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Old 12-30-2019, 11:08 AM
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Water Talent
Tori Elle


The day after Ansell, Ezra, Hanna, and Rhea escaped, King Adonis increased security all throughout the Capitol. He assigned guards to patrol the city all day and all night and doubled defenses outside of the castle and Dai Li headquarters. He even added a curfew for all those residing in the Capitol, the Dai Li included. Most Dai Li, aside from Captain Darklighter and a few other high-ranking individuals, were not permitted to walk around the halls of the base past seven and were not allowed outside past six. Many Dai Li have been brought in for questioning as well. Since Ansell revealed he was secretly a Clann agent at the meeting, King Adonis has not only been interrogating Dai Li and some of the Gfted in his army but civilians that Adonis' guards forcefully drag out of their homes and imprison. He is trying his best to make sure there are no more moles. I don't know how successful he's been. Not every single Dai Li that's been interrogated has come back but the ones that do always have the same sickly pale look with dark bags under their eyes and even a few bruises. Sometimes I'll hear the guards taking a Dai Li agent back to their quarters in the middle of the night after a long interrogation. It always sounds like the Dai Li is too weak to walk. I've heard other agents say they’ve seen some agents being carried by a guard because they lack all their strength and energy. It makes me wonder who exactly Adonis has in charge of these interrogations. I imagine the king himself is too busy with negotiations and other kingly duties to be bothered to question anyone. So, who could it be?

'Perhaps it's Galadriel?' She definitely seemed like the kind of person who'd conduct aggressive interrogations. But I see her around the base too often for her to be the person responsible. Those interrogations can last all day. She's probably been a part of a few of them but I believe there's someone else at work here.
'I can't believe K-' I stop myself. After all that has happened, after all the thorough investigations and the Gifted they've been questioning, I've become too afraid to even think the king's name, almost like it'll bring me bad luck… or worse. 'It's hard to believe the king would go down this path of restriction and deprivation. Maybe he doesn't know or realize how much it's harming us?' My own thoughts weren't able to convince me, though. 'Maybe I did… no, I can't think that.' I shook my head as if trying to shake any treasonous thoughts out of my mind. 'I need to trust that the king knows what he is doing. Everything he is doing is for the people of Alagaesia. He is trying to protect us. I shouldn't fret, especially when I only know a small portion of the story. I don't know everything the king knows. There's probably a perfectly good reason behind everything that's been happening. Including the missing Dai Li…' A wave a dread washed over me as my thoughts drifted back to the many Dai Li agents that have mysteriously disappeared. Most of the Dai Li haven't seemed to notice and those that do are usually too afraid to say anything about it. Who are they going to talk to, anyway? Galadriel would probably make them disappear too if they brought it up with her. There's nothing the rest of the Dai Li can do right now except wait… and hope to see another day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

As I walked into the training grounds, the sound of grunts, yells, and clashing metal filled the space. I had already gotten used to those sounds and the very raw, aggressive style of training that came with being a part of the Dai Li. Galadriel had come up to me the night before to inform me that I was to spar with agent Nate today. I looked around to see if I could spot his shaggy, brown hair anywhere, to no avail. Suddenly, amongst all the noise, I hear the faint sound of footsteps coming up behind me. I could tell they were intentionally trying to be quiet in the hopes of surprising someone, probably myself. Their pace didn't quicken nor halter so I knew I had not revealed my knowledge of their arrival with my body language. 'I could use this to my advantage.' As their steps drew nearer, I mentally prepared myself for what I was about to do. As casually as possible, I positioned my body to get ready to strike first. Then, I tuned out the background noise and listened. Like a wolf stalking it's prey in the night, my senses seemed to heighten, almost as if the inside of my body was shifting while the outside stayed the same. The common training noises became close to non-existent. There was only me, my breathing, the sound of my heart beating, and those footsteps. They got closer and closer, every step creating a slight crunch against the gravel. They continued at a steady pace as my heart beat faster and faster, until-

"AHHH!!!"

