Not long after reassuring Nyx of my personal safety did RaXi start utilizing the sharp tongue of aggression on Etxel. Her next move would’ve been to fling the weapons she had hidden in her sleeves at her intended target, but I caught her arm before she found the chance to do so.
“This is my battle. As I told Nyx, go.” Had it been any other fighter I would have let her do as she pleased. Etxel, however, was my responsibility; he was far stronger than the average warrior with an even stronger defense that made him next to indestructible. Not to mention he processed abilities that…could’ve made things rather “interesting” for her.
Pulling away from me she stated, “Very well. Make it quick and remember my orders. You know when to pull out. Understood?”
“Of course…just go through with your part and let me worry about mine.”
Taking their cue RaXi and Nyx rushed past Etxel to complete the mission. Even as they were right next to him Etxel never once took his eyes off of me, or I off of his. The both of us continued this stare-down until the sound of running footsteps finally became nonexistent.
Etxel was the first to break our silence. “Lady Xakiah, have you finally reclaimed the memories of Camelot that I asked you about?”
“You cannot be serious?!” Etxel exclaimed in dismay. “That day is the reason why we are here right now! How can you possibly—“
“Enough already!” Ugh…you would THINK a former Knight of the Round Table would know how to compose himself better… “As usual, Etxel, you fail to ask for details.” Quick to curb his outburst of emotions, Etxel waited for my follow-up.
“The reason why I say ‘no’ is because I never lost them.” Well…not all of them, anyway.
His eyes sparked up with a familiar sensation that I haven’t seen in a while. I know the name of it, but it just doesn’t want to reveal itself to me…what was it again? “Then…you remember everything? …Even what I offered you?”
“Hope.” That’s the name I’m looking for. Too bad it’s unrequited. “Yes…even that.”
Another period of silence fell upon us.
“So,” Etxel continued rather nervously, “what is your answer?”
You want an answer? I thought angrily to myself. Fine. My reply to him was relinquishing my ninjatô, the Kage no Kokoro, from its overbearing keeper.
“Lady Xakiah! What are you doing?!”
“What I should’ve done a long time ago.” With that I faded into the shadows to begin my assault.
“Lady Xakiah!” Darting his eyes this way and that he left his back unguarded. I came back into the light just long enough take advantage of this and disappear, leaving a slash that barely pierced past the flesh as a confirmation of my intentions. Taking a single step forward from the impact, Etxel’s voice created the sound of anguish, but I knew that was only because my blow caught him unawares.
Turning himself around as though I were still there, Etxel shouted, “Lady Xakiah, what is wrong with you?!” I maintained my silence and proceeded to create another scar across his back, only this one was intended to slice right through him. Etxel, however, learned from his first mistake and managed to escape from the vices of death with a deep cut across his left shoulder blade. This time he didn’t produce any sounds and resorted to guarding his back by pressing it up against the wall.
Mocking his disparity I mocked, “‘Lady Xakiah—Lady Xakiah—Lady Xakiah!’ Isn’t it already obvious I want to kill you? Or are you hoping to make some last-minute editions to the list of reasons why I want to kill you before you die?”
“But I do not understand…why has it come to this?”
How can one man be so INEPT?! Storming out of the shadows to place myself before him I gave him exactly what he desired…even though I already knew he wasn’t going to appreciate what he was going to hear. “So you want to know ‘why?’ Well sit back and let me tell you ‘why:’
“When I left our home world over ten years ago I told you right then and there that I didn’t want you following me around. I also told you right then and there that if you were to get in my way or my mission in any way that I would slit your throat where you stood. But no; you had to follow me anyway because ‘it was your duty to protect me.’ You swore to me that you would do exactly what I told you if I allowed you to come with me.”
Grasping his bleeding left shoulder Etxel stammered, “Lady Xakiah…look—“
“I’m not done yet idiot.” I growled at him. Using some of my power I forced him up against the wall with more force than I intended, but I didn’t care; I wanted him to know the extent of my rage.
“I made you promise me two things before agreeing with you: first, never ask what I was up to; and finally and most importantly, never, EVER reveal to anyone who I was and where I came from. And what did you do? The moment we got to Castle Oblivion before the original thirteen were wiped out, you blabbed off to Lerxia everything you DID know about me and the situation at hand.”
“Lady Lerxia told me herself that she would help us if I told her everything!”
“And like the moron you are you believed every word she said!”
“I know now that she was lying to me and there is not a day that goes by that I do not regret my decision in confiding in her…I am sorry for the pain that I have caused you—“
“You’re ‘sorry?!’ You jeopardize my mission, endanger my Somebody, and betray my trust and you’re ‘sorry?!!’” I screeched. Any reserve that I might have had left was gone. My eyes were completely consumed by the abyss of wrath, and the byproduct of its shadows created an inferno of darkness around my blade.
