Description: Determined to earn the power to pay the price to regain what was lost, Asamiya finds herself challenging the Emerald Enigma guarding a vortex of collected souls.
Lifeless. Often such a title is given to something still. A place void of energy or motion. That is not the case in the graveyard that crowds the base of the monolithic tower on Shang Tsung's island. Caught in the structure's unholy shadow, the dead ground is restless. Agitated.
Bare branches groan, swaying gently in the absence of a breeze. The air is heavy and full of the musty stink of dried corpses. Everywhere one steps there are sloping hills, snaggle-toothed rows of graves, and leaning mausoleums. Everything is grey, lifeless, but not immobile. Shadows flit in the corner of the eyes. Soft whispers sound just within earshot. Footsteps ring out where no living body stands.
The pressure of watchful eyes is heavy.
Often people have walked through this graveyard and thought it empty. But those people would be mistaken. In the far corner, glowing like a bon fire as it swirls ever upward into nothing, rages a veritable tornado of souls. if one were to gaze into the turbulent depths of this horrifying construct they might see faces. Insubstantial figures might whip through their field of vision. But most importantly of all, they might spot a dark, solid heart within the maelstrom.
Floating at the very center of the soulnado, legs crossed and hands hovering palm up above its knees, is a solitary humanoid figure. A dark shape, black against the surrounding brilliance, that trails tendrils of shadow to swirl in the currents of energy. It could be mistaken for a lean man, one wrapped all in cloth, but for its eyes. Eyes that blaze the same horrible green as the souls around it. Eyes matched by a blazing gem on its forehead, outlined in gold and growing ever brighter as energy is channeled through the medallion.
Ermac, enforcer of Shao Kahn, has taken long weeks to heal from the damage done to him in Earthrealm. And now he serves a different purpose. Tasked with constructing and feeding the soulnado around him from the souls of those anonymous warriors brought to the island to die, he has done just that. With every death, every soul cast out into the void has been caught, drawn here to this place, and funneled into the ever growing mass of energy.
Shao Kahn will be pleased.
Asamiya had a problem.
There had been blessed silence from the malcontents following her extinguishing of their essences in a desperate bid to withstand the might of the Devil at the Pass. She let herself hope that she was rid of them all together.
The day of her next match was appointed. She was to face the revenant, Scorpion, and battle before the eyes of the fallen in the Warrior Shrine. There she had waited in miserable silence, painfully aware of just how thin the veil between life and death was in that solemn chamber, always feeling she was just shy of witnessing those who had perished in kombat previously, their likenesses captured in fine chiseled marble statues. But instead she felt judgmental silence; silence from all except the souls in her shard that bear the poor fighter nothing less than absolute enmity.
One by one they had begun to manifest, their personalities distinct, formed of hisses, growls, roars, and scathing contempt. They hated her; hated her for living, hated her for not dying, a broken shell, beneath the might of Akuma. That she succeeded against impossible odds only made their vehemence grow more intense.
"So, hero... Do you still feel alive..."
"Now that half of you is dead?"
"What is the point of continuing?"
She had tried to argue back against them, to defend herself against the voices only she could hear, but it was in vain. Attempts to explain that she was doing everything she could to remain standing in this deadly tournament, that she was risking her life, that she understood their wrath but needed their support... none of it made the slightest difference. Their rage would not be sated, their jealousy a force powerful enough to give her a headache. What was worse was that there were even more of them now than before, the assembly growing in power and number, each new addition just as fierce as the others.
Huddled in a corner alcove of the Warrior Shrine, her hands against the sides of her head, Asamiya had endured their torment long enough. Wherever her opponent was, he never appeared. The idea that he may have fallen to another's hands elsewhere on the island was not a foreign idea, given the deadly nature of the shadows here. Staggering from the Warrior Shrine, she began to wander. The psychic swordsman was right, she had convinced herself. As dreadful the thought of gathering even more of these spiteful souls might be, she needed as many as she could get if she was ever to recover that which was slain in the canyon at the center of the island.
It took everything she had to block out the voices, an active, ongoing, conscious effort to exercise the power of her psychic barriers. They weren't what they used to be, she felt, but it was enough to silence many of the souls, and the effort left her almost dazed, struggling to focus on anything else. A few were too strong, however - the originals - and without thinking, she found herself being led by them across the island, step by step, along perilous paths. Perhaps in lieu of an opponent, they were hoping she would succumb to one of the many other dangers of this place.
It was only when she drew nearer to to the crypts of Shang Tsung's Island that she became more aware, shaking off the haze that had steered her this way. Shaking her head, she winces, lifting her hands to rub at her temples as she adjusts her mental walls, violet eyes settling on the swirling miasmic green rising into the sky.
"We remember this place."
"The endless nightmare..."
"Thisss is where you will end up-"
"One way or another."
She noticed the grave stones, the tombs, the relics and markers of countless lost lives, but those were not Asamiya's focus. The soulnado was, a fount of incomprehensible souls, it was, to her, a blend of distinct existences, swarming, swirling, and channeled to another's will. This... was exactly what she was looking for. Could it be a source for the currency of the dead she hoped to gather? There was only one way to find out.
Thus it was that she came to stand before the vortex of soul energy, clothed in a Kung Fu fighting uniform - a crimson Chinese styled, long sleeved jacket worn over pink blouse and pants with crimson slippers on her feet. She was covered in a layer of the white powdery dust of the wastelands, but that did nothing to diminish the golden glow coming from the star affixed to her crimson haircomb.
Standing unnatural phenomenon, she gazes up to see multitude of presences hovering in the midst of all those souls.
"This one has consumed so many of us..."
"He will feassst on your sssoul."
"Then you will be one of us."
"You will die!"
Staring at the phantasm, Asamiya clenches her fists at her sides. The voices in her head may very well be right. But before her she sees a potential source of the power she needs. She will not be deterred.
