- September 25, 2022
Raydorn: The War in the Black (Chapter 31)
This chapter contains scenes of torture, reader discretion is advised.
“Once you believe in something beyond self, it can hurt you.”
Lucilla Indu Nero, 448 A.C.A.
Malum watched as the moonlight slowly moved up towards her eyes from between the blinds. He could wait until it wakes her on its own, or he could wake her with a flick to the head. Either sounds like fun.
Let’s just bully Andy for second.
He looked to the moon to judge how long they have, and figured it would be better not to waste the time on letting her sleep.
Malum flicked Andy in the forehead, triggering a psychosomatic reaction where she cursed her head off and waved her arms around as if she were surrounded by flies.
With her hair a mess of tangles, bed head, and a mix of white and brown hair, Andy looked like a banshee. Then her eyes landed on Malum.
She simply stared, her hands frozen in place. They looked like they were about to wring his neck and her head at the same time.
“I need to start training,” he explained, “I can’t use Siwang and I haven’t used another style of sword in a long time.”
Andy continued to stare silently.
“You see, Siwang is a jian blade, it’s straight, double-edged, has range, and is meant to be wielded with two hands, at least in the beginning of the swing. I need to use a dao sword to not give myself away, and better learn how Lao fights.”
Andy remained silent.
“I don’t have anyone else to train against who can swordfight.”
“Real chatty tonight, I see.”
“Huh-what?” she hissed at him. “No, I will not spar with you… in the middle of the night… after you woke me up!”
Malum shrugged. “You’re the closest thing to someone I can trust, and you were able to disarm me once.”
“You couldn’t have done this at a different time?” Andy questioned, unmoving from her spot.
Malum shrugged once more, shaking his head as he asked, “I hardly think you’d be any happier if I woke you early in the morning or kept you out late.”
“I…” she said, as her mouth slowly closed. “Get the fuck out so I can get dressed.”
“Heh, meet me by the first floor pond, I’ll bring the wooden swords.”
Andy finally started to get moving, throwing off the blankets and looking for a hairtie or a comb. As Malum walked back to the shadows, she asked him, “You’re not worried about waking anyone else up?”
“The waterfall will hide our sounds.”
“Is it really a waterfall if its man-made?” she asked, and when she didn’t get an answer, she realized he was gone. “That asshole.”
Andelyn Stella walked through the garden grounds of Regalic Sol. She had spotted several guards watching her as soon as she left the room. They thought they were stealthy, but then again, she thought she and Malum would be alone. No one is as quite as good as they think they are.
But they won’t bother us because we’re training. They’ll tell Lord Weisheng, or some other Zhuhou. It won’t matter.
She found Malum by the waterfall, though she first thought it was someone else. Without his cloak, he seemed almost unrecognizable. The mask was still on, but seeing his hair and his lean muscle made him seem profoundly different.
“Glad you could make it,” he said.
She stopped before the water that he sat cross legged in front of. It was a good place, a nice gravel circle where those of Regalic Sol rested and watched. Now it was to be a battleground as many other places would become.
“Wow, the cloak really adds a few pounds.”
“More or less than your operating table?” he asked as he stood to his feet, and tossed her a wooden sword.
She caught it, a wooden carolingian, one of the standard swords of Raydorn. A double-edged blade, perfectly symmetrical, but rather than long like its Susannan equivalent, the jian, the carolingian was shorter and lighter. Even if the one in her hand were real, Andy would still wield it with one hand.
“About the same,” she told him as she toss the wooden sword between her hands getting used to its weight. “When you’re on the table, you flatten out. You honestly look your fattest.”
“If that isn’t motivation…”
Andy looked away from him for a moment, and started to hack away. She went into a flurry of strikes and slashes against the air, getting a feel for the sword’s weight and trying to go fast enough that she isn’t slowing herself down, but not too fast that she’ll be caught off guard the next time she holds a real sword.
She ended with her blade towards the moon, and told Malum, “I’m ready when you are.”
“Are you?” she heard him from right behind her, much closer than the waterfall.
She spun around as Malum struck first.
His sneak attack nearly tempted Andelyn to rage as he forced her back. He struck as if he held Siwang, putting her on the defensive before he remembered that this dao blade was not as long as Siwang.
