Chapter 182:

Hal vs Nero

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

Rym didn’t wait for Hal to shout anything else. She immediately ran out of the small enclosed park within the hotel.

“You can run, dear, but I will find you later!” Nero playfully shouted to the blue-pink Zenotoe as she fled.

“I’ll get backup!” she shouted back to Hal before disappearing out of view.

Hal was left alone to face his opponent. Nero rubbed the chin of his odd mask.

“You know, you look a little like my dead wife,” he said with a slight chuckle.

Hal ignored the man’s attempts to get him off guard and held his sword at the ready.

Nero shrugged and sighed. Stretched his arm holding the metal violin away from his body. The enormous instrument suddenly unfolded as the masked man spun it in his hand. At the end of a swift motion, the instrument had turned into a scythe.

The didn’t exchange any more words.

Nero quickly closed the gap between them and swiped his blade at Hal’s neck. Hal blocked with Shatter Will by putting the two-handed weapon between his body and the mask man’s scythe. As soon as his first attack was blocked, the masked man let go of his curved weapon and began to strike the green-haired Netzian like a punching bag. Hal grunted and stepped back as Nero struck his face and torso.

The Netzian solider did not waste any time to let go of his sword and get out of Nero’s range. The sword clanged to the ground while Hal increased the distance between them. He quickly pulled his Twin and Gemini, his flintlock-looking pistols, from his ability space and trained them at Nero.

The masked man, for his part, quickly scooped up Shatter Will and threw it at Hal; the point was trained at the soldier's neck. Hal’s yellow eyes grew wide as he jumped to the side to avoid his own weapon. The large blade became imbedded in a fake tree as the Netzian soldier scrambled to regain his footing. Nero didn’t waste any time closing the gap once again. Hal ducked as the opponent's sharp blade sailed over his head and cut the tips of his green hair.

From low on the ground, Hal aimed his pistols up at Nero and discharged two energy blasts directly at the mask. Nero chuckled as he moved his head from side to side. The laser shots harmlessly sailed past in a feat that Hal wouldn't have believed if it wasn’t right in front of him.

“I’m afraid you’ll need some better toys to take me down.”

The masked man turned the point of his scythe to the ground and swung at Hal’s head. The Netzian soldier managed to jump back from his crouching position before the hit landed. He did a backward cartwheel to keep from stumbling.

The two pistols were put back in the ability space, and Hal reached for the next weapon. Nero planted the end of his scythe on the ground and used it to lean on as he mockingly waited for Hal to pull his next weapon out. Hal’s hands emerged back out with iron knuckles on them.

“Getting in close since I have a longer weapon. Sorry to say, I’ve seen it before,” Nero said with a laugh. Hal ignored his taunting and charged forward. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you!” The masked man shouted as he readied his scythe.

He swung at Hal, but the Netzian stopped short of the blade's range. While Nero was midswing, Hal aimed a flat palm at the masked man. Along spear fired from empty air with more force than possible if Hal had just thrown it. Nero’s eyes grew wide from behind his mask, and he only managed to twist his body slightly before the spear shot though his shoulder. He made several jumps backward away from Hal and laughed.

The Netzian soldier gritted his teeth, he had aimed at his opponent's heart, but Nero had been swift enough to take the blow in a less vital spot.

“I have to admit, I didn’t realize you had a move like that! It just makes me more excited to get to know you!” Nero’s mask hid a much more unsightly smile as he spoke.

Hal grunted. His ability allowed him to fire weapons, or any other objects in it, at an incredible speed—either one at a time or all at once. In most cases, he liked to avoid using the trick.

The space was ample, but it was not a big enough stockpile for him to fire weapons out like bullets, there was a possibility the weapons might get damaged from the attack, and he had to pick everything up to put back manually no matter where it landed. Due to that, Hal only used the attack as a secret move to surprise an opponent. It was less effective the second time, and now that Nero had seen it, he would know to watch out for the attack.

Nero giggled as he pulled the spear from his shoulder. The weapon was tossed aside, and the masked man made no indication he was affected at all.

