“Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell."
― William Shakespeare, Macbeth
The lush forest was silent apart from the monotonous gushing of the rain. Bamboo stalks flailed to and fro but remained unyielding to the gusts of wind brought upon by the weather. Leaves fell in a whirl on the ground while frogs croaked while they sat on the loamy forest floor.
Nature’s sweet music was interrupted violently as metallic blades cut through wood and grass, dirt and rocks spreading out as vicious dancers come to stomp out the ground with a destructive tempo. As thunders roared, the sweet sonata came to an unsettling crescendo.
Flashes of lightning illuminated two figures locked in combat. The first one, a shapely woman with a rosy white skin, short brunette hair arranged into a bun, and narrow brown eyes reddened as irritated by the rain. She was wearing a white embroidered vest over a scarlet-pink longcoat extending to form a skirt-like appearance, attached to it are tightly-fitting fingerless gloves. Her lower apparel consisted of knee-high socks and wooden sandals. A giant ribbon with an aliform brooch also was also hugging her waist from the front. On her hand’s grasp was a sword with whip-like flexibility, which she twisted and turned with ease. Opposing her was a dark male figure. His drenched shoulder-length jet-black hair covered most of his face, concealing most of its features but his mouth and teeth are bare, his lips curved into a cruel smile. His attire consisted of a cuirass over a tunic and black-and-fiery leggings with a segmented sash. Perhaps his most unusual accessories, on his left arm was a metallic gauntlet and attached to his armor’s back was a banner cut lengthwise reaching the ground level. His ash grey scythe, even taller than himself, made him even more foreboding.
With a flick of her wrist, the woman made her metal whip stretch and twist towards her opponent. However, the man effortlessly spun his scythe and deflected the incoming attack.
“You are several eons too young to face me,” the man quipped as he leaped after the lady’s unsuccessful onslaught.
“And you are a few split seconds too early to talk,” she replied as she maneuvered the whip sword into pursuit. The weapon bent into ways metal isn’t meant to bend into before, snaking through soil and thicket as it sought its target.
“Tch,” he muttered as he narrowly evaded the incoming blade. Each dodge did little to avoid it, as it changed direction just as quickly as him. Even with his weighty costume and weapon, he was surprisingly nimble. Nevertheless, the chase didn’t exhaust him. Bamboo stalks were thrown in every direction as the sword cut indiscriminately. Using it to his advantage, the man occasionally flung cut stalks towards the lady as he spun his scythe to defend himself from the sharp spikes.
“Who sent you to kill me?” The woman sternly asked without taking her eyes off her blade and its target, intent on getting her desired response.
“Sent? I followed you with my own volition.” He spat as if in revolt to the remark. “So sad that you think so lowly of me; I’m not like you.” He slowed down then stopped dodging and with his metallic gauntlet, gestured to her to attack as she pleases.
Confused, she took the taunt at face and speared her sword towards him but she still kept her distance and extended it just the same. Never had she seen such a confident opponent and he might just as well have a few tricks up his sleeves, perhaps a counterattack or a distraction. She was undecided on her method of execution. Should she wrap her sword around his neck then tug on it until his head comes off spinning like a top into a shower of blood? Should she shove it down his throat, impale him through his guts, and string him like some animal? Or should he be cut in half along his waist? Her sword was plunging too fast for her to make a choice at that instant and it simply found its way into the middle of his chest, having penetrated his cuirass, with the man surprisingly offering no resistance at all.
The man slowly fell on his knees, convulsing and seemingly desperate to pull the lodged blade. She smiled triumphantly and brushed her hair towards the side. “Any second now,” She thought as she waited for the squirming worm to breathe its last. Even as the man lies dying, all she felt was contempt for the person she just battled a while ago. “This should not be so,” Something within her mind protested against her other thoughts. “Must… resist… gloating…” A lingering emotion began to bother her. She felt that each kill starts to hold more personal weight, almost with pleasure. Is she doing what she has to do or is this becoming a preference? For a moment, she thought that it’s all over; until the man calmed down, stood up, and, without any sign of suffering, drew the blade out of his chest.
