Lazarus awakens early on the fourth day of the Tournament. With a smile on his face, he walks out of his room and onto his porch. He sits and watches the rising sun.
If one were to read a summary of Lazarus’s actions prior to seven o’clock that day, they would be thoroughly unimpressed. On the second day of July, Gallus Silvano wakes up, watches the sunrise, eats a bowl of oatmeal, then takes a cold shower. He proceeds to spend the rest of the morning training, sharpening his swordsmanship up one last time before his fight with Jackrabbit. At noon he eats lunch. Afterwards, he watches television and rests from his morning. When the clock strikes six he eats dinner, stretches, dresses, and waits to be brought to the arena.
However, if one were to watch him, they would gain a very different opinion. As he prepares for his day one can sense the tranquility that emanates from the man. There is no stress or anxiety, none of the nervousness one would expect from someone about to fight for the greatest prize on the planet.
His breathing is steady and his heart rate is slow. Every action is completed with care and grace. Within Lazarus is the calmness of a man who regards fighting as something trivial, something as simple as eating breakfast.
His training is not what one would expect from a man over one hundred years old. He moves quickly, leaving slash after slash upon the training dummy. His cuts are deep, deep enough that each could kill a man. He hits the dummies as hard as a man in his twenties would, at one point breaking a dummy in half. Still, as he retains the calmness from before. Every action is done without thought, every attack without hesitation. Throughout his entire training only a few beads of sweat trickle down his forehead. His breathing and heart rate never change.
When the fight draws near, he puts on black pants and carefully ties black shoes. He pulls tight black leather gloves over his hands and slowly buttons his shirt, taking time for each button and pausing when he reaches his necklace, a blue crystal, shaped like a star, that has been passed down in his family for generations. After holding it for several seconds, Lazarus finishes buttoning his shirt.
If one were to watch Lazarus getting ready, they would learn many things. They would learn they he is calm and methodical, taking time for each action. The would learn that he is an experienced fighter who rarely worries about upcoming fights. Most importantly, they would learn that he is dangerous.
“Lazarus isn’t dangerous. He’s old and slow and probably can’t swing a sword,” Jeremy says. “You, on the other hand, are young. Your boots give you an advantage to speed and agility that cannot be understated. Plus, your sword can cut through anything.”
“It can probably cut through anything. We don’t know for sure that there isn’t anything that can block it. Don’t forget, the toughest thing we tested it on was steel.”
Rachel and Jeremy are waiting for Rachel’s fight to begin. The two sit at the counter of the metal room. Jeremy is clenching the swiss army knife so tight that his knuckles are turning white. Rachel can tell that he’s trying to avoid looking scared.
Rachel leaves the counter to fetch her sword and crowbar. Jeremy resumes his pep talk. “Your fighting skills are the biggest variable,” Jeremy says. “On one hand, Lazarus has far more fighting experience than you. On the other, you are far more unpredictable than him, which may throw him off.”
“What about his magic?” Rachel asks.
“Him having magic at that age is unlikely. Magic is linked to the physical body, meaning that even if he could still cast spells at the ripe old age of ten thousand years, they would be far weaker. Besides, even if he’s as strong as he was during the first Tournament, his magic swords shouldn’t be much of a problem. Sure, he’ll have two blades for you to avoid, but, since he has to change his stance to when he switches between, he’ll be swinging them slower than a singular sword. What I said earlier still applies.”
“And the glowing armor form?”
“Oh, if he still has that you’re screwed.”
Rachel groans in a way that Jeremy understands as I’m annoyed at you and want actual advice.
“If he has it, you stall,” he says. “A spell that powerful must drain his energy extremely quickly. If you can make it to the end of the round, it should wear off during the break.”
Rachel puts on her jacket, completing her ensemble. She walks over to the door and pauses. She turns to look at Jeremy. “I’m scared,” she says.
“I know, he says. “But right now you need to be brave.
“I don’t believe that you and I have been acquainted,” Haven says as Arctic sits down next to him.
Haven extends a hand to Vic. “Anatolios Haven, the Gunslinger,” he says.
