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Blood and Honor

by Zephir

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Chapter 5

Rika stares at the curtains ahead, smirking as she practices slices and moves with her sword. Although normally confident, today she feels that much more so, since she thinks she knows the key to beating Vargas. Across the arena from her in his own antechamber, Vargas waits with dulled anticipation for their match to begin. While subtle doubts about his ability to fight after his last bout circle through his head, he still feels for the most part that he can win. After all, he beat her once; surely he can do it again.

The gates open up in front of them following the announcement of the match and their names, and each steps forward into the arena. A momentary rush of applause bursts from the audience, followed by a shallow din as they simply stand and stare down each other. They each crack their knuckles and wait for the call to start, narrowing their eyes to squints. The din lowers even further to a low silence in anticipation of one of the biggest rematches in Colosseum history, then is broken suddenly by a loud declaration: "Begin!"

Vargas scouts her out easily, raising his energy shield right away to block the massive lightning bolt summoned down from the heavens. As the energies of his shield fade away and collapse, she pulls her sword and rushes at him, striking quickly enough to slice open the skin on his stomach but then engaging in a parrying battle with him. They trade fierce blows for a moment as she pushes him back a few steps before he locks her sword up and throws his fists down, throwing it to the ground and then striking with a hasty Aurabolt. She takes the full force of the blow and is vaulted backwards through the air, back flipping once before righting herself and landing on her feet six meters away. Vargas makes a quick charge at her, claws flashing in the sunlight as he jabs and lunges at her, but is shocked when she pulls out a set of her own claws and starts blocking and parrying his strikes with ease.

Noting his expression, she grins and locks both his weapons, drawing him in closer. "Surprised?"

She then kicks him in the gut, sending him stumbling backwards. He wipes dust from his face and shakes his head, looking up to see her step backwards a few steps and perform an all too familiar set of martial arts pose switches and arcing practice strikes. His jaw hangs open for a moment as he realizes that there could only be one way for her to learn those moves, but shuts again as she charges and fires an Aurabolt at him, grinning. He raises his shield in an instant, deflecting the blast away from himself.

He only has a few seconds to think of a counter plan before his shield collapses again, revealing her coming towards him at a headlong charge. He scowls and raises his fists in a defensive stance, watching as she leaps into the air at the last moment to deliver a high jumping kick to his face. A kick that hits nothing but smoke and air, for he teleports away from harm and behind her, waiting for her to land on her feet and spin around before swinging sideways in a high roundhouse kick intended to meet her jaw... but then his kick only meets air, since she also disappears in a cloud of smoke. Totally dumbstruck, he completes his kick and stares in disbelief at the cloud hanging in the air in front of him.

"Miss me?" She asks from behind him with a cocky grin.

He turns to face her, bringing his arms up in vain as she fires a large bolt of flame at him, knocking him flat on his back. She then leaps into the air, striking a pose for a split second before coming down with her knee aimed at his head. Finding himself at a loss for the first time in a long time, he only looks up at her come down at him in the air and rolls out of the way at the last moment, hearing her knee drive hard into the earth, the blow no doubt dulled by her kneepads.

He rolls up to his feet and staggers backwards, wiping dirt from his face and trying to regain some sense of composure through his confusion. She wastes no time in bringing the fight back to him, throwing a series of small fireballs in his direction that he can only dodge by leaping from side to side and ducking left and right, just avoiding each one as it explodes in the ground and tosses dust in the air. After the tenth fireball he starts to feel ridiculous ducking and rolling to and fro, and decides to do something about it. The next fireball hurtles in his direction, going up into the air for a moment before coming back down in a ballistic arc, and just as it's about to hit him, he teleports away and lands in front of her, falling to one knee. She looks down at him with a smirk on her face as he immediately drives his fist in the ground and opens a chasm underneath her.

She leaps off to the side and rolls, avoiding his attack and rising to her feet in an attack stance. He jumps up to his feet as well, spinning and throwing several air blades at her, hoping to score a hit with a proven attack. It doesn't work. She jumps into the air and rolls, tightening her body size and deflecting the sickles that come close with sheaths of energy emanating from her claws. His jaw drops again at his surprise, firstly that she can block his air blade attack, and secondly that she can reproduce the shield energy he's perfected. To his knowledge, he'd been the only person alive to learn that technique, even including his father.

She spins one last time and lands on her feet, removing her staff and casting a spell simultaneously. The hair on the back of Vargas' neck stands on end when he sees the ground in front of him start to swell with a pool of fire, followed by him snarling. 'Ohhhh no... not again, Rika...'