Floating within the roaring twist of so many souls, it would be easy for one to lose themselves to the power. To be drawn out and manipulated by the pull of so many souls. But the creature who was tasked to construct this soulnado is immune to such a fait. Thousands upon thousands of souls are packed within the mortal shell of his body, souls bent to the will of one man, and that man will not be denied.
Through the glowing wall of energy, blank green eyes stare back into the face of Asamiya. The creature within is aware of her. Knows her. Senses her intent. His lean body unfolds, scraps of cloth trailing as he floats forward to part the dead sea, souls sliding past him as he emerges into the dry air of the graveyard. Hovering perhaps a foot off of the ground, misty power radiating from his eyes, he gazes down at the resolute girl with all the compassion of a corpse.
"The Emperor has tasked us to guard these souls with our lives. We will not allow you to harvest them. Turn back or be broken. it matters little to us." Though a single mouth can be seen to move under the black and crimson wrappings that hide the creatures face, it is a chorus of voices that speak. A chamber of souls chanting in unison, each contributing their own distinct cadence and tone. However, each voice does share at least one thing in common. A deep, enduring Rage that boils just beneath the surface. The creature speaks with the voice of a mob.
floating above her, hands at his sides and wraps fluttering with their own energy, Ermac radiates power. His presence is intense. A furious storm of mental might that presses down on all around him, making him nearly impossible to ignore. And to those that can see deeper, feel the truth of him, a storm is what he is. Soul upon soul raging with hatred and fury, attempting to tear themselves free of the mass that is Ermac. Only the strength of that other's will holds them together. it is indomitable. It controls the creature's fait.
When the ethereal being was encircled by the wellspring of seemingly infinite souls, she had not even remotely imagined the truth of it - before her she sensed countless minds and had, erroneously, believed that it was a single individual at the center of the green maelstrom, basking in the power being drawn forth.
It is only when he drifts forward, unhurried by the arrival of one of the 'visitors' from Earth, that she realizes the impossible truth of it. In a single being before her, she is witnessing legions of lives, each struggling, wrestling, suffering, and fighting. She had witnessed something similar in the first round of the King of Fighters tournament, where a seemingly innocuous young man played host to a horde of malevolent spirits. But this is something else - more akin to the soulshard in her gem star. The host in the arena was invaded by souls that seemed to what to be there, to use him. The lives visible to her now are doing everything in their feeble yet vast power to break free, to scatter to the four corners of the Earth, yet are prevented from doing so by an unfathomably powerful will.
Time and time her will had been tested, her resolve put to the anvil's edge and yet managed to survive unbroken. She had charged the demon at the bridge because that was what she had to do - the fate of Earth depended on it, or so she believed in full. All around her, life stirs, wisps of those who lived centuries ago passing just out of the corner of her vision, but all she can focus on now is the green eyed specter that addresses her directly.
Standing up straight, her arms at her sides, hands balled into small fists, she looks up into the dispassionate eyes of the soulnado's keeper. Even the voices in her own shard fall quiet, cowed by the sheer presence of the being. She takes a step backward, raising her arms, not retreating, yet guarded for a moment all the same. "I did not come to this island to wage war. Yet at every turn, I find myself pulled deeper into one." She sucks on her lower lip for a moment - he has given her the chance to turn back and leave unharmed. Maybe that would be the prudent thing. There has to be easier ways...
Closing her eyes, she shakes her head, hands tightening further. No, here is an opportunity. To ignore it is to give up, just like the spiteful souls in her shard would have her do.
"You should run."
"This one is legion."
The world around her feels heavy. It requires everything she has to stay put, to not retreat. "No." she whispers. "If this... thing-" Her eyes snap to the soulnado, "Is the will of The Emperor-" She braces herself, left foot behind her, right foot forward. Invisible currents whip around her, not of her own accord, but driven by the clash of will and power building between her and the multitude that addresses her. "Then I will break it. And take what /I/ need for myself."
A pulse erupts out from around her, invisible to mortal eye, but it would be a veritable shockwave of psychic potential to the hive minded souls as Asamiya readies her own potential.
"Thisss iss where you die."
"Your death will be one last gift to-"
SILENCE. With a thundering thought, the shard trapped souls are rendered mute as the girl sucks in her breath. "I am the one that survived the Fist of Murder, Akuma. And I will survive you!"
The barriers come down, her mind opened, psychic ties lashing out, drawing from the star in her hairband, and taking in the smallest concept of the soulnado's guardian creation.
To the air she leaps, meeting the presence on its own terms, before tucking forward into a sharp dive that brings her crashing toward him in a rocket-like tumble, her whole body wreathed with a vibrant psychic shell. It is through Ermac's guard she intends to crash, empowered by Psycho Power rather than raw physical magnitude. Only if she succeeds would she finish with a violent, hand springing kick, meant to knock her foe back far enough for her to recover from her airborne assault!
COMBATSYS: Athena has started a fight here.
COMBATSYS: Athena equips a gleaming Golden Soul Shard.
Athena [E] 0/-------/------=|
COMBATSYS: Ermac has joined the fight here.
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Athena [E] 0/-------/------=|=------\-------\0 Ermac
COMBATSYS: Ermac equips a glimmering Viridian Soul Shard.
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Athena [E] 0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0 [E] Ermac
COMBATSYS: Ermac fails to interrupt Phoenix Arrow from Athena with Surrender.
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Athena [E] 0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0 [E] Ermac
Throughout the young champion's inner struggles, the monster before her remains still and impassive. The hatred that boils within him fogs the air around him, screaming psychically to all who can listen. But without, the guardian is calm. Unmoved by her simple show of defiance. He cares not for the souls that squabble within her broach, nor for her sense of desperation and loss.
They will die? Perhaps. They have died before. It was that death that brought them here, to this body. trapped by the will of the emperor.
