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Sasuke1986

Phase 3

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A wall stretched far off to both sides, an endless mural painted upon its large bricks showing rivers and greenery below, a calming blue sky with soft, swirled clouds above, and pleasantly purple mountains between, their snowcapped peaks gently rounded. Below this wall was a field of grass, vibrantly green and lush, each blade gently waving under the caress of a serene breeze. Above this verdant field, above the wall, existed another field just as vibrant, just as lush, a breeze just as serene delicately bending the grass in the direction opposite of that below. On the side opposite the wall, connecting the field above and the field below, was another wall, depicting the same scenery as the other side but flipped, its land at the top, sky at the bottom, and peaks caught in the middle. It all formed a hall with no visible end, the distance miles away fading off into blue.

 

A ring of fire formed in the air, its top filled with bright yellow flames, the bottom with deep red ones. From the deep red flames did a pair of boots emerge, their steady drop heralding the legs, body, arms, and head of the one wearing them, amongst other fancy dressings, as he touched down without sound, the portal of fire shrinking above him until it disappeared in a puff.

 

"We all have our bad sides," Vaughn said, crossing his arms. "Yours seem to get really bad, though. You might want to think ahead about doing something about it."

 

Up on the opposing field, the grass briefly stood still, the wind above having halted. Mebius walked in, his feet brushing through the soft green blades, their waves resuming with the wind halfway through Mebius' walk. He stopped, hands tucked into pockets shaped by his JETSPA.

 

"People's demons..." He said, looking across the field, looking up at Vaughn. "Must we face them? And if one is already a demon... must that one face them self? What if I, too, am a demon..."

 

The air rippled thrice, then flashed with competitive fury.

 

Mebius' MutaStone extended into a wire in his hand, forming a small pile in front of him as it touched the ground. He looked up and saw Vaughn, the demon speaking incantations that caused a fireball to form above his head, then one next to his shoulder, and then a third next to the other shoulder. Two more fireballs formed at the sides of his waist, Vaughn keeping his stance as one fireball launched after the other, Mebius pulling back his arm and striking with his MutaWhip, knocking each fireball apart with a lash in sequence until all five were dispelled. Mebius whipped a sixth time at Vaughn, the demon leaping aside and keeping his eye on the weapon as it snaked across the surface of the grass, Vaughn flicking some small fireballs at it in an attempt to get it away. Mebius continued stretching the MutaStone towards his target, having it fork to try to catch Vaughn from different sides, but keeping most of its weight focused at his hand. It was more difficult to maneuver it around the opposite floor than he imagined.

 

'Damn shape-shifting rock,' Vaughn thought, now sweeping his arms to send gushes of fire down. A few of the MutaStone's tendrils started to redden and fall back, Vaughn taking the time to sling a large fireball towards a distant Mebius. When the fifth dimensional being stepped to the side, he could see the fireball curve to realign with him. It did this again when he stepped back to where he was before. He nodded, waiting for it to get closer, still keeping his hands on the MutaStone, its branching whips still in pursuit of Vaughn. Once the fireball was just a few feet away, Mebius dove to the side, the fireball zipping by and curving down, crashing into the ground and sending blacked bits of grass into the air. The smoke cleared to show the greenery reduced to blackery, Mebius not looking back at it and thus not seeing the charred grass quickly fall away to be replaced by new grass as if the fireball had never struck.

 

"Stretched a bit too thin," Mebius said to himself in regards to his MutaStone, realizing how the words applied to him as he currently was. He gave the stone a squeeze and caused its arms to stop and recede, Vaughn slowing his retreat but not stopping. Mebius broke into a dash to catch up to his opponent, Vaughn speaking more chants and shaping more fireballs in his hands, tossing them one after the other, alternating which hand did the throwing. Mebius' straight path went serpentine as he moved side to side in his run to evade the fireballs, MutaStone still in his hand, its length still wavering as it resumed its former shape. Vaughn was much closer than before now, even closer than when the battle first started. "That's better."

 

Vaughn felt something grab his right leg, looking down to see a MutaStone hand clutching it. He held his own hand out, fire spewing from the palm of his glove and hitting the MutaStone's arm as it raised up behind him from under the grass, moving out from the shallow cracks in the bricks on the wall it hid in and emerging out from the grass on Mebius' side. The line went taut, Vaughn's fire stream being snuffed when he went flying up high, the MutaStone arm slamming him into the other field. To both fighters' surprise, Vaughn fell back towards his side, Mebius reacting quickly with another lash from the MutaStone, Vaughn spitting out grass and conjuring a fireball that repelled the morphing weapon. He threw out another one as he landed, the MutaStone whip opening a hole in itself to let the projectile pass through, Vaughn cursing as he fled from it while tossing out two more fireballs, the whip snaking in the air around them. An annoyed growl escaped him, the demon clasping his hands together and muttering, red light flashing from between his fingers. He closed his right hand over something in his left palm, watching the MutaStone's movements before inconspicuously throwing three dark red, blue spotted pebbles into the air. They collided with the MutaStone and sank into it without notice.

