Description: Hazama and Terumi are intrigued by the existence of I-No, opting to pay her a visit. The best way to tell if two people outside causality are friends or foes is attempting to brutally kill each other, of course.
Small screen cinema houses haven't had a good decade or two. There was never a wildly defiant time where people thought that they'd stay forever, save for the usual impermanence of idealists who thought they could attract a dedicated audience with limited releases and other arthouse tricks. Most owners simply rode it out as long as they could until they saw a chance to sell, knowing that centrally-owned multiplexes simply couldn't be beat on spreadsheets. Sometimes everyone just knows when it's time to give in.
Like many others of its kind, the cinema house that became this bar was helped in the sale by its charmingly retro touches. The big marquee board outside, the concessions stand. The new owners had the boon of being able to rip everything out rather than repair it: carpet, interior walls, seats, everything. Industrial chic is a choice people will take, even if musicians sufficiently up their own asses will hiss at the exposed rafters and other killers of pleasant noise.
I-No isn't up her own ass. She can get people to do that for her. She booked this show knowing that it would be a Friday night crowd of white collars looking for an excuse to cut loose before they had to give the rest of the weekend to their families. White collars cutting loose aren't very inspirational, even with a smattering of bawdier patrons from rougher trades to break up the cohesion. Still, all they have to do is sit and drink and order food they unironically refer to as 'apps.' All I-No has to do is... well, whatever the fuck she wants, if management doesn't pay her she can always change their mind.
I-No was not their usual Friday night show. No chart toppers from five, ten years back. No classic standards that represent each decade being boiled down to a handful of unambiguously enjoyed hits. Nothing cute, nothing to sing along to. An anonymous woman on stage with a drum machine, a sequencer, and a guitar.
It worked. It worked because I-No is magic in more ways than one. She sang a few fast ones, a few slow ones. She sat on the stool and did the suffering artist bit for a few because sometimes a song needs you to break your voice for it to sound right. She was angry, hair disheveled, screaming into the mic; she was a purring femme fatale gently layering vocals that beckon over haunting strings that made this place wish it allowed smoking.
But that's over now. I-No did her hours, got her itch out, and has now retired to one of the former theater's back stoops facing out into the alley. She is roughly alone, save for the occasional person from the kitchen running out to the dumpster from the second stoop about twenty feet over. She never pays them attention. The brick wall opposite her is more interesting.
I-No is visible from the sidewalk at the end of the alley. She's an early-twenties woman in a slouchy white sweater that hangs off one shoulder, revealing a lace black bra strap. It's not perfectly comfortable sitting on a set of stairs in a red leather miniskirt, but she doesn't particularly care. Accent comes from a pair of black leggings that have been viciously attacked with a pair of scissors, and a heavy gold chain around her left wrist. Her stiletto pumps are sitting unworn at the bottom of the steps.
The only two things she has for entertainment are her phone and a bottle of Evan Williams.
Few things in this world are capable of getting the attention of Hazama Honoka; when one's purpose in life is little beyond acting as a birdhouse for a homeless god, one can be excused from appreciating the majesty and sonder of mundane reality. The interim Intelligence Director for Novus Orbis Librarium's Asian branch, the majority of his time is spent swallowing hardboiled eggs and stamping 'approved' on whatever documentation makes its way through the careful sieve of more mindful and competent underlings he's established to make sure he's left well enough alone.
It was then that Terumi's dark whispers intruded, speaking of a few notable disruptions masquerading across the planet; the relevant Bounty files pulled out and dropped on Hazama's desk. A man labeled Naoto. A brief look at the picture alone makes the derby-hatted figure shudder. "A discount Ragna...? I suppose 'she' wants more of them." One labeled 'Es' follows, fox-like expression little changed. "Pudding? That is all the information we have? Ah, we more or less know what she is." It's tossed aside also. Finally, one labeled 'I-No'. Hazama opens it up, and his features light up.
Unknown!! Unknown!! Unknown!!
As such, there's a strange figure within the crowd assembled at I-No's performance. Not due to his appearance, although the black-suited figure with green hair assuredly stands out amidst the throng of people better dressed for the enigmatic girl's unique brand of performance. But because she can sense others like her. The spell of her music seemed to pass through him. His pleasant expression and faint smile never once shifted. And the way he watched was transient of the physical realm, as if the unusual figure was probing the very essence of I-No's. Intimately.
There's no attempt to mask his presence, walking now along the sidewalk out of sight. Sharp, monotone claps begin to echo in the air, as the tall man slips into view at the threshold of the alley. He might be a curiosity, too. For in all of I-No's omniscience, in every single experience she remembers either subconscious or overt, he has not once been in them. He feels hollow. He is not human. He is something else -- a shell, a golem, masquerading in the flesh.
"My, my. That was quite the performance. Ms... No?" Hazama tilts his head to the side at that, slender fingers reaching up to rest on his hat bracingly. His other hand slips into a pocket, position casual and lazy. The air he gives is that of a harmless animal, no fighting presence or hint of malice. Yet to her more discerning gaze, that is due to an utter absence of *anything*. It might be very rare, indeed, to observe a man with no clue of his thoughts, goals, or aspirations...
Magic knows magic. I-No worked no spells on the stage this night, at least if one discounts the artistic interplay of her musical and spellcasting talents. There are still wards and defenses. Witches are witches, even when they aren't wearing the hat.