Kombat seems to be the only catalyst capable of stirring the construct to action, for it is when the young girl hurls herself into the air that he acts. His right hand lifts, the motion unhurried, and points toward the oncoming ball of psychic might. With no effort the horrible being calls upon his own power, and the ground beneath him hums with vibrations. Small stones hop and bounce, and every tree in the graveyard lets out a low groan as the constructs right hand is consumed in lime green soul power.
A wave of invisible force sweeps out from the enforcer's hand, tearing tombstones from the ground and sending them tumbling backward amidst clods of filth. The bulk of the attack, however, is aimed upward toward the girl.
But somehow, she perseveres.
A great, unseen hand attempts to clamp down on Asamiya, to halt her dive and crush her into pulp. The force behind it is astounding,and yet, the layer of energy she has shielded herself with accepts the strain. As a ship entering orbit might protect its passengers from heat, the force of her mind allows the champion to burst through the attack and smash directly into the chest of the over confident construct.
Ermac's bandages are blasted back from the impact, his lean body crumpling even before her feet are swept up to help him on his way. The parting kick catches him just under the sternum, dislodging a many-voiced grunt from between his lips as he tumbles backward into the mass of souls swirling behind him.
For a moment the threat is gone. Could a fight really be so short? could so many lives be ended so easily, torn apart by the souls they had enslaved?
A blast of hellish viridian announces the return of the monster, his bandaged body appearing atop a mausoleum not 15 feet behind Athena. His feet do not touch the ground as he appears, wraps a touch ragged but seeming otherwise unharmed. Rage and power roll off of him as he fixes Athena in his baleful gaze.
She may have pissed him off.
Her kick delivered, Asamiya's momentum carries her forward into a slide through dark, moss-fueling soul, leaving behind twin gouges where her feet had skidded to a stop. She had the wherewithal through the attack to see her target knocked backward, vanishing into the curtain of life rendered wretched by its suffering. Slowly, she stands up, hands lifted, prepared and ready to defend herself though her target is no where to be seen.
Is that it, then? Can she be allowed to hope that the will that bound all those lives together was spread too thin by her attack and in the end, scattered under the pressure applied?
"Issss that hope we tassste?"
She ignores the voices as her eyes search the swirling vortex of stolen energy. In their amorphous shapes, she picks out those from the past - warriors who, like her, stood upon this island and bled for the fate of the world. Samurai, knights, monks, wise men and fools, one thousand years of suffering and defeat, one millennia of failure.
If she falls, is this to be her fate as well? Just one of countless many syphoned to fuel The Emperor's machines of war? Her right arm trembles as her hand tightens, the magnitude of horror this entire tournament represents taking a deep hold on her heart.
"Do you think this one was so fragile as that?"
"Shhh, don't spoil the surprise!"
The never satisfied souls continue to taunt her thoughts as she tries to think through what she felt. She has never found it so hard to concentrate, to pick out an individual, as she is here and now in this impossible confluence of lost lives. The effort of trying to pin point the flurry of spirits she identified as her foe is draining all by itself. But she felt that power that she plunged through - the intense force that attempted to wrest her from the air. There's no way he was destroyed by one attack is there?
Taking a step back from the soulnado, she whirls on her feet, hands still raised, eyes searching the environment, afraid of what might exist in all the blind spots as she looks away. Finally, she spots him atop his new perch - hovering, for the need to stand is beneath this one and her heart skips a beat as she feels the focused animus radiating out from him.
"Oh, she's got his attention now!"
"Do you really think you can fight against an army?! Kyahaha!"
The souls cackle amongst each other in her shard, echoing in her thoughts. Gritting her teeth, Asamiya draws her arms back. Her assault must be relentless, she cannot afford to give it time to recover. Power crackles along her arms, lively, vibrant rose hued energy. In the act of preparing her attack, she reaches into the cacophony of jeering souls and wrests one, drawing it into her own Psycho Power fueled attack. Maybe if she can catch him again, she'll scatter the souls contained in the soul forged guardian.
Swinging her arms forward, the resolved if somewhat desperate fighter hurls a churning sphere of power, both her own rose hued psychic manifestation and the swirling golden energy of imbued plasma that accompanies it as she attempts to pigeon shoot Ermac out of the air!
COMBATSYS: Athena channels the strength of the killing fist.
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Athena [E] 0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0 [E] Ermac
COMBATSYS: Ermac blocks Athena's Psycho Ball.
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Athena [E] 0/-------/--=====|==-----\-------\0 [E] Ermac
Beneath all the rage, hidden behind the hatred, is it possible that the being that glares from on high can sense the voices that chide the young champion? Though she has touched the mind of others like her in the past, the presence of the creature she now fights is an entirely different experience. If she were advanced enough to intercept the surface thoughts, there would be only a horrible shouting mass. The emotion she can sense is a sea, rushing ever outward, barely contained. How has he not already torn himself apart? How can he focus at all?
The sea bares down upon Athena as she gathers herself for the next attack. In response to her call to power, the construct Draws upon his own seemingly endless stores of energy. A haze of shimmering souls slides out of his hands and drifts up his forearms, swirling and twisting to the tone of his wrath as sentient mist.
The ball of rosy energy is released, streaks of yellow lightning flashing across its surface as it streaks across the distance between the two fighters. As before, Ermac shows little concern. Swiping his glowing right hand forward, he catches the ball on his palm, halting its forward progress with a flash of green. Upon impact with his hand, The front portion of the ball deforms and flows forward between his spread fingers. rose and yellow flicker like flames as they roll up his arm, threatening to consume the monster entirely.
It is not enough.
The monster's power flares, forcing the energy back down his arm until it has gathered in his palm. Then, he simply drops it.
The psycho ball plummets past the edge of the mausoleum's roof and hits the dry earth with a roar. The detonation is impressive, the flare of power expending itself in a brilliant display of potential damage. And, as if wishing to join the festive show of colors, a green glow flashes out from the point where Ermac once stood, but stands no longer.
