Moritz merely cocks his head toward the Sacrier. Before he could say his own witty fill of biting snide remarks, Veronica made her way towards him and healed him of his headache.
Moritz took a moment to savour the tranquility gifted to him by the Eniripsa. For some, it may look as though he was ignoring them entirely (and perhaps he was, given a certain Sacrier in the room), but for a man of simple pleasures and ambitions, it was something he was lacking throughout his adventure throughout Sufokia.
A moment of peace, and relaxation.
Tal he blushed and smiled. "Yeah...I'll tell her afterwords...." He waved to Mortiz. "Good luck!" He drew his sword out of his bag and ran after Veronica. "Coming Veronica! I'm right behind you!"
Moritz then realized they were running off (towards certain doom, he would wager) and instead of explaining them that they should formulate a plan, but decided not to. Instead, he merely trailed behind them, in the shadows.
Tal’s previous remark could not have been further from the truth, as the thief reminiscences the time he honestly did fought as well as he could ever muster, against another he honestly underestimated, believing him to be the better.
One that nearly cost him his life…
Moritz spilled the last drop of the substance from the dreary canteen over the wooden floor of the warehouse floor before tossing it aside into the shadows. The thief wiped the sweat off his brow, before inspecting his work with pride, a conflicting feeling of both satisfaction and dread welling inside of him. Less than two hours ago he came across this warehouse. At first he meant to use it as a hideaway while avoiding his captors, but the Sram could not believe his luck once he infiltrated the building proper.
Turns out it was one of the Sufokian army’s many hidden repositories. These building housed everything a defending army needed, from stasis tanks, to emergency food and rations. Should the city be sieged, the army would use one of these many storehouses to stock up and push their foes out of the city.
In theory, that is…
It was only due to Moritz’s natural curiosity that he stumbled upon the intact wooden crates containing the equipment. Before then, the first few batches he opened up only contained stored raw fish nestled within ice cubes. And he surmised by the vast number of cobwebs hanging within the large building, that it had been untouched for some time. Still, Moritz only praised his well found luck, and got to work immediately on a plan.
He knew he had to make a stand against the assailants. And he rather it be on a battleground of his choice than in some random alley in the city streets. He went to work immediately, placing Stasis tanks in key strategic areas, and pouring a strange watery, viscous liquid all over the warehouse. He hoped that it would cause attackers to slip. Believing himself fully prepared, Moritz took a moment to meditate on his new plan, running a number of mock scenarios in his mind, with him (after all) remaining as the victor.
It did not take long for someone to arrive.
A shadowy presence, dressed in a red, crimson suit, the cloaked figure crawled through an open window, eyeing the cross-legged mediating male Sram. She sheathed a flimsy dagger from out of her belt, and tossed it towards the oblivious target. Predictably, the target bursts into a fine mist, indicating that it was a fake.
From the shadows, a dagger came hurtling towards her as well. She merely sighs before instantly creating a clone of her own, then following up by pushing the clone between herself and the incoming missile. The dagger digs into the simulacrum, causing it to dissipate. Skarlett lands and rolls onto the wooden floor, her daggers drawn.
Both eye one another with mutual revulsion. Moritz, having no weapons drawn, merely crosses his arms, staring at Skarlett. “What’s wrong, Red? Lost your flock of Iop heads? Or did the pirates see to them? If so, they’re not that professional then. I’ve sen Brakmarian children do better.” Skarlett barely blinked, her face unmoving. Moritz noticed the scar across her cheek, a recent incident that declared Moritz had first blood in this battle. “Nice cut. You really should be careful with razors when shaving, you know…” the thief mocked. Both eyed one another once more. "You know how this should end, right?" Moritz questioned. Skarlett merely nods.
They both saw each other’s deceptive potential back at the pirate’s tavern. As fellow Srams that knew the in and out of their religion (and its assorted tricks of backstabbing, stealing and subterfuge), both understood they had only one means of determining who the true victor would be.
Superior combat skills.
She stepped towards him, until they were separated by barely three meters. He slid one of his Crobak Daggers out from under his cloak and stood at guard. He predicted one would be enough…
The battle is on!
“Initiating combat procedures. Objective: Subdue renegade prisoner. Conditions: Alive… if possible.” Skarlett faced Moritz with her knees bent, the edge of her mundane dagger facing the ground.
Moritz struck out before Skarlett had finished speaking; for an eye-blink darting steel cut an after image in the air between the two Srams. Skarlett parried Moritz’s thrust, strength against weakness, and riposted with speed more than equal to Moritz’s own. Moritz avoided a skewering only by an inappropriate backward lunge; he landed in a crouch with his left hand splayed out to keep himself from somersaulting on the hard wood of the warehouse.
