The Descent - Round 2 - Unnatural Splendor

[Toggle Names]

Description: Ever since tasting opposed strains of infernal blood, a remote corner of a Louisiana Bayou has seen changes: flecks of metal melded with newly sprouted plants, wildlife with hellish glares, and rivulets of glistening oil flowing forth from murky waters. Surrounded by the slow, but steady collapse of a venerable ecosystem, the Rose of Blackthorne and the Frozen Heart, Jin Kisaragi, meet in a duel of beautiful faces laid over cruel intentions.

The hazy moon reflects off of the murky surface of the bayou as it wends its way through aged waterways. At the edges of the muddy flow in this particular patch, red eyes gleam in the darkness, the local fauna suffering from the corruption of recent infernal battle in the environs. All around, the sounds of insects chirping and hissing and buzzing can be heard, along with the occasional croak of a bullfrog or the 'plop' of some underwater creature stirred to pursuit or evasion. Algae and moss cover most everything, and twisted trees lean over the water, strands of green dangling down to the rustling reeds.

Standing on a small raft steered by a cloaked figure with a long rod, Lady Briar Rose Blackthorne stands in a short dress seemingly sewn of red and purple rose petals, marveling at the scenery. Her long brown hair hangs limp in the humidity.

"Imagine, Wendell. A whole new world across the sea! So many new friends for you to find."

The bell-flowered tripod stalk plant to whom she's speaking is hanging similarly limp in the heat, the tongue-like protrusion that droops from the blossom almost seeming to pant like a dog.

"Oh, you're right, Wendell, it is far too warm. Perhaps we'll find some way to keep cool. Why don't you try going for a swim?"

The plant turns its crown toward Briar, then toward the edge of the raft, its three pod-like roots shuffling it toward the end of the boat to peer down into the depths. Then, heeding its mistress' advice, it drops down over the edge, disappearing beneath the surface.

"Oh, is it too deep?" Briar wonders with concern, moving herself to the edge. "Wendell?"

A few seconds later, the flower-head pops up above the water like a periscope, keeping pace with the raft as the tripod's 'legs' paddle below the surface.

"Ah, very clever!"

Something causes Briar Rose's pleased expression to sharpen. Her eyes are drawn to flecks of silvery metal gleaming in the moonlight - not of manmade tools, though - but grown on fresh leaves of low brush here and there.

"How curious..." Turning her grey eyes further downstream, she spies black fluid bubbling up across the surface of the bayou. "Wendell, come back up - I don't like the look of this water for you."

Briar kneels down and offers her arms to her pet as it swims up to her, then climbs up onto her hands with its roots. She cradles the plant-creature against her middle as she stands back upright, eyes lingering on the oil-slick surface approaching. "What beast was slain here, I wonder...?"

"Disgusting," Major Jin Kisaragi spits savagely, the narrow bridge of his nose wrinkled with contempt as his lip rolls back to sneer. This 'battlefield' is perceived as an insult. It's a putrid wasteland filled with infernal floral and fauna that thrives on poison soup. He ought to transform the entire damn swamp into a frozen hellscape...

Yet there's no guarantee it could improve the smell.

The sour-faced officer of the Novus Orbis Librarium continues trudging through the Louisiana bayou for an hour, up to his ankles in ruddy waters, because every faster route would necessitate swimming. His arrival is noticed by no one, but... "Ugh," Jin looks terrible, holding in a retch. Yukianesa's scabbard resists his tightening grip.

If seeking truth wasn't so vital to him, to the point where he can no longer live without it, Kisaragi wouldn't be here. Not one to throw his weight around, he still believed his position and his titles warranted a modicum amount of respect...

Now he knows otherwise.

Despite the humidity soaking through his partially ruined, semi-attached sleeves, or robbing his golden hair of its lustre, Jin is still beautiful, merely damp. Sodden blonde threads temporarily adhere together in clumps to his alabaster skin, to his face, and the perspiration that flows in rivulets down his spine makes all the layers of military attire uncomfortable. Because the damage is irreversible, the chosen Duodecim scion contemplates removing at least the blue regulatory jacket, but...

There's the interruption of a one-sided conversation, giving him cause to pause. He doesn't feign interest in the details that were barely overheard, the voice unrecognisable, yet Jin holds his head imperiously high. His emerald eyes are shrewd and penetrating.

A fog that did not exist a second prior leads the raft that had drifted by itself, bringing the woman to him as though he had cast a bait in her general direction. She receives the same wide berth he would grant any other to disembark, perhaps along with the peculiar load she clutches almost like a babe. If at any point Jin was surprised, his hard countenance reveals nothing. Gloved fingers caress the ito wrapping of the Event Weapon in his hands as his left foot pushes back through the sludge, through whatever is horribly spreading around them. Exuding a murderous intent, the Hero of Ikaruga waits patiently.

As the fog appears in front of the raft and the cloaked figure steers into it, Wendell starts to tremble in Briar Rose's arms as if shivering from a chill - or from fear. The dark-haired woman strokes the creature's stalk in an effort to soothe it.

"There, there, Wendell. Stay here, on the raft. Your nanny will be back shortly - one path or another."

She kisses the bog-soaked flower lightly before setting the tripod down on the wooden deck, her nose crinkling slightly as she takes out a rosy silk kerchief and dabs at her lips. Discarding it, she holds her closed hand up, conjuring a pungent purple lavender sprig in her grasp and wafting it under her nose and around her body to contest the decidedly-unfeminine smell of swamp gas clinging about her. Once she's concluded her effort, the sprig rapidly withers, petals falling to the bog below.

"Everything here smells so terribly overripe," she complains as her silver irises sweep downward to the muddy shore where her vessel is running aground, preparing for disembarkment. Holding her arms out to her sides to delicately maintain her balance, she places one of the bark-hued high heels testingly on the squelching surface. Just as it seems as though her foot may sink too deep, it rises back up - buoyed by a burgeoning green lily pad rapidly growing beneath. Nodding with a self-satisfied sound, she steps forward again - this time, her foot greeted by another pad. She shakes mud from her first foot before taking another step, another lily pad catching her footfall, before finally stepping over a fallen long and onto drier land. As she does, the grass around her feet seems to stand on end in greeting, cattails bending deferentially aside to let her pass.

Finally, her silver eyes rise up to meet the green eyes of Jin Kisaragi - seeming to notice him for the first time.


The elfin enchantress' eyes widen in surprise at the vision that greets her, her own pale face flushing faintly around the cheeks. Even in her presently disheveled state, the traditional beauty of the Rose of Blackthorne is undeniable - though it seems that she has met her match, a light foil to her dark allure.

"It seems that this land has its knights, as well, Wendell - though, they're much more handsome here -"

She looks over her shoulder to the pet she's addressing, only to realise that he's not there - he remains dutifully on board the boat with his cloaked pilot compatriot.

"- oh."

Turning back toward Jin, she steps forward, gliding lightly on her wooden boot-greaves as she brings herself into closer proximity with the swordsman. Her eyes locked on him, she twists around, her face turning and bending backward to keep his in view as she examines his features from shifting angles.

"Oh, I hope that you're not my opponent. It would be a terrible shame to have to damage you."

Finishing her rotation to return to a more typical orientation, she lowers her hands down to clasp girlishly across her skirt, leaning slightly toward Jin as if drawn by some magnetism but keeping a short distance between them as she smiles.

"My name is Briar Rose. Why don't you come over here and escape the malodorous bouquet of this swamp? My scent is much more aromatic - see for yourself, Sir Knight."

She tilts her head to shift her hair, one floral strap sliding down her shoulder as her neck is exposed, eyelashes flutter innocently and invitingly - or warningly, depending on one's perspective - as her eyes lock on Jin's.

Although Jin Kisaragi is an exquisite specimen with aristocratic features and a lean physique, he's entirely unaware of this. Regardless if an opponent in the past was completely captivated, the idea to exploit these aesthetic looks for personal gain has never occurred...

Were their roles reversed, she undoubtedly would have no such reservations.

In fact, the woman is already making an effort to gain the upper hand.

While he is still and doesn't try to meet Briar Rose's whimsical gaze, she savours the sight of him first before wishing to appeal to his baser instincts. It's all so predictably boring. No matter the dark allure of her traditional beauty, or the offerings of pleasurable aromas, the walls of Jin's apathy are insurmountable. His nostrils slightly flare as he vents a snort in distaste. The elfin lady earns even less acknowledgement for her introduction...