Yet another viridian blossom bursts to life just to Asamiya's right, the lean, bandage-wrapped form of Ermac heralded by a many-throated bellow of uninhibited spite. The construct's sudden arrival is elbow first, the vicious blow aimed for her temple. Trailing bits of cloth flap softly as he twists out of the opening strike and brings his right hand up from his side, attempting to catch the hopefully staggered girl with a rising palm full of psychic power. If successful, the point blank blast will send her briefly skyward, before he reverses his spin and his left hand snaps out to drive a psy-enhanced palm squarely into the soft bit between ribs and hip.
COMBATSYS: Athena blocks Ermac's Lifeless.
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Athena [E] 0/-------/=======|==-----\-------\0 [E] Ermac
Eyes widen as the sum total of her projected force is caught, rebuffed, then compressed. The threat it represented is made all the obvious as it explodes against the ground in brilliant display that illuminates the graveyard with a warmth contrary to the unnatural shade of green coursing over it. But the moment passes, the power spent and defeated, Asamiya pulling her arms back, returning to a ready stance - somewhere in the vast collection of knowledge, the fundamentals of Kung Fu that she is utilizing would be beyond obvious. As to be expected of those pulled from Earth to speak and fight for their world, she is a trained martial artist, though the merits of her physical arts do not seem to be at the forefront of her prowess.
"Did you see that?"
"She extinguished one of us for nothing!"
She ignores them, wincing only a little at the psychic intrusion of the malcontented souls who only want her to be brought down to their level - to join the ranks of the fallen failures and suffer as they do. If that last attack was not enough to dislodge him, then perhaps-
Eyes flick to where the living menace hovered to find only a briefly lingering emerald glow. Throughout her young career, she had never fought one who could do what she could - to relocate in the blink of an eye, to pressure from unexpected angles in an instant. Yet she knows what just happened on an instinctual level, trusting her senses more than her sight, her arm snapping up to intersect the elbow strike that would have been her undoing. Her feet twist in the grave soil as she is sent reeling by the impact, but at least the struggling fighter is able to keep her wits about her.
Her other arm swings in to intercept the rising palm to keep from being struck cleanly, a gasp of breath escaping her lips at the forces she weathers. Even with her guard, she's knocked off her feet, twisting in the air to avoid the third blow, narrowly escaping it by reflex alone as the residual price of her defense is reflected by the ache in her tormented arms.
When she counter attacks, it is with the same technique, still spinning in the air only to vanish into a vibrant hemisphere of rose. She comes out behind the living soul prison, arms over her head as she pulls a phenomenal level of power to the surface. "However you were created, I will be your end!" Arms swing forward, bringing the churning surge of magnificent Psycho Power crashing down over her target. The sphere of energy is large enough to entirely encompass the life made of fel sorcery, and Asamiya will struggle to channel as much energy she can into prolonging the damage should she catch him within it.
All around, those wayward souls watching this konflict with hungry eyes find themselves being driven back by a shockwave of psychic force blasting out from the point of impact. Other than likely her designated foe, there would be a brief moment of rest in the restless grave all around the lone Psycho Soldier.
COMBATSYS: Ermac channels the fortress of the steel will.
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Athena [E] 0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0 [E] Ermac
COMBATSYS: Athena successfully hits Ermac with Round Psycho Reflector EX.
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Athena [E] 0/-------/=======|====---\-------\0 [E] Ermac
Fear. Does the enforcer of Shao Kahn's will feel fear? Can such a creature understand worry? Is it troubled by thoughts of death?
Watching as Athena twists away from his final blow only to vanish, there is no alarm. There is only rising rage, and the throbbing imperative that he do as he has been commanded. The souls pulse with it. The ground shakes with it. Protect the soulnado. Destroy the intruder. Do what you are told. Do it. Do it now. DO IT.
The construct whirls on the spot, flinging itself forward even as his target appears with hands above her head. He can feel the building of energy. This is no mere girl that he fights. Her power is formidable. Strange forces the monster can no longer understand drive her. Why does she fight?
It doesn't matter.
The medallion tied to Ermac's forehead blazes with sudden light, near blinding in its intensity. All at once the souls that had laid dormant within pour out, swirling in a massive aura that washes over the entirety of the enforcer's body. It is there for only a moment before Asamiya brings the force of her will crashing down upon him, and his body is lost in the ball of purifying psy.
For perhaps three seconds there is nothing. Only the hunched forward girl and her ever expanding ball of energy. But then there is a hand. Cloth wrapped fingers burst from the ball, flexing between her outstretched arms. one hand becomes two, both glowing fiercely in opposition to the energy that seeks to destroy them. Then there are wrists.
The entire ball of psycho power explodes outward in a wave of lime-colored energy, shattered from within by the will of a beast that refuses to die. The shield that had covered him is burned away, as are patches of bandage and skin. Raw, bloody wounds have been torn across both shoulders, and the chest is a blackened mass of burns. A single rib glistens along his right side, leaking a trail of misty power. But still more souls blaze in his ever-burning eyes. It is clear that the shell containing this creature's power will give out far before the creature himself. But maybe, just maybe, that will be enough to stop him. After all, what damage could a mob of ghosts do?
A deep, bone rattling thrum issues out from Ermac as whatever restraints had been put on his power are suddenly cut. The mist that had been escaping his wounded side redoubles, as the area immediately around him is suddenly clogged with souls. Disembodied faces rush from the monster's body, whipping around him in a screaming mass of hate and pain. From far off their cries seem to echo,while nearby tombstones tear themselves from the earth and rise into the air, swooping in wide arcs around where the monster now floats. The ground below continues to shake, and the beast spreads his arms, palms pointed to either side.