He ducks to one knee and lowers his head while thrusting a fist forward, forming a compact shield around himself that deflects the force of her second-level fire spell. Through the flames and holy magic, he can see her starting to spin in circles, wrapping herself in a thick blanket of green-colored energies. Glancing off to the side he can also see dirt starting to swirl into the air, being blown about by massive eddies of air. He snarls again just as his shield collapses, then leaps straight up in the air and teleports away, narrowly avoiding the tornado of air blades and wind thrown at him. He reappears off to her side and plunks down on the ground, nearly winded by this point.

However, she doesn't give any more chance to catch his breath than he did and brings her staff back around to bear, summoning the very powerful spell of Meteor. He rises and watches in stunned silence as a rip in space opens in front of him, unveiling a black portal filled with stars and vast dark space, and populated with hundreds of meteors... hurtling in his direction. He steps back and tries to shield himself, but his efforts are in vain as large chunks of rock slam into the earth around him, ripping giant craters and gashes in their wake. Several large ones also hit him, breaking bones and bruising him badly.

She giggles across from him as the portal seals up and shuts the meteor shower away, leaving him on his knees, battered and bleeding. He coughs up blood and tries to stand, rising off one knee first and trying to ignore her incessant laughing. She saunters over to him arrogantly, feeling victory very close at hand. He struggles still to get on his feet but finds his strength nearly gone, then shields his face from the dust she kicks at him. "Oh, you're enjoying this, aren't you?"

She laughs again and replies, "Very much."

"Well... don't sing your victory song just yet!" He exclaims while jumping into the air with a high roundhouse kick.

She ducks under it quickly and swings her foot around in a sweep, aiming to knock him off his feet. He lands on his feet and hops again to avoid her leg sweep, then does another roundhouse kick that she also ducks under. She stands back up to her feet and also tries to kick him with a rising roundhouse, but has her leg caught in his arms. Acting before he can, she hops up with her other leg and kicks him in the back of his head, forcing him to release her as he staggers forward. She pushes up with her hands and hops to her feet, spinning around to deliver a backhand to his head.

He, too, spins around, but catches her backhand on his cheek and ducks to the side, three small cuts opened on his face. She moves back on top of him right away, kicking away at his midsection and head relentlessly. He staggers away from her, feebly trying to block or deflect her offense with limited success, when she finally swings one leg back behind her and pulls her fists together at her side, gathering energy for an Aurabolt. Reacting mainly on instinct, he manages to teleport away at the last moment, landing some distance away and thinking he'd lost her for a second.

He hadn't. She teleports right in front of him, refusing to lighten her attack with a series of furious strikes. Metal blades clash together for a brief moment as he defends himself, but soon she gains the advantage and slashes away relentlessly at his chest and midsection, gashing him in many places. Finally his arms give out on him and his eyes glaze over, and she finds herself landing a kick, then two punches, then another slash and kick unopposed. She grins and spins around one last time, landing a hard backhand and a high spinning kick to his head.

He spins in the air and tumbles over to the side, then lands hard in the dirt and rolls, coming to rest on his back. The crowd springs to its feet and cheers for her, the only person to have ever defeated Vargas. She steps back and revels in the admiration, raising her hands to the air and bowing to them, and then to Cicero. Cicero stands up and steps forward, nodding his head at her before walking away through the crowd.

Probably gonna give him a talk. Hmph. No matter,' She muses, still grinning.

Behind her, Vargas begins to drift slowly into death. His heart slows and grows weaker while his mind begins to shut down, blood also pouring from so many cuts and internal injuries. Despite the enormous pain he's been put through, the whole ordeal begins to seem oddly surreal and even pleasant, beginning to seem as if it doesn't the tiniest bit as his vision fades into darkness and his eyes close... then a sudden bright light and warm feeling surrounds his body as healing magic stops him from death and restores him to full health.

His eyelids snap open and he stares at the sky above, colored a darkening purple and orange by the setting sun and low clouds. 'But what... oh...'

He sits up suddenly and looks around, finding himself sitting alone in the arena under the gaze of thousands of fans. The realization of his defeat finally hits him then and he glances about for Rika, but when he finds her he only catches a glimpse of her back as she exits. He sighs at length, deflated, then stands to his feet and looks up at the spectators, but can only do so for a moment before he hangs his head in shame and humiliation, walking off to the closest exit... which just happens to be the one she left through.
Caves of Narshe: Final Fantasy VI
Version 6
©1997–2017 Josh Alvies (Rangers51)

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