Some would suggest that I was absent for three weeks. I would suggest that I, uh... the Wyld! Pineapples with teeth! The Lemur is Earthbending!
Alina watched from the edge of the clearing as Sesus Gavrin called the Wyld Hunt back, clearing an area fifty yards across. Citrios stopped on one side, settling back into the Fire Dragon Form, as Lodaris approached from the other side, flames flickering around each Dynast as they prepared to fight.
â€œAre you ready, boy?â€ Lodaris smiled grimly, flames rising around him as his stance shifted, subtle nuances evoking the Fire Dragon in his features. Citrios could feel the righteous fury of Heshiah in his sifuâ€™s bearing, but he brought his swords around, letting fire wrap around them as he leapt forwards, his swords sweeping in from either side towards his foe. Steel clashed on steel, throwing sparks, and the two combatants broke apart.
â€œWhy, sifu?â€ Citrios kicked out suddenly, sweeping his leg around as he brought his swords together for a single strike. Lodaris backflipped with surprising agility, bringing his swords down and around in midair to drive Citriosâ€™s apart, sending each an inch wide of his legs, before landing and propelling himself forwards.
â€œA little knowledge is a dangerous thing, boy.â€ Flames met one another as the two animas blazed. Alina was forced to look away, and her fist clenched as she watched the two break apart again. A burn scar ran down Citriosâ€™s arm, but he leapt forwards again, as Lodaris kicked outwards, knocking his swords wide. â€œAnd a lot of knowledge is even more dangerous.â€
â€œThatâ€™s not an answer!â€ Citrios backpedalled for a moment, before letting his swords coil with flame. Running forwards, he brought his swords around in a scissor-move, only to find each blade batted aside. A moment later, Lodaris staggered backwards from a boot to the chest, even as his own sword connected solidly with Citriosâ€™s armour. For a moment, the two soldiers watched each other, and then Lodaris sighed.
â€œI pray that it is the only answer you ever get, or need, boy.â€ Abruptly, Lodaris tossed his left sword in the air, and his hand shot out, slamming into Citriosâ€™s armour with brutal force. Bluish light spread around him, and he backflipped away from Citriosâ€™s return swing with a sad smile, letting the light fade into himself as he caught the sword on the drop. Citrios raised an eyebrow, and then smiled grimly, stepping backwards once more.
â€œYouâ€™re training in Water Dragon, master? I would not have expected it of you.â€ He stepped forwards, his blades whirling in a dance of steel. â€œI would have thought earth would be more your style.â€
â€œSometimes, one must learn to adapt.â€ Lodarisâ€™s face was solemn, and he charged forwards, Essence coiling in his swords as they blazed brighter again. His slash caught Citrios across the chest, and the younger Exalt tumbled backwards, rolling to his feet with a groan. â€œYou, for example, need to learn to let go.â€ His eyes bored into Citrios. â€œIâ€™m not your Sifu. Iâ€™m your opponent. Youâ€™re not exerting yourselfâ€¦ and now itâ€™s too late.â€
Citrios raised his swords as Lodaris leapt, flames ebbing and flowing like the tide as they pulsed through his feet, leaping outwards as he closed the distance to knock Citriosâ€™s swords aside. At the last instant, as Alina watched in horror, the flames pulled back, but their essence flows held, and Citrios tumbled backwards from the force of the blow, rolling head over heels to the edge of the cleared area, his anima reducing to a normal flicker of flame.
Landing easily, Lodaris turned to face the Hunt. â€œWell?â€ His voice was grim. â€œIf you want to fight a true master, I wonâ€™t stop you.â€
As everyone stared in shock, Alina ran forwards, grabbing Citrios under the shoulders. Ignoring the flames licking at her skin, she dragged him backwards, as Gavrin yelled an order to attack. Letting go, she winced in sympathy as Citriosâ€™s eyes fluttered open, then gasped as he tried to lever himself to his feet, only to collapse once again. â€œMaster, you have to stay down. Thereâ€™s nothing more you can do.â€
â€œHe could haveâ€¦ killed me. I have to helpâ€¦â€ Citriosâ€™s voice was weak, and Alina saw his destiny unfolding as easily as if it had been a vision. In a moment, he would recover enough strength to stand, and would try to fight. He would turn against the Hunt. He had said it himself â€“ he would die for his old master.
â€œNo.â€ Tears glittered in Alinaâ€™s eyes. Behind her, she heard the sound of battle joined, as Lodaris levelled a punch at one soldier that dropped six more, as waves of Essence radiated outwards from the point of impact. The magnitude of what she had to do stunned her, but she could see no other solution. The Dragon-Blooded would be dauntless in their investigation if she went ahead, and her secret was too thinly covered here. But if she did not, she would lose him.
The prophecy had been at least half true. Despite her hopes, she couldnâ€™t keep him with her.
â€œI love you, Citrios.â€ Ignoring the flames curling around him, she bent over and kissed him, long and hard. Then she stood, and, with a single swift manuever, kicked him in the back of the head as he tried to rise. Citrios collapsed back to the ground, unconscious, as Alina called her chakram to her and set herself into the Air Dragon Form.