Trouble in Paradise - TIP - Week 3 - Pudding Hearts vs Team Glamalot

Description: Cute versus fabulous. What happens in this log is exactly what you'd expect. Lots of mature content. ;) ;) ;O (Winner: Definitely not Ash)

Iori's experience of Zack Island has completely met his expectations. It is a bright and cheerful place full of laughing people having a good time in a mixture of family-friendly debauchery and commercialized fighting. Oh, and he has refused to change his clothing, in defiance of the weather. Which means he is also incredibly hot. In a literal sense.

The only way he could hate it more is if That Guy was here, and his stupid dad is wandering around SOMEWHERE. Ugh. Terrible, terrible.

The sullen redhead had no intention of actually entering a fight unless he could find some chump who pissed him off bad enough to be declared an impromptu 'team member', and if he did, it would purely be to highlight how goddamn awful this whole spectacle actually is. But, that doesn't mean he's staying away from the fighting. No, far from it. Iori wants a front row spot so he can be heard clearly by the camera. Although he COULD turn up whenever he wanted and just take it, it was probably better to get there early and avoid as much unnecessary bloodshed as possible.

Which is why we find him now, before the fighters are technically due to be turning up, leant up against one of the cameras and sneering at the fish. Just look at those stupid fish. Floating around in there, swimming, like... fish. What a stupid idea for a hotel this place is.

Maybe he should break the aquarium. That could be funny. He'll have to remember that.

Well now, aren't you just the ruiner of all things good and fun, Iori!

Not that Ash Crimson has been having a blast here at Zack Island, far from it. He's fought the likes of Testament and Ryu Hayabusa, at a pool and in a caldera respectively. All he wanted was to escape the hubbub of Southtown for a few weeks, and thus his problems, only to encounter a whole slew of different troubles in paradise...

See what I did there? DO YOU SEE IT?!

Fine, don't acknowledge my jokes.

Since Hitomi quit the tournament after the match last weekend, Ash was forced to seek a new partner if he cared enough to continue... The flamewielding Frenchman didn't, content to let sleeping dogs lie, but apparently his popularity is such that the organizers saw fit to appoint someone else as his teammate, and he's been called in early for outfitting. Tough luck! Crimson... was dragged from his bed by an enthusiastic wardrobe team and rushed to the aquarium; he's not happy. It's his birthday, they should've left him alone.

Far from bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, he's something of an ogre. Worn and tired, with bags under his eyes and his blonde hair kept out of his face by a headband and hairtie. Makeup crews try their best to conceal what is a horrific bruise on the right size of his freckled face, but the results are negligible.

Ash is eventually lead out into the 'arena' by a chipper girl that natters on about nothing he really hears, saying something like, "Oh, that wetsuit fits you so well!" in a Southern accent. She's right, though. From his neck to his ankles, the foamed neoprene has been stretched over his lithe frame and looks pretty damn good. His shoulders and chest have been padded with some type of armor. It's supposed to suggest a sort of toughness, but to the Frenchman, he just feels bulky.

Oh yeah, he's got a protective cup, too. Fighting short girls could lead to potential... pain. In the worst area.

Camera crews are still completing their setting up, so she abandons him to wait and nips off for a coffee. Blue eyes flit to the glass, staring off at the tropical fish milling around in schools when a bright reflection of red catches his attention. And no, it's not present in the water, but across from him. Ash, hand on his slender hip, screws up his expression trying to place where he knows it, why he recognizes it.

The consciousness provides an answer for him without preamble.

"Iori Yagami," he says, slowly pivoting on the balls of his feet (those look like expensive water shoes, the wardrobe crews really went all-out so he could disapprove of as little as possible.) "You..."


There is an explosion of movement, literally. Ash blurs into a run, not understanding why and utterly bewildered, but he knows the name. The holder of the Yasakani Magatama, one of the three families... Is that his reason for doing this?! Or is it... something, like what happened with Igniz? He's filled with a hatred that doesn't even belong to him...

Jerking back his fist, his back arching, brilliant emerald bubbleflames ignite. They wreath his arm, encompass his hand. Suddenly, the sense is gone from his eyes, replaced with nothing but madness and a face that reveals no turns of the lips to indicate pleasure or confusion -- just emptiness. Ash attempts to plow his fist directly into Iori's skull, and possibly through it. If the cameras were rolling, would he have done the same?

No, probably not.

All around, the crews are gaping at him, startled and abandoning their tasks. "What the hell is going on?!" one shouts.

Iori Yagami only vaguely knew who was actually fighting today. 'Some singer maybe? Also a guy with weirdly good hair' was about as far as he cared to investigate. Frankly, his interest in who was fighting was basically nil; it was a fight in a dumb place in front of dumb cameras for dumb reasons. He was fairly confident in his ability to express his distaste no matter who it actually was who wound up walking out in front of him.

Then, Ash says his name. He looks up, one eyebrow raised. He's FAIRLY confident that he has never met this guy before. "Who the hell are you supposed to be?" Iori says, "Some sort of--"

Whatever remarkably witty thing Iori was going to compare Ash to will remain a mystery for all time, because Ash is suddenly across the distance between them, and doing his best to smash his fist into his skull. Perhaps even worse, the guy in the ridiculous padded wetsuit parading around for money called /him/ a maggot.

The camera is wrenched out of the hands of the stunned cameraman, and Ash's fist reduces it to so much half-melted plastic and exploded metal shards. There's a snarl on Iori's lips as he STILL has to twist out of the way to fully avoid the blow. The fine details - the blank eyes, the confusion and rising panic in the crowd, the crawling sensation at the back of his neck at the closeness of those green flames... none of that matters.


Iori's too-cool demeanor didn't last very long. Aiming to grab Ash by his ridiculously padded shoulders, the Yagami heir will - if he can get a good grip - rip downwards diagonally and, hopefully, fling the blonde fighter back against the aquarium. Either way, he's not backing down - fully intent on being in Ash's face almost immediately. Literally snarling with anger - he wanted to blow off some steam by being sarcastic about these losers, now he's having to actually FIGHT one of them?! GRAAA!


The fight begins, but not between the designated combatants. They're not all here, not yet. Until they arrive or Ash regains some sense of himself, there will only be pure, unfettered violence. His fist sinks deep into the camera, the plastic warped and distorted as his strange flames burn through it. The lens flies off, the small microphone. Other bits and pieces that explode outward disappear into obscurity, but the Frenchman is left with the bulk of it on his arm like some weird cybernetic extension of his body. Blue eyes twitch wider.

Wrenching the mangled equipment from Iori's grip, it is thrown at the glass of the aquarium without even so much as a glance. Or hint that he gives a single solitary shit, when it dings off the surface and shatters against the floor. A teeny tiny crack is left in its wake; eventually, the pressure of the water will force the web to grow and break apart...

That is, if something doesn't happen to trigger the deluge sooner.

How many fish will die today for the sins of man?

"..." is his response to the shouted, uh, one would suppose it was a question and not a threat, though the Yagami scion certainly does at least /sound/ threatening. Iori reaches out to grab ahold of Ash by the shoulders and does -- the French flameslinger offers nothing in the way of surprise or acknowledgement, the slender teen is just thrown against the aquarium. A different wall of glass, not the one he had flung the camera at.

It shudders, tropical fish scatter, and a mirthful snort is exhaled so harshly that his nostrils flare. A strand of blonde hair escapes its hold and flutters down into the young man's face. Is that all you can do, even after he called you a maggot, Iori? Ash doesn't lunge again, he stands rooted to the spot... But like hell those verdant flames that surge at his back will do the same. They thrash around in the throes of a horrible ecstasy, before bubbling and boiling forward.

Normally, Crimson would command them. He would point, say something, laugh in a manner that is saccharine sweet. Perhaps, a taunt or two.

But he continues to hold his tongue, consumed by the fury that has driven him berserk at the very sight of the Yagami scion.

A crew member squeaks in alarm, the crowd that has gathered for the match seems to understand the need to put distance between themselves and these two -- suddenly, there is pandemonium. Ash just... smiles. Faintly. And the whole world burns.

Well, not burns, but the conflagration crashes over him like a wave, seeking to test or destroy Iori as is its wont, should he find himself caught in the midst of it. Strange how there seems to be a small measure of control, because the flames and even the heat seem mindful of the surroundings, intent only upon the target. Crimson returns to himself, if he had even left to begin with.


Iori isn't exactly renowned for his witty reparte in battle, but even for him, this is far less eloquent than he would normally aim to be. Everything about Ash is pissing him off right now. The ridiculous outfit was an affront to his pride, but worse was the fact that Ash isn't bleeding, or explaining himself, or even really responding in any other way than to keep trying to hurt him!


Iori had been running forward - and he still is. Now, though, purple fire responds to the boiling rage in his heart. The cursed flames of the Yagami bloodline flare in defiance of the strange and disturbing green fire under the command of Ash Crimson. For the audience, it certainly makes a dramatic sight. They likely had not been expecting to see two men attempt to burn each other alive this evening.


Coming to a halt, arms raised against the bathing green flame, Iori's purple fire surges, coiling about his limbs. Unlike Ash's fire, there's not even an attempt made to control it as it sears out of him, unnatural and terrifying. It burns his arms, and draws a pained grimace onto the Yagami's lips.


That, is the last of Iori's Legendary Wit for today. The bellowed howl is coupled with a sharp hurl of his hand forwards into the flames, and the purple fire cascades to meet the green. There is a terrifying moment when the two collide, and a pillar of roaring purple flame sears upwards in response. Incredible pressure - which most in the room wouldn't even have been able to feel until that moment - suddenly releases as Iori's power meets Ash's head on...

Unattended chairs and tables burst into strangely-colored flames, people scream and fall about (although none of them will be hurt, because of Ash's intervention) and every glass in the place cracks.

Instantly, the world is full of steam and flopping, dying fish...

Which is why, when the others arrive, it is to a room which feels more like a sauna than a high-class hotel. Though of Iori - arguably the man at least /half/ responsible for this - there is absolutely no sign.

At least Ash is wearing a wetsuit, even if his hair is likely to suffer.

When the overachiever put in a request for a four week break from school, Justice High issued both good news and bad news. The good news was that they approved of her missing four weeks of class to attend the Trouble in Paradise tournament. The school favored students willing to put themselves out there in pursuit of martial talents and Athena Asamiya was among their most well known students in the fighting circuits. They were eager for her to continue her career in that direction as long as her grades kept up.

The bad news?
She wasn't approved to miss four weeks of class /work/.

Thus, outside of her appearances for the once per week battles she came all the way out here for, Athena has scarcely been seen. Even the Reality TV Hounds finally gave up on pursuing the idol fighter as one by one they grew weary of murmuing into the microphone 'And here is Athena Asamiya, head in a textbook... for another hour...' or 'The potential pop sensation, Athena Asamiya, typing away furiously at her sticker-covered pink laptop, in what must be another scintillating report on sixth century China...' It meant that her endearing partner, Momoko, had been largely left to her own devices. But on a peaceful, family friendly island like this, what could have possibly gone wrong?

At last, another week has gone by. Volleyball battles, wild parties, and extravagant banquets have all gone missed by the swamped student. But the matches themselves? The chance to fight alongside her partner in another test of skill, spirit, and determination? She wouldn't miss it. Escaping from books and homework, she rushed for the seaside hotel, having just barely had time to cobble together attire appropriate for the strangely juxtaposed themes of swimswuits and /TOUGH/. She would have to hurry - by no means did she want the match getting forfeit due to her being late. Imagine how disappointed Momoko would be!

Master Gentsai had given her nothing but grief for showing off in her fights before, but maybe a little bit of a showy entrance would be okay to make up for being thirty seconds behind the clock, right? The sprinting fighter is a good ways out when in one more step, she vanishes in a storm of swirling, rose hued energy.

An elliptical flash of pink heralds her arrival as Athena spins out of it, brandishing a golden sword that she sweeps out in a swift arc, a point blank swath of fiery orange psychokinetic flame bursting in its wake. A harmless illusion, all for the sake of making a flashy entrance. It's only after she completes her dramatic gesture that she notices the cry of alarm from already traumatized fight viewers who have seen just about enough flame already for one day given the pre-fight 'warm up'. Violet eyes glance around the room as she blinks in surprise at the disorderly seating, the damp, muggy air, the commotion as the audience vies for chairs as far away from the center stage as possible or is rushing to the exits all together... "...ara?"

Lowering the sword in her right hand and golden, lion-headed shield on her left arm, the crimson beribboned-bikini-clad arrival is starting to wonder if, in her haste, she has shown up at the wrong place all together. A quiet fidget has her adjusting the red and golden bands on her forearms, the golden head band with Valkyrie wings extending off both sides. She taps her sandal-clad foot a couple of times, cheeks reddening a little as she tucks her prop sword under her left shoulder and flips her violet hair back behind her ears and adjusts the long, narrow cloak resting against her back.

"Aah..." She's just about to start siddling out of the center area all together, increasingly convinced that all the commotion going on is from some other 'event', planned or otherwise, and that she absolutely must be in the wrong place. Maybe if she could find Momoko, that would help?


A loud metallic thumping sound suddenly becomes audible at the far side of the room, heavy impacts reverberating in a stacato rhythm like gongs being hammered at by an unsteady hand. The clatter slowly draws closer with each thud, growing louder and more ominious as a massive shadow springs to life near the stairs casting a silhouette of something terrible and fierce upon the floor.


Finally, after several long moments of this curious noise, the source steps around the corner and into full view of those gathered in the room. A figure like something out of an old black and white horror movie stomps forward with heavy measured strides. Clad from head to toe in an ancient bronze diving suit, the figure's body is obscured entirely behind layers of thick padding and chain mesh. Soggy seaweed hangs wet about the suit and loose along with a fresh coating of green grime. It sloshes muck behind it with every step leaving sticky footprints to mark its passing. A large bulbous sphere of cast bronze encapulates the individual's head, half a dozen spigots and ports for hoses and safety lines hanging empty or dangling bits of ruined rope as if it simply tore itself free from its tethers.

And this figure might be somewhat terrifying if it were not so tiny and adorable. Barely five feet tall even with the ancient diving suit on, Momoko reaches up with one heavily-gloved hand and pulls the view port open on her helmet, sporting one of her typical brilliant smiles. She scans about, actually having to twist her body entirely to manage this in the heavy gear, until she finds Athena.

