Description: While finishing the repairs to the Alucard Estate following my encounter with that MONSTER Terumi, I received a most unexpected guest... how Master Jubei found his way to the Castle, I will never guess. It is simply fortunate that fate saw fit to deliver him now, in our moment of great need. Another Legend, to stand against the beast that threatens us all.
Off in the distance, dozens of miles away, the heavens rage with fury. The sky is painted in clashes of white, the mountainous terrain regaled with clamorous booms of thunder. And yet, the stone of the mountains barely shudders at nature's fury, weathering the sky's tantrum with the same calm temperament as it would on literally any other stormy night.
The person driving a car up to Castle Alucard, though? He's spooked out of his mind -- every crash of thunder results in a screech of the car's brakes on the slick cobblestone path leading uphill. Every flash of lightning has him looking around the car in a panic.
And yet, at last -- the cab makes it up the hill. The front gate towers high above the taxicab, the joints of ancient stone shuddering in the thrumming headlights. The cab remains idle for a few moments as words -- and currency -- are exchanged within.
And then, a cat steps out of the taxicab's rear passenger door.
To be fair, it's a rather large cat -- barely as tall as the cab itself, standing upon his hind legs. He wears a black frock-like garment, trimmed in red lines, with sleeves long enough to droop down to the cobblestone, tailored to conceal all of the cat's tawny fur above the knees, save for his face. A single bright red eye flicks to the left and the right, sweeping across the castle's features.
A smile creeps its way across the feline's face.
The feline walks up to the driver's window. "This is the place. Thank you for your time." The warrior's words are barely audible over the idling engine of the decade-old taxicab -- but his actions transcend language, as he folds the comically exaggerated "paws" flat against his legs, bowing at the waist in thanks to the taxi driver.
Without another word or gesture, the taxicab rolls backwards, executing a slow three-point turn, and scoots its way back down the mountain.
The feline's smile grows faint.
In one simple, fluid motion, the strangely-garbed cat vaults to the top of the gate -- clawed paws allowing him to steady himself in place.
In the next instant, he leaps down; neither the exaggerated sleeves nor the curiously oblong weapon strapped to his back pose any impediment to his motion.
Both of his arms could be considered weapons, but he keeps them low, trailing along behind him as he makes his way to the door. Clawed paws scratching the cobblestone pavers with regular cadence. Contrary to the nimbleness displayed a moment prior, his gait is purposeful, but calm and unhurried.
His arrival is formally announced to the heavy mahogany doors.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
The sleeved paws are folded behind his back, as the one-eyed feline takes a couple steps back, looking rather pleased.
He may never have been here before.
Or maybe he has.
But it feels... familiar, all the same.
It's been a /busy/ week for the man who has stood beside Rachel (and her father Clavis before her) for decades, serving as watchman, valet, and butler as needed by the ruling family of the sprawling, otherwordly Alucard Estate.
Yuuki Terumi has returned, and with him he has brought the past that the elderly warrior fought so hard to repress - to cover up with layers and layers of domesticity, manners, etiquette. All of that, shattered by one savage battle against the monster from his past.
For exactly ten years prior, he'd been tending to the Estate alone - Gii and Nago spending their hours at the side of the slumbering vampiress Lady Alucard, Valkenhayn left alone to walk the Mansion and it's grounds, tending to his mistresses' rose gardens, keeping the massive house impeccably clean, ensuring the tea-sets were polished DAILY...
...and of course, partaking in one of his only /personal/ hobbies these days: planting bonsai trees in the lands that extend out behind the Mansion itself. Acres and acres of grounds, roses of different colours - but primarily a sea of red - and in the middle of them... a small, ever-expanding circular patch of bonsais. Every year, he sets about planting new ones around the present ring of growing trees, the miniature forest getting larger and larger for every year that Valkenhayn R. Hellsing has been in service to this House.
But today? Today he's still tending to the repairs of the Mansion's sprawling entryway... himself, of course. After all, he would hardly trust contractors from /any/ realm to effect renovations that would at ALL suit Rachel Alucard's very... particular tastes. Normally, he's have had the entire lobby and corridor fixed within days of the damage being caused but... matters on the earthrealm have kept him occupied. Attempting to track down this vessel known as 'Captain Hazama' has kept him... more occupied than he might otherwise be.
For the first time in human generations, he's stepped out of the Estate with violence in his heart - hunting down the Novus Orbis Librarium in the conflict-torn Southtown. What he found? They are not the evil organization he might have thought. Not entirely. One Colonel Kagura exhibited great grace and honour; this has caused the elderly manservant to rethink matters, and return to his duties in the Alucard estate to contemplate the next step...
He's so busy patching holes in walls and relaying ruined floorboards, that there's ALMOST a drop of sweat visible on his aged, wizened forehead...
...but, he's finally finishing. He lays down the last replacement piece for the previously-destroyed wooden floor leading down the main hallway, and then stands up straight with a deep exhalation of breath that drops his shoulders temporarily. One eye looks up and down the hall, to see if Madam Rachel might be present to witness the quality of his work. He does /so/ love a slight nod of approval from the Lady; it's what he /lives/ for, really.
She's been busy lately, though, coming and going... which, at least, means Nago and Gii are nowhere to be seen. Always a pleasure, that.
"I do hope she's being careful," he says to himself, sure that he's the only person currently in the castle. But... what's that... smell?
Outside, Jubei is vaulting over the gate with feline grace, and inside the house Valkenhayn's sensitive lycanthrope nostrils raise into the air and sniff twice. A guest? A familiar one, by the scent of him... it's been so long, he can't quite place his finger on it - it even took him a few moments to recognize the new vessel of Terumi, although he was instantly on-guard the moment he saw Hazama entering the front door..
..this scent, however, doesn't raise a similar response from the retired Legend... he certainly /hopes/ this individual comes with friendly intent; he did /just/ finish the repairs from the last battle that almost tore the Estate down around it.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Valkenhayn's eyebrow raises at this sound. "Well, at least they're polite enough to /knock/ this time..." he says to himself, and then takes a moment to smooth the front of his black formal-wear, adjusting his spotless white gloves and running one hand through his hair to ensure it's not disheveled in the slightest from his hours of labour repairing the castle.
Long, graceful strides carry him down the new floorboards of the entrance corridor, towards the massive 'lobby' entryway - ceilings with chandeliers high in the distance, illuminating the old house. For a place that's literally thousands of years old, there doesn't appear to be a single speck of dust in the entire place. A testament to the wolfman's efforts.
Taking another moment to compose himself, and a few more sniffs in the air... the second eyebrow raises, and he reaches out with a gloved hand to grip the polished, golden door-knob. He pulls it open at the /perfect/ speed - not too slow as to be uninviting, not too fast as to be startling or rude. Generations of experience in such matters leave him with the precise knowledge needed to /properly/ greet a guest...
There's a long, stunned silence as Valkenhayn's eyes fall /downwards/ towards the hooded figure of Jubei, the one-eyed twin lotus, perhaps the most skilled of all the Six Heroes. Could destiny be so kind as to return him to the world, at this hour of their greatest need? It's a pity Madam Rachel isn't here to hear the good news!
"Jubei?!" comes the stunned word from the usually unshakeable butler's slack mouth. Shaking his head slightly as he quickly remembers his manners, he opens the door further and steps aside, one hand sweeping forward to usher his old friend into the entryway of the castle. "Welcome to the Alucard Estate - it's magnificence matched only by Madam Rachel herself!"
"Where have you /been/, old friend? It's been... too long..."
Surely, the cat has heard some of the commotion within; even though they are encapsulated beneath domes of fabric, his feline hearing is still quite accurate. But there could be any number of activities taking place beyond that massive door -- he is only paying attention to ensure that he doesn't hear the distinctive sounds of armaments being latched into place -- or unlatched, as the case may be.
Pleased that only a muffled soliloquy and the creak of the door meet his ear, the cat's curious gaze turns up to Valkenhayn. A red eye blinks, as the crescents of gray fur around his orbitals widen with what can only loosely be termed as 'recognition.'
"The one and only," is his casual response, an expression of warmth conveyed in the wrinkling fur about his eye. He bows his head in deference, pleased at the recognition -- but saying naught else at the moment, preferring to let the estate's keeper lead the exchange.
"It was quite a long journey, but I am glad to be here, at last." The eye glitters with a wizened twinkle for a moment, before winking shut for an instant, as the feline visitor accepts the warm hospitality.
Jubei glances around the marvelous foyer of the Alucard Estate, nodding in genial approval. He understands at a glance that work is proceeding, and sees no need to call any more attention to the perfectly obvious. He considers the question asked of him, and answers, simply, "Traveling the world, in search of... purpose."
And then there is a long silence, as the aged samurai reaches a paw up to stroke at his chin.
"You have me at a disadvantage, I fear."
The scabbard on his back, and the two swords within, sag as the warrior shifts the strap on his shoulder, reluctantly.
"This place came to me in a dream. I have spent years -- decades even -- searching for it. Standing here, at long last... it barely even feels real."
Looking away from the magnificence of the entryway, Jubei affixes his one-eyed gaze back upon Valkenhayn. The joy has faded from his expression -- instead, there is only a look of confused concern.
"We have... met before, then? That would explain the familiarity."
A moment later, he sighs with quiet resignation, and his feline features curl into a smile. "Please, though, you warm an old man's heart. Let us talk for a moment. I am sure it will come back to me."
"Ah, of course," comes the quick reply from the aged lycanthrope, as if he were only /now/ remembering his unique position within the various realms and times...
Valkenhayn's mouth turns up at the corners in reaction to Jubei's words, a slight hint of amusement. He does sometimes forget, dwelling so long amongst the ageless as he had, that he himself is one of the sole creatures who exists /outside/ of reason. It's why he did not need a legendary weapon, but was able to fight the Black Beast with only his hands, why he has aged when the timelines have continued to shift and fold in on eachother, why he remembers... /everything/...
..even that which he wishes he could forget.
"I've spent so long standing vigil over this House and Milady, that I often... forget the things that occur beyond these walls, /and/ the changes they bring," he says with an apologetic, polite tone - placing the palm of one gloved hand over his chest and offering a half-bow to Jubei. Not a /full/ bow of course. Old friends they might be, but /those/ are reserved for Madam Rachel and her alone.
He straightens his back and smooths the front of his formalwear, pausing to gaze down at his old friend - there's no confusion or uncertainty on his face, simply having the look of a man laying eyes upon an individual he truly thought he would never see again.
"How fortunate that fate has brought you here," come the fine, professional tones from the elderly manservant. Gone is the slightly surprised tone that was present when he first opened the door, every second that passes allows him to slip back into the role of the consummately professional butler and sentinel of the Estate. Old friend or no, one must keep up appearances! After all, if Madam Rachel caught wind of him gushing embarrassingly to one of her Castle's guests, even a former Six Hero from Valkenhayn's past, well...
