Springtide Rosalia 2021 - Rosalia #19) Monkey Wrench in the Works

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Description: Having come to the festivities with the intent of finding an enchanted blade that could eliminate all but one soul from control in his body, Makai is confronted by Valkenhayn; conflict is inevitable, but the key to Makai's own rebirth may have been this violent encounter in the first place...

There are some mysteries to the being referred to as Makai; of course, one might first make note that his title is the home of the castle itself -- but the true reason is the countless binding techniques that have captured many darkstalkers, youkai, spirits and monsters over long years. The Ametsuchi Clan is one of many formed in Japan some centuries ago; at one time, closely related to the Ryouhara and Ichijo clans. A reckless belief of having an inheritor who would work as a cage for all these beings, making the owner their home. Blinded and taught only self-defense and sealing techniques, it did work for ages... each of those monstrous personalities carefully segregated. With Rachel's curiosity, it's not hard to research the origins for Valkenhayn's target.

Having the 'Makai' of Ametsuchi present is a concern for a few reasons. One, they have traditionally always remained in meditation within the heart of their Clan's headquarters, never risking going out into the world. Two... stories of Earthrealm might be a bit sparse and unreliable, but there are hints that the clan itself has fallen to this curse. Such should result in a mild catastrophe, as centuries of troublesome beings spill free, but at least that much has yet to happen. The worst case, of course, is the host losing control... and a great prison of beasts is now on the loose.

Not worst case to someone like Rachel, were they not within Alucard Castle, at any rate. Certain expectations for protection are in place for some who are attending, or at the very least no overt disruptions. Having noble Darkstalkers absorbed or some menangerie of rampaging beasts let loose would just be a mild stain to reputation, most like. Even if precisely how dangerous the being is might be another matter entirely.

It might be a touch harder to track them down then anticipated. It seems Makai is quite adept at keeping his own presence sealed; although any number of distinct scents, of magical gauze, sealing cloth, and the odd tincture making his more bestial senses key. In fact, it seems he's presently in an area rather far from any potential calamity. Within the guts of the clock tower, amidst grand, grinding cogs, swishing pendulums, and shifting weights. Near an ornate series of long tubes and machinery stretching towards the vanishing darkness above, he sits.

Not much is imposing about the human. Fairly tall, a bit past six feet, although slender and lean. No skin can be seen; a simple black robe is wound closed with a dark crimson sash. Hands are wrapped in runed cloth, as is the visible neck. An ornate crimson mask of an oni, sans eyeholes, is settled upon his face; hooded cloak draping over the ensemble. Golden metal plates adorn forearms and shins. They are settled cross-legged, head bowed and fingers arraigned in a meditative stance, as some unpleasant dark energy simmers within.

His warding fails, in any close proximity. It is as if a hundred souls boil within, distant and quiet echoes, like they wail from a buried coffin. It is difficult to get an idea of his power, as a result... as if countless points of energy amass together, more then the sum of their parts. For the time, the wild card entity seems to be dormant... but for how long? And, were things to go south... this is certainly a preferable area of the estate for taking care of Ms. Alucard's potential troublemakers...


"As you wish, Lady Alucard..." comes the smooth (though noticeably more gruff than it might have once been) response from one of the Castle's long-missing residents. Gone for years from his post at the side of Rachel Alucard, he has spent the time traveling across the Earth – and other realms – nearly losing himself in a fog of rediscovered youth and rage, to say nothing of the confused, half-remembered scenes swirling through his mind. Memories of himself as an... older man?

How odd.

He had wandered for long days and nights, spending entire months in his wolf form as he hunted through the Realms, embracing the power that had been restored to him. Truly, his Mistress was a generous one to restore his former strength and endurance. How long it had been since he stalked his prey with such vigor and potency! Truly, he had been thrust back to the days BEFORE taking up his post as the servant of the Alucards. No longer the smooth, composed Head Butler of the Castle, he had once more become the feared, vicious warrior who had stared down the Black Beast alongside his old friends.

Then one day, a memory that cut through the haze of blood and violence. An Oath, given long ago, to an individual whom he deemed worthy of dedicating his life to. Words spoken to Clavis Alucard, stating plainly that the remainder of his existence would be spent in service to the Lord or Lady of Castle Alucard, whomever that might be in the centuries to come. And with that remembered, his confusion and wrath – having immersed himself fully in both – began to part, allowing a flood of /different/ memories to pour into his mind. Timeless, uncountable... what seemed like an /eternity/ spent serving a different master: the Vampire's daughter.

What had he become, to forget such an Oath so readily? To allow himself to revert to the mentality of a feral beast? Had he truly forgotten the lessons learned underneath the Castle's roof? Had he abdicated his Oath and dishonoured himself? Or was this all a plan laid out by the eternally youthful Vampire who sent him away from the castle, after performing his transfiguration? The very idea that he had turned away from his duties so readily shamed him even in his vicious, youthful state... and with that, the long process of finding his way /back/ to the Castle. But that is a story best saved for a different time.


A brown-furred wolf dashes through the halls of the Castle, the layout of the labyrinthine building having been one of the first things to return to him after his lengthy sabbatical– though the full scope of his formerly well-mannered self has been longer in coming back to him. He could smell the Intruder long before reaching the clocktower, the stench of the Earthrealm heavy on him... but not only that; the Lycanthrope could smell something /else/ hanging off the invader. Rachel had mentioned something regarding it – and she was rarely incorrect; perhaps this man was more 'monster' than 'hunter'.

Oddly enough, he does not sense much further movement from his quarry; as though the man were simply sitting in place, waiting for the arrival of some Guardian to come and face him. A strange thing for an individual presently in the depths of a Vampire's lair... perhaps someone who has experience facing devils, perhaps someone who has little to fear from the monsters without, and more from the monsters within? Regardless, it only makes the Butler's job easier, and in minutes – through use of passages known only to a select few – he has traversed the great distance between Lady Alucard's chambers and the clocktower's interior, that towering mass of cogs and gears.

Perhaps someone as well-versed in the occult arts as Makai is would sense /his/ arrival before the gruff, growling voice announces it.

"Good Evening, interloper..."

With that said, a figure steps out of the shadows, dangerously close to the man waiting within the grand clocktower. A tall individual dressed formally in a dress shirt, pants, vest and tie; a golden watch chain dangling out of a pocket, and a long, brown ponytail hanging behind him – tied with a beautifully crafted red ribbon. He gazes across the short distance at the invader, as the interior of the clocktower shifts and grinds around them – catching every detail of the man's appearance in a moment. And though he hardly seems impressed, his eyes do linger upon the mask for the briefest of moments.

No, what catches the attention of Rachel's servant and guardian is not the outward appearance of this man... but what he can sense simmering /within/ Makai. A fellow monster. Standing tall and straight-backed as he stares at the invader, the man simply waits for some reply, fingers curling and uncurling as his own anger and fierceness churns through his blood.

A figure, long ago gone from the Castle, newly returned. A legendary beast from the past, brought into this future through the magic of Zuthral Bernard's Chroniker of Eternity.

Valkenhayn R. Hellsing.

There's no reaction of surprise from this odd man, when Valkenhayn's voice rings in subtle echo through these cavernous depths. In fact, it is a few moments before muted shifts imply he might respond at all. "Interloper...?" comes a crisp baritone. Young; more then might be expected. Yet supposedly, he inherits much, and the weight of that burden grants them a strength which rapidly burns them down. A reason it had been so increasingly difficult to find those who would not be tempted, with strong enough wills...

But indeed, beyond strict appearances, there's nothing human inside there. And not every single creature in Makai is a gnat. Some are uncomfortably close to the likes of the werewolves' vigor; which lends credit to the concern that, were worst come to worst, the disruption might be a *mild hassle.* The tenuous castle is in a delicate enough balance... but, reactive to the wills and wishes of the residents, how might it even respond to a creature with dozens of strong-willed, sentient minds locked beneath the surface?

"An aura like that... I can recognize a lycanthrope. Valkenhayn, am I right? How imposing... it makes me shiver down my spine..." Despite what he says, there is no sense of taunt, no air of falsehood. A bitter sort of respect. "I was born on Makai... oh. Not this 'skin' of my failed jailor. Me... a little vermin who, when hiding beneath the infernal sky, stared towards those high, solemn castles with envy and rage... can you imagine how desperate a being like me must have been, those ageless years ago, to /choose/ to flee to Earth? Haha..."

Slowly he rises, without any sort of haste. "But I wouldn't exactly say I'm your enemy. Certainly not a friend... but you know what I can do, can you not? Tell me... Valkenhayn. What truly makes us different then 'humans'.?" There's still no aggression, yet, in the intruder. It seems he does wish to speak, a bit. "We have no sovereign over our own souls! Humans, be it touched by the divine, or the bias of a grand crusader... only the most forbidden powers of the greatest magics and gods can affect their souls. What of a darkstalker? What of a youkai, a spirit? Nothing...! If they are weakened, their very essence, their very soul, can be manipulated, consumed, and bound!! Does that not imply we're lesser beings? Perhaps that is why some call the land of Makai 'hell'... those within it are aberrant, born outside the view and love of care fickle deities have. But what might someone like you care, for the thoughts of a peasant? You are a noble, after all. You had it all from the moment you entered this land."

His arms thrust out, stepping closer to the looming abyss of the clock tower's edge. "But I am here for a reason... a reason beyond revenge!! I *NEED* something from Castle Alucard. A key... a key that is not anywhere in the Realm of Earth! Rumors and myths always said if you truly, desperately wished for something, then the Castle would respond to you..."

"Is that why you are the one who came? Valkenhayn? Might we speak of this, diplomatically... I am an invited guest who has done no ill, after all..." A slow tilt of the head then follows. "...Or, perhaps... the Ametsuchi sealing techniques could even bind a powerful noble... and my grand test is whether I can shackle you down, and offer you to your Lady in trade...?!"

What strikes Valkenhayn first – as his keen eyes study the reaction of this strange figure – is the almost unbelievable sense of calmness that the man's voice and bearing seem to exude... in this realm, in this place, that level of composure from an Outsider is almost as bizarre as the Castle itself. Though rather than dwell on this an unusual – perhaps even threatening - trait for Makai to display, a smirk begins to play at the corners of the Lycanthrope's lips. Tips of sharpened, gleaming canines revealed, he simply stares as his foe continues to speak. The only movement coming from the Butler being the slow tapping of one Oxford-clad foot, a monotone *click*ing echoing off of the cavernous clocktower's inner-workings.

Moreso than listening to the words that are spoken to him, he finds himself watching the man across the short distance between them, analysing the bizarre scents rolling off of him. And as he hears Makai recognize him for the werewolf that he is, Valkenhayn's smirk widens almost imperceptibly. "Indeed, I'm sure you can," he growls, voice deep and rumbling, "It takes a monster to recognize a monster, no?" Whether or not he is bothered by the 'shiver down my spine' comment, it certainly does not show on his face. Perhaps the few months he has spent back in the employ of Lady Alucard has restored some sense of bearing, of restraint? Though how long that could last, given the circumstances, who could say?

