The wolf howled sadly as the owl vanished before their eyes. The metallic swirl had seemed to disappear into Renala, who wriggled a little as it happened.
Prolier turned a full three-sixty once it was gone. “Where did it go? Is it going to attack?”
Angus didn’t respond at first. His jaw was dropped so far it appeared that he might be part snake. It closed slowly and then a rumble began deep in his chest. Once it surfaced, it came out as a barking laugh that went on for some time. “Well that’s something you don’t see everyday.” He said once he’d gotten himself under control. “In fact, I doubt many people have ever seen that. I know I haven’t, at least not with a daemon that hasn’t been bound before.”
“What just happened?” Gregor’s brother-in-law asked.
“That daemon just willingly bound herself to our dear little Renala. That shimmer was the same as when a daemon changes form, so I’m guessing he’s in there somewhere, probably under her clothes.”
Renala nodded and lifted up her somewhat tattered shit. Beneath it lay a shimmering silver breastplate. “What am I supposed to do with it?” She asked meekly.
“Wear it of course!” Angus barked, with another bout of laughter. “It is offering itself to you as a reward for freeing its friend.” He paused for a moment of consideration. “You know, this is turning out to be quite the class. I wasn’t too sue of you when I first saw you, but we have the second person to force a yield in the initial testing, and now we have the first ever first year to gain a second daemon. Not only that, but it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of that a daemon would willingly bind itself to a person without having been with them for years beforehand. You guys are gonna go far, I can already tell.”
Renala blushed. She wasn’t used to this kind of attention. She certainly hadn’t expected to be breaking any kind of records. “It won’t hurt me will it?”
Angus shook his head. “I wouldn’t imagine so, but if you want me to check, I will.”
The sensei walked over and set his hand on the edge of the new armor. He closed his eyes for a second then stepped away. “You are safe. It is a perfect binding. The kind that can only happen when a daemon does it his or herself. That daemon is totally in your thrall. It can do nothing without your command or permission. I want to add that you now have a powerful gift, or will once it chooses to let you access it.”
“The healing.” Angel said.
Angus agreed. “Yes. The healing. I think once you have learned to control it well, you may become the most valuable member of this little group. Between your defensive abilities and the fact that if anyone else goes down, you can bring them right back, you are shaping up to become one of Hikari’s finest.”
A shadow crossed Prolier’s face, but was gone before anyone noticed it.
They all stood there for a moment considering what had just transpired before them when Renala’s small voice broke the silence. “So what are we going to do about the wolf?”
“Well,” Angus said, “he’s free now, so I guess we let him decide that.”
They looked at the wolf who just stared right back at them.
“We should really be going.” Gregor’s brother-in-law said while casting a wary stare at the now beautiful wolf daemon. “We have quite a distance to go and our families are still moving. The sooner we leave, the sooner we’ll catch up with them.”
Gregor spoke a few words to him in Russian, then he translated them for the group. “Gregor wants to say thank you again for all that you’ve done for him and this town. Just a few days ago he felt like he would never achieve anything in his life, but now he’s a new man.”
“Torture and almost dying will do that to you.” Angus said before writing something on a small piece of paper and handing it to Gregor. “Tell him that we are also thankful for his assistance and that if he ever needs something that requires our particular brand of talents to call this number. We will be there as soon as we can.”
There was more Russian discussion before the duo waved to the team and walked toward a small car. They sped off down toward the main road and disappeared.
“Alright,” the sensei announced, “I guess it’s time we made our way back home. What do you guys think?”
The response was very definitely affirmative.
* * * * *
In one of the towers of Hikari’s housing district a phone rang. In fact it rang quite a few times before it was answered by a sleepy and somewhat irritated headmaster by the name of Turiel. “Do you have any idea what time it is?”
A voice speaking English with a thick Russian accent was on the other end. “As a matter of fact I do. The question is, do you know what the hell is going on up here?”
Turiel was suddenly wide awake. He switched on a light, bringing his large sitting room into focus. It was an immaculate room with two large sectional sofas in not-quite-matching shades of tan leather. He sat down on one with the portable phone in his hand, which was shaking slightly. “What do you mean? How am I supposed to know what’s going on in Russia?”
