Chapter 37 – Green Marshes (10)
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Further away from Sammy and Sakku, the battle between Nika and Gorka upturned the swamp in its entirety. Right at that moment, the two were clashing, claw against claw, as the Princess's dual-colored lightning streaked through the air. Wherever it went, the water parted, revealing the muddy bottom while trees exploded and splintered into millions of pieces, being hit with her stray bolts. 

"You still haven't recovered." Gorka whispered, noticing the changes in her powers and feeling very well that she couldn't produce the same level of energy they clashed with previously.

His werewolf-like appearance was surrounded by a bloody cloud while parrying Nika's attacks, his aura diverting and bending all her electricity around himself. 

"Let's get serious, Princess." He howled, countering one of Nika's swiping paws that blew tons of green water into the air, cracking the bottom of the swamp, and creating a whirlpool that began sucking the rest of the sludge away. 

The next moment, Gorka appeared behind her, wielding a two-sided scythe, twirling it around his body masterfully. With one end, he was cutting through Nika's defensive lightning aura, while with the other, he swung at her to decapitate the Princess without hesitation.

"Awfully silent, aren't you?" He spoke again in the middle of their battle, where he was now pursuing Nika's body, every swing of his twin-scythe capable of taking her life.

He was right. Usually, when it was about fighting, Nika was never one who did it silently. Whenever she was present, the battlefield was filled with the noise of thunder and tiger roars as she rampaged through the enemy lines, but not right now. She was using her mind to focus on the battle, sparing no thoughts to react to Gorka's provocation or any other distractions. Everything was gone; only she and her enemy remained, her brain calculating as fast as possible, looking for options to counter one attack and tear his head off.

How was Sammy and Sakku? What about Elian? None of those questions had any place in her mind at the moment, only the appearance of the bloody scythe and its ever-changing arcs, trying their best to slice her up. With a sudden burst of speed, Gorka closed their distance, his acceleration overcoming hers. He swung the scythe in a diagonal arc, the blade slicing through the thick air, his own bloody fog surrounding the area before it managed to break Nika's lightning aura, coming down on her head from above.

"Hmph!"

By pushing herself to the maximum, she managed to stifle her injuries long enough to dodge but also picked up new wounds next to the old ones. She felt the cold, killer blade pass close by her skin, tearing apart her Aspect's form, revealing her placid, determined gaze, meeting with Gorka's wolf-like eyes. Half of Nika's vision was crimson at the moment because even though the blade didn't reach her actual body, it still left a significant injury on her Aspect. Not to mention the bloody wind following the scythe, which left a scar running through her face, bleeding profusely, flowing into her left eye.

"Surrender, and I will allow you to live." Gorka said calmly, dispersing his Aspect as his body became visible once again, holding his weapon in both hands.

"..." Nika didn't answer. She was simply standing atop the water, balancing on its surface without sinking, her tiger form trying to reform around her without much success, blinking in and out of existence like a damaged neon light.

"The Hero still wants you on his side... why are you so stubborn? You would have been his Queen."

"..."

"Haaah... the silent treatment... I get it, Princess. It saddens me to see you like this. You were an outstanding warrior, someone I looked up to. I may have been twice your age when you first stood out from others, but martial prowess knows no age. I wanted to be your disciple once. Please... You must see through the brainwashing and has to face the reality. The Hero is right, and he is doing this for all of us... Princess!"

"..."

"I never knew silence could be this disappointing..." Gorka sighed after waiting multiple seconds, shaking his head because Nika wasn't even listening to him. Her whole body was focused on recovering energy, healing his Aspect, and getting ready to continue fighting, only watching his body and waiting for his next attack. "If you are adamant about refusing to see the truth, then I will take responsibility for getting rid of you today. My Lord's heart is still soft towards you... let me spare him from the pain of ending your life!"

"You talk too much."

The simple, bitingly sarcastic words were not uttered by Nika but by a different, new voice, finally changing the Princess's expression, yanking her out of his battle focus, and thrusting her into a surprise. Although Gorka was also shocked, he was a soldier through and through. The moment Nika dropped her focus, he moved, attacking with his scythe while his werewolf aspect reappeared around him. No matter who the newcomer was, he had to kill off the main danger first and foremost.

"...!" Nika had already thrown her surprise out, leaning back to avoid the attack, but she was much slower this time around. Seeing that there was no way out of it, she instead began twisting her body in a way that the scythe would enter her through the collarbone, maybe stop by her ribs, and, in the worst-case scenario, amputate her left hand from the shoulders.

Before that could happen, a green-golden streak of flame cut through the air as Elian appeared before her, one hand out, surrounded by the foul-smelling fire, reaching out to grab the incoming scythe.

"Don't!" Nika shouted, but Elian wasn't listening.

Seeing the newcomer and the fire around him, Gorka didn't know what it was, but he could feel like he was looking at a volcano, ready to burst. He was already in the middle of his attack, no time to abort it, not without dire consequences, so instead of doing that, he doubled down, exploding with a bestial roar. The speed of the scythe increased twofold, slicing down with a bloody light, yet, the next moment, it was gone.

"...!"

Both parties looked on, shocked because the moment the weapon came into contact with Elian's fire, it had melted into a sludge of energy before that, too, disappeared. Be it the scythe or Gorka's bloody aura, everything was being turned into ash, corroded away, as the heat assaulted the decorated war hero. 

"You won't!" Nika shouted, moving forward, being the attacking party for the first time in their confrontation.

She quickly realized what Gorka was doing as he abandoned everything the moment his weapon was destroyed, deciding that there was too much unknown to stay back, wanting to escape and rethink his approach.

"Too late." Elian smiled, stomping down, followed by a fire curtain that rose from the swamp surrounding them.

It happened too suddenly; Gorka could barely change directions, yet the fire already tasted part of his hand, melting off multiple of his fingers, spreading around his Aspect, burning it away, revealing his body and his horrified expression. It was the last thing he saw because the following moment, Nika had arrived, her Aspect reappearing for a brief moment, accompanied by a loud roar as she slammed down, cleaving Gorka into four pieces, killing him on the spot.

A decorated legend who led the rebellion from the frontline and before that, a famous warrior, part of the Hero's group, Nika's old comrade, fighting against the Lich Queen and her forces... had died. Not even that long ago, the two were battling side by side, trusting each others' back... yet right here, in the middle of the Green Marshes, one of their legends has ended.

Without witnesses and without grandeur... without remorse.

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