In one swift motion, I brought Nate down face-first onto the ground. I stood over him, watching as he struggled to stand up. The Dai Li agents closest to us were staring, some snickering and whispering to one another as they watched this pathetic sight. I continued to carefully observe his every move, even as he dusted off his pants. Nate then stretched out his back with a groan. "I didn't expect that to happen." Nate said, rubbing his neck. I arched an eyebrow, "Did you really think you could sneak up on me? A ranger?" I responded, remembering the backstory I had created for myself. "Captain Darklighter insisted that I test your skills and senses. I'm sure she'll be happy to hear they are both sharp and ready for battle."
"Glad to hear it, though I already knew that." I frowned slightly as a thought came upon me, "Does Captain Darklighter really have so little faith in my abilities?"
"I haven't a clue." Nate answered, "I simply do as she says without question. Makes for an easier time here."
"So you do have a brain after all." I teased
"Oh? It seems Captain Darklighter's 'humour' has already rubbed off on you." Nate said
"Is that so? I figured she would just insult you and skip any form of sugar coating."
Nate paused for a moment, "Yes, that's true. But she means well… except when she doesn't. Which is most of the time."
This was when an expressionless man with dark brown hair that framed his sharp jawline walked up to Nate and I. I recognized him from when Galadriel first gave me a tour of the Dai Li headquarters. He looked like he never smiled a day in his life. "Oh, hello Ivan." Nate said as the man approached.
"Good day, Nathan." Ivan said in his monotone voice. Nate did a bit of a double-take, "Y-you know you can just call me 'Nate', right?" "Yes, I am aware of that, Nathan." Ivan replied. Nate sighed, already beginning to feel exasperated. Ivan then turned to me, "I saw what you did to him." I began to tense up. 'I can't tell if he's up upset or not.' Nate and I look at each other and I can see in his eyes he's feeling the same rising fear. I turn back to face stone-cold Ivan again, clearing my throat, "Oh… did you?"

'That's it? That's the best response I could come up with?!'

Feeling more worried, I watched Ivan give a short nod. "Yes, I did. I found it to be…" Nate and I gulped as we awaited Ivan's response. 'This can either be really bad or really, really bad.' The silence continued to grow and I wondered if Ivan was going to say anything at all or if he had just been frozen in time somehow. Nate opened his mouth to say something but I elbowed him before anything stupid came out. That is when Ivan gave us his verdict.

"Very…… amusing."

My jaw dropped upon hearing this. I looked over at Nate who was donning the same expression as myself. I couldn't believe my ears! What was even more unbelievable was that Ivan continued to speak.
"Yes, I quite enjoy it whenever Nathan is injured in some way. He behaves like a court jester when in pain. It is… hilarious." He said with the same lack of emotion he's had since I met him.

'This can't be real. What kind of weird dream is this?'

"I was wondering if you were going to continue to humiliate him." Ivan asked. I stumbled over my words, still having not fully registered what just happened, "Uh, I-um, I-I wasn't planning on it, no." Nate breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh…" Ivan said with what sounded like the slightest tinge of disappointment lacing his voice, "What were you two doing, then?" "Uh-" "We were training!" Nate interjected before I could get a word out. I looked at him in disbelief. 'Why did you say that?!' "I see…" Ivan trailed off. "Y-you could join us if you want." Nate added with a nervous grin. He looked over at me and I met him with a disapproving glare. "Join you in training?" Ivan repeated, seeming to genuinely consider the offer. "Yes!" Nate said with nervous enthusiasm followed by a less-enthusiastic "sure". Ivan tilted his head and continued to think. I was worried Nate and I would have to wait fifteen minutes before getting any kind of response from him but I was quickly proven wrong. "Yes, I think I would like to train with you two." 'Oh good. The last thing I want to do right is spend more time with two of Galadriel's "closest" Dai Li agents.'
"Alright! Let's head over to the combat circle over there." Nate said, already walking away. Ivan and I exchanged a short glance at one another before following.

