A/N: Re-edited on this chapter due to some personal dissatisfaction. Some there are a few changes in sentence constructions, grammar?, and vocabulary but the overall message is untouched.
Millions had crossed this very bridge. The pavement were imparted with the prints from various sorts of individuals. Merchants, commoners, nobles, and even royalties, the histories held by this bridge were as rich as the richest man in Midas Valley.
Scholars had unanimously deemed the bridged as one of the oldest structures in all of Midas Valley for it had been here even before the rise of the city. Nobody knew the builders but the bridge stood against the test of time for at least half a thousand of years. Scholars believed it would stay strong for another hundreds of years, much longer than the expectancy they had given to the town.
However, they might be proven wrong on this very night.
The moon cast its beam across the bridge as if it was a stage for the whole valley. And the subject was a boy at the seemingly age of fifteen, limping his way through the bridge with all the speed he could manage.
Robert’s weary attempt of fleeing came to a stop as a wave of omen made his stood straight and shivers crawled all over his body.
A shriek of a cat came from the puddle of shadows beneath his feet as Seven felt the same apprehension. “What is—”
“Clad!” Robert simply barked his orders instead of explaining that eerie sensation.
Seven wasn’t ignorant or foolish to argue back a command that was fill with nothing but urgency. She did as she was told.
Robert drew out the last sword he had in his Storage Ring. Shadows crept and coiled around the blade, turning it as black as the abyss.
He spun with a swing to his back and caught a blow that would have taken his head off.
“Heavy!” Robert grunted. The blow sent his whole arm shuddering with numbness but his constitution dispel the feeling as quick as it came.
He deflected another blow from the Dragon Knight, Qyoni, and parried a thrust that grazed his right shoulder. Her breath changed its note as she leaped high up before bringing her blade down on his head.
Robert would be stupid to guard against such attack. He threw himself away as a good portion of the ancient bridge was forever lost from its many years of perseverance.
There was no time for respite. The Dragon Knight dashed over the gap she made and clashed her Aura-clad curve blade with Robert’s shadow-clad straight blade.
Blazing in her night blue Aura, Qyoni locked blades with Robert. She poured her Dragonic strength into the clash but Robert had the help of Seven to compensate for his Magic and injuries, just enough to hold the Dragon Knight back.
During the contend, Robert observed the Dragon Knight who returned his astute gaze with a piercing glare.
Contrary to his expectations, Qyoni was calm. That was no madness in her eyes. She had moved with grace and her sword danced as fluent as ever. Her strength was still overwhelming but not any less precise. Her bleeding resulting from her missing right arm had stop. Even the scratch on her left cheek was now just a scar.
“It appears that she is immune to your staple poison of a trick,” Seven spoke to his mind.
“She’s still a Paladin, despite the different spellings. They have blessings to rid themselves of any ailment or curse.” Robert replied while struggling to not get overwhelmed by the Dragon Knight’s immense strength.
“So why did you use it?” Seven asked calmly.
“Because every second counts!” Robert groaned through his gritting teeth. “And some help would be nice.”
Seven’s sigh echoed clearly into his ears. A thread of shadow crept towards the feet of the Dame.
And Qyoni was quick to notice. She broke their blade-lock and swiftly dealt with the sneaking shadow by piercing into the ground along with the shadow.
Robert lunged but the Dame guided his thrust away from her and ended up reeling him in with a knee to his abdomen.
The air was knock out of his body but his gaze was still firmly lodge on to hers.
Qyoni squinted her eyes. She understood how painful was it to be kneed in the abdomen but Robert offered a reaction defying all her expectations. She definitely broke something inside of him but his eyes showed none of those necessary concerns.
Robert jabbed with his free hand which the shadows had embrace into a claw.
Qyoni twisted her body like a dancer and spun like a top. Her sword left the lock with Robert. Bringing it around as she completed a full arc, her blade cut across his defenseless back.
She pivoted her sword, preparing for another chain of attacks.
