"Stand up, kids!"
Nagtago ako sa likod ng puno habang nasa tapat ko naman si Carlos at Jerry. I can see their exhaustion but because of the large concentration of spirit particles in this place, they would not notice it. And that applies to myself, too.
"Shit!" Nagulat naman ako sa nagsalita at agad na napatingin sa taas ng puno. "I thought you're Sir Gavin!" sabi ni Ryleigh at napabuntong-hininga siya. I didn't notice him at all.
Nanlamig ang buong katawan ko nung nakita namin si Master na nakatayo sa tuktok ng puno na katapat nito at tumalon siya papunta sa amin.
"Es hyva fe vies diaz. Morien alav sativa chroina il piero mergus. Comvien han!" Ryleigh and I simultaneously chanted. Our guardians' spirit particles surrounded us and our half-animal forms welcomed Master's arrival.
She smirked at us. "Make sure you can stay in that form for a long time," she said while merging with Lily. It still amazes me how she can do and undo her half-animal form without breaking a sweat.
"Do we have any plan?" mahinang tanong ko kay Ryleigh habang pareho kaming nakatingin kay Master.
"Do you?" he asked back.
"Neither do I."
Master lunged at us and we both escaped from her way and because of Carlos' speed, I was already a few meters away from her. In addition, Jerry's senses made me aware of everyone's position and actions.
"Above you!" Ryleigh shouted and Carlos immediately ran away.
"Your instincts are getting better—!"
Master couldn't finish her sentence because Ryleigh attacked him. She managed to dodge his punch but it caused the ground to break. His half-animal form with Bob increased his physical strength into a higher level. Before Master could even orient herself, I swiftly slashed her with my sharp claws and she yelped in surprise.
"Nice move," sabi ni Ryleigh nung nagkatabi ulit kami.
"Just a stroke of luck, thanks to your attack."
"Looks like I need to level it up," Master said with a smirk. "Tortos!"
A huge concentration of spirit particles appeared in front of us and Tortos came into being. Napanganga ako dahil kahit ilang beses ko na siyang nakita ay namamangha pa rin ako sa laki niya. Bigla namang lumipad si Master papunta sa likod ni Tortos at tumingin siya sa amin.
"Gressia!" sabi ni Master at biglang itinaas ni Tortos ang isa niyang paa.
Hindi kami kaagad nakakilos at sobrang yumanig ang lupa dahil sa pagbaba ni Tortos ng paa niya. Both of us were forced to kneel because the tremor caused by Tortos' step was stronger than the silvanias can do. Even Yano and Lexi were affected but Gavin already expected the movement.
"Lily!" Napatingin naman agad ako at humiwalay si Lily mula sa half-animal form nila ni Master. Lily suddenly dove towards us and the gust created by her wings made us float. She quickly clamped us into her claws and I felt their sharpness digging through my sides.
"Kirigai!" Master chanted and Lily screeched so loud, I almost fainted but her sharp talons kept me awake. "I advise you to get off her claws or your bodies will be nothing but a bunch of holes."
Pinilit naming umalis ni Ryleigh sa magkabilang claw ni Lily pero habang gumagalaw ako ay lalong dumidiin ang matatalas niyang kuko.
"Shit!" sigaw ni Ryleigh at nakita ko ang pagtulo ng dugo sa tagiliran niya. "Hey," sabay tingin niya sa akin at agad ko namang naintindihan ang gusto niyang mangyari dahil 'yun din ang balak kong gawin.
Pumikit ako at tiniis ang sakit. I didn't feel exhausted because of the large concentration of spirit particles but I know that upon leaving this room, I'd be dead-tired. Especially after summoning her.
"Kon, sal-ve!" Ryleigh shouted and I followed.
All of a sudden, spirit particles gathered above us and two different cries silenced the whole place. Kon and Phoebe appeared and they both attacked Lily. Kon circled around her and clouds were formed, obscuring our visions. And during that moment, Phoebe's flame engulfed the surroundings, the scorching heat made Lily's grip on us loosen and we both fell. I was about to call Phoebe's name but Ryleigh managed to grab my arm and we landed on Kon's back.
"I-it's not on purpose!" I retorted.
Phoebe finally came to me and I immediately jumped on her back. Pagkatapak ko sa kanya ay agad gumaan ang pakiramdam ko at pagtingin ko sa sugat sa tagiliran ko, unti-unti na itong sumasara. Her healing ability is even faster than the aquainas.
Bigla ko namang natanaw ang sitwasyon nina Yano at Lexi habang kinakalaban nila si Gavin at napanganga ako nung nakita kong pareho na ring nasa half-animal form ang dalawa. I already saw Charlie's hybrid form, wherein he became a bow and a set of arrows, but looking at Lexi's half-animal form, I can tell that she merged with all of her guardians. Her golden hair looked unruly, just like Lio's, but what surprised me was her body. Protruding from her back was a pair of wings and her lower limbs were replaced with the lower body of a white stallion, just like a centaur.
Just like Lexi, Yano also merged with both of his guardians. His body was covered with Jack's fur and spots, almost the same as mine but the spots of a cheetah and a leopard are a bit different. In addition, his facial features were that of a shark: sharp and pointed teeth and appearance of gill slits, along with his bluish white skin and a set of fins sticking out on his arms.
