Beatriz refused to give up.
No matter how much sweat poured down her face, no matter how loudly her fibres screamed in fatigue, the lady-in-waiting refused to quit.
Beatriz swung her scythe and clashed against her younger sister. Despite their supposedly equal level in mana and strength, she knew that was bound to lose eventually. She had an advantage; the blow Brandon inflicted on Bianca was more severe than it looked. She could have sworn that she heard a sickening crack under her sister’s breast plate. Despite the shield and her cutlass, Beatriz had weaved through her sister’s dance-like attacks and bludgeoned her in the very same spot that Brandon had hit her in.
“She’s right. She did teach him well,” Beatriz mused to herself. But, what was she teaching him for?
For all the times she grew up with Bianca, she never did expect her younger sister to pick up a protégé. Let alone be amused by a little boy. Her sister was simply fickle that way; never really sticking to one person. Or if the person bored her, she would toss them aside. But why Brandon? Beatriz mused. She remembered the time that she had clashed against the pirate, noticing his fighting style. Despite the clear cut difference in mana power, Brandon had sealed it off against her. Her blood froze. The reason why Brandon was able to fight toe to toe with her so easily was because –
“— you taught him how to kill me,” Beatriz whispered and swung her scythe, knocking Bianca down. “You taught Brandon how to kill me!?”
The younger sister showed no signs of remorse for her actions. “You were already starting to get annoying. You were being a pain that had to be removed.”
“You should have known that the little brat couldn’t have killed me!”
“Au contraire, dear sister, he had the skills. He just needed a little push.”
Beatriz growled and lunged at her sister. “So that’s what you’ve been doing while I’ve been rotting in a dungeon for your goddamn crimes!”
Bianca chuckled lightly. “Well, being in a dungeon shouldn’t have bothered you now, did it? I mean – you do have a slightly different preference when it came to making love.”
The two sisters clashed once more with their weapons swinging and cleaving through the meadow. Their feet danced among the tattered remains of the flowers and ignored the blood spilling out of their wounds. Beatriz could see the result of their exchanges; the wounds were not light similar to sparring. They were deep; drove past the flesh and created a crevice with the intent of either hacking off the said limb or inflicting grave damage. The lady-in-waiting smirked and pivoted away from the cutlass snaking towards her before kicking her sister in the rib cage, sending her flying. Bianca gasped and staggered back before bludgeoning Beatriz with her shield. The rim of the shield smashed Beatriz’s jaw and sent the older sister falling down to the ground.
Beatriz crashed on the ground with a soft thud while Bianca staggered only to fall flat on her back. The older sister turned to face the night sky, actually exhausted for once. There were only a few people who could drive her to fatigue the same way Bianca did. Her memory flashed back that to General Melissa who she fought in Xychosia. Another person who drove her to exhaustion was Arkamedon back in the Arachnos Cavern, and then there was the battle in the tavern. She hadn’t expected Brandon to push her to her limits like that. Let alone be able to survive fighting her! But he and Samantha had progressed far more than she ever had. Despite Luke’s death, they had pushed forward.
So, where did I fall short?
Asides from the pun she made against her own height, Beatriz glanced at her hands and saw nothing but the pale palms that she had seen for the past four hundred years. She looked at her immaculate, porcelain arms – free from any marring and scars from all the battles she had gone through. She glanced at her armour that had retained many of the scuffs and scratches over the many battles that she had gotten involved in – whether or not she was the one who started it – for the last four hundred years.
“I’m amazed though,” she suddenly heard Bianca say.
The elder sister raised her head as she watched Bianca rise to her feet. Her younger sister dusted her clothes and revealed the many wounds that Beatriz managed to inflict. Some of them were fresh wounds; others had already healed into fading scars.
“You were never the type to swear fealty to anyone.” Bianca said. She untangled her hair and brushed it neatly, haughtily staring down at her sister. “So, when did someone even bother to like an obnoxious brat like you?”
Beatriz remained silent for a moment. Come to think of it, she pondered. She was getting soft. When had she gotten so soft? For the last three hundred years, the dungeon had become her home. Nobody really cared about her and just dumped her food there in front of her on a rusted tray. She remembered the rusted shackles that tore through her porcelain white skin and left deep cuts on her wrist. She remembered also the guards who shoved her against the cold, stone floor and ripped off her prison clothes. A pain shot through her lower abdomen, loud sneers and mocking filled her ears, and all she could do was lie on the ground and do nothing.
She must’ve provoked them somehow.
She’s an Odissea; they’re all trash.
The little bitch deserved it.
We just got our good twenty minutes of action, now did we, boys?
Those jeers echoed loudly in her mind and never stopped haunting her. Then again, Beatriz remembered. After awhile, she used it to her advantage. As someone once told her, a woman’s best weapon wasn’t always coming from the eyes. Sometimes, it came from between the legs. At that point, she didn’t care. After all, nobody cared about War Prisoners. Especially the one who was responsible for slaughtering over a thousand Sofienian soldiers.
But that’s who you were in the past. You don’t look so bad.
Beatriz froze for a moment when she saw Luke and a young Samantha standing before her. Both of them were in child-like forms with innocent smiles. The dark knight, befuddled, stared at the two figures before her. What were Sam and Luke doing in front of her? And how did Sam revert back to her eight year old self? Her icy blue eyes widened as Samantha and Luke squatted in front of her with their hands extended towards her.