Her blade came like a hundred but Robert received only two numbing blows with his guard. A slash failed to dismember his body but it did scratch his chest.
“Amazing movements,” Seven praised.
Robert laughed in his heart. “I think so too.”
Seven caught the hidden intent in his words. “You courted her, did you not?” Her tone turned cold.
Seven chupsed. “Deary me, Robbie. You are really tempting me to bash your head in— but since I liked what she did to that half of your face, I am content.”
Robert did not reply. Rather, he could not at the moment. He was engaged in trading blows and clashes with a Dragon Knight.
“Oh my, that must have hurt,” Seven remarked as she witnessed a counter riposte took his right ear. “That might be her best move yet and she did it with one arm.”
“Very helpful, Seven.” A groan and a small shriek from dodging three quick thrusts followed after his sarcasm.
“What are your expectations for me? I draw my powers from the one I pledged myself to, that is my mistress, not you.”
“Then go, dammit! Now’s a good time to flaunt your abilities at me.”
Without another word, Seven left Robert through the dark edges and corners of the bridge.
Losing its darkness, his sword was easy to be destroyed by Qyoni’s Aura-clad sword which it did on their next clash of blades. Qyoni didn’t stop at his broken sword. Her swing continued with its path.
Robert retreated a step and the sword scratched the air inches away from him.
He retaliate by throwing a punch at Qyoni’s jaws but the only thing he broke was his own knuckles.
“Ouch,” he muttered.
Qyoni heaved a breath of disappointment. She had every opportunity to end his life but remembering what he done to her, she wasn’t going to let him off this easily.
She twisted and shot out a kick.
The accumulating wounds did not bother his mind but the pain did affect his body. His body refused to budged and he could only watched as her boot slammed straight into his chest.
He flew and bounced off the tough railings before sliding across the stone pavement.
“Strange,” Qyoni said, steeling her breath. “Your persistence and endurance— it reminds me of a Dragon, as ironic as it sounds.”
Robert chuckled as he laid sprawled on the bridge. “Who knows, maybe I am one.” He didn’t need any medical experience to tell how much bones Qyoni broke with that kick. A lot, he concluded.
“Except they aren’t scheming wretches.”
Robert chortled with a groan. “What do you know about Dragons?” Robert perched his head up to meet Qyoni in the eyes. “I severely doubt a good portion of you Dragon Knights have ever saw an actual Dragon.”
“And you have?”
“More times than you have.”
Qyoni turned away from his stare as she sighed. “Shame. You would have been an excellent Dragon Knight.”
She looked back at him. “Regardless, it doesn’t matter now.”
Assailed by the same unsettling feeling, Robert raised his right hand and a blade impaled through his palm which was reaching for his heart. He swung his arm away along with the blade jammed in his palm but Qyoni simply tore the sword off his palm.
The pain struck but Robert winced not at the fierce sting but at the sight of his grotesque hollowed palm. He silently swore to himself to stay off of minced meat for some time.
Qyoni brought her sword over her head as she looked down coldly and unflinching at her opponent who laid defenselessly on the ground. His quick draw of breaths only framed his hopelessness in Qyoni’s eyes.
Before her hand could move and bisect the crafty vermin that had eluded many chances of his own demise, Robert displayed an inapposite grin.
It was her turn to be assailed by an omen. She looked up to see an onslaught of shadows hurtling towards her. The sight could not be described as anything but ominous. Yet, Qyoni latched on to her senses as she did not even flinch at the sight. Without hustling her mind, she channeled her Magic and raised a barrier of dark blue hue, blocking seven lances of shadows aiming for her limbs and neck.
Meanwhile, a sneaking string of shadow dragged Robert away from the occupied Dragon Knight and pulled him to the feet of a restless maiden shrouded in shadows.
“Are you alright?” Valena asked as she stoop on her knees, her hands faltering before Robert’s disfigured and mutilated face. “Y-your face…”
“I’ll be fine,” Robert replied as he coughed out blood. “Relatively speaking.”
