Hands borne with inhuman quickness seized Eurydice by the shoulders, wrenched her into a sudden forward lunge--and opposed her lethal descent with a brutal knee into the base of her abdomen.
The force ruptured wide her entire midsection, crushed her spine as it knifed upwards with a muffled rip and cut into her sternum, eviscerating innards and tearing her straight up off the hull.
That there was no pain shocked Eurydice as much as the strength and speed behind the blow; blood shot from her mouth as she fell straight down--but before her feet touched the ground, the Sword of Mercy swept to the ground with a reverse spin.
The heel shattered through both Eurydice's knees like a sledgehammer crossing dried twigs. She began a second fall--and that was when another rising heel crashed into the side of her shattered rib cage.
Eurydice flew twenty meters across the deck, bounced against the railing and then finally met the steel ground...pulverized innards sprawled about, missing both legs.
Start to finish, the Sword of Mercy's opening move lasted two seconds.
The impact against the railing obliterated Eurydice's vision, and the agony her voice. Nobody of her opponent's size had right to move like that, in much the same way no elephant had right to move like a cat. Vision returned to her in a blur, and she blinked away the black stars as she rolled off the crushed ribs in a daze, feeling very much like a fool.
Her opponent was impossibly quick and just as strong as her, and however these facts came to be, she had to understand she could not touch the Sword of Mercy unless it allowed that. She had to put it in a position where its speed amounted to nothing.
Eurydice dizzied to her feet and rubbed at the raw pain lancing at her side as her midsection and legs began to regenerate, wondering why she wasn't simply killed again. For every moment she lived, however, her question seemed to answer itself.
Twenty meters across the deck, Eurydice saw the Sword of Mercy balanced upside down on a single palm, and from that unlikely stance rise even higher to balance against one fingertip. It observed her for a moment, and then elegantly eased to its feet. Eurydice hadn't considered an artificial lifeform could taunt so convincingly.
It paced forward, angled a glance at her as though she were an worthless vagabond, but watched as her legs finished regenerating.
Of course, Eurydice grinned, it's curious.
What warrior of sound mind and reason would face a foe that came back from the dead without attempting to learn the secrets of regeneration? From the way it quickly guessed the true nature of the Gate of Eden last night, Eurydice knew its sharp mind swam with thoughts.
Take all the time you need, Eurydice thought, rising to her feet. She spat out the blood and broken teeth.You're quick, but you're too curious. All I need is a good moment. One good moment.
Eurydice took cautious steps toward her opponent. The Sword of Mercy also approached.
"So," it regarded her with genuine interest, "what do they call you?"
The Old Guard took faster steps as she drew the air into a swirling gust at her left palm. The wind element was not her strongest, but it had to suffice. She pressed the swirling gust, concentrated its wrath. "Eurydice."
"Such an old name. Is that what that man calls you?"
"My name is Princess Eurydice," she raised her voice, the gust in her palm now building to a miniature tempest. "The Seventh daughter of Lircy Sig'ner and Alma Mater!"
Eurydice brought forth her left palm in a lancing strike. The miniature typhoon exploded outwards and set the ocean liner heaving to-and-fore. The groan of ripping metal sounded across the derelict, and in the moments the old vessel threatened to capsize, the Sword of Mercy lost balance. The blast caught Eurydice's opponent in a twisting cyclone that scoured the metal deck to a brilliant sheen.
The vessel listed, heaving to port, as the Sword of Mercy shot out of sight past the ship's prow. It split the sea at range, with a thunderous crack that sent a washing cascade rising high into the sky and crashing down. Eurydice balanced against the capsizing vessel, looking for a perfect foothold as she fought the elation of her small victory.
It was testing her, she knew--gauging her offense and defense to estimate the extent of her abilities. She angled a glance over the prow as she prepared to leap.
A good kilometer distant, the Sword of Mercy stood upon the sea as if it were land, waves lapping about. Eurydice was familiar with the surface tension technique of the water element...but how did her opponent know of the technique?
