I kept my eyes focused on Natpea's frozen stare, my body alive with every defensive instinct that it had at its disposal as he stood there in complete silence. No matter what extras I used to examine his mental state or physical tension at that moment, I couldn't read anything at all. It's not as though he had a defensive shield up or anything to prevent me sensing it in him....it simply wasn't there. His emotions were completely void of any fear, hesitation, or caution. None. Like, at ALL! It was as if he truly believed that he could easily snuff me out like the flame of a candle without any real effort on his part. As though his every step would be measured to strategically put into motion a chain reaction of events that would ultimately lead to my defeat. Like my downfall was practically destined to happen. I hope to prove him wrong.

I could still feel Taryn's essence upstairs. It poured over my shoulders like a heavy syrup, ice cold, with only my anger to keep it from freezing me to the point of numbness. I had to concentrate and block it out as much as possible, but I could clearly feel his pain and worry in the air around me. I could practically feel the tears rolling down his cheeks. He was restrained, tied to a chair, his mouth gagged with masking tape. I was certain that Natpea saw the hate building in my eyes, but he did not move...and neither did I. Not yet. But I needed to get up those stairs...and I wasn't about to let this mercenary piece of SHIT stop me!

My blood began to boil in my veins. I could feel my most murderous impulses bubbling over, and it was a struggle to keep my emotions somewhat blanced so I could think straight. But it was getting harder and harder by the second. That boy meant everything to me. I loved him more than I loved myself. The very idea of him being hurt was enough to almost cause my flesh to burn from the inside out. The seductive powers within me were wrestling with my conscience, corrupting it....almost erasing it completely. It was shouting at me to let loose. To create the kind of horror and chaos that I was built for! And that inner voice was beginning to win out over everything else. That was the most frightening part. Because I could hardly feel 'myself' any more under this heavy blanket of unrestricted ability. I had never before experienced such a shameless abuse of my abilities in combat, and the more it washed over me...the more I enjoyed it. Until the temptation of bringing total annihilation to everything around me was causing me to hold back demonic snickers of pleasure. Was this what the beginnings of madness feels like? Is this the darker side of the vampire Mimic prophecy? I couldn't tell for sure, but I did my best to resist the lust of it all, and fought to make sure that I could keep my true spirit involved in what takes place here. No matter what. Keep it together, Justin. We've come too far to lose it now. Remain steady. Remember your training. You can beat him without the fancy tricks. How 'amazing' can Natpea be, right? I just slaughtered a group of trained fighters that were numbered way up in the triple digits, for God's sake! And I hardly took any damage at all. I doubt that fighting just ONE more person could really be all that difficult. He can't be that tough. He's gotta be more hype than action, I'm sure of it.

Our shared stillness remained for another moment or two, his silence intimidating me from afar. But despite his unspoken 'dare' for me to move forward, I knew that this mentally projected standoff couldn't last forever. Taryn needed me! And he needed me now! I wasn't about to let him scare me! He's not even all that big! So...so....why do I have such a bad feeling about this?

The air was thick around us, our instincts already locked into combat before the first punch was thrown. He was standing on the other side of the room, and when I looked at the stairs leading to my love...his eyes darkened, knowing that I was about to become a part our grim ballet. His fangs stretched down slowly from his gums, and he was ready for me. There were no more games to be played. I decided that this was it. And I took the first step in his direction.

That's when he began to move forward as well. Matching me step for step. My aggression levels began to build to a climax as we approached one another, and I knew that he had absolutely NO intention of letting me reach that staircase alive. But, at this point, what he 'let' me do was not a concern. We walked closer to one another, and closer, and closer still. Each step decreasing the space between us. And finally, just as we were about to meet, without even making eye contact, we walked past each other for a few steps, as though he weren't going to attack at all. An unspoken gesture to let him know that he wasn't of any importance to me when it came to the safety of my boyfriend. But, in an instant, as we got two or three steps away from one another, there was a surge of awareness that let me know that he was leaning back, and as I blocked his very first connecting punch....the battle had begun!

We stood back to back, facing in opposite directions, his arms and elbows furiously striking out behind him, as were mine, both of us trying to find a vulnerable opening. Neither one of us were successful. We tangled our arms up in a deadly battle of strength and speed, our skill levels competing to finally see which one would truly be the victor. We spun around one another in a dizzying display, blocking, dodging, attacking, counter attacking, pushing our limbs aside, or attempting to catch them in a lock. He was GOOD! Extremely good! And DAMN he was fast! It was exhausting to keep up with him and keep myself safe from harm. Out of all of the people I have ever fought since I've been in darkness, I don't think that I've ever been pitted aganst someone so focused. So skillful. Natpea was definitely a soldier of the highest calibre, and he took me on, blow for blow, without even losing eye contact.