 

With his opponent going the distance again, Mebius went into another run, this time keeping his MutaStone at its distribution. As he went, it occurred to him that his MutaStone holding hand felt like it was on fire. Hollering, he dropped the glowing, red-hot weapon as it sucked back into a lump, vanishing under the grass.

 

"Never thought I'd use those things beyond cooking ham," Vaughn joked, observing Mebius trying to locate where he dropped his weapon. Kneeling, Vaughn recited more magic words, though there was nothing forming near him this time. Instead, the heat was brought to Mebius, the spectacularly equipped thief, minus his stone, taking quick note that the ground below him was starting to glow. He rolled out of the way so as to not be cooked by a pillar of fire, getting to his feet and jumping as another erupted from under him. Quickly picking up on the pattern, Mebius concentrated, witnessing what was immediately ahead. He started putting less effort into his evasion as he focused, learning how to dodge the pillars as they came, doing what he had to do while not expending more energy than he needed. Vaughn shook his head.

 

'Going to do something about that,' he thought, one of his amplifiers shaking and falling off as he drew a circle in the grass ahead of him, his finger leaving a trail of candle-strength flame. Pink fire filled in the space inside the circle, the flames stretching high into the air until severing from the base, the circle fizzling out while the pink flames started to spin and swirl into a globe, four thin, black tentacles dropping out from the bottom. The cycling pink fire flew away in sparks, a wrinkled, purple mass having formed within it. It had one eye, the iris a blinding gold slit encircled by blazing red and undulating bright violet. It floated up towards Mebius as the fire pillars ceased, the man uttering a gasp of horror at the last thing he pulled from the thoughtstream.

 

"Stop! I won't-" he froze up, Vaughn's summon having locked its hellish cyclopean stare upon him. It was nullifying the concentration he needed to sift through his myriad of futures. It was also nullifying the concentration needed to think of nothingness, to spare him from the experiences and sensations of all his other selves that reformed in the Garden when he would fight. His mind was being flooded by joy, intrigue, disgust, lust, fear, and death. He was feeling confusion, sorrow, enlightenment, boredom, wonder, and indescribable pain. Fingers scrambling about, he fell to his hands and knees, letting out a bloodcurdling scream as his body quaked. Vaughn looked up at this with bewilderment and just a pinch of regret.

 

A darkness fell over Mebius' body, the grass under him that stretched so far going brown, wilting, each blade sweating purple ooze as it sagged. The mural that was right-side up to him started to distort, the paint starting to smear, the blue sky streaking with putrid green and puce shades, the clouds turning dark brown with black freckles. The rivers and plant life swelled and popped, taking on a vomit-like hue of yellow, the mountains melting, their purples and whites deforming into fecal browns veined with dark red. Mebius's shaking started to subside, falling back off his hands and onto just his knees.

 

"Rrr... aagh... gah... gaha... aahaha... aaahahahahaha!!"

 

"Ah, shit," Vaughn said, his regret having upgraded to the whole shaker. "You're, uh... going to be really pissed when you go back to normal after this, aren't you?"

 

"Breathe it all in!" Mebius shouted, rising to his feet in an instant, his dark features having expanded across his once pale complexion, eyes yellowing and reddened. "That fragrance... all the pleasure... all the arousal... all the adrenaline! Yes! YES!! Filth, pestilence, despair, rot... all so sweet!!"

 

"Yeah, you're going to be pissed," Vaughn said, drawing both Kurohiarashi and Murasame. Mebius snickered unsettlingly, eyes rolling downward at the flattened, wretched slop that was once grass, trickles of smoke rising up near him. He swiped a hand through the muck, spinning up to a stand and thrusting towards Vaughn's brainy summon, the MutaStone, still red hot, stretching in an instant and impaling it through the eye. Mebius grinned, apparently not bothered by his clenching hand being steadily cooked.

 

"My thanks!" he said, addressing the summon, then had the MutaStone grow spikes from within the creature, their points shooting out of it before it was dispelled in a flash of violet flames. He giggled maniacally, looking up at Vaughn, the MutaStone shifting from a spiky ended stick into a single-edged sword, the end at the back of Mebius' grip snaking out into a chord and reaching around behind him, finding its way into the grip of his other hand, another blade shaping out in front of Mebius. "I must give my thanks to you as well!"

 

Mebius dropped down, then shot upward, MutaSwordsAndChord pointed down. He curled up and spun once in the air, uncurling with swords overhead, a crooked grin across his face. Vaughn firmly raised his swords into the air, an earsplitting slam ringing out as the MutaStone collided against daikatana and katana. Vaughn glared at Mebius as his weapon pressed down upon his own, his nose catching the smell of roasting meat wafting from Mebius' hands, the destabilized dueler maintaining his gummy grin as he slowly fell back towards his fetid floor. The demon slung both his swords behind and then brought them over in a cross, sending a wave of destruction towards his foe. Mebius let out a giddy squeal at the sight, pirouetting in the air and throwing out his arms, his MutaStone blades flying out as the chord lengthened. The Antipode Cross was struck several times, sparks flying off it with each blade's passing, Mebius reeling in both blades and then thrusting with the right, its tip striking the energy X at its center and dispelling it in a burst of light. He landed shortly after this, then immediately returned to the air, Vaughn mirroring his jump to face him half of the way. Their weapons crashed against each other again, the two staying aloft long enough to exchange a few dozen sword strikes, sparks lighting their faces, Vaughn getting a slit across the top of his right cheek (face), Mebius having the left side of his sickening smile extended with a spurt of blood. They departed back to their sides, Mebius slinging his left blade towards Vaughn's chest, Vaughn thrusting Kurohiarashi directly at it, a line of fire ripping through the air from the sword and halting the MutaStone blade, peeling it back before it was knocked aside, Mebius canceling the flame with a psychotic strike from his right blade, the left reforming in his charred, bloody hand.