“We had an arrangement Turiel. We give you what you want and you give us what we want. You wanted a dangerously bound wild daemon for some half-breed among other things. Now, we find out that said daemon has one of the six legendary powers. This is something that could not be foreseen and we don’t hold that against you. The first part of our deal, allowing Dmitri entrance to Hikari despite his less than perfect scores you have done. We are happy about that. What makes us less happy is that you promised us certain information on one of our most bitter enemies and have failed to deliver.”
Turiel’s confusion was etched on his face, not that there was anyone there to see it. “What do you mean. I sent it up with a group of first years. It should have been easy for your men to take it from them.”
“Well it was not.”
“The weakness of your men is not my problem.”
“Weakness? Silva is dead and so are over a dozen more men. There are wild daemons running all around that area and you say it’s not your problem? Our arrangement was for it to be delivered, not that we would have to fight a team of daemon knights for it. We were under the impression that your own son would be bringing it here.”
Turiel hesitated. “There was a complication. At the last minute the mission was assigned to a different team. It was all I could do to even hide the data chip within the half-breed’s backpack before they left. What was I supposed to do?”
“I was under the impression that you were the headmaster there. When we made this deal, you assured me that nothing happened there that you didn’t know about. Now you tell me how this happened and how you’re going to fix it.”
“The teacher in charge of that team had the missions changed and for me to change them back without good reason would’ve made it too obvious that something was amiss.” Turiel didn’t like the way this was going. He endeavored to always be the one in charge of any situation and this was getting away from him fast. He needed to steer it back before he lost totally. “I did the best I could by sending up the data expecting that your men could handle a small group of first year pups. I told you what was happening and that I didn’t even care if you killed them. What happened up there was the fault of the idiots you left in charge.”
Turiel took a breath, but kept going before the Russian could counter him. “Now, I’m a reasonable man who pays his debts. I will get the information to you even if I have to bring it myself. I made a mistake in assuming that your men were competent enough to handle a small fight, but it won’t happen again.”
If Turiel was expecting some sort of apology, he was sadly mistaken. “Good. We will be waiting.”
“Before you go,” Turiel said in a voice so small it even startled himself. He cleared his throat. “Before you go, what about the rest of what I was offered? What you owe me hasn’t even been mentioned since the terms of the deal were originally discussed. When will I be seeing that?”
“After this last charade, we shouldn’t even have to pay you, but a deal is a deal. When you bring us that data, we will discuss further.”
The line went dead.
Turiel cursed loudly a few times before turning the light back off and dropping onto his bed. It was some time before he managed to get back to sleep.
* * * * *
The team made it back to a spot near the border without incident, but the wolf was trailing behind them the entire way. As they rested and waited for nightfall, they discussed what they should do about it over a meal of dried meat and fruity paste.
“We can’t take him back into Hikari.”Angus said. “There are rules against having daemons running wild within the campus. Plus I don’t think they’d let us take him on the plane once we get to Mongolia anyway.”
“Can you bind him?” Lethen asked. “I mean, I don’t really know who would take him, but I think he wants to be near his friend and that would solve the transportation problem.”
Angus turned his head to the side as he mulled it over. “I suppose I could, but I don’t think it would be a good idea. Not only do we not know whether he’s tame enough for that, but a binding takes a lot out of you. It’s not an easy process even when the subject is willing. It takes a lot of preparation to do it right and if I made even the slightest mistake, he would be destroyed when we reached Hikari. As it stands, we will already have to declare Renala’s new friend when we arrive. The daemons allowed within the grounds of the school are strictly regulated. Your shovel would’ve been destroyed already if anyone other than Turiel had given it to you.”
“You mean I can’t keep the owl a secret?” Renala asked. “I thought we weren’t supposed to reveal things, even to other daemon knights.”
“Generally yes, and it won’t be common knowledge, but the administrators keep records that only the council of three and Turiel himself can look at. The only other people that will know will be whomever you tell.”
Once darkness had fallen they approached the road that stood as the border between the two lands. “Well I guess they learned their lesson from last time.” Angus whispered.
The road was just short of swarming with border guards. All of them were being terribly vigilant and all of them carried large automatic weapons. They looked along the trail to see if there was anywhere that crossing would be easier and it didn’t look like it. They had to duck back as a spotlight swept the are they occupied.
“I don’t think they learned their lesson.” Lethen said. “I think someone called ahead.”
* * * * *