The Bell Tolls - TBT Act 0 - Stormfall

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Description: Zach Glenn has gone through a lot. With the situation in Southtown rapidly spiraling out of control, The Dahlia of the Akatsuki-gumi decides to surprise the former marine with a cruise to beautiful Cabo San Lucas. While Zach may believe the pleasure trip to be a chance for some R&R with Honoka, the man heads for a collision course with heartbreak as Honoka's true intentions come to light...

The text from Honoka was brief and to the point.

"Hey, Zach <3 Synd situation too hot. Pack ur bags! Got 2 tickets to Cabo San Lucas. Pier 47 in Yokohama. 8:30 pm sharp. Dont b late. Radio silence till then."

A bit demanding, but nothing unusual from the shadowy matriarch of the Akatsuki-gumi. And true to the message, any replies would bounce against a "This phone has been disconnected" error message.

Looks like Zach's only recourse is to show up at the given time and place.

Pier 47 was what she said. And Pier 47 currently has no boat. It sits next to a well-kept warehouse that seems to be kept clean and up-to-date, but there's a chain link fence running all around the property, and the electronic gates are all locked. Said warehouse would seem to be the only tenant attached to the dock, so... it would be a complete mystery as to -why- Honoka would have picked such an obscure and out of the way location.

It's not 8:30 pm yet though. So maybe there'll be a change in the situation soon.

Zach blinked at his phone when he gets the message. Even the usual "Got it" reply that he sends to let her know he's seen the message bounced. Odd, but not terribly so. Zach considered that for a moment. A Pacific Ocean cruise would be fun, but it'd get in the way of things. It *also* felt a lot like running. Not that he'd get a chance to bring that up until he met up with Honoka, anyway.

Zach shows up at 8:15, a single duffle slung over one shoulder. He's wearing comfortable clothes meant for ocean travel. He's not carrying any knives on him, no guns. There's a single blade inside the duffle, but he never goes anywhere without a knife. The fact that there is no boat sets the psion on edge a little; ships are not at all like cars. They are in port *well* before boarding time because docking and securing vessels takes a minute.

Maybe this is a meet-up point to go somewhere else? Sure. That makes sense, on the off chance someone clued onto how the couple had been communicating lately.

Nothing for it but to find out, Zach supposes. He finds a quiet place, with some shadows to hide in, and waits.

At 8:29, Zach will likely be able to hear the high-pitched whine of dual outboard motors come into listening range. He will undoubtedly recognize a familiar silhouette at the prow of the boat -- Honoka Kawamoto. Resting her weight on her right calf, she's seated to allow her left leg to stretch out comfortably. Her shoulder-length hair and bright purple jacket flutter wildly in the breeze.

Over the course of the next thirty seconds, the two-engined boat will pull up to the pier, engines cutting back as the driver maneuvers the boat to rest parallel with the pier. The v-hull looks sturdy enough to survive small forays into the ocean, though it undoubtedly wouldn't be comfortable for the trans-Pacific voyage Honoka spoke of.

Honoka leans over, helping the lone crewmember throw the ropes up to the dock. She's had practice -- perhaps even more than the driver -- for she's able to lasso the cleats on the side of the pier, securing the boat in record time without even rising from her seated position.

"Hey, perfect timing!" she calls up, as the crewman prepares to raise a rope ladder up to pier level. "We gotta dock with a bigger ship, but they're already partly underway -- figured this would be the most discreet way over."

It's been a long time since Honoka's smile has been this radiant. One hand sifts through her forelocks, sifting the wind-tossed locks into some semblance of presentability.

"Sorry for the short notice -- Juggling a lot of things lately." Her grin grows a bit more quirky. "Figure of speech."

Zach tilts his head to one side, looking, well, a bit confused. Considering that the two of them are about to flee into the night, Honoka is... happy? Maybe she's happy to be out from under all of this? It's hard to say, but there is something at the back of his head screaming at him.

Instead of heeding that small voice, Zach ignores the ladder completely, hopping from the pier to the boat with a light landing. "All right," Zach says, cheer in his voice, "Let's get going, then."

Honoka isn't allowed to be happy? If she has any reservations about Zach's confusion, it's apparent in neither her demeanor nor her emotional state. The young acrobat is a world-renowned performer, after all, and she's quite deft at exuding cheerfulness whenever she wants to. And, just prior to a vacation getaway, why wouldn't she be cheerful?

She grips hold of the nearest cleat whenever she sees Zach preparing to jump. And his landing is... much lighter and much less turbulent than she expected! Of course, the psion also has a faint idea of -why-, from the residual rippling of psychic energy emanating from her boyfriend's landing. "Cheater..." she comments, swiveling herself back to face him with a playful smirk.

As the crewman -- clearly Akatsuki-affiliated personnel -- silently begins to take down the ladder, Honoka slips her feet down to deck, and rises. She, too, 'cheats' in circumventing the difficulties in her left leg -- which is why she never really pushes the earlier jibe any further. But, in contrast to her last time, she graciously leans forward, wrapping her arms about Zach's waist, pulling herself tightly against him. Even though their last encounter proved that her lower face was not what it seemed, Zach would be forgiven for thinking otherwise -- even up close, it appears to hold a similar texture. She stands on tiptoes, craning up to give Zach a quick peck on the cheek.

"It's probably nice having Alfred around to check up on things for you," she comments, her loosened touch upon Zach's waist enough to guide him towards the seat.

"How's Takehiro going, anyway? Haven't heard about him for a while..."

As soon as they're secured, the boat would start up, puttering along as it heads out into Yokohama Bay. Even at this late hour there are any number of ships they -could- be heading to; the sea lanes are far from empty, as many shipmasters prefer getting underway after the blazing sun has set.

Zach leans into the grab, partly to help support Honoka's weight and partly because he likes the contact. "Alfred's been handy," Zach says as he walks toward the seat. He takes a deep breath, getting a lungful of the ocean air. He glances back at the port one last time before leaning back in the chair.

"Takehiro's out on a learning trip," Zach says. "He makes all the gear for my team, and sometimes he goes on a ramble to learn new techniques and technology." He chuckles, "It's usually best to let him show off what he's picked up when he returns." Zach pulls his phone out of his pocket, thumbs the screen a couple of times, then stows the item again.

"So," he says, "How long until we board the ship?" he asks.

The boat would travel for a few kilometers, until a rather stately looking cruiseliner comes into view. If one were to go on an ocean cruise? This is the ship they would want to take. Even under the moonlight, the golden trim shimmers brightly under the starry sky, while an ornate figurehead of a nude woman holding an apple as a serpent wraps around her rests upon the prow of the ship.

As the boat finally nears the two faint lines appear upon the hull, opening to reveal a recessed dock for the passengers to quickly disembark from the boat. It's a crucially timed event, and the ocean liner's crew apparently have a lot of practice with things like this.

