Volume 12, Chapter 4-2: Zhuyu(?) v. Ichaival

The false archer avoided a sword slash and hurled knives. All his projectiles clattered down to the ground, none getting close enough to even pose any danger.

“You have a plan, Ichaival?” I shouted, parrying Zhuyu’s sword.

“Kuan, any exits?” Ichaival shouted, avoiding a hit.

“She sealed us in! Your portals are useless here,” Kuan responded, sliding away as Zhuyu drove his sword into the ground.

That wasn’t good. Kuan fired off several shots at Zhuyu, who sliced apart his bullets with ease. He was a formidable enemy.

“Darryl, take out two knives! I’ll modify them into Kali sticks,” Kuan ordered.

“Got it!” Ichaival nodded, two knives appearing in his hand.

“Tomo, distract him for me!” Kuan requested, firing bullets into the ground.

Smoke poured out, reducing visibility. Alright, where are you, Zhuyu? When the smoke cleared, Kuan stood near Ichaival, his hands over the false archer’s blades. Zhuyu’s eyes showed no mercy. He covered the distance between us faster than expected. When was he this quick? No, that was my mistake. In most battles, his strategy relied on defense, rather than offense. His attacks mirrored Kyoi’s. Just freakin’ great.

“Yuki, how about this?” Zhuyu smiled and disarmed me, reaching for my neck.

Great, a cocky son of a bitch too. He slammed me into the ground, his blade missing my chest by a few inches. I stood back up, retrieving my sword. Kuan was still busy converting Ichaival’s blades.

Zhuyu and I crossed blades, but with each meeting, I knew I was outmatched. His sword skills mirrored Kyoi’s, just as fast. A golden tint now surrounded his blade.

“Don’t even try,” he warned.

I planned to freeze the ground beneath him, slowing the man down. As our weapons crossed, I sprinkled water droplets onto the ground. Damn, he saw through my plan. Sparks flew up, striking my fingers. I nullified them, but Zhuyu already held his blade at my neck.

“Not so fast, Yuki. I’m done dealing with you now,” Zhuyu said, dashing away from me and towards Ichaival.

Kuan fired off two bullets into the ground, purple smoke wafting out. The golden light bathing the man’s blade vanished. The zero-vector user acknowledged the man’s attack with a slight grin.

“Let’s see what you can do, Ichaival,” Zhuyu challenged.

Ichaival held his new weapons up in the air. Please put up a decent fight. He came out swinging, meeting Zhuyu’s blade without any fear. Loud clangs filled the air as they exchanged strikes. A light glow emanated from Ichaival as he continued striking.

“What’s that glow?” I pointed at Ichaival.

“Each time he misses, his power decreases. But when he lands consecutive hits, his attacks grow stronger,” Kuan explained.

“Then why is Zhuyu just letting him keep doing that?” I wondered.

“Because he’s so confident even with Ichaival’s power up, he can beat him,” Kuan replied, reloading his gun.

Damn, that was borderline Kisai confidence. Zhuyu had a bored look on his face, allowing Ichaival’s weapon to strike his blade, making no attempts at dodging.

“I think that’s enough. Darryl, let’s get the actual fight started. After all, you haven’t received Lyra’s punishment yet!” Zhuyu pulled his sword back and Ichaival finally missed.

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Ichaival rushed forward, feinting with his left stick, and struck a direct blow on Zhuyu’s stomach. He shrugged at the hit and dispelled his sword. Really? Kuan grinned in response.

“Come on, don’t do this to me, man!” Ichaival shouted, charging at his friend.

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“How innocent of you, Darryl. Listen, I don’t need my sword to beat you. You’ll see soon enough,” Zhuyu mocked, striking Darryl’s weapon with his bare fist.

Ichaival’s blow ripped open the skin on Zhuyu’s hand. Lines of red zigzagged across the zero-vector user’s fist, blood dripping to the ground at an alarming rate. Ichaival didn’t let up, blasting him all over with his Kali sticks, inflicting a substantial amount of damage.

Zhuyu’s face contained an arrogant smile as he spat out blood. Both his hands were red, fingers mangled and bent at awkward angles. His legs buckled and he fell onto his knees. Ichaival stared at his friend with a difficult look.

“Don’t make me do this!” Ichaival shouted.

“Come on, Darryl, don’t give me that piss poor look. I’m not real. Even Yuki over there realizes that. Well, I am real, but not the person you know. Just keeping hitting me, it’s fine, you know!” Zhuyu coughed in the middle of his statement.

“He’s fuckin’ right, Darryl,” Kuan agreed, firing bullets at the man with no remorse.

Ichaival gritted his teeth but continued his attack. There was no satisfaction on his face, only regret. Damn it. Even though this wasn’t Zhuyu, it felt strange fighting someone with his exact face. By the end, he lay face down on the ground, blood trickling out of his mouth. He remained motionless, his left arm sleeve in tatters.

“Did we win?” I let out a sigh of relief.

