The Final Battle, Part II

Lily turned away from the falling body of her adversary and crouched down next to Tate. Carefully inspecting her friend, she was relieved to find that Tate had suffered no mortal injury. The coils of mana that ran through her body were still very much intact, though they were being overworked to repair the damage to Tate’s body. The girl had suffered a significant amount of damage, but she would make it. Unfortunately, she was in no state to continue participating in this battle, but Lily was fine with that – she had done more than enough. Lily stroked Tate’s hair.

“Good job. You saved me.”

Tate’s mouth twitched upward into a tiny smile while her voice echoed in Lily’s mind, her body too preoccupied with repairing itself to deliver her message.

Of course. I’m your shield, after all. Still, that hurt… I don’t think I can keep fighting.

Lily patted her on the head gently.

“No problem. Take a break. Let me handle the rest.”

Don’t die.

Lily smirked and turned away from Tate, her Varia assembling behind her, converging around Tate’s prone form, serving as a shield of sorts to protect the weakened girl. Lily turned her attention to Vessel’s form. Her fight was not yet over. She could still feel the waves of magic that emanated outward from Vessel’s body. True enough, as she watched, Vessel’s charred form slowly stood up, her skin and features burnt to a crisp. The grotesque mass of black charcoal staggered forward, taking one limping step, then another, approaching Lily. As it approached, its limp became less pronounced. As it drew closer, the blackness began to peel off and fall away, revealing Vessel’s pristine form within. She had shed the armor – presumably it had been consumed in the fire. What she wore now was an exact replica of what Hina had been wearing on the day Lily had last seen her – a form-fitting combat attire, with an exposed back, her hair tied into twintails. Yet there was one major discrepency with the image in Lily’s mind: while Hina had been clad fully in black, Vessel’s current appearance was insufferably white. White hair, white clothes, and a white katana. Her sword had changed appearance as well, changing from a broadsword back to the katana, completing the appearance that was so reminiscent of that day in the Labyrinth.

Vessel came to a halt some distance away from Lily, leaning forward into a ready position, one hand on the handle of her weapon, the other on its sheath. This was the style that Hina used to prefer, the fighting stance that her family had taught her. Lily briefly wondered why Vessel had so abruptly changed appearance and fighting style – perhaps to throw her off balance, to take advantage of her remembrance over her friend. Nonetheless, Lily was unfazed. Hina was dead – she had long accepted that fact. She took up her own ready stance, fists held close to her body. She could have used Iris’ guns to try and wear Vessel down from a distance, but she felt somehow compelled to use her fists, to use the style she had developed. Perhaps it was the symbolic import of ending this fight with her own hands.

The two opponents regarded each other for several moments, both their expressions ruled by impassivity. They looked at one another with the lack of intensity and stoic apathy with which one regards a complete stranger who has just sat across from them for a game of dice. Their mutual apathy was so emotionless, so intense, that their expressionlessness became in itself an expression. They held this posture for several seconds.

Then Lily kicked off the ground and charged toward Vessel. In response, Vessel almost immediately drew and resheathed her weapon thrice, firing three arcs of holy magical energy at Lily, arcs that traced the cutting arc of the weapon – 2 horizontal, 1 vertical. Lily had not the time to analyse the ManaScript that composed the magical attack, and thus she knew she would be unable to deconstruct the sequences of the attack – the only other option, then, was to rely on avoiding the hit. Without slowing down, Lily ducked down, dodging under the first strike, then vaulted over the second, before finally turning her body to the side to avoid the final blow. Throughout this sequence, she continued moving forward, her forward progression uninterrupted.

As Lily approached her opponent, Vessel released a single, powerful slash, too close for Lily to dodge. Lily caught it on her left arm, causing the attack to cleanly sever her arm in half along the forearm. The lower half of her arm flew a short distance and stopped, suspended in the air, attached to its source by threads of amber mana. Then the threads reeled themselves in, neatly reattaching her arm to its source. A wave of pain rolled over Lily as she felt her arm getting severed, but she ignored it – it was a pain she had experienced before, and was used to. While this occurred, Lily managed to close the remaining distance to Vessel and closed her right fist around Vessel’s neck.

The angel quickly attempted to draw her weapon to strike at Lily, but Lily’s newly-reattached hand crossed in front of her and forced the weapon back into its sheath, breaking the loop that attached the weapon to Vessel’s hip and driving the sheathed blade into the ground. Her attack abruptly stopped, Vessel attempted to kick at Lily, but Lily deftly blocked the attack with her free arm. Lily tightened her grip on Vessel’s neck. Vessel struggled, punching, kicking, beating her wings furiously, but Lily calmly blocked every strike. When Vessel started trying to ascend, Lily’s own wings flared to life as she ascended at a faster rate than Vessel. Then, from a position above Vessel, Lily dove down sharply, driving Vessel into the ground.

The impact caused the ground beneath her to crack and fracture, but Vessel, seeming unable to feel pain, continued to struggle, attempting to break free. Numerous swords, composed of divine power, appeared above her and rained down on her exposed back. However, a mass of cables, coated in amber mana, emerged from Lily’s back, twisting and striking out, knocking away the attacks. From the pile that protected Tate, ten Varia left the protective shelter and flew to Lily’s side. Blades pointed down, they skewered Vessel, pinning her arms, legs, and each of her six wings to the ground. The angel struggled against her restraints, but were unable to break them. She arched her body, but could not break free. All the while, holy swords continued to rain down on her, but the wires on her back, as if possessed of a will of their own, continued to fling the attacks away.

Lily calmly looked down on the face of the person who had once been her friend – a face that was impassive, expressionless. Blank, unseeing white eyes looked through her mismatched red and prismatic eyes. Lily thrust her left hand, fingers-first, into Vessel’s chest, feeling the uncomfortable sensation of divinity-infused biomatter around her metal palm. Without a word, she clenched her fist, wires erupting from her wrist and hand, eviscerating Vessel’s body from within. She twisted her fist, and the wires retracted. Then she released them again, piercing through Vessel’s body anew. Vessel convulsed slightly, her twitching restricted by the countless rigid wires that pierced her body. Then she was still.