Part 1 – SOR Scene – Zera VS. Seraph א I
The illusion was perfect. Zera truly believed Laylah was there, her physicality grafted onto Seraph’s form. Not even Arakiel’s light can distract me. It’s been a century since I last clashed with Laylah. Time to recapture old memories!
Zera dashed forward, propelled by his beating wings. Ramiel was completely horizontal, its tip positioned for piercing flesh. Seraph couldn’t track his speed. What? Ramiel’s tip honed in. Seraph beat her wings, elevating herself out of the way. I’ve never seen someone generate such acceleration from rest.
‘You said I was capable of better,’ Zera answered Seraph’s earlier jibe.
Seraph growled. He can answer my taunts with actions, can’t he?
Barachiel knew something had changed. He hadn’t forgotten what it was like to be influenced by Ramiel’s light. I’ve never seen Zera so passionate. Even I proved too linear an opponent for him. Either Seraph has provided the non-linearity he requires or Ramiel has changed the nature of this fight.
Zera stood on the ground, rapidly firing lightning. Seraph dodged, weaving through wave after wave. To Zera, Laylah was dancing aerobatically, accepting the challenge head on. Her steely eyes always locked on him, showing him she was in control not him.
‘I’m not target practice, Zera!’ Seraph screamed. Her words didn’t register with Zera; it wasn’t something Laylah would have said.
Seraph landed on the ground, Arakiel’s runes glowed rose gold. She pierced the ground with Arakiel, the Zoharian Blade directing all its vibrational energy into the earth. Beneath her feet, a pillar of tarmac-ladened rock shot out of the ground, growing relentlessly. Seraph stood on its summit, ascending with her monument.
Hani and Barachiel were transfixed by the emerging tower. Both were witnesses to Seraph’s declaration, beckoning Zera to knock her off the top of her tower.
Zera smiled, remembering who he was fighting. Laylah couldn’t generate giant stalagmites in seconds. Ramiel awaited Zera’s next move. Zoharian Blades manipulate the environment. She’s raising the stakes. Looking up, the dynamics had changed. Seraph was now more defined whilst Laylah was the abstract mirage.
‘Knock me off my ivory tower, Zera!’ Seraph pointed Arakiel at her opponent, Laylah’s voice beckoning him to attack. The ground rumbled beneath his feet. Zera didn’t need an invitation. He beat his wings, climbing the metres, parallel to Seraph’s pillar. He flew past her position. She took to the sky, joining him.
Both swung their blades, clashing, cancelling each other. Hani couldn’t track each individual strike. Barachiel watched on. Seraph’s responding to Zera’s strength. With every block, she’s hitting back harder, closing the gap.
Amongst the flurries of strikes, Zera never looked at Ramiel’s position. Instead, his eyes were locked forward. He was staring at Seraph and Laylah at the same time. Laylah’s determined eyes overlapped Seraph’s hazelnut pupils, tattoted by Laylah’s limbal ring.
Seraph increased her exertion; her fighting scream became laced with Laylah’s battle cry. It entranced Zera. I missed this!
Arakiel quivered at a high frequency, Seraph struck downwards. The force of the blow sent Zera tumbling. He landed on top of Seraph’s stalagmite, knees bent. He stood up, wings fully open, halo shining incandensently. He stared at Seraph, the afterimage of Laylah now offset by a centimetre to the left.
Seraph dived; Arakiel’s runes shone brightly. Laylah’s afterimage copied Seraph’s exact movements down to the exact angle of her attacking arm. Ramiel’s runes shone brightly, lightning loosely coiled around its surface.
Hani and Barachiel both clutched the metal fence, eagerly anticipating the blade’s collision. Zera tracked both Seraph’s and Laylah’s movements. His mind was clear. He watched carefully, he counted down the milliseconds.
The collision of Zoharian Blades dispersed shockwaves. The stone monument Zera was standing on cracked, disintegrating under its own weight. A crashing bang vibrated through all air particles, striking every surface it could find, echoing metres far beyond the perimeter of the court.
However, Zera did not move, his open wings keeping him aloft, beating gently to overcome gravity’s exertion. Ramiel had absorbed the blow. Seraph audibly growled. He blocked? Well no matter, he’s left himself open. Seraph spun her body through the air using Arakiel to exert force downwards on Ramiel, giving her the necessary torque. Her wings tilted, guiding her body’s rotation. Zera saw every angle change in slow motion. The interlacing between Seraph and Laylah’s afterimage was hypnotic. He saw her knee beginning to flex. He could see her leg muscles beginning to tense.
A stinging kick was unleashed. The distance between Zera’s cheek and Seraph’s foot narrowed. A sharp, strong force struck the bottom of Seraph’s leg, just above her ankle, bringing Seraph to a grinding halt. What?!
Zera’s robust, perfectly horizontal forearm had absorbed the force of the blow, completely arresting momentum away from Seraph.
Zera’s piercing stare greeted her. ‘Nice try, Laylah!’
Seraph’s shrunk in her own skin. What he did just call me? Arakiel barked. Ramiel fell silent. Its runes stopped glowing. The afterimage of Laylah vanished; leaving Zera to deal with Seraph’s appalled expression.
Hani looked to Barachiel for answers. Instead, Barachiel grimaced, angrily grinding his teeth. ‘Ramiel—’
Zera wanted, needed a response from Ramiel. Nothing. He looked up; a fuming Seraph met his gaze. I’m in trouble.
‘I’m not a substitute for your dead wife, Zera!’ Seraph scowled.
Zera didn’t answer. He couldn’t. Good job, Zera! How am I going to explain that Ramiel was overlapping her with Laylah and I was OK with it?