He had to evade and block to avoid a good bruising. He was right to ask Andy to test him, as she already had him on the defensive.
The first solution to his predicament was to roll away and go for her elbows. The difference in their sword styles became apparent in how Malum used his whole body while most of Andy’s maintained position.
His sword came down over her head, and she blocked. She held her blade only to suffer a palm strike to her stomach.
This isn’t a sparring match, she realized, it’s a waste of my time.
She ducked and felt the air from his sword pass overhead. She felt his knee to her nose just fine.
Malum taunted her as he went for a swift kick to her side, “And here I thought-”
He stopped when she caught his leg. What’s the point of practicing if you’re not going to try anything different? she figured, before she jumped up and dropkicked him in the chest with both feet.
She sent him flat on his back, threatening to knock the wind out of him. He didn’t get the chance to catch his breath before he heard the sounds of her footsteps racing towards him.
He rolled back to his feet, and nearly lost his sword when she swung with both hands. She opened him up, but wasn’t going to swing again in time, so she threw her body into him.
Malum may have known the Jitari arts, but Andelyn was trained the CQC of the Black Legion.
She wrapped her arms around his side, then with a huff and flex of her biceps and her core, she lifted him fully off the ground.
He didn’t finish before she slammed him down on his back, the gravel burrowing its way into his skin.
His body rolled away due to the force, as Andy rolled away, licking her lips and smirking to herself. At least she was until she saw Malum taking off up out of the waterful area and towards the bridge.
“That fucking fucker!” she cursed as she ran after him, her trousers weighing heavily on her legs.
Protection over speed was not the right choice tonight.
Malum wasn’t terribly injured despite the blow he suffered, and seemed to let Andy catch up to him. She was on his heels as he ran up the railing of the bridge, and Andy swung full force for his ankles.
He flipped over the swing, and brought his sword up to block her follow-up.
He started to swing, stab, and pirouette from his high ground, making Andy swing when she meant to stab, and use twice the energy she meant to. Through the high ground he controlled the battle.
So I’ve got to get on his level, she thought as she grasped her sword by its blade in one hand and the grip in the other. Malum slashed as she swung her sword like a shield. The force smacked his blade out of his hand and across the bridge.
There was a moment where the two of them traded looks.
Then Malum leaped over Andy, thrust one arm out to push her right into the railing. She went stomach first, “Gah!” before turning around and running after him.
What is this supposed to prove? How the fuck is his little balley dance supposed to be training him? He’s barely even attacking!
Malum slid across the ground on his trousers to pick up his sword. He was back on his feet and facing Andy, just in time for her to nearly whack him with her sword.
He ducked and her wood clanged off the railing, but she switched to a reverse-grip, stabbing for his stomach. He dodged that too, only for her to flip her sword to a normal grip even faster for an overhead blow.
Malum raised his sword just in time.
Malum twisted his blade, hooking hers in his guard, so they were locked against each other. That’s when he learned how his lean muscle would hold up against the veins he saw in her biceps.
This… stick of a man.
With nothing but strength, she pushed forward with both hands, making him stumble, freeing their blades.
Andelyn immediately began stabbing and striking at him in a rage. There was strike after strike, slash after slash, firing off as fast as she could move and Malum tried to block as he lost ground. She pushed him off the bridge as she swung with enough force for sparks, if only the blades were steel.
Malum stayed on the defensive even after they were firmly off the bridge. Then he ducked backwards, trying to flip and kick her in the chin. He missed but he managed to put some distance between them.
When he was on his feet and her sword was still wobbling, he didn’t go in after her. He’s not fighting back, and the thought made her grind her teeth.
Malum nearly turned to run, to try to get away, but Andelyn went after him again. She didn’t go to teach him, she struck as soon as he turned around, just he could see her coming.
She made a strike of vengeance toward his mask and his secrets. Her punishment for him for daring to test her like this. But he deflected her strike away.
You’re no one to test me, assassin, no one, Andy raged against him, not even the light itself may judge.
And so Andy continued her onslaught, trying to cut him down in a barrage of rage and hate, revealing herself to him more and more with each strike, but nothing to allow him to land a strike on her.
