Soon after walking closer, Afearia begins coughing almost violently. This dark air is thicker than that tree, she says to herself. It’s choking. I hope my senses adjust soon. She moves on into the ruin when a startling beam of dark energy shoots into the sky.
It shakes the ground with great force, breaking apart more of the ruins and sounding off like a mighty blow horn. Afearia quickly moves through a near crumbled wall to take cover while watching the skies darkening hue. She covers her ears to the unbelievably loud discharge. After thirty seconds, the beam ceases, slightly returning the sky to its usual tint.
What was that? Afearia thinks. Where did that burst of energy come from? Afearia waits a few more seconds before turning around the corner to see a deep hole in the ground. The floor’s completely gone. There’s rocky debris in all corners and burn marks of what remains of the area. Afearia leans over the hole to look below, but sees nothing inside the black hollow. She kicks a couple small rocks and hears them hit other rocks before the low sound of struck metal.
So there is something down there, she thinks. Afearia leaps down where she heard the closest rock drop. She repeats this several times, knocking rocks to find places to jump until she lands on weak ground and falls through. Afearia’s brief fall drops her on a pile of sand. After groaning, she leans up as the clouds part from the red moonlight, illuminating the room.
In front of her is a giant machine with thick metal tubes embedded in the ground. Around the ground tubes is seeping dark smog. At the top of this machine is a cluster of large nozzles lightly smoking. In rings of three are exhaust pipes pointing upward.
The machine is lightly rumbling with an occasional grinding noise when suddenly, a man’s voice arises. “Is that the package?”
Afearia looks toward a crumbled wall by the machine that is mostly covered in shadow. “Hmph.” She slides down from the dirt hill. “Why don’t you come out from the dark?”
“Sorry, but I don’t know if you are the one I’m waiting for. Did Ronald send you? If so, please toss that box over here.”
She does as he asked and hears the box caught. The sound of the box opening goes through the air, moments before the man starts chuckling. Suddenly, dozens of lights tied around the columns turn on. The wall Afearia’s been cautiously watching has dozens of wires coming from the other side. “And you insist on hiding,” Afearia says.
“Isn’t our transaction complete?”
“It would be, if I didn’t know you were a Demi Anthropoid.”
“What gave me away?”
“I can smell the darkness in you. There’s even another dark scent in these ruins that I’m having trouble pinpointing, but it’s certainly heavier than yours.”
Two floors above, a robed man lies on the floor with his eyes barely able to see over the edge. She can smell us? he says to himself. I’ve never heard of that before.
“So there’s no chance of you letting me go?” the shady man behind the wall asks.
“As if, but I think you prefer it this way. Telling from the amount of malice I hear in your voice.”
He chuckles. “My, my, my, Afearia. Your depths of perception are nothing to sneeze at.” He holds out a small white paper with the words, ‘Annihilate Afearia’ written on it. He lets it blow through the wind before walking out from behind the wall.
The man is a nice shade of russet with a well sculpted upper body. He has mid-length curly hair and a bushy mustache. His charcoal tank-top fits snugly to his body, matching his loose-fit black slacks. Instead of laces, his black boots fasten with buckles.
“So this was a set up.”
“Don’t act dense. I know you knew at some point of arriving here.”
She smirks and flicks her ponytail back. “Hmph. And which member of the government are you? Or are you just another government flunky?”
“Watch who you’re calling a flunky. I’m the closest thing to the real deal. That’s why they nicknamed me, ‘The Experiment’. I’m here to test your power. And if you die, then you were nothing but a waste of time. Who knows, maybe I’ll get a promotion into the actual ranks.”
Afearia carelessly yawns. “Honestly, none of you creatures seem to get it. I am too strong in comparison to all of you. The best chance your king has is to stop taking me lightly and send someone from the elites. Not even. He should just come himself.” Afearia smiles while pointing at him. “You back alley roaches got nothing on me.”
He stares at her arrogant pose while hiding his annoyance. “Give me a moment.” He walks up to the machine and pops open a small metal door. Afearia hears beeping as he inputs key commands.
“What are you doing?”
“Making sure the generator won’t go off during our fight. If it did, it would kill us both.”
“You don’t know? Heh, of course not. You’re not local to these plains. No matter. It’s none of your business.”