...that wouldn't do at /all/.
"If you'd please follow me, we might have a seat and talk. You are, after all, a guest! Imagine standing here in the foyer carrying on our business like, well.." he pauses the smirk slightly, hands held behind his back as he leans forward slightly to staaaaare down at Jubei, "Like a couple of savage /beasts/."
Clearly Valkenhayn R. Hellsing's best attempt at humour. Or is it? He says it with the same calm, controlled tones he nearly-always uses when within the walls of the Estate. Maybe he doesn't even realize the irony of the comment.
Regardless, his sweeps one hand to point at a door just down the corridor leading straight into the heart of the house. It's third from the left...
"If you would be so kind as to wait within /that/ room, I believe I have just the thing to make you feel welcome!" he says cheerily, his voice raising at the end - little pleases him like acting the perfect host, after all. And it's only more satisfying when it's such an old friend - he rarely gets visitors that /he/ approves of. Often some low-class oafs Rachel finds /some/ reason or another to invite. But the less said about them, the better!
With those words, Valkenhayn /dashes/ off down the corridor. He doesn't stop at the door he pointed Jubei too - his graceful stride, somehow managing to move at an amazing pace while still looking dignified doing so, carries him around a corner at the end of the hallway.
If Jubei enters the door he was directed to, he'll find a well-appointed sitting room. Round, raised table with only /one/ stiff-backed, red-cushioned stool set in front of it. Around the walls are a variety of paintings, some of them from former Masters of the house, some landscapes of some forgotten place, some time that existed only in the eyes of the Observers. Heavy, velvet draped cover the windows and block out any light - the darkness cut through only by one magnificent chandelier hanging from the ceiling, high up and directly above the table.
There is a... large frog, hopping around in one corner, ribbiting occasionally - particularly if Jubei decides to enter the room. George never was terribly polite around guests.
It is plain to see that Jubei -expected- Valkenhayn to respond in such a fashion. There is no look of surprise and none of the awkwardness that might arise from a complete stranger witnessing the same shift of moods and attitudes. No -- there is just the friendly, amable smile of someone who might remember Valkenhayn's face, but just not his name.
"Haha, yes... fate, and one terrified taxicab driver." He pauses for a moment, glancing back to the door with his one red-irised eye -- "Though, I must apologize for leaping over your gate. For... some reason I felt as if it was the appropriate thing to do." Jubei wrinkles his nose, as if perhaps he himself doesn't know why he did it.
As the pair steps into another room with brighter lighting, Jubei's feline iris narrows ever so slightly. Paws reach up to pull the hood from his head, allowing his dark furry mane to poof out in the relatively dry air of the mansion. The comment about 'beasts' draws a feral, toothy smile out of the elder, one punctuated by a closed eye and a brief nod of the head. And a series of chuckles, of course. "Indeed, indeed." The irony is certainly not lost upon the beastman -- for while Valkenhayn may have a form conducive to concealing his wild side, the permanently feline Jubei must endure judgments of the ignorant 24/7/365.
Jubei plays the part of a good guest, nodding quietly as Valkenhayn makes the suggestion. "Certainly, I shall."
Oversized sleeves swinging behind him, he continues making his way to the indicated sitting room. He spots the chair without too much delay, but what most attracts his attention is the hopping frog.
Jubei licks his lips.
And an instant later, he forcibly draws in his breath, shutting his eye in mild embarassment. Fur raises on the back of his neck.
After a moment, he opens his eye, exhaling with a half-feigned smile. "Well, hello there," he murmurs, unsure of whether the brief betrayal of his animal nature had been observed by anyone sentient, but playing it off with a brief bow of his head just in case
He strides quietly across the room, standing beside the chair but opting not to sit upon it just yet -- instead choosing to spend his time perusing the paintings arrayed throughout the room. The one that catches his eye the most is a painting of Clavis Alucard -- a face which, like Valkenhayn's, remains prominent upon his memories. The warrior's smile fades considerably as he withdraws his forepaws from their voluminous sleeves, folding his furred arms upon his chest.
As the werewolf returns, he will find the warrior lost in thought, nearly as statuesque and still as the visages captured in the paintings.
George suddenly stops hopping as Jubei enters the room, and ribbits at him angrily. It continues, growing in volume, until the entire room begins to shake -- for a moment, it seems like Jubei may have come face-to-face with a creature even more powerful than himself, the Legend among Legends of the Six Heroes...
...Aaaaand he's back, fortunately for everyone involved, and in barely no time at all! This house is so huge, how /does/ Valkenhayn R. Hellsing get around so quickly? He must turn into a wolf the very moment he's out of sight, or... secret passages like the house in Clue? Who knows!
"George, please be polite, this is /no/ way to treat a guest," come the calm words from the butler's mouth, as he opens the door into the sitting room by backing into it from the corridor. The frog ribbits at Valkenhayn in a low tone then hops quickly out the open door, off to find some quieter section of the house, no doubt. The old manservant is carrying a long silver tray in his two, white-gloved hands... notably, he's standing on one foot, his other foot balancing a second, cushioned stool on the tip of his well-polished shoes.
Hopping back to the table in the most graceful, dignified possible considering the rather comical sight, he lowers his upraised leg to place the stool on the opposite side of the round table. The silver tray is placed on the table's checkered white-and-black surface - on it, one delicate china teacup and saucer, with an equally ornate teapot containing... warm milk. He takes the initiative to pour Jubei a cup, simply to maintain proper decorum, even though the old warrior has yet to take a seat.
Now with all the items he'd carried into the room set in their proper place, he takes up a stance alongside Jubei, looking up at the paintings the man seems to be admiring or... considering or... pondering over. Valkenhayn can't help but smile as he looks upon the face of Clavis Alucard, immortalized in an oil painting of impeccable quality.
Clavis, who made him everything he is today. Who took the savage, youthful lycanthrope Immortal Breaker and offered him a more noble path. Moments like this truly make Valkenhayn /thankful/ that he is unaffected by the sands of time - it may have made his body older, weaker than he might have liked, but... it's allowed him to retain a grasp on the memories that /matter/ to him. Along with those he'd sooner forget.
The smirk fades slowly, as if remembering the affairs of the past few days, the savage assault. The damage done to the Estate, which now shows no mark of it but for a... perhaps heavy feeling in the air. The spirit of Yuuki Terumi is not so easily dispelled, his evil lingers... especially with Madam Rachel not present on the Grounds.
"So..." he says at last, turning his neck to the side and inclining it downwards, hoping to catch the eye of his old friend before continuing, "...you remember nothing, then. The Black Beast? The six of us, in battle together... my word, I would not trade those memories - painful as those long days were - for anything in the world..."
As if suddenly remembering his place, he adds quickly and with an upraised index finger, "Unless it were Madam Rachel's wish for me to forget, of course!"
That said, he moves back to more serious matters and his eyes take on an almost... apologetic look, his voice suddenly more hushed, as if he were regretting the fact that he even has to bring up the matter of...
"Your wife, Konoe?" he asks, "Your... daughter, Kokonoe?"
He of course doesn't mention that the latter was at the Estate, mere days ago. Madam Rachel's business, after all, is /not/ his to discuss. Yet, he cannot stand to see his old friend, once so confident and cocksure, so... oddly confused.
At the angry ribbiting, Jubei's ears flatten against his head, the fur his back standing on edge. And yet, as much as he would -love- to snatch that frog right up and swallow him whole...
Well, that's not very Heroic behavior.
He can ignore it. Really, he can. And he really -does- remain statue-still.
Once that infernal ribbiting dies down, Jubei allows his ears to pop back up, and his arms to unfold just a bit. "Oh, he's no trouble at all... " he says.
Because that -is- Heroic behavior.
Jubei turns to look over his shoulder, just happening to catch sight of Valkenhayn the moment before anything is set upon the table. And -that- causes the statuesque expression to dissolve into a smile, if only for a moment. "Forgive me, I was just admiring the paintings here. Some magnificent work, I commend the artisans for capturing a wonderful likeness..."
He tilts his head, looking back to Clavis. It's clear he has -some- response, if not the same as Valkenhayn's.
Though, at the query, it seems that Jubei begins to fall silent again, that smile fading away. "... Please... don't think any less of me. But when you say memories... Black Beast? I remember a creature. I remember you. I remember... fighting."
He frowns, red eye casting down to the pads of his paws in front of him. "I remember losing my brother. But that's not how I actually lost Tomonori. How can he have died... twice, if he only lived once?"
He exhales, turning to get a more sincere look at Valkenhayn. "I remember seeing many things. I remember you, friend. But I do not remember your name -- for I have never met you. I have only seen your face in a pond -- a face I cannot forget."
He waves his bare paw to the portrait of Clavis, beside him.
"I know his name, from the inscription. Cla-vis. But I have never met him. And yet. The memory is ineffable. It was always there -- or maybe it was never there."
He looks back up to Valkenhayn. "I would say I am growing senile. But I remember everything that I have done in my life. I remember my first time eating watermelon with crystal clarity. I remember forging my first sword, taking my first job -- my first love."
His ears fold back down.
He -wants- to speak to the matter of Konoe, of Kokonoe -- but as moisture forms at the corner of his eye, it seems even more troublesome than the other matters to speak of.
"The visions are more vivid now than they have ever been. I do not know why."
"Ever the brave one, old friend," Valkenhayn says with a knowing chuckle at the man's confidence surrounding his brief run-in with the Destroyer of Worlds, George the Frog. Ahhh, if only the one-eyed twin lotus knew the power that he was facing this day in the form of that fat little amphibian... Wait, I think I'm over-selling George here. Moving on.
He just stands, after his query to the feline samurai standing beside him, as he keeps his head inclined to try and look directly at Jubei - after all, Valkenhayn R. Hellsing has seen these paintings so many times... he was even present when some were being painted... though beautiful, they hold no interest for him anymore. Certainly none of the mysteries that his guest finds in them - but that should hardly be surprising.
The constant guardian of House Alucard truly does take pity on his old friend. He remembers a time when Jubei would leap into battle, equal parts confidence and fury, combined and honed to razor sharpness. A whirling dervish even among the Six Heroes, his name was spoken of as Legend among those who fought the Black Beast. Even Hakumen could not prove his equal in the olden times...
...and now what stands beside him? A man, out of time. Confused as to his place in the world. Unable to remember so much of what made him unique, special, his heroic acts seemingly lost to the sands of time. Well, Valkenhayn knows a thing or two about that - while his own name was once spoken of in hushed whispers, the earthrealm now holds no memories of the Black Beast or the war waged against it. It no longer tells any tales of the Six brave men and women (well, five, and one leashed monster...) who were all that stood between that creature and the destruction of everything.
But Valkenhayn R. Hellsing never lusted for glory - no, it was Jubei and his wife Konoe who approached /him/ at the Alucard Estate, in the years of Clavis Alucard, and recruited him... it was Konoe who believed the chaotic Yuuki Terumi could be chained, controlled to aid in their battle against the Beast.
