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The Forsaken's eyes never left the girl in all this process. He had barely even moved.
Blood began dripping down his forehead, without him doing anything to wipe it out.

"I know your kind, wind-daughter. You feast on death; murder is your food. Well my blade is the same, and I just fed it – without living you one morcel. Would you dare fight me now?"


The girl tilted her head on the side. She looked like a raptor bird, or maybe even a Claw Strider, with her weapons ready but her perfectly unmoving body.

"I guess this only leaves me one meal."


"Please." he said with a broken smile. "You have nothing to gain from fighting me, while if I win I will be able to torture you like I hoped to torture your copy, until you reveal the location of the Manse. You have nothing to win."


The girl did not smile, exactly. Her expression did change, seemingly more human for a brief moment.

"You have no idea..."
She closed her eyes.
A red circle slowly shone into existence upon her forehead, rotating wildly like some miniature hurricane.
She opened her eyes, and smiled, a warm, friendly, forgiving smile, a smile pure and bright and human.

"You have no idea how much I love you." she whispered.
And in the Forsaken's eyes, Five Peacocks saw fear.


"NO!" He shouted, and at the same time moved – a walking step, not a leap or a sprint; yet blindingly fast, setting him right in front of the girl, his blade slashing at her jugular with amazing accuracy.
But the girl was not here anymore; she was already behind him, and her mist-blade cut at his ankles, drawing two drops of dark blood before retreating.
The Forsaken did not so much turn as his body twisted around, his spine obviously breaking itself as his torso faced his opponent; three impossible strokes as his arm attacked left and right, the elbow seemingly made of rubber as the limb had the supple swiftness of a tentacle.

"So fast. So skilled." the girl said in a dreamy voice.
The blade never bit the girl; her green mantle was slashed three times, but she dodged every blow, before leaping and meeting the blade in the air, her feet finding support upon the steel – and she moved like the wind, seeming to dissolve into green bursts of air as her swords struck a hundred times within seconds.
All of the blows connected, yet the sobbing armor seemed too strong for Xeyata's small frame; a few drops of blood flew into the air, nothing more.

"So strong. So brave."

The body of the Forsaken was starting to glow with an intense, cold white light – a light without any heat or comfort, which only made the darkness around them more black. He stepped back out of the furious blows, and the girl came back to the ground – she had never touched it even as she unleashed such a deadly assault. She smiled, and struck again – the exact outlines of her blades concealed in the mist, leaving only glimpses of the emerald-tinted steel as it drew curves through the air.
And then, The Forsaken began to laugh. His blade gleamed and disappeared, and his hands moved with amazing precision – swift, perfect moves, not a second too late, not an inch to far; his palm met the flat of each blade, deflecting them one, two, three times; then his left hand seized one blade, shedding blood which immediately sublimed into red vapor; his right hand struck the second blade's point head-on, impaling itself on the sword.
The girl's swords were in his grasp.
With a mad grin, the Forsaken arced slightly, in a parody of a bow, and his forehead met Xeyata's chest – and despite the small gesture, Five Peacocks saw a burst of wind as the shockwave of the blow rushed across the room; letting go of her blades crashed against the wall, coughing blood.
The Forsaken abandonned her sword and made one step; already on her, he grabbed her neck in his free hand, seemingly seeking to both crush her throat and slam her against the wall at the same time.
But the girl's throat flowed through his finger, his grip merely water on a duck's feather, and she smiled wrily as she grabbed the handle of the sword that was still planted in the man's hand; in one swift move, she pulled it out of the palm and used it to slash the arm that had tried to seize her.

"I will spread the tale of your deeds! No one will ever forget you!" She cried with mad glee. In response, the Forsaken's blade reappeared, and struck her down like a hammer – the blade cutting through both her blades and her armor, cleaving at her body. But already this mere image faded away, shredded by the wind that suddenly burst through the whole room – only to stop as Xeyata reappeared on the other side of the room, impossibly balanced: she was crouching on the wall as if it were the ground.

"Cover your eyes, sweetie." she said, and Five Peacocks immediately understood that she was talking to her; she closed her eyes, and a thunderous noise invaded the room, accompanied by a blinding light and a shockawe that would have thrown her to the ground had she been standing.
She opened her eyes again, and she was now alone in the mill; the wall in front of which the white warrior had been standing now sported a large hole, broken stones lying everywhere, most of them reduced to green embers, crimson ribbons fading away in the wind. Fifty yards away, the girl and the man were dancing, swords clashing into each other; he was precise, his movements swifts and impossible – body twisting, joins turning in unnatural directions – she was overwhelming, her blows too many too count and yet barely hitting their target.
But he was not hitting her at all.