 

The two landed, then returned to the air. Mebius burst with rampant, raucous laughter, his mouth wide enough to gulp a melon. His JETSPA trembled over his skin, tightening back and unleashing blinding radiance, Vaughn letting out a pained rasp and holding his blades over his vitals while erecting a Flame Aura Barrier, his eyelids clenching shut. Teeth bared, Vaughn endured the onslaught of his unseen enemy, feeling the MutaStone strike and fall about him, opening cuts, blunt strikes from Mebius' feet and drenched, mutilated fists bruising his body. The light faded as Vaughn fell back, flecked with blood, both Mebius' and his own, MutaStone still whipping him as his barrier faded. He ejected it with a flare, knocking away Mebius' continuous strikes, then righting himself with a tilt and landing on his feet, face darkened. The serenity that his side held now shifted, the grass going black as licks of flame reached from amongst the blades, his mural's sky going red, its clouds black and lined with orange, the rivers running red and land going dark, the mountains becoming jagged, their sides cracking, their snowcapped peaks opening up and overflowing with lava. Fire danced over the coals where grass once was under Vaughn's feet, a tail lashing about close to his heels, clawed hands gripping his blades, one of which was consumed in crimson flames. Vaughn looked up, staring at Mebius through reddened, wrathful eyes. The demented chuckled.

 

"Demons? Hate? The dark inside? Who cares! We all want happiness, right? My happiness is hearing screams as I carve out fresh, juicy organs! Livers, intestines, bladders! Don't like it? Not my problem! Yours!"

 

Vaughn snarled, wings slamming to his sides and throwing him high, Mebius bounding up with MutaStone twirling about. Demonic met depraved, Vaughn facing Mebius and the feculence beyond, Mebius eying Vaughn and the hell behind him. Vaughn's wings stayed him above the ground as he spewed scorching swathes from mouth and sword, Mebius entangling the reddened, glowing MutaStone around Vaughn and his weapons and himself, parts expanding to encumber the demon's attacks, other parts jutting out like daggers to cut and slice his infernal flesh. The sounds of steel and Mebius' maniacal merriment filled the hall as they hung at its center, boiling blood hitting the flames and browning blood hitting the foul. Vaughn roared above the noise, intense fire channeling through Shin Kurohiarashi, an explosion engulfing the two warriors, their forms falling free from the fire and back to their floors, Vaughn's swords landing far from him. Dark brown streams ran down Mebius' chin as he gurgled a crackling giggle, his hands burnt wads, MutaStone rippling and erupting as he held it closer, pushing it into his core. Its weight diminished, his eyes flashing an unsettling shade of yellowish green, his body bending back like elastic as his jaw dropped, Mebius belched a belly-twisting beam that was twenty feet at its widest. The nauseating ray of mixing greens, violets, and browns fell upon Vaughn, sending a putrid wave across his floor that suffocated every flame in its wake, the ground where the beam struck being thrown up in splinters, wriggling bolts crawling around the impact. Mebius' body shuddered as the beam grew, its colors darkening, its contrast increasing, the whole corridor awash in its vile essence. He heaved back and the last of the energy escaped from him, meeting the opposing side with a blast and showering Mebius in sickening slivers. The ensuing fog of filth started to spread, thinning, the once suffocated flames beginning to wiggle back into visibility, a red glow appearing at the center of where the crass cloud came and the beam once battered.

 

Vaughn stood cozily encapsulated in a crystal of crimson force, his last two amplifiers crumbling away, one having granted him his lifesaving shield, the other encircling Mebius in ribbons of radiating yellow. Gawking in mad delight at Vaughn, Mebius didn't even notice the blazing streaks around him, his rising cackle drown out as they spun into a dome, its outside a cloudy layer of glowing orange, its inside a blinding, pulsating white. Vaughn listened to the raging inferno, watching as it spun and flashed, strings of fire being flung about, the unpalatable painting being singed, the grimy ground drying and flaking away. The rampaging radiance throbbed once and then roared as light flooded out from it.

 

When the stygian fumes cleared, Mebius was nowhere to be seen. All that remained where he once stood was a giant, five-pointed scorch mark, and a pair of underwear. The scum that once took over his side was now gone, the floor a blank gray sheet, his wall nothing more than featureless bricks. Vaughn calmed, his barricade vanishing as he reverted back, his side discarding its flames and fury and returning to the peace and lushness it held prior.

 

"You must conquer your evils, more so if there are those you hold dear," Vaughn said, looking up at the black mark. And trying not to notice the underpants. "If they fall to your corrupt side, the madness may prove inescapable."

