Ahem::dramatic music:: This entire story is in the process of being rewritten and reposted, chapter by chapter. The story will be called 'The Eternal Flame RW,' and will be up soon. The story itself probably won't change, but some new events may be added in, and the general quality will be much better. So, check it out when it's up!

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THE ETERNAL FLAME

This is the tale of the Eternal Flame as told by Lairkeh, the only one to ever survive a clash with its guardians. He staggered into an inn in Korana, most of his body covered in wounds and multiple splashes of blood. As people gathered round, he swallowed a bit of water and spoke:

"Hear me, as I tell this tale with the last of my breath. I come from deep within the forest, and what resides there shall live on in legends to come.

"In its depths the great ones lie. The four nobles, if you recall. There they stand, and it is there that they have created an ultimate entity.

"They call it the Eternal Flame; it burns with a perilous might. They have bathed in its light, and from it they have received powers of untold magnitude. Incredible strength, wisdom, and, it is my belief that they have gained immortality; they cease to age.

"The four—Erun, Heloth, Morta and Nerid—have abandoned their lives in the castles. They created the Flame, and they guard it with their lives. Should the weak challenge their might, the weak shall be slain. However, should one rise above, he shall be granted power beyond comprehension. Hear these words, and let it be known that they are true."

After his speech he collapsed onto the floor, ceasing to breathe. He had no time to recover from his attacks, and Lairkeh died that night.

The people in the inn were curious. Lairkeh wasn't known to be a liar; however, they had no reason to believe his tale, either. Even so, it was passed down from that time. Although it had been warped and parts that were forgotten filled with lies to, the tale never wavered from the legend.

The Eternal Flame gave power and, to obtain it, one had to destroy the guardians.

Prologue: The Backgrounds

CHIREN NAUTA

Chiren grew up in a war torn period in the western empire. The two empires were fighting for control of the continent. His father was in the army, and his mother had been slain during an enemy invasion on his hometown. After this, he and his father had moved to the city where his uncle resided.

His father was still in the army at this time, and Chiren was raised by his uncle, a swordsman. Chiren's uncle trained him in the ways of the sword. He grew more skilled, and at seventeen he defeated his uncle in a match. This was Chiren's final step to manhood.

When Chiren reached twenty, his father was killed in battle. When the news reached Chiren, he was brokenhearted but remained firm, as a warrior should. When the war ended eleven years later, Chiren found a wife, Myra. They had a child named whom they named Myra, and lived together in his deceased father's house in the town of Yarkuna. He is now age thirty-five.

NOCA KALLOS

Noca grew up in a prosperous family. Her parents both worked for the emperor, Rikon, and were very wealthy. Noca's grandmother, who lived with them, was one of Noca's favorite family members, and they spent much time together. When she died, Noca was thirteen. She left Noca her most prized possession: her twin-bladed staff. This was an amazing staff, as it had the ability to compact and become very small, when needed. Noca treasured it, using it and practicing every day in honor of her grandmother.

Noca was an only child until six, when her parents adopted a son from an orphanage. He was eleven at the time. He had no name, and refused to answer to any name they gave him. The only thing he had with him when he was adopted was a sword, which he trained with constantly. Noca and her brother were very competitive, and when Noca received her staff, they put together obstacle courses to see who could get the best time through it. They were closely matched, and out of eleven runs, her brother won six.

It was clear that Noca's brother loathed her. He took every opportunity to make sure she was miserable, and, as her parents protected him, Noca could not retaliate. This continued throughout her childhood, and Noca's anger continued to build inside of her.

When their parents died, they left them both their large house. Noca and her brother lived in it, but in separate wings. They were very competitive then, and still are. Noca is now twenty-four, her brother twenty-nine.

MIKO TORNEST

Miko's father, Kentir, worked closely with the emperor, Rikon. As a result, Miko grew up in a wealthy home. Kentir was a close personal friend of Rikon, who shared both laughs and secrets with him. They lived in the city of Portensa, which housed the emperor's castle.