"Oh, oh, Athena-sempai!" She takes in the outfit that her idol is wearing and immediately gains some redness to her cheeks. Momoko exhales in obvious awe. "Waaaa... you look so pretty..."

God deliver them all.

There are surreal situations and then there are those forced to arise by the singular circumstance of Zack Island. Like a rift in space and time, a separation betwixt Earth and Heaven that it woe betide any mere mortal to dare in the penetration, 'tis better not to question the details of an apparent reality - instead, to accept them upon faith alone. Whatever one purports to uphold, the universe is a single being, all things in it a breathing, adapting part of a greater whole. Sometimes it's just easier to say 'God' than accept that we're all a tiny girl in a diving suit or a sudden confusing interjection from a channel that claims to be 'Mature' when it's nothing like.

Right. Let's stop this silly nonsense and have some onomatopoeia:


The metallic caterwaul of Momoko's bizarrely-practical garb finds a comforting sisterly echo, of sorts, in the wary approaching stride of this battle's fourth - apparent mystery - combatant. Like treasure glinting beneath the ocean, silvery links flitter between the dormant waves of the abyss, a final and certain revelation parting the deep.

~Did that third one say 'Jiggle'~
~Surely not~

...Hey. A-hem.

Let the wisdom of Athena Asamiya be noted: where the studious maiden has bypassed the greater insanities of this place, the youngest ranking Officer amongst the ancient Order of Knights Templar has allowed her path to become mired in the incestuous delusions of Zack Island's many damned. Her path, right now, is a noisome one that's at one dissonantly silenced by a vast and terrifying pressure. Her movements rattle as flashing scales ripple against the harnessed totality of her earthly form...

Somewhere, an orangutan is playing a trumpet to perfection. Amy clears her throat.

How is it, that of all the strangeness the Templar has witnessed in a deceptively-short life, nothing draws her to such hesitation as placing the mercifully-shielded flat of her heel upon the flopping, gasping form of a dying angelfish?

Stormy blue eyes shift beyond her right flank, regarding the delicate spider-webbing of an infinite window holding at bay the summary judgement of her Lord. There's nothing comfortable about this situation, nothing rational or normal, no sanctuary to be found in faith alone. For the first time, she finds herself absolutely lost whilst perfectly able to name her location and the manner by which she reached it.

Steeling her convictions, the raven-haired barbarian - an epiphet whose reasoning shall be revealed in mere seconds, if this passage can be made complete - compassionately flicks God's creature aside with her big toe, allowing the fish to stop drowning in air to instead breathe deep of the puddle spreading at the corridor's edge. Do they all, bar the goddess, find themselves treading identical passages to reach the appointed place? Or is it Amy alone who must walk this path, as ever? Regardless, she finds the three at this unlikely, inevitable core, and it's the one to whom she gravitates...

...who defines her most of all.

"Why do I get the feeling, monsieur," comes that crisp, clear tone of the British crusader, her leather-gloved hands creaking as they massage life into eager digits. Passing through a cloud of steam that sets long, raven locks to a damp, swelling billow, she halts at the end of her journey with a last jiggle-jangle. "That my chances of winning your game have not improved since last we met?"

An enigmatic, teasing smile darts across the Templar's lips, and as one hand slides comfortably to the cock of her right hip the other lifts to fuss - without a lack of confidence - at the edge of the well-polished chainmail bikini bestowed upon her by the defender of the island above. A matching 'loincloth' adorns her lower half, the hanging maille held fast by virtue of tempered steel and cured flesh. Boots extend up her thighs, the kink and creak of leather doubtless pleasing to Zack's pagan gods...

Pale, lightly-freckled skin wears a flush from the cloying heat bestowed by flame tossed with no hope for cleansing; though it's not for this reason that the leanly-muscled woman standing above Ash Crimson - his partner, for his sins and her own - is today bearing the moniker: Red Amy. Her gaze lifts across the battlefield.

"And that our foes, there, are not the ones we should be fighting. Ah, well--"

With a keenly-blazing gleam of inappropriate attire, and a shifting of support so woefully inadequate that even her own, humble chest is forced to move in mysterious ways, Amy Elizabeth Johnson sinks her weight into spreading legs and allows her arms to smoothly rise about her torso, fingertips clawing at the air with accustomed command.

Stormy blues burn with a passion reflected in the responding hum of the looping, grayish tendrils that blossom from the steam of tortured depths. The alien atmosphere beneath Zack Island intensifies at the call of a very earthly mistress.

"On your feet, Lumière! If we stand together only once, let it be now!"

COMBATSYS: Amy has started a fight here on the right meter side.

                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |=------\-------\0              Amy

COMBATSYS: Ash has joined the fight here on the right meter side.

                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |=------\-------\0              Amy
                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0              Ash

COMBATSYS: Athena has joined the fight here on the left meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Athena           0/-------/------=|=------\-------\0              Amy
                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0              Ash

In the aftermath of the cataclysmic clash that vaporizes water leaking through the cracks of the glass into steam; that sets the first few viewing rows ablaze and sends what small crowd that has gathered thus far scattering in search of cover... His hair is suffering. It's damp, and the end of his ponytail is separated into stringy strands that cling to the back of his neck and the wetsuit. Ash just leaves it with elastic and headband, because to fuss with it is utterly pointless. He can't do anything about it, so he doesn't bother.

The makeup concealing the awful bruising is what suffers the most. A combination of heat and moisture in the air, his own sweat, causes the foundation to run. Almost half of the flamewielder's face is completely discoloured, a deep purple mess with fading yellow around the edges. At least the swelling has abated, allowing Ash to see properly, but for how long?

He'll probably get punched again. It's inevitable.

Hardly making good use of his regained sight, Ash blankly stares straight ahead, his flames snuffed and Iori successfully driven back... Crimson takes a moment to absorb what just happened. Find the anger again and its source. What exactly was he trying to achieve?

As always, the consciousness, ever so helpful when it's /not/ needed, lapses back into an amused silence, delighting in the struggle to come to terms.

A trembling hand rests in place, fingers pinching the freckled bridge of his nose. Having the slender digits so close to his eyes is unnerving; they cinch shut and block out the panic in the room. The grand entrance of Athena, even the clank-clank of Momoko's heavy diver suit goes entirely without acknowledgment. Ash hears nothing. Nothing save for one man's voice, ringing clear in his memory...

'Were you to slay a family and genuinely not remember... the proof is engraved in your blood, and etched in the souls you have taken. You still must be held accountable.'

It doesn't explain why he was driven into a mad rage at the sight of the Yagami scion, but the teen questions the hole that there seems to be in his memories, somehow fractured and pieces missing from the larger puzzle. Testament had said... he was savage, or other words along the same vein. What kind of person was/is Ash, and is it even possible? When the pyrokinetic tries to think more about parallel worlds, his head just aches.

Momoko expresses some sort of breathless awe at her teammate, rocking Ash from his reverie. His eyes take a moment to adjust, then there's shock. This sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach like he stands woefully alone at the precipice of the end of the world... That he's trapped in a bubble, seen but removed from the pair that are so insular and not even paying the slightest bit of attention to the aquarium tunnel surrounding them.

Or maybe, he is better off that way.

Ash recognizes the idol of Justice High. He doesn't know much else about her or her absence from the fetes, because he has been something of a ghost himself. Yet the cameras have found a strange love for the Frenchman who is surrounded by drama and not schoolwork, with Hitomi crying herself to sleep against his bloody chest and Testament's creepy obsession with him. No doubt the slashmurder is watching this, even now. Crimson...

Just bursts into laughter.

Laughter of relief, pain, confusion, fear. Emotions war within him for dominance and he doesn't know how to handle them except by throwing back his head, the lilting trill of his voice filling the entire 'hall' and echoing back.

The lithe fighter wraps an arm around his middle, dropping his shoulder against an arched pane of glass as he can barely stand. "Ahahahahaha!"

There is only an end when his teammate finally arrives in her scaled top and loincloth. Most of her jingle-jangle was lost until she's so close in proximity that Ash is forced to be aware of her presence. "Amee?" he winces. His eyes are dry, but his cheeks are sore. This is not what he had expected. At the same time, why couldn't Amy have been his partner from the start? Then he might not have seemed... so human, pulling Hitomi into his arms.

From what he knows of the Englishwoman, she wouldn't have been so stupidly emotional.

His smile is slight, but not forced. Any broader and it would be. Some part of the young man is genuinely happy to see her again, although he wishes that their reunion could've taken place elsewhere, not in front of two young girls who have been called, 'Pudding Hearts'. Ash figured this fight wouldn't be anything like the last, based on name alone. That is both a blessing and a bore in disguise.

"I don't think you'll need to wonder for much longer about my name; they'll be announcing it shortly." You know, once the cameras are up and rolling and... Ash actually doesn't want to wait. For starters, the cracks are spreading and reaching up overhead. Somehow there's (a) fish on the floor. This is going to turn into a death-trap and he can't swim. The flamboyant weirdo is starting now, and he has the blessing of his... uh, bible-thumping warrior chick.

Good enough.

"Heads up, Aaa~tena." There is no sound for 'th' in French, so his accent kind of butchers her name. Ash says it sweetly enough, however. Sweetly considering he's flinging a glob of odd acid green bubbleflames directly at the girl who he surprisingly didn't take a moment to check out. Crimson also barely did a once-over of Amy?! Clearly the encounter from earlier is still bothering him to a great degree.

COMBATSYS: Momoko has joined the fight here on the left meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Momoko           0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0              Amy
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Athena           0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0              Ash

COMBATSYS: Athena blocks Ash's Ventose.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Momoko           0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0              Amy
[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Athena           0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0              Ash

Savagery is inherent to the human core; it's not what separates us from animals, it's what keeps us in their midst. The trembling, doubtful rage of Crimson only reinforces something deep inside every being present - acknowledged or not, it's his inability to explain his more horrific actions and embrace the person that he is, regardless of them, that makes him all the more worthy. Of life, of being, of the Templar's attentions... she's no psychic, but she possesses a breed of insight that's as often inexplicably unerring as it is profoundly deceptive. Mysterious ways, indeed.

By like twist of circumstance, she can almost -feel- his emotions. The vestigial sensation of Iori's rampant chi-surge, alongside that of the Frenchman, is a humbling presence countered only in part by the bizarre, compelling void of 'Glamalot's' apparent foes for the evening. Particularly Amy's fellow scantily-clad warrior, who draws a dark flash of stormy eyes in the beholding. Interesting...

"Amee, if you like," comes her belated response to the wielder of bubbleflame, "It's enough that you know my name; and enough that I've met you, to know I'll bring my everything before your eyes. Now, monsieur, which one--"

"Hmph." He decides for them, and she's more than satisfied - this once - to allow another to seize the initative she so delights in. Control be damned, in just a single meeting she's realized she may have to relinquish that regardless when it comes to this delightfully-strange youth. His chosen opponent is regarded with another flickered glance before she shifts her rapidly-focusing attentions to the other. Smaller.

"I'll presume you can handle yourself, child," she calls, her crisply-accented tone rising and falling like a whip. The clouds of steam still dissipating seem to grow further now, and from their heated depths come coils of the Templar's own mist, the Dragon's Breath enveloping the undersea corridor in gray-white obfuscation. Amy snaps an arm upward, uncoiling with a looping uppercut that culminates with a magician-like unfurling of long, pale digits. "Presume the same of I, and we'll show the sinful residents of this island how a 'professional' fight should be! En guarde!!"

The mists bob in a surge, rippling tendrillously outward from the impact of snapping fingers, and then the Templar goes from posing to -moving-, her (barely) maille-clad form a gently-jangling blur as she crosses the field in the wake of Ash's fascinating flames. The fog closes around her, pulls at her shoulders and her back...

And then at the last thrusts her more deeply forward, her right arm thrusting outward in a singular palmheel strike to the breastbone of young Momoko. Not holding back, her resolve tightening at the point of the strike and the gathered mists whipping past her, following her arm's forthright motion to batter the Psycho Soldier with lashing chi.

Behind it, past her extended arm and spirit, Amy spares a fleeting smile.

"What's -your- name, child?"

COMBATSYS: Momoko blocks Amy's Stormaiden.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Momoko           0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0              Amy
[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Athena           0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0              Ash

For several seconds after making her dramatic appearance, Athena is quite convinced she's at the wrong place. Perhaps in her haste of feeling late, she mistook the directions. Or maybe her one hundred meter teleport wasn't as accurate as she had hoped... the technique had never woefully backfired before, but the slow onset of panic has her starting to second guess. The air is rife with anxiety and steam. The people around are anxious and the feedback only begins to make her more anxious.

And that manic laughter coming from the young man in the wetsuit isn't helping matters. Ironic then, perhaps, that the approach of the seaweed draped metallic beast is the sight that brings her the most comfort. Even before Momoko lifts the visor, revealing the pint sized diver for who she is, Athena knows full well who the metal suit conceals. A soft exhale of relief, shoulders dropping a little as the uncertainty melts from her, replaced with a warm appreciation for the confirmation her arriving partner provides.

She is where she was meant to be.

A gentle smile, born of friendship and the unexpected flattery of her fellow soldier in arms, works its way into her expression, the girl holding up her sword and shield with renewed confidence. "Thank you, Momoko-chan." There is a lilt of amusement to her voice - it is hard to look at the young fighter in full battle dress and not break out into a giggle at the very moment she is trying to center herself into a serious mindset for the battle.

"You look very tough," she replies in turn. She has no idea if the girl can even fight in a setup like that... but the only way to find out will be to give it a try, right? Just one more adventure, one more discovery to be made on this mysterious island. She breaths in then exhales, glancing over toward Crimson and then Red Amy in turn. She knows neither personally, but she has never been reluctant to meet other fighters in the field of combat. Some feel that is the only way to discover who they really are. Psychic walls bleed away a lot of the interference of strong emotions around her, but even as much as she has honed such filters, some get through all the same.

That their partners are not strangers to each other is clear enough, anyone capable of observing them interact would pick as much. But while the young woman so brazenly clad in the clanging bikini presents a stable front on the surface, the young man she is partnered with is anything but. The range of emotions cycled through are bewildering even as the girl tries to drown it all out. It will be distracting. But she is not in this alone. And that can make all the difference. A quiet glance to her side has her focused on Momoko once more, "You did great last time. Just give your best." she offers supportively. In the company of the young fighter, she can let down her guard, ever so slightly, opening way to feeling the emotions of her partner, creating a feedback loop that only builds on itself as the tiny combatant's energy swells. It will see her through this.

