Shit, Angus thought, this is the last thing we need.
Master Brascko was beside him, grinning like a fat kid who’d just been told he could eat the whole pie. “I never expected that I would get to see two berserkers face off against one another.”
Angus stared at the man in disbelief. “You do realize that this is almost guaranteed to end in one of their deaths, right?”
The master’s smile faded. “Yes, I suppose you’re right. As exciting as it would be to witness such an epic battle, we should end this for the sake of the children. If you and Justin agree to it, we will call this trial a draw and end this now.”
“Fine by me,” Angus said. He just wanted this done with. Not only did he have no interest in seeing which of the uncontrollable students would come out on top, he had even less interest in letting anyone find out that Lethen wasn’t really a berserker. If this incident was investigated too closely, they would discover that Lethen didn’t have proper control of his daemon and that would be bad. They could find out things that Angus didn’t want revealed as yet. He was in the middle of his own investigation. Any interference from the headmaster or the council of three would screw any chance he would have of getting answers. It would also tip off the one man that he knew was behind everything. He wanted to have enough evidence against Turiel to take him down before making any moves.
“Justin?” Brascko asked.
Angus almost punched the other sensei. “What do you mean, no? Do you want to see one of the students killed today? This has gotten way out of hand and it needs to be stopped.”
Justin actually smiled. “I have absolute faith in Claire to finish this with us in the lead. I will not accept a draw.”
Angus grabbed Justin’s arm and dragged him away from the others. “You have no idea what you’re doing. This cannot be allowed to continue.”
“Actually I know exactly what I’m doing. Brascko might not have ever seen it before, but I have. I know exactly what those glowing eyes mean. I know that Lethen has lost himself to his daemon and I can tell that you know too and will go to great lengths to protect that information. I won’t pretend to understand why, but I see you’ve taken a liking to the kid.”
Angus dropped his voice down to a growl. “What do you want?”
Lethen and Claire stood facing one another for several second before they began to move in unison, weapons flashing out and striking against one another in a blur of motion. Marnie, Renala and Ankur didn’t dare get even close to the fight. They all knew that what was going on was far beyond their abilities. This was no longer a trial between daemon knights, it was a battle to the death between monsters.
After a particularly stunning series of blows, Lethen bent down and launched himself thirty feet into the air. Claire watched his short flight as it reached it’s crest and descended toward her at rapid speed. She was prepared to strike him as he came down but he blocked the blows. When he hit the ground he didn’t stop. In fact he didn’t even slow as he disappeared into the earth.
Apparently, with his daemon behind the wheel, he had full control over both of his gifts.
“I want you to concede defeat. Only then will the half-breed’s secret be safe with me for the time being.”
“Are you really willing to put your team’s life in danger, just to have something to hold over my head? Are you that petty?”
“Are you willing to risk your golden boy to find out?”
This time Angus actually did growl.
“This is incredible,” came Brascko’s voice. “Look at the way they move. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Is that jumping the gift he got from draining Silva?”
“Time is running out,” Justin said. “What’s your play?”
“I will get you for this, just you wait. There’s much more to this than you know and once I take care of those responsible, I’m coming for you.” Angus walked back over to the group watching the screens. They all shared the same wide-eyed awe as they watched the fight between what they believed were two berserkers. Angus eyed the monitors for a moment before hanging his head. “Squad 1C admits defeat. Stop the trial before one of them kills the other.”
“Are you sure?” Brascko asked. “It looks like your boy has the upper hand with that combination of gifts. 1C still has a few minutes.”
Angus watched the screen. Lethen looked unstoppable. He would fly out of the ground, catch a tree and push off, only to either bounce off of something else or vanish below the ground again. It was like watching a frantic game of pinball, and he was swinging the shovel the entire time. Angus almost wanted to watch him tear Claire apart just to spite Justin, but he wasn’t petty enough to risk a student because her sensei was an ass hole. “I’m sure. No one needs to die today. End this now.”
Brascko frowned. He clearly wanted to keep watching what was possibly the most exciting battle the school had ever seen. “Alright, but I will be eagerly awaiting their rematch in the end-of-year trials. I also look forward to seeing what they are both capable of once they have a few new gifts and weapon forms. This is an exciting time for Hikari.”
He nodded to the man who was keeping track of things and a horn sounded across the school. “In an unexpected upset, squad 1C concedes victory to 1B. This officially brings the primary round of first year trials to a close with each team having one win and one loss.”
