Description: "'Give me liberty, or give me death.' A pithy mantra of the Americans. So easy to say, yet... I have found that when presented with the choice between the cage or the reaper, most souls will leap head first into the cage. They will pull the bars closed, seal the lock, and dispose of the key, if it means keeping me away for but one more day. So curious, how they never say what they really mean. But this one... this one, I do believe, would seek annihilation over the purgatorial prison that awaits her. How fortunate are we, then, that she will have no such choice in the matter."
As with so many tragedies, the one in motion this evening was born as a seed of an idea in the mechanical, unfeeling mind of the Mad Puppeteer, Relius Clover. It was by his doing that Izanami was given a narrow window to force her way into a world that had been safe from her touch for all time, allowing her to stand within this chamber as The Imperator Librarius of the NOL.
And it was his idea to profane the memory of one of the Six Legendary Heroes that the world was forced to forget, to pull the strongest magic using soul the Earth had ever seen back into being but without a shred of free will.
The location is deep underground at NOL Central Command. The chamber is built over a Cauldron - a vast, swirling pool that seems to burrow down into the crust of the planet but in actuality, opens directly into the Edge of the Boundary. A observation station is built out of the wall, reinforced with struts and beams. To look over the edge of the railing is to gaze upon the power of creation and destruction itself. Simply being in the chamber is enough to feel the tug of the Cauldron against one's psyche, but for those present, it is merely a potential tool and not any particular danger.
One such figure is the Imperator herself, standing in regal robes with a black and gold overcoat covering her body. Her arms are invisible behind sleeves that form a wall of white cloth with the way they hang down down in front of her. Quietly, she has stood staring into the Cauldron, her crimson eyes rarely moving, her long, violet tresses swaying gently in the subtle disturbances in the air created by the ebb and flow of such unfathomable power as what exists below.
Behind her on the observation platform is the latest of Relius Clover's handiwork. Amid a maze of cables and tubes, a metal box shaped not unlike a casket, sits on the floor. Coolant hisses as it moves through some of the piping surrounding it, and now and then small bursts of forked, blew lightning dances over the cabling. Four primary conduits are cycling a material thought utterly impossible only a decade ago - viscous, bright orange, glowing fluid that fills the casket. Compressed liquid seithr, the biomagical goo necessary for Relius's most remarkable, and most horrific accomplishments.
A body floats mostly buried in the liquid seithr - a vessel unlike any the deranged scientist had ever made before. If Izanami was capable of the emotion of jealousy, perhaps she would feel it when contemplating the potential of this latest creation, so great is its potential. But as she gazes into the Cauldron, no such distraction finds its way into her serene mind. In the end, when her great work has been completed, none of this will matter one iota. What then, would be the point of such a useless feeling.
The regal figure turns away from the edge of the platform to look briefly upon the metal container and the miraculous vessel it contained. For all of its craftsmanship, every aspect of it will be useless scrap if the next step of the process is not completed perfectly. The variables had to be kept to a minimum. Relius did not even seem to exhibit the slightest indication of regret when he declared that it would be two point seven percent less likely to succeed if he stood within the chamber to observe himself.
One cannot argue with a results-minded man like that.
Such it is that The Imperator finds herself standing on the platform with but one other individual, his signature green hair hidden by the dark hat upon his head. "Terumi," the young woman speaks, her tone unhurried, her voice almost melodic in nature. "You understand what it is that you must do? Your normal antics will not be of any help here... please... take this seriously."
Standing atop the station and peering over the edge is one Hazama Honoka, hand carefully keeping his hat on as he frowns down into the churning abyss of the Boundary. The energies coursing through him are not dangerous at all, even though many would have their soul twisted and corrupted by the high concentration of seithr. As little more than a walking Azure Grimoire, he's not got the manner of life essence it would effect. "Oh my. I never like looking down into this. It always feels like something might be looking back~" His crooning voice offers the Imperator. This is certainly Hazama, the somewhat aggravating vessel for Terumi. It's certainly a lose/lose situation, as neither of the individuals is one that a person would care to deal with.
"Hmm?" Hazama then turns to look at the Imperator, closed eyes seeming to droop as lips pull into a frown. Both hands lift placatingly in her direction, as he shifts his weight. "You wound me. I achieve everything that's asked of me, don't I?" He makes no mention of being called Terumi. It's not inaccurate, especially given the twisted black ghost can hear everything being said, even if he's not presently at the forefront. "But I'm not sure what /I/ am supposed to do... Colonel Relius Clover managed to find the general area that Konoe's gestalt soul is. And from what I was lead to believe, we need some kind of catalyst to spark some self-observation before she can be excavated...? How's that involve me, I can't leap into the cauldron! What would you like me to do, YELL loudly and hope she recognizes my voice?"
Oh, poor Hazama. Izanami would likely realize that he has no idea the next step in this process. It doesn't matter. He's made it clear Terumi's fully aware. This must be another of the Destroyer's personal delights in cruelty...
As Hazama speaks, The Imperator's soulless, crimson eyes close, her hands still folded together beneath voluminous sleeves. It almost looks as if she is attempting to muster the inner will to endure the presence of Terumi's unfortunate vessel. His initial thoughts about what might be looking back at him from the gateway of oblivion must surely conjure memories within the regal woman - all those millennia, pressing against the impermeable barrier maintained by that infuriating Tsukuyomi...
The very question of what might be peering back from the other side is a question humanity should have asked before they delved irreparably deep into their study of what lay beyond. Now? Now the worst things imaginable have already broken through.
It is far too late to worry now.
His affirmation that he accomplishes all that's ever asked of him brokers no reply but for the slight opening of the Imperator's eyes staring back at him. It's only when he confesses to ignorance about what is to come next, what, precisely, his role to play is, that he may notice the subtle shift in expression in the woman's face. Is that bemusement?
"Oh, Terumi... you delightful sadist..."
The Imperator leans forward slightly, moving toward Hazama, seeming to glide rather than walk, her floor length robe dragging just slightly over the platform's floor. She would be nearly upon him before the first clue that he might want to be concerned is made manifest, her thin lipped smile widening, gleaming white teeth gritted as a rictal grin splits the lower half of her face.
Her crown of gold vanishes in a flash, appearing behind her upper back as the unfolded Yasakani no Magatama, an artifact of myth and mystery. A golden halo of light swirls behind the woman as she lifts her right arm, the sleeve slipping back to her elbow to reveal a pale arm and a hand, its fingers curled like a claw.
That gruesome smile moves, the woman speaking, her voice having lost any of its melodic hint, becoming the unsettling hiss of a sarcophagus unsealed, "I bestow this gift not in anger."
He would feel it then, that inexorable tug, that violent pull of essence keeping the vessel functional.
Energy is being torn from him, a white, ethereal swath answering the Deathbringer's call.
Yet as it touches her exposed hand, it becomes a black, inky plasma - the essence of ruin she can manipulate with the same ease that most beings draw air. The flesh of her own vessel bleeds, melts, then burns away from the unmitigated exposure to the annihilating substance, leaving only a skeletal, boney arm.
It's then that she rushes past Hazama, forcing all of that destroying power back into him, overcoming, corrupting, and then disintegrating a lethal portion of his core.
In her wake, the three golden prongs of the Magatama pierce into the helpless vessel's torso, two beneath his collar bone on either side, and one into his abdomen. In spite the physical harm they cause, the artifact's is in fact nullifying the miasmic destruction spilling over Terumi's vessel, preventing it from being completely lost to nullity.
"I would like you to die," she hisses from behind him, lowering her right arm, allowing the lengthy sleeve to spill back over the exposed bones and hide them from sight.
Izanami bows her head then, closing her eyes... and waits.
"...Eh?" Hazama asks, when a statement comes that for once catches the vessel off-guard. Sadist? What does being a sadist have to do with anything?
The sudden encroaching of the Imperator causes a slight step backwards, unease flowing across Hazama's face. His expression shows muted surprise, trying to determine what's going on as rapidly as he can. Terumi...? Terumi, what is going on?! Nothing goes on in the back of his mind but a delighted cackle. When she reveals her hand and speaks of a gift, it's only then that Hazama understands. Of course. Terumi will be going in there, not him. And that means...
"W-wait, Imperator, I need to--gather myself, I wasn't warned--" He's not new to temporary death, but taking a pill from Relius that allows Terumi free while resting in the tub is much different than the touch of a woman who can grant life or death at her absolute whim.
Hazama spasms, caught off-guard. Blackness seethes in his chest, black lines flicking up his face and along his hands, expression warping into pain. "Ah... damnit...~" he mumbles, collapsing backwards slowly to thump on his back. A moment later, the last shuddering sigh of life.
And then inky blackness begins to seethe out of the hole that Izanami tore. Slowly it rears up, pooling into a great orb, before a great emerald eye manifest. Then a crimson sliver of a mouth. "Hahahaha... he had no idea...!" is offered by Izanami's 'brother'. Arms and legs slowly warble into being, before a green core grows upon his chest and sends green leylines coursing along his limbs.
"Now... observe me properly, /sister./" For once, not referencing the relation of Saya, but something else. What she truly is. "You might think this is a good way to get rid of me. But I promise... if you stop, I'm more than capable of sending that cat-touching slut's essence to the farthest corners of the Boundary and returning on my own!! Let's get along for now, shall we?!"
And then Terumi, cackling, hurls himself into the center of the cauldron. He descends into the essence, rippling around him. It's risky for him, of course. But he's prepared. If he feels Izanami's powerful observation not protecting him for even a moment, he will self-observe instead, and go through with his threat. Once he feels the presence of Nine nearby, he builds up his own spell, free to use all of his strength with no need to worry about maintaining his existance.
And then the surrounding area is suffused with the power of the Destroyer. The last thing that Konoe felt, in both worlds. The last, terrible, corrupting influence that she felt in body and soul as she was lost to infinite.
"WAKEY WAKEY!! TERUMI'S HERE!!" he roars out, laughing madly as he begins to condense the seithr massively, giving the remnants of Konoe something to latch upon. Powerful pulses of memory are sent rippling, warping the surrounding area into a terrifying slideshow.
Celica, bright and smiling. Then her crimson body dead before Terumi.
Jubei's brother, proud and strong. Then his corpse before Terumi.
Helpless Trinity Glassfille, reaching for him. Her soft voice begging him to stop, as Ouroboros thrust the powerful Mage beyond the Cauldron. And then, what Nine did not know; how he dragged her by the scruff, sobbing and pleading, anything but the Cauldron... before flinging her in as well.
Again and again he repeats this. Hate. Hate him, Konoe Mercury... through that hate, you will self-observe. Your many pieces of fractured soul will come together. Hate is the only thing that will save you...
And Yuuki Terumi will gladly give all of it she could ever need!!
A nerve touched and suddenly tread on as though it were a landmine, the immediate sense of irritation spreads though a web of consciousness that was drifting apart, tugged by so many different currents and forces it lights up in response to his hated voice alone.
A voice like a storm gathering on the horizon, it threatens with distant rolling thunder.
The first memories codify and colour the emotions it was feeling. Shock! Disbelief interferes with its focus and then nothing but pure unadulterated and vengeful wrath. He hadn't even spared sweet, foolish Trinity despite her feelings for the man??! Most all he can show her hastens the approaching and gathering, every memory expedites the approach and the intensity of the storm. Of all the lives of all this man had snuffed out!! he had killed her one and only little sister.
He. had. Killed. Celica.
The shriek of rage doesn't make sound. Seithr around her ripples; spreads though other elements of 'Me' as she starts pulling all the nebulous and spread parts of her conscious together. Only the lowest of the low would murder a sweet and helpless child who knew only healing magic's. No serpent the crawled on its belly had ever been so despised and reviled as this one.
Where! Where was he? With each new thrust and bestowed memory he shows her she lives it. Such unimaginably tormenting images from his perspective she is forced to watch as her family; extended family and best friend die from the perspective of their killer.
