The sky was overcast, making it seem late despite being only a short while past noon. Rain fell across the land around Riovannes Castle. At times like these, it almost felt as if the heavens were trying to wash away the blood and grit from wars past; scars that had since faded from the sight of mankind, but never forgotten by those who look down on us from the skies. Today, there may yet be another such viewer.
A young knight walked alongside the Riovannes Castle moat. It was at the castle gate they were to meet, to settle things. The knight carried a long, golden knightsword called a Defender in each hand. They weren't as strong as his opponent's weapon of course; he already knew what it would be. There was only one suitable weapon for his old…friend. He closed his eyes as the word entered his head.
'Can I even call him that anymore?' He thought, 'But then, I suppose the answer to that is why I'm here now.' He reached the stone steps onto the bridge leading to the castle entrance. As he left the low grass of the path for the hard stone of the bridge, he looked above the gate. And there, just as he had expected, was his former friend.
The dark knight stood on top of the wall above the gate. His faded black armor, trimmed with gold, reflected not the faintest glimmer of light, even with the rain drops running rivulets down it. The helm, reminiscent of a birds' beak, shrouded his face in darkness. His hands rested on the pommel of his sword, the tip of the faintly purple blade set against the stone wall he stood on. The Chaos Blade was well known to be the strongest of knightswords, and was the perfect weapon for those who valued strength.
The knight stood at the far end of the bridge, letting his Defenders hang at his sides as he looked up to the dark knight. He knew that the younger warrior's face, while concealed by shadows, was likely impassive as his gaze was fixed on the dual wielding swordsman. He also knew that he would not speak until spoken to. While it was difficult to carry out this twisted turn of events, he nonetheless found his voice, and put it to work. "You ignore my letters, my messengers, all attempts at a peaceful talk…but my challenge you accept? Can't you stop acting like an ass for one minute, Saki?"
"You're the one who called me here for a fight." Despite his intimidating armor and weapon, the dark knight's voice betrayed his youth. His tone was monotonous, leaving his true feelings more a mystery than his face.
The knight waited for him to continue, knowing full well that he wouldn't. He shook his head, disappointed. "I don't know why I even bothered with you. It's obvious that of the two of us, I was the only one who thought we were friends." The knight, Elris, lifted his defenders, ready to attack or defend against his one-time friend. Saki's only response was to raise his sword, and smack the edge of the stone he stood on with the flat of the blade. Elris wondered what the purpose of the act was, as it was little different from striking a tuning fork.
As he wondered if Saki had trained as a bard at some point, the gate to the castle slowly opened. Elris then realized what the purpose was; it was a signal. Three archers bearing the crest of the Arc Legion on their tunics emerged from the castle, holding crossbows.
The Arc Legion was Saki's own clan, a group of mercenaries that valued strength and followed Saki almost blindly. Elris grit his teeth in anger at the realization of what Saki had done. This was to be a duel, an honorable bout between two warriors with no interference, and he had brought backup. Elris was no fool though, he wasn't angry because Saki had broken the agreement, but because he knew the reason why the dark knight had done so; Saki didn't trust Elris to keep his word.
As he looked up to the mistrusting dark knight, Elris saw two more Arc Legionnaires exit the castle, this time it was a pair of monks. Oddly enough, one of them held a katana, which meant he must have trained as a samurai as well. They gradually moved past the archers, trying to get between them and the knight whose rage was growing as the seconds passed.
It was at this point that Elris lowered his head and swords, realizing that this was happening. Saki had ignored all attempts at a peaceful resolution and was here only to fight. Elris grit his teeth and looked back up to the monks, who were waiting for him to move first. If they were waiting for Elris' clan, the Redwings, to appear and join the fight, they would be disappointed. If they were waiting for the greatest and final test of their melee skills however, the knight would oblige them.
With a thunderous roar, letting out months of confusion, anger and resentment, Elris dashed forward. The monks and archers were unimpressed by his display, and the two melee fighters sprinted towards him. He brought his right sword up in time to parry the katana, directing its wielder away as he continued to move forward, focusing on the second monk. He swung his left sword low to his right then brought it over his head to slash at the unarmed monk, who caught the blade. Elris pulled it back, out of the monk's grip as he swung his right sword and cut the monk's left arm. Letting the momentum carry him through a spin while his opponent was off balance, Elris' left sword left a shallow gash on the monk's abdomen, causing his arms to drop enough for the right sword, coming full circle, to slash open his opponent's throat.
By this time, the archers had loaded their crossbows and were waiting for the second monk to move away so they could fire safely. Said monk was charging toward Elris with the hilt of his katana pulled close to his chest, the tip of the blade levelled at the knight, ready to run him through. Unfortunately for the monk, Elris was vastly more experienced in combat, and crossed his swords to catch the monk's blade and direct it away, holding it out to the left.