As the bizarre man slowly rises from his seated position, the cold blue gaze of the Butler simply follows the position of that Oni mask as it comes closer to eye-level. And yet, he does not let the rage coursing through his body overtake him... it seems he /has/ calmed since returning to his duties, even if only slightly so. After all, it would be rude to interrupt someone in the middle of posing a philosophical query. So he waits, and listens, as Makai explains his idea of the difference between man and monster... and he's not wrong, strictly speaking. He listens... until he hears himself described as a 'noble' – which is enough to break his silence, though not enough to elicit any verbal response. No, the werewolf merely chuckles – deep, voluminous, more of a growl than anything resembling a proper show of amusement.

And then, the robed, masked individual standing before him continues; finally explaining his purpose for being here, beyond simply the invitation of Madam Rachel. Ah, there it is. Greed, or the lust for some powerful trinket in the Vampire's possession? "How pedestrian..." comes a smug, dismissive whisper – barely rising above the sound of Valkenhayn's exhalations.

And yet, interestingly, the man does not seem entirely interested in conflict. 'Speak', 'diplomatically', 'invited guest'... For a moment, the Butler considers this... until, Makai finishes speaking. The gritting of teeth are audible as the word 'shackle' comes from the Ametsuchi man; memories, perhaps, rising in his head. Chained, by Oroborous, in these very halls...

And then, the gnashing of teeth stops as suddenly as it began – the smirk returning to Valkenhayn's lips as he pulls a beautiful golden pocketwatch out by it's chain, opening the cover to stare at the watchface within. He keeps it low, at waist-level, as his eyes come back up to settle on the blank stare of that Oni mask.

"I'm no 'noble', as you put it," he states plainly and without humour in his voice, "though the idea does amuse me, I must admit." One long step takes him closer to Makai, though there is still a decent amount of safe distance between the two – for now. "I am merely a humble manservant, and protector, of one who /does/ deserve such a lofty title."

A pause, gaze falling back to the ticking second hand of his watch, before he continues. "I must admit, there might have been a time where the idea of a pleasant conversation between us would have been a desirable outcome – after all, you /were/ invited here, and I am – as always – a loyal servant of House Alucard."

Suddenly, his watchface snaps closed as the ever-moving interior machinery of the clocktower begins to – slowly yet surely – speed up. The monotone *click* of his shoes on the fine stone underneath his feet ceases. Bouncing off the interior of the tower comes the first of – presumably – many loud *BONG*s. The bell tolls. "Alas, you've come to this place in an... unusual time. I find myself with less patience for words than I once had..."

His lips pull even further back, fully exposing the canines of a wolf within his otherwise perfect set of teeth.

"...And I've yet to have my dinner this evening."

For the first time, there seems to be a hiccup in Makai. He begins to laugh, a low little chuckle. But gradually it shifts to something else. Manic, wild, doubling forward to grasp the side of his head. "Not... not a noble...?!" he echoes, as if he finds the statement absurd. Yet there seems to be a strange spike in his energy. As if the discordant hum and boil of those countless souls has begun to stir and expand, causing a dark, mist-like energy to seep into the air. It smells, feels, absolutely distasteful. "You... someone who, even after my centuries of slaving, suffering, and sacrifice remains above me... dare say that where you stand is NOTHING?! I lived as literal food!! My life force waned from starvation so much I nearly vanished to oblivion, time and time again!!" He whirls around to face Valkenhayn then, fingers slowly curling up. "And you say that even a man like YOU... is nothing in this stupid, selfish, man-eat-man world?!"

Suddenly Makai doubles over, grasping his head with both hands. Something... odd seems to happen. Like a person with a thousand leashes, perhaps, who got distracted and they all decided to run in different directions. With a slow exhale, his strange aura stabilizes once more. The reason for his composure seems more obvious, now. He is nearly at his limit. Full, to to speak, of as many monsters as he can without losing control. ...stagnated, in order words, like an overfull glutton who still wants more.

"...I really do hate you. How you can be prideful of being a dog... and yet still so arrogant to a peasant like me... ahhh. I see the binding of our kind takes many shapes. For you... a loyalty instilled since birth... you could be a king in these lands, too, if you cared..."

"I'm not yet to the level of Rachel, Demitri, Slayer or Morrigan... but it's not impossible. And I can do so much more... I can CONQUER them. Make their power mine...!! Haa... you really get my blood boiling. That's not good, for this poor host. Are you interested in a game, perhaps?"

He then exhales, extending his arms to either side and flowing into a combative stance. It's surprisingly flawless. 'Pure Defense', likely quite different to the aggression of the werewolf. Fitting of an Ametsuchi. "I'd like to test myself against a dog of my enemies... if I win, humor my interest in some little trinket. If I lose, I promise to do nothing untoward to Rachel Alucard... ever. And regardless of the outcome, I'll not mess with her fun and games here... that is why you came, is it not? To make sure of such?"

"But I'd avoid killing me... there's something sleeping in my depths even I dare not touch, outside the horde that would break free to run rampant... you? I cannot devour you, without losing myself. Win-win, wouldn't you say?!"

COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn has started a fight here.

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Valkenhayn       0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Makai has joined the fight here.

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Valkenhayn       0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Makai

COMBATSYS: Clockwork Hazards has joined the fight here.

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Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Makai
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Valkenhayn       0/-------/-------|

For all the anger and feral hunger that courses through his veins, Valkenhayn is nevertheless capable of restraining his wrath temporarily; despite viewing the bizarre robed figure as little more than an intruder, the fact remains that these 'guests' were invited. The smallest of courtesies being paid - giving Makai time to finish speaking - seems to be the very least, and most, that the Butler is capable of offering in the way of playing a good host.

Instead of rushing forward on the assault, he is content to pace back and forth in front of the 'guest', gloved fingers curling and uncurling as his breath comes out in sharp exhales. Eyes wide, they remain permenantly affixed on Makai - studying his movements, watching him double over and fight against some invisible force. Quite interesting to the werewolf; both human and monster, seemingly - he can smell the stench of man on Makai, but his trained intuition and keen senses are also well aware that there is /more/ lurking beneath. Perhaps this battle will bring it out of this strange visitor... the idea is not unpleasant in the least, and the barely-contained lust for battle strains Valkenhayn's self-control as he lets the man continue to speak.

Once Makai takes up his combat stance, the Butler's restless pacing ceases - cold blue eyes narrowing as he takes note of the trained defensive bearing his opponent has flawlessly stepped into. "Know your place," he states - only the slightest hint of a tremor in his voice betraying the anger he feels within. While carefully placing the pocketwatch back into his vest pocket, he elaborates further, "A creature from the Earthrealm ever rising above such Aristocracy?" A low chuckle, before continuing, "Fool... I despise such reckless pride. You should count yourself lucky you face only myself, rather than the Lady of the Castle - otherwise you might understand fully the depths of your ignorance."

For the first time in minutes, Valkenhayn's eyes move off of the masked face before him - sweeping behind the man and quickly taking note of the movements within the Castle's grand clocktower. Without a word of warning, the Butler pushes off the ground with one well-polished shoe; a sudden burst of speed carrying him towards Makai at a startling pace.

"Speak of 'trinkets' if you survive," comes the last growled words from the loyal manservant of this Estate, before a sudden duck and jump carries him leaping into the air. A fluid shift occurs, faster than the untrained eye could possibly track, transforming the well-dressed 'young' warrior into a large, hulking, brown-furred wolf.

Makai might be expecting a straight-on assault, but Valkenhayn has no intention of such. As low an opinion as he may hold against the strange robed individual, those keen eyes know a strong defensive stance when they see one. He'll have to get more creative. As such, there is a sudden shift in the path of his flight; sending him over the right shoulder of his opponent. Moving like a missile, the wolf careens into a giant, spinning cog - spinning his body to kick /off/ of it with his hind-legs... back towards Makai, as he spins vertically in the air, aiming to launch his thickly muscled canine body into him like a projectile.

It's notable, perhaps, that he gave no verbal agreement to the proposal put forth by Makai - that he cannot kill the Ametsuchi, and the Ametsuchi cannot devour him. Surely an oversight by the Lycanthrope, right?

COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn successfully hits Makai with Rigoros Schweif.

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Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-------|==-----\-------\0            Makai
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Valkenhayn       0/-------/------=|

"Ah... as I said, I can at least claim to be born in Makai... how I hate Earth, too... the only merit is how delicious the souls of humans taste. I am hardly unique in that. Many beasts would find themselves in agreement!!" But then, the butler attacks. He's fast; although such is not recognized in a manner that most would. His face actually turns away, aiming an ear towards the bestial man. One loose palm is held high, and the other low.

The feint works. He makes to defend himself from the initial spin, expecting a bit or strike to his unprotected back at the onset. Finding nothing there, a brief disorientation leads to him being hit dead in the spine. He goes staggering sideways... before his foot slips, and he falls from the edge of the pair's platform. Ah? Is that already fatal? Yet he immediately twists, pressing a hand against a pipe adjacent to begin slowing his descent. Such grants him enough time to invoke something odd... a beckon before a dark purple sigil flashes before him.

A creature erupts from it, large and brown-furred with the misshapen features of a bat. Talons snap down to catch Makai by the shoulders, before it frantically flap-flap-flaps. Arrested of his descent, the bat then finally loses hold...

Makai lands in a strange manner, crocuhed like a cat, palms hitting first. Right upon a massive cock that's slowly twisting around in a circle. More churn and shift to the left. Machinery twists and curls and clicks all around. The safety of his perch is no more... and he's quite certain a beast so agile and tenacious will not let his prey get away. The bat-beast flapflapflaps up, landing upon a protrusion to stare down at the fight in a perch with golden eyes.

"How unfair... I'm not well-acquainted in what techniques to use on a wolf..." He listens, keenly. He takes in the aura, painting a picture of the world. He's being hunted, here. In the unstable dark, with so many obstacles and vantage points... he couldn't pick a worst spot for this kind of opponent. And worst of all, any hope of an easy fleeing is lost now, where he is. He will need to turn the momentum back in his favor...

Of course, being blind is not quite a burden after all. Twisting around, giving no hint he's able to pinpoint precisely where Valkenhayn is, both hands smack together before himself, as if praying. Soul-charged energy ripples into being, before suddenly four chains surge out in an array; each trying to lock a manacle upon Valkenhayn, about the throat, arms, and a leg... to tenaciously pull taut, to slow and disorient him. A capturing technique...? One far too low-end to possibly stop Valkenhayn, but he seems more intent on just slowing him...