With a many-voiced grunt of effort, Ermac swings his left hand forward, a torso-sized ball of compacted souls gathering in his aura and flashing down his arm before being launched toward Athena's chest. The ball is not nearly so large and impressive as the powerful technique he was just hit with, but it drags a few stones along the ground in its wake as it races across the distance.
COMBATSYS: Ermac successfully hits Athena with Clear Your Mind.
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Athena [E] 1/------=/=======|=======\-------\0 [E] Ermac
Leaning into her attack, arms outstretched, palms forward, Asamiya channels everything she has into the prolonged assault. This might be her best shot, and once she has the bandaged being entombed in the sphere of churning psychic assault, she's going to put everything she has into finishing this confrontation as quickly as possible. A plan that seems to have a glimmer of hope before he begins to reach beyond the attack, arms breaking free and stretching out.
Though alarmed, she doesn't relent. This was the same technique that nearly destroyed the White Angel of Death in the King of Fighters finale, and if she succeeded, it would be the one to scatter the tormented souls fueled by unfathomable rage. She has only an instant to defend herself when her own attack is shattered, arms drawn off, her mind warding off the stray blast of rapidly dissipating Psycho Power as her feet slip back through the soil.
She sees the damage she has done, and senses on some level how far still there is to go against a fiend such as this. Yet there is something else realized in the instant she has to draw back and reposition, watching the markers of those laid to rest tear up out of the ground and answer the telekinetic demands of the soul golem. The enmity... so much of it is aimed at her, for her interference, her defiance. But more importantly, so much of that surging wrath is focused elsewhere, fighting against a distant yet nigh infinite will that compels it to obey.
Is that... is that the weight of the Emperor's edicts? That with his commands, a legion of souls can be enslaved to his bidding? The idea is every bit as terrifying as the surge of power erupting up around her, rocks, stones, and brittle branches broken free swirling into a whirlwind of debris.
A chorus of agonized souls echo throughout the locale and the vacuum of souls her attack had created is rapidly filled by an onrush of psyches easily felt even without trying, drawn to the beacon of Shao Kahn's will that is Ermac. What she had seen prior to now was nothing compared to what he was building up to.
"Now you've done it."
"Kyahaha, you will never survive!"
"Will he kill you ssslow or fassst, I wonder."
"Either way, we will be rid of her."
The gemstone peanut gallery is relentless in their mockery, a detail the Kung Fu artist can't spare thoughts toward suppressing now as one bandaged arm lifts, gathers, then projects a ranged psychic attack. After seeing the amalgamation of souls that went into the attack, getting struck is the last thing she wants, plying her reflex to try and escape to the side only to nearly run right into a flying slab of stone from some newly desecrated grave. Having to avoid that as well leaves the agile girl caught, albeit only a glancing impact, by the viridian ball of anger.
The effect is immediate and obvious, an assault on her nerves and mind that has the girl reeling, face twisted in pain even from the partial stray hit she suffers. A sharp, abrupt cry of pain as she staggers, a cacophony of voices erupting in her mind - those projected from Ermac's hand, and those already jeering her thoughts from the golden, glowing star at the side of her head.
A gasp of breath as she shakes it off, slower to move than she had been when she tried to escape his attack. Quietly resolving to not let anything from him touch her again, lest she be fully overcome, the young warrior shifts to offense as quickly as she can. Even as she draws her power out again, it answers sluggishly, as if disrupted simply by the touch of the creature of one million minds. But try she does, too pressured to waste time trying to recover fully from the attack. A forward lunge, an attempt to get him before he can get her, both palms slamming out from nearly point blank range.
Earlier he had attempted to manipulate her own trajectory by way of force and in this instant, she tries to do the exact same. The threat manifests as a pin point of hyper compressed power just out past the point of her palms, a tiny mote of brilliant light as the stubborn girl tries to capture Ermac in a swell of power, crushing and launching his wounded body skyward. And if she succeeds, she would pursue, chasing him down, leaping up after him with clear intend to follow through while momentum favors her!
COMBATSYS: Ermac blocks Athena's Super Psychic Throw EX.
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Athena [E] 1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\1 [E] Ermac
Time slows as the young champion staggers from her impact with the psychic projectile, turning the stumble into a forward charge that is backlit by the fierce green glow of the nearly avoided soul bomb. Every detail of the girl's expression is lit and sharp, showing both resolve and pain. Her hands extend toward the hovering monster by degrees as her upper body lunges forward beneath his outstretched hand.
Off in the distance the soul bomb ploughs into the side of a hill, sending dry earth and shattered stone flying in all directions. Some of the debris is scooped up by the whirling telekinetic tornado and joins that which whips around the struggling fighters at its center, helping to blot out the sky. Everything is roaring chaos and noise. Screaming, so much screaming, but is that heard or felt?
Asamiya's palms come close to brushing the tattered wrappings of Ermac's stomach as they billow in the twisting currents of power. Green and rose war for dominance, flashing like lightning in the unnatural storm of their conflict. And as the pressure of her attack takes hold, squeezing down ever tighter on the construct's lean form, she can feel his resistance. The awful pressure of his many minds pushing back, straining against the bone-grinding pressure.
The combined might of Ermac's many souls pry the telekinetic grip off of his body, blasting it away with a wave of invisible force that blows through the young girl's long hair. The final resistance is followed by a swift upward lash of his right foot, attempting to blast a kick between her outstretched arms and squarely into her pretty face.
Hit or miss, the enraged monstrosity hammers his left hand down from where it had been extended, a wave of pressure following it as he makes to flatten her hard against the earth with the might of his minds, before twisting his hand palm up. Bandaged fingers curling into a fist, he attempts to launch her up from the ground and spinning through the pelting debris high, high overhead, before lashing his hand down once more and sending her hurtling back to earth.
COMBATSYS: Athena channels the fortress of the steel will.
