Chapter 190:

Hal Disarmed

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

Hal ran through the hotel as fast as he could. He cursed the confused guests as he pushed past them; he cursed Odell being nowhere in sight to support him; he cursed his biology for not giving him long legs—he cursed about everything he could as he ran through the halls with Nero chasing after him.

The masked man had not closed the gap since the chase began, but it had not increased either. It was clear to the Netzian soldier that he was being toyed with, and that made him curse all the more.

Guests screamed and became panicked at the sight of the opponents running through the glamorous hotel. Hal, who carried his long rifle in his arms, and Nero, who spun his scythe around while humming, was already a strange sight, but it was made all the more disturbing as the masked man would occasionally swing his scythe at the occasional guest he passed. Some missed, some lost a body part or two, and some were split down the middle. Nero kept it random to make sure his amusement wouldn’t wane.

Hal placed his rifle over his shoulder to aim backward and fired several shots. Nero merrily bobbed and weaved to avoid the laser fire. As Hal’s gun smoked from the heat, he slid it back into his ability space. He could tell he needed a plan and would have to come up with it quickly.

The green-haired Netzian pushed through two doors and exited the hotel into a large balcony. About every five floors, the outermost ring of the circular building was made into a sprawling space that allowed people to view the brightness of Nun in all its splendor. The lake that surrounded the hotel sparkled with many bright colors of light, and the sky was so illuminated by the city Hal had to second guess if it was day or night.

Between the hotel's walls and the railing, the only things placed were the occasional bench where a couple or family might sit to enjoy the view. Hal didn’t dwell on the scene for too long as Nero soon pushed through the doors after him.

The green-haired Netzian ran ahead and spun around to face his foe. They were at least on the tenth floor, and he figured his best chance to win might be to get Nero to take a dive.

“Ah, what a beautiful scene,” the masked man mused as he held out a hand to the shining city, “Though, I personally prefer when a city is on fire—I suppose all the bright lights mimic it somewhat…. Nonetheless, you picked a wonderful place to die, I’d like to say.”

Hal reached into his ability space and pulled out a combination of weapons. Around his fingers went his metal knuckles, in his left hand, he held his fiery sword, Passion’s Bite, and in his left, he held a sword Nero had not seen before, ‘Fairy Bite, the vengeance of a spirit forgotten.’ Around his waist, Hal had quickly set his pistols, Twin, and Gemini. Nero couldn’t help but snort at the sight.

“More weapons then! A jack of all trades but master of none,” the masked man said as he spun his scythe around in a way that could only be considered showy.

Hal ignored him; he instead looked longingly at Fairy Bite; a sacrifice would be needed to defeat Nero, and the green-haired Netzian looked like he might cry at the thought of losing a weapon. With a deep breath, Hal prepared himself, then he glared at Nero.

The two locked eyes for a moment before Hal began to charge in close. Nero swung his scythe, and the Netzian soldier ducked to avoid the blow. As the blade harmlessly flew over his green hair, he aimed the point of Fairy Bite at Nero’s leg and thrust. There was a brief whistle from the blade. Then, it ran clean through, and an instant later, it was pulled out. The hole was small but noticeable enough for the masked man.

Hal nodded; that was his only chance to surprise his opponent with the new blade. Had Nero not been so guarded around his vital areas, the Netzian soldier might have tried for a strike there, but he was getting wise enough in the fight to know he needed to play the long game with the masked man.

Nero dropped to his knees and glared at Hal. The mischievous smile of the mask hid a hideous expression of anger.

Hal didn’t waste time; he positioned himself, so Nero was the closest to the balcony edge. He swung his fiery sword at the masked man, who leaped back to avoid the strike of the extending blade. As soon as Nero was moving back, Hal went into action. With a move of his hand, he held his sword Fairy Bite like one might have a javelin. He felt a twinge of hesitation but didn’t let the feeling stop the blade from being thrown at Nero. The masked man was shocked as the whistling sword flew at his chest. He twisted just enough for the blade to run through his shoulder.

The Netzian soldier did not plan to give up. He threw his firey sword in the air and drew both pistols from his side. Two laser shots were fired, and the overheated guns were tossed to the ground. Nero spun his scythe to deflect the lasers off the metal blade, but Hal was already catching his fiery sword and charging forward.

He thrust the blade of fire forward at Nero’s stomach. It was stopped by the metal scythe as the masked opponent’s back pressed against the railing of the balcony.