Natpea grabbed a hold of my wrist, and swiftly spun into my chest to flip me over his shoulder, but I was fast enough to land on my feet. He spun around again in the other direction to flip me once again, but each and every time he tried to get me on the ground, I was able to twist in a way that would land me in a standing position. I felt my body adjust, and began contorting my body in ways that would use his weight against him and possibly flip him to the floor instead. But his body was unnaturally balanced! Trying to put him on his back was like trying to hold a balloon underwater with one hand! In fact, he used his forward momentum to spin low and sweep my feet from under me in the front, and I fell directly on my chest, coughing from the loss of breath. He jumped back up, and stood in a strong stance, waiting for me to get up. Waiting to 'spar' some more with this halflife that was supposed to be 'invinceable'. Was this a GAME to him? A fucking GAME???

I charged at him once again. I had to let go of my thoughts every now and then and just let my abilities work on their own. It was the only way. If I had taken a second to actually focus on what I was doing...he would have floored me for sure! He could move faster than I could THINK! And his strikes came with such precision in their execution that I realized that he had to be just...'toying' with me at this point. Almost teasing me to prove a point. What was he waiting for? Was he testing me? Was he studying my reactions to his moves? If so, then I needed to change things up quick before I find myself a helplessly predictable opponent.

Instead of blocking one of his kicks, I ducked under it, and quickly began moving towards the stairs again to retrieve Taryn. It caught him off guard, but he was fast to change his pace, and flipped backwards to cut me off. I moved my head to the side just as his fist shot out to knock me back, and used my shoulder to bump his hand up, leaving his side open. But by the time I moved to take advantage of the opening, he had already moved to block with his other hand. Our hands became a blur as they frantically went back and forth between strike and counterstrike, and he seemed to be fighting a bit harder than he was before. I had forced him to step it up a little, and that knowledge only made me fight with more ferocity. As our hands stayed connected to one another, I felt myself being pushed back away from the stairs, and I couldn't have that. I pulled his arms downward, and rolled over his back to get back on the side of the staircase, moving towards it again. This time, I started to activate Chad's extra to get by swiftly, but he distracted me by sweeping my feet from under me before I could get more than a step out of his range. I rolled over to avoid having his knee driven into my throat, and had to fight my way back to my feet. My GOD he was fast! His punches were like strikes of lightning, and he hit a whole other gear in his ability, finally connecting a harsh strike to the center of my chest, and bringing his leg around to roundhouse me in the face. It was so fast that my neck almost snapped from the impact, and I was sent spinning multiple times to the floor, almost making me dizzy.

It took a moment for me to shake my blurred vision and regain my sense of position, but he didn't wait for long. I felt a few hard kicks in the center of my back, and I rolled some more to get some distance from him so I could get back to my feet. He hurried over to me, and when I reached out to push him off of me, he grabbed my arm and twisted it until the pain forced me back down to my knees. I tried to reverse the arm lock, but every movement that I made seemed to only open him up to other ways to twist it back into another, even more painful, position. I used Dizz's extra to toss his focus off of me for a split second, which was just enough time to get my arm loose, but the moment I was free, he recovered and swept my feet from under me again. I fell on my side, rolling over on my back and hopped to my feet...but he pushed me off balance, and swept my feet again! I worked back to a standing position, but he could easily spin around me and kick the back of my knees to force me back to the floor. My body was trying to adapt, but it couldn't absorb his style fast enough to help me fight him off. When I was finally able to stand for more than a few seconds...I angrily fought him back towards the wall. But he just turned around, ran a couple steps up the side of the wall, and jumped off to spin kick me to the ground!

The pain in my jaw was throbbing, and this time, Natpea just stood still, straightening out his long dark hair with his hand. He didn't even seem to be breathing hard. He remained silent, void of any emotion or stress. He wasn't even looking at me! He just stood there and waited for me to catch my breath so I could get up again. He wanted a challenge. He expected me to be better than this. I AM better than this! I waited for my eyes to focus again, and slowly stood up in front of him. Ok...you want a challenge asshole? You got one!

The air around me became charged with electricity, and it was as if I could feel the ground beneath my feet feeding me the energy I needed to do this. As though I could bend the lines of destiny itself and twist it to my advantage. I could hear the rumble of thunder in the back of my mind, and attempted to keep the fury from clouding my judgement. If I can just keep my balance...if I can just stay focused and keep the darkness at bay...then this shouldn't be too much of a problem.

