Rila finally met Ilami, dagger in her hand as it clashed with Ilami’s sword. ‘Firenzi multiplis,’ she whispered. Fire covered the dagger, hot enough that its encounter with Ilami’s blade produced steam. A sign the blade was melting.
Noticing this, Ilami broke their clash and threw her head back as the dagger moved swiftly across it. She kicked Rila’s feet in the process, causing the latter to fall only for her to stand a second later. Ilami touched the ground. ‘Valkana explisis.’ From her hand, a line started to form and go after Rila.
Rila retreated, knowing full well in instinct she couldn’t let it reach her. But then, the line branched out and moved faster. She activated the fire wheels behind her back to propel her into the air just as the line arrived at the spot she previously stood and exploded. While she wasn’t hit by the explosion, the impact still carried through. It severed her balance as she rolled to the ground.
For Ilami to do all of these in quick succession, the girl must have trained herself for a quite a long time. Realization dawned on Rila that she might not be able to kill Gael. Ilami would kill her first. Their sparring was short, but from it she could deduce how Ilami’s skills compared to her. She didn’t manage to put a scratch on Ilami; the latter did to her.
Rila bit her lip. If only Ilami didn’t swap with Gael, her mission would be a success. She could handle Gael, she was sure of it. He didn’t have the same agility and destructiveness Ilami possessed. She could kill him. And go back to her family as she usually did. If she failed - if Ilami and Gael escaped her alive, then she knew the punishment the Church would give to her. Knew the extent of it the Church could go for. To remind her she couldn’t fail again.
This was her most important mission. Previously, she assassinated important figures in Estagra, all of whom objected to the ways of the Church. This time, she was to kill a figure who Kestari had said would doom the country. There would be no second chance if she failed this one. Gael would live his life guarded as soon as he got out of this mess. He had already nullified her first attempt to kill. Rila closed her hands into fists. The more important the mission, the greater the appreciation if it was a success. As such, the punishment should it fail, would be severe.
Rila brought herself to her feet. She didn’t have the same hard conviction to kill Ilami as she did before. She didn’t believe the words Ilami said, but Ilami had planted a seed of doubt in the expanse of her mind. What she said was ridiculous, but it could be true. And that possibility - if it was true, then Rila had surrendered herself to a liar. Trust her family to someone who could use them to press her, to influence.
And that was what Kestari Fexar would do should she fail. Her family would be the best target of torture.
One last try. If she failed this, then - she would not stop. She would try over and over again. Even if she had to die. Perhaps death would be the alternative if she didn’t succeed. Because of if she died, the Church would see no reason to torment her family.
Yes. Kill or be killed.
She launched at Ilami, murmuring spells. She duplicated into a dozen, each of them having enlarged fire wheels in their hands. She threw a smoke bomb at Ilami and when smoke surrounded the area, she moved around as she watched Ilami trying to figure out her location. It would be impossible. She took out her dagger and launched to the back of Ilami. She raised it, ready to strike Ilami’s head and -
Ilami’s elbow shot to the air and collided with Rila’s hand, throwing the dagger away from it. She punched Rila straight in the stomach, the power behind it sending Ilami a few feet away. Rila felt as if someone had rip her stomach away from her, leaving her breathless and empty. She struggled for breath, lying on the ground in a fetal position, her hands clutching her stomach.
‘The smoke ruins my sight,’ Ilami said as she approached her, ‘but I sense my enemy when she’s close enough.’ A sword appeared on her hand. ‘I told you about Kestari and Lio, but you didn’t listen. Didn’t want to believe. I wish you could switch side, but for some reason, that is not an option to you. And so, it leaves me with no option either.’ She knelt beside Rila, the tip of her sword at Rila’s neck. She leaned closer and whispered to Rila, ‘Bare your soul to me. Lumino selpasito.’
Rila gasped as the world in front of her blurred, as the pain her stomach faded. She found herself standing and next to her was Ilami. She turned her attention to her surrounding. Her eyes went wide.
It was her, a thirteen years-old crying in her mother’s arm as they watched their house burned. The thieves had robbed them of everything they got. Beside them was her father and brother, both of whom dead from the slice on their throat. Their eyes and mouth stayed open. The air smelled of smoke and blood. Mother took the scarf covering her head and wrapped it around Rila.
‘Everything will be fine, dearest,’ she whispered to her. ‘Everything will be fine.’ Rila sensed she was convincing herself as much as she was Rila.
Then, she heard the sound of hooves. Her mother’s embrace loosened as Mother turned around to see who it was. A dozen of men riding horses approached them. The one leading them looked at Rila and Mother, his dull orange eyes betraying nothing. There was a pattern on his fair forehead, three horizontal lines cut by a straight one. The symbol of Lio. Rila gasped.
Stood in front of them was Kestari Fexar, Priest of Lio, Head of Brother Gods Church.
He went down from his white horse and knelt before Rila and Mother. ‘Young one,’ he spoke to her. ‘Look at the fire.’
Rila obeyed him and watched at it. As tears rolled down her cheek, she wished it to cease from existing. Hated it.
‘Will it to disappear, young one,’ Kestari said. ‘Xesar has blessed you.’
Rila shut her eyes, imagining in her mind the fire shrinking, getting smaller as if it didn’t want to exist. She could feel the swoosh of flame, the hissing, and when she opened her eyes, the fire was gone. It was replaced by her ruined house, its roof gone, its wall charred and broken. An uglier sight than the fire. She turned her focus on Kestari instead.
The man smiled. ‘I see it now. Lio has made me pass this edge to find you.’ He turned to Mother. ‘I will help you, minama. You should stay with me, with the Church.’ His eyes caught the sight of Father and Brother. ‘I will take care of them too and give them a proper burial.’ He turned to Rila and grabbed her hands. ‘And you, young one, will be under my protection and guide. You are destined to serve Xesar and Lio, the Brothers of Justice and Wrath.’
He gave her that smile again, she she found herself assured by it. She nodded.
A/N: Well, the third part is finished! It doesn’t go as similar as I thought it would be (some parts have to be changed since, while they seem perfect in my mind, don’t seem as realistic when put on paper) but it goes well! We know Rila’s past here, though originally, I planned to make it so that we could also see Ilami’s past, but alas! Rila can’t do anything to Ilami, so Ilami’s the one who peers into her past instead. Enjoy!