Description: Ash awakens disoriented in a clearing near Southtown, only to be confronted by Igniz. The aspiring God must decide what to do, with the man who both killed him and granted him knowledge that transcends time... in the end, though, he decides... (WARNING: MATURE CONTENT ADVISORY -- GORE)
There is no light, only darkness.
Unending, infinite darkness...
He shows signs of stirring, of wakefulness. He drags himself from the darkness and regains consciousness. Behind faintly freckled lids, eyes roll and spin rapidly in their sockets. Ash Crimson, enigmatic French weirdo, groans softly and cracks one blue orb after the other, but he is groggy and sluggish. The young man gazes up with blank recollection at the canopy of trees, the spaces between their branches allowing him to glimpse the slowly rising moon, traveling towards its apex. Realization soon dawns upon him that he lays on the grass in this strange place, one arm twisted beneath his slender frame as though he were dumped in a heap and left discarded like trash. His lips are dry, his mouth tastes sour... How long was he out and how did he get here?
Sitting up at a snail's pace, the flamboyant flameslinger allows his arm to regain feeling, the stabbing sensation of pins and needles distracting him from... other aches and questions. Ash covers the bridge of his nose and his eyes with a pale hand, thumb and index finger working against the lids to massage out the last of sleep... But was it sleep? Was it something else? For someone so skilled, the Frenchman thinks it ridiculous that he was caught unawares...
Wracking his brain, trying to determine his most recent memory, he exhales a frustrated sigh. A vague image swims to the surface, something about approaching Pacific High, entirely unconcerned with... what? Pressing harder against his eyelids, as if that could force the fleeting picture to yield more results, Ash's head throbs with the effort. Fingers with their long nails seek to provide relief by traveling to his temples. They cross a rough, rocky texture... They ghost over holes.
Deep in the back of his mind, a mocking whisper, 'I know, I know,' it says. Ash ignores the voice unlike his own, drawing his hand away and staring at the specks and spots, darkened flecks on his fingertips and dried crusts of blood.
His stomach lurches, his heart quickens. He probes at the small holes that have only just begun to heal, finding one -- no, TWO -- on either side. The pain intensifies, growing beyond his level of tolerance, spiking from okay to AWFUL. Ash draws in a sharp breath and attempts to master it, but given the wrinkling of the bridge of his nose and his grimace, there is little to see in the way of results.
The teen pitches forwards, palm to the grass to support his slight weight, the thunderous rush of blood and the suffering foisted upon him by peoples unknown doing much to cripple him in these moments. Bile bubbles up in his throat, swallowed and swallowed again by each greedy gulp of air as the agony swells like a crescendo to something entirely unmanagable. His eyes cross, his vision blurs, pale blonde hair sticks to the sweat-soaked skin of his neck and face. The more he pokes and prods at the holes in his head, the more he succumbs to panic.
Alone in the dark, there is no light.
Unforgiving, suffocating darkness...
"So you finally awaken." comes a firm yet soft voice from nearby. Deep, melodious... and likely familiar, from another time and another world. Out of the darkness comes a great wall of chi, crashing forward like a wave nearly tangible, as if kicking off the ground would allow one to swim free within it. Strange, invigorating, empowering... such is the output that the scion called Igniz feels at first touch, addicting as an aphrodisiac. Of course, Ash has already felt once before the true face of it, this benign touch like the mask of a leper concealing his true form.
The darkness is parted by a light, more terrible in such a state than continued oblivion. Bright blue cast in all directions, shadows of trees rippling wildly as the suited form of Igniz levitates forward. He is about a meter off the ground, black clothing swirling and dancing beneath with his hood pulled forward to obscure all but platinum bangs and sculpted chin. Arms held out slightly, fingers curled upwards, heels of his feet together with the toes angled downwards. Like angry serpents, the four concealed tentacles within his battle suit swish and whirr of their own accord beside.
"I have thought of you long, and often, since the breaking of the worlds. You remember it too, do you not...? How very strange, the way linearity works between universes. One day, I had them. The dreams. Dreams of a life, of pursuits, of failures. My own haste, dooming me to a decade of benality and struggles. And most interesting was... well. You'll see."
Igniz comes to a stop a few dozen meters away. Slowly he raises his hand, and motes of silver appear all around, like whisking fireflies. "I wish to thank you, and I wish to destroy you. I have found a compromise that I find fitting. So... Come, blessed one. Battle for your life. Engrave upon me the will of a lesser being... who desires to survive in this new universe..."
All of the motes of energy suddenly snap forward, coalescing into a great ball of energy. Igniz then twists, before flicking out his arm. The air cracks like thunder, grass and detrus flying in all directions as the perfect sphere hurtles towards Ash. There's a suffocating sense of a power gap now... when Shenwoo and him fought him before, he did not feel so -- untouchable, despite the power of the Orb running through his very soul. Apparently, one of the memories he kept... was the secrets to his greatest power, upon which he could only improve...!!
COMBATSYS: Igniz has started a fight here as a boss!
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COMBATSYS: Ash has joined the fight here in the center.
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COMBATSYS: Ash blocks Igniz's Divine Arrow - Air.