She kept him on his toes, on the evasive. She continued to chase him across the grounds of Regalic Sol. She chased him as he lept atop and from statues, and through the Regalic’s streams, striking at them with her stick. She chased him across the pavilion, giving him new bruises all along the way.
Up and down the Regalic, Andelyn Stella sought out his head, and Malum just danced off each blow.
Are you just going to dance away, is all you can do?
Malum evaded her to another bridge over the same river stream, but decided to go for the water. He moved in a flash, fast enough to let her sink her wooden sword into the wood of the railing.
Her sword cracked and she cared not.
Andelyn ran up the flat top of the railing before leaping down, sword overhead, but as she fell, she passed something strange.
A white feather seemed to pass down her face, letting her rage slow, and the blood in her veins to run cold. It’s a mere moment of hesitation, of distraction, and Malum punished her for it.
She didn’t see it happen. She felt wood smack against her several times before she hit the ground. Against her cheek, across her leg, and smack against her back. She fell to the ground, and before she could get back up, Malum’s wooden blade was behind her neck.
“If this were real, you would be dead,” he told her.
“If my sword were real, you’d be in pieces already,” she reminded him.
“Fair enough,” Malum said before taking back his sword, and offering her his hand, but she forwent it to stand up herself. “Sore about losing?”
Andy’s expression twisted, and her sword arm whipped towards his face, pointing it towards his neck. “Why were you testing me?”
“Testing you?” he questioned. “I wouldn’t say I was testing you. That implies you could fail.”
“Oh, you’re one of those.”
Malum’s head tilted. “One of what?”
“One who argues semantics.” She pointed her sword down as he disappointed her some more.
“I just wanted to know you better.”
“Neither am I, not like that.”
The urge to punch him ran through her legs, and she barely managed to hold back. “Not what I meant, you know you’re falling out of favor, and you want to know how much you can push me around.”
Malum’s chin raised itself a little bit higher.
“I don’t need your vote.”
“You do if you want someplace to come back to,” she said as she turned around, trying to walk away.
He walked after her, “I just wanted to understand who you are.”
Andy whipped around, raising the sword grip in her hand. “And sparring does that?”
Malum’s hand went over his heart, as his voice became rehearsed. “In my culture… we think we can know each other through combat.”
“I thought your people prayed to the goddess of peace?”
“Yes, but some of us have a different goddess here, we believe in Aris’s other half, her secret face, Eritusi, the one who rides Destruction. Through war, only peace is achieved, and in turn, from peace, the path to change is through war. Change is the product of battle, and change is the formation of self, and when we clash swords, I feel as if… I know with what you strike with.”
“Hehe,” the non-believer chuckled in a way that would have made most believes winces, “and what is it that I strike with?”
“Your bleeding heart.”
“Hah!” she laughed with her belly. “I don’t think it’s working if you think my heart is bleeding for anyone.” She turned away, her head nodding down as she found herself rubbing her head in her hand.
“No…” he said as he reached to place a hand on her shoulder, “maybe your heart bleeds a little as it lingers for someone,” but she raised a fist at him, “but that’s not what I meant.”
He moved his hand behind his back, where she couldn’t see it. “You strike with anger because your heart has been pierced from the outside. You’ve been hurt, betrayed, and it happened a long time ago. By the time the legion was betrayed, you were well versed in the feeling.”
Andy smirked. “Hmph…”
“Did I strike too close to home?”
Andy threw her sword at his face.
He deflected it with his own.
“Go fuck yourself, you goddamn turd,” she said, before leaving under the moonlight.
Malum looked up at the moon, and then kicked the other wooden sword into his free hand.
Lucilla’s head was thrust into the barrel of water, before being entirely stuffed in face first. She began to choke as she struggled to turn herself around in the jar. She tried kicking the thing into pieces before her lungs began to burn. The only thing that helped was that she lacked an arm as it had yet to grow back. With that extra room, she managed to right herself. She nearly let out her last breath before she managed to turn upside down.
“<You were right,>” the Piss man said to the Junk-grabbing man, “<octopuses are saltwater fish.>”
“<She doesn’t only need saltwater to drink, it’s the only thing the stupid bitch can breathe and… and…>”
“<Rava kill me,>” the Piss man groaned.