‘Seraph,’ Barachiel called out. Zera and Seraph turned their head towards Barachiel. ‘Ramiel was using you.’
‘Ramiel used your similarities to trigger the same response Zera would provide if he was fighting Laylah.’
Hani was completely mystified. Ramiel can do that?
‘WHAT!’ Seraph didn’t appreciate a mystical artefact superimposing Laylah upon her body. I know I remind you of Laylah, but this is ridiculous! ‘You were letting it happen, weren’t you Zera?’
Zera didn’t respond. Seraph lowered Arakiel. He’s not bothering denying it. ‘We’re Destroying Angels, Zera. We can’t let our emotions inhibit us!’
‘Is that why you’re here?’ Zera shot across the basketball court. Seraph’s face dropped. ‘Do you let your emotions inhibit you? Is that why one of Uriel’s finest Destroying Angels is in a disused basketball court?’
Hani and Barachiel stepped away from the basketball court. They didn’t want to be in the immediate crossfire from two, furious Zoharian Bladers.
Seraph growled, Arakiel’s vibration increasing in intensity, her fingers fidigting. He pierced through my façade? Like it was nothing?
‘Are you going to tell me, Seraph? Or should I go and ask Uriel?’ Zera turned to the east, Pearly Gates plc headquarters in amongst the skyscrapers on the horizon. He bent his wings, preparing a wingbeat.
‘Wait!’ Seraph called out, frustration ruling her tone. Zera’s wings returned to rest. He went to land, looking upwards at Seraph. Seraph bit her tongue, the hand holding Arakiel shaking. I don’t want to tell them. They have no right to know what happened, but, then again, Zera’s past is being dragged out of the dark by its hair. ‘OK.’
She took a deep breath, landing, her feet gently caressing the fractured tarmac. ‘A mission went south. Angels died.’
Hani couldn’t believe it. She had those emotions all this time?
‘I see,’ Barachiel muttered. ‘Observe, Hani.’
‘The curse of a Zoharian Blader. You have great power, but if something goes wrong, you can’t outrun the idea that you should have stopped it. It was the reason I reliqunished Ramiel. I could bear it no longer.’
Hani, tinged with sadness, saw the two Zoharian Bladers, both damaged despite their power. Barachiel watched with a curious eye. Is that why you posted her here, Uriel? To help Seraph heal?
‘I hope Laylah slapped you senseless, Zera!’ Seraph spiked.
Hani recoiled from the venom. She stroked the stinging bruise on her cheek, hidden under her make-up.
‘Laylah was more of a swordswoman than you.’
Hani recoiled further. Barachiel shook his head. What are you doing, Zera?
‘Excuse me?’ Seraph answered, her grip on Arakiel tightened.
‘You use Arakiel to boost your strength, but with a blade, Laylah was better than you.’
Barachiel shook his head more violently. Stop it, Zera!
‘How blinded are you by nostalgia, Zera?’
Zera ceased goading. If I’m going to beat Valafar, I need to face a Zoharian Blader at full pelt. I’ve seen Seraph’s potential, but I need more.
Both bladers itched to clash swords again, at a higher intensity. Hani step backed; dreading the damage that would ensue. The Zoharian Blades’ runes shone their respective, harsh glows. It was oddly calm, peaceful in the court. The weeds fluttered in the wind. A rat ran behind Zera.
‘That’s enough!’ Barachiel declared.
Both Zoharian Bladers looked at the veteran Angel. Entering the court, Barachiel stood in the shadow of the Zoharian Blades, not in awe. He clapped once. Seraph lowered Arakiel, obediently.
Zera, however, did not lower Ramiel, seething. No! Not now! I need more, Barachiel! He growled, glaring at Barachiel.
However, Barachiel did not waver. ‘It’s time to stop! You promised me you weren’t going to maim each other.’
Zera’s molars clamped his tongue. I need a higher intensity spar. But, I made a promise to Barachiel.
He reluctantly lowered Ramiel, still glaring at his master.
‘You’ve already done enough damage, Zera!’ Barachiel’s words cut deep. Ramiel was silent, frustrating Zera. I’m your blader, not him. Why are you agreeing with him? You’re the one who superimposed Laylah on Seraph! Still nothing. Of course you’re quiet now! Make me the villain here, why don’t you?
Ramiel sparked once, stimulating Zera’s thought process, specifically an echo Zera had long ago heard as a warning. Avenging Angel?
‘Hani,’ Barachiel instructed. ‘Take Zera back to the cathedral. Makes sure he gets a bandage for his shin.’
Zera stormed out of the court. Hani was nervous to follow. She looked to Barachiel, who nodded reassuringly. Hani took a deep breath. She followed Zera, knowing she would be lucky if he said a word.
On the broken court, Seraph breathed slowly, her shoulder stiff, swollen.
‘What do you think?’ Barachiel asked.
‘Laylah’s memory is holding him back.’
Barachiel drew the same conclusion, rubbing his eyes. We don’t have time to fix this before Valafar comes knocking.
Seraph sensed Arakiel’s cautious tremors. I could have used more of your power, Arakiel. I know Ramiel’s capable of more. ‘When you wielded Ramiel, what could you do that Zera can’t?’
‘Closing dimensional fissures.’
Seraph’s hand trembled. You were able to close gaps in reality? How much power do you need to do that? ‘Surely Ramiel must be frustrated with Zera?’
‘Zoharian Blades are patient. What’s one century to a blade that is millennia old and will be around for millennia after we’re gone?’
Barachiel departed. Seraph surveyed the damage inflicted upon the court; she dreaded what would happen if Shamsiel had been involved. Everything would be on fire. Are we ready to stop Valafar?