Renala sat alone in the machine storage shed listening to Angel and Lethen take charge of the game. They both seemed so powerful compared to her. Granted she had a near impervious defense, but the only way she could defeat anyone in her current state was to let them try to attack her until they got tired and slowed down. How could she ever be a productive daemon knight when her main skill was as a punching bag? There had to be something else she could do to help.
She took in her surroundings. Part of her pre-Hikari training had been observation; one of the few skills she was good at. It took almost no time for her to evaluate what was useful and what was garbage around her. Sadly, most of it fell into the latter category. There were a few things she could use, but nothing that could turn the tide if she were cornered in there.
Come on Renala, she thought to herself. You can’t let them do all the work. Think! What in here can help you protect the flag?
A plan slowly formed in her mind. Connections were being made, ways that all this junk could be of use to her. She got up and got to work.
“Renala,” Angel’s voice came through her ear-bud. “You have Marnie incoming. It looks like they just left Angus to watch over their flag. She will be at the door in less than a minute.”
“That’s not enough time,” she responded. “Can you hold her off for five minutes?”
“I can try. What are you up to in there?”
“It would take too long to explain, but if you can stall her, I might be able to do more than defend the flag. I might actually be able to beat her.”
“As I said, I’ll do what I can, but hurry up. Five minutes might be asking too much. There’s only a few places along her path that I’ll have a clean shot and I need to keep an eye on Lethen. He and Prolier aren’t fighting yet, but it won’t be long.”
Renala picked up the pace. She had a few things that she wanted to have in place before Marnie made it through the door, and a few more that would just be icing on the cake. If her preparations were complete, she could more fully use the terrain to her advantage.
What bothered her was how quickly Marnie had managed to find her. The game had only just begun and already the opposing team was on their doorstep. Had Marnie followed them? Had she gotten to high ground and watched? Clearly they had a lot to learn about stealth if they could be tracked that quickly and efficiently.
Renala shook her head to clear the unproductive thoughts. Now wasn’t the time to question the team’s actions. Now was the time to get her ass in gear and finished what she’d started. Now was the time to put her training to the test and prove that she could be a useful member of the team.
She could hear Angel’s gun firing through her ear-bud. It wasn’t the loud crack normally associated with gunfire, more of a gentle whooshing sound, but it was a noise she was familiar with now. After two weeks of training with the others, she was getting used to them. Everything from their fighting styles, to the way they breathed during combat. One of the reasons she had been trained in observation was that her daemon’s automatic defense gave her time to watch more closely than the others. She probably noticed things about them that they had yet to realize about themselves.
As she moved the various bits of machinery around she considered Marnie. Marnie was the best technical fighter of all of them. Obviously well trained with a non-daemon rapier before being given the real thing, she knew how to step, how to thrust and how to parry. She hadn’t yet been able to land a blow on Renala during their spars, but she has come much closer than the others. Twice so far Renala had felt the displaced wind of her blade wooshing past. It wouldn’t be long before Marnie learned how to shrink that gap further unless Renala started getting stronger. Of everyone in the team, Renala had made the least improvement.
“I’ve got her pinned down for the moment,” Angel said. “It won’t be long before she realizes where I’m shooting from and then she’ll be able to put cover between us almost all the way to the door. How much longer do you need?”
“I’m almost done,” Renala said. “Just a little bit longer and I think she’ll have a harder fight on her hands than expected.”
She was almost done. She wasn’t sure if it would truly be effective, but it would make the best use out of her halberd’s protective nature, possibly even distracting her foe enough to give her a chance to attack. She would trust in her abilities and make the best of it when Marnie came in. Even if all she could do was stall her, it would have to be enough.
“She’s on the move,” Angel said. “I’ll be able to take a few more potshots at her once she gets right by the door, but I don’t think I can stall her any more. Good luck.”
“Thanks,” she answered. “It’ll have to do.”
Renala finished her preparations and fell back to the position she’d chosen just in the nick of time. From the little she could see outside the door, she saw Marnie sprinting toward her. Just as she was about to clear the threshold, she tripped, falling hard.
“Got her in the left ankle,” Angel said. “Hope it helps.”
“Thanks again. I’ll take it from here.”
Marnie got quickly to her feet but stopped just inside the door. Her jaw dropped when she saw the interior or the room. Everywhere there was space, metal bars hung from the roof. Some were better balanced than others and hung horizontally. In other places it looked like giant wind chimes. In the middle of the space stood Renala in her fighting stance, looking more serious than Marnie had ever seen her.
