Chapter 27: "Fight or Flight"
"So it's finally time, huh?"
I sat alone in a tiny waiting room. All of my equipment stood next to the locker on the far wall. In the mirror, I could see myself sitting on the hard bench provided for me. My preparations chamber was as minimalist as it could get. Archer probably had a far more luxurious resting area than me. Not that it mattered. I didn't need much else than what I already had. Right now, I was simply trying to deal with the stress of what could end up being a possible public execution. Archer could sip champagne on his leather chairs as much as he wanted for all I cared.
My eyes slowly moved to the origin of the voice. While I was technically physically alone, Crowder's spirit decided to visit me. I sighed in exasperation, "I guess."
"Using all three weapons at the same time," Crowder shook his head. "Only one person every tried such a thing. It didn't end well for him."
"I don't have a lot of options," I argued.
"I never said that you did, and striving for freedom is always a worthy cause," Crowder moved next to me. "I'd rather you not die, though. I've enjoyed having Nirvana travel instead of staying in an empty room."
"I don't plan to die," I shook my head. "I've done everything I can to avoid it."
"The dragon…Archer Silverback…" Crowder eyed me. "I've sensed his power. There is no way for you to beat him physically. Yet I can see that you have a plan. What is it?"
"You'll see," a knock at the door drew my attention. "Will I be able to use Nirvana properly?"
"It depends. Do you understand yourself?"
"I don't know."
"Then neither do I," Crowder's image faded from my sight. "Best of luck, child."
Yeah. Because I was definitely going to need it. I moved up to the door. Opening the barrier revealed Rebecca, "It's almost time."
Nodding, I stepped back to my equipment. With Rebecca's help, I put on the Carnal Armory. Leaving the helmet off prevented the protection from activating too early. The Sword of the Soul was safely strapped to my left hip, while my knife had been tucked to my right side. I opened a tiny pouch to show the golden weather powder that I had prepared for this duel. When I was sure that the grains were set, I secured the small bag to my belt as well. With everything else already in place, I readied what had become my favorite weapon. Opening the chamber of my revolver, I began to place the bullets into the slots. When I got to the final bullet, I paused.
She looked at me with curiosity dancing across her face, "Yeah?"
I stared down at the last bullet, "Nothing."
The dragon tilted her head in confusion as I finished prepping my revolver by snapping the gun shut. While I tucked the gun into a slot at the front of my armor, she spoke again, "What are you doing?"
"Nothing," I gave her a hard look. "Just being careful. You should be too. You remember the plan?"
She nodded, "Of course."
"Then let's go."
Holding the final piece of my armor under my armpit, I walked with Rebecca through a long, narrow hallway. We made our way to a large entrance which allowed bright sunlight into the dark corridor. As we got close to the exit, the low rumble from the outside steadily grew louder. By the time that we stepped out into the spotlight, the noise increased to deafening levels. Upon exiting the hallway, we walked into a large Colosseum completely filled with thousands of different creatures.
Stepping out across the dirt floor, I examined the circular stone building. I could see every race that I had interacted with during my time in the mythical world along with some creatures that I had never seen before now. They were all shouting something, but I could not make out what they were saying as the noise lifted up and out of the open ceiling which showed the cloudy heavens above us all. My foe for the day already stood in his full dragon form at the center of the stadium. His wife waited right beside him. Unlike her parents, Rebecca chose to remain in her humanoid disguise in order to give me her support.
When we were all at the center of the battle arena, Goldberg flew down from his viewing box. Once he landed, he spoke. His voice boomed over the entire Colosseum in way which suggested that it was being magically enhanced, "Welcome, everyone, to this historic event! The first official one-on-one duel between a human and a dragon in millennia!"
The crowd roared in glee. Most of them probably viewed this as a public execution. Some of the audience might be wondering what the Prophet could do against a being that was probably the most powerful mortal creature alive. All of them were excited for the entertainment which the spectacle promised. Even if the duel lasted only a few short moments, they were determined to enjoy the fight.
"On one side is the challenger! He is known to many of you as the Prophet! The first of his kind, he is a superhuman with the gift of Perception! Elijah Keiser!"
A strange noise boomed out from the audience. It was neither cheers nor boos. If I had to describe it, it would be a projection of support. I was definitely the underdog in this fight. Perhaps they pitied me or related to my struggle.
"On the other side is the challenged! He is the leader of the dragon elders! The man which helped create the world we live in! Archer Silverback!"
This time, the crowd cheered. Despite the loudness of the noise, I saw no passion in the crowd. They were probably cheering out of obligation to the person that they thought would win and continue to run everything. I decided that I should ignore the audience. All I was doing was distracting myself.
"The rules of this duel are simple! The two combatants will fight until one of them is incapacitated, submits, or dies! In the circumstance that the loser doesn't die, then the victor will be able to decide the loser's fate!" Goldberg explained. "If their seconds get involved in the fight, then they will be forced to follow the same rules and consequences of the fight!"
As Goldberg finished his explanation, I continued to stare up at Archer. He smiled menacingly at me. My eyes began to glow as I pictured how the fight ahead of me. If the battle occurred like I saw, then it was only a matter of time until the women jumped into the duel.
Goldberg spoke to us in a more subdued voice, "Are you two ready?"
"Of course," Archer scoffed.
I tried not to shake too visibly but knew that I probably looked like a nervous mess, "As I'll ever be."