“Wait, what do you mean by ‘endanger your Somebody?’” he asked with panic in his voice.
The audacity of his question caused me to laugh in pure malice. “You really want to know what happened to her? Well here it is, ‘o great and noble heathen:’
“After you decided to spill your guts to Larxine, my Somebody was ‘visited’ by an army of lesser Nobodies that kept her busy for two whole days. If I had caught on to what was happening a second later she would’ve been decapitated by the third day.” Etxel looked like he was going to be sick, but I continued on with what his foolish actions had cost. “And that’s not all: the onslaught continued for another week or so until the major sorcerers of our realm banded together to unleash a spell to exterminate the rest of them and the others lingering three worlds away.”
“Hold on! How can a spell of that magnitude even be possible?”
“Simple: one of those sorcerers offered his life in exchange for our safety.”
“Who?! Who was it?!”
Gravely, I answered him, “Taliesin.”
“Taliesin?! But why him?!”
I had enough of his wailing; as far as I was concerned, Etxel didn’t deserve to know any more than that. “Die.”
Lunging at him from where I stood, Etxel summoned his colossal halberd, the Irminsul, to deflect my assault. Using the force of the impact to bounce away I once more retreated to the safety of the shadows.
“Lady Xakiah, all I have ever wanted was to please you…to make you happy… It is for that reason that I do not wish to fight you.” Etxel then changed his melancholic tone into one of greater conviction. “However, if fighting you means being one step closer to forgiveness…being one step closer to you…then so be it.” With that his powers began to manifest itself in the form of a dark aura, making his whole image appear as though he were a phantom rising from the ashes of a lost war; the real fight was finally on.
Flying at him from the rear once more, I presented Etxel with a false swipe aimed towards his lower back. Taking the bait, Etxel whipped himself around to swing the Irminsul straight down to the ground where I was. Dodging the axe head at the last possible moment, I grabbed the pole of his weapon with my free arm to swing myself around to deliver a fatal upper-cut that was meant to slash right past his rib cage and lungs and instantly into the hole where his heart would’ve been.
Or at least that’s what would’ve happened if I hadn’t failed to remember that whenever Etxel summoned his halberd onto the field he also created a layer of chainmail between him and his cloak. Instead, the Kage no Kokoro ended up sticking into his armor just long enough for Etxel to grab me by the back of my neck and ram me into the floor, leaving a crater in its wake.
To make certain that I was pinned to the floor Etxel used some of his weight to add an extra amount of pressure to where he had me pinned down. He was about to say something when I recovered my ninjatô from where it had fallen to the floor after my first failed attempt at his chest and proceeded to try again—this time by stabbing him. Piercing clean through his chainmail and into his guts Etxel released his hold on me to nurture his wound. Before I had a chance to come in on him again he spun his halberd in front of me, optimizing its defensive qualities.
Both of us leaped back from our positions to reform some type of strategic dominance over the other. That was about the time when I saw Etxel prepare for his second-most powerful attack: the Warring Yule. Gathering the force of the shadows around us, Irminsul started to generate an oppressing aura of its own. I knew that this spelled out almost instant death if it made impact, and I even knew that this would only increase in power the longer it stayed in this condition, but this knowledge only served to reawaken my trademark smile. Particularly, this revelation revitalized the one I specifically wore when I knew a bloodbath was sure to follow. Hehehe…what FUN this is turning out to be.
“Brace yourself!” Delivering a war cry that signified to me that he was lost in the heat of combat, Etxel charged right at me like a wild boar bent on destruction. And like a wild boar’s his moves were certainly child’s play for me to read, but I remained diligent in making certain to analyze every single movement he made. Any lapse in focus at this point would mean disaster. This war dance continued for a time until at last his weapon made contact with one of the pillars—demolishing it completely—and created a back draft powerful enough to send us both back a few feet. When the dust finally settled we were locked into a stare-down with each other once more.
Barely even in a sweat, Etxel commented, “Lady Xakiah, if that last attack was indication of anything, you and I both know that I clearly outmatch you in the affairs of direct combat. Please, for your wellbeing, do not make me continue this fight any longer than it has.” Unfortunately, this fool has a point. If I don’t end this fight anytime soon I might end up…fashionably late to catch up with RaXi and Nyx. Okay—new plan. Ignoring his words of warning I created a pool of shadows beneath me and quickly sank my way into it.
“You are making a grave mistake. Do you not recall that my powers are equivalent to yours?” After making his statement he followed me into the shadows to continue the ongoing battle between us.