"Miss Kawamoto! Mister Glenn!"

A rather portly man in a blue sailor's uniform quickly rushes towards the two, quickly slumping over as he is obviously out of breath.

"I.. I'm so glad the two of you were able to make it.."

The portly man in blue quickly rises up and offers his hands to the two newly arriving passengers, obviously quite delighed now that they can finally make way to their final destination.

"Miss, Sir, I am to show you to your quarters, and then, when you have settled in, I am to take the two of you to the Captain's Lounge as he is very excited to finally have you two on board. We were starting to run a fair amount behind schedule you know!"

"Long enough," was the start of Honoka's answer, presented with a coquettish smile. The rest of the answer was of a considerably different nature. It's probably a good thing the Akatsuki crewman is fully acclimated to keeping his eyes forward and minding his own business.

Suffice to say, the sprawling oceanliner looms before the couple before either of them fully realized it was their new destination. It would be easy to dismiss the freighters and barges as background noise -- but as Honoka turns her widening eyes towards the ship, it becomes clear that she's at least passingly familiar with the vessel.

She stares at the cruise liner breathlessly for a moment. Nodding approvingly -- as pictures did -not- do this sight justice -- she understates, "That's our ride."

As the boat is moored, the acrobat keeps her arm firmly cinched about Zach's waist. Not until the Akatsuki crewman secures the boat does she even seem inclined to budge from her spot -- and even then, she's careful to keep close to the white-haired monster hunter.

Her nose wrinkles at the portly man in blue. Her eyes narrow onto his face as he stutters, and her eyes start to grow glassy -- But almost as immediately, she turns her eyes away from the welcomer, skin turning pale. And in the next moment, she tightens her grip against Zach, unwilling to let him go -- the subtle signs of her discomfort soon displaced by waves of good cheer at the prospect of a long vacation.

The portly man continues. And Honoka latches onto his words. "... -Behind- schedule?" she answers, mostly managing to conceal her frustration. Her eyebrows cant to either side. "... Th-this is a vacation, we're allowed to live a little, right?" Her lightly painted lips curl into a smirk as she squeezes Zach lightly. "Well, lead the way!"

Zach would notice a trace amount of unease in Honoka as the pair walks through the corridors of the ship. But this, in itself, is not terribly unusual for the paranoid puppeteer -- especially as her crewman is the only Akatsuki staffer visible. And the only one with Honoka's psychic signature upon him. So those jitters... are perfectly reasonable. Perfectly.

Zach stares at the ship for a moment, and then they are aboard. Zach notes the body language Honoka is giving off. The nervousness he probably would not have noticed had he not known her so intimately. He watches the sailor for a moment, listens to the ramble.

The comments about scheduling and being escorted to quarters are not all that surprising to him; this seems like the normal course of things. The item Zach latches on to?

The fact that the couple is being taken to meet the Captain.

It's significant in Zach's mind; ship's captains are pretty busy people. Lots of tasks and equipment and people fall under the responsibility of one person, and most people who rise to that position take such matters seriously. Why would the Captain want time taken specifically to meet the two of them. Zach's not keying up to flight-or-fight just yet, but he *is* somewhere between suspicious and curious.

Especially in the face of Honoka's seemingly increasing discomfort.

It's tough to walk with an arm about someone else's waist. Doubly so when one is recovering from the utter destruction of her left femur. Which is why coils her left arm around Zach's right as the pair is escorted to their room -- for both comfort and her own stability. It'd be embarassing if she happened to fall while in view of the Yokohama shoreline, after all.

One thing becomes clear to her though -- that the most concerning point of the exchange seemed to have been the sailor's mention of the Captain.

Honoka rests one hand on the duffel bag suspended from her right shoulder. In contrast to Zach's growing sense of alarm, she seems more intent than ever to focus on the here and now. "This is one of the nicest cruise liners I've been on. A lot of times the hallways are super narrow, but there's plenty of room for us here!"

As she passes various rooms, she becomes aware of the other people aboard. Their enthusiam is muted; unlike guests like Zach and Honoka, the uniformed folks are just meandering through the rote rhythms of day-to-day work. For them, it's not a vacation. And while Zach might normally be able to sense the workers individually, he might have a smidge more trouble picking out individual people. But that, too, is a perfectly understandable side effect of Honoka's passive psychic aura. Perfectly.

Honoka remains quiet for a moment, an expression of mute puzzlement on her face as she walks. And then, all of a sudden, she blurts out, "Oh, I get it. You're not used to this part. On a big ship like this the crew ends up shouldering a lot of the work, so the Captain has more time to meet and greet people. Especially the VIPs like us...!"

As Honoka's grip on Zach's arm tightens, not only will he have the pattern of her bunched-up sleeve pressing into his arm, but he might also notice the performer's clammy skin.

"Besides, we'll have time to unwind in the room for a bit, hmm?" She flashes a beguiling smile up to Zach, her right hand sweeping up to brush the bangs out of her eyes. "It's our -vacation-, right? Just you... and me."

And when her hand falls back down, it will snake into her pocket. And the telltale sound of a tense yo-yo spring unwinding will follow a moment afterward.

Zach listens some more, as the concern starts to rise. He looks around, and Honoka can all but hear Zach's plotting out potential escape routes. He stops a little short as Honoka leans on him a bit more. -- Not now... -- Zach mutters to himself. It'd sound like a mutter to Honoka. There are other signs that the performer would pick up on. Zach's been through a lot, between the events of Metro City, Mortal Kombat, and that whole mess surrounding the King of Fighters tournament. It's left him with some mental scars.

The resulting surges of irrational panic don't happen often, but they *do* happen. Sometimes they happen over nothing. Zach powers through them the best that he can to keep them out of his bearing and appearance, but Honoka knows the psion too well not to be able to notice them. -- Not *now...* -- The adventurer takes a deep breath, trying to center himself. Instead of reaching out mentally, he closes himself off as best he can. Not to keep others out, so much as to keep himself in. He focuses on things he can see, smell, touch.

It's during that calming routine that he feels the pressure and the tactile sensation of clammy skin. That he hears the yo-yo. Honoka's nervous as well. He glances down at the woman, then he makes a decision.

"If it's alright by you," the former Marine says, "Maybe we could put off the visit with the captain and show us to our cabin. It's already been a long day, and I could use some sleep."

Honoka doesn't like being out of control. And this situation is already headed there.

Her frustration would be evident in the rapid pace of the yo-yo. The string reverberates from undue tension. The 'tricks' are less intricate, less difficult, less adventurous. And what's more, Honoka's gaze is locked upon the trinket -- something the juggler rarely -ever- does except when learning a new trick.

The portly assistant's response is terse, clipped -- one can assume he's saying "okay". His path doesn't change -- he was leading them to their cabin anyway.

