Vol 6. Chapter 25: Buried Under the Dust
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Near the Center of the Deadlands: 936, December 31st, Monday, 5:00 AM.

Under the agitated crimson skies of the Deadlands, the destructive blows of two of the most powerful beings in the world echoed intensely on every corner of the region. Their battlefield expanded for miles in the distance, as neither combatant remained in the same spot for long, and though their combat prowess seemed close in numbers, patience and expertise would give the edge to the most experienced knight.

The black-haired daemon’s assault, despite his many injuries, never decreased in either speed or intensity. His fast-moving punches sliced the air with every strike, yet none of them seemed capable of even scratching their target.  The gladean knight crouched under, jumped over, and stepped away from his attacks, evading him easily in a dance that took them across the hellish zone.

Ninigi’s glowing silver eyes never failed to spot even the faintest of movements from the corrupted knight, allowing their wielder to predicted his opponent’s next attack with near perfect accuracy. However, such advantageous technique did not come without its own drawbacks, as the imperfections behind its use further deteriorated the already injured body of the champion.

“At this pace…” thought Ninigi, feeling the pressure of a long-winded battle.

His adversary would not allow him much space for contemplation however, launching a powerful punch his way at great velocity. Moving his head to the side, the knight’s instant reaction time proved just enough to avoid the fist of the daemon, only struck by the gust of wind created by his attack. With the corrupted knight close to him, Ninigi took a hold of the daemon’s wrist before twisting his arm into an uncomfortable position—forcing a painful cry from his foe.

As if firing up his self defense mechanisms, the corrupted knight launched a second attack by utilizing his free hand, only to see it deflected by a simple slap from the gladean knight. Locked in place, Ninigi grabbed his arm with both hands and lifted him up in the air—releasing him immediately, and taking a hold of his neck instead. The daemon grunted as he felt the fingers of his foe crush his windpipe—their pressure alone blocking the oxygen from reaching his lungs, thrown into the ground instantly with a violent slam that thundered across the battlefield.

“Argh!” his back shattered the ground, lifting piles of rocks on impact.

“Go in peace, champion.” Ninigi calmly spoke to his opponent, moving two of his fingers near the daemon—only a single inch away from his chest. “You fought well…”

Pressing them both together in a quick motion, the gladean knight formed a fist that caused the entire area around him to erupt into a bubble of silver energy, hammering the chest of his opponent, and drilling his body further into the ground. The earth shook for just a second, and the corrupted knight’s pathway shattered with the attack of his opponent.

Every artery in his body burst open with the pressure behind Ninigi’s strike, demolishing every source of power that he made have had ins his reserves. The daemon was left motionless inside the deep crater that now served as his tomb, silent, and with strings of hissing steam emanating from the burns on his skin. The long bangs of his messy black hair covered his eyes, and his mouth remained half open as he no longer breathed.

At the sight of his defeated foe, the silver light behind Ninigi’s eyes faded slowly to reveal a more familiar azure. He exhaled loudly through his mouth, hurting from the extreme punishment that he had obligated his body to endure. He stumbled away from the steaming crater with open wounds and red bruises, letting out a few painful groans while his balance broke with every step. The knight would succumb to his wounds eventually, their constant sting on his body forcing him to drop on one knee.

“Ugh… I can’t… go further…” he breathed.

His vision blurred, and his muscles began to contract erratically, bringing further pain to the already struggling knight. His skin visibly moved with every spasm from his muscles, yet he could do nothing but grit his teeth and resist as they crawled through every corner on his body. The excruciating anguish almost forced Ninigi unconscious, as not even his pathway could treat the injuries that adorned him—opening constantly and refusing to be healed. However, not even his aggravating pain was enough to distract the knight from the dreaded sound that would reach his hears.

“…!” a gasp escaped him, and his eyes widened at the sound of a group of tiny rocks rolling nearby.

A single footstep thundered in his ears not long after, followed by a second one. The astonished knight lifted his head to look at the steaming crater, the place he could’ve swore became the deathbed of his defeated foe. However, his eyes would fall on the demonic knight instead, as he had crawled out of the hands of death itself once again—now standing tall with a dropped shoulder, and an expression free of any emotion.

“You…” the words failed Ninigi, who could barely stand after their fight. “How…”

The champion’s eyes glowed brighter, moving rapidly through every corner of the corrupted knight’s body. His divine pathway was at full display of Ninigi’s vision, revealing an obscured artery network that lacked the power of both knight and specter—covered in cracks and fissures from head to toe. An empty vessel was all that remained, yet the man still stood on his feet, held together by nothing.

The champion’s breaths quivered, and his body shook like never before, feeling himself crumble by the second. “You will not…” Ninigi forced himself to stand despite his condition, his face twisting in pain as his contracting muscles failed to relax. “Get past me… daemon…”

Against all odds, the battle between champions quickly resumed with another display of godly might. One hit after the other, both fighters refused to succumb to the pain and fatigue as they once again traveled across the hellish zone. Despite having lost his advantage over the daemon, Ninigi fought fearlessly against an unyielding opponent that knew nothing about defeat, pushing himself to the very limit of his abilities just to keep up with the fight.

Every battle that resulted in the daemon’s loss only served as a short break for the next one, draining every last drop of stamina from the gladean knight as the demon refused to stay down. Ninigi’s movements became sluggish and predictable, yet the corrupted knight seemed unfaced by the hours of constant fighting—becoming neither weaker nor stronger than before. The beast of a man thrived in combat, while the champion’s power wavered with every strike.