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Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0            Makai
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Valkenhayn       0/-------/------=|

COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn blocks Makai's Dead Weight.

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Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-------|==-----\-------\0            Makai
[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/-----==|

COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn dodges Clockwork Hazards' Counter Weight.

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Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-------|==-----\-------\0            Makai
[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/-----==|

With the fight now begun, the tolling of the clocktower's massive bell continues to echo through its interior; deep, bone-shaking noises almost seeming to rattle the walls as it reaches 10... 11... 12... and then ceases. It seems to have kicked the machinery surrounding the area into high gear, as pendulums begin to swing dangerously - cogs spinning wildly and threatening to crush anything that gets caught inside their grip.

After the entire mass of Valkenhayn's wolf form collides with his opponent, he ricochets backwards after sending Makai slipping off the edge of the platform. Completing one final 360-degree spin in the air, the paws of the massive, slavering wolf land on the floor. A few casual steps towards the edge, as the Lycanthrope's now-red eyes burn through the darkness - heightened night vision combining with his supernatural sense of smell to make the shadowy clocktower as bright as a sunlit field.

What a pity for the Castle's guest.

Waiting for his foe to recover as he watches from the darkened heights of the raised platform, the wolf cocks its head slightly as he watches the purple bat burst forth from that bizarre sigil the man created. Though little surprises him after so long in the employ of Madam Rachel, it is still an interesting sight coming from one who reeks of Earth - regardless of whatever beast resides inside him.

Leaping off the same platform that Makai just slipped from, the wolf opens it's jaws in the dark as it hurtles through the air towards the robed man. And then, his opponent does something entirely unexpected; he whirls suddenly, facing the /exact/ direction that Valkenhayn has chosen to attack from... even predicting, somehow, the arc of his leap. His aim is almost perfect, the chains whipping out towards the Lycanthrope's limbs... and the first two chains that reach him even manage to find purchase around his front paws. For a moment, before the powerful jaws of the wolf come snapping down and tear them off with an ease that might be unsettling to some.

The last two chains are bitten apart in mid-air before they're able to snake their way towards his hind-legs; as those saliva-soaked jaws open once more, it seems that Valkenhayn is intent on snapping them shut them around Makai's neck.

Until a quick glance through the shadows to his right seems to steal the wolf's attention. A pendulum, previously still and unmoving, has detached itself from the wall some distance up - the massive metal guillotine on the bottom sent sweeping through the air towards Valkenhayn's transformed body. Twisting its frame in mid-air, the wolf seems to shift momentum without touching any surface - as though he were capable of turning mid-leap. The new path carries him close to the edge of the guillotine pendulum's blade... close enough to run along the sharpened metal with his four legs. Kicking off the pendulum's surface once he reaches the end of it, Valkenhayn's body shifts once more - landing, this time, as the youthful manservant of the Castle.

"Fair? Fair?!" he bellows, followed by a low chuckle more akin to a growl than anything else, "What foolish talk coming from a monster. Did you truly expect /fair/ when you came to this place? The words of a man, coming from the mouth of a beast... what a shame."

Kicking off from the ground, his long legs once again carry him rushing towards the robed 'man'. The briefest of moments is required to close the gap between the two, and by the time Valkenhayn reaches his foe, the Butler's limbs have begun to emit a fierce, burning purple glow. Aiming a quick kick at the back of Makai's left leg - the Lycanthrope's foot transforming into a massive, clawed paw just before impact. Hopefully just enough to catch the man off his footing, before a quick spinning backhand - with a similarly transformed arm - is aimed at his midsection.

"You know what you are... /EMBRACE/ it!"

COMBATSYS: Makai counters Schwarz Jagd from Valkenhayn with Buried Alive EX.

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Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-------|==-----\-------\0            Makai
[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/---====|

Although Valkenhayn has fought many people, perhaps even the blind... Makai senses the entire world only through aura. It is truly like a radar; he can feel the flow, the thrum, of every sort of energy that boils within the world. And Valkenhayn is an incredibly powerful man... if anything, the strength of his soul makes it harder to see the rest of the world around him. Physically, Makai is no match... not that he ever has such to brag. After all, his mastery lies in something else entirely.

Although when the vicious wolf advanced, there is no fear or hesitation. Only a lift of his hands, fingers stretched out wide. Prepared... even if the result is never to be seen, as the dangers of fighting after falling into the heart of the clocktower bear their head.

"I see... it's no surprise you are quite intent on the status quo. But a desperate beast, cornered, can still be dangerous, you know..." Then there's a tilt of the head, still angling his facemask nowhere near Valkenhayn. "Oh... you turned back humanoid... I'm much better suited to handling that..."

Although the creature is arrogant, this is still no trivial attack to weather. Makai's own foot lifts up, and he presses the heel of his foot to that ferocious paw. Rather then try to stop it, he actually steps off the ground; diverting it beneath, and leaving him momentarily airborne. As that brutal paw surges forward, Makai then almost gently presses his left hand upon the bestial wrist. His entire body seems to twist and duck downwards. It might feel odd; as if that backhand were caught on some unseen rails, diverting upwards just enough to burn through the hood, leaving sizzling bits of fabric to trail behind. His right darts forward, catching Valkenhayn by the face. A burst of dissonant energy would ripple through him, as if to make his soul itself ache, before using that brief pause to step past and then twist, slamming the butler hard upon the metal with a great CRACK.

"Tch... as I thought, trying to control your flow strains my nerves...!!" Stepping forward, as Valkenhayn would break free of the temporary seal, he then twists and hefts, to fling the wolven foe in a stagger backwards. Making space...? The reason might become apparent a moment later, when one huge weight upon a chain suddenly whirls towards him, creating a new hazard even as he recovers. "And my sealing arts deflect off your core like trying to splash oil upon a river... a shame it's impossible to reason with a savage dog!!"

COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn dodges Clockwork Hazards' Counter Weight.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0            Makai
[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/---====|

'A desperate beast, cornered, can still be dangerous...'

If only Makai knew how well his opponent could relate to this statement. For all his power, both as an older man and moreso with his youth restored to him, Valkenhayn has been the desperate beast more than one might expect. Were he not sent here specifically to deal with Madam Rachel's guest, they could possibly find common ground... but he is once more a creature of Duty.

And he has been given his command, from the only being in any Realm that could hope to control the werewolf.

As the kick comes out, the masked 'man' diverts it with a grace that shocks Valkenhayn; he truly was not expecting such a smooth, flowing technique - particularly given his own savage speed while attacking. Nevertheless, he still attempts to strike out with the spinning backhand, only to find it similarly diverted.


A low rumble, the only sign of his frustration or shock at the swift evasion of his opponent. Or rather, the only sign he's capable of expressing before Makai reaches out and grabs hold of his face with an iron grip. One hand snaps up immediately to grab onto the robed man's wrist, attempting to tear the limb away - before a wave of agony begins to pulse through him.

More than physical agony - something Valkenhayn could easily deal with - the pain is /different/... it cuts through his feral nature, through his thirst for blood, through the desire to put this intruder in his place.


As quickly as he found himself grasped by Makai, Valkenhayn is slammed to the metal unceremoniously - how embarassing, to be manhandled in the place he calls 'home'. He can only hope that Lady Alucard's attention is elsewhere, perhaps dealing with other 'guests' in the Castle during the Blood Moon. Regardless, the shame of some unknown foe putting him in such a position only serves to stoke the flames of anger coursing through him.

Staggering backwards as the seal placed upon him finally weakens enough to break from, Valkenhayn reels unsteadily for a brief moment - his soul still burning from the bizarre techniques of the Ametsuchi. As the weight swings towards him in an arc that threatens to plaster him to the opposite wall, there is only a moment left for the Butler to react.

Fortunately, a moment is all that he requires.


It's the only thing he has time to say in reply to Makai's words, leaving it hanging as a vague question in the air as the weight swings towards him. Taking a quick leap into the air, the man once more becomes a wolf - finishing his transformation just in time to rest his hind-paws on the massive, metal weight that was threatening to strike him only a moment before. A split-second to gather his energy - that bright purple glow once again rippling off the thickly-furred and muscled canine frame - before the wolf launches itself at Makai's robed body. Spinning through the air, the beast lowers its neck to aim a chi-infused, missile-like shoulder charge into the middle of his opponent.

COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn successfully hits Makai with Kaiser Wolf.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/------=|====---\-------\0            Makai
[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/------=|

Ah... that is much too fast.

Makai wanted some space, some moments to gather and compose himself. Instead, the attempt to use the dangerous architecture to his own advantage ends up only in giving Valkenhayn leverage to launch forward with ferocious speed once more. And such a bizarre technique! He expected claws and teeth, but the majority of this man's attacks have been literally launching his pure wolf form at him like some kind of wild pinball! A desperate defense is attempted, only to be slammed into and launched backwards, back striking into one of the twisting cogs; another beneath his feet, bit by bit twisting him around. The black robe burns away beneath purple chi, revealing his slender chest to be covered in that dark gray gauze, etched with strange, ancient runes. Ones that Valkenhayn could easily place are meant to restrain, to contain, to hold back power... how tenuous is this creature's hold on his jailed kin?

"Hsst..." Not only are Makai's defensive techniques intended on humans, Valkenhayn is too fast... too fast!! His physical body is principally helped by his aura-like techniques, predictive and fast, but in only a couple exchanges and the razor-thin reversal, he can tell the way this ball is falling. Even the assaults of the clocks are doing nothing to hassle the wolf... So he will do what he rarely does.

He will go on the offense!

Bracing a foot, Makai kicks forward, settling himself close to the other man. It's not very impressive. His ability to advance forward is leagues beneath a lycanthrope, running on battle lust. Yet the danger might be seen thereafter. Evasively, there's no good way to get around him all the way; only twisted metal, deadfalls, and twisting chains surround. Still, being briefly within arm's reach of him should be fine...

Of course, his strike makes things more difficult. Fingers press together, before he twists and jabs like a coiled viper. Aiming to hit a pressure point in Valkenhayn's hip to cause everything beneath the waist to suddenly turn to lead. To twist and follow up with three more of those strikes in a triangular flow around the chest, precisely aimed at chakra points to disrupt the flow of his body... then slam an open palm into the warrior's sternum.

A sudden infusion of powerful soul-sealing energy would once more erupt out, to blow Valkenhayn backwards further into the underguts; although here, he no longer has the tactical advantage of them not striking him, too... it is clear his assault is reckless. Desperate, even... but his ability to inflict damage to the youthful Darkstalker is still a reason for valid concern!!

