Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1 - Cover

Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1

Copyright© 2023 by Uruks

Chapter 2: Old Problems, New Wounds

Scientific Journal Entry number thirty. Construction on the laboratory is underway, but we’ve run into a few difficulties. The local workers say that they’ve spotted something on the scanners. Something large. It could be the creature I’ve been searching for to complete the experiment. The very same creature for which I chose Black Star so that I could capture it as the main specimen. The Code Name for this creature will be Subject Zero. End of Log.

“Black Knight to Red Baron. Do you have eyes on the target? Over,” said Leon.

Ryan groaned in annoyance as he replied into the earpiece in his helmet. “Yeah, I see him, Leon. I still don’t get the point of using codenames. It’s not like it’s gonna help us beat him.”

“Ryan!” exclaimed Éclair angrily on the intercom. Then she immediately remembered herself, speaking more professionally. “I mean, Red Baron. This is Silver Fox. Assigned aliases are an essential aspect of covert operations. Be advised to maintain protocol. Over.”

Ryan grinned, unable to resist the urge to mess with Éclair. “Affirmative, Éclair. Oops! I mean, Silver Fox.”

Éclair scoffed. “You cheeky little-”

“This is Big Hammer to Black Knight,” interrupted Grafael’s deep, booming voice on the intercom. “Just so we’re clear, I go in first to engage the target, and then if he’s still twitching, the rest of you can join me in the pummeling. Over.”

“Wait a minute!” growled Torsha on the channel. “I thought Tor ... I mean, this is Holy Dog, and I thought that Yellow Lizard and I would go in first.”

“I ... I think we should let Big Hammer go in first, Holy Dog,” said Tork timidly. Then his tone became a little defensive as he said, “Also, who decided that I should be Yellow Lizard? It sounds a little cowardly.”

“She-Devil to losers,” called in Rachel’s scornful voice on the channel. “Be advised, and shut the heck up, will ya? It’s Black Knight’s call. He’s team leader. Acknowledge. Over.”

Grafael grumbled, “I never get to go in first anymore.”

“I said acknowledge. Over,” repeated Rachel harshly.

Grafael groaned. “Acknowledged.”

The others acknowledged as well. Ryan suppressed a giggle.

“Thank you, She-Devil,” Leon said in that insufferably cool and collected voice of his. “As I was saying before Red Baron led us down an unnecessary lapse into buffoonery, begin encircling maneuvers. You all have your assigned tasks. I’ll take point in a diversionary tactic. Do not engage until I give the signal.”

Ryan had to bite down a snide comment as he zeroed in on their target, his battle instincts kicking in.

It was nighttime with only the twinkle of stars providing slight illumination. They were hunting in a forest, or at least the pink crystal formations resembled a forest with the shapes they made and their consistency reminiscent of trees. The ground was bright white sand of some kind with some sparse areas filled with sharp tiny crystals sticking out like grass.

Their target was a man in full-body Psionic Armor wearing a black cape. His armor was completely black with orange glowing symbols lining the plating. His face was shrouded behind a metal facemask, eliminating the possibility of poison gas. His helmet resembled a kabuto from Japanese culture of Ancient Earth, and his eyes were shielded behind reinforced visors that glowed with a dull, orange light. Ryan was told that Mystics wore the same kind of armor when they fought for the Dark Dragon Lords during the Black Dragon Wars. Their enemy had his Psionic Weapon out, a thin rapier glowing orange with the power of his psions. His movements were wary. He knew he was being followed. Judging by the notches of his armor and the intricacy of his cape, the Mystic was at least Wielder-Level in strength. This wasn’t going to be easy.

“Acknowledged,” Éclair said over the channel. “I’m already in position. Ready to snipe the target at your discretion. I might be able to take him now. I’m far enough away that perhaps even he won’t see it coming.”

“Negative, Silver Fox,” Leon replied. “This is a Wielder-Level enemy we’re dealing with here. If you fail to take him with the first strike, you’ll expose your position, leaving yourself open for a counterstrike. Don’t forget that he can zero in on your location in the blink of an eye regardless of the distance. Wait until everyone is ready, then we’ll take him all at once with you providing cover fire from a long distance.”

“Affirmative, Black Knight,” Éclair relented with only the tiniest bit of disappointment.

Ryan smiled to himself. Éclair’s battle instinct was almost as strong as his and Grafael’s, and she wasn’t even a Saurian.

He watched from his hiding place high atop the crystal branches of the strange forest. Their target was moving slowly, but steadily as he searched the trees for any signs of his assailants.