A nightmare, but he was right here within her grasp. If she could hurt him or torment him she would spend all of eternity doing it. She would find a way to make him pay!!
She metaphorically opens a single golden eye to look right at him.
There is a certain brief, grotesque bonding between the two beings from The Boundary over Hazama's unfortunate plight. Izanami stands with her back to the newly coalesced ebony spirit of destruction, hands folded, head slightly bowed. Behind her, Terumi unleashed cackles with twisted joy at the suffering of his own vessel.
Slowly, theImperator's eyes open, crimson irises returned, a faint smile at her mouth replacing the jaw splitting demonic grin she had when bestowing her gift upon the artificial life. "Do not presume to tell me what to do, Terumi," she replies, her voice once again soft, patient, melodic in a way. "It is for my purposes that this rite shall be performed... To sabotage my own endeavor would be foolishness." That's as close to a confirmation that she will Observe as required he is likely to get. Whether her understanding of who, precisely, is calling the shots here is largely immaterial for the moment.
"Do not delay, the accuracy of Relius Clover's measurements decay further with every passing moment."
And with that, she is left alone on the platform. Silently, she drifts to the edge of the railing, eyes gazing down into the swirling Cauldron itself. An unnecessary symbol of her active Observation of the disembodied Terumi, as she could observe him from anywhere she pleased, but somehow the act feels right to her all the same. Behind her, on the ground, Hazama's body continues to be pierced by the three prongs of the Magatama, the artifact from beyond demonstrating its ability to create just as well as it can destroy, keeping the vessel from completely crumbling away from the catastrophic harm done to it until its master can finally return to sustain it.
Within The Boundary, enmity beyond normal mortal comprehension ripples as the Betrayer of Six Heroes works his loathsome charisma in the way only he can. Dead, staring eyes continue to gaze, observing him, but seeking the presence of another. Wresting souls from the other side is well within the Immortal Unmaker's ability, but normally such manifestations are brief, used as weapons or tools, before they finally collapse and slip away.
No, the missing ingredient all along has been the existence of a man brilliant enough in the ways of magic, and vile enough in the ways of science, to create the abomination that rests behind her in a bath of liquid seithr. To think that after billions of souls to walk the Earth and die, none had ever come along with the specific combination of mechanical amorality and absolute ingenious to accomplish the things Relius Clover has put into motion. When it comes time for the end... Izanami will kill him last of all, she has decided.
Finally, responding to the living anathema that is Terumi, Nine of the Great Sages is found. All her power, all her memories, all her hatred, rage, and ferocity concentrated into a singular point.
As if the Lost Hero hadn't suffered enough... in the moment she finds Terumi, when she sets her sights on the Living Desolation, she will in that moment be denied any chance of unleashing her incredible fury upon one most deserving.
Within the chamber above the cauldron, Izanami bows her head, eyes closing, her arms unfolding from her sides, hands held out, her right one restored to pale flash, palms up. She can feel it now, that incredible, unrivaled soul. The missing ingredient to create the greatest pawn that had ever existed.
"Come to me, Konoe Ayatsuki Mercury. The hour of your vengeance is not yet at hand..." Izanami whispers. From behind her back, twelve grey, skeletal arms slowly thrust their way into existence. Twelve Arms of the Damned, each a clawed hand of some unfathomable monstrosity. Each of The Twelve begins to pull from the cauldron, the energy of the soul, the essence of life. At first the pull is gentle, guiding, but as Izanami's accuracy builds, the pull becomes stronger, tearing, wresting, ripping.
After having just gathered her awareness, the Ninth Sage would find herself being torn apart all over again, existence pulled from the churning seithr, a pale blue light that answers the intricate gesticulations of Izanami's ancillary arms until each hand has a portion of that incredible soul.
It is her normal arms that move next, channeling all the gathered energy, moving to place palm over palm as a growing sphere begins to gather between each hand.
"Your struggle continues, though now at my behest," the Damned Soul Weaver murmurs. "I look forward to seeing your rage answer my call."
While the luminescence of the gathering soul builds, the rest of the chamber begins lost to darkness. A thousand seething forms move in the shadows, hungry, eager, surging toward the vessel that has been prepared. A million glaring, crimson eyes, all focused with one intent on claiming the magnificent receptacle for themselves.
To no avail, as Izanami raises her arms over her head, casting the soul toward the submerged body, willing it into the physical manifestation, anchoring it at every point to this physical plane of existence.
"To you, I give the gift of a second life." The violet haired demon declares, her voice raising.
"Breathe in the life of this world once more."
She lowers her arms to her sides, turning to stare at the metal casket, issuing a command, her voice echoing throughout the cavernous chamber, and with it dispelling all of the errant shadows that struggled to claim this new body for their own.
"Just you remember, /dear Imperator/, that I'm not some awestruck fool. Our goals align, and nothing more!!" is the last thing Terumi offers before losing himself to the horrible summoning of Nine's consciousness. Indeed, Izanami would likely be unable to rouse the dormant and scattered Konoe in this manner. While she is distant and lacking in emotion, he boils with it, reveling in the worst aspects of life. Cruelty, sadism, horror, sadness, and most of all despair. All of which he stirs in a great melting pot, deep within the Boundary...
Konoe's eye finally opens, and her soul is whole. Terumi feels a shiver within his body, for a few moments struck silent by the great malice sending towards him. But then he feels strength surge through his veins, and his laugh returns once more. "Yes!! I'm here!! Look at me, Konoe... Look at your life!! You cannot do anything in your current state, can you?! You cannot avenge them... Or HIM..."
And then a picture of Jubei. Young, laughing, happy. "Don't you wonder what I did?!"
This is shortly after Nine was cast in the cauldron. This is not an illusion. This is not a lie. Nine would know, in her nascent state. She is seeing what Terumi has seen. Hakumen and Jubei are facing Terumi, but so close to the cauldron that they are much weaker. Terumi is much stronger. They cannot harm him... Hakumen is driven back, and the cat is struck badly, blood spattering the ground.
"Damnit, we can't hurt him... What do we do, Hakumen...?!" The desperate tones of the man she loves.
"DON'T YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW HIS STORY ENDS?!"
He knows his part. He continues to keep Nine focused on him, not what Izanami is doing. She must continue to self-observe, to reflect on herself, to wish to be true, real, tangible. She must wish, above all...
For hatred and vengeance.
And then, Terumi moves forward. Into Nine's essence. She would feel him. Taste him. Know him. And then he begins to draw himself upwards. The grand net and trap that Izanami has created would spring true; if Nine, oblivious to her intent, dares to chase Terumi upwards in the direction of the cauldron's exit, as he laughs madly. So close to touching him. So close to gripping him. So close...
To tearing him apart...!
In the darkened room the machinery reacts with a tortured groan as the nearly filled vessel suspended inside adds to the stresses it was already under. The lightning that dances over the cables intensifies in frequency and size of discharge. In her coffin the tempest of pieces that had been Nine raged, denied her due and fearful Terumi might escape from her she lashed out blindly and reflexively with magic's that came more naturally than a sense for moving her body. The delivery of coolant increasing and causing a near constant rattle of the pipes as air pressure changed and then so too did the interior temperature.
She curses Terumi, his stink clung to her much like it did in viewing his visions. She had to escape this dark place and find him again; the woman's voice was something she had denied wholeheartedly since it started she wasn't willing to give up on her revenge! If she was finally falling apart into nothingness though... Why did it have to be now!!
Alongside her first breath the occupant of the liquid filled casket lifts their arm with a sense of clumsiness and unfamiliarity with the action. Their hand drifts across to the lip of the container and fingers that have never moved before curl to seize hold. All these sensations felt nostalgic, even as it rose to work on extricating itself from the clinging gold goo. She had been in a rush to escape only moments earlier, pricking skin and a racing heart were slowing and calming as a speed that made her feel ice cold.
She'd lost her train of thought, but it would come back to her after she got back to her feet. Extracting herself with some effort and climbing to her feet she turns her head aggressively searching for something she was not seeing in the figure of the woman standing in front of her, she was looking for that green haired bastard.
His name filled her throat with bile she wanted to scream it out until it shook the foundations of this facility. TERUMI WHERE ARE YOU-
Her own voice betrays her, it's like someone suddenly snatched control out of her hand. In denial she wonders if perhaps that had related to what she'd been trying to think of earlier. Standing naked and confused in an unfamiliar setting, the ludicrous and strange nature of the situation was suddenly very plain. Instead of continuing her search for Terumi the horrified sage tries to reorder her thoughts and compose herself, start at the beginning and-- alarmed she cannot recall who she was looking for.
I am Phantom. Me? Was that my name.
Relaxed and complacent she continues to stare though a half-lidded eye while the seals and bindings already placed on her vessel tighten an inbuilt and carefully prepared stranglehold on her mind.
The potent soul delivered to its intended destination, Izanami shifts position over to the vicinity of the seithr filled compartment. Each of the twelve ashen grey arms recede from looming around the figure of the woman, eventually vanishing from sight entirely. Her small hands fold together within her sleeves as she waits, head slightly bowed, eyes the color of blood raised to watch the technomagical marvel that is Relius Clover's work take over.
Everything was prepared to exacting specifications. The seals, the limiters, the leashes... There would be no lashing out here, no chance to exact the revenge that has lost not one iota of its fury in the intervening years. The Imperator knew that the Great Sage's hate would keep her grounded, but seeing it for herself is almost cause enough to wonder how the woman hadn't managed to tear herself from The Boundary from sheer force of will!
The robed ruler watches as Phantom extricates herself from the bath of liquid seithr and gets to her face. Her will is still strong, palpable even. If not for the seals already starting to kick in, she could easily pull this chamber down on them all, cast them all into the Cauldron itself.
"Ah, but you will not do that, will you," the violet haired devil muses, her expression one of visible bemusement. "The world must seem so confusing to you now. Nothing makes sense. But it will, with time. You will come to understand your role." A soft giggle escapes her lips as she stands up a little straighter now. She turns her head to the side slightly, checking on the body of Hazama - at some point, she will need to unpin him, once Terumi reclaims his own.
She looks back toward Phantom then, face lifting toward the taller woman to gaze at that solitary eye visible beneath her goo-matted hair. "I look forward to your fierce struggle. It is good to fight with all you have before the end, so that your soul may find oblivion with no regrets, so that your cycle of misery may come to an end..."
The Imperator exhales softly, her left arm reaching out from her side, hand slipping free of her sleeve, palm raised. "You will never go too far from me. Your vessel is not like the others that Mad Architect has crafted. Without me..."
From behind her back, one of the spectral grey arms reaches forward, a shimmering blue sphere in its clawed grasp, which it places into the palm of the Death Goddess. A soul. A tiny fragment of such unfathomable potential, a piece of The Boundary's infinite possibilities. And, for the time being...
"Your vessel will die and you will be lost."
... it is food. Lifting her palm before her lips, she exhales softly, and from the soul produces wisps of azure colored light that drift toward the newly risen construct. Once near, they encircle her, then settle against her damp flesh and sink through it to bestow a surge of energy within.
"One soul a day... one sacrificial lamb... that is the price for your journey to continue, and it is a toll only I, Izanami, can collect." Another exhale, and the rest of the soul's essence is passed to Phantom's starving body, and then the Imperator lowers her arm, hand vanishing into her sleeve, the third arm from behind her back also retreating from view.
"And so you can see, even if it were not for the leash I hold, you would still be bound..." Her smiles returns, her soulless eyes staring up into the eye of Phantom.
There's the corpse of someone who looks very much like Terumi nearby when Phantom draws forward; as Terumi distracted the soul within, Izanami proved her prowess masterfully transplanting that into a mortal host. Which is good, for even the God of Destruction did not feel comfortable with a rage like that. Nine is not powerless to stop him. Her application of Mind Eater proved as much. He cannot say he is comfortable having one of the greatest threats to him brought back, but he understands the reasons. As a tool she cannot be surpassed, and Izanami can use her to end Terumi for all intents and purposes.
But binding a resentful person... Terumi knows how that always ends. And in a way, he revels in it.
