The Fiftieth Year Chapter 1
Their swords clashed; the sharp clang of cold steel against cold steel. But the sound was lost among the rest. Sparks flew, but they were lost among the many. Steel struck again, but this time sank into warm flesh. A heart stop, a body sunk to the earth, a life was ended, but it too was lost among the rest. Screams and blood: that's what this battlefield was made out of.
Shen brought his sword down hard. Finally hard enough to break his opponent's own blade. The knight before him backed away quickly, but Shen was quicker than that. He lunged forward and thrust his blade before him. His saber made a clean cut into the knight's chest, then pulled out, covered with blood. About to back away, he watched as the knight brought his focus together, began to glow, absorbing his own energies, and closed the wound. Following this Chakra technique was a rush of dirt that knocked Shen off his feet. Quickly shaking off the earth and returning to a fighting stance he charged at the knight and stabbed him for the last time, making sure he was no longer alive.
Shen turned to his newest opponent and was about to strike when he felt something pierce his shoulder. He whirled around to see a masked warrior coming down with another knife. Shen raised his own sword to parry, then made an attack of his own. The ninja fell back, but then seemed to vanish into the battle. Shen reached his arm to his opposite soldier and felt a knife stuck through his Hokuten armor. Not sure if he should pull it out or not, he fell to the ground and began to crawl back. He noticed that the rest of the Hokuten troops were slowly making their way in the same direction.
"Hold together men, hold together! Our front line is moving back, prepare to cover them " A line of soldiers did just that: they prepared. Archers drew back their arrows, pulled back until the bow stretched, and searched the battlefield for an approaching target. Wizards began their incantations and looked back and forth at each other, ready to combine their magic. "Not yet not yet Now!" As a wave of Hokuten Knights retreated and a wave of Ordalia Knights followed, an army of well aimed arrows fell from the sky and struck the pursuers. Those that pressed on fell back as a blazing wall of fire scorched its way across the battlefield between the two armies.
Shen rushed passed the archers and wizards who had saved his life and clambered down a small crevice. There was some masonry and woodwork set up there, between two natural rock walls. Flags were flying everywhere as well. Shen had no time to look at them though, as he was more focused on the knife blade stuck in his shoulder. "Damn those Ordolia ninjas!"
Immediately the soldier was laid onto a wooden table where a group of chemists hovered over him. "We're going to remove the blade." one doctor told him. Shen winced and nodded.
"Incoming!" The entire shelter shook and Shen screamed in pain.
"Can't you do something to stop that!?" The doctor demanded.
"I'm sorry sir. The priests are doing all they can to keep up the shell, but" everything again was tossed about. "but those summoned meteors still take a toll "
"Pour on some anesthetics." A cold liquid soaked into Shen's shoulder, inducing a sharp pain. "I'm going to operate now."
"Incoming!" This time, with the shaking of the tables, with tools and equipment falling to the ground and personell loosing their footing, the knife went deeper into Shen's neck. With blood squirting all over the chemists, he lost his life to the war.
An Ordalia soldier helplessly tried to deflect a thief's dagger, but that was an impossible task. As the tip of the short blade struck, a fire blazed from the knife and consumed the soldier. This was only relieved when a second dagger cut across his arm and incased the man in ice. "Hu ha. Easy target." The thief reached for the still man's sack of gold. Satisfied with his catch, he didn't have time to turn around before a monk's repeating fist began to pummel him into the earth. "A little help here, Guiris."
"You got it, Victor." A lightly clad man jumped away from his own opponent and raised his hand into the air. "Heaven Thunder!" A blast of yellow light tore through the air and shattered the first soldier's ice cage, also slaying the soldier. Another lightning strike ripped into the monk, followed by two more quick bursts of energy. The monk collapsed to the ground.
"Thanks man." Without warning another blast of light erupted right above the thief. "Hey, watch it!"
"Give me a break, you know I'm still working on controlling that one."
"Yeah yeah. Look out! Time, rest and give your kindness to the worthy. Slow!" Guiris turned around and saw the ninja he had been dealing with slowly approach. Leaping into the air, Guiris came down behind the ninja and struck with the back of his hilt. The ninja fell back but countered with a blade of his own. Guiris took the hit, then again took to the skies, diminishing from sight as he rose came closer to the sun. Blinded by watching Guiris, the ninja was unaware as Victor stole his sword. When the ninja came to and slashed downward, Victor dodged his empty fist and jumped back. Everything was happening too quickly for the slow ninja, and when Guiris came down on top of him he crumpled to the hard earth.