They both continued to press on however, trying to overpower one another. For the first time, Elris was confronted with one of the legionnaires face to face, and was surprised to find no trace of anger or hatred in the monk's grey eyes. He saw only determination. He wasn't fighting because he wanted to complete a goal, nor was he fighting for the glory of his clan and leader. He had no true reason to fight, and it made Elris feel a little sick. He wasn't sure if this warrior was here solely to win, or only because Saki ordered him to come. Elris once again felt insulted, and his anger grew. He shifted his grip on his swords and withdrew the right hand blade from the sword lock. The monk was prepared for the sudden shift, however, and leapt back. What he didn't expect was for Elris to rush forward and slice off the blade of his katana at the base, leaving hardly an inch of metal protruding.
Using the enemy's split-second of distraction, Elris brought his right sword back, knocking the hilt out of the monk's hands. When the grey-eyed fighter reflexively pulled his arms back to his sides, Elris used that opening and his own momentum, thrusting his left sword forward and into his opponent's heart. Elris took a second to regain his breath as the second monk fell to the ground, dead. All in all, it had taken only three minutes to dispatch the pair.
The archers had taken aim as soon as the monk was impaled, and let their bolts fly as Elris paused. The knight swiftly spun, forming another cross with his swords which blocked two of the bolts; the third grazing the top of his left shoulder. In firing at the same time, they had made a grave error, and he would make them remember it. He ran toward them, but noticed too late a red glow from above him.
A pillar of red light shot down from what looked to be an eye above Elris, accompanied by a distinct hum. A second later, a red phantom blade easily three times Elris' height shot up from the ground below him. The knight could feel it piercing through his chest and limbs, despite the attack not causing any true physical harm. It was a powerful move, and it drained his energy as well, transferring it to the dark knight who had unleashed it.
'So, he's finally going to fight? Then I better not keep him waiting!' Elris ran forward again as the archers were reloading. However, they were only a minor threat. He had to deal with Saki first. He leapt above the archers, his training as a lancer enabling him to leap greater distances than some would think possible. Saki lifted his sword as Elris rose higher and higher into the air. The enraged knight brought both his swords down as he fell towards his former friend. Saki side-stepped to his right at the last moment, just enough to block the swords without getting pushed back.
It was then that Elris' anger became apparent to all present, as he swung swiftly and viciously at Saki, forcing the younger knight to take a few steps back as he was forced to use his sword as a shield. Saki kept up his defense, watching Elris' moves very carefully to find a way through. When at last he found it, he swung his sword to the left, deflecting Elris' blades long enough to reposition his sword and follow through with an overhead vertical swing. But he had underestimated Elris' reflexes, and the elder knight brought both his swords back to knock the Chaos blade away. In a manner similar to how he'd finished the first monk, Elris' let his momentum carry him around in a full circle, and this time brought both of his blades to bear on Saki's left side. Fortunately for the dark knight, he was able to bring his sword back in time to block. That failed to stop the impact of the swords from throwing him off the wall and into the moat though.
Elris watched the dark knight fall. He hadn't dropped his sword, and the moat wasn't deep enough that he wouldn't be able to resurface in a minute. These thoughts distracted him long enough however, that he failed to notice the bolt racing towards him until it landed in his left side. He recoiled from the pain, turning away to take cover and only getting two more bolts in the back due to the pain distracting him. By this point however, he realized that this was further than he had ever expected things to go already…
Tightening his grip on his swords, he turned back around as the archers were reloading their crossbows. They failed to notice his sudden shift in strategy until he cried out in anger, drawing attention to his leap off the gate toward the archer near the center of the bridge. He brought both swords down, impaling a single archer to the shock of the others.
As the remaining archers were recovering, Elris charged toward the one at the far end, away from the castle. He didn't want any of them to get away after this. The archer did little more than panic as he realized there was no way he would make it out of this. Elris cut through his crossbow and chest with one swing of his left hand sword, following that with a slash through the front half of his head with the right. The nearly scalped archer fell to the ground, joining his three fellow clansmen.
Running on adrenaline, Elris spun around as his last attack ended and charged the last archer. The archer evaded the first two thrusts by dodging to Elris' right, but got clipped in the left arm and leg when Elris spun a three-quarter turn in the opposite direction to face him. This left him open to the next two thrusts, which landed just below his shoulders. With one blade nicking the man's heart, Elris kicked the archer off his blades and let him bleed out.
The bridge was now littered with bodies, and Elris waited for the sound of footsteps to signal Saki's arrival onto the bridge. All he heard however was a hum of energy as he noticed the red light above him again. He failed to react in time and was struck with yet another of Saki's Night Blades. He very nearly fell to his knees, but propped himself up using his swords. Panting heavily, he turned his head to the far end of the bridge.
