Dirge of Apocrypha: Getting Even
Glowing red blood painted the ground Dirge blindsided the giant arachnid with a warp strike. Her glowing eyes exhibiting malice all over again, and her black sword stabbed deep within the creatures flank. The momentum of her strike toppling the beast over before it could kill Akeso, and as it fell over Dirge would violently rip her sword free in a quiet rage. Glowing red blood spraying her visage as she jumped off the creature before it could roll over on top of her. Landing in a crouch adjacent from Akeso without a word, her ominous eyes locked onto the slowly dying spider. Sooner than later, it went still, and both Akeso and Anelia were left dumbfounded by Dirge's actions. Anelia especially...
"She saved her..." The woman thought to herself with shell shocked eyes and quivering lips. A rush of emotions overtaking her body as she looked at Dirge, and then Akeso. The latter still somewhat frozen with fear as she clutched her cane to her chest and visibly trembled as she looked at the spider. "She actually saved her..." Anelia repeated, still not able to believe it. Truth be told, Dirge didn't fully understand why she acted when she did. In fact, she didn't even recall consciously moving to intercept the beast. It was as if the sight of Akeno about to be killed by the Dark Beast triggered a dormant series of images that Dirge had long suppressed. Images of someone she used to know dying in a similar way. Someone she had failed to save in time because she wasn't strong enough...
Dirge finally stood up and looked around still on high alert. Her sword gripped in her left hand, still brandished as if the fight wasn't over yet. Soon enough, more scuttling noises of Dark Beasts echoed from the darkness of the woods all around the two. The original arachnid wasn't alone, it had a whole group accompanying it. Her pale eyes looking over to Anelia with silent scrutiny, before she called out to her with some agitation. The corpse of the nearby monster fading as she spoke.
"I saved your kid, we're even. Now get up, more are coming." The Remnant said cold and serious, before turning her attention back to the woods around her as neon red markings began to appear from multiple directions. Trees swaying from being shoved out the way of the scurrying pack of arachnids locked on to their location. Anelia snapping out of her shock and nodding to Dirge, before scrambling to her feet and grabbing her sword and shield and rushing over to Akeso. Dirge warping over to the opposite side of the girl, watching her back as more of the Dark Beasts came from the opposing side as well. These creatures were smart, they were circling the trio, cutting off their escapes before going in for the kill.
"You think you can handle this many?" Anelia said taking up the stance she had against Dirge earlier. Akeso without even needing to be told sticking behind the two Remnants protecting her. "The last thing I need is to wound up protecting both of you because you fell out." Anelia scoffed annoyed. While she was still pissed at Dirge for her words earlier, the fact that she saved Akeso in that moment from a gruesome death played a large part in the forgiveness process. She planned to watch Dirge's back as well as Akeso's now. Dirge watched as several of the large, black, large fanged spiders emerged from the woods. Shaking with glee as multiple legs repeatedly stabbed at the ground with bladed tips. They were happy they found three Remnants, it seemed.
"Worry about you and yours and don't get in my way." Dirge responded with a tinge of annoyance in her stoicism. Anelia keeping her eyes forward, watching several spiders emerge on her side as well and just grunting in acknowledgment, and reading in between the lines of Dirge's words. The Remnant Killer planned to be the offense, and just wanted Anelia to stay out of her way while she cleaned house. Meaning focus on protecting Akeso. While Anelia wanted to get in on the main action too, she was perfectly fine protecting her oath, Akeso.
The many red eyes of multiple arachnids surrounding them was an intimidating sight to Akeso, she had never really encountered Dark Beasts much thanks to Anelia handling them while she slept every night. This was something else, she couldn't believe that people Like Dirge wandered out here alone with so many threats like this. That they were capable of fighting these things even when outnumbered and coming out on top. Dirge was starting to look just as strong, brave, and cool to her as Anelia was...
"Akeso." Anelia suddenly said, snapping the young girl out of her rising fright and growing admiration. "I need you to focus your healing powers on Dirge once we engage. Don't worry about me, just focus on her." The woman ordered, but still maintained her somewhat gentle tone. Akeso blinked, and nodded before quickly pressing a hand on Dirge's back. The woman not even reacting and allowing it to happen as Akeso placed a regenerative sigil on her. The sigil glowing with light green energy and empowering Dirge with a sense of vitality and strength she hadn't felt in a long while.
