Of Swords and Claws

Draknal: Hey all. It's been a while since I've written something, I know. I was playing Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance a few days ago, and I thought of this pairing. There aren't too many fics out there with this coupling, so I thought I'd contribute something! Anywho, without further adieu, here is my fic.

Disclaimer: I don't own Fire Emblem or any of its characters, just the plot of this story.

Chapter 1: Swallow Your Pride

"…And if we divide our strength and assault both locations simultaneously, we should be able to…" trailed on Soren, the black haired tactician of the group.


Said mercenary group leader jolted his head in the direction of his friend. "What was that Soren?"

The Sage let out a sigh before fixing his friend with a stern gaze. "Ike, have you even been listening to what I'm saying?"

In all honesty, he hadn't. His mind had been wandering as of recent, and he had some idea why. His confrontation with the Black Knight was drawing closer. He could feel it. His chance to avenge his father was almost upon him, and he didn't know if he was up to it. Willpower was one thing he had plenty of, but if the Black Knight was as strong as he had seen… then actual fighting capability was another story.

"Sorry Soren, I've just been kind of distracted lately. I'll pay attention this time, promise," came the blue haired general's response.

The caster simply shook his head in annoyance. "Ike, I don't even know why I bother sometimes… I'll go over it later. There are some things I need to attend to."

With that said, the Sage made his way out of the command tent, leaving Ike to his thoughts. Just the other day his army had faced one of Daein's Four Riders, General Petrine. She was a fierce foe to be sure.

Truthfully, that had been one of the most unorthodox battles that Ike had fought in his career. He wouldn't have guessed that such a feared and powerful general would stoop to using simple tactics like rear assaults and pitfalls. However, as simple as they were, they proved effective against his group of mercenaries.

In the end though, the dark Paladin was only a scared woman, hiding behind a façade of anger and contempt. Her dying words bothered him, and he had no clue as to why. He had struck down many a foe before in his life, but never had he been left with such a feeling of… pity?

Shaking his head to clear his train of thought, the general made his way out of the tent, hoping to go for a walk before heading off to bed.

"Ike," came the calm call of someone waiting for him outside.

What he hadn't counted on was being detained by a certain female laguz. It was odd though. Whenever Lethe addressed him it was usually in a loud or irritated fashion. Yet now she almost sounded… reserved.

Looking over to his right, Lethe was indeed waiting for him. She was leaning against a tree that sat a few feet away from the command tent. Her violet eyes were fixed on the mercenary leader.

"Is there something you need Lethe?" the blue haired boy inquired.

Pushing off from the tree, laguz seemed to hesitate for a moment. Ike was tempted to ask, 'Cat got your tongue?', but figured that the feline shape-shifter wasn't one for jokes such as that.

'Grr… why does this have to be so difficult?' the catgirl thought to herself. She remembered how the young beorc in front of her had asked her to train him to fight like a laguz. She wanted to downright deny him at first, but she decided instead to allow it.

She played it off as a free opportunity to inflict pain upon the beorc. In truth, when she had started his training, she did enjoy knocking the poor boy around. It wasn't until Ike had managed to land a solid hit on his trainer that she started looking at the beorc with a sense of pride. He was learning to not rely so much on his sloppy beorc style, and instead use a style of fighting that, to her memory, no beorc had learned to use effectively.

From then on, rather than training the boy for the sole purpose of beating the stuffing out of him, she was doing it to show that laguz styled fighting could be just as good, if not better, than the "superior" beorc style.

Now, however, Lethe found herself caught in a slight conundrum. For once that she could remember, she was slightly embarrassed. She was going to ask a beorc to teach her. Oh how her ancestors must be rolling in their graves…

Ike had the courage to ask her to train him in the laguz style of fighting, so why should this be any different for her? She was a proud laguz warrior!

And therein lies the problem. Her pride. No laguz in their right mind would dare ask a beorc to train them. Laguz forewent the use of beorc tools, opting to use their own naturally imbued weapons. Claws, fangs, talons… each of those things were just as deadly, if not moreso than their beorc counterparts.

Lethe had thought that this was and should remain the case. That is, until the battle they had undergone the other day on the bridge. Although cats are often known for their grace, agility, and speed, they are also known for their insatiable curiosity, which could sometimes prove to be fatal.


