The Bell Tolls - TBT Act 0 - Like Pulling Teeth

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Description: Having been subdued by Dahlia's forces, the crime boss Duke is handed over to the NOL. After days of interrogation, they have little useful information from the crime boss, and his release is all too soon. But one more individual wants to have a round with the crime boss: Colonel Hazama. And the green-haired Intelligence Officer has an offer that Duke couldn't refuse, and shouldn't refuse... and has something that's very valuable to certain associates of the officer.

It may have been a surprise to the NOL team when they were reported Duke's bounty.

Coming to the site at Hokkaido, it was a pit of dried cement, where a team of six gangster were stationed around the exposed head of Duke Burkoff. The Man That Hell Spat Out. Blood was all around him, stray slugs. All the men were armed with guns. One, a shovel. There would be an inspection, and Duke would suddenly jerk, a bullet falling out of head. ANd then, the man with the shovel would proceed to smash the head with the shovel. A round of pistol rounds are shot into Duke's head. And that was it, it seemed, as the blood poured out, the crime boss going limp. And the NOL is outraged at what seems to just be an execution. The bounty was for him alive, it is explained. 'Oh no,' It was explained coolly in response. %
'He's alive.'

Duke's extraction to the NOL Base near Southtown was equally dramatic; after extracting the concrete block out, they cautiously removed him from his prison, following the lead and steel prescription described by the authorities on the site. It was awkward, but after Duke ripped apart the arm restraints idly in his half-dead state, it was deemed required to get him to the other island. A long, dangerous trip takes place, where it is only a miracle Duke didn't full revive. The most frightening moment? When the shovel broke, en route to Southtown, and the high-calibur rounds had to be broken out. Once at the Base, however?

A much more professional restraint system was employed.

All four limbs are clasped in containment units, with his chest equally sealed. Duke is still bound in bandages, a mere concession for his modesty. His neck bound in a brace, the crime boss hangs in the air, central to the room. A gurney system was in place; it has already been used for the crime boss's examinations, as well as his Duke's been muted through the interrogations. At best, a question of how long his internment, and as well, when where was his lawyer. No break. No change. Just the dead focus of how to endure the worst from paramilitary, from cops, from rival gangsters, from his own men. He just wants to know when they are done, and when does he talk to lawyer. This is his requests every time, with occasional threats. There was no level of physical examination, no level of pressure from the NOL that could break him. His physical endurance was unceasing, unstopping. No torture could crush him, no invasive experiment.

He was tired though.

After 2 days of interrogation and examinations, the constant chemical sedation only working just enough to keep him unconscious and subdued. But it wasn't proper sleep. Every time he awoke, it came with a brief silence, and a sudden surge of power, followed by instant sedation. His body was already building a tolerance for the cocktails; a new one from the scientists would be coming soon. But day 3 opens with him in the same white room. Well. Almost the same. Today was supposed to be different.

Today was supposed to be a day of progress.

The sea of people continues, milling like buzzing insects; this is likely no new experience for Duke at the onset, beyond what seems to be a thorough round of human rights violations. His own questions have never once been answered or acknowledged, and it seems the people to tire out first are the interrogators, who have reported not only that the sedation is growing less and less effective, but no meaningful information has been drawn out. Outright torture, after all, is off the table. Duke is within the Library, and they have their own rules and regulations to follow.

Looking through the heavily armored one-way mirror, one of the sweating scientists rubs his forehead. "Is he a monster...?"


A chill goes up his spine, as he turns around to stare within the smiling face of the acting head of Asian Intelligence. "C-Captain Hazama...! We didn't recieve word you would be involved in this...!"

"Yes, yes! He's really drawing out a very simple process. Wonderful work. I'll be bringing in my own team from Central Intelligence; you all can go relax. Three days' personal leave."

There's little argument with this. The eight people who've gotten rather acquainted with Duke all file out, murmuring amongst themselves. Rumors are going to spread for sure, but such matters little to Hazama.

There is no team from Central Intelligence, of course. Fingers dance as the monitoring devices are shut down, followed by the cameras and audio recording. He then finishes by placing into the log:

'Interrogation finished. -Hazama'

The heavy steel door hisses open, and it would only take a glance for Duke to realize everything has changed. A slender man with green hair settled beneath a derby hat, dressed all in black. His closed eyes seem kind, his smile broad. But Duke knows better. He has the scent of a predator and a murderer; this is the most basic of instincts, when beast meets beast. Yet his aura is utterly mundane, feeling combatively no different than any of the others who stood before him.

"Hello... ...ah, Mr. Duke? What IS your full name?" Some files and a clipboard are with him. A metal wheeled stand is dragged over and he takes his time placing them down. The sedation appears to be off, however. The constant thrums of numbness and grog are abating, second by second. A normal person would take hours to recover. Duke, though...?

"I'm Captain Hazama. I'll be taking over your interrogation. Nice to meet you. Do you know why you are being detained?"

Duke's endurance was in fact why he was here.

As the arrival of the thin man comes, Duke yellow eyes almost lock instantly on him, his withering gaze burning into him. Lesser men have been driven out by it, but... well, Duke might learn very quickly that when Hazama becomes involved, things take a different character. The crime boss stares, his face in a sneer. But even at this point, his gaze drifts. The inexhaustible Duke had been barraged by fatigue. Shutting his eyes tightly a moment, he refocuses them on the grinning man. He could sense it.

This was an escalation from the NOL.

"Duke Burkoff." Is the rumbling answer. Progress. But there is no smile on his lip, only a heavy scowl. As the wheeled stand comes, Duke snorts. "And based on the questions given to me, it sounds like you are all very curious why I will not die, why I was found buried up to my neck in concrete. Very amusing questions." Duke rumbles deeply.

"No matter."

"There is no right to detain me." He pulls at the restraints, testing them. "I am due my lawyer, and unless you are here to discuss my terms of release..." There is a surge of energy, the crime boss giving a momentary burst of energy as the systems noiselessly endure the power, suppressing his flames. A look of building rage spreads over his face, the thunderous temper boiling up.

"...If you are not here to release me, then you can get out of my sight!"

"I don't particularly care why someone tried to kill you, Mr. Burkoff. That's a matter for the legal system." Hazama says this with a rather brazen dismissal, and from body language to tone seems earnest. He plucks out a specific letter from his manilla folder and holds it up for the other man to see. "This, though, is another matter entirely." Within, somewhat concise for a legalese form, it outlines that the Library is allowed to restrain and interrogate individuals suspected of having dangerous or undocumented abilities to confirm if they are a possible threat. It seems that the government at the highest level is on board. That likely explains why the only questions involved Duke's immortality, as opposed to anything else.

"You remind me of another undying man. He was rather better at it, and required a good deal more restraints. Harder to drug a monster, when you can't even put in an IV. So let me make something clear..."

That smile spreads further. "At the moment, you have no legal rights. Those are reserved for humans. Are you one? I'm the one who makes that decision, you see..." A gesture is done to Duke's form, finger poking here and there. "Being resistant to traditional arms is one thing. But your regenerative prowess is another. Our scientists believe you have..."

Another paper is pulled up. "An abberant chi manifestation that forcedly stimulates regenerative growth. That would mean you ARE human, just a..."

"What's the polite term for 'freak'?" A frown curls across his face. "Is that the case? Have you been like this your whole life? Maybe from birth, maybe puberty, maybe some catalyst incident? Hmm?"

Hazama's words are quick to anger the crime boss.

The letter of legitimacy is read carefully, despite the belittling insult of Hazama's actions. Jaw tightening, the taunting tease comes right after. "What are you people?" Duke's voice holds a dawning rancor. Hatred, pure hatred. Another pulse of energy, absorbed by the advanced containment systems. There is a groaning sound as Duke writhes, a twisting sound. Not from the machines, but from Duke's very bones. He stops short of tearing himself apart, his rage settling on staring into Hazama, chest rising and falling from the rage. The mockery was rich; he remember Hein's very same sadistic tone. And unlike Hein, this man seemed... smaller. More frail. Duke broke from the restraints last time.

Could he do it this time.

As the mockery builds, Duke jerks again, this time a sickening snap finally cracking out, as a thighbone snaps. Growling in a flutter of pain, that stops his writhing. The containment was strong, and the flesh was weak. It would heal. But Duke snarls, eyes wide. "Born this way? Catalyst incident? What is this... why?" He halts a moment, disoriented, exhausted, confused. Duke's anger was so easy to draw up, to draw forward. But a glimmer of light comes, of insight.

And a smirk builds on his lips.

Duke suddenly unleashes a great guffaw, a roar of laughter. The rumbling laughter settles down into deep, chest filled laughs. It slows down, as his lips girl with that arrogant smirk. "Are you really only concerned whether I am a monster, or a freak? How the Man That Hell Spat out continues to live? What pacts I've made, what hellpit I've crawled from? How I can call upon hellfire again, and again? What is the source of damnation, the very source of my power?" His eyes narrow, leering down at Hazama.

"And you would pay Dahlia for this?"

"We're the righteous shield that will protect humanity from the predations of the unnatural. Within this world, and outside it. After the Gear fiasco, the traditional methodology of government independence obviously made it clear that a centralized force was required with more autonomy than the United Nations. So the Library stepped forward, forming multiple pacts with major nations to achieve just this." Hazama sets the papers back within the manilla folder, scratching at the back of his head.

