Several little pockets of sunshine were bursting through the cloud cover and Michael Kiersgaard stopped at the base of the mountain to look up at them. The scene they painted across the sky was nice to look at, especially with the vigorous energy of healthy life flowing through his body, and he took a deep breath of the clean air to rub in the emphasis. The revivification process, whatever it had been, had left him feeling weak and washed-out for almost a day before he woke up after a good night of sleep and realized ... he realized ...
... goddamn, did it feel good to be alive.
Toes wiggling, fingers clenching and moving, arms and legs functioning, lungs taking big breaths in—in—then letting them out ... it felt great. The young man smiled and enjoyed it, knowing that at some point the feeling would go away and life would probably seem like an enormous hassle all over again. Until that happened, he planned on enjoying full sensory pleasure for as long as he possibly could. One of the ways he planned on doing that was by getting back into old routines: he needed a fight. A fight to keep him fresh, get him back on his feet, would be just the trick.
Talk about a good way to feel alive again, fighting was right there at the top of the list. There was another option but ... but he hesitated there. He had been gone and he had gone without warning. A damper settled over his enjoyment, one he resented, but he deserved it and he was just going to make it worse by ignoring it. Rebellious though it may have been, to himself and to her, for some reason he did not want to pay the most important visit. The awkwardness of that visit was going to be unbelievable. He wanted to put it off as long as possible.
Which was weird, because he also wanted to see her more than he could express. His heart ached in a completely literal sense from not being around her. The independent little brat in him jumped up and down screaming at that sentimentality, and his new feel-good lease on life made it easier to do the bratty thing.
Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind—he would pay for it later.
Right now, though, he was looking whose reputation made him glow with anticipation. The very famous and presumably powerful Nikudemon, secluded and doing whatever it was a master of the Japanese blade did in seclusion, was being paid a visit. Michael had every intention of seeing how his mastery of the blade measured up against a man whose reputation included a solid tie—or defeat of, depending on who was telling the story—the fencer of Tasogare. It would be interesting, if nothing else.
The wind blow gently across the summit, the odd mountain top filled with grass an dirt. This place had become a private training ground for the young wanderer. He loved the peaceful feeling of being alone with nature herself. He sat at the edge of the flip plane focusing his mind on his next task. Niku’s eyes glazed across the sky viewing the clouds formation watching them change as he thought about the problem in his hand.
Why does it always comes back? Bad things never stay away and now there more than one. I won’t need it, but maybe I should try to find out more about it. I fear what will happen to that woman. She has the scent of death and murder. She’ll come back for it. I just know it.
The swordsman glanced down at the odd pendent in his hands remembering the fate of the one that last owned it. He sighted as he rubbed his thumb over the surface. I won’t let this take over me or anyone else for that matter. It’s an item that shouldn’t be known to the world. It’s more scarier than death its self. He crammed the jewel back into his pocket.
“So, Solana who do you think know about the pendent?” He pushed closing his eyes as if the sword would be able to answer his question. He grabbed the damaged hilt of Nevin and held it in front of him. “I wonder what kind of magic happen back then Nevin or should I say Zica. You swords are a mystery to me also.” He glanced back at Solana before laying in the grass field. I should get back to training. I can’t worry too much about the unknown.
As he approached the summit, the revived warrior pressed a hand to his chest, testing whether he was as healed as he had felt in the foothills now that he had made the trek up a mountainside. It had been tiring, but his breathing was still slow and shallow, the muscles in his legs tightened but there was no burning, and his entire body was feeling loose and warmed-up from the hike. It felt pretty good. He was confident that his healing had been as close to absolutely perfect as he could have asked it to be. The scar over his diaphragm produced not even the wisp of a phantom pain.
Michael stepped into the grass, surprised at what met him at the mountaintop and pleased by it at the same time. The man he sought had chosen a remarkable place to seclude himself. The view in all directions was fantastic, the sky was wide open and expanded around and above him ... it was beautiful and he could appreciate why someone would want to linger.
The man himself was in sight. Tall enough that the slight rises and dips of the summit made little difference to his line of sight, the supine man and his weapons were clearly in sight almost the moment he stepped over the top ridge and out into the stubby mountaintop grass. He rubbed his arms and walked closer, trying to be as obvious as he could. The last thing he wanted was to approach in peace and have his legs chopped off before he could so much as introduce himself to the duelist.
"Hi there," he called when he was about five meters away, "Lovely afternoon, isn't it?"
What? Nikudemon glanced over his shoulders to find someone close by him. He hadn’t felt any danger around him so he kept himself relaxed. He stared at the old noticing it was hard to tell much of anything about him. “You climb all the way up here? Did you rest?”