Taking the initiative of engaging the first group of enemies she spotted, the feline laguz dashed away from the main army without a second thought. When she drew closer to her foes, she noticed that a patch of the bridge she was going to be crossing looked slightly… different. It was as if that section of the bridge had been dug up for some reason, then hastily refilled.

The laguz didn't bother to think it through, and that would end up costing her. As she prepared to leap at her enemies, the ground below her gave out and she plummeted into a man-made pit. The shock from such a sudden fall forced her to revert to her humanoid form.

Shaking her head a few times to make her world stop spinning, the laguz looked up out of the pit to see two beorc looking down at her with predatory grins on their faces. One carried an axe while the other had a sword at his side.

"Well, looks like them sub-humans ain't too bright, are they?" the axe wielder chuckled.

The myrmidon couldn't help but throw in his opinion as well. "Yeah, and they aren't much of a threat either. Pitiful little creatures, always relying on claws to save them."

Using a feline-like grace, Lethe scaled side of the small pit in no time. Once out, she was immediately set upon by the men who had been mocking her. Unfortunately, she could not transform back into her preferred form yet. Her body was not yet prepared for the transformation again. All she could do was expertly dodge the wayward strikes of the axe and sword that were used against her.

A moment later, one of her attackers was assaulted by the blue haired general of the Crimean army. The myrmidon didn't stand a chance against Ike's skilled swordsmanship. He only managed to get in a few parries before the lord slipped past his guard and drove his blade into the man's chest.

Removing his sword, he then took the fight to the axe-man that had also been attacking Lethe. He was dispatched in a matter of moments. With his friend safe, Ike asked if she was okay, before setting out for battle once again.

-End Flashback-

'I was useless without my animal form…' the cat laguz growled in her mind. 'I couldn't stop beorc weapons with my fists, so I had to wait to be rescued…'

If there was one thing the laguz could not stand, it was personal weakness. This was once again where the problem was found. Without the ability to combat beorc weapons in her human form, she was weak. To depend on beorc weapons was also weakness. Oh, what to do?!

"Lethe…?" Ike inquired. He had noticed that the orange haired laguz was staring off into space, almost like she was lost in thought. The catgirl snapped her attention back to her commander.

"Huh?" was her clever reply.

The young beorc avenger could only chuckle to himself. He remembered that he had been in this position with Soren not too long ago. The latter talking while he drifted off into thought.

"I asked if there was something you needed," he answered.

"Well… I was wondering if you might… well, train me to use beorc weapons," she muttered.

To say that Ike was a little shocked was an understatement. This was coming from the person who despised beorc and their tools.

"You want me to what?" he asked, wanting to make sure that he had heard correctly.

"I want you to teach me to use beorc weapons…" the laguz trailed off. "But you don't have to!" she added quickly.

Looking away from the beorc she continued. "If you think it would be a waste of time or something…"

"No!" the boy answered as soon as his friend had even suggested such a thing. "I wouldn't mind teaching you. I was just a bit surprised is all. I thought you didn't like using beorc tools."

The feline humanoid looked indignant for a moment before turning her back to her commanding officer. "Well, I don't want to be useless when I'm not transformed. Yesterday showed me that even I have weakness that must be addressed…"

The blue haired lord took a moment to think. He could tell this was damaging to his friend's pride. If possible, he wanted to avoid that. Any time Lethe's pride was questioned or hurt, things would often turn volatile.

"Well, why don't you just use the demi-band we pick up a while ago?" he inquired.

The laguz before him snorted, "I already considered it. That thing is just way too draining. Do you have any idea how much of our strength it takes to stay in animal form for so long without having to transform back?"

In all honesty, no he didn't. "Um, I didn't think that would be a problem for laguz like you," he commented, giving his opinion on the matter.

"Relying on that beorc trinket hurts after a while," the feline laguz hissed. "It saps our strength and in turn forces our bodies to remain that way. You have no clue what we go through for that!"

Anger was evident in her tone. Okay, maybe trying to save her pride wasn't a good idea.

"Okay, okay! Calm down Lethe, geez. I was just making a suggestion," the beorc defended.

Said laguz only hissed in return. "So are you going to help me or not?"

