Angel’s breath flew out of him as he took more energy bolts to the chest than he could count. Individually they wouldn’t have done any damage, but together, they were making it hard to breath. His chest was on fire and he knew he couldn’t take it for long.
He held up his rifle to try to block some of the shots, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Butch’s shots were far too erratic for him to stop many of them. Once again he was amazed at the American’s ability to fire so quickly. It was as if he were trapped by a swarm of bees. He needed to get out of the hail of bullets. If he could get some room to move, he might be able to do something.
Angel turned and ran. It turned out to be a mistake. If he thought getting shot in the chest hurt, taking fire to his back and kidneys was much worse. He knew that when this was over, he’d be peeing blood for a while, but it didn’t matter, he had no other choice.
He tried to focus some energy as he ran, but the concentration involved in running through a jungle full of things to trip over proved too much for that. His mind needed to stay on the task at hand. He looked back and saw Butch was slowly losing ground, but not quickly enough. He was almost the same speed as Angel and he was firing both weapons while he ran.
Angel took a sharp turn around a tree and slowed down. He knew that he would never get far enough away from Butch to lose him, and without losing him, he wouldn’t be able to get a decent shot ready. He only had one chance. He grasped his rifle by the muzzle and held it like a baseball bat. When Butch came around the tree, he swung for all he was worth.
Butch ducked under the swing and brought one of his pistols around, catching Angel in the side of his head.
Angel dropped to the ground. He knew it was over for him. “Before you finish this, I have to ask you one question. How do you fire so quickly?”
“It’s one of the great things about having two guns,” Butch answered. “With one gun, you are putting everything into one barrel. With two, you switch back and forth and release as you go. It takes some getting used to, but it’s worth learning.”
“So it’s impossible with a single gun?”
“I don’t know about impossible, but it’s probably a lot harder. I’ve seen people used rapid fire with one gun, but I doubt they shoot as fast as I do. The thing that a solo gun has going for it is the continuous stream.”
“Yeah. When you have one gun, you can release the energy and charge at the same time. If you get used to doing them at the same time and same speed, you can pour out something that looks like a laser. It’s pretty cool when you see it done. Now it’s time to say good night.” Butch smiled before he pistol-whipped Angel in the temple.
The last thing Angel heard before slipping into darkness was Butch asking his teammates where they were.
Lethen was slowly getting to his feet when he heard Dmitri talking.
“Come southeast. This half-breed is tougher than expected.”
Lethen groaned. Not only was he in bad shape, but now his foe had backup coming. His interrogation window was quickly closing. His only consolation was that while he had managed to make it back to his knees, Dmitri was still prone. Maybe he could get the info out of him before anyone else showed up. He still had no idea how to make someone talk, but he would have to figure something out.
Lethen crawled over to where Dmitri lay and made a decision. He still wasn’t terribly skilled with his power, but he knew how to control it to some degree. He touched his foe’s foot and they both slowly began to sink into the ground.
“What are you doing?” Dmitri asked, sitting up.
Lethen said nothing as he concentrated. He wished he could do this more quickly, but Dmitri’s surprise was helping considerably. Only Lethen’s head and shoulders could be seen now, and his foes legs had disappeared. They weren’t very deep but hopefully it would be enough to let the Russian know he wasn’t playing around.
Lethen released the foot, making the ground solid for Dmitri once more. Where the Russian had a little room to move a moment before, now he was trapped from the stomach down. Since Dmitri had tried to use his hands to push himself back up, they were in the dirt up to the elbows. Lethen knew it wouldn’t hold him for long, but if he could make him think it was worse than it was, maybe he could work on him.
Lethen extracted himself from the dirt and got the rest of the way to his feet. “You are going to tell me everything you know about my daemon and the people involved in it’s binding.”
The Russian regained a hint of his composure. “Why would I tell you anything? I have been trained to withstand more punishment than I think you can dish out. Bring your worst. I will say nothing.”
Lethen rose to his feet and began walking calmly around his partially buried foe. As he walked behind him, he reached down and plucked the small bud from Dmitri’s ear. ”You know we are off camera and now your team can’t hear you. No one will ever know what happened here. I can sink you down until you are buried alive. Maybe one day, archaeologists will find your remains and wonder how you could’ve been buried without disturbing the earth. There could be entire books written on the mysterious body of Hikari.”
Dmitri’s face dropped. “You wouldn’t dare. Butch is already on his way and he knows I’m fighting you. You will be expelled for killing a fellow student. I know how much this means to you.”
