A deep voice radiating strength and confidence broke the silence:
“Perhaps you should let me handle the situation?”
The moment the man spoke, the paralysis went away. Kolin finally could turn around. He found himself facing a tall, muscular fellow, wearing a light-blue shirt and black pants. The man, perhaps in his early thirties, produced a friendly smile. His blonde hair glimmered in a short haircut that framed harmonious features. His blue eyes radiated self-confidence, reflecting the sparse clouds from the almost-serene sky.
As a confirmation of his status, a circular patch was visible on the left side of his chest: the symbol of Two Waves, one of the deadliest martial arts on Atlantide. It wasn’t the usual mark of an advanced practitioner but the patch of a master.
What was a master doing here, on the Iron Rock? No way! He couldn’t be interested in the thing underwater, could he? However, the more Kolin thought about it, the more he had to admit this was the most likely scenario.
The boys had just a few seconds to examine the master. With unreal speed, the man took off his shirt, shoes, and trousers. A muscular body stood before them for a fraction of a second. Only in underwear, the master rushed to the edge of the platform. He dived head-down into the sea, almost without making a splash.
The teenagers bent down over the edge again, trying to track his location several meters below the waves. The water was quite clear, and the master should have been easily visible, except they couldn’t glimpse him at all. He had vanished.
The seconds kept pouring with agonizing slowness. Perhaps twenty, perhaps more. Already over a minute had passed since Lila’s disappearance. Then something briefly moved underwater, farther away and more to the left. Soon, the master’s head broke the foamy surface, breathing deeply. Lila’s face emerged after a second, coughing and gasping for air. She looked scared but remained calm, letting the stranger’s strong arms keep her afloat from behind. The master came closer to the edge of the Iron Rock, holding the girl’s head above the waves with his right hand.
“We don’t have a rope,” Solis shouted. “I’m afraid you might have to go around the rock and use the stone steps from the other side.”
It was low tide, and the platform’s edge loomed almost three meters above the sea.
“That’s all right,” the master replied. “I don’t need a rope. Can you catch the girl if I throw her to you?”
“What do you mean?” Kolin began, but the man and Lila had already disappeared underwater. One moment later, they broke the surface again, this time at high speed. The master pushed the girl upwards with a decided move. She flew high in the air like a rubber toy, reaching the platform edge as he sank once more below the waves. Surprised, the boys managed to grab her arms and legs at the last moment, pulling her up.
Full of anxiety, the youngsters laid the girl down on the rough surface. Lila coughed a few times, then her breathing calmed down. Her face was pale, but she didn’t seem hurt. The boys stretched over the edge to check on the master, just in time to see him leaping out of the water and gracefully landing on the platform, only a couple of meters away from them.
“How did you do that?” Solis asked.
“You mean the jump?” the man laughed. “It’s not that hard. I’ve dived deeper and let the pressure push me up the way dolphins do. It would have been way more difficult if I wanted to jump this high on land.”
It sounded simple and certainly was doable for someone who could move so fast in the water. Still, Kolin had never seen any human leap out of the sea like a dolphin. Not until now, anyway. Nonetheless, it shouldn’t have been that hard for a master of Two Waves.
Lila was already feeling better. After a few more fits of coughing, she slowly stood up between the two boys and examined the master inquisitively. The three teenagers were staring at the tall man with an unvoiced question on their lips.
As if reading their thoughts, he laughed and said:
“I suppose you’re wondering why someone like me is here. Well, I have actually come to retrieve THAT.”