The combat circle is exactly what it sounds like. A large circle lined with rocks where you practice, you guessed it, combat. Ivan, Nate, and I were the only ones in the circle today, which I appreciated. I don't enjoy the pressure that comes with training while a crowd of people watch. Today, we decided to start with the basics, starting with hand and then leg strikes. Having been in the Dai Li longer than myself, Nate and Ivan were already well versed with the Dai Li's fighting style. I knew they had the upper hand. When the Clann taught us hand-to-hand combat, it was predominately defensive forms. They rarely taught any offensive moves. Back then, it was a struggle to transition from my rugged, aggressive, and rather unpolished street fighting to the Clann's style of fighting. Now, I'm having to learn a completely new combat system and break habits that I formed while with the Clann. The Dai Li are more aggressive and focus more on offensive forms, which is good for me, but their style is significantly more sophisticated than the Clann's and all the more deadly. I consider myself to be a fast learner but it has been rather difficult remembering everything the Dai Li has taught me. I have to force myself to not fall back onto what I learned at the Clann or on the streets. If anything, I should be trying to combine all that I've learned. But right now, I need to focus solely on the Dai Li.
After successfully practicing all the basic combat moves without any injuries, we moved onto intermediate sparring. Once the Dai Li have taught you all the basics, they have you sparring with your fellow Dai Li agents almost immediately as they teach you harder and harder forms. You never left training unscathed. It becomes tolerable when you're fighting others who are at (or in some cases below) the same skill level you're at. This time, however, would be my first time sparring with more seasoned Dai Li agents. I didn't want to admit this to myself but I knew deep down this was going to be difficult. Nate and Ivan both appear like they wouldn't be the most competent fighters (one more than the other) but they wouldn't have lasted with the Dai Li this long if they weren't incapable of fighting. They work directly under Galadriel for a reason.

'I need to stay focused.' I said to myself, closing my eyes to concentrate on my breathing.

In


Out


In


Out


In



On my final exhale, I opened my eyes. Nate was standing directly across from me on the other side of the circle. To my left was Ivan, the top point to our triangle within a circle. Ivan met my gaze and I tried to read his eyes. Even now, I still couldn't gather any information. He was completely unreadable. More unreadable than Ansell. Ivan was truly an enigma. I looked back at Nate, who is the polar opposite of Ivan. Ignoring body language, you can clearly see in his eyes that he's nervous. Nate is the kind of person who puts on a confident mask that will shatter at the slightest touch. The one thing the two men have in common is that neither of them are to be trifled with once you put them on the battlefield. It's clear they've become masters at hiding their combative abilities.
'I wonder what else they might be hiding.'
I adjusted my footing while Nate rolled his shoulders back. Ivan stood completely still. This was it. The calm before the storm. No Gifts, no help, and no holding back. To the Dai Li, every time you're beaten while sparring is like losing a battle. No one will forget about it and everyone will talk about it. I couldn't lose to Nate and Ivan for the sake of me, myself, and my pride.

"Ready?" Nate said, sounding less afraid than earlier.
"Ready." Ivan and I replied in unison.
"Okay then…" Nate's eyes darkened in an unnerving way that struck a sense of fear into me. It was a look I had no idea he was capable of creating. I gulped, as he spoke in a voice lower than what he usually speaks in, "Let's do this."

