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Thursday, June 28, 2007
18.104.22.168. Air Raid (Part Four)
Now it’s Hernan’s turn. He attacks with his basic moves, trying to study his opponent and find his weak spots. Robert also does the same but more to blocking and parrying. They need to ‘warm up’ again for the next special skill variants. During so, Hernan asks, ‘Robert, is this going to ruin our friendship?’ ‘You’re doing what you must, and I do mine. Don’t worry, I won’t hate you for this,’ Robert answers. ‘But you’re eluding justice and committed piracy! You swore to uphold justice, but ended up breaking the law! I’m really disappointed in you, Rob!’ ‘I will go and face trial, but I can’t go alone. They won’t believe a single word I say! I know a very wise person in Lore, so I need to go there and ask him to help me prove my innocence! Alas, Sheena caught me on the way, but she helped me out of the dungeon. She committed the murders and piracy, but I simply knocked the Arcadians out! I need to go along with her because no decent ship will bear a most wanted fugitive like me!’ ‘So that’s what this is all about. I would do the same if I was in your shoes, Robert, but in my shoes, I must do what I must!’ ‘Then I’ll help you, Hernan. You will give them a better answer if you fail. And if you defeat me, that means you succeed,’ says Robert, still slashing fervently. ‘So it means we’re going to settle this matter up through our blades, then,’ says Hernan, delivering a series of thrusts. ‘Show me your best moves, Orcbane.’ ‘I’ll certainly do,’ says Robert, now accumulating his aura and unleashes his combo, Twin Dragons Scour the Seas, attacking from two opposing sides with concentrated thrusts and slashes. ‘Oho, I do have a cure for that,’ Hernan says. He blocks Robert’s slashes from the left and uses the energy impact to block the ones from the right. He does that with great grace and precision, blocking all blows perfectly. With a last slash, Robert pushes himself away from Hernan and prepares his next attack. ‘That was a nice move,’ says Robert. ‘Stylish and effective.’ Hernan replies with a smile, ‘Thanks. I’m sure you’ll show some more of yours. You sure got plenty of them. Let’s see if you can counter THIS!’ Once again, Hernan unleashes a variant of Albatross Embraces the Clouds using a different approach: He crouches real low before delivering a very powerful spiraling uppercut slash to juggle Robert up in the air. Robert blocks that attack, but it pushes him aloft anyway. Hernan jumps high with another stroke of Albatross Embraces the Clouds, but Robert already prepares his air-to-ground diving slash, Dragon Hammering Down. As Robert’s slash comes down, once again Hernan shows his superb precision by hitting the blade of Grimlock with the tip of his rapier, putting a concentrated pressure on one point. That action is indeed fruitful for Hernan as he manages to push Robert’s saber up and away. Robert works hard to maintain his grip on Grimlock and not letting his defenses wide open. He does a single somersault and counters using his supreme one-hit homing thrust, Wrath of the Dragon God. It’s a direct frontal spiraling attack with a fully concentrated and multiplied fire energy sparks covering Robert’s body and sword. This time Hernan is caught unguarded. Robert stabs Hernan squarely on the chest. The Mythril Armor, of course, protects Hernan’s chest from being cut open. Nonetheless, Hernan suffers a severe internal injury that forces him to back off seven paces, nearly falling. The seventeenth level and the second strongest blow of the Eighteen Dragon Slayer Strikes it is, and Hernan is the first victim since Robert mastered it. To Robert’s surprise, Hernan is still standing although he is staggering a bit. The Escudian fencer talks, ‘That was very devastating, Robert. Without my Mythril Armor, I would be dead by now.’ Robert replies, ‘Yours were as dangerous. Your precision move was superb, I daresay. But judging from your looks, I think it’s time to finish this.’ ‘We have reached the peak of our auras, so go ahead and use your best move against the best of mine.’ ‘Remember our deal, Hernan,’ says Robert threateningly. ‘Don’t force me to kill you if you break it.’ ‘Sure do, IF you can survive this one. On guard!’ True to his words, Hernan unleashes his finishing combo attack, utilizing water energy to the highest, most powerful level possible: Symphony of the Seven Seas. His attacks are like rolling tidal waves coming from seven directions, constantly and randomly changing like waves from the seven seas all clashing in one place. To match this, once again Robert uses his Regrets of the Dragon finishing combo. He defeated Adler by combining two final blows into one extra-powerful blow, so what variation will he use against Hernan’s speed, precision and unpredictable blows? Combining the eighteen combos of the Dragon Slayer technique in one, Robert presses on and on, trying not to get dominated instead. Rob and Hernan keep exchanging blows with several hits and misses from each side, but it seems like they will never stop. Not one seem to gain an upper hand and their energy is as though never going to run out – amplifies and amplifies until... their bodies cannot bear it anymore. And suddenly, when their clash is about to reach its climax... That’s enough. Hernan is startled to hear that. Losing his concentration, his attacks become weaker and less focus and his defenses are wide open. Without realizing what really happened, Robert lands an uppercut slash – part of the Regrets of the Dragon combo – on Hernan’s armor and send him flying to the back. Robert defeated Hernan in this last round, but he feels something is wrong. Robert rushes forward to find out, but Hernan raises his one hand and put a finger on his lips, whispering, ‘Sssh, stop, Robert! Wait, wait... Did you hear that?’ ‘Hear what? I don’t hear anything!’ says Robert, protesting. ‘I heard a man’s voice saying, that’s enough. Then he called me by my name!’ ‘H-huh? Are you hearing voices in your mind, Hernan?’ ‘I’m not? I heard it loud and clear, as if he’s next to me! I’m not crazy, Robert, I swear!’ The voice comes again. You don’t have to swear, because you’re not crazy. Only you can hear my voice, my child, for I am Petra, the all-powerful Leviathan*), Sovereign of the Seven Seas. Your skill, Symphony of the Seven Seas drew so much mana from the oceans and waters; it woke me up from my slumber. Right on that moment, I knew that the Chosen One has come: He who masters the water energy at the highest level. (* Leviathan is the Ancient Blue Dragon, living in the deepest abyss of the Petravia Ocean. Like Bahamut, Tiamat, Armitage and Behemoth, the Leviathan is considered as a patron, deity and guardian of the element it represents, that is water. Hernan talks to Petra’s voice, ‘I don’t understand. You said you’ve found the one you seek, but you came and disrupted my concentration in the most crucial moment, making me lose to Robert. What do you want with me, anyway?’ Firstly, I wanted to stop you two from destroying each other with the energy so extreme, more than your bodies could bear. And secondly, I want you to become my partner to ease my loneliness. I have slept for seventy years, alone and miserable. My mind wandered in my sleep, searching throughout the land for someone who can hear my voice – my new partner – the Chosen One and I found you. So, I offer you a gift. A gift of power beyond measure, the help from a Leviathan, and a chance to make your name a legend, told by many generations to come. Will you take it? ‘It’s not power I seek, but friendship and the joy it brings. If you offer that as well, then I gladly accept it,’ Hernan answers. Then I’m your friend, Hernan. With you around, I won’t be lonely anymore. Come to Petravia, my home and wait for me in the Lone Island of Jagt. Just shout my name, Petra in your mind and I will come to you. See you there. ‘The Island of Jagt? Where is it, O’ Ancient One?’ asks Hernan, but there’s no answer. Petra has disconnected the telepathic call, it seems. Hernan sighs and turns to Robert, saying, ‘Well, I think you’ve won, Robert. Got an important call from a new friend, so I gotta go.’ ‘But you’re still standing, Hernan. This is not over yet. A deal is a deal, so we have to fight on.’ ‘Then I forfeit. You see, our skills are evenly matched. If we went on with our finishing moves, we both would end up dead. Petra the Leviathan distracted me – I made a mistake, I shouldn’t be distracted by anything at all – and you defeated me with that last blow. And now I’m too bruised and injured to fight. You’ve won that fight and we will leave quietly. As you said, a deal is a deal, right?’ ‘Don Hernan, I think that was just an interruption and this is just a delay for our fight. You know, I once heard voices too, and it distracted me no matter how hard I tried to resist and ignore it. Just do what you have to do and we’ll continue this fight after you are stronger, when our paths are crossed again.’ ‘Until then, I bid you farewell, Senor Robert,’ says the Escudian fencer, bowing real low as a salute. ‘And farewell to you too, my friend. Good luck,’ Robert replies. He also bows with respect. Hernan then sheathes his Albatross Rapier and walks away from there, shouting an instruction, ‘Men! We bring Lord Adler and go back to the airship! Move out!’ The airship crews follow Hernan at once. Hernan also carries the unconscious Adler with the help of two crews, hoisting him up to the airship. Hernan gets in the airship, and soon afterwards the flying vessel rotates slowly. As it faces northwest, the Aurora flies away, leaving the Dewblossom behind, still intact. Robert looks at the flying airship with mixed thoughts. He feels neither victorious nor worried about this outcome. He just walks up towards Sheena who is still sitting feebly on a corner with Zach tending to her wounds. ‘Good work, Robert,’ says Sheena. ‘And good riddance to that flying threat!’ Zach also adds, ‘That proved that for now, you are stronger than that bighead blonde and that flamboyant fencer – er... what were their names again?’ ‘Viscount Adler von Bachmann from Borgia and Don Hernan y Parvaez from Escudia,’ Robert answers. ‘And I don’t think I’m stronger than them. It was all just Vadis’ will that I must reach Lore to uphold his justice.’ Baxter, who stands near Sheena also talks, ‘Whatever you said, Robert, the fact is clear. Hernan and Adler retreated because you defeated them – end of story. Now we better head straight to Flamenca and buy supplies.’ Zach protests, ‘Lo? Cap’n Sheena said you don’t have the money, and we haven’t raided a single ship!’ ‘Yeah, we didn’t have money,’ says Baxter. ‘But now we do.’ He takes out a purse and jiggles it with glee. ‘That Adler is surely loaded. Look at this – whoa! Man, this purse is full of gold crowns!’ ‘How did you get that, Bax?’ says Ellephar, absent-mindedly. ‘Nicked it when he’s unconscious, you moron. Gotta do it real swiftly with a bunch of airship crew around him. I’d say ‘twas one of my best steals ever.’ ‘Yeah,’ says Zach. ‘And better still if you can nick it from him when he’s fully conscious.’ ‘Oh, yeah? Of course I can do it! But wait! I have a better idea. Why don’t I nick the brain out of your head, right now? That will be my coolest steal ever!’ says Baxter threateningly, pointing his dagger towards Zachary. ‘THAT’S ENOUGH, BAXTER!’ Sheena yells angrily and coughs blood and causes her internal injuries to open again. Now Zach must redo his work mending her wounds all over again. Then the captain of the Dewblossom talks feebly to Robert, ‘Please take over command of the ship for the time being, Robert. I must rest. We’ll sail to Flamenca to restock and then go straight to Lore to a fishing harbor near Rand.’ ‘Aye, will do, Cap’n,’ says Robert in a serious tone and with thoughts in his mind. Thank Vadis we can go through this without any casualty. But it’s still a long journey – who and what will we encounter next?