The noise catches Hazama's attention, brows going high above his seemingly closed eyes. A hand braces his hat, as if afraid of some hidden wind blowing it off. "Oh...? So you DO feel pain. Perhaps what you have is less of a gift, and more of a curse?"

The name Dahlia seems to trigger a small smile. Ah, Honoka; she's in a personal alliance with Terumi right now. Is that going to benefit Duke in any way? Of course not. A hand digs within Hazama's pocket, and a moment later there's a blur of motion.

He aims to sink a butterfly knife into Duke's right shoulder; the strength is 'high human', but it's deathly sharp and the thrust rather pinpoint. What might not be immediately apparent is that he's aiming for a nerve cluster -- the pain would be astronomical, beyond the fact it would be liable to permanently damage the nerves of a normal person.

"Am I concerned? ...Are you asking me. or the Library? That's two very different answers." He makes to twist the knife before yanking it out, curious to observe the healing process firsthand. "Personally, I think immortality is overrated. I can assure you there are fates worse than death. In an official capacity, all I care about is whether it's beneficial to label you as someone to dissect in a lab, or allow to scuttle free to serve whichever twisted master points you in a direction..."


"So it's the UN..." Duke states, not quite able to understand what Hazama is suggesting. Even the nature of secret societies was eluding him. As the knife draws out, however, Duke scoffs. He knows what is coming. "Hah! Torture..." Duke's response is a cruel bemusement, that fades all too quickly as the blade drives deep. In a fight, when Duke is hurt, it almost seems like it doesn't slow his stride. As if he is immune to pain. This is far from the truth; as long as Duke can -lash out- in response to pain, he can ignore it. In most cases, pressing the torture would only serve to ignite Duke's rage to a point, where the interrogation session becomes a surprise attack, an exit wound where Duke rips through. But pinned down and helpless like this? The true agony roars out, as Duke tears at the containment. But the containment was meant for demigods, not men; Duke only serves to mangle himself, as he writhes in pain. ANd despite his squirming, it is plain to see.

How the healing takes place.

The healing process comes in stages; the first is when the bleeding obviously stops, the spreading crimson ceasing, leaving only the dribbling of blood to the ground. The clotting spreads, gradually congealing underneath it. And then, the clotting itself begins to scab. Finally, the scab merges again with the flesh. A smooth, gradual process; the detail might not even be noticeable under the blood. Only a flesh wound, of course.

And all in less than a minute.

"Hmph, master?" Duke rumbles, the pain subsiding. "I am my own man. And if you think it's worth your time to cut me apart..." Duke's rage quells a moment, as the brutish thug mulls, breathing hard. "I don't understand." Duke finally states, as he repeats his question again.

"What do you WANT!?"

There's little interest in Duke, at the moment. Hazama is leaning forward near the wound, hand atop his hat; the thrashes and snarls don't startle him in the slightest. Is it confidence in the restraints...? No. There's no fear in this man. No apprehension. Such is not self control, but what feels like an utter absence. His expression might be how a blind child might think, when someone struggled to explain the idea of colors. "Remarkable." he settles.

Leaning back, there's a look of confusion. "What do I want...? Nothing that requires you to talk." The knife flirts up again, and this time Hazama slithers close to strike it into Duke's neck, piercing through the voicebox and sinking the tip into the spinal segment behind. It's left there, instead of being drawn out. Forget speaking, before too long choking on blood will be a more meaningful concern. "This isn't torture. That implies you have some information that I want. Hardly the case~" Another butterfly knife is drawn out, spiraling madly around with Hazama's finger through a circle at the end of the steel handle.

He swings out, and this time aims to pierce Duke straight through the chest, between two ribs. The tip would nick his heart, each beat thrusting against the steel point. "And it's not sadism. I'm not particularly enjoying this. Pain is something I cannot understand. I don't feel it, after all. And without knowing what it is, seeing people writhe and dance to such external stimulus is at best fascinating. Believe me, I've tried."

He steps back then, placing his hands in his pockets. "So what do I want... hmm. Nothing, in particular." He slowly fans out throwing knives, stepping back a few meters from Duke, near the door.

"I'm just bored~"

His hand snaps out. Four of them would stick into Duke, running up his torso. The last, if he does not somehow twist his restrained neck away, would sink deep into his left eye. "How immortal are you? Enough that eventually, you'll get the blessed release of death? Or will you yearn for it instead, forever beyond your grasp? Let's start by answering *that* question!"

Duke was not expecting this.

There was rules, structure. But to simply use his healing factor as someone to torment, to hurt... not even the worst of the Syndicate was tempted. Simply because they couldn't contain him. Locking his eyes on Hazama, he breathes hard, his nostrils flaring. As the knife drives into his throat, however, his eyes go wide. Duke roars in pain again, his body rattling. But there is only a thin wheeze, as blood comes down his throat. Blood pours up to his lip, as he fights, struggles helplessly. More knives, more pain, more poisonous words of a madman slithering into his mind. The pain only fuels him more, as he tries to fight against the agony.

Until his body can't even muster the restraint for that rage.

As the knife drives deep into his eye, the wound in his neck already closes around it. The volcanic eruptions upon his body as drawn and sucked away by the constraints. But Duke rips and tear. His arms and legs begin to snap and twist under his fury, his muscles crushing the limbs. He was trying, struggling to rip his own legs and arms off, to tearing off the upper portions of the limbs. The pain is immeasurable, and his body in fact begins to recognize it. His vitals begin to collapse, as he is -just- unable to make the final effort to rip himself apart. Without his free chi access, he can't quite push it over the edge. But he doesn't stop. He doesn't cease.

Until his skin begins to turn an ashen shade.

His lips turn blue, as the blood in his lungs fill up. His vitals grow weaker and weaker, his own injuries tearing into him. The healing factor comes, and yet, for a moment, he goes limp. Loose. For a second, the vitals flatline.

And there is a clattering sound.

The knife in his throat falls out, pushed out. A fresh gasp of breath comes in, as Duke gives great, crouping coughs, black, clotted blood thrown out on the ground. His is weak, but around him, the rage continues to pour out. For a moment, he was dead. It was only a moment.

How much longer would the next moment be?

"Oh. You died."

Duke would likely focus on this, finding that all of the knives have been drawn out of him and set, bloodied, upon the metal stand adjacent. He's close; enough to headbutt, actually. Perhaps he thinks the man still too weak in his current state, so soon to rise after death, to muster anything of the sort. There was concern on his face, however. Not the sort based on care or affection; no, the concern of someone who feared they had broken a toy.

"Welcome back from Hell, Mr. Burkoff. I'm only just beginning. Can you regenerate an entire eye, if I pluck it out? If not, what if I put it back in the socket...? Does it need surgically reattached? How long until it's lost forever?!" Slender fingers grip Duke's chin gently, as he brings up the gleaming point of the knife with his slender grin spreading.

"So many questions, so many questions..."

It was just a little death, as the French would say.

Duke's body was forced to obey some of the same rules everyone else had to. He could suffer shock, cardiac arrests, even strokes or clots ill timed. And if he ran out of air... then he would die. Duke died fairly often, though his legendary returns was part of the man's reputation. Duke knew this, and expected it.

He never expected that it would be with such sustained -torment- however.

The barrage of questions come, as Duke sizes up Hazama, trying to look through his good eye. As Duke's chin is lifted, he curls his lips in a sneer."It recovers faster.... when you replace the eye back, instead of letting it grow back." And answer, perhaps? Duke draws his head back, almost telegraphing the attack.

There is a sickening snap.

With a wrenching roar, Duke rips his arm from the containment. Not quite an accurate statement, maybe. Most of his arm remains in the containment. The line, a fracture just above the elbow, is slammed straight for Hazama's collarbone. It's poorly angled, and is only a fraction of the bonecrushing force. Less a baseball, and more of a bloodied, jagged baton, trying to tear as much as slam. Duke continues his bellow, as he struggles to bring the chi to the point, struggling to bring the violet flames up.

ANd it falls short.

The containment unit draws away the chi. THere would be no escape, no rampage out of the detention center. This was a prison for creatures far past Duke's power. And Duke was ultimately just a man. A man that could be pulled apart again, and again, and never numb the pain. DUke realizes that all his effort could do is make a statemen. Arm blooded and loose, he feebly tries to bring the arm back to the containment, to match with his other limb, as his vitals begin to collapse again.

"Bastard." Duke chokes weakly.

The sudden assault makes Hazama slit open his eyes. The spurt of blood and the lash of broken limb force him to suddenly leap backwards. No contact is made, beyond thumping into the brim of his derby hat. It flutters away and thumps on the ground a couple meters off, as Hazama makes a 'tsk-tsk'. "You almost bloodied my..."

For the first time there's shock, although perhaps not in the way that Duke wanted. He reaches up to touch the green hair atop his head. "No. No, no, no...!!" He then turns and hurries towards the black derby, but in the midst of leaning down to grasp it he spasms, extended arm beginning to twitch. "No... this one's mine... nngh..!!"