Just because you were bad in the past, doesn’t mean you’ll forever be bad.
Beatriz, for the first time, felt her heart tremble. It was a weird feeling inside her; it was warm, fuzzy, and strangely reassuring. A small smile curved up her lips. She soon remembered how she had softened up. The lady-in-waiting looked into the dark, innocent, and naïve eyes of the princess and the idealistic mismatched molten gold and rose coloured eyes of the Dryad. It was then she found the very things that had softened her heart. The innocence of both of them – although Luke was only for a few weeks, she had seen the kind of loyalty that only a veteran soldier would have shown. The memory of him fighting in her stead to protect Samantha flashed in her mind. He was afraid, true. But he still took up her scythe and fought against Aurelius. A burst of pride welled up in her chest. The little beansprout had more fight in him than he showed.
“Shame and I was looking forward to having a clean sweep today.” Bianca tousled her dark chestnut blonde hair. “The only one who did prove to be a big threat was that little weed.” She drummed her fingers against her chin. “What was his name again?”
The moment she said “little weed”, Beatriz roared with a rage that not even she knew she had. Something inside her just snapped. Her blood boiled at her sister’s jeers. She could mock her all she wants but nobody makes light of Luke’s death! Her icy blue eyes shone brighter than the stars above her as the plants around her suddenly began to shrivel up and die. As they decayed under her feet, Beatriz unleashed a large torrent of water that rose into the air. With the sheer force of her mana, the water rushed and swirled all around her with a crater cracking beneath her.
Fear seized Bianca the moment she heard Beatriz’s enraged screams. Her body trembled and her eyes widened. How could her sister have suddenly gained so much power? It made no sense! She then looked at her smaller elder sister as the rocks shattered from the force of Beatriz’s mana as a large glyph suddenly appeared above her. It was a dark blue glyph bearing ancient characters that only those of the Odissea could read. But she did not need to know how to read the ancient text to know that Beatriz was angry.
“You gonna fight me like the bitch you are or are you gonna run away like a sheep!?” Beatriz’s chilling growl sent shivers up her spine.
Bianca wasn’t sure what to say. But she knew that one word would infuriate her sister ever further. Come to think of it, what angered her sister in the first place? Sure Beatriz had a short temper and could throw angry tantrums that similar to an extremely overpowered toddler. But many of her anger outbursts were due to petty things. Things such as changing her entire breakfast just because the egg touched the rice after she had scrambled everything together or fix that one crease on her bed sheet just because it wasn’t straight were good enough to have one banished or killed.
But to see her enraged over a friend.
That was something new, even for her.
“Strange,” Bianca tried to keep her haughty appearance. She sneered down at Beatriz. “I never knew you to be someone who would fight for your friend’s honour.”
“That’s because you never had friends. All you had were those crazy worshippers who thought you were a god!”
“Please, better than being a whore in a dungeon!”
Beatriz scoffed and brandished her scythe. “Trust me; they didn’t even reach my standards!”
The two girls engaged themselves in a scuffle once more with their weapons singing in the air. Bianca whipped her cutlass towards Beatriz and danced towards the elder sister. Their coats billowed behind them and their clothes suffered rips and tears. Despite the wounds however inflicted by both sisters, the wounds had already begun to close. Both their flesh had slowly began to knit itself together and leave them smooth and free of any marks.
Bianca, for the first time, was at a complete loss. Beatriz never did care about humans; let alone those who she used as she pleased. But to see her angry and running on an emotional burst of mana instead of her usual desire for violence, it was something that intrigued her. It was something that she never expected from her sister. After all, if Beatriz did show any attachment to something – it was either because she needed something or if it was genuine, she’d never outright admit it.
“You got attached to the little weed, didn’t you?” Bianca mocked, seeing the fire burn in Beatriz’s eyes. “It’s amusing that you actually finally decided to care especially, for a stupid shrub.”
Beatriz whirled her scythe, nearly cutting off her head if not for her quick duck. “You know nothing! You’ve been sitting on your high horse, I’m gonna get a kick from knocking you head first into the ground off it!”
Bianca shrugged. “Fine, suit yourself.”
Beatriz and she clashed again with their speed increasing more and more. She could hear her mana shatter the ground beneath her at every leap and lunge she took against her older sister. She lunged at Beatriz to cleave her legs but the smaller girl quickly leapt over the blade, somersaulted, and prepared to bring down her scythe. Bianca sidestepped and narrowly avoided the crescent blade that intended to cleave her in half as she spun to try and bludgeon Beatriz with her shield. Beatriz ducked and deflected the attempt with the shaft of her scythe before kicking her in the shoulder. Bianca winced and backtracked a bit only to kick Beatriz in the stomach and sent her stumbling. Beatriz tried to quickly gain her composure back only to trip and fall flat on her butt.
“There!” Bianca beamed in delight. “Now I have you –”
The moment Bianca swung her cutlass once more at Beatriz; a sharp pain filled her palm as a loud explosion echoed in the air. She yelped in pain and staggered back, dropping her cutlass on the ground. Her eyes widened when she saw a small red circle forming on her palm. A searing pain shot through her hand when she saw Brandon standing behind Beatriz with his gunblade pointed at her with a white curl of smoke emerging from its tip.
“Aww, so cold of you,” Bianca chuckled darkly. “I didn’t know you’d come to her defense.”
Brandon remained cold. “I left Daniel with Samantha. I think he should be able to oversee a medical venture.”
