Chapter 7, at long last, sweet Jesus, Hallelujah: VII

Akidan spent the rest of the night and early morning nursing a wounded pride and dreading the next morning, when marksmanship would be tested. As much of a liability as the apprentice usually was, she really was much better off with something that automatically tracked, or that she could just hold in her hands and hit people with. So it was that by noon the next day, lined up in an abandoned quarry, she was the only one who hadn't hit a target yet. The other student's steel cubes were all scored and dented; Akidan's was surrounded by deep blast craters and pockmarks. Gritting her teeth against the snide remarks flying from Raymond and the other students, she leveled her gun, took aim, and shot eight inches away from the mark, utterly destroying the purple rocks abound in that area of the planet.

Why am I even doing this? I've got a gun, a damn WORKING GUN, the nucleus of my problem is right there, and I'm busy missing every damn target. Every one…

Raymond cut cleanly through her thoughts. "While we still live, Apprentice." His group of Apprentice Elite that surrounded him everywhere snickered in true lackwit lackey form; Akidan merely ignored them as a plan formed quickly. Leveling her gun (A/N: So sorry to interrupt, but imagine, if you will, a sleek black pistol that shoots devastating bolts of energy. A dial on the side reflects the power from 1-15, otherwise it actually appears to be an old flintlock) again, and instead of sending one shot out of control, she pumped the trigger for all she was worth, sweeping from side to side until the target had made its way into sweet Eternity. The advantage of the tactic was that you were sure to hit something, ally or not. The disadvantage came in the form of the sharp, acrid stench of a burned-out conduit and the choking clouds of dust that came rolling in to coat Akidan's uniform and fur. Still, the wind blew it over to a stupefied looking Raymond to send him and his lackeys into hacking fits while a satisfied Akidan and Jakia looked on. Such a rare twist of fate was actually maintained for a time, until about three solid minutes later when Raymond spat out a large glob of noticeably purple mucus, gasped for breath and forced a twitty little smile on his face. "We can move on, then…?" Smirking uncontrollably, Akidan hid behind her Master as he nodded. Raymond looked about him, as if waiting for an order from the rocks. "Well then. If we shall continue?" Jakia nodded again and fell into line beside rather than behind Raymond. Akidan took her place directly to the left of the Hated One, keeping as emotionless as possible as she beat the purple out of her black fur.

Akidan's bedustifying actions had caused only a slight delay in the plans as Students and Masters alike stopped back at camp for swift showers. The next thing on the list tacked up on the tank in the center of the camp, to Akidan's apparent delight, was hand-to-hand combat followed by blades training. She had wolfrun back to the tent, changed into her looser combat closed in a flash and danced around the roughly circular 'arena' where the fights were to be held. Stolidly doing practice drills, jabs, uppercuts, utterly useless jumping kicks, to warm up, she waited a good ten minutes before the rest of the similarly outfitted and completely reluctant Apprentices came through. Fighting street-style was Akidan's forte, and her prowess was well-known among the regularly bruised Apprentices after training. First up on the list was Kalorn, a short, heavyset and brutish looking boy who was new to the Sanctuary. His poorly cut, short-cropped hair, beady, stupid eyes and apelike way of walking left Akidan with no doubt that the fight was hers. Fidgeting as he cracked his knuckles, exhibited flexibility one step above rigor mortis and cavorted around the dirt. Then Jakia smashed the first rock, and the first round began.

Akidan snapped down into a defensive stance; Kalorn grunted and charged head down for her midsection, hands flailing. She rolled her eyes, braced herself and caught his head, falling back with his inertia to get him on the ground in an easy headlock. He thrashed madly, slamming his fists down wherever he could reach and kicking wildly. She figured she could have just held him there for the rest of the round, but instead maneuvered around him until she could get up safely, then sprang up and sidestepped around him until he wallowed to his feet. Snuffling, he ran at her with a crazy punch which she slipped and returned with several lightning-fast rabbit punches to his face. He struggled out of the ring with his newly bloodied hands clutched over his broken nose; Akidan had won the first fight by drawing first blood in barely two and a half minutes. Next up was a final-year named Aleya, another human. She was tall, lithe and muscular with short blond hair, no-nonsense blue eyes and taped wrists. Akidan eyed her skeptically; trying to look tough was one thing, spending time on it was another. Wrist tape did nothing unless you were injured. Aleya smoothly hopped the fence and slipped into the twin of Akidan's stance.

-stop here, clean.