Warily, Moritz circled in the direction the lunge had knocked him, barely rising from his crouch. A simple dagger appeared in his left hand as though by magic; this he twirled several times. He honestly (and foolishly) believed one Crobak dagger would be enough, and that using both would be pushing it. After all, he had not completely forgiven himself for ‘the incident’ resulting in him acquiring these infamous weapons.
“Hmm,” said Skarlett. “Twin dagger style noticed. Technique: Inferior.”
“Inferior this.” Moritz wiggled his dagger suggestively, spitting towards her direction. “I’ll try not to get too much blood on your suit,” he taunted.
Sighing artificially, Skarlett dropped her own dagger, and unsheathed two inconceivable looking weapons. Both daggers glowed an unnatural blue light, with a dark blue haze surrounding them. The grips were covered in a fine leather, and the hilts were decorated with finely carved skulls. Moritz swore under his breath he could hear strange noises. Noises he imagined was…. Wailing? Impossible. What kind of gambit was this assassin pulling? Within the span of a few heartbeats, she pulled the weapons out and held it out so that the blades opened in the air before her like jaws. She then took two exaggerated hops forward.
Moritz snapped out of his gawk and flicked his gaze down to the Skarlett’s feet for a fraction of a second, realizing almost too late that she was intended to do just that. He whipped himself to his right and barely managed a dive with her dagger; Skarlett’s thrust flew unopposed and cut the air just an inch from his left shoulder. His own riposte met the Red Sram’s dagger as though intended for it. Instead of clashing with steel, his own dagger merely passed through the blade with barely any resistance.
It merely passed through as wind blowing through an open window. Rushu’s hell… Moritz thought to himself.
For a few desperate seconds, the two combatants were fully engaged. Their blades wove silver ghosts in the air—crossing and uncrossing, feint and false feint, thrust and parry. Moritz remained on the defence, staying just out of reach of Skarlett’s cuts while the assassin merely moved forward every step. Every time he tried to block her attacks, only for his blades to pass unhindered by her blades. If not for his own dexterity (and common sense) to dodge and roll away from her lunges, he believed she would have landed the first blow minutes ago.
To an observer, it looked as though a couple practicing a very intricate (if fatal) dance routine.
At last they flew apart and stood panting, staring at one another with the resigned, implacable hatred of fighting boowolves. “Hmmm,” repeated Skarlett, “Target’s combat fatigue in line with own. Identifying potential weaknesses.” She flicked out almost casually with one of her ghastly daggers; Moritz darted back once again and tried parrying. This time however, his blades managed to halt her daggers. When he eyed his blade, he realized something:
The blades were ethereal, but not the hilts!
Moritz’s eyes glittered. “Interesting. I do believe I found….” Again, a casual flick; again, Moritz jumped back.
“…a weakness in you’re so called superior fighting style.”
At this Skarlett merely cocked one of her eyebrows at Moritz. “Does not implicate the battle. You will most assuredly lose. But if you want to go all out…” With one decisive gesture, she flung her own cloak to the ground. A wild grin had etched deep furrows of anticipation into her lean, scarred face. “No more bluffs. No more games. All out!”
And then she fell on Moritz, her footwork a blur, her violence unmatched by anything in Moritz’s memory. For behind her blades, there was fifteen years of experience and fifteen years of blackest cruelty and sadism. Fifteen years of what she has lived through just to eke out an existence. Some tiny, detached part of Moritz’s mind coolly registered his own insufficiency as he desperately flailed parry after parry, chasing phantom thrusts with his eyes and hands even while Skarlett’s ethereal ghostof daggers were punching through cloth and cloak.
Once, twice, three times—in between breaths, Skarlett’s blade sang out and nearly bit Moritz’s left wrist, right forearm, and stomach. Cold surprise hit Moritz, and soon a wave of nausea rose up from the pit of his stomach. He had no idea what was causing this strange feeling. The Crobak dagger dropped from his left hand. “No more schemes ad tricks, target Moritz.” Skarlett flicked her blades in a menacing manner, as though a hungry bowmeow eying a cornered and tired ratou “Essere ancora in ombra.”
Then Moritz was moving again, and in the sunset-colored light of the lanterns the full length of his remaining dagger dug in and came out bright crimson. “God Sram, God Ecaflip, hells, even God Iop” Moritz whispered, “give me justice for Ayisa here and now. It pains me to say it, but… grant me vengeance for the Pandawa. Though I do not saw her as an ally (or heck, even as a friend), she has sacrificed her life for my own. I swore an oath to her fall. By my honour as a Thief, I swear it!” His voice rising to a shout, he thrust, missed, and thrust again, willing all of his desperate hatred and fear into each cut, driving the blade faster than he ever had in his life, and still Skarlett caught and turned his every thrust; still Skarlett displaced himself from the path of Moritz’s cuts as though fighting a new-born.