Except that there is not a person on God's green Earth who doesn't know the Hero of Ikaruga, or so he thought before this woodland nymph of a noblewoman made his acquaintance.

This sits strangely with him, because by now Jin expects to receive their judgement, condemnation, or a glowing approval. Rarer still are the opinions tenuously balanced in the midst of everything...

But never has he not been recognised outright.

His attention is finally drawn away from the raft, and he abandons whatever had piqued his interest, however briefly. In the moonlight, the Major's emerald eyes shine brighter, but his pupils are dilated, reducing the irises to thin rings. She might assume Jin's expression would soften, yet its severity increases, filling the marsh with his presence and silencing every other corrupt, croaking lifeform. "Ah, another obstacle," he says, his tenor smooth, heartless.

"If you're not wanting to fight me, get out of my sight."

Can she hear it? The ghostly whispers of the legendary sword he wields?

Seithr is the particle substance which constructs everything in this world, and it is this mystical force he uses to activate his drive, appropriately named 'Frost Bite.' Converting moisture in the air to energy, it's even drawn from the ground where Kisaragi stands, from the odorous exhalations of the native flora, and his damp, sodden uniform and hair. Forestalled by the lack of command, a biting cold arrives...

It surges through the cryokinetic, raising the gooseflesh on his arms. The only puddle left that separates them forms a layer of verglas, hardly worth noticing, but Jin stomps upon it. An ear-splitting BANG, similar to a gunshot, leaves the stillness broken. A lethally gleaming spike of ice erupts, splintering off into smaller fragments while its highest point soars.

To be hit is to be trapped within a crystal prison, lasting just as long as it would take for the lungs to ache from lack of oxygen, and then it shatters into nothing.

COMBATSYS: Jin Kisaragi has started a fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0       Briar Rose

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose blocks Jin Kisaragi's Reitou.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0       Briar Rose

In the Hero of Ikaruga's defense, the Dark Rose of Blackthorne has, quite literally, spent more or less the last six centuries both under a rock and asleep.

The cold apathy displayed toward Briar Rose causes her forward and flirtatious facade to fade faintly, like a flower facing the first frost of winter. There's no youthful disappointment at the rejection, though - rather, the gleam of her moonlit smile seems to grow more insidious as she rights herself, hands poising at her sides as she balances on the heeled wooden boot-greaves that she wears over her purple tights.

"Chaste as a churchknight, hmm?"

The sorceress can sense the surge of seithr as the knight's drive is activated, and she tenses - smile spreading - readying herself for what's to come. The spike erupts with a thunderous report before her, and Briar Rose's eyes close as a rush of cool air blows her dark hair back -


- and she's engulfed by ice, her snow-white skin shining behind the crystalline cage -


- before a dark flare emanates from Briar, shattering the ice prematurely as the mystical countermagic she prepared in the moment before the ice struck her is unleashed. She is left dripping and chilled, a number of cuts on her skin and through her dress and tights where the sharp ice has lacerated her on expulsion, but relatively composed.

"And yet, our amusement is assured."

Cold condensation glistens on Briar's chest as she lets her shoulders relax, the straps of her dress sliding down her skin, the light of the moon catching her cleavage flatteringly as the front of her overgarment starts to slip - further aided by fine fingers flirtatiously tugging at the floral trim across the bust.

"Don't fret, I'm hardly one to wilt in the cold..."

It may arrive at the knight's notice that the low ivy along the forested floor near his feet is furtively creeping up through the frost in knotting tangles - though it's difficult to say whether the display being put on by Briar is a distraction from that hazard, or the reverse, as a moment later, a slit opens beneath her decolletage with a slick, wet sound, an enormous rosebud growing swiftly out of the cavity in an unnatural display of natural puissance. The flower blooms almost instantaneously red, and moments later, from its core, a barrage of large wooden needles flies forth, threatening to pepper Jin with their poisonous payload as the green-thumbed witch giggles in merriment!

COMBATSYS: Jin Kisaragi overcomes Thorny Barrage from Briar Rose with Hishouken.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/-------|=====--\-------\0       Briar Rose

By all means, Kisaragi is happy to return her to the resting bed. When the world has moved on, this woodland enchantress will find no place in the present. She is an affront to the natural order, and it must be corrected...

Or destroyed.

Giggling, tittering, when encased in the wintery coffin, the burst of a dark star is what sets her free. If at any point previously the adopted Duodecim scion admired Briar Rose's beauty, she has become hideous to Jin beyond measure.

A repulsed sneer is the reply to the flirtatious inclinations of her sickening soprano. Jin nails the withering look to the Rose of Blackthorne, wishing it were enough to crucify her to the trees she holds so dear. "Shut up," he snaps harshly, resuming the stance he was found in, easing onto the balls of his feet and testing his balance in the swamp. Yukianesa vibrates chillingly in its scabbard with anticipation.

An exposure, even though it may be partial, repels Kisaragi further. Every bell and klaxon fires that this is not a game of seduction, but one of deadly distraction. The Hero of Ikaruga reacts by casually unsheathing the Japanese court sword, dipping the kissaki into ruddy waters...

One brutal swipe flings most of the creeping ivy clear across the bayou.

Another creates a crescent waveform that he freezes solid, what remains of her plants trapped within.

The burgeoning bud flourishes in full, its spewing contents not what he wishes to receive...

So Jin allows Briar to poison her own brethren, if they are that, each trembling in horrible throes of death. Is it possible for them to scream? What a symphony of wailing voices it would be.

He uses the monolithic statue as a shield, returning the toshin back to the saya, keeping the tsuba and koiguchi a hair's breadth apart. Not leaning around the side that would put him directly in harm's way, the blue knight chooses the other angle to attack! "Die!" he commands her, again manipulating the element of his mastery to construct a crude weapon, floating before him with no strings attached. Jin grasps the broadsword by the handle, frost nipping at pristine gloves...

It is hurled directly at the beastly nymph, through the peppering spray of needles to stab that noxious flower and end the assault.

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose just-defends Jin Kisaragi's Hishouken!

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/-------|=====--\-------\0       Briar Rose

As the creeping flora is caught in the cold grip of Yukianesa's crescent attack, only to be pelted by the poisonous pistil-propelled projectiles, there is a faint look of displeasure on Briar's visage, the corners of her lips briefly downturned.


Whether she refers to the outcome, or to the performance of her own greenling children, is unclear - and there is little time for clarity, as the reply comes with its bladed tip seeking the heart behind the receding blossom sucking back into her bosom.

Moments before it can impact with her body, though, the nymph makes a flicking gesture with her upturned palm, releasing a scantly-visible scattering of seeds - and up from the muddy bank rises a sapling sycamore, emerging and solidifying in a split second to take its hopeful place among the swamp's elder forest -


- only to be cruelly impaled in its youthful prime by the frozen blade, the weapon catching in the trunk. A second later, the savaged sycamore keels and cracks, cleft in twain from the middle up.

"I refuse," Briar retorts, seemingly remorseless of the sacrifice she has demanded - though perhaps some subtle pang to be seen was concealed by the obstructing tree.

"Though perhaps if you ask more deferentially, I'll reconsider your request."

The witch weaves her fingers in the air with urgency as a green glow starts to form between them, the teeming life-energy of the bayou rising up through her as she wills it into her command. The tall grasses grow greener around her and roses start to spring up around her feet as she invokes her dryadic sorcery.

"Your unseasonable cold will find no purchase in my domain. It is winter's nature to succumb to spring!"

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose blooms with natural power!

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/-------|=======\=------\1       Briar Rose

He doesn't express it out loud, but his head tilts back slightly as he looks imperiously down the length of his nose at her, showing that the two of them are both mutually disappointed. In Jin's case, it's because the sycamore took her place, enviable orbs of green observing the tree's entire obliteration at the moment the waveform was released. The blue knight notices the fledgling emergence of empathy, and that piques his interest. As he becomes attuned to her subtle expression changes, the Rose of Blackthorne will no longer be able to conceal herself...

A weakness of small consequence can still be valuable in the right circumstance.

Jin Kisaragi exhibits sociopathy, but he has more than enough scorn to spare. The idea that the Hero of Ikaruga should treat her with reverence, or that she refers to this area as her domain -- as if she had control over the corruption that slithers through the marshes, the thick, greasy essence that sustains the local flora, metal fusing with its stalks, trunks, and also the wildlife -- is rudely scoffed at. Given the environmental pandering he has previously witnessed, what of this is in any way to Briar's liking?