Hal wasn’t finished with his attack; he quickly let go of the sword and swung his metal-covered fists at Nero’s head. A large crack ran across the mask's smile as Nero was thrust over the railing. Hal fell back into a seated position with heavy breath. He had done it, the plan was not foolproof and demanded much from him, but he managed to defeat Nero. As he gasped for air, he hoped the masked man could not swim and would perish in the lake below.

The green-haired Netzian pushed himself up and began to plan to collect all the weapons he had dropped. There were several on the balcony and several more where he and Nero first met, and he would not be satisfied until all were cleaned and safely away.

A loud laugh stopped Hal from moving from his spot. He quickly moved to the balcony and cursed as he looked over.

The scythe was lodged into the side of the building, and hanging on it was the masked man who laughed maniacally. The sword Fairy Bite was still lodged in his shoulder, but Nero didn’t seem to care all that much.

As he laughed, the cracked portion of the mask fell away, revealing the left side of Nero’s mouth. Where the mischievous smile had once sat was replaced with the smile of what could only be considered a madman.

Hal backed up and turned to his firey sword. He ran to the blade as Nero flew up from below and landed back on the balcony as if nothing had happened. He pulled out Fairy Bite and threw it over the edge while his laughter subsided.

“You are quite something! It takes a lot to overwhelm me, even if it was only for an instant!” Hal held his blade up, but Nero kept talking. “Where you went wrong was assuming I couldn’t keep up with all your attacks. The thin sword had a surprising amount of force behind it, but the other attacks were rather dull by comparison. Still, I don’t humor everyone,” Nero stopped to laugh to himself before finishing in almost a hissing whisper, “You should be glad!”

“Your talk is hardly as amusing as you think it is,” Hal replied.

“I suppose this fun should end soon; I would hate for you to run out of tricks and become boring. So, I’ll just finish you while you are still interesting!”

Hal charged at Nero with his fiery sword still in his hand. He planned to feint an attack and flee; additional aid would be needed to finish his foe; he was quite sure of that now. Nero didn’t seem at all concerned with Hal’s charge and simply kept talking.

“You see, Needaimus are fun and all, but once the trick runs its course, they get rather boring. I don’t know how many people I’ve seen keep repeating the same move over and over again like it will do something different.” In a blur, Nero moved behind Hal. The movement was swift, and the Netzian soldier only saw the masked man disappear.

Nero held something in his hand as he casually walked behind Hal. At first, the green-haired Netzian only saw from his periphery, but as he turned, what the masked man held became clear.

A red Needaimus bonded arm. The fiery sword fell from the dismembered limb and clanged on the floor as Hal’s yellow eyes turned to his shoulder.

The cut was clean. Smooth and precise, it had been made right along the edge of Hal’s red Needaimus, slicing just the exposed skin between the shoulder and the neck in one clean blow. It was a tricky maneuver, the kind brought up in question during military training, but usually passed over due to the chances of a fighter pulling it off being low. A blade that hit a Needaimus would bounce off, and if it swayed too far the other way, it might strike a head, ending the user's life far more quickly.

Hal didn’t have time to ponder what had happened. The pain set in as soon as he laid eyes on the wound. He clutched at the injury and fell to his knees. Nero chuckled and tossed the arm to the side. Hal’s Needaimus, No. 5, broke free from the limb and ran back to its partner.

From underneath the cracked mask, Nero smirked. He kicked No. 5 down the balcony; the red metallic creature bounced on the ground several times before coming to a stop, then the masked man scooped the flame sword up. With a few steps that seemed more like skips, he smacked Hal’s hand away and lifted the Netzian by the collar.

The flame of the blade was held to Hal’s sliced shoulder. He winced and bit his lower lip to avoid showing any sign of pain to the masked opponent.

“Probably shouldn’t kill you all the way,” Nero mused as the fire cauterized the wound. “Might be a damper to the long-term plan; it is always the worst when you have to work with others, though you wouldn’t know what I mean. I suppose this will be a good lesson; you should count yourself lucky; not many have a chance to learn from a fight with me… on account of them all dying.”

Hal could barely focus on the words Nero spoke. He quickly fell unconscious, to which the masked man shrugged. Once the wound was closed, Nero dropped Hal and the fiery sword to the ground. He slung the scythe over his shoulder and grabbed the Netzian by a leg. Then he happily whistled as he walked away, dragging Hal along.