“Difference between us, target Moritz,” said the assassin between passages, “I am superior every way. Agile body. Cunning mind and a soul without mercy. You only think that you can equal myself. Inferior mind, weak body, a soul of disorder.”
“No,” gasped Moritz, “the difference between us is that I am going to fulfil my promise to Ayisa. And you… well, you can just…!” Moritz rises his dagger in triumph, and swings it towards Skarlett…
A moment of triumph? Or doom?
Suddenly Cold pain exploded in Moritz’s left shoulder, and he stared down in horror at the Skarlett’s blade, sunk so deep into his flesh, the hilt touched his body.
The truth revealed!
Skarlett twisted savagely, the feeling as though bones were being scraped (even though he could physically see his body not altering to this assault), and the sensation sent Moritz tumbling to his knees, his useless left arm thrown out instinctively to break his fall.
But instinct, too, betrayed him here; his hand struck the hard floor palm-up, folded awkwardly under the full weight of his arm, and with a terrible sharp snap his left wrist broke.
He was too shocked to shout. A split second later Skarlett slammed a vicious kick into the side of Moritz’s head, and Moritz’s world became a phantasmagoria of agony and despair, tumbling end over end as stinging tears filled his eyes. His remaining dagger clattered across the floor.
Moritz was conscious of the wood pressing up against his back. He was conscious of the bright, hot rings of pain that radiated from his shattered wrist, and of the painful agony of the hole in his shoulder joint. Though it looked untouched by a mere blade, Moritz felt something…. wrong about Skarlett’s daggers. They were not made to taste flesh. But what else then? But most of all he was conscious of his own shame, his own terror of failure, and the great weight of his own failures and past promises left unfulfilled, lying unavenged, because Moritz had lost.
It may not have been one of his most miserable moments. But it was perhaps his lowest he ever (and perhaps will) experience in his life. But even then, he would not go out like this...
The tables turned?
He sucked in a great gasping breath, kindling new flickers of pain all across his chest and back, but now it was all one pain, all one hazy sensation that drove him up from the ground. Bellowing without an ounce of reason in his voice, he pulled his legs in and whipped himself up, attempting to tackle Skarlett (who was honestly quite surprised at this turn of events) around the stomach.
The killing thrust that had been falling toward Moritz’s heart struck his left arm instead; impelled with every ounce of Skarlett’s ferocity, it punched fully through his forearm. Though no blood was spilled, the pain was nonetheless just as real. Wild with pain, Moritz threw this arm forward and up as Skarlett struggled to withdraw, but stayed caught.
The assassin’s other dagger loomed before Moritz’s eyes; some animal instinct drove Moritz to lash out with the only weapon available. His teeth sank into the first three fingers of Skarlett’s hand where they wrapped around the hilt; with such ferocity that he started to taste blood and felt bone beneath the tips of his teeth. Skarlett cried out and the dagger fell sideways, rebounding off Moritz’s left shoulder before clattering to the floor. Skarlett jerked her hand free, and Moritz spat the assassin’s blood back at her. “Give it up!” Skarlett screamed (with sincerest astonishment Moritz noticed), punching Moritz atop his skull, then across his nose. With his good right arm, Moritz clutched for any of Skarlett’s sheathed daggers. Skarlett slapped his hand away, laughing sinisterly.
“You can’t win. You CANNOT win, Moritz!” She spoke aloud, her cool and illusive facade now finally having disappeared. With every exhortation Skarlett rained blows on Moritz, who clutched at her desperately, as a hanging might hug a branch for fear of falling off. Skarlett laughed violently as she bashed Moritz’s skull, his ears, his forehead, and his shoulders.
“I… I don’t have to beat you,” Moritz whispered, grinning madly up at the startled assassin, his face streaked with blood and tears, his nose broken and his lips cracked, his vision swimming and edged with blackness. “I don’t have to beat you, Iop head. I just have to keep you here…until… until the others shows up.” At that, Skarlett eyed him. “Impossible. You cannot have informed them of us. It is a bluff.”
“Try me. You honestly think I’d have waited for you just here… In the middle of gods forsaken nowhere… without making sure to get help. You…really are… a bonehead, heh.” Gathering some lustre, the thief gave a deceptive grin. He was hoping at least one more ploy would succeed.
One final gambit of his own.
Only one more perilous lie.
