Chapter 49 - Suicidal Courage
Since Arata found himself fighting alone, he decided it was as good a time as any to try his new fighting style. He dropped the swords and grabbed hold of the chain by its middle.
“Fuh.” He started pulling and pushing, waving the chain around so as to wave the swords around. Flicking his wrists, the swords whistled and hissed at the wind around him, as he advanced forward towards Katsuryu.
“I see you are a true gladiator, Arata.”
Arata waved a sword to slash at him but he leaned back, easily avoiding it.
“Most cannot help themselves but to start mastering magics aimed at improving their fighting, but you simply move on to another fighting style, don’t you? A true gladiator is, after all, a master of many weapon styles. The simplest and most straightforward of warring practices.”
The swords were flying, but were cutting at nothing but air. Arata didn’t respond or acknowledge Katsuryu’s taunts, he just danced around with sure and firm footing, making physics do most of the work behind his attacks.
“But I am afraid I’m feeling rather impatient,” Katsuryu stated, as he turned, allowing a thrust to graze his chest. He grabbed hold of the chain and heaved it in a pull so abruptly strong it snapped the chain loose a few inches ahead of the pull.
Arata’s eyes opened in intimidation and the second after that he felt his right leg taking a heavy blow. The world lost its axis and then something hit him in the chest and next thing he knew he was crashing against the wall. Again.
By the time he slid down to fall on the ground, he not only noticed he had hit the exact same spot as before, but that he was still grasping the one sword by the chain, even though one of his fingers had been broken. But it was an inconsequential finger unless one wanted to get married, then that finger might be crucial.
He pulled and grabbed the sword, holding the chain in the other hand.
“Jomiko, I could really use some help here!”
She was still down, though, frozen and trembling. Arata sighed in frustration, and jumped at Katsuryu who simply raised an eyebrow, “really?”
Arata whipped the chain at him, jumped to the side and slashed to try and catch him, but Katsuryu grabbed the chain and pulled. Arata was quick to let go, slashing at Katsuryu as he had intended to.
Katsuryu was forced to jump back to avoid getting cut, and then he whipped the chain back at Arata, hitting him across the face. Arata flipped in the air because of the blow but still managed to land on his feet. There, he grabbed the sword with both hands and leaped for Katsuryu.
Katsuryu put the chain in front to catch the sword but Arata managed to break through it, and that again surprised Katsuryu, who hopped back very nearly getting cut. It was so close and the slash downward so well aimed that the tip of the sword did a slight cut to the tip of his nose. A very little drop of blood fell from it, noticeable mostly due to the smell, and Katsuryu smiled, thoroughly amused and not very intimidated that Arata was already leaping after him.
Katsuryu slapped the air in front of Arata, creating a wind attack that hit Arata hard, blowing him away to the side.
“Witness what takes place once I decide to even be half-serious about this fight? You are but a fly, little lamb, and I can easily swat you away.”
But when he turned to look at Arata, he was already getting up, wielding the two swords.
“Are you perhaps insane? Why do you push on?”
“You’re going to kill us no matter what,” Arata said, “you said so yourself. The only way I’ll survive this is by fighting…and beating you.”
Jomiko heard this, and it made her feel again. A torrent of emotions came running back along with the memory of lessons fear had made her forget.
She had forgotten why she was so reckless, so full of initiative and full-front approaches to dealing with problems and threats. It was, indeed, because once can’t avoid death, one can confront it when it least expects, before it’s ready for them, and beat it into submission.
“Not looking very good then, huh?” Katsuryu again taunted, as Jomiko stood up. He noticed her, and she was behind him so he turned his left side towards her.
“Oh? Getting up? Do you also wish to die fighting?”
“No, I just remembered,” she said, looking from him to Arata.
“Finally,” Arata smiled.
“Shut up,” she said, cracking her nose back into place since she had not done so yet. She then assumed a fighting stance, closing her eyes, concentrating. She would once again turn off emotion and thought, enhancing her senses and perception and fighting instinct. She would do, not think. Act, not plan. Be all around her, be a weapon with many parts.
