IC (Votadox and Nidhiki): A lie here and there can make the world a better place. But the lie that I was surprised by Nidhiki’s attack would benefit nobody. Therefore I won’t voice it. There are other things I won’t do, too. I won’t tell you about my tactical thoughts: I didn’t have time to think them. I won’t describe my cutting comeback: I didn’t have the incentive to make one. On the absolute contrary, I was very motivated to do one thing in particular: get out of the way. Trying to look nonchalant while launching backwards at top speed isn’t an easy feat. But what would be the point if it was? With this in mind, I leap away from Nidhiki as his weapon arcs towards me; at the same time, I use my Crast. He’s flung backwards, and so am I. We land apart, and my heart’s admittedly racing. I can see this opponent won’t be turning into sand - or any other cop-out move like that - any time soon. I stand lightly on my feet. He matches me. I glance at him before the game’s next move...I can see him glinting with sharp intellect...certainly a more worthy opponent. I don’t have time to think much more than that, due in large part to Nidhiki vaulting forwards with the speed of a storm. His weapon’s drawn - its edge as subtle and gleaming as his angular eyes. With a swift movement I draw my own weapon and shoot, the blast rupturing forwards towards the instructor. There’s a blur, and it swings past him. Karz. A moment later, he’s upon me. The whistling scythe is swinging again, and I duck with a sharp hasty movement. But I know how to do this, I’m sure. I know how to turn an attack against an enemy - how to let a weapon hurt its bearer. So in a split second I’m behind Nidhiki, spinning, and smashing him in the back with the gun’s barrel. One crunch later, and he’s facing me again. He whisks the scythe sideways. But I’m too fast, I dart around him. I’m behind him again, lobbing a makeshift club at him. But he’s too fast too. He’s also turned, my weapon zinging off his blade in high-pitched voice. Doesn’t matter, I’m soon telling myself. Movement is the key. I’m soon sliding under him, this time shooting him in the back as his weapon over-balances. But he’s half-turned; the blast misses, snatched at by the air. We circle each other. But I’m confident, sorry to say. I know how to do this. I’ll wait for his move, then turn it against him. I might even throw in a ‘Stop hitting yourself’. I smile intolerably. Seconds pass, and I’m starting to get bored. He’s keeping his distance. His mundane feet are brushing the mundane ground. I’m disappointed. I had such high hopes for this fight. I dreamt of enticing action and brilliant acrobatic displays. I anticipated daring duels, interspersed with unrealistically witty banter. I wanted a fight to live for, a fight to die for, every second more thrilling than the last-- This is when the air blast arrives: poetic, really. I’m hurled backwards. I skid into the sandy ground, stumbling to my feet an instant later. The attack’s successor arrives shortly thereafter. I dodge, leaping to the side. Nidhiki’s further away by now. Come closer, come closer! I hiss inside my head. (Saying it out loud would doubtless waste resources). A third whirlwind completes the hat-trick. I evade again. Then more and more come. And more, and more. I leap and whirl, and throw in the occasional dodge and dive. Not to mention the ducks and swerves. OK, OK: I’m being flippant, but this is getting serious. He’s moved even further away. I can’t fire at him from this range: he’ll just dissipate the blast. He needs to come to me. By this stage a very mild form of worry is setting in. That in itself worries me. I’ve been battered by a few of the assaults, and the rest have worn me out. From my vantage point atop a wall, I take a potshot at him with an attempt at apathy. Meanwhile I squint, my voice ringing with a goading “Oh. Alright. Bye bye, then.”. I don’t get a reply, and my poor baby blast is ruthlessly shredded by the sky. I grimace. My grimace is soon wiped from my face. Likewise, I’m wiped from the wall. The primary cause is a hurricane the tears me out of place and flings me down. I’m thrown around and, let me tell you, considerably bruised. When I get my bearings back, Nidhiki is gone. I stare around wild eyed. I’m in the middle of an arena, surrounded by blocks and aesthetically displeasing pieces of wall: he could be anywhere. My launcher is ready. I scan the shadows. I search the wind for his whereabouts. I see a movement out of the corner of my eye and spin. My gun is levelled in an instant, but nothing’s there. Why isn’t he just fighting me, face to face? I’m getting a-- I’m kicked to the ground by a jarring force. I