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A voice. A melodic and measured cadence, so strange and familiar, and yet... Ash cannot place it. It comes from another life, from another future... The lackadaisical Frenchman finds himself at a loss, unnerved; the rise and fall of the breaking intonation; the gentle but firm quality; the /tone/ rankles long after the sound has faded from the clearing.
His fair head snaps up, each individual vertebrae popping as they shuffle into alignment, loud as the crack of a whip. They tell the tale of the disuse his body has seen, leading Crimson to believe that it has not been mere hours, but possibly days. Could a week have passed, or is that notion too extreme? Lowering the hand speckled with crimson essence, once a world that only knew the darkness becomes its polar opposite.
He doesn't know if he is awash in the radiance, or if he hovers on the very fringes of the light. Ash is quick to shield his sight, to protect his sensitive eyes from the glaring invasion; his head aches like never before, declaring mutiny, fit to burst. Thin lips tug down in an unpleasant, aggrieved frown. The teen's attractive face wears a scowl and wears it well, brows drawn together. "You..."
It's an odd thing to say, because he isn't able to recall a life before his time, nor will he ever.
Even though the sentinel trees look menacing when cast in eerie and cerulean relief, even though the rippling shadows reach like clawed fingers to claim him, neither is a threat such as the man who levitates forwards, who commands a power that only the Gods should wield with such abandon. Hovering above the ground by at least a metre, his aura is palpable. Igniz comes equipped with cape-tentacles, brrrrr. Refusing to be supine in the face of this person for reasons he cannot fathom, Ash rises, his legs tremble beneath him.
After summoning his strength to hold steady, the pain so intense that the blue orbs brim with tears, he can still laugh, "If you're going to prattle on about philosophy, Monsieur Socrates," he adopts a stance with arms akimbo, disregarding the words through actions and not expression, kicking at a leaf. "I don't care." There are so many layers to his statement, so many ways it can be applied. His pupils narrow, lips pull back from white rows of teeth in a cold sneer. "'We'll see', he says~" Ash mocks snidely, tittering.
The flamewielder suspected it would come to this, from the instant Igniz appeared to the moment when he stops. He doesn't need to ask if the False God is the one responsible for... his missing blocks of memory, his lost time. To demand such an answer, any answer that isn't some form of 'Why', would be pure stupidity. Orbs of silver are gathered by an outstretched hand and the terms are stated -- both a choice AND a threat? How kind. A dark chuckle makes its presence known to Ash alone, that one fighting to be noticed and heard. It wants control. 'I want to meet him,' it whispers.
Again, Ash ignores it. The voice vents a scream of fury.
There's no opportunity to blink, the sphere is upon him. The defense he erects comes in the form of brilliant verdant flames, wreathing both arms as they are drawn up. A raging conflagration surges to meet the orb; they are enveloped after a cataclysmic clash and a deafening BANG, the entire upper half of Ash's body consumed when he grits his teeth and throws it off with a snarl. His freckled cheeks are scorched, his nondescript attire sports new burns and smokes gently. "Tch," he clicks his tongue, "I'm not fond of bothersome things, or people. It's not my style to waste my energy..." The slender fighter dashes back a lock of platinum blonde, rolling his shoulders in defeat. "Since you're trying to kill me, I suppose I have no choice."
Arrogance causes him to smile all saccharine sweet - this may be worse than the sneer - and Ash explodes into motion. He drops down to crouch first before sprinting across the clearing, gaining ground quickly as he runs until he springs not straight up and high, but at an angle. Cocking back his fist, he siphons any remnants of his flames from the air and summons more. Throwing out the hand to extend himself fully, the Frenchman seeks to grab Igniz by the angellic visage, gravity and inertia will aid him in knocking the False God off his divine pedestal.
COMBATSYS: Igniz blocks Ash's Brumaire.
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There's a slow tilt of the head, as Igniz appears contemplative almost by Ash's reaction. "So... do you not remember?" he asks, voice probing, deep, insidious as a parasite that burrows into Ash's engraved brain. "Do you not remember killing me...?!" This seems to be the extent of what he says. That wouldn't be surprising, all things considered. He has no idea what happened with the other man after the darkness claimed him, the powers of the orb drawing the vestiges of his echoed soul into the infinite void.
When Ash hurtles himself forward in such a fashion, Igniz simply brings forward all four of his tentacles at once, the sharp tips splaying open. Swirling discs of dark energy manifest, the clutching fingers finding only air a scant few inches from Igniz, the flames boiling upon the crackling barrier. When at last he is repelled, the hovering figure remains unmoved, small shimmer apparent across his form the only indication he had even been attacked. "But to be reborn... I had to kill myself. The 'me' of this world. The 'me' of this time. Inch by inch, replacing an outdated personality. I remember distinctly the moment when the old personality struggled with the new, and the moment when it faded away, just like a dream... it is not so simple as waking up with full recollection. A long and painful process, and even I do not precisely know all that happened when I fell. A gate. An orb of power. The world crumbling. And... divinity."
Igniz suddenly lifts up his right hand, splaying his fingers. There's a single mote of blackness that appears, before a great sucking rush of energy aimed at Ash. A violent vortex, a singularity of wicked strength, attempts to suck the other man forward with ruthless force. "Let me show you..."
