With the sickening slurch of flesh tearing, Frey's black katana dragged a dark trail across yet another soldier's armored chest. The soldier fell to his knees, shooting Frey one last glare of indignance before falling at his feet.
"Well, that's the last of them." he waved his sword down, shaking the blood off its edges and splattering drops of red on the ground. Frey eyed Zalvik and, with a morbid smirk plastered on his bloodied face, he spoke. "Are you gonna come at me next?"
Zalvik pushed forth, squeezing between the four soldiers holding Tack and Liezel by the arms. There was a dangerous gleam in his cloudy brown eyes, and a condescending grin framed with red stubble. He planted his steel boots in the ground and took a stance with his trunk-like legs spread far from each other. The broadsword he held in front of him was massive--the largest Frey had seen. But then again, he hadn't seen that much variety of swords. Not yet, at least.
Frey also put up his guard. Even after Zalvik had watched him mow down the whole squad, Frey couldn't see even a hint of caution in him. Instead, the old man was smiling ear to ear. He was tempted to ask Zalvik what could be so funny, but it was Zalvik who first opened his mouth.
"You have impossible sword skill for a vagrant. And that sword," he eyed Frey's black katana, grinning with avarice. "I'd like to take it once I kill you."
That wouldn't even matter to Frey if he died, he thought, but didn't voice it out. Instead, he held his blade forward and fought Zalvik's cocky grin with his own. "Don't worry, I'll give it to you. Where do you want it, across your back, or deep in your neck?"
"Cocky, you remind me of my early days. Tell you what, vagrant, you give me the sword, and I'll let you walk away without a scratch." he peered behind, were Tack and Liezel hung limply on the constricting arms of the soldiers. "You can even take the boy with you, as a sign of my generosity, but sadly, the girl has to remain."
Frey pinched the growing stubble on his chin, as if really pondering the idea of selling his sword. He never thought of his weapons as having that high a market value, but then he'd practically been living with Shin the whole time, deep in a forest, away from the touches of civilization. He wouldn't know what is valuable in this world and what's not. He looked down at the sword he was holding, then at Zalvik with his head tilted.
"Is my weapon that valuable?" Frey asked. He wasn't really considering Zalvik's offer, but it would seem the enemy in front of him was about to teach him a bit of economics. Or, he was about to make him.
"Despite saying you do not know anything about Barton, you are holding one of the weapons he himself forged."
Frey's eyes widened.
"What, you thought I was a simpleton to not notice?" Zalvik continued. "That kind of blade, with its weird shape, is not commonly used in Eideleir. It's also not distributed, because only one blacksmith forges that type of blade. Namely Barton, a Chosen from another world." he glanced at Liezel as he spat out the last word.
"It amazes me how much you try to feign ignorance, vagrant. Someone who is acquainted with Barton and who wields one of his weapons... On top of that, you can handle eight full-grown men on your own. You are not just a mere messenger out to deliver morsels. Who are you?"
"Does it really matter who I am?"
Zalvik burst out laughing. "Let's see. You've killed my men and had been found assisting fugitives. I cannot arrest you for your crimes without knowing your name. Or would you rather I don't bother with arrest and just bury you here?"
"What happens if I give you the sword now?"
"Your sword? I can always take that after I'm done with you, vagrant."
Frey expected as much. That deal about letting him go in exchange for his weapon was just a bluff. Not that he would've taken the deal even if it wasn't.
After all, Zalvik is not his equal.
Frey wiped the splatters of blood on his cheeks with the cuff of his coat. The night was deep, and the shadows surrounding them deeper. Yet, he could see clear the heaps of metal and flesh laying in large lumps on the ground all around them. Some of these lumps had steel knives sticking out of their vitals, while others laid unmoving with deep, black gashes running over their armor. He looked back at Zalvik. Soon, the captain would be joining his squad.
"You were asking for my name just then, weren't you?"
"That is so." Zalvik nodded.
"It's Player 47. It's okay if you don't remember it."
Liezel and Tack, who had been listening to their banter with despondent faces, had their eyes pried wide by Frey's words. Liezel even shook her head at him, as if to say he shouldn't have done what he did.