And for a time, it proved so. Until Terumi betrayed them all, and Valkenhayn and the Master of House Alucard had to seal him beyond the boundary. It seems so long ago, but at least the elderly manservant /remembers/. He remembers the choices that have led him here. He knows who he is, for good or ill.
"Yes. Clavis Alucard," he nods his head to the painting as his friend reads the inscription, "The man who gave me my purpose in life. The man who saved me from becoming a monster myself..."
There is a tinge of regret in his voice, as if he felt... he did not deserve the kindness. As an Immortal Breaker alongside Relius Clover, it was his duty to hunt and eliminate vampires such as Master Clavis. And still, once defeated, the man did not /end/ Valkenhayn... but rather, offered him his hand.
"Jubei, you were a Legend. When the Black Beast threatened the realm, all those countless years ago... were it not for you, I do not believe we would have succeeded," his tone isn't even complimentary, just flat, honest, a simple statement of facts. The feline standing beside him may not recall, but Valkenhayn will never forget the way the warrior moved in that battle. A speed and precision he hardly thought possible - launching himself again and again at the Black Beast, never ceasing...
...but then, could they have been successful if /any/ one of them had been absent that day? Even the blasted Terumi, had his part to play... though to this day, Valkenhayn swears that Konoe's idea to release him was the greatest mistake their group had ever made. If he'd remained sealed away in his original prison, perhaps none of this might have happened.
"It is difficult for me to give you a full explanation... such matters, I'm afraid, are Madam Rachel's affair. And she has been ever so busy of late."
One gloved hand reaches out, the old butler attempting to place it lightly on the shoulder of Jubei as he continues to stare down at the confused warrior. Some small comfort, perhaps. He truly does not know what else he can do; a Legend, now without a place in the world. Without even knowing what that place /once/ was.
"I do believe I know why you were called here, however. Our old... friend," he says, his voice becoming something /other/ than complete professional for the first time since Jubei arrived, practically hissing out the word 'friend' with a contempt that drips off his voice, "Yuuki Terumi. A being of chaos and hatred... Konoe, she... convinced us, the only way to win our war was to release him."
A sigh, as if reliving the foolishness of the decision all over again, wishing he had voiced his arguments against the powerful mage known as 'Nine'. But, this is no time for regrets. Not when everything hangs in the balance.
"He's free again. I expect as his influence makes itself more known, in this realm and the others, that you will... remember more clearly. It seems that events once thought buried under the sands of the hourglass are... re-emerging."
He pauses now, eyes narrowing in on Jubei's face, as if contemplating how much he must involve this old comrade of his in the struggles to come. He seems oddly happy, in a way - the kind of bliss that comes with ignorance, but... surely, Terumi's machinations would not leave him in such a state for long. Best to know the truth, now.
"I believe your wife, Konoe, may have played a part. Perhaps the matters on the earthrealm have broken the seals of his prison. I do not know," he admits, with no shame in his voice - he is but a humble manservant, after all, "All I know is... Yuuki Terumi has returned, to destroy us all. Remember him or not, he /will/ be coming for you, Jubei..."
He has taken some note of the man's reaction to his daughter's name and... does not repeat it. Some things, a man must be left to deal with himself.
These phrases, these statements, these names. None of them even receive a glimmer of recognition -- for the cat's memories of another time and place are more photographic than verbal. Jubei's paws wrap around one another as he lets them hang before him, the front of his frock dimpling at the faint pressure.
"Of Clavis, I have the most... quantity of memories. But the most vivid of all... were the battles. Reliving this... atrocity? That is my curse on the darkest of nights. Believe me when I say that I cannot ask you to recount that story. Perhaps... Madam Rachel will have the time to speak."
He smiles back up at Valkenhayn once the hand is placed on his shoulder, though... it is more out of politeness than a true improvement of his mood. He shows none of the strength for which he is known, none of his legendary conviction -- for this is not -quite- the same man as the One-Eyed Twin Lotus. This is just a man tormented by the legacy he only knows in passing.
The word 'friend' does tend to jump out at him, though.
And it is here that he looks askance, crimson eye falling upon the teacup and saucer, particularly the pale-colored liquid simmering within. And with a mild, but mirthful, chuckle, he opts now to take his seat.
"This is of prime relevance to you now, if the entranceway is any indication." The wisened feline was paying attention, after all. "This... Yuuki Terumi. Describe him for me, if you will. You say he will be coming for me, mmm?"
He takes a sip of milk, nodding his head in appreciation. "After all, I get the feeling that he is not... exactly the -friend- you say he is, am I right? Even if he was party to the end of the war -- to the slaying of the Black Beast."
Perhaps he is getting the facts wrong. But it would be better now for him to state the truths he believes, in order that they may be corrected before they become solidified into memory. He nods in affirmation -- confidence trickling back into the feline expression.
"... And, please do not think me rude, but... do you have pictures?" He gestures to the portrait of Clavis. "Like these, but... of Terumi? Of..." He thinks for a moment, and realizes he will likely meet Rachel later anyway. "... of... Konoe? Of the... did you say -daughter?-" He skips a beat. "They're cats, right? Like me?"
He smiles as hopefully as any amnesiac might.
But he's not an amnesiac.
There's an oddly regretful look on Valkenhayn's face as his eyes search the feline's face for any sign that he remembers... of course, why would he? No doubt his old friend had been wandering, completely obvlivious, perhaps even... happy - and here he is, now, being forced face-to-face with a past he barely even knows is real.
The bottom of the lycanthropes lip comes up somewhat, his perfect white teeth biting down slightly on one side. If he could give this responsibility to anyone else, he would. If he could let Jubei enjoy his milk, and talk as friends - rather than old comrades who may very well be forced back into battle together - it would be greatly preferable.
A sudden flash of rage threatens to consume him, the teeth on his bottom lip seeming to grow, slightly, and sharpen, barely, before he exhales a deep breath and they return to their normal shape. He knows Terumi thrives on his rage - everyone's hatred simply makes him more powerful - and perhaps that /monster/ has allowed these memories to re-flood the mind of Jubei, to send him here, simply to rile up Valkenhayn even more.
He puts nothing past the sinister brain of that god of chaos...
Valkenhayn R. Hellsing won't allow his own anger to feed that monster. Not after he gave him so, so much sustenance upon their last meeting in these very halls not long ago. He could /see/ the vessel growing stronger as the fight carried on, as the butler gave in more and more to his savage nature. He can't let it happen again... but all the same, the feline's talk of his curse... it makes him wish he could spare the one-eyed twin lotus the pain of remembering.
He's fought so hard already. Men like him or Valkenhayn, the elderly Legend thinks, should be allowed to retire quietly... their great deeds done. Their names lost to time. Forgotten, perhaps, but happy. Peaceful. They've both known so little of it in their lives... and it does not seem to be in their future.
"I am certain Madam Rachel will be interested in your arrival, Jubei," he says with near-certainty. His Mistress is not on the Estate at present, or he would be dashing to inform her that another Legend from the past has re-emerged, another weapon to use in the wars to come (as Rachel would no doubt view him). "Have patience. I will inform Milady upon her return that the one-eyed twin lotus has come back into the world. That you are... remembering things."
Yes, there's little doubt that Lady Alucard will be interested. So many elements from their past, re-emerging... what it means, is beyond Valkenhayn's understanding. He may have placed himself beside Observers for generations, but he has hardly concerned himself in /their/ affairs. Simply tending to their needs and wants.
Stepping in one quick stride to the opposite stool from Jubei, the manservant himself takes a seat - it's quite a comical sight, knees almost coming up to his chest... well these chairs /are/ all meant for Madam Rachel. So rarely does she entertain sitting guests, that... well, there may not be a full-sized chair in the entire Estate. Valkenhayn himself cannot recall the last time he'd had occasion to /sit/ in the castle. He's usually too busy, or off on some errand, or getting his few hours of rest a week.
Somehow, he makes it look as dignified as possible.
"No. No friend, indeed. As for your wife and daughter, it's..."
Shaking his head suddenly, he raises one hand and snaps his fingers without explanation. There's a pause, a few moments of waiting where Jubei may think this old man has completely lost his mind, and then...
The /frog/ returns almost as soon as these words are complete... carrying a long scroll in it's slimy mouth, ribbiting around the old parchment paper as he does so. The amphibian hops up to Valkenhayn's side of the table, and the lycanthrope reaches down to pull it from George's mouth. He nods in approval then shoo's the creature away with the back of one gloved hand. George ribbits, again, at Jubei before hopping back to the door - opening the knob with his long tongue and pulling it open to make his escape.
Unrolling the scroll on the table, it shows an old sketch of the Six Heroes, as they were in the past. They all look the same, except for Valkenhayn - his hair spiky and short rather than long and flowing, still possessing the black colour it once was, his face unlined and youthful. Jubei will see himself in samurai armour,
He taps his finger on the the woman wearing the hat and cloak. "Your wife, Konoe... one of the most powerful mages that /any/ world has ever known... you loved her, once, Jubei. I'm sorry you have to see this, but... it's better for you to remember."
Then the finger lifts up, and taps on the hooded figure in the back, facing away from the other Five. Even the image of Terumi seems to hold a power it's very own... a hatred, a loathing, a manic energy seems to pulsate off his figure...
"Yuuki Terumi. He betrayed us /all/. The Alucards and myself... finally placed him back in his prison. Well. So we thought."
Leaving the scroll on the table for Jubei to ponder over, his eyes have never left the feline, watching for any reaction to the image. If Madam Rachel were present, the old feline might be allowed to observe Kokonoe using the old vampire's unique abilities, but... he truly does not know Madam Rachel's plans for the half-human/half-cat scientist...
...and despite their history, his first loyalty is now to House Alucard above all else.
"And he will be coming. For all of us. It's already begun, my old comrade. And I fear for the future of the realms, if he is not stopped."
The One-Eyed Twin Lotus listens.
He is very good at listening -- and observing. He notes the rage which Valkenhayn struggles to keep from surfacing. He notes the mild frustration with which names are bounced off of Jubei's furry head with little to no avail. The urgent pleas for some sort of emotional reaction to any of the clearly notable personages in his past alter-ego's life.
The samurai master sips his milk, calmly.
"Time is a river -- though it flows very slowly -- it rests for no one."
He offers a brief smile, though this is not one of condescension, or superiority -- but rather an astute and tacit observation of Valkenhayn's frustration. And Jubei's wish to address it in a constructive fashion.
"... One-Eyed... Twin Lotus. An... interesting moniker." He chuckles softly. "We will meet, I'm sure of it... But all in due time."
He watches as the scroll is unfurled before him. The figures upon it, though? Undoubtedly he recognizes himself, in gleaming armor. And Valkenhayn... "This was clearly a very long time ago," he notes with a slight touch of wry amusement.