Hal reached back into his space for another sword. He could tell this fight was going to be a tough one.

Nero's fierce intensity did not fade even as the battle wore on each of them. Hal couldn’t explain how he knew, but he would lose if the fight was dragged out.

He gritted his teeth as he reached into his ability space. He had already used his regular trump of firing a weapon, which proved ineffective. The green-haired Netzian knew that he would have to take a risk if he hoped to survive. From his space, he produced the odd weapon procured in Horizon.

As Hal held it ready, the pipe-looking object roared to life in a blade of fire.

“Oh, that’s something you don’t see every day. I guess you weren’t out of tricks yet!” Nero said through a laugh.

Hal didn’t answer but took a stance with the fiery sword blade as short as possible; the feature which changed the blade length was essential to keep unknown to his opponent. Nero made one last chuckle before leaping across the indoor park. As he flew through the air, he readied his scythe for a clean cut across Hal’s torso.

The green-haired Netzian, for his part, charged across the park with vigor. His teeth were clenched tight enough that one might expect them to suddenly shatter.

Hal moved the fiery sword to intercept the metal scythe as the two opponents came close. They collided not with a metal clang but a small burst of fire. Nero let out an audible ‘hmm’ as his weapon was stopped by the flame.

Hal was equally surprised. He had expected to cut the metal blade in two. The secret of how the strange weapon worked was only known by the creator, Savvy, and the Netzian soldier didn’t have too much care about the mechanics.

Without wasting too much time thinking about the blade, he immediately moved to strike Nero. The masked man spun his scythe playfully in a circle to block every blow from Hal. While the two exchanged blows, Nero walked backward and gave a confident chuckle. Hal continued to strike at every opening he saw on Nero, but each was proven to be a deception as the attacks were easily parried.

With each blow, he became more frustrated. As his anger increased, his attacks became sloppier and easier for Nero to read. A grin lined the face under his mask.

Hal attempted a broad swipe across Nero’s chest; it was a quick move in which the attacker would quickly switch to a forward stab instead of leaving a glaring opening. Nero leaned back to let the fiery blade move just in front of his chest, then he stabbed Hal’s shoulder with the tip of his scythe before the Netzian could strike again.

Hal grunted but didn’t give in.

He took a step closer and tried the move a second time. Nero snorted as he leaned back once again to avoid the strike.

Hal slid his hand on the hilt of the sword while midswing. The blade suddenly grew in size as it had done in his test. Nero was unprepared as the longer flame blade burned a sear across his chest. The clothes gave way to expose a freshly new burned cut across Netzian skin.

Instead of crying in pain, Nero let out a bloodthirsty laugh.

He leaped away from Hal and rubbed the new wound. The mark from left from the blade was deep and long. Had The Netzian soldier been more accustomed to using it, the cut would have been much deeper. It was likely that the masked man himself could have been sliced in half. Hal mentally kicked himself at the failure. He had missed another chance to take the upper hand.

“You’re a handy guy! I can see you being trouble later on at this rate.” Nero turned his scythe so that the reflection showed Hal in it. “I’m afraid I can’t play any longer; please save me space in the underworld. Or, at least, I’d like to say that….”

The masked man suddenly increased in speed—faster than he had been before—and appeared in front of Hal. The Netzian soldier held his blade up in defense and was batted away like a baseball. He crashed into the mountain in the center of the park and cried.

If malice hung like a cloud, Hal would have sworn the whole room was filled with it. Nero began to hum a haunting tune as he scrapped the scythe on the ground. As a screeching wail echoed in the room from the blade, he added words to his song.

“♪Oh, how sad, the little boy is dead, oh how glad, the little boy is dead. ♪”

Hal quickly pulled the power source off his sword and put both items back into the ability space. He produced a long rifle that looked like it might be more at home in the earth’s first world war. He fired off two energy shots before fleeing into the hotel halls.

“You can run, but it only excites the predator!” Nero shouted back. He spun his scythe in one hand before chasing after the green-haired Netzian.