Nate charged at me first. I ducked as he swung at me, feeling the breeze from his swing on my ears. The hairs on my body stood up and a chill went down my spine. Like an animal, I could sense he was a threat. This wasn't going to be easy. I turned around, expecting to get a hit in, but was blocked by Nate. I stumbled back, now on the defensive. I was dodging blow after blow, waiting for the opportunity to strike. It reminded me of when I was a young girl on the streets. Before I could fight, I could only do my best to avoid getting hit before getting to safety. I made sure to change that. Nate finally revealed a weak spot and, with a kick, I gained the upper hand. I had Nate on the floor. Nate jumped to his feet and I met him with a swing to his face, which he blocked. It was one of the first moves the Dai Li teaches you. The Dai Li also teaches you to anticipate your enemy's next move. I expected Nate to retaliate with another hit. I dropped to the ground and swiped at his legs. Nate was on the floor once again. I was preparing for my final blow when my senses were activated by the sound of footsteps approaching. Ivan came at a delicately quick pace. His fighting style was unknown to me. I needed to get in touch with my inner ranger and stay on high alert, ready to adapt at any moment. I rolled away from Nate to avoid Ivan. I stood ready to face him but immediately found myself on the ground. Thud!The dirt barely provided a cushion for my fall and I could feel a sharp twig poking my back.

'Ow'

I hated being in such a vulnerable position. I needed to move. I rolled away, Ivan hot on my tail. Remembering what the Clann had taught me, I positioned myself to block Ivan's next attack. He was moving fast. I found it difficult to match his speed but tried my best to keep up. I felt tempted to tap into my Gifts and use my wolf-like speed. I decided against it in an effort to avoid suspicion and accidentally turning into a wolf. I needed to rely on my own skills in this fight. Skills I learned from various people in various places. It was the only way I could beat Nate and Ivan. I took a moment to center myself as Ivan charged towards me. 'Alright, here we go.'
Ivan reeled back to throw a punch at me. I evaded it, once again drawing on my earliest experiences on the streets. I grabbed Ivan's arm and pulled him toward me. I learned that move from the Clann. I guess their teachings weren't totally useless. I kneed him in the stomach to debilitate him. I sensed Nate was sneaking up behind me. I was surprised he thought that would work again. I spun Ivan around and pushed him into Nate. The Dai Li taught us newer agents that during the last training session. Both men fell to the ground. I figured the sparring was now over. I chuckled as I strode up to them. "Not bad, boys." My confidence grew with every second they spent squirming on the ground, trying to untangle their limbs. "Guess that's it for our little training session." I said, stepping around them, "Maybe next time we should-" I suddenly heard a familiar voice. It sounded like Ivan's. He said something in a language I did not understand. I heard the frustration in his voice, however. I sharply turned around to face him, "What did you say?" Nate and Ivan looked at each other, then back at me. "We didn't say anything." Nate said in a rough voice. Ivan stood next to him, dusting off his legs. "Don't play dumb with me." I replied, "I know I heard Ivan say something. What language were you speaking, Ivan?"
For the first time since I met him, I saw something change in Ivan's eyes. I couldn't make it out. Anger? Surprise? No… fear. But why?

'What is going on?'


Ivan remained silent as Nate stood up next to him. He looked back and forth between Ivan and I. Nate was just as confused as I was. "Ivan never even opened his mouth, Ellia." Nate said. I furrowed my brows, "Then how-"

WHOOSH

Ivan swung at me with newly found aggression. The fight was far from over. Ivan was faster and stronger now. I took more punches from him, unable to dodge his attacks as well as before. I noticed how tense he was by looking at his neck and the vein popping on his forehead. I tried rolling away from him and ended up in front of Nate. Nate outstretched his arms to grab me but I ducked. I grabbed his abdomen and shoved him onto the ground. Ivan was still close behind. All of a sudden, I feel myself being lifted off of the ground. Ivan's arms were wrapped tight around me. I struggled to loosen his grip. With a kick, I got him to drop me. I went in for a punch which Ivan swiftly blocked. I stayed close to him, hoping to land at least one hit. Ivan blocked them all with ease. He stunned me for a moment. There was a high-pitched ringing in my ears and I could see a few stars. My hair was damp and strands of it were sticking to my forehead. 'This is going to be tougher than I thought.' I tried to muster up some determination. I was going to leave this training session as the victor no matter what. An image of him flashed through my mind. His pale, sickly evil face. His taunting smirk. His belittling words. Everything about him added more wood to the fire burning within me. The night he escaped into the forest still haunts me. I lost him then. I can't lose again. My thoughts drifted back to Ivan, 'I won't let him beat me.' As I came back to reality, my fury was at the forefront of my mind.
A rough, blaring yell erupted from my mouth as I charged toward Ivan. Beginning with a fake-out, I landed the first hit on Ivan. In this moment, I was no longer Ellia the Ranger or Dai Li Agent. I wasn't Tori Elle, the Gifted and Clann Agent. I became Tori, the girl who's had to fight her whole life for survival, for identity, and for her parents. The raw pain from deep down inside came through with every swing of my fist. I finally had Ivan on the defensive. It felt like a game at this point. I would swing at him, Ivan would dodge, he'd swing back, and I would block. Neither of us were letting up. It came to a halt when we both stopped to catch our breath. We stared at one another. I looked for signs that he was going to make the next move. Ivan just stood there, breathing heavily. Suddenly, I heard his voice again but his mouth wasn't moving.