She took the fight to the waters in a terrific leap. The surface tension technique between both combatants gripped the sea so densely that even as the derelict liner capsized and sunk into the murky depths, the waters remained eerily calm.
The Sword of Mercy watched her the entire time: from the moment she jumped over the railing, regained her footing on the calm waters and began a quick pace toward it.
Eurydice imagined how her opponent should feel. The Sword of Mercy's human mate was aboard the capsized and sinking vessel, yet the only emotion played across its face was genuine curiosity. Would theSword of Mercy, perhaps in a private moment, weep and mourn the loss of its unborn child's father?
"Why won't you fight for your domain?"
"I have my reasons."
Keep talking to me. Eurydice's pace became a jog, and then finally, leaping strides that hammered into the sea and sent foam spraying in her wake. Keep giving me more time.
"So you're just selfish?"
"No. I've already lost my battle ...and I'm tired of fighting."
Eurydice threw the downward fist with all her weight behind the blow, yet the Sword of Mercy merely watched her and made no obvious attempt to dodge the attack. She struck its brow with force to split boulders in half, and the blow drove the opponent a hundred meters closer to the forest island behind it, but she found no give in the head beneath her fist.
Eurydice had a chance to catch glimpse of the armor, perhaps one second--before the opponent caught her arm single-handedly. A layer of crystalline ice, compacted to a hair-thin transparent film, covered its body like a second skin.
The Sword of Mercy then broke her arm.
A sudden twist wrung flesh and bone as if it were sodden cloth. The straight foot to the relative shoulder bulled her back--tore her from the limb.
First her blood was a formless liquid, then the bend of an elbow and fingers defined themselves. Livid muscle appeared over bone, followed by red skin that darkened to match her tanned complexion.
The Sword of Mercy raised the dismembered arm before her. Ghostly-blue flames ignited across the wounded limb, leaping and sparking. Skin curled apart, then the flesh melted and peeled away from the unspeakable cold. The blue flames consumed the limb until nothing but smoldering bone remained.
Eurydice took a step back. How had her opponent learned such forbidden witchcraft? She remembered that this was a manufactured being, with engineered genetics so perverse that she was now willing to believe that it learned by physical contact alone.
The technique made the Sword of Mercy a hundred times more dangerous. Eurydice could regenerate lost limbs and survive fatal wounds...but if that ice-elemental witchcraft burned her whole, there wouldn't be anything left to regenerate from. She had to keep her distance, so she knelt and sunk both hands into the waters.
At first ripples appeared, then the sea trembled. Realizing her intent, the Sword of Mercy leapt to an alarming sprint to stop her but then slammed to a halt, sensing danger.
Eurydice didn't waste time; she tore her hands from the waters, drew forth a swelling wave. She lifted it and thrust it toward her opponent, wave spilling over wave, until a surging tide raked the sky.
The Sword of Mercy leapt, a hundred full meters straight up.
The tidal wave passed beneath it, smashed into the island forest, flayed bark from mighty banyans, ripped great redwoods from root. Subject to gravity, the Sword of Mercy began to fall. Eurydice caught a glimpse of its eyes and saw the confused expression on its face evaporate into sudden concern.
That was her moment.
Eurydice released the tidal wave and focused on the waters close by. Her aim was perfect, her target in freefall. The sea rose forth in twin projectile streams, spiraling in a rising arc at a sixteen hundred kilometers an hour. There was a supersonic crack--followed by a vicious downpour to slash the frailest of skin.
The Sword of Mercy crashed out from the blast in a frothing plume; it shot past the beach, smashed through the tallest of the standing trees and met the island with such force that the sea shuddered from the impact.
Eurydice sprinted up the beach and bolted into the woodlands in pursuit. You may be quick, but you're too curious and conceited. You should have attacked while you were in your element. Now you're in mine. This is where the real fight begins.