In the center of the Holy Kingdom’s capital stood a marvel of architectural engineering. A tower that reached to the skies known as the Tower of Divine Knowledge. From a distance, the tower looked like a work of art, a depiction of Satan’s fall from heaven in stone. When standing next to it, the building’s sheer girth would bring awe even to travelers who had seen all else the world had to offer.
This building served two purposes; to house the largest collection of knowledge in the world, and to be a place of rest for the higher ranking officials of the church. The first seven floors served the former purpose. The eighth housed the building’s servants and maintenance workers. The ninth and tenth held the church officials. Upon the top floor, the head of the church and the head of each of it’s main branches laid their head to rest. One of those men was the Warrior-Bishop, Gawn Ingrannus.
About fifteen town blocks away from the Tower of Divine Knowledge, Adio stood atop a building. Under the cloak of night, he was scouting out the building’s security, preparing to enact the final act of his revenge. He was already extremely familiar with the building’s layout from coming to meetings that were occasionally held here. However, he wanted to know where the guards were stationed and what their patrols were so that he could avoid them.
After observing for about an hour, Adio began to rush towards the tower. With superhuman strength, speed, and agility, he deftly jumped from building to building. A few citizens took notice of the figure that flew by in a blur. However, all of them disregarded this as a trick of the mind, and went on with their days. Not once did Adio have to touch the ground. In about two minutes, he had reached the Tower of Divine Knowledge.
Once he arrived at his destination, Adio did not stop. Instead, he took a leap of great magnitude, landing on top of one of the hands of Satan carved out of stone. From there, he began to leap from carving to carving upwards. He kept doing this until he reached the seventh floor, the highest floor with windows. The reason for this being that the architects responsible for the tower were aware that someone could climb the side of the tower. So to protect church officials, windows are not allowed above the library levels.
Upon entering the library, Adio began to slow down his pace. The library floors were very loosely populated, and coming across someone was extremely uncommon. However, even so, most of the people floors seven and up would likely be able to alert security of his presence before he could reach the Warrior-Bishop. So Adio decided to blend in with the environment as he approached the upper floors. He was able to do this until he reached the stairway that led to the ninth floor.
Unless you were a high ranking member of the church or you were a trusted staff member with a long tenure, getting to the top two floors was nigh impossible. Security at the stairway that led to the ninth floor was, simply said, airtight. Luckily for Adio, he was thinner than air.
Once he got as close as possible to the staircase as he could without drawing the security’s hostility, Adio’s calm strut returned to it’s earlier pace. Most of the guards hadn’t even paid any mind to him, so they didn’t notice this sudden movement. Of the ones that had him in their line of sight, most believed that he simply disappeared. Only two guards had noticed his sudden movement and were able to follow with their eyes, albeit barely. But before they could react, Adio was already dashing for the next stairway.
Due to the length between the two staircases, it took Adio thirty seconds to reach the next one. During that time, the guards from the previous stairway were able to alert the next set of guards via a bell system. Adio had anticipated this, and was fully prepared to face the consequence of not killing the guards he came across. When he reached the staircase to the tenth floor, the guards were prepared.
Adio drew his sword, ready to deflect their blows. From all angles, Adio was barraged with slash after slash. Each one was met by his own blade. Adio leapt around, avoiding being surrounded, and looked for an opening. After only twenty seconds of dodging and slashing, he found it. Once again, he leapt forward, using one of the guards as a foothold, and reached the staircase. Upon landing, Adio immediately began to dash up the stairs.
Once Adio reached the top floor, the most difficult part of his mission began. The top floor was the only floor that Adio was unfamiliar with. The only thing he knew about it was that it was divided into five parts. Each one belonged to one of the five highest ranking church officials. However, Adio did not know which one belonged to which, so finding the Warrior-Bishop was going to be difficult. But even if he only had to search one-fifth of the building, that was still a lot of ground to cover.
Even so, Adio was determined to carry out his revenge. He began to walk down a long corridor that led into a massive circular common area. On the walls of the room were three massive, gate-like doors, each with unique, intricate stone carvings in their frames. Adio briefly looked at all the carvings, trying to determine which belonged to the Warrior-Bishop. Just then, one of the doors to the left began to swing open. Adio could hear the sound of chains and gears as it’s doors separated. The doors opened only partly, though they left a gap big enough for a large man to walk through comfortably.
When the doors came to a standstill and the sound of chains and gears stopped, an old man wearing a hood-less brown cloak stepped out from the gap. Adio was startled by his sudden appearance and was ready to dash out of his line of sight, however the man looked at him like he had been expecting him. The old man’s dry lips parted as he began to speak.
