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Sasuke1986

Phase 2

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The brown, orange diamond patterned floor stretched far and upwards, molding around and closing at the top to form the inside of a giant sphere. Black, brown diamond patterned spheres of a much, much smaller size rolled and tumbled about the inside of the much, much larger sphere, abnormal gravity keeping them pushed against the floor that reached all around.

 

Max, looking his usual laidback self, sauntered onto the scene, casually rolling forward to avoid being flattened by a sphere as it bounced by, making a deep, hollow, gong-like noise whenever it struck the ground. Cracks quietly echoed from his back as he stretched, knuckles snapping as he flexed his fingers.

 

"You know, I think I've seen you before," Max said, dormant Shriek spinning about in his open palm like a toy. "Oh, right, there's a huge bounty on your head. Mind if we have a little meet up when this is all over?"

 

A sphere rolled by far ahead of him, a pale man with darkened details jumping down from atop it, hand on his forehead as he rose from his landing.

 

"Criminal to the people, or to the law?" Mebius thought aloud, MutaStone heavy in his hand. He opened his eyes to see his adversary. "What about you? Has your life thus far painted you kind? Or does cruelty stir beneath your facade?"

 

The air rippled thrice, then flashed with competitive fury.

 

The Shriek cried out as its blades spun, the device held tightly in Max's hand as he rushed forward and swung, Mebius quickly blocking the attack by morphing his MutaStone into a lid-shaped shield. He reacted accordingly and mechanically in blocking Max's following strikes, the stability granted to him following the battle's end being voided in these fights so that he went about things the same way he did before: as a fifth dimensional being. After blocking several attacks from Max, Mebius pressed forward and shoved aside Max's Shriek-wielding arm, the MutaStone morphing from a shield to a wide bladed sword that clipped Max's right ear as he ducked away from the move and swept the floor ahead of him with his legs. The attack connected with Mebius' ankle and knocked him over, the Dyad shifting his MutaStone into a spiked mace as he fell and swinging it downward at Max, the bounty hunter rolling to the side to avoid the blow. A loud gong rang out, the bounty hunter shooting a glance to his side in time to spot a sphere bouncing towards him, his legs snapping straight and sending him skyward and on top of the sphere that almost bowled him over.

 

Mebius was back on his feet by the time Max was in mid-jump, the thief of scattered perception witness to the act and morphing his MutaStone accordingly, the spikes of the mace sinking into it as the stem lengthened and bent like a cable, the head of the mace flattening into a circular blade. He swung the blade-headed whip upwards, Max jumping the first swing aimed at his legs and ducking the second aimed for his torso, legs scrambling to keep balance on the bouncing ball he was on. He back flipped to avoid the third swing from Mebius' MutaStone, throwing his Shriek as he completed the flip. The MutaStone quickly shortened, its flattened head splitting into three featureless fingers as it was whipped back around and caught hold of Max's Shriek, keeping it pinned to the floor until it whined and retracted its blades.

 

"Ah, nuts," Max said at the sight of his fallen Shriek before moving back on the sphere to avoid getting speared through the chest by the ever-warping MutaStone, the lance tip scratching his chin as he fell back and leapt away to avoid the axe blade the tip soon changed into. Flipping through the air and landing on his feet, Max smirked as he did a backward hop to avoid a whip strike from around the ball that was still in front of him, his shirt giving a flutter as his silver armor unfolded from the plate hidden underneath. His armor augmenting his velocity, Max charged forward under another lash of MutaWhip and leapt over the next, ramming his shoulder into the sphere as it bounced and veering its course towards Mebius. The time and space divided man easily evaded the sphere, but had a lot more trouble avoiding Max, his MutaStone wrapping around him to form a fully encompassing shield when focusing on the future made it apparent that no degree of prediction could keep up with his opponent's agility. His armament's density was stretched thin, however, and increasing its thickness wasn't stopping Max's accelerated kicks and jabs from leaving dents and punching shallow holes through it. Mebius' head ached as he focused again to spot an opening, only to witness the collapse of his shield. "Try this!"

 

And so it happened, the MutaCocoon shriveling and opening around him until it was a twitching, baseball sized raisin of God's matter in his hand, Mebius losing it after a kick to his side sent him stumbling into a sphere that was rolling by. Hitting it from the side, Mebius was knocked down but managed to catch himself against the floor, looking up to see Max twirling a small utensil between his fingers.

 

"This little guy never ceases to amaze," Max said, pocketing the tool in an open compartment near the waist of his armor that quickly closed. Mebius took a quiet, deep breath, his JETSPA reaching up from his neck to cover the rest of his head. Its surface wavered with color, and then Mebius was gone. Max anxiously sucked his lips in under his helmet. "Crap."

 

He quickly looked to the side and spotted his Shriek, still motionless on the floor, and bolted over and picked it up, distancing himself from where he last saw Mebius in the giant sphere. After doing a spiraling lap of the area something else caught Max's eye: Mebius' MutaStone, still shriveled up on the ground. Letting it fall back into Mebius' hands wasn't ideal, so he zipped over to grab it, his heart missing a beat when his hand passed straight through the device.

 

"A holo-" Max stopped, choking, a blow to the stomach spinning him off the ground and liberating his Shriek from his grasp. He skidded across the floor on his back upon landing and then had the remaining air in his lungs knocked out when a sphere rolled over him from the side, Max trying to brace himself against its weight as it pressed splits down his armor. He tried getting up once the ball was off him, but was quickly launched into the air with a kick, then sent flying by a second. Mebius' figure, legs easing, wavered a bit against the scene before resuming near-invisibility.

 

'An illusion,' Mebius thought, looking back from the corner of his eye at where his JETSPA had projected the MutaStone hologram. 'My displacement here... does that make me as much of an illusion? An imitation... not the original whole.'

 

His eyes faced forward, Max back on his feet, fists clenched, head scanning for his cloaked foe.

 

"Playing dirty, huh?" Max said, taking a step forward. 'Let's see him cheat a little Quickining!'

 

Max dashed off to the side, rolling ahead of the path of another sphere and plucking his Shriek off the floor.

