Part 23 - The Last Princess of EdenMature

Eurydice flew into the battered forest with blinding speed.

Trees that were shorn to pale husks by the tidal wave rose once more to their private heights and drowned the sunlight. Dense thickets erupted in the wake of her furious charge—vine and vine spilling between branches at her passage.

Eurydice's eyes had already adapted. In the distance, the Sword of Mercy rose from a broken quagmire. After the watery explosion and the woodlands' sudden darkness, it could not briefly follow her movements.

The impact of Eurydice's fist disintegrated the crystal armor across its forehead. It flew in a twisting backward sprawl—disoriented—and smashed through a thick trunk like a missile.

Eurydice was upon the Sword of Mercy before it rose, twin fists crashing down.

At home among the trees, she was just as quick and strong as it was. It caught the crushing blow and grunted with effort, a livid gash stretching from jaw to ear.

Eurydice knew a mere scratch wasn't going to be enough. Her sole intent was to overpower it, then smash through that ice armor and lay bare the living organism for the killing blow.

A new layer of ice armor appeared over its body. Its hands shook. It was nervous or terrified now, and she felt it getting stronger.

It pushed her back, forced her hands apart and raised a foot at her chest.

The powerful blow temporarily blinded and knocked the wind out of Eurydice. She met the jungle loam at range and regained her sight there--then rolled to the side, springing to her feet ten meters away.

The opponent's two-finger stab speared the ground she'd been on.

An unspeakable cold spread through the stricken land like a malignant disease. Nearby trees caught a pale blaze, froze and coiled to crackling-dry husks until only ashes remained.

The Sword of Mercy stood before her, its crystal ice armor was now thick enough to be seen at range. Eurydice knew her fists weren't going to be effective, and getting close was now out of the question.

Her adversary left the ground in a sudden flash of motion. Eurydice quickly drove her right hand into the soil, wrenched from it the crest of a root the size of an oak.

Induced into growth synthesis, the plant erupted through the ground and snaked for the opponent. TheSword of Mercy's open palm, wreathed in ghostly-blue flames, met the root.

The difference in temperature between the plant and the cold flames was equivalent to starship grade plasma. The root ignited into vapor, and the Sword of Mercy propelled the flames into a roiling inferno toward Eurydice.

Two titan roots flew from the ground in a twisting double helix to meet the hellish flames, and the win forces collided in a blinding maelstrom--creation and destruction--spewing showers of freeze-burned root and ghostly embers. Locked in a contest of might, both combatants endured the untold forces coursing through their bodies.

Eurydice now induced the entire forest into growth synthesis, all to merely hold back the cold flames that threatened to consume her whole--tons upon tons of root and branch and tree.

She was near her limit. Blue-black veins stood stark against skin as pale as ash. The intensity in her organic-green eyes waned to dull grey. It was too much. She was wilting.

Eurydice jumped, rolling to the side as the roiling flame flushed past her and met the ground she'd been on. The cold flames scored a crackling, smoking gorge that knifed across the barren island.

The Sword of Mercy fell to all fours, crystal ice-armor crumbling and vomiting blood, while Eurydice's shriveling wilted husk lay prone on the dirt. The vast energy that flowed through her had destroyed her body. Without the forest canopy, however, the sun shone unobstructed, and like a sunflower, Eurydice rose with the sun moments later.

The trees were gone. Not even a blade of grass remained on the barren island. She came to the Sword of Mercy, knelt by it.

"Fate had us meet as flawed legacies, star-crossed as unwilling lanterns of hope. When I was thrust beyond the Gate of Eden, I was told creation is the opposite of war. But not all creation is good. The feuds of our forerunners created the plague. I will do what I must to atone for their sins."

Eurydice sunk her left hand into the soil. Roots snared the Sword of Mercy's hands and feet.

The digesting chamber emerged from the ground with the Sword of Mercy in its open maw. It snapped shut like a Venus fly trap. Eurydice felt more than she heard the Sword of Mercy's screams as it drowned in the acid. The digesting chamber wasn't just another plant life form. It was a part of her.

She pressed the digesting chamber tighter. The Sword of Mercy's crystalline armor gave to the titanic pressure a moment later. She felt its wild thrashing cease to trembling chills, and then...nothing. The digesting chamber's purpose was to dissolve the body into its basic elements from which she would absorb the crucial essence. Over the next eight hours, she had to work to pulverize the remains--

A red-hot spike shot through Eurydice's abdomen.

Something was wrong. The sudden pressure at her abdomen increased like a white-hot fire radiating outwards through every nerve ending. Blood, Eurydice's blood, ran from the digesting chamber.

Eurydice could not scream for the air had escaped her lungs, and before all else was breathing. She felt the digesting chamber's pain like a pregnant mother.

At length, the organ's distended form appeared to pulsate. It shook with untold richter as it struggled to seal against a terrible strength. Then--suddenly--two hands erupted through the hardened carapace, in step with gruesome fissures that tore the organ apart. It ruptured in a violent crimson rebirth, and from it flew theSword of Mercy.

Eurydice's legs buckled beneath her. She fell, open palms twitching.

The two-finger stab pierced her chest like a heated dagger. It drove deep through the heart, fetched up against the spine, pinned her to the ground. A midnight cold gripped her, and light began to fade from her organic-green eyes. Her regenerative cells fought to keep her alive, and for an agonizing length she smoldered from the arctic pyre within.

She wondered how Cyril, human flesh and faith, fared with Lord Thor in the ruins of the east. Could he convince a fearful goddess to leave Her cloistered sanctuary and cast down the evolved Locrix?

Would the remaining humans falter and submit before the plague?

The last thing Eurydice saw was the Sword of Mercy. It had no eyes, not a face, after the digesting chamber's acids.

It began to heal before her, at first slowly then rapidly. The corroded face became livid with bare flesh, blood dripping to the jungle loam. The beginnings of a nose appeared, followed by thin lips. Intense, cold blue eyes congealed in their sockets.

The Sword of Mercy's aura could no longer be read, yet as sure as the suns it was living flesh and blood. Before Eurydice stood a contradiction of life as she knew it--the cold mind of a machine that now commanded the human form, and feigned with convincing mimicry any human behavior it saw fit.

Red skin appeared over bare flesh and paled to match its ashen complexion. A moment later, silvery-white hair spilled down its shoulders. The Sword of Mercy had learned the Angelic ability of regeneration.

Gripping blackness swallowed Eurydice's vision.

All worldly sensations left her, and the malignant cold spread through her body like a cancer. It shriveled and peeled her skin from flesh, her flesh from bone, and scoured the bones dry. Though Eurydice may not have defeated the Sword of Mercy, she still won in a different way.

The Sword of Mercy came stood above Eurydice's ashen remains, and contemplated the fierce battle. It considered the strange woman. This Eurydice was the last of her kind, and her self-sacrifice for a people that were not her own was an venerable act of goodwill.

That day, she decided that humans were not vermin for her to observe as a distant spectator while every day brought them closer to extinction. They did terrible things to her, but they had no choice. They could only be as good as their world allowed them to be.

She took Lee's death and her defeat today, and strived to turn it into something meaningful. Like all that is, humans were flawed, and through the strange woman's death, she saw they still deserved a second chance.

The End

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