Renala was panting and trying to focus. Angus had already scored a number of hits on her. She had scored zero. It these tight quarters it was impossible for her halberd to move as it should to protect her. The ends kept hitting the walls while it attempted to spin and react the way it did when there was room. She knew she couldn’t last much longer.
Angus allowed her to fall back and breathe for a moment. He wasn’t going to let her win, but as a teacher he wanted her to be able to analyze the situation and see where her mistakes were being made. “You should never have followed me into a tight space. You should have stayed with Lethen and came at me as a group. When your enemy is more skilled, you have to overwhelm him with tricks or numbers. You have neither.”
She knew that Lethen and Angel were on their way and she had to keep Angus busy. He could not be allowed to vanish again and set up and ambush for the other two. Even together they would have a hard time beating him. They had to find a way to corner him or something. They had to limit his options rather than the other way around.
“It will not happen again sensei.”
He smiled. “Yes it will. There will be times when you have no choice. If you have to pick between staying in the open where you’re most effective, or moving into an uncomfortable place to help your squad, you’d best choose the latter. This time you could’ve waited though. This time it was simply reckless.”
The words fell on her like a meteor. Of all the things he could have said, that stung. She knew she had many negative personality traits including timidity and low self esteem, one thing she tried to never be was reckless. She tried to figure out every situation so she could best be prepared for it. Diving into a situation without all the info was unacceptable.
“I had to try to find you and keep you busy so that Angel and Lethen could take out Prolier.” She said. “He had poisoned Lethen and Angel was needed more there than here. If I hadn’t come in here, you could’ve outflanked them. It seemed like the best option at the time.”
“Well I can’t argue with that logic. In the heat of battle, tough decisions have to be made. And I will be dealing with Prolier most severely when this is done. His actions were inexcusable.”
“So how do I get in?” She heard Lethen ask Angel. Good, they were almost there.
“It’s not easy,” Angel said. “You’re going to have to climb to the top of the buildings and drop down into the alley. It’s a shame we can’t control the walls and just open them.”
“Keep an eye out while you’re finding a position to snipe from.” Lethen said. “There must be controls somewhere.”
Renala launched a few attacks at Angus, but nothing came close to connecting. She had to figure something out or she wouldn’t still be standing by the time backup arrived. She was terrible at offense, and her defense wasn’t working here. She couldn’t keep backing up forever. Soon she would have her back to the wall and then it would be over. Having walls on two sides was enough of a handicap. Having them on three would end it.
“When you were up in that tower, you could see the whole maze couldn’t you?” She asked. “You could watch every step I took.”
“Not every step. I couldn’t see in here for instance. I wanted to make sure that it couldn’t be used against me.”
His weapon was in it’s staff form and he was swinging at her again. The way he moved allowed it to spin freely around him. It sometimes came within millimeters of a wall, but never touching. She needed to copy those movements. If he could fight with a long weapon, so could she.
She hopped back and starting spinning her halberd in a similar fashion to his. It was difficult as her weapon had about three more feet of length, but between her and the daemon itself, she managed to fend off a wave of attacks before Angus backed off again.
“Very good,” he said. “I see that you’re finally figuring out how to work that thing in a tight space. You need a lot of practice, but you just made it quite a bit harder for me to hit you. It won’t be enough since you don’t know the form that well, but it’s a start. You may not be the strongest knight on the squad, but you seem to be the quickest learner. There may be hope for you guys yet.”
He swung upward, forcing her weapon high before slamming her in the forehead with the butt of his staff. She fell back. As she did so she thought she saw her halberd bend and wobble for a moment.
I must be hallucinating, she thought. When she looked again, her daemon was as it always had been. Note to self: Avoid any more blows to the head.
She backed up enough for her to be able to hold the end of her halberd’s shaft, it’s end pointing at Angus. She couldn’t afford to lose any more ground or take any more hits. She had to use her range to keep him away. He swatted at it a few times, but didn’t get any closer. He smiled and nodded in approval of her tactics.
“Remember all of your assets, but don’t forget what you know of the enemy.” He swung his staff up and when it came back down, it was in the form of the whip. She ducked and narrowly avoided becoming the second scarred student of the year. Her halberd might be longer than a staff, but it wasn’t longer than a twenty foot bullwhip.
