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I swept the flint to the tip of the flare, pointing skyward.

Something struck me with such speed and energy my body flew backward over the concrete path. The flare spun away in one direction and the flint the other, as Abrigus stood on one leg with the other upraised. The breath had left my lungs and I could not speak. A surge of pain starting within my abdomen and blossoming throughout my body paralyzed me to the ground.

“Such a disappointment.” Abrigus stepped toward me, a regretful look upon his bearded face. “Yet, I had to try, for your father’s sake. What a shame his son did not make any better choices than he.”

My body writhed as I struggled to regain my footing, but I could only lay there and groan. Dancing lights sparkled before my eyes and a roaring sound flooded my ears. Never had I felt so humiliated and furious. Helplessness surged through me, worse than when my three schoolmate bullies had beaten me in the streets of Solace. My fingers longed to tear out this man’s throat. My ears craved his screams of pain. My eyes thirsted for his blood. He had killed my father. He was the peacekeepers’ sworn enemy.

But I could do nothing, except lay there and die.

“I’ve heard remarkable things of your skills.” Abrigus stood over me now, smirking. “It was said you are a prodigy with enormous potential.”

He raised his booted foot over my face.

And then I remembered my chi. With a supreme effort, I forced myself to focus deep within my core, seeking and finding the channels of energy that course through all of us like the blood pumping through our arteries, vital but unseen. Some of my channels had become twisted and distorted, preventing my chi from properly flowing. I unwound them.

“Since I cannot convince you to join my cause, it is best to eradicate you now. Forgive me, Bertrand.” His foot stomped toward my head.

My arms rose, catching his foot between my hands and twisted. It was a good maneuver, and should have thrown him to the ground, but he simply hopped backward tearing his foot from my grasp.

A sincere chuckle sounded. “Well now, that’s more like it. I never enjoyed killing a man—or a boy—who can’t fight back.”

My legs were still frozen, their energy channels still warped. Abrigus sprang into the air over my body, his feet pointed toward my chest. Pushing myself over with one arm, I managed to roll to the side just before he struck. I heard the cracking of stone.

A note of irritation. “Slippery one, aren’t you? Well, it shall make the kill that much more satisfying than from mere necessity alone.”

Pushing against the ground with my arms, I managed to sit up and partially deflected the kick he had aimed at my chest. His chi washed through me like an electric current, throwing me over my shoulder and onto my back again. The breath fled my body, but this time I was able to suck in more air. Chi against chi, High-Master Chendor had warned me. I desperately sought mine, willing my limbs to move, but the damage was greater than I knew how to repair. My arms twitched but would not leave the ground.

His eyes gleamed like ice, and I realized he was enjoying himself. Otherwise, he would have finished me. He knew I was not his match, but watching me slowly die, struggling to defend myself, offered him a perverted sense of satisfaction. And there was nothing I could do to prevent it.

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