Chapter 5: The Way of Steel
Yashin sits at his throne without a crown, which strikes me a little odd. The throne itself is not made of any fancy materials; instead it is a plain stone construct with no real design. Yashin's character rings clear in his palace. He is unconcerned with minor things like beauty or glamor. He instead worries about the way wealth is distributed, or how the loyalty of the people is in his favor.
Watching me from his throne, his eyes are studying and observing my manner as I approach him.
"So then Danica Crown, you said you wished discuss my decision to fight alone, to not rely on you and your people's magics. I have no interest in changing my mind, but I will hear your words regardless."
I look at him straight in the eyes. "Actually, I began to figure that already. You are a man of action, not of words. You would rather see it proved than to be said pointlessly, am I correct?"
He gives a half smile. "And what sort of action would you consider taking, Danica?"
I take a deep breath before proceeding. "I challenge you to a fair duel with ramifications. If you win, I won't bother you anymore, and you can do things your way. If I win, at least hear me out, and let me help you."
His eyes light up with strong interest. "You say a fair duel? How would you define the event as fair? Will you forsake your use of magic for this contest of skill, or will you attempt to deceive me?"
I reply firmly, "I would not fight you with something you don't have yourself. I will only rely on my own strength, just as you would yours."
He thinks for a moment, his head bows, while his assembled court discusses my challenge with great fervor and interest. Some wonder of my sanity, while others talk of bets. They all quiet as he lifts his head with a fair smile playing on his face.
"Well enough, Danica. I accept your game of skill. We shall not delay in this matter, and distance ourselves from the city limits. I would care to avoid destroying property carelessly."
With these words, he rises from his throne and his attendants strap on his bronze armor, and he grabs his long and mighty great sword, a massive weapon meant for two-handed combat. Such blades are meant for cleaving, not stabbing. Its cross guard is fitted with a golden gem, and is thick across. Its fancy design makes for a perfect block.
The steel hilt is sturdy and meant for heavy duty abuse. He stashes this weapon onto his belt strap, and then indicates me to proceed outside.
"I shall be behind you, go and fly, for I will catch up with you swiftly."
I leave the palace and take off, searching for a place to have the duel. I find my location in a grove not too far away from the city, close enough that Yashin wouldn't have to take too long to travel to the location. A few minutes after I had touched down, Yashin arrives on a white stallion. After he dismounts, he slaps the horse, and it promptly runs back towards the city.
"This is a battle of swords, not of magic. Are we clear?" He says coldly.
I nod, waiting for him to make his first move. He draws his sword, the blade obsidian black, and twice his length. My eyes must be playing tricks on me, because it looks as though it's growing thicker. It eventually stops growing, and he grips it… with one hand.
"Um… I hope you know that weapon's extremely heavy… you couldn't possibly lift a sword that long and heavy with one hand…" He proceeds to lift it easily with one hand, as if it was only a one handed weapon. He then swings his blade to his side, and a massive gorge opens up where he swung the blade.
I am almost at a loss for words. "You say you're human yet you just created a huge rift in the ground with one stroke of your sword! You'd have to know some kind of magic, or have some kind of enchantment on that weapon to unleash such power!"
He laughs. "I once thought it was magic, but my head mage informed me that it was no magic that I wield, instead…" He smiles. "Apparently, it's something called Kiedo, the power of the soul."
I give him a look of astonishment. "Keido? I - I wield Keido as well, but mine uses magic… so isn't that the same for you? Aren't you using magic as well?"
"No, in fact it's the reverse. I'm using my physical strength. She told me once that there are three Keido types. Physical, Arcane, and Divine. As I have determined, your fabled Haven's Cloud is a Divine sword. That is a very rare one, I understand. But, the rarest is the kind I possess, the Physical Keido. To push one to the Limit, it is almost impossible to break one's physical Limit. But in doing so… I acquired the power of a whole army."
He swings again, this time at me, and I immediately dodge to the right, just in time. I rush forward at him, and our swords clash, the force of impact causes the earth around us to crack. I draw my other sword, and swing it at his face, and he ducks, breaking our locked sword's contact.
I begin to test his reflexes, continually jabbing at his face, analyzing how he dodged, and in what pattern.
He's got some good reflexes… well I can tell this'll be a tough battle, considering how destructive one sword blow is. And to think, that this is the reason he was able to conquer all the nations of humanity, which before lay scattered and weak. With only a hundred men, he conquered not one nation, but all the nations of man, and brought them together… he is strong, no doubt.
But… those creatures… the Dialadect… they give me a bad feeling. There's more to them than what he and the other nations realize… If I don't get through his head that he needs to work together, his pride could be his downfall…
He suddenly sweeps low, and his strike hits square in my chest, and sends me flying into the forest, where I crash into a tree, stunned. For a moment, silence.
Then before I can even react, the forest in front of me explodes apart, and he lunges for me, sword ready to impale me. Just as he is about to stab me, the sound of a war horn blows. He stops his strike, and looks incredulously at the source.
"Impossible… those creatures… what are they doing here?!" Yashin whispers in shock.
A small host of monsters riding what look like a cross of pig and bull stand at the top of a hill overlooking us, the monsters themselves have large bull horns rising out of their thick skulls, with no visible mouths.
"Those are… Dialadect?! I thought they were supposed to be in the Central Isle!"
Yashin gives me a worried look. "Danica. We need to get to the city. We don't stand a chance on foot. These creatures are dangerous, especially on those mounts of theirs."
Just how on earth did they get here? And more importantly, we're miles away from the city, how are we going to get out of this?!