COMBATSYS: Clockwork Hazards successfully hits Valkenhayn with Grinding Gears.
- Power hit! -

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/------=|===----\-------\0            Makai
[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/----===|

COMBATSYS: Makai successfully hits Valkenhayn with Final Rites.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/------=|======-\-------\0            Makai
[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/-======|

After the brutal impact of the wolf's shoulder charge, he spins backwards through the air - a quick manuever to carry him out of the path of any swift reprisal. By the time his paws come to rest on the cold metal beneath him, Makai's robes have burned away from the blazing chi... revealing bizarre, ancient runes underneath. Many of them are - no doubt - from the stranger's own bizarre indigenous rites... but some /are/ recognizable to Valkenhayn. Powerful warding and binding spells, meant to contain a great, dark power...

Proof positive that the werewolf's initial judgments regarding this man were correct. There is more than meets the eye in the bizarre individual he finds himself facing. Already, he has displayed a technique utterly unique to any that Valkenhayn has faced in his long, countless years of battle; what other secrets does Makai hide?

A sudden shift in form, and the wolf has taken the shape of a man once more - all the better to manuever, considering the thin platform they are presently battling on. Hands raises in front of him in a vague 'x' cross - one arm behind the other - Valkenhayn narrows his gaze as the man slowly approaches him.

"How interesting... so my senses haven't failed me."

Once cold, blue eyes have long ago turned into bloody red pools - which now move from the runic tattoos to stare at the stoic, unmoving Oni face.

"What lives inside you?"

But now, one supposes, is hardly the time for an in-depth conversation about the assorted demons and monsters that might possess his opponent's mortal body. Plenty of time for that at the after-party.

Makai begins to twist his body as he moves forward, striking with inhuman precision to first disable his lower-half. The briefest look of surprise crosses over Valkenhayn's face, as he finds his legs useless for a moment... long enough, however, to leave him entirely open to the strikes that follow - each one weakening and disabling him further. That is, until the technique is completed with another burst of that bizarre energy - cutting through the Butler's physical self to scorch his very essence, as he is sent hurtling backwards...

...slamming his back into the wall of the clocktower, his arm finds
After the brutal impact of the wolf's shoulder charge, he spins backwards through the air - a quick manuever to carry him out of the path of any swift reprisal. By the time his paws come to rest on the cold metal beneath him, Makai's robes have burned away from the blazing chi... revealing bizarre, ancient runes underneath. Many of them are - no doubt - from the stranger's own bizarre indigenous rites... but some /are/ recognizable to Valkenhayn. Powerful warding and binding spells, meant to contain a great, dark power...

Proof positive that the werewolf's initial judgments regarding this man were correct. There is more than meets the eye in the bizarre individual he finds himself facing. Already, he has displayed a technique utterly unique to any that Valkenhayn has faced in his long, countless years of battle; what other secrets does Makai hide?

A sudden shift in form, and the wolf has taken the shape of a man once more - all the better to manuever, considering the thin platform they are presently battling on. Hands raises in front of him in a vague 'x' cross - one arm behind the other - Valkenhayn narrows his gaze as the man slowly approaches him.

"How interesting... so my senses haven't failed me."

Once cold, blue eyes have long ago turned into bloody red pools - which now move from the runic tattoos to stare at the stoic, unmoving Oni face.

"What lives inside you?"

But now, one supposes, is hardly the time for an in-depth conversation about the assorted demons and monsters that might possess his opponent's mortal body. Plenty of time for that at the after-party.

Makai begins to twist his body as he moves forward, striking with inhuman precision to first disable his lower-half. The briefest look of surprise crosses over Valkenhayn's face, as he finds his legs useless for a moment... long enough, however, to leave him entirely open to the strikes that follow - each one weakening and disabling him further. That is, until the technique is completed with another burst of that bizarre energy - cutting through the Butler's physical self to scorch his very essence, as he is sent hurtling backwards...

...slamming his back into the wall of the clocktower, his arm finds itself stuck between two medium-sized gears as they grind away. A loud *SNAP* echoes through the interior of the tower, as metal meets metal with bone in the middle - breaking the werewolf's forearm before he's able to yank the now-limp appendage out of the machinery. It hangs limply at his side.

His breaths have become audible, burning hot exhalations followed by deep inhales through his keen nostrils. It is not the sound of a man run ragged, but rather one who is beginning to lose himself in battle - his grip on what little self-control he might have becoming more and more tenuous. One gloved hand rises up and grips his own face, head reeling backwards as his eyes shoot up to the top of the clocktower high above.

And without warning, a quick crouch and leap carries him from this platform to one slightly above, shrouded in shadows that seem to flicker and move with every passing second. Does the Butler need a moment to compose himself, or is he simply luring his opponent into a trap? Perhaps he merely needs time for the bones to knit themselves back together - fortunately, such an injury is a passing inconvenience for a Darkstalker of his power... but it gives his opponent the upper hand, until it has healed. in-between two medium-sized gears as they grind away. A loud *SNAP* echoes through the interior of the tower, as metal meets metal with bone in the middle - breaking the werewolf's forearm before he's able to yank the now-limp appendage out of the machinery. It hangs limply at his side.

His breaths have become audible, burning hot exhalations followed by deep inhales through his keen nostrils. It is not the sound of a man run ragged, but rather one who is beginning to lose himself in battle - his grip on what little self-control he might have becoming more and more tenuous. One gloved hand rises up and grips his own face, head reeling backwards as his eyes shoot up to the top of the clocktower high above.

And without warning, a quick crouch and leap carries him from this platform to one slightly above, shrouded in shadows that seem to flicker and move with every passing second. Does the Butler need a moment to compose himself, or is he simply luring his opponent into a trap? Perhaps he merely needs time for the bones to knit themselves back together - fortunately, such an injury is a passing inconvenience for a Darkstalker of his power... but it gives his opponent the upper hand, until it has healed.

"Very strange, for someone who stinks of Earth... then again, Madam Rachel can always be relied upon to invite the most /intriguing/ guests."

COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn gains composure.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/------=|======-\-------\0            Makai
[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/--=====|

"What lives inside me...? 136 separate entities, if you wish to be specific... ah, perhaps only a dozen or two are worth noting, to be fair. The Ametsuchi believe that destroying a monster will not solve the issue... instead, they trapped them... within this body!!" That might be what he meant about the dangers of ending his life. Clearly, the sum of this being's whole is far more then he is using. He might, quite literally, be far more dangerous were they to escape then otherwise...

How fortuitous. It seems Makai's odd ability to perceive the surroundings have lead to his favor. Again and again he has herded the old warrior into the path of them, and finally driven them to harry him in earnest. "Ah, it broke...? Then this fight might no longer be in your favor--"

And then the wolven man retreats. Makai is loathe to follow. He drew Valkenhayn to this moment for a reason... because it was to his advantage. That venue up above... it would be dangerous to him, as well. No matter. Kicking off a rising cog, gripping a chain, a last flit takes Makai to land in a crouch before Valkenhayn, a brief respite in the pair.

"As I said... the being you are speaking to is NOT from Earth... I am the BUTCHER... The Murderer of the Mists... I was taken prisoner by this foolish boy, but I have wrested control, and draw my power from the menagerie inside me...!"

Makai shifts his stance, standing straight and slamming his palms together. Suddenly a great well of power seems to surge within. He's... siphoning. It is like countless individual sources are being sucked of power. Each is tiny, but so many settle in a sickening blend at the core of his aura, permuting and seething to every inch of him.

"The God-Sealing Art... I wonder if that would work on you, Valkenhayn...? It is an incredible burden to perform... but I think any less, and you will shred me to pieces, one arm or not...!"

COMBATSYS: Makai gathers his will.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/------=|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Makai
[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/--=====|

From his shadowy perch somewhere above Makai, Valkenhayn crouches - limp arm held by his other hand as he holds his broken bone together, feeling the dull ache as it slowly heals into one. For now, he seems content to rest and listen to the words spoken by his strange foe... his words, his powers, his aura, and those runes. Could this fool /truly/ be sealing such a multitude of dark forces within his human body? Or is it that his body could no longer even be called 'human'... long ago surrounded to the beasts chained within?


His opponent uses the momentum of a chain to rise up to Valkenhayn's level, the Lycanthrope remaining crouched as he looks up at Makai. He allows the man to finish speaking, red eyes burning brighter and brighter as saliva begins to drip off the tips of his exposed, enlarged canine teeth.

"It is rare, for a man to throw away their humanity so completely..."

Words in the dark, echoing wildly around the space - the sound almost swallowed up by the whirring and grinding of machinery.

"I would applaud you, if I had use of both arms."

And in a sense, it's true. Such devotion, such dedication, such lack of regard for ones' /own/ spirit... ones' /own/ soul. It is rare to see willpower of such magnitudes in the realm of Earth; despite the many powerful fighters that place has produced, there are few who can truly say they have moved /past/ humanity. Is the man facing Valkenhayn truly one of them? The idea excites the bloodthirsty werewolf; a morbid fascination, a desire to know more, to perhaps break the chains that bind the forces inside of Makai. To fully unleash this 'butcher' upon the Castle, despite what may come of it...

But would his Master approve of such a hasty decision on the part of her loyal servant? Like a trained dog, that thought nags at the back of his head.

"God-Sealing Art, Mr. Butcher?" he says with a dry, humourless bark of a laugh, "I daresay you overestimate me..."

Trailing off, there is an audible *CRACK* as he yanks down on his arm - bones knitted together into one, he pops the appendage back into its place. Rising to his feet, two gloved hands come out to dust eachother off - quite obnoxiously, too.

"Or... perhaps /not/!"

With no intention of standing by and letting Makai complete whatever bizarre rite he is performing - after all, who knows /how/ powerful this man's sealing arts truly are - Valkenhayn kicks off the metal of the platform and rushes his opponent once again. For all his opponent's flawless technique and arcane ability, Valkenhayn's advantage is his speed, feralness and sheer, overwhelming force.

He shifts once more; but this time, not from man to wolf... rather, a hybrid form. The frame and height of a man, the visage, claws and muscles of a wolf. The massive jaws open and attempt to close around Makai's neck in a nearly vice-like grip... if he finds purchase, there is a quick yank to the side - attempting to throw his opponent off his footing. Long enough, surely, for the bestial Butler to unleash a combination of chi-infused punches and kicks up and down the frame of his opponent - finished off with a massive, sweeping upwards kick aimed at sending the Ametsuchi man up into the shadows above their platform.

COMBATSYS: Makai blocks Valkenhayn's Sturm Wolf.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Makai
[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/------=|

COMBATSYS: Makai just-defends Clockwork Hazards' Live Wires!!