I greeted Etxel into the realm with the attack my blade was named for, Kage no Kokoro. I could see in his eyes that he saw what was coming, but his reflexes proved inefficient to spare him from the bombardment of shadows manufactured by both what was in the realm and what was contained within him. All he could do was wait for the feeling of being ripped apart to end, which would be marked by him being launched out of the shadows back into the cold, damp floor of the catacombs. This, however, would only come at my choosing.
As each movement of my power-enhanced blade made contact with his flesh I could literally feel his existence gradually fade away from him. Feeling no pain or remorse about it I was on the verge of finishing the job when, quite suddenly, I felt the barrier Minx had established brake way, which ultimately also broke my focus; finally granting Etxel relief from the Kage no Kokoro. Materializing from the shadows I went to inspect my victim.
Heavily bruised and bleeding, Etxel managed to wheeze, “Lady Xakiah…you are as…lethal as ever…I see.”
“Yes…well…you are certainly as resilient as ever, I see.”
“Might I have…one last request…before I die?”
Rolling my eyes, I answered flatly, “Make it quick.”
“Tell me: before any of this…happened between us…did you ever consider…saying ‘yes’ to…my offer…to marry you?”
My rage melted away as I took a while to gaze into those glowing amber eyes of his. Those eyes that, at one point so long ago, I took pleasure reading for their brilliance, their pureness, and for how…straightforward they were. Images of our past together started to swell in my mind, each, although different in time frame and scene, showed the things that I cherished about the man now lying before me.
Intoxicated by those memories and unable to differ from the truth, I quietly told him, “Yes.” How foolish of me to think that there was someone out there I could let get so close to me. But even more so…how foolish of me to even dream about having…a “normal” life with this man…when “normal” is the least of what we are.
After giving him my answer Etxel said through a lamented smile, “I see…that is all I need to know.” Subduing his weapon, Etxel then bowed his head and waited for me to proceed with his execution.
Gradually walking towards him, I raised the Kage no Kokoro in preparation for the final blow. In one swift movement my body and sword dove towards the ground at Etxel in perfect unison. When I finally found myself kneeling on the ground I found that my blade stopped short of touching the back of the neck of its intended target. Gravity seemed to beg me to continue with what I had in store for him, but my body wouldn’t stop trembling.
Seemingly unfazed by the turn of events, Etxel lifted his head up to look directly into my eyes; reversing the roles of the seer and the seen. Speaking softly with that already deep voice of his, Etxel asked, “Why do you stop, mo chroí?”
I thought I could fight the feeling back, but the way in which he delivered his question, and the title in which he used in reference to me, made me weak. Returning the whisper, I told him, “Because in order to be capable of foolish deeds…one must be first be a fool themselves.” With that, Etxel slowly leaned over to give me a kiss. Nowhere in me could I find the will to refuse this gift, so I patiently waited for his lips to caress mine. …They taste…like honey…just as I remember them.
What finally stopped us was when I pulled away from him at feeling the aura of one of my comrade’s flux. “Don’t think this changes anything…I still don’t forgive you.”
“I do not expect you to. On the other hand, I will ask you to not leave for anywhere I cannot find you.”
“Because my mission right now is to find a way to redeem myself for the transgression I committed against you. I know how much you value trust and how hard it is for you to give that to anybody, so I will work hard to be worthy of being granted that gift from you once more. But that will mean nothing if I cannot find you.”
“…Very well.” I stood up, placed my blade back into its sheath, and turned around to walk away in the direction of RaXi and Nyx. Without looking back I said, “Farewell for now…anamchara,” and proceeded on my way.
As I was traveling I thought to myself, Well if THIS hasn’t been one interesting venture. …No matter. Right now…I need to make certain that those two fools haven’t gotten themselves into too much trouble. Returning to my old self I added, Without me that is.
Xakiah: If I didn’t know any better…I’d say you stole some of this material from KIRA. TTwTT
Me: If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the reason why you’re saying that is because you’re upset that I’m revealing so much of your soft side. TTwTT
Xakiah: …touché… >__<
Me: YES!!! I finally beat her in an argument! XD
Xakiah: Which you’ve been having with yourself this entire time. ^__^
Me: …(*beep*) >_<
Anyway, the non-English phrases of the day (*snickers*):
Kage no Kokoro- translates to "Heart of Shadows" or "Shadow Heart" (I prefer the second one myself, but that's just because it sounds cooler. X3 )
Irminsul- according to some sources, this was a large pillar erected by the Saxons of old to connect heaven and earth (or something like that)
Mo chroí- Irish Gaelic for "my heart"
Anamchara- Irish Gaelic for "soul mate"