Chapter 13:

Dance Macabre


Inhaling a deep breath, the catboy rocked his head and smiled. A second passed, and Ode’go had adopted his usual stance.

'The Vrilaka' as it was called. A specific posture common in the Crilandese martial art of 'Leriet', emphasising attacks from the fists first and foremost.

Naturally, being gifted with catlike nails, Ode'go had tweaked it slightly, incorporating his own idiosyncrasies into the mix.

Oftentimes, he would aim for vulnerable areas, such as that of the solar plexus, throat, or eyes.

Though maybe not this time.

However, against an enemy that was experienced or durable, Ode’go still preferred to use his knuckles instead.

Were he to attack wrongly or strike someone reinforced with magic or Resolve, it was possible for his nails to shatter and be ripped from his very flesh.

Azama, who by all means should’ve been reinforced by Resolve, was probably one of those he didn’t want to use it against. Once battered and weakened by continuous battle, certainly, but as an opener, he found the idea foolish.

Therefore, on the fly, Ode’go chose to send out two jabs instead, each flying towards Azama’s face.

Without failure, the mercenary then proceeded to dodge each one, swivelling his head from side to side.

While he was known to be an incredibly potent mercenary, Azama's raw display of agility impressed Ode'go all the same.

Let's ramp it up a notch, shall we?

This time, he shot out seven strikes with his right in quick succession.

Without failure, the mercenary dodged each one again.

His body acted as a pendulum, moving right, left and right in a successful dodging motion.

Only this time, the mercenary struck back.

Upon the seventh thrust, Azama retaliated with a left straight aimed at his opponent's head.

Ode'go instinctively jerked his head backwards.

Not bad.

Azama's fist had been like a needle, only barely scraping the thread that was his face.

Yet, it may not have been the case for the proceeding attack. Within a single exchange, the boy had assessed the general skill of his opponent.

As it seemed now, his speed and reflex were perhaps on par with his, or in a worst-case scenario…


Good, I like that.

Time may have dulled his fangs, but his heart pumped the blood of a warrior all the same. Wondering how his opponent would proceed, he lent their fight to a few seconds of pause.

It was then that a most bizarre sight came to be.

In the following seconds, Azama’s began to move.

Bringing both hands just above chin height, extending his right foot instead of his left and lowering his head ever so slightly gave the once stanceless Azama a foundation.

My my.

The shift in stance was borderline palpable, as if Ode’go himself could taste the disrespect that emanated. It was hard not to feel that way, when Azama in fact, adopted the same exact pose Ode’go had.

Splendid, good Azama, good. Let me see that attitude of yours.

Of course, such an act did not necessarily suggest anything just yet. It may very well have been a coincidence that Azama studied the Crilandese art of Leriet. That it just so happened that he fought like Ode’go himself did, mimicking his dominant hand, even.

Haha, if only such miracles were possible.

Ode’go may have been a romantic, but some realities were impossible to escape from.

A few seconds later, Ode’go received his answer. Azama, who all but confirmed his suspicions, struck out seven jabs from his right hand.

Using Ode'go’s own dominant hand, Azama attacked where Ode'go himself had struck.

Right, left, and right.

Likewise, Ode’go dodged to the left, right and left, in a similar vein to how the mercenary had done before.

Regardless of how he felt prior, Ode'go now impressed upon himself a civic duty to crush his opponent. Even though Azama was a foreigner, some human of the Aoelian origins, he still chose to contest Ode'go on his own grounds.

Fighting him with the traditional moves and techniques of his own country.

Fighting him with disciplines Ode'go himself had cultivated over countless years of training.

This, he found terribly interesting. So much so, that the catboy intended to put it to the test, as if attempting to judge whether Azama was ‘worthy’.

Let’s see how you handle this, Mr. Azama.

He wanted to crush his opponent’s smug superiority and did so by striking again. One, two, three, four, the jabs piled on and on and on and eventually amounted to thirteen.

