The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)
As the hospital rumbled from the explosion, Abelard quickly stood up from his chair while Amber and Rom pushed their way into the hospital room.
“Call for backup,” the mayor said swiftly. To his words, Amber could only shake her head.
“Communication isn’t working. Seems to be some kind of interference.”
Abelard bit his lip before he could let out a series of curses. He didn’t speak for a moment until he was sure he could control his words. `
“Get the others; we need to devise a plan.”
Across the hospital wing, Rheba and Harlan rushed into Gwyn’s room. Mem had bonded to his arm, but the Nonpareil still lay in the bed.
“Gwyn, opponents have invaded!” Rheba said to him. He sighed in reply.
“I suspect they have an ample fighting force,” Harlan added.
“And?” Gwyn asked in a frustrated tone. His two teammates jumped back in surprise. “Do we go fight the next batch of enemies? How long before someone loses a limb? Or dies?”
Rheba grabbed the Nonpareil and pulled him to his feet. When it seemed like he might slump back down, she pulled until he was lifted in the air.
“What’s wrong with you?” she asked with no effort to hide her confusion or exasperation.
“I just don’t see the point,” was all Gwyn replied. His brown eyes looked to the side instead of at Rheba as he spoke.
Sounds of shouting interrupted their conversation as hospital staff ran by the room. A figure dressed head to toe in dark armor walked into view. His appearance was almost that of a medieval knight save for the armor, looking to be made from more black chrome than standard metal.
As the knight turned to look into the room, he drew a sword and spoke across his communicator.
“Nighthawk, sir, I have identified three Needaimus users; one appears to match the description of the Nonpareil you gave earlier.
Rheba didn’t give the new opponent time to hear a reply. She quickly let Gwyn down, crossed the room, and grabbed the surprised knight. He flinched but could not do anything as she flipped the armored opponent in the air so that his head was the closest to the floor. Under normal circumstances, she would have thrown him over her shoulder, but as the inside was tight, the Bentulousian warrior settled on smashing him back into the ground. He let out a grunt as the floor of the hospital gave way to his head. Rheba quickly pulled the knight back out and threw him off to the side; otherwise, he would block the doorway.
“Nighthawk…” Gwyn said as he fell back onto his bed. He didn’t like hearing the name again.
“Who is that?” Harlan asked.
“A leader, I take it; we should get going now!” Rheba quickly replied. Gwyn gritted his teeth and debated protesting but stood up and followed the others. He didn’t want to think what might happen if he met the giant metal Needaimus a second time.
Rheba led the group in their sprint; she found her arm touching her stomach, where pain was becoming impossible to ignore. She pushed down her feelings; warriors didn’t show pain and focused on what they ought to do next. The hallway was mostly empty. Every now and then, a staff member or patient would peep out from a room, but the door would quickly shut as the trio passed.
“We need to meet up with the mayor!” Rheba shouted back to the other two.
“In that case, we are going the wrong way!” Harlan shouted. She had trouble hiding the pain in her voice as her injured leg burned from running. Rheba grunted, and they came to a stop. The Zenotote scientist pointed back in the direction they came. “The room mayor Abelard would have been in was that way; we can get there quickly without cutting back past Gwyn’s room.” Harlan quickly said as she called back to the hospital map.
“Fine? Shouldn’t we be trying to flee!” Gwyn stammered. His words were ignored by the other two, who began the sprint to the mayor’s location. Gwyn stood motionless for a moment as he contemplated.
They will leave you if you don’t hurry! Mem’s shouts echoed in his mind. Gwyn chased after, but not before sighing. He caught up with ease and followed behind them as they ran.
The trio continued to rush through the hospital halls until they met up with Amber. She jumped back in surprise as they rounded a corner at the same time she was about to.
“I’m glad you were so close,” the Aqueenian-Bentalousian hybrid girl said with a cough. As she spoke, Abelard came into view with Rom running by his side. The mayor was panting but trying his best not to make it evident while the blue-white Zenotote girl carefully checked all the surroundings.
“I didn’t think they would try something this public,” Abelard grunted once the two groups were in close proximity.
“Do you have any idea of their goal?” Harlan asked. Abelard rubbed his chin.
“Either to do away with me or you lot, likely both.”
“We have a long fight ahead of us,” Rheba sighed as she considered the pains in her body.
Gwyn shook his head.
“We need to run,” he shot back while his eyes nervously darted around—as if an attacker would suddenly leap out from nowhere.
“The Nonpareil is correct; we need to get the mayor away,” Rom added.
Rheba shook her head.
“If we all flee, they will just pursue. I will do my best to delay the enemy.”
