The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)
The dueling opponents exchanged blows, or more precisely, Nighthawk continued to attempt crippling attacks while Gwyn and Harlan dodged as best they could. With each strike, the ground below the giant Needaimus would crumble as a warning for what would happen to either of the duo should they take a blow—their opponent wasn’t holding back, killing the mayor was the true priority, and they were merely a wall to knock down.
Harlan’s modified tobi attempted to scratch and peck at Nighthawk as the large Needaimus mostly ignored the strikes. The ‘metal’ Needaimus were made of was more robust and durable than almost any other material on Resh. It could be melted at extreme heat but was impossible to machine or cold form. As such, the metal creatures were often regarded as some of the best armor, and more experienced fighters would use their bonded limbs as shields in fights. Despite all that the tobi tried to do, the enhanced claws could do nothing but provide an annoyance. Harlan had thought their opponent was a severely overclocked case and would still have some face, and more importantly, eyes, showing, but she found that Nighthawk was a different story altogether.
Gwyn, in the fight, kept moving back and doing his best to avoid the bone-breaking attacks. He occasionally liquified the ground to cause Nighthawk to slip or throw a mass of pavement at his opponent but avoided going entirely on the offensive. Seeing as his opponent was never taken aback fully by any of his attacks, the Nonpareil saw little use in fighting. They could only hope to run.
From the sidelines, Mayor Abelard did his best to recapture his breath. He had turned around to watch the fight but remained firmly on his knees as his body refused to stand.
“Is it hopeless, Rom?” the mayor finally asked as Nighthawk created another small crater where Harlan had stood seconds prior.
“You’ll need to be more specific,” his Zenotote assistant replied. She nervously scratched at the blue scales under her chin while speaking.
“The whole endeavor. To make our fair city wonderful once again? I knew assassins would eventually arrive at my door, but I didn’t expect them to be such a force of nature.”
“I’d hardly call a Needaimus a force of nature, sir,” Rom replied. Abelard sighed.
“You know what I mean.” There was a moment of silence between the two speakers as the battle, if it could be called as such, raged before their very eyes.
“Mayor Abelard, with all due respect, giving up like this isn’t like you.”
“You’ve barely known me; we’ve only been working together for two years now…. When you get as old as me, that’s just a drop in the bucket.”
Rom grunted and resisted the urge to smack the sullen mayor in the back of his greying head.
“Sir, please do not make the time we have worked together sound so meaningless. You may not realize it, but I was in a rather sorry state when I first came to your office.”
“I hardly believe that,” the mayor said with a laugh. Rom shook her head, didn’t ever want to say aloud what she was about to, and didn’t even know if it was necessary or relevant considering the scenario they found themselves in, but she spoke all the same.
“I was born in a small village tucked away in the Leth Forest as one in a sextuplet. They always liked to say I was the last one born, but who could really tell.”
“Rom, I know all this.”
“You don’t know everything…. We were a poor family, especially under the Zenotote Absolutism’s rigid system, but our mother worked hard; our father, unfortunately, died young. When we got old enough, my sisters and I would sneak to the forest's edge to look at Nun shine with all its splendor. We made a vow to make it over here, and once our poor mother passed, just after we became adults, we all piled into a shoddily made dingy, but when we got here, we found just how hard life in the city could be. I thought it was a mistake. Everyone was in their own little worlds, making sure to shine a spotlight so bright over them that they couldn’t see what was three steps ahead. Fortunately, or unfortunately, those people are quick to take on cheap labor and even quicker to take on beautiful brides. We all found work, and some of my sisters seduced their bosses to get into more comfortable positions. I was stubborn, though, and ended up falling into the dark side of Nun; metaphorically, of course, the neon light still shines just as brightly there.
But, as it turns out, criminal life wasn’t too bad; I finally had money to do whatever I pleased and only a gang leader to bother placating. I learned how to fight and how to manage people. I thought I was happy, swimming in the waste that sank to the bottom of the city. That was, until one day, we had a job to break into the mayor’s house, of all things. I was excited at first; I could get back at the big shot of the city, the one who caused all my problems. Maybe you remember, we had arranged the guard schedule so that we could pay off most to be sick.”
“I recall, it’s not often my house gets broken into, the glass was shattered, and the two guards still on duty had been tied up and thrown in a closet. I was glad you at least spared them.”
Rom shook her head.
“Lucchi always preferred style over violence, or so he liked to say. Anyway, I bring all this up because of what your stupid house was like. I expected the bigshot of the city of glamour to live, well, more glamorously. I didn’t expect simple furniture and hardly any decorations. I mean, the only things of value you had in that house were clearly bought by your wife, well, except for all the pictures of Dia, which was a bit creepy, I’ll have you know.
Anyway, we never did find what we were looking for, and there wasn’t much else of value, so the job was considered a bust, but I became curious about the strange leader who lived so… blandly. I started researching what you were about; your charity goals and desire to improve Nun were everywhere. Even when I got people to come out of their little worlds for half a minute, they would unanimously say the city had improved. So, on a whim, I left my life in the gang and applied to work for you.”
“I see; that explains why you improved the background check process on your first day.”
“Sir, you inspired a thug like me to change her ways and work to improve this city. I was initially nervous that I had been fooled by my desires, but you always lived up to my charitable picture of you. If you were gone, the city of Nun would descend into chaos, that I am sure of. So, no matter what you say, I will not abandon you. I would rather die alongside you than see the city fall without you.”
“I am hardly as important as you think,” Abelard replied after contemplating, “I am a simple man, overweight and overworked, trying his best to change the spirit of our fair city. But I appreciate you sharing all that with me. I already knew I could count on you, but now, more than ever, I am glad to call you an ally and friend.”
Mayor Abelard reached into his suit jacket and pulled out the pistol he had hidden underneath. It was not Resh-made, but a weapons buff from earth would easily have been recognized as an M1911. A weapon that had been brought by the last other worlder who escaped the war he called ‘hell in the jungle.’ Nun had taken in the man, and Abelard personally had earned enough trust to receive the man’s sidearm before he passed of old age.
The mayor was trained in using guns—Rom had insisted he learned some way to defend himself—but was still hesitant to do anything. His fingers shakily loaded a round into the magazine—he always kept it unloaded out of fear it may go off in his pocket.
Abelard pushed the magazine back in and readied the gun as his other worlder friend had explained.
“I’m not sure how effective this will be, but it should at least briefly confuse our enemy. Give me a clear shot, and we will see what happens,” the mayor said to Rom. She nodded.
“Of course, sir.” With her last words, the Zenotote assistant ran into the fray to join Harlan and Gwyn. Abelard remained in place and took a deep breath. His breathing had finally steadied enough to run and escape, but he wouldn’t leave the others alone so easily. He aimed the gun at Nighthawk and tried to stiffen his arms to hold them steady. All he needed was a clear shot.