Mnalif Nganto did her best to conceal her confusion as she strode forwards, gesturing to her crew to stay back. She had not expected a quartet of would-be champions and a small horde of zombies to block her path to the Shogunate treasures that she had come for, and she wondered if the man in the black cloak was the â€˜Captain Steelâ€™ that her Lintha allies had mentioned.
The zombies were already before her, and stepping forwards to attack, so she leapt upwards and brought her claws around in a great sweep. The first slash sent four corpses tumbling to the floor, and the second tore through two more, sending their pieces slamming into another pair and dropping them to the ground. Across the room, the black-cloaked man was leaping from rock to rock, covering ground at an impressive pace, and the young woman with the chakram flipped backwards, letting a flight of Essence-shurikens fly forwards. With a single, smooth motion, Nganto twisted her arm, catching the shurikens for a moment on her claws before sending them flying in all directions; another zombie fell to the ground with one stuck in its head.
As she watched the others approaching, she spared a moment to consider her surroundings. Ruined Shogunate equipment littered the ground, and she noted the automata off to one side with interest, but there was nothing to suggest the near-fanatical obsession that her allies seemed to have with this place. She had assumed that whatever they were after would be easily obtained, and that she could name her price by taking it before them, but the room was stubbornly lacking in portable goods.
The black-clad man was reaching her, now, his sais held high above his head as he dove. In midair, he flipped around, spinning to dive headfirst towards her, bringing one said up and around in a perfect strike as the other held back to parry or strike as needed. Ngato spent a moment admiring his courage, even as she smoothly caught the sai in one claw and batted the other aside with her free hand, burying a single claw in his chest and flipping him over her shoulder to crash into a wall a good thirty yards away. To his credit, he rolled in the air to land on his feet, but the wound looked serious. Glancing over at him, she was surprised to see him smiling.
â€œNiiice.â€ He fingered the wound for a moment, and glanced at the blood on his hand. â€œItâ€™s been almost a year since anyone landed a blow on me. Letâ€™s see if lightning can strike twice!â€ Gathering himself, he began to jump back towards her. Reaching over, she picked up one of the few remaining zombies and threw it overhand, slamming into his chest and sending him sprawling back to the ground. At that moment, she saw an engraved door carved into the far wall, and it drew her attention. Suddenly, with all of her soul, she knew that she had found what she came for.
Another flight of shurikens was coming towards her, and she leapt upwards, jumping from blade to blade, using her clawed toes to avoid injury. This gave her the height she needed to avoid the black shadow that leapt from the floor, and she spun in the air and bit downwards, slicing it into two viscous masses that bubbled into the ground. By the time she landed, the Dynast had reached her, wreathed in flame. With lightning quickness, he leveled four blows against her, silent and grim; her claws wove in front of her, turning blows aside, but one slipped through and drew a line of burning pain across her chest. She turned, kicking outwards, and he stumbled backwards, crossing his swords in front of him; the blow still sent him staggering back, and she pushed past him, moving towards the far door. He cursed as he recovered his balance, and shouted at her. â€œTurn and face me, beast!â€ She laughed, feeling her skin knitting back together, and started on her way.
The Dynast would not stand there, however, and leapt at her from behind, his sword bursting into flame. She glanced backwards, and let her skin twist and shift; the strike deflected off her own skin and slammed into his shoulder, and he was thrown back. The sai-wielder was leaping across the room, ready to rejoin the fight, but she put on a burst of speed heading towards the gate. It occupied her full attention.
The veiled woman spat out another shadow, and Nganto paused to slice it in half. Then the last one was in front of her. She slashed outwards; the first blow caught a lock of hair as the girl-child flipped away, landing safely at a distance from her. However, it left the path to the gateway open, and Nganto laughed, easily covering the remaining distance to stand before the carved wall.
The enemy was now behind her, and she felt in her heart that, once she had seen what the gate was capable of, she would be more than ready to fight them again. She could see her crew, straining against their desire to join this fight, but they were not of a league to challenge these opponents. Reaching outwards, as her four opponents broke into runs and leaps to reach her, she touched three sigils in turn, drawn by something she could not name. The gateway rippled to life, green and blue swirls chasing each other across its surface, and the glyphs began to glow with a slickly light. In the back of her mind, Nganto began to worry that this was something beyond her capabilities; the fragment of her that shivered when she saw the Linthaâ€™s demonic minions and worried about her choice of alliances. But she ruthlessly crushed it. This was her chance to win her people a new place in Creation. Resolutely, before the others could stop her, she stepped through the gate.
Instantly, she felt a cold wind searing across her skin, leaving lines of pain in its wake. She stood atop a great rock, surrounded by green seas. Approaching from the distance was a ship the likes of which she had never seen, all black and spined like a creature, its sides moving slightly as though breathing. Standing atop the prow, a man in armour black as the night gestured to her. His whispered word carried across the chasm between them, and as the acidic sea spray touched her, Nganto heard him.
And for the first time in almost as long as she could remember, Nganto felt fear.