“I suppose. He shouldn’t be stupid.”
“As for you, I can’t assure you that you’ll come out of this battle without a scratch.”
Bianca chuckled in amusement, looking at the rage flickering in his lavender eyes. How long had it been since she had last seen him? He was nothing but a wee lad back then. A small, lanky boy with lavender eyes sparkling with mischief and a certain level of insight that was not commonly associated to boys his age. But now that she saw him as a full-grown young man; it changed many things. He stood strong and more built and he even had his own weapons. No longer those wooden swords I used to train him with, she chuckled softly. He now wielded gunblades – a sword and gun. It was quite expected of him, Bianca nodded. She did remember him to be a man of versatility over specific use.
“Well then, show me what you’ve learned then.” Bianca smiled. She picked up her cutlass again.”I still haven’t paid you back for that blow you landed on my stomach.”
Brandon smirked. “Oh I won’t be fighting alone. I’m not so stupid as to challenge you head on by myself.”
Bianca paled when Beatriz suddenly lunged at her and clashed her weapon against hers. The white maiden staggered back while trying to push Beatriz’s scythe away. Much to her surprise, a sharp pain shot threw her stomach when she found Beatriz digging her nails into her flesh. She gasped and looked up into her elder sister’s cold icy blue eyes. There was nothing but sheer hatred and darkness, flashing in her eyes.
“His name… was Luke.” Beatriz hissed venomously. “Remember that.”
Bianca nodded. “I shall do so. But,” her calm expression faded into that of a more serious one. “I am afraid that I cannot let you continue shaming me in front of my favourite pupil.”
Beatriz’s eyes widened as Bianca suddenly spun around and landed a roundhouse kick on her stomach. The white maiden smirked only to clash with Brandon. She could clearly see the difference in strength and skill. While her sister had brute strength that could intimidate those with a single glance, Brandon had the skill and finesse.
She heard his gunblades singing as they clashed against her cutlass. Sparks flew in the air and the winds cut against the blades. She brought up her shield as he kicked against the bulwark before dropping down and sweeping her off her feet. Bianca quickly leapt back and brought up her shield to absorb the impact of his gunfire. She smirked; the young man had gotten faster over the years. Suddenly, Brandon faded from her line of sight and reappeared right next to her.
“Oh? Someone’s been learning how to use his energy well.” Bianca giggled softly. She gave him a proud smile. “Well done.”
Brandon shrugged. “Well, I do have to fight monsters.”
“Like my sister?”
“No, monsters like you.”
Bianca chuckled. She never knew she would cross swords with her apprentice again. The last time she saw him was when the pirates began fighting for sovereignty for The Golden Lion. “You truly are devoted to Samantha, now aren’t you?”
“I have my reasons,” Brandon simply said.
“Is that so? Mind enlightening me?”
“I don’t think you would care.”
“I’ve always been concerned with the life of my students. I’m quite curious, Brandon.”
While part of it was true, Bianca knew she had to weasel out as much information as she could from the pirate. After all, he was much easier to talk to in comparison to her sister. Before she could try obtaining information, Beatriz lunged at her and the pirate began attacking her in tandem. A smirk curved up her lips. What a challenge – to face both her sister and her apprentice at the same time! She could feel her heart leaping with joy and her blood bubbling in excitement. What kind of fight would the two knights be capable of? What would it be like fighting her sister after four hundred years?
“Well then, don’t hold back!” Bianca declared.
Samantha’s two knights clashed with Bianca as their weapons sang through the air. Brandon’s blades whistled and slashed through the swirling breeze as he quickly parried Bianca’s attacks. The white maiden smiled; she had trained Brandon well. Although there was sweat pouring down his face, the fact that he wasn’t receiving as many wounds as her sister was proved that he was getting the upper hand. However, Beatriz had one thing that Brandon didn’t have: a limitless hatred for her. A smirk curved up her lips as Beatriz unleashed a dark blast towards her as the howls of the dead filled her ears.
“Graveyard Wail!” Beatriz slammed her scythe’s butt end into the ground.
The ground beneath her split and the air became cold. Wails of the dead filled the meadow as the flowers withered from the sheer touch of Death. Howls shrieked for vengeance and rage; cries from beyond the grave unleashed an unholy fury bearing their unfulfilled dreams. The meadow’s ground chilled with frost forming over the soil and rock, turning some of the flowers into crystals. The white maiden narrowed her eyes and dodged the incoming projectiles and deflected a few. Bianca’s eyes widened however as one of the vengeful spirits nearly grabbed her and flung her into the air. She leapt up into the air and cast several white glyphs in the air before unleashing white torruses of fire.
“Deus’ Redemption!” Bianca summoned the white flames towards the howls of the dead.
The blasts clashed against one another as explosions sounded off. Bianca smirked only to see Brandon weaving through the crossfire with his gunblades deflecting some of her flames. She sailed through the air and clashed against Brandon as they danced through the floating petals and howling spells. She dashed back to put distance between she and Brandon while the pirate pushed on forward to cover the distance.
He’s not going to give up, is he? Bianca mused. She sidestepped and caught his gunblade with her shield before trying to bludgeon him with the hilt of her cutlass.
