Bandit Leader Ragnar. I'm not good at colouring but tried putting some effects on the sword...
Ragnar raised his sword, a thick, rectangular thing with only a hint of an edge. Red creeping patterns crawled all over its grey body like bloody veins, along with tiny scars and cracks. It looked battle-worn and way too big. Bigger than Bloom’s entire body in both height and width. And its weight? She could only imagine it crushing her like a rotten melon if it ever fell on her, but the giant man pointed it at Greyvern with just one hand.
“Whew!” Bloom blew out the lump of air stuck inside her chest for a while.
That’s some arm strength...
Not that surprising when the guy had tree trunks for arms, but shocking for sure. After all, even the tip of his sword was steady as a sculpture.
Greyvern, on the other hand, drew a stark contrast against the giant. The thin sword in his frail arm mirrored Ragnar’s movement; but looking less like equals and more like a scrawny child standing against a buff adult.
Time ticked by as they stared at each other’s eyes silently, the air around them still and taut like Bloom’s nerves, ready to snap.
At least move or something!
The ten-meter gap between them vanished in a flash. Bloom couldn’t react in time as the shock-wave from the clash blew her away. She did an involuntary somersault midair, landing on her feet more by Luck than skill, and skidded to a stop a few meters away. Enough time for both knights to clash swords at least a dozen times.
Cling! Cling! Clang! Clang! CLANG!
The sound grew louder and quicker with each strike, matching Bloom’s heart booming against the confines of her ribcage. She put her hand before her eyes, trying to shield them from the dazzling red and white flashes, but sharp wind blades and chips of stone stung her exposed skin like a bunch of angry hornets.
[Damage Received: 1]
[Damage Received: 1]
I can’t stay here!
The aftershock of the clashes spread at least dozens of meters. Getting out of that range wasn’t easy. Bloom shuffled back, the uneven ground trying its darndest to make her stumble. She skirted the nearest half-buried log cabin, taking shelter behind the smouldering remains. She ignored the smell of charred wood and smoke as best as she could, and looked back.
Should be good enough?
A gust of sharp wind ruffled through her hair, knocking her back a step. Bloom gripped her fist. Apparently not good enough.
Hesitating only a moment, she planted her feet to the ground. Hiding somewhere might be safer, but she won’t be witnessing anything; besides, the battle was a spectacle she just couldn’t miss.
The fight raged on in front of her. A loud, bewildering mess of showering sparks, crackling flashes of light, whipping wind pressure and clouds of dust and rock fragments made witnessing the details impossible, but Bloom somehow kept track of the overall picture.
Greyvern’s sword was the very definition of fast. The blade turned invisible in his hand, leaving crisscrossing streaks of white light. With pinpoint accuracy, it tried to bypass the chinks in Ragnar’s steel armour at every chance. But the giant man had tricks of his own. He used the width of his sword with amazing flexibility and shielded himself from most of the attacks. At the rare chance, he struck back; swinging that massive sword like a force of nature. It blasted the air apart, raising miniature storms.
Despite the power, they were too slow to touch Greyvern’s shadow.
But they could snap me in half!
The girl felt less cheerful at the notion as a shiver ran up her spine.
Compared to those massive swings, Greyvern’s attacks seemed weak. His lightning-fast strikes that had cut down the other bandits like a bunch of weeds, only left light grazes on Ragnar’s thick hide. Bloom frowned, her fingers opening and closing again and again. The old man... was at a disadvantage!
Ragnar brought his blade crashing down, pulverizing the rock and leaving a small crater on the hard ground. The force pushed Greyvern back a few meters.
Both knights stopped moving once again, quietly staring at each other. They were done probing.
“Did your blade grow dull, Greyvern?” Ragnar asked with a frown. “I remember your attacks being fiercer before, but now, they can’t even draw my blood.”
Greyvern tilted his head. “Are you sure?”
“Hm?” Ragnar narrowed his eyes. “What do you—”
Ragnar jolted, pain flaring under his skin like hundreds of fiery hot knives. Streaks of white marked each spot Greyvern’s sword had touched on his body. They bubbled, bursting out at the same time in Rays of light and blood mist.
“Oh!” he gasped. “I almost forgot you’re a light element.” Taking a sharp breath, he looked at Greyvern with admiration. “Is that a new trick? I’ve never seen it before.”
“It isn’t. I just never needed to use it before you.”
“I see.” The giant nodded. “Then let’s not play around anymore.”
Greyvern remained silent and took his battle stance.
Ragnar jammed his sword into the earth, charging at the old man as he swung it upwards. A football-sized boulder shattered, the pieces transforming into small, sharp stone bullets and whizzing towards Greyvern. He dodged most of them, the rest turning into dust with a flash of his sword. Another slash and a crescent blade of light flew at Ragnar. The giant jumped back and thrust the tip of his sword down towards the ground.