“Right,” Vic says, remembering the fight he saw the day before,” I saw you fight yesterday.”
“If I remember correctly, I saw you the day before that. Victor Callaghan, right?”
“So, Victor, you excited for this match?”
“Call me Vic.”
“I’m mighty sorry for making that mistake. I myself am looking forward to this here slog. Met the young lady a few days ago. She seemed nice enough.”
“She did. I hope she does good today.”
“Fight’s about to begin. Let’s hope that this fight is a good one.
The first thing Rachel notices is how large the arena is. While it looked small on TV and from the Peanut Gallery, the arena is large enough that Rachel can’t quite make out the details of Lazarus’s face. This problem ceases to be an issue when he begins hobbling towards the middle of the ring.
With each step he takes, Lazarus strikes the ground with his cane, each strike creating a distinct tapping noise. His walk is slow and controlled, as if each step requires a moment of thought.
“The fight hasn’t started,” Jeremy says over the earpiece. “If he attacks, you’ll be teleported away to medical and he’ll be penalized. You have nothing to worry about.”
Rachel gulps and begins walking to meet him. As she moves near, Rachel finally catches a glimpse of Lazarus’s face. His expression is like stone, unmoving and solid, and reveals nothing about his emotions.
Rachel’s face requires less work to decipher. Her right hand is shaking as she stands face to face with the man who put a sword through Bombshell’s eye. Her teeth chatter and sweat pours from her face like it would if she was in the desert. She even looks as though she is about to throw up.
Most fighters are nervous during their first matches, but most don’t show it to this extent. Some are experienced warriors who see the Tournament as nothing more than a grander stage. Others start out like Rachel, but become more accustomed to fighting for an audience while auditioning for the Tournament. This match is Rachel’s first formal fight. Out of all the fighters in the fourteenth Tournament, none show their nervousness during their first match as much as Rachel. In her defense, most don’t have to fight a former champion in their first match.
Lazarus offers his hand. “I hope that we may have an excellent and fair match,” he says.
Rachel’s stomach feels like it is filled with concrete. Slowly, she raises her hand and shakes Lazarus’s. The same hand that, in four minutes time, will show the world that Rachel’s stomach contains blood, not concrete.
Faust and Legion begin their spiel. Faust spends far too long introducing the Tournament and Legion resists the urge to knock Faust out of his seat. Eventually, they reach the subject of the fighters. “Rachel Botterill, also known as Jackrabbit, is seventeen years old and from City 19,” Legion says.
He pauses for a moment to think about how to add flair to the description. “She, much like the man she will be facing,” he says, “Wields a sword made out of light.”
“Really?” Faust says. “That’s the best you can do?”
“I stated that I would make an attempt. Not that you would enjoy the result.”
“Fine. It doesn’t really matter anyway. The name alone should pique a bit of interest.”
“Which name?” Legion says coyly.
Faust ignores him. The two, unlike the previous few days, actually seem to be getting along. Both are excited to see the upcoming fight. “The next fighter requires no introduction,” Faust says. “A man with hair as silver as his blade, a man who’s still as strong as he was in ‘91, the spectacular silver sage of swordplay himself, champion of the first Tournament, Gallus Silvano!”
The Tournament explodes at the mention of his name. Due in part to his inclusion, this match has already broken the viewership record for a first week match. The world practically worships the champions. Seeing one fight again is something most people never even imagined witnessing.
“I have a feeling we’re all gonna be surprised by this fight,” Faust says.
“I personally believe that this match will go exactly as I expect,” Legion says.
“Don’t be so sure. Upsets happen in this business all the time.”
“Not today. I guard a majority of the fighters during their journey to the Tournament and get a sense of their fighting abilities. Botterill shows promise as a fighter, but is not at this point prepared to take on most of the fighters in this Tournament. I’m surprised you picked her.”
“I had my reasons. Every Tournament needs an underdog. Besides, I have a feeling that there’s something special about her.”
“Lazarus is a champion, like me. He earned that title for a reason. Yes, he is old, but I can tell just from looking at him that he still retains his fighting ability.”