"Yes! Dodge! Strike!" She shouted joyfully. "Harder! Faster! Stronger! You are the hero I have always sought – the sacred opponent to match my power! Keep fighting! KEEP FIGHTING!"

Blood smeared the Forsaken's face, drawing an awful demonic picture – a face upon his face, painted in his own blood; hundreds of small wounds punctured his whole body. His armor had not been pierced once, but every joint, every articulation was a flaw where the deadly swords had bitten him. He moved in a mist of scarlet drops, his blows amazing in skill and perfection. Often he feinted, striking with his sword only to bend in a way that should not be possible to grab her with his free hand; but every time, she escaped his grip as if he were trying to grasp at water.
He screamed in anger and wrath, and suddenly the blade disappeared again; his empty hands contracted like claws, he roared, and struck at the ground with incredible might – twenty feet around him, the rain was stopped in mid-air and rejected by supernatural force, and the mist of blood congealed in a red hail whirling around him. Grass withered and die in a second, soil blackened, and the dark skies themselves grew blacker as his white aura flared like an ice-cold bonfire.
There was another flash-step, and he was on her, projecting his fist with enough strength to break through stone; and as he moved his arm, the air congealed around it, the rain and wind freezing into shards of ice that exploded from the sheer power of his attack, the earth torn apart by these pikes of ice stretching to the skies with unholy cries. But it was like hitting the wind, and she leaped above him, landing in his back. Before she had time to move though, he hit again – so fast tha the very image of his previous move was still visible, giving the impression that there two of him. She dodged by stepping to the side – and he hit again, third image, the others still imprinted in the air; a hammer of a descending blow, hitting her right on the left shoulder, crushing her to the ground.
Xeyata snarled, and as the three images blurred into one, he gathered the strength for the last blow... But as he struck, green fire surrounded her and she got up, jumping right in his own direction; her right foot landed on his wrist and she ran across the length of his arm with blinding speed, swords already in motion to strike the sides of his neck. Blood came out, and she jumped again, hitting the ground behind him and slashing his waist.

Then, it all stopped. The Forsaken stood up in front of her, blood covering most his body yet somehow drawing beautiful patterns that highlighted the scenes embrodded in his mantle. Xeyata faced him in a relaxed stance, the water that fell upon the blazing green fire that surrounded her vanishing into vapor and giving her a surreal look.

"You are but one girl. Not old enough to work. Not old enough to bear child. Not old enough to do anything. How can you fight me like this to a standstill?"

The girl looked at him, then broke into warm laughter.
"To a standstill?"
She let her laughter die down slowly, and looked at him with a warm smile.
"I am the Burning Shard of Scattered Emeral. I am the Viridian Wind. I am the Rogue Princess, the Mist-Shrouded Scourge. I have thousands of sisters and all of them are me. I once was Xeyata Ofume – but I abandonned that name to pick a hundred others when I broke out of my chrysalis, leaving this name for all of my sisters to bear, sisters born through my own power. I bring pain and suffering and enlightenment to those I choose to love, and I have chosen to love you. I am the Crucible of your tragedy. Now stand up, dark hero! Be the Messiah that your monstrous lords so desperately desire! Be the Herald of Oblivion! FIGHT ON!"

The Forsaken looked at her, bemused.
"You are mad" he said simply.
"Mad for you."

There was a moment of silence, and even though she knew better than to remain around such god-like warriors, Five Peacocks did not find the strength to leave. She was utterly fascinated by this sight, strangely cheering inside for this tiny girl, in spite of the madness in her voice and features.
Maybe... Maybe she would live.

The Forever Broken roaread again, and his arms drew curves in the air, leaving strange after-images, drawing geometrical patterns through the rain. His left feet bit into the earth, sending a web of cracks around him; his right feet slid up on the ground, tracing a line in the mud; his two hands tightened into fists and his stance became one of terrifying readiness – a stance that expressed the inevitability of death, a raging Juggernaut barely concealed beneath the human skin of the master. Black shadows twirwled around him like the wings of unseen demons. The white bonfire flared again, swallowed him entirely, and inside it appeared a vision – a landscape of bones, a world bleached to white unlife; and in it, the face of the Forsaken, reduced to a pale skull.
The blood that smeared his armor around his wounds froze, and the wounds themselves contracted like mouths, sprouting new blood that grew into frozen spikes and blades at every articulation. The grass had withered before; now it simply disappeared, ground to nothing by the deathly aura of the Deathknight, and the ground turned to the blackness of obsidian.

