Prolier was getting more comfortable with Claire’s attack methods the longer they fought, even though she was beginning to tire him out. She would continue with the same series of attacks until he got a hit on her, then that move in the chain would change and he’d have to get used to it again. He hadn’t gotten enough cuts on her for the sedative to have a noticeable effect yet, but it shouldn’t take too many more before she would be slowing down.
“You manky frog!” She shouted at him as she swung. “Stop dodging and fight like a man.”
He almost got hit in his moment of surprise. Thus far she hadn’t said a word, and the sudden outburst caught him off guard, but it wasn’t just that. She had called him a frog of all things.
“Frog?” He asked.
“You think I’m so stupid that I don’t know where a name like Prolier comes from? That just screams Frenchman, you dirty frog.”
He almost laughed. While it was true that his family name had come from France, this branch of his family hadn’t lived there in a very long time. Since the first Prolier had been admitted to Hikari four generations previously, they had lived in Japan, near the school. Since then they’d made quite the name for themselves. Maybe not as much as the Jericks or the Tortugas, but they were well thought of in the area.
Prolier may not have been the best daemon knight, but he did know how to piss people off, and he had been taught of his heritage, even if he was no longer part of it. “I may be a frog, but at least our football team doesn’t suck. We came seventh in the last world cup, where did England come? Didn’t even make it out of the group stage if I remember rightly.”
That comment actually stopped her wild swinging, giving Prolier a moment to catch his breath. “Manchester United is the best team on Earth.”
“I’ll admit that Man U isn’t too bad, but that’s only because it’s made up mostly of people who aren’t English. Once you only have people from your own country to choose from, you suck something fierce. I won’t be surprised if England doesn’t even qualify for the next world cup. Seeing your national team play is like watching a bunch of midgets trying to dunk a basketball.”
It was at this point she screamed and charged, which was just what he wanted. Her erratic swings let Prolier get some cuts in before she could get any sort of rhythm to her movements. It was if her brain had switched off and what was coming out now was pure murderous rage. After receiving several gashes on her body, she began to slow down as Prolier had predicted she would.
She stopped and looked at herself. “You poisoned me!” Her face contorted into something that could only be described as distilled hatred, and turned a color so red it was almost purple. She clenched her hand on her cleaver several times before her features slackened again and the blood drained. It was if something inside her had snapped. Prolier took a step back. Perhaps he’d pushed her too far.
When she came at him, it was like an entirely different opponent. She was completely unpredictable and faster than she’d been before the sedative started working. If that wasn’t scary enough, the absolutely blank look in her eyes was unsettling to say the least. It was similar to what Lethen had looked like when he’d lost himself to his daemon; when he’d almost killed Silva.
Shit, Prolier thought before diving out of her way.
“Can it be?” Master Brascko asked as he watched Prolier’s fight. “Could we really have two berserkers in the same year? We usually only get one about every decade. To think that there could be two in the same year is incredible. I would never have thought it possible if I wasn’t witnessing it myself.”
Angus came to the monitor to see what Brascko was talking about. He had been trying to pay attention to Renala’s battle, but this was something he may need to address more urgently. It took one look at Claire’s facial expression and movements to know that Brascko was right. This girl was a berserker.
“Prolier, get the hell out of there. I don’t care if you lose her and we lose the trial. If she catches you in that state, she will literally butcher you. She has no self control right now. If you go down, she won’t stop hacking until there isn’t a piece of you bigger than an apple. You cannot win this fight while she’s like that.”
“I can still take her,” Prolier said. “I have some sedative already in her, she’ll be slowing down soon.”
“No she won’t,” Angus said. “She is a berserker. In that state she is an unfeeling killing machine. She feels no pain, no fatigue, nothing. Not even the strongest poison in the world would put a dent in her speed or bring her down until she comes out of it. You could inject straight arsenic directly into her veins right now and she’d keep swinging. Nothing short of death will stop her right now, and that’s not even a hundred percent sure to do the job. Get out of there now.”
“You want me to run from a girl? I’m no coward!”
“I want you to survive long enough to learn the difference between bravery and stupidity. Running from that isn’t cowardice, it’s sanity. Would you feel like a coward for getting out from under a falling boulder?”