From within the Boundary, a black shadow warbles up. There's a mad series of giggles as the slithering black ghost suddenly shoots out, impacting Hazama with a spasm and once more inhabiting the vessel. He remains for all intents and purposes dead; but Izanami can now, at her leisure, revive him once more...
Docile and quiet the taller woman falls mute, continuing to stand naked while occasionally dripping. The trail of droplets and footprints behind her leading back to the pit that spawned her though she keeps searchingc that is where most of her recollected thoughts seem to end. Before long she is fixated on the Imperators words and at the time the regal little priestess moves on to the eccentricities of her nature and body, has her full attention. Nine raises her hands to inspect them whilst turning them over front and back. Nothing felt wrong or out of place.
The conditions the Imperator elaborated on seemed to align with her own wishes anyway. To remain close, ever watchful and ensure no harm comes to... Ghk. She was going to develop a headache if she kept overthinking things.
Poking at one of the lights with her index finger before it reached her they had captured her attention and inquisitive nature. Sinking into her skin a welling of strength she hadn't known was absent prompts a tip twisting half-smile. An outrushing of terrific heat as the magician is enveloped in a growing pillar of flame. Burning away and using the seithr where appropriate she cleans herself up in a flash. Reining in the fullest extent of the flame it turns into a quick pulse as she conjures a revealing and long sleeved outfit. The long talon fingers of her gloves clicks in the air and closes on the wide brim of a pointed witch's hat she gently lowers onto her head and spends a half-second straightening. A slit in the brim fitting into place over her right eye.
She struggled somewhat with actually speaking the word, but the compelling desire to.
"I've obtained Yuuki Terumi. We no longer have business here."
Beyond her was the figure of a tall young man standing dazed in the dim room. Confirming the Enforced restraint: 'Mind eater' had taken hold Nine frowned in contempt. He was detestable to look at, she turned her back rather than continue to subject herself to his presence. Starting to walk away and pass Jubei before her reached out to suddenly and unexpected tug to stop her. When he voiced his worry and objections that perhaps that perhaps they were involving themselves with something they shouldn't. Not the first time this had come up.
"Jubei! I've told you already. Power is essential for us. Unless that monster... the Black Beast is annihilated at all costs, there won't be a future for the world."
For Nine, rather than a mission, it was more of a promise. In order to fulfil that promise, this man's strength was needed.
"Regret is inevitable."
She was never one for bowing and scraping in life, you should be judged on your actions. Folding her arms beneath and plumping an impressive chest. She was more impressed in the workmanship relating to this body, how well put together must she be as a 'Vessel' to require so little energy and small a sacrifice, she was almost casually using her full strength! When the Arch-Enemy event weapons required over a thousand-GHKKK!!
"I understand, ...Master."
The compulsion would not be denied. The binds were tight, the holder of the leash confident in the thoroughness of the design and execution of these restraints.
When it seems all doubt concerning the control she has over the enigmatic Phantom has been erased, Izanami turns halfway to the left, attention returning to the pinned figure. Captain Hazama, an individual who did not rise up through the ranks due to being particular popular with, well, anyone in the NOL. But his Intelligence Department acumen was unlke anything else anyone could demonstrate. And then there was that unfortunate accident with the Intelligence Department Colonel...
The Imperator certainly didn't miss the unsettling noises Terumi made as he oozes back into reality and slips over to his ruined vessel. Her obligation to Observe the detestable being is nearly at an end for now. Still, even she realizes the necessity of having him around. He still has a part to play in her grand vision, after all.
Her right hand extends, palm up, fingers splayed at first, then coming together. The three spikes of the Magatama back out of the wounds they caused, swirling back up into a circular pattern linked by a halo of celestial gold. And then they vanish with a blink, reappearing behind their master's back.
Moving her right hand out to the side, palm up, another hand of death curls up from behind her shoulder to deposit another soul - vibrant, blue energy, the fabric of potential, stolen, just like the one fed to Nine, earlier in the day in preparation for this grand triumph. In her office, high above, two bodies hang, suspended from the wall, bloody spikes securing them in place. They have served their Imperator well this day.
It is then that she looks toward the body of Terumi's vessel. While the Destroyer technically waits on her, there is really no danger that she wouldn't follow through at this point, regardless of what grim desires are likely going through the woman's mind. Eyes close halfway as she lifts her palm to her mouth, and breathes purpose into the soul, sending its energy into Hazama's body to restore to it the breath of life - or such as it is for an artificial construct. Meanwhile, the Magatama collapses on itself, becoming once more a circlet of gold worn on the Imperator's head as a crown.
She turns then to face Phantom, appearing pleased to hear the words 'I understand, ...Master.' "Everything worked out as it was intended." Her voice soft, patient, and aloof. "Why did you so readily agree to this plan, Terumi?" she asks without even looking over her shoulder. Her brother, after a manner of speaking. If only the third unit wasn't in the hands of the infernal Alucard brat, but Tsukuyomi's mind was made up... there would be no wresting it from Clavis's child for as long as she was alive. A solvable problem, of course.
"Was it to get revenge?" she wonders out loud, head tilting up as she continues to study the remarkable specimen wrought by necromancy. "I will not have you harming my pawn... not until her use to me is fulfilled. As long as you understand that, you may call upon her power to suit your own purposes..."
Her hands fold together beneath her sleeves once more, the elaborate technology that housed the Phantom's body begins to power down as well, syphoning off the liquid seithr before it can destabilize.
Hazama is useful. Very useful. That is why his playful antics are so frustrating, not only to Izanami but to Relius as well. He approaches things without passion or drive, often acting lazy or grudging about basic endeavors. It always seems the things he could achieve could be done much faster if he had any care, but he had not lied about never failing in his accomplishments. A difficult man to use, perhaps doubly so for a woman who's principal leadership experience is being unquestionably obeyed.
The soul surges into Hazama, as the damage she did to the vessel is reversed. Black lines melt away from his skin, and the large hole closes up. He's not so simple to fix as a mundane human, an incredibly complex feat of engineering between Relius and Terumi, but life and death are her domain. A ragged exhale flows out, before golden eyes slit open.
The man moves with incredible speed. His hat is left behind to tumble to the ground. With her attention focused entirely on Nine, Hazama's unusual ability might give him an opportunity to do something unique. As a create that walks and talks with no proper soul, he tries to surprise the grim reaper herself, by speaking barely an inch behind.
"Don't ask me stupid questions." His voice seethes as he states this. "You brought back a woman who lives and breathes hatred for me. I can ask for no better tool to observe me. And the look upon the face of Jubei when she sees what became of his love... hahahahaha!!" It seems he is more than willing to take risks when it comes to increasing his own agenda. Cementing his unsteady form to this new realm, more and more. He has already come so very far from barely existing due to Rachel and Valkenhayn's acknowledgement. At this point, even if the two truly managed to swallow all their anger...
He would not vanish. It's much too late for that. Izanami herself, deep in her core, despises him. It is not purposeful, merely the dull echo of Saya, but a grain of sand from the divine is worth much more than one might think. She alone could tether him now, if all other observers somehow failed.
"But..." Terumi then begins to stride up towards Nine, footsteps clacking heavily on the observation platform's metal grill. "You're complacent as always. You think your will be done, and that is sufficient. Who am I to say how well your control works..."
"Without testing it?"
Green energy then begins to seethe from Terumi, as he leans forward to stare directly into Nine's good eye. Again, the sense of being near the Destroyer would surge through her body. One far more real and flesh, then the angry echoes he stirred like smoldering embers within the Boundary.
"Phantom... put your cheek on the ground." he states, simply. An odd request, but all compulsion to obey would ring just as true as if the Imperator herself willed it. He and Relius as well can command her. But of the trio, only he would truly test her unspeakable willpower in being /forced/ to...!
When he made this flagrantly offensive move, to slip up closely behind Izanami and whisper so. Phantom's gloved hands spasm and she cants forward to glare bloody murder for a moment through the narrow segment missing in her hats brim. The bastard was standing much too close and directly threatening or near touching Izanami. He posed a threat to her important person! She wouldn't allow anyone to get close to them, whether to abuse or exploit she would not allow it.
His next profanity was calling Izanami's question stupid. She couldn't overlook his temerity any further by this point.
As he strides closer she makes a show of standing tall and closing her eye almost appearing stoic or sullen she was being spoken of so. Behind the closed lid she was furiously flexing and stretching, new muscles and old principles of magic artificially raised the difficulty in what she was attempting to do. The Terumi that leans into her face may or may not be aware of the pentagram symbols burning into existence across and surrounding them at ground level as a magic circle rapidly begins to form.
She didn't hide her irritation very well, it was subtle but still plainly readable in her face. When she opens her eye to glare right back at him there was brief heartbeat long window for him to realize that wasn't going to happen. While the controls were still all in place they weren't forcing her to acknowledge him in the right way.
"Test.. fine! I'll burn you to ash in an instant!"
The wide and still spreading magical circle bursts into flame as something emerges from the ground beneath Nine the four eyed behemoth carries Nine into the air on its shoulder whilst she maintains her footing and posture with ease, rising resplendent in a backdrop of magma and fire, one hand resting on the creatures unbroken horn she looks down upon Terumi like it was a roach to be exterminated or crushed underfoot. The contract between the massive fire elemental Hi no Kagutsuchi and its mistress has not decayed or weakened in all in time.
How was this for your test! Are you enjoying it!
There is no question that Izanami detests the soulless constructs that have started to walk the earth. Gears, golems, robots... to bear the similitude of life yet not actually be alive is an affront to the soul reaper. Such things have no true beginning, no spark, and no soul to bestow an eternal rest to when their sojourn through mortality has ended. All the infuriating longevity of Immortals, without the powerful souls to back it up.
When Terumi speaks up, The Imperator's head turns ever so slightly to the right. That would be confirmation enough that he surprised her, as when she's normally dealing with him, she appears to go to great lengths to ignore that he exists at all, rarely looking at him, never making eye contact. Their relationship almost seems built on mutual dislike in spite their goals so often in perfect alignment.
But then something of more immediate interest catches her eye as Phantom's gloved hand twitches, a flash of heated emotion at the sight of Terumi leaning so close to the violet haired woman. "Oh...?" She sounds a bit surprised to see the reaction. Is Phantom protective of her? Is that part of Relius's programming? He is always chiding the Imperator about keeping her vessel safe, perhaps this is the architect's way of ensuring that very thing.
Terumi steps around her, moving toward the ghost of Nine, and the woman shifts her glance toward him out of the corner of her eyes, not deigning to move her head again to watch him. "Do not mistake competence for complacency for they are not the same. I know what I am doing, Terumi," she chides, but otherwise doesn't interfere with his attempt to test the restraints leashing the dangerous soul's mind and powers. Now that she knows his interests, she knows he won't sabotage this gambit simply to spite her.
He barks out his command and the Imperator shifts her gaze back to Phantom, watching with clear interest in spite the stillness of her posture. She doesn't recoil when his proximity seems to trigger the defensive programming even further, a faintly bemused smile forming at her lips as she begins to recognize more of Relius's handiwork at play.
The thought never occurs to her - if the seals have a failsafe to protect the Imperator, what then of Relius himself? Could he turn her against them all? Confident in the loyalty of her pawns, the Phantom's master spends not a second considering the risks.
She doesn't move when the floor ignites, when the powerful mage soul shows that it's still got it, pulling the hellfire fueled elemental into the chamber with her. Confidence, complacency, confident complacency. Whatever it is, she seems unconcerned about the mounting danger building in front of her.
"It would seem you triggered a defensive reaction, Terumi. Perhaps you should afford me the respect that is mine in the future." She softly giggles as her eyes close, a look of almost childlike amusement on her face, "Phantom," she speaks up after a moment, "You need not worry about my wellbeing for now." Her hands unfold, right arm extending out to her side in a calm gesture toward Terumi, "You must obey Terumi as if he were me, unless my safety requires otherwise."