"You will be able to push your limits without worry of backlash with that seal! Please do your best!" Akeso said clutching her cane to her chest again. Dirge completely silent, and just very vaguely looking over her shoulder down at the teenager and nodding once. Immediately after, the pale-eyed Remnant dashed off into the fray right as several of the giant spiders all began to rush her. Their hunting instincts triggered by her sudden rapid movement. Anelia raising her shield up, and holding her sword out perpendicular to her body, surging aether through her blade, encasing it in a superheated golden glow as the rest of the group attacked her. The woman yelling for Akeso to stay close as she engaged the enemies!
The two women had polar opposite styles, each one controlling one side of the battlefield with Akeso as the center point. Dirge was aggressive, acrobatic and fast, hitting just as hard as she was agile. She was never in one spot for more than a few seconds, and was constantly warping around the battlefield as she dodged bladed appendages and venomous fangs between her offensive strikes. The regenerative effects of the sigil on her back allowing her to push her limits without worry of her illness or fatigue kicking in. Akeso was a really powerful healer, for someone so young. Dirge kept the spiders attention with her aggression, and constantly switched targets as she cut off their legs or wounded their hides, wearing them all down simultaneously as a blur of speed.
Anelia on the other hand, was a woman whose offense was savagely strong because of how stalwart her defense was. Keeping her side of enemies from Akeso by making herself a target with flashing streaks of her sword as she attacked, she would taunt the creatures into lunging at her and then swiftly intercept them. By doing either a vicious lunging shield bash that knocked them clean off their feet, or by swerving underneath their lunge and tearing apart their legs and undersides with her hot blade. The two Remnants looking to have the advantage against the Dark Beasts, but quickly realizing that they were only attracting more and more as time passed. Soon enough, the corpses of slain arachnids were replaced by other variations that only seemed to grow more horrid and aggressive as time passed on.
From Chimera to Wraith to Zombie looking abominations, they just kept coming. And Anelia and Dirge were starting to become overwhelmed. This war of attrition would go on and on until the two ran out of steam, even with Akeso eventually getting involved and tossing out waves of her aether to replenish their energy. The night was infinite with Dark Beasts, there was never any culling their numbers to extinction. They had to get away, break contact and escape. They had to find an opening and bail.
"Hey, Broody!" Anelia called out as she jumped above a serpentine looking Dark Beast with two heads with black flesh hanging off them and imposing, saber like fangs. The creatures red markings flaring up as it tried to poise and strike only to be cut in half before it could attack by Anelia's longsword. "We have to get out of here! You know what will happen if things keep up like this!" She added on, suddenly hurling her shield in a scything arc towards a humanoid beast that slipped past her and rushed for Akeso. The young girl yelping as she back stepped before the shields sharp edge took the monsters head off. The improvised weapon swinging back around to be snatched up by Anelia's hand again as she rushed over to cover Akeso.
Dirge meanwhile had become engaged with a beast a tad more difficult than the rest. This one was humanoid, and human sized, and fought like a competent swords with its pitch black, bladed arms. Dirge parrying away and blocking an aggressive barrage of attacks with annoyance in her eyes as she were pushed back. Even among the red versions, not all Dark Beasts were created equal. Some were significantly more capable combat wise than others. Eventually finding an opportunity, Dirge would smack away a swing of the creatures arm and then glide her sword along the length of the distance to cut off the creatures head. The monster staggering back before collapsing and fading to mist, with Dirge quickly dodging the lunge of another spider like monster. Anelia was right, they had to go. If they didn't, then...
All of the monsters swarming them suddenly stopped attacking. The Remnant trio pausing as well as an overwhelming sensation of dread and death washed over the landscape. Then, the monsters ran away by the horde into the woods. As if something spooked them. Dirge and Anelia looking somewhat troubled, the look they exchanged worth a thousand words. It was now or never, Dirge had to make a decision on if she would help the two out or leave them to their fates. It had been so long, since Dirge had to make a decision like this, and truth be told she wished she had never been thrown into this predicament. She should have gave in to the urge to bail mid-fight when it poked at the back of her psyche. Why did she even stay this long...