“You can tell that. By looking at him. From this distance.”
“Okay, let’s have a wager. Same rules as normal.”
“Over the past eighteen years, you and I have bet on seventeen matches. You have won exactly zero.”
“I know. Are you in?”
Legion smiles. “Yes,” he says, “I accept your wager.”
After returning to her side of the arena, Rachel begins counting down the seconds until her fight begins. Her right hand rests on Claíomh Solais. She’s ready to draw the blade when she needs to.
Rachel turns the dial on the goggles, trying to find the best setting for the fight. X-ray, thermal, zoom, infrared and night vision are all decided against. Eventually, Rachel lands on a setting she hadn’t thought much of in the past.
Rachel and Jeremy, after messing around with it, discovered that the setting showed mana, the energy that fuels magical abilities. Back in City 19, the setting allowed Rachel to see her hand glowing and the paths that mana traveled through the city. Not exactly that useful.
When Rachel switches to mana view, she is almost blinded by the light emanating from Lazarus. Her hand gives off a dull blue glow that is slightly brighter around her veins. Lazarus’s heart is like a lighthouse at night, the only thing visible amongst the darkness.
Rachel turns the goggles back to normal view. Lazarus’s brightness scares her. His heart containing that much energy disproves Jeremy’s theory that Lazarus lacks any magical power. Rachel grips her sword tighter.
One second, the arena is calm. The next, the tranquility dies. The sound of a bell ringing, played from speakers across the stadium, blares, signaling to everyone that the fight has begun.
Rachel grabs and ignites Claíomh Solais. She points the cyan blade at Lazarus. The crowd cheers. She decides to ignore them. She needs to focus on nothing but Lazarus.
Lazarus stands still at his starting point, his cane at the side. Rachel realizes that he’s waiting for her to make the first move. Fine, she thinks, I’ll start this fight.
Rachel runs towards him, her sword outstretched to her side. She kicks off the ground with her boots, sending her close to the top of the dome. As she falls, she grabs onto her sword with both hands and screams at the top of her lungs.
Lazarus steps to the side, easily avoiding Rachel’s blade as she crashes down in front of him. He slams his cane into her leg. Rachel falls to her knees. She’s surprised with how strong and nimble Lazarus is. She is also surprised by how much getting hit in the knee by a cane hurts.
She jumps to her feet and swings her sword at Lazarus. He grabs his cane with both hands and uses it to defend himself. The weapons collide. Rachel’s sword stops dead in its tracks, while Lazarus remains unmoved. He shoves the glowing sword with his cane, knocking it out of Rachel’s hands and Rachel onto her back.
“Dammit!” Rachel grunts. “Why didn’t the sword chop the stupid cane in half?”
Lazarus walks up to Rachel and rests his cane on her throat. “I’d hate to interrupt your conversation with no one,” he says, “But I’d like to give you some advice.”
“Fighting,” he says, “Is one of the most difficult things you can do. It takes skill, strength, and most importantly, intelligence. I could have seen the first attack coming from a mile away.”
He presses the cane deeper into her throat. Rachel tries to grab her sword, which rests right out of her reach. “I will give you another chance to hit me,” he says. “Do not waste this one.”
He removes his cane and walks to the other side of the arena. Rachel grabs her sword and stands up. She takes a few deep breaths, glad that the cane is free from her throat.
Lazarus turns to face her and takes a good look at his cane. He frowns. “You ruined the cover,” he says. He grabs the wood with one hand and raises the cane above his head. He slowly pulls the wooden cover and the metal sword lying underneath apart, revealing his true weapon to everyone.
Lazarus swings his sword and smiles. “I’ve always been a fan of a lighter blade,” he says. “Still, having the element of surprise is valuable. Though, considering who I’m fighting, I shouldn’t need something like surprise.”
Rachel feels a little insulted. Lazarus begins walking forward, sword in hand. His left hand still holds the wooden cover for his sword. Rachel picks her sword up and holds it out in front of her.