He grinned wryly and the lady can only look, gaze filled with shock, as he threw the blade aside. She was expecting blood but all she saw was a gaping hole with an oozing purple gas where the blade stabbed deep.
“W-What are you? By the Goddess, what are you?!” The lady asked, taken aback by what she saw.
“I thought you’ve figured out by now.” The man placed his metallic gauntlet over the hole and it began to pulsate with a purple aura. A luminescent wave started radiating from the man’s body, suddenly covering a large area around him, just a foot or two before it reached the lady. It formed a dome of swirling energy and as it expanded, it pushed the lady farther away until it stopped and retracted to its source.
When the blinding light is gone, the area engulfed by it drastically changed. The grass and trees looked like it was scorched heavily and corpses and skeletons of animals littered the ground. Death befell the forest unthinkably swiftly. Left in the middle of this landscape of death and decay is the man, but the hole in his chest has inexplicably vanished (though inferring that that light and sudden massacre may have something to do with it is a good guess) but with the damage on his cuirass still present. At this point, the rain has subsided into a slow trickle and his facial features are now more evident as he tossed his hair back. He has a very pallid skin, his nose was thin and moderately sharp, and his eyes were deep with dark brows slanted on top of each.
“Just a quick meal,” The man commented casually on his deed. ”Now where were we… ah, yes, I was about to introduce myself. For the sake of simplicity, I am a god.”
The lady grimaced. She firmly held her sword with both hands as she stabbed the ground for balance while she gets up. She would have called blasphemy for such a claim but for the first time, it felt like there’s a grain of truth to it. “A close second perhaps,” she thought in denial, “but not a god.”
“A god, did I hear that right?” She asked mockingly. “Wait, let me just get my joss sticks. Tell me where I should shove them in.”
“After I’m done with you, I’ll make sure you’ll have a lot of praying to do.” With a swift stroke of his scythe, the man vaulted into midair towards the lady.
The lady responded by extending her sword to launch herself into the air and pulling it from the ground to block the attack. The man pushed her back with his scythe but she has gained foothold by stepping on a bamboo stalk, bending over due to their weight. The lady leaned back a little more and kicked the man on his spine. He almost fell to the ground but by firing a purple beam into it, he was able to push himself back up towards her.
“That was a cheap shot.” He said as he retaliated by hitting her with his scythe, its tang finding its way into her left cheek. Fortunately for her, she swung her blade just in time to displace its sharp chine. She was nonetheless thrown into the branch of a large tree, hitting her back, and falling to the muddy soil audibly.
“Stay down.” The man commanded. She looked at him with piercing eyes. The once rosy cheeks have discolored; the right one pale and the other one bruised black and blue from his last hit, it swelled too much that her eyes have squinted. He felt the fury from the woman as she grasped her sword, weak and shaking but trying to muster her remaining strength. “I might have played a little too much with her.” He thought. They stared each other down for a few minutes until the man slowly walked towards her. Seeing the man advance, the lady sprang back to her knees pointing her sword towards him.
“I’m not done yet.”
The man tried to gauge the lady’s bravery. Or is it merely mortal foolishness? He isn’t sure himself.
“I’ll let you live… for now. Quite impressive feat for such a fragile creature, I should say. Become stronger and when that time comes, I’ll come find you and face you like an equal. Until then, you should reminisce of this nightmare, spending your nights unable to sleep, troubled and afraid.” With these words, the man turned his back and walked off. He looked back and told her, “Lazarus, remember that name.” He finally disappeared into the darkness as he turned away.
Shortly after, the lady fell to the ground panting. She then heard people shouting her name. “They’re here,” she thought as she leaned back on a shrine in the middle of the forest.
Morning came, the posse found her and one of them immediately rushed to her side. “Lady Nauria, wake up! Please wake up!”
Nauria opened her eyes slowly, the view was blurred at first but it slowly cleared up. She noticed that the sun has already risen, with the ground now partly dried up after the rain dampened it last night. It all felt like a dream but she knew it was true as she touched the lump on her left cheek. “Lazarus,” the name echoed on her mind at that moment and silently, she swore that they’ll meet again.
"Let’s go home.” She instructed as she limply walked with their assistance.