She tucks her golden sword beneath her left arm for a moment. It is merely a prop, of course. Even if it were real, she'd be as likely to hurt herself with it than any opponent. But she will hold it for now. Playing to themes of matches is not something she turns her nose up at. Surrendering herself to the spirit of the event comes easy.

Her right hand reaches to the collar of the cloak at her neck, fingers deftly unsapping the crimson choker before gripping the fine fabric and flinging the cape aside, allowing it to fall to the floor at her back. Such ornamentation would only get in the way of the battle.

As she reaches to draw the blade from beneath her arm, however, a strange thought goes through her mind - at once foreign yet familiar. A vision of another place, another age. Fingers close over the weapon and instead of a prop, she feels the heft of true gold-gilded steel. She swings the weapon out in front of her with a swish of sliced air. It is familiar. It shouldn't be.

Violet eyes, shrouded with a cloud of confusion, glance up at Crimson as he issues his warning. Between them hurtles emerald flame and in a fit of sudden alarm, Athena braces her legs, pivoting her left arm up to place the prop shield between the flame and herself. She shouldn't count on such flimsy construct to spare her the fire's touch - like so much else in Ash's path, it would be melted in an instant.

But it holds, the snarling lion protruding from its front keeping its form rather than becoming molten plastic. Green flames lash around her shield, licking at bare shoulders and thighs, but the worst of the attack is thwarted by the shield that should not have held.

Whipping her left arm to the side, she brandishes her golden blade, long, crimson ribbons dangling from its pommel where none were seen moments before.

Where confusion had been in her eyes before, now only confidence and certainty reign as she looks back toward Ash. It would be wrong to say that there was a palpable change to the air around her, but there is something about the girl's presence that changed dramatically the moment she came under fire.

"Ash Crimson." She pauses, looking away for a moment as if struck by another thought. It passes, eyes back on him, her expression serene but intense at once. "Yes... let us call you that. The time for disclosure is not at hand. Prepare yourself-"

She sprints, sandal clad feet smacking against the damp, smooth floor. From meters out, she takes to the air, leaping up with grace. Twin sparks of white light at her back almost seem to take the form of ephemeral wings, giving her a second uplift of movement -

It is the dive that comes at the apex of her ascent he need concern himself with the most. If he ever concerns himself with anything at all.

A steep dive straight for him, the golden sword igniting with purging flame, as his divine opponent attempts to drive it straight into his wetsuit armored chest.

The world becomes an odd place from within the protective shell of the ancient diving suit. Robbed of peripheral vision her sight is narrowed to little more than a small circle, a viewing portal to the goings on around her that focuses her attention on one thing at a time by necessity. This is alone is a strange sensation for the girl, so accustomed is she to doing three things at once that it is practically second nature. She fidgets involuntarily the moment that her efforts are no longer required for moving the behemoth contraption but even that is stiffled behind the layers of heavy cloth and mesh.

On the other hand, having one's world narrowed down to a single point of focus proves to be empowering when the object of her attention is one for which she has great affection. Athena's youthful bikini clad form takes up the entirity of the tiny diver's attention, like a submarine that has just turned its periscope upon a potential target. Sure, there's a few other things that are caught in the edges of the view or on the border of her other senses but none of them hold the same interest for her. The Templar woman's entrance is almost as noisy as her own; combined with her choice of attire the holy warrior would have had little competition for Momoko's scrutiny were it not for the presence of a goddess in their midst. Ash's wild laughter as he fights for control over the emotions warring within sends a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors through her psychic perceptions, lacking the same fortified mental barriers of her mentor, but all this manages to do is provide a sparkling backdrop of rainbow-hued sensation to the figure of utter perfection that has enraptured her.

Athena's voice only further draws the tiny dancer down into the whirlpool that her presence has created. Compliments wash over her in a tide of elation but the heavy bronze armor does nothing to protect her from these waves and she melts a little as their psyches link together providing her a connection to the idol on a level that most people will never get to experience. Momoko's face turns three shades of red in as many seconds, little cartoon hearts floating out to join the technicolor backdrop that encapsulates them.

"T-Thank you, Athena-sempai! Momoko will make you proud again!"

She would have been quite happy to stand there forever, locked in an eternity of blissful emotional warmth, fueled quite ironically in part by the man who feels nothing for anyone. Alas it is not to be. Ash regains his composure and his ego in tandem and turns those wicked green flames upon the goddess. The impact against her shield sends a wave of heat washing over the room that even the tiny colossus can feel through the open port on her helmet and she flinches, turning away and breaking the spell.

Amy's attentions are no less impressive and dramatic. Momoko's eyes widen as she turns to face her own sparring partner for the day only to find the woman in command of tentacles of smoke or steam. That' More distracting, however, is the fact that she's wearing very little and the parts of her that /are/ concealed are adorned in *sparkling* -shiny- /silver/ scales.

Momoko's pupils dilate like a cat that has just been handed a toy mouse stuffed to the brim with silvervine. She opens her mouth to answer the woman but the surge of psychic turmoil from mood whiplash merely requires her to just nod hurriedly several times instead. She drops into a loose stance that is both awkward and unfamilar, her typical flowing style being practically impossible in such an outfit.

When the first blow comes her way, Momoko's instincts tell her to avoid it; the metal weights on her feet have a different opinion. The girl leans to the side to try and twist herself out of the way but all she ends up doing is bringing the hard copper dome of her helmet into the path of the strike rather than the softer target of her chest.


The impact sends a reverberating ring through the girl's ears even as the bizzare mists assault her spirit, bypassing the physical protection provided to her entirely. She reels from the force, staggering backwards a couple of steps with heavy thuds, almost moving in slow motion as she attempts to compensate for the weight. Her resolve manages to see her steady. Shaking off the weird tingling sensation of having her bones rattled, Momoko tilts her body so that the Templar comes into view again and beams her another warm smile through the tiny viewing hole around her face.

"Hi there! I'm Momoko! Ummm..." She lifts a massive be-gloved hand to tap a finger against the side of the grimey helmet where her cheek would be if it were her face and looks a little sheepish. "I'm not really used to fighting in something like this but these nice people said Zack prepared it just for me so... well I guess I'll do my best! Let's have fun, okay?!"

With introductions out of the way, Momoko leans forward and rushes - well, stomps more aggressively - at Amy. With some effort she manages to lift one of her legs in an offensive manner, throwing it up towards the mail-clad knight in some semblance of a kick.

"By the way, I really like your outfit!"

COMBATSYS: Momoko successfully hits Amy with Medium Kick.
- Power hit! -

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Momoko           0/-------/------=|====---\-------\0              Amy
[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Athena           0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0              Ash

COMBATSYS: Ash fails to interrupt Unicorn Horn from Athena with Rapide Ventose.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Momoko           0/-------/------=|====---\-------\0              Amy
[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////        ]
Athena           0/-------/---====|=======\-------\0              Ash

So, would the complete acceptance of this... unexplainable occurrence, chalking it up to... He's not even sure, but if Ash did wave it off, would that make him unworthy?

Should he be dead or undeserving of the Templar's attentions?

If Crimson knew his sins, which have followed him back in time from a moment that no longer exists, he'd feel more inclined to give credence to them. To accept them. To be considered as unworthy because instead of pointlessly ruminating on the subject and standing still, he could eventually move past it all...

But he doesn't know what he has done, or did. This isn't black and white, it's not so simple.

The consciousness... won't allow the future to be repeated, so Ash is mired in confusion, influenced, controlled.

Or he's the best damn actor the world has ever seen, capable of fooling the one who intends to use him as a vessel to enter Utopia.

Truth and lies blend together into one. Amy can feel his emotions, perhaps. Athena can sense them better. As the real fight here begins in earnest, all is reduced to nothing. A door slams and locks them away. Nil remains. His smile grows wider the more detached he becomes, until it is cheerful and pleasant enough, rather typical of the flamewielding pyrokinetic, but empty. Just an expression, possessing artificial warmth. Blue eyes are windows to a void.

"Oho. Bring your everything, hmmmmm?" He finds it in him to be playful and flirtatious with his teammate, lifting both eyebrows. Passing Amy by to take the initiative, Ash's thin lips move and share a whisper with the darker haired Englishwoman that hints a better place and time...

Ash is only joking unless she wants to take him seriously.

Indeed, there's something about... control, when it comes to Ash. Something cold and calculating. Lazily half-lidded orbs become fox-like slits. His flames are hurled at Athena, who places the shield between heat and her not-adequately-dressed-to-be-set-on-fire (nubile) body. The snarling lion's head should be melted into a bubbling, runny plastic mass, with the consistency of syrup and no longer distinguishable from the rubbish camera still kicking around here somewhere...

However, it holds.

The Frenchman sighs aloud and shrugs, seeming to grow more and more distant. "Ahhhh~hhhhh." To read his emotions now is to be crushed by his apathy and his growing boredom... Until the pretty idol's demeanor changes. She's more confident, possibly showboating, and he doesn't need to wait for the announcements to ruin his little game with Red Amee, his opponent does it for him.


Still, Athena is regarded a bit more seriously than before, especially as she leaps into a steep dive that would pierce him through his heart were she equipped with a real blade.

Unfortunately, foam hurts ALMOST as bad. The blunted tip and her weight behind it put heavy pressure on wounds from his last match, where Crimson was actually cut open across his chest by an actual katana. "Urk!" escapes as he grimaces, feeling the bandages shift and the cut rip apart again beneath them. He's liable to be bleeding yet again, but hopefully not for long.

Ash's knees start to buckle and he is pitching backwards, so as to avoid falling, the fair-haired European reaches out in order to grab something that can steady him. The only something to grab is the foam sword, or Athena herself. Fingers close around the fake blade but the purging flames are real..ish, not quite. More similar to grasping a charged electric fence that isn't enough to kill, but leaves his arm tingling and fingers singed. Plumes of green, the start of another explosive blaze wreathes his arm, to protect or to burn away her weapon, but his birthright is rejected, unable to consume such purity. The fire is unable to overcome her very soul.

When he hits the marble floor, jarred but quick to recover, Ash snorts softly and laughs musically. Another surge of emotion as sluice gates open, just so Momoko has something to sparkle about. You emotional parasite.

Though she's been absorbed by the demonic undercurrents that seemingly sweep this island paradise, Knight Officer Johnson remains hilariously-unaware of her diminutive opponent's lustful passions as she throws forth her opening volley. The Dragon's Breath is keenly warded off, however, the suit perhaps doing its part to prevent the young psychic tasting the wildly-opposed element presented by the raven-haired warrior. Honestly, she's trying not to think about the diving suit as even being there...'s not too bad. She's sparred enough men packing full plate, and the impact against her palm isn't painful in the least-- she's a bit tougher than that, and indeed rather tougher in every sense than Crimson's former partner.

There'll be no tears from this one. She does however breathe a reasonably bright and vivacious laugh as the girl responds to her damningly-condescending query with politas and gentle, if - yes - childlike grace. The Templar's heart melts, and though she doesn't -precisely- let her guard down, her rearmost hand hovering with deceptive languidity into place to intercept the kick that follows...

Let's be fair, Momoko's apparent frailty does her a favour here. The clunky suit might slow the blow, but it carries through anyway, chafing the length of Amy's intercepting arm to then catch her full in the less-than-copious chest. The links of her bikini shimmer a protect, their rattling lost beneath the dramatic 'ouf!' of breath leaving lungs, and the Templar's solid stance is even broken. She's thrown into a backward skid, leather bootheels shrieking across steam-drenched tiles, only to catch herself with the formerly-striking hand downflung to aggressively brake with the same palm.

Folding it to a fist, Amy looks up with stormy eyes wild and expression stunned. She's impressed, she really is-- she expected no such counter from the girl, and though the motions were less than expert, that wild, untamed talent is rare to experience. A grin smears itself messily across her lips, and then her spirit roars a response.

But not before she responds to Ash Crimson.

"-Almost- everything. Worry about yourself, monsieur." Her gaze darts to him with a mischievous gleam, flicking very briefly to Athena and then back to Momoko, the Templar's voice lowering to a throaty murmur. "Thank you," she enthuses hard, her own pupils dilating not with lust but the adrenalized thrill of a mounting battle.

The Dragon's Breath, scattered by the earlier strike, mounts anew, looping tendrils seething inward to surround knight and psion. Amy twists at the hip and rends the air with her raised hand, the bruise upon her forearm silenced with a small effort of will and her hackles raising to the fore and beyond.

The mist follows the clawing motion of her hand, and a great swathe of it tears away a few feet from Momoko, lashing toward the tiny girl's vastly-expanded waistline to coil about her and close to a rough grip. The Templar closes a second fist, simultaneously pushing off from the ground with the first and entering a tight tumbling flip.

Whoosh. If the grip has been found, Momoko is suddenly flung rather viciously across the corridor toward the already-cracked upper curve of the aquarium. Tight, serpentine coils release her at the apex, the end result a body-twisting, messy release-suplex from hell; she'll even eat more of the mist's fury as she passes through it, battered and stung for the troubles of its stormy mistress.

"I like your skill and your passion," landing upon her feet and straightening into a loose, if rather intense, grappler's stance, Amy's tone is light but her attention riveted upon Momoko. Expecting trouble. Expecting a surprise. Expecting the best of the 'child'. "You're an ally of Athena Asamiya?" Oh, she knows a thing or two about Athena Asamiya. Enough to know her partner will have his hands full, too. "She chooses well."

COMBATSYS: Amy successfully hits Momoko with Ophidian Snare.
- Power hit! -

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Momoko           0/-------/-======|=======\-------\0              Amy
[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////        ]
Athena           0/-------/---====|=======\-------\0              Ash

The straps around her ankles that reinforce her sandals strain as Athena slides to a stop after her dive. A small plume is kicked up from the pooling water seeping into the room from a number of small leaks in already damaged glass. Surely, she must have seen the spark of green flame, the intended counter strike that would have caught her in the midst of her dive, but as she spins back on the Frenchman, sweeping her sword in a preemptively defensive slice through the air, her solemn expression reflecting no sign of fear or hesitation. The ribbons trailing from her sword swish through the air, before cracking like a whip as she doubles back the other way to keep her own movements unpredictable.

