The dawn of a new day had awaken. Though, the peaceful warmth of the rising sun would not last long. Dark clouds still loomed high, threatening the still growing playground. Near the edge, a tall protrusion served as a watch tower.
Ecco stood tall, looking for any movements in the distance. During the long night, the land was not the only one to mutate. The once useless arm now donned full armor, from shoulder to fingertip. Thin vines appeared to cover the sleek mechanics, shedding its own life with every twitch. The bulk of it shielded her shoulder with thick, worn plates. Narrow spikes protruded from crevices, providing a useful shield.
Besides her arm, only her energy had changed. Focus was deep, past any distractions. Ecco did not stand still, rather, she absorbed all that was around her. Every change was processed, keeping track of the natural order. So that when something unnatural…
A blurred line over the hill… out of tune…
..shaking shadows not of this world…
…mechanical edge of Aether…
…once mortal soul or Lasrevinu…
…crimson trail. Caught her eye…
The raven once had stealth. She would no longer stand still.
Blood lust must be a fulfilling sin. With a fanged grin, sword was drawn and first leap taken. The dawn turned it’s back, making way for dark to hit light.
The day would take a neutral stand. Both knew that the already dead Corvus would never leave Aether. What he didn’t know was Ecco’s exposed weakness would bring what he wanted back. ((((if he would have kept his mind open and listened, he would hear this ringing loud in the forefront of Eccos thoughts.)))))
As soon as he unsightly crimson shadow hit the edge of the wasteland, Ecco bounded deeper into the thickening fog. Corvus rose up, slow at first.
“… ” Katanas already in hand, he had to stop, carefully stepping off the green grass and into the barren jungle.
“Useless waste of time and energy.” He muttered. His pace picked up, already jumping over bottomless cracks.
Rain started to fall, blocking any other sounds. But just around the first crater, the bell had tolled. Metal against metal. Ecco and Corvus balanced a thin line of pushing over what little stable ground was left.
The pallasch seared into the thrusting katana, sparking as Ecco heaved all her weight into it. As yet unbalanced, Corvus swung his other blade down across the losing katana. The added strength pushed Ecco back, slowly dragging her feet over the dry sand. A pitfall was just a stumble away from her back foot.
Suddenly, a clean spin of the pallasch pointed its tip downwards. With a quick push of her shoulder, she got under both katanas and broke the shield. Corvus fell back, but didn’t let his guard down. He dashed forward, burning blades held high and ready to fall on target.
Ecco grinned, shielding herself with the new armor. Corvus fell in, one blade at either side of her elbow in hopes of crushing her. With a thud, the blades hit, accomplishing nothing. Eccos eyes peered up, gleaming at the aggravated rival. Hidden, she tried to sneak in a low thrust of the sword. Just in time, Corvus kicked it away, dropping the katanas to his side. He retreated back, grimacing as he analyzed what he was up against.
“You haven’t made a dent.” She remarked, mirroring his dropped arms.
Corvus lifted his chin, unimpressed. “And you?” He took a deep breath, and his eyes glowed bright crimson. With one outstretched hand, he pointed his blade first at Ecco, then swung it harshly upwards. His feet ran again towards her, but lifted up and vaulted over her, his cape sweeping dramatically behind him as he landed on a short pillar.
Ecco spun around, leaving no time before she too was in the air.
Entrapped in a maze, old rivals ensued once again in a true fight. Ecco landed next to Corvus. Lightning was building up in the heavy clouds. He lunged, batting her away with one clean strike. She returned, skipping him like a rock as ringing metal sounded throughout the empty land.
And so they danced, striking with all their strength only to be swiftly blocked with a returning hit.
Just one scratch… Tireless, Ecco ducked an incoming. Spin. Jump over. She intercepted one swing with her arm. He followed with an uppercut. For a moment, all she could see was the clean metal. Far past the point of caring, she grabbed the blade straight on. She yanked him close and forced the tip of the pallasch into an already close leg. Without a wince he flung her off as he dropped down to level ground. She fell back a few steps, letting out a sigh of relief. The peace lasted only a second; Corvus was on the run.
We are so impatient. She smirked. Only one glimpse and he was gone, nothing seemed to be moving.
“Hmph.” The smile disappeared as she crouched down, then vaulted through the air to the last pillar he passed. Claws dug into the hard surface as she landed, sending shatters to the ground. A quick look around found nothing before she peered over the edge.
Too late. Corvus already sliced through the trunk, stepping back as it toppled down into a pit.
Pillar fell faster than element, leaving no trace of a sound as it got sucked into the depths. Ecco didn’t look back. Just as she reached the edge she caught Corvus’ eye. Stopping dead in her fall, she hovered defiantly. Muscles in her face twitched in anger as she threw her sword away.
“Miss Xile…dropping out so fast?” A smug smile melted into a hollow laugh as he looked down on her.