Slowly and gently, Valena helped Robert to his feet but it was all Seven as Valena barely had any meat to her bones. She was wearing the same cloak and hood on the night when they were thrown into Limbo. For extra measures, she was don in the skin of shadows, as Robert had taken the liberty to call it as such.
“Who is that?” asked Valena, her eyes pointed to the Dame with a daunting glare.
“Qyoni, a Dragon Knight.”
“Yeah, I know.” As soon as he finished his sentence, he pushed Valena away. A dark blue flash tore the air between them.
Not a word came from the Dragon Knight who boorishly inserted herself in between of the two’s reunion. She directed her glare to Valena, judging her as as a priority to be killed as immediate as possible.
Valena gulped her fears and anxiety. She waved her hands and the shadows sprung at the Dragon Knight.
The space warped around Qyoni, twisting the shadows that came for her head. Qyoni swiped her sword fluidly, effortlessly cleansing the shadows out of existence.
Their eyes met but it was Qyoni who shuddered for a moment.
In the Dame’s falter which Valena seized, she walked through the shadows and positioned herself dozens of steps away.
Qyoni recollected her focus and trained her stare at the shadow-clad maiden.
But her instinct pulled her focus to her right. She made a quick turn and sliced off a simple wooden stick which probably wouldn’t even blacken her eye but since it would still hurt, she destroyed it.
It was a fruitless attempt but it reined her attention as Robert intended.
Robert’s fist hit her unarmored abdomen but there wasn’t even the slightest motion to her steps.
Qyoni was astounded and impressed at Robert’ tenacity. She lost count on how many times he avoided death’s grasp by a breadth of a reed. As much as she hated it, a part of her respected his determination.
However, not enough to garner her mercy. Memories of his cunning deeds contorted her face as she drove a kick into him but before her feet could shatter his ribs, she cocked her head sideways, glancing towards a tide of barbed shadows charging at her.
Qyoni brandished her sword before the mass of darkness. The second her hand moved, her swings roared like the storms, shredding every shadows that attempted to take her head.
Clearing the ardent shadows, she returned the fervid manner with a few Aura Blades. Unexpectedly, the shadows flooded the Aura and devoured them without much trouble unlike her swings.
She turned her eyes back to Robert who tried to pounce on her but she easily subdued him with a sweep to his legs.
Her attention shifted back to Valena who incessantly thrash at her with sharpened shadows.
It was getting vexing and tiring for the Dragon Knight.
Qyoni commanded the space to swallow her and spat her back out in front of Valena while the shadows crushed an empty patch of ground. The bridge lost another portion of its ancient self.
“Mistress!” Seven shouted with exigency as she raised a wall of darkness but all it took for its fall was a single dark blue streak from the Dragon Knight.
Before the fatal blow could be landed, Qyoni spun around and battered away a throwing knife with her sword. She found a struggling Robert who stood with quivering legs.
The distraction was meagre but enough.
Valena cried out her resolve and pushed. The shadows mimicked her will and streamed towards the Dragon Knight.
Even if Qyoni was fast with her spellcasts, it wasn’t instant. She could do nothing but let herself be swarmed and lobbed off the bridge which a long and cold drop awaited.
However, she wasn’t one so readily to accept her demise.
She stabbed her sword into the side of the bridge with all her strength. The deeply lodged blade halted her fall. She swung her legs along with her whole body carried by the momentum from her fall. The sword broke its lodge but she had gain enough motion to flip herself in the air and landed back on the bridge.
And she only had an arm.
Steadying her pants, Qyoni turned lazily to the one who sent her off the bridge. “And who are you suppose to be?” only now, she asked while twirling the sword in her hand.
Valena stayed silent with her voice but not her actions. She hurled shadows but the Dragon Knight fended them off with ease.
Unlike the idiots of Caeleon Faith, a Dragon Knight was a few steps above the rest. Petty tricks and schemes would not work against against her, Seven warned.
“Sorry, that was a silly question.” Qyoni looked at Valena and turned to Robert. “Scheming wretch like you actually have such a devoted woman. Fate sure likes its own jokes.”