Twitching her eyes a bit without a word, Dirge warped over to Akeso, putting her sword away and quickly scooping the confused girl up in her arms before glancing back at Anelia. The look she flashed the woman telling the Paladin all she needed to know before Dirge took off into the woods. Anelia putting away her weapon and shield on her hip and back respectively before scooping up Akeso's cane. Holding faith in her authenticity, and dashing off after her, watching their backs while chasing after the woman leading them to safety. They had to get out of here, for a Blue Dark Beast was coming. This sense of dread always predated the arrival of one of them. And not even Anelia and Dirge together with the assistance of Akeso, would stand a chance against even one of them. They were simply in another league.
As they ran, that overwhelming sense of unnatural fear and danger only seemed to increase as it weighed down on everything. Any common Dark Beasts in the were gone, not a single one of them in sight. The two Remnants dashing through the woods as fast as their legs could carry them. Akeso clinging tightly to Dirge and shutting her eyes as the fast and agile woman weaved through obstacles like they weren't even an issue. The slower, less nimble Anelia gritting her teeth and tucking her shoulder, deciding to just bulldoze over anything in her way. Knocking chunks of tree trunk away and crushing boulders as she followed. This was nothing to her.
A vicious roar unlike anything from before echoed in the night. The distant crashing of trees and land being torn asunder from the rampage of that legendary monster sending chills down the trio's spines. Luckily for them, blue marked Dark Beasts never pursued prey too far beyond the original sight that attracted their interest. Before long, that dreadful vibe in the air began to fade, and everything went silent again as Dirge eventually stopped at another clearing with a crystal clear stream running through it. The woman setting down Akeso and slumping against a tree, breathing heavily as she closed her eyes and tilted her head back. A light sheen of sweat across her pale skin as she rested. Her regeneration seal had finally timed out, thus her fatigue came. What, was she getting into... Why did she even do this for them...
Anelia caught up about thirty seconds later, which given her already supernatural speed, said a lot about her speed in comparison to Dirge. The Knight however, had a lot more in the way of endurance, as she didn't look anywhere near as tired or sweaty as Dirge did when she stepped into the moonlit clearing. The silence of the night relieving tense nerves and the cool, fresh scent of running water soothing the lungs. Anelia looking around as she walked over to hand Akeso her cane. The young girl quickly grabbing it and moving over to attempt to accelerate Dirge's compromised regeneration. Not even taking a few steps towards her before Dirge suddenly went into a coughing fit and doubled over, clutching her chest.
"We're in the clear, for now..." Anelia said, turning stern amber eyes over to see Dirge coughing up blood into her hand. Akeso immediately pointing her staff at the ill woman and conjuring a small green barrier of linked sigils around her to lessen the pain and restrain the sickness. Anelia narrowing her eyes with scrutiny, watching Dirge continue to cough even with the healing, although to a lesser extent. At first, she thought Dirge remained sick only because Akeso didn't cure her as per Anelia's request. But now she saw that it was more serious than that. It wasn't that Akeso willingly didn't heal her, it was that she couldn't.
"Your illness..." Anelia trailed off as she spoke, waiting for Dirge to finish coughing and look at her with serious eyes and blood smearing the corner of her lips. Their gazes meeting, before Anelia continued on. "It's terminal, isn't it? You're dying..." She said softly. Akeso suddenly looking sorrowful as she looked over Dirge, staying quiet and continuing to try her best and heal the woman. Dirge didn't say anything, she only stared at Anelia in silence for a few seconds longer, before breaking eye contact and looking at her bloody glove.
"That's why you didn't want us around, huh? You just want to be alone until you eventually succumb to your sickness." Anelia scoffed, somewhat annoyed at how pathetic that was, but also feeling some type of empathy for the woman. Looking back, her actions beforehand were a little less sociopathic. Dirge reached up to brush away her hair with her other hand, sighing and coughing a couple of more times. Before leaning back against the tree and breathing a little easier. Closing her eyes and just accepting the temporary warmth and good feeling of the energy coursing through her body. Said energy eventually disappearing, as Akeso stood up and looked off sheepishly ashamed of herself.