To the surprise of all who witnessed it, the ninja's body burst into dark flames. "Did you do that?" Victor asked his comrade. Guiris shook his head, then fell back as another erupting flame consumed him. Victor too was assailed by several consecutive bursts of dark fire.
"Are you two alright?" A female archer rushed to their aid and knelt beside them. "Here, take these." Gently she poured each of them an X-potion.
His burns soothing, Victor sat up from his place on the ground. "Thanks Zand. We needed you there."
Before anyone knew what was happening, a dark figure appeared in the center of the three and held a long sword up into the air. Shots of energy swirled outwards and surged into the fighters. Victor was knocked out cold, and Guiris only had a little energy left in him. Zand jumped to her feet, whipped out a crossbow and fired. "Take this you bastard!" The arrow flew fast, but stuck into a soft patch of grass. The figure had vanished. "Damn!" She frantically gazed the battlefield to see where he had gotten to. All she saw though was Guiris running off towards a hill rising above the river. "Guris! Where are you going!?" There was no response. "Quick!" She took out a small vile and threw it to him. Guiris jerked his hand into the air, nodded, then ran off. "Be careful And make the bastard pay!" She brushed a strand of hair aside and knelt next to Victor. "Now, what can we do about you?"
"Takor! Come back here damn it!" Guiris was almost out of breath but had reached the top of the hill. His eyes scanned the battle below. Nothing. All the other fighters were further to the north. He took a few steps towards the edge of the hill, where it dropped down to Finath River in a sharp cliff. From his vantage point he could see the Ordalia Army's tents pitched on the other side. Turning his view north, towards the battle, he could see the two armies clashing against each other. In the center there were eruptions of fire, ice, and lightning. He could hear the clanging of thousands of swords. Occasionally a monster or dragon would fly into the midst of the battle and ravage the warriors. Still, all he was concerned about was the black figure. "Takor!" he screamed to the skies. "Where are you!"
A kick from behind sent him sprawling. Halfway down he had spun himself around so he lay on his back, facing the dark figure. He was clad with the night, from top to bottom. A black, horned helmet sat atop a black mask that clung tightly to his face, with only two small slits for eyes. He wore black samurai armor with a black cloak on top. He had a pair of black gauntlets and black boots. Drawing out a long slender blade he held it to Guiris' neck.
"Diamond Sword!" A slash of piercing wind attacked the man and sent him back. Several more gusts had the same effect. Immediately Guiris was on his feet and attacking Takor with his sword. The two swordsmen exchanged blows, one after another, each dodged or deflected. Guiris' attacks were fierce and fast, each time coming down with furious energy. Takor gracefully moved his blade to parry and threw in a smooth strike of his own every now and then. "You must die !!!" Guiris grunted between blows. From there he leapt into the air, soaring higher and higher, then came down, sword first. His blade drove into the hard packed earth as Takor had disappeared.
A rush of energy smacked him down from behind, the Kikuichimoji. Guiris stayed down for a while, breathing hard. Then, without warning, "Asura!" Fire exploded all across the top of the hill, some actually enveloping Takor. While the dark figure was stunned, Guiris charged at him and came down with his weapon. The sword cut into the black samurai armor and came with a bolt of lightning from the sky. Takor's body was pulled into the air and began to fall, but before he crashed into the ground he vanished in a flash of light. "Come on Takor! Stay here and fight like a man!"
Guiris felt a presence behind him. "Like a man?" The voice was cold, but smooth and eloquent. "Really Guiris, I would have thought you'd matured by now. All this shouting and groaning; resorting to name calling. And is it really necessary to tell me which attack you are about to use?" Four strikes of lightning consecutively jolted Guiris to the ground, each one sending pain coursing through his body. "Not that you're attacks are ever accurate to begin with. No tell me, boy. Who's the man now?"
"Keep it up men, don't surrender. Chirijiraden!" Spirits swirled out of his sword and fiercely attacked all enemies around him, slaying most. Still, the Ordalia warriors kept coming onto the field. With his Masamune grasped in both hands Elmdor took on a pair of knights. Catching both their swords up in his own he pushed them back, then followed with an attack of his own.
A time mage teleported behind the Marquis who, sheathing his sword, turned to speak. "Well Lance, how are things going on the other side?"
"Not well sir. The Hokuten are being driven back, almost to their barrier. They probably won't hold out much longer."
