Lonely Sunsets: Chapter 5

The day passed as Cye and the others slept, but Nikki was up and working in the kitchen giving no indication of anything unusual happening the night before. She worked hard and fast to loosen up the muscles in her arms and back since they ached and when she did stop, it was for a break to get something to eat or some water to drink. Outwardly she was business as usual, inside though her mind was on other things.

Like Cye, he had looked at her and not flinched or turned away from her unusual looks or the branding around her eye. Instead he had stayed calm until she woke up and continued to treat her as a guest in that little hut. Treating her wounds and taking her out of the fight. He had been kind to her when others had beaten her for doing nothing more than stopping a robbery, and how she would not get the chance to know him better because it was time to move on. He had seen her face and that was enough to guarantee the destruction of his entire village unless he died in that fight or he killed her.

She didn't want to kill anyone, but she also knew that for an entire village to be destroyed because she would fail in that one thing was completely out of line. For her to fight this boy it was to save his village. She had been to several villages since the last time she had to fight. Now the circle had come about again by one young man who had saved her life, and now she could only repay him with a death.

It was dark and the restaurant was now closed. A brief breath later she was on her way to the site she had chosen dressed as she always had, except now she wore a red armband. On that band there were four black stripes that ran up and down the two-inch wide strip of cloth on her right arm.

As she arrived she saw five young men on the beach sitting in a circle facing out as if they were meditating, as she hopped down on the sand from the small dune she saw Cye look up at her and stand. He was dressed in the same strange armor that Sage had been in. All five of them were in that kind of armor.

~Strange~ she thought to herself. Then spoke aloud, "You brought your friends to a fight, are they to bury the one of us that does not walk away?"

Ryo, Kento and Rowen looked shocked at her words where Sage and Cye merely looked at her and shook their heads. "No, My friends are here to make sure that this is a fair fight for both of us, and to help you should you decide to let us. We don't have to fight, you can trust us, just tell us what is going on!"

Nikki shook her head regretfully and took her cloak off; her shirt was tied down on one side by the armband. "Do you see this arm band Mouri? The Black marks on it are the number of villages I have saved from destruction by having to fight. It is my memorial to the men and women I have killed to save those villages. Tonight with one of our deaths, another village will be saved from destruction and one of us will find peace or hell. It is fate and nothing I say can change that."

Her voice conveyed a range of emotions. Most often anger or regret as she told her story, it was clear that she did not do this for fun, but the fact that she did not see one death or a village razed as a balance told of the balance she instinctively tried to keep. In a much softer tone since she had walked up to the group keeping her kasa down on her head. "Your life, or mine tonight will keep your village from being destroyed. You, as the guardian of this village must see the sense of this balance. I can not kill out of cold blood and that is why I challenged you to mortal combat." She bowed to the others. "I am sorry that your friends have to watch. They seem kind and open hearted, but that was your wish and theirs it seems. So let us continue with the evening shall we?"

As she walked back to where she had stuck her staff into the ground she could hear the whisperings of the group behind her. They were an honorable lot as far as she could tell and would stay out of the fight. But she could also tell that they didn't want their friend to have to fight at all. What was said now must be done, or the village would be destroyed. Cye saw the truth to this and knew that he could not call his friends to defend the village, he had to fight.

Sighing softly to himself he picked up the Yari that was next to him and inspected it quickly before he walked over to the woman. "Before we fight, I would like to know your name. Should I win then I will erect a proper burial site for you. If you were to win, I have people that know my name and will bury me. You however probably have no one if your past is really as terrible as you needing to kill me to save my village." Cye looked at her carefully trying to gauge her reaction to his request by her body language. There was nothing to read, a neutral stance, neither offensive nor defensive as she pondered the question.

"My name," she said at last, "Is Nikki Li Chuang, You are very kind, I do not wish to kill you. Maybe this time it will be my time." The last part of her words were all but lost in the breeze that came up. Looking at the others she nodded to show that she was ready for whatever fate handed her.

Taking a ready stance she indicated that there was no more time for them to talk, instead it was time to fight before the night was gone. Cye took his stance and looked at her warily now. There would be no idle chatter in this battle as there had been during his fights with Sekmet. No taunts and challenges between the combatants. This time they would fight with everything they had until one of them was dead.

The attack was still unexpected as it came flying through the air. Nikki’s hair was flying behind her as she had let it loose for the fight. The waist length hair was held out of her face by the ties of the kasa that held the hat to her head. It swung about freely as she turned and twisted easily avoiding or blocking the attacks with her staff. When she attacked she was hard put to land the hits but she was blocked with the same skill she had shown, she pushed the thoughts out of her mind and kept it clear so that she could see with out distraction.

Ryo and the others stared at the combatants in wonder and amazement. They all knew how well Cye could fight when his life was on the line. This girl was even pushing him past that as she fought with increasing speed and dexterity. ~She’s good!~ Was the unanimous thought between the four that were watching.

As the fight progressed the Staff and Yari soon became blurs of motion as they tried to each move fast enough to land a hit. Both were bruised and the nicks they each had stung a little but it was all pushed to the side as they maneuvered along the ground and in the air as they tried from all angles to get the telling blow in. Cye knew that if he held back even a little she would kill him and he knew that if she lost, she would demand the challenge be kept for honor’s sake.

Nikki could feel along the length of the staff that the staff had taken several balance changing nicks in the hard wood. As she readjusted to the staff she again cleared her mind of her times in the town and barely avoided getting hit with the bladed edges of the Yari’s end. She did however get a sizeable chunk of her hair lopped off as the thing came down. Looking at the fallen hair briefly she continued to fight. He was good; she had not fought like this in a while.

Nikki was getting tired as she kept fighting. Almost an hour of hard fighting passed and the tempo of the fight had only increased from the beginning. Not slowing down she planted the end of her staff and used it to help her vault over Cye to his backside.

Cye saw the chance to take her out of balance and kicked out at the base of the staff shattering it with his sub-armored strength. Nikki looked at the staff that was now shattered and hefted it as she dodged Cye’s attacks. Deciding that the staff was no longer any use to her she pointed at the end of the staff which now showed a piece of metal. She twisted the staff a little in her hands and the head of the staff came away bringing with it a blade almost four feet long.

Seeing Cye’s shocked expression she flipped the sheath part of the staff around and knocked it against the blade hearing a pure ringing tone of the metal she took a different ready stance and then flipped the blade into the ground and muttered a few words.

What happened next shocked them all as the ground split open between her feet and she stayed in place not falling into the jagged crevace. Cye flipped out of the way of the crack and armored up completely. This fight just got a whole lot more dangerous.

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