“I love what you’ve done with the place,” Marnie said, moving slowly between the dangling obstacles. “Not really sure why you chose to decorate like this, but I think it adds a certain charm to the room.”
Renala just watched her opponent as Marnie wended through the room. She didn’t wait long. Once Marnie was a few paces in, she spun her halberd, striking several of the bars, sending them spinning and clanging around her. As she continued to swing, a chain reaction rippled through the space, causing the multitude of bars to hit each other. Soon every one of them was in motion.
Marnie ducked under one that came close to her head, and swatted aside a few others. She was beginning to realize just how well this set up would hamper her while helping Renala. She was still closing in on her foe, but it was much slower and every step carried with it the possibility of being brained by spinning metal. It wasn’t until she actually reached Renala that she saw the true beauty of Renala’s plan.
Marnie was used to reading movements and predicting weapon swing arcs, but this was like facing a dozen foes at once. Every second she had metal rods swinging at her, forcing her into a defensive position. It was a constant battle to parry or dodge the sheer number of attacks she now faced. Sometimes one would catch her and throw her off balance. It wasn’t long before she was sweating and knew she was in trouble.
Renala, on the other hand, was a picture of serenity. She also faced the spinning rods, but her perfect defense kept them away from her, batting them aside and sending them spinning in unpredictable directions, adding to the number Marnie had to deal with. Renala slowly walked toward her enemy, something she was unaccustomed to doing. Since entering Hikari, this was the first time she’d felt able to go on the offensive.
Renala sent a wide swing toward Marnie who barely manged the get her rapier in place to parry it. Focusing on Renala opened her up to the barrage all around her and a high speed bar caught her in the back of the head, sending her sprawling to the floor. The good news was that she was temporarily out of the way of most of the rods. The bad news was that face down on the ground is a very difficult position to fight from.
Marnie rolled to her back just in time to dodge a downward swing from Renala’s halberd. She lashed out with her sword catching nothing but air. At least that’s what she thought until she heard metal hitting the ground. As she looked toward the noise she saw a string dangling loosely from the roof, no longer weighted down by a heavy metal rod tied to the end. A smile spread across her face.
It took a few more rolls before she was far enough away from Renala to get to her feet in relative safety. There were still bars flying all over the place, but she would remedy that soon. As she rose she struck out and was pleased to hear the sound of another rod falling to the ground, it’s tether severed. A few more swipes and more falling metal and she felt she finally had some breathing room.
Renala saw her opportunity and took it. Marnie was concentrating so much on taking down the trap that she didn’t notice when a halberd shot out low, aiming for her injured ankle.
Marnie cried out in pain when the blow took her foot out from under her, causing her to land hard on her back. In her previous spars with Renala, she had never been forced to the ground. It had just happened twice in about as many seconds. Clearly Renala was not to be underestimated. She needed to take out the trap and defend herself at the same time. It wasn’t going to be easy, but no one ever said being a daemon knight would be.
Renala pressed her advantage, but Marnie was quick enough to get some distance between them. As she lengthened the space between them she was able to chop down several more of the swinging poles. Renala was smacking the remaining rods as she advanced, forcing Marnie to back into the corner. Marnie tried to move to the sides, but was met each time by wide sweeps of the halberd. Marnie knew she was being herded but could do nothing about it.
It wasn’t long before she had her back against the wall against an enemy with a massive reach advantage. She had managed to make it a fairer fight by taking down all the nearby poles, but that wasn’t much consolation. Renala was up to something. She had been pushed into the corner for a reason and Renala’s stance had widened, as if she wasn’t planning to move. Marnie had to figure out this new trap before it was sprung or she might be done for.
Renala swung at Marnie’s injured ankle once again, but caught a box on a nearby table. The swipe continued and Marnie easily jumped it, thinking Renala had made a mistake. She might be able to get in close behind that wild swing, but before her feet touched the ground, she spotted what had been in the box and realized that Renala hadn’t made a mistake. The floor was now covered in ball bearings of various sizes.
Her feet flew out from under her as soon as she hit the floor. Her head smacked painfully off the ground before everything went black.
Renala watched her foe for a few seconds to make sure she was out. “Marnie is down.”
“Good,” Angel responded. “Lethen has just engaged Prolier.”