Her hands fold together again, scarlet eyes shifting over toward Terumi, "Perhaps you would like to test Phantom beyond the scope of petty indignities. A chance to stoke the fires of hatred, or..." She hms, eyes closing into narrow arcs again, looking far too pleased with herself, "Learn just how dangerous it will be to sneak up on me in the future."
There's a rare look of surprise and concern from Terumi when Nine acts in such a manner, causing him to stagger backwards from the gathered fury of the woman opposite. "Wh-what gives?! She's supposed to listen to me, also!!" Is it due to the fact that in her likely quite biased opinion he was threatening the Imperator, or is her rage so strong that some ghost of it bursts from the seams of both Relius and the Imperator's will?! When no actual attack is forthcoming, relief momentarily floods his face, followed quickly by a scathing fury.
"Respect...?! Why would I respect something like you!! You're literally the manifestation of what I hate most in this world!!" Said in a rather grimly exasperated way, although no surprise. Izanami knows more than any alive the true core of resentment that Susano'o holds towards Amaterasu. Although both are watered down by echoes, that sour link remains hale.
"Tch... safety, though? Dear Imperator, by that standard, it almost implies that Phantom thinks I'm capable of hurting you." Terumi takes off his hat and flings it to the side as his aura of green energy flares brighter, hair flitting upwards as if sculpted by a sudden surge of electricity. "Mundane attempts on your life are harmless... like /this...!/"
And then suddenly Terumi flicks up one of his balisong knives, whirling it around before twisting. In a flash, the razor sharp point thrusts towards Izanami's neck, a wild madness in the destroyer's eye as he makes the attempt. It wouldn't work, of course. She is death incarnate, and she is life incarnate. He may be one of the few capable of damaging her, but this particular attack is entirely mundane.
Still... how might Nine react?
Don't be concerned and worried about my safety.
That person she had to protect was like that all the time, always with infuriating requests like that! The compulsion to accept it this time however closed a door in her heart. An agony coring right through her that hurt sharply but was quick to numb and fade when exposed to this rejection. That was how it was. They didn't need her protection. Her gaze slides away from the Imperator who was addressing Phantom back to Terumi.
From her vantage point watching him pull the knife.
Incinerating suddenly and in a wave of purple flames leaving not a trace of the mage. Phantom's sudden translocation and reappearance between Imperator and attacker was a decisive if spur of the moment call on her part. Striking Terumi had nil to slim chances she would manage to defend her charge with the same action. Forming a barrier or immobilizing him in a block of ice would take precious time, instead she opts to interpose herself as the safest if most troublesome option.
Both hands coming up to focus she throws them toward and down as if hurling a whole and heavy armload (and quantity of nothing) directly towards Terumi.
Robe fanning up behind her as though wings with the intensity of the violent action. The green magic circle appearing suspended in mid-air as she does so solidifies almost instantly, unleashing a wide horizontal and far reaching tornado of purple winds to stream back at the attacker and drive him away.
The sharp sting in her trapezius muscle and torn cloth across the flesh where her shoulder met neck, the blade had clipped and passed Phantom by. The wound was bleeding but it was more a problem that the blade hadn't struck cleanly and been stopped.
The intricacies and setbacks in writing a script to tame a hero had to be itself aware they tended to act like one, to do it right you had to use all the code that was already pre-programmed there. She was instructed to defend Izanami and prevent either damage to or her, or Izanami having to fight herself; which may reduce the foreseeable lifespan of her vessel.
The Phantom standing between Terumi and Izanami does so with a cold and calm grace, a silent babysitter following instructions to prevent the children from squabbling because it benefitted no-one, apparently acting on someone else's orders now her own feelings on the matter were unwanted and filed away. One of her masters had ordered her to (I)ignore the Imperators well-being, in attempting to do so it exposed the wishes of another whose wishes ran contrary to that.
The massive fire elemental vanishes with a proportionate gout of flame now it was no longer being called on.
COMBATSYS: Terumi enters the arena, to the roar of the crowd!
COMBATSYS: Nine enters the arena, to the roar of the crowd!
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Nine 0/-------/------=|======-\-------\0 Terumi
COMBATSYS: Nine endures Terumi's Medium Strike.
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Nine 0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0 Terumi
Izanami opens her eyes as Terumi replies, focusing on him briefly before shifting her attention back to the Great Sage Reborn. "I do not know every detail of what Relius Clover arranged." The thorough man probably explained it to her once before, but she tends to quickly tune out things not deemed particularly interesting to her. Depending on how long Relius was talking about the genius of his work before mentioning the built in protective algorithms he designed, there was a fair chance Amaterasu's Echo was no longer actually listening. "It is possible he was overly protective in his designs. Do you really wish to find out?"
Terumi demonstrates that yes, he does want to find out, drawing one of those knives that he is able to weave through his fingers at blurring speeds. The Imperator makes not the slightest move to avoid him, her eyes forward, hands still buried in her sleeves. In an instant, Phantom is no longer before her eyes to observe, but rather at her side, placing her newly obtained body in the path of the sharp knife.
"Do you not see? Relius Clover is a loyal subject, he has my health at the forefront of his thoughts." Her eyes close halfway as she contemplates the statement. He IS awfully bossy about how she uses her vessel, to the point of excess really. But how can she fault one for being so concerned about their god?
She turns away from Nine to move off to the side at that point, gliding steps to put several meters between her and her defender. Whether Terumi manages to evade the counter spell hurled his way for his audacious affront to Izanami's priceless flesh does not seem to be anything she is concerned with presently. "Phantom." she speaks up, her voice that same slow, unhurried tone. "Fight him until I command you to stop, or Terumi admits defeat." A smile tugs at the edges of her mouth, her eyes closing as she continues to face away. Maybe this test will humble her infuriating brother a few degrees?
COMBATSYS: Nine successfully hits Terumi with Malachite of Malice.
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Nine 0/-------/--=====|=======\-------\1 Terumi
Oh? Well, it looks like Phantom has decided to intervene. That leaves Terumi two options. One, rescind his attack. Two, follow through.
The knife slashes harder.
But a moment later and a great torrent of wind impacts him. He forgets who he is fighting; not someone who must incant or prepare spells in a traditional way. Instead, a woman who can invoke the full fury of spells with little more than a gesture, her body and soul ringing through the deep, layered formulae that most plebians must construct externally.
He's sent hurtling backwards as a result, heels skidding upon the grill floor, slamming upon the steel of the guard rail. It plows past, and his hands snap out to catch the edges before he's sent falling into the cauldron. Much of Hazama's meticulous outfit has been shredded, revealing red lines and angry skin in the wake of her spell.
"...Hahahaha!! You really want to throw down with ME?!" His words don't match his appearance. Sweat is upon Terumi's brow as he stumbles forward, slowly licking his lips. There are very few in this world he does not want to fight without the stakes in his favor. Rachel, the shitty vampire. Jubei, the irrevocable beast. Hakumen, justice's annoying pain in the ass. And the woman who stands in front of her, who in all prior timelines he made pains to hurl from ambush in an eyeblink of vulnerability borne from rage, surprise and betrayal rather than face her.
But... this is also an opportunity. If ever he is going to overcome Nine, it would be while her mind, body and soul are not properly attuned.
"Relius doesn't have a patent on modifications, Imperator. After seeing her bare her fangs, I think I'll make a change myself...!" And then he's rushing forward, metal clanging beneath his feet as he whirls about his twin knives. With a cackle he then launches himself forward, slashing towards Nine's legs, planting his hand and whirling to lash out with his heel, springing out another hidden knife, before flowing into a last overhead tear of his balisong. His tie flurries behind, hat lost from the wind and stuck on one of the pieces of jagged metal, risking a fall into oblivion.
Ah, Hazama would be REALLY upset if that happened... he likes that hat.
COMBATSYS: Nine dodges Terumi's Dance of Fangs.
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Nine 0/-------/--=====|=======\=------\1 Terumi
Phantom acknowledges the command by breaking eye contact with Izanami and turning back toward Terumi. A glint of gold wheeling about to fixate on the crazed fellow around the same time he started his charge. The view past the thick fall of a pink hair concealing her left eye were all details lost in shadow.
He had her full and undivided attention once again. That raging and 'formerly' Great Sage Nine, a friend, family or lover of many people he had killed or tortured; his very existence tormented her. In life she had never been gentle with friends, allies and loafers alike felt the sting of her kicks more than her adversaries. Some of her allies got far worse than any living being could ever deserve. Her enemies got much worse.
Now this was Phantom.
Let slip from her lead she lifts a crooked finger to conceal the small smile forming on her lips. This was all very fascinating, there was one sure fire way to test her abilities rather than just speculating. The building pressure and sudden release results in a giggling laugh that borders on the erotic.
Rather than assume a more combative posture she instead touches a finger to the brim of her hat instead of forming some kind of barrier or repelling him with another wave of wind or fire she hops into the air narrowly skirting over the first slash and steeping over the heel with an impressive bit of footwork in heels. It all left her setup for the knife attack and off-balance, with nowhere left to run as the knife plunges through... a weak plume of purple flame.
Standing off to the side Phantom reaches out for the trailing tie to jerk Termuri's lead the same time she reaches out to near touch him. The palm of her glove glowing orange and increasing in brightness, the air grows torrid before the jet of explosive flame she is gathering jets out to roll over him.
COMBATSYS: Nine successfully hits Terumi with Flame Eruption.
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Nine 0/-------/-======|=======\=------\1 Terumi
This is beneficial to Terumi in a lot of ways. It solidifies Konoe's hatred of him. Like a forge, pounding the ingot into shame. Seeing him. Feeling him. Knowing in her mind, so confused and lost, only those terrible images he implanted in the Boundary of what he did. To Celica, to Trinity, what he may have done to Jubei. In the storm of her mind, only that is absolute truth, and the cause of that stands right before her.
Again and again, that blade fails to make contact with Nine's flesh. Damnit...! How can she so seamlessly control the flow of energy this close to the Boundary? A mage should be weakened by this much seithr. Has Relius offset this in his vessel to this degree, or is her control that much stronger? Being by the cauldron was certainly one of the main reasons he killed her before... every advantage here should be his...!
But the final strike seems true, and Terumi devotes himself to it. To find it only disrupt a mana shift surprises him. Surprise is all Phantom needs. Yanked by the tie, a great eruption overtakes him, and once cleared the singed Terumi is sent stumbling backwards, clothing blackened and a few spots on fire. He's badly singed, an expression of disbelief on his face. How?! It's been minutes since she was forged...!!
"You little... bitch... don't think THIS IS OVER!!" He then lunges forward, almost desperate in his motions. Magic and the strength of the Boundary surges into him, wreathing and amplifying his speed as green trails flow behind. A forearm snaps out in a standing clothesline, intent on abruptly knocking Nine on her ample rump. But a moment later he'd then move to stamp his heel on her face, and then begin a viciously onslaught of pounding slams of his foot atop her.
"Die... Die, Die, Die, DIE, you PIECE OF SHIT!!" If Izanami wants to see him genuinely aggravated and mentally distressed, then this encounter should be tickling her like none she's seen before.
COMBATSYS: Nine instinctively blocks Terumi's Cleaving Fang.
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Nine 0/-------/-======|=======\=====--\1 Terumi
Terumi speaks about making his own modifications to Phantom and Izanami frowns, finally turning around to watch the altercation, her head bowed slightly, eyes raised, maintaining her serene stance but not looking back at him with any sign of approval. "There will never be another soul like hers. If you damage her effectiveness, know that my wrath with be kindled." Likely an idle threat, she's made them before to no particularly tangible effect. Then again, he's never broken anything of particular importance to her either.
The regal woman falls quiet then, watching spells be flung without any sign of incantation or build up. Magic on that scale... at that speed... Slowly, her frown melts away, replaced with a self-assured quiet smile. As Phantom flat out avoids one of Terumi's vicious aggressions, Izanami only looks even more pleased. In all the world, she could never expect to see combat casting of this magnitude.