A strange, insidious energy begins to boil out, a sound like serpents hissing in the wall. Hackles might raise, as the man who before held no presence feels like he's brimming with something Duke knows well:


"I don't care... he's... MINE...!" Hazama says strained, before suddenly his hand sweeps into his pocket and thrusts straight up. There's a dull crack of bone.

And then Hazama collapses backwards, eyes wide and staring lifeless at the ceiling, butterfly knife buried to the hilt within it.

Ten seconds pass, and that malicious energy never once faltered. A spot of ink begins to ooze up from the center of Hazama's chest. As if something in his blood is being drawn out, drop by drop. A crimson split forms, twisting into a mouth. One wild green eye snaps open, as gurgling ichor spurts out into vestigial limbs. This energy is not chi, and not psi; no, it's something else.

Divine; if Duke has had the dubious pleasure of meeting the likes of Raiden, then it's very similar indeed.

"Stupid Hazama-kun. You were going to waste this perfectly good human...? Heh! But our arrangement is that I only need to stay quiet if your hat is on!!" His voice is surprisingly similar to Hazama, as like some strange black balloon he begins to bulge out, stretch, and grow.

Black footprints begin to take him towards Duke, stretching up inhumanly, twisting and gurgling. Limbs and legs fill out until he's nearly six feet, before the blackness seems to burst. A yellow coat spills out, hood pulled up and arms bared; he wears Hazama's shirt and pants, although disheveled and poorly buttoned with the tie undone. Hair is green and eyes wild; while Hazama was inscrutable, Terumi wears everything on his face.

"Hello there, meatbag... was my vessel being a little rough with you?!" He makes to grasp Duke by his own chin. And his grip is incredibly powerful, enough to creak bone. It would be beneath Duke were he fully recovered, but it still seems unusual for such a slender person. ...Especially given Hazama's corpse remains dead on the ground behind.

"My name's Terumi. Terumi Yuuki! Let's get ALONG, shall we?!"


Duke's attack comes short. ANd for a moment, there is only a glimmer of sadism... or shock? Duke's yellow eyes widen, as Hazama begins to fight with... fight with what? When he digs his hand in his pocket, and there is a snap of bone, was it- and he was dead. Duke stares at what takes place before him, unable to even comprehend what was happening. At the very least, he has a moment to recover, his arm gingerly relinking. He isn't strong enough to fight, to writh, to struggle in his confusion.

That might be important.

Duke has not been so fortunate to meet a god before.His best experience has been with godkillers. To encounter Terumi, with his violent arrival, the oozing essence pouring out, Duke shuts his eyes a moment, trying to wrap his perception and his mind around this. When it reopens, it comes with a furrowing brow, as the poorly dressed (by Duke standards) individual of divine presence is right before him, already seizing his head straight up.

Duke dimly realizes that the situation has not improved.

"What is this?!" He growls, with dawning dread. "What have you done? Are you a ghost?" Duke's struggles with his understanding of the supernatural. "Are you all allied with ghosts? What is happening? What are you people? You claim justice, you torture sadistically, and now... you, Terumi Yuuki."

"What -are- you?!"

"A ghost...? That's not too far off. You're merely speaking to a manifested 'soul', after all... well, do you really care about the specifics of what I am?" This seems an earnest question from Terumi. "We're both immortal. And we both revel in destruction. So why not be friends!!" Releasing the weakened man, arms spread in a billow of iron-reinforced sleeves rolled up to the bicep. He does look almost identical to Hazama, which can't be a coincidence. The main question being who is a copy of the other?

"Still, I'm not one for awkward dialogue... there's an easier way to gain understanding." Green circles manifest around Terumi, as a hum of magic rolls out. Countless intricate and circuitous sigils and runes spell out a broad formula. And then the destroyer thrusts out, hand piercing the middle and heading straight towards Duke's forehead...!

Only it would sink to the wrist through flesh and bone, leaving no wound. Only ungodly pain, as if a nest of centipedes was crawling around in one's brain. Gripping the very essence of the other man's soul and memories, pervasively appraising them, a spell that Relius Clover himself is also quite adept at. "Hmm... let's see if you... ah."

The flipbook of memories and sensations would stop abruptly, Terumi drawing his hand back. "Tell me, Duke..." His golden eyes slit, and his grin turns more malicious.

"Does the name 'Marian Burkoff' still resonate with you...?"

Duke did not realize the sheer danger he was in.

Oh, he realized he was in trouble. The appearance of the man... thing? He was still trying to make sense of what was happening. But when that man in the yellow jacket goes up and -challenges- him, he just sees another obstacle. Duke was not one to talk much. But when he wants to be 'friends' being both immortals? Immortals... why... was this why they were curious with him? If he was the same kind of immortal?

The thought is cut short as he -feels- those fingers in his head.

Duke lets out a pained moan as the fingers draw into his head. He struggles, fights against it. But the body was not the mind, and outside of his endless, crushing resolve, there was only just that. Without any outlet, the assaults on his mind were agonizing and wrong. Images flash before him. Pain. Regrets. Sinister dark thoughts, even for a crime boss, towards underlings, allies, ninja girls. Shame. And even more Pain, pain beyond the centipedes. All in a thick haze of rage, that never ends, every memory tinged in the rage, the raw hatred. Seething with hot breath, he glares back at Terumi, lips in a snarl. But the sneer fades the moment the words are said. How. How did he kno- his mind. Just like with Dahlia. Psychics. And Duke sees it so clearly.

"You think I don't know what you are doing?"

Duke's rage boils over, as it becomes hot and precise. "You can't break my body, but my mind... just like Dahlia. A psychic. You found her name in my head! You think you can torment me with her name? You think you can draw blood that way, drive a stake in my very heart like that? You think it's funny to watch my squirm at it?" Duke's voice drops very low, as the waves of raw hatred pour over him.

"I will make this flatly clear."

Duke cannot lean in very far. But he makes the gesture, as his hoarse whisper purrs sinister. "You are already looking at hell to pay for this insult. This imprisonment, your... possessed body's actions?" Duke was grasping at straws, but it made sense. "Those are all a debt that will come out of every single NOL personnel. But I can let you walk away, and let it all go away for you personally, because you are damning the whole of your organization.If you press this any more, just to see me squirm?"

"I will break you."

The sheer conviction in his voice does not tremble, as the yellow eye locks on. The first one was white and filmy, already gradually healing the knifing on it. But Duke's voice has only the faintest growl. "I don't care if you are a ghost, or a soul, or whatever you are. For every mere utterance you make, will be one more broken bone. For every second of smug look on your face, will be one more second of burning you alive. Your flesh will be blackened away to the bones, and even your bone will collapse into ash. Until the very end, where your ash will be nothing but dust in the wind. You will be immortal, and I will make sure that you will regret every single moment. You are drawing out the hottest, most lethal rage of any man on this planet." Duke growls his final warning.

"You think these restraints will keep you safe, 'friend'?"

Terumi's expression hardly changes from Duke's response. He merely stands there, stuffing his hands in his pocket and watching. Those threats seem to ripple off him like water on a duck's back; he certainly looks interested in what the other man is saying, but... as each seconds pass, Terumi seems to be further and further thrilled. His eyes widen, his grin stretches further, and in the end he lets out another manic laugh. "Hate... that's some delicious hate you have...!!" His tongue slides out to draw across his lips, eyes rolling back for a split second like someone who just tasted a grand dessert.

"I wasn't aware a man like you could possess rancor like this." A lazy kick is done to the fallen Hazama, who jostles barely in the manner that a nice and proper corpse could. "I suppose that would be fine. Another kindle of hate in this world, cursing my name. But I didn't bring up her name to taunt you... Mr. Burkoff... but I think you're a little too hot-headed for us to negotiate."

Terumi's arms widen, and suddenly multiple green sigils seem to form within the room. One slithers open beneath Hazama, surrounded by coiled chain-like snakes, and he falls within, vanishing. "Even people like me have pride, after all. So..."

Suddenly, four snake-headed chains roar out. Each sinks into one of the restraints on Duke, where his wrists and ankles are locked into place. Magical formulae begin to build and re-double. This may be a device intended to hold the likes of Azrael, but it's not built for external pressure... in a sudden rupture of metal, those manifested jaws burst through. Duke's limbs are now free of the most oppressive bindings; there are still others upon him, but he should be able to rip through.

"Come, then..." A bolt of green energy snaps out to strike Duke. His weakened energy and lowered stamina, the remnants of the drug, all would be gone in an instant. As if his entire form was buzzing with some external power. It's not truly recovery magic; an infusion, and within ten or fifteen minutes it will wear off and doubtlessly make Duke feel infinitely worse than the onset.

But for now, he can move as best he can hope.

"A dog just barked at me awful loud. Before we proceed further... show me if you can bite!! There's no leash or muzzle to hold you back...!!"


Duke was not a cunning man. He was not particularly shrewd, either, especially when his temper is hot. The moment his limbs are liberated, he was already ripping through the mere metal and bindings, the IVs and tubes tearing from his body as he forces free. Fire was boiling over him as he falls to his knees at first. He is quick to rise up, already ready to force himself to fight at a weakened state. As the man.... mocks him, he only sees it as arrogant mockery, Duke already struggles at him. Bitter rage overwhelms him, even as the energy comes out. Duke moves to power through it... and he is only invigorated. He does not recognize what kind of trap he might be stumbling into. He does not dwell the consequence, the future, the price of his recovery, the act of any bargains. Terumi mentioned the name again, indirectly.

