Chapter Sixty-Eight: Vengeance Spiral

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Regan mirrored Kessler's movements as she walked along the edge of the flames. Behind her, the woman covered in spines rose to her feet. Her skin was a glistening mixture of black and pink patches like badly cooked meat. There was a high-pitched whimpering noise coming from her throat like an injured dog. 

Regan looked at Sarafina and the others. They had retreated until they were backed against the wall of the motel. Their escape route was blocked by the flames that spread across the concrete and licked at the bottom of the boarded up doorways. 

'Even at the height of your strength, you could never have matched me, Regan. How much strength have you lost since then? Every injury you carry will continue to take a toll, and you have more than most.' 

Regan ran a hand across her stomach. The deep wound that Kessler had given her was forming into a ragged scar. 'I've felt your technique Kessler. You should be wondering why you failed to kill me instead of speculating about my strength.' 

Kessler swung her sword in a lazy arc and rested it on her shoulder. 'We all learn from our mistakes.' 

She watched Regan through hooded lids. She looked lethargic, like she was about to fall asleep. 

Regan slid her foot back slightly and brushed a strand of blue hair behind her ear. Kessler looked relaxed, but the air around her felt like it was becoming thin, as if they were high in the atmosphere. Regan gripped the hilt of her sword. 

For a moment, both of them were still. 

The speed of Kessler's attack flattened the flames in her path like grass. She was in the air as their swords met, and there was a sound of screaming metal as the two blades scraped along each other. Regan felt the shock jar her arm as the blade drove downwards towards her collarbone. 

Regan threw Kessler off her and rushed forwards. She closed the distance, keeping in close range to prevent Kessler using the full power of her strikes. Her short katana lashed out like a whip, aiming for the gaps in Kessler's defences. As Kessler moved to open up space to attack, Regan punished her with fast slashes that struck sparks from her blade. 

'You've learned from last time,' said Kessler. 'Your techniques have the advantage at close range.' 

Regan spun in mid-air, and her blade flashed past Kessler's eyes. She seemed to bounce like a rubber ball as each strike flowed into the next without pause. Kessler retreated and caught Regan with a kick that sent her flying backwards. She slid to a stop in a crouch and looked at Kessler with vicious eyes. Around them, patches of burning petrol flickered like the flames of hell. 

Kessler lifted a hand to her cheek, where a thin red line ran across her skin. 'You're still a bloodthirsty little girl.' 

She examined the blood on her fingers like she was checking a bookshelf for dust. Regan rose to her feet. She was breathing heavily. 

'The world has no use for a traitor.' 

'Wrong. The world doesn't care one way or the other. I could leave you dead and bleeding in the gutter, and the world would continue to spin as if nothing ever happened.' 

Regan looked at the ground. When she spoke, her voice was barely louder than a whisper. 'That's why I'm here.' 

Regan launched herself forward. Her movements were faster than before. Her blade cut the air as she closed the distance with Kessler in less than a second, and her sword was a blur of flickering metal as she searched for an opening in her defences. 

Kessler was forced backwards as Regan's cuts lashed her like rain. 'I'm surprised. Your hatred has let you push your body further than I expected. However, you lack conviction.' 

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