But, of course, gods are gods.
I-No doesn't look up when the clapping starts. She finishes taking a swig from her bottle of whisky, the glass clinking as she sets it down beside her. Her phone continues to beg her attention and touches as the man makes his way down the alley. He doesn't have far to walk but she doesn't have much to analyze. She remembers him from the audience, though nowhere other than that.
He speaks. I-No looks up and across the alley, pointedly exhales as if put-upon with a request, and then sets her phone aside. Only then does she look to the side to make eye contact. Her irises swirl through several bright, inhuman colors as she moves, settling on a half-tone of aqua and pearl in one and forest green in the other. That changes the moment Hazama moves.
"Depends," she says, her voice having shed its earlier angelic quality in favor of the roughness brought by recent alcoholic punishment. "Can I call you Mr. Fuckpuppet? I'd call it an even trade."
I-No glances away, pausing enough to signal a change in subjects but not enough to allow much of an interjection. Her voice evens out in smoothness, but she becomes tonally flat: "You were waggling your magedick around all night. What's your deal, man."
"Fuckpuppet...?" Hazama counters, not seeming so much offended as genuinely curious about the term. "I've never been called THAT before." A finger scratches at his chin, yet the muted curiosity remains unfettered. "Ah...? I have? Well, I'm a bit different than most." Foremost being the lack of a soul. And that he's a literal walking mass of powerful magical energy, one of the most legendary of artifacts given ambulation and sentience. To I-No with a closer examination in such proximity, it might feel like he's more some useful tool, in many ways. A mage of her caliber and awareness could no doubt do countless amazing things channeling an Azure Grimoire, after all. Being resistant to a simple incantation meant to excite the masses is in comparison not impressive, as it's questionable whether such a creation can feel anything in the first place.
"As for why I'm here... hmm..." The rim of his hat is lightly adjusted. "That depends. Are we going to roleplay? I can act the part of the strange Intelligence operative who knows things he should not. But it's hardly as much fun with someone who plays the same game. ...And whom I know nothing about. Besides, you likely know what I 'am'."
A deep sigh leaves Hazama then, glancing towards the sky in something visually approximating happiness. "It's such a rare thing for me. Mysteries. Instead of needing to ACT all ignorant... Is it the same for you? I must be quite the curiosity, as well...~"
Looking away is a simple way to put a figleaf over a magical analysis' visual tell. I-No learned long ago to watch for distraction. If someone looks like they're being distracted by something that isn't here, it's probably something that's somewhere else.
It's an easy trick to pick up. That's why I-No is looking at the far wall and busying her hands with the bottle of whisky now cradled in her lap. Plausible deniability for her invisibly testing the edges of his being, plying witchcraft to try to untangle exactly what he is... or isn't. For some people, isn't means more.
The woman makes an amused noise at the mention of roleplay, a chuckle dying in her throat before the first note is fully out. She's not in a mood to interrupt with a dirty joke, but that doesn't mean the joke can't live on in her head. She tilts her head back and takes another swig.
"Shit. This is some behind-the-scenes fuckery going on."
I-No reaches up for the railing and pulls herself forward until she's standing. She takes a few steps out into the alley, stocking-clad feet on pavement, making a lazy arc so that she's facing Hazama.
"So you're getting off on learning? Real straight-edge of you. Let's see... Illuminati? Nah, they got a case worker on me. UN? NOL? If you were Shadaloo you'd be taking pictures of my ass and calling it fight data."
There's no real reaction from Hazama. All such results indicate he's simply a very potent, concentrated source of energy. One very powerfully attuned to the Boundary, unlike the majority of terrestrial power sources. If he notices, it's not apparent on his face. The power of creation, bent to instead destroy; that's what he is. The taste of it wild, fierce, untameable, which makes the utterly drab personality a touch unusual.
"...hmm! Yes. If we are talking about stimulation, then the 'unknown' is certainly my deepest trigger! There's so many things I merely watch. Pleasure. Pain. Hate. Love. All such fascinating words, boiling and directing the flow of countless lives, yet I'm forever trapped past the looking glass..."
For the first time Hazama seems legitimately distracted, before exhaling. "I'm afraid I'll have to step out for the time being, though. Someone 'else' is eager to meet you." With that, Hazama simply removes his hat. The slight frown and resignation is the first thing that is unquestionably true that follows.
Power wells within the empty hole of Hazama's core. Rushing in like water bursting into a sunken ship. Magical energy almost visibly seethes from him, clothing rippling within the invisible aura, but to arcane sight he would seem an overcharged battery sloughing the excess continually around.
Emotion blooms. Wild, violent, chaotic. That neutral expression blooms into a wicked grin, eyes snapping open as green hair flares upwards into wild tufts. Both hands draw forth, releasing the hat to flit away on the updraft. His clothing is now disheveled, gripping his tie and yanking it undone to flutter about his chest. Someone, or something, is now within the puppet she was just speaking to.
"Hahaha...! Aren't YOU interesting...?!" He leans forward, head twisting to eyeball I-No across all spectrums. Physical, spiritual, his interest is across the board. Thumbs hook the loops of his pants, attention focusing instead on the woman herself.
"I-No, is it? You can call me Terumi. Yuuki Terumi...! Fuck the NOL. Fuck Shadaloo. NESTS. The Sacred Order. All of them!! A bunch of toys and puppets dancing on strings..."
