Arc II - Bonding
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Syranon stood several meters from Ryodalin and bore a somewhat resigned look. When his first Bondmate, Sukina Lashiec, had asked to join him for his morning trainings with Ryodalin, he saw no problem with the request. In fact, if he had been open, he was somewhat excited to have another friend there to counter his human one's aggression.
His enthusiasm hit a sturdy wall several days later, however, when his Bondmate had brought along her sister Amethyst. To top even that, it seemed Teodora had decided to join them as well, looking nearly as perturbed as Amethyst. The two rivals were standing off to the side with Sukina while Syranon and Ryodalin sparred, casting glares at him and his Bondmate. Syranon raised the wooden staff he was using today and blocked a vicious kick from the redhead with it. Using the force of the impact, he leapt back to create some distance between the two of them before leaping in, using the tip of his weapon like a spear.
Ryodalin saw his move coming and rotated on one foot to let the wooden tool pass by her untouched and shoved her elbow forward along its length, impacting square in the center of his chest and driving the wind from his lungs. "You're picking up speed again,
Syranon, though you're still not as fast as you were a few years ago," the human said while he caught his breath. "You also seem to be doing significantly better the past few days. I imagine your Bond has something to do with that?"
"That's what Suko said, yes," he gasped. "It's supposed to make me a bit more capable physically." Straightening, he propped the staff across his shoulders and rested his arms on it. "It seems to, so far. I certainly recovered faster than I used to."
"So you're telling me I can train you even harder?" Ryodalin's grin had a hint of malice to it. At his worried expression she shook her head. "Don't worry. You're still having trouble keeping up with just this much, we'll step it up gradually."
Eyebrow raised, Amethyst noted something of interest. "Wait a minute, why didn't your elbow hit a barrier? Aren't you wearing the training amulets?"
The human shook her head in response. "No, there's no need for them. The amulets are great training tools and we don't use magic or real weapons without wearing them. This training, on the other hand, is strictly to improve physique and melee technique, which is not dangerous outside of some bruises. I find those to be useful reminders of what NOT to do in a fight."
"Syranon seems to have a lot more reminders than you do, Ryodalin. I could almost feel some of the hits myself," said Sukina, holding a clutched hand to her chest.
Shrugging, the beastman responded to his Bondmate. "Ryo is still a much better fighter than I am, and in overall superior condition still. It makes sense that way."
Teodora stifled a yawn, bored with the fighting. "It'll be embarrassing having to Bond to someone who can't even win a round in hand to hand. Make sure you keep practicing, beastman."
"My magic is normally more than enough to offset that," he said, hurt. "Ryo's a better melee fighter, but my magic gives me the edge overall." The redhead gave a grudging nod of agreement at his statement in support.
"True, I suppose that's your saving grace as a partner. I just forgot since you haven't been using spells much." The smaller demoness cast another glance at Sukina before saying more. "Maybe you won't make such a bad Bondmate after all. Suko seems none the worse for the experience."
The younger Lashiec blushed and looked at the ground. "Well, I am feeling more my best since, almost energized in a way. And it was kind of nice being held during the ritual."
"I guess father did mention he had a gallant manner about him. It seems true so far. Well, if I can't have a prince or noble for my Bonding, I can settle for more of a knight. We can always work him up to standards after. Think of it as trading up in the world, beastman."
"I'm thrilled to know how much you think of me," the beastman muttered with a resigned sigh. He was glad that Sukina was doing better, but he felt that the Bonding was drawing more attention to him than he was comfortable with. Especially from Amethyst, whose glares could have penetrated stone during the present conversation. "At least, having been through it once already, I know what to expect when the next time comes."
A sudden thwack on the back of his head from Ryodalin brought him back to the present business of training. "That's enough for now. Back to sparring. I want you to switch out that staff for a sword. You've always been better with a longsword over those polearms."
Nodding, Syranon did as instructed, readying himself. Ryodalin took the lead this time, leaping in with two shorter lengths of wood. Between the two weaponed assault the male was pressed hard on the defensive. To his credit, however, the observers could see a clear difference in his performance when he switched. The gap in his skill between
different weapons was enough to make them wonder why he seemed to prefer the staff.
"This is much more like it," the human smiled, momentarily locked in contact. One weapon was being blocked by her opponent's sword and the other was caught out of range, Syranon's forearm pressing against hers inside the short blade's arc. "You ARE getting better!"
"Th-thanks," he grunted back. A bead of sweat rolled down his face. "Still a strain, though, but at least I can hold my own better."
Ryodalin's grin curved further. "Don't get a big head, you can't beat me yet!" She raised a leg between the two of them and shoved her foot against his middle, pushing him severely off balance. His opponent took advantage of the opening and showed her full abilities, leaping forward so swiftly that the beastman couldn't react. He hit the ground on his back hard from her full bodied lunge and coughed. Before he could even try to recover she was kneeling over him with a wooden blade at his throat. "You're nowhere near ready still, Syranon."
"Noted," he managed. His childhood friend withdrew her weapon and patted his heaving chest before rolling backwards off of him into a flip. He got to his feet more casually, winded from the impact. It was less than a minute before he recovered, though, and scratched the back of his head. "Another round, then? We've got time, and I imagine you're not done getting your licks in on me while you can."
"Is that a challenge, Syranon? How rare of you - I suppose I'll have to knock such confidence back to its proper level."
Over to the side, a glowering Amethyst spoke up before they could re-engage each other. "Wait a minute. I think I want to try this." She cracked her knuckles with a grin, looking at Syranon.