There is a keen edge to her approach to fighting Ash Crimson, almost a hint of barely perceived hostility. As if he represented, perhaps by not fault of his own, something condemnable. His laughter, out of place after the blow delivered, only seems to intensify her reaction. Voluminous violet hair sways about her shoulders and against her back, as if driven by currents that go unseen. Even moving with alacrity that would defy the ability of most to keep up, her bikini top is not overly strained at keeping her modest chest in check - compared to the curvaceous bodies of many who have flocked to Zack's island paradise, the best she has at best felt 'adequate'. Somehow, in spite the finely tuned connection she has with her decidedly more petite teammate, she has never sensed that in the eyes of the younger Psycho Soldier, she has nothing to be ashamed of.

Like every opponent she has faced in recent months, she is not showing any signs of letting up. There is a fiery tenaciousness to the way she attacks, as if something greater than a simple competative match was on the line. Every chance is a moment in which she might prove herself, every battle a test of how far she has come, an appraisal of how far yet she has to go.

The first strike of her blade was true even when the prop itself is not. No blood will likely stain the faux weapon this day, but that does not diminish in the slightest the threat of her attacks. "You laugh." she remarks, her tone judging in nature. "Here, we fight as athletes, putting on an impressive display for this island's patron."

She slides down to one knee then, her left splashing against the pooling water as her left arm reaches up as if grasping for something just over her shoulder. When her left arm snaps forward, her fingers are closed over what looks to be a very real, tangible bow made of wood. She hadn't entered with it - as if there were place to conceal it on her barely clothed body - yet here it is, the rules between reality and illusion blurring rapidly as the frantic battle speeds along.

Her right hand swings up and instead of her sword, it grips an arrow of molded gold, shimmering with rose hued energy as she brings her hand to the string and draws the bow.

"Would you laugh if this fight was real? Or would the mask finally crack? Maybe this is just the way you respond to confusion?" The vibrant energy flashes and the shaft of the arrow ignites with that same distinctive fire as her sword had before. Her stance is that of a trained battle archer as that arrow is aimed for Crimson's heart. That she had never fired a bow in her life doesn't seem to cross her mind as her fingers relax and the string snaps back into place.

The flaming arrow speeds for Ash, looking every bit as real as the bow she had wielded - the bow that is no longer occupying her left hand. Her right hand swings back as she pushes herself back up to standing, fingers curled around her strangely effective prop sword once more.

But should the arrow prove true, it will become clear in an instant that the shaft and head are only as real as one imagines them to be. If it fails to find its target, it would flicker and fade, a threat to no one else in the locale. Should Ash be struck, however, the blazing projectile would threaten to pierce him deeper than any sword.

The impact of her heavy boot actually surprises Momoko almost as much as it does the unfortunate Templar on the receiving end. Her attack had certainly been launched with all of the effort that the energetic little diva could muster but even the eternally optimistic teen fully expected such an obvious and slow strike to pose little challenge to someone skilled enough to be competing in these tournaments.

Caught with her leg halfway up in the air, Momoko's arms pinwheel for balance as she slowly teeters backwards. The massive dome of the helmet shifts her center of gravity to the very top, however, and, like a Jenga stack that has had too many daring players snatch pieces from its base, the girl goes tumbling backwards with a resounding clang. Once more the loud noise bounces around inside the dome like a gong sounded directly in her brain leaving Momoko stunned and her teeth rattling.

"Awawawa! This helmet is hurting more than it helps!"

She struggles to stand but the heavy bulk of the suit combined with its weight renders the adorable titan somewhat helpless, a mighty armored turtle that has be flipped onto its back. After a few attempts she manages to roll over and is just in the process of standing back up when the mist takes hold of her with a firm and sudden grip.

A shrill squeak of surprise follows her across the room as she's flung with no more difficulty than a child tossing aside a doll that it is no longer interested in. The magical mists hurl her through the air and with an ominous crack the heavy suit slams into the thick glass. Momoko tumbles back to the ground in an unpleasant heap, the weight of her helmet pulling her headfirst towards the floor like an oversized lawndart, earning her another ear-splitting impact even as the mists sear away at her spirit.

That... hurt. A lot. Even the suit couldn't fully cushion such a decisive and powerful blow. The little diver lies on the floor, her face mushed into the wet glass through the opening of the helmet's viewing port which still hangs open at a crooked angle. It takes a lot of effort just to peel herself off that wonderfully flat surface. It would be so much easier to just curl up and take a nap inside the warm suit, let the aching in her body vanish for a little while.

But then Athena would be left all alone; and even worse she might think less of her for giving up so easily. The fight had only just started but already she's wishing it hadn't. This was supposed to be a friendly match! That didn't feel friendly at all! It looks like she's not going to be able to play around here like she hoped.

Momoko groans and forces her battered muscles to obey, pushing aside the thoughts of weakness. She rises to her feet heavily. The weight of the suit still obviously impedes her movement but the girl soldiers on regardless. She turns in a small circle to face Amy, presenting her with the best 'grrr' face she can muster. Unfortunately, her features are cursed with eternal cuteness and even this gesture of annoyance is adorable in its own way.

"T-that was a pretty good one! But I'm not gonna give up so easily! Sempai is counting on me!"

Spurred on by this fresh surge of determination, Momoko lunges into action once again; this time there is some actual lunging going on. The massive suit barrels across the room, shoving aside chairs and furniature and other bits of debris left by the earlier exchange, a miniature juggernaut plowing through all that gets in its way. The loud clangs of her approach are like escalation of war drums as they beat out a much quicker rhythm than ever before filling the room with a noisy cacophany.

At the last moment, Momoko leaps into the air in a flying tackle. Rather than attempt to grapple the knight with her arms, however, she spins about and bends a little at the waist, thrusting her backside at Amy even as she and the full weight of the diving suit crash down like an old fashioned cannonball.


COMBATSYS: Amy blocks Momoko's Peach Attack.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Momoko           0/-------/-======|=======\-------\0              Amy
[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////        ]
Athena           0/-------/---====|=======\-------\0              Ash

COMBATSYS: Athena successfully hits Ash with Hamadrias Buster EX.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Momoko           0/-------/-======|=======\-------\0              Amy
[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Athena           0/-------/=======|=======\==-----\1              Ash

Across the battlefield from the frightfully-youthful goddess, at least one soul present is stirred by her words - for better or worse. The Templar's prime focus remains Momoko, knowing her place in this exchange and knowing through the network of knowledge available to her that she likely mounts little threat to Asamiya herself... the now-named Ash was a mystery until now, but his confidence is magnetic. She trusts he knows what he's doing, even as he seems initially overwhelmed by the psion's power.

With time purchased by the intense impact of her assault, the raven-haired lady knight shifts her attentions to Athena, watching Momoko gather her wits and body from the corner of her eye. They're far enough part that she couldn't capitalize if she wanted to; not without yielding the momentary advantage she has gained. Patience.

"Every fight is real," comes the fierce tone of the intense Brit, not cursing the 'pop star' with her speech but rather merely willing to challenge it. To see what this other girl is truly made of. She has heard much, believes little. There is only one God. These false idols... "We approach our struggles as we see fit, but never once believe you do not fight for your life with -every- breath, every impulse!"

Turning back to the incoming Momoko, Amy switches her stance, shifting so she has the left foot forward and leads with the left hand, fingertips curling within the mist.

"Show her what your life means, Lumière! Hold back only what you must!"

A child, playing at swords and bikini'd gallantry for fun. Because Zack Island is all about fun.

Except when you're Ash Crimson, and every single goddamn fight is like a death match, culminating in an epic finale that see-- Whoops, sorry, leaping ahead.

What he thinks of Athena is that she is just filling in a role, playing a part. It's necessary, and she strikes him as the 'good girl' type. Ash knows her by little else save for reputation. He might've caught a glimpse of her performance when she sang the anthem at some event, as well. The flamboyant flameslinger tends to be an excellent judge of character -- if things weren't spiralling wildly out of control into insanity, he would've been right.

Such a fact provides him with very little comfort.

Is it so wrong that he actually wanted some dull affair? They would trade hits, he'd ignite her foam weapon. Laughs all around, a lark.

Fuck this shit.

The Frenchman doesn't understand who he is really facing, not until she... condemns him? Judges him? The bridge of his freckled nose wrinkles, but Ash blithely waves off the words without a care, kipping up and patting dust from his backside. His shoulders ache, so he rotates them to ease the pain. Results are negligible, but movement still provides some small modicum of relief.

His smile is more of a sneer, snarky and sarcastic despite the trilling note ringing in his voice, his French lilt piercing the steam in the air that rises around him in the wake of having used yet more flames to fail to defend himself. "Saa, is that what we're supposed to be doing? I never did enjoy following orders," he pauses to utter a girlish giggle, splaying a hand across his lips. His nails this time are a deep crimson, as befitting his name and Amy's moniker, "Enough with the talking, however. I don't have all day~"

It would appear that he is not so attuned to the thoughts of his teammate, her heartening speech said in tandem with his own careless disregard. Blue eyes flash in a blink; he swallows the urge to remind the girl to focus on her own fight because that might suggest something matters to him beyond his own well-being and the consciousness makes a reappearance by scoffing in disgust. Ash ignores it.

He confirms that Athena is not herself the moment she levels him with an arrow, secured to the string of a bow constructed from perhaps her very soul. 'The Goddess of War and Wisdom,' whispers the voice in the back of his mind, but Ash shakes that off and holds his arms akimbo. Fingers curl over the neoprene wetsuit, gripping the protruding bone of his pelvis tightly. "Why don't you shut up, mademoiselle? Disappear from my world, right now." Crimson speaks before he even knows what he's saying, his voice dropping. The musical quality mingles freely with something darker, more threatening.


Her arrow flies, straight through the pectoral muscle and bursting from his back in a spray of blood, above his heart and slightly to the left. Ash... doesn't move. He doesn't even jerk at the sensation of the projectile entering and exiting his svelte frame. The energy of the attack all but confirms it and the teen with his myriad of emotions is locked away.

The whites of his eyes change to black, irises bleed red and glow. The European slouches more than before, and the hole... seals itself shut. The bruise... fades away.

All signs of injury, both visible and not, are gone.

The One who Rules Time gestures to the cameras, still trying to recover from Ash's earlier outburst, trying to prevent moisture from seeping in and destroying the devices, which Saiki fully endorses. They start breaking, crumbling, their time sucked away, their usefulness. The vessel begins to draw in power from the room itself, from even the likes of Amy and Momoko. The remnants of crowd and crew run pell-mell from this place. To the Templar, the owner of Crimson's memories of a future that no longer exists snaps harshly, "Callow whore, why am I not surprised that you have found him in this life, much like you did in the last?"

"Are you so weak?"


"Disgusting! Insignificant worms, beholden to pleasures of the flesh. How do you like him now?"

It is shown what his life means, but not by Ash. Another has taken control of the vessel of the pyrokinetic's body, "First, I will spill the blood of this one... And then I will come for you." A distortion of the air, a flicker. He fades from existence, much like how Athena herself teleports. All that is left in Ash's wake is a shimmer until he reappears before the Goddess given true form. Saiki drags back his leg, unleashing a kick that will send the purple-haired girl rocketing skywards, attempting to clip her directly under the chin. His muscles tense and flex with the movement as he commits himself to destroying yet another soul case that cannot possibly unleash the true potential of the one currently in command, much like himself. "Die! And by my grace, be reborn!"

COMBATSYS: Ash(?) successfully hits Athena with Yami Otoshi.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Momoko           0/-------/-======|=======\-------\0              Amy
[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Athena           1/-======/=======|===----\-------\0              Ash

"You're brave, and beautiful, Momoko. I've been remiss-- hngh!"

The Templar is forced to pause as her dimunitive foe launches a most unorthodox assault, those raised arms tipping back at the wrists to present a straddled double palm-heel, catching the rump of the diving suit with the rearmost as the other closes from the flank. It's almost more an open grip than a block, lending her traction and control as well as stealing the power from the hit. That travels through her legs, leather boots shifting only scantly against the slick flooring.

It's an effective motion, brisk and practical. It also leaves her fondling a girl so young she could only refer to her as a -child- before tasting her warrior's gifts. For the first time in recorded history, a woman dressed unashamedly as Red Sonja blushes.

"In, in not introducing myself...!!"

Pushing on both with her speech and the fight, Amy sinks into her haunches and shoves Momoko away, instantly utilizing the generated momentum to step forward into a three-sixty turn, driving from her hips the raised rear arm. It's already in place from the brief grapple, the elbow simply rotating through the circle to form a strike to the diving suit's side - somewhere, she thinks, just above the hip.

Kinomichi is not a striking art, and the mistress of the Dragon's Breath tends to rely upon its uncanny ability to close distance in an instant and act in seeming autonomy. But a warrior she is, a knight she is, and close combat cannot be evaded entirely. She brings her training together in a synergetic whole, and even as she moves, the mists sweep in to mount the bare flesh of her arm and form a striking plate of chi. It hardens only on impact, adding 'oomph' and searing, spiritual power to the attack.

"I'm Amy, and while I'm willing to enjoy myself, let's not rub -all- of our body parts together just yet, hmm?" Rather than falling back into her stance, she's pressing on now, pursuing Momoko whether or not she succeeds in dashing the girl from the air. Keeping close, maintaining pressure, and - as she senses the second nearby battle unfolding into something spectacular and dangerous - also protecting this girl.

Spring break is over. It's time for the Templar to be knightly once more.

It's time to-- suddenly, the very earth is roaring beneath her feet, far below the ocean to the planet's burning, purifying core. Her gaze flashes sidelong in a moment of distraction that may cost her; but it will cost her less than the scathing words imparted by Crimson, and far less than what ensues, perhaps. What is this...? More than spectacular and dangerous, the display that cuts off any retort she might otherwise have, her flesh reddened and her heart racing, makes even the Templar consider flight.

"Do not yield," she hisses to the young girl, forcing herself to ignore every impulse to turn upon the cruel, cold being that her teammate has become. No, not cold, she realizes-- like the heat of the planet itself. He burns her. Her mind is racing too, her thoughts a thousand in seconds. Let them finish this quickly that she might focus anew. "Come at me, and let's put on the display we're honourbound to give."

She smiles, as if to reassure. It is but a ghost, her gaze convicted nonetheless.

"Let Athena handle her fight. Put faith in her strength, and show me yours."

