He recalled that his brother and he had asked their father and uncle what it felt like. The answer had been that every Riotori felt it differently; it was too individual a thing to offer any kind of foreknowledge.
Gypsum was pleased that his training had been so effective and that he had used it so well. But he also wished that the others had not made it necessary.
But he had no time to indulge in sentimentality. He looked around carefully but quickly. There was an open doorway leading into what he expected to be an empty building about thirty yards to his left. He would have liked to drag the corpses that way but there was too much rubble and big pieces of broken stone. He would either need to carry them, or leave them where they were.
He spent only seconds making the decision. If any scouting patrols happened to come by, the bodies would advertise his presence and a search might be initiated. He had no idea about the level of organization and sophistication of the security measures the residents employed.
He was sweating by the time the third body was dropped onto the other two in a dark corner out of sight of the open doorway. He helped himself to a swallow of water from the metal canteen attached to his armor before cautiously exiting the building.
The street he'd been following continued directly toward his destination and from where he stood it appeared that the debris became less as the center of the city was approached.
With one last look around, and one last concentration of listening, and a final searching sniff of the air, he resumed his cautious advance.
He was able to progress several hundred yards before he heard the sounds of people. They were not talking, but neither were they attempting to keep silent. Their footfalls scuffed on the ground and their weapons clicked in their sheathes or slapped against their clothing.
He could hear at least three separate individuals, but there might be more. They approached from in front and to his right. There were no open doorways offering concealment, but a block of stone at least twice his size lay just to his right. It was a ragged squarish piece that had one corner against a wall. There was room for him to squeeze in between the rock and the wall. The approaching residents would not see him unless they looked purposely into the confining area between rock and wall.
He realized that his armor would scrape the rock as he inserted himself into the concealment. He picked up a fist-sized rock and hurled it up the street. The noise of its contact with the ground alerted the advancing enemies.
Their silence was dispelled with sounds of alarms and the six of them (Gypsum could discern six different voices) suddenly spoke loud enough to drown out the sounds he made as he drew his sword and crept into hiding.
He could not see them as they hurried onto the street from a side-street, but they made enough noise to inform him where they were and what they were doing. He was surprised to perceive two female voices among the group.
He waited, not so much as twitching a muscle that might result in a sound of armor against rock. As he had hoped, the group hurried up the street to the sound they'd heard. Commands were issued (so, thought Gypsum, they are organized enough to have leaders and followers) to split up and look for intruders.
Their calls and answers gave clear evidence of their locations and eventual regrouping where the rock had landed or perhaps beyond that point. Their conversation indicated that they accepted the probability that the noise was simply another piece of rubble falling from a roof.
They moved on. Heading down a different side street to the left of Gypsum's path. He gave them several minutes to move on before cautiously leaving his hiding place and looking around. There were no hazards in sight, sound, nor carried upon the breeze.
He went forward, hesitating at every crossroad to listen and then look for danger before going on. It was taking a lot of time, but his goal was visibly closer.
He might, he hoped, be able to accomplish his objective without further violence.
That hope would prove unfounded.