“Hmph, seems important.” She smirks. “I’ll be sure to smash it after I finish with you.” Afearia summons her red blade. “Demonweaver should suffice.”
She runs toward him with her big grin and does a strong backhanded sword sweep. The man raises his hand and blocks it with his forearm. Her attack doesn’t even cut his skin. Afearia makes a surprised face before jumping back with the blade slicing across his forearm. The sword makes small sparks, but no damage to him.
“Tch,” Afearia grunts. What was that just now? she thinks. Does he have some unseen modifications? Maybe it’s only his right arm that’s hard. She tightens her grip and rushes in a second time to strike from the left. He shifts his body sideways and tries to backhand her with his right arm. She ducks low and moves behind him. I knew it! His whole body isn’t hard! she thinks, swinging her sword from the left. To her surprise, he successfully blocks with his left forearm. He quickly turns around and grabs Afearia’s wrist before throwing her back behind him.
She lands softly on her feet and stares at him. Can he really be this solid? Afearia calmly stands. “That’s quite the body you have there.” He turns to her and says nothing. “You’re the silent type when in battle, huh?” He lifts his hand and does a come here motion with his index finger. She grunts at his taunt with a sterner expression. “You’re looking down on me? You’ll regret it.”
Afearia leaps forward and does a full dual-handed slash across his neck. Once again, his body sustains no damage. Her eye widens. Afearia becomes annoyed and slashes his torso, legs, and arms, only tearing his clothing. She steps back slowly, appearing confused. “Why are you so hard?”
He tears off his torn tank-top. “Are you through? As you can see, my body does not yield to the might of any sword.” He glares at her. “So Afearia, am I good enough for you, or is this the limit of your strength?”
“You wish!” she says, dismissing Demonweaver.
When Afearia prepares to summon another sword, her opponent seizes the moment and kicks a fallen rock into her left wrist. She grabs her wrist and loses much sensation in her hand. Before she knows it, the man rushes in and knees her in the jaw.
As she arches up from the strike, Afearia uses her right hand to prevent herself from hitting the ground and smoothly flips upright in a crouched pose. The man kicks the rock at her again while running toward her. She leans back from the rock with her right hand stretching behind her. When he nears, Afearia double kicks off him, knocking him back and balancing on one hand.
He stumbles as she flips back onto her feet. “You really don’t like falling on your ass,” he says.
“I’ve never been one to take it on my back.”
“I think you would look good on your back.”
She sarcastically smiles. “Charming.”
He glances at her swollen wrist. “You still can’t make a firm fist yet? Don’t worry. By the time you’re able, I will have already finished this.”
When he rushes forward, Afearia’s arm glows green seals for a moment. She pushes through the pain and flattens her palm on the ground. A small wall of rock rises up and blocks his path. Afearia leaps above him with her feet joined together. He jumps back before she lands and launches a hard punch to her stomach. She slams up against her own wall and slides down with her head turned. Appearing unconscious, Afearia suddenly chuckles with a sinister smile.
“Why are you smiling?” he asks.
She turns her head to him. “You’ll know in five minutes.” He grunts and prepares to kick her. Afearia jumps up before the wall crumbles from his kick. Bubbles start to flourish in her right hand until he immediately kicks up the broken rocks from the wall at her. She fails to summon and fires four chains to latch around a column before pulling herself toward it. With a stern expression, she remains crouched on the column as she watches him slowly approach.
“You guardians are nothing without your Empyrean blades. When you’ve fought as many as I have, you learn to keep their summoning talents down.”
He suddenly kicks up more rocks toward her. Afearia’s chains loosen before sliding down the column. She reaches the floor and jumps to the side as the rocks crash down. She swings her arm across her chest to have the four chains whip at her opponent. The man jumps over them when he’s suddenly shot by a steady stream of fire that grounds him. When he stands back up, he’s hit with another stream of fire that he blocks until his hands turn orange.
Afearia ends her attack while her opponent keeps his smoldering hands up. When he lowers his arms, the orange glow briefly spreads throughout his body before fading. Afearia makes a shocked face and quickly grins before swinging her chains back around. Staring at his arms, he just notices her attack and barely blocks it with his forearm.