Brandon however seemingly saw that coming and brought out his other gunblade to knock back her shield while he sidestepped to avoid her attempt to bludgeon him. A smirk curved up Bianca’s lips; at least he wasn’t a push over! Suddenly, a bright dark blue light filled her vision as she saw Beatriz charging towards her with a glowing scythe. Bianca quickly grabbed Brandon by the lapels of his shirt and flung him aside before putting all her mana into her cutlass. The blade began to glow a bright white colour as she charged to meet Beatriz head on.
“Very well, sister!” Bianca sneered. “Show me the power of your darkness! Darkness always yields to Light!”
“The only one who’s gonna yield here is you!” Beatriz roared and swung her scythe. “Come on!”
Brandon and Beatriz danced and attacked in tandem. Bianca narrowed her eyes and began parrying both their blows. She ducked and slipped past Brandon’s singing blades before trying to kick him aside. The pirate grabbed her leg and flipped her over only for her to create a glyph to bounce her away from him. Beatriz chased after her with her scythe whirling and dark mana streams chasing after her. Bianca deflected them away only to see dark, shadowy creatures staring down at her with their beady blue eyes and their formless gaseous bodies.
“Hmm, you have familiars now.” Bianca mused as she dodged one of the familiar’s attempts to tackle her down. “Impressive. You never did rely on Familiars before. Why the sudden change in style?”
“I didn’t use familiars before because I killed people faster with my scythe.” Beatriz snarled. Her icy blue eyes shone with daggers glaring at her sister. “But you, you’re a different case! And you’re about to turn into useless meat chunks when I grind your bones to dust!”
Bianca scoffed. All talk, less fighting, the white maiden mused. She jumped back when she suddenly saw a blue blade cut off a small portion off her dark chestnut blonde hair. She gasped at the sight of the chopped strands as it fell to the ground with her bangs now reaching her chin. Bianca grabbed a fistful of hair only to see that her tresses now had split-ends. Her eyes widened as she stared at Brandon who shrugged with a smirk.
“That was my hair!” She gasped. Her expression contorted into one of rage. “You cut my hair!”
“Not my fault your hair is long.”
Bianca roared and lunged at him with her sword and shield. How dare he cut her beautiful hair! Anger boiled inside her as she stepped up her attack. Brandon however seemed to hold his own even with him being forced on the defensive. He staggered a bit only to continue dancing around. Bianca saw an incoming shadow familiar at the corner of her eye before callously blasting the creature into pieces. Bianca ignored the look of terror on Brandon’s face and charged at him with a vengeance like no other. Her cutlass hummed with rage and her mana amplified the sharpness of her sword. She swung it down and cleaved right through the earth, creating a large trench in one strike. Brandon leapt back while Beatriz swapped places with him and met Bianca’s attacks head on.
“It’s about time you got serious!” Beatriz grinned evilly. She swung her scythe and unleashed a dark wave. “Graveyard’s Revenge!”
A dark blue crescent wave charged towards Bianca who swirled her cutlass and unleashed a surround wave. Her white wave crashed with Beatriz’s, causing a large blast between them. Brandon and Beatriz flew back while Bianca was knocked right off her feet and sent her tumbling into the other flowers. She dug her cutlass into the ground and caught herself before she flew any farther. The blast unleashed a strong wind and uprooted the flowers while the mana dissipated into the air.
“She’ll be fine now.” Dr. Iñiaki said as he put away his things. “Your friend did a good patchwork even on her foot.”
Daniel nodded. “He’s been left to tend to his own injuries a lot so it’s understandable.”
“Ah, a Drifter?”
“No, a pirate.”
“Ah, makes sense. When you get splinters and cuts, disinfect before it gets septic.”
Daniel nodded and let the receptionist lead the good doctor out. He then turned his attention to the sleeping princess. Her breathing was no longer laboured; she had a smile on her face as if she was sleeping in relaxation. Astonishment filled him. How was she able to sleep despite the flashbacks? He still hadn’t gotten rid of the dead bodies flashing in his mind. The bodies of the many people he had to kill, citizens who were supposedly deemed plagues and banes to society – all the dead people, all for the sake of keeping society in balance.
But what was balance?
Balance meant keeping the ideology in its purest form. Knowing both the pros and cons of the ideology was what kept the balance of things. A belief taken beyond proportions and losing itself belonged to the world of fanaticism. Or so he thought. He glanced back at Samantha and then at the wounds that were sewn up and healed. What was once a life-threatening wound became nothing more but a tiny patchwork which the body would soon absorb. It’s amazing really, Daniel thought to himself. He knew Chemia Village and the whole empire of Machinos to be more enhanced with their technology but he didn’t expect the fusion of both science and magic.
“At least we managed to save her life,” Daniel murmured and looked over again to the princess’s body. “How did she manage to sneak out right under their noses?”
To have the princess be able to sneak out without anyone noticing said a lot about her knights. Beatriz didn’t appear to care at first glance. But he knew better when she threatened him at the entrance of Chemia Village. Beatriz did care for the princess; even if she had her brutish ways.
If he had to be honest with himself however, he didn’t expect that level of compassion coming from an Odissea.
From all the research he had done, members from the Odissea family were a proud race. They refused to serve anyone. Not even those who were an older generation of the Odissea; they showed no respect and everything had to be decided through violence. Trial by combat, as he had read once. He sighed to himself. That probably explained why the Odissea lived leagues apart from each other.
“Ugh,” he heard Samantha groan from the bed.
Daniel looked towards the bed. “Princess? Are you alright?”