 

"Chaleoid Quarantine!" Max shouted as he threw out the Shriek, the device spinning a bit before picking up on the hint. It slowly wheeled about the area, monitoring the ground and spheres until it spotted a subtle shimmer. Emitting its namesake, the bladed yo-yo spun madly towards its target, Max taking off to the side again then turning towards the same spot the Shriek was headed. Mebius, staying in cloak, calmly backed away and allowed a sphere to roll in front of him, the Shriek curving away to prevent a collision with the ball and being caught by Max as he cleared the sphere with a jump, landing on the other side and turning to face the shimmering that was Mebius. He gritted his teeth when the Shriek passed through it like air, proving to be yet another projection. Closing his eyes, he eased the tension in his arm, Shriek still spinning away. The device pointed with the bounty hunter's eased arm, Max keeping his eyes shut as he pivoted and charged in the given direction, swinging out with his free fist. The attack being deflected was Max's queue to open his eyes, the silver armored space hunter going into a frenzy of Shriek swipes, kicks, and punches, Mebius rippling back into visibility as his JETSPA did its best to lessen the force of the blows he was unable to guard against. This didn't go unnoticed by Max, the compartment near his belt popping open and spitting out the tool from before, Max catching it mid-punch and jamming it just under Mebius' collarbone. The JETSPA trembled from the interference sent through it, flaying and pulling away from where it was struck and falling off of Mebius in tatters.

 

"Ha, not so clever without your invisi- OH GOD," Max reeled back, raising an arm to shield his eyes. "You're naked, oh sweet mother of... why are you naked!?"

 

"I'm wearing underpants," Mebius corrected, pointing towards the drawers keeping his pale package from chilling in the breeze. "Wearing anything more is really uncomfortable with the JETSPA, and it gets hot enough as it is under that thing."

 

"This needs to end right now so I can rinse out my eyes," Max said, struggling to keep his traumatized peepers on his enemy as he readied his Shriek for another run. Mebius leapt from the incoming charge and landed on top of a rolling sphere, taking a moment to gaze across the futurescape. He found what he was looking for and leapt backwards off the sphere as Max's Shriek sped at him. He rolled backwards along the ground, grabbing the real MutaStone where it had lay and drawing it back, the effects of Max's Swiss army thingamajig having worn off. It elongated into a whip as he swung it at Max, the bounty hunter leaping over it. Mebius' arm unmoving from the previous swing, the MutaStone itself lashed about at its distant end and struck Max from behind while he was still airborne, Mebius looking behind himself and lengthening the MutaStone from under his grip, the second arm of the device reaching towards the approaching Shriek and trapping it as it formed a globe around it. It was about this time that Max hit the ground after being struck by the MutaStone, bounding off the floor with his arms to keep himself from being prone on the ground and instead feeling his Shriek slice through a good chunk of his side after Mebius swung and released the weapon inches away from its user. Max hit the ground on his right calf with his left knee touching down afterwards, the bounty hunter struggling through the pain to keep himself from falling over. Mebius silently whipped back his MutaStone, sending it a final order before flinging it towards Max, the shapeshifting device swirling and twirling in on itself as it went, its flailing ends quickly accelerating it as they thinned and twisted inward, tightening and condensing more and more. When Max looked up, he didn't even notice the grain-sized MutaStone before it zipped straight through his skull, his body going stiff seconds before collapsing lifelessly to the floor.

 

"Just an imitation, an illusory fragment," Mebius said, looking down at his hands, a sphere brushing past him from the side. "If a piece becomes greater than the whole... what does that mean for the whole?"

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Sixteen rocky spires stood like pegs on a grid, each with tops on level with the other, each as wide at the top as the rest, which was plenty wide for two combatants to scrape on. They were all spaced about two and a half spires from the other and the walls of the area, the ground below shrouded in tropical flora, the eyes of wicked fauna glaring up from the darkness that lay beyond. Above was the ceiling, made of metal plates and scaffolding, a canopied light positioned where a spire existed far below. It was a reminder of where they truly were, the tops of the walls just as manmade before being consumed by vines and gritty soil as it neared the shallow jungle below.

 

The chattering and snarling of the unseen beasts at the bottom was drown out by a loud, hearty guffaw, which was followed by a series of taunting chortles.

 

"No matter how great the stone they are hewn from, no man can hope to match my own stony greatness!" the source of the guffaw and chortles called out, the mess of cloth and blades that descended from a blind spot in the scaffolding and landed boldly on a spire proving it to be none other than Gilgamesh, pink petals falling around him. "It is because no stone can resist being cleaved by my swords! Be it stone of body or stone of face, like yours! Er, my stony greatness is an exception, of course!"

 

Then another fell from above, dust and pebbles being flung from where his heavy body collided with an opposing spire. The rock stood firm and unfazed as Kane rose to a stand atop it, rubbing the back of his head.

 

"Aw, shucks, I'd love to match wits with ya too, big guy," Kane said, though it was more ISH saying than Kane saying since it wasn't really Kane at all. "But my bitter sourdough of a brother, who I happen to be impersonating (it's a secret to everyone), isn't big on banter. So yeah, live and let die, or something."

 

The air rippled thrice, then flashed with competitive fury.

 

As was the standard for Kane, or so his impersonator grew to assume, kill fast and kill first was always the best start, and trying again and again if it didn't work the first, second, third, and so on times. As such, he whipped out his trusty assault rifle and fired one of its speeding, armor cutting rounds, which Gilgamesh met with the flat of the Masamune sided with a "Ha ha!" The sword did most of the deflecting. Kane quickly shifted his aim to a leg and fired again, which Gilgamesh met by shifting the Masamune's position while uttering a "Ho ho!" Again, the colorfully garbed quarter-god deflected the shot. There came a "Hee hee!" and a "Fufufu!" and "Nyar har!" in response to more bullets, a veritable list of short laughs being made before finally ending on a "Fwoo hoo hoo!" on account of the related deflected bullet sailing back towards Kane, something Gilgamesh would later claim intentional, and forcing him to pull off one of those classy, slow motion dodges.

 

"Aha, so the-" Gilgamesh started, being cut off by the sound of Kane's assault rifle, the bullet hitting him in the foot and causing him to holler in pain. "You cur! Did your mother not-" another shot rang out, Gilgamesh clumsily deflecting it and going wobbly from standing on only one foot. "Do not interrupt me, you-" another shot, another deflection, but Gilgamesh's previously induced wobbliness allowed for the force of the bullet to knock him back and off the spire with a yelp. He resumed speaking a few seconds later. "You'll be getting such a thrashing once my foot wakes up! It'll be supreme justice served for forcing me to use the glorious Masamune as a grip in this undeserving rock!"

 

"Good to know," Kane said, taking the time to bring out his BFG and open it up for tinkering. He stared blankly at the innards of the large gun. "So, what am I supposed to be doing here to do what later?"

 

"Prepare yourself, for Gilgamesh and his legendary semi-numb foot have returned!" Gilgamesh declared, arms scraping at stone as he tried to pull himself back onto the spire. He let out an alarmed chirp at the sight of Kane pointing his assault rifle again, Gilgamesh letting himself drop so that only the plume of his hood was victim to the round. "You have defaced my glorious spout of assorted feathers!? You have committed your last crime, swine! Haha!"