“<Octopi also aren’t fish->”
“<Get out, just get out.>”
“<Just get out!>”
Lucy heard the smack even through the water, but not the footsteps as the man ran away.
Not very friendly with his men either, maybe they can turn like Par.
She was treading water in the barrel. It was already filled to the brim and her being in it wasn’t helping at all. When the Piss man tried to speak to her, he would find that out.
“<How is it in there?>” he asked her as he shook it, making her inhale water instead of air. The sound of her choking led to a sigh of realization, “<Ah, let me help.>”
Before she could think a thing of it, something sharp pieces through the wound and stabs right into her arm.
“Aaah!!” Her yell of pain was drowned out by the coughing and choking fit she had as she drank more water. It only got worst as he twisted the blade in her arm before taking it out.
Water started to flood out the hole, but once the water got below shoulder level, that’s where it stayed.
“<Care to speak now?>” the Piss man asked her.
He waited by the barrel, waiting for a response until he heard something like Pfft!
“<That’s the sound of me spitting in your general direction.>”
“Hmph,” he mumbled as he stood next to the barrel, squatted down, and began to shake it, testing whether or not she had a water lung.
When he finished, he left her in a coughing mess. Being full of phlegm, coughing out the water was indistinguishable from coughing out a lung.
The Piss man seemed to wait for her to finish coughing, the room was silent for everything but the sound of her suffering.
When her coughs finally quieted, the Piss man made his offer. “<This can all end tonight, if that’s what you want.>”
No, no there isn’t, not if there’s a catch.
“<Just cry, that’s all I ask,>” he said, “<cry as my neighbors did when the Krones threw them in chains. Cry as my mother did, as the Krones forced themselves upon her before dedicing her too old. Cry as my sister did, after they killed my father, and proceeded to do to her what they did to my mother.
“<Cry as we all have under your father’s wyvern banner.
“<Beg for death as so many of us did,>” his last word leaving his mouth just as his hands gripped the barrel, and threatened to toss her around as she was still trapped inside. “<Just beg… beg for death, and I’ll give it to you.>”
How much longer can this last if I don’t give in? How much longer will I endure this? I’ve given them each more their pound of flesh and then some, and yet… they’ll come up with new ways to torture me until the end of time, or they I die.
Why fight it? Why… why fight it? Is there a chance I escape?
“<I understand if you have to sacrifice your pride to do it,>” the Piss man taunted her. “<Girls like you have all the pride in the world and none of the humility to hold it back. You ask for everything because your baba always said yes. Tell me, what was the worst thing he ever gave you? Think about, real hard. If you do…
“<… you may want to die.>”
Do I want to die? That’s the real question, isn’t it?
Do I want it all to end, to be reduced to dust by Rava, and enter the next life? If so, then this life is truly something to give up on, with nothing to hope for.
Does… does that define my life?
The Piss man’s fingers tapped one by one along the rim of the barrel. He huffed after a few minutes to ask, “<Are you not able to reenact their screams? The way they begged? Surely, dozens, if not hundreds have laid themselves at your feet. You can’t… remember how they sounded… for me?>”
Lucy was silent as she leaned against the inside of the barrel. She had just caught her breath as she was forced to listen to Piss man laying his past at her feet.
In her silence, Piss man opened the lid off the jar, and looked down at her. “<Can you… you understand me? Yoo-hoo?>”
Lucy slowly turned her head up towards him, water that would drown her like anyone else dripping down her face.
“<Is that the face they made when they looked up at you, wyvern?>” he asked her. “<I would have thought terror, but defeat makes as much- if not more sense to me.>”
Lucy looked away, as he kept badgering, believing her close to tears. Anyone else would break. Anyone else would cry for him, and beg for death.