Samantha, groggy, sat up with an exhausted look in her eyes. She winced for a moment only to look down at the keloid forming on her abdomen. Despite the patchwork that both Brandon and Dr. Iñiaki managed to do, there was still a minor scar. Her fingers traced upon it gingerly before looking up at Daniel.
“Did you do this?” Samantha asked.
Daniel shook his head. “Nope, I’m not that good with a needle and thread. Brandon and Dr. Iñiaki did a pretty good job on the wound.”
Samantha nodded. “Oh… I see…” She looked on her wound in confusion then turned up back to Daniel. “Dr. Iñiaki?”
“Yeah, he was one of the doctors that the receptionist brought in.”
“Oh, how nice of her!”
“Yeah, how could she not be? Brandon was freaking out and thinking you’d die.”
The moment Daniel mentioned that, she fell silent. He noticed her eyes suddenly have a crestfallen look to them as they looked upon her palms.
“I... I’ve been useless. Haven’t I?”
Daniel frowned. “You got this far.”
“It still doesn’t change the fact that I haven’t made much headway.”
“Headway? You’ve been keeping track?”
The princess nodded as she hugged her knees close to her, resting her chin on her knees. “I may have left Xychosia. I left behind everything I knew to take that risk. Yet nothing seems to be going right. Luke’s dead, I nearly got killed, and everything’s still the same – Brandon and Beatriz are still fighting my battles.”
Daniel looked upon the princess in silence, unsure of what to say. When he began doubting himself, he would slap himself silly and yell at himself “onward!”. But for Samantha, it was different. It was a life and death situation in which Sofiene’s political stability hung in a dangerous balance. From what he knew, it was a three-way battle. Matteo and Santino had already begun their movements. Although he had no clue who Santino and Matteo got as knights, he was sure that they would be powerful. His ears perked when he heard a loud explosion with the trees dancing wildly from the sudden howl of the wind. Daniel leapt towards the window and looked out as the white and navy blue light slowly died, revealing the calm starry night sky once more.
“What was that?” Daniel looked around. There’s no way a person can create that kind of blast!
Samantha shook her head. “It’s probably Bea. She’s probably fighting that Bianca girl.”
“She was someone I saw outside.”
“How did she look like? Do you remember?”
Samantha pondered for a moment. “She was in all white. She had long, dark chestnut brown hair. Oh it was straight! You can only imagine the amount of brushing she has to do!”
Daniel sighed. “Princess, get to the point. Anything noticeable?”
“Yes, she did have icy blue eyes. They kind of reminded me of Bea’s eyes and Brandon’s swords. Oh! And she had a long white cloak too!”
Daniel’s blood ran cold. There was another one that survived!? That’s impossible, Daniel argued with himself. In the books he read, the Odissea suffered the La Purga. The La Purga was a secret operation that the kingdoms carried out. They condemned the Odissea as heretics and demons, burning them at the stake. It was a terrifying sight; the book had described all methods on how to find a member of the Odissea family and how to kill them. He shuddered at the thought; how did she manage to escape?
“Bianca… Where have I heard that name before?” Daniel mused to himself. He then seated himself on the sofa. “I do remember seeing her face…”
Samantha stared at him quizzical. “You saw her before?”
Daniel snapped out of his daze and nodded. “Yeah, I’ve seen her face in books,” he said quickly. “This Bianca you might be talking about might be the same Bianca from 400 years ago.”
Samantha’s eyes widened. “There’s someone else like Beatriz!?”
“Possibly, if my suspicions are correct. The Odissea were cursed to live and walk the earth forever for their crimes against magic and nature. And if your description is correct, there’s only one Bianca who looks exactly as you’ve described her.”
“Th-that’s impossible! I thought only Bea was only one of her kind! She said her family was dead!”
“It’s a typical answer of someone who would refuse to be linked to a family member. But if Bianca is the Bianca Odissea then, we’re going to have a problem.”
Samantha swallowed nervously. “Yeah, there’s actually someone who can fight Bea.”
“Not just that.” Daniel shook his head. “Who is she serving and what does she have to gain from it? The best way to understand your enemy is to first figure out their motive.”
Samantha nodded. “But what do you think Bianca’s motive is then? For attacking me?”
Daniel frowned for a moment and began to ponder. What could Bianca possibly gain from the whole war? He racked his mind through all sorts of data he had gone through and none of her behavioural patterns made sense! The agent crossed his legs and dropped his back against the backrest, staring at the ceiling filled with the small stones glowing like stars. What could Bianca possibly want? Daniel asked himself. The death of her sister? Her own death? What could the war possibly provide for her?
“To be honest,” Daniel shook his head and admitted mildly. “I’m not quite sure.”
Samantha nodded slowly before looking out the window. “The only thing we do know is – she’s an enemy. And she’s probably working with my brothers.”
Daniel blinked in surprise; that was new, coming from a battle neophyte like Sam!
“There was something in my gut that told me not to trust her,” Samantha explained. She shook her head. “I can’t really explain the feeling but it was as if every part of me was scared of her. But,” she swallowed hard. “But my body wouldn’t stop moving. It just kept moving even if it wanted to run the other way.”
Daniel raised an eyebrow. “Did it feel like magic?”
“I… I don’t know. But my body didn’t want to take orders from me at all. It was as if, all my willpower had been robbed from my body.”
The agent remained silent for a moment and shrugged. “I can offer you the non-magical explanation for that feeling?”