The short motivational speech scarcely merits acknowledgement, dismissed with the wave of the Library officer's unoccupied right hand.

Briar Rose fails to recall that the cycle of seasons is never ending, and without the bitterness of winter's adversity, the prosperity of spring would not be as sweet.

"What makes you think I care about your worthless drivel?" he says, verdant eyes rolling so hard it's a wonder they come back down, "Spare me, and stop wasting my time."

Immediately there is a temperamental change in temperature. Disrupting the delicate balance of the whole ecosystem of the Louisiana bayou, hoarfrost rapidly expands with Kisaragi at the centre, directing its reach. The waters that brought the savage nymph to him ripple as a frigid breath turns them solid. Her raft cannot escape, but perhaps the tripod and its so far steadfast guardian may yet find refuge somewhere safe from the ice. This is the sort of cold that encourages unintelligent, resisting lifeforms to rip themselves apart, piece by agonising piece.

Do not mistake it for a new ice age -- here is purely the raw power of Yukianesa, which the Duodecim successor has spent most of his years learning to control. He's aloof and detached, unconcerned if Briar's friends die in the process. The quagmire is an unclean cesspool of malfeasance and must be purged. If it slows the druidic noblewoman down, all the better. Through any means necessary to achieve his goals, Jin is indifferent to crushing everything in his path.

COMBATSYS: Jin Kisaragi takes no action.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/-------|=======\=------\1       Briar Rose

Though both the Hero of Ikaruga and the Rose of Blackthorne have their seasons, each could be considered, in their way, a corruption; each attempting to maintain their dominion out of turn, to the exclusion and asphyxiation of all else.

"You are a very rude man," Briar declares primly as her mystic essence gathers, declining to allow her disdain to keep her from her witch-work. "And I will not -"

It may be a trick of the moonlight, but one could almost swear that Lady Blackthorne's already-alabastrine skin turns a shade paler when the hoarfrost starts to spread forth from the knight of the Novus Orbis Librarium, engulfing the raft.

"You - !!"

Horror and alarm overtake the voice and visage of the nymph as her triffid attempts to scrabble away from the encroaching frost on its three stubby legs - only to find itself slipping onto the ice opposite. The bizarre plant topples over, its roots 'kicking' in the air as it glides helplessly on its stalk across the frozen surface, rime rapidly coating its greenery, the colour fading - until it stops kicking, frozen stiff.

"Wendell, no!"

The anguish in Briar's tone betrays a part of her heart not fully tainted by the poison running through her veins - though the effects of the crippling cold on the cloaked boatman elicit no such emotional outpour.

Pain swiftly becomes fury as the scorned nymph turns the silver daggers in her eyes back on the object of her outrage.

"No, no, no, no, NO!"

Two green, thrashing thorn-covered vines emerge like the tentacles of a sea-creature from her back as her anger manifests in her physical form, rising above her shoulders. At the same time, two more vines creep out of the bell-shaped wrists of the flowery half-sleeves on her arms.

"Bastard knight! You were ugly all along! I'll feed you to the trees!"

As Briar extends her arms forward, all four vines shoot forth simultaneously - racing each other in their attempt to seize upon the Hero of Ikaruga, toxic thorns flailed recklessly as the brambles attempt to wrest control of the knight's body and take him captive, posing a dangerous threat to resist directly.

Then, should the vines succeed in their quest to capture him, Briar would twirl her body around - swinging the vines in a wide arc with the supernatural might of a force of nature to slam him into one of the metal-infused trees nearby!

COMBATSYS: Jin Kisaragi blocks Briar Rose's Bramble Slam.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/------=|=======\==-----\1       Briar Rose

As though her approval mattered, the witch expresses her increasing dislike for the Kisaragi successor. It's not anything Jin hasn't heard before, and admittedly, he's been called considerably worse. Tuning her out, the Rose of Blackthorne is able to shout whatever she desires without interruption...

But she pays a high price for choosing words over action: her friend is withering away, while the knight's metaphorical armour is only dented.

Shrieking eclipses the audible cracks of ice, the weight tearing trees asunder, from the branches of taller giants to snapping their saplings clean in half. Jin surveys this environmental devastation quietly and impassively...

A heart made of stone, he is unmoved even by her mourning cries.

It's just a plant. This hideous elfin woman must have given it life, which means its demise became certain. All that awaits an abomination is death...

And Briar Rose is fit to join them.

Eventually, she abandons sorrow to take on a wrathful countenance, with vines sprouting not only from her back, but from both sleeves. Her appearance is rendered monstrous, and yet he remains coolly indifferent. Briar's condemnation means so very little, Jin has the audacity to distractedly pluck at the cuffs of his gloves, which are nestled in the crook of his elbows. He equally redistributes the material by circling the inside elastic with a dexterous finger.

Threats are made against Jin, but not of the empty variety. Managing to keep an eye on all four of the writhing extensions, the slender swordman anticipates reprisal. He interposes Yukianesa between them, the koiguchi slipping off the lengthy Japanese katana's habaki collar and inching further still.

Every second is precious, and he's precise, ruthless efficiency. The toshin whistles through the air as it is sharply drawn, the ha glittering with malevolence. Accursed moonlight reflects off his hair in a golden halo, off the arc of the blade as it ruthlessly severs the first to reach him.

Then Jin spins, his complicated footwork dodging around the flailing, rot-spewing tentacle, cutting down the next. The last of her aggression is stabbed right as it misses and its other half splits itself in twain, both pieces peeling away at the sharp edge of the Nox Nyctores, revealing the twisted, plant-like sinew that had been holding it altogether.

Major Kisaragi flings its putrid ichor at the ground, its toxicity sizzling slowly through each layer of ice. Sheathing his Arch-Enemy with a satisfying 'click', he assesses the damages to his attire and person. Finally the regulation jacket is given up for lost, as he slips from the almost unrecognisable article and discards it with a lack of care and attachment. Without the exaggerated lapels and the semi-detached sleeves, suddenly Jin appears smaller, more delicate...

The arms of his black bodysuit are pock-marked, the woven fibres mangled and twisting away from all of the individual holes. Thin wisps of smoke rise from the burning bits of his flesh, thorned markings scattered as far reaching as his beautiful face, and yet for all Jin acknowledges them, they might as well not exist.

He leans into a sprint, the distance between him and the green-thumbed creature rapidly shrinking. Kisaragi intends to slide past her, hopefully before she recovers, and then bring the Event Weapon down almost as if to cleave the stalks from her body by way of brutal force and cruel intention!

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose just-defends Jin Kisaragi's Feinting Draw!

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/------=|=======\==-----\1       Briar Rose

Severed and split, the vines that serve as extra limbs for the woodland nymph spew a dark purple substance difficult to demarcate between blood or sap or poison - though the witch shows little more sensitivity to the slicing than a tree in the midst of being pruned. That the knight denies her intent of crushing him into the wooden environs appears to gall her more thoroughly, her teeth flashing as her decapitated tentacles are forced to retreat, writhing, from whence they lunged.

The discarding of the jacket, though, brings a small smirk of victory to the nymph's rose-petal lips as her eyes rove the scarred bodysuit, momentarily distracted - though whether her appreciation is for his aesthetic or for the suffering evidenced by the damaged innerwear is uncertain.

Judging by what she's shown thus far, it's likely both.

Unfortunately, there's only a moment for Briar Rose's unsavoury savouring before the Major is bearing down on her once more. The line of her lips draws flat and her neat brows sharpen as Jin sprints in close, her arms rising to defend -

- but it's a feint, her position bypassed by the sliding knight. Detecting the trickery of the footwork with only a moment to act, she turns her head, eyes across her shoulder -

- and just as the Event Weapon descends to unroot the vines in her back, they shift in hue to purple, lashing and curling around the blade, challenging and twisting so that the weapon is forced aside before the tentacles retract, a few thorns shaved from their surfaces but otherwise unscathed as the motion brings Briar about face as her deadly dance with the Hero of Ikaruga proceeds in earnest. Her silver eyes lock with Jin's green irises as she utters a single, soft command:


There is no supernatural force at play to impose the imperative on the Major's mind - only the natural force of the sorceress' enchanting visage, the beauty of her tone, the suddenness of the shift in tension. Lesser minds might be superceded, but the cold heart of Jin Kisaragi?


Still, in the heart of battle, the command to breathe is easier to obey than not.

The Rose's right hand is already elevating as she speaks, a palmful of pink pollen-like dust presented before a puff of air from the nymph scatters them shotgun toward her opponent's fair face.