"Can you hear me?" He asked in a coarse voice. It sounded like he was inside my head. My eyes widened in horror as realization set upon me. 'No… he can't be…'

"How -"

Ivan lunged towards me. I narrowly escaped his grasp. I tripped Ivan and wrapped my arms around him, trying to keep him in place for a moment. I needed to end this fight to find out what was going on. Ivan had other plans, though. He squirmed his way out of my arms and quickly shifted positions with me. I didn't even realize it till I found myself being held down by Ivan. Several feet away from me, I saw Nate still lying on the ground. A small crowd of Dai Li agents had begun to gather around to watch our training. 'I can't let them see me like this!'
Using my elbow, I knocked Ivan back. Once his weight had shifted, I slid out and kicked Ivan to the ground. I gently stepped on his stomach as a sign that the fight was over and I had won. Light applause broke out among the crowd of Dai Li agents. Some seemed impressed, others seemed disappointed. I heard a grunt from behind me. Turning around, I saw Nate standing up, albeit hunched over with a hand on his back. He winced in pain as he walked toward Ivan and I. "Well, I guess that's the end of our training session." Nate said. "Yeah, I guess it is." I said, looking down at Ivan's suspicion-filled eyes. Lifting my foot off of him, I extended my hand to help him up. "I wish I could've helped you out a bit." Nate said to Ivan "I didn't need any help." Ivan replied a little faster than usual, but still in his monotonous tone. "How long were you out?" I asked Nate. "No idea. I just remember hitting the ground and then waking up to find Ivan on the ground and you standing over him." I felt some tension leave my body upon hearing that. 'Let's hope the crowd missed certain parts of our fight too.' I thought as the crowd began to dissipate. "So, how was the fight?" Nate asked. I noticed Ivan's shoulders tense up while he dusted his clothes off. Ivan cleared his throat. "It was fine. Ellia did well." He said, turning to face Nate, "I must take my leave now." Ivan then strode off back towards the base. Nate and I watched him for a few seconds. "I wonder why he was in such a hurry to leave." Nate said. I struggled to find the right words to say. Part of me wanted to say something about Ivan being Gifted. The other part of me wanted to hide it for his safety. "I… he probably has work to do. Maybe for Agent Darklighter." I said, not feeling fully satisfied with my choice but not filled with immense regret either. "True. I suppose I should get back to my work too." Nate said, his mood appearing to have improved already, "Great job today, agent." Nate walked away, leaving me to stand alone in the training circle. The reality of Ivan being a Gifted had not fully set in yet. I was still in a state of shock. I didn't know whether to move or not. Whether I should continue to train or head back to my quarters.

'What if I encounter Ivan again? Do I say anything?'

These thoughts continued to plague me throughout the rest of the day. I ended up avoiding Ivan at all cost. The few times I did see him, we made quick eye contact before carrying on with our duties. By nightfall, I was feeling confident that I successfully made it almost a whole day without any interactions with him (aside from what happened earlier). I strolled back to my quarters, ready for some hard-earned rest and relaxation. The bruises I received during my sparring session had already set in. Every step I took came with some pain. I couldn't wait to sit down.
As I turned around the corner that led to my room, I looked up in surprise to see a familiar face.