"I've done all I can again, but it's only temporary." She said, turning her green eyes to gaze upon Dirge again as the pale-eyed woman opened hers to match the stare. "You should refrain from using your Remnant powers as much as you can, it'll alleviate the symptoms and give you extra ti-"
"I don't care if I rot." Dirge interrupted with a surprisingly grim laugh, accompanied by an even more tragic smile. Akeso and Anelia falling silent, both of them stunned by her words as Dirge finally gave in, and opened up just a little bit. "Dying would be better than growing old and living in a world as doomed as this one. Why can't the both of you just do me a favor, and go away." She asked, her smile fading as she slumped her head over and let her bangs obscure her visage. Akeso unable to respond, just overwhelmed by the weight of her words, while Anelia clenched her fist and grit her teeth. Lashing out as she stepped forward to Dirge with agitation envenomating her words.
"Because unlike you, and every other Remnant we've encountered in the past several years, we are not okay with leaving you to rot. We saved you, and even if it was partly for a selfish reason I will admit that Akeso and I did not want to see you die to something as low as one of those horrors!" She barked now standing only a foot or so away from Dirge. The white and black haired Remnant laughing again in disbelief, coughing in between words as she turned to look Anelia in the eyes with an empty, apathetic stare.
"Well well, aren't you just a heroic spirit. I'm amazed you haven't been killed yet trying to play liberator of a settlement." Dirge sneered tauntingly, before her mocking visage faded away into a suddenly cold, and sharp glare of apathy. "You make me sick..." she added on, provoking Anelia into doing exactly what she anticipated, and fundamentally proving her point about everyone being the same. The moment something they don't like is said or done to them, they resort to violence. While Dirge internally admitted, and accepted that flaw as hers a long time ago, it was very clear that Anelia didn't.
Anelia was about to swing on Dirge as soon as she finished that sentence, when Akeso stepped in between the two of them. Both of the others looking suddenly surprised, with Dirge even tilting her head in confusion at the stranger defending her. Why did she do that, what did she gain from being so idiotic? Anelia hesitated, her fist quivering in mid-air as she stared into the convicted eyes of Akeso. The young girl explicitly showing through her eyes that if Anelia wanted to beat on a sickly woman, she had to hit her too. Growling in frustration, Anelia eventually scoffed and just turned to walk away. Fuck this...
"Akeso, we're leaving. Get your stuff and lets go." Anelia said walking over to cross the shallow stream. Akeso blinking confused, what? They were just going to abandon Dirge? She opened her mouth to express her disagreement, but Dirge interjected before she could get the words out.
"Go away, kid." The solemn Remnant said from the base of the tree, Akeso turning to meet her eyes as Dirge shooed her away with a hand. "I don't need a babysitter, and I definitely don't need some adolescent defending me. So, just go away..." The woman said looking away annoyed. Anelia pausing in the middle of the stream and looking over her shoulder, calling out for Akeso to hurry the fuck up. The black-haired young girl stared at Dirge, the woman no longer even acknowledging her as she just closed her eyes and continued to rest. Eventually, and begrudgingly, Akeso started to walk away to catch up to Anelia. Acknowledging Dirge's wishes, even though she didn't want to leave her alone.
"... Take care." Akeso whispered. "I hope, we meet again on better terms someday." She added on, before turning to cross the stream with Anelia. A few moments later, and the two females vanished into the woods, leaving Dirge all alone, just like she wanted. The woman sat there in silence for a long while, lamenting over her actions and just drowning in her bad decisions. She didn't want to be around people anymore than she had to. It was too much baggage, and she didn't want to deal with that ever again.
"... tch!" She scoffed, before passing out by the tree.
As they walked away, Anelia didn't say a word. Leading the way and just trying to forget about ever meeting Dirge. Akeso on the other hand, followed with her head held low and her cane clutched to her chest, thinking over everything Dirge said and did. From her words, to her facial expressions, to the deep and profound look in her eyes. Most never could see it, but Akeso did. She could see it so well that it made her heart sink. It was something that she couldn't just forget about...
Dirge deep down, didn't want them to go away. She pushed them away, to protect herself. Akeso could see it in her eyes...
Akeso turned around and ran back to Dirge. Anelia looking over her shoulder and reaching out for the girl, calling her name in surprise before giving chase. Why wouldn't she just let it go!?
To be continued! Next Chapter: Convictions & Persistence
- Original Remnant
Bio: I'm just a guy who writes stories. Stories, that I hope my readers will enjoy and share with their friends, so that they can enjoy them too. Reviews and rates, whether positive or negative, are appreciated. Because they show that you have taken the time out of your day to help me improve my craft. I hope you enjoy the effort I put into my works, and I hope they keep you coming back for more.