And then, it becomes apparent that Igniz had only been putting on airs. His suit expels a massive burst of hissing steam, segments parting. Crackles of lightning rush over him, before it is like a great invisible weight falls upon the surroundings. Trees nearby begin to wilt, and the ground dries, grass dying and cracking away. Thrumming pulses of malign energy, the true heart and core of Igniz bared, the overkill fangs of a self-built God.
The sucking energy increases multiple fold, aiming to draw Ash inwards to catch him by the left arm. What would follow is a brutal twist, collapsing the vortex while violently twisting, causing a violent explosion of condensed force.
Were it successful, Ash would be sent flying away... and without his arm, at the middle bicep. The hungry jaws of infinity attempting to lay claim to his flesh, blood, and bones. "Does this spark the memory burned into your soul yet... Ash Crimson? Do I not feel somewhat similar to your kin... the one called Saiki? The one called Mukai? The one called Magaki...?!"
COMBATSYS: Ash instinctively blocks Igniz's Void Genocide.
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He had every intention of wrapping delicate fingers alight with emerald flames around the False God's face, but the flamewielder's intricately painted nails merely scrape a whirring barrier, created by the sentient tentacles of the man's suit. Green fires boil and bubble against it, a raging maelstrom, more and more energy expended as the lively conflagration seeks to locate a weakness, a small crack in which it can filter through.
There is none.
Ash Crimson is forced to retreat, clearly displeased, calling back his potent birthright. He falls away to the firm ground, even going so far as to take a step that will place some distance between himself and this monster, Igniz, who has the audacity to call himself divine. The teen clicks his tongue off the backs of his teeth. "Tch."
Before he can think to blitz into action again, unwilling to grant Igniz a moment of reprieve, his head throbs as another wave of pain breaks upon the surface of his mind. It must be ignored, even though it blinds him briefly. If only it could make him deaf, as well. The harsh bark of words ring in his ears, and when he tries to contemplate their meaning at any length, the worse it gets. Ash feels like he's holding back the tide, but there is no tide. There's no memories that could ever return to him. They have been taken, stolen, and he has regressed in age to a point where it never happened. Now it all belongs to the consciousness of the voice, which has remained silent since the initial outburst.
"Remember what?" Ash snaps pointlessly, one hand lifting, the soft pads of his fingertips pressing in against his temples and the holes to be found there. Remember killing... this man? The fey Frenchman has never killed anyone, not in his entire life. This life. Still, there is more to come before he is answered, a vague explanation of the recreation process that he is unable to comprehend. To him, it sounds like the ramblings of a pitiful creature gone completely insane.
Despite all the breath he has already wasted in pontificating to a careless, mercurical teenager, Igniz wastes no more. For Ash, every second of inaction is a second his opponent may use to retaliate, and quickly. He is drawn in towards the vortex no matter how hard he tries to resist, like a moth to the candle. With nothing to grab ahold of, he cannot prevent it from happening. Were it another time where he was not so displaced, or were he to view this from afar, no doubt it would be of great fascination to him to see the False God's power at play...
But considering his current state, he wants nothing to do with it.
With a violent jerking motion, the young man attempts to regain his footing, attempts to force his legs backwards as the distance he had put between himself and Igniz begins to close. The endeavour proves fruitless in spite of his efforts. Soon he is nearly at the very centre... Then, it stops.
Slender brows come together, the bridge of his nose wrinkling. His Cheshire Cat grin falters at the corners, paving the way to yet another expression: Confusion.
As much as he'd rather not, he falls for the clever ruse. Crimson stumbles to set the angle of his lithe frame to rights. Ash fans away steam that clouds his vision as it is expelled from the suit, all the better to see, but somehow instead the centrifugal force grabs hold of his left arm, his dominant arm, and drags him straight to Hell.
The French flameslinger is a marionette, yanked by his strings into the epicentre of the vortex again, his arm twisting out of shape, his ulna and radius snapping in no less than three places each. The teen's eyes widen. He doesn't even get the chance to scream when jaggedly sharp pieces of bone pierce through his alabaster skin, a spray of blood hitting not the ground with its withered grass, but fed directly to the hungry void. Ash hauls back now with an anguished cry, choked off at the very end by his throat sealing up in panic. His broken limb is wrenched from the socket, muscles stretch and sever...
Right before he loses his entire arm, the explosion is not just the void expelling him, but his own will made manifest. He sends his unique brand of flames en masse into the devouring middle, which it rejects, resulting in a brilliant detonation that throws Ash bodily through the air. His back meets the brittle trunk of a tree, snapping it clean in half. The flamboyant Frenchman lands face down in the grass, eyes like the clear sky distant with shock.
A long minute of silence passes.
Those very eyes suddenly blaze red, and he staggers to stand, his lame, mangled limb nothing more than dead weight.
It is not the lyrical incantation that is often associated with Ash, but a harsh, callous tone that belongs to something else. How is this possible? A blink of the eye and the colour recedes. All that had infused his stance, the strength he had just displayed in rising, it flees. The presence is gone, and it leaves him with foggy awareness and an endless agony, pained tears springing unbidden to his eyes, yet they do not fall. "Heh... Ahaha..."