“That would be nice. At this point, I’m open to suggestions.” Samantha smiled.
Daniel nodded. “That was a different form of fear you felt. Your mind was telling you to run but a part of your mind possibly knew already from the very beginning that one attempt to run and she could have killed you on the spot. As a form of self-preservation, you decided to follow her instead.”
The princess nodded, accepting the explanation. “I… I see. But isn’t there any way to avoid that?”
“That’s something only battle experience can teach you, I’m afraid.” Daniel said. “I’m assuming that this was the first time you’ve faced someone as strong as Bianca?”
Samantha shook her head. “There was Arkamedon. He was the progenitor of this crazy Doom Magic that Bea seemed to know and not like.”
“It’s easier to brave something that is in the dark than something in the light.”
Samantha raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“The only reason why people fear the darkness is because it is the cloak of unknown that makes it so terrifying. What’s it going to do to me? Will it kill me? What’s beyond that dark curtain?”
“True – ”
“ – But when it’s in the light, it’s right in front of you. Worst part is, it’s not hiding. Something that can come out to the open and fear nothing is more terrifying than one that lurks in the darkness.”
The princess nodded and looked out the window. “Hey, Daniel?”
“Do you think we should look for Brandon and Beatriz now? I don’t like the feeling I’m getting.”
Daniel remained silent for a moment, pondering on that thought. He looked at Samantha who looked perfectly healed but he didn’t want to charge head first without any information. After all, if what Samantha described was accurate – they would be fighting an enemy that has four hundred years worth of magic and battle knowledge. And she wasn’t the type to hold back either; if she was really the Bianca in the books he had read then, …
They were going to be certainly in deep trouble.
Brandon lay flat on the ground, still wincing from the shockwave from the blast. He turned his eyes towards an unconscious Beatriz only to see that her pale skin had been seared from the white flames. Worse part was, it wasn’t healing. His eyes widened in admonishment; Bianca’s magic actually counteracted Beatriz’s supposed immortality! How could that be, Brandon thought to himself. The only person who managed to rip away Beatriz’s curse only to have it rebound it back in his face was Arkamedon!
“Surprised? You shouldn’t be, Brandi.” He heard a smooth voice say.
He looked up to see Bianca sitting up against the rock to reveal that some of her flesh had been rotted away from Beatriz’s magic. Her white cloak was reduced to shreds and tatters while her gauntlets were rusted from Beatriz’s magic. She had a small smirk curving up her pink lips as sweat poured down her face and down her long straight dark, chestnut blonde hair.
“Bea and I are complete opposites. An anti-thesis if you will,” Bianca explained, giggling in delight. “But to be honest, I am quite astonished by your progress.”
Brandon narrowed his eyes, managing to croak. “What are you talking about?”
“What you just got involved with is a four hundred year old fight between two sisters.”
“You two have been fighting for that long?”
“Four hundred is just an estimate. It could be longer,” Bianca shrugged. She looked up into the sky. “If you really want to know more, you better brush up on your history. Everything’s there.”
That was usually Luke’s job, Brandon thought bitterly. He was the walking encyclopaedia of the human race.
“But nevertheless,” Bianca slowly stood up. “I honestly didn’t expect you to have the strength to fight me let alone, the tenacity to withstand the weight of our,” – referring to her and Beatriz, “mana.”
Despite Bianca’s praises, he could feel the daggers in her words. The murderous intent inside the lady in white was atrocious. He didn’t expect himself to ever cross swords with his former mentor. All the fibres in his body screamed at him to run but his legs refused to move. His voice trapped itself in his throat as she walked towards him and stared him down with her bright icy blue eyes. Although he had looked deep into Beatriz’s eyes before, Bianca’s sardonic gaze struck more fear in him than her older sister’s.
“But I suggest you don’t poke your nose into our fight, Brandi.” Bianca gave him a sultry smile. Her long white fingers brushed against his bronzed jaw. “People who’ve poked their noses into our business usually end up dead.”
Sweat poured down Brandon’s face as she cupped his chin and looked deeply into his eyes. He could feel the terror freeze his blood all the way to his bones from her mana alone. His hands could barely move and grab his gunblades that lay only an inch away from him. His fingers trembled. How could he have thought to defeat someone with a mana so massive? It felt as if the weight of the world just ruthlessly dropped all its weight onto his shoulders! His lungs began to strain and struggle from the weight, being crushed as his breathing became shorter. His diaphragm refused to contract, unable to pump any air through his body.
“Hey.” He heard a dark voice growl from beside him.
Brandon’s lavender eyes managed to roll only to see Beatriz getting up. Her body sustained a lot of damage. Her armour had been torn apart; cracks and dents formed on her black armour. Her scythe lay on the ground lifeless but he could still feel the chilling mana bursting from Beatriz’s body. The small girl managed to clamber up to her feet even with her dishevelled, coffee blonde hair cascading all the way to her waist. Despite being covered with burns and wounds, Beatriz still appeared threatening especially since he could still see scales covering her arms.
“You know, we can keep at this forever.” Beatriz grinned. “Not as if any of us is gonna die soon.”
Bianca sighed and shook her head. “Forever so vulgar and so violent, don’t you know how to gracefully lose, sister?”
Beatriz’s arrogant gaze twisted into that one of rage and desire for vindication. “Well guess fucking what – this battle isn’t over,” – her power began to surge again with a chilling wind tearing through the flower fields. “This battle isn’t over until I say so!”
