074 Encounters · 9

Encounters · 9

ou’re really not making any sense. But if you want to try fighting me I’ll gladly take you on.”

“You idiot! We don’t stand a chance! It would be better just to run!”

“And leave a ‘Foreigner’ unchallenged little one. I somehow doubt your precious Sa·B·er could ignore me so casually.”

Gritting his teeth as it was Chain’s would be killer who responded to his shouts, Squawk backed off and gripped his staff tightly. Unnerved as Maye was, she still turned her rifle onto the man before them.

“You may possess a fancy suit of armor, but a bullet between the eyes will still end you.”

“Hehehehehe… So naïve. But perhaps I should introduce myself. Sending my prey to their graves lacking the knowledge of why they died would be such a waste. You may call Zhenir.”

Taking a swooping bow, the man introduced himself at last. As he stood back up, he positioned his arms so that his sword point was against his left forearm.

“And yes, I am what you foolish humans call a ‘Foreigner’.”

Forcing the sword through his armor, copper blue blood dribbled down the length of the blade. But he was not satisfied with so little a demonstration.

“Hehehehehe… I can still see the doubt in your eyes, and I detest those who doubt my word. But as I have already told the Child of Her Light that she had saved you, I shall only harm myself to demonstrate. Hehehehehe…”

Without warning, Zhenir thrust his sword through his arm up to the hilt and a gout of copper blue blood splashed onto the ground. No one could take their eyes off of the sword and the blood it spilled, but Chain did not let that stop her from acting.

“No, you idiot! Run!”

Squawk reached out after her, but a Sa·B·er’s superhuman ability easily put the icaran maid well above the nāti. In a blink she was atop Zhenir, her sword prepared to decapitate him. Aggressive as Chain’s lunge was, she was not attacking without defending herself and bashed the pommel of her sword against the hilt of Zhenir’s. The strike accelerated Chain’s swing and forced Zhenir’s sword to only be able to travel along one arc. Her blade missed its mark however as he bent over backwards in a flash. In the same motion Zhenir drew his sword and swung through where Chain had been, an arc of blue blood trailing it. The blood still clinging to the blade did not all fall off so gracefully as Chain’s sword struck Zhenir’s accelerating the blade and forcing him into a spin. Having flipped over the Zhenir’s attack to dodge it, Chain landed and entered a spin of her own bringing her sword around and locking it against her opponent’s. Her arms trembling against the pressure, Chain still smiled as she addressed Zhenir.

“For an extinct people you sure seem pretty lively.”

“Oh? You do not deny my claim and claim me simply a man who was consumed?”

“There are two reasons why. One, no person whose blood turns blue isn’t a monster. And two, no one trying to take on an opponent they’ve never faced before would stab themselves like that to prove they’re not lying.”

“Hehehehehe… You honor me…”

“Chainmaid. I’m the Chainmaid.”

“A name I will not forget. It’s almost a shame you must die.”

“Yeah, a real shame.”

Chain’s cape suddenly flared out before reemerging in a geyser of black flame and Chain threw Zhenir back to his surprise. He was not the only one surprised as Squawk’s mouth fell open in disbelief.

“Just what exactly happened to that idiot to possess such strength

“It’s a long story as we’ve said, but right now we need to concentrate on defeating him.”

Drop answered Squawk’s question and invited the others to join in on battling the Foreigner. First they would have to catch up though as Chain and Zhenir were already putting a great deal of distance between them as their steel flashed in the dance of death they spun too. Maye and Finch would have less trouble than the others due to one having the lower half of a horse and the other piloting a Dolmen. Armed with her rifle, Maye opened fire and had her bullets deflected by both Chain and Zhenir’s swords. Gritting her teeth in irritation she proceeded to yell at Chain as she reloaded.

“Don’t deflect my bullets, heretic!”

“Then don’t shoot at me!”

“If you weren’t jumping about like a circus acrobat you wouldn’t get in my line of fire!”

“But that’s how I fight! Uwah

Just barely dodging Zhenir’s attack, Chain jumped back and took her sword firmly in both hands to prepare for his next attack.

“You’re growing distracted by your dishonorable companions Chainmaid.”

“And almost being killed too! With friends like them, why do I need you trying to kill me

“Indeed –

Zhenir’s response fell short as he noticed plant life coiling around his legs and in the distance heard Squawk chanting. Holding his staff with both hands as he thrust it into the ground, the young nāti surged with Nectar.

“~ Lady Atheaeldre, hear my prayer and call upon your heavenly sister.
Let your blossoms rise up in invitation.
Let your petals guide Celestia’s wrath.
Invite Lightning‼ ~”

Called by Squawk’s incantation and the Nectar he cast forth from his body, a bolt of lightning struck from the heaven’s above and engulfed Zhenir in a flash of light. The spell seemed to accomplish nothing but to scorch the earth around him while freeing him from the plants that held him. It seemed a completely wasted effort on Squawk’s part, but he did serve as an ample distraction and the bullet from the revolver priorly hidden within the right leg of Finch’s Dolmen struck him head on. The explosion of dust and debris from the impact sent Chain flying backwards with a surprised yelp and she tumbled away from where she collided with the ground. Within the Dolmen, Finch, garbed in a full body skinsuit that really was inappropriate for an icaran girl of ten springs to be seen wearing, watched the dust cloud in the illusory image that filled the cockpit and showed her full surroundings.

“Did I get him?”

The answer to her question came in a streak of dust erupting from the cloud and straight for Chain. Having to perform an impressive maneuver just to get to her feet and receive Zhenir’s attack with her sword, Chain was not prepared for his statement.

