15. Grand Demon’s Duel: Black VS Grey.
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The world turned. Oceans churned. Love was spurned and cities burned. From the ashes of an ancient empire came he. The Death of Kings, End of All. He came from the light, striking down those before him. Kings he judged, Courts he felled, and Demons he banished. Fiends he followed into their own seats of power and destroyed. Armies of mortals and immortals he decimated. He stood with neither the light nor the darkness, instead ending All. The Destroyer, The Grey One. He who ended the War of a Thousand Years.

Shadowlord.

Inscription upon a forgotten plaque, buried underneath the Neraques Desert.

 

 

Jian Xiao cursed, rolling to the side, narrowly avoiding the dulled battleaxe that crashed down where she had been a second before. Another push, and she flew across the arena, cursing the afternoon sun with all her might. There was not a cloud in the sky, not a single shadow for her to find refuge in. And behind her, silent, came her attacker.

An Orc. She was tall, heavily built and strong. She wielded a battleaxe in each hand, her heavy battle-dress not slowing her in the slightest. Cold grey eyes regarded Jian, never moving but always knowing what she would do. Slight fangs jutted above her lips, her mouth kept expressionless. When she had faced off against her, she had expected a roaring berserker, like the rest of her race. I stead, she had gotten a swift, silent warrior, calmly and cleanly dissecting all her tricks, unfazed by everything she threw her way.

She was fast, and strong beyond even what might be expected of her large frame, and most dangerous of all, she was experienced. The only sign that she was not a golem of some sort was the sweat trickling down her bare green arms, giving some sign that the orc was not an artificial battle-machine created to spite her.

Her white hair was scattered, tussled by the occasional blast of wind Jian threw in her face. Right now, she couldn't win. Jian’s height worked against her here, the other woman having a far superior reach, as well as matching Jian in speed.

But the wind was to be her savior. From the west came thunderclouds, hanging low over the desert, signalling another windstorm. She just had to hold her off until they got here.

With quick jumps, she kept on moving backwards, out of the orc's reach. No signs of frustration showed on her face as she followed, axe at ready, slowly advancing. She didn't rush, nor did she have to. For now. Whatever could Jian do now that all her tricks had proven ineffective. Her Shadow Spike, had not even slowed her, the woman breaking it without any effort as Jian had attempted to stop her.

Without any choice, she continued fleeing, letting time trickle by. The crowd booed, and the announcer ridiculed her 'cowardice', but neither she nor her opponent paid it any heed. If she, like most of the Young Masters in the city, had just stopped for a second to listen or wave, she could have struck. But, no, here she was, playing the waiting game.

Slowly, the clouds rolled in, covering the sky. Shadows bloomed, thick and cold to her senses. The day descended into near darkness as, overhead, thunder began to roar. Now, she was in her element.

In mid hop, she vanished. With no flourish, she appeared behind the woman, Hit her in the back with the hilt of her blade, and vanished. Appearing across the arena, she cursed. She had tried to aim as high as she could, but the orc was too tall. Reaching out, she prepared as much Sol as she could, an easier task now that she was in the shadows. They surrounded her, flowing into her cloak, wrapping themselves around her, strengthening her.

Not waiting for the other woman to slowly make her way towards her, she struck, diving in and out of shadows before appearing in her former location. Like a viper. Her first hit smashed both blades against the woman's ankles, just above her boots, where the battledress had been sliced open to allow freedom of movement.

The next was a standing kick to the belly, her foot hitting the armour, then she released a blast of shadow that rocked the orc backwards. Then jian was behind the orc, her swords digging into muscle, the blades now made of shadow. She continued, dancing around the other woman, quick graceful strikes, one after another, helped by liberal use of Shadow Spike. With the shadows this thick, she was not limited to one at a time. No, she could use half a dozen without effort. They plunged into the woman's shadow, pinning her down as she delivered strike after strike.

And yet, she did not fall. She took every blow without making a sound, her expression unchanging. And then, in an instant, the tables were turned.

The haft of an axe caught her in the solar plexus as she leapt forward, knocking the wind from her and sending her flying. With speed not shown before, the orc advanced, both of axes descending towards her.