COMBATSYS: Momoko interrupts Quick Punch from Amy with Aumada Materu EX.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Momoko           1/-------/=======|=======\===----\1              Amy
[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Athena           1/-======/=======|===----\-------\0              Ash

Athena is airborne, because she has no say. Her body soars in an beautiful arc towards the ceiling and fish scatter at the sight. She floats like poetry in motion. A fall, a plummet, Ash suddenly there and swinging his leg around as an axe to cut the Goddess down. She smashes into the ground in a calculated strike, shattering plates of granite and marble. Some are even reduced to dust beneath her body.

Again, Ash reappears, stepping out through a ripple, driving his foot into the bare small of the girl's back. He digs in his heel, rotating it sharply, twisting skin, perhaps to rip and tear it apart as it is dragged across Athena's spine. "No, this is not enough." Saiki swoops down, somehow graceful and yet sadistic. Red eyes twitch wider in maniacal glee.

He snags a fistful of Athena's lovely hair and drags her up by it, bending her body unnaturally. Pulling so hard that her upper body is lifted entirely from stone, bits and pieces flaking off from her ribcage. "Is this what you wanted?" he seethes, the One who Rules Time leaning over, lips barely quivering. Warm breath bathes over the teen's ear, "Is this why you're here?"

"How dare you show yourself in my presence, as if to mock me. Do you think you can stop me? Do you think you can end this?! Kill the child, Athena!!" Saiki barks a harsh laugh, tresses parting ways with scalp as he intends to claim them, "Your bleeding heart would never allow you to destroy someone so innocent and undeserving!!"

"You had time enough to laugh moments before," comes Athena's answer to Ash's claim of not having all day. Her tone is stern with a hint of impatience, but no anger as she readies the bow of judgement, one knee still in the water. But as he demands that she disappear from his world this instant, the corner of her mouth curls downward into the slightest frown.

"I am not the one out of place here," she replies, fingers relaxing, the flaming gold arrow let loose. "Be gone."

The Templar's voice is heard from her side. She doesn't turn her head to look. She cannot take her eyes off the one she had just pierced with her heavenly arrow. She heard that change to his voice, the confirmation of that most feared but already strongly suspected.

"Your struggles heretofore now are nothing compared to what is to come," she speaks, a sense of urgency in her voice. "Hopefully your history has tempered your will sufficiently. Every trial, every test... preparation." What does she even know of the mist shaper? She had never even set eyes on Red Amy prior to now.

But she can't divert her attention from the one now rising. She stands up as well, her armaments out to her sides, shield to her left, golden sword to her right - lowered, but no less a threat for so swift is her ability to strike. The arrow hit its mark - energy though it may be, it pierced clean through with the level of deadly vehemence that betrays intent far beyond 'good sporting fun'. She knew the moment she saw him - the dark passenger that-

Athena Asamiya shakes her head, closing her eyes as she looks away from Ash Crimson. What is this? What did she think she knew? She forces her eyes open and looks back toward the young man as he shouts toward his partner. She can feel it - the vacuum of power, all of it being collected by him. There is a hole in his chest - where did that come from? And why is it healing so fast? The Justice High student glances around quickly, taking a staggering step back from the force speaking of spilling blood, a bewildered look in her eyes.

She is an easy target when he is upon her, his leg scything forward, crashing into her chin to send her airborn, vision already obscured by flashes of blinding light as she ascends for the glass ceiling of the already devastated restaurant. A helpless flail does nothing to ward off the fierce kick that drives her out of the sky - a falling comet that crashes face down against the tiled floor. The prop sword goes spinning along the floor, coming to a rest meters way as Athena presses down with her right hand - stunned but not incapacitated, she tries to move with every ounce of speed she can muster, every alarm in her mind urging her to look up, get up, and demonstrate that she will never give up in the face of such raw animosity.

Already one knee slips beneath her, her hand pressing down - the crunching heel against her lower back flattens the girl against the floor, a pained gasp escaping blood streaked lips. The twist of his heel marks her flesh, marks of chaffing against her spin, bleeding abrasions where his stomp brought the most kinetic force. When his hand takes hold of her hair and pulls the halpless fighter half up, her back bending, still pinned down by his foot, her muscles stretched painfully beyond their limits.

Her arms reach up, fingers desperately clawing at the monster's hand as the girl tries to break free of the excruciating situation she finds herself in - a plight she finds herself confused as to how it even happened in the first place?!

Beneath his foot, the sense of despair is almost overwhelming - memories flood to her mind of another time she felt so helpess, so in need of power greater than her own to survive. Water pools at the corners of her eyes. Unable to wrest her hair from his steely grip, she extends her right hand forward looking for aid.

Violet hair rips free into his hand as Athena lands hard against the damaged floor. She isn't even able to look up in time to see it - the bolt of brilliant white light from the left of the host. How she projected it from that direction in her state is not something she could even hope to answer herself. Huge, white feathered wings take form as the energy grows, stretches, and congeals into the from of a white pegasus - surely a phantasmal being of pure psychic energy, aiming to collide bodily into the epicenter of malevolence pinning Athena to the ground with his heel.

COMBATSYS: Ash(?!) endures Athena's Pegasus Fantasy.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Momoko           1/-------/=======|=======\===----\1              Amy
[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Athena           0/-------/-======|=======\-------\1              Ash

Fortunately, Momoko can neither feel the hands on her rear through the thick fabric of the suit nor detect the surface thoughts of the Templar as she chastizes herself for being so forward with the small girl; not because of her gender but her age. Few things incense the diminuative teen more than being called a child or coddled because she isn't quite as tall or developed as the other girls her age.

The sudden overwhelming presence of the being that rises up to inhabit Ash's body makes it a little hard to focus on such trivialities. The sheer magnitude of his power presses against the walls of her mind, the psychic gift that she possesses making her far more susceptible to the emotions of such intense beings without the skill or training to tune it out.

Amy's elbow drives into her midsection with precision movements, the knight's skills serving her well in the struggle against the weight and bizzare fighting style of the small armored dancer. The strike sends the airborne girl reeling and she tumbles once more to the floor under the bulk of her suit, dazed by the quick counter and the raw power radiating through the room.

She rises, slow as ever, and Amy comes at her a second time, her intent obvious and her power already proven. Momoko does not wish to suffer another blow like the one before, she doesn't want to be here, doesn't want to fight any more. This was supposed to be a vacation, something fun and simple. Why is this happening?!

"Stay back!"

Blazing neon light explodes around the diving suit in a pink flare as her mind lashes out at the most obvious target. Momoko leaps into the air, floating as lightly as butterfly as though the massive copper contraption wrapped about her slender form were little more than an illusion. The bulky suit contorts in an impossibly agile fashion as the acrobatic capoerista pulls herself into a whirling mid-air pirouette, spinning a full rotation through the air to build momentum and speed. Her thick copper boot snaps out, dropping like a sparkling meteor on the Templar's shoulder just as she stops and turns. The impact is brutal but the follow-through is messy and the girl tumbles onto the ground, her mind lit up with wild emotions.

That energy terrifies her. Suddenly beset by the weight of her gear once again, Momoko rolls back onto her feet and turns to bring the transformed man who wields the viridian flames into her narrow view. She cries out, eyes going wide, a hand extending towards the figure of her companion and idol as Athena is dealt a merciless blow. Ghostly aftershocks of sympathetic pain wash over her body, some physical empathy from seeing her friend treated to such brutality and others psychic lances of hot emotion from the mounting violence being put on display here.

Her first instincts are mixed, one voice demanding that she rush to the goddess' side and add her meager strength in battle against this horrible force while another urges her with insistent pleas to simply turn and flee from this unexplained clash of forces that are simply beyond her.

"I... I... w-what do I do?!"

It is Amy's words in the end that settle her tumultous soul enough for reason to reassert itself. Tearing herself away from the sight of Athena's suffering, Momoko glances up at the Templar. Confusion and fear is etched into every line of her youthful features, her big brown eyes wide with panic and barely contained tears. Just keep fighting. Believe. She... she can do that.


Thin, pale lips roll back from white rows of teeth, a horrible, savage grin splitting the young man's face in twain. It is a delight to be in the presence of a Goddess, even moreso when he has every intention of killing her. Fingers scrape over the neoprene sleeve in a futile effort to dislodge him; Saiki just grips harder, enough that he can see the girl's scalp likely bleeding underneath, somewhere. "Struggle, Athena!" he cries joyously, "I want to hear you scream. I want you to beg me for mercy. I will frame this moment for all eternity--" The eyes lit by an insanity so very far beyond reason stare into the teen's face. A low rumble sounds from his throat.

"No," Saiki whispers, twisting his hand as though that would bringing the divine being back, "Stupid /CHILD/! Unworthy, infantile creature of human flesh, bone and sinew!"

His fury is palpable, swelling like a crescendo. Momoko reacts like a scared little lamb, unable to throw off the suffocating force of Saiki's presence, enthralled and terrorized at much the same time. Now she will find herself set adrift in it, tossed around by turbulent waters. Venting a wordless howl of rage, the One who Rules Time attempts to throw the pretty idol at the floor while she reaches. In his palm, a clump of her hair.

Bearing down again with his foot, he discards the violet tresses. Trash. Any remaining threads are brushed away before he reaches to toy with his own - Ash's - platinum blonde locks... But it's tied back. Saiki is denied and unwilling to rectify the problem. Sigh. "You will reawaken her. /NOW/!!" he orders Athena, his tone brooks no argument, "First, I will kill the girl."

"Then the whore."

"Is that your wish, for them to suffer, powerless as you are to stop me?!"

He raises his fair head, searching for those named as targets. Amy continues to fight without yielding, the Dragon's Breath permeates the battleground, but she is ignoring the greater threat. That amuses him. Clearly Saiki is not the only monster to be found here.

But he grows tired of the farce, the show. Tired and perhaps even bored with the proceedings.

"I'll let the boy return, right as he stands in the piles of your broken bodies," Saiki says with a cold, chilling laugh--

Only to be cut short, because he's blinded by a brilliant light. Has the Goddess come back, does she have a form of her own? No. A horse with a magnificent wingspan, shining like a beacon in the darkness of the aquarium. Pegasus! Rays reflect off the glass in a double rainbow in every direction, but any that draw close to Ash's body are absorbed. Saiki requires an extraordinary amount of energy to sustain himself; his vessel was never meant to host a God. Even his anger was so much that it overwhelmed the Frenchman, sending him into a berserk rage against Iori Yagami.

Arms thrown wide, it is still the Goddess' power and he will TAKE IT FOR HIS OWN. The beast's nostrils flare as it gallops noiselessly, flank rippling with a translucent shimmer. Its wings fold in against the shoulders; the head lowers and the flamewielder embraces the psychic creature right around the neck.

He is thrown into the spidery web of cracks -- they grow, water bursts through the weaker fissures, streams and jets flooding the underground 'arena' that much faster. The last of the innocent bystanders are finally gone. Gone like Pegasus. Smoothing his hand over his ribs, his fingers glow with the white energy, warping it to repair internal organs that were punctured when his sternum shattered. A thin trickle of blood escapes the corner of his mouth, the only sign Saiki had come to harm. "Your existence is meaningless. All of you!! Let this be the end!" The end of the world.

Their world.

Schools of tropical fish turn belly-up, a poor shark. The clear, blue water of the ocean grows murky black. Glass ceases to groan under pressure, all of the crevices clogged and creating this great hush disturbed by breathing and guttering candles or the hum of electrics. Saiki seems... uninterested. Dispassionate. He twirls his finger and more of the energy is siphoned away, a thrum running through the floor as if it had pulsing veins and the One who Rules Time was the heart of it all.

One by one, fluorescents burst, showering the corridor with sparks and heated, frosted plexiglass.





Saiki is the only thing that can be seen, somehow. His skin is as white as snow, long hair falls around his shoulders. Dressed from head to toe in a cream-coloured attire quite similar to Ash's own, an arm extends. "Come," he says.

Everywhere, there are explosions. Hearing, sight... Both senses are returned. Water pours into the hall and it is alive with so many floating orbs of black that burst and sear, scorch and ricochet off the walls and supports, indiscriminate of their targets. More appear. More after that! One volley of detonations blends seamlessly into the next, creating one long and hollow note. A bang that extends on and on into forever and perhaps even further. His own eardrums ache from the pressure.

At the back of her mind, and only hers, Athena Asamiya hears two words. Something soft and gentle...

COMBATSYS: Amy endures Ash(??)'s #Kasumi EX+#.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Momoko           1/-------/=======|=======\====---\1              Amy
[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///                           ]
Athena           0/-------/=======|-------\-------\0              Ash

COMBATSYS: Athena blocks Ash(??)'s #Kasumi EX+#.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Momoko           1/-------/=======|=======\====---\1              Amy
[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///                           ]
Athena           1/-----==/=======|-------\-------\0              Ash

It feels like only a few short weeks ago that Amy Elizabeth Johnson and a mysterious, fox-faced creature called Lumière sat and exchanged teasing pleasantries in an understated coffee shop in Southtown Mall...

Flirting sure became complicated of late.

Momoko's instinctive strike upon the Templar pulls her momentarily from other concerns, the exceptional form and grace of the attack distracting if only because it reminds her why she's here; not to swallow fear and master her soulfire, not to defend and protect, not to do anything but battle in the name of self-improvement and entertainment. This lasts precisely as long as it takes for the accompanying burst of Psycho Power to work its way through pale flesh, only this finally forcing Amy to take a knee and expel a harsh yell of pain. No, not just pain-- shock, even horror. Everything flashes like a photo-negative, from her vision to her actual -thoughts-.

The Templar strives to maintain her composure, the blood pounding through her veins and skull assailed by what she might only later come to understand is psychic feedback and the wild, unpredictable effect this has on one with such a unique chi signature. The nature of her own talent lies in how inextricably she's tied to the Dragon's Breath, and it to her; she may not be of a legendary bloodline like the Kusanagi, may have a fraction of the power of they or the Yagama, or this 'Ash Crimson' whose very identity she now questions despite having never truly known it... but her chi is everything. It has defined her, placed her on a path that now feels predestined, and now it threatens to overwhelm her as her spirit screams bloody murder at the ravages inflicted upon it.

If she knew that she's seen - felt - nothing, yet, she'd almost want to laugh. Or cry. Perhaps she's not so far from the fragile Hitomi as she'd like to be, when confronted by such immense and unspeakable power as this. For now, she can at least look beyond it, pushing herself upright with only a small effort - the girl's attack, by itself, she could readily have brushed aside - and shifting her footing to ensure Momoko is kept on the other side of any vestigial explosion. She's sure one is coming.