“Right now, she is just as unstoppable and deadly as a ten ton boulder falling on your head. If I was facing her right now, I’d run too. The only way to defeat a berserker is to wait until they return to themselves. It’s not fear, it’s tactics. Stop talking and run. Now!”
Everyone in the viewing area was now crowded around the monitor featuring their fight. Not one of them was under any illusions as to what would happen if Claire got hold of Prolier. All that was left was to watch and see whether squad 1C was about to lose one of it’s members.
As they watched, they saw Prolier starting to get some distance between himself and his foe. While her enraged status was useful for combat, it was less so for chasing someone through a jungle. She kept getting caught on vines and creepers and having to cut her way clear.
Prolier had put about thirty feet between them when he made the mistake of looking back. As he did, his foot caught a root and he went down hard.
Through his ear-bud Angus heard something crack and Prolier screamed in pain.
Renala scanned the area in an attempt to find the missing daemon, but coming up empty. This isn’t good, she thought, If I let that thing sneak up on me, I’m as good as done. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that she only had one option. She had to trust in her daemon’s ability to protect her. She ran at Ankur with her halberd held high.
He actually managed to look slightly shocked at her sudden switch from defense to offense, but it didn’t last long. He easily dodged her series of attacks with movements that looked almost snakelike, boneless. He moved with a fluid grace that made ballerinas look clumsy.
Of course, while her attention was on him, the tiger took the opportunity to attack.
The sudden movement and shape change of her daemon yanked on her arm almost hard enough to pull it out of it’s socket, but somehow she managed to hang on. She felt the shield connect with the tiger’s face while she had to kick her leg out to maintain her balance. It wasn’t until her foot also connected with something that she realized what had happened. Rather than her using her daemon to attack, her daemon had used her. It had noticed him approaching as it defended against the tiger. She had put her trust in the right place, and it was time to keep that going. She relaxed her body and mentally told her daemon to use her as it saw fit. She wasn’t sure it could understand her, but she prayed it could.
What happened next had to be seen to be believed. The girl, who until just a few moments before had been a purely defensive fighter, launched into a series of attacks that would’ve given the Hikari teachers a run for their money. Her body whipped around as she was dragged by her daemon. It flashed out repeatedly, striking at both Ankur and the tiger, while her other limbs simply responded to natural momentum and often found their marks too. She looked like a dervish, spinning wildly as her weapon switched frequently between forms. At one point her entire body left the ground for a few seconds, supported solely by the centrifugal force from her spin.
As her feet met the ground again she heard a squeal from the tiger. The halberd’s blade had connected with the beast’s flank. Once she’d stopped spinning, she saw it limping around her toward it’s master.
“Well done,” Ankur said. “As much as I admire you, I would never have guessed that you would be capable of harming my daemon so.” As he spoke, the creature shimmered and once more became a spear in his hand. “For you to have forced him back into his weapon form is quite an achievement and only makes me more interested in you. If you agree to come with me back to my country after graduation and become my wife, I will yield to you right now and never raise my blade against you again.”
Renala already knew of his intentions, but this proposal still took her by surprise. “You weren’t kidding when you said that people from your country don’t hold back when it comes to love.” She shook her head. “I’m sorry but I can’t agree to that. I know that you believe you already know who you will love for the rest of your life, but I am less sure. Here, we don’t make decisions like that within ten minutes of meeting a person.”
Ankur nodded. “I understand and I have another offer. I will willingly remove myself from this corrupted trial and allow you to go assist your teammates if you will at least consider coming with me once we finish our schooling here. How does that sound?”
Renala thought about it. “I cannot accept your offer. It’s not that I won’t consider your romantic gesture, but I won’t let you throw the game like that. If I defeat you, I want it to be on my own merits and not just because you want to get in my good graces. I know that this reduces my team’s chances, but I can’t allow you to dishonor yourself in that way. You are a good man and a strong fighter and I think this is exactly why daemon knights aren’t allowed to form romantic relationships with each other here. You are considering your mission to be of lesser importance than your emotions.”
Ankur smiled. “You have yet again proven yourself to be a girl of incredible strength, not only in combat, but in your heart too. I will finish this battle with you Renala, and I will be happy with whatever outcome. At every turn you are proving yourself worthy of every ounce of my affections. Are you ready to continue?”
Renala smiled back at her foe and assumed a battle stance. “I am, and I too will be satisfied with the outcome, no matter which of us wins.”