Head thrown back in a laugh, fingers curl against his forehead, grasping at the front of his fair flaxen fringe. The ache swells again like a crescendo. Ash is left reeling in its wake. "Do you think any of this matters to me? Do you think it makes a difference if you're similar or not? I can't remember when there is nothing to recall! BRULE EN ENFER, merde embulante!" He's furious, a rare thing. But will his fury be completely impotent?
It starts as a simple igniting of green flames around his thin form, the verdant aura expanding until it is given leave. With the casual flick of the wrist from his functioning arm, almost lazy in his movements, it lifts off his frame and is siphoned into a ball - a spherical mass that had once brought about the end to the loveable Igniz. It rolls forth, shrieking as it hurtles through the air while Ash cradles his ruined limb, not daring to look down, feeling the tatters of his sleeve and sticky blood wash over his fingers. Ruby-red droplets splash unnoticed in the clearing upon the ground.
COMBATSYS: Igniz blocks Ash's Thermidor.
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"I see... I see... this... hmm. Is it just, to punish an offender unaware of his sin?" Igniz suddenly stacks when the crackle of the barrier finally ceases, and the man forced backwards regains his footing with no small amount of mental damage. "But justice cares not for such things. Even concurrent timelines. Were you to slay a family and genuinely not remember... the proof is engraved in your blood, and etched in the souls you have taken. You still must be held accountable. My sentence for you is the same you granted me, on that warm Greek night. When you took from me, after all my life, something I dreamed... a potential piece of divinity. But because I remember the future... I know my path of research was flawed. For that, I owe you my blessing. You shall see what this gift means, soon enough..."
The brutal onslaught of whirling gravity is endured by Ash with far greater skill than he had thought. This man... he has great potential. But such is already known, very thoroughly. There's so many abnormalities, so much unstability, that what takes place here will not work a second time. This is a shame in many ways, but... the conduit between Ash and Saiki is not something simple science can account for. It cannot be closed, or contained.
Igniz hopes he, at least, is hearing this. And perhaps, that he does not care. For now, he has no reason to do anything but watch, either way... even with his name called.
"Remarkable. I had intended you to be far more damaged than you are. Truly you are a magnificent fighter. You can tell..." Igniz lifts his hand, and the great surge of strength within him somehow grows more. The ground is rumbling heavily, splits appearing in the grass as stones, twigs, debris is all hurtled upwards to violently orbit him. It is hard to tell it is even night, with that swirling glow of silver and purple, an ugly contrast of the false chi of peace with the violent chi of his heart bared to the other man.
"How strong I am. But I do not see the resolve of a man who accepts the inevitable. But the plaintive demands of the peasant, no matter how steadfast, cannot move the resolve of a God. I see it, and perhaps if the situation was different, it would stay my hand. But not this day..."
And then Igniz seems to teleport, warbling forward in a strange silhouette. When the violent flame is launched forward again, the tentacles again interpose. This time the shield crackles wildly, surging with the strangely tainted fires of Ash. There's a slight widening of the man's eyes, a beginning of concern, before he expels his own force out and a great, staggering explosion of whirling energy sends it to motes.
<< Critical damage. Shield inoperational. >> A strange shimmer seems to leave Igniz' skin then, and steam hisses amidst crackles of lightning from the tentacles.
<< Rebooting power conduits... >>
But then he whirls out, attempting to wrap tight each of the burning hot tentacles about Ash's wrist, ankles, and the remnants of his erupted arm, tight as a noose. If he's trapped thusly, he'd be lifted high in the air, with Igniz spreading his arms to either side with a small smile.
"Saiki-kun. Can you hear me? You are part of this test, after all... Did you steal this man's memories, just to deny me my vengeance...?"
COMBATSYS: Igniz successfully hits Ash with False Ascension.
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Abruptly, all of the tentacles begin to brutally tug at Ash's limbs in different directions, stressing the tendons within his limbs, the joints of shoulders, hips, elbows, knees... the pain would be ungodly, which appears to be the intention. Whipping down his hands, long bladed chains swirl out from the sleeves of Igniz' voluminous robes. "Perhaps I might gain your attention, playing with this boy a little more... I don't believe you one to enjoy your toys being mistreated..."
And then, sheathed in crackling energy, he begins an onslaught of whips upon Ash's form. Each ripping through cloth to tear furrows in the flesh that instantly cauterize, a good two dozen blows. The last Igniz snaps up, to strike him right across the face, intent to strike over his nose and clean over an eye. Withdrawing them both, hands press together as if prayer. When they come apart, an orb of whirling silver chi is cupped between.
And then he spreads his arms. A huge column of energy explodes right beneath Ash at the same moment he's released. He'd be caught in the horrific cacophony of monstrous power, hurtled into the air like a meteor before it cuts off and leaves him to fall down from the heavens once more in Igniz' near vicinity...!
Were the memories of Ash Crimson spirited away so that he may be absolved from his guilt and escape justice?
No, there was no such higher purpose behind the action. They were taken to circumvent an undesirable outcome, which would be inevitable should he ever discover them. They were stolen to influence the teen to choose another path, even pit him against the one person who he was willing to sacrifice his entire existence to save, damning his soul in the process...