"Not YOU, though. Heh! I never thought I'd meet a kindred spirit in this shitty world...!"
"Mm," I-No vocalizes in response to Hazama's affirmative. Okay. Not thrilling, but okay. Reminds her of her avian-fetishist counterpart back in That Man's That Conspiracy. He's alright. Maybe 'anomalies' like him are more common than she thought. If she brought him back...
Hazama goes distracted. Since I-No's been looking for this tell, she pauses, watching the man with canny eyes and a bottle half raised to her parted lips. Her defensive wards are all in place, so it should be simple catching him in the act. Then she can... who the fuck knows, she'll make fun of him and maybe hit him with a guitar if he doesn't say anything interesting.
Yet it ain't like that.
I-No's waiting focus on the chi of the place makes her witness from moment one of the disturbance. It feels fierce and familiar -- it feels like the Backyard coming through, it feels like Justice greedily sucking down power. It feels like things going wrong.
The witch clutches her bottle tighter, dropping it to her side as her lips pull back in a white-toothed grimace. Her irises flit through a dozen colors as she lowers her head against the aura-spun wind, her hair tousling in the chaos.
There's not much more to say. Terumi, Yuuki Terumi goes on the conversational and magical aggressive. I-No is used to being leered at, but a full-spectrum eyeful is a new one on her. The taste of interest across her wards mingled with the hungry eyes on her body and inciting words in her ears -- at least all the pieces apart are familiar.
I-No can work with this. She knows how to control an eager audience.
"You're not the first guy to open with soulmates talk, but you're the most sparkly," says I-No. She straightens her posture, grinning gamely as she raises her face to get a touch of imperiousness in her look. Her sweater slinks down her arm.
"So what makes us alike, Teru? I've got a lot going on, and I'm gonna need more dirty talk about how special I am if you want me wiggling out of this skirt anytime soon."
A few confident strides take Terumi forward now; aggressive, by any account, but not with any intention of such escalating to actual conflict. Yet his scent is certainly of one who would hardly be adverse to such. Violence and sadism are little more than foreplay to the likes of a destructive being. He resonates and infuses with the Azure Grimoire, and such is no coincidence. Someone must have created this body to house him, and they did an excellent job of it.
"Oh, don't call us soulmates. Hazama would get jealous!" He raps a knuckle on the side of his head, as if it were an object as opposed to his own body. Which is clearly true. The empty puppet now has a very potent soul within it, after all. "Ah... what makes us alike? I can start with our taste in instruments." Eyes drop down to her guitar. "Duesenberg Starplayer II. Not any better, is there? My skin might have had little appreciation for your skill, but I guarantee it had me quivering."
Fingers snake out, then. Intent on trying to steal the bottle for himself, other hand stuffing deep into his slack pocket. "And the frequency of our spirits. Don't try to bullshit me on that. I can taste you, just as much as you can taste me. If you want to go a step further... hmm! Maybe that neither of us are remotely what we seem?"
His iris expand, expression going a touch wilder. "Then again, two manipulative, sadistic beings with their own agenda... Chances are teeth'd go for each other's throats before anywhere else, right?! If we really ARE alike, then what's going through your mind is the same as mine... who the fuck /is/ this person? And how can I best *use* them?!"
I-No stands her ground. She's bold as a bluejay despite her penchant for red, and she still sees no reason that this is out of her control. Besides, it has definitely put a perk into her heartbeat -- what the fuck is this thing driving around officer deadeyes? Someeone built that guy for this. That means a cult, or a secret society, or SOMETHING. Did someone embody their ancient master or some shit?
All that power. It could come in handy when the time comes. And the time always, always comes.
Her guitar is propped up against the wall back near the door. It stays with her, unlike the rest of the equipment. She turns her head and glances out of the corner of her eyes when he indicates it, but not enough to actually see the thing; just enough to gesture her thought. By the time she looks back, her new friend has yanked her bottle out of her hand. There's not any resistance in the exchange. The bottle is already half empty.
Nice to see weird-ass energy anomalies still drink the classics. I-No tilts her head and reaches up to rub the side of her neck, down closer to her collarbone. While Terumi goes wild, she goes contemplative in that way that only drunk people can.
"You know an awful lot about my kinks list," she says. "Here I am being recognized for my excellence in sadomaso studies and I don't even have my leathers on."
I-No drops her hand, narrowing her eyes. She purses her lips out as she studies Terumi -- really, studies how he's using this borrowed body. It's far from the first time she's seen one personality inhabit another body. Sometimes it says something about the person.
"But I gotta admit, you're right the fuck on key with the using you part. I can appreciate a man who gets right to the gratification as long as he lets me tie him up after. Since you came looking for me, I'm guessing you already know what you want."
I-No's smile goes wide and placid and humorless. "Maybe a few things."
The bottle immediately presses to Terumi's lips, and his throat powerfully ripples with how much he takes in. The remainder is gone by the time I-No finishes talking, and the green-haired demon hurls it further into the alley to shatter in a nice display of random chaos. A forearm draws across messy lips, which again form a toothy grin.
"Don't worry. I've not broken out the chains yet, either." Blackness swirls behind him, for a few moments forming into shadowy links that seem topped with a serpentine head. They fade away before ever quite culminating into reality, but it does seem to be a peek at what he might use for weaponry and other purposes.
