The Jewel’s first blow nearly took my head off. I’d been expecting resistance, but I’d thought it would try to hit me with an anima attack, not a fist to the underside of my chin. Wrapping myself in Void anima saved my life anyways though since most of the force of the blow came from the anima the Jewel was puppeting Akell’s body with. I felt the anima behind the blow bleed through me and be hungrily gobbled up by the Seed of Darkness.
I rolled away from the next punch with stars still going off in my eyes. Most of the force came from the Jewel’s anima but Akell was was stronger than he looked. He had plenty of muscle power to work with too.
I tried to catch him in a hold and pin him down while I wrestled the Jewel off him but, unlike his sister, he wasn’t so cooperative with that. Our hands were joined together, my left and his right, fighting over the Jewel. He couldn’t get away from me but by the same token I was limited in the holds I could put on him.
I kneed him in the ribs and hit him with an elbow strike to the neck without slowing him down. He in turn materialized a blade of pure Energetic anima from his hand and stabbed me in abdomen.
That had worked a lot better for the soldier I fought because his blade had a material element to it. My Void anima wasn’t able to eat the metal blade that the soldier had stabbed me with. Akell’s pure anima knife was another matter entirely though. I drank its energy in, fighting to keep the power away from the Seed of Darkness as much as possible.
The Jewel that was controlling Akell’s body didn’t slow or show surprise at the failure of its attack. Instead it tried to grab my throat. Akell temporarily lost the use of pair of fingers for that move and I was able to get to my feet for better leverage and striking power.
I didn’t stay there for long though. We were still joined at the hand so the Jewel dropped Akell’s body backwards, pulling us both off balance. I twisted as we fell to catch him with another elbow strike when we landed but he was faster than I was. He turned the fall into a roll, kicking me in the abdomen and hurling me past him.
The stage had a distinct lack of training mats and an abundance of hardwood flooring. Between the kick and slamming into the ground at high speed, I was lucky that my spine didn’t shatter. The Jewel didn’t let up though.
I’d landed so that Akell and I were head to head with our bodies pointing away in opposite direction. The Jewel somersaulted backwards, towards me, bringing the toe of Akell’s boot down on my unprotected throat. That wouldn’t have killed me immediately but cutting me off from my crippling addiction to oxygen would have made the rest of the fight difficult and brief.
I saw the boot coming and fought to get my arm in the way to block it but I was too slow.
“No.” I heard the Ravager say as Akell’s kick was interrupted by ghostly blue hands.
I was stunned, physically and mentally. My arms felt like I was fighting with lead weights on and the pain I was in was slicing my thoughts to ribbons as fast as they formed. But I still saw the gift I’d been given.
My free hand snagged Akell’s foot and pulled him off to the side so that he landed on his knees. That let me roll that way as well and scramble to my feet again. This time when he tried to pull me off balance, I was able to pull him up instead. I “helped” him stand with a knee strike to the head and then one to his solar plexus.
“Ravager, help me!” I said as I jerked Akell forward and threw him back down to the ground.
“I can’t. Its the defense spells that you’re fighting. I can’t turn them off.” she said.
Akell slammed into the floor and I added to the damage by stomping him in the face. Normal humans can’t take abuse like that. Even if he’d had an anima shield in place I should have fractured his skull thanks to my Void anima. The Jewel that was controlling Akell wasn’t bound by human limits though. It shrugged off the blow to his head and used the opportunity to catch my leg and send me back to the ground.
Ghostly blue hands caught me before I hit the stage again and I was able to turn the fall into a sideways roll and boot Akell in the head. He kept coming through, throwing my foot backwards so that I fell away from him and he was able to rise again.
“I can’t win this alone.” I told her. I was tired already. The fight wouldn’t have to drag on too much longer before I’d reach the point of total collapse. I needed to end it, but even the best hits i was landing on Akell weren’t slowing him down at all.
“I know, but I don’t have any way to affect my own defenses.” the Ravager said.
Akell shot in to get me in a clench but I caught his arms and it became a contest of pure strength.
“Then don’t turn them off, just help me get the Jewel off Akell!” I said.
Akell was well trained, but his focus hadn’t been as grounded into the physical world as mine had been. If he’d done the workouts I had, he might have been stronger than me, but he’d relied on anima for that whereas I’d only had my muscles to depend on for the longest time. With the fight taking place inside a cage of Void anima, and my ability to steal away any anima the Jewel used to power him, we were reduced to struggling on a purely material level, and there I at least had a chance.
Or I should have.
As I struggled against Akell, I felt the Seed of Darkness moving around within me. I was balancing my Void anima within and without to keep two incredibly powerful foes at bay and I was starting to slip.
Fresh pains tore through me as the Seed found new pockets of strength and ripped them apart. My muscles would move without physical anima, but the shock of losing it hurt nonetheless.
“I don’t know how! I’ve never been removed from a master before!” the Ravager said.
I reached out with more of my Void anima and tried to surround the Jewel on Akell’s hand. It was like trying to hug a mountain. For such a small device, it’s presence in my mind was incalculably vast.