That was suitable enough for his rage.

Body infused, empower, Duke transfixes his gaze upon Terumi. Now, his anger has an outlet. Chi flames boil over him, mingled with the fell emerald energy that was borrowed. Face twisted in pure fury, his yellow eye pierces. It was a false promise, his body was not quite healed yet. "Negotiate?!" Duke almost spits, his heavy strides coming with the rhythm and anger as if he was never bound. "You think you are in any position to negotiate?!" Duke declares arrogantly, as the waves of hatred and energy pour off him. Whipping his leg up, he lifts it high. And holding it only a moment, the energy flows to the bottom of his foot.

And he unleashes the bone-shattering stomp.

The full force runs into the ground, as the seismic wave comes out, rumbling into the depths of the complex. Nothing to break, nothing that would escape this room. The impact is not even able to crush the reinforced floors with a crater. But the fire explodes out. All the fire, the frightening fire pours out in wildly hot rage. It would not stop there; Duke would surge through the waves of flame to unleash a staggering haymaker punch, aimed squarely at the face of Terumi. The burning hot rage overflows. Hatred, pure hatred.

Aimed squarely into Terumi.

COMBATSYS: Duke has started a fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Duke             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Terumi has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Duke             0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0           Terumi

COMBATSYS: Terumi dodges Duke's Crushing Lariat ES.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Duke             0/-------/--=====|======-\-------\0           Terumi

"It's been awhile since I had any fun..." Terumi says with a wistful sigh, eyes closed as Duke spends his initial moments staggering free of the remaining bindings. He is not remotely taking this seriously; freeing a man who just said he would kill him, taking no advantage of his vulnerability in the process, and going so far as to empower Duke to full fighting form... there might be few ways to spit in the man's sense of combative pride further. Perhaps it's those eyes. Golden, snake-like irises narrowed at Duke with just the hint of a grin. It's like a child might have, kneeling before an ant on above, magnifying glass poised. Something that transcends arrogance and confidence... the supremacy someone with absolute power.

For Terumi cannot be killed with hate, after all. Trying such... well.

"You seem unappreciative, little mortal. I saved you from death, and even now spare you annihilation. And STILL you come at me with fangs bared... Hahahaha!! Humans are so interesting...!" A great eruption of flames roars out and seems to wash over Terumi; he has brought up his forearms to block it. And then Duke roars forward, fist striking out...

And it passes through Terumi's head. Nothing. There was no feedback, no resistance. Like trying to grasp light. "What is power to you?" the serpent coos, sliding sideways. He can go intangible? A butterfly knife is within his hands know, spiraling around madly. "Is it absolute destructive power? The ability to lay waste to anything that opposes you? Forcing submission to the WEAK?!"

Suddenly emerald energy wreathes around Terumi as he surges forward, intent on slamming his forehead squarely into Duke's; shockingly fast and with more force than that slender body should be able, still having one hand in his pocket as the other merely toys with his knife.

"If so... then you should be on your knees WORSHIPPING me... for I'm the culmination of everything you believe in. That's what being a GOD is, right?!"

COMBATSYS: Duke endures Terumi's Agonizing Fang.

[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Duke             1/-------/=======|=======\-------\1           Terumi

If anything, Terumi's composure was only fueling Duke's rage.

The crime boss's restrained fury only made his assaulting rage more reckless and wild. Stampeding at Terumi, the waves of energy blasts over the mocking figure. And Duke, teeth gritted, hurls himself into it. Duke was going to rip him to pieces. Him, and what was left of Hazama. He already vaguely outlined his escape. The problem was, Duke wasn't a divine force of wrath.

Terumi was.

The fist passes through nothing, and Duke doesn't even understand. But the momentum doesn't end. "What I believe in? All I believe in that you are nothing more than a psychopath, and that you will die!" Duke roars, turning around to track the ghost-like figure. Already, the green-haired deity was on him, unleashing a headbutt squarely in between Duke's eyes. Duke makes a quick, arrogant choice.

And chooses to take it.

Duke powers through it, even as his skull cracks under the pure force of impact. Teeth gritted in a snarl, blood dripping down his eyes and face, both of his hands snap around like a bear trap. the crime boss attempts to seize Terumi in the clinch. He wasn't going to let him slip away THIS time. Should he manage a grip, he would begin to smash his head into his face, a headbutt against a headbutt, before giving a sharp jab into the gut, and -slamming- him at the lifeless form of Hazama. Raw brutality, and raw rage.

The one thing that he didn't need right now.

COMBATSYS: Terumi counters Combo Grapple from Duke with Venomous Bite.
- Power hit! -

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Duke             1/--=====/=======|=====--\-------\0           Terumi

"The first step in our negotiations is you realizing you're not speaking with another human... if you had any idea how your threats sounded to me, you'd realize how much effort it's taking me not to laugh...!" Terumi derides openly. In the midst of the pair's repositioning, as the emerald energy diffuses, Terumi's palm opens and a single chained snakehead drops out of it, as he almost idly spirals it around.

The whip-like whirl of air is in the air as the God of Destruction leans back. Utterly open, almost playful. Duke is enraged, filled with destructive and murderous intent, and he's not even being acknowledged as an opponent. None of that emotion is reciprocated in the slightest. Arms slither out, and for a split second there's the feel of his body. But the crushing squeeze and headbutt flash into nothing as Terumi phases forward, literally stepping through Duke to stand about a meter behind.

"Sit...!" Hissed out like one would order a dog. Terumi's chain-wielding arm snaps down, and a sigil erupts beneath the immortal warrior. Duke would find himself irrevocably caught in a binding spell, chains whirling at a mild distance in fast circles as painful energy surges and crackles within him. A wild cackle leaves the hooded figure as he turns around, holding up his hand.

"What is your gameplan here, Duke...!!" The cage abruptly explodes, a massive condensed burst of energy that would drop him straight down to the ground where Terumi stands. "When you realize you cannot kill me. Ever...!! I can give you the names of some others who'd like to erase me from this world, if you'd like. That damn cat... the shitty vampire... my own sister... people far more qualified than you, and equally powerless...!!"

Another trap.

As he moves to snap around Terumi, the snakehead chain lashes to bind him, restricting him just as the containment gauntlets had. Duke's movements come to a crawl just, the paralysis seizing hold of him as he struggles within the sigil. Grunting in fury, he valiantly struggles in the trap as he glares furiously at Terumi, teeth gritted. The words passed in his ears, the sheer despair cutting to his heart. That won't be enough to drop him.

But then the cage detonates.

Duke is cowed, his head brought low. As the pillar of energy rips through him, he lets out an agonized groan, falling to his -knees- before Terumi. A fresh burn was right through his chest, clear through on both sides. The insults, the disrespect; even if Duke realized he was truly facing a god instead of a megalomaniac, he might even change. The crime boss's stubborn nature and pride demanded it. He would fight himself to death for the insult, and come alive again to fight again. But he wasn't truly immortal, his opponent was. The futility of Duke's efforts were in full force. But he would not stop, he could not stop. Throwing his head up, he glares at Terumi.

"Whatever you are..."

Duke surges up, pulling hard at the chains as he forces his way through seal, through magic, through everything. His energy blows through him like a furnace, powering him to unstoppable levels. Duke throws out a harsh right cross with bone breaking force, his rage overflowing as he just keeps attacking, body breaking under the full force of both. "Man, ghost, spirit. You can feel pain! You can break in half! You. WILL. BEND." Duke hurls out a left cross, pulling at his chains, tearing at them with an overwhelming, unceasing resolve, the explosion of force flowing. "I do not give a damn about who you fought before, I don't even give a damn who -YOU- are!" Duke unleashes a third right cross, the very emerald and crimson flames reach their breaking point, Duke's body igniting. "You are just something in my WAY!" Duke hurls up an uppercut, snarling as the last vestiges of the energy rips away from him.

"And I am...."

Duke bounds into the air, leaping up with his leg up high.

"...No one's..."

And he attempts to -slam- his foot down hard on Terumi, bringing a whole shockwave on impact.


COMBATSYS: Duke knocks away Terumi with Hell Bomber ES.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Duke             0/-------/-======|=======\==-----\1           Terumi

Terumi's hands settle into his pockets once more. "Will it make you feel better... if you hit me?" he wonders. The fist then lashes out with that terrifying force, slamming into Terumi's chin. The report is -- strange. There's no cracking bones. No tearing flesh. Blood does not spatter around, only black ichor like ink which hangs immobile in the air once inertia leaves it. The second slams into him, then another, and another. Like some strange shell, the humanoid facade is stripped away, and Duke likely gets the sense that he's punching something made of jelly, a dense and voluminous energy. Only his grinning face is still there at the final blow, before shattering as the uppercut erupts out.

Terumi flies backwards, hitting the wall. He splatters, like a bucket of charcoal paint. Green pulses out, rippling through it; a crimson smile near the top, then an eyeball once more. This is how he looked when he crept out of Hazama's body; which has been vacated from the area. Rampaging his puppet and grinding it to ash would be inconvenient after all, so teleporting it away turned out to be a wise move.

