The conflagration soon engulfed the house, throwing off sparks as rain met fire. Above, she could still see the moon through the clouds, and reflected on how long it would be until she saw it again. Probably not until another useless member of that family needs me to clean up his gambling debts again. She sighed.
At least the past two nights had been fun.
"Halt there, demon!" A voice rang out behind her. A voice she recognized.
A smile cut her lips, and she looked out over the yard as the guards rushed towards the burning house. "You recover quickly, Samurai." She shook her head, turning to face him. "No. Kazan. I would remember your proper name."
"You won't trick or escape me this time, creature!" He brandished his sword, eyes reflecting the lighting writ across the sky.
"My name is Zyrkana. I would have you remember my proper name as well. Especially if we're to kill each other here."
"I am ready for your deceptions! You won't find me such easy prey this time!"
"I should hope not." She sighed. "Prepare yourself, Kazan, for I shan't be holding back."
Zyrkana leaped into the air, quicker than thought, and Kazan's eyes followed her. She spun, throwing knives towards him. He was indeed ready for her this time, however, and batted them out of the air with his sword.
"I said I was prepared! Don't bring these paltry tricks! Show me your true strength!"
Oh no, she thought. I think I might actually be falling for him.
She landed on the balls of her feet, drawing her short sword. "If you think you can take me," she shouted, "come and get me!"
They ran across the roof towards each other, and their blades clashed with a terrible noise. So loud it was the guards still on the ground stopped in their panic to look towards the roof of the house, where they saw two figures locked in deadly combat. The guards couldn't intervene, however, and were forced to look on as the struggle continued.
Zyrkana spun, slicing at his head, intending to take it off if she could. Her cut was blocked by Kazan, who had his free hand to the back of his blade to counter her supernatural strength. He shoved her off and in one movement struck at her torso, but she leaped over him and gave him a playful knock on the head as she went.
"What was it I told you when we first met, Kazan?" She grinned, looking positively devilish. "You'll have to be faster than that!"
She ran at him, delivering a flurry of blows that he was hard pressed to riposte. The clang of steel echoed across the yard, with neither of them scoring a hit. Dodge, feint, parry, strike, the dance continued for several seconds. At last they separated, and the touch of a smile tugged at Kazan's lips.
"What did I tell you?"
"And with not a touch of the poison slowing you down." She gave him an appraising look, saying, "I'm impressed. Your boss is dead, you know."
"I suspected as much. My duty to him is therefore ended."
"So why continue fighting?"
Kazan chuckled, drawing a raised eyebrow from Zyrkana. "Because, little demon, I haven't had this much fun in years!"
Thus saying, he rushed her, blade cutting water droplets from the air as they fell. She met his charge and gave ground, leaping back along the roof to areas that weren't engulfed in flame. As she deflected his strikes, a thought occurred to her.
"Let's continue this elsewhere!" She said, and turning, jumped from the roof to the garden.
With an inarticulate shout Kazan followed, chasing her through shrubs and under trees. Back to the place they'd first met. The gazebo, and the brook babbling alongside it. When he caught up she was just standing there, blade sheathed, looking down on the lotus blossoms she'd been admiring on their first meeting.
They drooped under the heavy rain now, but they were nonetheless beautiful. Zyrkana bent down as he watched, cupped one in both hands, and drank deep of the scent. Looking at him over her shoulder, she sighed and dropped the flower.
"They're symbolic of death, you know," she said, in a matter of fact tone. "I suppose your boss might have wanted to know that before he had them planted." She turned to look at him and smiled. "It might've saved him a world of hurt."
"Where do you come from, where flowers in a garden rule over the fates of men?"
"Hell. We've been over this." She stared wistfully at the sky, the rain playing on her face. "I suppose I'm going back there, now that my job is done. Unless, of course," she turned to look at Kazan, "you kill me first."
"Won't you simply return to hell if I destroy you?"
She shook her head. "Your sword is special. If you kill me with that, I go away forever. But," she grinned, closing her eyes, "at least I'll know I was slain by a worthy opponent. Take up your sword, Kazan. Let's settle this."
Zyrkana drew her blade and dropped into a defensive crouch. Kazan held his own in front of him like a talisman. A leaf broke from a tree branch above them and floated to the ground. They watched it fall, an unspoken agreement forming in that moment.
The leaf hit the ground and they exploded into motion, striking at each other with demoniac fury. A cut opened up on Kazan's brow, a slice dug into Zyrkana's hip. Wounds appeared on the two as if by magic, and after a moment they regarded one another from across the brook.
Panting, sweating, bleeding, the two warriors took measure of one another. Kazan blinked the blood out of his eyes. Zyrkana's leg twitched, looking about to give out. Both of them thought about how long it had been since they'd had a real fight, with real stakes.
Both of them also remembered the kiss, deceptive though it had been.
When her leg seemed about to fail her, Zyrkana broke the pause and jumped forward. She brought her short sword around and knocked his weapon to the side, embracing him. Kazan was taken aback as he looked down on her, staring up into his eyes through the rain. He was about to bring his weapon to bear on her when she stood up on tip-toe and pressed her lips to his, closing her eyes.
Kazan found himself returning the kiss, lowering his arms to hold her up as her leg did give. She reached up with her free hand to grasp the back of his head and pull him in closer. Her blade fell from her hand to clatter on the rocks of the brook.
She had a feeling she didn't need it anymore.
With the completion of the pact, her grip on the mortal plane was slipping. Soon she would be back where she truly belonged. But she wanted to savor these last few moments with the only man who'd made her feel alive in centuries.
Kazan found himself saying, "Will I ever see you again?"
Zyrkana looked down and shrugged. "It's possible. If you know of another crime boss that needs killing."
"I can't just let you go."
"I have to go back now. It's part of the pact. Jaren can summon me again, but I can only be here for a short time." She smiled up at him. "But I can say this. I'll miss you, Kazan."
The sun began to rise, and her physical body began to disintegrate. As he watched, she faded into nothingness. Kazan was soon left holding nothing but air, the sweet taste of her lips still strong in his memory. He looked back at the house in flames, and thought about Zyrkana.
Walking over to the flowers she had loved so dearly, those little death flowers, he used his sword to cut one from the stalk. It fit well in his palm, and he inhaled its scent deeply. This flower, too, would soon wither away and leave him. But nothing could take the memory of the amazing woman who'd given him his first real fight in decades.
Kazan thought that he might have to look up this "Jaren". After a night like tonight, he couldn't just let a girl like Zyrkana go, now could he?
If you enjoyed this story, you can find many more like it on my Original Fiction page, or in the anthology Darkest of Dreams from DimensionBucket Media on Amazon. You can also find more of my work at my website, jimfear138.blogspot.com, including my weekly podcast and audiobooks I've produced. You can also throw me a tip if you like at Ko-fi.