Scene 132 – Duellum

DUELLUM

AKANE

Laura, Derek, and Ling had been arguing non-stop the past few days over whether or not Lizzy was the Composer, or if she was possessed or whatever in Musashi’s name we were dealing with. Laura thought it might be another sleeper trick, Derek was on the possessed side, and Ling just kept getting everything tangled up with morality questions.

Adam and I didn’t care about that. I’m not completely sure about his reasons—though I am sure I didn’t want to know what they were—but I knew mine.

She had hurt Derek. She was my enemy, and she was dangerous. It was like Miss Arrow said: Everything else could wait.

Right now, she had to die.

No hesitation. I cranked my speed up to half blast, fast enough so that I could dodge bullets but slow enough to still be able to use it for a minute or so.

A smile crawled across Lizzy’s face very, very slowly, and I rushed forward, praying I could catch her while she was still moving as slow as ice.

I didn’t, of course.

Suddenly, she was like lightning. Even compared to me, she was an invisible blur of motion. Before I even knew what was happening, there was an impact on my chest. It felt like being hit by a battering ram, and suddenly my back was crashing through the dead-end wall of the alley.

I coughed, spitting up blood and inhaling pulverized brick and sheetrock. My speed faded from the shock, though it had served its purpose.

Without it, the impact would have killed me.

Lizzy displayed her shiny white teeth. “You should get up, Ken-chan!” she said in her usual flawless Japanese. “I don’t want this to be BORING!

I ground my teeth and stumbled to my feet, using my sword as an improvised crutch.

At least one broken rib, probably quite a few more. The blow had been mostly to my left side, so nothing too important was damaged, and the blood from my mouth seemed to be something minor, not from a punctured lung.

One punch. She had done all that with one punch. I seriously doubted my survival was intentional; it seemed like she had just hit me, without considering where would do the most damage.

That was good. That meant she wasn’t perfect. I could beat her.

But…

I hesitated for a moment.

What if it really was her?

Lizzy, my old friend, the silly girl blind to Derek’s affections…what if she was still in there?

Could she have…thrown off the Composer’s aim somehow? Increased my chances of survival?

I couldn’t assume that. I just couldn’t. If I was wrong—or even if I was right, really—she’d kill me.

But…

What if?

Suddenly, a blood-red blur was rushing towards me, and I didn’t have time to think anymore. I had enough speed to dodge by a hair’s breadth, and the Composer crashed into the wall I had been laying against a moment before.

She turned to me, grinning with those too white teeth. “Come ON, Ken-chan! FIGHT ME!

Well, the gratuitous Japanese was definitely the same Lizzy I had always known, if not the tone. I ground my teeth. “Stop talking!

I pushed my hesitation aside and dashed forward at normal speed, keeping my power in reserve. My reservoir wasn’t replenished yet; I needed to make sure I had enough to dodge again if I had to.

Luckily, the Composer seemed to relish the idea of a head-on fight. She grinned, golden eyes glittering, and summoned a glowing orange force field in the shape of a sword—an exact mirror of my own katana, if I wasn’t mistaken.

Last time, this had taken me by surprise, but I was prepared now. I moved like in kendo class, whispering around her blade and to her heart. I struck from the right, with the wall to the left. She was backed into a corner, and wouldn’t be able to dodge effectively.

But she didn’t have any intention of dodging. She batted my sword away with her own, a move that most swordsmen would never think of, since it would damage their weapon as well. But she didn’t have to worry about damaging her sword, did she? It wasn’t real, it was just a chunk of energy. Even if it could break or dull, she could always just create a new one.

This would require a change in strategy, but that was something to worry about later.

The Composer wasn’t content to just block my attack. The second our blades touched, I tried to pull back, and she took advantage of the opening by rushing with her shoulder. I dodged to the right, away from the wall, letting the woman in the blood-drenched dress flash past me.

But…

Wait.

She was fast, yes. But she was human fast. It wasn’t the ridiculous lightning speed of a power. And she still had the sword in her hand.

So she had multiple powers…but could only use one at a time?

I could work with that.

Almost too late, I realized that she was trying to ghost behind me for a killing blow. I tapped my reservoir just enough to face her and slide past her blade, before feinting at her face. She brought her sword up to block, which was exactly what I expected, and I used the opening to kick her in the stomach, knocking her back a few feet.

Energized by my victory, I rushed forward—

Only to have my attack easily deflected by the Composer’s blade.

She gave me a tight-lipped smile. “You’ll need more than THAT!

I ignored her taunting and jumped back a few steps. When she didn’t follow, I flipped out a knife at superspeed and flicked it at her eyes. She deflected it easily, but I had expected her to. It was a distraction, to cover my own rush forward.

But she didn’t fall for it. The Composer’s sword blocked my own with the same lazy grace as before, keeping up with my thrusts and slashes with ease and contempt. That smug grin was still on her face; she knew I couldn’t touch her.

Then again, I wasn’t fighting alone, now was I?

I dodged to the side right as Ling tackled the blood-drenched woman from behind, letting the pair fly past me and into another wall. Ling’s armor would keep her safe, but the Composer had no such protection.

Before I could take advantage of our enemy’s incapacitation, Ling came flying back at me, and I had to dodge out of the way as she nearly bowled over Derek and Adam. I readied my sword and turned back to the blood-drenched woman who had thrown her, watching with rising dread as she stood up as though nothing had happened.

No. Wait. Her neck was at an odd angle, like a snapped twig.

But even as I stared, she moved her neck back into position with a crack and a grimace. She rolled her head around a bit, testing the joints and finding everything satisfactory.

Right. Healing.

But how good was it, really? She had to have a reservoir, like us. We just had to keep pounding her until it ran dry.