 

Leaping to the spire behind him, Gilgamesh squatted against its rocky side and then jettisoned off, sending himself high into the air. Kane fired off several shots at the airborne opponent, yet not even his impeccably imitated aim was able to make mark on his airborne adversary. Gilgamesh plummeted downwards, Masamune ready to skewer its target from top to bottom, Kane firing off more rounds that still failed to hit even as the mass of mismatched shrouds drew closer.

 

'Must be them fancy invincibility frames,' thought the Hunter. 'Let's see if he's invincible to this.'

 

In one swift motion Kane traded his assault rifle for his duranium tachi, swinging the blade up in time to veer the blade of Masamune away, the edges screeching against each other until stopping at the hilts.

 

"Hmph, so the gunslinger is-" Gilgamesh stopped with a grunt as he pushed himself away to avoid a plasma shot to the face, starting to think that his dour opponent wasn't about to offer him the time to assail him with his staggering ensemble of remarks and retorts. Of course, this was no obstacle to the fantastic Gilgamesh as he could easily wield words whilst swinging swords splendidly. He started right away, lips flapping while swords clashed and his big ol' boot knocked Kane back so that a second swipe could deny him continued use of his plasma gun. "No pause for my brilliant feats of speech? I need no such thing! Haha, witness my miraculous motions of the sword! Now let your ridiculous chest plate witness the bottom of my boot! Ha! I laugh as your laughable toy plummets into the pit below, because it is indeed that laughable!"

 

Kane grumbled. 'Boy, am I getting him right? I really need to tell Psyche to lighten up! All work and no play makes Johncakes a dollhouse. And that ain't cool.'

 

"Hang your mouth agape at the blinding speed of my sword strokes! The Masamune shall dance upon your feeble armor until it is naught but ribbons! Then you shall be a ribbon-adorned rube struggling to keep up with my breathtaking prowess! Hmph, you parry well for one so lacking of color! But the ground before you remains my own, much like this battle! Oof! Turn the tables on me, will you? Haha! Gilgamesh fights even more incredibly than ever with the edge at his heels! Hiya! Try to strike low all you want, it is a pointless endeavor! Take this! Did I catch you off guard? And that! Ha! Your talent rusts before my eyes like a plow in the rain! A rain of lame upon the plow of sow! Yes, I have appropriately affiliated your fatuous flailing to a pig! D'ohff! A m-mildly remarkable counterattack, but nothing I cannot countercounterattack! Hoo-ha! Ready to beg for mercy yet? You will be once my furious downpour of strikes has turned your knees to jelly from unbridled awe! You cannot stop me! Each meeting of blades, its siren's song, its metallic medley, is like a feast to me! I can only get stronger while you shrink under my magnifying might! Gahahaha- orf!! Think I'll let you- blagh! So you believe you have the upperha-ackt! Ka-hagh! Unhand the Masamune from your grimy grip, you- ffnarf! Your elbow shall intrude upon my ribs no mor-"

 

Gilgamesh tumbled down the side of the spire with a subdued, warbling yell, Kane having dismissed him with sword-stopping, core crunching, knee-to-the-navel combo after their long exchange of swordplay that was coupled with the curtained combatant's clearly modest narration. Though Masamune remained firmly in his grasp, Gilgamesh was unable to seize the moment to plant it into the rock to stop his fall, unintentionally somersaulting against stone as he was. He brushed passed large leaves and disappeared into the darkness they contributed to, hitting the moist soil and fallen foliage at the bottom.

 

"Patooie!" Gilgamesh spat, bits of dirt and leaf chips in particular. "I'm not about to be ousted from atop without consequence! This Kane shall soon snap under the weight of his own arrogance! Har har!... I hope someone heard that gem."

 

The leaves above rustled, Gilgamesh uttering a bewildered grunt as something bounced off his head and landed a short distance in front of him. He didn't have much time to question what it was, since it went up in a rising cloud of fire soon after, Gilgamesh flying out amidst chunks of earth and crispy leaf flakes while screaming and trying his best to pat out the tiny flames on his attire.

 

"What coward lobs bombs down from the safety of a lofty crag!?" Gilgamesh questioned loudly. Hearing him didn't stop Kane from launching more blazing and splintering explosives down into the forested flooring below. The sword collector was now taking large bounds in his effort to escape the bits and blasts, one of his highflying feet getting snagged on an arching root and spinning him down face first into the soil. As he pulled himself away from the ground, spitting up more soil, Gilgamesh's noble lashes cleared away the crumbs of earth and plant in his eyes to reveal something before him. It was something with beady, spirit-crushing eyes, flaring, life-sucking nostrils, twitching, demonic ears, and stripes of the unworldliest black and white hues too intense for the mortal mind to conceive without caving in upon itself. The color drained from Gilgamesh's face more quickly than the drool from the curling, fang-filled maw before him. "Buh... buh-buh-buh... bu-buh-buhhh b-b-b-b-b-buh-buhhh b-b-buh buh buh BUH-BUH-BUH BAAAAAAAAGH!!!"

 

Kane watched as Gilgamesh came rocketing out from the blaze growing across the forest, streams of smoke following behind him as he let out hysteric cries while flailing his arms and legs like a rag doll's. He slowly spun backwards as he fell, limbs still whipping about until he slammed down on a nearby rock, his previous verbal shrieks and wild gesturing getting knocked down to quiet babbling and stiff quivering. Kane lowered his gun.

 

"Wanna call it off, buddy?" Insaney called out, eying Gilgamesh's trembling form beyond extending pillars of smoke.

 

"N... nnn... nuh... never!" Gilgamesh shouted, breaking mostly free of his paralysis as he jumped back on to his feet, his posing a bit stiff. "Uh-I am above th-this! The g-great Gilgamesh is so far above this triviality! Morphing above it!!"

 

His garb fluttered about an emanation of power, the gleam of Masamune being joined by five other gleams and one energy saber glow, each carried by a newly sprouted arm with the exception of one of the larger gleams being hefted by two.

 

"Okey dokey rinse and soaky," the Hunter said, then raised his assault rifle. "You wanted this."

 

Gilgamesh easily cleaved apart the incoming bullet with a swing of the Zantetsuken, letting out a booming laugh all the while. Legs bending, his multi-armed frame sprung into the air, each of his seven blades ready to taste the blood of his cyborg opponent. The image of this gray and red armored man quickly drew close, and just as quickly went sailing out the top of Gilgamesh's vision. Amidst the mighty battle fervor that swelled within him as he acted, Gilgamesh had forgotten how much heavier his added arms and weaponry made him, so instead of meeting Kane head-on he met the rocky spire head-on, smashing against it halfway down and sticking with a woozy groan.