Honoka 'heard' Zach just as clearly as she heard his words. Her focus, for the moment, is on that yo-yo. And after about five seconds of that... the tension seems to have dissipated.

In a pleasant tone -- not quite 'cheerful' but close -- she says, "I'll be fine resting for just a few minutes." She hugs Zach's arm, looking up to him. "Maybe we could grab a bite from the galley? I don't think we should keep the captain waiting."

Zach thinks for a moment. The idea of rest sounds good; Honoka's walking around on a non-existant femur. Food /always/ sounds good to Zach. Then he smiles. It's a forced thing, one put on out of concern for others.

"Split the difference," he asks, "Call in for room service? I mean, the captain can find us when everything's good, and it's not like we can just bail, right?"

Honoka's lightly painted lips press together into a line. Zach would be able to tell that she was considering a counter-offer, but not much else regarding the content, or even the reason for such.

The yo-yo slips from her hand, arcing around in a half-circle before she recalls it to her palm.


She offers up a sunny smile.

And while she remains quiet for the rest of the trip to the cabin, the emotion she feels is simply 'a little bit better than okay.'

Or, if Zach remembers -- it's the kind of face she puts on when she's about to perform. Honoka's personal panacea to stage fright and anxiety.

The porter opens the door to the cabin, waiting politely outside until both step inside.

Honoka lets her duffel fall to the floor. And as the door latch is pulled short, she eases herself slowly to the bed. A world-weary sigh slowly wrests controlled from the performer's vapid smile, as her form slumps down -- like a rapidly-deflating tire.

"... I really need a vacation," she explains, with an apologetic quarter-smile.

"You and me both, I think," Zach says, a bit tiredly, his eyes darting a bit wildly back and forth, assessing, taking in information. Then he closes his eyes, and breathes a deep breath before releasing it. He lets his own duffle drop with a thud. He leans against the door, as if relying on it to keep him on his feet.

"...I'm sorry," he finally says. "I didn't want..." Another deep breath. He's holding on, but it's not an easy thing. "If this is a vacation... I don't want to ruin it for you with my own issues."

"Then let go."

Honoka looks up at Zach through her curtain of raven-black hair, tongue darting across her lips. "You're talking about the problems, and that's good, but for me, the trick to feeling better is to just shut my brain up and start thinking happy thoughts."

She pats the bed beside her, then raises her palm in a simple suggestion. "Listen, it takes me a while to unwind, too. Blame -that- guy for sayin' we're all behind schedule. We're here, we're together -- how could we possibly be late, mmm?"

The point of a cruise, is to rest and relax. Be pampered, have your nails done, get yer hair did. The whole nine yards. The staff are supposed to cater to almost of everyone of their passengers whims, and the Captain of a cruise liner is a lot more accessible then most people realize. He is the head of HR, chief of the complaint department.

He's pretty much the Captain for a reason.

So while Honoka and Zach are given their time to rest and relax, the ship continues on its merry way, crusing at a glorious 45 knots per hour. While this may seem fast, it's still a rather leisurly pace to travel from Japan all the way to the tip of Baja California. The couple may be resting, chillaxin', maxin' all cool, but...

A low hum fills the air as a definite shift in the air pressure around them suddenly occurs, mental pressure rising faster then Speedy Gonzales going after some cheese, to the point where for those who are untrained it would be completely impossible to stand. Screams from nearby cabins ring out, only to be silenced just as quickly.

The sheer magnitude of the Psycho energy is unmistakenable. Both Zach and Honoka will recognize it. Any psychic who can bend a blade of grass with their mind (or lungs, no one's going to criticize) would recognize it, and while in the back of their minds that little voice that warns them about anything they ever do. You know, the voice that's like your mom, but shriller and more aggrivating? The Woody Allen voice. Yeah, the one that's currently going "Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. I'm naucious..."

While that voice is doing its thing for those who realize it, a heavy handed thud bursts forth upon the door to Zach and Honoka's cabin, knocking thrice before falling silent. Only a few moments will pass before the door suddenly falls over, slamming heavily onto the ground of the Cabin as the knocker floats in the doorway, just a tad bit to large to fit through it.

Dressed in a white naval officer's dress uniform, the Lord of Shadaloo has come to pay a visit to Zach and Honoka, the Captain's hat resting between his left arm and his side. It's bad taste to wear a hat indoors, and it seems that Vega is nothing but the epitomy of manners at this time.

"It is quite rude to leave the Captain of the ship waiting, when he's extended an invitation... However, I understand. Things have been quite stressful lately, and we wouldn't want it to get anyworse, now would we?"

Zach sits down next to Honoka on the bed, and the time passes. Zach manages to relax just a bit. He's managed to get his panic under control for a time when he notices it. That wave of pressure.

Yeah. He felt that one. There is no mistaking that presence. He locks his eyes on Honoka, running through the options. They all suck diseased monkey wang. Zach cannot fight Vega; Zach left the vast majority of his arsenal (for all the good it would do here) at home. With the ship out on the ocean, he cannot run from Vega either. Zach does the only thing he can, and steps between the Dictator and the Acrobat for all the good it will do. Vega has them dead to rights, and everyone in the cabin knows it.

"I..." Zach croaks, panic surging through his mind before old patterns start to reassert themselves to force it back. His voice comes out a bit stronger now, still quiet but without the trembling. "I think we're a bit past that," he says.

Honoka has been with Zach long enough to know that there are some times words can only make the situation worse. As soon as Zach sits down next to her, she wraps her arm about him. He will be able to feel the rhythms of her ribcage, both from the intake of breath, and from the pacing of her heart. She rests her palm on his opposite shoulder, stroking gently and reassuringly across it in a gentle, tender hug.

And through it all, the calming, reassuring aura of her presence. For when she is calm, those around her cannot help but reflect the performer's mood as well.

Until. That. Changes.

The aura is pushed back by a more powerful presence. One that both Zach and Honoka know the signature of. One that by its very irresistable presence, ought to eliminate the need for worry.

And yet, flying in the face of logic, even to the two world-class psychic prodigies seated upon the bed, fear strikes home.

And Honoka bursts into tears, shaking her head as she stares back wordlessly at Zach. Salt streams etch darkened paths from her eyes, trickling down her true skin, dripping harmlessly across the chemical-induced flesh of her lower cheeks. As Zach stares back at her, she shakes her head. Her mouth parts -- but no voice can come out. And yet, the words mouthed are clear.

I'm sorry.

What voice would even be appropriate?

Nausea hits a fever pitch. And she releases her grip on Zach as he rises. For she knows, perhaps better than anyone else, how hard it can be to suppress Zach's true nature.

And in a way -- that is why they are here now.

The door falls over -- forcing even the prepared Honoka to jump from her spot on the bed. She looks down, at first -- as if Vega's appearance is as bright as the sun itself. She gathers both hands in her lap -- one hand curled tightly around the yo-yo, so tight her knuckles turn white.

