A Girl With Blades (Part 2)

Astrid's smile widened. "That's right. They are blades in the form of feathers. So how will you beat me, Paladin?" Despite the sense of satisfaction in that her opponent managed to realize what the feathers really were, as they floated to the arena floor, it made her feel a little uneasy about how Zack was able to figure what they really were.

Zack frowned. "So you know what I am?"

Astrid looked at him in surprise. “What do you mean?”

“That I'm the Paladin?” said Zack.

Astrid paused, before she slowly smiled. “Of course. What kind of Gladiator would get himself injured if he was normal? You'll run from the feathers because they'll cut you, won't they? Sometimes, I think that's unfair of the game of Gladiators, too."

Zack tensed, seeing wings materialize against her back. They seemed to be made out of rays of light and looked like holograms. In a way, they were mesmerising, those beautiful, graceful wings.

She attacked again, using that same pattern of quick attacks on him, as he tried to defend against her.

Be careful, Zack, she's a Level 52, that's two times my level!” Weston called out randomly as he parried again and attempted a feint that was missed by Astrid.

Tell me beforehand!” Zack yelled back. Weston frowned; maybe he should have saved it for the end of the fight.

And would you have backed down just after knowing my level?” asked Astrid, swinging Archaeryx wide at Zack.

He blocked, then slammed the sword away from him. “No. I'd be more careful!”

He jumped backwards and stood Galadhar against the ground, drew in a deep breath, then vanished from where he stood.

Startled, Astrid froze. Where-?

Then sensed him shifting right behind her.

Suppressing the urge to turn and check, she managed to jump forward without turning, avoiding Zack's attempt to slash against her back. Then, with a kick, she snapped out her wings and soared up over the arena.

"That could kill, you know!" she shouted, irritated.

"What?" Zack asked, startled.

"I'm not gonna lose yet!" Astrid yelled. Then frowned. "Oh, and feel free to go all out. You won't get injured here even if I cut your arm."

"Huh?"

Astrid was right at him again, swooping straight at him like an attacking angel, sword out. She was moving like a rocket.

Zack sprang aside, gasping heavily before he got back his balance.

Then he grinned up at her. "You're not the only one who can fly, too, you know."

Dark red wings materialized over his back, and he snapped them open. The wings were broader than Astrid's, wider, and more solid and real than her, despite the fact that the color of the feathers were a vivid red. “Have you ever had an aerial battle, Astrid?”

Astrid tensed.

Zack grinned. “And – here I come!”

He kicked himself into the air and vanished.

Astrid gasped, sensing him behind her and just managed to fly away before Zack swung his sword.

Down on the ground, Weston stared. "How - is that possible?"

Chris smiled. “Well, you don't see a fight in the sky like this everyday in the Domes, do you, Weston?”

“I've never seen one,” said Weston. “Zack could fly, too? I thought his wings were just aura!”

“Wings aren't aura,” said Chris.

“Hey, by any chance, are you supposed to be a phoenix?” Zack called out to Astrid as he kicked back in the air then twirled his sword in his hand.

“Why?” asked Astrid, startled.

“Your ensemble's colors remind me of a phoenix,” said Zack. “Pink, in place of red, maybe; then dark green, a coat makes me think of a beast with a tail. And you have wings, plus you seem to like feathers, if you can disguise them as blades.”

With a glare, Astrid attempted to attack Zack now, but it appeared as though he could finally catch up to her speed, going on the defense.

And she realized it, too, the way his sword was beginning to connect and block all her attacks. And that maybe Zack was actually more faster than she was.

Catching an opening, Zack attacked with a slash from his sword, now finding his chance to go on the attack.

Astrid clenched her teeth as she was forced into defense. But in this case, it was actually the first for her. Not the first time that she had been in an aerial battle, but that Zack was the first Level 50 Gladiator with wings as her opponent. In other aerial battles, she was the winner, but Zack was proving harder to fight.

She waved her sword, and sent the sparks of light shooting at him, this time, making them swarm at him like hornets.

Taken by surprise, Zack turned and flew higher, and the feathers gave chase. Then he glanced back.

And he vanished.

Astrid gasped. Where now?

Zack shifted right behind her. Just as she realized that he really was faster. Fast enough to be able to disappear out of sight, with just a flap of his wings. Maybe it might be the same case if he ran.

Madison and Weston were about to shout a warning at the same time, but then Zack swung his sword downwards.

And hit down hard on Astrid's head, sending her landing to the ground.

She dropped and landed with a crash.

The End

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