Victory or Kabaiila, Part 2
Saferon and Ritana made constant efforts to flank the Imperator, every effort punished by a brutal counterattack that either one could barely escape without injury. Saferon continuously kept her guard up with at least one half of a pole at a time while attacking with the other, knowing that the weapon itself could not deliver the lethal kill. Enough electrocutions might.
Ritana’s approach was much less direct. She deflected his attacks with her wings, forcing him to burn more energy and also watch for the razor-sharp blades packed in with her feathers. What she lacked in Saferon’s versatility, she made up for in sheer prowess, vigour and speed. She never struck the same place twice and never stayed in the same spot for very long.
Yet the most damage the two could ever do to him was put a slice in his cloak or a dent in his bracers, occasionally pulling a tooth from his serrated blades.
Before either of the women knew it, they were fighting him into a dark, abandoned, smoke-filled alleyway where moments before, fighting between the two warring factions must have taken place. The smell of burnt flesh permeated the area, enough to stall anyone with even the weakest sense of smell.
But the three taking their fight there would not be phased, for it was a stench all too familiar to them.
Suddenly, he made an upwards slash at both of them, thrusting out in such a way that both Saferon and Ritana had to back away. With that, he quickly disappeared into the smoke.
The two women panted as the fatigue of prolonged fighting caught up with them. They contained it as best as they could, breathing deeper to cool their hearts, knowing already from first impression that he was the type to use the advantage of surprise and opportunity every chance he could get. Saferon, in a brief moment of insight, saw the way the man led his people to be nothing unlike the way he fought.
Saferon placed her back up against Ritana’s, mindful of her injured wing, as she tossed the two rods to the ground and called out, “Jaegrynn, backup sword and shield!”
Moments later, a silver sword and golden shield, identical to her damaged set but in mildly better shape, appeared with the sword in her left hand and the shield strapped to her right arm.
“Spares,” Ritana scoffed, “you don’t suppose Jaegrynn could help more directly, could he?”
“He should be here in about five minutes,” said Saferon as she scanned the alleyway, “he was docked aboard the Neversail.”
“I do hope we have five minutes,” Ritana whispered.
“More than many will get tonight,” Saferon replied.
She then suddenly straightened up, eyes darting left, right and above, “wait. I feel him again. He’s close--”
“I’m here!” he shouted as he darted out of the smoke from above, directly at Ritana, with both of his blades pointing down so that they would be the first to meet her.
Ritana’s reflexes were fast, enough so that she could jump back with the assistance of a beat from her wings, blowing sand into the assailant’s face as she landed some metres away. Saferon came about with her shield just barely in time to knock the blades away from her lower abdomen, presumably her kidneys from where his blades were going.
As she attempted to bash him with her shield, he hooked the lip of it with the notch of his left blade, pulled it aside and quickly jabbed in with the left, making contact with her stomach and cutting into her flesh. She winced in pain, but was able to ride through it and swiped away his blade with her sword, stopping him from pushing in any deeper and leaving a warp in his blade from the point of impact. She then, ignoring the pain, charged her boot with as much electrical current as she could without electrocuting herself, and planted her heel into his knee as hard as she could muster. The tens of thousands of volts sent him flying backwards, feet first.
If he coiled in pain, he coiled it further within himself as he quickly rose again to his feet--and just in time to meet Ritana’s flurried attack with the broad side of his blade.
In retaliation, the broad of his other blade slapped Ritana cleanly in the face and sent her twirling to the ground. Before letting her fall, he took a long slash at her. The majority of the blade missed her, but the tip slipped through the back of her leg. She writhed in agony as she finally collided with the ground, grabbing at the wound as it bled out profusely.
“Too easy,” he snarled as he waltzed towards the downed Skyfolk and prepared to lacerate her as he saw fit, letting her live as long as he could. "The wings first, perhaps?"
Yet just before he could make the first cut of many, the sheer weight and volume of a flung shield planted itself squarely into his lower back, charged with the usual dose of hundreds of amps and tens of thousands of volts. This sent him on another unplanned journey back into the open, tumbling like a lifeless ragdoll in the sand.