On the day of Kentir's fifteenth year working with him, Rikon presented Kentir with a gift: a pair of magical sai. He explained to him the magic inside them. The sai could absorb the energies of all non-living objects and convert their energy to a different form of the object itself. For example, a piece of steel into a blade, or an herb into healing power.

After a night in deep thought, Kentir decided to give the sai to Miko, age fifteen. He allowed him to train with them, and arranged matches with warriors of the empire. When Miko's skill with the sai was unprecedented, Kentir revealed to him the magic they possessed. Adding this to his arsenal, Miko became a formidable opponent, and none of the warriors of the palace could best him. He received his quest at age twenty-five.

KYRO WYRDAN

Kyro grew up a peasant with his parents. As a child he was very violent, and one day committed a murder which led to the ownership of his weapon: a steel boomerang with a sharpened frontward edge. Once in possession of this weapon, he developed a fighting style that fit his personality; hard and brutal. He fled his home at the age of sixteen.

From then on he made a living fighting in arenas, and gained great fame for his feats. He was soon known as the Demon of Destruction.

Due to his skill, Kyro was unable to find an opponent who presented a reasonable amount of challenge. He desperately searched for a worthy opponent. It was then that he met Saya Getena, at age twenty-nine.

SAYA GETENA

Saya grew up an orphan, her parents having been killed in a battle which overtook their hometown. Her only memento of them is a pair of daggers, with one blade longer than its other. The blades curved at the tips and had ornately carved black handles.

During her childhood in different orphanages, Saya trained in the art of ninjitsu, following her deceased parents. She used this technique to meld her mind, body and spirit into a single formidable force.

Once freed of the orphanages, Saya pursued life as a traveler, never staying in one place for more than a few months. She wished to be notorious throughout the empire as a fierce warrior. This led to her challenging Kyro Wyrdan, at age twenty-eight.

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PART ONE: THE ULTIMATE QUEST

Chiren was training in the courtyard when he heard the gasping sounds behind him.

He had short black hair that was wrapped above his head and was dressed in dark red clothing.

He turned and saw his daughter, Myra, running toward him over the shaded stones. Her long brown hair flew messily around her, hiding most of her tear-streaked face.

"Myra?" Chiren said, sheathing his sword. "What's the matter?" To see his daughter in distress was most painful to him.

She fell to her knees before him, continuing to sob.

Chiren knelt down, swept her hair from her face, and spoke to her in a comforting voice. "What has happened, dear?"

Myra shook her head, unable to speak. Her bright blue eyes were shielded by her eyelids, which refused to open. She stood and began running back toward the house, motioning for Chiren to follow her. He did so without hesitation.

He followed Myra through the front door and into the hall which led to the bedrooms. She stopped at his wife's doorway, Myra, after whom they had named their child.

Chiren rushed inside and saw his wife on her bed, eyes half closed and skin a ghastly white. Her once deep brown hair had unexpectedly lightened, looking as though she had aged twenty years in a single day.

"Myra!" He immediately knelt next to her bed, taking her hand. He winced; her skin was ice cold.

"Chiren?" Myra turned toward him, eyes closed. Her hand's grip was failing, and the weak fingers slipped from his own. "Chiren…it ails me."

He gazed at her with sad eyes. Were it the sickness, no physician could cure her. "No…is it…?"

Myra barely inclined her head, but it was an unmistakable nod.

Chiren's heart felt as though it had been cleaved in two, keeping silent. The crushing feelings that he was experiencing didn't allow him to weep. "Myra." He said, grasping and gripping her hand tightly. "I…"

"Don't…try anything…" Myra said in a terrifyingly weak voice. "Chiren, promise me…just take care of Myra."

Chiren barely heard wisps of her speech. Through his mind were racing the legends of old. If no person could help her, then there was only one option. Determination set itself into his heart and soul.

"Myra, I will call upon Dr. Hyren." He stood and exited the room, leaving his wife with a kiss on her frosty cheek.

"Is…is mommy…?" Myra was waiting outside of the bedroom, gazing at Chiren with hopeful eyes. She was wringing her wrists in worry.

So much like her mother. Chiren thought. He looked affectionately at her.

"Myra, uncle and Mr. Hyren will be here shortly. Uncle will be watching you for a while, okay?"