If I can....just....

I took my eyes off of Natpea entirely, and instead of charging directly at him, I simply started to head for the stairs again. Not running, mind you...just walking. Returning to the task at hand. I believe that triggered something inside of him, because it was the first time that I had actually felt a trace of emotion in him. It was a spark of anger. Of offense. He was actually insulted by the idea that I hadn't completely given myself over to his intimidation tactics, and didn't just bow down to his superior skills. He rushed over to prevent me from going anywhere, the anger in his movements allowing me to predict it easily. He attacked me from the side, but my body was finally reacting to what it had learned from our confrontation so far. Without even looking at him, my hands moved out to block every shot...easily. Even when he spun low to sweep my legs, I stood firm, and he nearly bruised his own shin by trying to drop me. For him, it was like kicking a cement block, and it was difficult for him to not let the sting show on his face. He fought harder, and I was forced to move to the side to dodge his attacks, but even when he landed a few blows to my chest, my body seemed to heal almost instantly. I was learning.

Our arms connected in rapid succession, and soon, I was moving just as fast as he was. So fast, in fact, that the static electricity from the speed of our movements began to spark and flare up around us. I think that made him come to the reality that I wasn't someone to 'play' with. I think he enjoyed that. Natpea's footwork began to kick in, and as his legs moved forward and stepped out to weaken my stance, I made the mistake of looking down, and he was able to pummel me in seconds. His fist hit me seven or eight times in the blink of an eye, and the last punch connected with my chin, knocking me off of my feet. He stayed on me, using his full abilities now instead of treating this like some kind of hellish sparring match. I rolled up to one knee, attempting to block his swift kicks, but he simply kicked my hands away, stepping up onto my raised knee to kick me back across the floor, my frail body sliding to a stop against the far wall.

Again, I could feel Taryn's pain from above, wondering if he was watching all this. If they had set him up in front of a screen to see his boyfriend get beaten up in real time before they took the sadistic pleasure of killing us both. Those eyes....those beautiful green eyes...flooded with tears. Those kissable lips, held down and suppressed. Soren knew that hurting him would hurt me. He had to know. But none of that mattered now. Get up, Justin. There's more fight left in you. GET UP!

My legs began to wobble a bit, but I felt my bruises softening, sinking back into my skin, and I braced myself as Natpea approached again. His feet were just as swift as his hands were, an almost invisible barrage of strikes hit me all over until I was just ducking my head down and holding my arms down at my sides to minimize the pain of it. I moved close enough to grab him around the waist, hoping to buy me just a second or two of rest. But he pounded his fists don on my back, then raised his knees up into my chest, shoving my hands off of him and kneeing me in the chin hard enough to land me on my back. There were no more games to be played as far as he was concerned. He had 'business' to take care of. He kicked me while I was down, and as soon as I got up, he worked hard to bring me back down again. He found a weakness in my legs, and kept striking out towards them to keep me off balance. The only way to try to defend against it was to focus more on his low level attacks. But everytime my concentration went down to my legs, he took advantage of the moment and begain striking high towards my chest and head...raising my defenses so he could find more vulnerable spots down low again!

As I picked up the pace, Natpea hooked one of his feet around the inside of my ankle, and then kicked out my other leg...forcing us both down to the floor in the splits, facing each other! The pain of my tendons stretching to the max was almost unbearable, my muscles nearly tearing at the seams! But he held me in that position, our legs locked and spread out wide, which seemed an easy position for him to maintain as his hands continued to strike out at me from the front. I had to push the pain out of my mind and concentrate on blocking his punches, but it divided my attention, and with his speed....that was 'dangerous'!

He punched his way through my defenses and bruised my chest up something awful! I think he broke my rib! And then he pulled his legs together to kick me backwards as he rolled back to his feet! I pulled myself up into the fetal position, my legs so thankful to be back together again. But Natpea didn't give me room to breathe...he started walking towards me again.

I scrambled on my hands and knees to keep him back, but he only grabbed me tightly by the ankle. And with a spin, he lifted my body off of the floor, and crashed my head through a glass vase sitting on a nearby table before letting go and letting me slam back down to the floor. My face was bleeding, my bones ached, my muscles nearly giving out from the overuse. But Natpea kept coming. I tried to defend myself, but he was so damn quick. The advantage was his. And in a matter of seconds, I was sliding across the floor again, rolling over onto my stomach, and coughing up splatches of blood. And this time, as I saw him get closer, I saw two thin silver rods slide down from his wrists. Thin as a straw, with a needle like hollow point at the top. It was a weapon made for piercing the heart and bleeding it until there was no way of reviving. THE endgame. The checkmate. He twirled the silver shivs with his fingers, and approached with a steady march, ready to take care of me once and for all.

