“Angel, go help Renala,” Lethen said between clenched teeth. He was still feeling woozy from the poison on Prolier’s blades, but his vision was slowly returning to normal. “She needs you more than I do.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I can handle Prolier. Renala is trapped in a confined space with Angus. I just hope you can make it to her in time.”
“Hold on Renala,” Angel said. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
The shots that were keeping Prolier pinned down ceased, but he didn’t come out immediately. He hadn’t heard what Lethen had said and expected a trick. After many seconds, he popped his head up for a split second. When he lowered it with no damage, he spoke. “Finally decided to face me like a man, half-breed?”
“You mean as opposed to being a coward who resorts to poisoning his own teammates just to win a practice fight?” Lethen asked. “Yeah, and I guess I’ll be the only one here fighting like a man.”
“How dare you,” Prolier shouted as he rounded the corner at a run. “How can something that’s not a man expect to fight like one? I’ve had enough of you thinking you can even challenge a real knight like me, much less defeat me.”
Prolier launched a series of reckless attacks that left him wide open to counterattack. If it wasn’t for the remnants of the poison coursing through Lethen’s system, he would’ve punished him for his sloppy moves, but he felt like he was moving in slow motion. He was barely able to keep Prolier from wounding him further. Apparently, his foe no longer cared about how much poison he put into Lethen as he had gone back to using the claw.
Lethen managed to separate himself from Prolier just long enough to catch his breath. He knew he couldn’t afford to let Prolier get even a single additional scratch on him at this stage, but it was going to be damn near impossible to stop that from happening in his current state. He could only think of one way that he could negate the massive advantage Prolier had over him, but it was risky. If he slipped in his control for even a second, something very bad might happen.
He focused his mind on all the times Prolier had attacked him in the past. All the grief that had been directed at him by that little bastard and his buddy Dellman. The times they’d jumped him, beaten him, taunted him. He had spent a long time learning how to forgive and forget, but now he forced himself to bring back every wrathful thought he had ever had regarding them. He forced himself to get angry.
With every little bit of ire he could muster, he could feel his daemon resist him less and less. He could also feel his mind clear some as he allowed the daemon’s rage to flow into him. He wasn’t planning to let the beast take over his body entirely again, but he had no chance on his own. He didn’t particularly like his daemon, but it seemed that the more he aligned himself with it, the less he felt the effects of the poison.
Lethen screamed and launched a series of blows at Prolier who jumped back in surprise. If he hadn’t expected Lethen to be able to talk through the chemicals, he certainly never thought Lethen would be able to fight back. The match was still one sided though, and Prolier dodged the swings with ease.
When Prolier extricated himself from Lethen’s wild swings, he was laughing. “Is that the best you can do? You’ll never defeat me if you can’t come with something better than that.”
Lethen knew he was right. He was feeling better by the second, but not fast enough. Add that to the fact that Lethen couldn’t keep up with Prolier’s speed on his best day, and he was fighting a losing battle. It was really just a matter of time before he got caught by that claw and poisoned all over again. He still had his plan, but the chances of him being able to dodge long enough to put it into effect were slim.
Prolier must have sensed his hesitation, because he chose that moment to spring forward, coming in with broad, sweeping strikes. They weren’t hard for Lethen to avoid, which immediately put him on alert. These attacks were completely unlike Prolier’s usual style. Normally the claw user would focus on small, precise attacks. For him to be swinging like this, he had to be plotting something. If Lethen’s mind wasn’t still running a little slow, he might have figured it out. Unfortunately he didn’t.
Lethen realized his error too late. Until that moment, he hadn’t understood just how closely Prolier had been watching his spars with Angus. As Lethen’s legs became entangled, he knew that there was nothing he could do. He tried to protect himself as best he could as he fell to the ground, but it wasn’t enough. A stinging pain across his back told him that Prolier had managed to rake his back, not only injuring him further, but sending a fresh does of poison running through his body.
Lethen tried to rise and only managed to get to his knees. His face contorted in confusion as he felt himself weakening.
Prolier barked laughter as he viewed his partially downed opponent. “Did you really think I was idle when Angel kept me behind that wall? After discovering that your non-human body was resistant to the poison, I came to a conclusion. I needed a lot more of it. The dose you just got is enough to take down a rhino. At first, I just wanted to slow you down, but that might be enough to kill you. I’m curious to see how long you last.”