Myra nodded, not wanting to ask why. Chiren knelt and gave her a small hug, and continued down the hallway.

He left the house, sending a message to Dr. Hyren and visiting his uncle. Chiren explained the situation, and his uncle accepted without reluctance. "Just don't get yourself killed, alright?" Was all he had said.

Retrieving some gold, Chiren left the house he had lived in for eleven years and set off on his journey. No doctors, no medicine. Only magic and the legends of wonder. The only thing that could save Myra's life was the Eternal Flame.

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Noca enlarged her staff and readied herself for a duel with her friend Kunesa, who wielded two swords. She had drawn them and was slowly wrapping something around the blades.

Noca grinned. "Ready tolose?"She called out mockingly, smiling as her voice floated over to her best friend.

Kunesa smiled. Noca never changed. "You're too anxious for this; you haven't even protected your blades!" Kunesa's own blades were now covered with a rounded curve of metal, so that they wouldn't cut, but simply bruise.

Noca looked slightly affronted, but grabbed her steel from the ground and wrapped it around the spade-shaped blades of her staff. The staff itself was about six feet in length, each blade a foot and a half long. The wooden shaft was flitted with small bits of steel and iron, so it could glance off blades and other things without being split or cut.

Noca's short brown hair was tied behind her so as not to screen her vision. She was dressed in a long shirt which split at the sides, long flaps hanging parallel over her legs.

"Okay," she said, "let's go." Their blades met in the air, several sparks flying from the clash.

Noca forced her staff downward, bringing Kunesa's blades to the ground. Kunesa whipped to the side as Noca's other blade came down.

Their fight continued with laughter, each of the women receiving several bruises from the rounded blades. They ceased when Kunesa's metal guard was knocked free of her swords.

"Okay, okay, you win this one." Said Kunesa, breathing heavily. She picked up the guards and sheathed her swords. "I'd better go. Duty calls."

"See you." Noca removed her own guards and headed toward the house. The manor rested on top of a hill, looming over the rest of the town of Harsen.

As she approached the front door her brother stepped from the shadows. "I don't know why you bother, Noca," he said to her, sneering. "You'll never defeat anyone but your foolish friends." His strange black eyes glared at her with contempt.

"There's no need for you to comment," Noca said, giving him an equally cold stare. "I could best you on my worst day."

"Ah, the naïveté," he said. His sword was drawn from its sheath, the many scratches upon the steel flashing in the bright sunlight. "I think it's about time to see what your boating amounts to."

Saying nothing, Noca dropped her guards onto the porch and followed her brother as he walked into the courtyard in which she and Kunesa had just dueled.

From behind her brother, Noca caught sight of her friend someway dow the path to town, standing and watching. She gave Noca a smile.

Good, she thought, waving to her slightly to acknowledge her presence, I'll have a witness to his demise.

When the pair reached their positions he immediately rushed at Noca, swinging his blade at her side. The sound of metal crashing into metal echoed loudly in the courtyard, neither warrior yielding from the blow. Noca spun away from the block and swung her staff low.

He leapt over the attack, driving his sword into the ground where Noca had crouched.

Instead of pulling it out he dropped low, anticipating Noca's move to swing her blades overhead. He then yanked his blade free and rolled to the side, standing.

The battle continued for many minutes, each combatant becoming more and more frustrated at the lack of the others' injury.

In a desperate attempt at victory, Noca thrust her staff at his chest, throwing herself off balance.

Taking advantage of her momentary vulnerability, he whipped around and smacked her hard in the side of the head with the flat of his blade.

She fell to the ground, stunned.

"Consider yourself lucky," he said as he sheathed his sword. A cold smile danced on his lips. "I could just as easily have killed you."

Noca got up slowly, pain spreading agonizingly from the welt on her temple. Her brother had already disappeared by the time she regained her senses.

"Come back!" She yelled after him.

A laugh sounded from up ahead, deep and derisive.

"I'll prove that I'm better than you!" Noca snarled, searching for him. She ran up to the house, heading for her room.