Coiling her fingertips against the air, Amy attempts to keep her own power harnessed so she can use it to shield the frightened girl. Whose supposedly-divine friend is being destroyed behind the raven-haired knight. She daren't look, and doesn't need to. If something is coming, she'll feel it; even through the muddying effect of psionics.

'Do not yield'... 'Come at me'... her own words are dismal echoes...

'Put faith in her strength, and show me yours.'

She -hears- herself say it more than believes she really -does-, but then she finds her figurative feet and lifts her chin, a gentle toss of raven locks carrying the pride of purpose that makes her what she is. Dame Amy wouldn't be here today if she couldn't push through such horrors, if she couldn't survive the unsurvivable. She wouldn't even be a knight. Watching Momoko, and - somehow, she's still not sure how - FEELING her, the Templar allows everything but necessity to wash from her shoulders.

Around her, the Dragon's Breath has become cloying, rising thick to match the renewed conviction of her spirit. One half of the undersea chamber is almost entirely bleak with the stuff, now, gray-white and dense, just transparent enough to still view the action beyond - but it's seeming seconds from not even being that.

"Momoko," Amy says, as soon as the girl has spoken though it seems far longer has passed, the world's rhythm in delirious slow-motion, "I need you to--"

The mists ebb in a sudden, draining flood, looping tendrils twisting into dissipatng spirals as if to declare their inability or perhaps sheer lack of desire to deal with that's happening. Amy feels like she's DYING, from the inside out, and her breath chokes in her throat. Her hand reaches out on sheer instinct, to try and communicate what's happening, to try and reassure the girl in front of her that it's okay-- that...

Stormy blues swim, pupils shrinking to the tiniest pinpricks. The Templar struggles to remain standing, but catches her breath and finds her voice, commanding and bold. She speaks but a single word, empassioned by every mote of her being:


What's left of the Dragon's Breath howls into a lazy inferno, drifting like leaves spun into a tornado by a brisk winter wind. Mist coalesces upon mist, the totality sweeping back toward the Templar and briefly eclipsing her from view before it passes through to smash with surprising, suddenly-braking tenderness into the small girl and her ludicrous diving costume. Like a gentle giant's fist, there's no attempt or even likelihood of harming the girl, and the peculiar wave dashes to close about her a moment later, a knotted shell of misty strands at once holding her in place...

...and shielding her from harm. A goal in which Amy actually -fails- to underestimate what's coming; she certainly couldn't afford to protect herself, as well, her limit already pushed in performing this solitary action against all compulsion to lie down and do nothing. She won't be brought to her knees. She WILL not!

"You'll kill nothing, you abomination!" Her voice is powerful through the storm and through the over-bearing, crushing weight of Saiki's unbelievable fury. This isn't Ash Crimson, she knows now more clearly than she knows her own name, than she knows her God will protect her if she keeps her faith. Without her mist to aid in shielding her, as the lights fall and darkness overcomes all, the Templar is wide open. Mortal, in the most damning possible sense. "Not the girl--" The first explosion rocks her, and she can do -nothing- except withstand it, gritting her teeth as she's lost in the void - unsure she even has said teeth, unsure of anything but the fact she -must remain sure-. "Not this WHORE!!" She spits it, screaming anger and defiance, "And not..."

Her voice lowers even as she falls at a third, fourth, fifth explosion tears at her in short order. Her body is losing every sense of being, bones breaking and muscle tearing. She can feel blood dripping somewhere, maybe from the corners of her eyes or from her ruptured chest. Her lungs burn. A rib has penetrated them, she's distantly sure. But she can't care about that, can't let it affect her. Everything hurts.

Nothing matters. Not...

"Not the heathen goddess to whom you can't -hope- to compare."

She lifts her head with that, or thinks she does. She tries to. Behind her, the Dragon's Breath fails to respond to any kind of call, enveloping Momoko from the worst, only detracting further from the Templar's strength as she allows it to work alone. The Earth itself, the hand of God, the scales of the Wyrm, shielding her presumed ward. It doesn't have to last long. Just... long... enough. She screams, heartfelt and raw.

Her soul is in as much agony as its vessel, but in a pure, desperate moment of courage the Templar draws a conclusion that may damn them all. If she can hold out a few moments more, battered this way and that, flung to her knees and then blasted onto her back, rolling left and right as she's turned into living mincemeat by the unseen assault, she thinks she can make Momoko hear her. Certainly Athena, if all is true, if she can accept the most ridiculous thing, the most blasphemous thing...

She has been expecting a test of her faith for some time. Here it is.

<I can't hold it. But I can throw one thing at this monster. I need you. I need you both. I need you both to act with me. We can end this. We can save...>

What they can they save? She tries to form words, to think a message, and all she hears, sees and feels is black, unrelenting, unending pain. Amy is screaming again and she doesn't know how, why, or with what. Not even truly conscious that she's doing it, a long undying wail that comes from a place beyond all reckoning. She grasps for the final word as the assault comes to whatever close it might. As reality is forced back into being, as it must always be - until the very end, until apocalypse descends.

That day, swears the Templar, in the one part of her still able to swear, is not today.


Everything. As she thinks it, her scream cuts off with a gasp, and suddenly she's flopping upon the slickness of the floor, horribly conscious and aware of the damage to her earthly form. But the earth looks after it's own, and the Dragon is still alive. Momoko will find herself open now, to the water pouring down from above, to the air and the horrible croaking of Amy's broken lungs. She might be dying, but it doesn't matter; her spirit is stronger and greater than anything she carries on her bones. A great roar shakes the planet far below, and by the grace of God or the simple manifestation of chi at the urging of a prodigy only beginning to find her potential...

...pushed beyond it, to the limits of what she might one day become...

From beneath Saiki, the very rock splits apart, and lashing tendrils of misty chi thrust themselves into the deadened light beneath the ocean. Glowing with a blaze that cannot be extinguished, not now, the last action of the Templar, her will's final defiance, calls forth the wyrm whose coils bind the Earth. Tendrils grow in number, in scope and size, in ferocity, and in a single surreal moment they coalesce into the rising maw of a dragon, teeth looping into organic vibration as the whole moves as one, seeking to bite down upon this wicked, evil manifestation of spite.

The dragon roars, energetic winds battering the stricken tunnel as it breathes through a vast, painfully-alive maw. It chomps down hard, the fog a solid thing now, a quiet but fervent blaze of purpose and power. Perhaps it lacks what it might be, in time, but it might just be enough to hold Saiki still - to allow a goddess to step in...

Let their powers combine. Let the Earth and the heavens be as one.

For love. For justice.

<I believe.>

COMBATSYS: Amy can no longer fight.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///                           ]
Momoko           1/-------/=======|-------\-------\0              Ash
[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Athena           1/----===/=======|

Momoko stares straight ahead as the world unravels around her. She dare not cast her gaze to either side for fear of what she might see and for once since donning this atrocious suit of metal and mesh she is glad that her vision is so tightly restricted. Unfortunately, the dome of bronze does little to shield the girl against the sound of that which unfolds. Every vile threat, every bone crunching blow, every soul rending impact assaults her ears with full force and somehow she isn't entirely sure that her imagination isn't far worse than the reality of what might be creating them.

Once more the Templar calls to her and again her eyes seek out the comforting embrace of those gentle blue seas. This time, however, she finds them beset by storms of energy and pain, a roiling tempest whose nature lies far beyond anything she could hope to guess. Surrounded on all sides by mystery and power, Momoko quails with the knowledge that she has stepped into a world that she is not possibly prepared to deal with. Her knees grow weak and her spirit retreats leaving a cold empty numbness in its wake, only the stark clenching terror that has gripped her body keeping her upright.

Amy's command cuts through the haze like a blade of light, searing into her mind and banishing the doubt for but a single beautiful moment. A sharp gasp fills the girl's lungs with cold stale air that has been stripped of its lustre and life, even that basic component of the environment emptied of purpose to fuel the monster that stands before them. That too provides a powerful new feeling for her insensate mind and for a moment she wonders what it would be like if the entire world to suffer such a fate; parents, children, friends, teachers - everyone she's ever met or ever might meet lying broken and empty upon a field of black nothingness.

The mists close around her with that thought fresh upon the cusp of her consciousness. Rather than feel safer, however, the sudden thrust into complete isolation only brings with it more terror. Like the diving helmet, the swirling shield of ancient magic provides only protection from the visual horrors of what occurs next. For a normal person, that might have been sufficient. For someone without her gifts they might have been able to weather the storm of absolute nothingness in the dark, simply putting their trust in the strength of the one that has sacrificed their own safety to shield her from harm.

The mists do nothing to protect her mind. Unbalanced and alone, Momoko drops to her knees in a terrified crouch, both hands lifting up to wrap protectively about her head. The armored sphere does nothing but get in the way and this time she tires of it. She wrenches at it, tugging with all of her might but the rusted metal refuses to give way to such pitiful efforts. Panicking, she concentrates upon the seal about her neck, visualizing every subtle grove and curve of the bolts that hold it fast.

"Let me go!"

She screams the command in her mind but in reality the sound is little more than a shrill extended sob. Several sharp pops resound like gunshots in the darkness as the bolts simply shear themselves apart at her insistence and with a hurried wave of her arms she pushes the heavy obstruction aside. It clatters to the floor but the sound is absorbed and forgotten in the storm that rages around her.

Momoko claps her hands over her ears firmly, desperately seeking to block out the noise, but her efforts do nothing but intensify the assault upon her mind. Every strike and blast that hammers upon the flesh of her allies becomes a phantom echo in her own body, a ghostly reenactment of incredible suffering and heroic sacrifice. She feels the pain as if it is her own but it fades just as quickly leaving her only with the memory of what it might have been like to suffer at the hands of a god.

The memory of her own ordeal not but a month ago is quick to rush in to fill whatever gaps might be missing. Blades flash in the darkness, blood spilling upon the floor in thick crimson fronds. A pulsating darkness begins to creep up from within the depths of her soul, black and oozing with the fear and hatred that she has kept locked away. It seeps into her flesh, into her heart, and into her mind, overwhelming conscious thought with raw primal emotion and one selfish all-consuming desire - live.

She might have been lost then if not for the warm touch of another's presence upon her mind. The Templar, a shining beacon of law and order, reaches out to her. She speaks and with those words comes recognition. Recognition brings with it clarity and understanding and these things become anathema to the darkness that seeks to consume her from within, driving it back down into the depths to brood and wait for another chance.

The darkness leaves her stripped and raw inside. Tears pour down the girl's face in the darkness at the very memory of that overwhelming rage. She had thought herself strong enough to move past her pain and the memories of that dark night. She was wrong. It had only secreted itself away in the recesses of her mind, waiting for the right moment to strike and she had very nearly given in to that desire to destroy. It goes against everything that she is to hold such awful venom inside of her, a poison of such magnitude as to destroy all reason and hope. But perhaps that raw aggression could find a useful outlet today.

When the mists fail and fall away, Momoko is standing once more amid the ruins of the heavy suit, her slender body bare save for a pair of white undergarments soaked with sweat and sea water. Naturally, they're quite cute. Her large expressive eyes tell the stort of the horrors she has faced in those few short moments alone within the confines of her own psyche, the flesh around them red and puffy from her tears while haunted spectres of what might have been dance across their brown surface. But along with the fear and the doubt and the pain is something that the tiny girl has lacked of late, something that had been cut away from her by blade and by terror - resolve.

"I..." She speaks, her voice wavering from fear and from the cold. "I want..." Momoko's fists tighten at her sides, tiny trembling balls of bone and flesh that pose such a pathetic threat to the creature that she stands in defiance of as to be truly laughable. Her jaw clenches and she inhales deeply, drawing strength from the courage of the two women around her.


Brilliant psychic power, raw and untempered like a blade that has not yet been thrust into the forge, flares into sudden and violent life around the small teenage. Her will pours forth in a wild and reckless fury that casts her fragile form into stark relief against the overwhelming darkness.

She does not drive it back for it is not true light that conjurs at her command but that of her soul. What should have been a calm and gentle ember, safe to touch and draw warmth from its presence, is now a raging bonfire of barely restrained emotion. Momoko's voice rises in a building crescendo of pure sound and she lifts her hands up towards Saiki, those useless lumps of meat burning with neon pink luminscence.


At her single shouted word all of that light and emotion and power surges together, flowing through her body and spirit to converge into a tidal wave of defiant will. A beam of pure shining thought erupts from her hands and lances across the room carrying with it all of the terrible destruction that she can muster, hammering at the foul creature's very existence as if she might simply will him out of reality through sheer effort.

Fortunately, Amy's tits - while small - are the only part of it still intact enough to be discerned, and they jiggle tantalizingly as Momoko joins the assault.

Everything is bewildering to the girl in agony. Pinned to the ground by the brutal foot on her back, she cannot pry her way free from the crushing pressure on her tormented spine. The barriers to her mind, usually so expertly maintained to allow only the desired level of influence in, first crack, then shatter beneath the surge of malevolent emotion rising in her tormentor.

Another pained cry as he makes demands of her that she doesn't even comprehend. Reawaken who? What must she do to satisfy his demands? Terror grips her soul as she understands he means to kill Momoko. This must be some kind of nightmare - she remembers nothing of the moments leading to this waking hell, nothing since the moment she arrived and set eyes on her opponents.

"No... No, not that, I-" she stammers. She had, by the grace of less than a second, saved the carefree child from one slayer already. She would do anything to save her from another. Even "Anything, please, just- just let them-" Her pleading is cut short as lengths of her soft hair are wrenched free, the girl collapsing back against the floor, right arm lifting, outstretched. Offering her life would not sate his bloodthirst - he means to kill her along with the others. Blood atonements for sins she cannot comprehend. Fingers splayed, her face comes to rest against the damp, powderized tiles.

She never sees the intercession - that phantasmal creature born of power far purer than anything she consciously wielded. The Psycho Power that had struck audiences with awe and opponents with, if anything, at least respect for what the stunning prodigy could do... she thought she was mastering it under the old drunk's guidance.

The power giving life to that winged steed in that instant was as far beyond her skill as Mozart was beyond baby with a rattle.

The fearless creature crashes into the host body of Saiki even as ruthless hands squeeze in around its powerful neck. The impact sends the body flying, the hooved animal's momentum continuing forward into the darkness beginning to coalesce throughout the room. Just before its form is lost, it explodes into a shower of a million glimmering motes, many of them raining down over the prone, despairing fighter.