I’d been able to pull the Seed of Darkness out of Yael because it was just a tiny portion of the Karr Khan’s soul. I could envelope it completely. The Jewel of Endless Night however did a good job of living up to its billing. Every path I tried to take to surround it with my anima just showed me more and more of the Jewel.
The Jewel went on the offensive and tried to break our grapple by with a series of kicks to my knees. I blocked the first with a sharp kick to his shin. We spent a few seconds dancing around trying to out stomp each other before I jerked us to the side. We spun with the momentum I’d given us and landed back on our feet. Akell tried to lean back and kick me in the guts again but I beat him to the kick and stepped into the blow so that I could tangle his legs up with my own.
For a few brief seconds we reached another stalemate.
“Then tell me about yourself and maybe I can figure it out!” I said.
“I am Jewel of Night’s Broad Embrace, called Ravager, Planet-slayer, Desolation Maker.” the Ravager said. I felt the mountain I was trying to tear from Akell’s hand grow larger.
“No!” I said. “That’s not who you are. That’s what they made you. Tell me about you, the person I’m speaking with, the girl they turned into the Jewel.”
“She has been dead for Aeons.”
Akell headbutted me and caught me on the lip and chin. I tasted blood and felt a hunger rising in my chest. There was life in Akell. Fighting him was so hard, but if I drained him dry, it would become so easy.
Except then the spell on the Ravager would cast her to the far ends of the galaxy and all this would be for nothing.
“Maybe she’s not. Maybe she never was. Ghosts are powerful right, but you know what’s more powerful?” I asked her.
“What?” she asked.
“The living!” I said. “We’re the one’s who change the world.”
Fighting on two fronts wasn’t working so I let go. I let the Seed free from the darkness I’d wrapped it in. I let my Void anima surge out to devour energy from Akell and I let the last reserves of my own own anima surge through me.
With an irresistible strength I bent Akell’s arms back. He fought back but for that brief instant I had him outclassed in all ways. With the rapidly diminishing surge of power I lifted him into the air and hurled him down so hard the stage shattered beneath us.
Our hands came apart as I threw him away and my connection to the Ravager diminished. The Seed inside me roared in triumph and began gorging on the power I’d stolen from Akell. I hadn’t drained him entirely though so he rose to him feet a second later, fully restored by the power of the Jewel.
In the back of my head, I heard the Karr Khan laughing like a madman. The Seed was no longer hidden from him.
“I am almost upon you.” the Khan taunted me. “And you are almost mine.”
I ignored him. For as big as he was, the Jewel was a far bigger and more immediate problem.
“You’re not dead. I’ve talked to ghosts. You still have desires beyond yourself, ones that have nothing to do with anyone you knew in life.” I told the Ravager.
I saw Akell reach down to the shattered stage and pull forth a splintered shaft of wood. Anima roared along it’s edge turning it into a makeshift but perfectly deadly anima blade.
“Remember who you were. Whatever they did to you, you still have power, you can still do something here.” I screamed. I was growing weaker and slower. When the Jewel attacked, it was going to be at its full power and I wasn’t going to be able stop it. It would drive the wooden anima blade through my heart and then beat me with it until there was nothing left of me.
Except that it didn’t. The puppeteer that was making Akell dance had stopped pulling his strings. Or they were being restrained.
“Your name!” I said. “What’s your name? Not the Ravager! What’s your real name?”
Silence fell. I couldn’t hear the Khan’s taunts, or my increasingly labored breathing or even the hum of the ship.
“Fari.” she whispered. “Fari. Fari. Fari. I haven’t thought of that name in so long.”
I drew my Void anima back in and drowned the Seed in it once more. The Seed was stronger than it had been, but I still had the home turf advantage. At least until the Khan showed up in person.
Akell began to walk forward in halting, stuttering steps. Fari was losing control of the defensive spells again.
“I’m glad to have met you Fari. Are you ready to leave Akell now?” I asked.
“Yes. Get me out of here. I don’t want to do this anymore. I never wanted to do this” she sobbed.
“Then let’s make that happen.” I said and lowering myself into a fighting stance.
The resistance to the defense spells fell away and Akell leapt at me at superhuman speeds. I didn’t have my physical anima to work with but I had one last trick; he was predictable and I was willing to take a hit to get the job done.
The hit, when it came, was agonizing. The anima blade speared through my right shoulder and that side of me became an inferno of pain. My right arm felt like it had been torn off entirely, though if that had happened it didn’t seem like it should have still hurt as bad as it did.
I’d been able to dodge, but even knowing exactly where he would aim didn’t mean I was fast enough to fully avoid the blow. It did mean that I was able to trap his hand again however.
With all of the Void anima I could muster, I opened the connection between myself and the Fari. The Jewel held magic on the scale of the cosmos and I couldn’t grasp that, but Fari was the one who controlled the Jewel and her I could understand.
Like an old friend coming home, I felt the Jewel pull free of Akell’s hand and nestle into mine. Around me, the warding circle crashed down and I heard Taisen and Opal and Yael calling my name as I fell to my knees on the stage beside Akell’s prone body.