"Want? You give me too much credit. I'm CURIOUS. Nothing more...! Kill you, get killed by you, which of us ends up handcuffed to the other's radiator, leave that to the tempest of causality to figure out! But."
Suddenly Terumi's face twists into genuine anger. He gets closer, stink of alcohol on his own breath. His eyes are not on I-No's face, but drawn upwards. "There's one thing about you I can't fucking stand." His still-free hand twists to point accusingly at her currently bare head.
"Your. Fucking. Hat. It brings back bad memories. Of annoying, willful women who refuse to fucking *BREAK*. ...Which is just what YOU are, too!! If you had it right now, I'd smack it off your damn head and crush it under heel...!!"
Shoulders lift and then fall, letting out an almost wistful sigh. "Do I like you? Do I hate you? I can't tell. Passion's just a coinflip, isn't it...?! What do you think?" Black energy tinted green starts to waft up from Terumi, both hands now in his pocket as loafered feet spread his stance.
"Which one'd be more FUN?"
The bottle goes sailing wide over I-No's shoulder. She doesn't flinch, but it never really was at risk of hitting her even if it was going in her general direction. Someone like her has had a lot more than bottles thrown her way. And also bottles! Musicians.
The shadows shift. I-No feels the change in the chi even before she notices the visual effects. Her kaleidoscopic gaze shifts upward to observe the slithering bondage dimension that briefly intersects the material plane behind Terumi. Might be fun, she judges.
Before her thoughts can wander away too far -- especially when Terumi reveals that the set list is currently bare and in need of filling out (I-No is immediately attracted to radiator cuffing) -- the angry embodiment shifts upward once more to a new level of closeness. It should be to no surprise at this point that I-No continues failing to back down.
It's a mismatch. I-No, for all her magic and moxy, is a 5'4" woman without shoes on who looks on the robust side of her recommended weight range. Terumi, at least in his current body, is a 6'3" man who just chugged half a fifth of alcohol -- you do the math, I-No won't -- and is now on a ranting spree. It's not a good look.
I-No's life isn't a good look, so it's fine.
"A coin flip?" she says, playing at being bemused. She reaches up to run her hands through her hair, setting it all back in place from the earlier windstorm and also getting a little defensively affectionate with the hat that isn't here. She's not going to pry into this guy's problems with his ex, even if it comes complete with its own bright red flag.
"Okay. Let's do a fuckin' coin flip, snake man."
The witch locks eyes with Terumi. One iris currently has neon blue making its way out in favor of pastel pink. The other is blood red shot through with orange. Gaze fixes on his, she reaches down the front of her sweater and draws out a shiny U.S. quarter.
"Call it. In the air. Let's see what's getting broken tonight."
"Okay." Terumi states simply enough, finally relenting enough to step backwards a couple meters. Quite cooperative, all of the sudden. He watches the coin go careening upwards, before losing interest in the middle and making a face.
"You know... I prefer making my own fate. Besides, it's going to come up heads. I think you know that, too. It's not much of a coin flip if we both know the result--"
He rather violently draws a hand out of his pocket and sweeps it towards himself. Behind I-No, the ground splits open into sticky darkness, edges humming emerald. Before shooting out is a hissing chain, crafted of magical energy; the head of which has an approximation of a serpent's, mouth spread open to bite into anything handy. Intent on finding purchase and then driving the other magician forward as Terumi lets out a mad cackle.
"Let's have some FUN...! Love, hate, either way I think I want to play with you. We'll see how it feels once one of us is spent... I'd hate for a new relationship to be *only* empty passion!!"
COMBATSYS: Terumi has joined the fight here.
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Terry 0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 Iori
COMBATSYS: I-No has joined the fight here.
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I-No 0/-------/------=|======-\-------\0 Terumi
COMBATSYS: I-No blocks Terumi's Beckoning Serpent.
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I-No 0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\0 Terumi
I-No flicks the coin into the air with one of her trimmed fingernails. It takes a high arc, high enough that Terumi has time to think. I-No's gaze never leaves his face.
There's the expression turn. I-No half-lids her eyes, her smile turning lazy at the prediction that they both know is true.
"So you aren't just talking shit."
I-No immediately spins and reaches out for her guitar. It flips end over end, narrowly missing the railing on the stairs as it flies to her hand. In the same moment, Terumi is making a hard gesture that I-No can already feel the chi welling up to in response.
The guitar has picked up a truly blurring amount of speed by the time it gets to the witch. She spins around from the force of catching it, arms outstretched -- but the seeming weakness of the motion burns away as she tenses her arms in close and gives a batter's swing to the incoming serpent chain.
It goes knocking off in another direction, but barely misses her -- the sharp teeth of the thing catch some of the billowy material of her sweater and snag a loop, ripping a chunk clear off. I-No is left wearing a top that's more like a toga, leaving one arm bare and also putting on display the fashionable lace of her underwire.
I-No slams her hand down on a bare-handed power chord, her fingers pulling down the neck to bend the noise into a distortion that would normally take pedals. But this is magic, and so is the the ghostly green musical note that swims into being from the soundwaves. It hurtles toward Terumi, becoming an odd mixture of note and face as it sprouts gnashing fangs.
"Don't let it bite your dick off, Teru! I might need it later!"
COMBATSYS: I-No successfully hits Terumi with Antidepressant Scale.