“Master Ingrannus, Warrior-Bishop of the Holy Kingdom, requests a duel with Sir Adio, former Holy Knight”.
After saying those words, the old man turned around and re-entered the doorway from which he came. Though the man’s behavior was strange, his message was clear; “if you accept the duel, then enter the doorway”. After contemplating for moment whether he should enact revenge through a fair fight, Adio approached the door.
• • •
“To be truly honest, Adio, I never expected a godless man like you to accept a fair duel,” the Warrior-Bishop spoke with bass and false might, “I expected you to try and ambush me like the brute you are,”
Adio steadily approached Ingrannus, sword in hand, as he was being taunted. The two of them stood within the main lobby of the Warrior-Bishop’s quarters. To be more accurate, it was more the size of a mansion. The walls were covered with war trophies and taxidermied demon heads collected by all three Warrior-Bishops in the Holy-Kingdom’s history. The floors were covered with a silky-soft red fabric, and the walls and furniture were made of quality marble.
The Warrior-Bishop was wearing nothing but a pair of brown slacks and boots. Ingrannus was a large man with impeccable tone. He decided not to wear armor due to fights of supernatural nature being more about agility and speed rather than defense. Along with that, he already knew that a strike from Adio could cut through any armor like butter. So he opted to free up his movement and lighten the weight on his shoulders.
“Are you not going to answer me, you godless swine? I hope you don’t think you’re above me in some way”.
Adio didn’t react to Ingrannus’ words. Instead, he simply took a stance with his blade pointed towards his opponent.
“No, I don’t,” Adio gestured with his sword, “I just prefer this tongue over the one in my mouth”.
“That’s one thing we can agree on, infidel,” The Warrior-Bishop grinned, “now come at me, you godless dog!”
Just as Ingrannus suggested, Adio leapt forward towards his opponent with incredible speed. The two combatants’ swords clashed. Adio and Ingrannus began to exchange blows at incredible speed, too fast for a normal human to keep up with. Both combatants attempted to move around their opponent to get an edge, result in a rough circular motion. Occasionally one of them would jump back to create some distance before charging right back in. Adio even attempted to get over and behind Ingrannus a few times.
The exchange went on like this for a solid ten minutes. By this point, Ingrannus was beginning to feel the length of the battle weigh on him. His opponent, however, didn’t feel the slightest bit of exhaustion. After another ten minutes, Ingrannus began to slow down due to his exhaustion, while his opponent still had not become noticeably exhausted.
As more and more time passed, the apparent gap between Ingrannus and Adio grew wider and wider. The Warrior-Bishop became aware of this. He knew that the longer the battle went on, the worse his chances at victory got. For the next minute, The Warrior-Bishop began to look for a small opening in Adio’s defense. He planned to use that opening and force a fatal blow through it. It was a risky plan, but Ingrannus knew he needed to take a risk to win this fight.
After a minute a parrying, dodging, and striking, the Warrior-Bishop saw it. A small opening that was there for a brief second. And it left Adio’s heart open, of all places. Ingrannus immediately shifted his blade’s direction to force itself through the small opening so that it could pierce Adio. However, just as the blade was about to reach it’s target, Adio moved out of the way faster than Ingrannus could keep track of, and a sharp, burning pain came from his left wrist.
Both the Warrior-Bishop and Adio jumped back after this exchange. The shock of Adio dodging his attack left Ingrannus dumbfounded. It almost distracted him from the pain in his wrist, but it was too acute to be ignored. When the Warrior-Bishop looked at the damage, he was met with an even bigger shock. His entire left hand had been cut off. It was bleeding profusely, and there was no way for him to treat it before Adio charged again. This meant that an extended battle was even more disadvantageous for Ingrannus.
Another exchange began shortly after, this time resulting in Ingrannus getting a deep gash in his right eye, rendering it useless. Just like last time, Adio had somehow dodged one of the Warrior-Bishop’s desperation moves at the last second before delivering a crippling blow. Ingrannus was just as dumbstruck as last time. By this time, the blood loss had started to affect him. However, as a Holy Knight he had much more vitality than normal humans, so he was still able to fight.
However, this pattern continued. Ingrannus attempted desperation move after desperation move, only to be dodged at the absolute last second and be cut somewhere important. First it was his ear, then his nose, then his left knee. The Warrior-Bishop’s strength began to fade significantly, but his will to win stayed strong. However that wasn’t enough to overcome Adio’s grudge. Exchange after exchange, Adio took Ingrannus apart piece by piece, until he couldn’t even stand with his own strength.
