Razark led Dee and Nessera towards the side of the temple where a dozen people of various races where going through moves in unison. To Dee the process seemed odd, as it seemed like something committed to rote memory. She also noted some inefficiency in the movements that was not just the result of students being unable to perform the moves correctly. In fact it was fairly clear none of the people going through the movements could be considered as mere students as they moved with fluid grace and held a fair bit of power within them. She decided there must be some other reason the movements were not optimal.
Razark only gave the people a quick glance before moving towards a man standing near the edge of the stone platform the people were practicing on. The man looked like a member of the same race as Razark with the same sharp, almost elfin features combined with antlers and a darker skin tone. There were also differences. Where Razark’s antlers where more sizeable and split off in multiple directions like branches from a tree, this man’s antlers were closer to horns with a simple pair pointing upwards and back a bit. The man was also significantly older with a graying hair and beard both cut short. Those were the only signs of aging on the man though, as clearly proven by his muscled body displayed for all to see due to his lack of a shirt.
The man was also covered in tattoos from neck downwards. Some of them seemed like runes and magical patterns, while some seemed almost tribal, although they seemed to be running along the major veins and arteries. Unlike with Razark, Dee could see the power flow inside this man and it clearly showed the man was very powerful. Yet somehow even he seemed to be able to hide something as Dee couldn’t tell exactly how powerful he was. Stronger than her certainly. She was almost sure Razark and the man were of the same race, but couldn’t be sure as she couldn’t see inside Razark to confirm.
“Teacher.” Razark greeted the man simply, but with some warmth in his voice.
“Idiot disciple. This the one you were talking about?” The man asked in reply. He had been half-heartedly paying attention to the people training, but was now scrutinizing Dee instead. He slowly eyed Dee up and down. He didn’t have any of the usual emotions Dee had seen exhibited by other men in his eyes, only curiosity.
“She’s the one.” Razark drew some notes from a satchel by his side. “These are the latest reports on her. The good and the bad, along with the areas that most require improvement.” The two were talking as if Dee’s presence didn’t matter.
“I’ll take a look, though I prefer to make my own judgement. I still need to check if she has the kind of potential you suggested. I tire of those with half-assed talent. The last pupil that really challenged my abilities was you, and look at what you became. A dog of the self-righteous order. If she can’t at least match your talent then I can’t be bothered.” The old man’s tone implied that he was slightly kidding, though not completely.
Razark smiled. He had paid attention to Dee for months now and had studied her history in detail. He was quite clear about her talent and wasn’t worried. Normally the only problem would be whether she would be able to make it through the training, but she had already gone through something similar. It was like a match made in heaven. By the end the old man would be begging to continue helping with the girl’s training. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He said.
The man stopped the training on the stage and cleared it. He also called Dee up and pointed her to take a position on the other side of the stage opposite of him. “You better give me everything you got. Otherwise this will be really painful for you. Use everything you have. This will be painful anyway, but it will be even more so the more you hold back.”
Dee gathered her strength and signaled the man to start. The man’s form blurred. On instinct Dee protected her head with her arms, barely managing to move before the pain hit. The man’s fist impacted on Dee’s forearm with a sickening crunch. Her arm was bent all wrong in the middle, clearly broken. The others gathered at the side of the stage winced in pain.
A normal person might have been incapacitated by the pain, but Dee was unfortunately quite used to such things. She might not have felt quite such pain in a long while, but her ability to ignore it wasn’t something easily forgotten. She also ignored the damage, relying on her regenerative abilities before slashing at the man with the dark saber that suddenly materialized in her other hand. The man was long gone though. On a pure hunch Dee materialized her lavender wing to protect her back while slashing behind her wildly with the black wing.
The black wing missed completely while the lavender wing took a clear hit from another punch. The wing managed to withstand the impact, though she was thrown away by the force of the strike. She also felt that the wing couldn’t take too many more attacks like that. The worst part was that she had not felt any power, ki, mana or otherwise in the attack. It had been made with pure physical strength.
Before Dee managed to get her bearings, the man kicked her squarely in the stomach with full strength, taking all her breath away and sending her flying again. She blindly threw several psionic blades in all directions around her, hoping to at least delay the man. That failed miserably, though she managed to soften the next blow to her side by running her power through her fur, turning it into the equivalent of armor. It didn’t make much of a difference, but it helped a bit and a bit could go a long way in situations like these.
The next blow didn’t come immediately, a small breather which allowed Dee to try and counterattack with a priest spell trying to drain the life of her target. She guessed that with the extra help from Death’s blessing the spell might offer some chance to hurt her opponent. Her hopes were dashed though as a wave of ki suddenly went out from the standing man shattering the spell she had used.