 

"Curse the inadequate amount of squats I don't nearly do often enough," Gilgamesh grumbled against the rock, feeling the heat of the forest fire against his back. "Bah! Now, Enkidu! Muddle this miscreant while I scale this precipice to give him a proper reception!"

 

Kane lurched forward for a second after getting rammed in the back by Gilgamesh's awkward animal amalgam, quickly turning with tachi in hand and severing some of the beast's fanciful fur as it ducked the attack. As the two tussled, the eight-armed swordsman below steadily climbed, occasionally fumbling when trying to use Zantetsuken as a peg only to have it cleave down and out of the rock effortlessly. There was a strangled snarl, the Enkidu-Kane conflict coming to a close as the cyborg clasped the mutant mutt by the neck and tossed it over the side, the curled up creature getting Gilgamesh to gripe after conking him on the way down.

 

"Watch where you toss aside his extremities, Enkidu!" Gilgamesh said, having not realized it was his (possibly partially) canine companion that just bumped him from above. "And don't humiliate him too thoroughly! It should be the incredible Gilgamesh that sets this Kane aside in the dusty closet of defeat! Haha!"

 

Kane peered down at his adversary as he inched ever so closer to the top, an idea popping into his noggin that was likely more of something from Insaney's book than Psyche's. Turning his back from where Gilgamesh approached, he aimed his assault rifle down at the ground and started firing, bullet after bullet punching through the next and carving a line deeper into the rock.

 

"What is this racket? Does Enkidu's impressive evasion astound your heart and confound your aim? Bahaha! Of course it does!"

 

Kane popped a few shells out of his grenade launcher, then peeked down the hole, then back at Gilgamesh, still stabbing a way up. Kane silently opened one of the shells and dumped its combustible contents down the hole. Gilgamesh coughed and wheezed.

 

"This smoke you spawned frustrates the lustrous lungs of Gilgamesh! There is a certain bear that would have words with you, I am sure!"

 

Empty grenade shells lay scattered near Kane. He trained his assault rifle back on the hole and fired. Thick flames jetted out from the hole as a loud boom shook the air, the fire searing by the side of Kane's face as he felt himself fall as the ground beneath him gave way into chunks, the biggest of which now kept Gilgamesh pressed flat as it fell away off the force of the explosion behind it.

 

"What!?" Gilgamesh called out, sounding more perplexed than a five year old who walked into a candy store and found a tattoo shop. "Impossible! There's no way! No waaaaaaay!"

 

The inferno parted ever so slightly to make room for the rock, a burning black haze shooting high into the air following impact, its sound weakened, but still loud, by the roaring blaze around it. Kane stood atop the smoldering stub he downsized the spire to, gazing down at the raging flames Gilgamesh and a heavy boulder were swallowed by.

 

"Another one bites the dust," Kane said, visor a hellish red as it reflected the blaze. "Make sure to spit that out! Dust is fragmented toenails and dander and junk! Mad nasty. Unequivocally not a part of a balanced breakfast. Unless you're a dust mite."

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Abandoned buildings of concrete stretched five stories up to a reflective gray ceiling, their windows shattered, their doors splintered and smashed in. Dusty alleys and broken roads lay between them, stretching off to mirrored walls and sealed doorways. The structures bore rotted furniture, lifeless appliances, shattered tiles and ravaged carpeting, and decaying walls of flaying wallpaper marked with water damage and occasionally with wide holes, the ceilings stained and on the brink of giving way.

 

A ghastly wind wrapped its way through the ruined streets, its howl falling silent as flames emerged from thin air, spiraling outward and crisscrossing, shaping a burning cocoon as they went. The fire flew away in shrinking shreds, Vaughn standing where it once blazed.

 

"The one and only, is it?" he said, opening his glowing, red eyes and staring ahead, reaching back and gripping his daikatana. "There's a lot you need to answer for."

 

The ground ahead of him quaked, an upheaval of fertile, brown earth emerging from the blacktop, the chunks of street falling back into place as if nothing had occurred. The block of earth hardened into clay, then chipped away at all angles until an earthen warrior had been carved by invisible hands. The statue gave off a blinding light, the light quickly fading to show that the statue had gained color, substance, and life.

 

"There is undeniable power within you, Vaughn," The Architect spoke, Starsteel Sword in hand. "Though I made The Plan, perhaps it calls for more than one deity? Wouldn't that be something?"

 

The air rippled thrice, then flashed with competitive fury.

 

Vaughn swung Kurohiarashi overhead, its tip stopping a few inches short of the ground after releasing a potent wave of fire across the floor. He jumped to the side as The Architect sidestepped the attack and countered with jagged strings of electricity from the Lightning Gauntlet, Vaughn performing a second jump to move away from the growing range of the attack and disappear inside one of the many dilapidated buildings. Withdrawing his gauntlet arm, The Architect started towards the dark, uninviting entryway with a flourish of his cape.

 

Vaughn had tucked himself away into a dark corner some three rooms in, the aged bedroom with a legless bed having been more appealing than the moldy bathroom along the way. He muttered a string of foreign words with palms cupped, reddish-purple flames swirling about in the bowl of his hands and shaping into the bulb of a strange, black plant. Eyestalks emerged from under the folding leaves of the bulb, its subtle chattering being quietly hushed by Vaughn. He looked back towards the dark hall he came through, fiery light dispelling the darkness at the end as an explosion broke the still air, the walls creaking as dust came down in torrents. After a few seconds, Vaughn shrugged and gently stuck the bulb to the door pane.

 

"Waited to see if he was going to bullshit about doing that on purpose," Vaughn said quietly, then stealthily leapt out one of the broken windows. When the bulb caught sight of a somewhat sooty white legging step into the room, it whispered a raspy squelch and exploded, bringing down dusty chunks of the wall and insulation. Vaughn turned to see large shreds and bits being belched from the windows of the room he recently escaped from, facing forward and cutting through an alleyway, the loose ground being twisted and turned under his feet. The wind wailed through the alley and passed Vaughn as he neared the end, turning the corner and quickly drawing his daikatana to block the oncoming strike of The Architect's sword. "You get around, don't you?"

 

"I go where The Plan points when the Object allows," The Architect said, deflecting an incoming daikatana blow and countering, his sword being parried. "The latter is not as telling as the former, to my misfortune."