“Accidents happen.” Lethen adopted the most innocent facial expression he could manage. “I’m so sorry, I’m still having a hard time controlling my ability. I tried to look for him but it all happened so quickly. I couldn’t find him.” Lethen pretended to cry. “I’m so sorry.”
Dmitri glared at Lethen. “I don’t believe you.”
Lethen placed his hand atop his foe’s head and pushed him a few more inches further into the ground. “Tell me why your family is involved in this! Don’t make me ask you again.”
Dmitri didn’t speak for a moment, causing Lethen to push him down until just his shoulders and head were visible. “Wait! All I know is that my dad traded that shovel to the headmaster to get me into Hikari. Now that they know what it can do, they want it back.”
Lethen removed his hand. “I already know that much. I also know that Silva works for your family in their illegal daemon breeding program. I want to know why your family wishes misfortune on me. I know Turiel hates me, but what do your people have against me.”
“Nothing as far as I know. My family has been trying to four generations to get someone into Hikari. My father is the first to have enough resources to get his child in. This was nothing more than a means to an end. Now they just want their daemon back. They know that with earth swimming, they could be more powerful than you could imagine.”
Lethen stepped back. “I can see many uses for this gift, but how will it make someone that powerful?”
Dmitri laughed. “If you can’t see how powerful you could become, you underestimate it’s uses. If you want to see what you could be capable of, look up the history of Alan the Bold. He was the last recorded bearer of the earth swimming ability and his deeds will give you some idea of your potential. I know I’m not getting the daemon back now. You’ve won this time, but don’t expect my mission to change. My family will still want it.”
“But yet your family doesn’t care what happens to you. That doesn’t seem like that actions of a man who would go to all that trouble to get you into a prestigious school. Something doesn’t add up.”
“That wasn’t my father I was talking to. It was my uncle and he’s wanted me dead for a very long time.”
Lethen frowned. “Why would your uncle want you killed?”
“Because I’m the heir to my father’s empire. After my birth, my father was shot in a place that meant he would never father another son. If I die, my uncle becomes the heir. My father doesn’t suspect anything, but I’m certain that the bullet that sterilized my dad was fired by my uncle. One day I will get him back.”
“Sounds like a dick, and I’m sorry to hear that you have to deal with that. Believe me, I am very familiar with being hated for stupid reasons. I appreciate the information, even if it wasn’t really anything I didn’t already know. Let me do you a favor before Butch gets here.” Lethen picked up Dmitri’s backpack and opened it.
“What are you doing?”
Lethen pulled out the walkie-talkie Dmitri had been given to receive his mission. “If anyone finds this, you will likely be kicked out of here. I’m going to put it somewhere that no one will ever be able to find it. It’ll be our little secret.”
“Why would you help me? I was going to kill you.”
“I told you, I’m familiar with hatred and I don’t like it. One day we will both be daemon knights and allies. I’m not so short sighted as to make enemies of the people I may one day rely on to watch my back. I am sorry about the gag though.”
Lethen stepped forward and tied a small towel around Dmitri’s face, pulling it taut in his mouth. After an apologetic smile, he sank slowly into the earth.
Dmitri heard a rustle in the bushes behind him. He tried to turn around and look, but couldn’t. The noise was getting closer. Dmitri started to sweat, not knowing whether it was a friend, a foe or even a wild animal. His fear was dispelled when he heard harsh, barking laughter behind him.
Butch was doubled over at seeing his teammate’s head and shoulder’s poking out of the ground. “You got yourself in quite the pickle, haven’t you? Where’s the half-breed?”
Dmitri mumbled something incoherent.
Butch laughed a little more before coming forward. “Well if this don’t beat all. Not only did you not win against the little guy, you managed to get yourself buried and gagged. You know the rest of us are gonna be laughing about this one for a long time. I was afraid something like this had happened when you disappeared off comms. I actually expected to find you knocked out. I wonder why he left you like this. Maybe I scared him off before he could finish it. You’ll have to thank me later. For now, let’s get you back above ground.”
More incoherent mumbling, though this time with obvious anger in it.
“Keep your pants on.” Butch untied the gag.
“It’s a trap you idiot. He did this to keep you busy while he got in position. Get out of here and hide until the clock runs out.”
Butch’s eyes widened and he turned to flee, but it was too late. A hand had already emerged from the dirt and grabbed his ankle.