Chapter Twenty-Two: Part One

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The plan had worked out perfectly; Phenex had come, just as Reeves knew he would. If there was one thing that could be counted upon, it was the firebird's predictability. It had been no accident when Reeves had 'let slip' about Her Ladyship, knowing full well that if Phenex and the rest of those insufferable High Council lapdogs escaped, the first thing he would do—after tending to his insignificant daemon sidekick, of course—was check the legitimacy of Reeves' claim.

Now was not the time to be congratulating himself, however. If he wanted to initiate the next phase of his plan, he would have to be quick. Otherwise whatever Regulations Force unit had received the distress call in the first place would be there before he even got the chance.

Seeing Phenex's look of disgust as he glanced at the surrounding horde, Reeves smiled. "Oh, don't worry, it's not them you'll be fighting." He spread his hands wide, almost amicably. "They're just here to spectate. From now on, it's just you and me, firebird...just like you wanted." When Phenex said nothing, he went on, the corners of his mouth curling into a grin. "Tell me, how is that little human pet of yours? She must be falling to pieces after what Misa did to the daemon."

That was all it took to goad a reaction from him. The fire rippled from his head down to his toes, doubling in intensity as he lunged forward. Reeves had anticipated this, dropping low before Phenex could plunge a fiery fist into his face. It took only a split second to concentrate on the shadows, melding with the pavement until he was nothing more than a dark pool on the ground, slipping right under Phenex's nose and directly behind him.

Phenex whirled around, lashing out with his heel the same moment Reeves threw a particularly savage punch to his kidneys. Phenex doubled over, letting out a pained groan. Reeves followed up with a punch to his ribs, then another, until finally Phenex got in a lucky uppercut, fire leaping off of him in brilliant flashes of red and orange. Reeves staggered back with a growl, one leather-clad hand wiping a trail of blood from his chin.

From then on, it took all of his concentration to avoid Phenex's attacks, flames trailing behind both fists with every jab thrown his way. Anger burned deep in Reeves' gut, forcing shadowy coils up from his shoulders, swaying in time with his movements as he continued to dodge. He needed a distraction, anything that would grant him the opening he needed in order to get the upper hand. Much as he hated to admit it, Phenex was the stronger of the two of them. He knew it, had always known it, in fact, since their first encounter nearly sixty years ago—but that didn't mean he was going to let him win easily.

Or at all, for that matter. No, Reeves had a few tricks left up his sleeve, and he intended to make full use of them.

Just as Phenex's fist was about to connect with his cheek, Reeves phased out, leaving only an after-image of himself behind. Confusion flitted across Phenex's face, tawny eyes narrowing when his fist met nothing but open air. He wouldn't remain confused for long. If Reeves wanted to win this battle, he had to strike now.

Clearly Phenex had other plans. Recovering from his momentary confusion, he turned, bringing his elbow down at the junction between Reeves' neck and shoulder right when he returned to his physical form, dislocating it with a sickening crunch.

Reeves stumbled back with a hiss of pain, clutching his wounded shoulder as he wove back and forth, evading the fiery punches. Fortunately being of demonic origin had its perks, the shoulder healing within a matter of seconds. When it did, Reeves returned to his incorporeal form, ducking under Phenex before he could figure out just where he'd gone.

Reeves smiled, hearing the jeers of his soldiers as they formed a barrier around them. None dared touch the firebird though; they knew better. This battle was between Reeves and Phenex, and he fully intended to honour it—for as long as it worked in his favour, anyway.

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