Malapit sila sa isang lawa kaya naman nagagamit ni Yano ang abilities ni Finn, his shark guardian, laban kay Gavin at nakaabang naman si Lexi sa lupa. Ang tanging gamit lang ni Gavin ay ang tatlo niyang espada kaya naman nahihirapan na siyang sabayan ang kilos ng dalawa pero bigla siyang tumigil at binalik sa scabbards ang swords na hawak niya.
"Sorry kids, but the land and water are also my territories," Gavin said with a smug. "Rex! Dip!"
Spirit particles gathered around him and an illumination appeared at the bottom of the lake. After a few seconds, both Rex and Dip, his tyrannosaurus rex and sperm whale guardians, came into being. Rex's thunderous roar and Dip's low clicking sounds made me nauseous and their sizes are no joke.
"Do you really have the time to look at them, Reika?"
Halos malaglag ako sa gulat nung nakita ko si Master na nasa harapan ko. She's in her half-animal form again and she flapped her wings towards me, producing a blast of strong wind, but I managed to hold onto Phoebe. Sakto namang sumugod si Ryleigh at Kon na nasa blind spot ni Master pero nakita ko ang pagngiti niya.
"Not happening," she murmured. "Verscheiden sie viel hyva mich han!" Master quickly chanted. Tortos' spirit particles disintegrated and immediately appeared in front of her. Seconds later, she's already wearing an armor made of Tortos' shell. She backflipped, with the help of her wings, and before Ryleigh closed their distance, Master launched her punch. Kon screeched loudly as Master's gauntlet reached his body and Ryleigh lost his balance.
"Phoebe!" sigaw ko at lumipad kami ni Phoebe papunta kay Master. Tumalon ako mula sa likuran niya at nung tuluyan nang nahulog si Ryleigh mula sa likod ni Kon ay agad siyang tinulungan ni Phoebe, habang ako ay kumapit sa paa ni Master, na mukhang hindi niya inaasahan.
Akala niya siguro ay hindi ako aalis sa likod ni Phoebe at pareho kaming pupunta kay Ryleigh. Dahil doon ay nakita ko ang panic sa galaw niya kaya naman patuloy kaming nahuhulog kahit na may pakpak pa siya. Sinubukan kong umakyat papunta sa katawan ni Master at mukhang nahihirapan na rin siya, dala na rin siguro ng armor at ng bigat ko.
"Damn it!" sigaw niya nung makarating ako sa bandang binti niya at humawak ako sa bewang niya.
"Hey!" Napatingin naman ako kay Ryleigh na ngayon ay nakasakay na ulit kay Kon habang nasa gilid naman niya si Phoebe. "Hybrid!" he yelled.
Pagkasigaw niya nun ay bigla siyang nagchant.
"Verscheiden sie viel hyva mich han!" I followed his lead and I chanted the same incantation as we all plummet towards the ground.
My half-animal form with Jerry and Carlos was released and I felt a different kind of sensation. Their spirit particles enclosed me and the next thing I knew, I was already dressed in a fur clothing. Moreover, a whip that looks like Carlos' tail was in my hand.
Pareho naman kaming napatingin ni Master sa ibaba nung isinigaw 'yun ni Ryleigh. Pagtingin ko ay puro puno na at agad na kumilos ang kamay ko. I thrashed my whip upwards and it coiled onto Ryleigh's arm. Without any words, he pulled me up before I hit the trees below.
"Cies kai! Lily!" sigaw ni Master at humiwalay si Lily sa kanya. Tumama ang katawan ni Master sa ilang puno pero bago siya tuluyang bumagsak ay agad siyang nakakapit sa mga paa ni Lily at lumipad pataas.
Natumba ako dahil sa lakas ng pagkakahatak ni Ryleigh sa whip ko at muntik na naman kaming mahulog. Buti na lang at mukhang nagkaintindihan sina Kon at Phoebe dahil agad nila kaming naalalayan bago kami dumulas at malaglag.
"Thanks," I muttered.
Nakita naman namin si Master na nag-landing sa baba at tumingin siya sa direksyon namin.
She stopped halfway because a loud and ear-piercing screech resonated across the room. Nagtinginan bigla sina Master at Gavin, and after that, they undid their half-animal and hybrid forms.
"This training ends now," sabi ni Gavin at gaya nila ay bumalik na rin kami sa dati naming anyo. Lumapit kami sa kanila. I was bothered by their calm yet serious expressions.
"Ano pong nangyayari?" tanong ni Lexi.
"I'll carry these two girls," sabi naman ni Master kay Gavin at tumingin naman si Gavin kina Yano at Ryleigh.
"Then these guys are mine," sagot niya kaya nagkatinginan kaming apat.
"Leaving this room means you need to pay for the endurance, stamina and power that the spirit particles provided for you. Being in your half-animal forms for a long time means you consumed large amount of energy so it won't be surprising if you ended up unconscious if you step outside," paliwanag ni Gavin.
"So, you can count on us. After all, you are our apprentices," dagdag ni Master.
"But what was that...siren?" This time, si Yano naman ang nagtanong pero naglakad lang palabas ng room sina Master at Gavin. Dahil wala kaming nakuhang sagot ay sumunod na lang kami. Palabas na rin sana kami pero bigla silang tumigil at lumingon sa amin.
"Oh, and by the way. That sound?" sabi bigla ni Master. "That's the signal of an upcoming war."