"Ivan" I said as emotionless as Ivan himself to hide the pure shock and anxiety I felt inside. Ivan said nothing in return. He slowly reached to his side and grabbed onto something, never breaking eye contact with me. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I realized what he was wanting to do. "They can never know." Ivan said, his eyes cold but his tone filled with fear. 'I've never heard him sound so afraid.' I gulped, knowing there were only a few ways this encounter could end. "I haven't said anything yet. What makes you think I would now?" I said, approaching him at a cautious pace.
"Yet"
"Excuse me?"
"You haven't said anything… yet." Ivan repeated, slowly walking towards me. His hand never left his side.
'If only the Dai Li let their newer members keep weapons on them.' I thought, longing for my bow and arrow.
"I can't let you say anything to anyone." Ivan said, the dread in his voice being mixed with growing determination.
'What am I going to do, what am I doing to do?' I asked myself as we continued to approach each other. "Is that so? And what if I never was going to say anything?"
Ivan lifted an eyebrow, "Then I'd question your allegiance to the Dai Li."
"Are you saying that valuing the safety of my fellow Dai Li agents is an act of treason?"
Ivan hesitated for a moment. Something flickered in his eyes but went away in an instant. "Yes, I am."
We began to circle each other as I kept a close eye on his hand and body language. "Is it? And what about you? What do you call someone who works for an organization that would consider them an enemy if their true self was revealed?"
Ivan's grip tightened, "I know what I am." He hissed "And I joined the Dai Li to make sure the other monsters of the world are stopped before they destroy everything."
Hearing Ivan say this, my thoughts drifted to the Gifted I met back at the Clann. There are so many innocent people there. 'Though who is truly innocent in war?' I thought to myself, shaking away the memories. "Well, at least we agree on one thing."
"What is that?" Ivan asked
"That Gifted… are monsters." I said, almost breathlessly. I watched Ivan's hand fall to his side and his eyebrows furrow. Not looking away, I took a few steps towards him. "You are a monster." Ivan stood in silence, watching me. It didn't take long to cover the distance between us. Just five steps later, I stood right in front of him, leaving only a few inches between us. I could see little hairs sticking out of his usually combed hair and the shadow of bags under his dark eyes. "And I…" I took a deep breath, knowing that what I was about to do could end up being the biggest mistake of life. "…I'm a monster too."

As I stood before Ivan, I allowed myself to slowly morph into a tiger, a wolf, a fox, and an owl. I flew all around, landing behind him. I shifted back into my human appearance… before disappearing right before his eyes. He looked all around the hall to try and spot me. I snuck by him to return to where I stood before. I became visible once more. Ivan let out a small gasp when he turned around and saw me. He just stood there and stared at me with shock, fear, and something else I couldn't make out on his face. I did the same, anxiously awaiting his response. I was prepared to fight back if necessary. I couldn't let Ivan rat me out. If things went south, I needed to be the one who remained with the Dai Li. Still, there was a small sliver of hope in me. Hope that maybe, just maybe… this wouldn't end in a fight.



Author's Note: FINALLY! I finished it, haha! Just in time for the New Year too, lol. I hope you all enjoyed this post. I know I say this almost every time but I'm genuinely proud of how this turned out. I mean, I even proofread it, which is something I rarely do. XD I'm especially proud of the training/sparring/fight scene. I wish this post was longer, though. It was going to be longer originally but I felt like I ended it at a good place that also gave Glory an opportunity to write a response/post for Ivan. Speaking of, Glory if there's anything you want me to change/add for Ivan, just let me know and I'll edit the post.
Also, I decided to try out a new font for the post. New year, new me I guess, lol.
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Last edited by Alexa Diamondflower; 12-30-2019 at 11:02 PM.
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