Suddenly, Lazarus charges forward and swings at Rachel’s throat. With the power of her boots, she jumps back in time to dodge it. Lazarus moves in for another strike and Rachel jumps to the side.
Rachel circles cLazarus by jumping. She jumps around rapidly, trying to throw him off. She feels like vomiting but manages to keep it down. Several times, she jumps backwards or forwards, or back to where she had just been. Once, she even jumps over Lazarus.
Rachel jumps to the right twice and then back to the left. She then jumps straight at Lazarus and swings her sword. When she lands and turns around she sees the small gash she created on Lazarus’s side. She smiles as hate begins to fill Lazarus.
She continues the jumping routine, waiting for an opening to strike Lazarus again. She finds it and jumps forward. Lazarus easily dodges her strike and hits on the back with his sword cover.
Rachel crashes into the stone floor of the arena, hurting her knees and her pride. She climbs to her feet as Lazarus draws close. She swings her sword and is blocked Lazarus’s own sword. She puts her strength into her blade. Lazarus struggles to knock her sword out of the way.
Lazarus pulls his sword back and swings in a different direction. Rachel blocks his sword and then swings her own at Lazarus. He blocks her swing. For thirty seconds their blades clash, each blow blocking another. Lazarus swings his sword and the cover at Rachel. Rachel cuts through the cover, breaking it in half, to block the sword. The two resume blocking each other’s strikes.
Rachel swings her sword at Lazarus and he moves to block it. With a sly smile, Rachel clicks her sword off. Since Lazarus can’t block a blade that isn’t there anymore, Rachel’s arms freely move through the air. Once her arms have cleared Lazarus’s blade, Rachel reignites her sword and stabs Lazarus in the stomach. Lazarus falls to his knees. He drops his sword and places both hands on the wound. Rachel turns her blade off and begins walking away.
All of Lazarus’s tranquility is gone, replaced by seething rage. He screams as he grabs Rachel’s knees, knocking her down to the ground with him. He places his hands around her throat, strangling her.
Rachel jumps, or more accurately, slides away from him using the boots. Both fighters get to their feet and reach for their weapons. Both swordsmen charge at one another, intending to end the battle once and for all.
Lazarus throws his sword in the air and catches it by the blade. The two swords meet, the cane sword catching its rival blade with its hook. Lazarus spins, pulling Rachel’s sword out of her hands. He grabs his sword by the handle and slices across Rachel’s stomach.
Rachel screams as she hits the ground. Lazarus walks over to where Rachel’s sword landed. He sits down next to it and turns it off. He throws it over to where Rachel is bleeding out.
“You gave me a far greater fight than I expected. Thank you,” Lazarus says. “Unfortunately, I believe this match has ended. Your wound is far greater than mine. I doubt that they will let you continue for another round.”
Rachel hyperventilates as blood gushes from her body. “Rache,” Jeremy says, “You’ve got to get up. You have to do something!
“I know,” she says as she grabs her sword.
Rachel touches the blade against her wound, cauterizing it. She screams, mostly because the pain that makes her wish she was dead. It also stops the bleeding.
“That,” Lazarus says, “Was unexpected.”
Before he can say anything else, he and Rachel disappear in a blue light.
“Now that’s what I call a fight!” Haven says
“Uh huh,” Vic mumbles.
Arctic, or Vic, as he wishes to be called, is not interested in conversation with Haven. His head is down and his hands cover his eyes. He’s deep in thought about the match keeps throwing surprises at him. “You think either of them are well enough to fight another round?” he asks.
“Well,” Haven says, “A stab wound like the one Laz has needs constant pressure applied, otherwise he’s as good as dead.”
“What about Rachel?”
“Cauterizing a wound to keep fighting instead of getting proper medical treatment is mighty foolish. She prob’ly caused more harm than help by destroying tissue. She might be fine, but odd’s are ‘gainst her.”
Vic sighs and Haven begins to scratch his beard. “If she’d rather sear herself than light a shuck,” Haven says, “Then you’ve got one curly wolf headed your way.
