Chapter Fifty-One: Deck, Part Two

Nos rushed in, intent to close the gap between Joachim and himself before the former have a chance to act. He wanted to decide the battle as quickly as possible and rejoin Lua and Pempe, with or without Joachim. Given the situation though, he assumed it would be without, and was already planning on the moves he needed to make to knock out his classmate.

He took his steps in with his head down low, knowing that Joachim's weapon required a short wind up and is not as capable of attacking those that come from below a certain angle. The two had sparred multiple times over the year and he had learn a thing or two about his rival's fighting style.

Or at least, he thought he had.

The yo-yo shot downwards towards the ground, exactly halfway between Joachim and Nos. Hitting the floor, the deadly toy ricochet off the marble and snapped upwards towards towards Nos. He brought a dagger up and parried, flicking the yo-yo away a split second too close to his throat for comfort. He leapt back to create distance.

Throughout all of their fights, he had never seen Joachim ricochet the yo-yo before. But then again, Nos had never bothered to ask.

"Where did you learn that trick?"

Joachim stared back silently without an answer.

"Right. What did I expect of you? To talk?"

Joachim moved in, closing in the gap and bringing Nos into his range of attack. The yo-yo spun out, blade whizzing straight towards him. Nos slapped the projectile away and charged in again, only for Joachim to bring the weapon around the world and back on his head. Nos stopped his advance and the yo-yo sliced down onto where he would have been if he had continued moving. Then, as if by magic, it bounced off the ground and sliced upwards. Shocked, Nos only managed to minimally move his body to avoid a fatal blow to his neck, but the blade still ripped a deep cut across his left shoulder and blood spurted across his cheek.

"Shit!" Nos cursed quickly.

He needed to back off and create distance again. His body was not prepared enough to handle the rigours of his magic. Stumbling after the hit, he tried to step back, only to see Joachim tug at his weapon's string. Desperate, Nos dived, turning his body in mid-air and slicing his dagger backwards. The weapon connected and parried away the returning yo-yo an inch away from his face. He fell to the ground, rolled, and as quickly as his body would let him, he jumped to his feet.

But Joachim did not let up. The attacker looped the yo-yo back and up to speed. Before Nos could catch his breath, the bladed toy flew towards his face again. On stable ground, Nos managed a clean parry of the attack. When he saw Joachim tug the string again, he turned around and parried the flanking strike. Footsteps beat towards him from behind. But before Nos could react, he felt the imprint of two foot slam into his back as Joachim landed a dropkick into his spine.

Nos nearly fell to the ground but caught himself by a knee. Feeling an anger rising, he spun on his legs and swung his dagger around. But the blade was stopped by a mess of metal strings. Joachim had twined the cable around his fingers and pulled them taut to create a straight shield. Still with the flexibility of a string, Joachim wrapped the mass around Nos's dagger and pulled, attempting to disarm. But Nos was not letting go, the horizontal group helped him hold tightly onto his weapon.

It turned out to be a mistake.

Joachim used his outstretch arm as leverage and pulled against it with a jump to land another dropkick, this time straight into the side of Nos's face. The string slipped from the dagger blade and Nos was sent flying back, tumbling until he found himself face down on the ground with blood drooling from his lips through the gap left by a knocked out tooth.

He had never fought Joachim like this. It was as if he was fighting a completely different person.

At first, he was going to watch his injuries and slowly climb back up to his feet. But a sudden sense of bloodlust caused him to use all his strength to jump away, which was just as well, as when he turned back, he saw the yo-yo slam down onto his prior position.

He exclaimed, "What the hell are you doing?"

Since the beginning, Nos had been fighting with one arm tied behind his back. He thought that perhaps Joachim was just confused, or stricken with the loss of their friends, and that the plan to kill him was simply something out of desperation. A part of Nos felt that if he just let Joachim blow off some steam, the latter would calm down. Or at the very least, the heart was not in place to deliver the fatal blow and Nos could manoeuvre to disarm and incapacitate his opponent instead.

But the longer they fought, the more it seemed that Joachim have all full intentions of killing Nos. Joachim's attacks had all been aimed at vital points, and he had not let up a single opening for Nos to recover.

Finally, the idea sunk in and Nos let out a defeated sigh. "You're here to kill me." His voice echoed through the empty chamber.

Joachim was breathing heavily. The onslaught was beginning to take its toll on both their stamina. But throughout it all, he never took his eyes off his opponent and the fierce concentration burnt through the air.

"I don't understand you," Nos admitted. "And not because you don't talk. It just always seem like you never tried."

Joachim looked offended.

"Don't get pissy. I know you tried. But I still never understood you. Maybe it's because I'm dense. Or maybe innately, I just don't like you very much. But I do know this is not what you really want. I can feel it in my bones. You're after something else." Nos gave his jaw a push, letting out a settling crack before he took a fighting stance. "Truth is, fighting's all I've really ever been good at. Socialising? Not so much. So I've decided, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to beat you up until I can understand you!"

Nos's right index finger lit up a bright thistle purple as the single lined magic circuit that ran up the digit activated.

A single line of magic. Compared to Joachim's whose entire back glowed from under his clothes, the power contained by Nos was miniscule. But he could feel the potential welling inside him. He just needed power. More power.

He felt the adrenaline pump into his system and his heart pushed just that millisecond faster. Kicking off, Nos rushed Joachim. The latter threw out his yo-yo in a straight, but Nos easily deflects it. Another burst of energy kicked into his system and his next step forward was ever slightly quicker. Joachim pulled back and swung the yo-yo around. Nos took a step right and spun his body, blade contacting blade in the flash of a parry.

Joachim backed off again, curving his movement path within the large enclosed lobby. Him backing off was easier, as he was not faced with pushing through continuous offensive strikes. But with every step, Nos got faster. At first, he was pushed back, and the continued assault drove his mind into a focused haze, only seeing the trajectory of each attack coming towards him. Had he been fighting against more than a single opponent, he would have been stabbed in the back a long time ago. The number of attacks chaining together would have distracted him too much from anything else. But he was up against just one enemy. A powerful, skilled, and talented fighter. But it was still just a single person.

Nos dodged backwards on an attack and Joachim took the opportunity to wind up his weapon. Looping it under his arms, he built up momentum and shot a barrage of straights at Nos.

As each hit came into his range, Nos parried with flurries of his daggers. With each deflection he took another step towards his opponent, and in the ferocity of attacks, he built up a rhythm. Parry and forward. Parry and forward. Parry and forward.

The sound of battle echoed through the hollowed halls as Nos made his exponential steps closer towards Joachim.

Author's Note: Hi everyone. Thank you for reading Tearha: Deck of Clover. This story will be serialising throughout 2017, updating every Friday. If you like what you've read so far, and would like to support my writing, you can buy one of my books at my website. Or you could check out my Patreon to help out for the long run. Of course, just sharing, commenting, and reviewing helps a bunch as well!

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