“I can’t lose here…” he groaned.

His vision had blurred, and a screen of blood only worsened his condition, forcing him to rely on his other senses to avoid the attacks of his opponent. A violent wind reached his ears from the side, to which he responded by crouching rapidly—successfully avoiding the thrusting fist of the daemon. Slapping his hand away, the knight launched an attack of his own by bashing his opponent’s abdomen with a powerful punch—bending his body on impact.

“Augh!” blood spew out of the corrupted knight’s mouth, who retreated slowly while grabbing his stomach with painful groans.

“Fall…” Ninigi pressed two fingers together, leaving his merciful side behind to pound the chest of the daemon with a continuous piercing assault—bashing him multiple times with speeds that surpass the fire rate of a mounted machine gun.

“Argh! Augh!” Ough!”

The corrupted knight’s body convulsed violently with every strike that shattered his bones, landing constantly at velocity levels that could not be perceived by the human eye. He kept screaming in pain as Ninigi refused to let out on his assault, painting everything around them with a coat of their mixed crimson blood.

Unable to keep his momentum, the champion pressed the fingers of his second hand to form a shaking fist, propelling it against the staggered daemon with every bit of strength he could muster behind it. His attack connected successfully with the face of his opponent, flinging the man away with a string of blood that followed his path across the air.

“Ngh…” Ninigi almost dropped to his knees at the strenuous effort required to just move, his nauseous vision causing the world to spin around him. “I… Ah!”

His attention was quickly brought back to the black-haired demon, who bounced off of the dirt twice before jumping back on his feet. The beast seemed unscathed behind the blood that covered his broken body, yet victory seemed close to the champion as he stumbled in his steps. Ninigi inhaled deeply through his nostrils, and despite the horrific cries of his body begging him to stop, he once again chose to tap into the silver glow of Gladea in order to put an end to such brutal conflict.

“Grr!” growled the daemon, who wasted not a single second to resume the fight.

In similar fashion to Ninigi’s attacks, the corrupted knight pressed two fingers together before aiming them directly at his opponent. His sights settled at the very center of the gladean knight’s heart, who despite the threat, refused to move from his position. The beast inhaled deeply, and for a moment that lasted no longer than a fraction of a second, his eyes flashed with a colorless light that caused his body to vanish from view in a mere instant.

Away from his foe, Ninigi waited patiently with calm and stable breaths, as if all the cuts and bruises in his body had simply disappeared by some miracle. The powerful beast he confronted had suddenly vanished into nothingness, yet despite losing sight of his foe, not a single doubt lurked in his mind about the results of the battle that neared its end.

In a sudden flash that rivaled even the speed of light, the daemon emerged from the air itself to stand in front of Ninigi with an already charged fist. In one of his fingers glimmered the faint precious light created by a ring wrapped around it, a humble jewel crafted purely from bronze, proudly displaying a perfect condition even after the brutal fight that it had endured.

Ninigi’s senses fired up instantly with warnings about the daemon, yet he made not a single move to respond against the threat that confronted him. He stood firm, and with no words or reaction given, the knight took the powerful punch of his opponent directly. His head moved slightly backwards as the corrupted knight’s knuckles struck his forehead, thrown with such magnitude that shook the ground with a violent quake.

The sheer force behind the daemon’s attack was felt by the entire region, ripping a massive crater underneath them with the absurd blast that his strike created. The rumbling caused by the corrupted knight echoed across the region, however, while the earth and the skies shook in fear, Ninigi remained unfaced through the eruption that fractured his skull—proven by the stream of blood that flowed down into his face.

“It’s over…” claimed the knight, opening his eyes slowly to reveal their silver glow.

As if struck by a sudden unknown force, the daemon stepped away from the champion with a trembling body. His muscles contracted the same way Ninigi’s did, and his veins began to pop to the surface of his skin.

“Agh…” Blood spew out from the mouth of the demon, whose body began to crumble like a tall building with no supports left. “Grh…”

As the beast curled and twisted with agonizing groans, Ninigi looked into the man’s artery network to reveal the same silver light that he possessed lurking inside his body, now taking over the corrupted knight’s pathway. His foe twisted in pain at the unbearable torture he suffered, grunting and screaming before succumbing to the agonizing feeling that crawled under his skin. The champion’s eyes returned to their usual azure instantly, and with the last drops of energy he’d saved for the end, Ninigi offered a gentle smile to the dying daemon.

“That’s… all I had.” He breathed. “Now I see how you were able to defeat Specter… hah… you were something else… champion…”

Consumed by the divine powers of the one chosen by Gladea, the daemon dropped to his knees as his agonizing grunts died off slowly, gasping his last breath before dropping face first on the dirt. His body lied flat on the ground, motionless and devoid of life, as the peaceful breeze of the Deadlands caressed his messy hair. Blood began to spread from under the corrupted knight, now broken beyond repair.

Ninigi dropped his head with a sigh, and with his last smile, plummeted like a freshly cut tree in the forest. “It’s… so quiet…” he whispered, looking up at the crimson sky above him. “Atalanta… I can’t go any longer…” a chuckled escaped the knight, who closed his eyes to the cold hell of crimson that surrounded him, allowing himself to be buried under the dust. “Take care of Maulik and Gal for me…” his breaths began to slow down, consciousness escaping him with every passing second. He sighed once again, letting go of his pain to fall into the peaceful silence he’d yearned for centuries. “Gigi won’t be coming home… not this time…”