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It was a dark, empty room. The floor was metal, the walls were metal, the ceiling was metal, all bearing seams and flattened bolts. It was lukewarm, and silent. There was only one door, and it was locked. Impassable.

 

A sparkle appeared in the air, moving around, leaving a streak behind it of the same light blue color and luminance. Several more identical sparkles also appeared, also moving around, drawings lines and shapes, joining in with the first. What began as random lines soon took on the form of a mighty warrior, the sparkles completing their circuits, a glow filling in the lines. The light faded, The Architect its source.

 

"The time has come to test our wits and our proverbial steel," he said, given that the sword he held was starsteel and not plainsteel. "And it is a satchel! Not a man-purse or murse or anything else like those!"

 

Max, donning his silver armor, leapt down from a corner of the ceiling as if he had been there all along, landing on hand and feet, his other hand in the air, Shriek in its grasp.

 

"It's still a surprise, y'know, you being, well... you know," he said, rising to a stand. "But that just means your goods are top of the line. How about you give me a spare chinchilla man-purse if I win this?"

 

The air rippled thrice, then flashed with competitive fury.

 

The two ran at each other, The Architect gaining the least distance in light of Max's speed, the bounty hunter taking a swipe with his Shriek as The Architect backed off, Starsteel Sword held up to defend. The tall, imposing warrior stood his ground, maintaining a defensive stance as Max hopped closer and farther, circling around him while The Architect turned to face, Shriek being swung on each approach.

 

"What's up?" Max said, keeping with his tactic, Shriek and starsteel making sparks as they struck. "Aren't you going to fight back?"

 

"In time, when The Plan will allow," The Architect said. Max rolled his eyes from behind his visor. "I saw that."

 

Max swung the Shriek, though this time The Architect reacted, grabbing his arm. No attempts at pulling and shaking could loose Max from the solid, unmoving grip, The Architect raising his sword to attack. Resistance wasn't working, so the bounty hunter drew closer instead, using his bound arm as leverage to drop back and rapidly kick The Architect in the stomach, his blows quickly accelerating from his armor-granted boost. The assault broke The Architect's hold, Max giving a kick stronger than the others to knock himself away, narrowly dodging a downward strike from the Starsteel Sword. He felt a tremendous shock as he landed, The Architect with Lightning Gauntlet in hand, quickly withdrawing it as bolts also flew along the walls as well as himself.

 

"Rather conductive," he said, body trembling very lightly. Max shook off his own shivers.

 

"Y-yeah, metal generally is," he said, then flicked his wrist, the Shriek's blades spinning out. The aerial dicer was tossed, The Architect smacking it to the side with his sword. Max dashed to retrieve it, but found his body frozen half of the way there, The Architect extending his influence upon him. The bounty hunter could feel himself getting warmer, than hotter, than really, really, really hotter. His Grabeth Armor fell to the floor like a doll, human soup sloshing around inside, the limbs snapping straight when the wearer reformed and fell onto his bottom, raising a fist to the air.

 

"Dude, not cool!" Max exclaimed, standing up. "Boiling me down to fluids, man!? I forgot my mom's face for a second there! Along with everything else! That's messed up!"

 

"The Plan," The Architect replied, shrugging. Max grumbled, then resumed his dash from before being psychically stopped and being turned into Maxestrone. His hand flew across the floor where his Shriek had fallen, bringing it into his vision to see-

 

"A fri- er... I mean a throwing disc for the outdoors!?" he said, irately pointing to his Shriek which was now more of an aerodynamic plate of plastic composition and possibly copyrighted title. The Architect lunged instead of offering an answer, Max bolting out of the way. As The Architect turned to face him, a metallic creak entered his hearing, Max also noting the sudden sound and catching sight of the seams of the surrounding room widening some. There was a mechanical hiss, then a shrill buzz, a large, motorized saw emerging from a seam, its arm pulling it downward at a curve. The Architect quickly leapt back to avoid being sliced, then to the side when another saw fell from above and nearly divided him down the middle. Max went into a run when the loud grating neared him, chainsaws emerging from the space below him and moving upwards, the bounty hunter's flight in the nick of time. He made a sharp turn, The Architect now ahead of him, Max quickly closing the distance and kicking his foe in the side, then following with a kick from his other leg, then a punch, then a kick, then another punch, then a knee. Max's Quickining proceeded through tens more of strikes before he wrapped it up with a knuckle sandwich to the chops, bounding away from The Architect as he stumbled back from the pummeling, a giant blade swinging out from the floor behind him and chopping off his cape. Max snickered, reaching back behind him. "Bah, still a fri... I mean, a flat round thing to toss to dogs."

 

The sound of loading ammo reached his ears. When Max looked up to see a machine gun emerge from the wall, he affirmed that the noise wasn't his imagination and then proceeded to hightail it ahead of the gun's fire. The Architect, meanwhile, carefully observed, momentarily turning his attention to a buzz saw appearing from a seam, though he wasn't in its swing range. He swung his Starsteel Sword at it and though the buzz saw seemed to be made of standard stuff it certainly wasn't since the mighty sword bounced off without leaving a scratch. Returning his attention to Max, The Architect saw that the wall-mounted gun was now mounted in the bounty hunter's arms, his avatar right in its line of fire. His heavy feet pounded against the plated floor, occasionally swiveling about as he juggled bullet outrunning and trap dodging, several circular blades, buzz and chain saws, and spears moving in and out from beyond above and below and across his path. When Max's gun started making hollow clicks, The Architect turned his gaze towards him, the silver armor flopping to the floor with the emptied gun tumbling off to the side. Max's limbs straightened as he resumed being solid inside his armor, pushing himself up off the floor.