He grimaced, shaking his head. "What? If I can't even beat Ryo, how am I gonna fight a demon? Even if you're not as fast, I doubt I can even cause a bruise on you!"
The human rubbed her chin in thought about the offer. "That might not be a bad idea. While I prefer to train you myself, you might get used to my fighting habits and get into a pattern, predictable. In combat, being predictable is death. Sparring with others could help keep you from getting stuck in that kind of rut. Go ahead, demon. Just remember it's a practice."
"Sure, sure," Amethyst said, waving a hand in dismissal. "You ready, cat?"
"I asked you to stop calling me that," he muttered, holding his wooden sword in a guard. His opponent charged towards him with one fist cocked back, clearly telegraphing her intended action. Angling his sword he made to block her strike with it and nearly dropped it in surprise at the sheer force of the impact, even when holding it in a parrying position. I was right. She's much slower than Ryo, I can react more quickly than her. She's also significantly stronger.
A scowl covered his face as he strained against the older succubus. He saw her other fist flying towards him and crouched to let it swish past his shoulder, feeling the wind of its passage. The action also let him stop competing in regards to strength for the moment and he kept the sword held up, stepping forward to swipe at her inside her guard. Much to his surprise the wood made contact, dragging along the front of her uniform and popping a button off.
The demoness leapt back, feeling the damage to her uniform with a scowl. "Hey, watch the merchandise!"
He blinked in confusion at her comment. "What? We're sparring, this happens. Why do you think Ryo and I were wearing these padded overcoats for this? I thought you went without by choice."
"It isn't like *I* need one. I just wasn't expecting you to damage my uniform. Especially right around here," she grinned, pushing up on her chest. "Or maybe you were aiming there intentionally?"
"More like he couldn't hit anything else, you overgrown cow," shot Teodora from the side.
"He's probably had his fill of your size from Bonding with Suko!"
Amethyst's face grew dark, a mild tightness in her chest throwing her mood. "That's right, I still don't appreciate that. You still don't have my approval for being so close to my sister."
"It was my choice to go ahead with it, too," said the younger Lashiec in her friend's defense. "You promised you wouldn't be mad when I talked with you about it!"
"I'm not MAD," Amethyst grinned, her teeth grinding. "Let's continue the practice, then!"
As she finished her last sentence she sprang forward again, launching a spinning kick towards the beastman's head that he deflected with a narrow margin. She followed it up with another kick from her other leg that caught him in the stomach. Syranon was driven backwards with a 'whuf' of exhaled air and left open to a follow-up assault, which the succubus took full advantage of.
Black sclera marked her choice to increase her power for a particularly vicious punch with her whole weight behind it. The beastman, off balance, took the full brunt of it in the center of his chest, incidentally right over the spot that Asmodeus had used to expose his Heartcore for the ritual. Perhaps, if it was a practice where he knew he would have reason to be concerned, he might have been ready to cast the Aegis spell when she attacked. Perhaps.
As things stood, he was not.
Amethyst's punch lifted him fully from his feet. Shocked at the unexpected ferocity of her blow, the beastman flew backwards several meters before landing with jarring force and tumbling backwards several more, crashing into the weapon rack holding the other wooden training weapons. The rack itself splintered and collapsed on him, burying his upper torso amidst its contents. A low groan issued from the aching male.
"Oops," said his opponent, lacking any sincerity. Linking her hands behind her head, she started to return to the sidelines when Sukina rushed past her. The older sister blinked in surprise at this. "Wha-?"
"Syranon! Are you alright?!" Sukina knelt down next to his prone form, shoving wood off of him. Once cleared she kept a hand on his back for support as he sat up holding his head. He tried to nod and only winced during the motion, prompting the pink haired demoness to glare at her sister. "Amethyst! What's wrong with you?! You really hurt him, that was completely uncalled for!"
"Guess I overestimated the cat. He'll be fine, I'm sure."
Sukina continued to glare at her sister, feeling an ache in her own chest from the blow.
"Amethyst, that hurt ME, too."
"I already told you I could almost feel the blows earlier. That one...you hit him hard enough that I definitely felt something. MY chest hurts from it." She adjusted her grip on the injured beastman to stop him when he attempted to move around. "Wait a minute, Syranon. You should heal yourself before getting up." After taking a moment he nodded in agreement and held a hand up to his injuries, outlined in a white glow.
The older Lashiec blinked in confusion. "Wait, you're serious? I hurt YOU? But...how?! You must have been imagining it because of that Bond, you know I wouldn't try to hurt you."
"You should know as well as I do that the effects of the Bond aren't fully known. It feels like I may well have a bruise now."
Amethyst's expression fell at her sister's explanation and continued to plummet at an outburst of malicious laughter from the sidelines. Teodora was nearly doubled over, trying to speak. "You...I can't believe you would let yourself go so far! Oh hells, hurting your own sister because of a grudge against the only one of us she could have Bonded with, that's too good! You really are a careless brute!"
"I...I..." she tried to find words to defend herself with but failed. "I didn't think it would affect her, too."
"Either way it seems that it did," noted Ryodalin, standing with her arms crossed. "And that was excessive for his level of ability anyway. If you can't hold back, you shouldn't participate in training without the amulets."
The succubus' teeth ground against each other in frustration and shame. "No, I can manage. I just got...carried away this time."
"We'll see," sighed the redhead. "It looks like it will have to wait until tomorrow, the instructors are coming." With Ryodalin moving over to help Sukina pull the beastman to his feet and Teodora moving to speak with her father, Amethyst was left alone with her thoughts.