"Sure, I'd be glad to help you," the blue haired boy commented with a grin. For once he would be the one doing the instructing. This alone gave him something to be happy about. "We can start the training first thing tomorrow. I'm a bit worn out right now."

"Hmph. Fine." With nothing else needing to be said, the feline laguz turned and went off to find something to occupy herself with.

Ike could have sworn that he heard the female mutter something under her breath along the lines of, 'Weak beorc, needing rest...'

Looking up at the night sky, the swordsman realized that it was too late to go for a walk now. He was better off just heading to bed and getting some well-deserved rest. And so he did.


As he had intended, Ike awoke early the next morning, well before the other troops. What he hadn't expected though, was to sit up and come face to face with Lethe. He sat for a moment, gazing into her violet orbs. He hadn't really noticed before, but her eyes did indeed have pupils, which were slits of dark purple. Perhaps it was because of how easily the colors mixed together that he didn't notice before. That certainly cleared up a misconception he had been making for a while.

Putting that aside, he cleared his throat with an 'ahem'.

"About time you woke up. Sheesh, what a lazy beorc. You say that you'll start training early in the morning, and here you are sleeping while the sun is already up," the laguz chastised.

"I guess I was just really tired after yesterday. Sorry," he offered apologetically. "Um… how long have you been sitting there?"

The feline humanoid looked away for a moment, her ears twitching. "Only for a few minutes. I was wondering if you would be able to sense my presence. You're worse at detecting stealthy enemies than I gave you credit for."

"We have sentries for a reason you know," Ike mumbled as he stood up and stretched, the tenseness in his muscles leaving him. "We're ready for an attack from enemies, but you're one of our allies. We have nothing to worry about."

With a 'hmph', the orange haired laguz focused her calculating eyes on the commander. "That sort of thinking can get you killed you know. In times of war you can never be too careful."

The mercenary leader raised an eyebrow at that. "Okay, I'll keep that in mind in the future. Guess that means I should be more careful around you, huh?" he inquired as he strapped on his shoulder armor and clipped his sword to his belt.

The laguz narrowed her eyes, but passed off the beorc's comment as sarcasm. "Well if you are done gathering your beorc tools, then let's go before we waste too much time."

The mercenary leader nodded, before making his way out of the tent, his laguz companion at his heels. He decided that it would be a good idea to snag a few items first, so he made a quick stop at the equipment tent. With his newly acquired bundle, he once again set out with Lethe. Ike informed a sentry where they were going, so no one would question or become worried over their absence.

Finding a suitable clearing a good distance from their camp, the mercenary leader began setting out the equipment that he had brought along.

Lethe watched with interest as he opened his pack and set aside two wooden training swords, two pieces of leather with straps, and a few vulneraries. She was curious, to say the least, about the pieces of leather.

Ike could see that the cat laguz was curious about something, so he took it upon himself to give a brief explanation of each item he brought along.

Picking up a training sword, he held it out to his companion, which she accepted from him. Turning the sword over in her hands a few times, the cat laguz tried to get a feel for the weapon. Swords, like all beorc weapons, were clumsy and felt odd to wield.

She tried to find a way to hold the sword that didn't seem awkward to her, but every way she gripped the sword's hilt just didn't seem right. After a few minutes, she found a form that was acceptable. With that she looked back to her trainer.

"Since the purpose of this is simply to instruct, and not to kill or spar, I think wooden swords will work the best for this," the lord informed his friend. "The vulneraries are just in case we wear ourselves out or actually manage to hurt one another."

Walking over to the remaining items, Lethe picked up one of the strange leather pieces. Holding it up, she sniffed it once before looking it over. "And what is this supposed to be for?"

A chuckle issued forth from her superior officer. "These are arm guards. Usually a swordsman would wear one out of metal, but these leather ones should suffice for wooden sword training."

Picking up his own arm guard, Ike proceeded to strap the piece onto his left arm and secure it, showing it to the laguz with an added, 'See?'

Following Ike's example, the catgirl secured it on her left arm. It felt strange, very foreign to her. She was used to not being weighted down by anything other than her clothes, but this felt so different.

"And what is this supposed to do?" she inquired as she continued looking over her now-secured arm guard.