~~ Alluring Hit! ~~
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I-No 0/-------/----===|=======\-------\1 Terumi
That chain is very much a physical thing; the impact of the guitar causes a sharp metallic clang, and it seems far too happy to munch upon a scrap of clothing. Another portal of blackness appears and it descends within, rear loop eventually passing through with an identical snake and carting away the fragment to who knows where.
Terumi doesn't seem to be paying attention, but his lazy and open fighting stance is every bit intentional. That doesn't mean that it makes what comes next seem better; still only using one hand, he snaps his fingers and opens up a shimmering magical portal around his navel. Another chained snake rushes out, clashing against I-No's aggressive note head on.
Chomping away green wisps of defeated magic, it then sinks itself into Terumi's groin like some particularly sadistic Chain Chomp. His eyes do bug out in pain, doubling forward with a hiss. He dispels his failed interception, and a moment later the note as well unravels, as he masterfully subverts the magic away. Apparently, he's wearing white boxers with a lot of squiggly cartoonish green snakes on them. Two blows, two missing patches of clothing showing underwear.
"Tch... Don't damage the GOODS!!" He kicks forward, moving with unnatural vigor and speed. A balisong knife is whirling in his free hand, stamping down before slashing in a brutal overhead, aiming to rake from belly to opposite hip before pivoting to snap the blade upwards, aiming to criss-cross slash I-No's front while leaning backwards on one leg as if off-balance. "Not that Hazama uses it...!!"
COMBATSYS: I-No fails to interrupt Power Strike from Terumi with Stroke The Big Tree.
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I-No 0/-------/--=====|=======\===----\1 Terumi
I-No squares her stance now that she's got some breathing room. She measures her breath. Breath control is one of the few varieties of moderation that she's good at -- even when she was a little girl, she could sing. Talent. That's what it was.
Magic against magic. I-No watches with wide, manic eyes. She knows the guy is a font of ridiculousness, but the question remains how good he is at wielding it. A big dick with no play is just an art piece.
"Ahahaha!" I-No crows, her laugh ugly and free. "I fuckin' told you to watch your snake! That's dereliction of duty, officer!"
Her humor hides that she noticed how he de-summoned it all. That's no small feat. She slides her foot back, anticipating him coming for her. A guy that big, even magically inclined, has got to have some physicality behind him, and he's got to know he can abuse his superior reach against the likes of her.
But I-No has a chaperone in her hands named Marlene. When Terumi comes blazing forward with the unnatural power act, I-No tenses and readies her guitar low. A fucking knife of all things! She hates getting cut up.
"Cornering a lady in an alley with a knife, huh?!"
I-No abruptly throws her weight forward in an off-center lunge, trying to swing upward with her guitar. A burst of chi explodes from the ground, patterned bizarrely like equalizer meter bars, but it goes wide when Terumi manages to get his knife into I-No's shoulder. She spits a hiss and staggers backward, compensating for her poor balance with magic, but it still opens her guard for Terumi to press on. Blood blossoms from the shallow cut that he drew down her right side, and on her bare forearm where she caught the return slash.
I-No kicks off the ground and skips through the air backward, clutching the larger cut on her side.
"You like scars?! I'll rip your fucking nipples off if you get that thing near my tits again, asshole!"
The knife twirls in the air, spatter of blood going in all directions before the tip runs across Terumi's tongue. "...you don't taste human." he offers, curiously. It's impossible to tell from his crazed expression if he's being serious or not. As the other magician attempts to gain some distance, the destroyer seems to glide along the dirty alley floor, maintaining only a meter between as he flicks up the knife to catch between two knuckles. "Taste of hats aside... you can do better than THIS, can't you?"
Suddenly Terumi leaps straight up, whirling to flick the knife down. It spirals wildly, aiming at I-No's opposite shoulder. A portal ripples open halfway up the former theatre turned bar to the left, long chain rocketing out and sinking teeth into the concrete opposite. Terumi's feet then shift to land in the middle, standing atop the makeshift cable like some circus acrobat.
"If all you can do is make my groin throb, then this is going to be SUCH a disappointment...!"
COMBATSYS: I-No endures Terumi's Thrown Object!
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I-No 0/-------/=======|=======\===----\1 Terumi
"That's my fuckin' problem, serpentine," I-No spits, her tone electric because of Terumi failing to give her space. "I'm the most goddamn human person there is!"
Terumi alters course. I-No stops skating backward as well, her leg bending as she channels her momentum into her back foot. She clenches her teeth as she watches her self-proclaimed counterpart glide into the air toward a perch, carelessly hurling a knife at her in the meanwhile.
This guy -- if he really wants to see -- !!
With a shriek of rage, I-No airdashes straight up with a burst of magical disturbance to propel her. The knife, unable to fully complete its intended revolution, doesn't strike her shoulder straight on. Instead, it makes another ugly slice in her exposed flesh as she barrels right through it.
"You think I need you approval?!"
I-No bursts past Terumi, suspended in the air above him. For a breathless moment, she spins in a graceful arc at the top of her dash, moonlight silhouetting her elegant form. Then, with sudden speed, she flips forward and brings her leg lashing down. An enormous spike of chi comes jutting down from the sky in violent manifestation, complete with another burst of guitar distortion.
"SHOW ME YOU CAN HURT ME AND MAYBE I'LL LET YOU LICK MY BOOTS!"