Suddenly, Beatriz’s mana burst and tore through the fields. The winds howled and the moon turned into a blood red. Brandon’s lavender eyes widened. His breath trapped itself in his wind pipe when he saw the shadow of an angry thirteen-tailed wolf standing behind Beatriz. It let out a guttural howl as its icy blue eyes gave Bianca and him a satanic stare. Everything in his body shut down. All Brandon heard from his mind was for him to run as far away as he could from the area.
Don’t worry, Brandon. She won’t hurt you.
Brandon’s eyes widened as he felt the flowers’ petals brush against his fingertips. He slowly managed to tilt his head down and saw the flowers gazing at him. Somehow, a sense of relief filled him when he looked at the flowers. He took one last look at Beatriz who managed to sneak a reassuring smile to him.
Relax, I don’t miss.
Brandon swallowed hard, giving her a stony look. You better not!
Beatriz smirked and roared at her sister, lunging at her with her scythe. Brandon quickly tucked his body and rolled out of the way as the battle between the two sisters resumed against. For once, he took Bianca’s advice to heart. He stayed away from the battle while watching on. He quickly began to load up his gunblade, hoping to at least cripple the young woman in white. However, his fingers had continued trembling and he began to fumble over the bullets.
Shit, why? Why can’t I keep still?
Frustration built up inside him as he watched the battle. Whatever that aura Beatriz had was, it was starting to turn the tide of the battle towards her favour. Bianca actually had changed from her normally blasé expression into something more struggling. As if, she was already having a hard time. The wolf howled and tails whipped at Bianca as the young lady in white dodged out of its range, avoiding the tails trying to impale her.
“Oh, you’re already calling for him now?” Bianca smirked and looked at the angry wolf in front of her. “I’m amused; I thought you didn’t want him fighting your battles?”
“If there is anyone who wants vengeance against you more than me, it’s him!” Beatriz growled. She pointed her scythe at her. “So, I’m gonna let him get the vengeance he deserves!”
Bianca narrowed her eyes and pointed her cutlass at her sister. “Very well then, come!”
Beatriz shrieked and lunged with her scythe swinging wildly. Bianca quickly dodged the incoming tails with a graceful pivot as her blade cleaved straight into her sister’s shoulder. Beatriz growled in pain but quickly brushed it aside and turned around to kick her sister in the back. Bianca yelped and tumbled down on the ground, gathering her composure and clashing again. Sparks flew into the air with the metal screaming and screeching against one another as they made contact with one another.
Brandon couldn’t believe what he was seeing. And he thought he was already considered one of the best across the seven seas of Zemlya! Apparently, he was wrong. The battle between Beatriz and Bianca proved that. The heat of the battle continued to rise with the clash of both girls’ mana. The fiery heat of Bianca’s flames and Beatriz’s stone-cold ice ripping each other apart in a violent battle, the loud clashes and screams of their weapon – he could feel and hear their intent from their strikes.
Finally, his fingers managed to steadily slip the bullet into his gunblade. A small clink reached his ears as he slowly lifted his gunblade to take a shot at Bianca. Their combat speed was almost a blur; he could barely see a defining moment where he could take a shot. They were already resorting to open hand combat. Their fists flew as it connected to each other’s body parts. Beatriz slammed her fist into her sister’s mouth while Bianca slammed her foot right into Beatriz’s chest. The two girls flew back to create a distance between them as Beatriz dug her fingers into the ground to stop herself from flying too far. Bianca on the other hand twisted her body in mid-air and landed gracefully on the other side, nearly stumbling backwards. The moment he saw that split moment, Brandon pulled the trigger.
The shot zipped through the air and went towards Bianca only for the white maiden to drop her shield and block her heel. Brandon’s blood ran cold. She saw it coming! A deadly realization hit him when she slowly turned her head towards him with a cold, amoral smile. The maiden in white, turning towards him slowly, pointed her cutlass at him with a demonic, dead stare. Ironic to her colour, her glare terrified him instead of soothing him.
“You should have taken my advice, Brandi.” Bianca chuckled humourlessly. “You would have lived to see another day.”
She rushed towards him with her cutlass swinging, covering the distance in a blur. Brandon, frozen with fear, couldn’t find the energy to move. His knees were glued to the ground. His arms weighed him down as if filled with lead. Terror and despair filled his fingers as they barely managed to keep the grip of his gunblade. He was completely motionless, staring at Bianca’s charging silhouette ready to skewer him straight through.
Everything else happened in a blur.
In the next moment, a tail suddenly wrapped around Brandon’s waist and yanked him away. Bianca’s cutlass cut through the flowers while Brandon flew and crash landed right behind Beatriz. He gasped and finally regained part of his composure back when he saw Beatriz standing in front of him.
“Don’t be fucking naïve,” Beatriz scolded. “You can’t take her.”
Brandon chuckled darkly. “I know.”
“Then why the fuck did you shoot?”
“To give you an advantage!”
“She would have just sealed that wound shut! Your bullets wouldn’t have had any effect!”
As much as he hated to admit it, Brandon knew that Beatriz was right. Bianca was immortal just like she was. And if his attacks didn’t have much effect on Beatriz the first time, what more her sister? His hands clenched tightly into a fist. He hated feeling helpless! But what could he do? Bianca was someone way beyond his calibre! He slammed his fists into the meadow as he heard a soft poof. He looked at the flowers beneath his fist as his knuckles kneaded and crushed their petals into the soil.