He wandered his view closely over the man taking notices that he hadn’t seem tired from the trip up. What an odd meeting. I don’t remember telling anyone where to find me. Not that I care much. “What up? Do you like this place too? I thought I was the only one that came here.”
He smiled feeling the grass with his hands before getting up to meet the man face to face. “I’m Nikudemon what yours?” He asked shifting Nevins back into its place by his side and putting his hand out for a shake.
Michael reached forward and they clasped hands from a respectful distance before he stepped back in the turf and looked around, "It is a nice spot, but I actually came looking for you."
He surveyed the young man carefully. Not as tall, or as broad, or as heavy as he was—as famous or infamous as he was, Nikudemon did not cut an impressive figure. The two swords he carried were clearly not western, just as the larger man had expected, and both of them were unique in a way that forced him to think they were ‘special' in some way. Whether they were magical or just especially precious to their owner, he had to respect that they were more important blades than he had ever wielded. He would have to be conscious of that.
"My name is Michael Kiersgaard," he said, using his real name for the first time in a long time and not particularly liking the way it rolled off his tongue. Going by Kichaa Mesoa had become so much a habit that it was his more his real name than his real name was. He smiled cordially and pointed to the unique swords, "May I ...?"
Looking for me… Nikudemon thought to himself before lifting Nevin out from his side. “Of course, but sadly only this one. For reason I don’t know or understand the other one doesn’t let other touch it.” He titled the sheathed blade towards Michael. He watched as the man took the worn, smoked sheath and blade out of his hand.
“As for the other one,” he pulled the blade from his side flat between his hands, “this is the best I can do.” The swordsman didn’t understand why this man was interested in his swords. Though he was happy, someone else seemed to enjoy the same interest as him. Though he wished to know why someone would go though so much trouble to find him.
“Since you came so high up to find me may I ask why? I won’t ask how you know me since I can guess that reason. Now a days it seems it not hard to hear about me. Kind of a pain really. So, how can I help?”
Michael took the sheathed blade almost tenderly, drawing it into both hands and holding it up in his palms as he tested its weight, smiling and examining its outwardly damaged container. The heft of it was nice, but when he placed his hand on the hilt, quickly drew it out, and held it up to the light of day he noticed that the weapon was perfectly balanced. He had heard of individuals who used dual weapons as a general rule, but this was the first time he believed he had actually met one. The weapon was perfect for it.
He slipped it back into its scabbard, into which it entered without rasp or hiss, and held onto it while he looked with interest at the other. The serpentine design on its blade was interesting, but even as an inexpert viewer he could tell that the blade itself was a magnificent piece of work and that its true workmanship had little to do with art. It looked good, but he had a feeling that no one would see this sword break or crack. He had a feeling that the sword would survive long past the man who wielded it.
"Impressive," Michael finally said, offering the damaged sheathe and its sword back to the blade master and ignoring the question, "I've never had the pleasure of such good weapons. Consider yourself blessed—" he took a deep, contentedly sighing breath then added "—I came to fight you. I heard of your skill and wanted to learn by observation."
The swordsman gripped Nevin listening to the man’s words as it echoed through his ears. It was hard for him to believe what he heard. It made him feel uneasy as he slid his blade at his sides again. He chuckled and laughed thinking how funny life for him had been. He looked back at the man with a fierce glare in his eyes has he gripped Solana and set his eyes on the stranger.
“I won’t be gentle, but I promise you that no matter how you feel about me in the end you won’t be dead.” Nikudemon said clean as he drew his leg back and prepare to deliver on his promise. It been a while since he’d fought something more than his shadow.
“Come at anytime.” He never smile only lowered his body keeping his hand on Solana ready to see what the man was made of.
"Don't worry about going easy," Michael responded, smiling, "I fought Zorlo hand-to-hand. I can take a beating."
With that, and leaving it to his counterpart to believe or not believe that statement, his left hand shifted down to the short sword at his hip and unsheathed it with a quick forward-tossing motion. It tumbled out of its scabbard and into his waiting right hand, which flitted down beneath him as he bent his body forward and sprang upon the samurai with the iron-edge precision that had seen the fencer of Tasogare smashed against a tree with a fractured blade against his throat.
At the first moment he entered range, which was about as far for him as it was for his opponent due to their difference in size, his arm flashed forward and upwards. It slashed diagonally and up, the kind of attack that would kill a man ... but not this man.
Nikudemon watched careful making sure to get as much information about his foe in the first attack. As the blade came in from low the swordsman unsheathed Solana letting the sword just touch Michael’s weapon. His body ducked under the blade and he watched with his eyes as the sword rode across Solana before leaving to cut the air.