“I will assist her,” Amber added, “Rom, you take mayor Abelard and get to safety.” The Zenotote assistant nodded. Harlan looked around and nodded as she spoke:
“Then Gwyn and I will support Rhe-“
“I’ll go with the mayor!” Gwyn sharply added.
Rheba and Harlan exchanged a brief glance before looking back toward the Nonpareil.
“Gwyn,” the Bentulousian warrior began in as soft a voice as she could manage, “Don’t you think your support will be more valuable in the fight?”
“No, I don’t think it will.”
“Your ability will be helpful to restrain the foes,” Harlan added.
“They will just escape.”
Rheba let her shoulders sag, and Harlan did her best to show the same physical disappointment. They could tell Gwyn was adamant about going with the mayor and weren’t sure what to say. With her training and battle experience in mind, Rheba thought Gwyn would be better off and ultimately safer with them. Harlan, likewise, figured he could support well without having to get too involved in the fight.
“You might find your abilities are effective at a range,” Harlan tried to argue.
“We could also work more efficiently together,” Rheba added.
To their words, Gwyn just shook his head. Shouts in the hallway told them there wasn’t enough time for a proper debate.
“Alright,” Rheba said with a sigh, “Amber, Harlan, and I will take on the opponents. Gwyn will support the mayor’s escape.”
They didn’t waste too much time before splitting into two new groups. The trio of fighters began to run down the halls, where shouts and loud noises were heard, and the mayor’s group fled in the other direction.
“I expected more from your Nonpareil,” Amber said to Harlan and Rheba as they ran through the halls, “are museums all he cares about?” she added with a snide tone.
“He’s just feeling a little down, nothing to worry about,” Rheba shot back. She could not hide the worry in her voice. Harlan kept her mouth shut as they rounded several corners and met with some of the invaders.
A duo of two, in the same dark armor they had seen before, stood holding up a Zenotote doctor.
“Let me go!” she shouted.
Rheba wasted no time to slow down and contemplate the scene. She rushed in and quickly grabbed the soldier who did not hold the doctor. With a flip, she smashed him into the floor while ensuring the person inside would be sufficiently rattled.
The second soldier jumped and let go of the doctor. Before he could turn around and face Rheba properly, she slammed him into the wall. An indent was left where the armored soldier stuck.
Rheba frowned and resisted holding the parts of her that ached. She hated fighting armored opponents bare handed as it required more force to take them down, but it was made worse with her injuries reminding her of the recently lost battle.
Harlan stopped with the others and let her weight rest on the leg that had not been injured. All the running around had caused the wound to ache, but she pressed down the thoughts.
Amber, who observed the duo, shook her head. Had she not known about their injuries, she might not have noticed anything, but with her knowledge, it was painfully obvious that each was hurt. The Netzian agent silently cursed Gwyn for abandoning his teammates; even if he was ignorant of how hurt they were, her opinion of him lowered.
“We need to hurry; if they have spread out around the hospital, we won’t have luck stopping them,” Rheba said as she pushed her attention away from her aches.
“I suspect they have sent out advanced forces; there is an open area up ahead which would be good for the remaining enemy to wait in,” Harlan added.
They charged ahead without giving Amber a chance to reply. She shook her head.
“A bunch of hotblooded fools,” she spat before vanishing from sight. The agent ran after the duo in stealth as they headed to where Harlan expected the force to be.
After making their way through a few more turns, the trio emerged in the open space Harlan knew about. A large pool made up most of the room, and some specialized equipment was off to the side. Under normal circumstances, the space was intended for patient therapy. Benches lined the walls, and around one, the invaders were gathered.
Ripple was casually slouched on the bench as he observed a tablet. His subordinates all stood around him and relayed information about what the advanced parties were finding. Once someone found the mayor, the remaining force was supposed to head out.
The orange Zenotote looked up and saw Harlan and Rheba. Amber, who remained invisible, had begun to sneak around the pool.
“Ah, the Nonpareil’s lackeys. Are you the ones who took out some of my men?” he asked as he stood up and stretched. “I suppose it doesn’t matter, really. Tell me, what happened to that other support of his?”
Ripple spoke in reference to Kako, but neither Harlan nor Rheba realized who he meant. The Bentulousian warrior held up her fists.
“What is your goal here?”
“No answer, huh? I suppose after this, I better tell the boss about that strange one,” Ripple muttered. He turned to the duo and shouted, “to kill the mayor, of course!”
“Sir, should you be telling them that?” a subordinate asked. Ripple rolled his eyes.
“Concerns like that are unnecessary! They will be dead soon, anyway. Get going.”
