Breathing in the crisp morning air, I revel in my newfound freedom as I move about the chaotic battlefield, finally in my element once again. My third day of war, and it just feels so right, being in the middle of the chaos, my feet to the earth, sword in my hand, the discordant sounds and metallic smells of bloodshed invigorating me as my exhaustion slips away. It's so much simpler fighting, rather than dealing with questions I have no answers to. So many fucking questions and lectures, 'how are you', 'do you want to talk', 'you shouldn't run off on your own like that', all pestering and nagging me. Yan and Mila are the worst of it, and Alsantset joins in after all her duties are taken care of. If she weren't a Senior Captain, she probably would never leave me alone. Thankfully, a few shrugs and long silences are enough to get me through it all, with no one the wiser.
My sword impacts on an Enemy's face which deforms it as it splits his skull apart in two messy halves. I've been having trouble with Honing lately, but who gives a shit? Hit hard enough and they die all the same. With a sharp enough sword, they can barely even feel it when it cuts through their flesh, it's only after the fact that they can feel the pain, and by then, I've already killed them. No fun at all. With a blunt sword, I get that satisfying, meaty feel when I saw through the flesh, and really dig in there to shatter bones. I actually like it more this way, the feel of cutting flesh, the salty spray of warm blood across my face, the surge of adrenaline through my veins. It's so incredible, and I finally have the time to appreciate my fights. No, don't smile so much, too suspicious. Not happy, not angry, just doing my job.
I used to be so nervous while fighting, worried about dying, taking so many injuries because fear kept me from moving fast enough to block or dodge. Now though? Somehow I just know instinctively what my opponent is about to do, and my body reacts accordingly. Even I don't know what's going to happen, it's like watching the world through someone else's eyes. I'm no faster than I was before, but there just used to be so much indecision and hesitation slowing me down, and that's all gone now. I'm fighting with only minor injuries, rather than bleeding for every kill.
Like right now, I know this ugly fucker of a Defiled is about to fake a chop, when he actually means to thrust, but none of that matters. My sword tears through his chest before he can begin striking, a look of disbelief pasted on his dying face, and my body is already moving on, pressing forward to kill again. No need to be scared if he's just faking, just like Dagen taught me. Confidence, that's the key. Kill or be killed, and I kept focusing on the 'be killed' part. Fear death and you are more likely to die. Ironic. Am I using that right? Man, who gives a fuck.
Fighting is just so damned easy now. It's laughable how skittish I used to be, and here I am in the middle of war, calm as can be, barely even breaking a sweat. Well, not really, I'm sure I'm sweating, but it just feels so effortless. I could just shut off my brain if I wanted to, or focus on just about anything, like how that one cloud looks like a horse, or that other one like a rabbit, and my body continues to move about the battlefield like I've been doing this all my life. I found my 'I know Kung-Fu' moment, except that I don't really know how I'm doing any of this. Most of the movements I make confuse me when I try to replicate them, but who cares about that? I wasted years of time and effort trying to understand every nuance of my movements, and that got me nowhere, but with just three days of war, I feel so much more powerful, it's unbelievable. This is how I should have been learning, just freeing my mind, getting out of my own way, it's all so clear to me now.
Analytical thought, scientific thought, rational thought, none of that holds true here, where everything is mystic and magical. It's probably just the movements hidden in the Forms, and now that I've gotten my stupid brain out of the way, I can finally use them as they were intended. I would prefer to know what I'm doing though, it's just... more satisfying. Like when I learned Akanai's charging attack, that was an incredible high, the knowledge of how to execute such a devastating charge, the excitement of trying it out for the first time, the gratification after my success. I still need a name for that move, a combination of Balance on Windy Leaf, and Pierce the Horizon. One Mantis Form, one Deer Form. Mantis Pierces the Windy Leaf. No, that doesn't work. Deer Balances the Horizon. Nope, even worse. Ah, who cares, I don't need to name things. I only need names if I want to remember what I'm doing, and that's old me. New me doesn't need to remember, because new me can just do anything.