"Lords of Death! Neverborns! I call to you! On this day – by this hand – let your enemy join the Oblivion of death. Through the unforce of Entropy, I will shred her to nothingness!"

The girl simply smiled, and took a simple stance, a weapon guarding her flank, another ready to strike. But then, as the red circle whirled and whirled on her forehead, power emanated from it, and the green aura grew larger, swallowing the darkness around her, leaving no shadow wherever it shined – and above the fire, the transparent figure of a long-aired woman began to appear, along with the most beautiful music Five Peacock had ever heard. Her blade began to burn with the same green fire – only this one seemed stronger, more real.

"And now?" muttered the girl, "The bitter end!"

The Broken screamed in sheer hatred, and he leaped at her – streaks of black lightning spreading around him, and he came down like an avalanche, his foot hitting the ground where Shard had been and breaking it ten yards around; but the girl was already gone; she was no girl anymore, but a small cyclone in amazing motion – a sphere of whirling emerald wind, burning with the intensity of the sun, and she struck.
The Forsaken held his ground. The bone-white of his skin took the texture and look of marble, and his hand moving with incredible speed he blocked each blade of burning wind; even as the attack turned into a veritable tornado centered on him, he did not flinch. Finally the attack ended, the girl coming to her feet right in front of him; and again, he moved, striking with merciless strength... And she moved her head without even looking at his hand, dodging the blow by a fraction of an inch... And striking again, screaming in effort as her blade pierced the armor – and fire erupted, the flesh around the blade, piercing the back of the Broken with a spear of emerald flame. He shouted his pain, but his elbow immediately came down on Shard's hand, breaking her grip on the blade; with the sword still inside his chest, he hit again, but she crouched at the same time, letting the blow pass through her flowing hair, and pierced his chest again, lodging another sword in his torso.
It was not enough. Seeming not to notice his wounds, the Forsaken raised his knee right into her chin, throwing her back without any weapon. His roar turned to mad laughter as he leaped, bringing all his might down onto her...
Bring her knee to her torso, she rolled up, avoiding his knee as they crashed into the ground; he tried to hit with both hands like a hammer, and she pushed herself up from the ground, avoiding the blows by rushing right to his chest, into his deathly embrace – a death sentence.
Except that there were still two swords sprouting from his chest.
She grabbed both handle, and with a scream that flared her aura yet again, put all her strength into a scissor-like motion.
Right around his spinal column.

Green fire exploded from his ribcage as the swords came out, and he stepped back, his face distorded by incredible pain, sparks of black lightning flaring around him...
And finally, he fell to his knees.
His chest was open like a hug maw, charred to the bone; his many wounds bled like that of any man; the blood upon his face was no more a demonic visage, but simply blood.
The Forsaken coughed, trying to take a breath into his destroyed lungs. He looked at the girl, who seemed almost sad.
But then she closed her eyes, and when she opened them again there was nothing but contempt in her look.
The Broken breathed harshly, and said something, but his wounds swallowed the meaning of his word; he tried again...

"No!" the girl said. "You don't get any last words."
His eyes widened in fear and surprise, and he rose a hand as if to beg –
And his head fell to the ground.

Green fire swallowed the corpse, leaving nothing but ashes to be washed away by the rain. The girl sighed, spit some blood, and walked back to the mill, swords in her belt, a hand to her flank. Her pain, now, was obvious.
Five Peacocks felt the tension that had plagued her before disappear a few moments after the death of the man in white. She was still very, very afraid – but aside this fear was a sort of peace.
The girl came to her, and looked in her eyes; and Five Peacocks did not see the madness or the otherworldliness, she just saw a tired, hurt girl who had lost someone she loved and found no closure in killing her murderer.

"Did she... Did she say anything?" Xeyata asked – no, Shard asked.
Five Peacocks swallowed nervously, but did not break contact between their eyes. It was difficult to speak – but she finally managed to, and with something so simple as these words, all the fear and tension and despair was washed away.

"She said... She said she was sorry."
Shard looked to the ground, shiverring.

"And she said... She said she loved you."
Shard shiverred again, then shook – and tears came to her eyes. The healer kneeled and took her in her arms, and Shard cried, and she cried too, and they both cried of sorrow and exhaustion and loss and the joy of being alive.

When they were done crying, the rain was over, and sunshine was slowly piercing the clouds. Five Peacocks took Shard's head in her hands, and she smiled at her.

"Come. I will take you home."
The girl looked at her, surprised, and nodded slowly. She wiped her cheeks of their tears, and took the hand that the healer offered to her.
Five Peacocks smiled to the sun, and she walked down the road, away from the mill, away from the fight, away from the memories.

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