Suddenly, something hit him.
His hand slowly moved towards the ear-cuff that Luke gave him and then he turned to the plants. Was it possible? Could he actually control the plants? Luke did give this to me, Brandon mused to himself. He turned to the meadow and placed both his palms against the earth and closed his eyes.
“Come on, earth,” Brandon begged in his mind, shutting his eyes tight. “Budge!”
Unfortunately, nothing happened.
Despair filled him. Was he going to be forever useless now that Luke was gone? Now that he thought about it, his First Mate was the one who constantly saved their behinds from certain death. When the cavern in Arachnos Forest was about to come crashing down, it was Luke who saved them from that certain death by using bouncing mushrooms. When Beatriz had been torn limb from limb, it was he who managed to take back her magic using his affinity with plants. When Samantha nearly fell down the ditch, it was he who made sure his daredevil attempt didn’t get him killed. A sigh of remorse and rage burned in his throat. How was he going to help Beatriz now?
You could always just ask, son of the Sea.
Brandon froze and looked up. “What?”
Nature does not choose sides. We are not one to be fickle lest the intention is to destroy. What is your wish, son of the Sea?
Brandon thought long and hard for a moment before shaking his head. “I need something to help turn the battle in Bea’s favour. Change how the mana flows; give Bea an additional boost of power – anything!”
Nature fell silent for a moment. You are concerned for a Daughter of Destruction?
“She is a fellow knight. Who am I to judge her sins?”
There was no response until the winds whistled behind him.
Very well, Son of the Sea. Let Mother Nature take care of this.
Suddenly, the meadow beneath him began to glow. He could feel his body suddenly becoming stronger and faster. His arms felt like a feather; as light as air. His legs seemed to lose their weight, no longer dragging him down. A rush of adrenaline filled his body as he stood up to face both Bianca and Beatriz. He could see that Beatriz was already losing momentum. Her swinging became sluggish and her knees had begun to buckle beneath her. The lupine aura faded into the night and left her completely defenceless. Brandon glanced at his hands, feeling the power rushing through his veins. It may not have been exactly what he needed but it was better than nothing!
“Time to put this power to good use!” Brandon thought to himself and lunged forward towards Bianca and Beatriz.
Being disappointed was normal.
But being disappointed with her sister’s performance was not what she expected herself to be.
She had expected her sister to have more ferocity after spending almost a hundred years in the dungeons of Sofiene. She could see it in her sister’s eyes. The terrors, the horrors, and the nightmares that constantly haunted her sister in her sleep – it was evident through the black bags under the thick make-up Beatriz had painted on her face. But she felt something weird in her sister’s attacks. It was as if she was pulling her punches. That wasn’t the Beatriz she knew! Her sister would never pull her punches with her! She would have pummelled her until nobody recognized her!
Yet here she was, holding back.
She could have won the battle early on, Bianca realized. She remembered seeing the arachnid form of her sister and felt the resonating mana inside of her. It wasn’t ordinary mana; it was a kind of mana that she had not felt in a long time. It was that kind of mana that spoke of nothing but sheer destruction and megalomania. A smirk curved up her lips; so he did manage to achieve a level of magic that exceeded his sister. Interesting, Bianca thought to herself. She remembered a young boy who was nothing but spiteful towards his older sister who had received the honour of naming the dynasty that would then continue for the next four hundred years.
He still got defeated though, her mind argued. Bianca shrugged; of course he would! She would expect no less from her sister. Her sister was the one who inherited her mother’s destructive powers! It was no fair! She was the favourite! Why did Beatriz receive the power and not her? It was a thought that constantly plagued her. Her hands clenched tightly to a fist when she looked towards her bleeding sister. Bleeding and beaten but, definitely not broken.
“I see you were hoping that he would at least aid you to force the momentum to your favour,” Bianca mused. She searched to see Beatriz’s scythe falling and clattering down on the meadow floor. “Unfortunately, you didn’t have the stamina for it.”
Beatriz gasped and panted for air, clutching her arm to stop the bleeding.
“Or rather, you were distracted by something.” Bianca added. She then folded her arms with an amused, slow smile. “The question is – what?”
Beatriz refused to grace her with a response.
“I don’t know. You’re pretty distracted yourself to be honest,” she heard a male voice say.
Suddenly, a sharp pain filled her abdomen. Her eyes widened in surprise. Who was that? She looked down to see a glowing blue blade. Fashioned from the metals cooled in the deepest depths of the sea, stones and the earth buried in the underwater volcanoes, the blade tore right through her abdomen and left a big gaping hole. Blood spewed from her lips as she turned around to see who her attacker was. Her icy blue eyes widened at the sight of cold, lavender ones and at the bronzed hand that held the blade.
“To think you were always the one to tell me to never drop my guard,” Brandon mused. He pulled out the sword and let her fall to the ground. “Now, looks like the roles have been reversed.”
Bianca fell to the ground with a darkness slowly enveloping her vision. She shook her head vehemently. No, this cannot happen! She forced herself to fight back with every inch of willpower filling her veins. She turned to see Brandon only to have her tears slowly spill out of her eyes. Bianca's sob slowly engulfed her entire being. How could it be!? How could I have lost to a mere human!?
The moment that thought passed through her mind, Bianca screamed and wailed to the top of her lungs.