In such a concentration, the spores have a cloyingly sweet scent - and if inhaled, their effect on the minds of most mortals would be to induce a moment of somnolent stupor, sapping the will to fight and causing the muscles to rebel, drawing the afflicted ever-closer to Morpheus' embrace - but what they might mean for the Hero of Ikaruga has yet to be seen.

COMBATSYS: Jin Kisaragi dodges Briar Rose's Soporific Spores.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/------=|=======\==-----\1       Briar Rose

The unabashed salaciousness of her gaze is deeply disturbing, yet his expression remains unchanged. Jin affixes an exquisite elegance to his movements, his every step evoking images that he dances on ice. Yukianesa sings with the intent to kill...

Lady Blackthrone, on the other hand, will not be banished from this living world. The grotesque display's protruding purple fragments drive his cleaving blade away. Light arcs in a crescent shape while Jin returns the crystalline sword to its ready scabbard...

He could force his way as the Nox Nyctores demands, the Major's mind racing with bloody temptations that would endanger him, but Jin cannot submit to its domination. His struggle to maintain some semblance of order persists...

For now.

A noise accompanies the retreat of two steps, similar to the sharp click of his tongue off the backs of his teeth. Kisaragi sneers again, this time much more imperiously than before. When their gazes connect, verdant orbs cast a piercing, venomous glare at her, filled with naught but scorn.

She still wishes to try and seduce him?

Jin opposes everything related to the woodland witch, rejecting the voluminous falls of her tresses and the porcelain radiance of her exposed skin; the ample swell of her bosom and the generous contour of her hips. The dryadic summoner has a soprano of sweet honey and eyes of cool steel...

However, despite her smile, the blue knight does not sigh contentedly, and she is unable to convince him that there's any reason as to why he should.

Ignoring Briar's verbal suggestion, no matter how natural it would be, required years of training with his adopted family, at the Academy, and his military experience. He licks his lips, taking a cautious breath of his own long before hers distributes the concentration of pollen-like particles, producing a cloud through which Jin lunges. The bastard hero's hand drifts from the tsuka of the Arch-Enemy...

And seeks to wrap each gloved finger around her throat.

Roses must be plucked carefully to avoid being injured by their thorns. If this hideous druid finds herself in his clutches, Jin's grip quickly becomes iron, inflexible, and bruising. On the wetted flesh of his mouth, he can sense the wind's direction, albeit faintly.

Suddenly, she's turned downwind, completely at his mercy, but for a measure of heartbeats. Jin wordlessly shoves the woman to the ground, clearly done with her.

COMBATSYS: Jin Kisaragi successfully hits Briar Rose with Medium Throw.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/-----==|=======\==-----\1       Briar Rose

It is a classic confrontation from fairy tale, fable, myth and legend: the hero faces down temptation, here in its guise as a maiden in a veil of floral beauty, only to be confronted with its true, deadlier face - and so here does the Hero of Ikaruga rise to the occasion, ignoring base impulses. These tales are rarely ones of redemption for the wayward maiden, and it seems that Jin is prepared to embrace his role in the story.

Though she tries to keep the steps of her dance ahead of the knight's, a gloved hand wraps around Briar Rose's soft throat - and it seems that even this flower must respire. Her grey eyes go wider and she gasps as she's gripped, her fingers grasping at the Major's sleeve for reprieve, tentacles churning in response behind her as urgency escalates -

- and then she's thrown into the mud, the back of her rosy dress splattering into the bayou's filth as vines and limbs scatter akimbo.


Unladylike in the utmost, the baroness of Blackthorne is reduced to the temperament of a child in tantrum by the humiliation, immediately expelling the returning air from her lungs in anger as her arms and legs flail and kick in fury, sending muck in every direction, painting the reeds and willows in earthen hues.

"Brute! You've ruined my dress!"

Mire cakes the long ends of the Lady's brown hair as she rolls over and finds purchase to push herself up, sleeves sinking into the swamp. A crayfish creeps out from the bosom of her dress and darts off into the murky waters, and waterfalls of bog-water spill from her skirts as she rises upright again, sodden.

"Come hither, and I shall visit the same fate upon you!"

Lashing out with one hand, she sends a slippery briar slithering from her sleeve to try and ensnare the knight by his sleeve, the poison-barbed vine poised to pull him violently into her sopping embrace and grip him from behind. Should she secure him thusly, she would throw herself back to endure the ignominy of a second soaking in the bayou - with the intent of imposing a more severe version of the same on Jin, to slam him on his head and shoulders into the swamp with violent force!

COMBATSYS: Jin Kisaragi blocks Briar Rose's Rumble Rose.

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/----===|=======\====---\1       Briar Rose

Is the world truly so black and white? How can a man be elevated to the status of a hero based on strength and perseverance when he has been besieged by grief, and his suffering has made him cruel? What sort of champion is this, but in essence, a villain himself...

If there is no salvation for the Lady of the Dark Wood, the Hero of Ikaruga must too be condemned to a hell of his own.

One that he has built, brick by brick.

Jin Kisaragi will serve as the tyrant in her story, gladly. A bastard blue knight of power, his movements executed with elegant, deadly precision. Wicked enough to excite aversion, mighty enough to arouse fear, all that he lacks is the human element to awaken some transient gleam of sympathy. He is like a weapon, living and breathing to no greater purpose.

While observing her fitful tantrum, the numerous 'limbs' work together to spread the muck in all directions. His infantry boots and leggings are considered minor casualties, yet the farthest-reaching splatters still manage to land on his cheeks. They lose their viscosity and smear mud across his lovely face, but the swordsman is unconcerned. Without an impairment to his vision, Kisaragi adamantly refuses to remove the hateful verdant glare that he pins her with, as if it were sufficient to consign the cursed woman to any antiquated era that would have her.

She is nothing more to him than a discordant creature. Something that does not exist in harmony. Briar Rose represents the unnatural chaos he cannot abide, and it rankles Jin beyond description.

"Are you finished?" Jin inquires icily, his silky tenor so soft it could melt into the bog, eclipsed by the croaks and chirps and cacophonous racket, but the bayou is silent. It waits with bated breath. The Major sounds close enough, like he just whispered sweet confessions in her ear...

Her beastly shriek attacks Jin with an accusation, prompting the latter's mouth to twist nastily. A harder roll of the eyes would almost likely render him unconscious. "Oh please," he sneers, giving the waste witch a moment's reprieve to stand. In light of her unfortunate condition, Briar declares an equivalent exchange, intending to punish him in the same way...

Emerging from the sodden bell sleeves of her dress, a whip-like vine extends and captures the soldier's wrist in a barbed grip that becomes uncomfortably tight. The venomous kiss bites through the synthetic material of his glove, puncturing the skin's superficial layers underneath. Its immediate effects include the colour purple and numbness radiating outward to the tips of his fingers. In a grimace, Jin's aristocratic features contort painfully.

Throwing her weight back to drag him into the swamp is an idea of some small merit, but only if he was unprepared. Applying equal and opposite force, Jin grabs the prickly wire by hand. He tucks it under his arm and pivots to lunge, the rope drawn taut between them. Exertion causes his biceps to swell and lines of strain to ripple down the slender column of the Kisaragi successor's throat. Translucent sweat beads on his forehead.

They are chained together now for as long as the restraint will allow, but the fibres of the vine have already begun to break from stress about halfway. Casting a glance over his shoulder is more like the movement of emerald orbs, and when Jin violently wrenches on the tie that binds, it splits in twain. This may bring the buxom woodland mistress to her knees, or perhaps she will tumble with another spectacular splash. It's not impossible that they could confront one another as equals, but it's doubtful. Hair illuminated by the moon, it glows with an enchanting golden halo. God must have enjoyed the irony of his creation.

Regardless of where Rose finds herself, Yukianesa's kissaki invades the personal space she manages to cultivate, interposed threateningly in-between. If her steel gaze follows the curving mune of the blade, the bloodied digits holding the tsuka firmly, it will meet his. Jin's focus is down the length of his nose and that of the toshin, his head angled haughtily. The cryokinetic doesn't trouble himself to hide his disdain...

Or the kick, which strikes at her side unexpectedly!

COMBATSYS: Jin Kisaragi dazes Briar Rose with Light Kick!

