Avenari - Chapter 28
Quelos hadn’t been kidding at all about Nick being a fire hose. When we came upon the lake, we were forced to skip across an assortment of boulders to avoid the rising tide. It bubbled up to form a stream, which cut across the path as it exceeded its flood plain.
“This is Nick?” I asked in disbelief. “What the hell is the Mississippi doing in Japan?”
“I’m not surprised,” Andris chuckled. “He has my blood, after all.”
“You are way too laid back about this!”
“It’s just a little water. He’ll learn how to control it soon enough.”
I shot him a frazzled glare and sped ahead, picking my way up the rocks until I reached the top, where I waited for them while taking stock of my surroundings.
The water flowed from a small, misty lake, running in torrents between the stones to collect into the stream. All around stood the monstrous trees, casting branches out over the still waters to capture what little space they could and seek life-giving light from the sun. However, it was night now, and the desperate limbs stood frozen above like a healing wound, shrouding the shoreline in hazy darkness as they attempted to swallow the sky.
Some distance from where I stood, I could see what appeared to be a waterspout gushing forth endlessly into the lake, so much that it had raised the waterline over a meter above the usual mark—as indicated by the flooded grass. That must have been Nick.
Quelos said almost cheerfully, “Let’s go say hello, shall we?”
A phantom arm slid around my waist to tug me forward, and I tilted my head back to stare up at my demon. He nodded towards the waterspout and gave me a twisted smile. “Don’t think you can escape my shackles so easily, Princess,” he teased as we followed the shore. “I’ll chase you wherever you may go.”
“You don’t have to chase me,” I said, lacing my fingers between his slender digits. “I wouldn’t run even if you paid me.”
He grinned and leaned down over my shoulder, baring rows of fangs like those of a wild beast. “You may think differently after seeing me fight.” He brushed his lips against the shell of my ear, making me shiver.
“I want to see it, you know—your full power,” I replied as casually as I could.
He chuckled and pulled away. “I can’t do that. It would give all control to my thirst, and I couldn’t possibly put your precious life at risk so haphazardly.” His hold tightened, and he added softly, “Anyway, I could release just a hundredth of my actual strength and still frighten you.”
“You underestimate me greatly, Andris.”
“No, I’m being practical. Right Quelos?” He cast a shrewd glance over to the lightning bug, who grinned darkly in response.
“He is Ambri-Qis, ojou-chan. Even I would back out of a serious battle. I’m the most powerful Elemental in Ivanarke, of the most unpredictable bloodline. My own powers are nothing to laugh at.” His golden eyes closed briefly, before peering again out into the darkness. “But Andris’ powers go far beyond my own.”
“I thought I told you not to call me that, Council dog,” Andris growled under his breath.
Quelos ignored him. “He could crush the whole world, with a little effort, of course. I’m glad he’s so introverted. Otherwise, we would never have existed, because there would be no world to claim as our own. It would be little more than a black hole.”
“A black hole,” I repeated. “You should be medicated, ‘cause you’re talking crazier than I ever do.”
“Quelos-sama is not lying,” murmured the softer voice of Akuro, who trailed lackadaisically behind. “Andris-sama is indeed powerful…and now Nick-kun has been given that power. The boy will be lucky to survive these first few days.”
Andris arm tensed almost imperceptibly, and I looked to find him frowning slightly at the waterspout in the distance. “Andris? You okay?”
His eyes narrowed, matching the color of the moon. “Akuro has a point. There are reasons why you don’t fledge a human after you’ve reached a certain level of power. Either Nick will control the energy I’ve given him, or the blood in his veins will be the cause of his demise.”
“He’ll do it,” I asserted, refusing to hear any nonsense. Andris was powerful, granted, and Nick had been frail as a mortal, but the kid had moxie. Sometimes, pigheadedness was the deciding factor in the battle between the mind and the blood. I knew this from experience.
“Oh, he’s finally getting a handle on it,” Quelos said suddenly, drawing my gaze to the diminishing spout of water. The way it shrank looked more like melting gelatin than abating water, but I discovered why when it finally ceased, the last of it spilling off to reveal the sputtering, shadowed form within.
Moments later, the faint breeze carried voices towards us.
“That was well done,” complimented the high, sweet voice of a Shima. “You have much potential.” Her signature flowed smoothly and gently, like the water at the lake’s shore, but even my eyes couldn’t see her face from this distance.