I felt a fearful tear drip from my eye, my confidence standing on an incredibly fragile foundation, as I was faced with the possibility of being murdered right here in this room. To end up like Jarrod, or Xairen...and failing Taryn...where his fate would match my own. I shivered with doubt, but tried to stand regardless. Natpea never slowed down, and as I raised my fists, he quickly knocked my defenses away and kicked me in the center of my chest. I fell back, but stumbled to my feet again. I balled up my fists as he approached, and attempted to trade a few more blows with him, but had already sampled my best tricks. He was invinceable to me now. As he dodged my blows, one by one, he kicked out to knock me back down to my knees. I reached up to weakly grab a hold of his shirt, but he slapped my hand away, and backhanded me to the ground.

My lip, almost split in two, I crawled helplessly under a nearby table. The debris of broken glass and splintered wood were shredding the flesh on my palms and kneecaps as I struggled to keep a safe level of distance between me and him. My mind seemed to quickly flashback to memories of the beatings I used to get from my father. I remembered them so vividly, Jun's excercises bringing them back to the front of my mind with a vengance, after I had worked so hard for so long to bury them. To push them down far enough where I'd never have to deal with those hideous emotions ever again. But as I scampered under that table like a wounded animal...it brought those feelings back again in full color. I remembered the shouting, the bloody noses, the shoves against the wall, the punches to my stomach, and the kicks to my ribs. I remembered how I was told not to cry or I'd get it worse. How I was forced not to tell. I remember having my hair pulled, my face slapped...having the wind knocked out of me so badly that I had to curl up into a ball just to keep from suffocating. I had to fight to keep my mind from drifting off, but at that moment, it was like he was right there in front of me...beating me down all over again. Making me worthless. Causing me to emotionally devour myself from the inside while he battered me on the surface. Reminding me that I was weak. Reaffirming my helpless position in everything that I do, and everything that I am. Murdering me slowly...while he watched from the bleachers...cheering on the death of my spirit.

I heard Natpea turn the table over behind me, and send it crashing to the ground. He patiently walked over to me, using his foot to push me over onto my side. It was the only thing to wake me up out of my hurtful thoughts. I pulled myself along he floor, and used a chair to help me stand up on my feet again. I worked up enough energy to burst forth with a quick flurry of kicks and tried to catch him by surprise...but it was of no use. I was too hurt. Almost limping along in pain and fatigue. He blocked every shot easily, and with the silver spikes, he slashed at both of my sides, cut both sides of my face, and then kicked me backwards a few steps. I tried to catch my breath, but as he walked close, I had to keep fighting. I can't lose! I CAN'T! I'm the Mimic! I'm....I'm 'Superman'! It's destined to be, right? I tried soooo hard to convince myself. So hard to believe that something, anything, was going to suddenly 'kick in' and save me. But Natpea was at a point where I must have looked like I was moving in slow motion to him, and my extras had momentarily worn themselves out. I struck out at him, but he grabbed my wrist, and with a few swift moves...he stabbed one of the silver shivs right through my forearm! Clear through to the other side! I screamed out in agony, my body trying to fight off the shock of being penetrated so brutally. He yanked the weapon out of my arm and pushed me back as I grabbed a hold of the bleeding wound. He walked forward to stay within three steps of me at all times, not giving me a chance to breathe. He jerked a few times, making me flinch nervously, and when I struck out again, he ducked under it and stabbed me in the shoulder, and then again in the right thigh. I jumped back away from him, almost unable to put any weight at all on my right leg, and I held out a hand as though it would cause him to hesitate. He viciously slapped my hand down, but I put it back up. He slapped it down again, and when I tried to get him to back off, he pierced my palm with the weapon, and then slit my wrist with the other spike. Blood began to spray out of me towards the floor. The blood of my last donor...being depleted right in front of me. And as the sight of it froze me in my place...Natpea kicked out at my sore leg, and I fell over onto my side, grabbing my thigh and sobbing uncontrollably. He never once said a word...he just kept watching me, studying me for a response. Shaking his head in disappointment, as though I weren't even giving him the satisfaction of dying with honor. And that was more than I could bear.