Love, so foolish a notion. Between family, friends and lovers... A dangerous sentiment that is the catalyst for destruction.
Time must not be allowed to repeat itself. The dark consciousness seeks to twist the emotion into indifference, the true opposite of love. Something that is incapable of opposing this force a second time, or /he/ will find a more suitable host. Maybe an individual of weaker will who he can control, distort, and mold into the image of his liking. That is the only thing Ash has that it can appreciate -- an appeasing visage and perfect form. Everything else about him disgusts the invader, no matter how similar they actually are.
He didn't think Igniz would recall that other life, however. Complicated.
Put on trial for a crime that never happened and sentenced to more than what he has experienced thus far in the seconds that span between pretty musings and the void's onslaught, when Igniz deigns to acknowledge the flamewielder's resilience, is that potential his own or the fact that he is a vessel? It seems not as though Ash is the one on the receiving end of a 'compliment', or perhaps 'astonishment' would be suitably accurate. The boy scowls. The False God calls out beyond his words. His display of raw power that outshines the night is a lure cast into the dark recesses of the Frenchman's very soul.
It hears Igniz. Hears but doesn't answer. The man's voice is like a trickle of water, the bleating of a sheep in the field, unaware of the wolf that lays in wait, patient. /He/ has time. /He/ has all the time in the world, so why care? Why respond?
In fact, the only reason why it surfaced even for a heartbeat was not to acknowledge questions or addresses, but so his descendant wouldn't die without struggling first in vain. Ash's pain and torment never ceases to amuse the consciousness...
But wouldn't that mean his end, if Ash were to expire? When he is so far removed from the Gate or another body?
Could he make the leap without assistance, to Igniz?
Ash, on the other hand, is not unaffected by the sight of the dimming stars, the bright flare causing his head to ache anew. Blue eyes open to their very limits, his heart pulsing to an uneven beat in his chest. Drawing a shaky breath, he summons what little there is of his smarmy sneer and remaining condescending capriciousness to dismiss the 'God' with a lacklustre wave, "That strength is nothing but artificial, Monsieur Socrates. Are you finished?" The young man is working with assumptions, because that is all he has.
As he said, Igniz does not stay his hand, much in the way that the freckle-faced blonde teenager grants him no quarter. There's more fire pouring out from his thin frame - Ash is a source of energy nigh infinite - but in his current state of disrepair, he is unable to control the conflagration that is his birthright. He fails to keep the flames at bay once they have been called forth -- they ignite the dried grass of the clearing, spark on branches and twigs. He lurches forwards into a heavy step after the blazing sphere, colour draining from his face and sweat beading on his brow. The only thing keeping him up now is his anger, and perhaps bullheaded stubbornness.
There is no understanding of what happens next from the instant of teleportation, for the light show grows too radiant for his eyes to take in, the pain in his head spiking again to trump that of his maimed arm. Ash nearly drops. Somewhere on the fringes of his awareness, he listens to the crackle of his flames as the ball meets shield, but beyond that there is nothing, not until a mote of green alights on his finger and seeps back into his skin.
"Fils de pute!" he gasps.
Electrical, burning hot 'ropes' coil around his wrists and ankles quicker than he can blink, scorching the tender layers of flesh stretched over bone. One tentacle sears off a piece of dislodged muscle tissue, an immediate shriek of agony follows. The French flameslinger winches blue orbs shut, gritting his teeth, molars scraping against one another. Ash deserves a modicum of recognition, because even though he may think, 'I don't want to die!' the young man doesn't beg or plead that this torture ceases.
As he is hoisted into the air like he were about to be mounted on a crucifix and made into a martyr, Ash fights the bonds with the three limbs currently in working order. The sounds of his struggle echo around the clearing, but drown in the thunderous cacophony that is the sparking tentacles. Vengeance? The dark voice chuckles as it is called to and with a disrespectful honorific, but that is not for Igniz to hear. Perhaps, should this be what the False God thinks of him, then he doesn't wish to meet an insignificant worm with his dreams of grandeur. Saiki turns his back on the entire affair, for now. At least until it suits him.
It might not.
His legs and arms are pulled to their breaking point, then stretched even further. Alabaster skin is elastic to a point, able to accomodate only so far, but then lines of stress begin to show, as if there were some distension beneath. Angry red marks appear and stripes that will never fade, although their brightness obviously will. As for the broken arm, the holes with bone protruding from them elongate in a way that is most disgusting; it will never be the same. Losing it to the void would've done Ash a kindness, tendons and sinew bubbling forth, bloody and loose.
To whip him is unnecessary, the teen is suffering enough... But the chains come down, and Ash, who had been drifting between consciousness and the blessed darkness, is brought back with such clarity that he can see all of the stars in the sky, the rustle of each dried leaf, and the spread of his flames as they change from emerald to crimson. It may be two dozen blows, but to the flamewielder, it feels like a million. He does not bleed because each time he is struck, the deep welts are cauterized at the same time.