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Athena [E] 1/---====/=======|-------\-------\0 [E] Ermac
COMBATSYS: Ermac successfully hits Athena with Inner Misery.
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Athena [E] 2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|-------\-------\0 [E] Ermac
So close to contact, he can sense her resolve, her determination, attempting to press that tiny yet potent particle of hyper-focused psionic potential against him, a black hole of pressure surrounding him, threatening to draw the legion into her power and make him hers, if but for a brief moment. Teeth grit, her feet dig in, the two contesting forces illuminating the derelict graveyard for several meters in all directions as deep rose and powerful green clash against each other, neither yielding at first.
But her effort isn't enough to dislodge him, to break through the horde of wills she presses against. And when they start to push back against her, piercing through her will with their numerical superiority, the combined intent of untold number of minds driven by one Supreme Tyrant to an undisputable will.
The girl's hair whips about her shoulders, her jacket sleeves fluttering as they're forced back up her arms to scrunch near her shoulders. Closing her eyes, she feels her control slipping in spite desperate attempts to dig deeper still. The roar of energy coursing around her is deafening even to her thoughts, the souls in her own shard going unheard, unable to render commentary that she can perceive for the moment.
Finally, the force is too much, and her attempt at offense shatters, arms flailing, balance lost as she begins to slip backward. His kick comes the instant she is rendered completely incapable of defending against it, a foot passing up between her arms to crash into the idol fighter's face, snapping her head back, the impact lifting her heels off the ground, her toes just barely touching the dark soil.
She's helpless against the pressure that crushes her to the ground that instant as the living soul prison applies to her the same telekinetic force Asamiya had dared to try on him a moment ago, only with so much greater threat behind it as she impacts the dirt, unable to even catch herself with her hands. She is at his mercy now, she realizes, dread panic spiking through her scattered thoughts above all other considerations.
She's pulled off the ground, fingers clawing at the useless dirt as he lifts her with the force of a legion of minds. Flailing desperately, she reaches out for anything she can - both physically and mentally. Ultimately, it is the miserable souls leashed to her shard that she ends up finding in her psychic flailing, reaching out with her mind and wresting them, their piercing screams nearly overwhelming as her mind becomes a conduit, transferring the rest of Ermac's projected force into three tormented spirits, extinguishing each of them in the process.
Thus, it is a more gentle fall that she drops out of the sky than the potentially neck breaking slam that was intended, still crashing against her upper back as she comes to rest against hard packed, scorched earth some meters away from where she had been standing.
"You killed them!"
"Not even a ssshread of remorssse..."
The souls that survived the attack have not changed their tone as the battered fighter rolls onto her side and pushes herself to her feet, black dirt falling off of her clothing and out of her opened hands as she whirls to face the Enslaved Legion. Her lip is split from the kick and she's spitting filthy dirt out from her initial face plant, pausing to wipe her left arm over her mouth as she glares back at Ermac with a sudden vehemence of her own.
This thing that slammed her around with all the dignity of a rag doll stands between her and what she wants. What she needs. And he is a tool of the Dark Empire at that... doesn't that mean she is justified in doing everything she can do to defeat... dare she think, destroy him? Fuming, she spits again.
"Is that hatred I smell?"
"It doesss no good..."
"We felt the same rage in life, and here we are."
Clenching her hands at her sides, she doesn't block out the voices for once. "Yes." she murmurs, standing up straight, an aura of energy erupting around her in an instant, "And here you are." she responds to the last one, selecting that voice's owner as her next victim... sacrifice... what are they, really? She can't stop to think about what she's doing, she is going too fast for that.
Earth swirls about the girl as vibrant, violet power explodes into a nova of energy that whips at her hair and clothing. Gritting her teeth, she lifts her right hand slowly over her head, a clenched fist, and all of that gathered energy swirling about her answers the girl's call, concentrating into a single rippling sphere of violet so dark it is nearly black.
"W-wait, not this again, I-"
The soul's protest is cut short with another scream of agony as the young reaper adds its essence to the sphere of power that wants to do nothing less than obliterate everything around it, forks of golden lightning projecting from is surface.
"Give my regards to your Emperor!" Athena exclaims, leaning forward, swinging her right arm down, finger extended, and launching a nuclear strike of psychic violence directly toward Ermac's center of mass.
COMBATSYS: Athena channels the strength of the killing fist.
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Athena [E] 2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|-------\-------\0 [E] Ermac
COMBATSYS: Athena successfully hits Ermac with Shining Crystal Bit+.
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Athena [E] 0/-------/---<<<<|=====--\-------\0 [E] Ermac
As Athena's shoulders impact the dirt, the area upon which she lies is cast into deep shadow. Though much of the light is already drown in the sea of swirling dirt and sticks, only raging shades of green and rose remain as an entire mausoleum passes over her head. The construct tumbles end over end, emerging from one wall of dirt and vanishing into another like a breaching whale. Beneath her, the ground rocks and quakes as the souls raging within her opponent grow ever more frantic.
The roar of the conjured cataclysm seems to split the sky as Ermac spreads his arms wide, rising higher and higher into the dust storm. Spirits burst from his imperfect shell, tearing his wounds wide as they escape to power the physical manifestation of their wrath.
Will this hell ever end? Can such a thing be killed? Surely even this construct can die. She has slain demons. She has survived worse.
The blazing points of his eyes glare down at Asamiya through the dust and dim. The spite of a thousand thousand souls bares down on her as she brings her energy to bare, sacrificing yet another life to feed the battle. To end him.
With arms spread, and a legion of souls boiling out of his wounds to fill the storm around them, the enforcer awaits his coming fait. Arrogant. Powerful. Undaunted.
Athena's cry is drowned by the roar of whirling debris, but the resulting ball of energy can not be so easily ignored. Upward it rockets, its mere presence scattering loose souls as it approaches the scorched chest of her hated foe. Easily it cuts through the shell of energy that surrounds him, battering through his guard and unleashing itself upon his mortal shell.