At his words, the armored subordinates began to run around the pool shoulder to shoulder, like they were a moving wall. Amber, who they didn’t see, had to jump out of the way to avoid getting trampled as the enemy set their sights on Harlan and Rheba.
As the armored bandits approached, Rheba moved ahead of Harlan. She crouched down and swept at the floor with her leg, knocking down several of the opposing soldiers in a flash. The remaining ones scattered before the giant warrior could knock them to the ground. She pushed downed bandits into the pool before they could recover from her earlier attack. They frantically began to strip out of their armor as they sank into the water.
Swords were drawn, and all attention was locked on Rheba. She stood straight and clenched her Needaimus bonded fist. The pains ached, but she figured the troops wouldn’t be that hard of opponents to take down, even if she was a little injured.
Harlan cut across the room and focused in on Ripple. Unknown to her and the orange Zenotote, Amber ran by Harlan’s side.
Ripple produced two swords with his ability and slashed at Harlan as she came in close. The green frills on her head were barely missed as she ducked from the attack. At the same time, Amber delivered a punch in Ripple’s stomach. He flinched and backed up while Harlan stood straight.
“A pesky ability,” spat Ripple.
Harlan quickly grasped what was happening and did her best to make a confident smile.
“Yes, my ability allows me to strike at a distance even without making physical contact!” she lied.
“A perky one, too; if you’re not careful, you’ll end up broken like that, Nonpareil!” Ripple pointed his swords in Harlan’s direction and began to sprint. The frills on her head quivered slightly at his mentioning of Gwyn, but she refrained from showing emotion. He was quickly stopped as Amber, in her invisibility, kicked him in the shin.
He stumbled and clenched his sharp teeth. At the same time, he began to think about what Harlan had said. Her act wasn’t convincing enough for him.
There were four possibilities for someone revealing their abilities details in a fight. Some would expose them as a naïve mistake, and others would be too confident for their own good. It wasn’t typical, but there also were abilities that got more powerful after the opponent learned of them. However, The most common reason, and one that Ripple had come across many times, was that the opponent would lie. As he took a blow to the back of the head and fell to the ground, the orange Zenotote contemplated the situation.
Harlan was young, but she didn’t seem foolish enough to give up her ability accidentally or by overconfidence. And the strikes on him felt far too physical for him to believe they were due to a Needaimus, his own ability produced swords that had an odd weight and weird edges, which always gave away their unusual origin.
As Ripple felt another blow in his side, he snapped his tail in the direction of the attack. It didn’t take a second from it landing on something before he swiped a sword in the same spot.
Amber suddenly appeared; she let out a cry. Her left hand pressed her right arm firmly as she backed away. Ripple had managed to cut her, and she was finding just how jagged his ability-produced swords were.
“Nice try, but you’re going to have to get much better at lying to fool me!” the orange Zenotote said with a laugh as he glared at Harlan.
Harlan stared back with a blank face as she redied her arms. Her green eyes quickly darted around the room, but there was nothing to use her ability on. She had already used it up on herself and could not transform for a while longer. The Zenotote scientist quietly wished to herself that she had brought along some of her lab animals.
Rheba, across the room, hoisted an armored soldier into the air and shoved him into the pool, where he began to pull the plates off his body. Two remained untouched by the warrior, and they began to pull their armor off to avoid the fates of their comrades. Several soldiers who had pulled themselves out of the water focused to aid the others who struggled rather than turn back to Rheba.
She felt some respect for her opponents as they were willing to support each other rather than take her down, but she pushed it down to focus on the fight.
The two remaining soldiers had removed their dark armor and faced her with only dark clothes and swords in their hands. The first, slightly taller, was a Netzian with dirty blond hair and copper scales under his eyes. The second was a Hobusian with a crown pointed up like a rhino’s horn.
“It would be best to give up,” Rheba said.
The opponents didn’t reply. Instead, they charged forward with both swords at the ready. Rheba quickly sidestepped the attack and banged their heads together. The Hobusians crown fractured from the blow, and both sank to the floor.
The bandits who sank into the water stared at their defeated comrades before looking at Rheba with furrowed brows. She cracked her knuckles.
“You would have been better off staying under the water; I recommend staying back.” Her threat was not hollow, and the bandits knew a properly trained Bentalousian was a force that a common soldier would struggle with. Rheba turned away and charged into the fight with Ripple. Her opponents realized they should be counted lucky to get away as they had, but the cause they fought for was more important in their eyes.
They all gathered together and charged at Rheba in one unarmored mass. She sighed and quickly knocked each away with a fierce blow. Whether they remained alive or not, Rheba didn’t care to check as she headed back to the fight with Ripple.