A foot-thick wall of hard rock sprang up in front of him. The blade of light crashed against it, shattering into countless sharp shards. The attack that could evaporate an ordinary bandit by touch alone, left just a half foot deep scar behind. Ragnar drew an arm back, muscles straining against the armour, and threw a punch, smashing the wall into pieces. He lunged through the chunks of rock, once again launching an attack.
Bloom dived to the ground as another stone the size of her head flew at her. The earth shook, flinging her away. A fragmented blade of light grazed past the small of her back, leaving a deep, red gash.
[Damage received: 49]
She drew a sharp breath, flexing her back against the pain. After struggling to hold it in for a second, she still let out her voice. “Ouch!”
It literally BURNT! Even this far, she’d received so much damage! It was a gosh-darned war zone here.
So ‘survive’ meant this, huh!
[Well, the worst isn’t here yet.]
Bloom had her doubts, but she didn’t have to wait too long to find out what that meant.
“HAAAAAH!” Ragnar roared, an explosive aura burst out from his body and pushed away Greyvern, who had been overwhelming him with a flurry of small light blades. He raised the gigantic sword above his head. The veins all over the blade pulsed with light, a reddish-brown aura swirling around it. He crashed it down onto the earth, and for the fraction of a second, time stopped.
Waves of red light rippled out from where the sword struck, cracking the ground like a mirror surface.
“Shit!” Bloom cursed as the earth heaved, boiling and churning under her. The fissures spewed chunks of rock and debris that rolled down the slope in a massive landslide, sweeping her away. She curled up, barrelling through the rugged terrain like a rolling ball. Pebbles and boulders and other rock hard things of all shapes and sizes accompanied her on this bumpy road, far too touchy to leave her alone. Each bone jerking impact with them brought acute pain. Worst, it ate up her health far too quickly.
[Damage Received: 10]
[Damage Received: 30]
[Damage Received: 15]
Her head spun, along with the whole world around her. Unable to breathe, unable to form a coherent thought, she could only huddle inside her mind and pray...
Stop... stop... stop... stop...!
The half-awake, half-delirious state broke as a giant tree appeared at the edge of her spinning world. A lone warrior, the saint-oak, stood against the avalanche alone.
With a sheer force of will, she pushed her feet under herself, using the momentum of her roll to thrust off of the ground and bound forward. Her outstretched hand barely reached the tree. Nails scraped against the bark as she swerved her body around the trunk, getting herself behind it somehow.
“Ow!” She moaned through her teeth. Her body spasmed from the pure agony of blunt force trauma twisting through her insides. “Ow! Ow! Ouch!”
Bloom took deep, shuddering breaths, leaning her stiffened body on the tree. It shook against her back constantly as more and more rubble smashed into the trunk.
Her nerves calmed slowly, just like the surrounding landscape. Good thing or any more collision just might uproot the whole thing. She felt like throwing up, but luckily for her, the game lacked that function. No way she wanted that experience in her bag. Covering her eyes, she looked at the bar above her through the gaps of her fingers. Only half of the red left.
So that’s how the first landslide happened.
The realization wasn’t at all comforting. That time Greyvern saved her from near-instant death, but now, he had a duel to fight. And whether she lived or died or actually witnessed that duel, well, that was her problem, of course.
What had he asked her? Would she be the witness of the duel?
Witness my foot!
She threw a punch at the tree, wincing as her sore knuckles struck the trunk. Closing her eyes, she let her mind work on other thoughts to distract herself from the pain. Weird thoughts, like how she’d been punching a lot of random things recently. A nasty habit!
She sighed, rubbing her forehead. That wasn’t helping. She was only delaying the inevitable; after all, she had to get out there, eventually. Sitting here, slacking on that sweet sweet witness job of hers might be fun, but avoiding responsibility? Not her style.
She sprang to her feet, trying to clamber up the shallow barricade of rocks the landslide left on both sides of the tree.
“Huh?” Bloom stopped. The sound like a heavy door grating against rusty hinges sprouted a distinct sense of unease in her heart. The ground shuddered under her feet, shaking off loose pebbles and dust from the walls of rubble. Slowly, she turned her head and looked behind her.
It loomed like a threatening shadow, creaking and quivering as it leaned towards her bit by bit.
Her body stiffened, and her thoughts ran wild. The heck! Why was this happening now? Because she stopped leaning on it? Who knew? Who cared? She had to do something.
She rushed towards the barricade, her heart jerking with every creak behind her. But the loose rubble kept crumbling under her frantic hands and pushed her back down.
The ground jolted as the tree wrenched its roots free. It fell like the pillar of hell, its shadow growing larger and larger over her. Her mind raced, eyes fleeting around, looking for a chance.
Bloom dived below a large boulder right in the middle of the barricade, gravel scraping the skin of her elbow. If it worked, good! If not, well…
Adieu, witness duty!