It took an age for the dust to settle. The battle had ripped up the landscape around them, already alien and ravaged though the city was – it had been the last stand for both sides of the war effort. Finally, it seemed, it was coming to an end. Three days the battle had raged – and the two sides, until now, had been locked in an infuriating stalemate. The Alliance had thrown everything they had into this last desperate attempt to finally halt the enemy they had struggled with for so long – Xan, the Black Flame and his Necromantic Army.
Standing deep in the mountains, the city of Yhor'Dheel had been deserted – empty for thousands of years before this last great struggle had taken place. Xan's goal had been the city for decades now. Since the war moved out of his favour with the defeat of his closest generals, he felt that releasing the terrifying being sealed away beneath this city was the only way he could possibly win. Even if Xan must have known he couldn't possibly have controlled it, he seemed to think it was well worth the risk.
Of course, Yhor'Dheel was already a ruin when Xan got there, and the battle waged against the Alliance did not help matters. Buildings had crumbled, streets ripped apart, and craters and holes blasted from every angle. All of the Alliance's strongest fighters – even the leaders – had fought tooth and nail, Xan himself being forced into a battle against the leaders of the Rebellia and Empire – defeating them both. It had been then that Kito Tiko stood before the Black Flame.
The clash that ensued would be remembered with terrified awe, the story passed down for centuries to come. Kito hadn't noticed how majestic or skilful he had been at the time since he had, of course, been too busy fighting for his life. He hadn't noticed the buildings crumbling around him whenever Xan hit him, the shield around him almost giving away too many times to count. Nor had he noticed that Xan was already heavily injured and bleeding. The Black Flame had fought all of the Alliance leaders at once beforehand, the exhaustion clearly equaling the playing field between him and Kito.
Allohallimelle, the legendary leader of the Rebellia Barr Sabre – honoured commanding General of the Alliance's Allied Forces – lay on his side, blood pooling around him. Kito stared at the man, the myth, who had once been a childhood hero. He struggled to hide the terror of seeing such a titan beaten so brutally. Allohallimelle was over eight-thousand years old and was one of the only known warriors to have survived a battle with a terrifying black-eyed Demon. He and Xan had trained under the same teacher in their youth, which had fostered an almost brotherly relationship between the two. Despite his fearsome demeanour, Allohallimelle had fought with clear hesitance against his old friend. Xan had shared no such qualms, not holding back at all in their encounter
Kito tore his gaze from Allohallimelle, and his eyes fell over a young woman, covered head to toe in red, the gleaming armour that was supposed to shield her was battered and broken. Dirt and sweat had made her blonde hair matted and lank, plastered onto a face that could have almost been sleeping, were it not for the ugly bruises that had already begun turning an angry purple. Once delicate features were now broken and desiccated by deep slices. The sight of this woman – Amoura Lemoura, the Empress of the Arcadian Empire – was enough to make Kito's blood boil, his entire body erupting into violent shaking. He stared at her, as she lay crumpled in a crater, a building having fallen around her, crimson specks splashed against the surfaces around her. He willed his eyes to keep moving, though everywhere seemed to look the same. Blood and broken bodies littered the ground.
Kito was only two-hundred and forty-one years old – no more than a speck compared to the likes of Allohallimelle or the Empress at her grand age of two-thousand. Alongside his imposing allies, it felt as though he barely knew any magic at all – and even so, they had fallen at the hands of Xan. Images of the Black Flame killing him as easily as he would swat a fly swarmed Kito's mind, his mounting fear threatening to lock his legs up. Nevertheless, Kito raised his eyes to his adversary with a fiery determination. Kito, having just defeated several of the Necromantic Army's generals and commanders, was panting and out of breath. His face was covered in blood from a deep slice along his cheekbone, his shirt was missing, one of his gloves too. The baggy hakama he wore over his boots were tattered and ripped up the right side, revealing his tightly bound and bloodied thigh. Though despite all this, nothing could stop him from bringing this battle – this war – to an end here.
Xan had known Kito for almost a decade before this meeting. Kito had suddenly appeared in the 87th year of the Hundred-Year War and to a thunderous entrance. He had defeated both of Xan's closest generals within weeks of each other and led an immensely successful task force under Allohallimelle's command. Now, in the 98th year, Kito stood before the man who was often hailed as the most powerful mage who had ever lived – the man who had broken every standard for how powerful Pyromancy could be by the age of twenty. Xan then went on to do the same with the Discipline of Necromancy, quickly becoming a legend. It was only after this that he had met Allohallimelle: a similarly talented prodigy and together with six other trainees they defeated the Demon Lord Sabre. Xan had only become more and more powerful over the seven-thousand years since, building up an army that could rival the Alliance. Xan and his army had spent ninety-eight hard years fighting - and winning - against the Alliance, and now it looked like it was all coming to an end. One way or another.