 

"Seriously!?" he griped, then panted. Two doses of cellular tissue boiling were taking their toll, a winded Max shakily getting back up on his feet, smacking his head on both sides to get his senses going again. While the action strained The Architect as well, he was in much better condition than his mortal adversary, already making his way over with sword hefted up on shoulder. Max went into another run, not nearly as speedy as those before, partly hoping that another gun would pop out from the wall. He felt fortunate when one did, then unfortunate when it turned towards him, a bit too far away to pluck without getting shot full of holes. As the gun opened fire, Max was greeted by a familiar, shrill cry, pulling his arm back and to the front to deflect the bullets with his Shriek, no longer a toy for tossing with a name not granted to the public domain. He slid under the gun's fire and then tossed his Shriek at its mechanical arm, the turret falling into his left hand while the right, Force Glove at the ready, redirected the Shriek towards The Architect. The Starsteel Sword was swung down, but a yank from a Force Glove delayed the Shriek for a second, The Architect's sword only greeting the ground before the Shriek resumed its flight and greeted his mask, slicing it in two and veering off from the superb light that flooded out. The space hunter unfazed by the spectacle, unable to see his opponent's true face all the same, unloaded the gun's remaining munitions into The Architect's lower chest, bullet after bullet pushing him back slowly as his legs pressed against the force. When a buzz saw emerged from a seam and sliced one of his legs off, he quickly toppled over, rolling to the side and getting away from a series of chainsaws from below, his face throwing glare all across the room all the while. Sitting himself up, The Architect pointed his stubby leg to its dismembered half, heavenly strings reaching out from the two, meeting, and pulling together. His leg mended just in time for Max's Shriek to spin by and lop off his left arm and foot. The yo-yo-esque weapon flew back to its wielder's hand, his helmet masking his sly, skeptical grin.

 

"All part of your plan, huh?" he said, getting ready to send the Shriek on another trip.

 

"Indeed, with some meddling from The Object," The Architect said, his recently severed bits reattaching somewhat sluggishly than the last. The fingers of his left hand flexed, and before Max could throw the Shriek he was knocked onto his back, being pulled by his ankles towards The Architect. He gulped at the sound of machinery below, rolling to the right as he was dragged to keep himself from getting buzz sawed down the middle, then to the left as a blade emerged from another seam and nearly beheaded him. Two chainsaws emerged from the ground ahead, both heading towards each other, on a course that would end with Max getting an excessive trim around the waist. Shriek still in hand, Max pressed it against the floor, its blades accelerating him ahead, the chainsaws managing only to scrape the top of his helmet as he zipped by. While he got to keep his pants and the stuff packed inside them, The Architect was still ahead, pulling him in, sword raised to strike. Max raised his arms up and struck his elbows against the floor, jolting himself back onto his feet with an exhausted breath, wobbling as he tried to keep himself from falling over again as the unseen force continued to pull on him by the ankles. He threw the Shriek, The Architect jumping to the side and out of its way, Max's path shifting to a curve that knocked him back down to the floor. He pushed his hands and feet against the floor as quickly as he could, scraping at the metal, but his approach was not slowing, The Architect poising himself once more for the finishing blow. The Starsteel Sword came down, Max thrusting his right arm from the side against the sword's flat to try to deflect the attack, his arm going numb from the force of the blow and the blade digging into his left shoulder instead of into his skull. The Architect withdrew the sword, Max's attempt at stifling an anguished yell producing a strangled cough as he winced, already squinting eyes closing completely as The Architect raised his sword again.

 

'I screwed this up,' Max thought, biting at his lower lip, the grinding and buzzing of the room's concealed contraptions ringing through his ears. He braced himself, managing to peek with his right eye in anticipation of the oncoming blow. The Architect had his sword fully drawn back, his indistinguishable face ablaze with godly light, the rays glinting off the walls and onto the traps behind him as they receded. Max's peeking eye blinked away some sweat, then widened. The light from The Architect dimmed, its fading streams moving up to the ceiling as he fell back, specifically his upper body with his mid section falling forward and his legs to the side. Max gawked at the darkening ceiling as the mechanisms eased and grew quiet. He sat himself up, still squinting from the pain in his left shoulder.

 

The three pieces of The Architect lay before him, silver puddles growing out from them as the Quicksilver Chainmail reverted back to the mercury it was made of. Max could see the melting armor pour into the seams, spying the serrated edges of the buzz saws before the seams closed up. He lightly chuckled.

 

"Guess I survived the wrath, huh?" he said, cringing for a second thanks to his wound. "Hope I'll be able to leave with a nice chinchilla bag when this is all over."