“Come on. You can do better than this. I heard something about a possible draconic heritage. I said you should go all out and not hold back.” The man taunted. Secretly he slightly sweated at the death spell the girl had so casually used. Against someone less proficient with countering spells it would’ve proven extremely lethal.
Dee decided to oblige and an ethereal form of a dragon’s palm appeared above her. With a motion Dee sent the palm to claw at the man. The man looked at the apparition with a slight frown, before placing his right hand, palm open towards Dee, on his left arm, which was crossed over his chest. A palm made up of blood red energy appeared in front of him and was sent surging towards the approaching ethereal attack.
The two collided creating a blast of energy that broke the stage between the two and sent any lose bits of stone and debris flying away from the stage before they hit a shield of some kind protecting the area. The dragon claws proceeded forward after destroying the ki palm, but it was clear most of the power was gone. Dee tried to channel more power into the claws and somewhat succeeded. Not that it helped.
“It’s useless if the attack doesn’t hit.” Came the voice of the man from behind Dee, before another kick hit Dee’s ribs, cracking several.
Over the next twenty minutes Dee was treated like a ragdoll as she was thrown about with hundreds upon hundreds of strikes while her own attacks remained wholly ineffective. Just before losing consciousness she felt something shift inside her. She wasn’t sure what, but she was able to barely see the next punch the man launched at her before it hit. She was unable to do anything to defend herself, but she saw the attack which was improvement of a kind. Then the world went dark.
Razark watched as his teachers punch hit Dee straight on her left temple. The force of the blow sent the girl flying several mel in the air before she crashed on the ground. She’d done much better than Razark had assumed. She had shown the weaknesses he had seen before, but she’d still hung in there much longer than he had assumed.
Razark got a shock when the girl picked herself from the ground almost without delay. Surely that hit had knocked her out? Then Razark saw the blood red glow in the girl’s eyes. ‘Ah, she’s going berserk. This might be a problem.’
It had been a while since the werewolf side of Dee had gotten out. The form had melted together with her fox form, and she had managed rein in that destructive rage that came with her Beowulf heritage. Now she had relied heavily on her regeneration and lost her consciousness at the same time as she was filled with anger and the will to do battle. The feral instincts simply took over, even if her form stayed largely the same. The only changes were the lengthening of her claws and slight growth in her fur.
The old man frowned, also noticing the change in her eyes. Then Dee simply disappeared, before appearing right next to the man. She drove her extended claws filled with psionic power straight towards the gap between the man’s ribs, aiming for the heart. The man managed to parry the strike to the side with his forearm. ‘Did she warp here?!’ The man thought to himself in surprise.
However, whatever had given Dee the ability to move so quickly had either run out or not been in her control in the first place as she didn’t repeat the movement. The man quickly gathered himself and struck Dee on the other temple, somehow missing slightly as Dee moved her head ever so slightly to dodge. Instead of a clean tap on the temple, the hit ended up as a full strike on the skull instead, eliciting another crack and fully knocking her out this time. He was tempted to follow up with another attack just to be sure this time, but a sudden sense of danger flushed over him. It seemed to suggest that going too far would not be tolerated.
“Eh, idiot disciple. You might want to use your healing skills a bit. She has great regeneration, but we might not want to wait for days for her skull fracture to heal.” The man requested a little ashamed of his miss, while also looking around searching for the source of the feeling he’d just had.
“So how was she?” Razark asked with a grin while healing Dee.
“Are you sure she’s only a class six psion?” The old man asked.
“Quite sure.” Razark replied. “That bit at the end was new though. Why?”
The old man rubbed both his forearm and the fist he had used to crack the girl’s skull. “What are her bones made of then? I’m pretty sure her head fractured one of my knuckles and her little attack at the end actually cracked my forearm. Not badly mind you and I was barely using my ki, but still.”
“Oh?” Razark was equally surprised. His teacher trained in an art that enhanced his body beyond all limits and the tattoos on his skin only furthered the effect. Anyone would have trouble doing real damage to the man, doubly so for someone so much weaker than him. “What’s your opinion otherwise?”
“I’ll tell you when she wakes. She needs to hear this as well. It would be great though if she could repeat what she did at the end without losing her sanity.” The man said simply.
Dee blinked her eyes as her consciousness returned. Considering the damage she had taken, she was feeling surprisingly good and energetic. The hunger was back due to her use of that draconic whatever power, but it wasn’t overbearing. Just return to business as usual. ‘Well that pleasure of being full didn’t last long.’