"I'm not any of those three." comes a more warbled and inhuman voice. Terumi peels forward, thin and tenebrous leg settling down. "You wouldn't believe me if I said it. That's why I'm SHOWING you..." Pain? No -- it's clear that none was inflicted on this fighter. If anything, he looks more invigorated than when the pair started. His ability to manifest is damaged, but... like flashing a light at a shadow, even if Duke tears him to pieces, what would that accomplish? A reprieve? If he's truly immortal, can he not just challenge again and again until he eventually wins...?

"How high do you wish to climb... man rejected by Hell? The strongest in Southtown? The strongest in Japan? The strongest in the world? What then...?! There are people higher than that... the strongest in the multiverse! Do you plan to stand before Shao Kahn? Raiden, without his impositions? Sleeping in this ground are creatures you cannot fathom...! The Taishokan... the embodiment of all the world's fighting energy... the parasitic vengeance of nature... Hahaha!! Even on this pebble..."

Blackness billows, and Terumi reforms as he was before, yellow coat rippling down him. "You need to learn where you stand...!"

Then Terumi launches forward, spreading his arms open. "A dog obeys someone above them. That is the natural order of things... the weak are consumed by the strong...!!" Green energy seethes into his fist, before Terumi twists to slam it brutally into Duke's stomach. His other furiously billowing with that strange divine power. "I respect strength, but not IGNORANCE!!"

He then lashes out a brutal uppercut of his own, intent on sending Duke upwards. Aiming to coil it around Duke's midsection tightly and then twist, to lash him back and slam him into the ground with destructive force so Terumi can thump his heel on Duke's head and grind it into the ground.

"You've only got your rage, Duke... because your true goal in life was taken from you. Surgery, money, power, love, all didn't save Marian... and where does the rage of loss go?"

"Of course... for someone like me, such things are hardly irrevocable. Either her death... or the knowledge of who caused her to DIE...!"

COMBATSYS: Duke blocks Terumi's Snakebite.

[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Duke             0/-------/-======|=======\===----\1           Terumi

As a matter of fact, Duke -does- feel better.

He doesn't need blood, or the sickening crunch. If anything, the fact he was peeling away the layers to the alien black thing underneath fueled his rage. Breathing hard at the exhaustion wrapping around him, he snarls as he finally slams down. It was good that Hazama was missing; Duke would have ravaged that thing simply for the -insult- of the torment earlier. Striding forward, he glowers at the Terumi.

The utter futility eludes him.

Even if Duke won, Terumi would be back for round two. And if Duke lost? Duke would never want to stop fighting. An endless cycle of fighting, ending only when one surrendered, when one simply walked away. Two immortals, one false, one true, locked in wrathful battle. Duke would never lose his wrath. And Terumi... Duke was in a very dangerous situation, far beyond his mortal understanding. It was only ignorance keeping him going.

As it is well apparent, when Terumi finally begins his offer.

Before it, Duke groans, sweat pouring from his brow as his whole body turns. Throwing his arms up, he catches the launching fist with one, the energy -blasting- through the palm of his hand. The second uppercut comes, he grunts as he deflects on it. Getting sent up in the air, the ragged hand holds with a mix of bone and tissue. Caught in the air, he is -slammed- to the ground. Snarling, he catches the stomping heel, the pure power wrecking his other good hand, the heel digging deep. Staring up, he glares back, pushing back to roll away. If it was just that, he could handle it.

But the words hit harder than any physical blow.

"... No..." Duke mutters, hesitating as Terumi finally drives that knife on Marian. He knew this would come. Bringing his broken, already reforming hands up, he stares across. "You are just twisting my mind! How she died didn't..." Duke can't bring himself to say it. It was his fault she died, right? No, he was just too slow. No, it was the Syndicate. Pain runs through his soul. And that pain turns into rage, fury. Duke snarls as he gives an almost desperate defensive stomp, attempting to force distance between himself and Terumi. AS the shockwave of flame spreads out, rumbling underfoot, he keeps on his mask of arrogant defiance. But even now, the flickers of weakness are shown. The hesitations, the uncertainty. The temptation dangling before him. Duke could sense the Faustian bargain before him. He knew the foolishness of the deal.

... But what if he knew...

How could he even know?

Who told him!?

COMBATSYS: Duke successfully hits Terumi with Seismic Impact.

[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
Duke             1/------=/=======|=======\===----\1           Terumi

The distance between the pair vanishes in a heartbeat as Duke's fist slams within the chest of the strange being. Destructive force blows through him, his chest ripped open as his shoulders and midsection swirl around, and the expression on Terumi's face is... well, exasperated. "This has gotten tiresome... I should have just let Hazama play with you..." Of course, there's nothing stopping Duke from continuing to attack. Yet Terumi has shifted intangible, and any flames, impacts, and rage would merely pass through smoke.

There's no way to stop him from talking, if he truly has a mind to.

"He has a lot of pent up energy... then again, so do I. Let's rush this along to the end-game. You seem to be entertaining some delusion... that your existance going into the next years... months, weeks... even minutes... is guaranteed. Very well. Would you like to see..."

The air seems to grow colder. For the first time Terumi's expression turns serious, golden eyes slitting into distaste. "What I truly am...?"

Blackness surges outwards, blowing like an inferno of harmless fire. It sweeps against the walls and ceiling, the lights shattering and plunging the room into pitch black.

"Terumi Yuuki is not my real name... just the alias of this 'ghost'..."

Green flashes out, casting the world into a strange emerald hell. "You think you are immortal...?!" The black fire suddenly whirls into Terumi, beginning to coat him. It spirals and manifests into a growingly bestial body. His tone is becoming deeper, more primal, and animalistic. A power begins to build, far beyond the vessel that Duke had just been facing.

"Such IMPUDENCE..." roars a voice like razors grinding on bone. Green tattoos sizzle along an armor-like form, constantly bleeding off inky blackness. The only source of light now the divine malevolence of... is this even still Terumi.

"There is nothing eternal in this world... unless I decide to leave it standing..." Fingers curl into massive black claws, a long tail whipping out behind. Teeth bare on the creature's face, eyes sparking to life. The presence of Terumi's true soul, brought to bear.

"I am the blade against creation... I am the end to all things... I am the arbiter of existance itself... Come...!! I have craved an outlet for too long...!!"

"Let us see just how immortal you truly are!!"

COMBATSYS: Terumi wreathes himself in the true power of the Black Susano'o, ascending to divinity!

[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////                 ]
Duke             1/------=/=======|=======\===----\1           Terumi

Even the outcome of this match wasn't assured.

It Win, or lose, or life, or death. Duke could be trapped in this room in every outcome. There was no Syndicate now, no past, no future. This Duke, and this man, or creature, or thing, or god. Immaterial, unreal. As the fires pass all around, as the ring of flames cascade around, he is reaching his bare limits. Emerald energy, granted to him by Terumi, was all that was sustaining his strength. What was fueling his fight was the ever enduring rage, the heightened fury. His skull was only barely healing, the burns were only just peeling away. And yet, as the green flash comes, he doesn't even have a moment to catch his breath. He averts his eyes.

And it appears.

The inky darkness fills around him, smothering his light, his very sense of self. Fear? Duke could not fear anymore. The uncertainty, the terror, the self-reflection only brought darkness. In it's place, there is only power, and the need to dominate, to crush, to destroy. What was he in the face of the global? What was a destroyer in the path of a god of destruction? What was a man who could simply heal over and over again, in the face of the truly immortal?

And Duke realizes the depths that he is in.

the true unleashed deity form of. Duke clearly could feel the full weight of divine pressure, even looking at the pure energy forms hurt his eyes, his very soul. That he was fighting someone well past his league, that was -toying- with him, trying to twist and influence him. How small his power is, a mere candle in the midst of the raw elemental hate, the raw elemental power. Duke stares into the green and black mingled together into a sickening, miasmic mess. "An outlet?" Duke asks, realizing that finally, the Man That Hell Spat Out had finally encountered a true demon.

And what else can Duke do?

"Fine." Duke rumbles, charging at the true form of the spirit, a living god, a monster, a creature beyond his meager mortal perceptions. And what else can Duke do with the unknown, then to throw himself at it? Duke hurls in with a driving elbow, attempting to throw all he can into the very heart of the creature, the very center of the god, to throw himself into the ultimate power flowing all around him. All with an almost defeated roar, as if he has accepted his fate. "You can keep your hollow bargains to yourself!"

"You will run out of forms soon enough!"

COMBATSYS: Duke successfully hits Terumi with Aggressive Strike EX.
# Disabling hit! #

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Duke             1/------=/=======|=======\===----\1           Terumi

"...So, even in the face of this, you refuse to yield." Susano'o's voice rings out. It sounds hardly impressed, by any measure. "Bursting headlong into each encounter, sacrificing your pitiable vessel... your suicidal idealization shall be realized here today, mortal." His tone seems to thrum in the bones, the weight of this echo of a creator's tool thrumming out. The darkness seems to boil and simmer against the walls, the floor, the ceiling, before... the location changes.