Near the end, the nondescript attire hangs from him, barely recognizable as the clothes they once were. Each lashing he took stands out in stark contrast to the pale snow of his flesh. Ash Crimson went numb around the tenth hit, and after screaming until he was hoarse, had done no more than make short gasps or grunt in pain with a grimace until the very last. This one, it strikes clean against his eye and across the bridge of his freckled nose.
He loses that eye, because it bursts in its socket. We'll say it's the right.
Even though his throat is red raw and drier than the desert, a long, hollow shriek escapes, and he does not stop.
Not until he's forced to, which is when he's blasted by the column of light, hurtling skyward before dropping from the heavens to crash-land in a smoking heap on the ground, body tumbling through his own flames until he comes to rest. Somehow he is not broken although each breath is a stuttering tremble of oxygen that rattles him in rapid succession like a panic attack. The one eye that remains - the other welded shut in the centre with blood and clear puss leaking from the corners, oozing onto his cheek - finds Igniz. Ash raises his right arm...
And slaps his hand bearing signs of the whipping against the charred remnants of grass and dirt, a puff of ash rising between his fingers.
COMBATSYS: Igniz fails to reflect Sans Culottes from Ash with Nega Genesis EX.
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One column of light is traded for another. Crimson flames come rushing back from all edges of the clearing, combining into a long snake that twists and winds around the False God's feet until the head encounters the tail. They meld together into one seamless circle. Trapped. Ash's expression hints at cruelty, his lone eye aglow, torn between a grimace and a nasty smile that promises he will enjoy hurting this man a great deal, even killing him...
Or is that... Saiki, laying there?
A catastrophic explosion occurs, but it is contained. Verdant consumes vermilion, ravenous and rip-roaring, plumes racing upwards to grasp eternity. The pillar reaches even higher than the top of the tallest tree before it halts with a shimmer, swirling and rolling over itself as the wall solidifies. "Scream in a nice voice for me..." Ash whispers softly, but the true speaker is not one that can be so easily discerned. Faint breath stirs his singed bangs, causing them to flutter.
Flames boil over the top and begin to pour in, filling the column to the brim and causing the sides to bulge with overindulgence until they scatter with a deafening bang, seeking all manner of other things to destroy. The flickering, flashy motes and bubbles blacken bark and everything else they touch before sizzling out into nothing, hopefully taking the insane(ly loveable) Igniz with them.
"You speak with the arrogance of one so complacent. Life is but a gift of the Gods. Thus, it is within my domain to take it away." is all Igniz responds to the thoroughly stretched out Ash, dismissively. There's no hint that he's doing anything chiding; ripping off the man's arm is hardly an act to scold another, after all, even if it might not be nearly so permanent to a conduit of Saiki. But each second the dispassionate emotions of Igniz grows stronger. As if he's in the midst of smothering with a pillow, following through with an act out of habit instead of passion...
Which bodes ill for Ash's hopes of surviving this encounter at all. Is he really going to be murdered here? Will that really be allowed...?
But that does not speak of the dire resistance of the cornered. Any remaining question of the fate behind this onslaught is likely lost. Ripped and shredded into, an eye stolen, an arm ruined, his body near the breaking point... were Igniz to leave now, there's little hope that slumping against a tree and resting will end in anything but a slower, worse death than facing him head on.
And that seems to be the case. Igniz does not walk, but floats forward. Powerful ripples of force billow his clothing in all directions, as if a great typhoon were impacting the front of Igniz even as he sails effortlessly into it, the grass and trees behind him swaying and cracking as seeping, inky trails of purple leak off.
"It is time for your judgement."
Suddenly, Ash's scorching form reacts. There's another widening of the eyes, and Igniz brings up his hand. A shield immediately forms, and when the conflagration strikes it, at first it bends thin and holds... for a few tender moments. Shattering into a hundred pieces, the God of NESTS is soundlessly cast into the heart of the pyre. The absolute pandemonium of this fight will be known to all around the city most certainly, and it seems endless long moments before the green fire cuts out.
Smoldering, blackened ground seeps for dozens of meters around. Columns of acrid smelling smoke whirl up amidst emerald simmers of charcoal. And then, slowly, Igniz rises. His beautiful face is blackened, hair charred upon the ends. Now and then, a strange static-like shimmer whirls over his body before a few places on his suit short out, and the grinding of gears ends with numerous pops.
<< Forcefield Offline. Critical system damage. >>
Amazing. This peasant creature has torn through the technological skin of Igniz, and reached the man himself. Pain. He has not felt it since allowing Daigo to strike him, granting Zero the right to show his passion. This time, however... it was not the will of a God. He meant to dismiss that assault...!
Anger finally sparks, and it is like his aura is a wildfire. Closed eyes slit open, shining bright as Igniz lifts his arms. Both erupt into cerulean fire, as he starts to float higher. Behind him is a great halo of light, casting him in an almost angelic facade, terrible to behold and nearly impossible to look at directly.
"You dare... singe me? You pitiful creature... less than an insect... I've enough of this suffering. Die...!!"
'Permanence' has no meaning to a being such as Saiki. Nothing is permanent, nothing ever lasts, save for him.
The One who Rules Time.
The apathetic consciousness scoffs, dissatisfied with the performance of his descendant, the will of his vessel collapsing as internal organs begin to shut down. It starts with the pancreas, liver and kidneys. All things that Ash would be able to survive without if it were only a single failure, but mileage may vary...