But Konoe. The distinctive hat, the... human figure.
This was his wife? The figure who played in so many of his dreams, who inspired such strong emotions in others around her?
The cat seems confused, but not distraught. Lines of amiable concern stretch across his face.
"... Oh-ho. I... I do remember her from the visions. Quite..."
The elder cat looks back at Valkenhayn, gauging his response.
He concludes, "... Quite the demonstration of how opposites can attract."
He lets the statement hang in the air for a few moments, considering.
With a hopeful smile, he notes in response. "Forgive me. I believe you, old friend. And I do not mean to worry you. But it will take me some time. And while I would ask you of Konoe and... Kokonoe, was it? I would... think it pertinent to address the impending matter of Yuuki Terumi first..."
Luckily, Valkenhayn is on the same page -- and points to the figure in question.
This arouses a frown from the cat.
And it should become clear that Jubei has some knowledge consistent with Valkenhayn's apprehension.
"... It was a prudent choice to call forth the best man for the job. But unkind to withhold freedom from one without whom success would not have been possible. A difficult... conundrum."
The saucer is raised to his lips. And sipped quietly.
"How have you prepared for this... man's return? And what measures may I be able to assist with?"
The old butler can't help but smile slightly at Jubei's reaction to the sketched figure of his wife. Opposites attract indeed; Valkenhayn always did find them a... strange couple. But then, love can be a strange thing. He never did judge their relationship - not until after the fact, when her mistakes came back to... well...
At the mention of preparation, Valkenhayn simply shakes his head, slowly, from side to side... his eyes are cast downward, still looking at that scroll depicting the Six Heroes before their monumental conflict in an age lost to time. Specifically, his gaze bores into the hooded figure of Terumi, his back turned to all the rest... how could they have been so /foolish/? Did Konoe honestly believe they could chain a creature of pure chaos and hatred?
But unfortunately, it is often the best of us who let their abilities make them overconfident - particularly Nine. She thought her powers so great, the Magic Association so potent a force, that she must have never thought it were possible for Yuuki to betray them.
Well, she paid for her arrogance in the end... but, sadly, so did the /rest/ of them - all in their own way. Every one of the other five Heroes had their lives damaged by that /monster/ they forcefully conscripted into the battle against the Black Beast; Valkenhayn took great satisfaction the day he watched him be sealed back within the boundary.
Of course, satisfaction and a comfortable, if not busy, life made him so... complacent. With Madam Rachel asleep for precisely a decade, leaving the earthrealm unobserved and allowed to fall into chaos, there was plenty of time... plenty of opportunity for Terumi to plot. It is, after all, what he always was best at... and the schemes he seems to have already put in place might unravel all the work accomplished by the Alucards for generations.
It might, very well, unravel EVERYTHING across the realms. What end does Yuuki Terumi have in mind?
"I only wish we had prepared ourselves, Jubei... I'm afraid with Madam Rachel... indisposed for so long, things have gone unseen that she might otherwise have been able to stop. Milady is powerful, indeed, but even /she/..." he says, pausing to glance around the room and drop his voice to a whisper, "...I fear even her power may not be enough to stop what is alreay in motion..."
The tone of regret in his voice is heavy, thick - as though he blamed himself for the entire affair. Perhaps if there had been some way to rouse Madam Rachel from her sleep, but... it was never his place to do so. Simply to stand vigil, maintain the grounds, and wait for her awakening.
Suddenly, his eyes rise up off the scroll - he leaves it unrolled on the table for Jubei to inspect further if he wishes, perhaps even to... take with him - and fall back upon his old comrade. His gaze still has the steel and determination he's always shown, but also... a certain tiredness. He's dealt with monsters like Terumi his entire life... was there truly no reprieve? Ever?
"Bah. I'm sorry to lay this all at your feet, my old friend. But there truly is no time for pleasantries - and this is /me/ saying that, so you /know/ the matter is serious."
A deep sigh, and then Valkenhayn is off the hilarious small, Rachel-sized stool he'd crouched himself onto - straightening his back and smoothing the front of his formal wear.
"Lady Alucard has discovered Terumi's vessel is a man of the Novus Orbis Librarium Intelligence Division. One Captain Hazama. I've made... efforts to track him down, but... I believe this organization truly has no conception of the monster standing within their ranks. If we can find this Captain Hazama, however, we may be able to strike down the vessel before Terumi grows too powerful. I fear, however, we may be too late. I fear Yuuki Terumi's true power has /already/ been unleashed... and I fear that /none/ of us are ready."
A quick walk around to Jubei's edge of the table, and the old manservant simply stares down at him. Master Jubei. Mitsuyoshi... the Legend of the Six Heroes. Fate was kind to deliver him here, for with this warrior... there may still be some chance.
"I believe it would be wise to speak to Madam Rachel. I know you never did like waiting, so... you are free to stay until she returns from business, or I might have her summon you."
"Are you all having a wonderful get-together without ME? I'm one of the heroes too, you know!!" suddenly resonates within the room. Immediately, Valkenhayn would know the terrible individual that bears that voice. And even Jubei might find a spark of rage. Something in his mind is struggling. Yet it is blackness, a scab, a wound long healed. Even then, some ancient emotions can almost seethe through.
From the great portrait of Clavis, a black shadow slowly ripples through. Vestigial arms grasp the frame, bulbous body drawing in before it tumbles in a blink droplet into the middle of the room. Gradually it coalesces into something vaguely humanoid, a massive green heart pulsing into being and spreading strange veins throughout it's form. A single red line splits into a mouth, and the left eye, brilliant green, flits open.
Terumi. But, in his spiritual form. For all Valkenhayn's rage at this intrusion, neither here can physically do anything to him. He exists outside time, outside reason. Madam Rachel herself might struggle with the tools to affect him in any meaningful way as it lies now.
"It seems that this shitty estate drifted close to this Realm... likely to allow in this housecat? How convenient for me." Terumi's head swivels to Jubei, green eye seeming to flare larger. "I was wanting to meet you... old friend!"
Any thoughts that Jubei has of Terumi, the yellow-cloaked figure, were constant suspicion, and a desire to kill. The only reason he never lost his head was Konoe's wishes, and her constant assurance that the Mind Eater spell kept him under control. Not even for a single iota of time did any of those present think of him as 'comrade'...!
And Valkenhayn might understand another great threat here. Jubei, one of the most powerful souls on the planet... if he fully acknowledges Terumi, then...!
There have been many things for Jubei to keep track of throughout this little visit to the Castle Beyond Time. His recurring 'dreams' were not dreams, but instead visions of another time that had some tenebrous connection with things in the real world. That perhaps his memories were not fully his own, but shared with an alternate self. And hearing Valkenhayn's words only reinforced that belief that the dream-visions actually happened.
But no matter how much the conversation continued to brush against the notion of the cat fathering a child with a human woman, the reserved countenance of Valkenhayn continued to harbor distrust for only one of the figures on that scroll -- a disgust that Jubei now had a name for.
Valkenhayn's insistance that the preparations were not complete was, of note, starting to grate at the samurai, threatening to pierce through even his leathery resolve. His teeth grind within his jaw -- apprehension growing for reasons not even he knows why at the moment.
He is about to speak, when Valkenhayn dismisses the concern entirely, showing the initiative Jubei would just as soon demonstrate personally.
The hint of exasperation lingers in the back of his throat as he speaks.
"Yes, old friend. I cannot help my ignorance, but I can help -you- with your -current- conundrum."
Determined, he remains affixed in place as Valkenhayn rises from his stool -- and explains the situation. Again the waves emotion crest to a new high -- only to ebb away into an artificial still by the competing demands of politeness and station.
Feline paws press down onto the table.
"No, old friend."
How can a creature as small as Jubei command such a deep and resounding voice?
The One-Eyed Twin Lotus turns up to Valkenhayn -- fiercely resolute despite the obvious size discrepancy -- a housecat standing defiantly against the ferocious wolf.
"No, I will not wait. I will train, for idleness cannot be conflated with preparation. And you will, tasks permitting, join me -- if we are ever to clear this burden of -guilt- from your mind."
Challenge made, Jubei turns to his teacup. Claws reach for the handle of the cup. Palm presses into it. The teacup rises.
And the grandest interruption takes place. The timbre of voice alone is enough to send a chill down Jubei's spine.
The teacup clinks back against its saucer.
And in the very next instant, the teacup lists sharply to its side.
For Jubei is standing upon the table -- his furry forelimbs vanished once more within the folds of his frock.
The claw of his right sleeve is outstretched, the metal blades unfurled in a warding gesture.
The claw of his left is drawn back for balance.
Twin tails curl around the lower sword hilt, protruding from the scabbard slung about his shoulder.
And his one red eye has narrowed to a mere slit.
The cat's voice is low and commanding -- there is no mistaking the gravel-laden tone. "There has been but one constant in my life -- and that is unabiding -hatred- for your very existence, monster. Speak your piece, and be quick about it."
The guardian of House Alucard knows full well his friend was never a patient one, and so he makes no mention of the grinding teeth, or the frustration he appears to be showing as Valkenhayn explains the current state of things. After all, he himself is hardly pleased with them. And he hardly could expect a man like Jubei to sit and wait for Madam Rachel to return, especially when there is so clear a threat to be dealt with. The manservant smiles pleasantly at the idea of training with this old Legend from his past. Ahhh, simpler times.
So, he simply waves the tension between the two away with an understanding look upon his face. The man is right. Now is /no/ time to wait and see what Terumi's next move might be, or even for Jubei (though Valkenhayn himself has little say in the matter, personally) to wait on Lady Alucard's return. He's needed in the earthrealm...
"I would be honou..." he begins, and then his voice suddenly cuts off as he feels a strange shifting within the room, and then... that... voice.
Valkenhayn R. Hellsing knows the source of this creature's power. He knows the emotions it thrives off of. He has known this beast for far, far too long...
...and yet, his initial reaction is all the same to that voice that suddenly manifests itself in the room - a sudden growl, a reddening of his eyes, teeth growing sharper. The hands under his spotless white gloves seem to bulge for just a moment, as though they were in danger of splitting open to reveal the paws and claws of his true lycanthropic aspect.
And then, he remembers. He remembers the words of Lady Alucard, after his last encounter with the vessel Hazama, that the anger and antipathy they both displayed towards the spirit of Terumi only enabled him further. Made him more potent a force, allowed him more control over the realms in which he travelled... no, you cannot face a monster like this with pure hate - although, to be sure, it is /all/ that the elderly butler has inside his heart for this terrible creature.
"No..." he whispers, as if reminding himself that this was /not/ the way. This is Yuuki Terumi, fishing for hatred, baiting his hook with words and memories he knows that /both/ of his former 'comrades' from the Six Heroes will respond to. He...
