Title: The Cutting Edge
The Cutting Edge
"Angel Ios!" The shout flew over wings, feathered and leathered, and battles slowed briefly with the strength of that yell. Then they continued on, with their own sound and fury.
"Get out here, you fucker!"
From the thick of the battlegrounds, brilliant white wings lifted an angel out from the fights. Brilliant gold hair streamed behind the white feathered wings. Armor glinted, and a length of brilliant steel reflected the light. Powerful beats of the wings brought the angel quickly to one side of the battle.
Fangs glinted as the devil grinned; a surprisingly radiant expression in the near-human appearance. Armor molded to the muscular body. Long black hair flowed over his shoulders and leathery wings, nearly as long as the angel’s, and utterly opposite in color. "I challenge you, Angel Ios."
"Again." Amusement laced Ios’ reply.
"For the sixteenth time. And this time, I will kill you," Sword said with a flourish of his broadsword.
Ios paused, obviously surprised. And then advanced, holding his hand out as his own sword materialized. "It is our sixteenth fight," Ios said with a laugh as he swung.
Automatically blocking, Sword laughed as well. "You shit-hole. That was three fights ago, and I still don’t think the eleventh fight actually counted since we didn’t even cross swords! But you self-righteous prig of an angel... You’re not going to let it go, are you?"
"That will depend on whether your math improves or not," Ios replied, cutting with a cross-slice that Sword had to move back to avoid.
"You’ll die here, damn angel, so you’ll never know if it does!" Sword retaliated, coming down with a powerful overhead stroke.
"You are too young for that, Devil Sword." Ios blocked the blow easily. "It is unfortunate that one must die, so young."
"A devil that makes it out to the battlegrounds is never young," Sword snarled. "You, on the other hand, have lived too long. I will correct that today."
They continued to fight, trading mocking quips about their ages, races, weapon preference, and speculating on what the other did between battles.
In a block, Sword caught Ios’ blade with his own in a brief tangle, and at the same time he moved to place his wing under Ios’, fouling his flight and creating a downspin. He readied a blast from his other fist that he could destroy the angel with.
And then Sword was yanked back with pain radiating from the base of his head. "OW!" He twisted a bit to see a glittering angel sword pointed at his chest... and an angel’s hand wrapped around his long hair.
"Nice try," Ios remarked calmly, "but I’ve seen that one before."
Ios let go of Sword’s hair and moved away.
Devil eyes flared in anger. "What the hell sort of angelic mercy is that? Letting a devil go!"
"Not angelic at all," Ios said with a shrug. "Just my dislike for using tricks to win."
Sword narrowed his eyes. "Is that a remark about my maneuver?"
Ios shook his head and switched the subject. "Dantau?"
"I learned it from Greenbite. Dantau died a bit ago." Sword grinned, showing his fangs. "I’ve used that move on eight angels so far. You’re the first to live."
"Dantau is dead. That leaves some interesting holes in the demon ranks. Greenbite..." Ios mused. "One of Dantau’s play-toys. I rather thought Hardak, or Urich..."
"It’s been a nice bloodbath in Hell." Sword’s eyes glinted and he shivered with the thrill of remembered violence. It had been very, very bloody. And very delightful.
"Would you like to know the counter to my counter?"
Sword jerked back to the present, feeling the oddly intense angelic gaze. Without answering, he studied Ios for a moment. Powerful. Intelligent. Beautiful. Strong. Ios was the best of the angels. Perhaps not the best fighter, but he was the best angel. And for the moment, he was Sword’s opponent. Sixteen fights. We have fought sixteen times, and still both live. They were closely matched. Sword had some edge with power, and Ios with skill, but their fights were close indeed. Each fight had been interrupted – the battlegrounds not being an isolated arena ground – but they returned each time to fight more.
However, Sword knew one thing by now – Ios was playing with him. He had known the angel would before Sword had challenged him. And he was still alive, when Ios could have killed him before. The angel was after a different goal then simply Sword’s death. And Sword was willing to play that game if it gave him the chance to kill the angel.
"You won’t use tricks to win, but you’ll use them to live," Sword remarked.
Ios smiled and corrected his earlier statement, "I use tricks to win – I won’t use them to kill."