While I muse about old attacks, My body leaps forward and crashes into an enemy, my sword smashing into him as we collide, knocking him to the ground. A quick stomp and I move on, swinging my weapon in a pattern, high to low, left to right. I think that's Fluttering Raindrops. Or maybe it's Ripping Tendons. Locking blades with another Defiled, my sword flicks out, metal ringing against bone and sending my attacker's weapon flying with the hand still attached. Slashing him from shoulder to sternum, I leave him to die in the dirt and search for my next victim. That was Dances in the Grass, I'm 100% sure of it.
Or maybe it was Returning Bite.
Catching Claw? Damn this is frustrating, why don't I know? No, I don't need to know. Taking a step forwards, I pause and look at the dying man on the ground, and bend down to end his suffering. A waste of time, I should be fighting.
A few people have commended me lately, mostly Fung and Man Giao. I haven't spoken to Akanai, who's been busy... Generalling? Commanding. She's been busy commanding the army, and Alsantset is half-praise, half-worry whenever she speaks to me. Everyone else seems to ignore me though, praising Huushal to the skies, calling him the next hero of the village. It's bullshit, that should be me. Whatever, I'm not doing this for recognition, I'm here killing because I enjoy it. No, I'm here because … because of the children. That's why I'm here fighting, because the Defiled are monsters.
Something isn't right about all of this, I just … feel it. I remember the scene, the bodies, the blood, the smell, but … I don't care about it, not anymore. That isn't right. After this battle, I think I'll go back to basics, figure out how I'm fighting like this, maybe ask myself some hard questions. It can't hurt, plus Fung loves to ask me questions about what I'm doing and it's getting tough to fake my way through it all. I just can't keep spewing magic eight ball answers, like 'Concentrate, and ask again later'. Why am I even faking my knowledge though? Shouldn't I just tell him? Doesn't everyone learn like this? Shouldn't I ask someon-
A mace knocks my helmet off, glancing off my skull and sending me to the dirt and my rage mounts. Looking up at my opponent, I snarl at him as he lifts his weapon for a finishing blow. This fucker is going to die slowly. Tackling him, I lift the back of his knees as the haft of his weapon glances off my back and he topples to the ground. Stomping my foot into his gut, I wrench his weapon out of his hand, just a normal, crude, bone mace, not even a spiritual weapon. For this little worm of a Defiled to dare strike at me, he deserves pain and punishment. Jamming my sword down, it pierces through his shoulder and pins him to the dirt. Slowly hefting the mace above my head, both hands on the weapon, I bring it down lazily, smashing it into one knee, relishing in my victims screams. A second strike, this one to the hip, and the audible sound of bones breaking is music to my ears. I continue to rain blows down upon him, focusing on his legs and hips, breaking bones methodically, section by section, so the pain still registers. After a dozen strikes, his legs are smashed to pieces, his screams long since turned to inhuman groans, reminiscent of Gortan's cries so many years ago. I let that stupid pig die too easily back then, I should have kept him alive for years, tortured him like he tortured me. It would have been good for a few laughs.
Standing tall, I glare about at the Defiled and soldiers who witnessed my vengeance, acting like the worthless, idle fodder that they are. Lazy fuckers, standing around while I do all the killing. “What are you fucking looking at? Kill them all!” I bring the mace down hard on my victim's head, granting him a final mercy as the soldiers charge forward with renewed vigor. The red crater that used to be a face stares at me as I fall to my knees and reach for my sword, as if accusing me of being too savage, too brutal, but this is war. There is no room for weakness here. He was a Defiled warrior, and he would have done worse, probably had done worse. I did the world a fucking favor. Fuck, stop being such a wuss, Rain. Just fucking fight.
Trying to stand, my body refuses my directions, my energy spent as I pant in exhaustion while kneeling beside my latest victim, almost as if I were mourning him. He has no eyes to stare at me as I sleep, no glare to accuse me of my crimes, so that's a plus. Even after fighting all day, somehow at the end of the night, I'm still too agitated to be able to fall asleep for more than a few hours, and it's never a good rest, filled with... nightmares I think, but I never remember them. I just wake up, drenched in sweat, parched and tired. I need something to take my mind off it, like sex, alcohol, or drugs, but it's not safe here, not when I could be attacked at any moment.