“Well done?!” demanded a haggard voice. The collapsed figure slowly rose up on its hands and knees, and then staggered uncertainly to its feet. “I nearly drowned! What the hell kind of potential is that?!”
“We do not drown, Nick-chan,” she responded calmly. “This is merely the beginning, yet you have managed to summon such a great quantity. Control comes later, after which you will be able to sharpen the water into blades and needles. It is one of the most powerful elements, much more versatile than many of the others, and capable of breaking through just about anything.”
“That’s if I can control this crazy power,” the kid said in barely-contained irritation.
“Yare yare. You should also learn to control your emotions.”
In a blink, the waterspout returned full-force, and at its center we could barely make out the silhouette of person trying to escape the torrent. Unfortunately, that person was the source, and thus remained engulfed. It seemed the water poured from his very skin.
“That looks kind of…scary,” I observed.
“If you think that’s bad, you should have seen me,” Quelos said. “I blew up half a Brood Manor. Accidentally. The kid’s lucky that water is so friendly in its natural state.”
“Natural state?” I repeated. “What do you mean by that?”
He pointed at Nick. “New Elementals’ powers behave the way nature intends. Right now, he’s summoning water, but the water is simply flowing to the pull of gravity, like a stream. When I started, I couldn’t form orbs because lightning’s natural behavior forces it to take the path of least electrical resistance.”
“You’re talking chemistry, aren’t you?” I muttered in distaste.
He grinned and snapped his fingers, calling up a spark of electricity, which swirled into a sizzling sphere that cast a flickering white and yellow light. “Chanto mitte, ojou-chan.” His hand wrapped around the lightning, squeezing it to about the size of a golf ball…and let go.
I flinched, thinking that I would explode, but when Andris chuckled, I looked again and found the golden sphere hovering casually in the air, completely content in such a tiny space.
“Don’t scare me like that!”
He gave me innocent eyes. “Who? Me? I’m simply showing you the difference between my level and the boy’s. He’ll be able to do similar things soon enough.”
I shot him a dirty look then doggedly continued onward with Andris in tow, until I reached the spot where Nick was still trying to rein in his powers.
They were fluctuating wildly, sometimes tearing out to follow their familiar course, though mostly just swirling around his body like an angry sea. They were used to having a better master, but once transferred to the body of someone so inexperienced, and altered to fit different triggers, they were attempting to take control of him, rather than let it go the other way.
“Have caution, Avenari-sama,” called the Shima. “His power is unstable.”
Andris said flatly, “My blood can sense its kin. He should calm down now that I’m here.”
“Ah, you must be Andris-sama.” Out of the canopy’s dense shadow stepped an elegant Shima with shimmering black hair straight to her waist and a pleasant smile. She gave a deep, respectful bow. “Hajimemashite. I am Mizumi, an Elemental of water. Your fledgling is impressive, if I may be so bold. Never have I seen such immediate grasp of summoning.”
Andris quirked a brow. “It’s only impressive if he can turn it off.” He sighed, letting me out of his grasp for once and approaching the edge of the flood. “Hey, kid. You’re embarrassing me. It’s not a puppy or a kitten—these powers are a wild beast. You can’t hurt energy, so don’t be afraid to use force…or are you too weak?”
Somehow, Nick managed to hear that last bit, because in an instant he was standing and shrugging off the last of the water, emerging bone-dry from his liquid cocoon. “Who’re you calling weak, asshole?” he growled. “It’s your fault I’m stuck in this situation.”
“If you’re that ungrateful, then see if you can hit me,” Andris taunted, a dangerous smirk playing across his lips. “If you can, then I won’t call you weak ever again.”
“Oh, no, you don’t! I’m not falling for that lame-ass trick,” he shot back. “I couldn’t possibly care less about what you think.”
“Then why are you so angry?” whispered the ancient, flashing his fangs like the arrogant bastard he could be when he had a mind for it.
Nick blinked, then gritted his teeth and glared poison daggers at my blood partner. “Because your presence pisses me off.”
Now what on earth had happened to his “live and let live” strategy? Maybe the training was a little tougher than it looked. I frowned at Andris, wishing he wouldn’t bait the kid like that.