He felt the strength an skill that was put into that attack as he flipped the blade in his hand and dashed forward. Smashing the blunt end of his sword into the thigh of his left leg. He swirl around sheathing his blade keeping his sight on Michael. He enjoyed what he saw in his foe noticing the clear skill in uses of his weapon. His speed was also impressive, but nothing to his. He wonder what the man meant by fighting the fencer.
“Zorlo lives?” He asked keeping his hand firmly on Solana. “No… It can’t be.”
Michael grunted at the hit and spun with his opponent, following the graceful movement with a rather careful pivot of his own, his blade on guard rather than attacking. His pivot was not all the way complete before, line-of-sight restored, he launched his momentum into a careful lunge directed right towards what he perceived to be his adversary's center of mass. With the flowing clothing, it was more difficult to judge movement and mass.
Mid-lunge, he used his exhales to answer: "No ... idea."
The blades barely touched for the second time, the short sword pinging off. This time, Michael had been careful enough to avoid over-extending and had little trouble shifting away from the blunted riposte. The samurai was excessively good.
"Last I saw him was over a year ago," he muttered. His blade flicked out, mostly from the wrist, in an experimental cut towards his opponent's midriff.
Nikudemon noticed the quick slash that soared at him. The smaller blade made it harder for him to predict the paths it took. He jumped back as the swords brushed across his shirt and he landed and drew his sword making a solid contact staring into the eyes of his foe. The man’s strength holding his own with Nikudemon one arm. Nikudemon jumped back sheathing his sword before landing back on the ground.
He took a deep breath as he clashed both hands on his sword. He lowered his body even more than normal as he prepared for his next attack. His slowly watched every step Michael made counting in his mind when to unleash his attack. The attacking sword seemed to take forever to reach his domain waiting for it to reach just inches away from him. Without warning Nikudemon whole body moved as a whole as Solana soared out her sheath and tapped the tip of the man’s blade. Nikudemon body turned away feeling the fearsome gusting of his attack.
He glanced back watching everything close by being sucked and blown away from the mass void. He wondered if it was too much sheathing Solana as the attack disappeared. He rose again feeling the rust of his attacks slowly fading away.
The vortex tugged at him, but he reacted sharply by backpedaling away and side-stepping around the wake of the vortex and right back into the personal space of his opponent. The movement was as swift as it was unconscious—the age old mathematician joke, that every dog knows calculus, had just been put into play. Without the theoretical knowledge or practical skill to make a conscious and calculated movement around a hazardous object, one with properties that could have altered his speed and the energy he expelled depending on his proximity, he had reacted on pure instinct.
Although not a perfect path, his movement had been excellent, just skimming the edge of the air vortex and moving around the distortion it created to engage. His blade swung up and out, his own arm only half-bent and his muscles controlled in a relaxed sort of way. The fast-moving katana clipped its edge and it deflected back at him almost before the motion was underway, yet another precision defense from the samurai.
"I'm impressed," Michael commented, "you have no openings."
“I have them, but my speed keeps them hidden,” he replied clasping his other hand onto the sword and lowering it in front of him. He knew if it wasn’t for his eyes that last block wouldn’t have happen. He’d let his eyes off his target for too long. Michael was simply impressing with his reaction time. Nikudemon couldn’t believe he’d met another human was such reaction as him.
He keep his eyes fixed on Michael as he dashed forward for an attack. His blade lowered to his side and he picked up speed quickly. He reached him in seconds and Solana sliced across the air. Nikudemon twisted his whole body getting even more speed out of his two hand attack. His footing shafted just before his sword reached wait he hoped to aim for. The added weight and speed torque his body letting it open, but every hard to get near as his bladed soared up across very much like Michael first attack on him.
The speed of it would have been breathtaking, had Michael not been more attached to his breath. He inhaled sharply and shifted his weight back onto his right foot, taking a power stance in the seeming nanosecond of response time he had available. The blade of his short sword swept up and angled, but not quickly enough to deflect the katana with the kind of efficient precision his opponent had been displaying.
The slender Asian blade made angry little snapping noises as it hit the tip of the short sword and, either from miscalculation by the bigger warrior or simple bad luck, dipped. It skittered down the surface of the shorter blade, which vibrated uncomfortably from the hard impact, and stopped at the intersection between the cruciform guard and the blade edge. From the weight of the last, jolting halt, it was almost certain that the katana had caused more than just cosmetic damage to the guard.
Michael swept his arm out to the side to dislodge the samurai sword and, without taking the time to examine his weapon or backpedal out of range, he struck out with a left-handed jab right at his opponent's nose.
Solana felt light, but it course had been changed too made. He saw the quick jab coming right at him while he seemed defenseless. Nikudemon reached for his other sword as he relaxed his body letting it fall back give him more time to block the attack. Gripping the other sword he slashed it out the sheath with the blade twisted to block the punch. The sword had just made it when he felt the impact of the punch through his weaker wrist.