There is a blinding flash.
A firm, irresistible hand sweeps across the graveyard, crushing gravestones, leveling hills, and flattening trees. The wave of forces spreads outward, ever outward, until washing over the walls of the tower and dispersing into the wind.
Where once there had been a swirling mass of debris, there is clear air. And where once a beast floated, there is nothing. Everything is flat, and crumpled, and defeated. Everything save for a girl, and the towering mass of souls that twists into the air behind her.
And then, the guardian returns.
A furnace of psychic might blasts into life directly before the young champion, accompanied by a blinding flash of horrible green light. Souls swirl and scream, rocketing off in all directions as a partially fleshed skeleton hurtles forward out of the empty air. Naught but bones and ragged bits of flesh remain, spirits hemorrhaging from the broken shell and fleeing in every direction. it is bright, so bright. Bright as the son.
It hates her.
Bony hands extended, Ermac flies forward toward her in the classic Super Man pose. Soul power flashes as he attempts to crash full into her and carry her backward over the ground, driving her through piles of debris until the tower wall halts her backward momentum with an abrupt crash. Only then will he disengage, hovering up and back, right arm drawing back past his skull. Energy begins to pool in that hand as he glares down at her, the jewel that adorns his forehead dim, but somehow miraculously still in place.
Though the beast has no lips or tongue, its jaw falls open, and souls pour from between its teeth to carry the unholy bellow of rage out into the world. And with the release of sound, his right hand comes flowing forward to release all of his pent up energy point blank into the young champion's chest.
Whether she can escape her fate or not, the skeletal guardian drifts backward, seeming to stagger through the air. The blazing out rush of souls has begun to dim, ebbing as more of his life energy tears free from its battered prison. Slowly he loses elevation, impacting the ground with first his bony feet, then his knees. His body slumps forward onto hands, glow fading to a faint haze.
The dull green gem falls from the bony construct's forehead, bouncing across the rubble-strewn ground as the bones collapse into an untidy pile.
The lives that once animated the shell have scattered, fleeing in all directions as the hold over them weakens.
One can only hope that the same does not happen to the swirling mass that still rises from the corner of the graveyard, once tended to so devotedly by its vicious guardian.
COMBATSYS: Ermac can no longer fight.
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Athena [E] 0/-------/<<<<<<<|
COMBATSYS: Athena channels the fortress of the steel will.
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Athena [E] 0/-------/<<<<<<<|
COMBATSYS: Ermac knocks away Athena with Lost Souls.
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Athena [E] 1/--<<<<</<<<<<<<|
The attack unleashed has been one the young champion has called forth in almost every one of her battles - the epitome of her control over the power that courses within her, her will made manifest in the form of a dangerous barrier and precision cruise missile of psychic threat few opponents could defend against. But for all the times Asamiya had used the culminating attack to claw her way to victory, match after match, she had never once wanted it to render destruction to the degree she does here and now. It isn't an attack meant to win a fight. Its purpose is to obliterate, to end, to erase the thing that stands in her way now.
The attack hurtles toward her target, the flash that erupts bright enough that she has to bring her hand over her eyes to avoid being blinded in the dark. From the point of impact, a force explodes out with the psychic power of ten thousand agonized voices, rushing past, tearing a swath of destruction in its path. The girl braces, anticipating the worst, her hands over the sides of her head, her eyes closed as she leans forward, attempting to weather the psionic storm.
But it blasts beyond and she remains, a survivor, standing alone, surrounded by the sound of objects of all sizes falling back to the ground. Slowly, she opens her eyes, lowering her hands, looking back to where The Undying Emperor's guardian stood. A soft breath, her arms trembling with an overdose of adrenaline, and then finally she takes a step forward. She feels no remorse, she realizes, either for the thing she might have destroyed or the malcontents locked in her star shaped prism that she used to shatter him. The realization should bother her, she considers, but all she feels is the elation of success, and the soft burning hope that she is one step closer to her own goals.
Another step taken before she is once again assaulted by a brilliant flash. This time she doesn't cover her eyes in time, and in the aftermath, she is seeing swirls of colors yet very little in the way of details around her as she staggers back a step. But she doesn't need to see to feel it - the seething animus that rises up far stronger than even the antipathy born by the surviving souls in her shard. She senses his approach like the very embodiment of dread terror barreling toward her, and all she can do is raise her arms in a futile martial arts block and project her own will in return, a vain attempt to stop the storm that crashes into her.
Her body plows through debris, carving a furrow that leads directly to the stone wall of the Unbroken Tower where she slams with a pained gasp, every bone in her back strained nearly to the breaking point, a sharp cry escaping her lips as the air is forced from her lungs. Tormented legs barely keep her standing as he prepares the finishing blow, gathering the onslaught intended to put to rest her infernal interference.
This is not the first time she had faced the threat of death from an uncaring slayer since her arrival here. But this time rather than crippling terror, it is anger that flashes in her violet eyes.
"Is this it?"
"Is where you finally die?"
Feeling confident, the souls taunt once more, tempting the young psion with awareness of their own existence, the last two survivors of the slaughter. "No-" she hisses through clenched teeth, glaring back at Ermac with the defiance of one who has been beaten into the corner one too many times and simply refuses to take it any longer. It is without hesitation that she wrests one of the last of the two souls, pulling its enslaved life essence into a barrier of projected psychic will between her and the Emerald Enigma.
The storm of souls smashes into her, slamming her back against the wall again, the pain of endless suffering smashing through her barrier, mitigated if only slightly, writhing through her body and soul, forcing a voiceless cry from her mouth. The torment feels unending as she slumps to her knees, leaning back, mouth hanging open as unfocused eyes stare upward at the unraveling construct that was Ermac.
