The World Is Yours, Chapter 13


Chapter 13

Black smoke spurted from Ignatov’s wrist as the iridescent edge of Ivan’s hardlight blade sliced the vampire’s hand off. For a Federal Agent, Ignatov still had the appearance - and stature - of a prepubescent boy, giving Ivan a huge advantage in terms of reach, especially with his legs. Too early to celebrate, though - even as Ignatov recoiled, snarling in pain, wisps of crimson coalesced around his wrist, knitting into flesh and bone. By the time Ivan reset his stance, Ignatov was once more whole. And very, very pissed.

“You’re just a never-ending bag of tricks, aren’t you?” The vampire covered his anger with a tight smile, but the look in his eyes gave the lie to his false good humor. “First the disguise, now this. It’s sad, really, that you think these toys will keep you safe from the Federation’s justice.”

“These toys just cut your hand off, Agent. No wonder the Federation’s so scared of them.” Hardlight devices were banned in the Federation on the pretext that they tended to malfunction explosively, though this hadn’t stopped every other nation in the world from making use of the technology. “The whole Undying class might need a new name if word got out that they could be killed with such simple trifles.”

“It’s been tried, Mr Nikolaev. It never works, and it never will. The Federation’s order has stood for centuries, and it, like us, will endure forevermore, regardless of whatever shiny novelties fools like you get their hands on.” Ignatov’s eyes darted downwards. “Seriously, hardlight blades on your feet?”

“Seems to be working pretty well so far.” Ivan kept the bravado up, letting it wall him in like armor. In his bladedancing stance, he felt anxiety and panic only as a remote promise. Once it was showtime, the performance was all that mattered, even if you only had an audience of one. Even the chill in the air brought back memories of taking the ice. “Maybe the other hand next time? Or we can find out if fangs grow back.”

“You know what? Fuck bringing you before the Senate. I’m going to gut you like a pig.” Ignatov struck again, deflecting Ivan’s answering kick with enough force to send him to the ground. He caught himself on his hands, turning his fall into a fluid acrobatic motion that sent both legs sweeping out in a wide arc, his blades catching Ignatov in the knee. 

The vampire stumbled, but didn’t recoil, pressing the attack with a blow that went straight through the carpet and broke the concrete scant centimeters from Ivan, who’d thrust himself to the side, springing off the floor and pushing off his left outer edge to land on the wall of the corridor. He pushed backwards, away from Ignatov, building the momentum he needed to defy gravity. 

Ivan left scorched trails on the wallpaper as he moved through backwards crossovers, picking up speed as he kept his eyes on Ignatov. The vampire was gaining on him, the wound to his knee already healed. As Ivan retreated, an arclight wall fixture beneath him sparked and burnt out as his blades cut through it, plunging the area around him into darkness. 

Ignatov shone through the black, his bloodred eyes luminous with killing intent as he closed in. Ivan felt ice-cold fingers grab for him, and flinched backwards so that Ignatov’s hand only closed on the lapel of his jacket, yanking him forward with irresistible force. Ivan pulled back, kicking at Ignatov - but the vampire’s guard was up, batting aside his foot, not letting the hardlight blade make contact. 

Needle-pointed fangs glittered through the gloom as Ignatov went for the throat - and the ground vanished from under Ivan. He fell sideways as the corridor opened into a wide, high-ceilinged atrium, his lapel shredding as Ignatov slammed into the wall and fell to the floor. Ivan landed on the wall of the atrium, catching himself with his blades. 

Too close. Way too close. He couldn’t let Ignatov get close again - the vampire might be able to recover from all sorts of damage, but one hit from him would be enough to finish the fight. Thankfully, he was out of the tight confines of the corridor, and the open layout of the atrium gave him the room he needed to both keep his distance and use a wider range of bladedancing moves.

Bladedancing was a performance art, not a martial art, but if you had knives strapped to your feet and the ability to generate absurd amounts of rotational power through your legs, you were no less a threat. Ivan had adapted other martial arts into his repertoire - some moves he’d managed to learn from actual practitioners, whilst others he’d only ever seen in videos and movies. He’d never actually used them to fight anyone, let alone a Federal Agent out for his blood, but there was no time for anything but a trial by fire.

A low growl came from across the atrium as Ignatov rose from the floor, fangs bared. The sound wasn’t in itself unnerving - for a vicious Federal Agent, Ignatov’s vocal cords were still those of a boy’s - but drawing this sort of primal response from a vampire, who didn’t actually need to breathe, was a sign that you’d pissed them off royally.

Ignatov leapt towards Ivan, claws out, going for as much reach as he could muster, but even with his supernatural speed Ivan was faster, skating away before Ignatov could get close. The atrium spanned two levels, boasting a hemispherical glass skylight that stretched from floor to ceiling and a mezzanine level with a well-stocked bar. The arclights were out, but Halcyon’s cityscape shone through the glass, a melange of multicolored light from signs, advertisements, streetlamps, dyeing them in muted kaleidoscope radiance. 

Ivan kept his distance from Ignatov, outpacing the vampire easily - he was in his element, dancing from wall to pillar to skylight, almost literally running circles around his pursuer. He could sense Ignatov’s frustration mounting as he awkwardly clambered over furniture and scaled pillars to close the distance, only for Ivan to elude him. But evasion would only go so far. There were only two exits to the atrium, both corridors, and if he tried to escape down one of them, Ignatov would run him down easily. No way out but through.

As Ignatov drew near, Ivan spun and kicked at his shins, a telegraphed strike that the vampire easily dodged, leaving his guard down for the following roundhouse kick to the head, letting Ivan’s blade hook him cleanly across the cheek. Spectators watching a bladedancer fly across the ice rarely thought about just how much force a body moving at such speed really held. Ivan knew. He’d seen - and been in - his fair share of on-ice collisions, enough to know how serious they could be. But if you could harness that power, direct it at an opponent, and put it behind the edge of a blade…

Ivan’s blade burnt through Ignatov’s flesh, releasing more black smoke, the force of his kick sending the vampire straight through a couch. But the vampire’s reflexes were no slouch, either - he hit the wall feet-first, rebounding off it to leap straight at Ivan. As Ignatov closed in, Ivan kicked into the ground, toe pick digging in and propelling him upwards, letting him clear the mezzanine level with ease. He spared Ignatov a glance as he landed lightly on the railing, not too winded to appreciate the black burn mark on the vampire’s cheek and the thwarted snarl on his face -

Ignatov flew. The vampire rose on a column of red mist, claws ripping through Ivan’s sleeve as he awkwardly twisted away, falling backwards off the railing. Even in the dim light he could see the involuntary shudder of pleasure that rippled across Ignatov’s shoulders.

He’d drawn blood.

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