At that moment, the orange glow returns with less intensity. Afearia stands straight, grinning while retracting her chains. She puts her hand over her head and starts laughing. “That’s unfortunate.”
“What is?” he sternly asks as the orange glow fades.
“I so wanted to end you in another way, but your abilities are not as complicated as I thought.”
“You do realize I have the advantage. I have no injuries, and—”
“Annnd, you have bored me for the last time. After I even let you beat me around for awhile too. You couldn’t even make me bleed. All you could do was kick rocks and run around like an idiot.”
“What are you going on about?”
She points at him. “You’re not hard all over. You have metallic fragments in your body that you move around freely to guard you.”
“You still can’t beat me just because you understand it. The speed I move those fragments are beyond yours. There is no—”
“Shhh! I’m going to kill you now. Ready?” He narrows his eyes at her and bends his knees until he notices green seals take her arm and the left side of her neck. He waits for her move before she suddenly grins. “I was giving you one last chance. You’re such a stupid Demi.”
Afearia bends down and touches the ground with her left hand. Five rock columns rise up and slide over toward him. He jumps through the column, smashing it to pieces while continuing to run at her. The sound of smashing rock fills his ears, but he doesn’t bother to look back.
Suddenly, a giant rock palm comes up in front of him and knocks him down. The palm continues pushing him while he lies on the floor. He rolls out of the way and quickly stands with his back to her. When he turns around, dozens of water spheres are floating around her. The spheres part a bit to reveal Afearia holding Nebulous.
I thought her attack pattern was strange, the man thinks. She was just trying to distract me for a chance to summon another weapon. He looks at her sword. That blade is not one they’ve seen before. The water spheres fly at him one after another. He jumps over the first one as it splashes the floor. He runs toward her while dodging some of the spheres of water. When he gets in close by sidestepping the last sphere, he jumps up to kick her when a sudden realization hits him. Wait, something’s not right. Her attacks were highly inaccurate.
At the last second of his attack, she ducks under and pushes him forward from beneath his thigh. He smoothly flips in the air and lands back down. As the man rises up, he’s immediately surrounded by tiny spheres holding pebbles. “What the hell is this?” he says.
Afearia smirks. “Pebbles are small and barely worth looking at twice. Even if someone throws one at you, it’s still not a big deal. But if you’re hit hard enough, it could break skin. Even penetrate.” He looks at her with a shaky stern face. “After pushing you, I felt your metal defenses protect you. Seems it even activates against forces not meant to harm the body. I thought that was the situation, so I set the ending just in case. Now what would happen if you were to be hit from hundreds of different locations at high speed with no rest?” She raises her hand for hundreds of spheres to surround him. “It’s over.”
I get it now, he thinks with surprised eyes. She wasn’t aiming to kill me with any of those previous attacks. This is the real attack she was setting up. A double elemental strike… He balls his fist. “No! I won’t lose like this!”
He rushes at her with the spheres following him while maintaining the dome formation. He jumps and slides at her with great speed. All the metallic hardening fills his fist, graying his skin as he aims his strike for Afearia’s forehead. She quickly blocks it with her left hand as her arm slightly shakes to his strength.
“But, your wrist,” he says with wide eyes. “How can you defend with that hand?”
She gives him a cold glare. “I said—it’s over.” She grips tight on his hardened hand and pushes him up and away from her. “Begin!”
All the water pebble spheres are hitting his body with such speed and force that his body remains airborne while being unable to retaliate. For every hundred splatters, the remaining water gathers new pebbles to repeat the assault again.
Afearia slowly walks toward the bombarded man as he writhes and groans in the air. Droplets of blood hit her cheek from the rapid strikes against his skin. “When your body is forced to spread too thin,” with great speed, Afearia hurls Nebulous into his heart by doing a swift arm extension. The moment it pierced through, the colliding water pebbles stop. “Your rock-like defense becomes tin foil.”
With wide eyes, the water covered pebbles soon fall with his lifeless body following. The robed man watching her stands and creeps backward into the dark when the sound of suffering screams echo through the ruins. Afearia looks up, sniffing. What was that? she thinks. Whatever it was, the stronger scent is gone. Afearia dismisses her sword and approaches the massive generator.