“Ling Ling Ling,” the girl wearing my friend admonished. “You really should know better. Weren’t you the one who said the ones who rush in first to attack the big bad always getting injured or killed?”

The little otaku extricated herself from the rubble of her landing with difficulty and glared at the Composer. “Yeah. But it has to be done.”

The Composer rolled her golden eyes. “I will never understand you people and your stupid morality.” She shook her head. “Every day, she’s screaming in my head about right and wrong and good and evil and SHUT UP!” She rubbed her forehead with her sword hand, which made me notice it was empty. She had dismissed her sword. “So annoying.”

Wait. Screaming in her head?

I felt a thin hand on my shoulder, and turned to see Laura staring at the creature with calculating eyes.

“Lizzy might still be in there,” she whispered. “You need to keep the Composer busy, while Derek and I try and rouse our friend.”

I nodded. I could do that. I wasn’t sure how long I could last, but even if Ling and I couldn’t overpower her healing, we should at least be able to stay alive long enough to let Laura talk.

I turned to the little blonde delinquent. “You ready?”

She tapped her arms together, and I could hear the stone plates in armor click. “Ready.”

No hesitation.

I rushed forward at speed, slashing at the Composer’s legs this time. She backflipped out of the way, and upon landing immediately blocked Ling’s punch with her sword. With Ling distracting her, I stabbed at her back, but the blood-drenched woman summoned a second sword, which she used to deflect my attack without even looking.

Ling tried another tactic, stepping back and placing her hands on the ground. The concrete under the Composer’s feet writhed like liquid, and her shoes began to sink.

She dropped her swords (which faded into mist) and sped away at super speed, specifically aiming at me. I had anticipated this, though, and cranked my own speed up to full enough to dodge her attack.

As well as to take the opportunity to slash at her as she ran past.

I didn’t really expect it to work. I figured she’d dodge, or maybe drop the speed to summon the swords again.

Instead, I felt my blade slice through flesh and grind against bone, and heard a roar of outrage from the woman who looked like Lizzy.

She let her speed go maybe ten feet from me, and I watched as she cursed at the wound in a language I didn’t understand.

“Dinm-ki balhon…” she muttered. “Ubbil-polar!” She glared daggers at me, even though the wound was healing even as I watched, and I almost took a step back from the force of her presence. “I’LL KILL YOU FOR THAT!

I grit my teeth. C’mon, where was—

“Stop this!” Laura called firmly from behind me. “Stop fighting!”

That was her plan? Seriously? If it was that easy, Lizzy would have broken free on her own, without our help. I don’t know what I was expecting from ‘Derek and I will try and rouse our friend,’ but I assumed that they had some sort of idea that actually had a chance of working.

The Composer didn’t seem particularly impressed either. The thing wearing Lizzy’s body raised a lazy eyebrow at her Laura. “Eh? Are you even crazier than usual today? Why would I do that?”

Laura blinked. “I…what?”

The golden woman spread her arms wide. “Killing is what I am! It’s in my blood and in my soul!” She grinned again. “And I wouldn’t have it any. Other. Way.”

The European woman seemed at a loss for words for the first time in her life. She shook her head. “I…Lizzy, I—”

Boom. The Composer rushed past me at super speed, grabbed Laura by the neck, and slammed her into the wall.

“MY NAME IS ELIZABETH!” she roared, inches from Laura’s stunned face.

I rushed forward to attack from behind, but the woman backhanded me with a super speed slap, sending me flying into the opposite wall. Thankfully, my power saved me from the worst of the impact, but it still hurt.

“My name is not Lizzy!” the Composer roared again, snarling at Laura. “Or Liz, or Lizzers!” Ling rushed her head-on; she just flicked her hand, sending the girl’s armor—and the girl inside—flying back. “I brought this city to its knees! I killed the Hammer of Thor, and sent the fey fleeing into the wind!” Derek tried to sneak up behind her, but she blocked him with another of those glowing orange barriers, and he backed away warily. “I have destroyed a million civilizations, and this world will be ONE MORE!” She turned to me, murder in her eyes. “I am Elizabeth Greene! Remember that name.”

Laura was on the ground now, rubbing her throat. “But…no…that’s…you’re possessed…”

The Composer glared down at her. “What are you babbling about now?”

“It’s a trick,” Derek insisted, looking for an opening around the barrier. “It can’t be her.”

The woman looked at him, bewildered, then turned to each of us, that same confused look on her face the whole time, until turning back to Derek.

After a minute, she laughed. It was the same gentle, bell-like sound as always, made somehow horrifying coming from this blood-drenched woman.

“All this time, you thought…what?” She shrugged her shoulders, still grinning. “What? That I was possessed by a body-jumper? Programmed, like the sleepers?” She laughed again. “Oh, I wish I had known! I could have had so much fun with this! But no. No more tricks, no more lies.”

She grabbed Laura by the throat again, dragging her up the wall until her face was level with her own, which also put Laura’s feet a few inches off the ground.

“I am Elizabeth Greene,” she said calmly, a slight smile on her blood-flecked golden face. She adjusted her chocolate-brown hair slightly. “I am the girl who grew up with you, who watched you moon over Derek, the girl who helped you steal cookies from your father.”

Using her free hand, she summoned another of those glowing orange swords, and held the tip against Laura’s throat.

I should stop her. But I found I couldn’t move. Terror and horrific fascination kept me rooted to the spot.

“And I am the girl who is going to kill you.” Her smile grew into a too-wide grin. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for thirteen years.”

Behind the Scenes (scene 132)

You’ll notice that Elizabeth didn’t refer to her status as the Composer in her little boast. That will be important later.

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