Taking his wooden sword in hand, he struck it against his own arm guard, and quite forcefully at that. "A swordsman, no matter how good they are, won't always be able to parry or dodge every attack. Sometimes we use our arm guards to take a hit for us. It's like armor, but there's more to it. You have to know how to use it."

The laguz feline pondered on this. Wasn't armor just supposed to sit there and do its job? How was one supposed to be skilled with armor?

Seeing that his companion did not understand, Ike set his sword down and approached the laguz. He stopped when he was no more than an arm's length away from her.

"Strike me with your sword," he ordered.

Lethe narrowed her eyes, wondering what the beorc was up to. It wasn't everyday that somebody walked up to her and asked her to attack them.

"It's simple really. Just pull your arm back and swing this side of the sword at me as hard as you can," the boy instructed, pointing to one of the blunted edges of the sword.

"I know how to swing a sword!" the laguz hissed. She could tell Ike was using a joking tone, but still! To assume that a person didn't know how to swing a weapon… She was going make sure he regretted joking around with her like that.

Using all of her might she drew back the training weapon and lashed out at the beorc in front of her. She grinned when she felt the weapon impact with her instructor. Something wasn't right though. He was smiling!

Looking at where she had hit, she saw that she had struck his arm guard. Her attack didn't make her feel as satisfied now. Once again she lashed out. The attack was sloppy and poorly executed, but it had a good deal of force behind it nonetheless. The only difference between this attack and her last one was that she actually bothered to watch what he did this time.

The beorc's eyes seemed focused on her sword arm. He watched her draw the weapon back, and as she swung, his eyes moved to her hand and the hilt of the blade. Moving accordingly and precisely, he shifted his weight slightly, and threw his protected arm out in front of him.

Once more the sword impacted with the center of his arm guard, and he suffered no harm. Lethe was almost seething now. He was toying with her, almost daring her to land a hit. Oh, she'd show him…

Once more she drew her sword back, but instead of simply slashing with the weapon, she at the last moment brought it to her side and elected to thrust the sword's tip toward her opponent. Ike almost seemed to expect this and, using his quick reflexes, he swatted the sword's blade with his arm guard, knocking the attack away from him.

He followed up by darting forward and tackling the female laguz to the ground. Said humanoid let out a surprised yowl as she impacted the ground, her attacker on top of her. Looking up, she found herself staring into the cerulean eyes of her comrade, whose face was mere inches from her own.

"And that," Ike started, "Is how you use an arm guard to your advantage. Even without your weapon you can still be a force to be reckoned with."

"That's great…" the laguz feline muttered as she tried to process the entire series of events leading up to her being on the ground. "Can you get off of me now?"

The blue haired youth hurriedly removed himself from his current position, albeit a little red in the face. After brushing himself off he extended a hand to his friend, offering her assistance in getting up.

She wanted nothing more than to swat his hand away and make a comment about not needing help from a beorc. But that thought was quickly squashed as she accepted his help. He was, after all, her friend. He was one of the few beorcs she had come to like and in a way, respect.

"When you fight with a weapon, you not only pay attention to what your enemy attacks with, but how they attack," Ike explained.

"If you watch their movements, you can predict how they are going to attack you. That's how I was able to block your sword with my arm guard. I simply watched your body movements."

Now it made more sense. By predicting how a person was going to attack, you could move your arm guard so that it was in the path of the weapon, successfully blocking your opponent's attack.

The laguz allowed herself to smile at that. She had come to understand what she guessed were the "basics" of defending with an arm guard. So maybe if a person was skilled enough, they wouldn't need any armor other than an arm guard.

'Looks like she finally gets it,' Ike thought to himself. 'I'll need to give her more credit from now on I suppose.'

He also noted that she should smile a bit more. She was far too serious, in his opinion, and needed to learn to lighten up. There was just something about her smile… it was, in a word, beautiful, even with her elongated canines. 'If only she would show it more often…'

Bringing himself back to the matter at hand, he went back and retrieved his training sword. Once again taking up a position in front of Lethe, he raised his sword arm up in the air, but kept his blade parallel to the ground. His other arm was kept out in front of him at about waist level.

"This is a very basic sword form, the first one that my father taught me. Now, mimic my actions," he instructed.

His "student" did as she was told and adjusted her form to look like his mirror image. It felt strange though, holding a weight above herself like that. She assumed it was something she would get used to with time.