Through the exhaustion, a moment of clarity arrives. Something is fucking wrong with me, but I have no idea how to fix it, no idea where to even start. Fuck it, I can't deal with that right now. At least in battle, I have energy, I have purpose, I have a target. Throwing away all my thoughts and fears, I scream into the air, letting my rage build up before I stand and run towards the Enemy lines, shouldering my way through the soldiers to fight, losing myself in the joy of the battlefield. Soon enough, I sense another Champion, the throbbing pulse of their Spiritual Weapon drawing me towards them, like a beacon upon the field. I have no clue exactly how I keep sensing them, but it fills me with excitement as I slaughter my way towards my next victim. This one will be number five, my second Champion today. I should start keeping a tally, or taking trophies from my kills. I should keep their weapons. No, that's dumb, their weapons are crude, ugly, and heavy. Why would I even want one? Fuck why does everything itch so much?
Spotting my opponent, my eyes lock with his and I stride forwards, confident in my victory. This is who I am meant to be, an avenger, a destroyer, a taker of lives. War is what I am here for, blood and vengeance my reward. Nothing else matters, only that I keep killing my Enemies, until I drive them from my homeland.
Vivek Daatei waited patiently, listening to the musical sounds of the land, knowing his enemies would soon lower their guard. The tall, thin trees of this land were more than just giants to look upon, they offered shelter and nourishment as well. His tribesmen were arrayed about him, hiding within the treetops while the remainder led the Garos away, bringing their foolish pursuers on a merry chase. It had been hours of waiting silently, sitting within the gloomy branches and knowing death was certain should they be discovered, but what was life but to wait for death? They labored each day,delaying their final breath whenever possible, but that was all it was, a delay. One could struggle with all their might and still death would come, most often when least expected.
The twenty meter climb up into the treetops had been more difficult than imagined, and Vivek had needed to order most of his troops away before the southerners caught wind of his plan. Less than four thousand sat with him, hidden in the leaves, waiting silently, but that was more than enough for his plan to succeed. The moon was high and bright, visible from his perch, but once they descended, his tribesmen would be enshrouded in darkness, both advantageous and detrimental. There had been no better plan than this one, and action needed to be taken. It was not within his nature to be prey, and today he would show his pursuers his fangs.
The appointed time arrived, and he moved out along with his tribesmen, quietly scaling down their hastily-made ropes, woven from the thick grass that grew everywhere. Upon arriving on the ground, his tribesmen moved quietly through the forest, the path ahead memorized during their flight, their weeks of living here having taught them how to best survive. He gripped his weapon, the blade having served him well for as long as he could remember, a gift taken from his father who had grown too weak to keep it. The power of his ancestors lay within, blood of generations pooled into the spiked pommel, filling him with their power when he needed it. It would feast on his blood today, as well as the blood of his enemies, growing ever stronger as he continued to wield it. When Vivek had taken the weapon, it was not so lustrous or strong, but the recent years of continuous battles had morphed the weapon, no longer the plain sword of bone, but a misshapen blade, hooked and spiked, razor-sharp and heavy, almost as long as he was tall, luminescent in its whiteness. A fearsome weapon, it would serve him well once again.
They moved in staggered groups, one leading the way while the next waited, in case of any alarm or sentries. If his people were discovered too early, at the very least, he would be able to save the majority to fight another day. His ancestors urged him forwards, telling him to damn the losses and to begin spilling blood, but he ignored them as he had grown accustomed to. They were the dead, and the dead did not fear death, but they held no sway over him. Only the living mattered. He slowly covered the ground back towards where the tents had been spotted, the weak southerners unwilling to sleep beneath the trees, needing shelter in this mild land. Every step he took, Vivek was prepared for the cry of a watchmen, for someone to give away their position, for a sentry to spot them, but they continued forward without pause or incident. Perhaps the All Father truly did look over him, not that Vivek cared. His strength was his own, and he needed no god to look after him.
Despite all the odds, Vivek and his tribesmen were soon in position, ready to attack the southerners. He positioned himself at the edge of the treeline, his warriors remaining further back, each knowing what needed to be done, each having complete trust in his judgment. Vivek had led them through countless battles, more than any War Rider before him, and his people had prospered beneath his guidance. They had lost tribesmen to reach here, but the land before them was flat and grassy, the moon shining too brightly upon them for a stealth charge. A line of watchmen stood by the camp, illuminated by their warming fires. Another foolish act, as the light allowed Vivek to count each guard with ease. These southerners lacked the fortitude of his tribesmen, needing shelter despite the warm air that flowed everywhere. Even more foolish to stay so close to camp, their watchmen useless but for a few seconds of warning. He smiled to himself as he checked for traps, but all was well, the enemy commander a blind fool.