And then she draws in her breath with a hitch.
And then she stands up, lowering her hands to either side.
She does not salute, but she does keep her chin lowered.

"No, Lord Vega. Please forgive us... Lord Vega."

Reading the Akatsuki mastermind's emotional state will prove incredibly difficult for Zach under the current circumstances.

~You didn't tell him?~

The words are blasted across both minds, invading and tearing at what they would consider their own personal reality. A snear crosses the Dictator's face, as he stares down at Honoka. His right hand reaches over to the hat between his left side and arm, and carefully places it upon his head. Once the hat is free, both hands extend outwards, as Psycho Power suddenly starts to surge forth from his body, saturating the area around them.

The very fabric of reality starts to shift as everything suddenly becomes washed over with every color of the spectrum, and even a few that are unable to be pinpointed. It's nasueating for sure (the Woody Allen voice is now in hyperdrive), but as soon as it starts, it's over.

Reality once more takes hold, as the cool air of the ocean gently blows over the deck of the ship, soldiers lining the railing, weapons raised at the trio as they suddenly appear in a flash of purple light.

Vega steps forward towards Zach and Honoka both, his boots thudding across the deck loudly like a herd of angry and jacked up elephants, looking to just stampede everything in site.

"You bring me a wonderful gift, and make me come for it? That's..very rude, Dhalia."

Zach throws a glance at Honoka, not entirely certain what to make of the tears or the reaction. When she stands and addresses Vega as 'Lord Vega' it all clicks. He does not even have a chance to react before reality rips sideways on him.

The disorientation, and the tilted mindset from the revelation, rob Zach of any resolve to act for a moment. And then they are on the deck, surrounded by men with guns. Zach drops to one knee for a moment, the inputs too much for him to handle for a moment. Zach's breaths come sharp and ragged. Power spills out of him and over him, gold at first. Will summoned for the fight that must be fought. But violet creeps into that gold as Zach's emotions, his rage and his grief, start to take hold of him. It may not be much compared to Vega's own wellspring of power, but it is not insignificant. A growl issues forth from Zach's throat that gives rise to a roar as his aura snaps tight around him, solid purple. Zach's hair shimmers from white to gold as he throws his hands back by his hips, Dyrnwyn ripping its way into reality in Zach's right hand.

He turns to point the sword at Hono-... no. At the =Dahlia's= chest. At the chest of the fucking =Empress=. "We're tabling that discussion for a minute," Zach intones, fury adding a strange reverberation to his voice. Zach's eyes seem to be literally burning with that violet energy running through him.

A quiet part of him, that rational piece of Zach that still has some voice, informs the former Marine that he'd fallen further into Vega's trap. That the Dictator would only gain in strength if Zach fought from a place of rage. The rest of Zach Glenn... simply did not care anymore. As far as he was concerned, he was already dead. Whether by Vega's hands, or the Empress', or even from the rifles wielded by the soldiers, Zach was going to die here and now.

He might as well make a big fucking mess of things while he's at it.

Zach form blurs, only to reappear behind Vega, that family heirloom flashing in the star light as it screams towards the back of Vega's neck. Psychic flame ripples across the blade on its approach!

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn has started a fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Zach Glenn       0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Vega has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Vega             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0       Zach Glenn

COMBATSYS: Vega blocks Zach Glenn's Sweeping Strike ES.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Vega             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0       Zach Glenn

COMBATSYS: Honoka has joined the fight here in the center.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Vega             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0       Zach Glenn
                 [ |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           0|-------|-======

Didn't tell him?
Honoka drops her chin, shaking her head.

~ I-- ~

Again -- as if Vega's eyes are too bright to face head-on, at least with a steady flow of tears streaming outward. Her hand clutches at her jacket, pulling it shut as if the room were growing very, very cold.

And then that nausea tears at her gut. Standing is tough enough already without the world shifting out from under her. Not even the balance of an acrobat can keep the injured Honoka from staggering sideways, both hands stretching out to reach for purchase. She finds it, just as the deck of the ship asserts itself into view -- her hand clasping tightly around the railing demarcating the boundary of the decktop pool.

She draws in her breath, squinting the tears from her eyes. And when she lifts them again...?

The sword is pointed at her.

But the Dictator asked her a question. Two, in fact -- even though the second was simply rhetorical.

She leans heavily against the railing, straightening herself. With a cough, she clears the dampness from her throat. "I have no excuse. Please forgive me, Lord Vega."

Zach surges into action. And Dahlia can -feel- the rage wafting off of Zach. Normally, this strength of emotion would be the most delicious ambrosia to her. But all she can feel now -- is self-loathing.

"I'm sorry, Zach...! I-- " The winds kick up, sending her loose locks of hair tumbling about. "-- I've thought about this a long time. And out of all... all the paths, this is the least painful. You have to trust me on this..."

Trust, she insists. The yo-yo shudders in her grip, the sound of metal beginning to groan. And yet, her attention lifts to the two men battling before her.

Who should this betrayer even be cheering for?

The blade strikes soundly against Vega's neck, yet while most people it would have been a fairly savage blow... To Vega, it's nothing more then a cat scratch. The lord of Shadaloo cranes his head, looking back over his shoulder at Zach. The Dictator's face twists into that of sadistic glee as he turns his body. It's obvious that even before Vega offered the easy way for Zach to survive, he wants to go for the hard way.

~I am not the one who is selling you out, Captain Glenn. I was going to offer you.. a rather peaceful solution.. but it seems you aren't in the frame of mind to accept.~

Vega's body slowly lifts from the ground, turning once more to face the former Marine. Psycho Power slowly starts to build, as the lord of Shadaloo expands both hands, flames of pure power springing to life within each hand. The power within Vega continues to surge, as the Dictator suddenly lurches forward towards Zach, his right hand snapping out to latch onto the body of the younger psion.

If that hand makes contact with Zach's face, the young man will feel the iron like grip linger for only a few moments, until immense waves of Psycho Power are force fed into Zach, lighting every nerve in the young man's body on fire. It'll continue for what seems like an eternity, until Vega will casually toss the young man away like a piece of garbage.

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn interrupts Psycho Charge from Vega with Shining Finger EX.

[       \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Vega             0/-------/---====|=====--\-------\0       Zach Glenn
                 [ |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           0|-------|-======

Zach refuses to listen to the Empress, to give her any heed. It's not that he no longer cares. Or that the words did not cut into him; the woman who called herself Honoka knew Zach too well. Glenn could never simply cut his heart out to the point where her words would not be heard, be felt, cause pain.

But Zach could not afford anything like a distraction. Vega reaches for Zach, and the former Marine surges toward Vega, driving a psycho-mailed sword fist into Vega's face before snatching out with his left hand. The glowing energy around his left hand surges and intensifies, forming into an armored gauntlet with spikes and claws before capturing the Dictator in a crushing grip.