“Where are you guys?” Renala muttered, hoping her team could hear her without alerting Angus. She was sure he knew that he was the only one left, but he still didn’t want him knowing they were expected presently.
“We’re climbing up to the roofs. The poison hurt Lethen pretty bad and now that he’s not enraged, the effects seem to be catching up with him. He might not be of much use”
The halberd shot up and the end of the whip wrapped around it. A tug of war started between her and Angus. One she would’ve lost immediately if it weren’t for her daemon struggling with her. As she pulled she thought she saw the same shimmer from before. The halberd didn’t look solid for a moment. The normally straight shaft had a curve to it, and the chromed looking metal took on the tone of mercury.
She felt the whips tautness slacken. “So you do have some tricks,” Angus said, eyeing her weapon. The surprise lasted only a moment though before he redoubled his efforts. She was feeling the handle begin to slip from her hands when the tension, and her weapon, disappeared entirely. When she looked down, she had a small metal shield strapped to her right arm.
“What did you do?” She asked Angus. She could still feel the presence of her daemon, but it was different. “What the hell is going on. How did you change my daemon?”
“I didn’t do anything.” He leaned forward, staring at the pattern on the shield. “I forgot that it was the Dunglass family who defeated Bernard the Indestructible. What a joke that name turned out to be.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“That is a powerful weapon you have there.” Angus said. “Your father forced Bernard to yield to him before he had you. Before he created his new weapon and passed that one down to you. That shield is the natural form of Bernard’s daemon and it was absorbed into your halberd.”
“How did I change it’s form?”
“Once you’ve unlocked a form and can imagine it, the changing is easy. The fact that you have done so only two weeks after starting at Hikari may be a record. I’m guessing it’s due to the protective nature of your daemon. Usually someone has to get much more comfortable with theirs before it will allow the change. When you almost lost your grip, he knew he had to open up to you or leave you defenseless.”
Renala looked down at the shield. Where Lethen said that he felt rage and hatred flowing from his daemon, she felt nothing but peace and love. It was definitely the same daemon she held a moment ago, it just looked and felt a bit different. “So now I should be able to change between the two forms at will?”
Angus nodded. “Give it a try. Just imagine yourself holding the other form and it should be so.”
Renala looked down and pictured the halberd in her hands. The shield took on a mercurial cast for a moment, then she was holding her familiar weapon. Another second of concentration and the shield had returned. She smiled.
Angus returned the smile. “Well done. As you grow more accustomed to the change, it will be easier and quicker. I can change forms between blows and really keep an opponent on their toes. That daemon has been in you family for a few generations hasn’t it?”
“I can guarantee that it has a whole bunch of other forms as well. Possibly over a dozen.”
“How do I use the other forms?”
“Your daemon will show them to you when you need them. Apparently it decided that a shield was your best bet right now.”
“Not very useful on attack though, is it?”
Angus laughed. “The original version of that shield you carry has the blood of hundreds on it. Bernard the Indestructible was a vicious warlord a couple decades back. He bashed more people to death with that shield than you can imagine.” His eyes narrowed. “But I think I’ve let you stall me long enough. I know both Marnie and Prolier are down and that I now face three of you. I imagine the others are on their way.”
“I certainly hope so,” she said. “I wanna try out my shield, but I don’t know it well yet. I hope it still works the same.” She flew at Angus, swinging her shield at his head.
He hopped back, easily avoiding her downward chop. “Actually, if the stories about it are true, it should suit your daemon’s style very well.”
Renala was much more mobile with this lighter, more compact weapon. She pressed the attack, managing to push Angus back a few feet. When he took his final step to get out of her range, he saw the halberd coming down on him.
“Good!” Angus shouted as he batted the attack aside. He closed the gap with her and was impressed to see her switch back to the shield before his punch could connect. “That’s how you use multiple forms. I’ll make a Daemon Knight out of you yet.”
As the words left his lips the sound of falling pebbles came from behind Renala. The wall was opening.
Angel watched the events unfolding below. He had been focusing more power into the barrel of his rifle for almost a minute now. Watching the two of them was like poetry in motion. Angus’s years of practice and Renala’s daemon moveing exactly where it needed to be. The strange way the weapons morphed into their different forms. Angel was envious.
As the wall slid aside, he put his eye to his scope. He saw Angus pause for a moment to look up toward the tower. He pulled the trigger.
Only it was Renala in his crosshair.