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Ahh… much better. Anyway, where were we?
Oh yeah, Death Metal. I don’t see any more goons and this is a big long hallway, so it must be time for the boss fight. Finally.
This is gonna be fun.
Two big-ass doors, blocking my way. I’d just slice through them but I don’t want to drain my sword’s energy when there’s gonna be an actual fight in a second.
So I push them open. They’re pretty heavy.
Sunlight blinds me for the second time today, bright enough to pierce through my sunglasses. I give a growl of frustration as I step out into the courtyard.
My eyes adjust and I realize that we’re right next to the ocean. I can see the waves lapping gently against a perfectly groomed and gleaming white beach. And right next to that beach is a large pool, also pristine. It doesn’t look like it’s been used in years.
And next to the pool, on a beach chair, sits an old man.
I approach cautiously. This has to be the guy.
Of course, he notices me before I can even leave the patio.
“Quite beautiful, wouldn’t you say?” he intones, without turning his head. “Paid for with the lives of many. When you have the strength to take life for yourself…”
I step down the stairs and finally get a good look at his face. His long white hair is tied back in a tail, and his white beard and mustache are perfectly groomed. An old scar runs through his left eyebrow.
“I have freed myself from desire.” he continues his little speech. “I need nothing more in this life. Please, leave me be.”
I draw my sword. “You’re going to be the one leaving- in a body bag!”
He lowers his cup and opens his eyes.
“This is your last warning, child. Leave here now.”
I give a wry chuckle. “Me, leave? That just isn’t my style.”
“You don’t get it, do you?” He lets out a long sigh.
I feel a twinge of anger and take a step forward. “Hey. You know about Paradise, right?” I ask.
“Paradise…” he mutters to himself.
“This is Paradise!” I sweep my sword around, pointing to the luxury and perfection on every side. “The place where dreams are fulfilled! You’ve had your dream, old man… Time to wake up!”
“This… is no paradise.” The old man gets up from his chair.
“Alright. What is it?” I challenge.
“Just a place to die.” He reaches to the ground and picks up his sword. Its scabbard is almost as long as he is tall. “So naive- You have no idea, do you? What a pity.”
I grit my teeth. Don’t you dare pity me.
“Listen well, child.” he states, walking up the steps to the patio. I follow. “The wall is high, higher than you will ever know.” He slowly slides his sword from its sheath. “And at the end of the journey, only nothingness awaits you. There is no other possibility.”
The sword is finally drawn, and he throws the scabbard away without a second glance. “I gave you a chance to stop this. Now, draw and fight.” Something hazy swirls behind him, but I can’t tell what.
“You can take your philosophy to your grave!” I taunt, readying my own stance.
Here we go.
The first part of the fight is an interesting one. We’re both trying to read each other’s styles and figure out where the weaknesses lie- while not giving away too much about our own.
In this situation, the one who strikes first puts themselves at a disadvantage. I know it, he knows it, and we each know that we each know that.
But I’m not a patient person. Never have been. So the first one to attack is me, with a high swing aimed for his neck. He blocks easily, and we lock blades.
This geezer... I feel as if I'm looking at my future self. Mega bucks, big ass house, fast cars... Dining in style with a world class chef and a trusty nutritionist counting every calorie.
As I struggle against him, I realize one important thing. He’s stronger than I am. I can feel him pushing me back. Not entirely unexpected, but it’s still worrying. I break the blade lock and flip away, but he’s right up in my face to press his advantage.
A team of hot yoga instructors to keep me in shape. Doctors and nurses to attend to my body... Maids and loyal servants at my beck and call. On the weekends, tanned hunks and babes knocking on my door every two hours.
He attacks with a precise series of swings, a mixture of high and low strikes. I try but I can’t deflect all of them, his sword leaving long lines on my hardened skin. I wait for an opening, slide to his right behind his sword’s arc and strike.
Every day full of excitement and luxury. That'd be the life. Everything in its right place. It's the perfect life. It's the life for winners. That'll be my life!
I manage to land five blows before he intercepts, knocking my sword away with a precise tap of his. He’s bleeding too, but he’s still standing. His form isn’t weakened. It’s obvious that he isn’t like the human trash from earlier. He’s something else. Something greater.
I grin, and this time he returns it. The thrill of a fight- we both know it well.
I thirst for selflessness. Hypocrites lusting for their own desires get killed by young rookies like me. This is how it goes down. And for the old killers? They'll croak anyway.
We lock swords again. This time, I use my leverage to deflect his sword away while simultaneously stepping in close. We lock our legs against each other.
He’s off balance- I lung behind him, gripping his wrists and separating his arms so he can’t use his sword. Then I send my weight backward, toppling both of us over and driving his head into the cement with a satisfying cracking sound.
It’s honestly sort of scary when he still gets back up anyway. This time, I can see the twitching of his jawline. He’s actually angry now.
I guess you can call this a comedy. I realize there's really nothing here for me. But what else can I do but keep going? Maybe I should have been a little more careful before I jumped in.
And in his anger, he discards the quick slashes for wide, wild swinging. Suddenly, the area close to him is guaranteed death. I leap away but he’s still fast enough to keep up with me. With a cry, he strikes me down with an overhead slash, cracking the pavement. “Harder!” I hiss, straining to lift his blade off of my chest.
Gotta find the exit. Gotta find that exit to Paradise. But, I can't see it. Can't see anything. There's this sense of doom running down my spine, like it's... Like it's trying to suck the life out of me.
Somehow, I find the strength, and roll to the side. We don’t bother clashing blades, instead meeting in a rapid flurry of swings. Strength doesn’t matter now- now it’s all about speed, motherfucker, do you speak it? And right now, this gaping wound in my chest isn’t helping matters.
He’s faster than I am. And he knows it. He’s the one to back away this time, knowing I can’t follow. And as he moves his sword in a circle, another him appears, holding an identical sword.
“Now, let’s see what you’re made of.” He states.
I’m too winded to reply so I just flip him the bird. Fighting one old man is bad enough, two will be the end of me.
I need to get rid of it before I bail. Something deeper... Deeper than my instincts is taunting me. Can't find the exit. Can't find the exit. Can't find the exit. Can't find the exit. Can't find the exit.
And then I realize. The fake has no shadow.
The two step into a combination attack, both blades coming from either side to catch me in the middle. I move down the middle, using my agility to leap above both swings, and catch the real one in the face with my boot.
Whatever he is, that still knocks him off balance. And his fake doesn’t have time to correct his swing before I land my killing blow.
My sword swings through both of his arms, sending them and his sword flying off in an arc. I was a bit short- I was aiming for his chest.
“So here it is…” He gasps in pain. His fake fades away. I realize he could have still killed me- did he hold back out of pity, or did he actually want to die?
“There’s no turning back now.” He states, blood gushing from his arms. “You will never find peace. Hell awaits- but this you already know.”
“Here’s your ticket to Paradise, old man!” I reply, separating his head from his shoulders.
I did it.
Death Metal is dead.
I’m Rank #10.
And as I stand here in a growing pool of the old man’s blood, that familiar feeling returns as the red covering my vision fades. The static in my ears. The gorge rising in my throat. No more men to fight, nowhere left to run.
After all, you can’t outrun your own reflection.
[ ] No turning back now.
[ ] I can’t explain-
You would not understand-
this is not who I am.
The end approaches. (This is in /shorts/ for a reason)