Growing impatient with how long it took everyone to get into position, Ryan said, “By the way. Everyone has a cooler name than me. I wanna change mine.”

Éclair groaned. “This is hardly the time or place, Red Baron.”

“Actually, I ... uh ... I would like to request a change to my name as well,” Tork interjected. “Like to Manly Lizard, perhaps. Or at least Mildly Manly Lizard. You think I’m mildly manly, don’t you, Holy Dog?”

“Uh,” said Torsha uncomfortably. “I’m staying out of this.”

“Alright, that’s it,” resolved Ryan. “If Tork gets to change his name, then I’m definitely changing mine.”

“You bloody did it again, Ry ... Red Baron!” hissed Éclair in frustration. “Now I’m doing it too. I swear, your stupidity is infectious.”

“I want it to be something cool. Ya know, something that sounds totally fitting for a badass like me,” said Ryan, ignoring Éclair as his excitement grew. “I know! Hell-Sword! No, scratch that! Big Hell-Sword! Yeah, that’s it!”

Grafael scoffed. “Your sword isn’t that big. My hammer is much bigger.”

Ryan had to let that sink in for a minute. “Okay. You do know what you just did there, right?”

“What?” Grafael asked innocently.

“At first, I thought it was just you being dense as usual when you called yourself ‘Big Hammer’, but after a comment like that, there’s no way! You are so doing this on purpose!”

“What?” Grafael asked in confusion. “It’s just a fact. My weapon is larger than yours. You wield a one-handed broad sword at approximately forty inches in length. Whereas my two-handed war hammer is at least-”

“Silence, both of you! There’s a change in the enemy’s behavior,” interrupted Leon, his voice tense.

Ryan cursed himself for not noticing. Before, the enemy had been steadily moving through the crystalline forest, but now he just stopped. Then, after standing completely motionless for a time, he jumped, leaping at least twenty feet in the air to land nimbly on a branch. And then he was off in a flash, jumping from branch to branch with his black cape fluttering behind him.

Ryan growled, his Dragon blood rising to a boil. “I’ll head him off!”

“Wait!” warned Leon. “We can still surround him before-”

“There’s no time for that,” Ryan said, already giving chase despite Leon’s orders. “I’ll act as the diversion while you all get in position.”

“Ryan!” said Éclair, her irritation echoing Leon’s. “Listen to him! You don’t have the experience to-”

Ryan tore off his helmet and let it fall behind him. He preferred fighting without a helmet anyway. He needed all his senses attuned to feel the fight, and a helmet would just get in the way of that.

The night air whipped through his hair as he soared from tree to tree. A couple years ago, he couldn’t have imagined doing this sort of thing ... now he couldn’t imagine how he ever survived without it. The rush of wind as his jumps took him so high that he might as well be flying. The thrill of the chase as he hunted down a powerful prey. Being an Elemental ... being a warrior of nature itself. This is what it meant to be alive. To be of the Dragons’ blood.

It didn’t take long for Ryan to catch up to his quarry. Rather than weigh him down, his red-plated Psionic Armor actually made him feel lighter as it increased all his physicality, especially speed. His opponent was a Spiritual Type after all. They could be tricky, but they’d never be quite as strong or as fast as a Physical Type like him.

Hoping to overtake his adversary in a single strike, Ryan kicked off from a tree behind him with both feet using all his strength. His kick shattered the crystal tree completely, propelling him towards his foe with the speed of a missile. In a flash of red light, Ryan summoned his weapons to him, a golden-hilted one-handed sword burning with red flames, and a gauntlet with two claw-like blades, also on fire. Ryan took hold of his sword’s handle with both hands, pointing it straight ahead towards his enemy’s back.

Just an instant before his blade made contact, the enemy whipped around, parrying Ryan’s strike with his thin blade masterfully. Ryan barely had time to duck under a counterstrike from the enemy as the momentum of his previous jump shot him past his target to crash into a tree ahead of them. As pieces of crystal scattered all around him from the force of his armored body, his opponent was already sending flames from his sword towards Ryan.

Though dazed, Ryan pushed off from the ground by shooting a jet of flame into the earth from the palm of his hand. He directed the force of his flames to bring him back to his target in an instant, spinning around in midair to angle his blade at the enemy’s throat.

Just before his blade connected with the enemy, the man in black armor vanished in the blink of an eye. Ryan knew that trick. As soon as he got his footing on a branch, Ryan spun just in time to block an attack aimed at his blindside.

As their blades locked for an instant, both glowing and sizzling with the power of psions, Ryan couldn’t help but grin. He’d fallen for that teleporting trick time and time again. It was nice to know how much his training was paying off.