When combined, and adding to it his dislocated, mutilated mess of an arm that doesn't even resemble a limb, both of his knees popped, covered with cross-shaped lacerations from the whipping chains? It wouldn't be very long. No doubt the teen bleeds on the inside as he does out. How long until his heart stops?
Does Igniz plan to finish this, or to leave the flamewielder to his agony until his very last breath is expelled outwards? That won't be very enjoyable, not for the watcher. Stupid fool.
Ash's candle of life flares weakly, to think that he couldn't resist and is regarded in such a way. As if he were an invalid and suffering from a frontal lobotomy. He really is pitiful, at least for the moment. Firming his jaw in defiance while the awareness of his mind gives way with another surging ache, it creates an opening that must be filled. The opportunity is seized with relish, if only to allow the Frenchman to gather the last of his strength, not slip peacefully into a coma. Saiki wants him to die, wants him to be at the helm the very moment when his world ends forever. Ash Crimson must be awake! If it means the time suits him, it suits him.
"You know nothing of Gods."
Words are spoken in a manner detached, bored, impassive. The boy shouldn't even be able to raise his voice above a whisper, but it is clear like the piercing cry of a babe, boring straight into the ears until it hurts. Saiki's smooth cadence, the frequency of its vibration notes lower than Ash's, sounds as though it requires far more effort than it's worth, and he abandons it to simply show just WHY the False God knows exactly nil of real divinity.
After he rises from the pyre that was to burn him to cinders, Igniz is privy to an interesting sight indeed, should he choose to behold it. The only functioning limb Ash possesses departs from the earth, covering his oozing, burst eye that was seared shut. Saiki summons a sardonic smile of delight that the vessel is capable of this, but he knew it would be; the copy is exemplary. A hand slides down the attractive face, the welt vanishes at his touch. The lid knits itself back together into the faintly freckled covering it once was, the shape of the orb reforming, puss and blood crumbling away.
Saiki removes his hand, and it is as though the Frenchman had never been struck there.
"Kill him, /MAGGOT/!" he orders the man with his shimmering barrier, with his suit shorting and his artificial power.
"Do it, or I will disrupt all in which you have wrought and bring your creation to end you once more!!"
COMBATSYS: Ash takes no action.
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"...?" That voice... it's not quite the one that Igniz expected. Is this the Saiki that he had hoped to talk to? The leader of those strange beings who seemed to have some spark, some piece of the puzzle, to ascendance? The rage turns to delight almost immediately, and if he had the capability to reach within Ash's throat and rip the man out here and now, he would. Even though in his current state, it's almost certain that would be a mistake... he'd likely be defeated, if not without it being troublesome, and be left with nothing to show for it but a dead Ash. And neither of them would care about that.
"That is not entirely true. ...I know of Orochi. Why do you think I am so interested in the fires of the Kusanagi? That which can seal a God... certainly must possess within it the imprint of divinity. I've concluded that whatever taint is within this 'Ash' is not a useful deviation. Purity is required in my research, I'm afraid."
There is absolutely no hesitation. Suddenly Igniz snaps out his hand, and the metal chain erupts forward in a swirl of vorpal chi. Directly towards Ash's chest, right where his heart would be situated. After a moment, the flames upon Igniz' arm ripple across it, and he savagely /rips/ it free. The motion would be conclusive. Sadly, a lack of a heart is a death sentence, but not an immediate one. Even with failing organs and adrenaline, there's probably a good thirty seconds before Ash would pass on.
"Do not tell me what I already intend, fool. I am done with him. ...Let him enjoy this sensation. Most who do... will never be blessed with remembering it." Slowly the surging aura and chi within Igniz begins to recede, until only the silver, warm glow follows. His suit is still badly damaged, and the horrible singes upon his frame and burnished suit show that Ash was hardly free prey, but it is clear who made a mark upon who...!
COMBATSYS: Ash endures Igniz's Sagital Edge Slice.
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"My words are not false, for all you know are the fairytales and legends. Stories passed down from one mouth to the first child and onto their next of kin. Mired in misinformation, distorted by repetition over time. You have never seen Orochi, I doubt you will live long enough to glimpse it. You know /nothing/." Saiki drawls this almost lazily, his explanation such as if he were speaking to a stupid and ignorant child. A contemptuous laugh slips past his thin lips, puncturing what silence exists in the moments he has to speak and wield his vessel. "Must I make plain to you what you are unable to grasp, you base little worm? There is more to sealing the wrath of Gaia than what you fail to recognize as the true source of the flames. Please, continue to make a mockery of yourself as you pursue what is the result of a mere third, /Igniz/."
"The Yata Mirror and the Yasakani Magatama... Both are in Southtown, held by..." he draws breath, Ash's small intestine and large have both ceased in their functions. "Why should I tell you?" The One who Rules Time concludes with cool indifference, crimson eyes disappearing behind the freckled lids that close over them. Saiki wears a smile almost serene, but still cruel, one side turned further upward than the other.