At that moment, he hated Prolier. Hated him more than he’d ever hated anything in his life. He’d been taught by Marnie’s family that hate was the worst thing in the world, and that even bitter enemies didn’t deserve that emotion, but he couldn’t help it. Every part of his being wanted to get up and beat Prolier until he stopped twitching. Never before had he desired the death of another living creature so badly. If he survived this, he would make sure that Prolier paid dearly.
Prolier paced around him, watching him like a scientist might watch a rat trying to get through a maze. “I must admit I’m impressed by the fact that you’re still conscious. Either you have an incredible amount of willpower, or your grizzard half has a much greater resistance to poison than should be possible. Eventually both of these will fail though. Although the primary effects of the poison work on your body, making it weak, part of it’s beauty is the erosion of your mind. Even mental strength will fail in time.”
Lethen tried to focus on his words and failed. He knew he was beaten. He probably could’ve defeated Prolier normally, but waves of fatigue were crashing over him like a beach. He felt like he was being dragged under in a riptide of weakness.
“If you yield to me now, I will give you the antidote. As much as I’d like to watch you die, I’d much rather humiliate you. The first Hikari student in history to yield to a teammate during a training exercise.”
Lethen gritted his teeth. I’ll die before submitting to this ass clown, he thought. He had known that since Prolier revealed the plan to make him yield, though he never actually expected that it would come to that. Although he was now facing the very real possibility that he would die, his resolve didn’t waver. Almost nothing in his mind made sense at that moment, but that was etched on the inside of his skull.
Prolier had ceased his circular walk. “Since Angel is no longer shooting at me, I can only imagine he’s gone to help Renala with Angus. I would love to stay and document exactly how long it takes for a half-breed to succumb to this particular poison, but I should probably go and stop Angel from interfering. It’s time for you to say goodnight.”
Lethen watched Prolier step forward with his claw raised and knew there was nothing he could do about it. He wasn’t sure if the toxins in his system were enough to kill him, but he was certain that if Prolier managed to cut him with that claw one more time it would be more then enough. His head dropped before his enemy got to him so he could only see Prolier’s feet. Once they were close enough, he expected a sharp pain followed by whatever the afterlife promised. He didn’t expect what actually happened.
He felt a shriek of pain flow through him, but it wasn’t his own. He raised his head enough to see that his arm had raised of it’s own accord and blocked the strike with the shaft of his shovel. His daemon had acted on his behalf and saved him.
“Impossible,” Prolier stammered. “How can you still move?”
As the scream faded, so did Lethen’s drowsiness. It was replaced with a burning rage that he recognized as his daemon’s. It hadn’t taken over his body completely, but it had sent enough of it’s will into him to allow him to ignore the poison, at least for the moment. He still felt weak, but the mental cloudiness was gone entirely. He rose slowly to his feet.
“H-how are you doing this?”
“I’m not,” Lethen admitted. “By weakening my will, you took away my ability to resist that of my daemon. Now you’ve hurt him and his hatred for you is even greater than mine. You’re about to discover what Silva’s man with the sickle discovered. It’s a bad idea to piss me off, but it’s a much worse plan to piss my daemon off.”
Lethen took a few unsteady steps toward his foe. Prolier was too stunned to even try to get away, though it only took one hit from the shovel to wake him up. His superior speed allowed him to avoid the rest of the assault, but even once he’d put some distance between Lethen and himself, he still wore the shocked expression he had when Lethen’s daemon had blocked his kill shot.
Prolier tried to run, but Lethen tripped him. Prolier had barely gotten to his feet when felt the flat of the shovel strike him hard in the back, slamming him back down.
Lethen stood over him with the shovel raised, staring down with wild eyes at the guy who was ready to end his life moments before. “Now it’s your turn to yield. This isn’t over until you’re unconscious or you yield, and if I let him keep going on you, I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop him before you die. The choice is yours.”
To his credit, Prolier didn’t hesitate. “I would rather die than yield to a half-breed like you, but this isn’t over yet.” Still lying on the ground, his claw flashed out, aimed at Lethen’s already gashed leg. The strike didn’t even get close before Lethen’s daemon swatted it aside. Before Prolier could recover, the shovel came down on his head, making everything black.
“Prolier’s down,” Lethen said to his team. “How are things going over there?”
“Renala could use a hand down there,” Angel said. “Angus picked his spot well. Nowhere with a good view to snipe from, and you’re gonna have to climb down to get in there. She wasn’t kidding when she said trapped. Meet me three buildings south of your position and I’ll show you the way in.”
“On my way.”