“Kuan, tell me it’s over already,” Ichaival demanded, short of breath after the continuous strikes.

“It’s…. damn it!” Kuan ran over, shoving the false archer onto the ground.

A bright flash filled the area, restricting our sight. A ringing occurred, disorientating me. I stumbled, clutching my head in pain. The zero-vector user stood up, all his injuries gone, as if they never occurred. A golden glow enveloped the area his arm sleeve covered.

“No way!” Ichaival stared at him, dropping his Kali sticks.

“Come now, my friend. This shouldn’t be a surprise. In fact, you of all people should know what I’m capable of. Kuan’s the only alert one, smarter than all of you!” Zhuyu pointed at the gun wielding hero.

“Yeah, I thought it might turn out like this. \textit{Dragon’s Mandate}, it’s not surprising you possess that. So that’s Lyra’s idea of a true punishment,” Kuan said, adjusting his glasses.

Zhuyu arrived at Ichaival’s side within seconds, punching him in the left arm. The false archer struck his opponent’s elbow and then bashed Zhuyu’s right knee cap. The math major wagged his finger and twisted Ichaival’s right arm back, forcing him to drop his Kali stick. Ichaival swung downward before curving it up, smashing the zero-vector user’s face. He escaped Zhuyu’s grasp, grabbing his weapon, and readied himself.

“Darryl, it’s time!” Zhuyu grinned, swinging his left elbow at the false archer.

Ichaival countered and they exchanged blows. Zhuyu’s fists and Ichaival’s Kali sticks met repeatedly. The zero-vector’s hands cracked but healed after a few seconds.

“Darryl! Stop, he’s…,” Kuan warned but it was too late.

Zhuyu, with one swift movement, gained possession of Ichaival’s Kali stick. Electricity surged through the weapons, glowing brighter than before. The false archer glanced around, but no escape routes 
existed, especially with his portals disabled. This left him at a large disadvantage.

“Thank you for those delightful hits, Ichaival! I’m sure you relished each one. After all, the insults and slander I flung at you weren’t easily forgotten. No, you remembered and kept it inside, searching for an opportunity to finally exact your revenge. Must have felt great, final releasing all that pent-up rage! These are your true feelings! Let me reciprocate that loving feeling!” Zhuyu shouted, driving Ichaival’s own weapons into his neck and stomach.     

Blood shot out of the false archer’s mouth and his eyes rolled back. Ichaival collapsed to the ground with a loud thud. Zhuyu peered downward and squeezed the Kali sticks, causing a burst of light. The Kali sticks reverted to their original form. I heard a sickening crack as the blades pierced through Ichaival’s shoulder, pinning him to the ground. Zhuyu added insult to injury, raising his right foot, and stomped on Ichaival’s limp body. He then kicked the false archer’s head, posing with his right foot on top of the man’s stomach.

“Okay, I think that does it. Pretty sure Darryl understands now,” Zhuyu decided, giving us a huge grin.

“What the f***?” I felt sick to my stomach.

Ichaival coughed out blood onto his shirt. He glanced upward, staring at Zhuyu with disappointment and confusion. Zhuyu only smiled in response, removing his foot, and stepped away. He performed an elegant bow, gesturing at Kuan. The gun wielding hero removed the blades and assisted Ichaival upward. Suddenly, Kisai appeared, slashing at the zero-vector user with a magical blade. Zhuyu spun around, parrying the man’s attack.

“Tess told me there was a challenge. It’s just Long though, come on, you guys can’t beat him?” Kisai questioned, shaking his head at us.

Before anyone responded, Zhuyu drove his blade into Kisai’s right shoulder. The magic user pivoted, dark electric waves surrounding him. Zhuyu was blown back and he dropped his sword. Kisai fired off a small spark of dark electricity at his opponent, shocking Zhuyu. He slapped the man’s left arm, and moments later, a magical circle appeared.

Zhuyu raised his hand in the air, pulling in the sparks Kisai shot at him. He kicked the ground and appeared behind the magic user, slamming his palm into the man’s back. Kisai dropped to his knees, spitting out blood. Zhuyu raised his knee, ready to strike again. I constructed an ice wall, blocking him. The zero-vector raised his eyebrow at my actions and his eyes turned serious. A golden glow appeared underneath my feet, halting all my movement. Oh, I f***** up. Kuan gently dropped Ichaival to the floor, firing bullets into the area near me. They detonated but didn’t nullify the glow.

Kisai closed his eyes, jamming his pointer and middle finger into his chest. The magic user spat out more blood before standing upright. He grabbed Zhuyu’s wrist, shooting purple sparks onto it, before letting go. The zero-vector user clutched his arm in pain. Kisai materialized his magic blade once more, driving it through Zhuyu’s chest. The man disintegrated, small particles of light floating into the air.

“Alright, let’s go see Lyra. That’s what you came here for, right?” Kisai pointed at the outline of a developing door.

I was finally free, able to move again. Everyone walked through the door and we all arrived at a hallway.

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