Vic raises an eye. “I have no idea what you just said, and, for some reason, want to punch you in the face,” he says.
Rachel collapses onto the floor of a small room. Her stomach feels like it’s on fire, which isn’t exactly inaccurate. The bleeding has stopped, but the pain is unbearable. She reaches for her bag and begins digging around inside.
“Rachel!” Jeremy shouts from the metal room. “Talk to me, I need to know that you’re okay. Where are you, how’s the wound-”
“Shut up,” Rachel says, her voice trembling.
Jeremy stops talking. Rachel’s hand lands on the useless metal orb from Vulcan Labs. She screams as the pain in her chest increases higher than she thought possible. Her hand grips the orb against her will. Her arm becomes as immobile as that of a statue.
A green glow emerges from the bag and begins to spread all over her body. Then it ends. The pain, the glow, the inability to move her fingers, everything. Her chest feels like normal.
“Rache?” Jeremy says.
Rachel sits up and notices the room around her for the first time. She sits in a small, brightly lit room with beige walls. Counters and cupboards line the walls. The ground underneath her is made of soft foam. The wall in front of her consists of nothing but a large mirror.
“Rachel!” Jeremy shouts at the top of his lungs.
“Quiet. You’re going to give me tinnitus,” she says.
“Oh god Rache, don’t do that to me again. When the screaming stopped I thought you were dead.”
“I was. I came back to life for the sole purpose of telling you to be quiet.”
“Where are you? Are there doctors there?”
“I think I’m in the room where they keep fighters between rounds. Besides, I don’t need doctors.”
“What,” Jeremy says, more as a statement of disbelief than as a question.
“I reached into the bag and accidentally touched the useless orb. I think it healed me.”
“Why were you reaching into the bag?”
“I was going for the painkillers.”
“I was in pain! Also, this isn’t the time!”
Rachel stands up. She stares at herself in the mirror. A large slit lies within the bottom of her shirt, revealing glimpses at the wound. Rachel rips off the bottom of her shirt to give herself a better look.
A thick red scar crosses her stomach, ending close to her navel. The wound is closed up completely. Rachel feels normal enough. Somehow, the combination of cauterization and the mysterious orb saved her.
The blood, however, remains. Her jacket and pants are soaked with thick red liquid. Rachel throws off the jacket and begins searching the cabinets. They are filled with medical supplies, tools, and random parts for machines Rachel doesn’t understand.
Rachel grabs a bottle of rubbing alcohol and cleans her stomach. She wraps bandages over her stomach to hide the fact that she was magically healed.
“They’re about to send you back out, Rache,” Jeremy says. “Good luck.”
An old man with his shirt unbuttoned finds himself engulfed in darkness. Gone are the bright lights of the break room, replaced with utter blackness. Lazarus turns around, hoping to find some source of light. He discovers it in a chandelier hanging off in the distance.
He walks a few short steps before having to stop due to the pain. He places his hand on the bandages that cover his stab wound and feels warm blood seeping through.
He sighs. The pain will have to be something he’ll have to ignore. By now, his eyes have adjusted to the darkness, allowing him to get a better look at his surroundings. Black wooden walls, a meter and a half tall, create a path around him. Ahead of him lies a fork in the road.
Lazarus realizes that he is inside a large maze. He decides to follow the twists and turns, moving closer to the light.
“Turn off the flashlight,” Jeremy says.
“I need it to see,” Rachel says.
“Use your goggles, we don’t want Lazarus using the light to find you.”
Rachel follows his advice and turns the knob on the goggles. The room changes from black to green and Rachel is finally able to see more than three steps ahead of her.
“I can see now,” she says. “Problem is, there isn’t much to see.”
Rachel can only see the maze that lies before her and the light off in the distance. An idea appears in her head. She jumps off the ground, straight up, and gains a view of the arena around her.
The arena is gigantic, more than twice big as the original one. The entire place is a labyrinth of hallways, all leading to a central area below the light. Most importantly, Rachel sees Lazarus.
“I’m in a maze with Lazarus,” she says. “I know where he is. We need to figure out how to beat him.”