The swordsman’s relaxed his grip of the blade letting his forearm take the rest of the force. With his other hand he released Solana and caught the falling blade before his body crashed to the ground. As he land he spun his body letting the swords soar through the air. With little thought he jumped back in a spinning force slowly down after touching the ground once again.
He sheathed Nevin and held Solana in front of him again. He loved the usefulness of Solana a blade that never leaves his side for long. He’d laughed to himself never thinking it would be so handy. He foe was good, better than he’d thought before.
Not a stickler for guard postures most days, Michael found himself poised and ready when the samurai landed. The easy reversion to his time in training was something that probably sprouted from fighting a person whose skills were demonstrably equal to or better than his own—it had the feeling of a duel, instead of a dance. The feeling of a duel was much more enjoyable in the short term, even if it could result in dangerous maiming and crippling and death. That was a part of it. The adrenaline rush was always fun.
The short sword, held high at his right shoulder and tipped slightly forward so that its blade was pointing in a direction somewhere over Nikudemon's head, had finished humming. His eyes, so very cautiously, dipped from his opponent to examine the blade and the guard. It was chipping beneath the blade-to-blade combat and that last cut had cut a gouge halfway through the guard, not at all a good sign.
Michael set his gaze back on his opponent and, shifting his weight onto the balls of his feet, took the initiative. He moved forward swiftly, half-trotting on the forward halves of his feet and never placing his full weight down until his other foot was already in motion. He was back in range in a blink and pressed in close to see if he could use a more basic advantage. He was bigger, heavier, and quite possibly stronger than his opponent. Many fighters used that to advantage, and he had some experience doing so.
He lunged forward with the tip of his blade in the lead, but pressuring quickly with his entire body instead of just the blade, putting his weight into it to see what might happen.
It was an odd attack for the swordsman to see such an old attack being used. He could see the strength in the attack and even for him it would be hard to block. The attack require the user to use its whole body to attack with and with how it blade was point it made it impossible to black with another sword. He lingered on the thought of it being impossible to block wanting to test it out against his skills. The swordsman planted both his feet firmly into the dirt.
He gripped both of his swords seeing his foe only a few feet away from him. The blade of the sword inches always from his face. With all his speed he unleashed both of his sword as they shoot through the air ascending to made the other sword. His arms crossed it and both sword formed into a “x” as they fought to force the attack to veer off course.
The power in the attack was impressive and Nikudemon could only own look at the rip and blood coming from his upper right shoulder. His body left kneeled deep to the ground as he felt the difference in power between his two arms and Michael. If my right arm was stronger it would have worked. He returned his focus back at Michael dropping one sword down as he slid the other one out from under his attacker’s.
He sheathed Nevin and Solana knowing he should end this, but he didn’t want to yet. He keep his good arm firmly at Solana side wanting to test himself more than anything. Chance like this was to rare for him and he would be a quick end know. He felt the blood flowing down his arm, but he kept himself focus on the battle.
The cut was a revelation. The man could have blocked it, Michael was convinced of that much. More leverage, more strength, or a little more of both would have tipped the attack and made it a futile gesture just like the string of attacks before it. All the rumors had been right. As good as it felt to find an amazing opponent, not just a worthy one but one who surpassed him entirely when it came down to it, he did feel a twinge of envy. Be it raw talent, better training, or just straight superiority, Nikudemon had the win.
Michael flicked first blood from the top of his blade, sending a spray of scarlet into the grass of the summit, and switched blade hands from his right to his left. He flicked it a few times with an experimental sort of air, then settled down and shook his head.
"You have me," he remarked, grinning despite the admission, "Let's enjoy the finish."
He lunged in perfect form, the move a perfect stroke reminiscent of fencing. The entirety of his body flowed into it, one leg back for balance and the other bent forward with the motion, and he reached his arm to its maximum. The distance of the attack at its finish would probably reach about half the length of the blade through the samurai, but he knew it would never hit home. It was past the point of competition. He was just having fun.
The swordsman watch the odd attack coming at him. The movement perfect, but the attack its self wasn’t right for the blade. He swayed his body away from the attack and swung Solana to match the other sword. Knocking the rest of the attack away from his body. The attacked bugged him a bit even thought there was nothing hard with the movement.
“That blade isn’t hard for that kind of attack. It slowing the speed of that thrust.” He said jumping away from his foe. “You should know this so why?”
He wondered what the man could have been thinking as he watched the next attack come at him. He wanted a strong change, but he felt in the next attack he’d given up try to beat him. He kept himself focus still puzzled about what just happen.