Legacy, Part Three: Death

From the Story Arc: Legacy

Previous Story in the Arc: Legacy, Part Two: Gravity by Red Saviour (Saturday, March 11, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Legacy, Part Four: Ascendance by Worker's Champion (Saturday, March 11, 2006)

(posted Saturday, March 11, 2006)

The fire of battle surged through Worker’s Champion’s limbs with an urgency like a long lost lover. The world condensed into a lens focused on the celestial People’s Blade. As she watched him with infuriating patience, he scooped up a chuck of ice weighing as much as a bus and threw it at her with a fierce exhalation.

Qing, her silent companion, flitted into the air like a leaf. People’s Blade slid around the ice as if gravity bent at her will, her feet tapping at it before she launched herself into the air above him.

She reoriented herself around the tip of her sword as though it were a planetary body. Medvedev crouched to dodge her attack. A unique sensation enveloped his arm, like becoming a stick of butter for an uncaring diner. Jade Emperor’s Whisper had pierced his invulnerable skin, slicing through metahuman muscle and sinew. An unfamiliar numbness seized the arm.

Impassive, People’s Blade dislodged the blade as if she’d merely stated a position in a debate. He staggered back, clutching the wounded bicep. Her speed was far beyond his – far beyond what should have been physically possible. Once she had claimed to be the vessel for an ancient spirit. Now she seemed to be enveloped entirely by something greater, something divine. He had to keep fighting, despite the sudden urge to kneel in worship, like his Orthodox ancestors.

At his heels, the gouge left by his first icy projectile reached down to the seawater. People’s Blade was inhuman, a condemnation of that which was human – which had come once out of the ocean. I’ll fight her there, he thought. He took a step back into the broken ice and water.

He couldn’t breathe underwater, but his lungs could hold air for hours, and this fight would never last so long. The cold dulled his pain. Sunlight refracted from the hole, cutting through a primal, still darkness. Blood colored the sunlight crimson.

People’s Blade descended into the seawater as if it were still air. “This is not your element,” she said into the seawater, echoing off the ice shelf. Away from the break in the ice, her stars became his only light source. She was right; the water offered no more cover than the bare ice field.

A pod of Orca diverted towards him as he swam away from her. The blood leaking from his wound attracted them. Orca rarely attacked humans, but this was the Arctic, where meat was meat. The bull swooped in on him, teeth flashing in his pursuer’s starlight.

People’s Blade appeared in front of him, holding up a hand to the whale. It veered away, terrified. In moments, the pod had fled from the glowing woman, disappearing into the darkness as though they’d never existed.

Taking advantage of the distraction, Worker’s Champion seized her head in a vice-like grip. He could crush steel in his hands, but his strength failed him as soon as he touched her black and starry skin. She slipped out of his grasp as though he were a child.

A slim hand found his uninjured arm and broke it in a clean snap. He lost air to a howl of pain. She floated close to him, hand at the back of his neck like a lover, and thrust the sword into his lung. His air escaped from his mouth, his nose, and the hole in his chest.

“This is the death you craved, grandfather,” she said. “There is no anger or hate in it. Merely oblivion.” People’s Blade moved behind him, put her arms around him in an even more intimate, yet emotionless, caress. “Your past disappears at last in this hidden sea.”

Panic overtook his limbs; he flailed.

“Yet there is a reason I chose to see you alone before I leave the world of men.” He felt a hand pierce his back, pushing aside knotted muscles, and clenching around his heart. “The Dragon claims you, Medvedev.”

Her hand crushed his heart, suppressed its powerful contractions; shards of agony shot through him from head to toe. A heart attack, such as the kind that claimed the average proletarian, was to be his death.

His vision faded as Fei Li grew immense, scaly wings and enveloped him. Falling into his own darkness, his memories condensed into a hot ball of fire like a star.

Ivan Ivanovich Medvedev awoke to the warm of a woman’s touch, in sharp contrast to the chill of the Arctic air. Qing, the silent companion of People’s Blade, cradled his head in her hands. This close to his face, he expected to feel breath across his cheek, but the star-women didn’t deign to breathe air, it seemed. His body was entirely relaxed, laid out on the ice floes.

People’s Blade floated nearby, expectant.

“You didn’t kill me after all,” he whispered, then realized he’d spoken in Russian. He strained to repeat himself in Chinese.

“I did. You’ve been dead for a full day. Did you enjoy it?”

“I felt… nothing.”

“Precisely. I kept your soul bound to Earth.” She put a gentle hand on Qing’s shoulder. “You serve us now.”

“You and your companion.”

“No.” A smile dimpled the stars on her cheeks. “The Celestial Dragon and I.”

“My time for servitude is ended. Leave me in peace.” He turned away from her.

A curious pressure on his chest caught his attention. She had knelt over him and began to etch a Chinese ideograph into the flesh of his chest; it darkened as if her finger were a brush, painting the sky onto him. His throat seized up around his words.

“Shto? Ah… shi shei?”

He could swear he saw her tongue stick out in concentration. Her strokes moved down and to the right, following the rules of Chinese calligraphy. Strength infused him as the characters neared completion.

“Hao. That is done.” She stood and offered him a hand. He noted that her feet touched the ice as if gravity had taken hold on her once again. She pulled the big man to his feet as though he were a doll.

He touched the symbols. “What does it mean?”

Silent, she knelt before him, offering the sword with both hands. Confused, he took it. It seemed to grow to fit his larger frame.

“Meng dao ye,” she said. “Blade of the People.” She stood gracefully. “And now you have much to learn, and to pass on to Grigori.”

“Who is Grigori?” He was unsure where to put the weapon in his hands.

“You’ll meet him soon.” Her smile was a constellation.