A kick from her left boot, a push with her right arm, and Aurelia was up, dashing away in a circling arc. Koumetsubou’s magic hummed around her, raging and surging through her entire being—filling her veins. Strengthening her limbs.
Ravaging through her; both body and soul.
But such was the cost of the Sacred Spear’s blessing, though Aurelia personally felt that the word was misleading at best. From what she knew, blessings didn’t tend to make people literally cough their lungs out. Cultures and norms tended to differ across time and space though, so maybe she was the weird one.
It wasn’t long before her wiry little dance partner responded to her hasty getaway, showing his affection by way of lobbed fire flowers.
As much as she appreciated the commitment, a bouquet would’ve been much better and probably more accurate. His first and second shots went wide enough that they were better off forgotten. Flower three was close, requiring a timely skip from the darkforged to avoid kneeing the explosive little payload.
It was the fourth one that came dangerously close to nailing her, the vermillion blighter straight at Aurelia’s fetching and—most importantly— unburnt face.
Well, that was rude. Luckily, she’d come prepared.
She raised her left gauntlet and its golden gyre, grin widening as the Kunze’s gift neared—
—and then struck her fist, before erupting into flame. Aurelia bit down a hiss and kept running, as the flames were sucked into the vortex.
Right, so the flowers were solid flowers, then. Not magical. So somewhere out there, in some backwater realm, there was a plant that bloomed into natural flame grenades. That put a whole new meaning to the saying ‘wake up and smell the roses’.
A violent shudder ran through her shining glove, signalling the end to her sprint. The Imperator slowed, and ground to an abrupt halt as physics regained its hold. Aurelia grimaced as she shook out her smoking hand, focusing on her smouldering cuff in lieu of her hammering heart.
She had other problems though. The sketchy hermit attempting to extract the aforementioned organ was the most prominent one, but the other Knights seemed to be in all sorts of trouble. Tear had yet to be devoured by Daiyu, though by the looks of the archer, the feisty kitten had been damn well trying. Icarahael was still holding against the Time Knight, which Aurelia had no good quips for. As for Ginny—
Her eyes narrowed a hair, before she forced them to lock with Kunze’s. She readied herself, fists rising and smile widening, despite the dragonling’s fate.
Another path had reached its end. Nothing was forever after all—something that the Shattered Dream was all too aware of. It just so happened that some ended far sooner than others. She had certainly learnt that-first hand, as a matter of fact.
Had Ginevra’s end been too soon? Nobody could answer that but her. The Dragon Knight had made her own choice, afterall—to continue the fight, at the cost of her life. It hadn’t been Aurelia’s, nor Icarahael’s, nor anyone else’s decision but Evra’s own. Nobody had been the dragonling’s keeper—the battlefield was the wrong place to entertain such notions.
That raised questions about her own path, though. Where would the road take her? Was there a future beyond Shion? Past Arturius?
What purpose would she have once both were removed from the realms?
Nothing came to her. Or rather, ’nothing, came the answer.
How depressing. But it was still better to have a life without a purpose than no life at all. Something else the shadowborn had learnt first hand.
Granted, if she didn’t deal with her little hot-headed issue, then the end of her line would be coming up much sooner.
“What do you think? You keen?” Aurelia asked, with a leftwards nod, indicating the board’s closest edge. “Easy way out for ya, unless you want to have a bad ti—“
And then Kunze snapped and lunged towards her, howling like a beast. Heavens and Hells, and all in between, was there anyone around here that knew how to dish out some banter?
Still, at least the blondie’d fallen for her ploy.
The paladin laughed as her hands flew down, fingers tightening around her sayas’ mouths. One moment became two, just as Kunze’s footfalls numbered four.
Another heartbeat passed, marking another unit gained by the Bark Knight. She licked her lips, just as both scabbards shifted, gravity tugging on the shadowborn’s belt.
Aurelia grinned viciously, hands rising and fingers curling around the twin weapons’ grips.
The Wildfire’s eyes widened as he closed, his knives glinting as they cracked down into the Imperator’s crossed, reverse-gripped swords.
“Alright, a bad time it is,” she said, as their weapons clattered against each other. “Final round, start!”
And then she pushed in, lunging off her heel as she tore their blades apart. Her wiry foe staggered, knocked off balance by the paladin’s brutal assault. Without missing a beat, Aurelia stepped in and twisted, her blazing left katana singing for the Chaos Knight’s neck—
A miss. Great, so the hot-headed little blighter was tricky and speedy. Just her luck.
She stomped her left, killing her momentum mid-followthrough. There was a flash of gold as Kunze pressed in once more, his flaxen fangs seeking the shadowborn’s nape. Both Mandates hummed as Aurelia corrected her grip, before swinging the pair back to meet the deadly strike.
Gilded knives met bleached swords, as the four collided in a mighty crash, before her foe was forced back—
No, forced wasn’t the right word. That’d been far too easy. The lanky cuss had allowed the blow to push him, just like bef—
Her eyes narrowed as Kunze steadied and then sprung forward, darting in and under her guard. A sharp, jolt of pain lanced through Aurelia’s right side, drawing a sharp hiss from her lips.
She cut herself off, shouting as she whirled and swung her blades across to her right—
One of the falls greeted her, its crystal waters sparkling majestically despite the energy coursing through it. She froze and pulled the swing, less than half a unit from the electrified water feature.
A bait, huh? Why wasn’t she surprised? Oh, right, because his first trick had nearly turned her into a smore.
Aurelia grit her teeth and focused, tuning out the roaring of the torrent at her fore. There was nothing, save the clamour caused by the chequerboard’s other combatan—
Something to her rear. Behind, coming from—
With no time to spare, the Shattered Dream pivoted, spinning rightwards once more. This time she was rewarded, as something slammed into her elbow and Kunze was knocked away from her, reeling.
The darkforged took a breath, inhaling deeply as the Divine Spear thrummed once, and both Mandates erupted with auric light.
She grimaced, as her finger joints throbbed from the magical feedback.
This was going to suck.
Aurelia gritted her teeth and then forced the two glowing blades into one.
They lay there, shattered in the darkness.
Broken beyond recognition.
And yet, they persisted.
Time passed as it always did. How much time? Minutes? Days? Months? Years?
They didn’t know and they didn’t care.
All they knew was that the dream continued.
Occasionally, there were sounds around them. Movement that shook and shifted the emptiness around them. Sounds muffled, beyond any interpretation.
They ignored them.
Then, something called to them—a voice, echoing and reverberating all around them.
Commanding them, with a single word.
The violet chrysalis that had consumed the Imperator vanished as quickly as it had come. As the purple light faded, the Knight of the Spearhead strode forth, the last vestiges of black draining from her suit of bone-white plate. A pair of opaque, diamond plates encased her torso, linked seamlessly by many smaller brethren and hundreds of thin, granite scales. An alabaster visor wrapped around the shadowborn’s head, hiding her eyes from both ally and foe.
Within her left glove, she held an obsidian-coloured claymore—much larger than the sum of the Mandates it comprised of. Blackened mist and darkened motes drifted from the giant blade’s guard, disappearing long before they struck the ground.
Aurelia exhaled. Well, that hadn’t been so bad.
Her gaze found the Knight of Wildfire and the Broken Dream smiled toothily at him, before beckoning to him with her united sword.