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The ground was rich with icing and sprinkles, perfect for the éclairs, cream puffs, and lollipops to grow. The hills rolled with vanilla and chocolate, topped with whipped cream and syrups, parted by rivers of sweet, sweet honey and caramel. Forests of licorice stretched far, mountains of gummies reached high, the sky of gold sponge cake blotched with the pinks and blues of cotton candy clouds. Divine sweetness filled the air, bringing laughter, perkiness, and cavities galore.

 

The saccharine surface plopped and slopped under Heather's steps, her gaze wary, wondering if she had treated herself a bit too much. She finished her whiskey anyway, the discarded bottle sinking into a pond of banana pudding.

 

"Anyone ever tell you how great a dresser you are?" she said, hands on her hips, subtly wondering what kind of rum could be made from this place. "Really, though, I think you missed your parade. Might want to win against your wardrobe before picking any fights."

 

There was a deep, bellowing laugh, shrouds of red and orange fluttering in the wind as colossal confections flew by. Gilgamesh came flying down from above, spongy crumbs caught in his plume, his laughter devolving to an awkward mockery of itself when the force of his landing embedded him up to his pectorals in moist cake and rich filling. After a few seconds of squirming and struggling, he managed to pop himself out and onto his feet, sans boots.

 

"A brittle blade of itty bitty blocks that can bring itself back from being broken?" Gilgamesh said, feeling the topping between his toes and taking a pause to pull his footwear out from under the icing, reequipping them with a splorch. "One as svelte as yourself has no need for such things! Allow the great Gilgamesh to take care of it for you!"

 

The air rippled thrice, then flashed with competitive fury.

 

"Mua ha ha ha, behold!" Gilgamesh shouted, raising a splendiferous sword above his head. "The Sword of Geburah, a blade that sounds a slicing soprano, its divine energies having sent countless evils into an endless slumber! The blade of a god!"

 

"So it's The Architect's?" Heather said, BLOCKSabre drawn, stirring its blade sideways through the air much the same way a sassy teacher would with a ruler.

 

"What? No no no, a different god! But his sword is one I should also make my own! But not yet, for it is yours my eyes currently gaze upon, that my impeccable hands wish to yield!"

 

"Whatever," Heather said, shrugging. "Not like there's probably a cardboard box full of these back where I'm from." She lightly smirked, holding out her sword. "Wait, you are talking about this, right?"

 

"What!?" Gilgamesh said, taken aback and stepping in the same direction. "Insulting! You dare accuse the most honorable and refined Gilgamesh of a lecherous advance!?"

 

"Pretty much."

 

"The gall!" Gilgamesh uttered, clenching his fists, facing his left side toward Heather, Sword of Geburah at the ready on his right. "The nerve! The insolence! The most improper of insinuations! The cheek of it all! Your words shall not go unpunished, fare lass! (You see what I did there, yes? Haha!) I shall offer no quarter, nickel, or dime to you now in the bout to unfold! I withdraw my wonders of speech, for now it is only the time of battle!"

 

"Aw, and I was just starting to have fun," Heather said with a delicate smile, watching as Gilgamesh sprang towards her, his feet throwing sugary globs into the air. She kicked off the ground and to the side, exerting a bit more than normal on account of the fluffy flooring, escaping Gilgamesh's path and allowing him to crash into a rock made of rhubarb pie, its filling gushing out from all sides. The sword collector, now stickier, burst from the crust and jam and attempted another pass, Heather ducking to the side to avoid his swing, Gilgamesh having a less messier landing this time. Heather charged in to confront him as he spun around, bobbing under his slash and whipping out her own, her BLOCKSabre making some very small headway into his armor before the blade snapped. She swiftly backed away to avoid another swipe from the Sword of Geburah, the ground squelching and belching underfoot, the BioSuit trying hard to keep away from the attacks and kicking up bunches of delightful dirt to deter any strikes from getting too close. Gilgamesh let out a stunted shout when a bit of strawberry flavored soil got in his eye.

 

"My adversary is fleet of foot and devious, eh?" he said, another swing missing and prompting him to leap back, sinking up to his shins in parfait. "We shall see just how well she fares and weathers (Ha!) the pincer attack of legend! Now, Enkidu!"

 

Heather heard an incoming howl, cannonballing on the spot into the mush beneath her, Enkidu sailing overhead from behind and crashing into his maddened master and sinking him into the sweetness.

 

"Bungling buffoon! Your performance has turned the pincer attack of legend into the slapstick screw up of shame! Now go forth and atone for your muddling!"

 

Enkidu sheepishly removed himself from his summoner and turned to face Heather, the BioSuit back above ground and cautiously tasting some of the crumbs on her thumbs. Fangs bared, claws sharpened, he lunged forth, brow scrunched in a fearsome glare, saliva slipping from the sides of his jowls, his scaly clumps of fur and furry clumps of scales rippling against the passing air like waves on a glade. He let out a high-pitched yelp as the BLOCKSabre scraped his snout, dethroning him from his impressive leap and sending him scurrying behind Gilgamesh in a trail of overturned dollops and swirls.

 

"That was a travesty upon the hallowed temples of atonement!" Gilgamesh exclaimed, arms up in the air as he peered back at Enkidu. "Bah! Forget it! We shall both assail her at once!"