scramble back to my feet. There's no-one there. Another blast from my right punches me in the chest. I’m flung sideways. I shoot off in its general direction. I can feel fear. But that’s fine, I know it’s there, I know how to use it-- A hand grabs my neck, slamming me to the ground. I leap to my feet - he must be in range! - but he’s gone again. I shouldn’t have bothered standing, really. Because as soon as I do, I’m smashed against a wall. I shake with intensity as I try to get myself free, but the air is rushing in my face, plastering me to the stone, rattling and slamming me again and again and again. But for a moment I see a shadow in front of me; its semi-tangible. I reach for it. Then I’m pulled to the side, face colliding with the dirt. I taste blood and grit. But now I’m angry. I’ve met ####s like him before. Always hiding. Always running. I feel my cuts and bruises, and my heart pounds to see them returned. The last time I felt like this ended with someone in quite a few different pieces. And that someone wasn’t me. The wind whips me. I can’t carry on like this. I’ll just be worn down. I need a change of plan. I need to take the fight to him, I resolve. I catch sight the shadow again, further away still. I jog towards the movement, weapon raised. I skid round a corner. A space, hidden between two close walls. And he’s there. I’m flung back, but I’m already shooting. I land on my feet, stumbling, regaining my balance, rushing at him. He’s cornered. Another blast, but I pirouette to the side. He glances upwards, ready to dart away. A shot from my Bludgeon sends rubble down. He nimbly avoids it, but is hurled backwards by my Crast. I try not to get excited, but I am. I’m driving him back. Another mask-blast slides him further down the corridor. And another. And another. I need to press my advantage. I sprint forwards, gun and mask pummeling him into submission. I’m leading the fight now. I feel uncharacteristically triumphant. But that may be due to the lack of triumphs in my life. Now I’m close enough to shoot point blank then batter him with the barrel. I elect to do so. An upper-cut, a left hook, and other moves too unruly to be named. I don’t duck or slide or weave: that would be wasteful when I can hammer and punch and smash. I was reactive before; but now I’m truly active. He looks uncertainly dizzy. But he has enough tact to rip my gun from my hands with his element, tossing it away. Karz! But I can’t falter. I’ve simply got to keep attacking. One pause and the tides will turn. Both of us are fatigued, I think. But we’re tearing at each other. Smashing and striking with faster and faster, harder and harder blows. I slam against him with my mask power. I can’t stop, can’t falter. We’re both whirlwinds of frenzied energy. In this unpoetic and dark corner, all I can see is him in front of me. All I can do is attack. My mask is my second choice, but there’s not much choice left. I use it. He counters. I return an attack. My mask is hooked off my face and flung away. But I can’t give up. I whip out my knives, my last resort. Slashing, stabbing. Scythe blade rushing past in waves, just dodging. Shadows flickering in the rushed, frantic, claustrophobic space. Sounds of clattering metal, sliding metal, crumpling metal. Fevered movement in a fevered moment. Manic movement. Knives pulled away, so now I’m tearing into him with my bare fists. Caught on the shoulder by the scythe. Can’t give up. Got to press my advantage. Got to lead the fight. Desperate punching. Furious, wild speed. I’m battered to my knees, knuckles bloodied, energy expended. He raises a weapon, ready to end it. I...fear...I killed the other one...he won’t hesitate to kill me. I stare him in the eyes, my own eyes wide, mouth agape, body trembling with the effort of sluggish movement and with pain and fatigue. I tried everything. I changed my tactics. I changed my whole...system. I pressed my advantage. I moved to him. Now I’ll probably die for that. How annoyingly...cliche. He swings the weapon at me. He puts his whole weight into it. I raise my arms, push myself away. And I can’t help myself, I shout: “Stop!Stop! Stop!” And for a tiny moment he does. He looks unable to do anything, unable to even breath. He looks like he’s wondering what he’s doing. Of course. I hardly realised I was doing it. I almost forget to attack. But then I do. I push upwards. Onto my feet. Arm outstretched. Arcing towards his head. Fist in a neat, sharp shape. It’s about to land when he snaps out of it. His arm shoots outwards, grabbing my wrist. Then, in one pragmatic movement, he smashes me in the head. I fall back to the grimy ground. What little light there is fades.