He sat next to Lt. Honda, not because of any fondness, but because it was the front row. This was his custom when attending his brothers' duels.

Though he doubted he could learn anything useful from seeing William get knocked flat and eviscerated within the span of five seconds.

... If it got to that point, he felt that he wouldn't be able to stop himself from interfering.

His brother walked out, as tall and severe as ever, purposeful stride. He was no doubt already calculating how to make it as humiliating as possible for Nova to watch. Irritating. The thought made him semiconsciously flex his claws.

William tapped out from the locker rooms a second later, small, clothed in white and blue.

Blood showed up so well on white and blue.

... The thought of William dead was starting to make him feel sick. He was such a... hopeless, helpless, clumsy thing.

It wasn't as though he could get up and walk out, though. He'd just have to watch.

One of Diurn's attendants gave the signal for them to go.

And for a moment, neither of them moved.

And then it was like... something... strange.

Diurn moved forward with his characteristic strength and precision. He looked to be aiming for a quick end to it.

And as he leaned forward, jumping into thrusting the blade, William was flowing like water. He jumped straight up, sword passing between his legs, and hit against his neck, shoulders, and head. This very clearly took Diurn by surprise, and he barely had the time to readjust to it before William's cape had slung around both their shoulders; he dropped his sword to grab at William's legs, tearing through his slacks, blood streaking down from claws- and yet this served as no deterrent, and though Nova had difficulty determining the exact moment it had happened, he realized that William had unfastened his cape and that it was wrapped around Diurn's head; the older man was stumbling quite recklessly in his efforts to shake William off, and screaming curses. William, on the other hand, was almost eerily silent; he had not even cried out from the pain of being clawed. He stabbed Diurn directly in the neck with his dagger, pinning the fabric in place. Diurn yelled out in pain, grabbed him by the arm and finally managed to yank him from his body, throwing him nearly clear half the floor. William landed with a roll and then immediately stood and ran back at him.

This all occurred in less than the space of perhaps a minute.

While Diurn was shredding the cape that was driven into him by a dagger, attempting to recover, William drew a sword that Nova recognized as his own, taken without notice from his room, and slashed at his ankle, bringing him down to his knees- no, that was no good; he'd regenerate too quickly for that to be of any use- and indeed, he lunged out past William, missing him by inches, and then propelled himself towards his sword. Even in this motion, William struck out at him again, sword glancing his side and spraying out blood.

There was something about the way he moved, fast, like it was instinctual, that seemed wholly different from how William was. How Nova knew him to be.

When Diurn managed to rip the cape from his throat, William deftly caught the dagger that was flying towards him, and jumped up again, seamlessly sheathing the sword, tossing the dagger to his dominant hand- Nova realized at this point that he was intentionally aiming to scar his face because the tissues were delicate and thin there, making it easier to injure them severely.

Diurn caught him by the ankle, cracking sound, and made to fling him across the room again, and William instead leaned up as he was fully, bodily being slung, and stabbed him through the arm with the dagger he had in hand in order to stay in vicinity to his body, and at this moment Nova fully realized that the man was flat out fucking feral.

He had appeared to strike some sort of nerve; blood was flowing out readily, and the way Diurn's hand loosened from his ankle did not seem voluntary.

Actually, Nova thought, from the very start of the match- less than two minutes before- William had forced Diurn into taking a defensive strategy. Not even Nova had managed this in his first match against him.

He felt a strange sense of shock and surreality, watching William clamber over his brother's body, drawing the dagger back from Diurn's arm and stabbing him in the face repeatedly. All of it was regenerating quickly, but the rapidfire attacks were leaving Diurn little time to strategize; he couldn't even attempt to remove him. As he reached round his back to grab his own dagger, William kicked him square enough in the chest to cause an audible crack, to cause him to stumble back and lose his breath. The smaller heeled boots must've been steel-toed. This clicked in Nova's head; Wiliam had specifically asked if there were limitations on what he could wear. Along with his cape, he had been considering his outfit part of his weaponry.

Still, it must've been wearing on him, that he couldn't cause Diurn to scar. That was what made these duels so important in the first place, of course; these had to be wounds of catastrophic quality.

He was flung off again, and his dagger was, at this point, left embedded in Diurn's body.

He landed harshly and did not get up from it.

Right, his ankle had been broken. Humans didn't recoup from broken bones so well.

Diurn took the dagger and cast it aside; it embedded itself in the far wall. He was panting, soaked in blood he hadn't expected to spill; he gathered his own sword, and walked over to where William was laying.

He bent over him, to stab him, to end it, presumably; Nova got the sense that from the start, he had never intended to just scar William. That would've been far too easy. The claw marks on his thighs were enough to leave scars.

Instead of that happening, though, William kicked him below his knee and forced him down lower again; and in the next instant, had forced the lengthwise edge of the sword against his mouth, and was cutting past his lips, and teeth; there was a popping sound, the cutting of flesh, and the sword had cut through his cheeks, dislodging his jaw, and William was pushing it further, angling it down.

" Is this deep enough to scar?" he asked. It was the first time he had spoken, or made any noise at all. His voice sounded the same as always.

Diurn looked down, then back up, with a deep, burning hatred in his eyes. If it weren't for the still healing nerve damage to his dominant arm, Nova had no doubt he would've ran him through. His arm was shaking, as though strained with the effort to move.

" You'll answer me, right? You don't seem like the type to choose to die over something so trivial. And I think that even though Nova says he hates you, I'd feel bad about killing one of his family members."

He was still pushing the blade through, though more slowly. God. He was going to decapitate him, at that rate, never mind a permanent scar. There was a limit to how much even Starka could heal.

At last, the pain seemed to be too much for him, and he dropped the blade from his shaking hand; nodding.

William withdrew the blade, watching the blood cascade from Diurn's wrecked mouth, and there was silence for a moment. The injury didn't look like it was healing at all.

Quite suddenly, the DASS side of the bleachers erupted into uproarious applause, and effusive praise.

Lt. Honda stood, and she was the one who had the good sense to call in the medics to retrieve William. He had, after all, suffered a few wounds. Though he hadn't expressed any pain from them at all.

Nova did not know what to say to him, or how to look at him. He very suddenly didn't want to look at him.

... Nova had killed two of his brothers in duels such as these, and somehow, he found the strength of William's ferocity surprising. The intensity of it.

He suddenly felt that he was back at the first time he had laid eyes on him, and he couldn't understand William at all.


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