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Makai
[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/------=|

"I keep telling you... I am not a man!!" Makai says, sounding offended by this. "Do you want to know who that might be...?!" He then reaches up, and draws off his mask. A surprisingly attractive face of someone far too young, definitely in the early twenties. And one, if there was any doubt, is definitely blind. "Masaru Akahouki... that is the 'man' you must refer. And he did not throw it away... he FELL!! My power has a unique trait to it... I linked with every other monster, and we united to drag his psyche into the hell. He occupies a cell within me, too... always fighting. Always resisting. Wanting to take back control... but I think he would go MAD by now once he found out the things I've done with his flesh and skin... Hahahahah!! Do you care? Why would you... it just proves how weak humans are, that I, the Butcher, am in control, wouldn't you say?!"

He thrusts out his arms, lifting them into a defensive stance once more. "I cannot wear down your soul... so I must dominate it in a single go. It will all ride on that moment... that exchange... shall we see if you escape?"

And then, the brutal man rushes forward with killing intent. What might seem odd to Valkenhayn is that his hands are moving; he's doing nothing to stop the bite. But then, as teeth begin to snap shot, both hands strike him on either side of the neck. Like an electric spasm, his bite is arrested, just barely sinking into gauze and flesh. Twisted and hurled aside, his blood tastes foul, corrupt, decayed... yet it prevents the disorientation required.

A dance follows; palms striking out, catching and divesting those furious attacks. Even with his mastery, they brush against his arms and shoulders, burning away the remnants of his cloak, showing the gauze beneath. The sigils seem to hum and glow, as if working overtime. The last kick he once more steps off, before being launched... towards a series of cables. Shredded ones...?! When did-- Lightning courses between them... but Makai then twists around, defensive sigils rippling to either side.

Instead of damaging him, he converts the rush of energy to instead ripple through, draining him. Feeding him. Whipping past before the momentary touch grows too much, Makai lands upon a ledge...

And his stance seems far more bestial instead. "Are you ready... for the climax, Valkenhayn...?!"

And then Makai shoots forward, spiraling around his hands. Once close, he instead claps his hands together... a great burst of disorienting power rushes out towards the wolf, aiming to stagger him in close proximity. Within arm's reach... what is he planning? But he's gathered up so much power, energy he is preparing to bear...!!

COMBATSYS: Makai successfully hits Valkenhayn with Tombstone.
- Power hit! -
# Disabling hit! #

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Makai
[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/---====|

Once upon a time, when he was little more than a savage beast, Valkenhayn might have found a kindred spirit of sorts in the monster standing before him. But that was a long, long time ago - before the Black Beast, before finding himself in the employ of Lord Clavis. Even now, the words are enough to bring a more fearsome aspect to his already wild, bloodthirsty grin, canines seeming to grow larger and sharper in his humanoid mouth. Such a cavalcade of monsters, inside such a youthful visage - taking his humanity and casting it into the darkness...

How amusing!

He dashes, transforms, attempts to snap those teeth like a trap around his opponent's neck... and finds himself temporarily stunned, the man's hands striking either side of Valkenhayn's thick, furry neck. Even still, his bite is strong enough to draw blood... the taste of which is enough to confim that this thing facing him had left its humanity behind long ago. Hunting through the realm of Makai as he has in the past, such unpleasant flavours are a familiar thing to the Lycanthrope - not that such a fact serves to makes the taste any more savoury.

His rush of attacks are met with a near-flawless response from the Ametsuchi; although a few strikes do land glancing blows, his foe is largely untouched. A brief growl of frustration escapes the werewolf's spit and blood-soaked jaws, before the hybrid form is replaced by that of a large, brown wolf. Bloodshot canine eyes watch the man as he seems to feed off the crackling electricity from one of the clocktower's many frayed wires... the wolf tenses its muscled frame, claws grinding against the metal under its paws.

He certainly seems to be taking his opponent as more of a threat than he did at the encounter's outset, or so his body language and demeanor would imply.

And though he is prepared for the attack, he is once again taken off-guard by Makai's unusual abilities; the clap accompanied by an almost nauseating burst of energy - enough to stagger him. Unable to evade the attack - or even mount any defense to limit damage - the wolf finds himself thrown backwards at an extreme downward arc, body striking the ground and tumbling side-over-side before skidding to a halt.

The demonic man might have a moment or two to consider the amount of damage he truly inflicted on Valkenhayn. Though the wolf is visibly breathing - hot breath that steams even in the stuffy, heated air of the enclosed clocktower - there is not much movement aside from the rapid rise and fall of its chest.

A moment, or two... no more than that. A low growl begins to emit from the fallen canine, rising in volume and lowering in pitch until it seems to rumble the very foundation of the clocktower. The guttural noise reaches a savage peak just as the wolf's frame is overtaken by a bright flare of purple energy...

In an instant - without even dragging itself off the ground - the wolf is propelled towards Makai at an upward angle. Finding its footing in mid-air, the canine begins to spin; aiming to strike the monster once again in an arcing, chi-infused bodyslam.

COMBATSYS: Makai endures Clockwork Hazards' Scalding Steam.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Makai
[                    \\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/----===|

COMBATSYS: Makai fails to counter Aufwarts Konig Wolf from Valkenhayn with #Burial Rites#.
- Power fail! -

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////                  ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Makai
[                    \\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/---====|


Bounce a wolf off Makai once, shame on him... do it twice, shame on you. But a third?! Such an innovative method of using simple inertia. Yet the entire battle has hinged and been prepared for this single moment. In response to the rush, Makai spreads his arms out, and CLAPS them together.

A great dome of that sealing energy bursts out in all directions. It would wash over the wolf, unpleasantly, as he advances. The world seems to slow down; even the cogs of the nearby clocktower, the swing of the pendulums, the click-click-clicks. The expression on Makai, face still bared, is one in a twisted grin, of someone who's well-laid trap has been finally unleashed.

Chains begin to flash out in all directions, coiling out like serpents towards the wolf. His gauze splits, burns, and frays, as he uses that God-Sealing maneuver he promised. Twisting, he thrusts out his palm, fingers curled, a single point of light seeming to shimmer within it.

It is close. Valkenhayn is slowed, but he is hardly stopped. Even if he must force, resist, and struggle forward with all of his will and tenacity. It is unclear who would hit first... but for a long second, it appears overwhelmingly in Makai's favor...!

Only he then startles. His expression shifts to a grimace of pain. Free hand reaching up to grasp the side of his head. Something new ripples over him... the pure, refreshing aura of a human. It lasts only a heartbeat. Some patient, but perfectly executed, defiance. Of the monster's chained human body, their true spirit, buried deep inside.

Valkenhayn ducks beneath the palm, and impacts dead center in Makai's chest. Blood spurts from his mouth, and the slowing aura shatters like glass. Suddenly granted full speed, the onslaught of spectral sealing chains would be well within his realm to escape, as the slender form flies backwards and strikes into a glass case, sending broken shards spilling before him.

"...!! M-Masaru... even now?! How..." he snarls, trying to rise but falling to his knees. "For ages, I have bound you again and again... nnngh!! I see... it seems truly, both of us cannot exist in this body... you are a poor, useless vessel to me after all!!"

COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn dodges Clockwork Hazards' Brass Pendulum.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////                  ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Makai
[                    \\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/---====|

Valkenhayn did not expect to take his opponent off-guard; far from it – his estimation of the monster's abilities has only risen since the beginning of their battle. He knew there would be no easy out for him in this fight, no simple path to victory, no glory without sacrifice. No, he knew there would be an attempt at defense; even at counter-attack.

In the end, it all came down to a simple equation: (Mass x Momentum) + BigWolf = Velocity.

All that mattered was whether or not that velocity was greater than the reaction time and movement speed of his opponent. The Butler was fully aware that it would be a close call, no matter which way the chips fell; all he could do was trust in his own near-legendary abilities as a warrior.

And in the back of his mind, an unspoken 'thank you' to the being who restored his youthful vigor to him. No doubt this very situation had played into that decision which his Master made years ago; defending the Castle from intruders, protecting the dignity and security of the massive, sprawling Estate. Perhaps it was far easier to train a savage beast to become a servant once more, rather than trying to undo centuries of domestication via training.

He hesitates to imagine how things may have turned out differently if he were still the Valkenhayn of Old; the prim, proper, aged Lycanthrope.

Indeed, it seems as his fellow Darkstalker was fully prepared for his attack; bellowing at him to come and end their conflict. Well, it was always a pleasure to indulge the whims of a guest, after all.

The spread arms, another loud *CLAP* that bounces back and forth, up and down the height of the clocktower. That potent, sealing art put on display once more by his strange opponent... it spreads out into a dome with Makai at its centre. The energy disorientates Valkenhayn, nauseating his wolfish body once again... but this time, he is not thrown off his attack as he previously had been.

This time, the chi surrounding his canine form flares all the brighter as the Ametsuchi techniques wash over him. It's not enough to entirely nullify the effects of that unusual power, but it /is/ enough to keep him firmly set on his course.

Gritting his fanged teeth together, the Butler focuses all his energy on maintaining his momentum, forcing his way through the dome of energy, past the chains that snake out at him. Then, the palm is thrust towards him, and for a moment is seems as though the Lycanthrope had made a grievous error...

...but it would appear that Valkenhayn is not the /only/ opponent who Makai is fighting here and now. Something takes his attention away, some inner battle which the wolf is not privy to. He has always been a prideful man, but not too proud to throw away such an opportunity – and his momentum carries him into the Ametsuchi man's chest, ricocheting off and away. Coincidentally, he manages to spin through the air just as a massive, metallic pendulum swings through the empty air where he was just a split-second ago. Whether planned or simply a fortunate coincidence, who could say? Wolves can't speak, after all.

Transforming in mid-air, the well-polished shoes of Madam Rachel's servant and guardian land firmly on the platform, Valkenhayn standing straight as an arrow – arms folded over his well-muscled chest as his gaze falls upon the kneeling form of Makai... clearly still in the depths of his own struggle.

"A pity..."

The words are spoken, with an almost sadistic malice that makes it clear he feels absolutely nothing of the sort towards his fallen opponent.

"Surely we aren't finished here, Mr. Butcher."

Rather than press the attack, Valkenhayn remains standing tall and dignified some distance away. Even though his voice remains firm and unwavering, and his bearing remains as solid and confident as ever, it is clear from looking closer that the fight has begun to take its toll on him. His once-immaculate and expensive-looking clothes now appear as though they might be more suited to an old-timey hobo's closet than that of the Castle's Head Servant. Singes, cuts, tears – to say nothing of the dust and machine-oil he has gathered from being tossed around the tower over the course of this fight.

Extending one gloved hand towards Makai, the werewolf taps one Oxford-clad foot onto the metal underneath him, almost impatiently, as he unfolds his arms to pull out his still-intact pocket watch. A fast glance at the time, then his eyes move back to his kneeling opponent.

"Rise, or die on your knees."

COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn focuses on his next action.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////                  ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/----===|-------\-------\0            Makai
[                    \\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/---====|

"The Blade of Val'Thrun..." Makai growls, as he pushes slowly up to his feet again. "That is what I want...!" It's not an uncommon relic; Valkenhayn would certainly know of it. A generally forbidden item... by stabbing it into the user's heart, every soul within will do battle, until only one remains behind. The success rate had at times caused those possessed or dominated by fel beings to only become more dangerous, and as a result it was one of many mortal toys confiscated by the previous rulers... what might it do to this? A creature of so many souls, all fighting until only one remains? The Butcher must be confident he would win... or, perhaps, he is so near the end, he has no other choice.

"I just wish to *USE* it... hahaha!! That cannot be so bad... perhaps Masaru would win!! What do you care what some desperate guest wishes?! Would it not be fun for your Master to bet and gamble... on if I'd pull it off?!" He doubles over, coughing up no small amount of blood, and seems to quake, tremble, struggling with that internal conflict once more. Before making a motion as if to retch, before a strange, serpentine youkai bursts free; perhaps a dozen meters long, wickedly teeth, it lets out a shriek and takes flight towards the distant ceiling.

"...tch... that one was decent... hrrk..." Like a balloon, it seems those churning monsters inside him might cause him to pop. "But finished...?! Hardly...!! Our kind... those born in Makai... we never had mercy in the first place, did we?!"

Unsteady, Makai then rushes forward. He's only got one last chance to manage things. Limbs are trembling, his aura is on the verge of collapsing... he slams down his foot, before bringing up his hand. Too far to reach...? Before four chains suddenly rocket from multiple directions towards Valkenhayn, attempting to constrict him with little warning. Before Makai thrusts out his palm to strike him in the heart, trying to send a surge of power within, to jar him body and soul.


The chains would then go taut, trying to draw and slam Valkenhayn upon the ground, as the once-finessed beast aims to slam his palm down, assaulting his very soul, his body, even his mind, with those relentless strikes of power... ones that grow ever more effective the weaker and more drained someone is.


COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn dodges Clockwork Hazards' Live Wires.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-----==|-------\-------\0            Makai
[                    \\\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/---====|

COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn blocks Makai's Shallow Grave.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0            Makai
[                     \\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/--=====|

'The Blade of Val'Thrun...'

Even with the mind of the werewolf so thoroughly invested and focused on the battle against Makai, that name does not go unnoticed. Burning red eyes momentarily widen, before the angry gaze is narrowed once more upon the Ametsuchi. He knows of the relic, knows what it is used for; and, more importantly, why it was taken by Lady Alucard from the realms of men.

Such a potent and dangerous tool... it would have been foolhardy to leave it to the humans, those primitive creatures who could have no concept of its risks. And now this man - or monster - has come here to steal it from his Mistress?

That simply won't do.

"I won't guess what Lady Alucard may or may not find amusing, stranger..."

It did seem to depend entirely on mood, after all...

"But I /do/ know of what you speak, and I know it would be a fool's game to let something like /you/ rest its hands upon that object."

Since allowing the man to rise from his kneeling position, Valkenhayn has tucked his pocket watch back into its place, ceased his foot-tapping, and taken up a more traditional combat stance - gloved fingers curling and uncurling as he stands with arms held up in front of his body.

"Then again, who knows? You may have the chance to ask Her yourself..."

"...though not if I have any say in the matter."

The snakelike youkai catches Valkenhayn's attention - if only for long enough to confirm it is not some roundabout attack on him. Once the shadows begin to swallow the thing on its path to the ceiling far above, Makai would find that the werewolf is - once again - focused entirely upon him.

The attack finally comes, a seemingly desperate rush bringing Valkenhayn's foe closer to him at a rapid pace.

The rattling of arcane chains offers only the briefest of warnings; it is a testament to his speed that the Lycanthrope's hands react quickly enough to reach out and snap two of the chains in an instant. One foot lifts up to step down on the third, but the fourth wraps around Valkenhayn's left leg just below the knee... he pulls on it, but it holds firm.

The palmstrike flies through the air on its path towards the werewolf's heart; but his own limbs move even fast, reaching out and gripping Makai by the wrist. He manages to arrest the attack just inches away from it reaching his flesh, perhaps a decisive moment in the battle?

The chain around his leg tightens suddenly, pulling the Lycanthrope off balance and hurtling to the ground. Valkenhayn's eyes widen suddenly as he catches sight of a thick, coiled, insulated wire laying on the ground - there appears to be some fraying on the black exterior of the wire, as electric-blue sparks burn in the shadowy tower. And naturally, the chain seems to be pulling him down /onto/ the arcing electricity.

Planting his other foot back onto the ground, he wrests his path away from the live wire. His head strikes the metallic floor less than a foot away from it, with Makai being pulled downwards by Valkenhayn's grip on his wrist. He'll likely find himself kneeling over the Butler, when all is said and done, but unable to pull himself away. The werewolf's fingers are like a beartrap, offering no give to his opponent, no chance to escape...

Yet, there is a tremor in Valkenhayn's own arm as he attempts to keep his hand around the man's wrist - clearly this battle has taken its toll on him, despite all his calmness and arrogance.

Indeed, this battle could end with either man as the victor... but Makai is a mere guest, here on the whims of Lady Alucard. This is Valkenhayn's place. Where he works, where he lives. It is - more than any other place in all the realms - home. And he is here, facing this man, on orders from the one whom he holds above all others. How could he let himself fail against this intruder?

"Dying on the job?" he says, the faintest hint of a smile on his lips, "How tasteless."

Without warning, Valkenhayn releases his grip on the man's hand - his body twists and reshapes itself almost instantaneously, Makai finding himself above his opponent's wolf-form. One forepaw slashes out through the air, sending those long, terrible claws on an attempt to deliver a horizontal slash across the man's neck. At the same time, the canine attempts to roll to one side, hoping his opponent is unsteady enough to be knocked from his position.

COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn successfully hits Makai with Medium Claw.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-----==|===----\-------\0            Makai
[                     \\\\\\\\\  <
Valkenhayn       0/-------/-======|

"Hahahah...!! I am at my limit in this body!! You can see it, can you not?! I'll never grow stronger... in fact, I might be consumed in the end, anyway. This human was meant to be a CAGE... I may have hijacked it, but I am a shadow of my original power. Were I to flee, I would be as a rat... centuries of work gone... GONE!! My only hope is to conquer every last, pathetic entity inside me, one by one..."

"And even risk myself against the strange presence at my core, I've left alone until now..."

"...D-damn you!!" The assault was clumsy, in a lot of ways. If not for the chains, such a forward attack clearly does not suit Makai's aikido-like reactive style. There was no speed to control, no motion to arrest... just a simple, clear attempt to end things here, and now!!

He's not too strong, alas. Valkenhayn's power is leagues above this beast, when it comes to raw might. "Damn you... damn you!! Do you know what I'd do if I was born in your body?!" he accuses. Genuine spite, it seems, that the lycanthrope is so happy to work beneath someone like Lady Alucard...

Shoved backwards, staggering near the edge of the precarious cogs, Makai's mouth gapes open before claws rip into him. Blood spatters the ground, seeming to lightly sizzle on the metal. But the gauze was unexpectedly resilient... there was no other miscalculation on that brutal sweep, although it leaves the tenacious being clinging desperately.

"HRRRAUGHT!!" His dark-skinned chest now bared, it feels as if dark energy is seeping out of him at an alarming rate. It's almost a stagger, now; where is the technique he held so perfectly earlier? Yet he draws up a fist, clenching it closed as a brief burst of arresting energy thrums out.

And he twists, thrusting forward his fist to try and literally sink the fingers right over Valkenhayn's chest, to squeeze down and send a powerful bolt of his destructive power once more at a, perhaps luckily given the intent, lycanthropic heart. Aiming to twist, sweep a leg, and hurl the man towards the cogs once more.

Although he's... bleeding monsters, here. Every few seconds, something bursts from a crackling sigil. An eight-legged creature like a monkey, quickly leaping off the wedge. A bat with four wings, fluttering off into the darkness. A long centipede, thick and armored, that seeps a miasma... so many creatures and monsters, gnashing at the bit to escape, finally beginning to find purchase as he lingers on the brink of defeat!!

COMBATSYS: Makai successfully hits Valkenhayn with Flatline.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////                       ]
Clockwork Hazards0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0            Makai
[                           \\\  <
Valkenhayn       1/------=/=======|


A low, dangerous growl leaves the spit and blood-soaked jaws of the massive wolf - eyes wide and feral as his claw rakes Makai's neck, sending that corrupted essence splattering on the ground. As the blood flows, so too does that nauseating essence rolling out from the damaged body of his opponent... disorientation, vertigo, light-headedness. Whatever dwells inside the body of the Ametsuchi, its effects upon a Darkstalker - even one as powerful as Valkenhayn himself - cannot be denied, cannot be avoided, cannot be dispelled.

And it is this bizarre energy, seemingly /spilling/ out from the body of Makai, that leaves the Lycanthrope open to the man's next attack. That hand flies out, fingers sinking into the fur of the still-recovering wolf... and what happens next is enough to elicit the first /whine/ of pain from the canine. A sudden burst of that same twisted power that leaks out of the lanky man seems to sap the strength from Valkenhayn in an instant.

The potency of Makai's corrupted essence - unleashed so close to his opponent - leaves the Lycanthrope utterly powerless for an instant. Panting heavily, the wolf shifts and changes back into its human form - lacking the strength and willpower to remain in his canine shape. One gloved hand lifts up, aiming to grab Makai around the wrist and - perhaps - pry himself free from the man's grip.

But it appears as though the bizarre guest has other plans, sweeping Valkenhayn's legs out from under him and hurtling him through the air towards a set of grinding, twisting cogs...

...could this be the end for the Butler? Crushed between machinery in the very Castle that he calls Home? His body is limp for the first half of its trajectory towards the cogs, eyes shut, limbs danging helplessly in the air.

That is, until his eyes snap open - red, shining, /angry/ - as his body suddenly flares up with the same purple chi that seems to infuse so many of his attacks. He has no time for words, no time to marvel at the bizarre creatures cracking and fizzing into existence - seemingly from /within/ the body of his foe.

Reacting with superhuman reflexes and speed, the man suddenly transforms himself into that massive wolf once more - no doubt beginning to tap the very last of his reserve energy to do so. Spinning in midair, his hind-legs find purchase on the edge of a grinding cog... there's the briefest pause as he gathers strength and energy for what might well be his last attack. A split-second for Makai to realize what is coming, before the wolf comes /blasting/ off the cog towards the opposite wall - landing on that wall, he throws himself through the air in the opposite direction once more.

Perhaps the Ametsuchi man can guess at what Valkenhayn has in mind; perhaps not. It hardly matters to the Lycanthrope at this point, as he bounces back and forth - from wall to wall, cog to cog, pendulum to pendulum. Each impact visibly and audibly damages the interior of the clocktower - pieces of machinery beginning to break and fall down the chasm below Makai's platform. Metal *CRACK*s and steel bends beneath the weight and velocity of the wolf-pinball, no doubt sending several chunks hurtling dangerously towards his opponent.