Zalvik's jaw dropped the moment he realized what Frey just said. And then he laughed raucous and heartily, like he also found his move stupid. "I was expecting you would give your name, but you gave something even more interesting. Are you that desperate to die?"
"Do all the captains back in Redel talk as much as you? Should be a very lively army."
"What did you say?"
"Weren't you going to arrest me? I'm right here Captain. Tell you what, I'll give you this sword if you actually beat me. Though I don't think I would lose to someone whose whole squad took hours chasing after a kid and a girl."
Trembling with rage, Zalvik shot Tack and Liezel a glancing glare, before narrowing his eyes at Frey.
"You do not know who you are mocking, Chosen. I don't take kindly to upstarts getting ahead of themselves. You think you're so strong, after beating pawns? They were hardly the strongest of my force. You will get what I mean soon."
Zalvik kicked the ground and in a stride, closed the distance between them into a mere two meters. Just in range for a swing with his massive broadsword. Frey arched his back, letting the tip of the sword wheeze past his neck. Still reeling from the centrifugal force he himself made, Zalvik was vulnerable in all spots. He must've been planning to get Frey in that one attack, but it just didn't work that way. Frey held his katana, gleaming lustrous black and deadly, and brought it home down Zalvik's steel shoulder guard. Zalvik had lost an arm. Or at least, that's what Frey thought. The blade's weird magic should've acted then, and would've rend through the steel guard. But it didn't. A stinging vibration ran from the edge through the body of the sword, climbing until his fingers. A loud clank boomed as steel repelled steel, and he suffered the tingling feedback of it. A hook came from his right and he backed out just in time to avoid getting knocked out by Zalvik's surprise boxing. He was smiling, despite not landing the hit.
"Surprised your sword's little trick did not work?" Zalvik asked as he gathered his posture.
So it doesn't work on him. Frey bit his lip and grimaced. Plan B.
He dashed toward Zalvik, brandishing his black blade. Zalvik blocked with his massive sword and pushed his relatively light katana without much effort. Frey tried again, this time he crouched and sliced low, out of his parry range. Zalvik jumped a step back, but Frey didn't relent. He followed suit, with yet another swing overhead. Zalvik blocked again with his broadsword. This time, Frey didn't pull out his sword from the clash. With Zalvik supporting his sword with his both hands, his body was open. Frey delivered a swift boot straight onto Zalvik's side. Zalvik staggered sideward like a crab washed ashore.
His fate was sealed.
Frey rushed at him, katana in his right hand. He swung at Zalvik's neck, but his blade was met with the overlapping steel plates of Zalvik's arm guard.
Fast reflexes, Frey thought. He wasn't captain for nothing. But, his reflex alone wasn't enough.
With his left hand, Frey reached for the hilt of the companion blade strapped on his belt. It was a bit shorter than his katana, but had the same shape and the same black luster on its surface. With it in his left hand he swung forth.
Zalvik couldn't seem to understand what was happening as he watched his arm fall off from the elbow down. The overlapping plates of steel covering his forearm protested with clangs as they hit the stones and twigs littering the forest floor.
Warm, crimson blood sprayed forth from the stump of Zalvik's right arm, and then his guttural scream came shortly after. In a last ditch effort to protect himself Zalvik used his remaining left hand to lift his massive sword. He swung at Frey. Frey circled to his back and, with a deft hand, pushed the companion blade deep into the back of his neck. The blade protruded half a foot on the other side, its black edge snuggled under his chin. Zalvik had stopped screaming.
Frey pulled his companion blade out of Zalvik, and the man fell face-down on the floor, his beloved broadsword beside him.
Frey heard rustle, and then the groans of Tack and Liezel as they hit the floor. When he looked over, the boy and the girl were on their knees, confused. There were four shadows scampering behind them, into the woods, quickly fading from sight. Frey didn't want to chase after them. There was simply no point in it. And he was tired. All around him were bodies covered in steel and blood, as dead as the dessicated leaves littering their grave, framed toxic green by the light emanating from Liezel's Mark.
He looked at his feet, where Zalvik laid with a hole in his neck.
Frey won, didn't he?
He won his first battle. The cost of it didn't matter to him for the moment, as he let his victory sink in.