 

The two poised to attack, then threw themselves at their foe, Heather holding her sword close, body loosened. She hopped back to avoid Enkidu's claws, then to the side to get out of the way of Gilgamesh's sword. Enkidu leapt and swiped at her again, Heather evading with a weave while striking the bottoms of his paws with a slash, the blade breaking as Gilgamesh brought down the Sword of Geburah and then stumbled back after Heather kicked him in the gut. She squinted at the sensation of Enkidu's claws against her side, elbowing the beast away and distancing herself with a jump, the icing below flying to the sides.

 

"Where's some rock candy when you actually want it?" Heather muttered, her BLOCKSabre reforming. She disappeared under a creek of custard soon after. Both Gilgamesh and Enkidu gawked as the spot she sank in smoothed over.

 

"Oh, cruel fates! What an awful, horrible, terrifying, scrumptious way for one to meet their end!" Gilgamesh lamented, then turned to Enkidu. "This undoubtedly makes me the victor! Make haste, Enkidu, and retrieve her sword for the astounding Gilgamesh!"

 

Despite his inhuman face, Enkidu pulled off an 'are you kidding me?' look very well. This annoyed the indomitable Gilgamesh.

 

"Wipe the butterscotch from your eyes and cast your vision upon yonder shore," Gilgamesh pointed, Heather's BLOCKSabre having apparently fallen from her grasp and now laying upon a beach of palatable powder. "Now go, Enkidu, before my cake covered boot leaves a sugary stamp on your repugnant behind!"

 

The creature complied, albeit bitterly, bounding over the pudding and stirring up a candy cloud after landing on the other side. A few seconds passed in silence before Enkidu reemerged from the dust, BLOCKSabre in mouth, fur coated pink. He offered the sword to his master with a blank stare.

 

"Well done, my four-legged friend!" Gilgamesh said, reaching down. "You have done a great service to the inspiring Gil-"

 

Chunks of chocolate, segments of strawberry, and volumes of vanilla came exploding upward, Enkidu spinning onto his back, Gilgamesh soaring skyward with an operatic scream. He landed face first and sunk up to his waist in sorbet, legs flailing about before planting and prying him from the dessert, eyes being greeted by Heather, her hair and skin soaked, clothes stained brown, and the ground around her upturned in multicolored, speckled layers.

 

"Y-you live!?" Gilgamesh stammered, falling back onto his forearms. "How is this possible!? How have you weathered so farely such a sticky situation!?"

 

"It's sticky all right," Heather said, a bit perturbed from her unfurled curls gripping her face and neck. "There was all this cola under that crap. I just squeezed into a hole I saw down there and kicked with both legs until the fizz shot me out."

 

"B-but... the time that passed! And how were you able to spot me through the confection!?"

 

"Breathing isn't so big a deal for me," Heather said, shrugging. "Knocking you on your ass was just a lucky break."

 

"Lucky, you say?" Gilgamesh said, shaking his head to dislodge some cream and crumbs before jumping back on to his feet. "Ha! I acknowledge your feat of fortune, but behold, for it is the ever fortuitous Gilgamesh who fortune truly smiles upon!"

 

He swung out both arms, the Sword of Geburah in one, the BLOCKSabre in the other. Heather smirked.

 

"That's cool," she said, then pulled out a shotgun. Gilgamesh's eyes widened. "Say cheese."

 

She pulled the trigger, a spray of soda heralding a blazing brown blob being blasted from the barrels. The burning projectile slammed into Gilgamesh's chest, splattering all over as it knocked him back and flipped him over, the fire being smothered as he landed on his stomach on top of a mint mound.

 

"The indecency!" Gilgamesh said, voice filled with disbelief and revulsion. "The horror! The nausea! The... the..." He paused, raising himself up a bit, taking three audible sniffs. "Chocolate?"

 

The scent of flaming fudge wafted from under Gilgamesh and the burning, post-splatter lumps near where he was hit. Heather chuckled.

 

"Yeah, I thought it was something else for a second there, too," she said. "It was just sitting down there in the soda. Glad it's got soda-proofing."

 

"Not me!" Gilgamesh said, fuming, pounding the goopy ground with his fists, the third pound getting him back on his feet in a blobby blast. "That is maddening to the undeniably unfortunate Gilgamesh! But no matter! Lady Luck may favor you, but I need not luck to best you! Not even hot cocoa upchucked from the infernal bowels of Rubicante can stay my swords!"

 

"Yeah, I'm still getting my sword back, even if you win," Heather said, a small grin on her face as she raised her weapon. Gilgamesh angrily stomped a foot to the ground, nearly going sideways as the stomp sunk the responsible leg halfway up the thigh. He struggled for a second, pulling the leg free, then reaching down to reclaim his boot.

 

"As I intend to!" he exclaimed, scraping his swords together to intimidate and remove their sweet saturation, unintentionally breaking the BLOCKSabre's blade on the fourth scraping. "Bah! Where you have fortune, I have numbers! Enkidu! Show her what I mean!"

 

The command echoed far, carried on a savory breeze. The honey rivers seemed to still, the wavering leaves of taffy stopping in anticipation. The delicate sounds of the pastry paradise grew quiet as the resounding call carried. Heather stood, still posed to fire, leisurely looking from one side to the other as Gilgamesh stood stiffly.