"Fascinating is it not," she ponders out loud, her voice a lyrical calm tone compared to the seething venom pouring from Terumi's mouth. "Even after all the billions of possible outputs from the Azure, there can still be souls that are unlike any other to come before..." Eyes close for a moment as she continues, "It is a waste for such perfection to be wasted on a broken world. But the time is not far off when such tragedy will be no more."
The shouts of 'Die' echo throughout the underground chamber and Izanami opens her eyes once more. It is a refrain she appreciates, but right now it is a reflection of her brother's abject exasperation, and that is of even greater interest. "What is the matter, Terumi?" One need only to hear her voice to know she is amused, and a quick glance at her expression would more than confirm it. "I am beginning to think that but for ambush, you never stood a chance against this one..."
The clothesline connects wraps across and hooks the fullwidth of her attemptto fend it off, depositing her on her derierre despite best attempts to ward it off. She wasn't so adept at a martial art to break fall and the impact was jarring, she rocked back with it and just in time enough to catch the descending foot between the defending and pinned arm of hers, under sole of his boots, and the crossing second arm looping over the toe, she assumes see-saw like battle of leverage. Clinging to his leg when he tries to draw it back, and forcefully rejecting being stomped on to the best of her ability when he tries. It's an awkward battle to be sure but it was also a point blank pinning hold that didn't favour her if she was prone.
Nobody would blame a mage for panicking in these circumstance. No free hands to cast with a gesture and the driving slams would make incanting without a slip up an extraordinary feat. Phantom still had other options available to her. She wasn't just down, trampled underfoot and at his mercy, she was smiling wide as he should be on pressuring her into such disadvantageous positioning.
The ground beneath Phantom wasn't even that hard, soft volcanic rock laced with threads of still animate and freely running spider webs of magma. That had no right being present on the metal grating.
Curling her spine she draws her stockinged knees to her chest and angles her heels up toward her opponent, winding up for the kick. The eruptive move she launches up at him was a genuine threat! The ludicrously large foot of stone, magma and wreathed in fire was something else other than the witch's heel. It follows her movement and along a parallel line, mirroring but with the force of a battering ram as opposed to a pinpoint strike with a stiletto heel.
She had been dead all this time, as a Phantom she wasn't even truly alive. Every sensation at the moment was new to this body. The scents and smells, feeling and sensations this body experienced both good and bad, but right now she was really enjoying hurting someone. There was decade's worth of pent up aggression looking for an outlet or a chew toy.
COMBATSYS: Terumi fails to interrupt Mauvette Roar from Nine with Serpent's Cursed Sting.
+=+=!= Power Slam! =!=+=+
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Nine 1/-------/=======|==-----\-------\0 Terumi
It takes a few moments for Terumi in his savage attempt to press the advantage to realize that Phantom is once more doing something. Slower, given the pressure, but still the impossible. He had intended to leap off, to evade... when Izanami's words reach him, and his eyes flare in rage. With a roar his arms instead crackle with green energy, summoning his imitation Ouroboros, the twisted serpentine heads baring cruel fangs...
A poor move. He didn't have time to both do that, and attack. Feet slam into his chest, completely unguarded. His eyes bug out, face warping into pain, before a wall of flame and magna flare into him and send his body hurtling straight upwards. Scorches and smoke follow him as he whirls like a meteor, slamming into the metal roof past the observer's platform. Freefalling for a few moment, only the increasing surge of the Boundary's power snaps him out of it. Green erupts out, phantasmal green chain slamming into the wall and hurtling him in Nine's direction.
He cuts it and then lands hard, rolling into a heap on the ground a couple meters in front of Nine, panting heavily. Only the fact his entire body is an Azure Grimoire so close to the Boundary is why he still lives. But green energy begins to seethe up from him now, more and more. The cauldron seems to be reacting, seithr boiling up in a much greater density. Now and then a crackle of emerald lightning slithers up his frame, shaky hand undoing his tie and allowing it to dangle.
"You... still don't know your place, you bitch. I killed you... your current husk... changes nothing!! You've still... an abandoned child... an abandoned lover... nothing!! Your mark in the history books... will always be your failings!!"
Having picked herself up and intent on dusting herself, Phantom is batting lightly at the sides of her hips least the sharp talons do more damage than good. Half wonders to herself if that last hit was too much. The reappearance and tumbling of Terumi as he manages to save himself causes her no grief.
If he had failed to do so that would likely be worlds more trouble.
Her slight joy in seeing him safe and sound is eroted in just a few short words. His constant stream of abuses elicits hardly a response at all. All this yapping made her want to stomp down on his head merely to silence it. Instead, this battle had purpose... and it had rules. She raises a hand casually and there's a crisp loud snap of her fingers, from a distance and without subjecting herself to any unnecessary risk she plays the next hand.
The circle forming on and around Terumi has a black framework, an upwards pointed arrow fixed at its heart. Once the frame and has set and aligned, the clock starts running the hand falls and begin to turn. Now while it was running anti-clockwise to Terumi's perspective a blue flame appears and begins to dance in the first of the four segments the 'clock' is divided into.
When all four elements were charged the storm of energy that would rain down upon him and could be a threat to his continued existence. It was a very fragile and difficult art to maintain. There was a chance he could reach her and interrupt it for certain. As Izanami had stated however her goals were to pressure Terumi into surrender or until they reached a point she was ordered to cease.
Now the time frame he was working with was quite literal, and counting down before his eyes. Phantom was still unsure which action he would choose to take and so kept her guard up. Her arms are folded, eye staring and paying attention to every little twitch of energy surrounding him.
No sudden turnabout surprises would she let slip by, No second wind/last ditch snatch of victory from the jaws of defeat. She was careful and wary of any clever tricks with that odd parody of the Ouroboros especially. Odd that he seemed to be using some kind of imitation of the Arch-Enemy event weapon she had built rather than the real thing she had last seen in his hands. That made things tricky, but if she had any choice she would run down the clock and secure a win that way.
COMBATSYS: Terumi full-parries Nine's Nephrite of Nullification!!
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Nine 0/-------/-------|=======\-------\0 Terumi
"Don't underestimate me..." Terumi continues to seethe, as the green fire begins to warble across his face once more. His left eye suddenly flares, and seems to almost pop. Green essence pours out, cracks drawing up around his cheek. "I've still yet to see you struggle. I've still yet to see your despair!!" The elemental clock manifests over the man, before he just spreads open his arms and begins to laugh like a maniac. He then begins to rush towards Nine, green energy boiling to life in his right fist. He has no false Ouroboros; he is merely shaping his power to look like it, a mere physical imitation, having none of the powers of the real deal. Although Hazama wields it, it has bonded with his soul, and when Terumi is on the surface he has no effect.
And then a great torrent of power rains down upon him. Nine would be sure of it. That got him. She saw it roar over him, and he made absolutely no defense. The ground beneath vaporizes, rending away metal, sending cascading pieces into the cauldron as the very air warbles and trembles in the aftermath of her invoked fury.
Which makes it all the stranger as Terumi just bursts through it, literally unhurt. Fire is still slithering through his face, but not making contact. Ah...? As she recovers from the expenditure, Phantom will deduce what took place. Terumi detached himself from the physical plane for a moment, shifting partially out of reality. Physical effects, including that great burst of power, were unable to reach him. Of course. If he were that easy to directly slay, the likes of Jubei would not have had so much trouble with him...
"LET ME HEAR YOU SCREAM!!" He then attempts to slam his right fist into Nine's stomach, trying to double her over with a snarl. His blade then whirls out, before he slashes upwards to rake across Nine's face violently, hard enough to send her flying upwards. He whips out a slender faux chain, trying to impact her by the stomach before roaring as energy boils along it, a great black mass lined in green with a caricature of a face, intent on biting into Nine's lower body as he /whips/ the chain around, to slam Nine into the heavy reinforced steel adjacent to the platform just as a great explosion takes place a moment later!!
COMBATSYS: Nine instinctively dodges Terumi's Snakebite EX.
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Nine 0/-------/-------|=======\===----\1 Terumi
Quite the impressive trick, but he hadn't been using it throughout the fight. So It was either of limited utility or it was pointless to use at all unless there was time or risk enough to evade though such unconventional means. It could have been an ace up his sleeve all along but it was one he had stopped using to go back on the offense.
The root of Terumi's problem may have been that Phantom was taking him seriously. Not working herself into a lather or bound and determined to receive some kind of acknowledgement or special meaning from this head to head collision. The capabilities of the original Ouroboros were mostly known to her, at least if this one imitated the original. The likelihood that there were other tricks to this technique helped keep her on her toes.
She turns and steps aside from the straight punch and leans back into a bridge to escape the ascending slash. A choreographed dance playing out he lashes out and she evades. Of the two of them fighting he was the faster, possibly even better physical abilities across the board but Phantom stays one step of the dance ahead, through prediction or guesswork maybe, else it was just luck.
A faint and girly squeal escapes her lips that could be attributed to mocking him. Was that the scream he so wanted, she really had no idea if it were enough or what he was after.
Folding herself forward and dropping her hips so she goes from bridge to crouching and once there she starts a leap into the air where she vanishes even as momentum starts carrying her up. Another wash of purple fire.
One leg extended and pointing high overhead and the other aimed at the ground Phantom descends on Terumi from behind, crossing over and dropping with her heel aimed at a vulnerable spot. The trail of embers and flame following her down as and drawn from the foot closest the ceiling she attempts to clout him across the back of the head from a height.
The kindest and most revealing of descending guillotines it raises the question of why she wears such a short skirt and yet kicks so damned high.
COMBATSYS: Terumi fails to interrupt Flaming Kick from Nine with #The Unholy Wrath of the Basilisk#.
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COMBATSYS: Terumi can no longer fight.
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More and more, within Terumi's mind and body, a powerful struggle continues. His technique grew crude, predictable, desperate. While Nine's pure and simple offensive was maintained from the start, with just enough tinge of teasing to draw things forward. The closer he comes to becoming undone, the louder and more wild his thoughts become. Although something strange begins to take place, as the fight reaches it's conclusion...
Terumi had always hated and feared Nine. She cast the Mind Eater on him. She made him her slave. That he never had a chance to truly get his vengeance has always burned in the back of his mind. Only now, with her strength brought to bear, is that made more known. But the internal shriek of Terumi's soul begins to shift and take on a single note. Instead of hate her...
Like a great heartbeat, this irrational response builds up further and further within the man. His keen manipulations, his grandiose ambitions, all beginning to fall away for his own utter despising of the blessedly strong woman.
He wants to DESTROY her...
The boundary seems to hum, as Nine's flaming heel begins to descend. Power surges through Terumi, building up in his chest, before he once more manifests his faux Ouroboros heads. "I..." His broken body tries to move, swinging it down, but not quite fast enough.
"WILL DESTROY YOU!!" Her heel then slams atop Terumi's head, a great eruption of fire spiraling in all directions. His hood is blown backwards, and the metal grate beneath the tattered vessel once known as Hazama bows intensely.
DESTROY. DESTROY. DESTR--
It is as if a switch has been turned. In a heartbeat, the wild and chaotic well of Terumi's soul cuts off. Instead an ominous, intense energy starts to build, causing the frame and surrounding area to shake. Despite being so deep undeground and heavily reinforced. The Cauldron seems to glow brighter, as it's immense power flows out to surge towards Terumi, as his single-minded will activates the most basic core of his entire being.
Green fire begins to pour out in all directions, surging upwards amidst wild sparks and cracks of lightning. Blackness boils like liquid at his feet, covering his ankles as a light hiss echoes out. The energy he had built up to strike out at Nine instead turns inwards... Terumi's chest splits open, exposing a great green core of pulsing energy instead of flesh or entrails. His eye begins to burn brighter now. The hapless men in the building are now dealing with unheard-of energy readings... if there will soon even be a building to worry about.