If he wants to try and tease me for this, fine, she thought furiously, reaching into her dresser and extracting most of her gold pieces. Let's see him laugh.

His patronizing days were over. Reliving humiliating memories, her fury and embarrassment reinstated and swelled. This was the last time. Never again would he feel happiness.

"Let's see him laugh when I return with the Eternal Flame."

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Miko was walking down the dirt path leading to a large and extravagant house. From his distance a mile away, Miko could see its slanted roof peeking over the top of the hill.

It must be enormous, he thought.

His apparel consisted of a dark green shirt with light chain mail beneath and dark blue leggings with leather wrapped around his ankles and feet. A thick belt was around his waist, from which hung multiple objects, including his weapons.

Miko journeyed there to deliver a message, which he concealed in a drawstring pouch hanging from his belt. He was explicitly told not to lay eyes upon it by the emperor himself. The thought hadn't even crossed his mind as his heart leapt with the proposition of doing a personal favor for the ruler of the empire.

Upon the offering of guards to accompany him, Miko declined. All he needed were his sai. He touched the strange marking on the handle.

Miko rested his hands upon the sai as he continued down the path. Beginning to see more of the house, he broke into a brisk jog.

Tsew!

Reacting to the familiar sound, Miko immediately ducked to the side as an arrow shot past him and stuck itself into a nearby tree, shaft quivering. The projectile seemed to have come from behind a large, chipped boulder about fifty feet ahead.

"Quick one, aren't ya?" A gruff voice sounded. Four men stepped out from behind the stone, eyes on their target and hands hovering above weapons.

Bandits, thought Miko. I was wondering when they were going to show.

"Tell ye what," The man who had spoken previously said, eyeing him. All four men wore identical black clothing, loose, ragged straps blowing with the light wind upon the road.

Miko noted that three had swords, and one a bow, coupled with a quiver full of finely-made arrows. Most likely stolen, finely-made arrows.

"We'll let ye pass unharmed so long as you hand over all the gold on ya."

"I think not," said Miko. "I haven't any." This was a blatant lie, but Miko would do what he could to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.

The man shrugged. "How about them daggers, there?" He said, gesturing to the sai.

Seeing no other alternative, he said, "If you think you can take them."

"Impudence!" The bandit remarked. "However disrespectful you may be, I never turn down a challenge." Turning to his men with a laugh he said, "One of you time this one."

The leader drew his blade without hesitance, holding it low. Miko's sai were drawn from his belt, in hand in a flash as the leader rushed toward him with confidence.

Upon reaching him, the bandit swung his sword in an upward arc.

Miko caught the blade with his left sai and twisted it, forcing the sword out of the man's hands. He held his other sai with the point just touching the bandit's jugular, hand not wavering but all the while applying pressure, until the point just barely broke the skin.

"Now, I will give you the chance to leave unscathed.

Fear shone clearly in the bandit's eyes, and he avoided Miko's expressionless gaze. "Very well, lad," he said, turning away from Miko.

He motioned quickly to his cohorts.

Fiend!

Another arrow was launched at him, the bandits' leader taking advantage of Miko's evasive move to grab his fallen weapon from the dusty path. He grinned at Miko maliciously.

"Honor, be damned! At him, men!"

The three with swords, leader included, rushed at Miko with blades at the ready. The leader, being the first to reach him, was also the first to die. Stepping on his low swung blade, Miko pierced him through the throat in a fluid strike, quickly extracting his weapon from the man's gullet.

As he fell, Miko grabbed the sword from his hands and flung it at the oncoming bandits, clipping the side of one and causing him to stumble and slow, kneeling down onto the road.

As the other reached and attacked him, Miko caught his sword with crossed sai and twisted hard, breaking both the blade and the bandit's wrist. The man cried out and dropped the half-sword he held, demolished wrist unable to grasp its handle.

Taking his opportunity, the archer fired another arrow at Miko, who pushed the bandit he had just injured in its path and using him as a shield, the arrow penetrating deeply into his back.

He collapsed as Miko let go of him, emitting choking gasps.

The archer fled.

The other, still recovering from his wound, was caught in the stomach with Miko's foot and fell hard, dust kicking up around him and covering his black clothing in a fine layer.