"Shut up," Zach snarls, "And =die!= I'll deal with the lying =bitch= when I am done with you!"

The words strike her like hammer blows.

Sold. Out.

There is no doubt that Honoka is filled with trepidation over this, the very scene which her own actions put into motion. And in her worldview -- the -only- solution that allows her land, her very -people- to be spared devastation at the hands of the Dictator.

For she has walked the path of the Avatar of the Kamuy -- and understood it.

For she has sought the blessing of Kamuy Kanna himself -- and recieved it.

For she has peeked into mind of the very God of Destruction -- and earned his favor.

All she had to do... was make one choice. And forge her most trusted ally -- the man who stood beside her through thick and thin, through sound and fury -- into the very weapon the world needed him to be.

She was not strong enough, by herself. But with Vega...

But how could -he- be made to understand that? The shisam. The -gaijin-. The foreigner who could parrot the Ainu language well enough to earn audience with Nakoruru herself. But did he understand the meaning -within- the words?

The words strike her like hammer blows.

Lying bitch.

The yo-yo crumples beneath Honoka's iron grip. And purple flames spill out from her hand, across her wrist, rising into the air.

She steps away from the railing. No, that's not correct -- she floats -away- from the railing, her legs no longer touching the ground.

Her lips part. But the words will not be shared with the non-believers.

-- I saved you from -death-, Zach Glenn... I helped you grow as much as I -could-... --

Purple flames spill out not just from her hands -- but from her very -soul- as she hovers aloft. And her body begins to vibrate -- unable to contain all the power that is just fighting to burst its way free.

-- There's still time, Zach -- just -stand down-. --

COMBATSYS: Honoka enters a trance-like state.

[       \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Vega             0/-------/----===|=====--\-------\0       Zach Glenn
                 [  |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           1|-------|=======

The hat upon Vega's head suddenly flies off as the now gauntleted fist of Zach Glenn latches onto the Shadaloo Lord's face. This is the second time in recent memory that Vega is forced to feel something he normally doesn't register. The pain that courses across his face is enough flip his switch, so to speak. A slow gurgling sound comes from beneath the psycho gauntlet. At first, to the casual observer, it would sound like choking, but then it starts to take form.

"Heh.. heh heh heh hehehehahahahahahahaha!"

Psycho Power suddenly explodes violently from every pore upon Vega's body. While the younger scion may be latched on, pretty soon he's going to be going for one hell of a ride and he better buckle the fuck up.

Irregardless of wether Zach holds on for dear life, or gets the hell out of the way, Vega starts to float into the air, only to start spinning wildly. No matter where Zach goes, no matter how far he runs, Vega is going to seek to envelop him within the violent tornado of Psycho Power that he is now unleashing upon the deck of the cruise ship.


COMBATSYS: Vega successfully hits Zach Glenn with Psycho Crusher Omega.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Vega             0/-------/--=====|=======\===----\1       Zach Glenn
                 [  |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           1|-------|=======

It is entirely possible Zach is not firing on all cylinders. Dropping the hold and hitting the deck would be the most sensible thing to do right now. The Empress decides to throw in on Vega's side for true, which suits Zach just fine. There was going to be no reconciliation after this.

Zach hangs on. He roars in both fury and pain as Vega's energy tears into him, even through the crushing impact of Vega's strike. And still he hangs on, before bouncing across the deck with thunderous impact before launching skyward on a jump assisted by his own talents.

Zach had learned lessons during his trials and tribulations, revelations as to the nature of power that the three fighters on the deck shared mastery of. He'd use one now, even though the Empress was more than aware of Zach possessing this capability.

"SHUT." Zach seethes, as energy ripples around him. "THE." All of that rampant and loose psychic energy wavers and strains for a moment. "FUCK." There is, to the three psychics, an almost audible thrum in the air as all of that loose energy is molded and forged into a seemingly infinite number of blades. "UP!"

Every single one of them resembles the claymore in Zach's hand, hanging in the air. They orient not only on Vega, but the Dahlia as well, along with all of the troops. He does not care that one is the pinnacle of psychic might and the other one seemingly touched by the next best things to gods on this earth. He was ready, and willing, to die defying every last mother fucker on this ship regardless of what it might cost him.

Zach sweeps the physical claymore forward, and the summoned blades leap into flight, slahsing towards anyone who was not him with thunderous impact!

COMBATSYS: Honoka endures Zach Glenn's Storm of Blades ES.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Vega             0/-------/--=====|=======\-------\1       Zach Glenn
                 [          |||||||||||||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           1|---====|=======

Normally, there's a cap to how much power Honoka wants to unleash. But that's when the only aura she has to contend with is -hers-. Now? Here? With Lord Vega and his merry riflemen as the audience? The rancor is at an all-time high. Every nerve, every synapse is alive with raw, unchecked emotion.

Honoka would be just fine with settling down deck. But she can't tear her eyes away from the spectacle.

No -- she has to bear witness to the systematic deconstruction of the man she risked her life -- risked the -world- for. She cannot stop.

And Vega unleashes his -true- power.

The waves of Psycho Power ripple past her, tossing her hair, flapping her jacket. Her own fuschia flames blasted backwards by the sheer onslaught of Vega's superior will.

It is a challenge. And she has never dealt with this much raw... -power- before.

"STOP IT--!" she howls, unable to contain herself -- even as Vega and Zach thunder past. And Zach -- rather than bouncing across the deck -- rather than just yielding to the superior force... leaps into the sky.

Honoka looks skyward. And the air throbs, swells with his might. The summoned blades rip outward, in blatant defiance of physics. Her fuschia flames flare up.

And the blades slash across her, carving lines through her jacket, through her camisole top, across her jeans -- and through the cast.

"AAAAAAAAAIIEEH!!" howls Honoka, doubling over forward. The rest of the wounds... the rest of her wounds she could have taken, she insists.

But blood is already pouring outward -- smearing across her hand, as she presses it against the wound.

She could stop this pain.
She could heal it clear through.
Because Zach taught her how.

"No. Just... no...!!!"

Her head lifts. She raises her hand. The rent, twisted yo-yo rises up, caught within the gravitational pull of her psychokinetic force -- hovering just before her palm. She cannot allow all this emotional energy to tear her to bits -- she has to put an end to this. Because it's not -Vega- who hurt her the most. It is not -Vega- who is twisting her heart into two.

It is Zach Glenn.


A column of refined soul energy erupts forward from her palm, spinning into a horizontal pillar of tumultuous, seething energy. It will seek to swallow Zach whole -- to engulf him in a tide of raw emotion. To still his heart -- in as merciful fashion as she can manage.