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/----===|=======\====---\1       Briar Rose

The petulant petal-monger's pert lips permutate from pursed pout to prideful smirk as her opposer's flesh turns purple with the prickling poison, her demeanour delighted even as Jin boldly grips the thorny vine. Their tug-of-war persists for a long moment as she attempts to assert her will on him, but the fibrous vine is not fit for the contest - and the snapping of it and the force of Jin's pull conspire to cause her to fall forward onto her knees, the wooden greaves landing against the wet earth moments before they are joined by her delicate hands. Her silver eyes sweep up the sword to meet those of its bearer as the exposed flesh between her shoulderblades splits to sprout fresh tendrils -

- but before they can manifest her malevolent manipulators, she is struck by the swift and cruel kick to her ribs, sending her sidelong into a log not yet rotten enough to give way when she impacts it with a mighty *CRACK.*


The dazed dryad is slow to rise, a hand at her crown where it has impacted the hard wood as pain flashes on her face for the first sincere instance since the battle began. Her movements have none of her previous dancing, playful grace as she lurches with malice in her eyes at Jin. The intent is simplistic: to seize upon the object of her ire by his shoulders and shove him bodily into the same log that she's just become overly-acquainted with.

COMBATSYS: Jin Kisaragi interrupts Quick Throw from Briar Rose with Fubuki EX.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/-----==|=======\======-\1       Briar Rose

Her face painted with the pleasure she derives from his suffering, the disgust Jin feels for the monstrous mixing and promiscuity in front of him only exacerbates the need to kill it. Briar Rose is a bride to the trees and the venal darkness, as though her innocent years were brought low by hubris. Was she an adventurous child that the forest spirited away? If truth is stranger than fiction, knowing it makes no difference; his infantry boot's silver-capped toe still slams into her ribcage while she is down, mercilessly and brutally.

She collides sidelong with an aged log. A tremendous crack rouses the night, and the sound reaches the very core of his being. Jin blinks, hesitant to pursue, uncertain of the extent of the Lady of Blackthorne's green-speaking chlorokinesis. It's difficult to forget the sacrificial sycamore that the dryadic summoner coaxed from the soil to defend herself...

Will it be a wood spike-like growth? What about more vines?


The emerald ito wrapping of the Arch-Enemy rusts scarlet from Kisaragi's minor scratches as it audibly resists the increased severity of his grip. He positions himself where Yukianesa's kissaki traces through the murky thaw, churning ice and malignant flora underfoot. All that glitters is the crystalline blade, serving as a beacon to guide her to him...

Not that she requires it.

Abandoning her sense of propriety and the twittering playfulness, the aggressive lurch offers the types of openings that his years of training have made him able to exploit. Rose's fingers find purchase, briefly securing the young officer by the nails that she drives into his trapezius muscles, but he reacts fiercely and quickly. Jin snarls, "Don't /touch/ me!!" as his heated breath hits the air and condenses to form mist...

He violently breaks free, dislodging the savage witch by smashing her elbows with the cerulean saya of the Nox Nyctores. The Library's soldier beats a single step retreat...

To rush at her once more, his frigid fury manifesting all around them.

Managing both skillful and elegant footwork, he's a monochromatic blur as Jin extends the Japanese court sword while tucking its scabbard against his athletic body. A frightening whistle warns of the razor's edge approaching, but it just misses her.

Otherwise, Briar would have been decapitated.

Chasing the toshin until it is hurled beyond it, a dazzling updraft blasts the offensive dryad away. Its bitter frost is like a thousand needles dragged across exposed skin, yet whether or not they cut into flesh is dependent on Jin's opponent's resistance. Acceptance is always key.

Had his damaged jacket not been slowly consumed by the mire, the Hero of Ikaruga would be inspiring. The wind in his hair, billowing semi-attached sleeves... Whipped in a wide arc, Mucro Algesco: Yukianesa returns home, koiguchi and tsuba forever to maintain their distance of a hair's breadth apart.

It's almost uncanny how quickly the aristocratic and floral airs of the sprightly nymph have been turned to swamp-soaked savagery, the dank heat of the swamp in concert with the callous violence and impermeability of her opponent corrupting the senses until mischief melts into furor. It is not a Lady of dark magic and exquisite mastery of chlorokinesis or a monstrous incarnation of Nature's vengeance that attempts to throw Jin into the log; it is an angry young girl...

...and that girl is punished for her outburst.

The frigid wind lifts Briar Rose's sodden skirt from her opaque black tights as it whisks her airborne, several petals of the defiled dress scattering and tinkling as they turn crisp with the bitter cold that buoys them. Thousands of tiny cuts are opened across her skin, sealed over just as quickly with rime. She lands several feet away - on mercifully drier land than the mire that the pair have been battling on in the last few moments, a dull thud reporting the firmer ground.

When the Rose rises, it's as though from a slumber, a pale, cold hand rising to brush the fresh frost from her bangs like an unseasonal snowfall, the heat of her raging heart finally quelled by the bitter breeze as the gloss fades from her silver eyes. She is still unkempt, her wardrobe in disrepair, but a composure of sorts returns - as though she has recalled her place in the world - as she locks her cool eyes on Jin's own and smiles with serenity.

"I appreciate your efforts to cool me down," she says warmly, "For a minute there, I lost myself."

As she speaks, the scratches on her skin start to fade - slowly, yet much more quickly than nature would allow itself to mend an ordinary human - a faint rosiness returning to her cheeks as the tendrils behind her grow like a hydra's heads, the creaking and slithering filling the air in a manner not out of place in their environs.

"But if you didn't want to be touched..."

The soaked nymph almost glides across the frosted ground as she returns to the side of the knight, her eyes wide with aesthetic admiration as they wander, a glistening, thornless green tendril reaching out with intent to stroke one of the flecks of mud from Jin's cheek.

"Perhaps, instead of a knight, you should have been a monk."

The smile is somehow flirtatious and mocking at the same time - and serves as a prelude to a sudden swipe of her left hand from opposite the toying tendril, aimed to deliver a scratching slap with poisoned nails to the knight's cheek!

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose successfully hits Jin Kisaragi with Poison Prick.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/----===|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2       Briar Rose

Somewhere between retina and object, between vision and view, his gaze draws back and hovers. The unrestrained enjoyment of his attractiveness, savoured like a rich, flavourful wine, continues unabated. Briar is flitting, fluttering, flirtatious fanaticism, fawning forever, but the Duodecim's adopted son stares at a fixed point in space and time, sensing he need not waste a glance. Jin stonewalls her and does not see the maiden, because for him there is nothing to behold...

He would not, however, disregard the serpentine extension, /so kind/ as to remove just one single speck of dirt. Kisaragi growls inaudibly, barely flinching.

His reaction is not enough.

Badgering him for more, Lady Blackthrone unwittingly uncovers a landmine and tests the fates by dancing around it, finally culminating in an all-out SLAP. His cheek is supple, soft, yielding flesh. It has delicate elasticity, gently rebounding, but each nail leaves its trespass. A quadruplet of scratches run from just below the region of his lower eyelid to the generous line of his jaw. The force rustles featherlight strands of blonde and snaps Jin's head to the limits of his neck where it stays.

A branching amethyst web spreads across the swordsman's face and throat as the venom is absorbed into his bloodstream. Lines slither over the bridge of his nose and along the cartilaginous rim of his ear, but then they invade the milky white canvas of his eye, purple consuming the colour of his iris and the pupil that resists conversion. Jin hisses, his veins throbbing, the wounds stinging, scorching hot.

Is he partially blinded?

Given his glare rolls to the fair forest dryad, perhaps not. The Hero of Ikaruga bestows renewed recognition on her, along with every horrible consequence that it entails...

Having disrupted the blue knight's beauty, Rose might like to think that it is to blame for his intensity, for the hateful wrath that Major Jin Kisaragi embodies, but she cannot possibly even begin to comprehend. Greater than the desire to simply kill her and absolve the anomaly, Yukianesa demands suffering as tribute. A spray, a splash of essence, harrowing shrieks of pain. Inflicting on her the incisions from before, and cutting them again and again until they stop healing. It is a sick mantra, rattling his resolve, wreaking havoc...

And eventually, Jin may be unable to resist...

When the witchy nymph ridiculed the life Kisaragi could not choose, she invalidated the experiences that have shaped him into the man he is today. Jin was a child ripped from the family he loved, thrust into a bloody battle of inheritance, and then sent to war...

But because the memories have been taken from him, he cannot look upon any aspect of his past without it being suspect. That Jin must ashamedly read about himself in books and reports to glean any insight, he refuses to live that way any longer! Briar Rose stands between the young prodigy and the truth of his existence, a callow, tittering, mediaeval whore who knows nothing! NOTHING!