Yet not a single one landed. Each strike was accompanied by the same swivel as before, as if intentionally degrading Ode’go’s lack of creativity. Though, in reality, these attacks were never to land in the first place.

Blood rushed to Ode’go’s right leg, prompting a raise of his knee by just a hands’ length.

At first impression, it seemed like he was going to kick, having changed his routine.

This, however, was nothing short of a lie. An intentional misdirect.

Snapping his leg back like a rubber band, Ode’go feinted with his knee, and thrust his right hand for a jab again.

He poured every ounce of strength into that blow, striking twentyfold beyond a normal humans’ capability.

Got you.

Ode’go blinked.

Under the unrelenting pressure of his blows, Azama, too, had adapted yet again.

Ode’go watched the mercenary’s movement. Just before his fist would collide. How Azama’s arm shot in a perfect diagonal line, his elbow facing outwards.


The catboy felt his punch collide against the strengthened surface. A feeling not unlike attempting to pummel a diamond wall.

Ah Resolve, how you save my hands from breaking.

Ode’go felt the pain and snap of the bones in his hand. He was left relatively unscatched, but the feeling was still there, like an untouchable itch beneath one's skin.

"Oh, bravo, Ode'go, you managed to force my arm," Azama replied eagerly.

"Still managing to put on a smile, eh?"

Battling against such a formidable foe who could keep up with him, was something else.

Everything from the pain, to the tension, to the raw personality presented was new. A trifecta of experience that brought with it everything a earnest fighter could ever hope for.

Where were the men as interesting as you, Azama?

Ode’go grinned, and almost chuckled. The unusual break in rhythm was fun. He was far too used to less capable opponents. More along the lines of the ‘non-Resolved’ so to speak.

Those, he could easily annihilate with the impact of his fist alone.

Ode’go licked his lips.

Of course, that was but one factor in his excitement. Another was the as-of-yet intact smugness of Azama, who he just yearned to destroy. Likewise, the heritage of his animalistic counterpart also played a role in his desires.

Beneath his mostly human appearance was a bestial longing for battle. The cumulative effort of countless generations of breeding, each one made to create the most effective soldier. But, that wasn’t all.

Ode’go was also a devotee to the Crilandese philosophy of life.

Subscribing himself to the idea that one should always strive and achieve their destiny.

Therefore, it was thricefold a simultaneous instinct to fight, a desire to win over Azama and an objective philosophy that guided him.

With an exhalation of breath, Ode’go contemplated his situation.

Now that Azama had been forced to block, a spot of weakness and imperfection manifested. It showed the mercenary wasn’t indomitable. It showed that a spark of hope could still be lit. It showed above all else, that victory was still within reach.

Were Azama forced to rely on a defensive measure, he could definitely be forced to another.

Until it proved necessary though, Ode'go was determined to use punches alone to defeat him.

Right hand, right foot forward.

He’d stepped forward at that point, aiming to hit the mercenary’s kidney with a tuck of his body. Azama dodged to the right however, and with ease, jumped atop a table.

Oh? Thought Ode’go, a crease of his eyebrows now in effect.

The mercenary’s agile movement both impressed and confused the catboy.

In any case, it was peculiar that he would choose a table of all things. It was possible he wanted to gain the high ground, but Ode’go felt that wasn’t the reason.

Watching this with deep fascination, the catboy saw Azama give a wink.

The mercenary then proceeded to do a standing split, touch his toes, and crack his fingers.

Then, as a finisher, began to run in place.. Almost as if he were actually about to commit to it.

Ode’go questioned what he would do next, only to then realise that he suddenly sprinted across the table. He was heading for seemingly nowhere, as Azama seemed to be going from one table to the next, devoid of any specific target.

My my.

He thought that strange, as he assumed Azama to be a man of frivolous, albeit intact honour. Maybe he misinterpreted his character. Or maybe, there was a detail he didn’t understand just yet.

It didn’t matter though. Running or not, the outcome would end in a fight all the same.

Ode’go, who saw this as amusement, decided to play along. His back straightened up, his lungs exhaled a breath, and his legs pushed off the ground.