"Now, the idea behind this form is…"


Their training sessions continued like that for some time. Each day, Ike noticed that the catgirl had gotten a bit better. Lethe was a quick study to be sure, but her level was nowhere near his own. At best, he would put her swordsmanship at about the level he was at when he first became the commander of the Greil Mercenaries.

Although that was quite low, it was still impressive, considering that it was a laguz who had done it; a being that had never wielded, or prior to this, had any intention of wielding, a beorc weapon.

A week had gone by in the blink of an eye, and Ike was once again preparing to head out to train his laguz friend. This was not to be, however, and instead he found himself being greeted by the yells of sentries.

"We're under attack! Daein troops are approaching!" one soldier yelled. He was quickly running around the camp, waking up all its inhabitants, informing them to get ready for a fight.

Ike made his way towards the tents of his fellow mercenaries. Titania was already up and about, instructing other members of the group on their duties. In truth, he was glad to have the red haired Paladin as deputy commander.

"Commander, I've already dispatched Tanith and a few squads of Pegasus Knights to attack the Daein soldiers from behind. Everyone else is ready and awaits your orders," the older woman informed him.

"Excellent work Titania. I'll take over from here. Can you see to Princess Elincia's safety?" he inquired.

The Paladin nodded before mounting her steed and heading off towards the Princess's tent. With that taken care of, the mercenary commander gave out instructions to the rest of his troops.

The mounted units were to engage the Daeins in head-on combat. Archers and casters were back line support. And finally, troops without steeds would act as the second front line wave and move about at their own discretion.

Wasting no time, each member of the Greil Mercenaries sprung into action. Ike took a few platoons of Begnion soldiers and moved to flank the enemy. His fellow mercenaries that joined him were Lethe, Volke, Mia, Soren, and Boyd.

They moved quickly and with purpose, hoping to be able to catch their enemies off guard from out of the wooded section of the battlefield. Said battlefield was essentially a large plain that was bordered with thick forests. Early deployments of the Crimean army met their attackers at the halfway point of the plain.

Soren wasted no time in summoning his arcane powers and engaging ranged attackers, striking with the elemental fury of thunder. Volke, not one to take part in direct combat, took the shadows, taking down enemies whenever they happened to wander too close to the wooded area.

Ike, Lethe, Boyd, and Mia leapt forth into combat, weapons and claws at the ready. With Soren and other long range soldiers taking down the ranged attackers on the opposing side, that only left direct melee fighters to be dealt with.

The blue haired youth found himself facing a duo of halberdiers. Not one to press his luck, he was quick to take to the offensive, rather than waiting. Dashing toward his first opponent, he ducked around a thrust of the man's steel lance.

With an upward slash from his Regal Sword, he sent the man staggering backwards, a large gash in his armor. Twisting to the side, he dodged an attack from the other soldier, who started his advance on the young swordsman. Being sure to keep from making the same mistake as his partner, the lance wielder made short jabs and thrusts, quickly retracting his weapon for defensive purposes.

Ike could see that the first man he attacked was regaining his footing and advancing on him. Having two lance wielders attacking him at the same time was not his idea of a "good" fight. He had to dispatch one of them fast, and he had the perfect idea of how to go about doing it.

Adjusting his grip on his sword, Ike hurled it into the air, then took off running towards one of his enemies. This trick would only work on relatively untrained or low discipline soldiers. Fortunately for him, his gamble paid off this time. Each Halberdier directed their attention up to the still rising sword, watching as it spun through the air.

It wasn't until the first lance user noticed a blue blur out of the corner of his eye, that he realized his mistake. Before he could act and fend off his attacker, he found himself tackled to the ground.

Not wanting to pass up his opportunity, Ike drew the dagger that was strapped to his ankle and thrust it into the man's unprotected neck. It was over in an instant, the man's unmoving body making gurgling noises as his life fluid bled out.

Removing the dagger, the Crimean general found himself set upon by the other Daein soldier. His sword, which had since impacted the ground and was standing up, was too far away for him to use. Close range was his only choice, but it would have to be on defensive terms.

The black armored soldier thrust his lance at his blue haired opponent, but he nimbly avoided the strike. Using the blade of his weapon, he tried to slash his unarmed enemy. This time, Ike ducked around the attack and dashed forward, hoping to use the same maneuver as before to eliminate his foe.