“It seems we will have to leave this battleground, Chainmaid.”

Unable to do more than keep herself from being slashed, Chain had to accept suddenly being thrown out over the abyss.

- Miss Chain‼ -

Her voice echoing out from her Dolmen’s external speakers, Finch did more than cry out. Piloting her Dolmen into a runner’s stance facing the abyss, she leapt out into it in Chain’s direction. To make life easier on herself and Finch, Chain dismissed her cape so that the drag would not make her flight path erratic. Much as Finch wanted to focus on catching Chain, her attention was divided as Zhenir also leapt out over the abyss. Reaching for Chain with her Dolmen’s left and firing at Zhenir with the revolver in her Dolmen’s left, Finch’s piloting skills appeared most impressive for a girl of only ten springs, especially as the recoil from her revolver propelled her that little bit more towards Chain. Unfortunately, Zhenir seemed impossibly skilled and vertically split the bullet in half with a single sword stroke. Even more impressively, before the bullet finished passing him and colliding with the walkway from which they leapt, Zhenir used it as a steppingstone to propel himself onto the Dolmen’s arm.

- Oh no… -

Exclaiming her horror, Finch watched powerlessly as Zhenir ran down her Dolmen’s arm at a speed that would allow him to reach its head before its arm could be lowered. It seemed likely that her Dolmen would soon lose its head but she had forgotten about Chain in her focus on Zhenir. Having grabbed the Dolmen’s outstretched fingers, the Chainmaid pulled herself onto the machine and met Zhenir at the back of the Dolmen’s neck. Their swords collided with a ring of steel that spared the head of Finch’s Dolmen and the machine seemed to sigh in relief with her. Chain meanwhile shook a finger disapprovingly at Zhenir.

“Uh-uh. I’m already in enough trouble for breaking this thing once. I can’t let it get broken again because of me.”


A one word response was the only dialogue Zhenir exchanged with Chain as he let his sword speak for him atop the Dolmen’s back. Chain was glad to exchange blows in a conversation of sword strikes, but atop the aerial Dolmen she was at the disadvantage. Regardless of who had the advantage, Finch’s voice was carried by the Dolmen’s speakers along with her easily ignored request.

- Don’t fight back there! -

Naturally Finch was ignored, but that did not particularly matter as they were fast approaching the opposite wall some distance further into the Abyss. She wanted to do something for Chain, but a single mistake would kill the maid fighting atop her Dolmen just as likely as her foe. Still, it was not going to be a soft landing.

- Miss Chain! Hold on! -

“Eh– To what

The twenty-five-meter-tall machine turned in the air and lifted its left arm to grab onto the outcroppings of the wall. It was unlikely that the wall as ancient as it was could hold the Dolmen’s weight and Finch began desperately working the instruments within the cockpit. In the hard to discern potbelly of the Dolmen, the Artificial Gate Generator hummed loudly as it was forced into an overclocked state. The Nectar build up was far greater than the Dolmen could hold, but Finch was well ahead of that problem and the steam motors that powered the joints jettisoned massive clouds that the Nectar was fed into. She couldn’t worry about scalding Chain as landing was just as important if she was to keep Chain alive. Rotating the Dolmen again as much as she could manage in midair, Finch succeeded in getting the machine to hit the wall feet first. A cloud of dust bloomed outward from the wall and the shock ran through the whole Dolmen dislodging Chain. Zhenir was more fortunate as he stabbed his sword into the armor of the Dolmen. He had no intention of letting a fall kill his prey however and he caught Chain’s hand as she fell. Chain could only express surprise as any gratitude she might have had was thrown away along with her. Turning his body in nearly a full spin, Zhenir hurled Chain past The Dolmen’s right arm and back inside Deep Root Colony as Finch grabbed onto the wall with the Dolmen’s left hand, the excess Nectar in the air serving to reinforce the wall to hold the Dolmen’s weight. With the Dolmen relatively secured, Zhenir ran out along its right arm. As he ran, he kicked several points along it forcing the arm to straighten out for him.

- Hey! Don’t break it! …Wait, leave Miss Chain alone too! -

As her Dolmen’s arm was already straightened, it took Finch little effort to aim at Zhenir as he jumped off in pursuit of Chain. She did not get the chance to fire though, for as Zhenir leapt, he spun and in a flash his sword severed the Dolmen’s gun hand midspan. Finch naturally panicked and started screaming in horror.

- Ah~‼ My hand! My hand! He cut of my hand! …Wait. It’s just the Dolmen’s hand! Ah~! But that means I’m stuck here until I can replace it. Ugh. The walls may be metal, but there’s so much vegetation it’ll take forever to convert the material. *Gulp* Miss Chain, please fend him off until either me or the others can catch up with… -

Faced with Zhenir, towering ominously before her, Chain wasn’t so sure if she could fulfil Finch’s request. Risking a quick glance down at her left hand which she had been rubbing the throbbing back of her head with, the bright red liquid that stained it reflected what little light made it that deep down. Smiling tensely as she looked back up at Zhenir, she managed to complain about her injury.

“That’s unfair. You drew first blood for both sides.”

“Does that bother you Chainmaid.”

“A little, yeah…”

Pouting, Chain again took her sword in both hands.

“But not nearly as much as you holding back. What was the point anyway? Does giving people false hope make you that happy.”

“Hehehehehe… Are you already admitting defeat Chainmaid?”

“Nah. I was just complaining because my head hurts and that blow didn’t help put anything in my head back together. Besides, I’ve been holding back too.”

“That you have Chainmaid. It would be a shame to kill you before seeing the light that you possess.”

Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater


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