 

Swords continued to clash, the two taking uneven turns gaining and losing ground on the other amidst their attempted strikes, starsteel singing while ribbons of flame followed behind Kurohiarashi. Vaughn gripped his sword tighter, its fire growing thicker as the blade started to glow red, its Kanji radiating, The Architect simultaneously channeling the power of his gauntlet into his sword, Vaughn feeling the sting of electricity as escalating heat washed over The Architect. Their blades struck and pushed against one another as the two tried to gain the upper hand on the other, wind howling by, growing into a groaning gale. The two couldn't help but display some partial concern, The Architect's head shifting side to side ever so slightly while Vaughn shot swift glances at what was nearby as the air churned and bellowed a chilling dirge. The light in the area began to dim on and off sporadically, the grays suddenly falling dark, the outlines of building and the cracks in the roads gaining an otherworldly glow that cycled through blues, violets, and greens. A distant murmur started to grow into a shrill, clattering cackle, the two fighters quickly pushing away from each other and hitting the ground as streams of shattered glass and stone came pouring from the higher windows and from out of the alleys and corners beyond, wrapping and twisting around into an airborne river of laceration. Both fighters tightly guarded themselves as they watched the storm of sharp, glistening shards pass overhead, just a little over a breath away from cutting into them. The ghostly glow upon the area started to fade, the stream of shards thinning and flying off out of view as the area returned to its original, dismal grays. Vaughn quickly jumped back to his feet once the danger had passed, The Architect climbing back up onto his own. The two had a brief stare down before resuming their fight.

 

The Architect leapt high into the air, Lightning Gauntlet held outward and spraying the road below with bolts, Vaughn raising both his sword and a Flame Aura Barrier to protect and weaken the attack, a few of the bolts striking his legs and sending tremors up his spine. The warrior avatar continued sailing through the air, smashing into the fourth story of a building and sending down chunks of brick and framework, Vaughn leaping away and narrowly avoiding being buried under the debris. The building The Architect flew into flashed at the seams to its foundation, a harmony of creaking and crumbling echoing down the streets as the base facing Vaughn caved in, the remainder of the structure falling towards him.

 

Bolts flew across the Starsteel Sword as The Architect watched a thick, gray cloud plume from where he dropped the majority of one of the apartment-esque complexes on his opponent. The haze cleared to reveal a mound of rubble devoid of life, The Architect carefully peering down at and around it for any sign of where Vaughn might have gone. Fire quickly consumed his vision, The Architect leaping back while swiping the flames off his body, a flock of black bodied, blazing winged eagles with serrated beaks flapping before him. He retreated into the room behind him as the firebirds gave chase, slinging waves and balls of fire at him from their wings. He rounded doorless doorways and rushed over fragmented tiles as the birds pelted him while gaining, The Architect eventually reaching a rusting spiral staircase and forgoing the conventional way of traversing it, instead clearing the railing with a jump and falling down the gap that was the spiral's center, swiftly moving from the fourth floor to the first with a slam, the ground heaving up in a blossom around his feet. Feeling the fire already raining down on him, The Architect, his tunic and cape starting to fall apart into crispy flakes, resumed his run as the birds dove down the same way he came, managing to keep ahead of the fiery feathered summons as he spun around corners and through rooms. Exiting the building with a leap, The Architect turned upon landing to face his pursuers, gracefully waving a hand through the air. After they all emerged from the doorway, the flock of firebirds instantaneously became a flock of butterflies, flitting delicately off into the distance.

 

The air suddenly churned, The Architect hearing the haunting howl of the wind and watching the area grow dark once more, the cool glow seeping out as the glittering whirlwind of glass and debris sounded its arrival. He felt the ground tremble beneath him, looking down to see that he was standing on a manhole cover, flames clawing and scraping out from below. He shrunk to a squat as an infernal geyser shot up from below, pushing the cover high into the air with The Architect stuck above it, the cutting cloud appearing and amassing in front of him before swallowing him up as it flew by. A heavily disfigured manhole cover fell from the stream several buildings down, The Architect doing the same a few feet further, everything but his chain mail bearing a wide array of cuts and gashes, a few bits of glass stuck in the left eye and mouth opening of his mask, his tunic and cape now scraps of fabric in the wind.

 

The glow subsided while the darkness faded back to the dim, Vaughn leaping from out of the hole in the street and watching as The Architect slowly but surely got back to a stand. Kurohiarashi firmly in his right hand, Vaughn drew Muramasa with the left, the air around him starting to shimmer as a deep red aura throbbed off of him like a pulse. Its sound and tangibility intensified with each beat, the display ending in a burst of blood red energy that was drawn back into Vaughn, claws, wings, and a tail having been added to his shape after tapping into his true power. Kurohiarashi had transformed as well, the kanji on its gleaming red blade having gone white, flames whipping up into the air from around it, Muramasa still in the opposite hand, a crimson fire over its blade, the flames licking downward like dripping blood. The Architect reaffirmed his stance against his opponent, his sword flashing white as a greater voltage was sent through it, his free hand clenched into a fist, white light flickering from between his tightening fingers.

 

Vaughn detected the static in the air, his wings spreading and giving a mighty beat in an instant, his daikatana sweeping against the ground and blasting out five waves of wire as he flew up into the air to avoid the bolts sent from the Lightning Gauntlet. The Architect stomped the street ahead of him to bring up a chunk of it as a barricade against Vaughn's attack, the intensified fire cutting through without pause and searing The Architect, the great heat making it difficult to maintain his telepathically frozen chainmail, each link giving off at least one or two drops that slid down the rest of his body and onto the floor. Grunting irritably, he swept the fire away with his sword, then brought it up to clash with Shin Kurohiarashi as Vaughn dove from above, the back of his other hand following to prevent a blow from Muramasa. The two entered another exchange of strikes and deflections, The Architect managing to keep up against the dual wielding Vaughn and his increasing wrath, the lightning and fire in their motions granting nearby walls light and overcoming the distance with darkness. A rippling dome of burning red and sparkling white slowly took shape around them, their crazed figures distorted outside it, the air above Vaughn twisting as the ground below The Architect broke apart, the two unflinching as much as they were unrelenting. Blades and hand locked, the turbulence around them being blown away from the change, The Architect's scarred mask beginning to sag from melting while boiling blood trickled and steamed from the sides of Vaughn's mouth. The demon took a deep breath, then washed over his foe with an immolating exhalation, The Architect pushing forward while summoning a gale, knocking Vaughn away and farther into the air. The Starsteel Sword burned white as it was drawn back, the energy reaching out like a whip as The Architect swung it, its blinding length wrapping around Muramasa and tightening to a pole's breadth in an instant, the bloodthirsty blade snapping into splinters with an unnerving screech.

