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It was commonplace in the Metal World and covered up by those who would work from the safety of shadows. Memories were but fickle nothings of broken men with too much power for their own good. The world was theirs to bend and twist and turn at a moment's notice.

But the Waste afforded none that same luxury.

Sword Saint Seiji clung to his thoughts for a moment longer before he drew his blade. The sword, Ishimagi, sung as it left its sheath. It spoke to him. Reassured the man of his duties. Wiped the doubts and guilt from his head.

And soon, it would bring death into the Waste once again.

Across from Seiji stood Lisuga, draped in tattered robes and a singed cape. His face was a stone wall with two soulless eyes that stared at him but looked nowhere. A spear cast from the remnants of the Metal World clung to his back.

Seiji sighed, shook his head, and in one swift motion drew his weapon. The Sword Saint gripped his blade tighter and crept forward. The sands shifted and screamed beneath his feet as if to stop his progression. Ishimagi sang in his hands again and drowned the voices out.

Lisuga swung his spear above his head with enough power to disturb the sand beneath him. He brought the speartip down, meeting Ishimagi and sending sparks crashing into the sand. A shard of glass, no doubt formed from the heat of the clashing metal, broke through Seiji's sandal.

Ishimagi sliced through the air, deflecting another attack. Then another. Then another. Seiji could feel the force behind each blow ripple through his arms, splintering his bones every time their weapons connected. Sweat formed on his brow as Seiji deflected the blows. The shard of glass wedged itself further into his foot as his skin sealed over it, trapping the piece within.

If Seiji could feel pain, he might have cried.

Lisuga was relentless, his form impeccable. Seiji bit back tears for a different reason now. He tried to call out to his friend, but the clang of the metal drowned out his words. Ishimagi drove Lisgua's spear into the sand and Seiji leapt away.

Heaving, Seiji wiped the blood from his brow and steadied Ishimagi. He spat, splattering a mixture of saliva and blood on the places where sand had become glass around him. Lisuga spat as well, then charged.

Seiji dipped the tip of Ishimagi into the ground slashed upward, kicking up a miasma of sand. He heard Lisuga cry out and cut in his direction, cleaving a part of his spear off. A fist connected with Seiji's face, sending him to the ground and shattering his nose. Blood pooled on his cloak, and his head rang.

He barely managed to roll away before the weapon impaled the sand next to him.

He rose, blocking another strike. Lisuga's spear was broken, replaced now with the jagged edge of a longsword hidden within the shaft of the spear.

The sun had set when the two men took a reprieve from battle. Lisuga stood, bloodied and tired with contempt in his eyes. Seiji remained uninjured. The wounds he received we nothing more than bitter memories now.

Around them, where the sands of the Waste once lay, sat glass, cold and rigid. The moonlight gave presence to a reflection.

A reflection that mocked the sword saint for his weakness.

Your loyalty blinds you. His reflection spoke.

"Quiet," Seiji retorted, his eyes not leaving Lisuga.

Seiji's reflection laughed.

You've survived worse. What's stopping you now?

Seiji said nothing. Lisuga began walking toward him, blade raised.

Lord Hubris gave you a mission. You are honor-bound to carry it out.

Ishimagi whispered something to Seiji, something that he pushed out of his mind. He needed to focus.

Even your sword knows what the right thing to do is.

Lisuga leaped into the air, bringing his sword down onto Ishimagi. Seiji's arms quivered under the force of the blow as a shockwave of kinetic energy passed through his body. The glass shattered beneath Seiji's feet, sending shards into the night sky. Seiji's reflection, now scattered, taunted him again.

You must honor the call.

Seiji closed his eyes, feeling the wind whip past his ears. He dug his heel into the ground and pivoted, slicing through Lisuga's tunic. Lisuga staggered backward, clutching his stomach.

The Sword Saint steeled his nerves and approached, taking long, calculated strides. His eyes never left his foe's gaze. His grip was ironclad, his arm like a fish moving in through the water. The Sword Saint let out a short breath and waited.

His sword met its target, and Lisuga fell to the ground in two different places.