Ripple spun both of his blades to point behind him and lunged backward. Amber was not prepared for his sudden attack. She tried to dodge, but one blade tore a gash into her side. Her pointed ears fell flat as she crashed into the floor with her hands pressed firmly to apply pressure to the wound.
Before anyone could react, Ripple jumped in the air and spun the swords in his hands. Harlan ducked just in time to avoid her head being lopped off as the orange Zenotote sailed over her. Ripple smiled as he landed firmly on the ground behind her. His specialty was dealing with opponents that couldn’t strike from a long range. He could easily make up for his mistake at the fountain with the trio in the hospital.
Rheba tried to grab Ripple from behind, but he slid to the side before her hand came close. No movement was wasted by either warrior. The orange Zenotote quickly transitioned from his dodging slide to moving his feet into a good stance. Rheba kept moving to the ground, pressing her hand firmly on the floor as she prepared to sweep his legs.
The orange opponent smirked and quickly shifted his position. Ripple jumped in the air as Rheba moved her long, thick legs to strike. Her attack harmlessly flew under his clawed feet.
He aimed the points down at the tall warrior and used gravity to strike. Rheba, guessing his intent, pushed on the ground and rolled out of harm's way. Ripples blades pierced the floor as Rheba hopped to her feet.
“I must say, you’re more impressive than Thorir made you out to be. I suppose he’s just too much brute force for delicate fighters like us,” Ripple laughed as his blades disappeared. Two new ones appeared in his hands.
He swung them around like a skilled performer before pointing them at Rheba.
The tall warrior considered her words before speaking.
“I will disarm you,” she said with a stern face.
“Let’s see you try,” Ripple said with a laugh as he charged at her, swords trained at Rheba’s stomach. Rheba took a deep breath and held her arms up; as Ripple approached, she moved her hands in what seemed only like a flick of the wrists. Ripples swords were suddenly thrust to either side of him as his opponent's seemingly small movement struck just the right points to loosen his grip.
The orange Zenotote could not react before Rheba went low and struck his stomach with a heavy blow. Ripple was thrown into the air slightly as he let out a gasp. While he remained midair, his swords disappeared, and two new ones materialized in his hands. He threw one into the ceiling, and a chain grew from its pommel like a vine.
The metal link connected the sword still in Ripple’s hand and retracted to pull him higher. As he moved, Rheba’s follow-up attack—a strike that would have smashed him into the ground—missed below him. Everyone looked at the orange Zenotoe hanging from the ceiling.
“I must applaud you; there are not many who make me bring my full weapon out!” Ripple shouted from above.
The connected weapon disappeared and reappeared in his orange hands as Ripple fell. He threw one sword forward with the chain extending. Rheba dodged it and held her arms up for the next anticipated blow. As the first sword was lodged in the floor, the chain retracted, and Ripple was suddenly pulled even faster.
The chain broke, and he spun the blade for an attack while coming close to Rheba. She went to move back when a sudden burst of pain struck her. The Bentalousian warrior fell to her knees instead, much to Ripple’s surprise. He swiped harmless through the air while pushing off Rheba’s shoulders.
After a flip in the air, Ripple landed softly by the pool. His chain appeared, and the swords were pulled close together. Rheba took a deep breath before standing back up and facing her opponent. Harlan slowly moved over and stood next to the tall warrior while Amber remained in the back, sewing her wounds. Ripple spun his blades around like he was performing at a circus. It would not have surprised anyone if his movements didn’t end with him swallowing the swords.
“He’s a tougher opponent than he looks,” Harlan said calmly as she twisted her injured leg.
“We’re just a little off our game; he’s not much,” Rheba replied confidently while trying to ignore rubbing her sore spots.
Ripple snorted and smiled a toothy grin at the duo. He had just received a message via his Needaimus from Nighthawk. The mayor was tracked down, and the giant Needaimus began the pursuit. All Ripple had to do was stall any potential foes, which he had already done.
Still, something weighed on the orange Zenotote. He wanted to prove himself after the mixup in the fountain fight. Kako had stalled him, and he was hard-pressed to let such an opponent make a mockery of him. He would avenge himself with the current trio and slay all three to prove his worth in the organization of Array. To do so, he would need to get them in close and to do that, he would have to get them into a space that would give him the best advantage.
With a smile, Ripple’s swords disappeared.
“Well, it has been fun, but I’m afraid I have better things to do than fight such weak opponents. If you would excuse me,” Ripple bowed as he finished his sentence before bursting around the pool to the entrance where the group had come from, running past his fallen comrades without a care for their well-being.
His pace was slow and deliberate; the others ran after then as best they could with their injuries. All he had to do next was find a suitable spot to turn around and attack.