 

Vaughn quickly tossed aside his shattered sword, his arm quaking. He hissed demonically through bared teeth, smacking aside a second electrical lash with his daikatana and then drawing Murasame, resuming his two-sword status not long after it was lost. The Architect stared at him through the misshapen eyes of his marred mask, focusing, attempting to will his opponent into a steamy puddle of boiled flesh. The Laws of Physics weren't well suited for a being of hellish power, however, and having his cellular tissue superheated (further) only proved to throw Vaughn into a deeper pit of rage, fire of an overwhelmingly red hue suddenly blasting out around him as he roared and flew back down at The Architect. Opting out of staying grounded, the warrior avatar leapt forward to meet Vaughn half of the way, blade and blades hitting the other with a piercing cry, the fighters being knocked apart but swiftly pushing forward to collide again, pieces of the buildings around them coming off in gravel against the flaying force of their elements as the two went back and forth at one another repeatedly, no decisive hits being had. Neither noticed the atmosphere shifting once more, the noise of their erupting might overpowering the ghostly gusts as the encroaching streams of shards called from afar. The two soon stuck attack against attack in another stalemate, their feet meeting the ground with splitting force at the same time sword and hand caught daikatana and katana, glass and razor rubble flooding down on them from the roads around but breaking into dull dust against their surging surfaces. Both pushed away from the other, flying meters apart and making the ground quake with their unified landing, The Architect unleashing lightning as Vaughn swung both his blades. Splitting bolts smashed against ten whirling crosses of destructive force that layered into one another to form a cataclysmic blossom, The Architect thrusting his sword forward and condensing the lightning into an electrifying beam, Vaughn reeling back and spewing hellish breath to intensify Antipode Cross. The ground came up in disintegrating pebbles underneath the warring forces, the ravaging river above swirling about and getting sucked in, the popping glass and rocks creating a fireworks display. The swelling powers quickly swelled too far, their colors mixing and form shrinking before their light exploded and consumed everything around, the deafening blast muting the tumbling structures and startled combatants.

 

The haze cleared to reveal a massive room stripped of all but a few crumbs of what was once the abandoned, spectral downtown that resided within, its plated walls lightly singed and dim lighting mostly busted. Amidst the emptiness were two bodies, both sprawled out on their backs. Vaughn, back to his standard (and now fairly beat up) form, let out frustrated groans and coughs as he tried to move, but the most he could do was make his forearms quiver and fingers twitch.

 

"Yes... this body is equally exhausted," The Architect said, his mask strangely twisted into a happy face from the conflict, his chainmail now a silver puddle under him, occasionally rippling from attempts to manipulate his limbs. "I suppose this battle has been decided, hm?"

 

"Ahh, damn it," Vaughn said, grimacing, out of amplifiers after summoning the birds, making a fire geyser, and giving himself enough protective power to survive the attack that the arena didn't. "I was kicking your ass, too."

 

And so, with both battlers battered to their backs, the fight ended with neither victor nor loser.

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The brownish-gray fossilized husks of giant bugs were everywhere. They made up the floors, the walls, the ceilings. They piled up high to make platforms and unsightly mockeries of trees, their legs hanging stiffly from above like stalactites and jutting from the walls like deadly thorns. Countless caved-in eyes gazed emptily across high hills and low ditches that occasionally gazed back. It was a great, big carapace crypt.

 

The empty exoskeletons proved sturdy against the feet that tread upon them, as well as the hollow glass bottles that bounced and broke against them. Heather took a finishing swig from another bottle, attempting to shake out the last few drops before giving up with a shrug and tossing it over to the rest.

 

"Did I ever tell you about the simulations?" she said, pulling out her BLOCKSabre and twirling it between her fingers before deftly catching it in her palm, her grip causing the blade to form. "This is a lot like them, only, you know, with monsters and cheese rivers. Don't be too hard on me, handsome."

 

A ball of fire formed in the air, flying back and being caught by Vaughn, the flames gently molding and vanishing into his fingers without sign of being snuffed out. He walked closer towards Heather, drawing Murasame as he did so.

 

"You really do remind me of those two," he said, memories from other lives passing through his mind, recalling battles alongside ones with hair of the late twilight. His subtle look of reminiscence quickly subsided as he readied his blade. "That much can wait. And don't mistake any ease as mercy. Demons are no strangers to... playing around."

 

The air rippled thrice, then flashed with competitive fury.

 

The two slowly moved to their rights, circling one another, their careful steps creeping forward and bringing them closer ever so slightly. Their gazes locked, any straying running the risk of causing an opening for an attack. Heather bent low and lunged forward, arms crossed in front of her, the BLOCKSabre's blade adjacent to her body. Vaughn swung Murasame diagonally from the ground to the air, Heather quickly moving to the side and under its slope, the edge managing to trim a few hairs off her curls. Redirecting the momentum of his sword, Vaughn motioned the tip to the floor as Heather struck, a metallic whine ringing through the air as her BLOCKSabre snapped against the demon's solid steel (or whatever metal the Murasame was molded from, which was still quite solid). The BioSuit quickly sprung to the right to avoid a vertical slash from the katana, then bent back like rubber to dodge a horizontal swing, feeling the watery cold sword as its flat grazed the tip of her nose. She bounced back and smacked Vaughn in the chest with her free palm, the demon lightly stumbling and raising his sword to defend, blocking and subsequently breaking Heather's recently reformed sword. He swung at a downward angle, watching as Heather evaded by flipping back, Murasame missing the bottoms of her footwear by a hair. Vaughn took the opportunity to leap high and back, Heather spotting his take off moments before she landed.

 

Vaughn's boots hit the high ground with a hollow crackle, his position now atop a frozen spout of shells. Heather, her BLOCKSabre reformed, knelt low and jumped high to confront him, but was pushed back shortly before getting above the risen ground by a heated burst of wind as a faded wall of fire cycled around Vaughn. As Heather landed a short distance ahead from where he had leapt, something else made landfall not far in front of her in a shower of embers. She took a step back, trying to get a good look at the flaming lump, glancing up to see Vaughn receding behind the cover of the underside of what he stood on, only the tops of his shoulders and head staying visible. Looking back down, she now saw that the flaming lump had spawned a pair of lanky legs, enough to put its rugged, spherical body on level with Heather's chest, a pair of equally lanky arms tumbling from its sides as six yellow, diamond shaped eyes appeared on its lumpy body, the burning gems arranged in a squashed ring. It clapped the sides of its fists together, a sword made completely out of fire being drawn as it spread its fists apart.