COMBATSYS: Vega dodges Zach Glenn's Storm of Blades ES.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Vega             0/-------/--=====|=======\-------\1       Zach Glenn
                 [          |||||||||||||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           0|-------|---====

As the summoned blades dive down towards Vega, the Lord of Shadaloo dashes into the air as the swords strike down upon where he once stood. A curious glance is given as he watches a good deal of his soldiers suddenly go down, some able to barely get back up to their feet, others.. well. They're only good now for chumming the waters. The gift from Honoka is truly impressive.

Vega truly wants to make Zach Glenn his now.

As Vega starts to once more channel his own Psycho Power to bend Zach Glenn into submission, he stops, a look of what some would call surprise crossing his face as Honoka seemingly snaps herself.


The Dictator watches now, curious as to just what exactly Honoka herself has in store for her now former lover. It seems that Honoka has brought two gifts for Lord Vega on this day...

COMBATSYS: Vega has no time for the weak and worthless.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Vega             0/-------/--=====|=======\-------\1       Zach Glenn
                 [          |||||||||||||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           0|-------|---====

COMBATSYS: Honoka successfully hits Zach Glenn with Nochiu-o Kando.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Vega             0/-------/--=====|=======\====---\1       Zach Glenn
                 [          |||||||||||||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           0|-------|---====

Zach is riding a lot of things right now. His rage is one; he and "Honoka" had been through a lot together, enough so that it was becoming almost impossible to keep track of it all. And she threw that away, threw =him= to the metaphorical wolves in the process. Fear was another: Zach knew, deep down in his gut, that he was not walking away from this fight. Even if he =could= defeat the Empress, and he was not even sure of that anymore, then Vega would still prove too much for one lone former Marine to handle. The maelstrom of psychic might was another, keeping him suspended in the air for a moment after the storm that he had cast in the teeth of those who would destroy him. There was one last thing that he was riding, one that the Empress probably would have been pleased to witness in any other situation:


Vega had escaped unscathed, but the rest of his opposition had not. The part of him trained for combat, for hunting things that would prey on humanity, took this all in. All the violence, carnage, and wreckage.

The soldiers were no concern; they were either all dead or wounded to the point of irrelevance. Vega was too strong, too fast, too versed in this kind of combat to fight right now. The Empress, however, was still missing much of her femur. And she had been pushing herself to maintain appearances throughout all of this. Zach knew from some experience what this was costing her. That she was, in this moment, vulnerable.

Those instincts made a decision. Zach acts on it immediately.

Psychic energy wells up under Zach's feet as he pulls himself into a crouch. Muscles tense, energy both physical and mental gather, and the monster hunter launches himself as if leaping from the ground at the Empress. Her attack comes screaming in, faster and stronger than anything she's ever thrown at him even in their most strenuous sparring sessions. Zach thrusts his left arm forward, a circular shield catching some of the blast squarely but not completely. Zach screams at this, equal parts pain and fury in it as he readies his ancestral blade for a massive overhead strike.

The beam clears Zach's body leaving shredded clothing and scorched skin in its wake, and blood on the deck. His left hand reaches back to join the right, taking the sword in a firm grip. Still more psychic flame engulfs the bladse as Zach brings the weapon in what he intends to be one final, brutal arc before crashing to the deck and sliding several feet past the woman that he had loved.

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn successfully hits Honoka with Dyrnwyn.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Vega             0/-------/--=====|-------\-------\0       Zach Glenn
                 [                  |||||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           0|-------|---====

Honoka had a lot of weight on her shoulders. Responsibilities to her village, responsibilities to her family, responsibilities to her culture. And she refused it -- all of it. For a normal teenager, rebellion was part and parcel with the territory.

Rebellion does not typically leave the parents dead.

Honoka destroyed the family ship that day, in one explosive manifestation of rage. Her mind mercifully squirreled that memory away, keeping it from her until she was emotionally capable of handling it.

And without Zach Glenn beside her on that day, who knows what depths of sadness she could have succumbed to?

But that was then -- and this is now. And while she may not realize it now -- this is a crucial juncture for Honoka. Under extreme stress, a jolt of adrenaline can hyper-accelerate the senses, making it seem as if time itself is yielding to the beck and call of human will. And with her palm extended -- torn, tattered jacket flailing along from her arms in the wind -- she feels as if that is happening on a much broader scale.

Vega, hovering up there, channeling Psycho Power of an order of magnitude stronger than her own. Impossible to ignore -- and yet, frozen in time, staring in awe not at Zach -- but at =her=.

Zach Glenn -- his shield buckling under the torrent of psychokinetic fury.

Why did he have to resist? He's walked the path with her for so long -- he's followed her guidance in almost every other form. Why is he -fighting- this?

Her beam expires -- the energy dissipating into nothingness with a careless motion from Dahlia's hand. The beam served its purpose -- taking some of the fire out of her once star-crossed-lover.

And yet again -- he unleashes it. The sword she once decried as the Ipetam -- the soul devourer. The single attack which she feared, and loathed, more than any attack Zach had ever brought to bear upon her. And he'd had the nerve to bring that out in a sparring match, of all things.

Her face -- filled with repentance just moments before, acknowledgement of falling into an all-too-familiar pattern -- contorts into rage.

If her leg were better, she would just kick herself sideways. But it's hurting far too much for that -- and even the suggestion of moving causes blood to bubble outward from the fissure on her leg cast.

She's not caught flat-footed. But floating ... that's a trick she hasn't been doing for long. Trapped, she looks up to the blade, eyes narrowed in rage. The psychic flame casts her skin in a bright golden radiance, as she turns her open hand, wreathed with light, towards the arcing blade.

"Son of a fuckin'..."

Honoka is struck down like a sapling, with a loud shriek. Mercifully, the psychic presence of the blade hits her more than anything else, hurling her to the deck in an axial spin. She hits the deck hard with a whump -- only afterwards showing Dyrnwyn's true terror -- a wound carved across her face, across her shoulder and upper arm, across her ribcage -- all of which glowing with the same golden radiance.

She pushes herself up from the deck -- unwilling to lift her face. Partly because half of it is pooled on the deck -- the psychokinetic substance torn from her flesh, lying in a congealed mass just before her as she pushes her shoulders and head vertical again. She stares at the flesh -- at the bloody palm. And her whole body alighting with flame.

Reason is the first casualty of panic.

And the only way to end panic is to stop the battle.

She raises her palm to Zach -- not willing or able to put herself any further into risk.

A nigh-invisible shockwave ripples out from her extended hand, screeching towards Zach. If it slams into him -- it will be a kinetic shock just powerful enough to slam him into the rail of the deck. Quick, merciful, and serving the purpose of getting the aggression as far away from the cowering Dahlia as possible.


COMBATSYS: Vega endures Honoka's Ishirishina.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Vega             0/-------/-======|-------\-------\0       Zach Glenn
                 [                  |||||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           0|-------|-======

The mantra from Honoka would be endearing to the Lord of Shadaloo, if it were not for the fact that she is speaking from a place that isn't power. She's speaking from /the heart/. This is not something Vega truly understands. She betrayed her lover in the most damaging way of all, and yet and still she cares about his well being. Truly, it would be a touching moment if it weren't just so...