"Did you not hear a word I said, or were you too enamoured with the sound of your own voice?"

There is no blade, no blustery rush of the Arctic air...

"I told you,"

Instead, an arm shot out from Jin's side in a rage-filled backhand.

"... to shut your mouth..."

Between flawless rows of teeth does her new moniker seethe...


COMBATSYS: Briar Rose blocks Jin Kisaragi's Quick Backhand.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/----===|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2       Briar Rose

'A hit; a palpable hit.'

Such a quote might come to Briar Rose if she did not predate its author by a century. She is rather a thing of fairy tale, but her reality is nothing of the sort that modern corporations have used to ply purse strings through heart strings; she is neither princess nor damsel, but a fickle force of nature as devoid of innocence as the would-be prince of the scenario is devoid of the chivalric drive. A 'happily ever after' for either could only manifest in obliteration for the other, but whether the mutated hellscape of the swampland that is their battleground shall be turned to rampant, deadly overgrowth or taken by a killing cold has yet to be seen.

Briar Rose, by her scarlet smile and gleaming eyes, is no less pleased with the tarnished beauty of the bleeding, vein-crossed face of her implacable enemy than she was in the moments before her vile poison polluted his fair visage.

Moods have decidedly shifted, a change in direction of the deadly dance, almost a fantastical farce in which the soiling of one pristine beauty leads to another. It is Jin's turn to take on crude, seething rage in the unchanging face of his tormentress.


A vicious backhand is traded for the face-wrecking slap - but at the last moment the black-haired beauty's head tilts, the tiara she's wearing catching the hand, entangling fingers as the hard wood proves a match for the blow. There's the faintest of winces from Lady Blackthorne as the points of the crown dig in slightly to her scalp, sensitive even for something as inhuman as she - but in a moment it passes, and she's left with her cheek on her shoulder, smiling up at Jin like a lovestruck teenager as the pose proves both defensive and flirtatious.

"You remind me of father," Briar Rose says in a simple, girlish tone as she sighs contentedly.

Without any attempt to clarify that murky remark, she flits a step nearer, twirling into intimate proximity as the four vines on her back whip 'round to attempt to capture him, pairing off to try and bind his thighs together and arms against his sides and hold him against her, her back to his front.

"Do I remind you of your mother?"

Head bending back and eyelashes fluttering up at Jin in psychological warfare, her vines would attempt to squeeze with bone-bruising fondness - before her hips would smash backward, soft flesh giving way to solid core as she'd drive into his middle, intending to propel him from her grasp and to the ground with Freudian violence.

COMBATSYS: Jin Kisaragi blocks Briar Rose's Combo Throw.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/---====|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2       Briar Rose

What do you think governs the relationship between predators and prey? Would you say that it is ruled by hunger, anger, or even sport? I believe that there is more importance to the size, speed, health, and ferocity of the hunted than the skill and savagery of the hunter. Because of their vulnerability, that is why predators kill the young, old, and ailing members of prey populations. It is not a matter of strength that they consume the weak, but rather the lion knows better than to pick the robust elephant over the antelope that is asleep.

As the battle deteriorates into an attrition war, Jin can no longer convincingly make his claim about her inferiority. The Lady of Blackthorne is more than prey, and more than just an apex predator like him; she continually asserts herself as a ruthlessly realised aspect of dark nature, and she poses the greatest threat to those who fail to pay attention when she is at her most beautiful.

Jin strikes her unusual tiara, gloved knuckles bruising in the process, but it dawns on him that his right eye's depth perception is gone...

It is time to dispense with the dance. Reeking of something forbidden, of an illness in incubation, he was once blissfully unaware....

But not for long.

When the dark-haired noblewoman makes the incestuous implication that compares the young man to her father, it halts his momentum. Reacting not as he did, almost as if she held up a mirror and forced him to examine himself, Jin gets a good look that reveals the ugly truth hidden behind the veil he has drawn. The parts of him that were created on the day the church burnt to ashes, the erasure of his memories, and the unburdening of his more useless emotions all served to permanently scar his very soul.

Because of what he sees in her, in her titillating efforts, her throes of tantalising temptation that lesser men would ruin themselves to taste, Jin takes a step back. The elfin nymph isn't who he wishes to be and her life isn't the one he wants to have, but try as he might, as the noble, vaunted hero he is purported to be, Kisaragi couldn't refuse the parallels between them. That this is what Ragna the Bloodedge must endure, and the younger brother is powerless to stop it, obsessed with him in every way...

He flinches with sick perversion, cupping his mouth to prevent the atrocious rictus from carving across his lips...

Wisteria enfolds him in twisted tenderness, imprisoning him, although not all of his limbs are restrained. Briar turns herself around, heart racing, committing yet another error in their tryst. With the enraptured fluttering of her lashes, she inquires about his mother, whom he never knew. Jin is immediately grounded, his heterochromatic gaze murderously sharp...

A carnal lust drives her to crush the Major affectionately, however the flexible stalks find it difficult to acquiesce to her request. They are ravaged by a subtle frost, freezing the water cells within each extension and causing them to expand. Fibrous casings fracture and haemorrhage chlorophyll, but the icy onslaught continues unabated until Jin's shackles become brittle. In her coquettish quest to inappropriately leverage her weight and posterior against him, she is the breaker of bonds. He welcomes it, embracing it, and while Rose presses to the hard wall of the soldier's frame, the space in between is eliminated.

Hardly the passionate surrender or submission she would want, the witch of the wasteland will undoubtedly detect the lie...

However, it is too late.

The frozen core of her malignant growth instantly robs the heat from Jin's clothes, saturated as they are with his sweat and humid moisture, and there is no way to restore their warmth. Due to the laws of thermal conductivity, she quite literally /sticks/ to him...

Just like he knew she would.

If she doesn't rip herself free, Jin's left arm slips across the front of her, her clavicle courted by the sweet, sultry passing of his fingertips. He grabs the woman's opposite shoulder and leans in, into the night of muddied tresses, his words that could as easily be a confession enticing her with the warm breath that bathes her ear...

"Disappear," he demands softly in the dulcet tones of his tenor, "right now, forever."

With a muted splash, the cerulean scabbard of the Nox Nyctores lands in the contaminated thaw of deadened marsh vegetation, partially because the blue knight cushions the impact with his foot. It's as though the toshin vanished, and in a sense, maybe it did...

Nevertheless, the kissaki penetrates through layers of bodice, dress, and flesh, Yukianesa's blade soon to follow...

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose interrupts Close-Quarters Draw EX from Jin Kisaragi with Bed of Roses.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/---====|>>>>>>-\-------\0       Briar Rose

By this juncture, the battle between the Rose of Blackthorne and the Wielder of Yukianesa has become as much mental as physical. The noxious nymph assails the knight in all senses she can; where earlier her amorous advances searched out softness in vain, her fresh feints now take on a new air, one as cloying and toxic as the sickly-sweet spores she previously attempted to overwhelm him with. The insinuations, intimations, and now the indecent attempt at physical assault, intended to imbalance the tainted knight opposing her as much in mind as in body. Whether the shove would push the blond beau to melt into rage or thaw into desire is of little consequence to the temptress; she only needs to bring him out of his element and into her own.

For all her wiles, though, what she hadn't conceived was the notion that their saturated garments would suddenly secure her seat sordidly to her quarry's center, freezing her in place - a lesson infants of the modern age might learn from licked lampposts in the dead of winter.

Briar attempts to shift her hips from the icy grip, but finds herself stuck fast.


It almost seems a sort of reciprocation is ensuing as Jin's left arm embraces her from behind, his hot breath washing over her in contrast to the cold below.

'Disappear, right now, forever.'

An invitation to oblivion would not be considered a come-on by most, or nearly any, but perhaps without intent, the whispered command finds an appeal in the dark flower's wicked heart. Perhaps it is the sensing of a kindred poison. Warmth runs through her core, and the escape-seeking motion of her hips turns into a rolling circle, frost scraping and torn patches of her black tights sticking to Jin's suit like the tongue-flesh of an aforementioned child after a winter misadventure.

Briar Rose's rising freedom of frame brooks neither flight nor force from the nymph, though, even as the kissaki slices through the floral fabric of her dress. Leaving herself exposed to the blade, she lifts her right arm to the back of Jin's neck as she returns the murderously affectionate gesture.