Saki stood there confidently, sword in hand. He had hardly taken any blows in the fight, and whatever damage he may have suffered from falling into the moat would've been healed with that last Night Blade. Elris on the other hand, had taken two Night Blades, had three bolts sticking out of his back and side, and had his left shoulder grazed by another. He hadn't brought any potions, for his own reasons, and he didn't have any way to heal even the minor graze. Saki was right to be so confident; he had the clear advantage.
By now, it didn't matter to Elris. Five people had died; he'd been forced to attack someone who he once called friend, and that same person was now clearly a threat to Elris and the others who thought of him as a friend. "The real reason…I came here…" Elris began, "…was to see…how far gone…you really were…" The knight stood up straight with some effort. "I wanted to know, if I had to kill you. And I hate you for your answer."
"If that's what you want…" Saki left the thought unfinished, raising his sword.
"I'm the one who tried to avoid this!" Elris calmed himself, shutting his eyes tightly. "If you weren't such an arrogant, spoiled, self-centered bastard you'd at least be capable of seeing that!" He pulled his swords back and rushed forward for the umpteenth time that night. Saki swung his sword, launching another Night Blade, but this time Elris saw it coming and leaped forward to avoid it, bringing his swords down in a scissor pattern aimed at Saki's legs.
The dark knight stepped back to avoid the strike, then brought his own sword down at Elris' head. The elder warrior was quick to react though, and brought his still-crossed swords up to catch the attack. But due to his injuries, Elris wasn't able to match Saki's brute strength and was pushed back. Saki swung three times, alternating between vertical and horizontal strikes. Elris retreated, suffering minor cuts to his right forearm and left leg, but managed to dodge the last strike by strafing to his right; Saki's left.
He spun around once again, swinging for Saki's arm, then leg. However, the knight managed to put enough distance between them to avoid both attacks by a long shot. He spun to his own right, bringing his sword around to catch Elris in the back. He met only air as Elris had ducked and performed a leg sweep, knocking Saki onto his back. He wasn't down for long though, and hopped up to his feet easily as Elris crossed his swords once more. Elris extended his swords to Saki's neck, stopping at the last second and realizing that the tip of Saki's sword was at his abdomen.
The two former friends stood like that for a few, long moments; the tip of Saki's sword ready to impale Elris, whose blades were poised to decapitate Saki. They stared at each other, though even at such close distance it was still near impossible to see into the darkness of Saki's helm. The dark knight was hardly even winded, but he knew a losing position when he saw one. "It's fitting we would come to a draw."
Elris wanted to narrow his eyes, but he wasn't sure he'd be able to reopen them if he did. "What do you mean 'a draw'?"
"Obviously, we can't do anything from here. If I tried finishing you, you'd kill me, and if you tried killing me, I'd finish you. So our 'duel' is a cat's game. There is no winner."
Elris actually did narrow his eyes this time. "You never did believe that a man held at gunpoint would try fighting back…and I never understood how you could be so narrow minded when you seemed so smart. But I realize now…compared to me, you're just a child. I should never have expected you to understand."
Saki's tone was clearly annoyed, even if he tried to hide it. "You're only about two years older than me."
"Yeah…but you'll never catch up. This is the final time you underestimate me." Saki was clearly confused at Elris' words, and wholly shocked to see his former friend step forward quickly, impaling himself on Saki's sword. Saki's eyes widened to the point that Elris could very nearly see them through the darkness. "Hello Abel…my name…is Cain." Elris pushed past the pain in his chest, pain caused by what he was about to do, and pushed his swords forward as he separated them, decapitating his former friend in an instant. The dark knight's body fell limply to the ground, leaving Elris standing there with a sword sticking out of his gut.
He pushed the sword out slowly with his own, not wanting to drop them here. If he did, he wouldn't have the strength to pick them up again and would have to leave them behind. When the Chaos Blade finally fell to the ground, he sighed. He was trying not to cough, wanting to keep the taste of blood out of his mouth as long as possible. The adrenaline wearing off now, he walked tiredly around the bodies, returning to the dirt path he'd taken to this place.
Rain still fell, though he had forgotten about it completely during the fight. He guessed it came down now to wash away the blood and grit from this most recent battle. In this regard, he envied this place that had been the site of so many duels…not even the strongest ale would remove the sight of his former friend's head being severed by his hand. Facing the rest of the clan wouldn't be easy, but facing the rest of his friends would be harder.
There was only supposed to be one joining the watchful spirits today, not six. Despite leaving this battle with his life, the young knight counted this a loss in every way.