Reality itself bends to Vega's will, as he lifts his left hand upwards, waves of raw unfilitered Psycho Power leaking from his body into the very air around him. If one were to blink, they'd have missed the sudden flash of purple as the mighty dictator vanishes.

As the psionic energy that Honoka unleashes rushes towards Zach, the former Marine would be surprised, as with a purple burst of Psycho Power, a large white /wall/ appears infront of him. Vega is pushed back just ever so slightly, which is still a testiment to the very strength that both Honoka and Zach possess, which would please Vega immensely, if it weren't for the fact that this whole thing now disgusts him.


The word is projected like a Howitzer shell, causing a few of the remaining soldiers who were just barely on death's doorstep thanks to Zach's magical swords, to suddenly crumple to a heap, leaving only three 'mostly' healthly beings upon the deck of the ship.

The master of Psycho Power now steps towards Honoka, the disgust mixing with the sheer rage of the situation now resting upon his face. He would normally just /destroy/ any who dare to allow such an ugly display to unfold before him, yet, Honoka and Zach both still serve a purpose to the mighty Lord, and he is not one to allow useful tools to be broken so easily.

Unless he is the one doing the breaking that is.

Psycho Power once more starts to flood forth from Vega, this time causing what power he had been showing to the two younger psions, to be nothing in comparison to what he really is capable of.

COMBATSYS: Vega channels the might of Psycho Power!

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Vega             1/----===/=======|-------\-------\0       Zach Glenn
                 [                  |||||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           0|-------|-======

Zach braces up to attempt to block the shockwave when Vega... inexplicably intercedes. Energy still pours off of Glenn, flowing back and away from Vega's sheer force of will. The Empress is still on the deck, still battered. There is a need, an =urge= to get to her side and help her up. But she is the one that put him in this situation, handing him to one of his personal nightmares, for reasons he =still= does not understand.

Maybe it's like that story about the scorpion and the frog. She is stinging him because it is her nature to do so.

The rage has not died down in Zach; as far as he can tell, the Empress is only offering him the mercy of the grave. Surrender would be just as final as death, in Zach's mind. Vega is still standing, preparing to enact God only knows what upon his body and mind. But for all of that Zach has, somewhat, managed to cool his head just a little bit. Perhaps it's the injuries, slowly starting to heal as they are, or the sheer output of energy in the face of two superior opponents. Perhaps it is a realization and a reminder of what it is he needs to accomplish here. His aura shifts from that violent purple back to gold, though there are still streaks of that purple light flickering through it. Will, drawing strength from emotion. Zach's hair takes on similar qualities, the random streak of purple flow up through his mane to vanish out the tips.

Dyrnwyn screams, cracks forming along the blade. Golden flame erupts from the blade until it =shatters= in a million motes of light. Zach still grips the hilt, and in the place of the metal blade is one forged in the light and will of the souls of two psions that stood sentinel against the darkness, against those who would threaten the world. Zach's eyes go wide as he tries to understand what has transpired, and quickly decides that there may or may not be time for that later.

But first, he needs to ensure that there =is= a later.

"No," Zach rasps. "Not yet it isn't. I'm not done yet." And with that, Zach dashes towards Vega, sweeping the psionic blade once as he passes. His charge carries him past the larger man to the fallen form of the Empress. He skids to a halt, staring down at her for a long moment, tears finally starting to fall.

"I'm sorry," he says, then he brings the blade down on the woman's back in a two-handed swing. Perhaps they are both scorpions, in the end.

COMBATSYS: Honoka blocks Zach Glenn's #Claiomh Solias EX+#.

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Vega             1/----===/=======|-------\-------\0       Zach Glenn
                 [                     ||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           0|-------|=======

Vega seems to have an idea what Honoka's thinking, what she's feeling. Zach seems to have an idea of what is going on -- and he's too full of rage at the situation to be able to act against his primal urges. But, stuck within the crucible of emotion, the one person who doesn't seem to be in control is Honoka herself.

She notices, of course, when Vega's oddly-uniformed self melts out of view -- but she's unwilling and unable to alter the course of her shockwave of psychokinetic force. Flooded with raw emotion, and no real -plan- for all of it... all she can feel in response to the shockwave splashing out against Vega's superior force is sheer, unbridled anger.

Gritting her teeth, she slams her fist into the ground. A meaningless gesture, perhaps, but a necessary outlet for her rage -- for she dare not rise up against Lord Vega himself, not even trapped within a veritable cauldron of rage. She stares up at the blank eyes, reading the anger on his face as plain as day. She balls her fist up, her knuckles bloody where not white from the tenseness of her grip. And she starts to rise to her feet...

Just in time to get blown back by the fury of Vega's psionic bellowing. Her jacket flaps about, nearly ripped off her own shoulders. The ripped furrows in her shirt and pants flutter about rapidly, crimson grooves interleaved with pale flesh. She lands first on her right foot, face scrunched into pain as her left toes tap down. The crude leg replacement is not doing her any favors.

And while Zach is speaking, it's Vega who she glares back at -- after glancing quickly to either side to ensure that, yes, those soldiers just -croaked-. Shaking her head, her mind swims with possibilities... Why is he turning on -her- now? Her forefingers press to her temples, as she staggers backwards. And she shakes her head again, out of infuriated rage.

~What?! The kamui be da---~

She shakes her head, not even her addled state allowing her to stammer out the start of a blasphemy.

~ NNNNRGH! I did everything you asked!~

But Zach isn't done yet. And Honoka is far too incensed to just let it go. He swings at Vega --- and she watches in mute rage. But her eyes follow as he tracks past her -- and when he gets into position for a swing, she isn't so foolish as to think he -won't- try to end her.

Psycho power flares at her hands -- a prismatic fusion of pink and purple. She whirls about to orient herself towards him -- to keep at least partial control of the combat situation, if nothing else. And her hands twist around her, sending the flames spinning about as if they were diabolos, as if the deck were a circus ring. The will-o-wisps spin about, swarming towards her arm -- and binding themselves to it.

She locks her eyes onto Zach's, glaring a hole through him. When the sword slams down, the flames ignite with explosive force. But while the explosions are able to dull the impact of the sword, they cannot stop it; the blade bites down through the explosions with blossoms of crimson.

Honoka drops to her knees, even as flames lick tenderly at the burned scars of her face. Is she still Honoka? The Empress? Dahlia? ... What difference does it make?

"You're -sorry?!-" she spits back, dropping to plant a palm on the psi-blasted decking.

She lowers her head, tearing her gaze away from Zach.

She spits out something in Ainu, shaking her head.