Never. She growled, tightening as she silently gathered energy. She thrust her hands forward with unseen speed, shattering the ground beneath his feet. Sheer force from the sudden attack blasted him back, slamming him against the foot of a large spire. Only pebbles managed to break off from the impact.
Thunder roared, lightning crashed. Nothing with color was left, just dimming crimson eyes. Pulling himself up, Corvus still had drive. He stiffly threw back the disintegrating fabric of his cape. Looking up, he could see fast movements in the pillars.
Relentless… He spun around and ran up the pillar. A swirl of tattered shadows followed, sweeping off his cape. Just as Ecco landed close by, he was standing in a flurry of chaos.
Not one dent… The muscles in his arms tightened, katanas shaking violently in his trembling hands.
“Arghhhh!” He swung one arm back, shadows around him gathering close to the blade. Without a care he dropped the other sword, clasping both hands firmly around the hilt. His breathing was heavy, fangs gleaming with hunger at every strike of lightning. Not sparing a moment, he swung the blade back in Ecco’s direction. Surrounding pillars and boulders crackled and got sucked into the sweeping energy.
Though unprepared, Ecco threw up her hands as her feet slowly dragged back. A shield of pulsing light and shadow surrounded her, slowly expanding though the attack kept coming.
As soon as he saw this, Corvus threw the sword aside.
“AGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!” With a violent scream he arched his back, pure black energy shooting around him and straight at Ecco.
“Ahh!” Her shield broke immediately, the energy whipping past her. She dropped down, trying to grab at the pillar. But it was too late. The pillar broke apart beneath her, sending her through the air and into the distance.
“Hmph.” The energy around Corvus broke up, and he jumped down to the ground. A smile cut across his tired face, just as the rain fell down.
“Haha…hahhaha! Not so invincible now!” He picked up the fallen swords and ran in the direction Ecco went, his maniacal laughter fading in the downpour.
The rain came down in a softer rhythm, the lightning letting up. Corvus reached a long, narrow bridge over a wide open pit. With the rain, he couldn’t see the other side.
“Ingenious, Ms. Xile, picking the most obvious hiding spot.” He trudged forward, splashing through growing puddles. As he neared the bridge, he noticed ashes piling in the corners, perhaps surrounding the whole thing.
“Hmm..” He jumped forth, landing right on the edge. His assumption was so far true. Eyes thoroughly searching what could be seen, he started the long walk over the bridge no wider than his arm span.
Far from hidden, EccoXile was being watched. In a different realm, beings without a distinct form pulsed with curiosity, gathering around images, windows looking into the fight. Fingers were dragging across screens made of solid air, pulling up words, lines, shapes …too alien to be recognizable. Whispers were suddenly hushed, everyone pulling back to a single screen.
The silence was broken by low rumbling. Corvus was too impatient, and sped up with the loudening. Then he saw movement, far off though. Something moving in the air. Then again, with a loud crack. Closer this time, a volcanic burst sent ash raining down. Booming thunder, and another burst. And another, each growing closer and switching sides of the bridge. Yet he kept on, even as the eruptions went right past him, following the length of the bridge. When it seemed to have stopped, the tenseness in his grip loosened.
Suddenly he tripped, falling to his knees.
“What disturbance is this?” He growled, swiftly getting back up. As he did, something yanked on his ankle, forcing him to his hands and knees.
“Gragh!” He twisted around to grab whatever was holding him. But it vanished,
“… ” He cautiously pulled his leg back.
“Uh-uh-uh!” From the other side, a tattered body jumped up and pinned him down.
“Your just where I want you.” with one foot on his chest, Ecco stood up, laughing to herself. Her clothes were torn, and body equally so as it jumped between form and swimming elements. One thing could be seen clearly. Glowing red eyes, piercing through him like stone.
“I don’t think so!” Corvus jumped up to his feet, pushing her back as he sparred her further back. Countless strike after strike was sent at her, but still she deflected every one. He stopped, backing up with heavy breaths.
“Has your battery run out yet?” Ecco smirked. Tireless, she drew back her sword, ready to strike.
“No…”He glared at her. “No! I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED!” He jumped, both swords fighting back her one. He pushed closer, then with one quick motion grabbed her sword. Blood spilled from his hand as he jumped over the edge, pushing Ecco down ahead of him.
“Your just a machine! Your sole purpose is to kill, and your far, far from it!” Soon Ecco was the only source of light, trailing off of her as she willingly free fell.
“And what is your purpose?” Corvus countered.
Ecco faced him, grinning. “I am a traveler. We go where we are needed. Not just to fight, but to grow, learn, and help others for the good of the people.”
“Do I not fight for the same? Getting rid of the Shattered Halo to help those you constantly kill?” He questioned.
“No!!!” Her smile turned to anger, but before she could strike, Corvus already had. Blade sliced across her bare shoulder, dragging to below her neck. She didn’t move, but the light and shadows did. Once again they grew tight around her and into her skin. The wound was already gone, not a drop of blood.
