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Again, Nakoruru cast a fearful look over her shoulder. Tears stung her eyes as she pushed through a tangled Juyshon bush as silently as possible. Every time a branch snapped under her foot or a leaf rustled, the terror would claw at her throat again, tightening her airways. He wasn't there…yet. But she knew it if was only a matter of time before she would see those two flickering lights following her behind the trees, the ghostly lightning humming in Galford's eyes. Those eyes, they burned themselves into her mind. There was a horrible storm raging in them, and she was trapped in it.
"Hai, Poppy! Wait for me, girl!" Galford called after his steadfast companion. He had lost sight of her again. Damn, I wish I could run that fast. He stopped to catch his breath, he had been sprinting for about ten minutes straight, and he was exhausted, sweat ran off his forehead in tiny rivers. Fortunately, it looked like the forest was going to thin out a bit ahead, and if he remembered correctly, Nakoruru's house was just beyond that thin bamboo band.
Rimururu was following him too, but his long legs carried him much faster than her little ones, and she had been left far behind. He hoped she would serve as a distraction so that he would be able to get into the house and see Nakoruru more easily.
Poppy's barking ended his quick respite. He'd have to keep her close to him soon, otherwise she'd alert the sentries Rimururu had mentioned.
Her excited barking continued. What the hell? She sounded…happy? Galford's brow furrowed in confusion, who…?
"Hush, Poppy, stop that!" Despite the terror she felt, she couldn't help smiling at the dog's antics. Poppy ran and leapt in circles around her and Grandmother, barking like mad and licking their hands. Even Mamahaha lifted her head to see what all the fuss was. The eagle managed a weak noise to welcome her canine friend.
"Poppy! Quiet!" Finally, the dog obeyed. It didn't much matter though, Galford would be on them in a moment anyway, barking or no. She didn't have her dagger, but she would fight anyway. She'd die before she let him hurt her like that again…
Nakoruru hadn't believed her eyes when the familiar black and white shape had materialized out of the woods. At first she had though Poppy was a ghost, but she was flesh and blood. I guess Galford didn't get you after all, Nakoruru thought with satisfaction. She felt safer now, Nakoruru knew Poppy would help protect her from Galford when he arrived, or at least she hoped so. It was possible the animal would still obey him, even though he now had an evil heart.
Galford! This way! Come! Poppy barked excitedly at her, indicating the direction from which the dog had come.
"??? What are you talking about Poppy? Galford is behind us, and he's become very bad, we have to get away from here!"
Poppy cocked her head strangely at Nakoruru and looked at her like she had gone mad. The dog was obviously confused.
And then he was there, right in front of her, emerging from the viridian curtain. They stared at each other frozen. It was Galford, and not the obscenity that had hurt her and killed her family - it was Galford as she remembered him again. His hair was greasy with sweat, but it was the right color, and he had normal, human eyes.
"Nakoruru…" He began, a tentative, boyish smile on his face.
"Galford…" She replied, suddenly she wasn't afraid anymore.
And then the other Galford crashed through the underbrush behind them. There was silence as the two men met each other's gaze.
"You!" The 'real' Galford growled.
"Me." Her tormentor returned.
Both Galfords simultaneously drew their blades. The harsh sound of metal scraping metal filled the air, and the familiar angry, buzzing noise began to emanate from the Galford she despised. Nakoruru and her Grandmother both backed away, leaving an empty space between the two. She didn't know what was going on, and Nakoruru kept turning her head back and forth, comparing the two men, the resemblance was uncanny and surreal. Why were there two Galfords? What magic was this? She didn't care, she knew that the creature who had attacked her was the imposter.
Poppy, began to growl and snarl at the evil Galford as she rejoined her real master. The hairs on her back stood up rigidly like tiny spears.
"I was wondering when you'd show up, 'brother'. I had almost given up hope on you." Electric Galford sneered, taking up his fighting stance. Overhead, the clouds began to darken and the forest became twilight.
"You're no brother of mine. And your finished, right here and right now."
"Oh, but I am your brother in a certain sense! You and me, we're one and the same, Galford. I'm just the part of you that you didn't want anymore. I'm you, Galford. But, you're right, it's going to finish right here and now, there's only room in the world for one of us, and it isn't going to be you!"
"I'm afraid I disagree." The 'real' Galford countered. All his muscles had tensed, and Nakoruru sensed that any moment now he would explode into action.
Thunder rumbled in the sky and it began to rain. Evil Galford laughed.
"You'll excuse me if I use one of your quotes, Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes, but 'Forgive me, I have power you can only dream of.' It's power that could have been yours if only you would have opened yourself to it, 'brother'. Now it's all mine, and you won't be able to stand against it. Nobody can."
Lightning streaked down from the sky and exploded behind Evil Galford. His body became a black shadow against the white flash momentarily. The bamboo burst into flame, but the fire was quickly drenched by the falling rain and it smoldered and died.
Evil Galford extended an open hand to his twin, and his eyes began to glow more brightly than ever before. The wind swept his white hair about his head, and more than ever it reminded Nakoruru of snow.
"Shall we begin?"