Duel of the Fates

Fighting through the battle around them was no easy task, especially with the heavily armored bodies of the knights falling just about everywhere, along with the bodies of her soldiers.

Takafumi had went off somewhere else during the chaos, and she could only hope quietly that the Orochi would survive the battle unscathed. But for now, she had a order of business to settle with the one that started this mess in the first place, the one that she swore would make her regret ever leaving her alive in the Myre to see another day.

Ayu dropped low to avoid the longsword of the knight that had rushed her, eyes narrowing beneath the brim of her kabuto. No one will stop her from ending the madwoman’s reign of terror, she had sworn an oath to herself that she would see to it after that day in the Myre, cutting down her own people in order to come to now.

One kick was all that it took to knock the man onto his back, grunting as his armor rattled with his fall. Ayu did not spare another second: bringing her nodachi up, driving the blade into the man’s now exposed throat. The quicker she ended all the opponents she came across, the faster she could get to the madwoman –

Arrows flew over her head, some of them bouncing off her armor, another had buried itself in her upper arm. It burned like some sort of acid had been poured into her bloodstream, though the Daimyo was quick to force herself to forget about it by wrenching the projectile out of her flesh and flinging it aside: little blood spilling from the wound.

“Where are you…?”

Ayu had muttered that to no one aside from herself. Reaching the top of the Blackstone Castle felt as though it took forever, and Apollyon still was nowhere in sight –

No, she can’t allow that madwoman to escape.

The Conqueror’s flail had very nearly took her head off of her shoulders. It was those moments when Ayu found herself panting, gasping behind her mask. These men were not like the regular soldiers she faced before, nor even the Wardens or the Lawbringers, no, they were more like the Warborn Berserkers.

They would not stop until the enemy they were fighting had been reduced to nothing but smashed up bits of flesh and bone.

Which was exactly what was happening now. The man before her swung his flail again, forcing the Daimyo back against the railing of the walkway, nodachi out in front of her defensively. Well, some did say the best defense was playing the offense, right?

Turning the blade in her hand, the Daimyo thrust it out at the Conqueror’s torso. It was a quick strike, but it had done its job: forcing the man to stagger back, his hand holding the shield reaching toward the wound that had been inflicted in his lower abdomen.

Where are you Apollyon, where are you…?

The madwoman was sending her soldiers to their own deaths, just as Dokuja had been when she faced him in the swamps of the Myre. Just the mere thought of that made her snarl. Granted, the knights were not her people, but they were all still people, they were still men and women brainwashed by Apollyon to throw themselves to their deaths for her..!

The Blackstone Legion would fight until their last warrior.

They are mad..

Sympathetic (was that even the right word?), Ayu felt nothing when she kicked the man in the groin, forcing him down onto one knee; spinning sharply around him along with the sharp slash of her nodachi along his exposed back. Blood painted her blue and white armor, and the Conqueror fell forward with a grunt of pain that was soon silenced entirely.

For it was a little difficult to make any sort of sound when their head was separated from their bodies.

“Congratulations, Ayu, you are the first Samurai to make it here.”

Oh she would recognize that voice anywhere!

The Daimyo’s head shot up, her gaze turning from the knight’s corpse to the black armored figure walking down from the steps little more than twenty feet away from her.

Apollyon’s cloak swept the ground, billowing softly in the nightwinds that blew through the area. The sword in her hand was bloodstained, drops of scarlet red dripping steadily onto the ground; a similar shine coating the black armor she wore… the armor that was said that once belonged to a lawbringer, but she had stripped off of him after she had gutted him.

Even through a helmet, Ayu felt her gaze.

She is much more skilled than I… I’d have to surpass myself if I ever wish to defeat her…

“Surrender, and face justice you demon!”

The warlord of the Blackstone Legion only cocked her head to the side, and she could have sworn she was smirking beneath her helmet: “I’ll pass on that.”

Her longsword met her blade with a force that was almost inhuman, easily knocking the Kensei back several steps and against the railing of the parapet. For that single moment, Ayu felt her heart drop into her stomach. Just one mistake in here would mean the Warlord could take her head off her neck with one swing.

I came this far, I can’t fail now… I won’t fail!

Swinging her trusted blade in a wide arc, their blades interlocked. Ayu glared into the visor of Apollyon’s helmet: “You have achieved nothing, demon, we will not let you win!”

“Demon…? Do you dare to call me so after what you’ve done, Ayu?”

That was true, she had cut down her own people, the other Daimyos in order to come to where they stood now. Ranja, Dokuja, Kizan… All of them dead by her hands. She had justified it that she was stopping a civil war this way and that she was keeping them from tearing their people apart with their greed, but it did not change the fact they were still her equals in rank and power when the Imperial City still stood.

“You cut your own people down, my dear wolf, and toppled Seijuro from his throne. What did you hope to achieve? You’ve been lying to yourself this entire time. It’s just unimaginable to you that you would want power.”

Some part of her mind was tempted to agree even, although Ayu shut the thought down just as soon as it had appeared. She was not like Apollyon, she was not one of her wolves nor one of her “sheeps”.

She was a Kensei, a Daimyo serving under the Emepror.

I did not remove Seijuro from the throne of the Emperor for my own selfish gain.

But just how true was that? Was she indeed lying to herself? They say that power could tempt even the most virtuous of men and women into doing things they would never do in order to achieve it. And it’s not even considering that this was the position of the Emperor which was in question –

Apollyon swung her sword, although to her it seemed to come through in slow motion.

Slow enough for her to drop into a roll and avoid the blade, even though Ayu had felt the metal of the blade brush against her upper back.

Snapping back onto both feet, the Kensei braced herself for another blow, her fingers gripping the hilt of her nodachi until the knuckles turned white. Vaguely, she picked up the sound of the dead and dying outside where they stood, the shouts of her own soldiers as they fought with everything they had.

They had filled the night with nothing but death all around.

Even around them now, there were bodies of dead knights and samurais.

All because of Apollyon.

The warlord had circled her as though she was some sort of predator. Ayu’s eyes followed her every move, every muscle in her body tensed to strike at just the smallest movement. So when she finally moved in for a broad stroke with her sword, she was ready, bringing up her nodachi and deflecting it off of her blade; sparks flying between them as metal screeched agianst metal.

Neither of them gave in, and so for that longest moment their eyes bore into each other’s.

“What do you hope to achieve by defeating me, Ayu? Is it peace?”

Blood painted her own armor when her blade finally found a chink in Apollyon’s bevor, a geyser of it dousing her hand and blade. Although the wound hardly seemed to bother the warlord; swinging the longsword in her grip in one vicious arc that sent rattling jolts right down her arm when their blades connected.

But that was also the opening she needed.

Ayu wrenched her blade free, the split second decision driving her entire movement: driving her nodachi as far as she could manage into the opening she had torn open earlier in Apollyon’s armor: hearing a pained gasp, finally from the warlord when the blade emerged from her back.

“Without you, anything is possible, you demon.”

The Daimyo growled, shoving her blade up with what strength she could muster… now that the adrenaline was fading out of her systems. Apollyon finally let out a weak gurgle, one hand reaching weakly to grasp at the blade of her nodachi: “So this… is how it ends..?”

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