When the orbs reappear, it is not with the half-lidded, dispassionate expression that belong to his ancestor, but the return of the fierce glare of Ash, who isn't even able to register that he has regained his sight in full. The chain whips through the air, infused with chi flames that ripple along the links. It buries itself deep into the flamewielder's chest. His body jerks, back arching from the ground, the stab lancing through his heart and leaving a hole wide enough to insert at least two fingers. Blood bubbles up his throat and to the teen's open mouth, frothing out at the corners, trickling down the sides of his jaw and pooling in his ears. He gasps, choking, spasming as the chain is wrenched free, his life's essence gushing from the wound and into the welts.
Thirty seconds pass of fear and pain, of one last reach of Ash's hand because he intends to do something... before it drops. The light leaves his eyes and he grows still. The tainted, imperfect vessel dies, and it doesn't matter.
But his final exhalation is not the gentle passing of air, but a, "Feh."
Without preamble, a harsh clap of thunder rends the ensuing quietude in twain. Atoms of black energy appear as all the light is sucked from the stars and the clearing, even from Igniz himself. The motes swell to massive proportions - to the size of a football or larger - then burst apart with a volley of bangs that sounds like a dozen fireworks were set off all at once. More take their place. Shadows are spat in all directions, then boomerang back to create anew. It forms an endless hell; an infinite rush of darkness; a horrible cacophony that blends together into one long deafening note, as painful as anything.
A parting gift, with love.
COMBATSYS: Ash can no longer fight.
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COMBATSYS: Ash successfully hits Igniz with #Kasumi+#.
+ Epic Hit! +
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"...It is true. I have mastered 'Space'. But I have not mastered 'Time'." Igniz states, with a curt disdain. His urge to challenge the man right here, right now, becomes overwhelming. Igniz has powers near a God; of that he's sure. But... now that he thinks of it, how often has he tested it? Such has been a simple assumption, based on nothing but the meagre individuals he surrounds himself with. Zero had felt meaningful... but beneath. Stronger than him? That seemed so hard to believe, only a few years ago before he left for Antartica...
That rage resumes once more, simmering and seething through his false front of a benevolent god. But... a third? It's true. Igniz spent years on the Kusanagi DNA, and got nowhere further than the first six months. Nameless may be a great weapon, but the man is no further step towards divinity, only proof in manipulating genetics being able to manipulate the properties of the Kusanagi flame...
"..." He's being toyed with. Someone who has the answers he cares for, purposefully taunting him. But it was foolish. Does Saiki think that NESTS lacks the resources required to find information on those two things?! But then once more he looks upon Ash, tilting his head slowly to the side. "My gift to you." he offers, simply.
No notice is given to the grasping of Ash. He wants to watch with his own eyes, the writhing, curling agony of a partially crushed bug in the throes of death. No flare of heat or spiteful thrust can hope to reach him now. Only... feh?
Sucked forward a step, Igniz is caught off-balance as the energy allowing him flight is temporarily taken away. Before such can be regained, before his center flow of chi can recover, he's struck with a deathly rush of energy that entombs him.
Nothingness. Oblivion. ...Again. That ageless eternity, that lasted both forever and for a split second. The rush of the world returns slowly, far too slowly, before Igniz crashes through a tree, then another, shattering a stone boulder like it was nothing before skidding on his side. The fabric of his outfit is in shreds, and much of the metal suit broken. Silver energy seeps out, containment fields completely broken. He's slow to rise, bracing himself on his forearms.
"Haa... haa..." A parting gift. Saiki, showing him the full extent of his power. ...And it was not, as he feared, in a league far above him. "This is not the end." he offers, standing up and looking upon the destroyed battlefield. No longer does he glow with regal energy, but turns to limp, focused on containing his power within as his essence begins to slowly regenerate..
Ash is left, dead. A husk. Burnt out to white, ashen cinders.
...Before he wakes up, choking in a tube of liquid. Multiple electrodes run to his head and body, linked up to his entire nervous system. Every single event that took place rings in his head as true, down to the ache of pain. But he's hale, and in motion; suddenly the feeling of a vehicle screeching to a stop, before a hand grasps a lever.
As the back doors of the NESTS mobile facility descend with a crash, a naked Ash is expelled in a flush of sweet smelling liquid as the doors slide upwards, to end up in the middle of a street miles from town. Like a dream, the agony of his death fades to the rasp of asphalt and the sharp pinch of glued-on electrodes ripping free. A heartbeat later, the huge truck screeches off, snapping or breaking off the last of the connectors before the rear door slowly ascends back to closed.
A trick. It had all been a trick; Ash's brain had been funneled into a temporary, unstable clone. One that would have existed only an hour or two even if unmolested... and Saiki allowed it. Igniz is fully aware -- if he repeats this little game, there's no doubt that the scion of Time will simply cause it to detonate to great effect. Ash's genes are dangerous, and useless.
No. One part of three. That fits the hypothesis Igniz had. He has been too focused on the puzzle in front of him...
Now... the wounded God must go to lick his wounds, and ponder on the others. Southtown, was it...? He might have a way to comb every inch of it...!
COMBATSYS: Igniz has ended the fight here.
Log created on 19:25:38 12/21/2014 by Igniz, and last modified on 03:36:40 01/12/2015.