"There is still something I can teach you, Great Sage..." His voice sounds different now, deep, solemn, primal. Blackness whirls up to begin seeping around his left arm, fingers lengthening into pointed claws. Before myriad points of green light start to flash forward, drawing from all around to condense before his palm. This is not magic. This is something else. Izanami, of course, would instantly know.
This is a God reaching for the power of his divinity.
The tenebrous arm of the Black Susano'o then clenches, and a great emerald sword bursts into being, stretching out nearly ten feet. It is not created of energy. Nothing tht can be classified so simply. It is utter annihilation. Something beyond even the death Izanami grants. A complete oblivion until even memories question if the one struck down had ever existed.
"This is divine punishment. Be content... and die...!!"
After her previous taunt, Izanami watched the frantically paced battle in silence, standing off to the side, well out of harm's way. It has been an interesting sequence to observe, expectations defied in a way, yet also verified in another. Yes, this Phantom is a dangerous weapon, a siege cannon on call. She will be quite the problem solver when deployed properly. And add to that, her utility magic will be phenomenally useful... Teleporting useful assets around the globe, supplying the necessary Infinite Gravity component for Relius Clover's most ambitious projects...
Of course, all that is reliant on this newly populated vessel survives this exchange. Already, Terumi is becoming unhinged, his rage at his tormentor a twisted mirror of the very hatred she must be feeling toward him for what he took from her. The cycle of hatred only serves to empower them both, but there is a point beyond which it will burst out of control, a steam engine pushed past point where its pipes have burst is no longer a useful tool at all.
As the shouts of the frustrated man echo throughout the chamber, Izanami bows her head, shifting the true Yasakani no Magatama from its crown form back to its active state, three intricate gold and violet bits linked by a halo of celestial gold hovering behind her head. Yet for all the legendary gem's radiance, in the storm of fire and viridian lightning, its activation would hardly be noticed.
It would also be understandable to miss the woman raising her hands over her head and out to the side as she begins to demonstrate her own death grip on the very fundamentals of reality. The Magatama shimmers brightly, the three prongs spinning along the golden loop as she begins to tug at the threads of existence with her will. The world around her begins to warp, a large sphere of grey through which everything seems just a little off in an intangible way, as if watching events through a low framerate recording, time skipping, haltingly, from moment to moment within the sphere of her influence.
Lowering her hands to the front of them, she begins to work sigils with her fingers, shifting from one symbol to another with dexterous hands, pulling the sphere of disjointed existence in on herself, collapsing it, concentrating it, little by little. A rumble would be felt - not a physical shaking of the environment as by tremendous thunder, but something deeper, a primal sense of impending calamity only multiplied a hundred fold.
Terumi opens his chest. His rage has gone too far, the pipes have burst, he cares nothing for the threat made when the test started. He will try to destroy the Unliving Sage permanently.
Centered on Izanami, the sphere of chrono-compressed seithr collapses to the size of a pin point, a black spec of incomprehensible power. Susano'o draws the Sword of Ruin and Izanami pulls her hands apart. A shimmering cloud of azure expands out from her, instantly extending beyond the constraints of the underground cauldron chamber. Her world is one devoid of almost all color now, an existence rendered purely in swaths of black or white. Except for the golden halo of the surging Magatama at her back, the Emerald the Destroyer God's blade, and the green fire coursing along Terumi's ravaged body.
Izanami opens her eyes, pools of solid crimson, as she gazes upon a frozen moment in time. Susano's sword is drawn in all of its awful potential. Phantom stands before him, victorious in the trial, but facing the risk of annihilation should the weapon of the Unmaker so much as touch her. These were not the terms of the agreement.
The creature known as the Imperator leans forward, reappearing adjacent to the Phantom of Nine in an instant of altered reality. Frozen in this state, the great Magister appears to have been about to answer with another spell, something to try and thwart Susano'o's awakening wrath. Whether it would succeed or not will never be known for now. A powerful yet slender arm rises, gripping Phantom by her left forearm, and with a dismissive twist, hurls the Master Spellweaver clear across the observation platform toward the stone wall.
She turns on the burgeoning Susano'o next, reappearing adjacent to his side, her right hand reaching out to rest on his sword arm near the elbow. Almost nothing could hope to touch the Armor of Desolation without harm, and even the flesh of her vessel's hand seems to melt away in the frozen instant, leaving only a white, ghostly fingerless appendage to rest against his limb.
"Now is not the hour of judgement for this one, Susano'o," Izanami whispers. "Would you end her suffering so abruptly, cut short the sentence already passed upon her for her crimes?" There is no pleading to her voice, only an attempt at reasoning, to talk one back from the point where there would be no return. Her solid crimson eyes close in the sea of ebony that is her flesh in this frozen existence she moves so freely through. "In exchange for waiting," her mouth curls into a faint smile, a thin line of white on her face of darkness, "When I no longer need her for my purposes, her final judgement will be left in your hands."
She pulls her ethereal hand back from him, crimson eyes opening again, leaning away from the enraged god as she begins to glide away. Sustaining this state, forcing all of reality to hold its breath, is not a task she can perform indefinitely. Already, she begins to feel the strain on her vessel.
One hand of flesh, and another of spirit, come together then, fingers locked in an intricate symbol. Color rushes back into the world as time begins to move once more and the spinning Magatama at Izanami's back begins to slow.
"Phantom, that is enough." While she doesn't seem to have raised her voice, the command echoes through the chamber all the same, audible over the seething cauldron, incensed by Terumi's wrath, easily heard over the cacophony of destruction that roars back into motion as all of reality is allowed to move forward once again.
Blow struck! The fan of flames and weight of her strike stalls her falling speed a moment. Phantom swings the leg wide to pass over his shoulders and half turns her body with the movement so her back is turned toward him upon completion. The shriek of her stiletto heel scuffing metal and then the click as she lies toe to rest, knee bent and leg ever so slightly elevated she may well be read to continue kicking him.
The vibrations shaking the chamber, the green fire prompts her to shield her face and eye by dragging her cape up by a corner as a protective layer between them. When his chest bursts and exposes the core of his being something inside her shifts. Dark and foreboding thoughts... If she were to use infinite gravity in this moment, on an already exposed core in this kind of situation, she had no idea what would happen.
There was no guarantee's anyone would survive such an ill-advised act but she was beginning to feel that taking a risk like that might be warranted. She couldn't just outright try to kill him, nor take a step back in retreat right now if she wanted to. 'Fight him until I command you to stop, or Terumi admits defeat.' The cruel and clinical look in her eye fades as she supposes she has to stick to her guns and fight even if it meant trading blowsc if she could stall or prevent her opponents blow form landing, she had a chance of coming out the victor still. Winning now was surviving.
---%rrBoth cupped palms evenly spaced apart and angled towards the rampaging Susanoo -- Phantom was frozen in time and washed out in unflattering greyscale. Her mouth hanging open in a shout and yet mute, the brim of her hat folding back against conical point with the forces involved and washing over her. The ice flower blossoming in front of her hands with a three pronged spear tip that glitters like diamond where it was still gathering and projecting forth, it would have speared toward the sword arm of the Black Susano'o. She intended the cocoon of ice to snare and perhaps imprison if she were lucky enough. If she couldn't handle the blade then delaying the arm that would swing the weapon was better than no action at all. If it were enough then she could keep increasing the size and density of the ice until the weight destroyed the weakened platform and pitched him into the well below.
Hurled into the air and away from the conflict Phantom finds herself unable to account for being suddenly airborne and hits the wall with a cross body splash. Lifting her hand to her dizzied and ringing head it felt it had done nothing for her headache. Phantom quickly climbs back to her feet despite how she feels and while still wavering gives her head a brisk shake to clear out the cobwebs. Her hat nowhere to be seen and long pink peek-a-bangs obscuring most of one side of her face she continues to act upon her duty.
Continue the attack until-
The order to stand down prompts Phantom to immediately cease her hostilities, the appearance of a woman offered a reprieve from a distasteful or burdensome task she folds her arms slow and deliberately, shifting her weight to one leg and leaning in place nonchalantly. Still far from completely relaxed she remains vigilant in case the need arises to defend the Imperator.
It bothered her that she had no idea what had happened. Suddenly being nothing would have been less surprising than suddenly being in the air and feet distant form where she was standing. She'd enjoyed hurting Terumi however, the whole experience had been equal parts pleasing and satisfying.
Nine relished it, if even a tenth of a tenth part of her actual feelings of hatred for the man were escaping and boiling past seals and safeguards she was forcing a calm face while what was left of her reassembled soul quivered in delight, it wanted to experience hurting him more. So much more!
The parts of her that primarily made up Phantom were being a little more clinical and forward thinking right now. Worried what having a master like Terumi might mean for her.
COMBATSYS: Nine has ended the fight here.
Terumi is still incredibly weakened, of course. Nine had severely battered his hapless vessel, and primarily his own strange immortality keeps him from passing out. Yet he appears to be undergoing some kind of transformation... one that Phantom, with her infinite knowledge and mastery, would have no idea of. She knows well the three powerful Units, the equipment of Gods. Yet that Terumi's true identity is none other than the mind and will of Susano'o twisted by mortal experience is something else entirely. This close to the Boundary, what should be something that inflicts madness or worse operates entirely differently.
The true home of these creations is the infinite void, where Amaterasu still dwells deep within, and his divinity allows him to begin drawing that essence out more and more to begin bolstering his heavily staggered body. Nine could finish him off, if she truly had to. Her approach had been the correct answer, but Terumi would never admit defeat. Never. Izanami knew this, and her observation of the conflict came at this very risk. Nine's final blow defeated him by all martial accounts, but for his heart to have brewed with such rage as to churn his true purpose was precisely what she hoped would not take place.
Time suddenly stops, for mortals. But Susano'o is no such being. Izanami throws Nine clear of any harm, but the Black Susano'o's arm begins to descend within the greyscale world. Her hand intervenes, catching it, and even in Terumi's current state, partly manifested and body nearly broken, the amount of force running through her to arrest that momentum is incredible. It is the first time she has ever had opportunity to judge her ability versus her brother, and right now he is a distant echo. Terumi lacks the armor of Susano'o, and still possesses this much destructive force...?
Before, Terumi bore no actual risk to Izanami's person. His knife would have not hurt her. Now, when she has been explicitly told to stand down, it is clear that the monstrous presence before her has changed that dynamic significantly.
Only when the world stirs once more can the figure respond. "You have the audacity to speak on such matters before me, sister...?! I am the God of Destruction!! It is I who chooses what exists and what does not!! Your obsession with death is quaint, but none can achieve your goals but me. None can reduce these infinite realms to zero but my blade!!"
The blackness seething up Terumi's arm reaches his shoulder, beginning to coalesce towards his neck and chest. Green leylines sear into being on his new limb, reinforcing the phantasmal blackness of his larger arm, as the Sword of Ruin still hisses in the air before him. When the Unit itself is activated by Terumi, he creates this field of energy. Then, Susano'o is activated. That he is capable of turning what should be a simple switch into a method of attacking... The much-hated man is more capable than she thought, if he ever had a mind to.
The rumbling begins to grow louder, as Terumi's power continues to cascade higher. He has no hope of defeating Izanami and Nine at once, but there is a very real chance that either of their vessels may be permanently destroyed in the conflict, let alone the entire Central Headquarters alone.
"Your purpose is flawed. Your existance a poor compensation. You mock me with your presence here... so-called God of Death... Amaterasu!! I will cast you back to your prison where you belong. I will retrieve my true vessel. And I will turn all you have made into black ash, without ever granting you your desire. Death, wrought to all things, but no Qualified, no Chosen to inherit the Master Unit's will!! The former echo will forever try to rebuild, and I will forever burn it to nothing in eternal ecstacy, while you WATCH!! WATCH HELPLESS AND POWERLESS, FROM YOUR METAL TOMB!!"
And then, he tries. A massive sigil manifests, something that might for the first time cause Izanami surprise and concern. The massive emblem of Susano'o Unit attempting to activate. He is trying to do it without his vessel. It should be impossible, but... if he manages, then the black scar that he gouged out of reality itself elsewhere in Japan will be repeated here...!!