His head snapping to the side, white, ribboned ponytail whipping through the air with the motion of his head, Valkenhayn's eyes turn from the shadowy figure - how /dare/ he emerge from the portrait of a man as /great/ as Clavis Alucard?!?! - to his feline companion. To the Legend, whose fighting spirit was so powerful, so immeasurable, his very genetics became a weapon of war with the creation of the Kaka Tribe. Another great warrior whose hatred Terumi would feast upon, to enrich himself even further, to bring him one step closer to... /whatever/ his plans were.
Of course, one half-step and the swipe of a gloved hand keeps the teacup from spilling any of it's contents - duty does always come first, after all, and it is second nature to the elderly butler at this point. It takes but a fraction of a second to right the teacup, and then Valkenhayn is staring straight at the side of Jubei's hooded face. He's noticeably averting his eyes from the manifestation of Terumi present in the room... he /knows/ himself well enough, to know that setting his gaze upon that /monster/ would cause emotions that would delight and empower the escaped spirit.
"Jubei! No!" come the hastened shouts from the mouth of Valkenhayn - though he noticeably makes no motion to grip the feline's sleeve, or attempt to pull him from the table, or even to forcibly avert his gaze from Terumi... no, in such a state, who knows what Jubei is capable of? And seeing two old friends and comrades set into battle against eachother is /precisely/ what Terumi would want.
So, he simply stands beside the table, arms hanging stiffly at his sides and pleading eyes staring up at the One-Eyed Twin Lotus atop it's surface.
"This is what he /does/. This is what he /wants/," he says, his voice low - jaw grinding to try and stop the sheer hatred he feels from seeping into his voice, attempting to stuff his raging anger deep, deep down, rebuild those layers of peacefulness and domesticity he spent /decades/ cultivating. It is no easy task, and Terumi likely feels his rage, barely contained, just below the surface.
And then, finally, his head turns slightly in the direction of the spirit. He does not meet it's shadowy gaze - he does not trust himself to remain in control if he were to do so. But he speaks, his voice a low growl, remembering what was done to him in these very halls not so long ago.
"I see, then, you are afraid to face us /both/, /Terumi/. A very wise decision. You must be /learning/..."
"How admirable. Trying to go beyond hatred. When you know very well that's the core of your being, wolf. You were created as a weapon to sic on the throats of your enemies. And you relished the strength and freedom of your time as an Immortal Breaker. Can you truly tell me you do not prefer this...? Was it better to tend an empty house with nothing but memories?!" Terumi seems to nearly coo towards Valkenhayn.
Of course, the following statement is met with a laugh, thin arms spreading wide. "I'm not afraid of YOU, dog. You are alive because your twitching body and concern for imminent death fueled that shitty vampire in my time of need!!" A half-truth. The sheer resolve of the ancient werewolf is far more beneficial to him burning like it is now than forever extinguished. A grudge will not cement him in the past tense, and there is a limit to how much he wishes to enrage Rachel. As she is now, she struggles with her role as a bystander. With Valkenhayn dead, she likely would have fallen upon him with her full unrestrained power, and there's few in existance who can deal with /that./
"But I'm not here for you. Jubei, Jubei, Jubei... how cruel, to hate me so. Well, I can't say this is the first time we met, here." This would come as a surprise to Valkenhayn. In this realm, the monster cat should have been free of his predations beyond echoes of memory. Then again, certain things might gnaw. Kokonoe is here. If Kokonoe is here, would that mean she was not born of Jubei and Konoe? Or would it mean...
"I'm not a fool. If I brought my vessel here, this legendary pain would cut him down. But he came for answers. Didn't he?! Would you LIKE some? Lotus?"
His single green eye locks with Jubei's red one. Something slowly shifts out, a strange and silvery mist. A voice seems to echo out from within it. A female's.
'Jubei, get back! You can't hurt him!' A moment spent of concern, rather than incanting a spell. A critical moment that cost the woman her life. A shriek of pain, anger, and fear. The wisp proceeds towards Jubei, holding in it some memory, some truth. The woman he loved. And...
'Jubei... take care of our child. Promise me...!!'
The butler need not have troubled himself with righting the teacup. For one -- it was practically empty. And for another -- Cats only upset objects from tables when they wish to send a message.
No -- Jubei's pivot flip was executed with nearly perfected form, his agitation of the table's surface minimal. His stance, too, is perfect -- neither defensive nor submissive, neither aggressive nor passive. Assertive -- plain and simple.
Master Jubei would not be cowed -- the fur at the scruff of his neck stands stiffly at the ready.
Only one of his tail moves, wavering back and forth in a supple question-mark shape while its twin coils sharply, ready to withdraw the lower of the two Dream Blades at an instant's notice.
"Surely, I have nothing to lose by simply -stating- my contempt..."
The feline's statement is directed towards Valkenhayn, though his crimson eye remains locked firmly upon the lopsided smile and emerald gaze of Terumi. And yet -- the advice is quietly assimilated, a fact notable with a slow exhale from the warrior's feline nostrils.
The female voice rings hollow -- barely registering upon the samurai cat's features. Certainly, it is the voice of a woman, and notions of chivalry transcend the bounds of culture.
It is accurate to say that he knows whose voice this is meant to be.
It is not accurate to say that he recognizes it as such.
"The yapping of a mutt speaks only to its master's ineptness."
A deliberate pause.
"I -do- seek answers," he begins hesitantly, his one-eyed gaze drifting to the visage of Konoe for one -- two -- two and a half heartbeats before snapping back to the cruel facsimile of a face.
Ears flatten against his head, as he swallows a gulp of air. His frame wracks with a single shudder, as his brow stiffens yet again. "But I can gain no peace from abiding such as fool as yourself. Begone, for you will glean no further satisfaction from me."
Try as he might, Valkenhayn was always a slave to the hatred he felt around Terumi. Even with the man 'controlled' by Konoe and the Magic Association's binding spells, he recalls glancing over at him even in the midst of battle against The Black Beast. Hating him, everything he was, everything he stood for - hating the fact that they /needed/ him to win the day... that they could not do so themselves, and instead freed a beast that would lead to their ruin.
Memories come rushing back to the mind of the elderly manservant - unlike Jubei, he /never/ forgot... he merely tried to. Relius Clover, the Immortal Breakers, fighting his way into the Alucard Estate with the intention of bringing an end to the immortality of the former Master Clavis... his /failure/ in defending the manor from Terumi's vessel. The /shame/ of knowing that he only lives /today/ by the grace of this most-hated foe.
The palm of one gloved hand comes up to his forehead, as Valkenhayn's mind reels with fury, fury at everything... what he was... what Terumi is once again turning him /into/. He thought he had put it all behind him, and... this /thing/ won't allow him the peace that he so desperately wants. His neck inclines backwards, eyes shut in concentration, jaw grinding as his teeth begin to once again lengthen into pointed fangs. He's in danger of losing control, his body sways backwards a half-step under the sheer /force/ of his own anger, boiling up inside him.
"Grrrrrrrrrr...." comes the low growl from the lycanthrope's throat, as he slams one palm down on the surface of the coffee table Jubei is balanc
He is only vaguely aware of the silvery mist that spreads out from the spirit of Terumi, he is so focused on maintaining his own composure. He's given enough of himself over to this beast... he cannot allow it to feed on him anymore, but... it seems /Jubei/, is the reason he has arrived this day. Was he watching the entire time? Had the spirit of Terumi ever fully abandoned this Estate? The halls have felt different, ever since that day Captain Hazama sneaked his way into the Manor, even since Valkenhayn fell in battle against the demon from his past.
It's... just not possible. Valkenhayn drops to one knee, palm still spread on the table, other hand clutching his face as his fangs grow to full-length. His eyes are now /blazing/ red, but kept hidden behind the palm of his hand, still unwilling to look the manifested spirit directly in the eye. Long claws begin to pop out of the fingers of his immaculate white gloves...
...and then, he cranes his neck back to look up at the ceiling...
"AWRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" comes the loud, terrible, rage-filled howl... it begins to echo around the room, seemingly gaining in volume and intensity as the noise bounces from wall to wall. A terrible soundtrack, for this meeting between Jubei and Terumi. For the moment, all rational thought is gone, he's simply... trying to hold on. To himself. To some semblance of decency, reason, /anything/ to prevent him from completely losing control.
It's only /fortunate/ that Master Jubei seems to have... either fewer memories of what this creature has /done/ to them, or a greater control... he, after all, does not have a savage beast resting just beneath the surface as Valkenhayn R. Hellsing always had. The control and willpower of the one-eyed twin lotus may be the only thing saving this situation from devolving further.
There's a bit of a wince from Terumi when Valkenhayn descends into his more animalistic state. He had been carefully gathering the energy from around the abundant estate since his arrival, and as he loses himself to that great erupting howl, Terumi's minimalist hand flicks up. "Be silent, dog." A great series of sigils manifest as the prepared formula play out. From the wall behind the butler, a massive sigil appears, countless slender green chains covered in wicked hooks lashing out. The intent is to capture the man and drag him back against it, and lock him in place.
If nothing else, it should be something of a distraction. Evasion and battling with the spell would be an extended affair, as new chains would slither out in a relentless attempt to satisfy their goal of restraining him.
"And dear cat, it's answers I offer!" he then states with a laugh, the black shape's green eye flaring brighter. "All I'm doing... is giving you back what I stole!!" The silvery essence then seems to disperse, before the memories are released. Jubei might think the encroaching essence some manner of attack, but it's merely his body and soul recalling what is truly his.
And his body would flood with deep, intimate memories. The first time he met Konoe, who tracked him down to see how he was doing in this world, all those long years ago. The rekindled spark between them. It was only after Kokonoe was born that she told him the truth. About another world, a dark reflection of what could have been.
And Yuuki Terumi.
She had created a small, temporary cauldron into the Boundary. Used it to draw forth the Dream Blades - Musashi. And stated that she would use this opening to prepare a defense. Instead, Terumi had been waiting. Enough seithr seeped out for him to self-observed and appear.
Konoe had shouted out a warning to her lover, and then was struck by Terumi's spell, and hurled into the cauldron. Thereafter, he fell upon Jubei. Devouring his memories. Violating his mind. Taking his love, his happiness, his daughter from him, and leaving him to wander for all those decades, feeling not only that he was out of tune with this world, but that he had lost something core to himself...
For Terumi and Valkenhayn, this all might happen in a heartbeat. But the strange marionette just giggles madly, green growth upon his chest pulsing faster. "Hahahahaha!! There you go, cat!! Now... that you know the truth..."
"Can you claim you don't feel a TINY bit of despair?!"
The table is slammed by Valkenhayn -- and even -that- does not disturb the cat standing upon it, careful feline balance trumping lupine rage. He remains fixed in place, staring down the smiling apparition of Terumi, the only indication of his animate nature being the heavy and rhythmic rise and fall of his lungs, and the attendant drape of his dark-colored robe.