“What…” Corvus took back his blade, inspecting it. Nothing. He looked back at her, expecting some devilish grin. But all he saw was anger. He struck again, slashing and tearing her up as much as he could.
“I can assure you, that’s nothing short of annoying…”
“WHAT am I cutting into?!” He thrust both swords straight through her, but she grabbed them and pulled right back out.
Memories. She ripped both katanas out of his hands, throwing them behind her as the fell into the darkness. He lunged for them, but she calmly held out one hand and grabbed his collar.
“That’s all I am. All I ever was.”
She pulled him up, looking at his empty eyes. Weak and speechless, he no longer resisted. She thrust her armoured hand into his chest, blood pouring out as the black swirled into white. The darkness was no more, as the entire pit glowed. The walls were covered in ash, and steaming holes littered the floor. Ecco let the two drop down, as they were only feet off the floor.
“Remember last time?” She gripped him tighter, leaving him gasping for air. Her arm glowed, though now it was grey. Energy pulsed around them, shaking the loose ash off the walls.
“Maybe not, you’re not the same Corvus.” His hands came up and tried to pry her off, but his fingers were shaking. She looked down at him, almost sorrowfully.
“You asked me to kill you. I was reluctant.” With a twist of her wrist, his hands finally dropped. She kneeled down, lying him on the ground in a pool of blood.
“I’ll do you a favor. Ask me to finish this, and I will have a small bit of respect for you.” She whispered, waiting for some kind of reply. But he didn’t move.
Fool, I know your still alive. She twisted her hand inside of him, shadow and blood covering her arm. Jumping to her feet, she pulled her hand violently out. A cracking explosion of energy instantly engulfed them both. The burst of energy expanded out of the pit, a dark orb with flickers of lightning. The rain stopped, the clouds parted. The entire battleground was engulfed in an instant. And with one final boom, dissipated.
Blue skies, green grass.
The battle ended, and I sensed there was a calm back on Chama as well. There were a few stops to be made before I could return.
Disposing of the body was the first task. I well knew that few children of Lasrevinu ever got out of it. Bringing an outsiders body into it could leave a heavy mark. As a child, stories were told of a realm that created all others. The Itrins inhabited it, and watched over all other realms. I knew they would appreciate, and protect the body…should he ever awaken.
Getting there took all but an instant. Once inside…I found myself more lost than ever. I was inside a high ceiling building, glass panes letting in light from a field of stars. A silver interior bustled with life as all types of creatures scurried about.
As if blinded, all I could do was drop him at the foot of the first person I saw. He wore a heavy jade robe, and carried a long wooden staff. Dark eyes looked first at me, then at the body. Seeing the blood still on my arm, he gave a nod. He tapped the staff on the ground once. A huge bird zipped up out of nowhere, dropping his claws around the body. The man pointed me towards a wall of several portals, then swiftly left. Unsure, but without a choice, I walked into the first portal I saw.
Refero Exsul. Finally figured it out?
An ethereal voice boomed. Inside a dazzling glass paned sphere, Ecco stood on a floating bridge. On the other end was a disk. Though she didn’t know it, the same beings that had watched her fight stood before her now. Ecco walked towards them, all almost twice her size. They each glowed with light, dressed in elaborate costumes. Though stunned, their question rang again in her head.
“Sapientia…not yet. The last pages I read before exile…
All of it’s offerings will be unfurled to you in time. Now they spoke individually, calming the atmosphere.
“The vivificus, a neutral element…the death of it’s people…” Her voice was quiet as thoughts surfaced that she didn’t have time to think about until now.
The vivificus held the beginning. One stepped forth, shrinking down to Ecco’s size. She held out her fragile hands, bringing them apart. She closed them, and they seemed to glow brighter for a moment. When she opened them, one black ring floated above each. Gracefully, her hands came together, palms facing in. The rings pulled together, spinning close until they were one.
Now, She motioned her hands downwards, pulling up Eccos own without touching them. She slid her hands around Ecco’s until they cupped together under the ring. You will hold the end.
Ecco stood still, unsure of what to say. And all she had heard told her she didn’t want this ring.
Dear child… Anther being stepped forth, as the other backed away. He looked sternly into Ecco’s lost eyes. You out-lasted your given species. Delivered and defied death. Taken under the watch of Sireh even! You are anything but the mortal creatures of this recent journey. Don’t deny what you are, it has been so clearly revealed.
Someone else chimed in. This is not our final gift to you. The peragros have yet to perish. But Aether is ready for it’s rebirth.
Ecco closed her eyes, looking for undisturbed thoughts. Alas, she only had one choice.
My first visit to the fabled realm would not let me come out empty handed. As soon as I accepted the offer, I was back where I started. Not allowed to leave so soon, the natives pulled me in and tried to give me a sense of direction in the immense realm. Instead, I left them more lost than I had been.
In one moment I was walking amongst people not unlike those I grew up with. In the next, I was walking down streets, facing a familiar monument of a bustling city.