But no. Terumi had exhausted his internal wells of strength. He lacks the physical shell of Susano'o. The Boundary may allow his angry soul to partly bare it's fangs, but with a spasm the Sword of Ruin explodes, sending green flames searing in all directions. This is no magic. This is beyond such -- where they touch begins to burn eternal, as the black shell blows away, taking with it Terumi's entire arm. His face warps into pain and confusion, before he collapses to his arms and knees, clutching the empty stump and panting deeply.
"A-ah...? What... is this...?!" All he remembers is his overwhelming urge to destroy Nine. Before, with the Emissary, he had created the shell with careful purpose and self-observation, retaining his mind in the process. Now he seems much weaker, almost pathetic, no threat to either party...
But now, Izanami has fully confirmed. That Susano'o is no ally to her. No. In fact, he might be her greatest enemy, and one who is fully capable of realizing such ambitions. And Yuuki Terumi hates the being just as much as her... destroying him here, it is possible he would be remade by the Unit anew, purging Hakumen's parasitic soul, and become far stronger than he was just now.
That leaves a fairly simple question. Should she try to seal him? Or are his particular talents much too useful, when his own goals are simply to re-create this flawed reality as well, and revel in a brand new playground to cause chaos once more...?
As time resumes in earnest, the Imperator folds her arms back together, though her right sleeve falls strangely due the lack of a forearm beneath it. A minor setback that will pass with some time, and clearly nothing that seems to disturb her as she stares back at the partially manifested Susano'o, her mouth a thin line, her expression unreadably neutral.
But as he speaks of destruction, her smile returns, "Yes, destruction is your purpose, it is precisely what is desired of you. For ages, the cycle continued as intended by the First Architect, creation, destruction... for there to be evolution, the old must be erased, the board reset, a new hand allowed to try where the previous has failed. Why do you now resent the truth? Such animus, yet..."
Her smile fades as the spread of seething darkness continues to wash over his form, her eyes narrowing slightly. The Magatama, jewel of Amaterasu, continues to glimmer behind her back, in its readied but not currently activated state. Though her body may be but a vessel for the fragment of the Master Unit's soul, the weapon at her back is the real thing - a portion of the creator unit under her direct control.
And in that moment, she weighs as to whether she need activate it and engage immediately. If he erases all of NOL Central Command, everything that was at her fingertips would be stolen from her. She doesn't care about the organization, with all of its tedious logistics and interfacing strategies around the world. But she isn't done with it yet; losing it would be a greater setback than she has time to recover from.
He rages at her again, his voice shaking the very platform they stand upon. Crimson eyes narrow further. The threat he utters is quite real. While she is a projection of the whole, should he reclaim the armor from the Avatar of Order inhabiting it now, he would be whole. No vessel, no projection, no restriction. "It is not. The. Time." she replies, voice finally raised with a hint of temper brewing, "If there is no Successor, then nothing that has ever happened will have mattered. You would spite your creator so? Burn out the Universe's clock with petty, spiteful, meaningless destruction until the last particle of energy has been spent and The Boundary runs cold?"
Behind her back, the three bits of the Magatama begin to crackle with golden, divine light. "Then you leave me no choice."
The Magatama spins faster, the golden light building at its core casting a powerful glow only matched by the shadow behind the sigil of Susano'o.
But then it passes. He pushed too hard... Nine had done her work well. The Sword of Ruin scatters, even its ember motes each capable of endless annihilation if they were not being drawn back into the cauldron by the moment.
Terumi crumples forward and Izanami withdraws, gliding a meter back, the engine of life and death swirling at her back slowing as she allows the pent up attack to bleed away.
Eyes close and she turns her back, hiding her missing forearm from him. "You are hurt. You lost yourself to your enmity. I did not think it possible, to find a point beyond which your rage would consume you. It would do you well to watch for that in the future... as you can see, it worked against you here." Her eyes shift to Phantom, mouth forming a faint smile once again, "The test was successful. Use her as you see fit, but do not put her at undue risk. She still has a vital role to play in what is to come... My Phantom of Nine."
Without the Susano'o unit, the will of Susano'o is still too valuable to give up. But should he ever come close to reclaiming it... Perhaps Phantam will need additional instructions concerning Terumi and Order's Knight in the White Susano'o. That is a battle that must not be allowed to ever happen.
The fly on the wall listening in on every little detail, It was only a matter of time before the third Master eventually asked for a report on what had happened here. Phantom was drinking it all in, At least those aspects to it that were happening inside the range of mortal perceptions, for now merely watching. Her simultaneous charges and Masters behaviour was erratic and they subjected their vessels to a lot of unnecessary damage or were showing signs that use of their own powers was beyond the scope of their current vessels.
There was no similar signs of any breakdown with her own body and the paces battle with Terumi had put it through.
The shattering sword had claimed Terumi's arm, and some similar damage had occurred to the Imperator. What had she somehow missed that explained that? Her eye narrows and brow furrows. It was a mystery where there should be none. There was none of the now familiar sense of loss or her thoughts struggling to stay on track as she considers this aberration.
The greater danger now would be from an external threat now they were weakened. She aligns her body so she might best and still casually watch the entrance while still her ears strain to pick out every word. The talking winding down Phantom makes her way to the far side of the now rickety platform and on arriving back she less than gently claps the hat down atop Terumi's head with no respect for the non-compliant hairstyle.
It may have been a peace offering but her being gentle with a man was unheard of. He should recall that, weakling, or sick or injured it made no difference they were all scum. Approaching her sister even for innocent reasons was to take your life in your hands. She respected no men and her interactions with any of them were always quick to violence or threats of violence, in that order.
Phantom looks down on him where he kneels with neither sympathy nor empathy, she clearly did not like him. Whatever restraints bound her it seemed impossible to blot out all that animosity and hatred she held him. The Nine that he knew would seemingly try to hide how much she enjoyed seeing him like this with the same look on her face.
"You dare believe to know the creator's will for my existance more than me?! You forget your place, sister!! You dare to step foot on my domain, dare to call yourself a Goddess of Death... no. I will never grant you the nihilism you seek!! I will spend eternity feasting on your despair, watching this flawed world build up again and again. I will make the Black Beast seem insignificant. I will send lives not to death, but to NOTHINGNESS!!"
With the last of his roaring declaration, Susano'o is no more. Yet he had no intention of fighting. Whirling the Sword of Ruin around, Izanami could have protected herself, Nine could have teleported away, but Central would have assuredly been lost. Certainly a good thing matters did not grow more complicated as a result...
"Haa... haa..." Terumi continues to pant, looking at his missing arm. There's mere blackness at the end of the stump, no blood or flesh. Slowly darkness squirms out, forming a basic limb until he can rebuild the Azure Grimoire. So close to the Cauldron, his strength will recover in minutes, and his form in less than an hour. One of the reasons conflict with him is so meaningless...
"We tested... her combat potential..." Shakily, Terumi gets back to his feet. His left eye continues to pitifully emit his power, a slow and staggering footstep attempted. A moment later the hat then pops upon his head, and instantly the burning rush of energy vanishes. The simplistic limb Terumi crafted dissipates, and Hazama thumps down into a sit. "O-oh...?! Ouch...!" That's another person who's rather confused at the moment. His eyes are shut and lips turned into a frown.
"Nnnn..." Again Hazama teeters up, until he stands even more pitiful than prior. Nine could likely destroy his vessel with a gesture, and as things lie now he could do nothing to stop it. With Terumi in the back seat, his recovery is much delayed.
"Miss Phantom... could you put your cheek to the ground...?" Ah, the very question asked prior, that caused this entire debacle. His smile stretches a little further, hand slipping over to grasp the remnants of his missing limb.
The Imperator stands with her back to Terumi, the Yasakani no Magatama swirling in on itself until it vanishes, returning to its form as a golden circlet around her head. There is no amusement in her expression now. In one hour, she had done more activity than she typically did in a week of standing around in her private area of the headquarters situated high above.
An artificial construct under intense pressure nearly every moment of the day, her vessel has only so long before it will break apart, no longer up to the task of harboring Amaterasu's Drive. She cannot afford to be as patient as other Immortals content to watch the world go by for millennia. And stresses like this only carve into her limited window of opportunity. What an exasperating creature that Terumi is.
The seething roar declaring her own fate should the Susano'o unit get his way echoes in her mind as she silently watches Phantom recover from where she landed. No... there has to be a Successor. The girl in the cage has written every possible permutation she could think of, but what could she do when the beginning and ending are fixed? It is beyond cruel to expect her to lift her weary arm to pen yet another tale, let alone to do so forever more only to watch her works be scattered to lifeless ash. Her era must end, another's must begin, that is the way it has always been!
She turns slightly, just enough to watch the Great Sage that Was move toward Terumi to return his hat. Terumi... just the sight of him always provokes a deeply rooted seething, a sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach. As if he wasn't already unpleasant enough to deal with. As her crimson eyes settle on him, that memory returns again, for only an instant - of a church, a fire, and of devastating loss. Terumi's doing. Beneath her sleeve, her left hand clenches while her right continues to mend. A quiet breath forces the feeling away, suppressing it... that was her vessel's suffering, not her own. Her own frustrations with Terumi were distracting enough without having to bear another's animosity.
At her side, a wounded Terumi gives way to a bewildered Hazama. As if just having to sides to a coin to deal with were not already displeasing enough. As her eyes close to half lidded, she finds herself wondering which she'd rather endure the presence of - Susano'o's erratic will, or the forked-tongued vessel? A soft sigh escapes her lips as he issues a 'polite' request to Phantom. Izanami had said from the beginning that she trusted Relius's handiwork implicitly, yet still... she cannot argue with the desire to test more thoroughly. Having Phantom battle Terumi had been a case of asking the arcane slave to do what she wanted to do anyway? What, then, when asked to do something so simple yet degrading? It is truly a greater test of dominance than asking her to unleash her justified loathing by trying to obliterate Terumi into admitting defeat.
The only more sure test than that would be to pit her against one of her erstwhile allies... The Imperator ponders quietly while waiting to see compliance of Hazama's request. The White Susano's location is unclear to her. His soul no longer resides in The Boundary, that much she knows beyond a doubt, but otherwise, he has yet to appear. The simpering Platinum Alchemist's soul is also still lost. That leaves either the Old Samurai or the Old Wolf to test just how far Phantom can be made to go in securing the defeat of her old friends.
The corner's of Izanami's mouth curl up just faintly. Yes, one of those would do nicely.
A twitch in her eye, lips purse and draw down at the corners.
She had misgivings and a bad feeling regarding the whole affair, here and now. Whatever he wanted would be a problem for her certainly.
What power that hat had over the personality switch?! Leading theory was perhaps Terumi despised wearing a hat with -that- hair, or it might even be a catalyst for some trigger between the two personalities.
It was an experiment as much as it was a peace offering.
The words spoken and relating to the order were to treat Terumi's word as if he were the Imperators wishes, unless it came to the topic of her safety.
Since this was Hazama making the request rather than Terumi there was no forceful compulsion. There may have been intent behind telling her to follow Terumi's orders but with Hazama voicing the words she escapes being compelled on a technically.
Every survival instinct in her new body screamed warning and protest. There was no telling if he would or wouldn't try to take or crush her head before she could defend herself. She removes her hat with a slow forward roll off the top of her head and it vanishes in a glut of flame when she discards it to the side.
Getting down on one knee she reluctantly moves to comply though with no due haste. Turning her head left Phantom sickeningly and lightly presses her right cheek to the grated floor, her good eye able to look down and study the well while she turns her one 'cursed' side toward Hazama. Perfect compliance, save for how filthy she considered the floor might be and the hesitation that caused. Face all but obscured by the pink hair while the rest gathers against her back, she wasn't looking at him and would rather not. He wasn't that interesting; Terumi had some interesting facets and character to him but would make for better research samples than test subject. To her eye, Hazama was a container capable of handling the mundane things Terumi did not want to do. Helpful at best and camouflage if he functioned properly.