And then, the Silver Wolf breaks free of his humble butler facade in a burst of furious rage. One might get the sense that he doesn't like Yuuki Terumi much! The One-Eyed Twin Lotus hisses through bared teeth, unable to hold back -all- of the signs of his predatory nature. His tail -- the one not coiled tightly about the hilt of his lower Dream Blade -- flicks back and forth like a metronome -- one of many warning signs of his impending retribution.
And yet, his friend's verbal warning outshadows the lupine howling that follows as Jubei remains intent on the smiling visage.
It isn't until the emerald chains lash out that the black-draped beastkin even budges -- and even that is only a slight budge, a reflexive test to see if the chains would have any response at all to the motion. After he sees that the chains are just an attempt to get a rise out of him...
The hiss becomes a baritone growl.
"I said -begone!-"
A brief glance is offered to the silvery essence as it dissolves into hazy mist. His outstretched paws both draw inward, preparing to strike, as his tail curls to join its twin...
And then both tails fall limp -- a motion mirrored by the outstretched claws -- as the scintillating mist sweeps over him, pervading his very being. Memories crash over the grizzled samurai, swaying him back and forth atop the table. The claws draw inward -- defensive, rather than boldly assertive -- as his twin tails lash about to compensate for the redistributed balance. Beads of seithr, silver like liquid mercury, form upon his fur and coat -- before burrowing deep within the surface.
An eyelid shutters a glossy, red eye -- moisture welling up as the true, horrific portent of the regained memories makes itself apparent.
The reason is given.
The truth of the memories -- such as it is.
The word is choked out, as the feline's limbs begin to tremble with anxiety.
The tremors begin to subside, as his right claw raises to the sword hilt upon his back.
"Will -not- stoop to your level."
In one mighty leap, Jubei vaults from the table.
In the next stroke, the impossibly sharp Dream Blade is swung downward, slicing through the immaterial -essence- of the tendrils holding down Valkenhayn's right side.
As the blade is hurled backwards, the beastkin's tails trade from one sword to the next, swinging the second blade high into the air.
"It certainly seems -- "
Without any loss of momentum, the Twin Lotus hurls the blade down Valkenhayn's left side -- cleanly vivisecting the second set of tendrils.
"-- That you have grown bored of your banishment to Hell."
Undoubtedly, the tendrils will begin to reform themselves -- but it is the thought that counts -- a desperate measure to test whether Terumi's influence in this hallowed space is limited to such filthy tendrils, or whether he can tease out a more worthy target for his Nox Nyctores.
And an aura of pure seithr... begins to radiate outward from Jubei.
As if a battle is about to erupt... slicing through the tendrils may be naught more than a warmup for the samurai cat.
COMBATSYS: Jubei has started a fight here.
COMBATSYS: Jubei gathers his will.
COMBATSYS: Jubei has ended the fight here.
COMBATSYS: Jubei has started a fight here.
COMBATSYS: Jubei gathers his will.
So consumed he is with the building fury inside his body, that Valkenhayn is completely taken off-guard by Terumi's manifested chains - the green energy wrapping around the kneeling lycanthropes limbs and /yanking/ him back to the far wall with a dull THUD.
His howling is cut off as one of the chains wraps around his throat, the elderly manservant just barely being quick enough to raise the fingers of one hand between his neck and the chain itself. It may be all that's keeping him from being strangled... but would Terumi even /want/ to dispose of such a potent source of hatred towards him?
The more he struggles, the stronger the chains grow - even as he claws at them with the sharpened nails of his wolfish paws they seem to offer no slack or give whatsoever. He's... trapped. Red eyes fall upon the form of Jubei, now left to fact this beast alone.
Of all the Six Heroes... of all the /warriors/ that Valkenhayn R. Hellsing has ever known... he has faith in /this/ one, to perhaps drive away the monster.
Raspy voice, choked by Terumi's binding chains, croaks out from his place pinned to the wall...
"Jubei... be... careful..."
A warning, for a man who likely needs /none/. But the old sentinel of House Alucard is /not/ willing to watch another friend fall today. Not now. And certainly /not/ to this... thing. Unfortunately, that may be precisely /what/ he is forced to endure...
"Stooping to my level...? I don't understand." the ghostly form states simply when the monstrous cat shifts forward and assumes a proper stance. Even in his detached form, his very spirit itself not in contact with this world, he can sense the sheer battle strength of the beastman. He's much stronger than he was when he was sealed away...! How incredible. "But I will say this. You've come a long way from nearly dying to a mere fragment of the Black Beast, haven't you...?"
Slowly the shadow begins to grow, stretching upwards. Like some kind of sick latex, it is as if a human form begins to squirm within, forming five fingers and drawing the head back. The muted palette of black and greens still make it inhuman, given the light does not refract upon it properly. The strange luminous green heart on the ghost's chest slowly draws up, being absorbed into the eye. From there the countless veins begin to retract, leaving a momentary silhouette of sheer blackness.
And then it splits open, blowing away ethereal blackness to reveal a slender man in a billowing yellow hooded coat. Metallic reinforcement upon rolled-up sleeves, countless belts criss-crossing otherwise bare arms peaked in gloves, strangely formal loafers and pants with a somewhat unkempt dress shirt, slightly unbuttoned and with the tie partially done. The hood is drawn up, although his left eye continues to burn green, like there's an odd wound seeping essence from his grinning face.
It's him. As he was in that other world. Konoe's voice, telling him there are so few mages now, his power was needed, wearing an outfit similar to the Mage's Guild, entwined with that of the host vessel of this realm.
"Is it stooping to my level... to behave rationally?! I killed your lover!! No. I did WORSE than kill her. I threw her into a place with no time and no form, her torn soul constantly reassembling in a nightmare without end!! Her hatred constantly cooning to me, warm and invigorating. Ah, without her being stolen all that time ago, I might not have gathered sufficient strength to push through that shitty vampire's acknowledgement!!"
He then begins to giggle more, grasping the side of his head as he peers towards Jubei. "And your poor child. All alone. Thinking she's been abandoned by an uncaring vagrant father. For decades! DECADES!! Hahahaha!! It's so delicious!! Do I have to feel it for both of us?! Prove it, One-Eyed White Lotus!! Let me feel the bite of your steel!!"
"But if there is even an ounce of hatred and resentment in your heart, then you will only make me stronger!!" Ah, the perfect stage. Jubei's heart is not so easy to break with just that revelation, but it's certainly shaken. Yet Terumi planted this seed almost a century ago. For this very moment. Tenebrously, he will burrow within... one cannot fight Terumi on his terms and come out ahead. And with the angry wolf watching helpless...!! He won't have long to play, though. Rachel is not barred from returning home. He'd best not draw this out...!
COMBATSYS: Terumi has joined the fight here.
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Terumi 0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0 Jubei
COMBATSYS: Terumi takes no action.
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Terumi 0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0 Jubei
Fresh from its slice through the green chains, the first of the Dream Blades continues to spin in an upwards trajectory. It looks as if it might land, business-end down, upon one of the many fineries inside this opulent sitting room -- and yet, as the Twin Lotus swivels back to face the horrific Terumi, it becomes clear that the master Samurai has the situation well in hand -- er, paw -- reaching back to pluck the sword out of midair. Just as calmly, he replaces the blade and its brother back into the scabbard.
An audible snort is released from the nekomata at the Terumi shade's coy reply. "No thanks to you, fiend." As the tendrils grow back to replace their bisected brethren in entrapping Valkenhayn, he steps aside -- breathing a quiet apology to his friend.
"Forgive me, if I should make a mess of things."
The spirit grows taller, stretching like latex -- and Jubei is unafraid. Terumi's wishes may indeed come to fruition, as the fires begin to burn. A battle of wills has been set into motion, as the sedate warrior forged by decades of celibate training is forced to reconcile with the raw, unfiltered passion of decades prior -- a more youthful self, burning with vengeance.
Bile looms, deep within his throat -- a creeping nausea that forces him to swallow, lest he make the mess he so forewarned of. Assuredly, Valkenhayn has better things to do than clean up his hairballs.
And yet -- as the fires burn, and silvered seithr seeps at the fringes of his silhouetted form -- the red eye narrows in a measured response to Terumi's baiting.
... A wily smile crosses the feline's face.
"Hatred...? Resentment...? What would you say if there is none?"
The state of the "Empty Mind" is the ideal state for maximal performance in martial arts. Thought can be an undue burden upon the mind. Diligent practice can instruct the body in the means of transcending thought, allowing instant adaptation to change.
To fight without thought is to fight from the void.
"You will taste my steel, such as it is."
It is enough to know simply that the fight has begun.
Negative thoughts are banished from the void -- shoved aside, for later.
And in the blink of an eye, the Twin Lotus has surged into action...! Three pairs of dreadfully sharp claws are unveiled from their sheathes at the end of Jubei's sleeves. The air blurs, the passage of the first three claws marked by silvered traces of seithr lingering through the air. A fraction of an instant later, three more silver traces are left in perpendicular fashion -- and so on, the pattern repeats, with the criss-cross pattern continuing as Jubei continues to thunder forward.
No -- the Dream Blades are too good for this unworthy vermin. Jubei will carve him into shreds with his Clan's weapon of choice.
COMBATSYS: Terumi dodges Jubei's Fissuring Slash.
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Terumi 0/-------/-======|=====--\-------\0 Jubei
There's little acknowledgement given to Valkenhayn at the moment. His spell will not last long, especially if the werewolf is adamant about wishing to break free, but an engagement between the God of Destruction and the Strongest Cat is not one that will be drawn out extensively. The newly tangible Terumi just grins wickedly at Jubei when he speaks that, shadow from his hood obstructing most of his strange left eye as it continues to glow and pulse, audible hiss as the essence of his self-observation bleeds through.
"I'd say you were a liar, cat." he simply states.
However, Terumi can feel it. As the battle trance is assembled, his hatred begins to vanish. Damnation... has the cat truly mastered himself to such an extent? The coals and embers of hate remain, though. This battle is hardly over, in any vein. Yet the advance was much faster than Terumi had expected. His expression becomes one of surprise, leaning backwards. There is no martial method to evade this strike, which Jubei knows well.
Yet the talons rake as if into an illusion. They carve as if hitting empty air, Terumi's shape billowing behind them. The storm of attacks continues forward, before Terumi just laughs and kicks backwards. "What's wrong, did that not reach me...?" Tangibility is a purely willed affair. He is not so simple to attack as any mundane foe. There must be intent and focus to harm Terumi -- emptiness will never reach him.
With another mad cackle, Terumi brings up his arms and lunges forward. Magic surges through him, this temporary vessel free of normal restraints. He moves impossibly fluid, incredibly quickly, not bound by bones, ligaments, muscles. Shifting like some nightmare on the edge of vision, as two steel butterfly knives whisk into either hand. He brutally lashes down with one of them from shoulder to hip, before Terumi whirls into a lashing sidekick. Yet his heel sprouts another blade, aiming to rake across the belly before flowing over into a last vicious slash, this one aimed to go from hip to opposite shoulder, and carve into the legendary warrior. "You're not like the dog. Age has made your blade far keener... but for what do you fight?! Without resolve, your weapon is dull and brittle!! Why not to kill ME?! Avenge your voluptuous wife?! Is that not worth baring your FANGS?!"
