Angus’s flight from the border guards had been a short one. Once he had safely gotten the men to stop chasing Lethen and the others, he made a few decoy trails to confuse them and headed toward the river. If he moved quickly, he might just catch up with the team before they got there. He knew more about what they were heading into than they did, and it bothered him.
In fact it had bothered him from the moment he requested the mission. There was no question as to whether Turiel would hear about it, and he could easily inform his contacts, getting rid of the hated half-breed for good. Angus had agonized over whether it was worth the risk. What had eventually won him over was a combination of his faith in how strong the team was, and how he felt that Hikari owed Lethen some answers. Well those two and another older reason. Lethen wasn’t the first student to suffer as a result of Turiel’s actions.
Angus had heard many stories of preventable injuries and deaths and was convinced that much of the blood was on the headmaster’s hands. What he had told the team about the space where there should be a 5C was true. They had been sent out as first years on a mission that was beyond their abilities and all had perished, all except their sensei. That’s the part that he’d left out of his story. He was the one in charge of them when it had happened.
They had been assigned as squad 1B. After showing some promise in the early trials, they had set out on a normal first year mission, but they weren’t quite a team yet. It was supposed to be a simple escort mission of a minor South African dignitary. What they weren’t told was that the Yakuza were after him for a deal he had planned with the Japanese government. He was on his way to Tokyo to iron out the details. Something about trade policy if Angus wasn’t mistaken. Either way, they were attacked as they landed. Two of the students died in the wave of bullets and another was injured. Angus, the diplomat, and the surviving three pupils were taken prisoner.
Although they were secondary to the diplomat, the Yakuza are nothing if not efficient. Now they had four daemon knights from Hikari and they would use them.
Angus was forced to watch as the bastards tortured and killed two of his charges. The third proved to be more resilient and lasted several days, a young man by the name of David Riccio. That was a name that would be seared into Angus’s soul for all eternity.
Over the course of the days before his death. David had confided in Angus about a great many things. He was the son of a very well respected daemon knight and so certain things were expected. David was a tough kid, shown by his ability to stay alive in that hellish place, but he was only a mediocre daemon knight thus far. He probably would’ve started in 1C if it hadn’t been for his father, Vincent.
Even before he had started at the school, he had been warned about Hikari. His dad had been slowly uncovering evidence that proved that there were serious security issues within the school. Issues that were getting people injured or killed. He had never expressly said that Turiel was behind any of it, but as headmaster, it was his responsibility to make sure any holes were shored up and deal with any problems that arise. The problem was that nothing was being done.
David had told Angus that his dad wasn’t even going to put him into Hikari because of what was going on, but he’d insisted, even went as far as to offer to keep an eye out and report his findings. He wanted to be a good son and brave for his dad. Eventually his dad relented and allowed it.
On the final day of his life, David distracted the guards so Angus could escape. The sensei didn’t want to leave, but he also couldn’t let David’s sacrifice be in vain. He slipped away, making only one stop in his flight. He’d be damned if he was going to leave without getting everyone’s daemon weapons out of there. They may have killed a squad of students, but he would never allow them to steal their power.
Once he was clear of the building they were being kept in, he wasted no time before calling in for a pickup, and was back in Hikari within the day. He was rushed to the infirmary. While they had concentrated on the students, he hadn’t escaped the torture entirely and wasn’t in good shape. Once he’d recovered some, Turiel had come to ask him about what had happened. This wasn’t unusual. What was odd was how Turiel’s main interest was the fate of the Riccio boy.
Vincent had been on mission when his son was killed and didn’t handle the news well upon his return. He stormed the school and went straight after the headmaster. If it hadn’t been for Master Brascko holding him back, he probably would’ve killed him. Vincent Riccio wasn’t someone to trifle with.
He accused Turiel of all manor of crimes, claiming to have proof of some of it. He stormed out and headed home to find that while he was away, his house had been turned over. Everything he claimed to have amassed had been stolen. When he saw the disgusted looks from the daemon knights around him, he announced that the institution wasn’t worth saving and quit.
Usually when a daemon knight decides that he’s done, his weapons are destroyed, but he escaped before anyone could stop him. When the authorities went to his house they found a note sitting on the table with only three words on it: This isn’t over.