He was in the air before he landed with an almost ceremonious thud.

Let's see who's the fastest of us two then, shall we?

Azama’s distant figure drew his ire, bringing forth a wave of energy in Ode’go’s legs. His next step then instantaneously converted into a sprint. Blurring at a speed of around 12m/s, the catboy almost instantly crossed from his current table to the other.

What had been but a duel then transformed into a chase.

Cries and yells of rage accompanied as students desperate to save their food withdrew it from the tables. One even shuddered, as a still-moving Azama snatched a sandwich out of their hand.

Some, though, gave queries about what was happening.

What is that Ode'go doing?

Who is the guy he's chasing?

Were among the thoughts that crossed their minds.

Even so, none chose to interfere. Battles were sanctified in their mind. Held only between students who chose to participate by their own volition. Not the result of unprecedented violence or discrimination, which would be easily stopped by a Crown. That and, well Ode’go was infamously powerful, and Ceylica’s friend simultaneously.

Let’s ramp it up!

Adrenaline pushed Ode’go to a consistent speed, never declining in spite of his continued exertion of energy. He had crossed over twelve tables at that point, going in what seemed to be an endless loop. His eyes saw Azama slowing on the other hand, no doubt losing in terms of stamina and endurance.


Azama’s feet skidded to a sudden halt, stopping just short of a ledge. His right arm then shot out, intending to use the still moving catboy’s momentum against him.

Nice try.

In his instinct, Ode’ge only saw it fitting to respond with a punch in turn. Only by the time he figured out how to, the opportunity had already left. Azama’s stomp crushed into the table’s ledge. The platform, about two-person length, had tilted 45 degrees. The sudden force from his momentum and table combined sent Ode’go into the air.

Ode’go hurried for an idea. Azama had closed the distance, and a right straight was about to be shot out. His time was shortening and if he didn’t act soon…

Not so fast!

Ode’go pressed the palms of both hands behind him. Using the table as a springboard, Ode’go angled towards Azama. Then with a push, sent himself flying.

His intent was to intercept the punch, grapple Azama’s arm with his legs, and break it.

What happened, though, was a different story.

Not only had Azama evaded his kick, but he had done so with an additional caveat.

Changing midway, Azama’s punch unfurled, with his open palm holding tightly onto Ode’go’s ankle. Ode’go’s brows raised in surprise and astonishment. Then, out of nowhere, Azama flung him through a nearby window.


The feeling of jagged edges tore at the catboys’ back.

Glass shattered into a dozen pieces, a litter of them then lying at the catboys' feet.

The scenery had shifted to an open variety. A slew of trees swayed in the background, while their orange leaves drifted gently in the wind. Select students, who ate on outside tables, also backed off as a result.

Ode’go’s gaze moved to his body. He found himself slumped against a tree, a quiver of agony following in realisation. In light of his madness, he yelled “Now this is a change of scenery!

He wasn’t thinking completely straight at that moment. Thoughts and pains invaded his mind, their origin: fear, excitement, and lack of control.

Strong as they were, they lasted little more than a mere second at best.

Propelled by determination, Ode’go focused on what was at hand.

He had come far in the training and development of his tenacity, and would not let it be halted by a mere injury of little precedence.

Focusing his mind, he inhaled a deep breath, and concentrated on his body.

Despite his resilience being dramatically enhanced by his Resolve, Ode'go nonetheless felt what seemed to be damage to his ribs.

He deduced as much from the now present pain that came with each breath and spasm of his chest muscles.

So he had been hurt.

The sheer incredulity of that fact made him laugh.

He was always conscious of that possibility, and yet it humoured him all the same.

Perhaps it had been too long since the last time he was hurt, or perhaps he was just looking for an excuse to laugh, either way, it made little difference.

The pain awakened something within him.

The once dormant side of him, only experienced on the brink, had now crept its way to the surface.

Ode'go, whose eyes dilated to the point of almost being a black void, found himself smiling with anticipation.

"Okay then, let's dance."

Steward McOy
Kya Hon
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