At that point, Adio simply stood over the Warrior-Bishop and ginned. He relished in the poor state that Ingrannus was in. He watched as all Hope faded from their expression, as the regret for challenging Adio to a duel rather than running away set in. Adio could see it in the soon to be former Warrior-Bishop’s face; Ingrannus wanted death. He longed for it more than anything else he could possibly have. Adio’s grin widened as he raised his sword and granted that wish.
• • •
Just as Adio began to descend into madness, three sounds brought him back to his senses. The first two were the sounds of chains and gears, the sound the door to the Warrior-Bishop’s quarters makes. Until now, the door had been kept slightly open, just as it had been when Adio entered. But now, that gap was closing, blocking Adio’s only exit route. The third sound, was a voice. It was a female voice, high-pitched and somewhat playful. It was a voice that Adio recognized, and it chilled him to the bone.
Adio turned around to see a female figure in front of the closing door. The voice belonged to Royse, the Mad Valkyrie and Adio’s wife.
“We still haven’t finished what we started the other day” the Valkyrie began to draw her sword, “It made me so sad. Especially since I had to sacrifice someone important again”.
After his last fight with Royse, Adio contemplated what he should do next time he comes across her. After much careful thought, he reached the conclusion that the Royse he knew was gone, and in it’s place was the Mad Valkyrie, who was obsessed with killing him. So he decided that if he were forced into fighting her again, he would have no choice but to fight to kill.
Adio took up his sword again and braced himself to fight. He didn’t say a word. Even though he had made up his mind about fighting the Valkyrie, he couldn’t help but feel apprehensive about it. It took everything in him just to maintain his composure. It felt as if as soon as he spoke, a surge of emotion would burst forth. So he kept quiet.
“I was hoping that Ingrannus over there would wear you down,” the Valkyrie approached Adio casually, “But it turns out I overestimated him”.
The Valkyrie began to draw her sword. A smile came across her face.
“Well, you know what they say: if you want something done,” the Valkyrie pointed her blade towards Adio, “Best to do it yourself”.
Adio and the Mad Valkyrie stood still. They were sizing each other up, trying to determine what had changed in their opponents since they last fought as allies. They stayed like this for about a dozen seconds. Then, with seemingly no cue, they both leapt at each other.
Once again, an intense battle ensued in the Warrior-Bishop’s quarters. This time, however, both parties were pushing themselves to their absolute. Blow for blow, parry for parry, the two combatants were equals in every right of the word. Every blow carried the emotions of the combatants. Anger, regret, abandonment, grief, betrayal, vendetta, and vengeance. These feelings went back and forth with every clash of steel.
Seconds passed. Minutes passed. Both combatants were nearing their limits. The fighting had not stopped for a single moment of respite. Adio and the Valkyrie were both at the point of desperation. With aim to finish the fight, a single blow managed to pierce through the other’s defense.
“Oh, Adio,” the Valkyrie looked down at the blade that had run through her, “I never actually thought you would win”.
The Valkyrie, even though she was on the brink of death, began to laugh.
Her laughter intensified as blood began to trickle out of her mouth.
Adio kept his hands on the blade, and his eyes on Royse.
“Adio, Adio, Adio!”
Tears began to form in Royse’s eyes and her voice began to choke from blood and emotion.
Royse had finally reached her breaking point, her tears now flowing freely. At the same time, Adio’s emotion’s edged closer and closer to bursting.
“Why!? Why did you leave without me!?” The Valkyrie’s wicked expression faded away as a Royse’s face distorted with emotion, “You knee I would’ve gone with you, didn’t you!? So why did you take this upon yourself!?”
Adio desperately fought to keep his emotions in check.
“The only thing I ever wanted was to be with you! It didn’t matter the situation, it didn’t matter where, I would have gone with you!”
Royse put her hands over Adio’s, which were still gripping the blade.
“But instead you gave into your selfish desires, and denied me my only one!”
Adio began to shake, nearing his limit.
“But even through all that, I still loved you!”
Royse moved her hands around Adio’s,
In an instant, Royse shoved the blade further through herself. Her back suddenly arched with a jolt and she gave out one last cough of blood. She now sat lifeless with a blade through her body, only inches away from Adio. At the sight of this, Adio could no longer contain his emotions.
Adio’s tear ducts gave way as he dropped his sword to hold his wife. For what felt like an eternity, he cried out his wife’s name and grieved his loss. He held Royse’s head tightly to his chest and knelt down on both knees. He looked to the sky, as if he was crying to a higher power for help. But Adio knew that no help would come for him.
God couldn’t care less about Adio.