Robert laughed, causing his wounds to throb but he swallowed all the agony down.
Qyoni wasn’t feeling any perturbed. She was well acquaint with people laughing maniacally at their last breaths.
“Envious?” Robert uttered as he summoned every last ounce of strength just so he could stay on his legs. When his own strength failed him, he supported himself with the assistance of the ledge.
“Why would I?” Qyoni lowered her eyebrows.
“Betrayed, you were.”
There was a twitch in her expression.
“Broken heart and frozen.”
The grip on her sword tightened.
“Thorns grew with arrogance or bitter experiences. You don’t look like a noble, so your thorns are not born of arrogance but terrible experiences.”
Her veins throbbed on her neck. Her gaze never left Robert but she flailed her sword without looking back, deflecting a spike of shadow which had crept up on her.
She glimpsed back. “Be patient. After I’m done with your lover, I’ll send you right after.”
“L-lover…” Valena stuttered in a low voice as red bloomed on her cheeks.
Robert noticed it but he spoke nothing of Valena’s unbefitting reaction to the current circumstances. He sighed and looked at the approaching Dame. “Someone betrayed you, didn’t they? Probably done so right after taking you to their bed. I bet they were someone who gotten real close to your heart.”
Qyoni sneered. “You’re really that desperate to present yourself before God?”
“Which God? Aeryo?” Robert blew his lips. “That will never happen.”
“Then you’ll meet whichever God you pledged yourself to.”
“Come on, then,” he taunted. “Send me there.”
It was a goad but Qyoni was past the point of caring, especially when Robert struck a sore spot of hers. The space whirled around her sword.
Robert simmered himself in the baleful sensation as Qyoni locked him in her gaze.
At the next second, the sword impaled his heart. There were no attempts to evade or dodge.
Valena spanned her eyes to its limits. She was about to shout at Robert’s name but Seven muffled her mouth. She struggled but Seven didn’t relent.
“That’s all from you?” asked Qyoni.
Blood dripping from his mouth, Robert raised his head to match their gaze. “Pretty much,” he said.
Just as Qyoni was about to pull out her sword, Robert grabbed onto her hand and plunged himself deeper through the blade.
Shock crossed her face but realization followed shortly after.
Robert wrapped his arms around her and brought their bodies close enough to feel the gasping of one another.
“I hope you know how to swim,” he whispered into her ears.
No witty remarks came to mind. No clever words to dispirit her opponent. She only looked on in horror and confusion. There were thousand of ways to break herself free from his restrain but she drew a blank. Proud knight she maybe, but all she had ever faced were the lowest scums found in the filthiest holes or dens, in the form of noble, thieves, and commoners alike. The trait they all shared was that all of them cared more about themselves than others.
“Why?” she asked herself, but it was meant for her Robert. He persisted this far with nothing but deception. He lured her in with tricks and took her arm at her swaying resolve. “Never again,” she vowed.
Yet, at the danger of his companion, he was readily and willingly to sacrifice his own life. It baffled her.
Eyes closed and nerves braced, Robert gathered all the air his lung could hold and flung himself off the bridge, taking along the Dragon Knight of Aeryo.
The dashing cold air streaking against his skin plunged Robert into a recent memory as his consciousness gave into his wounds.
The unforgiving cold and harsh fall was soon replaced by a warm room and the gentle face of an amazing woman.
“Are you not hungry or thirsty?” asked Iora who was clad in nothing but her birthday suit. At least, everything below her navel was cover by a beige blanket which she shared with her bed companion. “It must have been hours after noon by now.”
“You were more than enough. In fact, I might just want more.”
Iora moaned through her lips and kicked at the blanket as Robert gave her a few nibble on her neck and shoulder. “Say…” she managed to utter in between moans.
“Hmm?” Robert arched an eyebrow.
“Who was your first girl or woman?” she asked, lying on her side and nestling in his arm with nothing between the touch of their bare skin.