She never saw it - will never understand the pull from beyond the veil that created something so sublime as that mythological creature. But she can feel its effects, finding strength to move. Hands press down, head lowered, blood coursing down her right cheek from the top of her scalp. Tears mix with crimson beneath her face as the battered girl shakes her head and slowly pushes herself to her feet.

She has to get to Momoko. She has to get her away from this. Staggering, she turns, wobbling as if drunk, her arms at her sides as violet eyes seek her young friend from amid the confusion. Her hair whips about her shoulders as she tries to find her ally in the storm. It doesn't occur to her that the reason she can't find Momoko is because a knight is already protecting her from the building tempest, but eyes do trace over Amy across the way, her cursory sweep of the room pausing as if noticing the young woman for the very first time.

The fall of the blackest night floods the doomed chamber then. It is by instinct rather than awareness that the girl braces, her side toward the origin of unending darkness. She hefts her lion faced shield, a toy held as if to thwart the apocalypse. A shimmering, girl-sized barrier of energy errupts between her and the epicenter of destruction. It serves as a glimmering shield against the end meant for her and those with her. Even behind her psychic wall, the sounds of suffering permeate the underwater chamber. Black tendrils course around it, ebony energy splashes against it, but it holds true.

At first.
When it shatters, all sight of the wouldbe goddess is lost within a sea of True Dark with one final cry of anguish; one more life to fuel the madness.

Amy and Momoko are left to their ordeal - two alone against the wrath of one who has within him the knowledge to unmake worlds; two alone to fight, to defy, to hope, to believe.

Whether it is faith, whether it is their combined efforts to strike back against the Time Breaker, or whether it was a boon from the otherside, an answer to prayer unspoken, or the quiet words heard just as she was overcome by darkness - the first sign they are not consigned to fight alone manifests as a tiny white light amid the ocean of blackness; the last candle at midnight, the final spark of life at the end of creation.

Piercing the shroud, the brilliant speck grows, a hemisphere of expanding light. And there, in the center of it, head bowed, a radiant figure wrapped behind two luminous, resplendent wings weathering the tormenting darkness crashing against them. The angel beneath the shielding wings appears to be the same girl - but for the sanctified white robe about her body, the golden sash at her waist, and the crown of golden olive leaves across her brow. Arms raised, she moves forward, each step a battle unto its own, moving closer and closer to Saiki.

"No, Saiki..." she finally speaks, her voice serene and certain, "Not this time." With a Herculean surge of resolve, she forces her arms outward, the lush wings snapping behind her back, unleashing a shockwave against the darkness, driving it back away from her. "This is just the beginning."

The gifted young psychic's beam of unrefined but potent power pierces through toward the young man's form. The Mistbringer Dragon crushes its way upward for the parasite not nearly at his prime. At Athena's right and left flank, two painfully bright white portals erupt into being.

From each, massive armored warbeasts land at her sides. Their feline forms hard to perceive against the impossibly bright light. Each draws back its head as the one who called them lifts her hand imperiously over her head.

"You appeared too soon... Already the wheels are in motion. Your timelost artifice hurtles toward its final resolution."

The proclamation given, her hand snaps down, rendering judgement. The maws of the great lions stretch open further until they roar, unleashing twin spheres of purging flame directly toward Saiki. But it is not flesh they seek to burn, nor bone they would reduce to ash - their target is that kernal of putrid darkness that has claimed full control over Ash's body. Full control... but for that quiet voice heard through the storm. That call for help that proved the boy himself need not be destroyed this night.

COMBATSYS: Ash(!!) just-defends Amy, Momoko and Athena's As Above, So Below!

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////                         ]
Momoko           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0              Ash
[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Athena           0/-------/-----==|

Once upon a time, there were four souls who stood on the very precipice at the end of the world.

Their future was crumbling, timestreams becoming inexorably intertwined, permanently entangled.

And death, so much death.

The four, the last hope of humanity, brought a sphere to him, The One who Rules Time.

All he needed was one.

They entered his realm with the intention of stopping him, daring to challenge Saiki in his domain. A space removed from the physical plane of existence where all is nil and nothing is everything. An endless sprawl of white light and perfection. No sky above, no ground below.

The Void.

Here Saiki had resided for centuries and yet only for a second, and from here he would subjugate them. Rule as a God was meant to rule, as the Alpha and Omega.

It was taken from him. The Sphere Holder and his two companions. The Kusanagi scion. Later came his meddlesome, conniving descendant.

Love. His soul ripped from his battered and broken body for something so insignificant. Saiki was dragged down from his throne of the infinite and finite, all for an emotion that he cannot comprehend. That he abhors with every fibre of his being.

Because of love, he lost his physical form and had to struggle to survive. He had already lost his followers, he was trapped in a vessel that resisted his control. But Saiki never lost sight of his Utopia. A clean, flawless, absolute world of his own design. Would there have been anyone but him in this Elysium? Does it matter?

In one last, final effort, he sought to destroy the four, forcefully wielding his descendant with the same wreckless abandon he has shown here today...

But the times have changed, literally. There is no Gate, not yet, and no Elisabeth Blanctorche, no... love. Just Ash Crimson and the three women, one of whom is the present-day incarnation of the Goddess Athena. Should he fail to annihilate them, he cannot bend the past, present and future to his whims as he had once before. As he had when Ash returned to the beginning; the boy who had never known his ancestor and the one who had stood against him merged into a single being. It was Saiki's wish to start again, but now his vessel is too inexperienced, the amount of energy he requires to sustain himself is a heavy price to pay whenever he should surface. If he relied on the child's energy alone, without the Sacred Treasures, it would kill him. And then where would Saiki be but dead as well. He has become a fixed point, trapped and hoisted by his own petard.

His story would not matter were it not for the strength of the psychic spirit, running rampant throughout the hotel's underground aquarium in pink and white. Threads of energy are woven together overhead in bright luminescence and form a web that siphons the memories from him, broadcasting them as still frames to everyone in the room. There are pictures that appear as though they've been burned, in brutal flashes of black and crimson, while others are crisp and clear and gray. Every second before his downfall...

Saiki's pure, but impotent rage.

The faces of the four are blurred in every projection, so much that they slip away easily into obscurity, indistinguishable. They could be anyone, anyone with the courage to make a stand against him... Much like how these three do now, at this very moment. His fury is intense, destructive, feral. It can be felt even by Amy, how much he hates those who put an end to him, how much he hates the women who seek the same.

Disgusting, vile humans. They never truly understand what is good for them. They destroy their own planet, then absolve themselves of all responsibility. When a being is sent to rule them, to punish them, they revolt against it. Wolves in the skin of lambs. Parasites infecting the host. Those from His Distant Land facilitated the process, serving as a conduit to the cataclysmic destruction and sacrificed their lives to ensure his success.

They believed in him, died believing in him.

If only they were with him now.

Blackened orbs give way at the crash of a suit, screams of defiance from the smallest of them all. Mist roils and gray tendrils seize him. Saiki's eyes glimmer with petulance, his jaw set in arrogance. Cruelly grinning, he is devoured whole by the great wyrm, the tiled floor splitting at his feet. Water whirls as it is drained through the cracks and crevices, but not quickly enough. More floods the corridor that much faster, rushing in and swamping their legs. An unencumbered blast of vibrant coral pierces the din...

In that instant, the two combine, both different forms of energy blending seamlessly together into one coherent whole. The Dragon's Breath, gift from God, and a pure soul. It bridges the gap between minds, as well. Saiki's very essence of being crawls along the thread that connects him to Amy and Momoko, invading and striking like a serpent with illusions and delusions that cannot be dispelled. He will drive them insane, then he will kill the shrieking avatar of Athena.

Saiki's end, Ash pulling his oldest friend into an embrace, but when the young man lifts his head, his face is a hole. He has no face. It is a pit, with nothing but the darkness, surging forward. He moves as it does, jerking and twitching, limbs twisting grotesquely and popping like a horrible, life-sized marionette from hell. The faceless Frenchman reaches each girl at the same time -- they are unable to see one another, trapped in individual nightmarish spaces where things happen simultaneously. All is the hollow; hands as cold as ice with translucent skin stretched over bone reach to cup their cheeks and leech the warmth. This mockery of Ash Crimson lurches, and his gaping facial cavity... grows exponentially, until it swallows them.

Thrown to the abyss, Amy and Momoko see a future. A future built on utter ruination. The world as it would be, if The One who Rules Time had won.

No buildings, for they have all collapsed. No people, for they are all dead. No animals, because he cares not for unnecessary creatures meant to stabilize the eco-system. Saiki is far beyond that.

What once was a street has become a mere ghost, the asphalt crumbling, weeds sprouting through the fissures, brown and scorched by the sun. The sun, is it closer now? Look, glance, the brilliant, burning ball of gas hovers over the planet like a wrathful titan of old. It is as though the Earth was set on a collision course, ensuring that life may not exist ever again. Their vision does not linger; it quickly speeds them through the rest of the city, which must be Southtown, high above like birds in flight. Leathery wings beat, the wind howls in dry raucous laughter. A barren, charred countryside is the graveyard for cattle and people alike, their skeletal remains baking into mush.

At journey's end, Amy and Momoko soar through the window of a dilapidated shrine, the bodies of the four who last stood against him hung by ropes in all corners of the room. Some are missing arms, others are mangled fleshbags of rotting meat. The only 'complete' corpse is Ash Crimson, who has been dropped on the floor like an unwanted toy. While his face has been smashed beyond recognition, caving inwards, it is still so plainly him.

The soft rumble of a man who chuckles in a condescending manner awaits beyond the scene. Saiki. He is there. He lounges on a magnificent throne made of human skulls; a creation bleached white to suit his garb with hundreds of empty, staring sockets that accuse both women as they draw near. His long legs dangle over an arm. Held by the hair, he holds a decapitated head aloft. It is their own, each in their separate dream. Expression frozen in horror, the jaw hangs unhinged and a rotting tongue lolls about. Lips have begun to peel back from teeth, eyes have sunken in to decompose...

Yet, there are no eyes. Suddenly, they're gone.

A flash, more darkness. The head remains to be gazed upon, but not gripped by brown or black tresses. Now it is a reflection in an ornate, antique mirror. An abomination that glares back. The face fades, replaced by another void.

It disappears, Saiki disappears. His terrible dystopia of death and destruction... disappears.

"Close your eyes," comes a voice, gentle and nearby, "I will help you."

Illuminated by a single light in the dark, Ash is there. Not Ash as he is, but as he was. Older, sincere, different. The man who had stepped through the Gate with good intentions, tried to set things to rights. When he strides forward purposefully, he reaches out to Amy, smiling faintly. His touch is warm, can be felt even in her soul, as he closes the eye of her mind. In doing so, energy surges through the Templar. Her own Dragon's Breath. It cannot repair her scaled armor or the loincloth, but her bones crick and knit back together, tendons and sinew reattach. All of her injuries... Are swept away. She is restored to full strength.

"You will live, I promise," he says to Momoko as the final connection is severed, "Don't be afraid."

* * *

Saiki absorbs both attacks in full, rocking back, his burning eyes wild. "You no longer /EXIST/!" he shrieks, condemning the flamewielder of the true future that is gone, arm slicing through the air. "Do you hear me?!" His only answer is not from Ash but the gradual descent of the real Goddess, her angellic form a blight on this Earth. He scowls at her ethereal form in hideous disapproval. She summons her white beasts to separate soul from soul, but he is as much a part of his descendant now as his descendant is a part of him.

Athena's power is like a rich feast. Before she strikes, he's gorging himself on it. The armored warbeasts have already begun to break down by the time twin blasts find him, but they are only dashing hopes and dreams against the hard rocks of futility. His irises blanche, white and pure as the power of the Goddess. Saiki won't be able to kill her, not like this, not even if he siphoned all of her energy from here on into infinity... If he could. "How DARE you presume that you know anything, Athena! I am The One who Rules Time! Take from me your pyrrhic victory, I shall ret--"

The steady thrum of a heartbeat comes to a jarring, shuddering stop. It can be felt through the floor.

The water ripples.

The fog of his irises clears, restoring them to a blue like the clear sky. Ash, as he is this day, his expression shock and alarm... is dying.

He is dying because that was his heart, stopping. He is dying because Saiki tried to hoard the Goddess' energy, which Ash is a poor conduit. This fact was entirely forgotten when his ancestor was enthralled by her power. White light bleeds out from his ears and mouth. The slender teen has seconds before losing consciousness, and then...

Time over.

Blue eyes roll up and Ash folds like a house of cards. His lean frame pitches forward to land in the water, but there is no splash or sound to signify such. A distortion appears right above the expanding vortex, which he vanishes through. The ceiling gives its last warning, a groan that the glass all over echoes. All three of the remaining fighters must leave and get back to the hotel or ground. Now.

Later in the evening, Ash wakes up screaming, tearing at his chest, still in the neoprene wetsuit... His surroundings are familiar, like the residences at Zack Island or home. He's dead, he's DEAD! He's... dead? Hand to his chest, the European can feel his heart, quickening with distress. It starts to slow as his breathing grows more regular.

'You /owe/ me,' the consciousness snarls as it retreats from Crimson's mind, back into the recesses where it belongs. Hopefully it will never resurface again.

COMBATSYS: Ash has left the fight here.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Momoko           0/-------/-------|
[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Athena           0/-------/-----==|

To save -everything-, to safeguard the very future of the planet...

It requires an immeasurable sacrifice; one drop of blood for every man, woman and child, one lost breath for every city, town and village, one heartbeat for every laugh, sigh and smile. Amy Johnson isn't just prepared to unite with an entity of questionable cosmic significance, to trust a shrill-voiced pop starlet whose measure beyond that dubious role is absolutely and completely uncertain. She's not just prepared to trust to young, eager Momoko, a mere girl in an over-burdening diving suit...

Her life is placed on the line and pushed beyond it, her last action the total surrender of self to a wing and a prayer. The dragon's roar becomes a death knell, becomes the wind that launches her toward the light. The Templar feels herself falling, and the last, perverse thing she hears is Momoko's cry: 'I want to live!'

She doesn't care. The raven-haired knight doesn't care if she lives.

She cares that this foul entity, this corrupt and sinister beast borne from the darkness before time, from the space between all other spaces, is banished from whence it came. No; obliterated, even, snuffed out like a burning candle's flame.

