Nat and Tanuk continued to fight on and on, with neither master gaining much advantage. Just when one of them seemed to be in a position to execute a strategic strike, the other one began a flurry of rapid, confusing attacks that his opponent had to focus on blocking. As the two got into a blade-lock, they looked at each other in the eyes and saw hardly anything but pure determination. Every now and then, a Haskarsian soldier with a club would try to intervene, but their training hadn't prepared them to face the likes of Nat Parks, so they quickly went down. And this whole duel took place with the terrible backdrop of rapidly advancing Haskarsian forces cutting down Moreskoans like butter. Needless to say, the Moreskoans were rapidly losing hope.
Dustin groaned in agony as he rolled onto his side and noticed that his flame-sword had dropped out of his hand and rolled a few feet away, where its intense heat was now burning up a small, dry bush. Then he heard the crunch of footsteps approaching from behind, and he panicked, knowing that Paulo wasn't far away. He quickly crawled across the ground to his flame-sword and reached it just in time to quickly roll over and block a powerful strike from Paulo!
Paulo looked down at his opponent who was lying on the ground while blocking his blow. He laughed before saying, "I like your outfit, Dustin. It looks slightly less pathetic than the last one."
Dustin glared into Paulo's eyes before knocking his sword aside, allowing himself time to roll on his side and stand up. After he'd found sure footing, Dustin coldly said, "Bring it on, Feliz."
Paulo dashed over to Dustin and started striking right and left with rapid, powerful strikes that he could hardly block! Sometimes Dustin blocked the blows with his sword, and other times he had to resort to dodging, but either way, he had a very difficult time defending himself. Paulo made sure that Dustin had to stay constantly on the defensive.
Paulo continued to drive Dustin back rapidly with quick strikes and gave him nearly no chance to strike back. Dustin looked back quickly and noticed that a boulder was right behind him, so he leapt up on top of it to gain an advantage over his determined opponent. Only a second later, Paulo jumped up after Dustin, but just as he raised his flame-sword for a strike, Dustin swung down into him, making him have to rapidly lower his weapon to block. Then Dustin kicked Paulo in the belly, making him fall off of the boulder onto the dusty, stony ground below! Then Dustin leapt down with his flame-sword poised to strike through his opponent, but Paulo blocked him and kicked his legs, sending him flying backwards into the boulder! Dustin bashed his head against the unforgiving, hard surface and bruised it badly, but he jumped up quickly to block Paulo's renewed flurry of attacks.
Commander Martin was rapidly losing reinforcements, and the Moreskoans were having a terribly hard time even keeping their remaining men alive. Simultaneously, Nat was quickly losing strength in his duel with Tanuk, who seemed to be tirelessly pulling new tricks out of nowhere. Just as Nat gathered his last ounce of energy to swing a heavy strike at Tanuk, he hollered out in pain as he felt the terrible sensation of a red-hot flame-sword slicing into the flesh of his thigh! He inadvertently dropped his flame-sword as he fell to the ground, and he gasped with terror as he watched it roll out of his reach. He looked up and expected to see Tanuk raising his own flame-sword for a final, victorious, death-strike, but instead, he felt the blunt force of a steel-toe boot hitting his head, and then darkness...
A few minutes later, Dustin had finally begun to get the upper hand on Paulo, striking quickly and efficiently just as Nat had taught him. However, Paulo had learned well from Tanuk how to block rapidly, while always looking for an opportunity to strike back. In the blink of an eye, he leapt to the side, which threw Dustin off his rhythm long enough to strike a solid blow into his leg! As Dustin clutched his bleeding leg with one hand, grimacing in pain, he attempted to block Paulo's new flurry, unwisely attempting to support the heavy flame-sword in one hand. Only seconds later, Paulo struck into his arm, and Dustin screamed in pain as he dropped his flame-sword and fell to the ground in sheer weakness. Paulo raised his flame-sword for one last strike and swung solidly down into his right shoulder! In an instant, everything went black for Dustin. Paulo looked down at his opponent's limp body with satisfaction before de-activating his flame-sword, sheathing it and pulling out his communication device.
"Alright Mr. Bidrele," Paulo began after dialing his number, "Dustin Rickland is dead. I believe killing the prince of Moreskoa is sufficient grounds to drag them into the war, so our mission is complete."
"Good! Very good!" Tanuk exclaimed on the other end of the line. "I'll prepare the troops to depart."
"Alright, I'll meet you down there."
Paulo put his phone back in his pocket, took one last victorious look at Dustin's corpse, and started climbing down the steep, rocky wall of the hill to join his comrades.
Several hours later, Dustin weakly lifted his bruised head and flinched in severe agony as he felt the burning, bleeding wound in his shoulder. He tried to sit up, but his fight with Paulo had fatigued him so thoroughly that he didn't have the strength. He had to content himself with laying back and looking up at the darkening sky.
A few minutes later, he heard the crunch of footsteps on the gravel several yards away. With difficulty, he turned his head and saw Jude and Serena coming towards him! Dustin was so happy to see them that he gathered all the strength he had left to sit up.
Jude ran over to his friend and helped him to his feet while asking, "What happened up here?"
As he leaned on Jude's bruised shoulder for support, Dustin replied, "Paulo and I fought real hard, and I got the worst of it. I'm pretty sure he only left because he thought I'd died."
"That's terrible!" Serena interjected sympathetically as she slipped under his other shoulder to help support his stumbling figure. "Are you gonna be alright?"
"Yeah, I will. I just need to get some rest." Dustin replied before asking, "How's the battle going down there?"
"It's over. Nat's injured and we lost most of our men. We would have lost the battle, but then they suddenly left." Jude informed his friend.
"They left?" Dustin asked with great confusion in his voice.
"Yeah, it's strange; they all just pulled out of the battle and started going back into their battleships."
"That's odd, very odd." Dustin said as Jude helped him walk over to the edge of a cliff that hung over the water so he could see the Haskarsian battleships disappearing over the horizon.
For a few minutes, Dustin stood with one arm around Jude, and the other around Serena as all three watched the battleships leaving. They stayed standing there until every last one of the ships were gone. They were glad that the battle was over, but how long would it be until the Haskarsians returned? Only time would tell, but at least they'd live to fight another day.
A/N: Alright, there you have it! I really hope you enjoyed this book, and if you have, please remember to follow and comment, and stay tuned for the sequel, which is in the works. :)
Also, if you have any constructive criticism to make, I'd be glad to hear it. I know there's always improvement to be made. ;)
Have a great day, and thank you so much for reading! :D