“Women, with an e.”
Her eyes spread. “How fortunate.”
“It has its merits.”
“You were how old?”
“I was twelve but I was already in their eyes ever since from a certain age.”
Iora’s eyes brightened. “How did it happened?” she asked eagerly as she brushed her hair against his skin, enjoying the ever soothing warmth she just couldn’t get enough of.
“Maybe they lost all the patience for my growth or they just like their partner young.” Robert gently caressed her smooth back to calm her curling. “One day, they saw me, unattended by any adults and they took it upon themselves to provide me with care I was too young to have, probably.”
Iora tittered but she found her restrain. She felt bad for laughing but looking at Robert’s face, in all likelihood, it wasn’t as bad as it sounded.
“They dragged me into the backroom of a bar and had every kinds of ways with me.”
“And they have been tasting you from then on?”
“It’s the other way around.”
A faint smile drew on her lips. Her hands reached for his face, cradling his cheek as she rubbed it with her thumb. “That explains why you’re so amazing,” she said with bated breaths.
“You get good at things that you enjoy.”
“The maids told a different story, though. Many men like it but not many were good at it. The women had to pretend to like it just so the men could keep their frail dignity and pride.”
“Obviously they don’t know that many men.”
“Maybe they just don’t know you.”
Robert glanced with a mild recoil.
“They aren’t nobles but they do take care of their body and face. I’m sure you’ll find them agreeable.”
Robert laughed dryly. “I’m not that kind of person.”
“Picky, are we?”
“I just don’t want to be caught in the bothersome affairs.”
“Does that mean I’m not bothersome? I am the Governor’s granddaughter, remember?”
“You can keep a secret and you don’t boast but rumors and tattles spread like wildfire between servants, especially the maids.”
Iora giggled and drilled herself further into his embrace.
“I can have you all to myself, why wouldn’t a girl be happy?”
“A girl?” Robert chuckled. “You’re way past that, Iora.”
“I am, aren’t I? I’m a woman now, your woman.”
Robert smiled wryly. “Slow down there, not even half a day has passed.”
When their gaze found each other, they leaned in for a kiss. It was soft and plain, a simple bump of their lips.
“You’re so warm,” Iora said, wrapping her hands around Robert’s body. His thigh rubbed against her unclothed womanly parts but it only made her all the more excited at the prospect of another round. “Unlike the cold of the mansion.”
“Everyone is estranged?”
Iora nodded. “Everyone is too busy looking at their sides for enemies and glancing at their back for betrayers. They never take their time to see what it’s front.”
Robert offered no words of consolation. He had a family and he had his fair shares of family troubles but it could not be compared to Iora’s circumstances.
“Just the other day, my father—” She began to speak but only to be silent by a kiss, a tongue-filled kiss. She gasped for air when she was release from his clutches.
“You don’t have to tell me.”
“Not interested?” Iora cast a sorrowful glance.
“You are the young lady of the Devetra Clan. Everything you say or do will represent the integrity and image of your clan. You should not speak of your family affairs this easily to anyone.”
“You’re not just anyone.”
“I know but think of your family. Do you love your them?”
After a short moment, Iora nodded, “I do. I love my family despite everything they have done.”
“Then do you wish to betray the trust they have in you and the expectations they have for you?”
“No…” she muttered softly.
“There you go.” Robert stroke her hair. “You shouldn’t be so careless. Sometimes, all it takes is just one slip of a tongue.”
“I see,” she said and gave an upturned-gaze. “You’re a good man.”
“You’re not good to everyone else?”
“That will depend on the individuals themselves.”
The implication in his words only made her more restless as her eyes turned fervent and her breaths began to warm. “Can we go again?” she pleaded.
“You’re not hungry?”
“You are my course,” she answered in between her pants.
“You won’t be having supper, then.”
They grinned at each other as they flung themselves into a hasty embrace that craved for the love of one another.
And for the rest of the hours until dusk, they once again exchanged their passionate touches and nectar, and shared their blossoming love.