Her eyes burned, from the pupil to the lid, trying to force out the tears she had for all she had suffered. “<It may hurt my eyes to hold it in…>” she said as her missing limb began to shake, and her chin to as she tried to look up, “<but I will not give you the privilege to see me cry.>”
Her torturer’s face did not change. It had always been hardened and unsympathetic. The expression may change, but the horror that lied behind the mask never did. “<Admit what you are, you coward.>”
“<I’m a coward,>” she admitted to him, “<I… abandoned my people… I was afraid to go back… I should have left my father… far… far sooner…>”
With his eyes of stone, he still appeared unpleased. “<That’s good, maybe we have made some headway with you. Maybe I’ll consider->”
Lucilla Indu Nero interrupted him with a snarl, hacking up every word to steal his breath away. “<But… I’m still not garbage, I’m still a human being, and I’m still a better person than an untouchable like you.>”
“<You dare, I’ll fucking…>” he said, before he kicked the barrel over, muttering, “<I’ll fucking kill you.>”
Fear shot through Lucy, as the barrel toppled over and she fell enough out of the barrel to crack her head on the ground. She heard and felt the crack, and the mind-numbing that stalled fear.
Her brain then only had room for terror as the world began to spin. She could hear him yelling obscenities, but could barely make out what it was. As he had moved around her, and stood over her, his image turned to black and not. It was as if fire loomed around him, and then he phased back into existence. He was something that both was, and was not.
The only thing she seemed to know was that something would hear her.
“<Do you want to kill me?>” she muttered, to the Piss man who seemed to be on fire. “<Do you want me to beg for death or do I just have to piss you off? Which is it, the hanging fruit or your worst threat?>”
The face of fire and god seemed to roar in her face, and hers could do nothing but stare.
Don’t believe in the hysteria, don’t believe in it. Once you believe in something beyond self, it can hurt you.
“<You hate me, you want me to suffer for what Krone did to you, for what my father did to you? Who cares, if you think Endica was really treating you any better, you’re a fucking idiot who bought into the shit Brahhas feed you. You think you’re really going to get a better life next time around?!>” She began to sit up, getting out of the empty barrel as something dripped from her head. Blood or water, they were becoming one the same. “<You will be filth tomorrow, as you were filth yesterday, as you are now-AAAF!>”
Fire kicked her in the stomach, and God screamed in her face. “<You lying whore->”
“<You think Rava’s going to reward you? You’re shit, and you’ll be shit because you let Brahha men tell you their peers are evil because they’re foreigners, as they assfuck you the same way as everyone else! There is no second life, there is no reincarnation, this is the life you have and you wasted it!>”
Her mouth filled with blood as something smack her right across the chin. Her head whipped back into the hard floor, and she was sure the liquid underneath wasn’t just water.
Lucy had an idea of what it was before the hot liquid hit her. She turned away and covered her face in her arms as it cut across her back.
She curled up, waiting for it to end.
She stayed curled up, as felt her insides turning all around, trying to claw their way out of her skin.
The sound of her name only made her clench up, squeeze tighter into herself.
“Lucy, <it’s me, Par.>”
Lucy opened her eyes and found that she could not see.
“<I have sea water for you.>”
Lucy’s hand struggle to raise over her head, twitching uncontrollably as she slowly lost more and more feeling.
Her hand raised until she was able to point at her hand.
She waited for him to understand. That wait felt like forever until she felt a cool cleansing wash over her head, but it didn’t make her feel clean.
Her head wound began to heal, and her ability to see began to return. Before the bottle was empty, she could think, and turn over, finding herself facing Par and Par alone.
“<You have to try to escape soon,>” he warned her, “<you truly pissed him off this time.>”
Escape? How the fuck am I supposed to do that you little god damn fool? How am I… who could… I need help… why won’t someone help me? Someone please?!!
“My crew, my crew,” she whispered.
“<I don’t understand.>”
She slowly raised her hand towards him, her arm twitching as it tried to lunge for him. Her hand grabbed the scruff of his shirt, trying to clench it, but her fingers would only squeeze and unsqueeze.
“<My crew, they can help, find them, you must find them…>”
“<What? No, I can’t! I can’t leave!>”
“<Find them or we’ll both be dead.>”
Par looked down at her, eyes wide.
“<Both?>” he asked.
She looked up at him, and her eyes narrowed with hate that could stop a man’s heart. She could have killed this boy, her hand still clutched him, and if she had the strength, her clutch would rip his skin off.“<Both, I promise,>” and then he leaned back, beginning to understand.
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