Marnie, Renala and Ankur heard the announcement as they watched a small army of older students melt out of the trees around them. All of them were armed with heavy nets and ropes. Claire was bound almost immediately, but it took them a little longer to catch Lethen, and a few of them took high speed shovel shots for their efforts. Once both were restrained, it wasn’t long before they calmed enough to regain their senses.
They waited a few more minutes just to make sure they weren’t going to fall right back into their homicidal rages once they were released. They didn’t. Marnie and Renala ran over to Lethen once he was no longer bound.
“Are you okay?” Renala asked once they got to him.
“Yeah, I think so. I can’t believe it happened again.”
“What do you mean?” Marnie asked. “That was awesome. You were winning that fight. I’m not sure why Angus threw in the towel. I think you had it.”
“And if I had been allowed to continue with it, she would probably be dead. I have no control in that state. If he hadn’t called it when he did, this could’ve been much worse.”
“I’m just glad everyone is okay,” Ankur said, walking over to them after having checked in on Claire. He looked at Renala. “Next time my dear, we will get to finish our fight.”
Renala smiled as Ankur walked away. “I guess it’s time to get back to our area. I guess the medics will bring Prolier and Angel.”
“No,” Prolier said, limping up to the trio. “This time I’m making damn sure that I get back of my own volition.”
Lethen smiled. “Good man. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”
When they got back to the industrial section of the campus, Angus was already waiting for them. He was pacing and the scrunch of his forehead meant something serious. He looked up at them as they approached and his face softened some. “I owe you all an apology. I shouldn’t have taken the loss without consulting you, but I had my reasons.”
“Do we get to hear these reasons?” Prolier asked.
“One of them. The rest aren’t my story to tell. The main reason is that I didn’t want to see where that fight was headed. If it hadn’t been stopped, one of them would likely be dead. No trial is worth the life of a student. I thought we could agree on a draw, but Justin Caplan didn’t see it that way. He would rather have simply watched to see which team would be down a member.”
“Are you serious?” Lethen asked. “Would it have mattered to him if I had won?”
“I doubt it. To his way of thinking: if you can’t even survive the trials of Hikari, how could you be fit to become a daemon knight.”
Prolier looked at Lethen. “It does make a twisted kind of sense.”
“No! Don’t ever think like that. You must be shields for each other. I know that the litany of Hikari is that the mission comes first, but your team comes first, and everyone is worth saving. Who knows what the future may hold for that person. A friend of mine was considered worthless as a daemon knight, but she kept trying. It took a few years, but she became one of the best of us all.”
The glimmer in Angus’s eyes was unmistakable. Lethen knew exactly who he was talking about. “Lethen, you and I need to speak.”
Angus led him away from the others. “You need to get that thing under control. Justin knows that you’re not a berserker. He saw the light in your eyes and had seen it before somewhere else. Me throwing the match was the cost of his silence.”
“So it wasn’t about saving us.”
“No. It was about saving Claire. If you had killed her, there would’ve been a deeper investigation and your loss of control would’ve been grounds for having you expelled or killed. Probably the latter. You deserve to be here, just like the others.” Angus didn’t mention that if they discovered that he knew and let Lethen kill someone, his head might roll too.
“I hate keeping the others in the dark about this,” Lethen said. “If I want them to trust me, I’m gonna have to trust them. Will it ever be safe to open up to them?”
“That’s entirely your call. Who to trust is always a personal choice. But be warned: Once you give up a piece of information, it can never be undone. Every piece of information about a person is a potential weapon against them. You don’t have to decide immediately, but we do need to rejoin the others.”
They walked back to the rest of the group.
“Anyway,” Angus said, “there is another thing I need to talk to you about. As I told you, once that trial was completed, mission season started. I had requested a mission as soon as possible afterward. They granted that request and issued one to me. We are going to Russia.”
Lethen was the only one not shocked by the news.
“Why Russia?” Prolier asked. “What could be happening up there that requires the services of a band of newbies?”
“Illegal daemon breeding,” Angus said. “A few Russian aristocrats had decided to get into the business and we’re to go take a look.”
“Not even halfway through the first year and they expect us to be capable of international espionage?”
“We’ll do fine. I took it because it’s a group that we already know we can defeat. We will try to remain invisible, but if we’re spotted, we’ll show them your new tricks. The only farm that we know of for sure belongs to none other than Silva and his gang. We leave in three days.”
Sorry about the lateness of this episode, I had a reading delay: Too caught up reading to write as much as I’d like to.