Skarlett’s mind rushed through all the information that she and the others were briefed upon. Though she alone could take on the young Iopette and the Cra without effort (she was a trained killer, after all), the Xelor and the Feca were other matters entirely. The Xelor was one of Brakmar’s most wanted (a title some might believe a badge of honour in the Brakmar underworld) and therefore required caution, and the young Feca has an impressive body count of her own, rivalling almost that of the female Sram. Suddenly she became truly desperate, and her blows fell like rain, but Moritz was heedless of them, laughing the wet braying laugh of utter madness. “I just have to keep you here…until they…show up! Let’s see you handle an Iop, a Cra, a Xelor, a Sacrier AND a Feca on your lonesome! Trust me, I’m small fry compared to them!”
Hissing fury, Skarlett shook Moritz’s grip off enough to make a grab for one of her sheathed daggers. As she tore her left hand from Moritz’s right, Moritz conjured a few kamas from his cloak, allowing them to fall from his sleeve into his palm; a desperate flick of his wrist sent kamas colliding off a nearby wall behind Skarlett, echoing loudly.
“There they are!” Moritz yelled, spraying blood across the front of Skarlett’s face. “Guys! Help me!”
And Skarlett whirled, dragging Moritz halfway around with her; whirled in fear of the others before she realized that Moritz must be lying; whirled for just the half second that Moritz would have begged from any god that would hear his prayer. Whirled for the half second that was worth Moritz’s entire life.
She whirled just long enough for Moritz to snake his right arm inside his cloak, and withdraw two spherical bombs. He desperately activated both, judging the time between both of their detonations. He had to time this just perfectly…
Realizing she was finally duped, Skarlett had a mere heartbeat to turn back towards Moritz. But even she knew it was too late. Moritz only offered a toothy grin at her surprised expression. “Don’t blink.” Moritz coughed out.
As if on cue, one of the bombs detonates, releasing a shockwave of force between the two. The concussive blow causes both of them to repulse one another, resulting in both of them careening away from one another, with Skarlett crashing into a number of wooden containers, and Moritz crashing back first onto the floor, into the shadows. For almost half a minute, nothing stirred, until…
Skarlett arched her back ad breathed heavily. Such was the force of the blast that all the air within her lungs was completely purged. She sluggishly hops off the shattered boxes, landing clumsily onto her feet. She scanned around the vast room. The thief was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, she remembered that the crazy thief had two bombs removed from his cloak. Thanks to that blast, it could have landed anywhere. She scans the room once more, noting a strange, almost spherical item laying across the room. The bomb landed close to the strange viscous liquid that littered the very warehouse. It was only now she realized what the strange smell was. It wasn’t water the thief tossed around carelessly around the room.
It was oil.
And it was VERY flammable!
Without issuing another thought, she rushed towards the bomb, hoping to prevent its detonation.
She was barely even two meters from where she started before it detonated. Flames erupted from the bomb, gushing out as though a rapidly growing flower. The flames of the explosion laps the drenched oil, and devours it relentlessly. So flammable was the oil, that within seconds, half the warehouse was alight with celestial infernos, scorching and devouring everything it so much as touched. As if awaiting orders like loyal soldiers, the stasis tanks detonated (due to the extraneous heat) resulting in half the warehouse to implode and explode in a violent crescendo of sound and cries. By the time Skarlett caught her breath, half the warehouse barely stood, the other half disintegrated by chaotic stasis energies.
One advantage though, was that everything was illuminated, and Skarlett could see everything clearly. She soon spots what appeared to be the footprints of something clumsily running out of the building. Her blood now pulsing with fury at this humiliating fight, she curses under her breath, searches for her ghostof dagger. She soon notices the Crobak dagger of the thief was missing, but she merely tosses that thought aside. It will just be buried under rubble soon anyway, she thought to herself. She rushed out of the building, in hot pursuit of the second man to have ever humiliated her in her entire life.
Had she been a little calmer, she would have realised that one of the lids of the boxes she had passed was loose, and barely closed. Had she knew Moritz had hidden himself there, would she have realised she was chasing another doppelganger of his.
As Skarlett rushes past him, the thief remained deathly quiet within the container, stifling every groan his body wanted to muster, his ribs aching from the blast. He waited another few minutes, before deciding to leave, realising the warehouse’s structural integrity was disintegrating. He limped away from the warehouse, trying to avoid the assassins. It was now the third time he survived a meeting with the dreaded Skarlett. He wondered just how long his own luck would hold. He soon disappeared into the countless streets of the city.
By the time the authorities arrived to investigate why one of their hidden stockpiles was now nothing more than ash and cinders, the only witnesses of its demise were miles apart from one another…
Moritz pulled up his hood above his head, then rushed behind the other two, making sure to stay in the shadows.
If something were to ambush them, he would be certain to pay in kind.
No more misjudgements.
He needed to become more serious, should another fight between him and Skarlett (or someone like her) ever break out someday...
This post has been edited by ManicMansion - January 19, 2014, 16:04:26.