The pair are drawn into an endless wasteland of grey stone, stretching out in all directions. It seems to be much, much broader than it should; for Duke, someone familiar with horizons caused by the curviture of the earth, it might be disorienting. There is no sun, no moon, only a faintly glowing sky that seems to cast things into permanent dusk. Tall crags of stone thrust up in all directions, and there is no speck of living thing to be seen. The scent is... nothing. No wind, no dust, a truly dead and stagnant world.

In the midst of this, Duke roars forward and slams himself into the great beast. Blackened shadows whirl around his wrist, where he thrust into it. A crackle of green lightning betrays some effect -- this is a far cry from truly wielding Susano'o physically, and the tenuous, draining nature of the manifestation presents problems. Damnit... even now, can his ability to draw his true essence only get this far?

Well. It should be far enough.

A huge hand thrusts out, aiming to grasp Duke by the face. Claws twisting to sink in deep. Digitigrade feet twist, toes snapping down to sink into the smooth stone beneath. The mere movement of Susano'o seems to cause a calamity; stone shattering behind, surging forward intent on dragging Duke for the ride. One of the distant columns of stone is the end goal, whirling forward and aiming to slam Duke's back into it with all of that annihilatory might. Yet things do not stop there; a loud, bestial roar bursts into the heavens before a great eruption of green and black energy roars out.

This is not simple chi; the wounds it leaves behind are not burns. The flesh, skin, and clothing is disintegrated at the deepest level, utterly removed from existence.

"Here is my gift to you..." Susano'o's right hand clenches the air, before bright green energy ignites. It stretches upwards, almost nine feet tall. Within it is something beyond death. If there is a soul, if there is an afterlife, this is the end of all things. The most pure and true annihilation. Merely manifesting it near the soul of a human is a great stress, the eternal divine destruction that scarred the very earth near Southtown for weeks.

"If you wish for death... then stand still...!!"

And then Susano'o swings it overhead. The world flashes green for a split second, before a great plume of emerald surges what seems miles straight up, flashing forward into the distance so small it cannot be percieved. A great, bisecting wall of power, two meters wide. A horrible, cacophonic shriek of energy billows out, shaking the foundations of this demi-plane the pair are drawn to, and when it finally vanishes, a seemingly bottomless chasm of darkness floods straight down. The borders are disturbingly straight, as if reality itself was just erased by that strike.

But did Duke dare to try and stand against it...?!

COMBATSYS: Terumi blitzes into action and acts again!

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Duke             1/------=/=======|=======\====---\1           Terumi

COMBATSYS: Duke Toughs Out Terumi's Splintering Thrust!
# Disabling hit! #

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Duke             1/--=====/=======|=======\======-\1           Terumi

COMBATSYS: Duke interrupts Blade of Judgement from Terumi with Swivel Gun.

[                        \\\\\\  < >  ////                          ]
Duke             1/=======/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2           Terumi

Was it suicide?

All Duke had to do was fall to one knee, and yield. This wasn't like Dahlia, or Geese, or even Azrael. This wasn't a mere obstacle. This was an entire force of nature. There was a short-list of bad idea constants in the universe. Trying to punch the eldritch horror that reveals itself to you? Somewhere between Activating the Black Beast, and allowing Mignon in your tournament. Countless wiser opponents, countless wiser and even stronger fighters knew when to fold them. Duke knew that if he only begged for mercy, he might have been let go. If he had told all his secrets, he would be freed. Duke knew this all, and chose to be where he is now. Why?

Because pride.

Between men and gods, the only difference is that gods deserve their pride. And mortals? Mortal always fall before their pride. Duke's pride is what brought him down in the World Warrior, in the King of Fighters. DUke's pride is what had him hurled from the top of Geese Tower. Pride is what made him continue to fight, even as Dahlia's soldiers surrounded him. And it was pride that made him fight Hazama, fight Terumi, and now, fight the very god of destruction himself in his physical manifestation. And yet?

It is pride that drives him to strike the avatar where he stands.

Already, the landscape was transformed. Drawing back his arm, he looks around, yellow eyes wide in the dead world around him. He was far away now, very far away from the detention center. He might never return. ANd yet, the thoughts only drift briefly as he maintains his focus. The god, and yes, Duke was now seeing this as a god. "I am going to just -murder- Dahlia next time." Duke vows to himself in the infinite void. If there was a next time. Those may very well be his last words before his very existence, his very instance of reality would be scoured from this timeline. Already, the entire area was crackling with the very energy that was ripping through Duke, that was empowering him. Duke gets his warning. Would he dare and stand still? Would Duke dare to try and stand against the infinite power of a god?

Duke would dare.

He stands fast, in the face of an entire universal constant of annihilation focused directly at him. Duke barely has time to even perceive as the deity descends, diving at him to seize him by the face. Duke would be no ragdoll. Even as his jaw and skull crushes under the grip, he seizes back at the impossible strength of the god, already forcing him down. The energy was already tearing him apart though; he couldn't even feel the pain as his right side begins to get consumed by the eldritch energy. Duke could feel his demise, as he is -slammed- on the stones. Only the pure force of effort keeps him from landing on his back; turning on the impact to let his right side take most of the impact. Already, he forces a rise, even as his legs, his body almost refuses to cooperate. Maybe after all this time, he had a death wish. That he wanted to see if he could truly die, if he could truly escape it all. But maybe? Maybe he simply demanded respect. God. Man. It did not matter. If they wanted to force Duke on his knees?

He would have to earn it like the rest.

Duke begins his charge as the tower of emerald energy builds. There is no timing, only pressure. And with it, will a desperate hurl, he leaps. There is an audible sheen, as the sound of metal cutting through the darkness. A kick with so much power, so much energy, with neatly sharp force rises up as the pillar comes. It rips along his entire form, as his crimson energy boils over him. And in that moment, the power of science, the NESTS technology poured into to him does not matter. It was only power. Duke's iron will forces through, his focus comes. And with his own strength, he rends his leg up upon Terumi's form. Pivoting his leg, he brings a second kick across, bringing the same razor edge as he slices through the energy, slices through with his inner flame, his burning spirit, his soul. There is an audible snap, as his leg breaks on impact as he lands again on the cold, dead grey stone.

And Duke?

Duke's not all there.

The description is best explained as Duke being like a two dimension figure on a piece of paper. A drawing, so to speak, a sketch. First you spill a kind of black ink over it, pitch black, and you start scribbling over it with a green pen. Hideous, distorted, and yet not quite on the essence. You can damage and stain it, yes, but the essence is still there, the imprints, the shapes. That's because it's not truly 2 dimensional, but merely an imprint on a 2 dimensional plane. That's what Duke's been enduring up to this point.

This point?

Imagine, there of, you take a set of scissors, and start cutting apart the figure. Not in half, it's too easy. But carving out chunks of it. You cut off an arm, crumpling up the piece. You rip the edges, you punch holes. You torture and torment you drawing, destroying the very essence it existed on. Not merely scribbling on him, not merely painting on him. But destroying him. Eventually, you would cut him to the tiniest pieces, and then, destroy the rest into ash. Except, of course, the drawing does the impossible, and somehow breaks through to hurt you.

The damage was already done, however.

Duke is missing his right arm, generously speaking. The reality of it is that functionally speaking, it does not exist. And more so, it does not exist partially. The main limb, up to just above his elbow is clean gone. Past that, you start seeing the long tendrils of distortions; where the molecules are randomly gone in a gradually tapered manner. Closest to the tip, you can see bone; pieces of flesh, skin, and bone dribble off, having nothing to attach to. But as you get closer and closer to the shoulder, more and more exists. Veins, tissue, bone, carved in alien almost random patterns up to that point.

And that ties into his body.

Duke's body has impossibly deep sections missing. It's almost slashes, though only in broad strokes: large geometric shapes, rectangles, triangles, ovals are missing along him. It's not just his right side; the carvings of flesh and bone and organ being simply deleted is on both sides. His body seems to already be forcing itself into shock, trying to manage so much of it's system being so unstable. The scar upon his chest is the only thing that endures untouched; the terrible cut of the killing intent still clinging on to him. As the tatters of his bandages fall away from his naked form, as the blood finally oozes out from nearly every crevice, Duke forces himself into a stand. Or at least, tries to. The worst damage is to his right leg; it was intact in a sense, but it was collapsed in the foam-like, honeycomb structure that was his tissue, flesh, and bone structure now. Blood is everywhere, staining the grey earth. But even at this state... he was healing. He was recovering. He was... reforming, ever so slowly. And he groans a response, in the oblivion. Is that..."

"Is that all you have, god?"

The torrent of annihilation roars out into the endless distance, shuddering the very foundation of this demiplane; the pair have left the universe they stood in. However, this had nothing to do with Susano'o caring about annihilating the facility and much of the surrounding city. He was drawn here for another reason entirely; as he is one of the few truly divine beings born of the heart of the Boundary. Right now, only the tenuous manifestation of terrain stands between Duke and... well. Something else.

Duke's fists slammed into the side of the black monster's cheek; green cracks formed beneath. Fragile, indeed. Drawing out this black essence was an act of pride as well. Respect must be earned indeed, when two beasts not dissimilar at such a core bash together. Yet...

One still holds the advantage in forcing the matter, perhaps.