"I see And the Nanten?" Their conversation went on pause to allow Elmdor to drive his blade through an oncoming soldier, kick the man off, then sheath it again.
"Most of their troops are caught in a stalemate down at Beltha Garrison. They won't be beaten, but they won't be able to offer any more help either."
"Very well. Alright Lance, you're in charge now."
Elmdor put his fingers to his mouth and let out a high whistle, barely heard over the sound of the battle. Nonetheless a chocobo came racing through the lines of war and stopped right before the Marquis. He valiantly swung onto its back. "I'm going to stir things up with the Hokuten. We can't loose this battle, Lance. We've already lost Limberry " He tightened his first. "If the Hokuten become demoralized we may never gain it back. Eiya!" The chocobo ran steady to the horizon. Lance sighed, then began shouting orders to the samurais. Hopefully a couple of Haste spells would make things easier.
"Sir, the Silver Noble is here to see you."
"Send him in."
The Marquis walked next to his chocobo and followed an escort to a small table where Balbanes Boulve sat. He was a strong man, tall, handsome. Signs of age were beginning to show though. His hair was long, but tied back, out of his eyes. He was peering into a map of Finath, all the different possibilities. "Why aren't you with your men, Balbanes?"
"My knights need me here, Mesodoram. Or else none of them would rush back into that battle. Why aren't you with your own?"
"I have a proposal. My scout tells me the Hokuten are not faring well. I suggest we change that."
"I'm all ears friend."
"Saddle a chocobo and ride with me into the center of the battle. From there we'll cause quite a commotion from within the Ordalia lines and hopefully raise morale and confusion, allowing our victory."
"It's suicide but it just might work. Little Jon, saddle my Chocobo!"
"But sir "
"This could be our only shot of victory. If we're to win this war, we must risk everything. Let us ride!"
Two warriors, mounted on their brave chocobos, hurried to the front line of the battle. The Hokuten quickly moved out of their way while offering praises and encouragement. The Ordalian soldiers were broken apart by blasts from Balbanes' Lightning Stab and the crushing Kikuichimuji, that or they were trampled upon. Several large warriors stepped before them. The two heroes dug their heels into the chcobos' sides and began to fly, landing safely on the opposite side. From there they hastily turned around and began attacking the back of the Ordalian line.
"Absorb power in the sky and strike! Lightning Stab!" Balbanes raised his sword to the clouds. Five glowing blades of energy jet up from the ground and were then struck by lightning, sending all the energy surging into five soldiers, knocking them back.
"Summon all ghosts of the sword! Attack! Muramasa!" Violent spirits were released from Mesodoram's blade and began flying around, circling. From there they darted into three soldiers who had come too close to the Marquis. They attacked! One soldier fell gravelly ill, another became so scared that he could no longer move. The third soldier died then and there.
From up on their chocobos it was much easier to attack the knights down below. Their swords came down hard each time, cutting into an Ordalian soldier. However, two against two thousand soon led to outnumbering. Soon the two brave fighters were completely surrounded with by angry faces. They came in all at once, three knights, three monks, and a ninja or two. The monks took the initiative by thrusting their fists into the ground, causing the ground to quake. The chcobos grew scared and began to panic. Balbanes and Mesodoram dismounted and watched the golden birds fly off. The Ordalian forces closed in.
"Perhaps this idea of yours wasn't so great after all, oh 'Silver Noble.'"
"Stay next to me, Boulve." Elmdor raised his finest blade into the air and began to chant. A warm glow surrounded the two. Balbanes felt a new rush flowing through him. He was lighter, faster, and he felt his wounds and bruises slowly healing. "Now, attack!" They charged into the fray again, blades and blood striking and flying. The spirits of the Masamune continually regenerated the two and made them much faster than any of the Ordalia warriors. Balbanes brought his sword down hard enough to crack a knight's shield in two, then followed through with another upward strike, burying steel in the man's chest. Mesodoram's blade made its own swift movements, maneuvering past all defenses to drive through a monk. A commotion gathered around the two heroes as they began to rely heavily on their special techniques.
A cloud of dust began to rise, seemingly consuming Ordalia soldiers as their bodies fell to the earth before Boulve and Elmdor. With blood on their blades, boots, and everywhere else, it seemed like no one was willing to confront them anymore. They turned their attention back towards the front line, where the Hokuten and Limberry Forces were still fighting off the Ordalian army and holding them back. The two rushed to attack the enemy from behind, but a gush of smoke shot up before them. Three men stepped out of the cloud: a wizard, a priest, and a dark hooded man that the others did not recognize. He wore a long robe that wrapped around him, flowing to the ground. Embroidered into the front was the sign of Ordalia. A long, upright staff protruded from his cloaks and began to float in the air. It seemed to be carved from polished bone, but was also laced with steel. A menacing skull sat atop it. Lowering its tip to the earth the staff made a swift circle around Balbanes, Mesodoram, and the three Ordalia mages. The cloaked man spoke. "Etarn, of the Buraman."