The Daein smirked. This is exactly what he wanted. The boy probably figured that he was making the same mistake as before, so he took the first opening he received. Once again he tried to tackle the man, but his foe was prepared. Using the butt of his weapon, he knocked the boy aside. Now standing over his fallen foe, the Halberdier hoped to make quick work of the youth, while he was still dazed.

Ike saw the man raise his lance in hopes of a killing blow. Before the man could strike, his face turned from a sneer to a look of pain and agony, before he collapsed to a lifeless heap on the ground, a hand axe sticking out of his back.

Looking up, the mercenary leader found Boyd standing not more than thirty feet away, giving him a 'thumbs up' and a cocky grin. "You better watch yourself commander. I won't always be around to save your ass!"

Ike felt himself grin at that. His rivalry with the axe wielder may have caused trouble at times, but it only served to strengthen their friendship.

Making his way back to his previously discarded sword, the lord once again took it into his possession and continued his fight anew.


Lethe had been making short work of her foes, her claws and agility giving her a natural advantage over the beorcs. However, she, like all laguz, was unable to maintain her animal form for too long before reverting.

With no claws in her humanoid form, she instead found herself relying on the iron sword that Ike had given her. Along with that, he had also supplied her with a steel arm guard, which was made with the purpose of seeing real combat. A Myrmidon and a Swordmaster were the foes she was faced with, the former charging at her, silver sword drawn.

The man began attempting to dismember the catgirl, thinking that she had no practice with a human weapon. Such an assumption would turn out to be a mistake for him.

Starting with a downward slash, he hoped to cleave his opponent in half. His attack was parried with ease. Being a laguz, and one of the cat tribe, Lethe's enhanced eyesight made it easy to observe the Myrmidon's body movements. Every time he moved, it was as though she was reading a book. It was almost as if the Daein combatant was yelling out what he was going to do.

The man gritted his teeth. There was no way that subhuman knew how he was going to attack! If was obviously a fluke, and there was no chance she could stop his next attack!

Once more the sword wielder attacked with a downward slash. This time, before it reached its target, the man adjusted his armed slightly and moved the attack toward the laguz's side, hoping for at least a glancing blow. From there he could slowly cripple and then kill the beast!

Once more the attack was blocked. This time though, the laguz feline pressed her advantage of an opening and scored a slash on the man's sword arm. Said man was appalled. He had been injured! And by a sword wielding subhuman no less!

With a sharp battle cry, the Myrmidon charged forward and thrust his sword at the laguz. Following Ike's example, Lethe used her arm guard to swat the man's attack to the side, before leaping forward with her own thrust attack.

The man gasped in pain as he felt the sword pierce his chest. "Blasted subhuman…" he murmured as he felt his life leave him.

Removing her sword, Lethe turned towards her remaining opponent. The Swordmaster had an almost sadistic grin on his face as he stood with his arms crossed.

"Well," he started calmly, "This certainly is a pleasant surprise."

"Put up your weapon, beorc scum," the violet-eyed girl hissed. She wasn't one for kindness towards an enemy, but Ike had taught her that it was at least honorable to let your foe draw their weapon before attacking them.

At least, that was the case when it came down to a duel. Seeing as he was the only enemy that needed dealing with right now, it would be a one on one fight. What it boiled down to was that this would be a fight between sword users, hence, a duel.

"I never expected to come across a subhuman with knowledge of the sword. This is a rare once in a lifetime treat for me!" the sword veteran sneered. "I shall savor this."

The cat laguz growled in response. She decided the time for talk was over. It was time to let their swords do the talking. Lethe attacked with a flurry of sword strikes, but to her chagrin, each one was expertly dodged or parried.

"Come now. Surely you can do better than this," came the amused voice of her opponent. "I suppose this is the best that a subhuman is capable of," he sighed.

Once again, the laguz assaulted the Swordmaster with various strikes, each utilizing her incredible speed and agility. Again though, her attacks were met with failure.

The catgirl found herself quickly becoming agitated. This beorc was toying with her and she knew it. The bored look on the man's face was evidence of that. Every attack she made was knocked aside or simply brushed off. She had yet to strike the man, and probably wouldn't. His swordsmanship was of an entirely higher caliber than hers.