The ancient, however, had a plan. “You’re so angry that you just forced all of the power to bend to your will,” he informed the kid. “It isn’t that you can’t control your power—you just weren’t exercising enough willpower. You don’t know how to stop it unless you have to, because letting it go just feels too good…correct?”
The words seemed to strike a chord, and Nick’s glare eased to little more than a disgruntled frown. “Y-yeah…it’s not like anything I’ve ever felt.”
Andris nodded sagely. “My powers are exactly the same. They move like water, even though they’re not. It’s because my triggers are fire and ice. Having opposing triggers means they turn into something completely different. Letting them go wild is one of the greatest feelings imaginable.” He frowned then, giving Nick a hard look. “However, as with my powers, releasing yours can cause injury to those around you. It is therefore necessary to exert your will to limit your Nariuvni power.”
Nick looked to the ground in unease. “How do you control yours?”
“Mine require actual energy to fall into order, seeing as how they are basically pure chaos when placed in the same body. Yours, however, should be a little easier.”
“How? It’s like a tidal wave! Flip a switch and suddenly you’re Niagara Falls!” He folded his arms and glared expectantly at his Maker. “If you’re so smart, what would you do?”
Andris chuckled. “Simple. What governs the behavior of normal water? What makes a river flow or the tides rise?”
The kid paused. “What? Like…gravity?”
“Precisely. Shimari trigger powers are limited by the energies in this world. Gravity rules water—it’s a force with the ability to affect its surroundings. In order to master water, you must master the one thing which the water will obey. In my case, I manipulate magnetic fields. My powers are like plasma, so that’s the only way to make them behave.”
Uncertain, Nick looked to Mizumi for confirmation. “Is he telling the truth?”
She smiled and gave a short nod. “By adding your will to natural energies, you may bend them to your will, and the water will follow your command. It takes time, but can be mastered.”
“Huh. Then how do I do that?”
“That will come later. First, you need practice in banishing the water you have summoned. You can start with this small flood. Just think like gravity, or magnets.”
The kid grimaced. “I don’t even know how that would work.”
“You will learn.” She smiled, and something about her smile made me worry for Nick’s safety, but…well, she was the master, after all. It was only natural that she knew more about this than anyone else…I hoped.
“So have your fears been assuaged, or are you going to delay our fun even longer, ohime-sama?” asked Quelos. The ball lightning floated around him in lazy circles like a wayward spirit and cast flickering light that accentuated the boredom on his face. His hand rested on the pommel of his blade, drumming his fingers across the leather binding.
“Quit calling me random Japanese things!” I snapped. “Nick’s in capable hands. Let’s go.” Thoroughly ruffled, I turned on my heel and stalked away. Nick wished me luck as I went, and I sighed inwardly. He needed it more than I did.
Really, after seeing Nick’s training, I wondered what these insane Elementals were going to do to me. They made a good point: I had no experience whatsoever in standing against my kind. I could handle Sam’s tantrums easily, and Andris was only well-behaved because he loved me, but against someone who intended to take my life…
I could only hope that my amulet-to-be would grant me the ability to protect myself.
“You seem rather tense, Princess,” Andris’ voice whispered at my shoulder.
Frowning, I turned to him. He walked just behind me, leaning over to put his cheek to mine and listen to my worries. “Do you really think I can learn enough in less than a week to be of any use to you?” I asked.
He blinked in blatant surprise. “You’re not afraid, are you? Smile for me, Princess. I won’t have any fun showing off if you spend the whole time frowning like that.” Like a brush of wind, his lips caught mine and slipped away when he disappeared.
I leered at my other side as his arm wrapped around my waist. “You’re not taking me seriously.”
“I’m taking you very seriously,” he said. “I just feel that the easiest way to light your fire is to show you how powerful you could become.”
“You can’t possibly believe that I’ll ever reach your level.”
He chuckled, tilting his head to rest his temple against my hair. “Lynn, I have seen the power of your bloodlines. Not only do you descend from the most powerful Shimari line, but you are the culmination of Plorávero strength.” Fondly, he planted a kiss on the top of my head. “I sense sleeping power in your veins. You won’t disappoint me, my Princess.”
My sweet demon…I couldn’t imagine him as a monster. The contrary was obviously well-chronicled, but in the face of his current personality, this gentle support at my side, my heart didn’t believe that he was capable of such atrocities. Love really was blind. I only hoped that the evil within him would stay there, tucked away like a volatile, caged beast.
