The dark assassin's eyes flickered past his adversary’s shoulder, and then he smiled, eyes narrow. “Is she now? Then who is that, standing at the entrance?”
Levi fell for the trick, slowly turning his head and leaving himself unguarded, but he didn’t care. Hataru was alive? Yes, there she was, waiting in the opening of the cave, her gaze locked on him. Crinkling his eyes to belt out a jolly laugh, the captain almost didn’t see her frantically pointing behind him. Levi’s battle instincts snapped him into focus right in time, though, as he spun on his heels and parried a violent blow from Kosu’s blade, simultaneously slashing at the assassin with his metal claws. With his fear melted away, the pirate used his weapon assets like the master that he was, pushing the villain back ─ full force.
A dim light of alarm flooded Kosu’s eyes; he had never seen such strength in his nemesis, not since last year, at least. Unscrupulously, the assassin removed the Stygian dagger from its place on his baldric. Made of black titanium, its blade was long and lean with a serrated edge and identical decorative silver patterns along both sides. The soft leather-wrapped handle fit his grip perfectly.
Kosu loved knives. They were his favorite death toys; he loved the sensation of being close enough to feel his victims' last heartbeat and the sound of their last gasp for air as he plunged the cool metal blade into their gut… or their neck… or their eye. This dagger, however, was his favorite above all ─ yanking it out of fresh corpses gave the most satisfactory sensation. He knew the story of the blade’s origin, but the assassin couldn’t imagine ever giving it away as a gift, especially to the man who had taken the woman he loved; Kosu would rather kill the man with the knife.
As he was reveling in his dagger fetish, The Black and White Assassin nearly missed his cue to dodge Levi’s sword, and in a silver flash, the blade glanced off his upper arm, tearing through his clothes and drawing blood. He screamed in anger, more upset with his own sluggishness than the actual pain, and the assassin aimed to relieve his frustration the only way he knew how ─ by robbing the life of the nearest living being. This horrid habit had lost him some of his strongest goons, but they were easily replaced. Dropping his sword to the ground and tightening his grip on the dagger, Kosu lunged blindly at his younger opponent, repeatedly stabbing at the man’s torso. Levi struggled to deflect each jab, his adrenaline rush dying down. The demon warrior thrust him back into a pile of peridots, causing the green gems to take flight like a flock of frightened tropical birds, and leapt on top of the captain, arcing his blade toward the pirate's heart.
As he watched the dagger arc through the air, Levi was reminded of the first time he had truly known fear. He had only been seven then, sleeping calmly in his bed at his grandmother's house, dreaming of the mother he'd never known, when a heart-stopping whisper had echoed in his ear, I never loved you. A scornful grin. The glint of a child's pocket knife. Pain. Howling agony. Tears and blood mixing together. The loss of sight. All of the emotion of that karyotic night flash-flooded the captain's being now; it was happening all over again.
But the assassin's black blade never hit its mark.
Like a hammer against an anvil, it merely rebounded off Levi's chest. The two enemies looked down. Nothing except his shirt lay between the Stygian dagger and Levi’s vital organ. No, not his shirt ─ the burgundy shirt that he'd found in the cave. Somehow, it was acting like a shield ─ a barrier that the dangerous blade could not cross. Kosu banged his knife harder against Levi’s chest, vehemently trying to kill him, but it was as futile as attacking a brick wall with a feather.