Deep in the center of me, I felt another jolt of pain coming from upstairs, and I knew that they were hurting Taryn on purpose. They were doing it deliberately to get to me. And I couldn't save him. I tried....but I just couldn't save him! I can't save anybody! It was a mistake to think that I ever could! Dammit, he was COUNTING on me! They all were! I was supposed to bring Taryn home before dawn, and I failed, just like I knew I would. At that moment, laying there with my clothes soaked in my own blood...I contemplated the thought of just giving up. Of allowing this pain in my life to finally end once and for all and just...welcome death like I was supposed to in the first place. If the prophecy was true, and Taryn was destined to die tonight, then I didn't want to be around to see it anyway. I didn't want to have to suffer a single minute of that endless pain, living without him. I'd rather have Natpea stab me through the fucking heart and take me away from this place, and finally bring me peace. But...as he twirled his twin blades once again in his fingers...a subtle grin crossing his lips for the first time since I first saw him in that fighting arena...I refused to do it. I refused to give in. I won't let him have me. Not this easily. My own father couldn't break me down, and he tried for YEARS to kill everything that I was, back when I was too young to defend myself. I didn't come this far to just 'let' this arrogant son of a bitch have what's left of my soul for FREE! I'm going to fight! I'm going to fight, and fight, and KEEP fighting, until he's so fucking TORN UP from the battle that he won't EVER be able to forget the day he took me on head to head! Win or lose...he's gonna forever remember my face! I swear it!

It was at that moment...that something sparked up inside of me. It was quiet, and soft, but a new awareness...something that I had been ignoring before...illuminated my vision. It was more than just a vague aura this time. It was a specific glow, a dedicated map of the person I was looking at. Natpea. At first, I thought it was just me losing focus after such a harsh beating...but it was more than that. And attached to the sensation, was a familiar essence that I could vaguely recognize. One of a sweet young lady, who once confided in me a few great truths as she awaited the inevitable dawn on that beach not long ago. Tiana...my angel. A piece of her was with me. Something that I could use against my enemy. If only I could make the connection.

"I read your extra the second you met me. It's a little parlor trick I learned from Comicality." She told me.

"I was never really sure how he found me, or why..." She said. Did she know? Was she aware?

Tiana said, "Reading other people's extras was just one of those many tricks. Not as an 'invasion', mind you, but as a way of seeing people beyond the shield of who they think they are. Seeing the parts that they never explore, extras included." I could almost see her smile in my mind's eye. And looking at Natpea, something became clear to me. He was NOT as fast as he claimed to be. He wasn't just perfecting his technique to be invinceable. It wasn't just a matter of him being 'better' than me either. I could read it in his aura, clear as day. He was reading my mind. His abilities were made to detect my brain's commands, striking out at me before my muscles could even contract and strike out at him. He was swiftly predicting my moves before I made them, and it made him seem faster than he really was. I see it now! I can see it!

His extra was burning up energy fast, and it was practicaly radiating energy off of him in excess, as I must have taxed his abilities something awful during our match up. But the realzation that he was not as 'amazing' as he appeared to be seemed to renew my confidence, and my army of hidden extras followed that emotion...revitalizing me competely, re-energizing themselves instatly. As I squinted my eyes and took a closer look at him, I knew that this fight was far from over. What was it that Com told me before? The battle is NOT won by the person who fights the hardest...but by the mind that better understands the inner workings of its opponent. He was right. I was doing exactly what Com told me I would. I was allowing him to force me into a corner and limit my choices. I was playing HIS game instead of forcing him to play mine. Now that I realize it...things are about to change up in this little back and forth game we're playing here.

My wounds, almost as if by magic, stopped bleeding. My wrist stopped spraying blood, like someone had turned off the faucet in order to give it the proper maintenance. Natpea watched me as I stood up straight, and arched my back, taking a deep breath so as to regain my strength. My bruises itched slightly as the dark marks on my flesh melted away, and the palms of my hands cleared up. My breathing returned to a somewhat normal pattern, and I could feel the wounds in my shoulder and leg getting better. It was almost like experiencing an entire sleep cycle's worth of repairs and rejuvenation in one standing moment. I don't think Natpea was prepared for that at all.

He wasn't prepared for a LOT of what I had planned.

He had worked so long to reach a level of perfection with his skill that I wouldn't be able to get around in the long run. But...as Comicality informed me...'perfection' cannot change. 'Perfection' cannot learn. And as I reached deep down into the depths of my mind, and triggered what little I could of Kid's extra...I saw a look of doubt cross Natpea's face for the first time. Where he had once found a blueprint for my every strike and movement...he now had only the sound of loud static to go on, blocking him from it all.

Now then....let's see how unbeatable you are when you're in a fair fight, asshole!