The two rack their brains and come up with a plan to take out Gallus Silvano. Once the planning is done, Rachel turns on the Silencing Charm and begins leaping over walls.
Once close, Rachel switches her goggles to X-Ray view and jumps as high as she can. At the pinnacle of her jump, she turns on the flashlight and shines the bright light down on Lazarus.
Rachel watches Lazarus start running through the maze, trying to find her. She jumps over walls, getting close enough to strike. Rachel lands behind Lazarus. She grabs her sword and jumps at him.
The sword ignites as she flies. Lazarus dodges her strike. Somehow, despite the darkness and silence, he dodges. Rachel lands and turns around in time for her to see Lazarus coming at her, sword in hand.
Rachel ducks in time to avoid being decapitated. She, instinctively, jumps as high as she can. She lands a few walls away from Lazarus. On the other side of them, she sees Lazarus running after her.
“I need a new plan. Now!” Rachel shouts at Jeremy.
“There are limits to the Silencing Charm, so try to avoid shouting at me,” Jeremy says, his voice dripping with annoyance. “Besides, I’m not a genie that can make all your problems go away. You need to win the Tournament to get that.”
“Kinda need you to be serious right now.”
“Sorry. If he can detect you without seeing or hearing you, there isn’t much you can do right now, aside from beating him in a straight up fight.”
An idea pops into Rachel’s head. “Then, there’s no need for stealth,” she says.
Rachel returns her sword to her belt and pulls the Silencing Charm out of her bag. She deactivates it. She jumps around between a few walls, positioning herself for one last attempt to defeat Lazarus.
Lazarus and Rachel end up on two sides of the same wall, a wall splitting a long hallway in half. Lazarus walks away from the wall. He intends to find a way around it.
Rachel takes a few steps back and exhales a deep breath. She runs, jumps, and releases the loudest scream she can manage. Lazarus turns to see the girl flying through the air at him. Rachel grabs her weapon from her belt and pulls it behind her head.
Rachel slams down into the ground. Lazarus, predictably, dodges out of the way to avoid her strike. This time, Rachel doesn’t wait for Lazarus to hit her. Before a second has passed, Rachel swings her weapon at Lazarus. He blocks it with his sword.
Lazarus notices something he should have noticed far earlier. Something important. The sword in Rachel’s hands is not glowing. In fact, it isn’t a sword at all. It’s a crowbar.
Rachel jumps backward. Lazarus’s sword, caught in the crowbar’s claw, comes with her. Rachel, now that Lazarus is disarmed, runs at him without a hint of hesitation. She swings the crowbar at his skull.
Lazarus dodges the first crowbar swing, but fails to dodge the one that hits him in the stomach seconds later. The stab wound on said stomach feels like it has been hit by a train.
The tattoos on Lazarus’s right arm begin glowing as a blue sword appears within his palm. He swings the blade at Rachel, taking her by surprise and almost gouging out one of her eyes.
Rachel jumps back and drops her crowbar. “So, you still have a little magic in you,” Rachel says.
Lazarus grins. “A word from the wise, my dear,” he says. “Always keep an ace hidden up your sleeve.”
Lazarus charges at Rachel and swings his sword. Rachel grabs her own sword and swings it. The two blades, both forged of light, collide midair. The collision releases a flash of light that illuminates the darkened labyrinth and blinds both fighters.
Rachel’s sword is thrown from her hands as Rachel herself is thrown backwards. Lazarus’s sword shatters and disappears into nothingness from the force of the collision. Lazarus is knocked of balance. Before he can react, Rachel jumps at Lazarus. Specifically, she jumps shoulder first at the stomach of a man less than two meters away from her with the same force she uses to jump twenty meters into the air.
Lazarus crashes onto the ground. His stab wound, more than reopened, sprays a torrent of blood. Rachel picks up her sword to deal the finishing blow. Before she can strike, her target disappears.
Rachel stares into the darkness, incapable of processing what just happened. Jeremy chimes in over the communicator. “Rache,” he says. “I think you beat him.”