“A little over six hours to full recovery. We’ll need to improve on that too. Well…that’s probably something that will improve naturally as you continue getting your ass kicked.” The old man’s voice brought Dee out of her thoughts.
She rose to a sitting position, noticing that she was still on the practice field, which had somehow repaired itself during her time being unconscious. The others besides Razark and the old man were gone, while the two men were sitting a few mel away from her. “So that could’ve gone better.” Dee said casually.
The old man scoffed. “It bloody well could have, but you didn’t do too bad. I should rephrase that. You performed like shit, but you have potential. Potential is not something that can be found just anywhere and you’re here specifically to improve your performance. So it works. And so will you.”
“So you will do what I asked?” Razark asked just to confirm. He’d known the old man wouldn’t be able to resist.
“I’ll do it. Speaking of, we might as well start.” The man turned to Dee again. “You didn’t do as you were told. You didn’t use everything you have. I’m not sure it would’ve made a difference if you had, but you should’ve at least tried.”
Dee was about to protest before being interrupted by the old man. “No, no, don’t give me any crap about trying. You didn’t use that angel form of yours, which I’ve heard improves your psionics greatly. You didn’t use the fox form either, which I hear is stronger and faster. You didn’t cast a single buffing spell on yourself. You’re supposed to be a holy warrior in training, yet you didn’t use any of the benefits of being one. Yeah you used that death magic thingy, but that’s only a fraction of what you can do.”
“You didn’t really give me all that much time in the middle of that fight to buff myself.” Dee protested.
“Did I or didn’t I wait to start attacking until you gave the signal? I did. It’s not my fault you didn’t take it seriously enough. Besides, if you’re unable to cast them mid battle, then that’s something we need to improve. A real enemy won’t wait for you to be ready, as you damn well should know with your past! You need to be able to cast them quickly in the middle of the fight.
“You also didn’t use your other pair of arms. My idiot disciple already mentioned it but I didn’t believe him. I officially name you dummy disciple until you learn to use them. I might call you dummy disciple after that anyway just because of your stupidity. I noted that you have some unarmed combat training, and while that fight wasn’t a fair measure, it also became clear that your training there is woefully inadequate. You’re too used to ending your fights quickly, striking from the shadows and going for a quick takedown. The skill to do so is really great, but the habit of being dependent on that advantage is not. There are other problems but they are less important for now. You need to be able to fight me properly for me to take note of those smaller issues. I already detected some improvement, so there’s hope.” The old man finished.
“The weapon.” Razark prompted from the side.
“Oh right.” The old man suddenly remembered. “One handed sword is clearly the wrong weapon for you. The idiot disciple told me about your desire to learn the control and flow style and that suits you from what I hear, but that is not the only consideration you need to have. You are clearly much stronger than anyone of your rank should be physically. I expect that difference to only grow as your power does. You need to take advantage of that. One handed swords do not. I was also told that you first picked the weapon because you needed to learn the order’s way of fighting. Well you need to unlearn that. Fuck the order. You need to do what is good for you, not what is good for some imaginary group you might or might not join in the future. You will be a scout, not a rank and file templar.”
“Uh so what’s next?” Dee asked apprehensively.
“Now I will kick your ass again and continue to do so until you learn from the experience. I will keep pointing out your mistakes as well, so don’t worry. You’ll always know what’s wrong; it’s simply up to you to do something about it.” The old man said with a feral grin. He’ll quite enjoy having a student that would not be easily broken.
Razark got up. “On that note, I will take my leave. I assume this bit will take several weeks, and you won’t be able to move to the main part for some time after this is done. I’ll be back in two months.”
“I thought you said you couldn’t leave.” Dee pointed out somewhat accusingly.
“No I said you couldn’t leave, not that no one could leave. Immortals can leave just fine.” `Razark said with a grin. He knew what was coming for Dee as he’d gone through the training long time ago as well. He had still been trying to get over the loss of Lilly, and the physical pain he had felt had for a short moment taken the emotional pain away.
Dee looked at the old man. “Can I at least know the name of my torturer?”
“Nope. Not until you’ve earned it. I will tell you my name once you are worthy enough to hear it. Incidentally idiot disciple still isn’t worthy so he just calls me teacher. Hop to it dummy disciple, we haven’t got all day. No wait, I lied. We do have all day. In fact we’ve got nothing but time, so better enjoy it!” The old man’s laughter echoed across the field.
Dee had an extremely bad feeling about this.