COMBATSYS: Terumi endures I-No's Chemical Love.
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I-No 1/-======/=======|=======\===----\1 Terumi
"If you wanted my approval, I wouldn't be INTERESTED in you...!! I've had more people wrapped around my finger and dancing on my strings for a thousand lifetimes!!"
The chain suddenly goes lax as I-No hurls herself into the air, before it snaps taut at the same time the madman leaps; splayed fingers thrusting out towards her. He has yet to draw the other out of his pocket.
The heel slams down into his face, satisfying feel of his nose crunching, but in the same motion he attempts to grasp the remnants of sweater on the guitar hero's torso. If he manages, the roar of energy that then impacts him like a meteor will yank her along for the ride -- trying to use that added momentum to twist and slam her into the ground adjacent on her stomach.
But there's no blood at all, even though as he surges up from the billowing smoke and fading chi in a spray of broken concrete. Just an utterly insane cackling, as he attempts to stomp the heel of his foot upon I-No's head, face, and shoulders, going faster and harder as he does nothing but channel raw sadism in defiance of any pretty, suave techniques... violent emotion made manifest.
COMBATSYS: I-No endures Terumi's Cleaving Fang.
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I-No 2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\=======\1 Terumi
I-No is many things. She's a witch of talent beyond her youthfulness, a fighter more jaded than her years, and a manipulator more deft than her experience. All this packed into her speaks of a woman who was forced to grow up faster than a person should.
Yet, when pressed, I-No really only knows one way of fighting: kicking the shit out of someone as aggressively as she can until they accept that they need to lie down and die. It doesn't do so great on the defense side of things.
Terumi grabs the remaining bit of I-No's sweater. The witch barely has time to yelp as she's yanked down alongside him. He's physically the stronger of the two by far, so there's little she can do about getting repositioned beneath him. She hits the ground hard, face first. Her guitar clatters onto the alley floor a distance away. Her lungs burn as she gulps for air and finds herself unable -- until, at last, she takes in a ragged breath. The witch rolls onto her back, abrasions across her left cheek where she hit and bruises already forming on her collarbone. Blood smears her front, the earlier cuts having had time to bleed and smear.
Terumi looms above her. I-No stares up, multicolored eyes frozen. He lifts his foot.
Terumi stomps, and stomps, and stomps, and /stomps./ There is nothing stopping him. He can use carefree abandon as he brutalizes the prone woman with his boot heel. It's an ugly, extended affair; a normal person would perhaps not be alive anymore. I-No has certainly stopped moving.
The erstwhile intelligence officer is left with his dominated prey. Does he get tired of stomping? Is it over?
He may notice, against probability, that I-No is now somehow holding her guitar. The witch smiles beatifically up at him past his boot, red on her pretty white teeth because his stomping has burst her lip and made her mouth bleed. That angelic voice that kept all eyes on her in the bar sings up at him again.
"Are you ready to burst, darling?"
Two speakers flicker into existence on either side of Terumi, each held aloft by a gently flapping seraphic wing. Cheerful little caution signs spring up in the air all around him, each one informing him that something involving an exclamation mark is about to happen. Maybe many exclamation marks.
I-No's fingers dance across the strings with stunning virtuosity. This isn't Terumi's problem. Terumi's problem is the sudden barrage of spectral heart beams lancing out toward him, zigzagging through the air, hungry for his power.
COMBATSYS: Terumi slows Megalomania from I-No with Force Eater.
~~ Alluring Hit! ~~
[ \\\\\\\\\\\ < > /////////// ]
I-No 0/-------/---<<<<|=======\======-\1 Terumi
Nope. If this was a test by I-No if Terumi had any mercy, then he has flunked it on every level possible. Even when the ground literally has an imprint of the guitarist's head, he hasn't stopped -- if anything, he's going harder and faster than the onset. Were she fragile and such a thing managed, he'd obviously have had no issues with outright killing her. That much is evident; not once was there a flutter of concern or worry for her state of being, only a wanton desire for pain and suffering. Something it would seem the two of them both desire.
"Burst...?! I'm barely breathing hard!!" Terumi snarls down, before the two speakers manifest to either side. He twists towards one, snapping up his hand. Two spiraling serpents of pitch blackness outlined in emerald hues roar out, impacting and destroying one as the very core of the spell is consumed, twisted, corrupted.
Of course, there wasn't just the single one. The eruption of almost comically shaped passion strikes into his back, slamming him into the opposite alley wall. Power is drunk heavily from him, but it feels wrong. Tainting, vile, like I-No's essence was covered in an unpleasant oil as opposed to truly empowered. She dug into his actual essence, and it is like acid to the soul.
When the spell finally ceases, Terumi's ragdoll form thumps into the ground, back of his jacket seared away to expose almost his entire torso, white undershirt and vest tattered around it. But he's still giggling wildly, one gloved hand thumping down into the battle-churned ground, then the other, before he starts to draw up in a zombie-like fashion.
"Y-you... TASTED me... how rude!! Are you eager to see my 'self' on the first date...? If you'd like, I can show you!!"
Terumi has some time to enjoy himself with the heart storm. I-No, in the meanwhile, turns her guitar to wedge it properly into the ground so that she can use it to hoist herself up. She makes her way unsteadily to her feet, until finally she is standing again.