A soft gasp, a spasm, as she leans forward, folding her arms around her. The pain wracking her nerves might very well drive her mad, if only she could muster the strength to fight it off-
A golden glimmer in the corner of her mind, the last soul of her dimmed star, is just the augment she needs.
"No, just die, leave me out of thi-!"
Sucking in her breath, a flash of ember explodes around the girl, jettisoning away misty emerald death from her body, leaving only peace and quiet in its wake. It's over. The shard is empty of souls, the Soul Golem at the Graveyard has fallen, and she alone survives. Sucking in her breath, Asamiya claws her way to her feet, dust and debris falling from her battleworn jacket as she stumbles forward away from the tower back toward the soulnado. Trembling hands reach to remove her crimson haircomb as she draws nearer to the vortex of undeath. Bracing herself for what she imagines will be an uncomfortable experience, the girl reaches her hand with the comb into the swirling miasmic force, eyes, having regained their full sight, staring at the visages that swirl about her.
"If any of you hunger for vengeance... join me." she whispers. "If you want to experience victory instead of failure, lend me your strength."
The young conqueror offers them a choice. She pauses, breathing slowed, controlled, her mind whirling with a maelstrom of emotions, but regret or remorse is no where to be found among them.
"Or I will take you by force."
The reaction to such a bold decree is almost instantaneous as if the lurking remnants of the countless souls trapped within this hellish prison for untold ages have been waiting for this precise moment when someone foolish enough to seek power would grant them a chance for a taste of freedom, if only by trading a familiar prison for another.
Raw power flows from the whirling tornado of souls, a maelstrom of seething hatred, fear, and desire that has fermented into the finest of expression of pure spiritual outrage exploding into the air with hurricane force. The winds shriek and howl as if possessed themselves, whipping at the slender girl who would dare to rouse their ire with a fury wrought of arcane power and forbidden magicks. It assails her with a great swell of force both physical and spiritual, attempting first to dislodge her meager claim with an indignant shove but almost immediately it reverses direction, drawing the soul gem and her arm deeper into the tornado.
Like a beast with its teeth sunk into an unwary prey, the forces behind the great magical construct yank at Athena. Dozens of ghastly shapes rise from the surface of the glowing green energy, haunted faces moaning wordless cries of desperation and anticipation while skeletal arms paw grope and paw at her, drawing her closer in their attempts to fight for a chance to be free of their endless torment. The ruined faces constantly shift and change as they crash into each other in a battle for supremacy, each terrific clash bringing forth fresh souls in waves that billow out from the shimmering tornado in a slowly growing bulge around her arm, creeping ever further towards engulfing her completely.
Suddenly, something changes. A brilliant streak of black fire appears several feet above the struggling pyschic amid the swirling currents of the soulnado. It rides the outer edges of the whirling eddies, skirting the outer surface of the twisting green maelstrom without ever actually touching it. More of the soul-bound arms thrust forth from the surface to grasp at the bizzare ball of flame, their hands snatching at it as if to draw it into the current but it weaves and bobs erractically, dancing nimbly between hundreds of wispy fingers. It almost seems to be taunting them as it drifts ever downwards, weaving in and out of reach or intentionally diving through narrow gaps to only barely avoid being caught.
As the phenomenon draws closer a voice starts to become audible over the constant droning of the soul storm, cutting through the white noise in a clear resonsance that ecchoes within Athena's mind. The first thing that she hears is a peal of shrill manic laughter, a sound somewhere between grinding rocks and nails on a chalkboard combining into a truly unpleasant note of discord. The ball of dark flame cackles endlessly as it badgers the entrapped souls on its journey down and around the edges of the tornado until at last it reaches the same level as the out-thrust star gem.
"Beep beep, coming through, losers! Kyahahaha!"
With a great surge of speed, the flame dives into the soulnado, slicing a path through the wailing grasping souls like a bullet through butter. It strikes the surface of the soul gem and the entirity of the headband and Athena's hand erupt into black fire. A piercing wail of unprecedented agony and rage fills the air as the soulnado physically recoils from the fire. The flames spread down Athena's arm, searing away all of the gooey soulstuff attempting to suck her in in a single fell swoop, and with a sudden lurch she is spat out like a foul-tasting morsel of food.
The black fires continue to rage along her arm for several seconds but slowly they retract back towards her hand, eventually seeping into the soul gem entirely as they snuff out. The mystical artifact glows with a strange new luster, it's golden edges rimmed with a pulsating sickly pink light. Black smudges stain its surface in a thin layer of filth or soot, perhaps left by the strange unexplained fires. There comes a sound of great commotion that echoes in her mind, a sense of things behind heaved about to crash and break or tumble into a great mess, like a wild animal unleashed in a shop full of delicate furniature.
After a few long moments of this mental chaos, the surface of the gem shifts again. Bits of dark black goo drift up from within its depths to congeal into a thin oval beneath its surface. The smudges on the top begin to realign, taking up new patterns on their own until a half circle of dark lint rests on opposite sides of the jewel. They slide together and apart a few times and the black oval within the gem shifts back and forth until it settles on an angle tilted towards the girl's face. It is only now that the complete visual of what has happened becomes clear. The gem has become some sort of eye!
"Hey! Hey you!" The gravely-slash-shrill voice rebounds inside Athena's head again. However, when it pipes up once more the tone has shifted completely. The voice sounds... almost pleasant. Too pleasant, infact, almost like Shang Tsung's serpent-like charm, except the voice that speaks to her now is more like that of a used car salesman or a telemarketer, full of clearly ungenuine charm and enthusiasm.
"Hi, I'm Sorcha, thanks /so/ much for inviting us! Oh, this is so great, we hardly ever get out of the house any more, ever since that whole dying horribly thing, and /oh my god/ I LOVE this kitchen!"
Log created on 19:15:16 10/23/2016 by Athena, and last modified on 04:41:24 10/26/2016.