Belly to the ground, Vivek crawled through the tall grasses, and his tribesmen followed suit. He was in no rush, the night had only just begun. He moved slowly, his distance tracked in finger lengths, doing all he could to bring his warriors in close before the alarm was sounded. The moon moved through the sky quicker than his tribesmen across the field, and still he continued to crawl, his warriors following in his wake. They had crawled over frozen lands, cut by the jagged ice, their blood freezing to the ground, their skin peeling as they moved in total silence, and this was nothing compared to that, only soft dirt and smooth rocks. This land was far too kind to its people, and Vivek meant to stay and raise dozens of fat children with a handful of wives. No southerner would force him away.
The moon had yet to set when he arrived at the edge of the field, the camp less than fifty meters away. Grinning to himself, he rested slowly as he lay prone, waiting for his tribesmen to arrive and ready themselves as well. He spied upon the watchmen as they yawned sleepily, the sweet hour before dawn lulling them into false security, the sun soon to be up and their post nearly at an end. Little did they realize that so too were their lives. Finally he gave in to the incessant cries of the ancestors, and made ready to attack.
Gripping his blade, feeling the pommel thorns bite into his flesh, he summoned the power of his ancestors, the power of his blood. Strength and anger surged through him, irritating his skin and invigorating him as the gloom cleared, his vision sharper, more defined, his rage mounting as he charged forward, screaming his battle cry. Lopping off heads with a single sweep, he felt the blood offerings strengthen his blade, and in turn, his ancestors. His tribesmen swept through the lines, killing soldiers by the dozens, screaming their fury with him. This was their land now, their home, and none could say otherwise.
Giving his body to the spirits of his ancestors, Vivek fought, his weapon more skilled, his steps more steady as they guided him. His body moved without thought, charging towards each new opponent as Vivek studied the movements. Uncounted generations had fought in such a manner, learning through the guidance of the venerated spirits, until such a time that they needed guidance no more. They spoke to him, telling him to slaughter and maim, to become powerful, powerful enough to kill any who would drive him away, and he gave himself fully to them, to the bloodshed.
Vivek went unchallenged for minutes as he worked his way through the half-awake soldiers, cutting and crushing all who approached, soldiers half-dressed and woefully armed. It was child's play, laughable that these shrimp soldiers had the gall to hunt him. He should have simply led his riders here and crushed them wholly had he known how weak they were. The soldiers began to scatter before him as he approached, laughing as he spilled blood and guts across the plains, a sacrifice to the lands, his ancestors strength unmatched by these pitiful soldiers.
A bardiche chopped down towards him, blocked by his blade, the spirits guiding him. The impact rocked him back, and Vivek rejoiced! Finally, a soldier worthy to be called enemy, worthy to die by the skills of his ancestors. Decorated with the armor that spoke of a Champion, this new enemy, with a smug, superior look upon his hateful face, pressed Vivek, harder than any he had met in the south lands. Perhaps not all of the southerners were weak. Drawing upon his blood, he moved forward, speed and power surging as he attacked. Locking his weapon with the perfumed soldier, he grinned into his opponent's face, enjoying the challenge. Biting his lip, Vivek hooked the weapon in close and spit his blood into the warriors face, delighting at the screams elicited as the green fluid burned away the man's flesh. The ancestors had many tricks, this one something he had never done before, turning his blood to acid. Lifting his sword, he watched as his arm swung down for the final strike.
It sliced through flesh and bone, severing an arm, his opponent saved by yet another soldier. A new enemy to kill, this one fought with sword and shield, not quite as skilled, but far more powerful. With every blow, Vivek felt his bones shake, his muscles quivering as they resisted this fierce warrior. The soldier fought him desperately, making up for lack of skill with sheer strength, forcing Vivek back, even with the aid and guidance of his ancestors. Good, good, more worthy sacrifices, more blood to spill to empower his blade.
His people were home, and he would kill any who tried to take it from them.