Chapter 37:

Secret Lives


A cold stand-off between two familiar fighters rested amongst snow and a multi-colored pool. Both waited for a move, but also Dareia still offered Eudokia an opportunity. The clear view of power between the two put Dareia at a decided advantage with the snow field largely eroded away.

“Overconfidence isn’t like you, Eudokia. You know you can’t be holding back against me.”

“This will be enough.” She focused on her Field concentrating deeply on it. The maximum radius of the snow began to shrink revealing the park once more. As the Illusion Field tightened, the contested line between their Fields moved. It pushed slowly a meter further away and then another. The new line halted close to the equidistant point between them. However, the slight advantage remained to Dareia.

“It would seem that stubborn streak remains.”

Chapter 37 – Secret Lives

Eudokia breathed slowly, maintaining her focus. ‘I can’t let Yuki near… I need to end this quickly, but as I am, that’ll be difficult…’ She materialized the chakram in her right hand with a chain linking to the pommel of her sword. All the snow in the Field suddenly shifted to ice.

A wry smile came over Dareia watching Eudokia prepare. “Baring fangs, but not your claws. Let’s test that stubbornness of yours and see how long it lasts.” She swung her sword in an arc in front of her, generating a glow. Like before, energy shot out of it in a white arc.

Without reaction from Eudokia, the ice shot up as pillars of hexagons. Unlike the barrier she made before, this held tight until the energy faded. Eudokia leapt into the air to land on an outstretched chunk of ice.

The moment her foot landed on the ice, it stretched out rapidly. Despite the ice appearance, her feet gripped the surface effortlessly as it sent her towards the enemy. With her momentum, Eudokia jumped from her platform bringing down her sword upon Dareia.

Their clash rippled sparks around them. Ice from her Field flung at the woman. Small blasts of energy radiant out from the assassin’s sword. Each danced around evading or deflecting away secondary attacks. Clouds of ice and liquid dyes rained around them in minor explosions. No clear advantage settled between them yet.

Pushing Eudokia back with her sword, Dareia made a little room for herself. “Fair enough. I’ll put in more effort.” She stamped her foot into the liquid Field. Red colors coalesced together. They quickly separated into orbs that hovered in the air. Four in total gathered and sped towards Eudokia at inhuman speeds.

Only her automated defense of ice saved her. Yet it wasn’t halted, it shattered into smaller particles that sank into the ice like acid. It slowed down enough that she could react by drawing up more defenses. ‘Dammit, she’s keeping me at bay while she changes modes. I wanted to stop her from utilizing her Field. Despite the time I spent with her, she had little opportunity to use her power in combat. So I know nothing about what every color can do, just the function of the Field…’

Once the time had been bought, the assault ended. Dareia revealed her sword upgraded to a bastard sword length, though wider and with a blue tint throughout the metal. Her previous body suit was coated in a green pattern of geometric symbols and shapes. It almost looked like a magic array had been painted over her, but it morphed constantly into new shapes from second to second.

Eudokia swept her arm out, clearing away all of the ice. ‘An new offense…’ She mentally prepared her Field for whatever might come. It had been a while since a fight required her to put in the effort. Not an unwelcome experience, she would need to be stronger.

Rather than swinging the sword, Dareia thrust it into the earth. She dragged it through the pool of liquids stirring up the colors. A tear through the surface erupted dividing everything. Like an invisible ribbon, it stretched out towards Eudokia, cutting ice. It spiraled out to wrap around her. Invisible forces closed in.

Testing out the attack, Eudokia slashed her sword through the air only for it to be diced up. She stepped back and looked around to see the divide almost completely trapping her. A slight groan came out of her teeth as she pressed them together. Eudokia discarded her weapons, focusing fully on her Field.

The spirals closed off any escape quickly. Locked within, the bastard sword spun up in the air, light as paper. Another invisible attack brushed against the snow moving quickly. It shattered through ice defenses effortlessly. Each destroyed wall brought it closer to Eudokia. Within the last meter, she threw up her hand raising one last pillar of ice.

Shards of ice rained down covering the area in a fine powder of particles. However, the pillar remained standing carved deeply into with a clean slice. She exhaled with some relief. ‘It worked, but I won’t be able to use that trick again…’

Dareia stared carefully at the results. Her analytical mind absorbed all the details and checked against the facts. Scanning the environment, her eyes widened a touch with revelation. “Clever. I see you’ve improved your tricks!” Beneath her, the ice Field of Eudokia hovered surprisingly close with frost still clinging to her legs. “You really are a special talent, flipping your Field and dragging me away just enough to weaken my attack.”

The woman picked up the bastard sword from the air and snapped it sharply in an arc. A faint crack echoed through the air as the spiral carvings disappeared. “Perhaps this is enough for you.”

Ice around the assassin disappeared. The entire Field morphed turning into mounds of rolling hills. Eudokia planted her feet into the ice as it sealed around her boots. The sword and chakram reformed in her hands as the ice dragged her body forward.