COMBATSYS: Jubei counters Dance of Fangs from Terumi with Immovable Object.
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Terumi 1/------=/=======|======-\-------\0 Jubei
His response is simple and brief -- a product of his cleared state of mind.
"Tameshite miyou nya~"
Test me and find out.
His harrying strikes are not born of vengeance, as Terumi may have hoped, but instead of an urgent desire to force the shadowy creature to expose itself to harm. This was part of the reason for attacking the chains earlier -- to see if the nature of his existence was as elusive as before. The chains were extensions of his seithr -- constructs, not projections of his true self. And likewise -- as this is not a true -vessel-, it is not subject to the same material constraints. The body does not need to exist.
And yet, if the body does not exist, it cannot strike.
The samurai cat has a significant height disadvantage -- and yet, this is an unyielding product of his birth, one he has spent decades to refine. Novices to the Kaka clan claw weaponry might overcommit themselves to such an attack, throwing themselves fully into the strike -- but the Twin Lotus has no such tendencies. No -- by the time his last strike clears the vacant spot formerly occupied by Terumi's shade, he is already leaning his hind paws forward. An instant later, pad and toes hit the floor, allowing the nimble feline to sharply reverse his direction, momentum absorbed along the length of his digitigrade leg.
The one-eyed cat smirks, leaning backwards. The moment of thought is a luxury afforded by his opponent's overconfidence. For the wily cat knows that his opponent will seize on the opportunity to strike.
He is counting upon it.
*SHINK!* A butterfly knife is deflected upwards, glancing across the tempered steel edge of an upraised claw.
*THNK!* The heel-wielded blade slaps flat against the metallic finish of the samurai cat's scabbard -- as he turns his -back- towards the manipulative aggressor.
*CHNK!* The final blade is caught by the hand-guard of the upper blade, as Jubei continues his swift pivot forward, balanced expertly upon the hind paw he had placed on the floor just an instant earlier.
His hood flaps loose from the whirling motion, as he delivers a reply devoid of emotion.
"I fight to end the battle."
His response is simple, and brutally efficient -- for while Terumi may have been able to avoid a direct assault, he must will himself into corporeality in order to strike. And this makes him momentarily vulnerable to a shoulder strike planted right into the stomach.
With a mane of ruffled fur, Jubei plants his shoulder squarely into the beast, unleashing the captured momentum in a single decisive burst.
And probably curling the carpet a bit in the process. Sorry, Valkenhayn.
There is witty retort -- for the nekomata has committed to his path. Vengeance will not allow him to part the veil of deception -- only the true path of the Void.
Oh, Terumi knew that Jubei knew that he'd attack like this. That was why he tried to trick him; a powerful feint, perhaps realized a bit late. He attempted to slither past the feints, but such means little when the butterfly knife itself must exist. Only for a sudden impact of the ferocious feline to slam into his body. The devil's good eye bugs out with a spray of spittle before he's sent hurtling backwards, slamming into the wall not far from the incapacitated Valkenhayn, causing one of the paintints to drop with a clatter to the rug-covered stone floor. Reeling, there's a look of distaste.
Of course in a battle of sheer technique, Terumi's no match. Perhaps few in this world are. Yet that doesn't matter, given victory here comes in many forms. "Haa... haa... is that what you hope, cat? To counter-strike me every blow? Go ahead and try...! Your form will falter, and it's then I'll rip you apart!!"
Without much more taunting than that, the yellow-coated snake suddenly hurtles himself forward, balled up and spiraling at incredible speed. Enough to be rendered useless to any mortal outside Balrog, but he suddenly uncoils while seemingly still out of range of Jubei, lashing out with a bladed heel once more in an attempt to nail the feline in the ribs and sink it in deep. Another mad cackle is heard from him. The werewolf knows well the dangers in fighting Terumi, but Jubei is not so overtly fueled by hate, and beyond such might have surpassed Hakumen in these long decades... is he even a threat to such force of will and sheer skill?
COMBATSYS: Jubei full-parries Terumi's Light Kick!!
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > //////////////////////////// ]
Terumi 1/------=/=======|=======\-------\1 Jubei
Aside from that momentary smirk, there will be no joy on the Twin Lotus' face as he pulls away, no rush of endorphins. To obey the call of adrenaline coursing through his veins is to yield to the animal nature that Jubei has spent a lifetime transcending -- to ignore the guidelines set by the self before entering this most solemn of battle trances.
For a battle of lesser importance, perhaps the nekomata could allow himself a moment of good-humored sassiness.
Not so for this fight. Terumi and Valkenhayn have both shown him the necessity of burying his emotions -- dedicating his body entirely to the fight. Brazen action demands an instant reaction -- introspection is unnecessarily wasteful.
Jubei is flipping free -- his arms windmilling out to either side as he seems to be returning to stance. It would have been an excellent time for the yellow serpent to uncoil, to lash out, to strike before he can collect himself.
A human would have been caught unaware.
But Jubei is no human -- and he has an advantage humans do not.
The action takes but a blink of an eye -- the sound of bladed heel hitting the flat of a Nox Nyctores will not be heard until a split-second later. But a silver streak will record the motion of the blade as it is dragged aside -- the hilt of the weapon gripped tightly within coils of the nekomata's twin tails.
For reference, the other of the two Dream Blades has been removed from its scabbard as well. And the cat continues to whirl -- faster and faster, blurring faster than all but inhuman eyes can follow. The Dream Blades Musashi give form to the Twin Lotus' moniker - a deadly blossom of infinite sharpness flurrying out in all directions, aiming to punish the yellow-coated serpent for giving the lonely samurai a renewed sense of purpose. The blades appear to come from a dizzying array of trajectories -- a product made possible only by the hand and tails of the foremost swordsman of all feline-kind. The end goal -- a blistering series of slashes positioned to debilitate any limbs which dare to come near.
COMBATSYS: Terumi counters Form Three - Ranjishi EX from Jubei with Venomous Bite.
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Terumi 0/-------/-======|=======\==-----\1 Jubei
It's there. Terumi knows it is. But it seems that Jubei is doing a good job of keeping them buried deep.
That heel presses hard against Jubei's weapon, grinding metal on metal, but within that hood Terumi grins wickedly. That he cannot even overpower the tails of the beast is little surprise, foot sloughed sideways to stab a spiteful hole in the fine rug. The man is absolutely and utterly open, and every instinct long honed by Jubei is telling the cat to go for the jugular hear.
Yet again, the onslaught of blades whirls through nothing but a mirage. It seems the same trick did not work on Terumi twice, as he allows the brutal force that seems nearly to cut the very air to ripple past his insubstantial figure. A mad cackle leaves him before he shoots forward, passing ethereally through the cat and appearing behind. In his arm is a replica of the Ouroboros, as he suddenly lashes downwards, to catch Jubei within a potent ring of suppressive force.
Orbitting chains constrict powerfully upon that tiny feline body, before a great explosion of emerald energy makes to send him smoking away. This gives Terumi a couple moments to whirl around his blades...
And then fling them both at Valkenhayn, struggling amidst the chains on the wall. One would embed close enough to his head to cut his cheek, the other landing just beneath his left armpit. That this does not steal Valkenhayn's eye or strike his heart is likely in no small part due to the man's efforts to avoid such.
"Ah... I missed." Overtly attacking someone not presently involved with maiming intent...? It's rather hard to have a larger lapse in honor than that. "But you're BORING me, cat...! If you cannot even properly touch me, then there's little meaning to this spar, is there?!"
The whirling blades carve through Terumi's everything, and yet nothing at all, as Terumi's form becomes non-corporeal once again. The one-eyed cat's lips curl into a frown as he swiftly sheathes his swords with his tails' help, and then flings his arms outward, slowing his momentum and allowing him to stretch one hind paw down to the ground.
And that is when the Ouroboros replica lashes around him -- arms outstretched, at his most vulnerable. The wind is forced out of his lungs, though there is a momentary pause in the air wheezing from his throat -- and with a sick gurgling sound, the obstruction breaks clear: a glob of crimson blood erupting out of his throat. The one eye squeezes shut as constricting chains tighten upon his ribcage, his arms helpless to assist in breaking free of the supernatural prison.
Mercifully, the hold does not last long before the burst of jade flame engulfs him, singing fur and cloth alike as it blasts him upwards.
Terumi will gain no satisfaction from the tacit samurai though, for the only exlamations were the ones squeezed straight from his lungs. And as the impetuous charge of inducing boredom is leveled upon Jubei, the cat has little to offer aside from a cough.
But the followup strikes were aimed not at Jubei, but at Valkenhayn -- a disturbing turn of events. Injuring a friend? Dirty trick. And yet... there is nary a flicker of the feline's eyelid as it peels open.
A paw is placed on the wall an instant before his body would have crumpled against it. A slight kick is made -- and the beastkin flips away, landing on his feet a fair distance from Terumi.
He extends his bladed paws outward, in identical fashion to the challenging stance that comprised his initial greeting to the misanthropic spectre.
"How right you are. Did I not tell you from the outset?"
And yet -- despite the parallels to the time that he balanced upon the table, there are four key differences.
There is no rage in the cat's mind -- no thirst for vengeance, no uncertainty or doubt.
The cat is no longer in pristine state, with blood smeared upon the tawny fur of his mouth.
And, as he lands, a sigil of the blackest night begins to etch in the sky around his form. A crest, primarily circular in nature, consisting of mist zig-zagging in spirals outward from a single blossom -- The Mark of the Twin Lotus.
And, surging from the form of the cat himself -- a widening gyre of brilliant orange and blue flames. The Beastkin's seithr, expanding outwards with intent to flood the room in his fearsome presence.
"There is nothing further to be gained here."
Either the God of Destruction will end this -- or the One-Eyed Twin Lotus will.
COMBATSYS: Jubei gathers his will.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > ///////////////////////// ]
Terumi 0/-------/-======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>-\1 Jubei
The chains binding Valkenhayn to the wall regenerate as quickly as they are cut or torn through - regrowing with the same speed in response to Jubei's sharpened blades /and/ the elderly servant's own claws and fangs.
As the blades of Terumi are deflected, he twists his midsection and head out of the way just in time to avoid being sliced. The man is attacking a /chained/ opponent. Does he have no honour?!?!
This simply drives the Legend's efforts to even greater heights of frustration and anger, his fingers keeping the chain from constricting his neck as he growls in fury at Terumi's spirit. It may not be doing Jubei any favours, considering the man's unique response to hatred, but... how can he react differently?
For a /second/ time the home of his Mistress has been invaded by this foul beast, and he will /not/...