Miko wrenched his blade from him and tossed it into the grass alongside the road.

"You had best accompany your friend," he told him, who had almost run from their sight.

The bandit kicked his feet wildly, scrambling backward and raising up clumsily to run after the archer. The pair disappeared over the horizon, and Miko sighed.

Bandits… he thought, beginning once again to jog forward in hopes of reaching his destination unharmed.

The second arrow had torn through the cloth covering his right shoulder, though it barely brushed his skin. A few inches to the left and it may have been his eye.

He wiped the sai on already bloodstained clothes, embarrassment rushing through him. Could he go up to the emperor's personal advisor like this, covered in blood and perspiration?

Mustn't worry, mustn't worry… Miko chided himself. I'm sure he would expect something like this, after all.

When the sai's blades were free of his enemies' blood, he slid them back into his belt and increased his pace.

The sun was beating down fiercely, and there was nothing to provide adequate shade along the path. Miko wiped his brow with the back of his hand as he continued, beads of sweat dripping into the dirt to be sucked into the dry ground.

Soon, Miko was only yards from the house's front door. Thankful for the blessed shade provided by the edifice, he did his best to clear away the droplets upon his face before reaching the front door and giving a hardy knock.

A few moments later the door was answered by a rugged looking man. Coarse-looking stubble covered the lower half of his face, his brown, tied-back hair apparently having singes in several spot. A pair of swords and dagger hung at his dark blue belt, the same color as the rest of his apparel.

"Sir!" Miko said, bowing low at his appearance. The man's rank, Rikon's personal advisor to war, far outstripped his own.

He looked down upon Miko, signaling for him to rise, and spoke in a deep voice.

"Are you the messenger?"

As Miko answered in the affirmative, he noticed his eyes scanning his bloodstained and dirty clothing. Slightly embarrassed by his scrutiny, Miko flushed.

"Have you been in a battle?"

Hoping he was not displeased with him, Miko said, "Yes, sir. A quartet of bandits assaulted me a fair mile from your home."

He nodded. "Unscathed, I see, providing that the blood does not belong to you."

Miko shook his head. "No, sir."

"Well, the empire is thankful that you survived. You have the message, I trust?"

At that, Miko unsealed the pouch on his belt and withdrew a scroll tied with a red string, which he handed to the advisor.

Letting the unknotted string drop to the ground, the advisor opened the scroll and read it closely.

Upon its closing eyed Miko closely.

"Are you Kentir's son?" He asked.

"Yes, sir," Miko answered him.

Instantly, the advisor's face became less tense, and the muscles conceded visibly. "Kentir's son, then. Miko, if I remember correctly."

Miko nodded.

"I—we—have a favor to ask of you." He paused and brought his hand through the stubble on his chin, glancing at the scroll again. "Quite a large one, on behalf of the empire and Rikon himself."

Miko immediately straightened his back as best he could. Anything for the empire. "Sir,

I'll accept without hesitation."

He smiled. "I'm glad to hear that you are so eager. You are trained in combat, correct?"

"Yes, sir. With these sai at my belt."

His gaze briefly fell over the makings on the sai's handles, then returned to Miko's eyes. "This favor—truthfully, more of a quest—"

Quest?

"—is quite important and, although it may sound ridiculous, you need not be skeptical. We need you to retrieve the Eternal Flame."

Miko's eyes widened, though he dare not laugh. Keeping his respect, he asked, "Sir, is that now an article of legend?"

"That is what most believe. However, we happen to know that the Eternal Flame does, in fact, exist, and where it lies." He turned and stepped inward, gesturing to Miko. "Come."

Miko followed him awkwardly, closing the door behind him when told to and immensely relived by the drop in temperature once inside the house.

And what a house it was! The inside was lavishly decorated with weapons of all kinds. Swords, maces, shields, spears and numerous other objects dotted the walls and even the ceiling.

Woven rugs covered the hardwood floor, the many room visible on their course quite large and possessing great amounts of valuables.

Following the advisor, Miko came upon a large dining room, a sleek mahogany table taking up most of the center. It was here the advisor sat, Miko taking a seat opposite him at command.