Back in the clearing, Quelos and Akuro flipped a coin to see who got to fight Andris first. Both seemed eager to hone their skills on someone so powerful, though Akuro was much more reserved about it. It made me wonder whether they were getting tired of being the Emperor’s weapons. He clearly wasn’t giving them much to do, and now Andris had to deal with them.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have any faith in my blood partner, but I could still remember what his thirst was like. If Andris’ inner monster managed to break free, the lightning bugs and I would be knee-deep in chaos. We may as well have been prodding a crocodile with a sharp stick.
“Yatta!” crowed Quelos, grinning like a madman and drawing his sword with an effortless sweep. The sheath spun through the air when he threw it, and landed on a patch of fallen needles beside the ancient, gray marble bench I had claimed as my seat. He’d won the toss, and Akuro came to join me and patiently wait for his turn. The Maker took the blade between his fangs and held it there while he undid the robe and slipped it off, revealing rather modern-looking apparel underneath: a scarlet dress shirt and comfortable jeans.
“He’s a little on the crazy side, isn’t he?” I asked, trying to break the awkward silence.
Akuro frowned. “He is a pig-headed fool. I anticipate the day I may crush him.”
“Huh?” He sent it so far foul that for a moment I just stared, nonplussed. “But he turned you, right?” Andris and the lightning bug started discussing the rules, which gave me some time to figure out Akuro.
“What about this fact requires that I should revere him in any way?” He turned his reserved gaze on me, making the metallic golden sheen of his eyes spark in the light.
Akuro was really pretty. Andris was pretty, but pretty the way a guy could be pretty—male enough to never be mistaken for a girl. The fledgling lightning bug, however…honestly, I kind of wanted to see him in a dress.
Ugh, I felt so dirty all of a sudden.
“Well, aren’t you glad he turned you?” I pressed, ignoring my brain’s weird tangent.
“He? Not in the least. That I was turned at all—I do not regret it.”
“Why does he bother you so much?” I asked, completely baffled. Akuro had no qualms about becoming a Shimare, so there really was no reason for him to dislike Quelos. It wasn’t like Andris and Nick, whose animosity stemmed from forced blood.
“Yatsu wa watashi no ani desu kara. Shizen na koto sa.”
“Er, you’re not going to repeat that in English, are you?”
“That is not my intention, no.”
“Nice.” Sighing, I tried my best not to let his attitude—or lack thereof, perhaps?—get to me, and focused my attention on the squabbling pair in the middle of the training lawn.
As ridiculous as it sounded, I had no choice but to believe my faithful ears, and stared as Quelos tried to argue that both of them should be allowed to use their powers.
“No powers!” I shouted at the top of my lungs, jerking a condemning finger at my blood partner. “You are not going to cause an incident on my watch, you hear me, Andy?!” If they did that, who knew how far the Elemental would try to push it?
He gave me a disarming pout, making my heart skip several beats. “Princess, you do me a disservice. I’m not that crazy…unless Quelos leaves me no choice, of course.”
“A-anyway, you shouldn’t take unnecessary risks!” I said, folding my arms across my stomach and avoiding the knowing smirk on his face.
“She has a point,” he said to Quelos, the smile in his voice unmistakable.
“That’s boring, though,” argued the lightning bug. He snapped his fingers, and a spark of electricity leapt to the blade, following his touch and throwing charged light around the glimmering steel. Threads of energy crackled along the katana, making the blade vibrate like the whine of a mosquito. “Come on. It’s been at least a century since the last time I had a proper duel. Shoubu da, Kurenai-sama.”
I glanced at Andris, and he watched me with carmine rings in his gaze. Princess…nobody will get hurt. You might just enjoy it.
Your eyes are red. Scary red. Can you swear to me that you won’t let your bad side out of its cage? One condition. Fine. I would let them have their fun under that one condition.
I swear on this heart that I’ve given to you, he said, offering a gentle smile before turning to Quelos with his sword drawn. “I have my permission. Shall we?” He flashed wicked fangs in a baiting grin, clearly eager for a chance to blow off some steam.
“That’s more like it,” the Elemental chuckled, grasping the leather grip tightly in both hands as the sword shimmered and crackled with power. “Don’t hold back, now.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Andris slid one foot forward and held the sword up over his shoulder, similar to how one would hold a bat, but with his right hand flat against the pommel and the blade pointed straight back, exactly level with the ground.