Angus had lost most in his faith after that. He’d had nothing but respect for David’s father and after going through that experience with David, he knew better than to think that Vincent’s accusations were unfounded. That had been the thing to cause Angus’s own investigation, but apparently Turiel had become better at covering his tracks. While Angus had lots of suspicions about things the headmaster was involved in, he hadn’t had any luck finding proof.
Then Lethen walked into his life. In the past, he’d been investigating events after the fact. By the time he’d heard about anything, it had already been swept under the rug. Now he had a whole different situation. Turiel was currently unfurling plans and Angus was in a position to watch and react. Document things as they happened and hopefully piece it together before the scheme came to fruition.
Turiel wanted rid of Lethen, that much was brutally obvious, but Angus doubted that it ended there. There was no way he would’ve contacted the Russians and gone through all that just for the half-breed. He already knew the Russians. He already had ties with them, but why? And if he was in their pocket, or the other way around, why send a team up to investigate. Illegal daemon breeding was big business, but was there something more going on here? Was he sending another team to their deaths?
Angus mulled it over as he checked his compass for the thousandth time, trying to stay on the correct bearing. All Hikari missions are ordered from the outside world. People needed things done that only daemon knights can handle, and the service didn’t come cheap. Multinational companies and governments were their primary customers, though there were a few individuals that could afford their bodyguard services. A mission like this would’ve cost more than Angus would ever see in his life.
He paused to pull out his phone and check his digital copy of the mission files. The originator of the mission would be written at the bottom of the first page. When Angus scrolled down he saw that it was ordered by the Mongolian government. That kind of made sense as they were just across the border and probably had to deal with occasional escapees from the farms, but Angus knew better. There was no way the Mongolians could afford Hikari. It was a beautiful country, but rich it was not.
So the mission was faked. Either no one had commissioned it, or whoever did wanted to remain anonymous. Both possibilities were about equally scary. Both suggested shady goings on, and no matter which way it was, Turiel had allowed it to happen and had assigned it to 3A. Was the headmaster sending another team to their deaths or was something else going on?
Then it hit him. Alliander was in 3A. The headmaster’s son was being sent up to the Russians. Turiel might be crazy, but even he’d never send his son into something bad. It had to have been a courier mission. Alliander was meant to take something up to his father’s contacts. Something that couldn’t safely be shipped or sent by any normal channels. Something very sensitive.
Angus smiled when he realized he’d unwitting thrown an extra wrench into Turiel’s plans. The thought of the headmaster blowing his top when he found out made Angus feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but it also bothered him. Turiel wasn’t the type to have his plans so easily altered. Chances are that the headmaster had heard about the change before the team left. What would he have done?
Certainly nothing so rash as to fake another mission right on that one’s heels. Two back to back missions into the same area would arouse suspicion. No, he’d have either secretly sent another team to deliver whatever it was, or he’d have found a way to use 1C to get it there.
The Packs! Those damned Hikari standard issue packs. He would’ve easily been able to tamper with them before they were delivered to the team. Angus believed the chances were good that Turiel had hidden the item in the bags, then informed his contacts that they were coming. That could explain the unfortunately timed border patrol, but it also meant far darker things for the team. If Silva knew they were coming, especially if he was told that Lethen would be there, he’d send more than just border guards after them.
Angus had to hurry. The team could already be fighting for their lives against men with much more training than them. They had bested Silva’s team in the initiation battles, but Angus knew Silva and his team. The ones he’d brought were his newbies. People who could hold daemon weapons, but probably had little to no training. Angus knew that some of Silva’s men were hardened killers and would have no qualms about slaughtering a pack of teenage Hikari students.
Angus picked up the pace, estimating himself to be about a half a mile behind where the team should be if they’d kept a decent pace and stayed on course. They were some pretty big ifs, but he knew his team. Prolier was an able navigator and Lethen wouldn’t let them go too slowly. He was confident he would find them exactly where he expected to.
He was surprised to hear a voice not far up ahead. He dropped to the ground as quietly as he could and tried to listen. He could just about make out what the man was saying, and he thought he recognized the voice, but he wasn’t sure where he’d heard it before.
Hearing Prolier respond to the man told Angus that his team had already run into trouble. He lifted his head to take a look just in time to see the man take off on his dragon.
Angus’s blood froze in his veins. He’d seen that dragon before. It belonged to a very powerful rogue daemon knight. It belonged to Vincent Riccio.