After they had lowered themselves into the chairs, a maid came in with a silver tray bearing a pitcher and loaf of bread. She set it upon the table along with two bronze goblets and left the room.

"Miko," he said, pouring reddish liquid from the pitcher into the glasses. From the odor, Miko guessed it was wine. "As previously stated, yes, the Eternal Flame is existent. Before I tell you its location, however, I need your true acceptance." He pushed a glass of the wine toward Miko.

Miko took it and sipped, relishing the bittersweet taste. It had been months since he had had wine as fine as this. "I would be honored," he said, speaking the truth and setting the goblet back onto the table.

"Thank you." The advisor told him, wine untouched. "Now, then. The Eternal Flame lies in the Dungeon of Hakuba. I believe you are familiar with the city of Korana?"

"Yes," Miko said. The city was the largest in the eastern empire—according to their spies, it spanned ten miles across. Even having heard this time after time from quite reliable sources, Miko found it hard to believe. According to recent reports, the city had been experiencing some political trouble.

"Good. The forest which surrounds it—duly named the Forest of Korana—harbors the Dungeon of Hakuba in its center."

Miko nodded. It was the largest dungeon the city possessed, and used to house the most dangerous criminals, which was why it was so isolated. The name Hakuba was derived from the first emperor of the western empire. The dungeon had since fallen into disarray, and all prisoners and people who transported them there never came back. The city no longer used it, but was forced to leave it standing due to ancient order.

"The Eternal Flame lies therein. The only thing that has kept it from the grasp of Korsa, the eastern emperor, has been his ignorance and erroneous fear of the dungeon itself." He stood and walked to a desk behind him, opening the drawer and retrieving a handful of small scrolls.

"These documents will give you the clearance necessary to cross the border. You have the most potential, as you are proficient in battle and yet unknown throughout the east." He handed Miko the papers. He then turned and pulled several bags of gold from the desk.

"Here. Take this with you. No, no…" He said, when Miko tried to refuse. "It is from us. There is no need for you to spend your gold." He thrust it into his hands, coins clinking inside of the heavily woven satchels. "Now…I believe you are prepared. Is there anything I have forgotten?"

Miko cleared his throat. "Sir, I ask that you tell my father what my new mission is."

"Of course."

"Thank you for the wine," he said, putting the papers in a pouch and strapping the heavy gold onto a sturdy section of his belt. He stood and turned to leave.

"I wish you luck on your quest," the advisor said. "Your father shall be alerted at once."

"Thank you." Miko left the house, heart pounding inexorably.

His new quest: retrieve the Eternal Flame.

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The sunlit arena was quite bright, the shaded sections very crowded. Nearly all of the stone seats were occupied, every person in them either cheering or jeering at the battle before them with ferocity.

Kyro was confronted by a man of considerable stature. He stood six and a half feet tall, whilst Kyro himself measured around five feet ten inches. Still, it meant nothing. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

The man had bladed gauntlets bound to his wrists, the steel cutting edges dripping with blood. Not the blood of Kyro, but his own.

He was clearly dazed and weak, eyelids flapping erratically and weaving like a drunk. He took a small step forward and shuddered, more blood dripping to the stone.

As the enemy swung out weakly, the attack not even making a sound, Kyro stepped to the side and let the man fall to the stage, impact hard and loud. He moaned and did not attempt to raise himself from the bloodstained ground.

He's too worn out; he won't be any fun. Kyro thought, finishing the battle with a swift and strong blow to the man's exposed neck, snapping the bone with the edge of his weapon.

The man heaved and twitched as the last of his strength was sapped.

Satisfied, Kyro walked over to the proprietor of the arena, hitching his weapon onto his back. He saw the man next to him grudgingly hand him some coins. Guess he hasn't been here long, Kyro thought with some amusement, gladly stepping into the shade.

"Kyro, you never fail!" he said jovially, bestowing him with his winnings. Kyro pocketed them and left the arena, as there were no challengers left to face him.

He headed south, traversing the well-traveled road he had gone over so many times before. This arena had always been stocked with challengers; mostly ones new to the empire. They were beginning to dwindle a bit, however, to Kyro's dismay.