The fight was a flurry to Kito – nothing more than shapes and blurs – but it was finally nearing its conclusion. Just moments earlier, an enormous clash destroyed an entire residential block. Several buildings ripped from the ground and blasted apart as the dark, navy energy of their mingled attacks swirled into the sky, throwing them backwards in a violent flurry of magical energy. Kito felt a building disintegrate around him, then another... And another. He finally came to a stop, rolling across the floor of what looked like a long-deserted living room. He immediately attempted to get to his feet, but a stabbing pain in his ribs had him gasping. He fell to one knee and doubled over as his throat tightened up, retching and coughing up blood. Looking down, he noted the deep blue and red bruises to one side of his chest and groaned. Broken ribs. Looks like his Aegis had failed. Too exhausted to keep his Aegis up anymore, Kito sighed and held his sword up in one hand to examine it. It had been snapped clean in half, the upper part of the curved blade lying several feet from him. Such a pity. He had taken years to finish all of the enchantments on that sword. Grunting, he managed to get to his feet. The muscles in his legs protested though he powered through. His whole body was so far beyond tired that the world seemed to shift and tilt for a moment before settling.
A small leap and Kito cleared the gap between buildings. Making his way back through the holes he had made after the blast, he tried his best to catch his breath. He looked out over the epicentre of the explosion he and Xan had caused from the first building he had soared through. Not good, it seemed. The crater was enormous, dark and cavernous. Kito took a deep breath. He could feel Xan from here. He fell from the hole and kicked his foot out at the air – shooting upward and flipping around to land in a gentle crouch on the rooftop. It was cracked, with large chunks missing – though one of the few still standing on this corner of the city. The battle still raged on in distant districts, but Kito was only concerned with the man in front of him.
Tall, thin and strikingly handsome with thick black hair and blazing orange eyes. He wore a mix of his tattered orange Pyromancer robes and the black uniform of the Necromancers, which was slashed and ripped, revealing his lean torso underneath. Much like Kito, blood dripped down him onto the ruined roof. Unlike Kito, however, he held no weapons
"To think, it is you who stands before me now." Xan nearly whispered, his voice barely audible.
"I imagine you expected your final obstacle to be your friends. Allohallimelle and the other six." Kito replied. His voice hoarse and dry; he all but coughed the words.
"I thought it would be them, yes," Xan said simply, "I did not expect him to fall so quickly."
"And yet it's me standing against you," Kito's face grew suddenly serious, "Holding the line."
"That line will fall with you then." Xan's voice didn't show any signs of anger or hatred. It was smooth, inviting even, as he whipped up his hand. Kito closed his eyes and waited to be slashed apart by shadows like so many others had been.
The attack didn't come. Xan staggered and Kito opened his eyes just in time to see the frail shadows coming from Xan's outstretched hand dissipate, crumbling into nothingness. Their eyes met and Kito knew immediately that the Black Flame, the greatest mage who ever lived – was just as weakened as he was. Willing his body to move, Kito started forward. He slashed at Xan with his broken blade, though he weaved around the strike. Kito cried out as white-hot agony spread back through his ribs, Xan having rammed his palm into him, sending him flying back and slamming to the ground. He didn't wait to stand, rolling up to his feet and slashing wildly. He heard Xan grunt as blood splashed over the rooftop. Kito had sent a blue wave from his sword that Xan was unable to dodge in time, his exhaustion showing in the slow and clumsy movements that had once been graceful and sweeping. Kito sprinted while Xan was distracted and got in close, his slash was this time only narrowly avoided. Kito was quick enough to prepare for the return roundhouse, though he still took the full force of the blow, catching Xan's leg under his arm and against his battered ribs. Yelling with the searing pain, he twisted and sent Xan staggering. A whirl, flame licking at Xan's feet as he spun to meet Kito coming at him... It was too late.
Blood dripped onto the roof once more. Kito had fallen to his knees when Xan did, his strength leaving him. Flowing crimson made its way down Kito's blade and dripped from the guard, the broken blade now cracked along its full length – but successfully plunged into Xan's heart. More of that sparkling blood spluttered from Xan's mouth as he fell forward. His forehead hit Kito's shoulder, and Kito took the weight – willing himself not to fall. He felt Xan grip the blade with a shaking hand.
"You..." The voice was small when it came from Xan's blood-caked lips, "You... Won..."
"You didn't make it easy..." Kito growled, looking up at the sky, where the first drops of rain were falling. In seconds, it was pouring. The blood, the dust, and the dirt were washed away by the heavens. Kito closed his eyes, his head held up. He was almost convinced his opponent's mouth shifted into a weak smile as the rain pelted them. Green and orange began to split the sky – the sun rising over the destruction and carnage. The fourth day of the Battle of Yhor'Dheel brought the fighting suddenly to a close, with Kito Tiko as the victor.