"Is that what you want to do?" she asks softly, her voice more warm and womanly than her previous girlish tones as the thawing ground behind Jin's feet gives rise to a bed of brambles that flourish scarlet with roses.

And then she turns, a severed swathe of her dress falling away as she accepts his blade, rising up to meet the poison-purple lips of the Hero of Ikaruga with her own soft red petals. She kisses him with a lover's passion as his sword penetrates her, rising up on her toes and falling on him so that they collapse together on the poisonous rosebed, her purple blood slow to flow as the sweet poison on her tongue forces its way into his mouth.

And as her tainted lifeblood might feed the Nox Nyctores, so would any blood drawn out by the brambles feed the nymph as it may fall on her flowers, restoring the warm flush of her face as might the first kiss of true love...

For which this moment can surely only serve as a dark mockery.

Was this some kind of horrible dream? Couldn't Jin just awaken, causing the monster to lose her coherence, even if her mouldering fingerprints would still be left across his day?

He touches a nightmare in this unsatisfactory reality, and the nightmare touches him back. The venomous vixen delights with the delicious variations of his agony as much as a cunning spider yearns for every fly. Briar turns, tearing her swamp-soaked tights, abruptly encroaching on an innocence that Jin does not wish for her to take.

She draws the Hero of Ikagura intimately close, the swordsman's heightened sense of awareness warning him of the perils posed by the blooming garden at his feet, by her villainous embrace. It sounds like an assortment of bells, klaxons, and alarms...

'Is this what you want to do?'

Jin answers truthfully, "No," but parting his lips inadvertently invites her company, an unwarranted trespass of the tongue thrust within the heated cavern of his mouth. Rose becomes the thief of equilibrium, and as he reels in the assault, he crushes the woman in an uncontrollable reaction to falling. There's a flurry of fresh petals, the ancient instrument of violence erupting from her back, ice protuberant at the entrance and exit sites, effectively immobilising the blade...

This is not how sweethearts tumble into love -- by haphazardly colliding before Jin Kisaragi is violated once more. She drinks deeply of his taste, his scent a winter's rain, causing his Adam's apple to pulse in the narrow column of his throat, compelled to swallow...

... poison.

His body riles and rejects the pollutant outright, much of it brought back up and searing his oesophagus with acidic bile. Screwing his expression, Jin's heterochromatic orbs cinch shut. He wrenches his beautifully ruined face away, gasping brokenly for air.

What does it matter, his clawed and veined cheek juxtaposed against the bramble patch that completely surrounds them, his bed like needles? Jin releases a rush of violet mist, the remainder trickling from his flaring nostrils in straight lines. Burdened by the green-thumbed witch's weight, regardless of how slight her figure may be, and burdened by the consequences of his condition, the crisply folded front of his Japanese-style tunic is disrupted. It bares the broad expanse of the blue knight's chest, the catsuit underneath rife with holes and minor tears, enabling her to trace a toxic web to his heart. Pleasurable to the Lady of Blackened Thorn, but what about the coming death sentence it portends for the Kisaragi's successor?

If he were to triumph...

A pyrrhic victory...

For all Jin struggles to reach the truth, only to discover the chance ripped from his grasp, he will not peacefully accept it. The soldier's deceptively docile demeanour dissipates defiantly. As his focus shifts back to the repulsive summoner, along with another gesture of lethal courtship by attempting to plunge his fingers into the dark tangles of Briar's hair, it is enough to seize a cluster by the roots at the base of her skull.

Yukianesa's tsuka springs to his ready palm, strengthening his hold with its gentle assistance. Jin brusquely drags Briar Rose forward, pinning the chlorokinetic to the juncture of his neck and shoulder, grateful for the high collar that denies her enjoyment of defiling him there. Perfect rows of teeth clench as another pronounced breath hisses out. If he's able to get this far, he rotates the toshin in the wound, its frozen frost becoming pliable. The Library's living weapon will sever her, carving through her yielding tissue, organs, and sinew, until a showerful spray erupts like a geyser when the Arch-Enemy is freed.

No amount of shrieking, writhing, or pleading can deter Jin after that. He rallies with rebellion upon success, ousting the vile flower from her perch, flinging his beastly adversary into the mud. Instead of the lady, he asserts his dominance on top of her. Tendrils of her tresses spread like smoke in the water, the katana sunk next to her head. Its ha is swung downward using the marsh as a fulcrum, hovering menacingly with a wicked crystal gleam...

But he sways, one eye blind and the other straining to see through the stringy strands of blonde. The young man's arms are quivering reeds, digits twitching against the stained ito wrapping...

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose blocks Jin Kisaragi's Unbalancing Draw.

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/--=====|>>>>>>-\-------\0       Briar Rose

In the end, it is trickery rather than temptation that secures the vantage for the maiden of Blackthorne, taking what - wisely - is not willfully given. What desire within the dark Rose's bosom drives her to persist tenaciously in her oral assault is not clear - whether to distract the knight while her poison works its way through his veins, or to sate some carnal urge, or to feed on the sanguine flow that marks her roses. Perhaps it is all - or perhaps she is simply lost in the part like a driven actress. Whatever the reason, she remains heedless of the blade penetrating her body even as the frost congeals around the wound, only further establishing the truth of Briar Rose: that she has long moved beyond what can be recognised as 'human.'

The fingers insinuating themselves in her sullied tresses find little resistance, and she is drawn in, the rough handling of the Rose's roots perhaps mistaken for a passionate play - the collar becoming a frustration for the flowering femme fatale as she seeks Jin's throat for further impurity, the vital veins a worthy target for her poisoned lips.

"Perhaps you should remove..."

The impending invitation is interrupted as Briar recognizes the twisting of Jin's sword in her core.


The tightening of Briar's insides around the living weapon is not merely an inward clenching of muscle - it is a hardening of supple flesh and the soft, alien tissues that make up the inner workings of the inhuman enchantress. The foreign presence inside her is clearly no longer an afterthought as her mouth is drawn to gape faintly, a breath held in in anticipation of the sensation to come.


The defiled maiden is not wont to release the weapon so easily - there's resistance, as if her Ladyship is trying to hold it in. Her upper teeth sink into her lip as she lifts her head up, raising her upper body against Jin's direction, unconsciously pushing her lower body against him.


Briar cries out as she can no longer hold it in - the freshly wetted weapon emerging from her in a spray of - splinters?

Indeed - the distressed state of her attire leaves the evidence of what has happened visible for the demonic swamp creatures and lone knight that bear witness: a dark, wooden growth around the wound, clotting like an oaken scab, having forced the weapon to escape along a smoother, less devastating path for the nymph's presumed vitals - effectively acting as a sheath of opportunity for Yukianesa, the gaping hole closing behind it like the many slits that have served as exit points for the witch's tentacle-like vines.

Still, the dryad seems disoriented by the release - allowing her to be flung to the mud before her senses gather.

When they do, her glossy silver eyes meet their green matches as she lets out a breathless query:

"What, pulling out so soon?"

Her predicament as he hovers over her, draped as she is across the soft marsh-ground, blade held in his grip, seems perilous - but recognizing his own weakened state, the nymph unleashes a pair of tendrils from the muck to seize upon the blade, gripping it only long enough to grant her the space to safely roll aside, then drift back upright upon her feet, stretching her arms above her head languidly before she swings her long limbs back down and the appendages slither back into her spine.

"Have you considered trying to barter for your survival yet? I reckon you have your uses, churchknight."

There are surprisingly few signs of fresh foliage sprouting upon or about the woodland witch, for once - instead, a dark, violet essence begins to form as she begins to weave her fingers in the spaces to her sides - a centuries old form of dark sorcery, perhaps crude by the standards of a swordsman belonging to an organisation availed of the breadth of modern magical mastery, but sorcery nonetheless, a sure sign of a spell preparing to be cast... and by all evidence, it is not to be one of green vitality.

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose blooms with natural power!

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/--=====|=======\==-----\1       Briar Rose

Is this it? Is he still not good enough?

Intended to be the kind of bodily trauma that would maliciously mutilate her, the knight's efforts are dashed upon the hard rocks of futility. They are a crust of bark on Briar's side, and the piles of splinters as though Kisaragi had pointlessly hacked at an ancient redwood to bring it down. Furious, frustrated, but most importantly DESPERATELY seeking her demise, Jin's sense of Yukianesa's dissatisfaction only exacerbates his own. Were he even at a quarter of his strength, he'd mount an offence to push the beast back where she belongs, beneath the rippling surface of contaminated water into the corrupt and coagulated disease of the Louisiana bayou.