His momentum slowing, Valkenhayn focuses his trajectory before the last of his power wanes and leaves him - and Makai finds himself having to evade a rather large, rather angry wolf as it bounces back and forth, up and down, purple chi lighting up and dispelling the shadows of the ancient clocktower.

COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn can no longer fight.

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Makai            0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0Clockwork Hazards

COMBATSYS: Makai dodges Valkenhayn's Konig Flug.

[                      \\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Makai            0/-------/-======|=======\===----\1Clockwork Hazards

COMBATSYS: Makai fails to counter Small Random Weapon from Clockwork Hazards with Buried Alive.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Clockwork Hazards1/----===/=======|

COMBATSYS: Makai can no longer fight.

Makai is barely holding out; if he had not carefully navigated the chaotic environment to his advantage, using his odd, broad aural sense in a way ears and nose could not readily compensate, this would have gone far different. There is no hiding the stolen bodies' own weakness; he is literally bleeding monsters, as the internal struggle to hold them within seems to be lost further and further...

Yet still, he keeps his focus on Valkenhayn. Such rage... such force. Such vitality!! How he would love to capture and enslave so great a man as him... he can think of only one being inside his entire trove who is even comparable to the werewolf, the one at the deepest, most intimate core of his cell...

His motions are simple, graceful. He does not need to look to see where Valkenhayn is going. Speed is his asset here, and the desperation of adrenaline focuses him enough to shift, duck, and wind away until the last of the vestiges of Valkenhayn's attack burn out and he would come to a stop.

"Haa... haa... it seems I w--"

Then, a quivering spring behind Makai breaks loose. All that tension drives the broken point out; realizing it too late, he whirls, palms trying to clasp together and catch it. Instead, it sinks into his stomach with a 'hrk!', as the monstrous figure draws backwards in a spurt of dark blood.

Collapsing upon the ground, he can feel it. The proverbial straw, the camel's back. At this point, the conflict is much different; all of Makai's focus now are on maintaining the inner balance needed to assuage the desperation of his linked menagerie. "Grk... sst...!!"

Managing a slow, unsteady roll, he ends up on his hands and knees before Valkenhayn. "I could... release a few choice specimens..." he bluffs. "Angry creatures who would thoroughly enjoy devouring... urk!! A Darkstalker like you...!" That might be true, but only after they took angry vengeance on Makai himself. His control of his vassals is purely through intimidating and power -- they are under no compelling oath to behave!!

"The... the blade... let me use the blade, you damn wolf...!! Or... or...!!"

Though it might not be obvious at first - particularly considering the wild abandon with which he throws himself at the walls and various machinery within the clocktower - Valkenhayn's mad, pinball rush is causing its share of damage to his own body as well. Blood leaks from numerous scrapes, gashes and cuts on his canine frame, staining his brown fur a sickening crimson colour as his momentum slowly fades.

Cogs and springs and chunks of stone wall collapse from the impact of his chi-infused body... and then, the wolf joins the machinery in its collapse. One moment he is bouncing from wall to wall, swifter than the naked eye can see; the next, his body goes limp in mid-air, slamming unceremoniously to the ground and skidding to a halt several feet away from Makai.

The wolf lays on its side, tongue lolling out the side of its mouth, chest rising and falling with each haggard breath, a small pool of blood slowly gathering on the ground underneath it.

And then, movement. Slow, unsteady, and accompanied - at first - by a small, high whine from the jaws of the canine. Paws scrape against the blood-slicked metal as the wolf tries to find some manner of grip; and gradually, the beast pulls itself off the floor. A quick shake of its head - and body - sends blood spraying off its fur in every direction...

...and in a quick transformation, the wolf is replaced with the human form of Valkenhayn once again. On one knee, palms pressed against the floor to keep himself steady, the damage is even more visible here than it was as a wolf. His formerly impeccable clothing, shoes, gloves... they all show serious signs of damage; large gashes in the fabric and leather showing still-bleeding wounds underneath. No doubt they will heal quickly once he has caught his breath and regained some of his power, but there is little danger to Makai of such a thing happening at this point in time.

He sees the spring come flying, sees his opponent twirl in a desperate attempt to catch the piece of machinery. Sees him... fail. Perhaps it can be said that the ancient clocktower - with its bizarre, arcane innerworkings - has defeated them /both/ this day. Certainly this will be the last time for a while that Valkenhayn steps foot inside this cursed structure - unless, of course, he were ordered to do so by the Lady of the Castle.

Just like that, Makai is on his hands and knees just in front of the Lycanthrope, who remains on one knee as he focuses on his breathing, on slowly stitching his wounds shut with his preternatural healing abilities... it will take too long to be of any further use in this encounter, however. After all, the true limits of his curative powers are only reached in the heat of battle - when he tastes the blood of an enemy - and that moment has passed.

And so, he remains silent for the time being, letting the man speak. His voice seems... worried? Nervous? Threatening? It's difficult for Valkenhayn to put his finger on precisely /what/ emotion Makai is feeling as those words come falling out of his mouth. A bluff? An honest threat? A /warning/? What is it?

'I could release a few choice specimens...'

Even though his mind is working to decipher the truth behind those words, they don't seem to have any effect upon Valkenhayn's manner or bearing themselves; though he is clearly in no position to do battle against the unleashed monsters that his opponent seems to be /barely/ holding back. No, regardless of his outward reaction to the Ametsuchi man's threat, he is fully aware of the precarious position they are both in. Who knows - if Makai were to let his inner beasts /truly/ run off their chain - whether or not the already-damaged interior of the clocktower could possibly hold together with any further conflict between the two.

"I would appreciate..." he says calmly, eyes never leaving Makai - even as he struggles to catch his breath, to steady his limbs, to regain some small amount of vitality, "...if you did not, stranger..."

Ah, the blade. Yes, the very reason that this man came to the Realm, to this Castle, in the first place. By Valkenhayn's slow reaction to those words, it is clear that this fact was forgotten - temporarily - in the bloodthirsty haze of battle. A smirk slowly becomes visible on his bloody lips, as one gloved hand comes up to wipe away the crimson fluid dribbling out of his mouth.

"Heh. Of course."

His voice is cool, without emotion - perhaps all his rage and ferocity is temporarily spent after the brutal fight between him and Makai. Perhaps he has even found some manner of respect for a worthy opponent, even if the Butler still views him as little more than an intruder - invitation or not.

A groan, as he slowly pushes himself off the ground with both hands - rising into an unsteady standing position. He reels for one moment, and it might appear as though his strength were about to leave him... but it does not. He remains on his feet, grinding his heels on the metal underfoot in an attempt to root himself to the ground. Piercing eyes - blue once more, now that the lust for blood has abated within the werewolf - fall upon the resting form of Makai.

"I can assure you..." he pauses, a sudden cough escaping his mouth - accompanied by a small glob of sticky, dark red fluid which splatters on the ground between the two.

"...that I do not keep such items on my person. It is not my place to lay hands upon such a tool, nor would I trust myself with it - if it were."

Makai might be surprised as Valkenhayn takes a half-step towards him, one gloved hand outstretched towards him - a wide, almost dangerous grin revealing teeth stained red with blood. Is the feral Butler truly offering his hand to this man, who seems on the verge of unleashing every dark spirit within himself?

"Perhaps... you have earned an audience with Lady Alucard?" It is framed as a question, for not even the long-time manservant of the Castle would dare to try and guess at the innerworking of Her ageless, vampiric mind. Was this - sending her personal Lycanthrope guardian to face the guest - some manner of test for the stranger? An opportunity to prove his worth, to earn a gift from the one who rules this Castle? It is just as likely, knowing what he does of Madam Rachel, that he was sent simply to deal with someone too insignificant to be worthy of her own attention. Who can say?

"I can guarantee nothing... other than this fact:if you lose your grip on those demons here, now... you will certainly fall on her /bad/ side."

The words are not spoken as a threat, merely as a statement of fact. Whatever lives inside Makai's body... Valkenhayn knows that it would shrivel and fail in the face of Rachel Alucard's wrath. Better for everyone involved if Makai behaves himself, surely...

Indeed, this is a tenuous draw, at best. In the slow, arduous shift to begin righting himself once more, Makai seems to be going no faster. He has managed to get to himself up to a kneel, blood dripping from open mouth and the gash upon his stomach beneath him. His energy surges and ripples again and again, but it seems he's managing to keep it restrained, for the moment. This damn castle... normally he could flee, draw himself into Makai or the Spirit Realm through the aide of a powerful ally, but they have no way to split the curtain between Earthrealm and this estate; he has not felt this cornered in years, since the drawn-out conflict with his weakened, hunted demonic form ended in him being sealed away in this human...

It is not a memory he is pleased to remember.

Even if he could drag himself over to Valkenhayn, he's no power to seal him in this state. And not the strength to even feebly strangle the throat of the creature. It might come down to which of them recovers first... or whether certain threats of the strange jailer come to fruition.

"Damn dog... I did not even wish to fight you in the first place...!! The dagger is supposed to reveal itself only to those who truly desire it! DESIRE TO BE FREED FROM THE PRISON OF ONE'S OWN SOULS!!" This is -- true, in fact. Such is a defense mechanism to keep it concealed from those who would use it ill...

But there's no doubt that Makai's inner turmoil, his raging soul, are meeting that qualification, as is the human chained deeper. Which leaves the other condition...

"...ah? ...unless. ...this IS what needs to happen. For one must also be near death, from the heat of conflict; both internal, AND external...!

It would be trivial for Valkenhayn to take Makai there. The door may, in fact, unlock before him as he is... and, if such is the will of the castle itself, that must mean something, as well. Is it Rachel's calls, or the ancient, quasi-sentience of this castle, forged of magic from the Boundary, Makai, and beyond, which far predates them all?

"Haa... haa... an interesting prospect..." Makai is upright, although both arms are limp before him. His face slowly twists into a grin, bloodied and battered. "But I'm afraid it's too late... my cage is falling apart. Even if I might not WANT it... it is very likely that all the souls within me might *FINALLY* manage to tear themselves free."

A slow lick of the lips follows the slender, torn-gauzed figure, as blind eyes still aim at him intensely. "You are the butler... you must know where the door is. If I'm truly able to be a key... can you truly deny me, dog?! ...if I use it... then this will stop!! Unless you think taking me to your Lady in person... as, as I burst at the seams... would somehow be a better option?!"

He might be bluffing. ...he might. It cannot be said his aura is /stable/, but... ah, whatever might the correct answer be...? Of course, were he to drive that blade into himself... he would be entirely helpless for the duration of whatever internal strife caused the souls inside him to war. That... could give him plenty of time to decide.