His lids fell closed as he dropped the binds holding his power in check, and within seconds the entire clearing overflowed with raw energy—a living, breathing, invisible magma flow at his beck and call. If I concentrated on the air around him, I could see the lamplight bending as it went through the dense power. In some concentrated spots, it even gave off a dark red glow, the way it had during his little skirmish with Atreus.
This only seemed to excite the lightning bug, and without warning Quelos attacked.
Both of them vanished, leaving sparks of electricity and fire whenever the blades clashed, the only indication of where they had been half a second earlier. Andris’ power swirled in one great movement, following its source as though he were the eye of a hurricane. Bolts of lightning crashed out in all directions from seemingly everywhere, deafening and awesome to behold.
Goosebumps rose on my arms and neck, and I stared agape at the seemingly tireless movements of both fighters. I could see now why Atreus had decided not to go against Quelos’ demands. Quelos was a wild creature, unbound by thought in the midst of a fight. He simply acted in his instincts, following the path chosen by the animal in his blood.
“I suspect that Andris is holding back,” said Akuro, his pale gold eyes following the match much more easily than I could. “That, or he is not as powerful as we had hoped.”
“Andris says there’s a lot more to it. I haven’t seen it, but that’s what he claims.”
“I suppose, but Quelos-sama may feel insulted that Andris is not taking him seriously.”
Uncertain, I gave him a cautious stare. “What will he do? He seems like a berserker.”
“He is indeed. I may have to take you a bit further away if my Maker decides to step up his attack.” His hand slid around the sheathed scimitar’s grip, betraying his eagerness.
I turned back to the fight, but flinched when the ground exploded not twenty feet away, raining gravel and dirt down on us. Shocked, I stared at the crater it left behind, deeper than I was tall, and wide enough to swallow a rhinoceros. The base of the hole gave off the acrid scent of burning mulch and molten rock, as well as a fading orange glow.
“Should we back up now?” I asked, startled that the two of them were so absorbed in the fight that they would come so close to where we sat.
Akuro shook his head with a faint smirk. “Oh, they are simply warming up. You likely cannot see it, but they are containing the fight within a small barrier of energy. Only if they break out of that barrier should we give them more space.”
So that was why Andris’ power wasn’t making my bones rattle. “Er, right. Okay.”
Someone out of visible range would have thought that a herd of rampaging elephants had gone mad in the clearing, frightened by an erupting volcano and a thunderstorm. Up close, however, it was more amazing to know that only two people caused the noise and explosions.
In the span of a second, three more craters blasted out near the middle of the clearing, making the earth beneath buck and shudder under the force of their consecutive impacts. The lanterns seemed redundant with brilliant lightning flashing around like strobe lights in a nightclub, as well as the lazy glow of superheated dirt and stone effusing from the holes in the ground. The concussions alone drowned out the clanging of their swords.
“Time to move,” Akuro said, standing and brushing the dirt from his robe.
“Already?” I demanded, hurrying after him as he quickly vacated the bench and headed for one about fifty feet further back.
There was a loud explosion behind me, and I felt the rush of air as flames consumed all available oxygen in the vicinity. Hot ash and stone pelted my hair like hellfire rain. Shivering, I looked over my shoulder and found yet another crater where the solid bench had once stood.
I didn’t need further motivation, practically scrambling for the relative safety of the other bench and hiding behind Akuro. I gripped his sleeve until my fingers hurt, and peered around him as the fight expanded. “This is insane!” I cried, unable to control the tremor in my voice.
A soft weight fell on my head, and I looked up to see Akuro smiling faintly at me, his delicate hand brushing ash from my hair. “Your blood partner will not harm you. No matter how deeply he falls into the darkness, your bond shall keep him from putting your life at risk.”
“Yeah, but…I don’t want either of them to get hurt.” He had a nice smile.
“Have a seat, ojou-chan. It will be over soon, and I have far more control over my actions, so you may move in closer when it is my turn.”
“Do you think you can win?” Reluctantly, I moved out from behind him and sat down.
Once certain that I had calmed, he took the spot beside me and replied, “I do not go into sparring matches under the pretense of competition. It is practice—far easier to follow than the sporadic attacks of my Maker.”