...then, he notices the carpet being torn underneath Jubei's clawed feet. And he winces, more than he did at any point during his previous battle with Terumi. Oh my, he /must/ get that fixed before Madam Rachel returns! This is her sixth favourite sitting room!
For a few moments Terumi merely floats within the middle of the room. It is strange, seeming more like he's standing on some unseen platform, only one clearly impossible to exist. Were there such a strange dimensional obstruction, it would be neatly dusted and covered in tea cozies, after all. His sizzling green eye seems to observe Jubei intensely, before both of his eyes close and a disappointed sigh leaves his lips, head lolling backwards. "You're right. This is pointless." he finally agrees, before abruptly dropping to land roughly on the floor as if gravity belatedly decided to intervene.
"Your mastery of your mind is supreme, One-Eyed Lotus. I truly believe no matter what I do to you in combat, you will not be affected." A slow grin stretches across his face at that, somehow seeming smug. "And you are far better now than in the past, when your desperate ambitions could do nothing more than give Hakumen opportunity to sacrifice himself. I bet if we truly clashed, with you so solemn and serious now, I'd lose. Scary, scary! How'd a housecat get so strong?! Might it be, because in the darkness of your mind, you cannot stand the regret and loneliness? Hahahaha!"
COMBATSYS: Terumi takes no action.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > ///////////////////////// ]
Terumi 0/-------/-======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>-\1 Jubei
Master Jubei's breathing is calm, measured, and above all else, focused. He has emptied his mind of earthly concerns, leaving only the here and now within it. The battle is pointless. And the outcome -- while uncertain -- is also pointless.
The feline eye passes across Terumi, bright and insightful. The false praise is flung at him, splashing across him as ineffectually as water from a squirt gun. And Jubei flinches not even a little.
Until the words 'regret' and 'loneliness' are mentioned.
His right ear flicks -- and his eye narrows every so slightly.
"... Perhaps you are right."
Jubei lowers his leading claw, starting to turn to his side.
But, an instant later, he launches himself forward -- his form blurring with afterimages as he hurls himself into the shade of Terumi. His trailing claw sweeps around, bashing into Terumi from the side with a staggering blow!
But at this point, the feline's feet have swept around to the frame of a painting. The pads press firmly off of the picture frame, allowing him to vault forward again. In the next instant, both blades of the Musashi are drawn, slashing across each other's path in rapid succession to form an 'X' pattern.
The silvered chi dripping from the weapons would turn tar black as they cut -- sharp enough to slice through the heavens themselves!
COMBATSYS: Terumi endures Jubei's Miroku - Spherical Illusion EX.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > ///////////////////////// ]
Terumi 1/-------/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>-\1 Jubei
There's literally no reaction from Terumi as the feline erupts forward in such a manner. Honestly, this is primarily given that the mad mage's eyes can barely register it. Having fully realized the pure martial fury of his empty mind, empty soul combative art, there's little left for Terumi to do. This is why the cat has always been so aggravating to deal with. Whatever flaws the beast has are nowhere to be seen when he bares tooth, fang and blade towards a foe. Hatred or not, the purity of the feline with his only goal being victory... Terumi cannot think of any other like him. Hakumen may also have an incredible level of mastery, yet he wears his rage and justice on his blade at all times, and is anything but free of those shackles.
Jubei impacts Terumi cleanly in the ribs, and a moment later the brutal slashes rip into him. Clothing tears, and deep wounds rip into the echoed god's form. The black chi slowly hisses away as the man is flung backwards, back impacting the wall and knocking off a priceless antique-looking vase likely ten times older than Jubei himself. One of Clavis' favorites, really. Ah, dusting it regularly must be one of Valkenhayn's personal joys.
Collapsing to his hands and knees, Terumi then simply picks himself back up. Multiple cuts are upon him, each seething out a black smoke-like energy tinged with green, like deep emerald coal burns in his chest. No blood, of course. He is no creature of flesh.
"Ah. There's a lot of memories in this room." Distracted. It seems that attention is shifting away from Jubei and his assaults, now. "I can see it etched all around. A place beyond time, a place beyond the endless cycle. How... /irreplaceable./" Terumi then manifests a great roar of black and green energy, before hurling it off to the side.
It has no prayer of hitting Jubei. Not if he had even the slightest intention of avoiding it. Yet it /would/ impact the great painting of Clavis that he entered from, a great and wicked face etched into the demonic protrusions as the twin aspects whirl around, intent on destroying it to nothing. There would be not even atoms left, as the core of Susano'o's absolute destruction is bought to bear. All that would be left...
Memories. Even Tsukuyomi can only defend. None can repair what the God of Destruction earnestly takes away...!
COMBATSYS: Jubei endures Terumi's Force Eater.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > //////////////////// ]
Terumi 1/------=/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2 Jubei
The vase crumbles.
And the grizzled cat's eye shudders, even as his Dream Blades return back to their sheathe with a 'sh-shink!' sound. Jubei has no way of knowing just how old the vase was -- just that it had always, -always- been there, no matter how many memories he could bear to hold.
The shattered porcelain shards slide apart, as the perfected circular form is transformed into a series of shattered shards.
The art of Kintsugi allows for such broken pieces to be reassembled.
Broken pieces can rise from the dead, scars eternalized in golden lacquer.
But only if the damage is minimized.
Jubei breathes out a long recentering breath, as he stares at Terumi. He fears that the echoed God of Destruction could fight him forever. But...
Jubei puts a stop to that thought, biting down hard on his lip, drawing blood. -Fear- should not be figuring into this equation. That is in absolute defiance of the Empty Mind principle.
"-- Things... can be replaced. All shall return to the void in time."
The cat circles in a wary stance. His hood hangs loose behind his head, bobbing slightly as he pads one foot past the next, claws raised outward.
Sweat glistens at the tip of each tuft of his mane.
But when Terumi strikes -- towards his erstwhile, departed employer...
The mind is no longer empty.
Emotion takes hold.
And Jubei disappears from view for an instant, a veritable blur as he streaks into the path of the oncoming attack.
A maelstrom of black and green energy slams into him -- the concussive force knocking him back, the searing energy scalding his fur, pressing harsh creases into his charcoal-colored robes. Creases furrow, tearing apart in a circular vortex pattern as the cat is knocked backwards.
His four paws are outstretched to protect as much of Clavis Alucard as possible, with little disregard for himself.
"Is it blood... you seek?"
For Jubei has some of that. As the momentum fades, one paw wraps in front of him, catching the globs of blood coughed up from his mouth. No hairballs will touch this carpet, if he can help it.
His eye trembles as it looks up towards Terumi.
And then it grows firm.
A number of black crosshairs spring up, arraying themselves in a variety of locations surrounding the God of Destruction. And then, once again, he fades from view.
The next instant, he stands upon the first crosshair, raking upwards with his metal claws.
The very next instant, he stands upon the second, slashing sideways with a reverse motion.
The third, the fourth, the fifth -- a debilitating cavalcade of slashes, each aimed at whittling the demonic form down to a bare shadow of its former self.
And then as Jubei leaps clear, his now-tattered robes ripple as he floats down -- once again taking a point between the portrait of Clavis Alucard and the God of Destruction.
The crosshair seals erupt in a cascading explosion of orange and blue -- deadly to chi-borne enemies but doing little -physical- damage.
"You... will... not get the satisfaction you crave."
A wavering voice from a desperate defender, increasingly pushed closer to the brink of exhaustion.
COMBATSYS: Jubei successfully hits Terumi with Shiranui Steel EX.
[ \\\\\\\\ < > ///////////////////// ]
Terumi 1/---====/=======|>>>>>--\-------\0 Jubei
Ah, if only that were the case. Self-Observation is one of the highest techniques in magic, and with such casual preparation unable to be maintained for a long breadth of time. When the very essence giving him a momentarily tangible form is ruthlessly stressed in this manner, that clock is continuously reduced more and more. As a beast himself keenly aware of another's emotional state, he can see those occasional sparks and flickers. Yet within Jubei there's no tinder right now. Nothing but a great void. Perhaps, had he a truly unlimited stay, he could manage something...
That's hardly the case, of course.
"Not blood, comrade. Despair...! You are right. All falls to dust eventually. There is no eternity, even for existance itself. Hahaha...!" Suddenly the cat flickers forward, and after the threat is fully registered, a great eruption of twisted energys rip into him. His left arm spirals off before disintegrating into blackness, fading to leave a momentary burst of green sizzles. A few moments later, a small black tendril extends out, roughly shaped like a replacement. A cleaving slash bisected his face, and the left side falls away as Terumi's hood tumbles back, showing a mass of blackness and his green eye blazing.
"I figured this wouldn't be settled martially. There's a reason, cat... that I stole your memories back then. ...Because you would move on. You would mourn, yet it would not define you. Not like these lesser creatures. Ragna... and the dog." Openly calling the pair out as delicious vessels of constant hate. "Yet can you suppress it fully now? When the sharp edge of battle fades, and you're left with what I did to you? Hahahaha!! That's what I'm eager to find out!! With three people already fueling me, I only need your bare remnants to finish cementing myself in this world!"
Like some kind of flaky serpent, the human aspects of Terumi begin to fall away. He kicks forward, good arm twirling about his knife, before abruptly coming to a stop before the cat. "This was VERY enlightening..." is finally whispered. Before in a great ripple, green flame pours out of Terumi, consuming him. It lasts a few seconds, and once it finishes, he is within the ghost form once more. Hovering in place like some tiny dickish shadow, green veins flowing out of his chest to reinforce his spiritual body. "You bared your fangs at me... if I wasn't aware how powerful you were, then I might have made a fatal mistake in the future. I do appreciate you taking me so seriously!!"
Slowly Terumi begins to hiss and sizzle, the blackness turning into mist. "If I have any say in the matter... YOU are someone I'd like to never see again!!" Only the crimson line of his grin hangs in the air, before fading slowly. The stench of his invasion lingers, and would likely require quite a bit of airing out.
Within a white cat's paw-shaped bathtub in Southtown's Intelligence branch, Hazama suddenly startles to consciousness with a gasp and slosh of sudsy water. A hand grasps his chest, grimacing as the remnants of a magic spell surrounding the cramped hidden room fade away. "O-oh... the water's gone cold." he mumbles, feeling around on himself. "How long was I dead? That's rude. Just because I'm artificial doesn't mean that isn't UNCOMFORTABLE." A snap of the fingers and burst of Ars Magus summons his distinctive hat, plopped atop the dangling mop of green hair as golden eyes slit open and a few moments are spent relaxing.
"Ah well... you're all tuckered out in there. All the better for me~ The stage is mine for now, after all!"
COMBATSYS: Terumi has left the fight here.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ <
COMBATSYS: Jubei has ended the fight here.
Log created on 10:16:54 12/06/2017 by Valkenhayn, and last modified on 16:06:42 12/10/2017.