"Will this suffice?"
Her tone contains a hearty measure of pride and affront with the ridiculousness of this action she is made to take. Even in death it's reminiscent of Nine's behaviour and present in Phantom. When he told her to scream she had, though meeting a new record for minimal effort. She was responding to his every request which was not directly contradicted by something the Imperator had said.
Were she not under orders to continue fighting him until he was sated or defeated she might very well have been programmed to cease defending herself and been crushed when he demanded she die, or when he declared she need learn a lesson from Terumi or be destroyed by Susano'o.
So many near misses.
There's another couple unsteady steps forward, as Nine finally prostrates herself before the wounded vessel. To all those present, there is no questioning who won the conflict; but in the end, he's not the one squishing a cheek on the dirty observation grill. For a split moment the heel of Hazama's foot flits overhead, but it thunks down gently beside the Phantom's face, as he then kneels down.
And gently pats Konoe on the head, with all due affection.
"Good girl." he coos, as if the tone were meant to be rewarding. She likely expected some base, empty abuse. But being rewarded like an obedient dog by this man could very well be far more degrading.
"Miss Imperator, I'm afraid we're going to need her absolute cooperation. Hesitation is fatal in our line of work." Hazama continues, quite reverently. "Would you overly mind if I took measures to ensure that? It won't harm her functions or combat potential for anything you need... And you can watch, to be quite sure..." His free hand adjusts his hat then, settling it just so atop his head. Energy continues to seep out of Hazama, Terumi no longer at the forefront to control it. He'll have to switch soon, but to do such now means that Terumi's just going to kick Nine a lot, and that's not going to solve the mutual problem the pair have right this moment...
Izanami has stood by quietly, watching, eyes directed toward the demonstration though her expression is reflective of one who is barely paying attention, even as Hazama kneels and pats the head of the greatest magic user humanity has ever known. The detachment to Nine's well being by the NOL figurehead has communicated a clear message from the moment the Great Sage was pulled back into this world.
Izanami has no personal vendetta against her, no shared history that she is seeking revenge for. To her eyes, Phantom is merely a very interesting weapon - a tool to secure her own purpose for existing. She seems to gain no sadistic pleasure from watching the powerful soul brought low, yet such displays of tested dominance by the many-faceted Terumi don't seem to trouble her in the slightest either. As long as her prize is not damaged, Nine's pride certainly seems to be of little concern to the distant woman.
Eyes flick to Hazama as he addresses her, listening to his request with impassive quiet. "In my wisdom," she speaks up. "I have decided that it is best to test the scenarios under which the limiters will be most thoroughly stressed." Yes, she came up with this idea all on her own. Definitely. "Thus, I shall grant your request."
Slowly, she turns to the side. "Now, I shall take my leave. There are many other affairs of state that require my attention." More likely, time spent recovering her strength in solitude while waiting for Colonel Relius or one of her admirals to update her on anything she actually needs to know about.
With her hands still folded together in front of her, she strides to the elevator bay built into the back wall of the observation platform. "And see to it that maintenance gets down here and cleans up this mess, Captain." the Imperator Librarius adds as the doors hiss closed behind her.
Phantom blinks in a near flinch when the boot comes down so close to her face. She had expected it to come down on the back of her head or neck. Her Masters were flagged in a way by she had to obey them when commanded and protect them at all times.
She had no actual allies here, no friends. They shared no direction or purpose with her and she herself was ignorant of what shape the world was in. Perhaps they wanted a blank black slate that still possessed the wealth of knowledge, expertise in her field and frightening powers when she was Nine.
Phantom was infinitely more malleable and controllable a tool.
Patting her head as though she were being a good pet triggers another burst of hostility where her cloak begins to stir. Hazama was and did house Terumi whom Nine despised and Phantom was indifferent toward, but he was a man and daring to touch her. A core element of her nature survived in that she hated and distrusted men in general. Patting her head in an affectionate manner has her on a hair trigger.
"Oho..." Hazama intones, as Izanami slowly takes her leave of the area, reinforced door sliding shut with a metallic grind to leave the pair alone within the ominous glow of the cauldron. "That's what I'm talking about. I can taste your emotions, dear Phantom. Your hate...! It's quite delicious, but you're like a monkey's paw. Or a hateful genie. You'll obey the letter of the law, in such a manner MOST likely to hurt me." He then reaches up to remove his hat, before the flood of a direly unwanted presence once more roars out. Terumi's hair again crackles upright, golden eyes snapping open to grin in a manic manner down towards her. "Don't move." he coos out. He then begins tracing sigils with his remaining arm, building up intricate formulae. Again and again, the flow of magic starts to build. Nine will recognize what this is...
"Does this remind you of anything...?! Well, I'm sure /I'm/ sloppy when it comes to the one YOU used on me... but you'll just wait patiently for me to finish...!" Magic seethes and gathers in his hand, laughing once more within the massive room. "I'm not going to do anything bad, dear Phantom. Just bind you... to always save me, if I'm in danger!! And you'll KNOW you are forced to do it. Resenting every second. This way, no matter how much you might want it... you can't ever leave me to die!!"
The breath hissing through her teeth was as far as Nine was able to make a move. The Mind Eater she had used on Terumi was a thing she hoped to never see used again. Phantom sits up but continues to remain in place kneeling as the spell is constructed.
"Unless the outcome is affected by you leaving me twenty percent simpler and slower to act."
What? A further hint of backbone and pride as she disassembles the mage craft going on and with a threat like Mind Eater hanging over her head.
A golden eye narrows as she spots another problem with his work. She judges his formulae and construction of the spell harshly. If-if he was going to apply that to her-- then every stray or improper character might have devastating and debilitating effects. His every flawed scribble was a stray handful of grit thrown into precision machinery.
"The third line there does nothing at all, its function covered almost properly in the eleventh. You've mistakenly reversed cardinal directions in two lines."
A possible side effect of having to write it all out with just one hand at the moment. But there was no forgiving incompetence whether from weakness, sickness of disability. Her very mind hung in the balance and staring back up at him from a kneeling position and with both hands in her lap Phantom sneers and shakes her head in a manner belonging only to Nine. The first woman in history to earn a title as one of the Ten Sages while still a student herself.
"Erase and start again."
If he was going to apply a spell to the already completely unknown network of restraints already in place on her body and mind, she wanted the smallest and most efficient footprint possible.
Nine being free and forced to teach him she would probably have picked him up by his lapel of kicked him already for these failures. Phantom tries to remain calm and awkwardly give him a lesson when it appears she has no aptitude for actually teaching, but the stakes were far too high for her to allow some half-baked spell they'd seen applied just one time on her MIND.
"Oh, I think I can live with that." Terumi states with a laugh. "You see, I'm not big on trust. It's certainly done me a lot of favors, though... Trinity trusted I had changed. That my years of slavery to you changed me. That I saw the light from helping people, and just needed a chance to prove it." A wistful sigh leaves his lips at that, continuing to trace the sigils in the air. "She was cute, when she blushed. Such impure thoughts... who'd have thought that she, of all people, would be so easily manipulated by love?"
But when Nine points out the flaws, Terumi just laughs harder. "Is that so?! Well, isn't that fancy. What a wonderful tutor you are. What if I did this?" He then traces another redundant series of sigils. "Or this?" He then connects some logic to one of the redundancies, and then draws that back into the main formula. "I'm *fairly* sure this won't destroy your mind... After all, I promised Izanami that I'd not break you. So... any other advice, or should I finish?!"
The flash of fury is almost enough to dent those compunctions to obey. She could picture in her mind's eye and imagine just how thrilling it would be the crush his throat. The heat doesn't pass in the slightest and only increases her frustration. The girl he was talking about deserved better than being thrown into the boundary.
"If that's the best of your ability then --it is what it is."
She closes her eyes and ceases to look at him. Nine and Phantom were starting to blur at this point, there was no point in resisting here. She had no-one she liked left to protect, the world still existed so her great works were done, and with Mind Eater's potency to factor ... she would be powerless to ever kill Terumi herself.
This blasted spell was a guarantee of that. Not unless someone else wanted him dead and close to release her, not entirely unlikely given what a charmer he was.
"If that is what kills you. Remember those words for your next life, cowardly scum."
'I can live with it.' Nine never settled for anything that approaching that weak and pathetic an excuse though it was worse coming from someone competent. She could see a lot, the creation of this facility and effort spent in bringing her back must have been tremendously expensive. She could have been the first from how concerned they were about testing her.
She refuses to open her eyes and remains sitting and discontent. Her advice to the green haired asshole would be to destroy himself. Maybe he'd come back as whatever that black thing was and it'd be the black beast scenario all over againc but she was sure whatever he was merely a flawed version of what he should be. He stunk of it, a flawed Ouroboro's imitation, his haphazard and poorly made copy of this spell. It was all in his attitude.
"Stop being so half-assed and try taking your revenge already. It will guarantee for both of us that I'm standing close enough to watch you die (if I fail to prevent it.)"
Her peace with this was no peace at all! The solution to the problem was passing of time. Waiting, to see just who Terumi would piss off enough to make enemies who would also attempt to use Me against him.
"Good... GOOD. The more you hate me, the longer I'll keep you around!!"
Terumi reaches out to grasp Nine by the cheek, and angle her face up to stare him in his maddened golden eyes, black stump of his shoulder sizzling in the air. "Don't test me. I want to kill you just as much as you want to kill me. If I ever feel for even a SECOND you are holding back your rage for me... I'll launch you so deep into despair that you'll wish your mind was rent across the Boundary once more."
And then the incantation finishes, and he shifts to smack the formula within her mind. Engraving on her body and soul the irrevocable order: 'Protect Terumi. Protect Hazama.' He draws upon twisted love and affection for this; she would never do to Terumi what she wouldn't do for Celica. Seeing someone try to slay him would be the same as another trying to slay her sister. But she would be aware, know this false and sickening compulsion, conscious of every puppeteered motion it would cause.
A last sizzle of mana as he allows it to settle upon her. Like any Mind Eater, it's not too difficult to dispel. A competent sorcerer on the level of Trinity could undo it, but there are few with access to her and that luxury of time to do such. "Good... now we'll get along, my little doll." Terumi then turns away, leaping up to land on the railing overlooking the endless depths of the cauldron. He breathes in deep, beginning to regenerate himself, rebuilding the Azure Grimoire piece by piece...
The look Terumi receives when he tips her head back is one challenging him to do it. Lose? What exactly did she have to lose? All that was possible to discard or thwart was his and the Imperators plans for her. She couldn't even trust in the integrity of her own mind with some asshat adding spells to something he did not even comprehend.
She doubted his idea to make her despair at all. No further than she already did, nor did she didn't care for the spectacle of staring up at him! When released of his hold, still sickened to the bottom of her soul she picks herself up with all the dignity she can muster. Standing more than a few paces away from Terumi she adopts a folded arm stance and stands silent at a spot where the mangled railing is absent and the gantry creaks ominously beneath her feet.
Frowning and contemplatively remaining there to watch the interior of the Cauldron. The light reflected in her gold and black eye the same as Terumi's.
If she could just step off it would solve so many of her current problems and be a collosal fuck you to the man she wanted to deliver the message to most.
Someone with better foresight had spent a lot more time and effort on enforcing the other restrictions she had to 'live' with in this body. If she could step off this little gantry it would solve a lot of her current problems. Instead she just watches. She had nightmares about Terumi chasing down Celica in a burning building. He shared that memory with her when she was in the Boundary. Even Phantom would let the world burn to save her little sister. Without her, everything should burn away.
She wasn't completely without hope. If she encountered an opponent strong enough she might be destroyed in battle, or maybe saving that cowardly fool she could have Hi no Kagutsuchi incinerate both herself and her opponent. If anything she near chuckles, this was the future they all fought for, Ridiculous.
Log created on 20:09:10 12/20/2017 by Izanami, and last modified on 12:12:17 12/25/2017.