Oh. Well, that was good to know. “Thanks,” I sighed, finally letting go of my anxiety and watching the indecipherable storm grow even more indecipherable. Dust from the explosions had blocked our view, so only our ears and spatial senses could tell us what was going on.
“While we are waiting, I should ask,” Akuro said, keeping his eyes on the flickering shadows and bursts of light as he spoke. “Which blade do you wish to use?”
I studied the array of weapons. Something long would just hinder me, but something too short wouldn’t give me a decent range. At last, my eyes rested on an elegant blade shaped like the barbed end of a fishhook. The grip was bound in black eel skin leather, and the guard curved over it slightly. Light shimmered off of the honed edges, and the slender hook swept down towards the grip, sharp as a needle. Shiny steel hooks clasped the spherical stone at the pommel, anchoring it tightly in place as it gave off a rosy sheen in the lamplight.
I’d never seen anything like it before—similar, yes, but nothing so beautifully crafted.
“The one that looks like part of a fishhook, without a sheath. How heavy is it?”
“Forged by one of the greatest Shimari smiths, Zanthir Srissello,” he observed. “The length is good, and it is one of the lightest, strongest blades in our armory. It suits you.”
“Really?” I glanced back at him. He wore another faint smile.
“The name is Shinryu. Once you have come into your Avenari powers, and considering your triggers, that sword should suit you rather nicely.”
“Can I take it with me to fight Tivor? Like Andris?”
“It is yours if the sword wants you as a master.”
I blinked, not quite sure of his meaning. “Master? How does that work?”
He indicated the ebbing storm of the battle before us. “Quelos-sama was chosen by the blade he wields, just as Andris was chosen by his. Both were made by the same Shimari craftsman, hundreds of years ago.”
“Andris was chosen? What?”
“You will try to pick up Shinryu, and if the blade wants you, then you will know. If the blade has other ideas, you will also know.”
“Right…okay.” I would just have to take his word for it.
The match between seemed to be reaching a conclusion. I could see them now: a pair of hazy figures flitting about within the cloud of dust, ash, and power. Energy shimmered around Andris’ form, and Quelos stood at the core of a thousand dancing sparks.
It was like watching a blender on liquefy. Blades flashed in the moonlight as they arced gracefully through the air, both of them baring their fangs in wicked excitement. Andris’ eyes glowed like burning embers through garnet, leaving trails of light as he moved effortlessly with every swing. Quelos’ eyes remained hidden behind the sizzling storm of electricity.
Despite how overwhelming the prospect seemed, I couldn’t deny that watching Andris spar with the Elemental made me wonder whether I could really learn how to do things like that. As a child, I had been quick to fight with the other kids whenever they bullied me, but it had never been like this. My teachers had always called them brawls—fights spawned by anger.
But this…this was beautiful.
“Ah, they have finished.”
“Eh?” I looked to Akuro, then the match. “They’re still fighting, though.”
Smiling again, he shook his head. “No, they are finished.”
Sure enough, while I watched in curiosity the motions eventually stopped. It took some time, but the dust at last began to settle, and I could see the two of them standing at the center of the clearing, their swords pointed at the ground.
Quelos’ hair stuck up more than usual, and his pale skin was coated in a fine layer of particulate, yet he grinned as though Christmas had come early. “Now that was a fight,” he said.
“You cut me,” Andris said, swinging the sword up to rest it flat on his shoulder. A line of red trickled down his neck from a healing cut. “I haven’t fought like that in a while.”
Quelos looked at his blade in interest and caught a drop of blood from the edge with his tongue. “Vulun-ris? Interesting. That would explain your scent. Chigui works for you, then.”
Andris glanced to the sword in his hand. “The blade, you mean? Is that its name?”
The lightning bug nodded. “Yours is Chigui, ‘blood eater,’ and mine is Raikou, named for my Elemental abilities. Same weapons smith, too—though, I had mine commissioned.”
“Interesting.” My demon spun the blade a bit, faster than I could follow. “I like it.”
“So, you ready for round two with Akuro?”
Andris laughed. “Could I have a short break, first?”
“I guess.” Quelos shrugged, setting his own blade on his shoulder and turning to the bench. “Wow, we made a mess of the training grounds,” he commented in passing.
Smiling to himself, the Crimson followed behind, grinning broadly when he met my startled eyes. “Hello, Princess. Did you enjoy the show?”