“What? What did you remember?”
She flexed her whole body as she changed stances, and dust and dirt were suddenly pushed into the air around her, the power of the physical fully concentrated and at the ready. She opened her eyes then, focused and deadly and sharp.
“That I fear death above everything else. And anyone.”
She charged in one step, one step to get her through the hundred feet worth of space that was between her and him. She almost as if glided across the floor, her feet mere inches apart from it, her whole body turning for a power-thrust with her hand.
Katsuryu scoffed and back-waved his left forearm at her since the hand was occupied with the stone. Her fist collided with his arm, the resulting shockwave generating an explosion of wind, and, to his surprise, making him stagger.
His body rebounded off the counter-attack, and he heard Arata dashing at him from his side. Arata had his arms crossed, and he opened them to cut Katsuryu in half, but the Rei hopped and side-flipped over Arata, the swords trailing his leg’s ascent.
Jomiko jumped after him, though, over Arata, punching him away even though he blocked the strike. She landed and punched again, following it with a flurry of combos that he was forced to address with a flurry of parries, all successful.
“Feisty,” he taunted, but his words were lost in the sound of the wind around them as all their limbs lashed about at blurring speeds, piercing and weaving and hitting each other to the sounds of nothing but movements and their collisions.
Arata came at him from behind, slashing, but he found a way out and so stepped out. If Arata and Jomiko were less experienced, these entries of Arata would be very dangerous for Jomiko, but he easily diverted his trajectory as soon as it was obvious Katsuryu was going to dodge. And Jomiko simply followed to continued to fight.
Why Katsuryu wasn’t using his magics was a question much of interest to Arata, but now that Jomiko was setting the rhythm and flow of the fight, he was more inclined to follow that than to inquire or to ponder on that issue. If Katsuryu wanted to underestimate them, then he was welcome to do so.
They had survived a good share of adventures on account of being underestimated.
“Tsk,” Kazuki glanced around again, his senses mostly filled to the brim with the sounds of war and death. He attempted to contact Jomiko but she was unreachable, which reminded him the caves were protected against that kind of thing.
Then there was a rustle in the leaves, but Kazuki was in mid-air. He placed the sword in the path of whatever abruptly jumped at him, but the large tree trunk could care less. It crashed into him, throwing him against another tree.
He rebounded off the tree’s body, jumping away from the branch as soon as he landed.
“You think you’re running away, Rei?!” Kazuki was relieved when he heard the voice, for now, he knew where it was coming from. Landing temporarily on the vertical face of a tree, he focused and casted speed on himself.
He jumped and charged at a bush, but something cut the wind to his right, so he flipped and turned to avoid it, and it was an arrow.
“You missed!” A voice surged from above.
“He’s good! Everybody take him down now!” The archer, somewhere within the flora, commanded.
Two swordsmen came out from above Kazuki, and he looked at them, facing the oncoming death with the same cold emotionless eyes with which he faced everyday life. He grasped his sword tight and waved it while side-stepping.
He re-directed a thrust while allowing a slash to cut down his back, not too deep that it would incapacitate him. He ducked, allowing an arrow to kill the one nearest to him, all the while swiping him off his feet.
“Ouf!” he tumbled down the branches and giant leaves with an arrow in his chest while his friend yelled out for revenge, slashing down on Kazuki who was already raising his sword to parry it.
He parried the sword and then twisted his sides, an arrow cutting through the cloth and skin over his shoulder. The swordsman, a Fea, also twisted to dodge, barely avoiding a head shot.
He opened his arms in protest, yelling, “damn it, Jaind, just lemme fight!”
Kazuki slashed at his face, drawing blood, but he jerked back in time to avoid a fatal blow.
“You fu!” He kicked Kazuki, pushing him away, and then slashed down at him, but Kazuki threw his body and dove out of the branch.