Playing her last card, Jian hit the ground, spun, and threw out her cloak. With a simple command the shadows lifted it, stretching it tight, infusing it, creating a solid wall between her and the orc. Short of an entire squad of mages, nothing could break its way through that. Her spin had her off-balance though, and she fell to the ground, suddenly aware that her dance had taken a toll on her muscles.

Her calves and stomach burned, the muscles screaming as she tried to stand. Her barrier would fade in moments. Her swords lay not far away, scattered in the sand. With a thought, she was next to them, grabbing them in her hands.

Then she felt her barrier disappear. With disbelief, she looked back. The Shadow Wall was one of the greatest teachings of her sect, famed for its strength. And yet, when she looked, it was gone, only her cloak hanging in the air, cleaved in two.

Swaying, she stood, ready to meet the threat, but the orc was gone. Then, without warning, two axe blades rested gently on her shoulders.

For the first time in the match, the orc spoke. A soft voice made its way into Jian Xiao's ears.

"Surrender."

*****

She sat alone at a bench, feeling cold. She had lost. Even worse, she had not gone down fighting, but had instead willingly given up. The mugs on the table in front of her signified her current state. Alone, trying to get drunk, and oh so regretting it.

When she had left home, she had vowed not to return until she was a warrior of great renown, and this tournament had been one of her final chances. By the time the next one came she would be over the age limit, thrust into the bottom of an entirely different power class, where everyone was stronger than her. One of the rumored prizes was an ancient manual, said to make your techniques stronger. She needed that to advance.

With another mournful gulp, she drained the last of the wine, and raised her mug to get another. When she noticed the woman behind her. The orc that had defeated her was standing there silently, looking down at her. How long had she been standing there?

"May i sit?"

What did she want? To mock her for losing? Fuck it, what did she have to lose anyway?

"Sit wherever you please, not much i can do about it anyway."

With slow, graceful movements, she walked around the table, sitting across from Jian. She was two full heads tallers than her, even bigger than most of the people from this city. She was wearing another version of her battle-dress this one showing off the orc’s generous curves and well defined hips.

Resting her hands on the table, she looked at Jian.

"I would like to thank you."

"For what, losing to you?" The smaller woman's tone was bitter, almost derisive.

"No. For the battle itself. You fought with great skill, turning a weak power into something formidable. Had you fought me a year ago, you would have undoubtedly won. You also fought with something i have never seen from any human in this city. Honour."

"Come on, that's it? You’re thanking me for basically cheating?"

"You did not 'cheat'. There is no such thing as cheating in a fight. If you come to fight under the guise of rules and guidelines it will cost you your life in an actual battle. You took the tools given to you, and employed them in the most effective way possible. I respect that. Admire it."

Jian was silent for a moment, thinking.

"I guess you're right, then. What did you mean earlier about honour?"

"You are the first opponent i have faced in this city who did not belittle me or my intelligence simply because of the color of my skin. You did not call me any of te slurs associayed with my race, and you did not spit in my face when i asked you to surrender, unlike every other man and woman i had fought. You treated me as a warrior, and for that, i offer my thanks."

"Well, you're welcome."

They lapsed into silence, the woman patiently sitting, waiting for Jian to continue the conversation. while Jian wondered where the hell her drink had gone.

"So, are you only here to say your thanks?"

The woman considered her for a moment before replying.

"I want to mate with you."

Nearly choking on the last few drops of liquor in her mug, Jian spat them out and looked over at her, incredulous.

"Just like that? Out of the blue? After you beat me up earlier? Why in the seven hells do you want to fuck me? I'm not an orc."

"I have not had a mate in nearly an entire year. You are what i look for in one. A strong warrior. You fought me, showed honour, and are pleasing to the eye. What higher standards could i have?"

"Even if i believed all that, i'm not into the whole women thing. To be blunt, i like dicks. The bigger the better."

"Have you not heard about orcs? Or do they not tell the tales here in fear of their women abandoning them? Orcs do not have two genders, as humans are crippled with. We have three. I am of the third."

"Oh, fuck it. I'm half drunk, lonely, and need a good screw. I'll probably regret this in the morning, but fuck it, let's go."

"I assure you that you won’t."

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