"Killing is winning. It’s the only proper end to a fight."
Ignoring Sword’s pronouncement, Ios held his sword out and heaven-light played over it as the blade shifted and changed to a slender dagger.
Sword stared. "I didn’t know they could do that."
"Why fight with a dagger, when there is a sword available?"
Sword laughed, flashing his fangs. "True enough." He raised a questioning eyebrow at the angel.
"The best counter to my maneuver is to not let it happen." Ios gathered up his long golden hair in one hand and raised his dagger to it with the other.
As fast as he could move, Sword darted to the angel’s side and grabbed the blade.
Seconds later, he found himself lying on one of the rock surfaces that littered the battlegrounds. There was heaven-burn on his face and arms, and a strong body pressed along his own. Hazel eyes were wide in surprise as the angel stared at him.
Cautiously, Ios moved back a little and released Sword, glancing down to their hands... As Ios saw Sword’s hand wrapped around the dagger blade, blood dripping off, he looked to Sword without comprehension.
First thing was letting go of the dagger. Sword winced at the deep cuts – it would take awhile to heal from that. Then he sat up with a grunt. "Fucker."
"That wasn’t an attack," Ios was still staring at Sword, trying to figure it out.
"You don’t go cutting your fucking hair for a fucking demonstration." Sword reached out his non-bloody hand and ran it through the golden strands, knowing the angel was letting him. Soft. So soft... clean – nothing in hell was that clean that let fingers just glide through without catching, feeling like... and that beautiful color. Even among the hordes of perfect angels, Ios stood out. And his golden long hair was a beacon in the battlegrounds.
Ios raised an eyebrow. "You would rather die than have your hair cut off?"
Sword grunted. "I like my hair the way it is. But if you have to, go ahead and cut yours." He gathered up the strands again and watched them glint as he moved them through his fingers. "But you’re not cutting it just to prove a point."
"Sword..." Ios shook his head. Then he released the dagger, letting it fade out of sight. Reaching out, he took Sword’s bloody hand between both of his own.
Ios took a breath and spoke with angelic reverberation, "By the Holy Spirit, with Grace." Golden heaven light glowed around their hands.
Nervously, Sword prepared to jerk back against the burning power of heaven. Instead, he was filled with a feeling of... something he couldn’t identify. It reminded him of... He couldn’t really recall what it reminded him of. He looked at Ios and knew that whatever it was, he wouldn’t forget it now.
"There." Ios released Sword’s hand.
Sword glanced at his hand, then stared. The wound that had sliced deep into his palm and fingers was gone. He flexed and stretched his hand a few times just to check, and then he looked up to Ios in question.
"Angels have healing power." Ios smiled. "Surely you have heard of that."
With a snort, Sword discounted it. "We hear a lot of things. But if you could heal, your friend Rannot wouldn’t have died last week."
Ios closed his eyes.
Sword was always fascinated by the angel’s care for his fellow angels. It was one of the odder things about angels as a whole. And yet, Ios’ generally calm acceptance of their deaths was even more fascinating. There were few devils in Hell that Sword could claim to like; and if any of them were killed, he would avenge them or die trying.
Cool hazel showed when Ios finally opened his eyes again. "An angel’s death cannot usually be prevented. It is our eventual fate, to be killed by devils."
"Like Hell," Sword pronounced. "Why do you even try, then? And I know fucking well that you do. But I’ve never seen you heal."
Ios sighed. "Who knows when our time might come? Some angels are killed the day of their creation. Some live for thousands of years. We try, for we don’t know which it might be. I have come close to death many times, and still live. But angels can’t heal angels, so you do not see us heal in the battlegrounds."
Sword tilted his head curiously, but Ios didn’t respond. And Sword knew the angel well enough to know that he wouldn’t – right now. Resolving to ask the angel again at another point, Sword returned to the earlier subject. "Is there a counter that doesn’t involved mutilating your hair?"
With a smile, Ios showed him a few different maneuvers that could be used in battle.
Eagerly, Sword learned them. And in exchange, he told Ios more about what was happening in Hell. After awhile, they parted; Sword returning to Hell, and Ios to Heaven. They knew that on another day, they would fight again. Perhaps then, one of them would die. But for now... for now, they parted.