The remaining speaker dissolves into a flash of light. I-No staggers forward, dragging her guitar behind her. There is murder and mania in her wide, fanciful eyes, but she is wounded enough that it comes at a measured pace. Terumi, in contrast, is giggling.
It's cheerful. I-No smiles. Everyone is happy.
"Yeah," she says. "Whip it out."
I-No hauls her guitar upward, catching it in her other hand so it's held in both. Her fingers rest on the low string. The taste of his hideousness is rich on her tongue, motor oil mingling with blood. She's tasted both because she's led a full life. There's something enormous in him.
"Otherwise I'll just see what I can find."
Possessed by an energy that her body shouldn't be able to summon up, wounded and winded as she is, I-No tenses with the showman's sense of poise and timing that made this booking so easy. Arm raised to the sky, a pick now somehow in her hand, I-No appears briefly rapturous with eyes shut and lips soundlessly whispering. Her hand descends with all the fate of an executioner's axe.
Another wall of sound explodes out from her blistering guitarwork, a radial wave crashing in all directions, aiming to pummel Terumi right back up against that wall before he's even had time to show her what he's made of.
COMBATSYS: Terumi blocks I-No's Ultimate Fortissimo.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\ < > ///////// ]
I-No 0/-------/------<|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2 Terumi
"Alright... just be kind to me. I'm self-conscious outside my vessel~"
One forearm lifts up, fingers snapping as he incants a barrier. Green energy crafted out of multiple runes and sigils, layered multiple times, appears before him. The crash of energy surges and crackles against, similar-colored lightning crackling in all directions, but when it cuts off the heavily damaged wall dissipates. Directly behind Terumi, the wall is unharmed; but everywhere else, it has been outright destroyed, crumbling rubble showing the inside of a discount Deli as terrified occupants already wondering what the noise was scatter away to flee into the street.
And then Terumi finally draws out his other hand, either angling to the side. Black serpentine heads ripple to life, nearly a meter long, as a great well of magical power starts to fold inwards. The air suffuses heavily, almost suffocating; he has definitely shown himself to be an incredible mage, capable of precision and skill if he has half a mind.
Both of the crafted serpents are thrown, to land perhaps a meter to either side of I-No. Immediately a seal appears where she should be, before the twin snakes coil to wrap tightly around her, binding body and soul.
As such takes place, a great portal hisses into being behind Terumi, warbling open until it spreads almost nine feet total, a whirlwind of raw destructive force. "Here we go...!"
Machinegun fire of gigantic serpents begin flying out as Terumi lolls forward, arms hanging limp as he struggles with his own injuries; each is a good meter thick, masses of pure chi with vague, grinning features. They do not explode, only annihilating everything between themselves and the hopefully caught target, shattering and cleaving the building behind. This is no brief affair, as amidst his high-pitched laughs and giggles he fires tens, dozens, of these destructive flares, until the entire theatre has crashed in a great ripple of folding steel, collapsing supports, and shattered glass into a massive heap that still endures the brunt of it.
It's only then that his promise manifests. Suddenly Hazama spasms, falling backwards and hitting the ground as the portal fades away. Dead. Empty of anything; and hovering in it's place is... something black. Twisted, vaguely humanoid. Before a single bloodshot eye snaps open on the facsimile of a face, and a crimson rictus slashes across where the mouth would be as if drawn by a child. Green leylines run through it, congregating into a beating, pulsing mass. It's not human. It's not inhuman. It's something else; a transcendent being, the spirit of something divine.
Blackness whirls and condenses, forming into a coccoon of sheer destruction. The ground shudders, the sky seems to suddenly darken, forming a singularity of malice. When it billows away, what seems a great suit of black armor etched with emerald lines stands; far larger than Hazama's own body, long black mass like hair pouring behind, ethereal wisps teasing at the outlines as if it has trouble remaining manifest.
"THIS IS THE MIGHT... OF THE TRUE SUSANO'O!!"
Both clawed hands slam together, and when they part a massive green blade appears. Reality itself warps and dims around it, trailing a void that is slow to mend. Rearing it back with both hands, the cackling monstrosity then swings downwards with all his might, shattering a temporary rift amongst time and space itself before a great flash of bright, blinding green... ending in a meter-wide, perfectly straight chasm that seems to stretch eternally down, everything between utterly gone. Far above, the clouds themselves have similarly parted, slowly wafting in separate directions.
Then, the armor breaks away; that black spirit-form reappears from the shattering figure, then streaming back into the fallen Hazama, who spasms and sucks in a pained, gasping breath.
COMBATSYS: Terumi successfully hits I-No with #The Unholy Wrath of the Basilisk#.
[ < > ////////// ]
I-No 0/-------/--<<<<<|>------\-------\0 Terumi
I-No staggers backward when her magic assault is done. She squints to try to line up the results in her eyes -- alcohol and blood loss don't mix well, and she got stabbed early this fight. The darkness eventually yields enough to confirm the worst: he may have taken a mean hit to his wards, but physically he's not smashed into a snakey paste.
Two snakes flop out onto the ground on either side of her. A seal circles her feet. She can feel the transfix enchantment, preventing her from moving or magically escaping. Things are not going great in I-No land.
The witch, first glancing down at the seal -- she thinks to memorize it, but she knows her head is too blurry for her memory to hold -- snaps her head up to snarl defiantly at Terumi. This is going to hurt. It's going to hurt but she's going to survive it. She has to survive it. She can feel the tomorrow in herself.