 

Heather made a mildly confused mutter before shrugging, stepping to the side as the fiery creature jumped towards her and swung its blazing weapon down, missing her as she moved. She ducked and then leaned to avoid its following slashes, all the while feeling the intense heat of its weapon as it passed, bits of her hair and clothing getting singed. The creature let out an annoyed scrambling gurgle as Heather twisted, curved, and hopped to avoid its attacks, Heather looking a bit annoyed herself as the rising heat around her started getting on her nerves. She ducked another strike, then rose with an upward slash from her BLOCKSabre, the blade cutting through the thin joint of the monster's right arm, its fire sword fizzling out as its limb hit the ground in a line of soot. It threw its head (which was still also its body) back and let out a wrathful squelch, Heather using the same time to sever its other arm. She slashed two more times as the creature brought its head back, the swipes shattering four out of its six eyes. The monster let out a weak murmur as its knees trembled, its remaining eyes going dark as its body-engulfing flames blew out, the creature falling backwards and spraying away from Heather, forming a flat bouquet of ash across the ground that was quickly brushed away by an unnoticeable breeze.

 

Heather heard something crackle through the air and leapt back in response, a fireball hitting the spot she had just been in. She looked up, watching as something else emerged from the thin wall of fire surrounding Vaughn, its glowing spherical shape dimming slightly as it unfurled, its fall halting several feet from the floor. It continued to dim as it hovered with a loud buzz, the glow remaining on its four, glassy wings and large, bulbous abdomen, four gold horns running down the middle of its head with two gray compound eyes to the sides. It started to dart about left and right in the air, Heather keeping her eyes on it, her saber at the ready. Its abdomen had a spasm, a softball-sized fireball shooting out, Heather sliding to the side and slipping out of its way. The demonic bug continued to zip about in the air while shooting more fireballs at Heather, its jagged legs drumming against its body, the BioSuit dodging its attacks. Her attempts at fighting back were negated by the monster's reflexes, the creature mirroring her own advances and retreats at nearly the same time, its distance appearing constant. Heather cringed upon feeling the left side of her back burn, realizing that her movement had steadily spun her around to put the exoskeletal structure Vaughn was on top of behind her.

 

"Ass!" she called out, the bug's eyes flashing in response to its distracted target, lustrous spikes popping out all over its glowing abdomen. It zoomed in and swung its spiny segment, screeching when the BLOCKSabre left a gash on the right side of its face and through an eye and prompted it to retreat, Heather smirking at her successful feint. She hopped to her right to avoid another fireball from behind, the burnt left strap of her tank top flopping around in front of her, Heather turning so that both Vaughn and his blazing bug buddy would be in view, though the glowing invertebrate was already moving in to help flank her again. Heather stayed on the move, her legs pushing her back as she went in a large circle around Vaughn's vantage point, frequently pushing herself out of the way from fireballs from both demon and demon bug, occasionally swatting aside the projectiles with her sword. She'd take quick backwards glances to make sure she wasn't running into any of the spiked walls or another tall obtrusion, learning the lay of the land, the insect summon being more cautious with its swings following the large gap in its vision. After doing half a lap around, Heather slowly turned her back towards Vaughn, keeping her sword behind her as an extra measure against any fireball she didn't manage to avoid. She reversed her walk and now pressed the bug back, keeping up some side-to-side movement to avoid it and Vaughn's continued assault, reacting to the approaching heat against her back and moving her BLOCKSabre accordingly to guard. The bug kept its distance as it flew, its wide range of sight focused mainly on Heather. It emitted a shriek when Heather lunged, a wall bumping into it from behind as it tried to back away, the creature letting out a panicked cry as the blade speared it through the body and pinned it against the wall. Heather ejected the blade from the handle, leaping straight into the air to clear one of Vaughn's fireballs and also spin kick the bug in the face, busting its other eye as it remained pinned. Its complaint was cut short, Heather cleaving it in half with her quickly refreshed sword.

 

She laughed and rolled to the side in time to avoid meeting the same fate as Vaughn fell from above, his Murasame hitting the ground as the halves of his summon vanished in embers. Heather exited her roll with a jump, sweeping her sword upward and cutting into Vaughn's right leg, the demon stifling any outbursts the pain demanded. Demonic blood fell from the cut as he turned to face Heather, sword swinging as he approached. After twenty strokes produced nothing but a few shreds of hair and three busted BLOCKSabre blades, Vaughn distanced himself with a long hop and reached behind with his free hand, drawing Kurohiarashi to join Murasame in his attacks. Heather kept a sly smirk, doing the same with her distance as Vaughn approached, the demon swinging his daikatana upward to produce a farther traveling Burning Force Slash. Heather sidestepped the incoming tower of fire and then did so again in the opposite direction after Vaughn unleashed another, this happening one more time before the demon was close enough to start taking melee swings. Heather continued backing off, sword held close, as she waltzed away from the attempted blows, keeping her jumps quick so as to not leave herself vulnerable in the air, her dress receiving both singed and normal cuts from Vaughn's fire and water element swords. The demon raised both blades and brought them down in a cross, Heather swiftly throwing herself down into a slide, feet forward, and passing under Vaughn to avoid being battered by Antipode Cross. She lashed her BLOCKSabre behind her head after clearing Vaughn, hearing him attempt to muffle a holler after he tumbled to the floor from having his feet severed.

 

"Gotta keep up with the pace," she said, jumping back to her feet. She could just barely hear Vaughn whisper something indistinguishable, turning around to see his feet reattach to his legs by red-hot sinews, the blood trickling from his leg also coming to a stop. Something made a diminishing clatter on the floor as he rose back to a stand, turning with both swords at the ready. Heather had already gotten several meters away from him. "Should've brought a gun..."

 

Something trembled in the air, the ground giving an easily forgotten shake. The sound of wind began to grow from out of the walls, a sound that quickly gained a more liquid tone that changed further into a churning, frothing bubble. This noise proceeded several more pegs until it was a slopping, guttural gurgle about as pleasant and distinct as a troop of sick hippos blowing big snotty bubbles from their flapping nostrils. It was at this time that a thick, glowing, green liquid began pouring out from the mouths, eyes, and other breaks and holes in the exoskeletons that made the ceilings and the walls, Heather leaping forward to avoid getting caught in one of the corrosive cascades. The sunken parts of the floor quickly began to fill with the chemical, Heather running towards one of the tree-shaped protrusions and leaping on top of it, Vaughn doing the same to the one nearest him. Heather had trouble keeping a straight face against the liquid's powerful fragrance as it filled up the area below.

 

"Who ate a heaping pile of shit and puked it up?" she said, trying to wave away the odor from her nostrils. "Doesn't look half bad to take a dip in, huh?"

 

"Ladies first," Vaughn called out, swords still firmly in his hands. He looked around at the area as it took on a minor green hue, the rising liquid slowing to a stop at the rim of the platforms they were on which had become the only safe spots around, barring a few other parts of the floor that were raised enough to not get swallowed up. "The battleground has changed. Time I did the same."