"Your fist reached me, mortal." thrums the deep, reverent tone of Susano'o as the green cracks continue to slither. "Yet your valor shall not reach the pages of legend. None have seen your great defiance of the gods..."

Susano'o holds out his right hand, before a great green blade of energy manifests. The scope of it is far beyond the one that Duke bore witness to just now; shining like a blinding sun. The very realm begins to quiver, ground seething and disintegrating for dozens of meters around.

"The sin of pride... now..."

His free claw lashes out, seething with green energy. Aiming to grasp Duke by the face as his grand black armor continues to break apart, and then twist down to slam him upon the ground.


Twisting, he aims to hurl Duke high into the air. Before with a great roar bellows out from the destroyer; black thunder crackles from his failing vessel, causing great gouges of pure darkness to rip open. The sword descends with absolution, aiming to flash across Duke's entire form. Behind it, nothing is left. A wavering nil, that cracks and tears into the Boundary. Yet there is not merely one swing; a veritable rampage of strikes lances out in all directions, amidst Susano'o's own divine tantrum. The foundation of this demi-plane shakes and quivers, ripped and slashed countless times, before with a great roar collapsing inwards like a dying star, into a point of great, growing white light...

And then, there is nothing. Duke...? If he did not escape the storm of blades, will no longer exist. Yet would falling into the Boundary truly be preferable?

COMBATSYS: Terumi can no longer fight.

[                        \\\\\\  <
Duke             1/=======/=======|

COMBATSYS: Duke fails to interrupt #Roar of the Mad King# from Terumi with Minefield EX.

COMBATSYS: Duke can no longer fight.

Duke's defiance continues to endure.

Snarling, he struggles to stand. There is no success, as the full weight of the god fills around him. Duke feels like a trapped beast, his leg trapped. But it only drives him to ever more suicidal aggression. Tossed into the sky, or rather, what would pass as the sky, the feeble remains of his leg clings together. Rotating in the air, his mind, his self, feels scattered across the void. That great green energy begins to burn like thousands of suns.

And he senses his demise.

That obliterating, consuming energy nearly killed him last time. This time? There was no escape. Only resistance. The very demiplane collapses in the full strength. ANd Duke, staring down the blade, does not look away. In a final surge, he forces out his chest. The last light of chi boils over him the last light of his endless font of human power. His chi detonates, exploding out around him in a incredible flash fire, just as the sword tears across his form. Duke gives a roaring bellow as his squeezes out the last of his strength.

And it is consumed in the black hole of destruction.

All there is a singular jerk, a whiplash, as his very body snaps in half. The withering blade spreads, starting from the center of the wound. The contagion comes all too quickly, as the geometric obliteration takes direct effect. There is no partial destruction this time, as total and complete destruction roars to the physical and spiritual. The remains are devoured by the green, as for a moment, Duke's yellow eyes are wide. In terror? In shock? Or simply the last reactions of a nervous system severed beyond possibility.

And there is nothing.

Not even a sound, not even a scream. Not even a whimper as Duke Burkoff is no more. Well, not entirely nothing. Memories will endure long enough, before being forgotten. Not enough nothing, for certain. But when there is no more flesh, the very spiritual essence of Duke faded. There is death. And then there is nothing. There aren't even scraps of bandages, scraps of flesh. Not quite nothing. All that's left is a single fragment of bone. Severed and snapped from the top of the skull, wet with matted hair and blood, it was glowing alight for only a moment, before whispering out as it tumbles into the infinite depth of the boundary.

Silence fills the void, as Duke is no more.

Eternity, stretched to a split second. Endless silver mist glowing in a strange void. The only reason Duke will know of it is the sudden ability to reflect; something has disturbed nothingness. A single speck of blackness, a spot far away. Memories reel and flicker, vanishing like dreams. Things that happened, things that never happened, things that could have happened. The span of time which vanishes in each instant impossible to calculate, and almost entirely forgotten. Few psyches could endure it for long, and by the rules of the Boundary, this is brief indeed...

The blackness becomes a hand. Stretching out in all directions, an eclipse of malicious darkness. It cuts off the resurgent memories and phantom lives, until Duke's essence and mind sits alone, as a crimson rictus grin stretches out and a single great green eye manifests. The scope of it defies measure; is it infinitely big, or has the universe become so small that it seems greater than it is?


A sense of motion. Gradually, feeling appears in limbs. The mind reforms and can properly think and retain thought. Pain, horrible burning pain. The sound is like a great shrieking storm, before gravity takes hold.

Duke's naked body, intact, would crash upon a stone grill beside a large observatory over the great cauldron. Within it, that endless silver shining mist where presumably Duke had existed in some form, amidst the possibilities of the borderlands. Terumi had imprinted Duke's mind and soul into the Boundary, although it took some time to excavate and draw it forth once more...

Luckily, in time, Duke will remember clearly the descent of the final annihilating blade, and little else until now. Only a terrifying void of his memory, one that risks madness if dwelled on too long.

"See...? This is what I was TALKING about!" Terumi nearly coos, standing nearby. He looks the same as always, within that yellow hooded cloak with both hands stuffed into his pockets. "Making the 'possible' into 'reality'... isn't THAT what a true God is? It seems Hell has rejected you once more..."

The green-haired figure leans forward, grinning slightly. "There's a lot less fire in it than most people think, isn't there? Being 'dead' is not hard. But 'life'... that is a /terrible/ curse, isn't it?!"

Duke opens his eyes.

He feels... he feels a swirling heat around him. There is no self. No being. Drowning in the boundary, there is no exception mind or calculation. Only a kind of death, a kind of cessation of existence. Death. So close to death. And so quick too. Duke's own perceptions were dim, the sea of information pulling away. Existence was painful beyond any words; it was impossible to describe. Like you -shouldn't- be, that your very presence was an abomination. His... his eyes hurt.

And Duke realizes he could not see.

What was left of his eyes were pouring down his cheeks, the ocular fluid hissing as it bubbles on his skin. Not too long. Duke could not see for now; even as his mind filters away the infinite potential. The holes in his mind was consuming; it was more than simply the moments of annihilation before. Duke felt... whole pieces gone. Who he was. Duke? King? Prince? A thousand titles surge at his mind, a throbbing stab into his mind. And the voice, the voice piercing his ears.

There was only one voice.

Large pieces was carved out, but he remembered Terumi. And there, he remembered Hazama. And there, he remembered... the knife in his eye. Dahlia. The fight at the bathhouse. His war. All the pieces come together, into a hole, as Duke feels more and more in alignment with the reality. Death. The man that hell spat out. Duke Burkoff. His memories of this timeline, this existence floods him.

And he realizes that the obstacle is still in his way.

The crime boss reaches out, trying to muster his strength at the sound of the voice. At the being, at the.... what blinded him? Despite it all, despite everything, Duke was trying to force himself into another fight. Why? Why the endless fighting? Duke clumsily falls off the steel grill, landing on all fours. Palming around blindly, he barely can keep himself. And as the weakness envelopes him, the gifted strength is all but gone... that is the only thing that makes him pause. He breathes hard, helpless.

"... Why?" He finally asks.

"What is the point of all this?" He groans, a somber darkness overtaking him. "Why am I shown all this? Why is this happening to me? Do you just wish to break me? To bring me down on my knees?" Duke remains on all fours. Finally, forced into a bow. Finally, brought humble. His eyes were regenerating so slowly; it could be too long before he could even see again. But his mind, a constant throbbing flickers of the hottest flames inside his own mind. Tightening his hands into fists on the ground, he pounds a fist.

"What does any of this have to do with me?"

"...Why?" Terumi responds, as if giving it some thought himself. Tone genuinely sharing some curiosity, twisting about to lean against the metal railing and peer into the Boundary through the large cauldron himself. Deep underground, it still pulses and thrums like a thing alive. "No reason in particular. That's what I'd like to say. But maybe it's fate...? You, being captured. You, drawing Hazama's attention with your immortality. Knocking off his hat, and allowing me out...! Hahaha. What're the odds?! But in a realm of infinite, even infinite to one chances happen infinite times!!"

Shoulders roll in a lazy fashion. "Because I was interested in recruiting you... hahaha!! I thought you would be more reasonable. But you just had to take OFFENSE at everything...!! When I was merely trying to say..."

Terumi's arms spread wide, green sigils erupting as intricate magical calculations start to manifest and apply themselves. "Was I can give you something nobody else can..." He's been inside Duke's head. Touched the essence of his memories and soul. Not enough to truly understand, but... enough to know some things he likely wishes none other to.

Wispy energy begins to whirl up and coalesce above the cauldron. "How's your peepers coming along...?" It begins to mesh together, gradually gaining mass, assuming a humanoid appearance. "What I did to you..."

When his vision comes back, seeing the strange mixture of archaic and steel that is the human-made housing about the cauldron, a familiar girl is hovering over the maw in reality. Marian; she seems as she was the last time Duke saw her, only full of life. She's still transparent and blurry, but her eyes slowly open.

Confusion, turning to something near horror at realizing her state, eyes dropping to her fingers. Then she begins to look around wildly. Eyes draw across Terumi, retreating from him, before settling on Duke...

And the light of familiarity blooms within them. "There is only one 'world'. One reality. Inside the Boundary exists everything that 'could be'. The people who could use it to grant someone's wishes I can count on one hand...!!"