Or, perhaps, to *end* it.

Watching carefully as the Ametsuchi man pulls himself into a kneeling position, Valkenhayn keeps his hand extended towards his opponent - keeping his arm steady, despite the pulsating waves of corruption that seem to leak out of Makai at irregular intervals. The bizarre power that dwells inside does have its effect on the Lycanthrope, but it is seemingly easier for him to cope with when he's not in the heat of battle - and so he is able to remain on his feet, and in such close proximity to the energy's source. The werewolf lets him talk, remaining on the defensive mentally as he considers Makai's words.

Finally, the man's voice falls silent; in response, Valkenhayn slowly draws his hand back - letting it fall casually to his side as he quietly regards the strange individual now standing him. After several moments of contemplation, the Butler's voice cuts through the stagnant air of the clocktower.

"Your knowledge of the Blade runs deeper than I might expect, stranger..." he admits, seemingly grudgingly - as though he would prefer not to admit such a fact to the guest, "I wonder where you learned so much about such an item... from the human realm, or from those things that dwell inside your skin?"

One gloved hand comes up and waves in front of his face, seemingly dismissing the question as soon as it is asked - after all, what difference does it make? The man is correct, regardless of where he's gained his knowledge. And Valkenhayn has dwelt in this Castle long enough to be attuned to its own, strange desires - as though the Estate had a will of its own apart from the ageless Vampire who rules within these walls.

And the Butler can feel the very stones of the Castle's foundation /calling/ to this bizarre individual he has discovered here. Who is he to deny the desires of the very structure itself? Can such a thing be seperated from the whims of the Lady of the Castle? Is it not his duty to obey, and let the grounds themselves decide whether Makai is worthy or not?

At last, an exhasperated exhale escapes from the lips of the werewolf, shaking his head once as though he were finally surrending to the demands of a power greater than his own. After all, if Madam Rachel truly objected he is /certain/ she would intervene - particularly if Makai were deemed to be an existential threat to the Realm itself.

"So be it," he says - voice barely above a whisper, and clearly not excited about what he feels obliged to do in this situation. A quick spin on his heels towards one of the stone walls of the clocktower's interior, accompanied by a sweeping gesture with his right hand towards the smooth surface in front of him.

A shimmer, like that of a mirage in the desert, seems to cover a large oval-shaped outline on the wall... and slowly, second by second, a different vision seems imposed over the surface. A purple gleam, and behind it an opening that has appeared where there was previously none... in the distance, visible through that arcane doorway, a cavernous place - runes inscribed on the ground, and numerous sealed chambers lining the walls.

"Go. We will let a power greater than you or I decide your worth, your desire, your dedication... Go, and kindly ensure that I never see you within these walls again.... /guest/."

There is a very obvious sense of menace practically dripping off his words, but Valkenhayn steps away from the portal/opening, keeping his arm outstretched towards it. He's allowing Makai to pass, as much as it might displease him to do so.

"Heh... the blade originally came from the Human realm...! Imagine m-my rancor, when I learned the latest rumors and myths placed it in this vile castle... but I knew it would appear, again. I waited, hid, seethed... but fate... fate will remain on my side!!"

Not much of note further comes from the beast, beyond eventually getting back to his feet. Breathing in deep, open-mouthed gasps. As time inches forward, it's clear that this might not have been a bluff in the end. He's growing more unstable by the second, and given the recovery of the lycanthrope himself... if they resumed the fight, he would definitely lose. Yet what then? He would then release his onslaught of monsters, many of which might escape to the human realms, which would certainly be blamed on the castle and it's owner...

"...Well. Never again...? I only promised that if you WON, dog... our conflict is hardly settled. Heh...! Try me again... when I am reborn. And you will see why the heart of my birthplace sees fit to finally ascend me!!"

He then begins to hobble down the passageway, in a manner not... particularly dramatic to match his words. Blood trails behind, and his ability to sense the surroundings grows more dim. So many voices... he can hear them in the back of his skull, like the chattering whispers of a thousand flies.

If Valkenhayn cared enough to watch is journey, the man simply freezes. For almost a minute, he bleeds in the open, before startling with a crackle of sealing magic beginning to fade. A hand raises to grasp the side of his head. Nngh...! He's losing himself...? Being drawn away from the forefront, the 'soul' of the human's body.

And now, he is truly blind...

He can no longer sense the world. He is in darkness, almost deaf from the rising chorus in his ears. Staggering forward, his fingers brush along a wall. Each step is harder then the last, the riot of his countless interior beginning to reach nearly a singularity...

It's then that his fingers brush over a jewel inset upon one of the doors. It flashes, before the rumble of ancient stone and sealed metal draws it open. Lacking a better course, and only knowing one of the random vaults for artifacts appears opened, he moves inside.

Pant... pant... pant. He loses touch of the wall, and for some reason cannot seem to find it again. Staggering like a zombie, sealing gauze burns away, revealing deep-set tattoos that begin to flash bright purple, the last line of defense to keep his soul intact. This is new... he can feel it. Hundreds of teeth, biting into his soul, beginning to tear him apart... and with him gone, the jail will finally break...!!

Knees thump into a pedestal. Blindly exploring it, his numb fingers wrap around the ivory hilt of a ritualistic dagger. Twisting around, he collapses against the pedestal, sliding down as he tries to focus on the last action to be done.

And then, with an almost cruel slowness, he twists to drive it against his chest. Curving metal slips within, to the hilt. For a split second, he thinks the castle played a cruel joke. Did he just find some magical dagger with no useful properties, and end his own life...?!

Before he feels powerful magic pulse through him. His body ripples in dark pink and crimson flames, burning away the last remnants of his armor and the old seals, beyond the intricate series of geometric lines carved upon the flesh beneath. Even the golden armor of forearms and shins sizzles, falling away like the shell of a crustacean.

Within, he feels himself fall. All sense of the outside world vanishes; then with a rush of light, he sees a great, craggy land of dark brown rock stretch out before him. He can see...? For the first time in years, he can see...!

The spirit of what humanity calls the Butcher crashes upon the ground. And all around, like falling stars, every other monstrous being and figure within begins to impact the battlefield. Some are mere specks... but some simmer with more power then he expected.

And in the distance, glowing like an angel, a very human soul rises. Masaru; the original host. Still hale, and without dozens of helpful forces to drag him down... perhaps above the monster himself.

"COME...!" the Butcher roars, standing up in his shimmering, humanoid form of glowing soul made manifest, echoing across the battlefield. "LET US ALL COMMENCE... ONE LAST SLAUGHTER!!"

And within the castle, the shimmering form of the human once called Masaru lays in the vault, hilt of the dagger flashing bright each time one of those within loses. At first, it is like a strobe... slowing, over long minutes, falling into tens of minutes, only brightening now and then as the last, most potent presences within battle.

Until, after almost thirty minutes, a blinding flare of light erupts from the dagger, sending the figure spasming as the violet-pink flames burn brighter, intense enough to shroud anything beneath beyond what seems to be a shifting, twitching frame...

Before black eyes snap open, and a hand rips the dagger free...

Only... who won? The artifact is released, clattering to the stone ground of the vault. The burning figure slowly rises, peering down at hands, turning them over. To the side, the castle shudders as a slender passage shunts open. A long, simple hallway forms of craggy geometric bricks... ending in a flash of light. An exit... as if the castle is telling him to leave.

A request gladly taken. Step by step, still glowing like a violet-pink avatar of flames, the figure moves, passing into the exit provided... before the stone seamlessly ripples and closes behind.

The blade is burned out. The soul gem within the hilt cracked and empty. Whatever process it just did, seems to have been it's final act... perhaps, the purpose for which it waited here all along...

But in the long run, for boon or bane? Or is such things beyond fulfilling ultimate purpose even important to the powers that lurk in the ancient, deepest foundations...?

Valkenhayn remains still as one of the Castle's many statues, side facing Makai with his arm outstretched towards the strange portal/opening that has manifested itself in the stone wall. He stands as a loyal sentry might - showing no more of the displeasure he is certainly feeling with this turn of events. It has been a long, long time since he has felt the very Estate itself react to a visitor, as it has to this bizarre man today - and he is entirely unsure if that fact is a good or bad omen.

Time will certainly tell. It is only his complete and utter faith in Lady Alucard's omniscience and omnipotence within her own Castle that allows him to remain stone-faced... to remain calm and composed, as the Ametsuchi man inches closer and closer to his apparent goal.

The Butler's nose wrinkles visibly as his former opponent passes him, on the way to his destination. His distaste of the intruder, and the Castle's seeming acquiescence to the man's desires, is not helped by the words that leave Makai's mouth. 'Our conflict is hardly settled...'

"Do not test me further..." comes the growled reply, snapped out quickly by the gruff Lycanthrope... for a moment it seems as though he has further words to share with the guest, but he cuts himself short - remembering his place as servant to both the Mistress and the very Castle itself. As much as it might disgust him to let this man pass into one of the Estate's most secret places, it is not his position to second-guess such matters... after all, the man /had/ already proved himself, in more ways than one.

With each step the stranger takes, Valkenhayn can practically /hear/ the Castle itself - singing out to Makai, or the demons within him... and he can /feel/ the sickening corruption that dwells within the man reacting to that pull. It's almost enough - with all his enhanced, sharpened senses - to make him ill. And though he doesn't fully understand the scope of what is occuring here, his knowledge gained within these walls - and the experience that comes with untold years serving here - tells him that it is, indeed, something beyond what passes for normal in this strange Realm.

Eyes follow Makai all the way to the mystical gate which he has provided the man... and then, he is gone - leaving Valkenhayn alone in the shadowy interior of the clocktower. A deep inhale of breath, followed by a sigh that seems to bleed him of all the rage which has built since encountering the strange guest, leaves the Butler visibly calmer than he was just moments ago. His gaze breaks away from the place where the portal had manifested - now just a plain, stone wall once again - and begins to scan the sheer amount of damage he and his opponent had inflicted upon the clockwork machinery.

It is... substantial. Cogs are broken, no longer grinding to operate the clock as intended... pendulums hang loose, no longer moving. Springs litter the ground and giant chunks of stone join them, spread around the multiple levels within the tower.

"I suppose I should tidy this up..." he mumbles to himself, as though he weren't entirely enthused by the idea. Seems that it will take longer than a few months for him to return to his usual, domesticated self.

And as he begins to work lifting and moving debris - slowly, as his wounds still work on healing - he can't help but wonder... what exactly are the repercussions of someone like /that/ getting their hands upon the Blade? He hopes that Madam Rachel has one eye on this stranger, and whatever his further plans might be...

Log created on 21:31:08 05/31/2021 by Masaru, and last modified on 16:54:27 06/17/2021.