Kyro was dressed in green pants and a torn white shirt. He wore gauntlets made of very thick leather—thick enough to stop a blade. Two knives were clasped at his waist, and his boomerang was latched onto his back under his short red hair, which flew with the wind.

His hand immediately went to his weapon as he heard the soft padding of footsteps on dirt. He was not disappointed.

A woman, clad exclusively in black, appeared from the corner of the road.

Her hair was black as well, the excess of it drawn behind her. From the small of her back she drew twin daggers, the left blade outstripping the right's length by a few inches of single-bladed and shining steel, both of their cutting edges aimed downward.

"Kyro Wyrdan!" She yelled, eyes locked onto his own with a malicious air.

Kyro unhitched his boomerang and faced her with a ready stance and equally powerful glare.

Her eyes briefly rested on his weapon, then returned to his face. "I challenge you!"

"And should I refuse?" He said, though he had no intention of doing so.

"Then I shall strike you from behind!"

I don't think I've ever killed a woman before… Kyro thought, eyeing her. She was a fine specimen of one, at that. A shame he would have to do away with her. "One condition. What is your name?"

"Saya Getena."

"Very well. Maybe I'll go easy on you."

Though she was thirty feet away, Saya closed the distance between the pair remarkably fast, raised daggers thrust upward to be blocked by the bulk of Kyro's boomerang.

A kick from him forced her to move to the side, using her momentum to spin and slash at Kyro.

The battle veteran had already anticipated this move, however. Using the weight of his kick to turn, he dropped to the ground, arms breaking the fall, and the daggers whipped over him in a high-pitched whirl.

Pushing himself up, he ripped his left knife free of his belt and slashed, Saya sliding back to dodge the attack.

They stood, facing each other from ten feet away.

Still alive, Kyro thought, staring her down. This woman admittedly possesses a degree of skill.

Kyro wasn't limited to melee, however, and with a flick of his right wrist him boomerang was tossed through the air toward his target.

Saya ducked, the boomerang coming so close that it sliced a few hairs off of her head. Springing from her position, she leapt at Kyro as he drew his other knife and locked the pair in a power struggle.

Tew-tew-tewtewtewtew…!

The boomerang was returning from its failed course! At risk of it plunging into her back, Saya broke away from Kyro and to the side, allowing the boomerang to return to its owner.

Kyro stopped it with a gauntlet, snatching the still shape out of the air and having it take the place of his right knife.

Two minutes later the dirt road was sprinkled with droplets of blood, each warrior having sustained several wounds from their contender. The wounds were nothing severe enough to slow, most of them nothing more than hairlines.

"Stop," Kyro said, panting. "Enough."

Saya was exhausted, as well. The fight had tired them both severely, and she could barely find the strength to attack once more.

"Saya Getena," Kyro said. "I admit that you are skilled; possibly my equal. It does me good to see one such as you."

She showed no sign of relaxation, though inside she swelled with pride. After all, it was the Kyro calling her his equal in combat. This quest had been partly out of admiration.

"I hope to fight you again, soon," he told her, smiling. "When next we meet."

"Yes," Saya breathed. "When next we meet."

With that, Kyro turned and disappeared around a bend in the road, latching his boomerang onto his back and shaking his head.

She watched him vanish from her sight, feeling slightly disappointed. I came all this way…and I cannot defeat him?

She sighed, sheathing her daggers. "When next we meet…" she muttered. "I hope that will be soon."

Resignedly, Saya turned. She couldn't help but feel a bit enticed by him. Perhaps instead of a battle, she would ask him—

Tck!

Pain, white-hot, blossomed in the side of her neck as a sharp point punctured the skin. Almost immediately what little strength she had left began to fail her, limbs going limp and useless.

As she began to collapse, she cried, "Kyro…"

She fell to the dirt and saw no more.

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Heh. I think it's much better! I'm planning to do the whole thing…as for a sequel…oh, man, it just seems like so much. Maybe it's time to bring the outer continents into this. God, I made a map of their world, and I wish I could put it in my profile.