"Boulve, of the Hokuten."
"Elmdor, of the Ruofons."
Although no words were spoken other than their names, all three combatants knew what was to take place. It was the warrior spirit flowing through them all. It would be commander against commander; it was the only fitting way to do things. Etarn's staff had finished tracing the battlefield and had returned to him. The mages to his sides stepped back and out of the circle. The battle begun.
Before either Balbanes or Mesodoram attacked, a sword rose from a dead body lying within the circle and flew towards them, slashing the air as it came. Boulve deflected it with his own sword, but the weapon kept attacking, as if there was a force behind it. Balbanes exchanged blows with the enchanted weapon, but with no wielder to strike against, all he could hope for was a stalemate. Elmdor focused his attention on the enchanter. Pulling out a slender katana and raising it into the air he unleashed a wave of energy that crashed against Etarn. Upon collision, the ghost sword fell to the ground again.
Not greatly damaged by the attack, the Buraman continued to employ his dark magic. Offering his bone staff to the sky, dark spirits floated outward and swirled into the bodies of his fallen comrades. The knights rose to their feet, but they were far from being alive. There was a look in their eyes, the look of the undead. Nevertheless, the undead seemed alive and kicking, swords and all. The heroes of Ivalice reslaughtered a group of Ordalia Knights, then went after Etarn. "Dark Holy!" A blast of black energy sent the Marquis sprawling amongst the fallen bodies.
"Heaven's wish to destroy all minds Holy Explosion!" Pointing his sword to the sky he summoned down a ray of heavenly light that drove the dark wizard to the ground. Still clutching tightly to his staff, Etarn let out a counter blast of fire so intense that it nearly killed Balbanes. The valiant knight fell limp to the earth, bleeding badly.
"!!" Etarn opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out. He crumpled down to the ground, dropping his staff, mouth still wide open. Elmdor drew out his long, bloody Masamune from the mage's back. "A true warrior should pay attention to all his enemies. Especially when they're attacking from behind."
"Curse you, Ogre!" The fallen wizard spat out an incantation before he, and the other two mages, disappeared into the air. Those last words of his sent every sword within his drawn circle spinning into the air, then diving down at Mesodoram, cutting into his flesh. He attempted to walk forward, but staggered, slumped to his knees, then fell beside Balbanes. The horde of Ordalia forces was closing in.
"Funny things should end like this, eh Silver Noble?"
"We fought well friend, we fought well "
From their position down on the ground, they could not see how the rest of the battle faired. But they could still hear the war cries of the Hokuten. They could hear the footfalls of hundreds of chocobos surging towards them. The sounds of the Ordalian line breaking apart rang like music in the air. The last thing they saw were familiar faces looking over them. Then everything went black.
"Where am I?"
"How did I Thank God for pheonix downs!" Balbanes eased himself to his feet and let out a shout for joy. "What about Marquis Elmdor?"
"He's doing just as well as you are sir. And may I say, it was thanks to your heroic efforts that the Hokuten and Limberry Knights managed to drive back the Ordalian forces to the opposite side of the Finath. Thank you sir. Now, Thunder God Cid has come up from Bethla and a war council is in session. The King requests that you join him as soon as possible. The Silver Noble is already speaking with them."
Victor tossed a pile of gold coins into a large, accumulating pile. "Hu ha! Four thousand gold. Beat that!"
"You did it again Victor. I'll start dividing it up."
The thief stretched out in front of a fire. He grabbed a let of meat and began tearing at it with his teeth. "Yep, being in with the Kamyuja sure pays off. These knives are great!" He stabbed his dinner and smiled as a flame consumed and cooked it for him. Victor gazed around at a small clearing in the small woods growing around the Finath. He was surrounded by strong, ruthless killers, each of them only out for their share of fortune. But the were some of the best fighters in all of Ivalice. And, if Bariten was playing his cards right, best in Ordalia as well. "Hey, where's Guiris?"
"I don't know." Zand answered. "I never saw him come back after the Ordalian Knights retreated back across the river. I hope he's alright "
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