Volume 4, Interlude A: Their Training

Bartholomew fell to the floor, tripping on one of the many invisible strings Lilith wove. Once his foot contacted the string, a loud explosion triggered. He emerged from the resulting smoke, coughing and charred from the blast.

“You’re still not agile enough yet,” Lionel commented, offering him a helping hand.

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“Thanks. I still don’t know how you manage to slip through all of that without any trouble,” Bartholomew said.

“Practice and a lot of bruises,” Lionel replied, glancing over at Lilith.

“Don’t look at me like that. You were the one who kept asking me to use my powers over and over,” Lilith remarked.

“You were willing to do it. It really helped out a lot, Lilith. I appreciate it,” Lionel said, giving a small grin.

“Whoa, you being nice to people, what’s gong on here?” Bartholomew asked, staring at his trainer in awe.

“Shut it, Bartholomew. I know when to thank someone if they’ve done something for me,” Lionel said.

Lilith and the two men stood in their training facility. Unlike Tess’ group, they didn’t have the connections or access to a large range of amenities. Instead, they utilized a warehouse space set up by their former leader.

“Bartholomew, if you can’t get through my wires, then you have no chance at weaving through Tess’ chains,” Lilith stated.

“I know, but aren’t we suppose to be working together now?” Bartholomew inquired, preparing for another attempt.

“A temporary truce. However, if we were to ever fight them, I’m sure you know what I’m getting at. Lionel, show him how it’s done,” Lilith explained, gesturing toward the senor team member.

The leader donned black gloves and then made knitting motions in the air. Bartholomew and Lionel’s sharp feline eyes only saw bits and pieces of her wire building. She finally completed it and gave a small clap. Her laser trip wire setup became visible, glistening in the dim building lighting.

“You did this on purpose!” Lionel exclaimed, glaring at her.

“No idea what you’re talking about, Lionel. Go and show your protégé what you can do,” Lilith denied, taking a seat on the floor.

The man grimaced and contorted his body in a multitude of ways, zigzagging through the wires. Nearing the end, his fingertip brushed a wire, preventing a perfect escape. Lionel shouted out in anger and then a loud boom followed. He emerged from the blast, clutching his right arm.

“That was uncalled for, Lilith. You could’ve made your point some other way,” Lionel accused, dropping down to his left knee.

“Honestly, you should be apologizing to Bartholomew for being such a bad master. Let’s try again tomorrow, Bartholomew. I want to try something else,” Lilith scolded, ignoring Lionel’s potential injury.

“Uh, shouldn’t we help Lionel first? His arm is bleeding,” Bartholomew revealed.

“Not sure what you’re talking about. Lionel, meet us in the ring when you’re finished taking care of that,” Lilith directed.

Lionel nodded, opening the first aid box. Bartholomew gave him a sympathetic look, but didn’t offer any assistance, after Lilith gave him a sharp look. Three minutes later, Lionel rejoined the two, his right arm bandaged up.

“Lionel, spar with Bartholomew. You know the drill,” Lilith commanded.

“You…. fine, I’ll do it,” Lionel agreed.

Bartholomew warmed up in his corner of the ring, hesitant about the upcoming fight. He understood Lilith’s intent, but didn’t agree with it. Lionel glanced downward at his injured arm. Lilith entered the ring, signaling for both to start.

Lionel began with quick jabs, testing Bartholomew’s reaction time. His protégé avoided all of them, luring his master into the corner and predicted Lionel’s power upper cut. The man missed, stumbling into the post. Bartholomew leaped into the air, attempting to catch his opponent off guard. Lionel grabbed him, attempting a jumping cutter, but with his injured arm was unable to finish it off.

“Almost got you,” Lionel commented.

Bartholomew grabbed Lionel, swinging him into the ropes. As he rebounded towards Bartholomew, Lionel tried a jumping knee strike. Bartholomew countered, ducking and then clotheslined the man. Lionel’s protégé took a deep breath and went for a standing shooting star press. At the last moment, the feline hero raised both knees up, causing Bartholomew to roll away from him in pain.

Lionel grabbed the nearby ropes, hauling himself up. Bartholomew also returned to his feet, already charging towards him. Lionel executed a bicycle kick, knocking his friend to the ground. He then climbed the ring post ropes and leaped off, targeting Bartholomew’s chest with his left elbow. Lionel’s elbow dug into Bartholomew’s chest, causing his opponent to gasp for breath. Lilith slid into the ring, declaring their match over.

“You okay?” Lilith examined the man’s right arm.

“You already know the damn answer. I might have tweaked it more by doing this,” Lionel replied.

“Just wanted to see how well you performed with an injury. I would have stopped you if your arm really was in danger,” Lilith explained.

“If there’s one thing I know about you Lilith, you’re not a demon like Kyoi. Even though I’m still angry about my arm, I get it,” Lionel said.

“Good. Bartholomew, your reflexes aren’t up to standard. I’ll get someone else to help you out considering Lionel will need to rest,” Lilith reported.

“How much faster do I need to be?” Bartholomew inquired.

“This fast,” Lilith answered, wielding string inches away from his neck.

“She’s right. Tess’ people, when they’re actually serious, are even quicker than that. I’m not even talking about Kyoi. En, the dual elemental user, would have already knocked you unconscious if he did what Lilith demonstrated,” Lionel agreed.

“You guys are ridiculous, but I’ll get there one day,” Bartholomew declared.

Lilith stayed behind after the two men departed. She entered the ring, holding a stopwatch in her right hand. After generating her web of strings, the woman glanced downward at the time.

“Still a little bit off,” she muttered and continued on, practicing until her intended goal was met.

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