She closed in with Dareia. The ice mounds pull her up and around making quick hit and run strikes. Despite the size of the bastard sword, it maneuvered well to parry or defend. Sparks from the metal sang out as they exchanged blows.

Before a rhythm could be found, Eudokia changed up her pace and movement. The Field morphed with the ice growing out to become sheets suspended in air. All logic or physics ignored with her new intent. It gave her new surfaces to slide along that wrapped around and upside down.

The sword fight no longer stayed two-dimensional. Her body spun around on the ice rotating wide becoming horizontal. Blades rattled and screamed through the park. She fought upside down and on the flanks, whatever would keep the fight from settling into something adaptable.

Despite her best efforts, any appearance of a hit glanced off. The constant assault largely kept Eudokia safe, but no head way was made. She only had guesses to the nature of the green patterns on her body. It provided protection, clearly, but she needed more information. Each attack sought to answer her question.

Dareia shifted her focus and deflected with her sword. The blade sliced through the sheet that Eudokia rode. With a spiral, it shattered through the rest. She grabbed Eudokia by the forearm and threw her to the ground. Stabbing the sword down at her, she rolled away in time, but the spirals chased after her.

Eudokia sank half her body into the ice and slipped away forcefully before the attack could capture her again. She coughed and gasped a little recovering from the sudden pull. ‘Dammit, not a scratch…’

“All that talent you built just for the King. It’s a shame that you’ve tossed it all the way on a childish dream. I thought I trained you better.”

She pushed herself back to her feet. Her body came out a little bruised, but nothing that could stop her. “At least I’m still serving something honorable.”

“This is tradition. Regardless of your feelings on the matter, this is the way things go.”

“I won’t see his dream fade and be destroyed by those corrupt bastards!”

“It’s the way it goes sometimes. I thought I taught you that. The world isn’t a clean and orderly place. I taught you to survive.”

“And I will and see our people to a better path!”

A sigh came from Dareia. “It seems you’re set to this path then.”

“I am.”

“Then you better be more clever than this!” Drawing in a breath, the park ran silent for a moment. Focusing within herself, the liquid Field suddenly took over most of the ice. The sword shrank down to a dagger size now tinted red.

A bit of sweat dripped down Eudokia's forehead seeing the real strength of Dareia revealed. ‘Is she going to force my hand? He’s still not shown up… If I’m alone, then perhaps I can…’

The entire pool shifted red. It rippled outwards becoming larger waves. Repeated waves echoed deeper building stronger until it became the consistency of an ocean. Rising higher and higher, a three meter tall wave crashed down over the remains of the ice Field.

Ice walls rose up from the Field in hexagon shapes once more. Each attempted to stave off the liquid, but shattered immediately. Another even greater wave slammed down against Eudokia. The pressure pinned her to the ground. Nothing could move even a centimeter. Her Field failed to hold off the surge no matter her focus. ‘I can’t… I didn’t think she was this strong…’

Whatever the liquid was made of, it started to burn away at her clothes and skin. Completely submerged, it all just dissolved into the wave. The erosion of her body screamed throughout her mind. She held her mouth shut fearing what it would do inside her.

Her heartbeat quickened. The stress tightened through her mind. If her body sweated it disappeared immediately. Cornered, Eudokia felt the reminiscent sting of her mortality. It seemed almost poetic that it came from Dareia.

As a last defense, she pulled in all the ice she could to encase herself. It provided a brief respite, but the corrosive liquid didn’t stop. She needed a better plan than defense. Eudokia searched through her memory for anything about the woman she could use. Nothing came to her and the cracking ice didn’t help her focus.

Buying time, she tried to move herself with the Field again, but the pressure held her in place. ‘I can’t overpower her…’ Focusing harder on her Field, she tried to squeeze out just enough. She felt a small tug on her as the liquid didn’t hold her so tightly. It wasn’t enough to escape. Above it all, Dareia stood on the wave maintaining the strength.

Slipping a little more, she suddenly got caught on something. Moving the ice away, a utility hatch laid underneath her. Fighting her mind’s concentration, she forced her Field tighter. The strain on her mind felt like she would burst. It however gave her enough to expand the ice out enough to get the hatch open.

Eudokia dropped inside quickly and released her Field back to normal strength. She looked around the now ice covered interior of the shaft. Very little light managed to make it even reflected off the ice surface. Feeling her way through would be the only chance, but escape wasn’t the goal. She bought herself time to plan.

She sat down catching her breath and examining her body. Blood streamed down her arms and legs where exposed. Her clothes had dots of soaked material. “As I am, I’m not going to be able to match her strength. And I have maybe one focused Folding left in me. I can’t waste that…but I need to make an opening.”

Above the sound of waves drew her attention up. The dark metal grate covered in ice hid the unknown threat in almost taunting fashion. “Even with a plan I’m going to need to escape first. I don’t know if she’s figured it out yet.”

Focusing on her attire, it repaired itself and hopefully provided some bandaging for her wounds. As she finished, an unnerving crunch echoed through the shaft a few meters away. Suddenly, light started to pour in along with liquid.

“You can’t hide from me, Eudokia.”

“Damn, I’m out of time…”