Amy's sacrifice is made without a whimper, without a protest, and her prayer is answered by Athena. Not Athena Asamiya, not the simpering joy of a thousand otaku hearts, but by a Goddess the young Catholic should not believe in. A heathen presence, so unrestrainedly real and so heart-wrenchingly powerful that she makes this moment possible. But the Templar is already slipping away when this revelation strikes, like the cranking of a torture rack upon a body already pushed past breaking, there's no mental space for the realization to fill. Nothing but an emptiness so profound.

Love? What is love?

What is anything?

Anything is hate. Everything is hate.

The Templar has long believed that she's destined to suffer eternally, but there was a moment before her release that she saw the light and believed - truly accepted - that forgiveness was indeed the ultimate end promised by her God, that the dragon-priest had been right in condemning her bitter resignation as a self-wrought delusion. She could feel the embrace beyond, see the seat prepared at His right hand, and now it's snatched away as her soul begins to scream anew. She's subjected to Saiki's vision, to his desire, to his own, final and inescapable truth. Destruction. Defeat.

Her soul is screaming, but somewhere Amy knows it's a delusion. She has spent years adjusting to the conviction of damnation, pledging her final rest to Hell as some divine surcharge upon the grossly inflated interest of her sins. To accept eternal suffering is to accept defeat, is to accept loss and pain and bleakness beyond all else. She's not terrified by what she sees, not really, because she already knows that this is Hell and here she must dwell - in suffering. There's nothing pleasant in this, nothing right, and all that ultimately descends is a sadness. Beyond fear, far beyond, it's the misery of consignment, the melancholy of one who didn't wish to be right.

She may have prepared for this, but she doesn't want it. She never wanted it.

It's not... fair. Can her Lord's judgement be so cruel? After all she's strived for?

Close your eyes, says the voice, the voice of rebellion, of sin and temptation and a strange, unyielding joy. The joy that the Templar took in life, knowing she'd burn for it, that she took by way of advance payment for the sins she'd commit. Her reward, before it was due. That was the choice she made; to live her life and yet perform good deeds, not to abstain and suffer, not to martyr her physical form. Paying for fleshy pleasure with spiritual damnation. If she's only a spirit, she wonders, how can she close her eyes? How can she stop screaming? How can she act at all?

She rebels once more. Her eyes remain open. Her mouth, though the scream stops, just a touch as well; her lips parted, her teeth bared as she touches the tip of her tongue to the enamel, watching the familiar - and yet subtly altered - face of Ash Crimson. What did the abomination say, before it led her to destruction? That she'd been drawn to him before? Was the implication that they were intertwined, she and the enigmatic, laughing Frenchman? The Hound of Avalon and the fox-faced trickster. She breathes a laugh.

Below, beyond, above and without. Within, even. At every point she feels the incessant warmth of his mercy and compassion, the knitting of physical tissue healing also the fractured and embittered spirit of the lady knight. Saving her, in every sense. She's barely aware of the sinew knitting, the flesh peeling together like paper ripped in reverse, the blood seeping back into holey veins. Holy veins. She laughs again.

"I'm not afraid."

Within the vision, it's a clear and empassioned delivery. In reality, as the Templar reawakens with a flutter of eyelids over stormy blues, with a crunching of brittle bones held together by... by love? Is this what love feels like? Regardless, in reality her voice is a harsh croak, pathetic and desperate, but filled - at least - and embodied by the same passion that forced her every move in life. That continues to. She's alive, she realizes, as water continues to cascade upon her, salty and freezing, her reformed and reconstituted form shivering in wild recognition of the stimulus.

Her scandalous, ludicrous costume hangs off her in broken scales, glinting all the brighter in the darkness beneath the waves as it's drenched by the sea's own blood. The beating heart of the ocean itself rises in her breast, and heedless of her disrobing, of the nudity beneath a scanty covering no longer adequate to what little purpose it had - the opposite, she dimly registers with renewing confidence, of herself - the Templar pushes herself upright and stands tall within the death trap corridor.

It's such a bold motion that it extinguishes her energy momentarily. She's back in the vision, outwardly swooning as images flash before her eyes - four figures, dim recollection of features teasing at the frayed ends of memories, slipping by like a dream as she feverishly attempts to catalogue it all. Skulls. Her own severed head. That terrible countenance of Saiki, no longer before her but inside her. Perhaps he'll always be there - perhaps she is changed, irrevocably. Nothing will ever be the same.

And then, above it all, through it all. Ash's shattered, hollow visage.

She can't use the word 'face', can't even think it. No face should appear thus. No man.

A shiver runs the length of her spine, and then with a hiss of animal fury, of the sheer need to survive at all costs - to drag herself free with the gift she's been given - she spins toward the girl who must surely be nearby. Surely the world - her God - is not so cruel. Surely Ash Crimson is not so cruel. Plunging through the darkness, she strives for the child and seizes her in strong, shaking arms, pressing that small form to her chest with one arm, the other hand going to brush back dishevelled hair.

Like a mother, she instinctively hushes any complaint. Like a lioness, she pushes forward through the shadows. Breathing a silent prayer to both her Lord and the too-true idol that interceded here today - in a harsh and cold moment, reminiscent of so much prejudice and hate, reasoning that the goddess will save herself, if goddess she be. As the cracked and shattered corridor succumbs to vast pressure, Amy only thinks of saving the one thing she knows she can - the future. The girl. If she's been saved for a purpose, let this be it, and let every other hence...

Anything is better than returning to that place. She must survive. Must save another as she does. To be alone is madness, in that world, before that hollow mockery of a man. For every one she saves, another will stand with her. Behind her. Before her.

She closes her eyes to ward off the Void, and plunges on into a brighter future.

Hell is not her destination today.

The flash of brilliance as her own soul pours forth from her hands in hot blazing power blinds Momoko briefly. Not because of something as simple as an excess of light or heat for such things do not apply to the energy that she wields; rather it is the sheer magnitude of the anger and hate that pours out from within her mind that stuns her into shocked withdrawal. Even only as phantom echoes of the darkness that she had driven back, it burns at her with the heat of a thousand suns, searing away the delusions of innocence and showing her a side of herself that she has only recently come to realize exists.

Reeling from the ferocity of her own desires, Saiki's viscous presence meets no resistance when it comes creeping back down the channel that she herself opened between them. Her mind fills with noise as the faceless body of the man she knows only by name rises up through some fell power. Momoko attempts to take a step back to turn and flee from this visage of horror, but the cold lifeless touch of the deathless puppet is upon her face in an instant and as her gaze locks with that vast and infinite void she becomes ensnared in a black hole from which there is no escape.

The sound rises to a new pitch as she is pulled into a hellscape of possibility, a shrill buzzing drone that she cannot place yet refuses to be ignored. It is distracting and terrifying for reasons she cannot explain and yet those emotions remain separate from her somehow as if they too are merely possibilities.

A vision of the world as it could be slowly unfolds in the darkest depths of the girl's mind. Saiki's haunting power etches the truth of his reality upon her soul with the wicked grace of a peerless artisan, macabre visions too real to be disbelieved and too terrible to be possible. A vast emptiness replaces everything, all that could have been and ever will be naught but dust and blasted forgotten ruins.

Momoko absorbs all of these details with the quiet resolve of an observer too far detached from the reality around her to be a part of it and yet utterly certain of its inevitability. The end of all life, all happiness and suffering, all sadness and warmth; all of it boils down to a meaningless pointless existence that is doomed to end in fire and solitude.

Within her cocoon of faith and purpose, the Templar has atleast some protection to ward off the 'truth' that Saiki imposes upon her, something to grasp onto and believe in, something that might offer a beacon to guide her out of the mire of darkness; the small psychic has no such defenses. Little more than a girl with extraordinary powers that she herself does not understand, Momoko is beset by horrors for which she could not possibly be prepared. The shrine to the one who would sit at the end of time alone on his throne of skulls rushes past her in a flash. The bodies of the four dangle around her like grim wind chimes. Though she has never seen them before the importance of this gesture is impressed upon her as simply another facet of this reality and she instinctively turns her gaze away from them.

The only other thing upon which she can look is that of Saiki himself. Try as she might to resist, her gaze is drawn to that ghastly visage, a creature of spite and malice so far beyond human comprehension as to be a god simply through that capacity alone. She dares not even attempt to grasp how such a being might exist for fear of the answer, merely accepting his presence as a dark truth, a force as universal and impossible to destroy as gravity.

Momoko's eyes fall upon her own disembodied head and the noise in her skull reaches yet new heights of power, dissonant chords of pure sound rising in a crescendo of utter chaos. She takes in the features of the rotting flesh with quiet curiosity, staring into the face of her own inevitable demise with a numbness so acute as to be indistinguishable from death itself. Past and present and future all merge together into one as she gazes into the depthless voids of its empty eyes and with that realization comes the horrifying clarity that nothing she has ever done or could ever hope to do could possible change this outcome.

The noise intensifies becoming a deafening clarion that shatters all reason and thought, dissolving her mind into a primordial ooze devoid of form or function; and as the walls of her deception come crashing down, it becomes painfully obvious that it is the sound of her screams.

Amy would find no difficulty in locating the small girl as she turns to flee. Momoko lies on the floor in a heap of pale flesh, her ragged sobs and the sheer weight of her emotions lashing out in all directions in uncontrolled psychic fury turning her presence into a lighthouse in the darkness that even someone without the gift could not possibly hope to miss. The gentle reassurance that her life would be spared seems to have done little to calm her quailing spirit in the wake of such an overwhelming invasion of her mind and like a child who has awoken from a nightmare she cries out for solace of a more tangible sort.

The Templar's touch is precisely the balm that she needs. Momoko turns and latches onto Amy without a second thought as she is swept up into her arms. She curls up into the protective embrace and buries her face in the bare flesh of the knight's bosom, seeking the simple comfort from the contact of another human being rather than the more base reasons that might drive her to such action.

Momoko shivers from the cold and the fear, eyes wedging tightly shut as fresh danger rises up to engulf them. But, like a dying man in the desert who has found water, the tiny girl gorges herself in the delight of her guardian's presence, and within that gentle warmth the frozen landscape of that inescapable void in her mind cracks and shatters and she falls into a troubled slumber even before they have emerged into the daylight.

Of her divine charge, the Greeks gravely ascribed the attributes of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, justice, law, strategy, mathmatics... Not to be found among the list of virtues associated with her, however, wer compassion... mercy... love.

What is tender mercy but the antithesis of cold, ruthless justice?
What is sincere compassion but a chink in the armor of strategy?
And what place has love, in a world governed by blind law?

But true, living beings cannot be categorized so simply.

Even when she first challenged the darkness within the child, she knew what she was risking. It would be reasonable to say that it was irresponsible to call out the Time Bender now - with two innocents bound to be caught up in the cataclysm that would erupt here. What greater purpose could be found in bringing the dark passenger to light, to exposing the Templar and Psychic Child to such raw evil?

'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways...'

As she lowered her arm in judgement, calling forth the Fires of Heaven to strike the very bond between souls at the core, she could spare no glance for the two that should not have to suffer for a war fought for the eternities.

'How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as rain upon the mountains?'

She should be there - sheltering Momoko from the storm as she had the night she placed her body between the Slayer and the child so that the young one could live. But if she flinches, if she hesitates for even an instant... The storm of memories shows her nothing she had not known - of the hellscape at the end of time, of the war bitterly fought and lost by this Dark One.

'...but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.'

The pristine robed figure steps forward, an act of aggression toward the young man occupying the nadir of darkness suffocating all within the doomed aquarium. Her right hand snaps to her side - instead of a prop sword, a blade of pure, holy light burns - a weapon to pierce both steel and night. Driving it into the boy's torso would finish it... to do the very thing he said that she could not. To kill the child. Such were the bonds of justice.

'...and the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them...'

She cannot see the illusions the two souls are assaulted with. The visions of horror, of the death of hope. But she can feel the dread terror radiating out from the two, lost as they are for a moment in what might feel like an eternity of nightmare. Two more steps are taken. He is distracted now, taking in that power, drawing in the last light of the fading lions. She can sever him in two - no, sever them both. It is not just Saiki she is moving to exterminate, but his unfortunate host as well.

'Wherefore, for this shall the heavens weep, yea, and all the workmanship of mine hands.'

A tear rolls down her celestial visage. Why must hate exist so strong that to only way to fight it is to destroy? The death of Ash, the loss of the two bystanders... hatred might be the catalyst, but in the end, justice is the hangman that dooms them all.

'Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look...'

A sandal-clad foot splashes down into the deepening water as Athena comes to a stop just beyond striking range. Being this close to the voidhearted soul is draining even for her. If he was at his strongest... But something else has her eye - by a miracle, Amy's body is mended, the fatal damage undone. Through the intense link shared with the child, she hears that voice that belongs to another time.

Don't be afraid.

And its precious answer.

I'm not afraid.

The goddess, grim in her duty, smiles. The telling strike - the proof that she could in fact kill the child - never comes. The lance of light in her hand is extinguished. The European youth falls forward and is gone.

On silent feet, she turns to watch the battleworn Templar, tears in her eyes. The young woman that would sacrifice herself to save the child. This is the blessed blood from which heroes are forged. She stands still even as the ceiling surrenders the fight and collapses, her tears drown away by the flood that floods around her as a torrent, seemingly as calm as on a warm summer's day.

What of those two?

'The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design, thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.'

The Templar... her soul has been through the refiner's fire, she has been hammered and shaped on the anvil of a demanding God. Her journey has just begun... The Psychic Child... Athena was not so blind to the emotion that fueled that incredible, defiant strike against Saiki... if she can remember one iota of this experience, she hopes it is that Momoko needs her help far more than she realized. But many things are out of reach even for the divine.

The tunnel fills, glass, stone, tile shattered before the power of the flood, drowning the chamber forever beneath the waves.

Athena Asamiya comes to on the shore, dressed once more in the clothing of a more frivilous time, sitting up and resting her hand over her right eye as if consumed by severe pain from within her head. Flashes of violence, darkness, and hope riddle her mind as she stares out over the ocean beneath a vibrant, star-light sky. The last vestages of the flood below are visible with the curning, bubbling water only a few dozon feet off the shore. Accompanying the visions is abject confusion as Athena pushes to her feet, looking at herself. The crimson bikini reminds her of something she was in a hurry for - a match, she was late, the sense of urgeny renewed only to be overtaken by another, stronger, all powering thought as she turns back toward the ill-fated island itself.

Her young friend needs her.
Now more than ever.

Log created on 15:42:47 02/14/2015 by Ash, and last modified on 02:35:03 03/02/2015.