I-No isn't afforded thoughts on Terumi's decision to level a building filled with people. She's busy having her aura torn at by an onslaught of divine chi. Her wards tear away first; they are her first and only line of defense in this way. Bound frozen, her options are limited in reinforcing them, but she still pours more and more of her reserves into holding the line. It has to be her reserves -- the seal restricts the flow. The Backyard is blocked from her reach.
One by one, they tear. Like the demise of small screen cinema houses, I-No knows that this is only a matter of time. Her frustration with being out-maneuvered bleeds into her anticipation of pain, such that eventually she's reduced to yelling "COME ON, FUCK ME UP!" as the rest of her defenses shatter, unmanned.
Then comes the pain. Blackness and light dance in front of her eyes, stealing her sight. She is unsure if she blacked out during this, or if it was simply that gratuitous a barrage. Every pain receptor in her body shrieks as her aura is overloaded with that tar-slick poison chi.
Somewhere, in the muffled distance, Terumi is bellowing about mythological shit. I-No, limp but held upright by the seal, tries to find her gaze again. A different figure fills the alley before her. The witch narrows her eyes, searching for focus. Her mind searches for a match. That's -- that's --
No. That's a sword. That's all.
The blade comes down. I-No feels a melting pressure in her heart. It's such a novel sensation, like her ribs are crushing inward from a vacuum. She sucks in a breath, thinking that at least this dramatic slow-mo is coming in handy. Her fingers tighten around the neck of her guitar. Her pick falls from her numb hand. The clouds part. The sky parts. Time and space part. Soon, she will part also.
I-No, faint but fierce, throws the remaining bit of her magical might into the approaching cut that severs all. It won't work until it gets close enough that it's beginning to pierce her seal, but if she's fast and sure then she'll have enough time. The blade comes closer. The boundaries of the seal slice, as they must. The witch lurches spiritually forward into the unnatural rift through everything --
I-No disappears in a localized tumult of Backyard energy. Hazama is left gasping on the pavement without the pleasant sight of a bisected woman to keep him company. Where she has gone is something that only a witch could tell you.
Her shoes remain sitting at the bottom of the stairs.
COMBATSYS: I-No takes no action.
[ \\\\\\\\\\ <
COMBATSYS: I-No can no longer fight.
[ \\\\\\\\\\ <
"..." Terumi drags himself to his feet, panting heavily. Still no blood, but that is just aesthetics; he is inhabiting a body of pure energy, and even the best-built puppet is capable of breaking. He blacked out when he channeled that damnable Susano'o; an overwhelming superego that he preferred to shed than submit to.
Squinting eyes cast to the left, then the right, before peering into the sundered ground. Inwardly, he's quite certain she didn't die. People who have stepped beyond the flow of standard fate do not so simply die, even when another tries to sever the chord. He was a firm kick from collapsing defeated himself, as her last gout of energy was a split second from finishing off his shield and overwhelming him completely with nary a hope of showing her his peak.
For now, he needs to rest. Hazama can deal with having a broken body and no hat, along with the horrible supernatural damage that the organization he helps run is explicitly supposed to prevent.
But it wouldn't hurt to cast an incantation and divine her fate later; if she does still exist and slip back into the main timestream, it never hurts to have a snake-themed business card appear nearby for if another chaosborn wishes for some mutual spread of anarchy...
COMBATSYS: Terumi has ended the fight here.
I-No falls out of a time portal somewhere in another alleyway on the other side of the world. London, exactly, because London is usually the first place she thinks of when she needs a quick duck out of a shitty situation. Blame that one guy.
(That one guy is a distinct figure from That Man.)
I-No lands on her back, the weight of her guitar falling atop her. Her exhales comes with a soft cry, because Marlene is a well-built woman that is currently putting her weight on her knife wounds.
For a long, stretching moment, the witch just breathes. Focus. Breathe. Control it. Finally, she pushes Marlene off of her, and reaches up to paw uselessly at her chest where her sweater has been torn in half.
Where's my phone, she thinks with dull thoughts. The emotions have temporarily run out of her, vanished into the distant ocean like the tide. Did I leave it on the stairs there? I set it down, but when I got up...
Right. Subspace. But no subspace trick with no top to hide her hand. With a groan, I-No shifts her body to reach the skirt zipper on her left hip, undoing it enough to get some slack in the waist. She reaches down, fingers disappearing briefly beneath the leather, only to pull out her missing phone. She finds her contacts with one hand, staring up at the sky while the tone goes on the call.
Shit, what was that?
Her voice thick: "Raven. Yeah, I'm calling. Maybe if you answered your fucking texts in a timely manner. Don't fucking argue with me. I'm bleeding. Yeah, your precious baby girl got slashed up. I don't know. Some guy. I think some kind of ghost thing. Just come get me, papa bird."
"Yeah. I know. I know, shut up. She's safe. I'm not a fuckin' idiot. Just... I'm gonna close my eyes. Put me in a bed. The good bed."
I-No thumbs at the hangup button. It takes a few tries, but when she succeeds she drops her phone beside her.
All that's left to do now is close her eyes and wait.
Log created on 18:08:58 10/19/2018 by Terumi, and last modified on 20:45:00 10/21/2018.