The pair dueled briefly, their blades flashing faster than any human eye could detect, but at casual speeds for Elementals as they tested each other out. Both combatants settled on a form of fighting style somewhere between fencing and kendo, alternating flawlessly between one-handed and two-handed strikes and thrusts. As their blades met and swung wildly, crystal branches as hard as diamonds were severed in the fury of the battle. The flaming Psionic Swords were so hot and so sharp that even the hardy crystalline structures seemed little better than paper.

As the fight dragged on, steadily escalating in intensity, Ryan got a better and better feel for his opponent. The Wielder was the more skilled swordsman by far, possessing greater experience and finesse. But Ryan was stronger, and faster. He used both to his advantage as he pushed his opponent back step by step. Occasionally, the enemy would teleport away and attack a moment later at a blind spot, but Ryan had been trained to have no blind spots. Even with the advantage of teleportation, the enemy Wielder could only land glancing blows at best that Ryan’s armor absorbed with minimal damage. He couldn’t outright predict where the Spiritual Type would teleport to, but as long as he could guess the general area based on the flow of the fight, his superior speed and reflexes allowed him to avoid a fatal hit.

Now that they had fought for a little while, his opponent probably thought he knew Ryan’s overall plan of attack. That was exactly what Ryan wanted him to think. Ryan pretended to lose ground for a bit as he backed into a crystal formation behind him. Blocking a strike with his sword hand, Ryan raised his clawed gauntlet. Instead of striking at his opponent directly, Ryan swiped the crystal tree behind him, taking a good chunk off with his blades and sending tiny shards flying all around the two combatants. For an instant, time seemed to stand still. The shiny crystals hovered all around the pair in a way that almost resembled rain. When enough of the tiny crystals gathered around his opponent’s faceplate, Ryan snapped his fingers.

The crystal shards ignited with the power of Ryan’s psions, becoming tiny explosions. The explosions would get him as well, but Ryan erected a thin barrier of flame around himself just as he set off his little bombs. He was counting on that and his superior durability as a Physical Type to save him.

Even though the power of the bombs originated from his own psions, they still hurt a heck of a lot. Ryan’s body was peppered with dozens of tiny explosions, each one hitting him like a punch in the gut. When the explosions dissipated, he fell to a knee coughing from the pain of his own attack, and his whole body sizzled with smoke. But Ryan still managed a wheezing laugh, for as painful as that must’ve been for him, there was no way that the enemy...

The enemy was gone. Ryan groggily came to his feet, raising his sword as he scanned the trees for any sign of his opponent. But the enemy didn’t return. Then Ryan heard a crackling noise behind him. His eyes widened in horror as he realized his mistake.

He saw it coming, thought Ryan to himself. Somehow, he saw even that coming. He was never planning on beating me in a swordfight. He was never planning on finishing this up close.

Still weakened from self-inflicted wounds, Ryan couldn’t jump away. He could only turn and raise both his sword and his gauntlet to block the ranged attack. The enemy in black armor stood at the top of a tall crystal with his sword pointed down directly at Ryan from about thirty meters away. He held his rapier with both hands, pouring an alarming amount of psions into the blade. The enemy’s arms glowed with the power of his elements, one arm burning with orange flames, the other crackling with yellow lightning.

Before Ryan could have any hope of fleeing, the enemy let loose his combined attack of fire and lightning. Ryan blocked the attack. Somehow, he blocked it. It was like holding back a volcano and a hurricane all in one. The power was overwhelming. So much heat. So much energy. His physical strength meant absolutely nothing in the face of this maelstrom. Even as he held back the explosion with his sword and gauntlet, Ryan was thrown from his feet at least a mile away. His armor absorbed most of the impact as he dented the ground, but he still felt like his whole body had been shattered. He doubted he’d still be conscious right now if not for his armor.

Barely able to move, Ryan strained to sit up as the enemy teleported in front of him. The masked man in black armor raised the tip of his sword to Ryan’s face, a small flame already gathering at the end of the blade. It was over. He’d lost.

Before the enemy could deliver a finishing blow, they came. First Grafael came crashing out of the woods, demolishing any crystalline structure easily with his near-indestructible bulk. He roared, his face reminiscent of a dinosaur with three spikes on top of his head, and his azure eyes wild with the frenzy of battle. The Saurian charged forward in his silver and red armor, his blue scales flashing brilliantly as he assaulted the enemy with his giant war hammer and his tail.