Tired of playing around, the Daein sword wielder decided it was time to take to the offensive. He lunged forward, sword at the ready. The laguz managed to parry his first attack, which he had hoped she would. After all, it wouldn't be fair to end such a match with only a single strike.

The beorc darted around the laguz, striking out at random intervals, each time catching the feline-like humanoid off guard. Apparently she wasn't as well trained with a sword as he had thought.

'This is pathetic… I'll never defeat him this way!' Lethe thought with disdain. Her sword skills were no match for him, so it looked as though she would have to do what laguz did best. Improvise…

When the Swordmaster launched another attack at the cat laguz, she dropped down to the ground and lashed out with a kick. It connected with the swordsman's gut, which sent him reeling.

"You sneaky little subhuman…" the beorc muttered. "You broke one of my ribs with that kick. I'm afraid you'll have to pay now."

With almost inhuman speed, the sword wielder had surged forward and with a single attack, sent his opponent to the ground. In the process, the laguz's sword had been sent skittering across the ground, far out of her reach.

Standing over his fallen opponent, the swordsman let a maniacal grin cross his face. "Well, it's time for you to pay the price little kitty!" he cackled.

The orange haired girl wanted to move, she really did. But her body was aching and wouldn't respond to her commands. She could only sit and watch in horror as the man raised his sword, ready to impale her.

With a quick downward thrust, the sword found its way to the catgirl's right shoulder. The burning sensation was unbearable. Letting out a cry of pain, the laguz clenched her fists, trying not to focus her injury. Something caught her attention though… the pommel gem on the hilt of the man's sword was glowing. It was red!

That meant… the sword was a Rune Blade! Pain coursed throughout the laguz's entire body, and it felt as though she was on fire on the inside. The man above her laughed darkly as he felt his strength returning to him, thanks to the twisted magic of his weapon.

Removing the blade as slowly and painfully as he could, the swordsman crouched so he was at eye level with his opponent.

"Such good opponents you subhumans make," he chuckled, looking over the wounds he had inflicted on the humanoid. "You're so fun to toy with, and even more fun to hurt. But what I think I enjoy the most… is how they always try to act so superior to humans. Even as they lie broken and beaten, they don't give us the satisfaction of hearing them beg for mercy."

Delivering a kick to his downed opponent's ribs, the Daein laughed. "That was for breaking one of my ribs. Unlike my allies, I take pleasure in causing my subhuman victim as much pain as possible, before leaving them to rot. I never perform a clean killing stroke on subhumans. It is so much more fun to watch as they try in vain to cling to their life, knowing full well that they won't survive my torture."

That was it… Lethe had had enough. Slowly her vision turned to red. This man would die by her hand, and nothing would stop her. Her fury was bubbling up within her, and that was all she needed right now. Hate… anger… bloodlust…

The Swordmaster grinned as he saw the subhuman begin to shake. 'The futility of her efforts must finally be settling in,' he mused.

Without warning, the laguz transformed and lunged at the man. He had no time to react. In an instant he was on his back, with two sets of claws digging into his chest. He cried out in pain as he felt the claws dig through his flesh.

'He must pay…' the laguz thought as she continued raking her claws over the beorc again and again. 'He must DIE!' she screamed in her mind.

Using her powerful jaws, the transformed laguz bit down on the beorc's throat and tore away at the flesh. The man's screaming abruptly ended…

The cat's fur was now soaked with blood… her opponent's blood. But it wasn't enough. He had to pay… even in death. And so she continued with her punishment, destroying the man's body further.


Ike ran as fast as he could. He had seen Lethe go after a set of opponents, but she had moved farther away from him, hoping to drag her foes away from the greater numbers on the battlefield.

While he knew the laguz was sufficient in sword combat, he was doubtful that she could take on two opponents and come out unscathed. Keeping that in mind, he continued to run through the dense forest, looking for any sign of his laguz companion.

As he neared the edge of a clearing, his nose was assaulted with the scent of blood. Being a beorc, his sense of smell wasn't as strong as other species… so this meant that there was a lot of blood, and it was fresh. Stepping out into the clearing, the blue haired general came upon a sight that made him want to wretch.