"So be it," Goldberg looked as if he was going to say something else but stopped himself by simply stating. "Best of luck to both of you."
The old dragon sent me a quick glance. I saw pity in his eyes. He didn't believe that I would win. To him, this was just a waste of a potential new asset to the world. I had no doubt that he tried to convince Archer to call off the duel, because he had done the same to me for a few seconds after the end of the elder dragons meeting. Like Archer, I ignored the warnings. The decisions had already been made. This was a battle that had to happen.
With the announcements officially done, Goldberg turned to fly back to his seat. While he did that, the women turned to move to their corners of the arena to watch the fight. As she moved away, Rebecca slid her fingers across my arm to silently give me her support. While I wanted to show her my thanks, I knew better than to divert my attention away from Archer. We stared at each other with burning hatred glowing in each of our eyes.
"I'm partly surprised that you showed up," Archer noted. "I thought that you would perhaps try to go into hiding like your parents."
"I wasn't going run away," I stated. "And leave my family out of this."
"Why?" Archer growled. "You were the one that turned my family against me."
"I didn't sow contempt in her heart," I argued. "Besides, she's not a part of this anymore. It's just you and me."
"That's right," Archer towered menacingly over me. "You get no help this time, boy. You've yet to accomplish anything without Rebecca. Iris will stop her from saving you. Your only hope was to run. Now, your future is death."
"Everyone's future is Lady Death," I stated. An odd sense of peace filled my chest. "I won't be going to see her today, though. There's too much left for me to accomplish."
Archer's eyes narrowed, "Her?"
"It's a strange world," I noted. "There are things that even I don't see. That's the interesting part, don't you think? Or do you find the unknown scary?"
"You're just trying to get into my head," Archer decided.
"A bit. That doesn't mean that I'm not right, though," I smiled. "You're afraid of that which you don't understand. That's why I see fear in your eyes right now."
"Fear?" Archer laughed. "Have you gone mad?"
"What if the human actually beats me? What if there's an act of God? What if Rebecca gets in the way of one of my attacks," I lifted the Carnal Armory's helmet above my head. "I can see right through you. Your fears are about to come true."
"Unlikely," Archer snarled.
Goldberg's voice boomed across the stadium once more. He began to announce the beginning of the bout. While the countdown happened, I slowly lowered the helmet over my head. As soon as the metal was in front of my face, the armor surged to life. The veins from when I first used the weapon burst across the steel. My body suddenly felt dozens of time stronger from the protection's empowerment. With one of the three ancient weapons set, I unsheathed the Sword of the Soul. I could immediately feel the blade pull at my willpower. As for the last third of the most powerful remnants of humanity's magical past…
Upon hearing the bell signaling the beginning of the duel, Archer reeled his head back. Instead of the usual orange fire which I was used to with Rebecca, blue flames gathered in his jaw. With a massive roar, he unleashed a wave of dancing inferno from his mouth. I did nothing to dodge the attack. The blast of heat rushed over me before spreading out to cover half of the Colosseum in the inferno. Rebecca's fireproof skin protected her from the burst of flames. Even covered with the greatest armor ever crafted, I had no such protection.
Archer's face twisted in smug satisfaction upon seeing me seemingly roasted alive. I took great joy in witnessing his expression shift into shock as he saw me standing among the flames like the burning embers weren't there. Nirvana was glowing brightly against my chest from its spot beneath the armor. If only for now, the necklace worked for me. Perhaps, it was because of the situation that I had been working towards for so long. Maybe I was having an actual spiritual experience. I didn't know, but it worked out for my advantage.
With a swing of my sword, I dismissed the fire around me enough to safely stand without the spiritual help from my necklace. When I was free from the threat of burning alive, Nirvana's influence faded to put me back in the world of matter. I then grabbed the weather powder from my belt to fling it into the remaining flames. The grains were immediately burned in a flash of gold. Even before the clouds could begin to come together, I rushed forward to attack Archer. Despite my closing the distanced in half the time it takes to blink, Archer still dodged the swing of my blade by jumping away.
He landed among the flames to keep me from getting too close to him. Instead of unleashing the fire once more, the dragon swung his fist down at me. I stepped to the side to avoid getting crushed like how the ground below his limb shattered before his power. Before I could respond by slicing at him with the sword, he whipped his arm back and punched again. This process of trying to smash me continued until the clouds darkened enough to allow a rain shower to fall down upon us. With the fire getting washed away, I could move in to attack once again.
As I rushed in close to him, Archer moved to leap over me. In this instance, he tried to swipe at me with his claws. I managed to deflect his attack but couldn't keep my hold onto the blade. The Sword of the Soul slipped from my hands before stabbing into the dirt next to me. My foe laughed at my seemingly inability to keep a hold of my weapon but frowned when he realized that I had planned to release the blade in order to lower his guard. Right as he was about to finish passing over me I grabbed onto the tip of his tail which lagged behind him. Screaming out a battle cry, I swung the dragon with all of my might in order to slam him into the ground in front of me.
He wasn't even stunned for a brief moment as he immediately jumped back up onto his limbs. Right as he swung his claws at me for the second time, I grabbed my sword and pulled it out as I flipped away from my foe. After I landed, I shifted into a defensive stance. A dead silence hung over the Colosseum. The tiniest amount of caution spread across Archer's muzzle. I smirked at the fact that I already made everyone realize that this was going to be an actual fight. It felt good to prove everyone wrong.
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