And she does not lift a single damn muscle. If Zach -- or Vega -- is going to finish the job, it's going to be at someone making zero effort at fighting back.

Dahlia orchestrated her entire life around the eventuality of a grisly murder. But she had never imagined it to end in circumstances like this.

COMBATSYS: Honoka takes no action.

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Vega             1/----===/=======|-------\-------\0       Zach Glenn
                 [                     ||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           0|-------|=======

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn successfully hits Vega with #Claiomh Solias EX+#.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Vega             1/----===/=======|-------\-------\0       Zach Glenn
                 [                     ||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           0|-------|=======

As the sword of psionic energy passes through Vega, the mighty dictator bellows in outrage. Pain shoots throughout his entire being as the energy of the psion does something that only a real handful have managed to actually do across the entire life of the Lord of Shadaloo. His very /soul/ screams in agony as the energy courses through him, damaging it in ways that last time, cost him his life.

~You.. YOU!!~

The mighty dictator borders on losing his careful control, continuing to bellow loudly as the Psycho Power reaches levels that is rarely seen with the Dictator. Slowly, the Lord quiets down, finally regaining control of himself, allowing the rage to drive his actions from this point forward.

Vega slowly tilts his head, turning his attention fully to the Psionic Marine. In a carefully practiced and precise motion, Vega's right hand rises upwards, his thumb dragging across his throat as the look on his face shifts from quiet rage, to sadistic glee.

~I will break you.~

The Warlord suddenly shifts his weight, spinning his body forward with both legs slamming down towards Zach, looking to catch him within the blows. If successful, what is to come will truly make those first kicks seem like a walk in the park.

Three more times Vega's body will rotate, each time slamming the heels of his heavy booted feet towards Zach's skull, looking to give him an extremely dangerous concussion. Upon the last blow, Vega will suddenly duck down, his body igniting with violent purple flames as he looks to slam his hands now into Zach's stomach, spinning rapidly like a corkscrew that is fueled by rage, hatred, and everything bad in the universe. Once more Zach will be taken for a Psycho Crusher fueled ride, this time high into the air above the ocean liner, only for Vega to turn them back towards the boat. Once the turn is completed, a blast of Psycho Power will send Zach hurtling away from Vega, the dictator hanging in the air to increase some distance between himself and his prey, only to slam himself downwards, like a knife with both heels of his boots looking to plant themself into Zach's chest, all the while slamming the poor Marine into the deck of the ship.

COMBATSYS: Vega knocks away Zach Glenn with Nightmare Booster.

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  < >                                ]
Vega             0/-------/-<<<<<<|=======\-------\1       Zach Glenn
                 [                     ||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           0|-------|=======

Zach has no answer for the Empress. Nothing to say, really. Besides, before he can even realize that he doesn't have an answer, Vega has made his rage clearly known. The former Marine whirls to face Vega, golden light spilling over his frame as he makes his last stand.

His world turns white, then black, then to nothing for a moment. The impacts, the staggering amount of energy that has been used by Zach and upon Zach serve to shut down every form of receiving information from the world for a long moment. When reality reasserts itself, Vega is standing on his chest, boot heels digging into the front of his ribcage. Zach lets out a pained cry, blood spraying from his mouth. However, there is something that should be noted. Through all of that pain and abuse, all of that torment and rage?

Zach still has a grip on that sword of his.

Zach bites down on the pain, and stabs the ethereal blade upward at Vega with whatever remaining strength he can muster before his arm finally goes limp. Glenn's eyes close, perhaps for the last time, as the hilt of the sword clatters to the deck before shattering into a million motes of light. The weapon may not be completely gone; Honoka might remember Zach's summoning trick with the ancient weapon. But it is gone when the darkness rushes back in the fading light of the sword Dyrnwyn.

COMBATSYS: Zach Glenn can no longer fight.

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  <
Vega             0/-------/-<<<<<<|
                 [                     ||||||||| ]
                 Honoka           0|-------|=======

Ever since she first heard about Vega, Honoka lived in fear of the day he would challenge her. Not here, completely within his own domain, surrounded by the extinguished shells of his own people -- but at the only home she could -call- home, surrounded by an audience of people completely under her sway.

With Zach, at her side.

Her palms plant down upon the ground. Her head droops. Her shoulders wrack with every heaving sob. For even though she is not looking up... She can feel. Every. Single. Impact.

The psion's connection with Zach is not one that can be severed lightly. And every gut-wrenching stomp, every blood-drenched scream...

And through it all -- the most powerful impact of all was not the will-forged blade, its mark spurting blood from her shoulder... but the proverbial knife slammed into her heart. The guilt of knowing that no matter what Zach is going through now...

It's all her fault.
All the fault of her master plan.
A plan that might well not amount to anything, in the shadow of a superior mastermind.

If this -were- a fight she had any hope of winning, she could keep going. She could -end- this.

But now... The shock of Zach succumbing to the inevitability of defeat is all that it takes to break what little is left of Honoka's hold on consciousness. As he falls... so does she, slumping down to the deck.

COMBATSYS: Honoka has left the fight here.

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  <
Vega             0/-------/-<<<<<<|

COMBATSYS: Vega dodges Zach Glenn's Flashing Blade.

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  <
Vega             0/-------/-<<<<<<|

There is something to be said about the tenacity that one Captain Zach Glenn of the United States Marine Corp is displaying at this very moment, and no matter what, the Lord of Shadaloo will begrudgingly give that to him. As the ethereal blade of Psionic energy is thrust upward, Vega nimbly steps backwards off of the Marine, allowing the blade to only strike the open air.

The connection between the Empress and her Marine is one that Vega does realize is still there, and it is now one he is going to use for his own goals. No matter what, Honoka did infact try to prevent Zach from attacking Vega, and to just give up before it got worse for him. For that, even if it were out of something as silly as love, she will be commended. She has given him an excellent gift, even if the gift needs to be housebroken. This is something the Dictator is excellent at doing.

Medical crews finally rush the deck of the cruise ship, quickly starting with the wounds their magnificent leader has sustained, only for him to wave them off with an impatient gesture.

"Take the Dhalia back to her quarters. Treat her injuries. I want her ready to work once we return to Mexico.... And as for him..."

A vicious sneer grows upon Lord Vega's face as he now looks down upon Zach. This one is going to be a wonderful boon for Shadaloo. This one, is possibly worthy of being a new vessel if it were needed. This one...

"He now is a proud member of the V Project. He has a new mission in life."

Vega's sneer now turns to a malicious grin, Psycho Power starting to flicker across his visage once more, burning away any visible traces of wounds that may exist upon his physical form. The metaphysical ones will require more concentration, but he has time for that. He has all the time in the world.

"A most excellent gift indeed..."

COMBATSYS: Vega has ended the fight here.

Log created on 12:35:56 06/21/2018 by Zach Glenn, and last modified on 12:44:33 07/01/2018.