In the center of the clearing was… what was once a beorc, Ike assumed. There was blood everywhere… along with innards and torn flesh, strewn across the clearing. On what remained of the body was a laguz. But not just any laguz… it was Lethe. He could tell from the two green ribbons with bells at the ends.

There was something… off about her. She was still in her beast form, and still mauling the man's body. Ike knew he would have to be careful.

"Lethe," he called out. If the female laguz heard him, she gave no indication of it. Her ears didn't even twitch in his direction. Slowly, he approached the enraged laguz.

Inch by inch he made his way over to his friend. When he was an arm's length away he reached out to grab the laguz. Resting a hand upon her back he called out her name again.

This time, the cat did react. Whipping around it leapt at the mercenary commander. Ike managed to move himself out of the creature's path, if only just barely. Drawing his sword, he took up a defensive stance. He didn't want to hurt the catgirl, but he'd be damned if he simply sat there and let her attack him.

The orange furred laguz began to circle the blue haired youth, looking for an opening.

"Lethe, you have to stop this," the beorc called out. "Don't let your animal side control you."

The laguz responded by attempting to slash at him. Ike managed to parry the claws with his blade, hoping to keep from injuring his friend. The cat charged forward, intent on harming the beorc, just like she did the other one…

"Why are you doing this? What's wrong?!" the lord inquired as he continued parrying the laguz's attacks. There had to be some way to get through to her without hurting her, but what?

A hiss and a growl were all that he got in reply. There would be no negotiating with her, no reasoning. He would have to tire her out. However, he knew that could be a problem, considering how stubborn Lethe was when she was in her humanoid form. She wouldn't simply give up from exhaustion.

The pattern of attack and parry continued on for several minutes. Throughout it all, Ike never stopped trying to get through to the laguz. Each time though, he was simply answered with another attack.

It wasn't until Ike went to switch up his sword form that the cat was able to catch him off guard. Even though his differing sword forms were similar, trained eyes like that of the beast tribe would be able to pick up on it.

It was when his grip was the least secure that the beast struck. He managed to parry, but his weapon was knocked out of his hands and sent flying a short distance away.

Inwardly, the mercenary leader cursed at his carelessness. He thought about using his dagger, but quickly dismissed the thought.

'I don't want to hurt her…'

Unfortunately, the laguz's thinking was not among the same lines.

'Hurt… torture… kill the beorcs would seek to harm me…' the laguz growled to itself.

With no weapon, Ike found himself on the defensive more than ever. Cat laguz were naturally agile and quick, more so than even the most well trained beorc were. This advantage allowed the feline laguz to score several hits on the Crimean general.

Ike watched in silence as several trails of blood began to make their way down his chest and arms. If this kept up much longer…

"Lethe, please stop this! This isn't you, take back control!" he pleaded, hoping the laguz would listen.

For a second it seemed as though she hesitated. Maybe he had gotten through after all. At least… he thought he had, before the laguz leapt at him, knocking him to the ground.

The cat smirked internally. It had caught its prey. All that was left was to dispose of it. It moved to rip out the beorc's throat with its jaws, but instead found an arm in the way.

Ike grimaced as he felt the laguz's teeth dig into the skin of his sword arm. Blood was pouring forth at an alarming rate. In addition to the other wounds he had suffered, the blood loss was starting to add up. He felt light-headed, but he would not simply give up and die.

"Don't do this Lethe… please…" came his plea.

A growl issued forth from the filled jaws of the cat. It applied more force behind its bite. As its teeth sank in deeper, the laguz took pleasure in watching pain etch itself across the boy's face. He would suffer as she had at the hands of the other beorc…

Ike was about to speak to the laguz again, but before he could, an audible SNAP! rang out through the clearing. The sound was accompanied by the most painful burning the blue haired beorc had ever felt in his life. His arm felt like it had been cleaved several times over with an axe… Ike did the only thing that came to mind. He screamed…

-End Chapter-

Draknal: A little morbid there at the end, I know. Hmm… don't have an explanation for that. Well, that concludes the chapter. There should be one other chapter, maybe two, depending on how much gets done or said in the next one. And it also depends on my mood and my workload for college.

Please: Some reviews would be much appreciated. It lets me know that what I write isn't just a waste of words.