While Grafael kept the enemy busy, the sheer ferocity of his strength and speed negating the need for Elemency, Tork swooped in. The Space Dragon’s golden wings shined brilliantly in the dim starlight as he flew in like a falcon and scooped up the injured Ryan before flying him to safety.

The enemy Elemental fought magnificently against the much larger Saurian, neither one even scratching the other as their weapons clashed again and again. Grafael then gripped his weapon with both hands and swung with all his might, his hammer shattering any crystal caught in its wake. Amazingly, the enemy used his sword to block Grafael’s hammer with one hand, his whole body going stiff like a stone as the ground all around his feet shattered from the force of the Saurian’s swing. Grafael gaped in surprise only for a moment, but that was enough. Still blocking the war hammer with his sword hand, the Elemental raised his free hand towards Grafael’s face, electricity already crackling from his fingertips.

Just before discharging a dose of lightning that would’ve been lethal even for a Saurian, ropes made of white light appeared from behind Grafael, attacking the enemy as if they were snakes. The enemy disengaged from Grafael, using the lightning in his hand to bat away the ropes of light.

Torsha dashed out of the trees moments later, the Werewolf running on all fours as her white Monk robes whooshed around her. Her long yellow fur on her head was reminiscent of a human girl’s hair, but her face and ears were decidedly wolf-like ... as was her long, bushy tail. She sprang into the air, and as she did, her weapons appeared in her hands in a burst of white light. The Corrucks. Weapons of the Monks. She wielded two, each one fashioned like short staffs with white glowing cone-shaped blades on the ends.

The Werewolf and the Wingless Dragon combined their efforts, their movements perfectly synchronized as they attacked with bestial fury. The Wielder was pushed back, unable to use his Elemency effectively at such close distances. He attempted to teleport out of range, but this time he could only move a few feet away. The Wielder stared in surprise at Torsha and Grafael who were grinning wickedly.

“Trying to teleport away, are we?” Grafael asked, his smile pulling back his lips to show off his large fangs glistening in the night.

Torsha’s canine face also displayed a proud predatory grin. “You’ll find it a little harder this time with all the Spatial Inhibitors we’ve set up around this area.”

Ryan grinned. Though still ashamed for not being able to finish the fight himself, at least his efforts gave the team the time they needed to lay the trap. In his current shape, he could only watch while Tork held him sky bound as the two hovered in midair. Tork’s wings fluttered gently up and down as he bit his lip, a pensive look on his golden scaly face as he watched Torsha do battle.

The enemy regarded Grafael and Torsha silently. The Saurian and the Werewolf then split up, coming at their assailant from two different directions simultaneously. The enemy took hold of his sword, charging psions for a powerful attack of flame. He made a large arc with his blade, sending flames in every direction and forcing both Grafael and Torsha to retreat. That’s when Ryan saw the ice arrow.

Éclair chose the perfect moment, waiting for the enemy to expose himself as he swung his sword. The arrow hit home, zipping into the enemy’s left temple. Then Ryan lost sight of the enemy as the battlefield became embroiled in an icy mist.

Ryan traced the trajectory of the arrow, smiling broadly as he caught sight of Éclair. She crouched with one knee to the ground on a cliff’s edge at least three miles away. Her Psionic Bow and Psionic Arrows glowed with dazzling blue light. A silver, blue glowing quiver was fastened to her belt which had been psionically spelled to provide an endless supply of arrows to her so long as she had psions. Ryan was only able to see her because he and Tork were flying so high up. Even if he couldn’t see her face, she was as beautiful as ever in her elegant blue and white tightly fitted Psionic Armor. Éclair’s design for her outfit seemed a cross between a feminine dress and typical medieval armor with a blue cloth skirt around her waist, but parted in the middle to give her armored legs full range of motion. The images of a four-legged Dragon and a Lion were emblazoned on the golden medallion that hung around her neck, indicating her allegiance to the Ministry of Fire despite the coloring of her armor being off. She wore a white helmet with a face mask, but her long, beautiful silver hair flew behind her head, catching the wind.

“She got him!” Ryan exclaimed excitedly. “I saw it, Tork! Her arrow took him in the head!”

Tork shook his head. “No. He detected her arrow at the last moment and ghosted through it. I saw the arrow faze harmlessly through his helmet. She didn’t hit him.”

“What? You’re crazy,” Ryan objected. “I saw her hit him dead on! There’s no way-”

Within the mist of ice and vapor, dozens of small fireballs shot out like heat-seeking missiles, heading straight for Éclair. She only had a second to jump out of the way as the cliff she watched from was completely demolished by the flame attack.

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