“That was insane,” I said, returning the smile. Impulsively, I jumped to my feet and tackled him to the ground, forcing him to drop the sword at the last moment and catch me.
“You’re certainly in a good mood.” He rose to his elbows as I straddled his lap and rested my hands against the pounding pulse in his chest. “I could teach you if you feel up to it,” he said.
His eyes were dark pinpoints in ruby pools, still giving off their eerie light, and I touched his cheek. “Usually, that color is bad,” I said thoughtfully. “Last time, you went a little crazy.”
I’m fine, thanks to you. Smiling, he tugged me to his lips and gave me a long, hungry kiss, drinking me deep before trailing to my throat and scratching his fangs across my skin. This is what keeps me sane. You are my only source of happiness, cara mea.
“Um, we’re right here,” muttered Quelos.
“Give them a moment, onii-sama,” Akuro said patiently. “They are newly bonded. Tearing them from each other would be cruel...though, I suppose that does not matter to you.”
“You trying to pick a fight?”
“Nothing of the sort. It is simple observation.”
“No, you’re trying to pick a fight.”
“Bakabakashi. Kinosei desu.”
“Shinitee no ka, temee?!”
“Chigaimasu. Is it a crime to give sound advice?”
Distracted by the semi-coherent argument, Andris let out a soft growl and left my throat. “Why is it that you two are fighting at every opportunity? You’re ruining my mood.”
“Direct your ire toward my Maker,” Akuro said. “He is the one twisting my comments.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful. Put the blame on me, you impudent fledgling. Where’s the gratitude? I saved your life, in case you forgot.”
“It is in your nature to overstep your bounds, and thus I am left to pick up after you. Pardon me if my patience wears thin, onii-sama.”
“Zettai korosu!” Like...well, a bolt of lightning, actually, Quelos’ sword whipped up, and he lunged towards his fledgling for a killing blow.
Andris and I sat stunned as the lightning bugs flew into sudden, frenzied battle. Both had charged their swords, and the static in the air grew to the point where Andris’ hair began to stand on end. I would have laughed, but it really did seem as though the pair would fight to the death.
The match between Quelos and Andris had been fascinating, yes, but that was just sparring. When Maker and fledgling fought, it was war.
“Lynn!” Andris didn’t give me a chance to respond as he simply picked me up and quickly put a safe distance between them and us.
An enormous, sizzling ball of electrical energy snapped into existence around the lightning bugs, making it impossible to see what exactly was going on. We could hear the swords humming with power and clanging together, but we couldn’t tell who was winning. Energy flowed throughout, treating them like opposite poles on a magnet as the sphere grew.
“Are they crazy?!” I demanded, only then realizing that Andris was still holding me. However, I made no move to escape. The closer I was to him, the better my chances of survival.
“There seems to be some bad blood between them,” he said, shrugging to convey his uncertainty on the matter. Having only just met them, it was difficult to form an educated guess.
“Yeah, no kidding.” Concerned, I watched the glowing sphere expand to brush against the far end of the clearing, and one of the monster trees burst into flame. “Hey, won’t that make Tatsune mad?” I asked slowly.
“Can you stop them?”
He looked at me, then at the explosive, apocalyptic lightning ball—then back at me and gave another shrug. “Sure, if I had the mind to.”
“Then stop the crazy bastards before they burn down the Brood Manor!”
“But it’s fascinating to watch. Lightning powers are rare, so I’ve never seen a fight between two people who possessed such abilities. Anyway, Ivanarke won’t burn down. It has so many wards guarding it that even a cockroach wouldn’t be able to sneak in without permission.”
I glared at him. “Andy, stop them. I’m not getting killed over some ridiculous, petty fight between two stubborn vampires.”
He gave me a disappointed frown, but sighed and set me on my feet. “As you wish, but expect a hefty price for my services.”
“Whatever. Sex, right?”
“Not exactly, but I’ll explain later.” Without elaborating further, he picked his sword back up. “Sit tight, Princess. It shouldn’t take long.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” I muttered.
I sat back down on the far bench and watched Andris’ powers swirl around him as he approached the gigantic bubble of lightning. I didn’t doubt his abilities…but still, in a hidden part of my mind, I hoped he made it better and not worse. I was reluctant to send that chaos demon to fix an already chaotic situation.
I had to admit, however, that it would be interesting.