She could drown there, and be forgotten...

However, Jin slides back without resistance, resting on his heels. The Nox Nyctores becomes a crutch gripped so tightly, his shoulders seize with ache, and every breath after arrives shorter than the last, in ragged, whistling gasps. He glares up through the matted strands of his blonde fringe, unable to feel his legs any longer. "Why should I beg for my life?" he wonders snidely in a hoarse tenor, his kiss-bruised lip rolling away from his teeth with derision, "The only ones who should kill... are those who are prepared to be killed."

An ugly jealousy darkens the veined face. "Stand there and /watch me/ expire for all I care, whore."

Following a vulgar sound to offend delicate sensibilities, Jin Kisaragi literally and quite disrespectfully //spits// at her feet. Let the Lady of Blackthorne weave elaborate tapestries of mystical dark arts and eldritch horrors, whatever she desires to leverage against him, seithr in the air, because as the dying man's senses begin to numb thoroughly through, a moment of clarity reminds him of the impermanence of their ends in this tournament guided by the Revenant Queen.

It is impossible to suppress a shiver, thoughts given the opportunity to arise about Ragna the Bloodedge...

If Jin cannot have the truth of his existence, then his brother is not a consolation prize he would refuse...

His terms of resignation and surrender are not tendered on paper and written in ink, but cut with the sword. Commanding the cold element, Jin smiles beautifully and cruelly. A gesture triggers the subtle knife that could find itself embedded deep in her spine, an abrupt, brutal stabbing from behind. Frost would then race over her, enfolding her, and enclosing Rose in a prison just like before.

Consider it a parting gift, something to remember him by.

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose endures Jin Kisaragi's Hishougeki.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
Jin Kisaragi     0/-------/-======|=======\====---\1       Briar Rose

The Hero of Ikaruga stands defiled, yet defiant, in the face of the dark diablerie being conjured by the deadly damsel. Wicked shapes take form in the air, markings in an ancient script, as the seithr bends to the witch's will. The sorceress sniffs, nose crinkling, as the swordsman's poison-tinged saliva lands at the toes of her wood-wrought greaves, disdain passing for a moment over her red petal lips.

"I happen to like being begged for mercy," Briar Rose remarks in a tone like a cool breeze, casual, with a hint of frost. The focus held in the moments before relaxes as the wrought seithr infuses her. "And, as I was saying, I might find uses for you alive that won't be as amusing once you're dead."

Her thoughts shared, the witch flits daintily around the bubbling patch of spittle, pointed heels leaving a pattern of dots as she dances ever closer to the knight, seithr trailing in the air behind her hands, approaching until she's nearly in intimate proximity again, her chest rising as she fixes him with her silver eyes.

"Don't worry, fair churchknight. I'll remember you as you were before you crossed -"


The sorceress is suddenly silenced as the icy knife finds its opportunity to pierce her from behind, entering at the base of her spine to a sharp inhalation and widening of the enchantress' eyes. Frost creeps over the curved flesh left exposed by the unsolicited tailorwork that the swordsman had earlier unleashed on the dress. Briar's mouth is agape once again at the surprise penetration, and the rapid encroachment of the engulfing ice threatens to leave her in that state - but as she realizes the imminent fate, a sharp and malicious look overtakes her face, her hand shooting out as fast as she can muster to try and cup Jin's sculpted jaw gingerly -

- and if she should succeed in perhaps even the slightest touch, the curse crafted would be placed on the knight: an inversion of the verdant overgrowth inspired by the chloromancer's usual machinations, accelerating the forces of entropy, designed to bring about the withering of decades of natural aging within an unnatural span of seconds, with all of the debilitating effects that that might entail.

A force of sufficient will might allow the endurance of the magic until its power can be reversed - but a poisoned and wizened knight may not have the time it takes for the curse to ebb...

Such is the cruelty of nature - or the cruelty of Briar Rose, encased as she may be in ice.

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose successfully hits Jin Kisaragi with Withering Hex.
~~ Alluring Hit! ~~

[                        \\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
Jin Kisaragi     1/-------/=======|=------\-------\0       Briar Rose

Imagining the fresh hell in store for him, had he submitted to her dark fantasy and the indecent, libidinous ways their bodies could move together, Jin /gladly/ chooses death. If Briar's machinations were so benign as to suspend him in limbo, for the sake of admiring his beauty, still he wouldn't have it. An end is preferential to the eternity spent as her sinful slave or a silent statue, and truly, how could the soldier refuse an expiry that is only temporary?

Until then, poison makes all manner of things executed with great difficulty, challenging Kisaragi with the most basic of motor functions, and eventually, coherent cognisance. As he suffers from outright major organ failure, Jin is beyond awareness of his liver and kidneys shutting down, or the gradually decreasing rate of his heart. Everything is vague and fuzzy, and the blonde knight draws another shallow, rattling breath...

Blessed he would be if before he loses his vision, the Hero of Ikaruga could see her and understand. That even as Rose is surprised by the cold broadsword, even as she belongs to the winter's chill, it is impossible to deny the pain Jin has caused. Delicate fingers curl beneath the generous curve of his chin, lifting it for he has not the power to do so on his own.

Her malefic curse flows, passing through skin to skin contact, but what can it do that is not already happening, aside from accelerating the speed at which it occurs? Withered from the inside and out, he musters all of his effort, just so far to childishly touch the Lady of Blackthorne's wrist, freezing the pads of his fingertips to her icy entrapment. "Is..." Jin's chest stutters in speech, the smooth and cruel tenor that he had cultivated breaking away, "is that... you..."

"... brother?"

Imperative in this moment to speak, the aged lines on his face prevent him from smiling like a boy before destiny decided he would be made a victim, but his joy can be heard...

"Welcome... home,"

Unfocused heterochromatic eyes well with tears that a blink sends them spilling, searing in toxic rivulets over his cheeks. "Can we... play... toget..her... today..? I've miss..ed... you... so... much..."

A crushing beat resonates throughout his entire being, conclusive and final.


Jin Kisaragi dies quietly, knelt before the imprisoned witch in a wasteland, the weight of his head gently deadening in Briar Rose's hand. He is held up by and clutches Yukianesa, the Nox Nyctores meant to fell beasts of legend...

That one day, he will use it to judge the evil within her.

COMBATSYS: Jin Kisaragi takes no action.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Briar Rose       0/-------/------=|

COMBATSYS: Jin Kisaragi can no longer fight.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Briar Rose       0/-------/------=|

As moments pass and pool into minutes, where before battle set the ambience, the bayou becomes still and quiet save for the serenades of a thousand bugs singing in the trees and the reeds, the air lying thick and heavy on the patches of frost and flowers, the former slowly turning to dew as the latter wilt in tainted soil that can't sustain the needs of their abundance.

Eventually, an intrepid red-eyed scavenger approaches the pair, posed as they are like a diorama in a museum, sniffing about the deceased in search of some morsel - until, with a terrible crash, the ice encasing Briar Rose shatters, sending the creature bounding away into the bog.

Shivering and gasping and chattering as she escapes her frigid prison, Lady Blackthorne turns her eyes down upon the wizened body as its outstretched fingers fall away from her delicate wrist, her arms wrapping themselves reflexively around herself and rapidly stroking each other for warmth.

"Did you s-s-say s-something, churchknight?" she chatters through clicking white teeth. Greeted with only the buzzing of blow flies drawn by the odor of death, she exhales through her nostrils. "Hmph. I told you that you would feed the trees." Turning away as warmth begins to flow through her once more, she takes on a thoughtful, somnolent expression, eyelashes lowering as her lids start to become heavier: "Not so much a shame as I expected it would be, after all."

Her feet carry her to where her raft rests amongst the ice floes on the thawing swamp water, its pilot stoic next to the frozen-over form of her faithful floral pet. Her posture sinks visibly alongside her heart as the memory of the knight's vicious act of cruelty pierces it once more, her steps slogging until she falls to her knees atop the vessel, leaning over the dead plant. Her lips quiver, and the dams of her eyes burst, tears raining down to melt the frost with their saline warmth, too late for poor Wendell.

"Take us away from this place," she instructs the pilot as she collapses atop the frosted wood next to the fallen flora, staring into its frozen flower for a moment before sobs overtake her.

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose is still as a flower.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Briar Rose       0/-------/------=|

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose has ended the fight here.

Log created on 07:03:30 07/19/2022 by Jin Kisaragi, and last modified on 06:50:23 08/11/2022.