 

The air around Vaughn started to shimmer from elevating heat, Kurohiarashi being wrapped in fire, adding to the intensity of the morphing air. A devilish blaze flared up where Vaughn stood, the fire rising and parting to reveal demon and sword in their strengthened forms, Murasame uninvited to the party. Heather took a quick look around to reevaluate the terrain before locking her sight on the demon, his wings spread wide. The wind clapped as Vaughn threw them down, propelling himself towards Heather at breakneck speed. The space Heather previously gained afforded her enough time to jump out of the way of the incoming blades, but as Vaughn veered upwards one of her feet became snagged against a wing, the rest of her swinging forward, her face mashing against his tail, the heat coming off Vaughn's body stinging her as she was pressed against it. Vaughn let out a flustered snarl, Heather throwing herself down his back as Shin Kurohiarashi came at her from overhead, its flames blasting across Vaughn's vest where the BioSuit was only a moment before. Now falling towards a platform, Heather cried out briefly when she jerked to a stop, something tightening around her right ankle and making it burn. Looking down (which was actually up from standard perspective), she saw Vaughn drawing back to attack, the end of his tail constricting her ankle. Heather quickly threw her weight back, swinging just enough so only the flames from Vaughn's daikatana caressed her, then whipped out her BLOCKSabre, the demon roaring from the pain of a severed tail. She righted herself in the air with a somersault, landing on her feet and quickly kicking the leathery tangle off her foot and into the jarring juice. Heather rolled backward after this, timely avoiding Vaughn's dive, both his swords planting into the ground and being quickly withdrawn. He spun around ferociously, Heather trying her best to keep with the motion of the swings as she twisted around them, balancing her movement against his following attacks. Her body jerked back to escape the range of a diagonal cut, the loose left side of her tank type loosening more and rather lower from the maneuver. Vaughn paused, his fangs biting at his lower lip as he tried averting his gaze despite his demonized impulses, the bottom of Heather's foot helping him with the latter.

 

"It's your fault," Heather said, smirking as she bounded off Vaughn's vicious visage, pulling up the saggy side of her shirt while she was at it. Vaughn raised his swords, trying to shake off the rage, opening his eyes and just as quickly throwing his wings in front of him as Heather landed on the next platform and swiped her sword through the green grossness, the fluid splashing up as the blade was ejected before the corrosion could reach the handle. The demon snarled as the juice hit his wings, quickly eating away at his added appendages as it dripped down. He jumped back on to another elevation, pulling his wings back and blades high, swinging the swords down and firing a juiced up Antipode Cross straight ahead. Heather tossed herself as high as she could into the air, her body curving and turning its finest to slip by wave after alternating wave of energy, wincing only once when the tenth managed to blunt the tips of her big toes. Her leap carried her farther than she anticipated, the BioSuit finding herself springing off of Vaughn's noggin a second time. He pressed his clenched, sword-wielding fist against his face in irritation, his scalding blood speeding through his veins. His blazing aura subsided as his wings and tail shrunk away, Vaughn opting not to go any farther with his enhanced form.

 

"Yeah, the pissed Satan look doesn't suit you," Heather smiled, reforming the blade of her sword. Vaughn replied with an annoyed frown before stepping back, one of his amplifiers reacting as he whispered. Heather could feel the air around her getting warmer, spotting a circular glow reaching out from under her and spreading out partially onto the surrounding fluid. The sound of roaring flames entered her ears, her head spinning to see the platform behind her being consumed in a cremating column, the same about to happen where she stood. Vaughn waited ahead of her, blades at the ready. She decided to skip on the calming sigh and went right into the forward charge, body parallel to the ground as her legs pumped. The heat started to make her skin tingle, her legs giving a kick to push her out of the circle before it shot up in hellfire. Vaughn had his swords raised high, Heather pulling back her BLOCKSabre as she approached. As Vaughn swung down, Heather thrust in the same direction, pushing herself off the ejecting, chipping blade as it dug into the floor. She curled into a spinning ball as her trajectory changed, Vaughn's energy wave and swords missing her, the passing sensation of Antipode Cross ordering her to forcefully unfurl and catch Vaughn's head between her thighs, her skirt muffling Vaughn's surprised yell as they both spun into the air and crashed harrowingly close to the edge of the platform.

 

Heather rolled to the left as Vaughn did to the right, both getting to their feet and moving in, Heather staying ahead by a thread against Vaughn's swords while Vaughn dodged the occasional strike Heather would send, snapping her regenerative sword's blade when he couldn't. This cycled as they walked an awkward path across the platform and along its rim many times, ducking and weaving around any attempts either made to throw around the acrid acid when it was near. They drew back to the platform's center and started restricting their advances to that spot, bits of BLOCK and shrinking droplets of acid now littering the ground below. There steps were met with clatters and sizzles, the noise failing to distract the two as they fought, Vaughn swinging vertically, Heather sliding away, Vaughn attacking from the left and then from below, Heather ducking and hopping to the side with a swing of her sword, Vaughn moving out of its path and inserting Murasame there instead, the BioSuit's brittle blade getting busted and adding more to the clutter. Vaughn quickly pressed forward, arms posed to hack Heather in half at the waist, the BioSuit throwing her legs back and arms down as the edges came at her from the sides, a third of her mohawk getting snipped at their passing. She gritted her teeth as her palms pressed against the acid speckled floor, keeping the rest of her hoisted up as she spun her legs about, left arm raising to let them pass. Her right calf collided with Vaughn's right knee, the demon getting knocked off his feet, eyes opening wide as he felt something sharp run by the left side of his neck, scraping into a few layers of skin. It was the blade Heather vaulted off of before, and by the time Vaughn hit the ground another blade was planted just as deep into the right side, Heather having halted her reverse grip slash.

 

"Let's call it done, unless you can magic your head back," Heather said with a raised brow and wry smirk. Vaughn's face contorted slightly from malcontent, but he wasn't feeling up to losing his head.

 

"Meh," he said with a hint of affirmation, the area giving a light tremble to signal the quick draining of the volatile fluid all around. Heather gently moved her blade away from Vaughn's neck, the metal sinking back into the handle as Vaughn let out an irate sigh, his tensed body easing.

 

"That's a point for the future," Heather said, stopping to take out a bottle and get a few mouthfuls of its intoxicating nectar. "Will the fairytale man stand for this loss, the children ask?"

 

"Don't win quote me," Vaughn grimaced, still on his back. "I might not be so accommodating next time."

 

"What, I thought devils liked playing around?"

 

"Just shut it and give me some of that."

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