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 Ch. 23: Farewell to Arms

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Dye
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PostSubject: Ch. 23: Farewell to Arms   Thu Apr 29, 2010 6:42 pm

“Status report.”



“Nothing. Everything’s as quiet as a grave.”



“Well, even if they were here, they probably wouldn’t let us hear them. What have you seen?”



“Absolutely nothing, though the new moon makes it hard to see, even with torches.”



“Good. I’ll take over from here. All three of you turn in and get some rest. I’ll defend this sector alone.”



“Alright then. Good luck.”



-----



Dawn had been on duty for roughly twenty minutes, standing erect on a small boulder; motionless, silent, listening for the slightest hint of danger. Her red eyes swiftly moved from side to side, surveying the entire length of the clan base border she was guarding. It was close to midnight. A rustle in the bushes. Dawn tensed, then relaxed as a crow spread its wings and flew away, melting into the dark night. Another rustle. Dawn tensed again, watched as a squirrel dashed through the foliage. What was with her, jumping at every small noise there was? She relaxed a second time.



A faint whistle. Dawn leaped from the boulder where she stood and pressed herself flat against the ground as three shurikens slashed through the air above her. Then she was dodging, rolling, twisting through the air. Saw a dark figure dart out of the forest towards her, shadow flickering in the torchlight. Twin, gleaming crescents told Dawn of two ninja swords, held in reverse position. Her assailant was a ninja, or a rogue. Dawn backflipped out of the way as her attacker smashed through the boulder she had been standing on earlier, sending rocky fragments and dust flying everywhere. When everything cleared, nobody was to be seen. The attacker paused, looked around, then ducked as Dawn’s fist came soaring over his head. He did a low spin, both ninja blades scything around, catching nothing but thin air as Dawn did another flip over the attacker. The assailant rolled out of the way to dodge a kick from Dawn, then settled into a crouching, defensive position. Dawn likewise adopted a fighting stance. Nothing moved.



“Tell me, what is your name, girl?”



“Dawn, of Requiem.”



“I am Lazarus, the fifteenth greatest mercenary in Lore.”



“Fifteenth? I didn’t even know that so many mercenaries existed.”



“Do not underestimate me just because my rank is low. I have completed over a hundred successful missions, and killed close to two hundred people.”



“Well then, you won’t begrudge me if you’re defeated by a girl then, am I correct?”



Lazarus didn’t answer. Instead, he flung three more throwing stars in Dawn’s direction, then leaped into action. His movements were precise and hard to predict, a black ninja suit masking his presence in the darkness of the night. Dawn, staying close to the torchlight coming from a wooden post, blended in with the red firelight, her crimson hair and suit a blur as the two began to fight. Oddly enough, neither one touched the other for ten minutes, each dodging the other’s attacks lest they be fatally hit. Lazarus took out a small pouch in the middle of the fight, flung it into the air, and sliced it into quarters. A black dust flew everywhere. Dawn closed her eyes, relying on ears alone to hear the whistling sound of Lazarus’s blades. To keep him at bay while she was at a disadvantage, she hit the ground with her fists several times, creating craters of dirt that sprayed loose rocks and earth everywhere. When she opened her eyes again, Lazarus was about twenty feet from her. A small cut under his eye and a small, sharp rock falling to the ground told her that she had been successful.



Incensed, Lazarus charged at her, both blades raised. Dawn knew that she couldn’t hit him as long as those blades were there. Just as he was about to reach her, Dawn backed up against the wooden torch post, used the post as a springboard, and shot herself straight at Lazarus. One fist smashed into his right sword, spraying broken shards into his face. Then, with a wild grin, pieces of metal clinging to cuts on his cheek, Lazarus switched his grip on his other blade into a forward position, then stabbed, skewering Dawn’s right arm to the torch post by her bicep. Dawn gasped, felt the ice-cold blade rip through her muscle, felt the blood welling out from the wound. Lazarus’s grin widened, eyes bulged, bloodshot, insane. He pulled the blade upwards and away, taking most of the meat from Dawn’s right arm with him. Dawn sank to the ground, right arm limp and bloody. She looked over to glance at the wound. Nothing much was left other than bone and a few frayed nerves. The arm was as good as gone.



Folding it behind her back in an awkward position, gritting her teeth to ward off the pain, Dawn force herself to move out of the way of Lazarus’s finishing move. She felt the pain crawling up her throat, threatening to burst out, but she had promised herself that she would never cry out again, not in pain, not in frustration, not in sadness, not ever since then…Grinning face gone, not bothering to pluck pieces of metal from his face, the mercenary charged, blade flashing orange in the torchlight. Dawn dodged again, attempting a backflip, right arm flailing as she spun in midair, spraying blood in a crimson arc. She was losing blood too fast, and the limp arm kept her from doing anything fancy. Dawn cursed herself for being too proud to even bother using a basic weapon. Looking around, she picked up one of Lazarus’s spent shurikens with her left hand, then drove it into the ground. She then moved out of the way as Lazarus aimed another slash. Dawn was thinking as quickly as she could, but the pain numbed her, muddled her thoughts. She had time for only one more plan.



Lazarus, tired of the constant cat-and-mouse chase, took out a small vial of clear liquid, uncorked it, and sprayed in Dawn’s direction. She tried to dodge again, winced at the wrong moment from pain, felt her movements slowed by a fraction of a hairbreadth. The liquid splashed onto the bloody remnants of her right forearm, eating away at her flesh, cleaning it straight to the bone. Dawn didn’t feel a thing, the nerves to her right forearm severed by the earlier wound. Lazarus flung two more shurikens, forcing Dawn to dodge yet again. She dug three more spent throwing stars into the ground. Then Lazarus was upon her. He stabbed his sword into the ground, pinning Dawn’s bony right arm with it. He strode forward, watching Dawn’s futile struggles with a broad grin. She had no choice. With a great wrench, she yanked the arm out of her shoulder socket, spewing yet more blood, but now free of the cumbersome arm. Then she got up and kicked Lazarus right in the stomach. He staggered, one sandaled foot stepped on a buried shuriken. He fell to his knees, foot punctured by his own throwing star. His right arm flailing for balance, catching hold of Dawn’s throat. He began to squeeze. Dawn looked up at Lazarus, grabbed his right arm with her left, then kicked him in the chest, hard. He flew backwards. His right arm didn’t.



Roaring in pain, with one foot wounded, ribcage crushed, and now his right arm gone, Lazarus staggered up in one last flight of desperation. He cast his eyes about him wildly, saw his ninja sword still pinning the bones of Dawn’s right arm to the ground. He reached for it, felt a shadow fall across his face, stopped. Dawn stood before him, his own right arm still clinging to her throat. She plucked it off, red eyes glaring into his, merciless. An arm for an arm was fine, but there was no way to counter....Dawn’s left fist poised in midair, time slowed to a standstill. Lazarus’s eyes bulging, mouth open. He was the fifteenth best mercenary in the world of Lore, he had killed 199 people, never to round out the number.



His skull flew off, tumbling into the darkness. His lower jaw remained behind, along with the rest of his body, standing erect, Dawn’s fist hanging over the destroyed corpse, dripping with his blood. Then, with a soft thud, Lazarus keeled over dead.
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Ch. 23: Farewell to Arms
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