacks. She had been forced to study a wide variety of styles because she could only take classes that were available close to where ever she may have been living at the time and usually she could only afford to take classes that were offered for free. She was a quick learner and naturally athletic so she never had any trouble swiftly making her way up through the belts. She had a black belt in Taekwondo, Jeet Kune Do and Karate, and even though she hadn't been able to stay around long enough to test for a black belt, she was more than proficient in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Kung Fu and Kendo. In the latter, she had trained in the art of Japanese sword-fighting and she had enough experience in Kendo to tell that Grima's movements with the stick were deliberate and precise.

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