As Saferon approached, wielding her sword with one hand and clenching her stomach with the other, she stepped in between Ritana and the Imperator, neither of whom had yet to get up again. Smoke rose from his scorched body. She could only hope he was down for good.
“It’s not bad,” Ritana said shakily as she rose once more to her feet, leaning more on the uninjured leg and brandishing the red bruise across her face, “You know, I’ve had rougher sex than this!”
"Yeah, I might know something about that," Saferon looked her way, wearing a sly grin across her face. It was so out-of-nowhere that she could only let loose a weak laugh.
And for the first time in all the decades of knowing her, Saferon heard Ritana laugh too, which only made her laugh harder still. It hurt to do so, since the gash in her stomach was still fresh, but she laughed anyway.
The laughing slowly came to a full stop, however, as the smouldering figure clambered to his feet, dropping the two twisted and crumpled blades into the sand. But that was not by any means a sign of weakness, as in the stead of his round sunguards--likely broken and on the ground somewhere—were two golden, glowing eyes. Eyes that burned with an immense, ancient power. A visible hint of a being who was beyond mortal in all senses of the word.
“We cannot continue doing this,” Ritana whispered.
“Oh, this won’t take too long,” he said as he slowly, steadily raised a plasmar, aimed at Ritana.
Before he could raise it entirely, Saferon flung her sword as quickly as a sword could be flung. It planted itself into his shoulder, with only a fraction of the electrical charge expected from earlier attacks. Instead of being sent away, he staggered back, still having fired the plasmar, albeit not where he aimed.
He struggled for seconds that seemed like minutes to pull it out. There was a certain fortune in that, at least, the blade was completely straight unlike his own--balanced by the misfortune of having a sword in him at all.
Finally, by the time he could pry the last few centimetres out and clench the cauterized injury, it was enough. They were gone.
And so, then, was he.
Just a hundred metres above, the masked assassin Miya stood atop a ledge on one of the ancient towers. The sights of her rifle struggled to find the backs or heads of either Saferon or Ritana as they dashed for the defence perimeter.
She knelt and zoomed in further, just about to line up the mouthy one with the sword. She could have gone for the head, but Miya was more interested in maiming—and aimed for the hip.
Just as she lined up, the view instantly blacked out. She at first checked the battery to make sure it was still providing energy to the infrared scope, only to confirm that the rifle was completely fine.
And then she heard it. The steady, fuzzy gurgling of a rocket. She looked, to see the silhouette of a lone fighter, its details barely distinguishable in the dark--and a white-hot missile hurdling straight for her!
As Saferon and Ritana were quickly greeted by the defending Nywanese at the perimeter, an explosion could be heard from a nearby tower, and seen as the two looked back to see a bright ball of fire and red-hot chunks of metal and carbon spew out into the night.
She couldn’t see him, but she knew it was him. “Thanks, Jaegrynn,” Saferon said quietly.
Ritana moved her mouth to say something, only to spit out a mouthful of blood in the stead of words. She doubled over as she struggled futilely to breathe.
Saferon immediately supported her, as did another male soldier, a medic to their fortune. Only then, as the two moved the General along, did she notice the exit wound from the Imperator's plasmar, clear out of her back just under the injured wing.
“This is General Ritana Caal!” Saferon shouted to the other Nywanese soldiers, in their tongue, “you have to help her!”
“What happened!?” said the medic who helped them along, ushering in two aides with stretcher near the hospital tent.
“It’s the Imperator!” Saferon replied as they moved the suffering Ritana to the stretcher and rushed her to the tent, “he’s here!”
For a moment, she stood there, watching them go. A memory flashed back before her eyes. Saferon was the one on the stretcher last time the two of them had gone on one of their wild adventures.
Ritana never left her side.
With that, before she followed her wounded friend, she looked back. It was as if she just knew that He was out there, watching the whole thing.
You're dead, she thought with as much malice as she could muster.
I will find you and you will die.