It was only when he landed that he noticed he had a deep cut on his right arm. His grip loosened and his sword fell, but he jumped after it, with the swordsman close behind.
He got ready for the pain he was about to suffer, his eyes seeing leafs and vines and branches fly right past him. If he reached the ground, he would be in deep trouble, since there’re roots there, and they can be thicker and easier to control than branches and vines.
It all happened in a flash of speed. He opened his arm against a branch, pushing against it. This obviously resulted in a very aggressive clash. The arm cracked, the branch broke, but his fall received an abrupt stop all the while making him spin. It was too quick and even Kazuki didn’t notice how he cut through the swordsman.
All Kazuki could tell was that the one mass that was falling behind him had become two. Pain was near all-numbing, but he had collected himself in preparation, and so he quickly thrust a sword through another branch, to hold him.
Grunting, he pulled himself up.
He sighed, taking one short moment to breathe before dashing out of the branch, an arrow lodging itself where he once was.
He casted speed again, for he had lost his concentration during the collision, and upon landing, jumped. He casted “sensing” on himself, which allowed him to hear the arrow cutting through the wind. Knowing the archer’s position, he made his way to him, cutting him down soon after.
With blood smeared across his chest, he looked at his right arm, frowning at how screwed up it looked. It was broken and twisted in such a fashion it didn’t even know where to bleed from. It had gashes and bulges of blood in about two places, and was red and purple all over. It was completely unusable.
He waited three seconds longer, glad to breathe easy, and since no tree attacked him, he assumed the Archer had been the forest guard.
That was good, he was not sure he could fight a decent Fea forest guard. He touched his arm to see if he could mend some of it, but upon pushing, he didn’t recognize the pain… or the bones for that matter, so, with an impatient sigh, he left it alone. Hanging there, battered into a pulp of flesh.
He looked around, regaining his sense of direction.
I only see one chance of ending this adventure with my life. I can’t stop now…time is definitely of the essence. He used the archer’s bowstring to tie his mangled wrist to his chest, so to at least keep the arm from bouncing around.
And then he ran.
Meanwhile, back at the caves, Persephonai was finishing healing Fuun’na, all the while stabilizing Sanpu with his other hand.
“He’s gonna be fine, the lucky bastard,” Persephonai said in a tired somewhat rebellious tone.
“Hey!” Fuun’na smacked him across the head, “watch how you--” she was interrupted by a dagger to the neck, compliments of Danatcia.
“Whoah! Whoah now, back off, Dana.” Persephonai called out, and Danatcia backed off, a bit involuntarily. “I’m sorry. Anyways, Sanpu will make it, but I don’t wanna risk staying here any longer. Arata and Jomiko may need our help, and Dana needs to go call her people. And Pixa is really out for the count. Unfortunately…I’m betting she’d be really useful.”
“Call her people?”
“Yeah, she was helping Katsuryu in order to get these caves for her tribe, and I suggested she go get them so they can take them now, while they’re unprotected.”
Fuun’na smiled, devilishly amused.
“How fiendish. I love it. And what about the little squirrel? Is she really going to be alright?”
Persephonai crouched over Pixa, his hands glowing as he analyzed her condition.
Pixa was unconscious as well as shivering, as if she was hurting in her dreams, but she was going to be perfectly fine.
“Yeah. You know, thinking about it, she’s the only one of us that took down one of them by herself.”
“She would have died if you hadn’t come along, though,” Fuun’na pointed out.
“Maybe, the thing in her wasn’t mortal, just really damaging. Anyways, your brother almost died too.”
“Yeah…” Fuun’na looked down at her brother. She never imagined she’d be the one left standing, it had been the other way around the last couple of times. “So, we two go help Arata and Jomiko?”
“Hopefully, they won’t need it. But that’s the idea, yeah. Will you be ok by yourself, Dana?”
Dana simply nodded and walked away.
“Alright,” Persephonai stood up, “let’s go finish this.”