Duke's vision returns so slowly, as the ultimate word is given. Merely another job. First light and darkness. Then shapes. Then colors. It is a slow process, but both he and Terumi had an eternity. All the while, Duke is silent, stewing and boiling in his helpless anger. And then, the anger goes it's hottest as the shapes finally become her. The vision, the way she acts. The rage, the endless suddenly flickers out, as if a cold wind blew it. And Duke's words are almost too gentle for the crippled crime boss.


Duke smashes his fists on the ground. There is no anger now, only pain. Resistance. "No. It can't be! It can never be!" Duke cries in anguish, gritting his teeth with his fresh eyes averted from her. And it runs in his blood. He wanted to say it. He wanted to lash back at the very thing that was originally offered at the beginning. He remembered. He remembered why it turned it down. And yet, the words escape him. He can't muster it, because all before him, he can't justify it. The answer is hollow. And Terumi proved. Because you can't bring someone back from the dead.

And yet, he demonstratively had.

The absurdity of such a statement does not elude Duke. But his mind struggles to rationalize. It was all an illusion. The crime boss, helpless, naked, and exposed, is confronted with his innermost desire. That his entire effort, that his entire sacrifice wasn't in vain. That it wasn't a mistake. That it wasn't a reckless act that left him unable to protect the one his loved. That he could just reach out, and pick her up again, and let her ride on his shoulders. To make horse sounds, while she cried out 'yee haw' just like her Lightning Spangles show. It was what he wanted.

And Duke knew what sort of bargaining that meant.

"Bastard." Duke rumbles at Terumi, sharing his gaze with Marian at the figure. "You and your kind are bastards. I've been offered this before! And I know how deep the knife was driven into me. I know what you are. God! Man! It's all the same, the devilish bargains and promises of power!" Duke struggles to rise, but cannot. He looks back at Marian. He knows a Faust when he sees it. And yet... this was the only opportunity he had. And he knew that harder, than anything else within him. It is almost a defeated , domesticated growl, as Duke looks at his dead sister. He says the same words that he said to Geese, so many years ago, that transformed him to the unstoppable force he is today.

"What must I do?"

"Do not get me wrong. The dead are dead. You, for instance; you are not the man I slew in that temporary little bubble in the Boundary. You are merely a copy. Does that mean you have no soul? Did it get pulled from heaven and put within you? What of all those countless, infinite copies unknowingly living out full, happy lives in what seems an eyeblink?! Is every one of those lives damned to the oblivion of waking dreams, because they don't stand on the soil of this world?! Hahaha!! Ask yourself this. If I give you your sister, and you would never know she was not the one you knew and loved, who cares? Does your happiness require philosophical semantics?!"

A slow twist of the head follows, then a pop. "This is all I can do, for now. A shadow. Making her real and drawing her into this world... well, let's just say that's never been in my divine suite of abilities. But... is it possible? Yes...!! There already lives a 'dead girl' drawn from another world. A damn little parasite that the mightiest mage nearly damned existance to save! You merely need three things."

Terumi holds up a finger. "A vessel. This is the easiest. I happen to know an indisputed expert of crafting such things. Two... power. This is what I lack. My connection to this shitty plane is still tenuous. The shitty vampire's countermeasures continue to deflate me. I may have an eternity, but opportunity doesn't wait that long...!! That's what I need from you. I need the 'power of another god'. And there just so happens to be an opportunity for this in this world...!!"

Almost absently, Terumi holds up his third finger. "The last...? Someone with a deep link of heart, body, mind and soul to the person being brought back... hahah...! You already have that. Or the phantom of your sister wouldn't be before us right now. It was surprisingly easy..." The spell falls apart, and slowly Marian fades away, dissipating to nothing over a few seconds.

"Help me aquire the 'power' I need, and I'll give you her back. This is a temporary alliance of mutual benefit. I never lie...!! But you'll also be fighting an immortal being, too. Still, fire against fire, as they say..."

The offering is made.

The three elements, and Duke already provides one of them. As for the other two.... the power of another god, and a vessel? Not exactly easy, but Duke has encountered one god. If all he needs is another for Marian... it would nearly be impossible. And yet, Duke was already demonstrating the nearly impossible

"I will do it."

Duke does not hesitate, as he watches the phantom fade away. The opportunity was there. It could be lies, it could be illusions, it could be betrayal. But Duke had endured all these years under the assumption that Marian was gone forever. Now? Now there was a chance. It did not matter how many people would die. How many people would be destroyed. How much Duke would have to sacrifice. He would get her back.

And there was hell to pay.

"... The shitty vampire." Duke rumbles, struggling to stand. He only just barely musters it, the weakness of his new life, his stolen life, his borrowed life fading away. "Is this the god?" Duke scowls at Terumi, his general character and disposition returning with the heightening resolve.

"Or am I find my own gods?"

There's a sudden look of anger flashing through Terumi's face, his teeth gritting tight and entire form seeming to shimmer. "Her... a God...?! She wishes!! She's nothing but an arrogant piece of garbage who parades around with her gifted divine tool!! But she... she can't interfere too much. I'm not restricted in the slightest. Let her watch from the sidelines. If she descends to the battlefield, I'll already win!!" A slow exhale follows as the spirit centers himself, glancing around the boundary's entrance. Lingering too long near it is dangerous, especially with Duke weak, but unless one leaps within or directly funnels the power within themselves, it's not immediately fatal.

"I'll supply you with the vessel. As for a God...? We have one on the loose, as a matter of fact...! History has them written as the 'Taishokan'. They are one of the divine trinity of the spiritual plane. It is in pieces right now... one piece is hidden, one piece is seeking it, the last is locked away. It's a simple solution... if the world devourer reassembles, I can siphon off the power needed for your little gift..." And what might Terumi do with the rest of it? Well, that likely matters little to Duke, doesn't it?

"I spent a long time searching, and it seems one of the pieces is hidden within Southtown. Far above, another piece of the God is constantly seeking. But there is a cult that works for the divine fragment; one of excess and decadence. Me and my vessel cannot infiltrate it. We'd be sniffed out a hundred miles away. But... a compatible soul like you...? Hahaha!! Your 'Dahlia' can help if you wish. Just let her know..."

His golden eyes narrow, tongue drawing across his lips. "If the Taishokan assembles, society itself will be upheaved. See if that interests her, hrrm...?!"


Duke's rumble comes dismissively. If it isn't even a full god, then it was beneath Duke. It wouldn't be hard for Nagase to find what he needed. He would leave here, he would begin his war, and after Dahlia is crushed, he would deal with this so called god. He barely even registers how the 'shitty vampire' could get in his way.

But Terumi describes how Dahlia can help him.

Duke can already feel his anger building. His intentions on working with her was less than zero before. Now, with Terumi describing her as part of the conspiracy? Well, that hardly mattered. Social upheval, power brokering. All Duke wanted was what he wanted, and anything in his way would be crushed. "Oh. I will find a way of making Dahlia help." Duke rumbles. The crime boss was impulsive; his first plan would hardly work. But he would get what wanted. For now, Duke crosses his arms, his strength becoming bold enough for such things.

"Are we done here, then?" Duke demands, standing naked before the god.

Honestly, Terumi could care less what course of action Duke chooses. Placing two volatile people near each other will be entertaining whether they turn on each other or not, and if there's one thing the manipulative spirit is adept at, it's ruffling feathers. And more importantly, he's fully aware of another important factor... the amount of hate and resentment he's likely built up within the immortal man. Making a dog choose to heel instead of forcing it burgeons much greater resentment, although bringing out Susano'o was not a meaningless escalation; countless wards and spells were analyzing such within the interrogation room, and it should be of use to Relius in helping to counter Rachel's attempts to prevent him from using his full power...

"I suppose we are. Well, then... fetch!!" A grandiose gesture follows, before a black hole opens beneath Duke. Chains boil up to wrap around him and draw him into a void, before he would be dumped over Southtown. Some dozens of meters high in a random place; his teleportation is slow and inaccurate, nothing like the instant and flawless powers of Nine, but he's sure that Duke will survive a brief tour of terminal velocity.

"Well then... vampire..." Terumi murmurs, drawing out a small artifact and holding it up. It lightly glows, infused with some power. "I'll make you regret trying to shackle *me*...!!"


Duke's question is quickly answered, as suddenly, is he is bound in chains. "What is this?!" He snarls, pulling at the chains. But even at his full strength, he might have just barely ripped free. In this state? He is bound. Duke bellows a moment, but the gesture is hollow. That, unfortunately, is left for Duke to understand. As he is pulled through the hole, he reaches out futile.

And he is brought back to Southtown.

The circumstances are random, there are literally an infinite number of outcomes he could drop from. It is the wheels of fate that once again, a figure falls from outside Geese Tower; smashing through a single car (For people who are curious, Geese Tower is one of the few places in Southtown where you can get free parking.) It is undignified. It is awfully fatal, even for Duke, though fatal is a temporary situation. All that is known is that Duke Burkoff, having disappeared, would make his reappearance in the asphalt crater outside of Geese Tower once again.

And rumors would travel like the wind.

Log created on 15:14:24 05/03/2018 by Duke, and last modified on 12:43:21 07/01/2018.