 

"I think your mutant ditched you," Heather said.

 

"Fiendish femme fatale!" Gilgamesh cried out, panic-stricken. "What have you done with Enkidu!?"

 

"Nothing," Heather shrugged. "Aren't you some magical half-god or something? Why not use your link of friendship or some other corny thing to find him?"

 

"T-taunt the strength of my bonds, will you?" Gilgamesh said, crossing his arms across his chest, blades pointing to the air. "Fine! My swordplay will just have to force the truth from your lying lips!"

 

Gilgamesh flew forward, the force of his feet sending a sherbet wave out behind him. Heather got above him with a leap as he swung his swords like shears and missed, Heather extending her airtime by kicking off his still rhubarb riddled robes and shifting him down into a delicious dune. He burst angrily from the mound a second later and was greeted by a kick to the chest and another to the neck, his garb getting rearranged from the stickiness of the hits. Heather bent back to dodge his counter swings, bringing up her gun and batting the barrel against Gilgamesh's right hand, the Sword of Geburah flying from his grip and towards third base, which happened to be behind an upheaval of bubblegum.

 

"Noooooooooo!" Gilgamesh hollered, eyes bulging towards where the sword vanished. "The blessed blade of the Changer's champion that cost me a staggering 560 gil! It cannot be lost amidst this muck, though delectable it may be!"

 

He wasted no time in springing off to where the sword had sailed, leaving Heather behind. The BioSuit just shrugged again and let out a short laugh, walking her way over to where he went.

 

"Confound this place and all its preservatives!" Gilgamesh said, up to his chest from his landing, unable to spot where in the cheesecake around him his sword had fallen and sank. He threw his hands in, making sure to keep a firm hold on the BLOCKSabre, and digging around. "Where have you gone, mighty blade of the holy god!? Rragh! I will find you, even if I must eat my way through all of this soft treat!" He started pulling up overflowing handfuls of creaminess, pushing them passed the hem of his face obscuring scarf and into his awaiting maw. "Mmf! Try your best! No- armf! -foodstuff has ever survived the- glompf -brutal bicuspids of the- shnurmfst -famished Gilgamesh! Om! Nyomf! Ooh! Fnagf! S'good... Chomp!"

 

Heather arrived at the side of the bubblegum bunch as pieces of cheesy goodness flew out in flurries from the opposite end, the sound of Gilgamesh's feasting not going unnoticed. She rested her gun on her shoulder, tapping its barrel down now and again.

 

"I'm all for cutting loose, but we're kind of here to battle to the death and all," she said. "So I'm going to give you maybe five seconds before I come and bust your ass with this hot chocolate gun, or whatever it's supposed to be."

 

The outpouring of crumbs quickly ceased, Gilgamesh's noise of indulgence following shortly after.

 

"Oh ho, there will be no busting of Gilgamesh's perfectly sculpted ass, sung of endlessly by tens of thousands of troubadours!" he said, apparently still with a little food amongst his teeth. "For I have reclaimed the blade you so cowardly cast away from my hand and now return to the fray, mightier than ever!"

 

Thus did Gilgamesh reappear from beyond the gum, his mighty boots crushing the exquisite earth below. He stood ready before Heather, armed with the Sword of Geburah, the BLOCKSabre, and six hundred more pounds than what he had before. Silence was absent in light of the sound of straining cloth and armor, his garb stretched tightly against his flabby form. Heather could feel the tickle of prolonged laughter and tried her best to suppress it.

 

"Man... you're huge," she said, trying to bite back a big grin.

 

"Ha, so you finally see my greatness, do you?" Gilgamesh said, puffing himself out and nearly losing his balance.

 

"No, I mean you're really fat."

 

"Fat? I assume you mean that foul word's 'hip' homonym, in which case I fear your taste in compliments has soured, fair lass, but it matters not! As you stated, this is a fight to the finish, and flattery of no kind will spare you from a humiliating end!"

 

While his added weight was steadily encroaching the floor to his knees, that did little to hamper Gilgamesh's advance and swings upon Heather, the BioSuit backing away from the attacks and unloading a shot from her gun, the blast hitting Gilgamesh in the center of his bloated belly. Though his surface rippled, he was otherwise unfazed, laughing as he continued to approach Heather and swing his swords, the burning blob stuck to him failing to trigger any encumbering feedback through his blubber.

 

"Bwa ha ha ha, I am invincible!" Gilgamesh laughed, his chubby cheeks shaking up and down. Heather still wanted to laugh, but concentrated more on staying out of range, something that grew more difficult as the ground bent towards Gilgamesh and chewy obstructions bumped her from behind. She found herself getting clipped and scraped by attacks as she tried to duck and step around his strikes, firing more chocolaty bursts when she could but getting some of the scorching splatter as well from being too close. When one of Gilgamesh's attacks snipped a good chunk of her mohawk off Heather decided she had enough, sticking her gun to the ground and pulling the trigger, the cake swelling up in a dome and exploding, sending Heather back several feet and knocking Gilgamesh back by one.

 

"Your desperation is as tangible as the suffocating scent of charred chocolate that fills the air!" Gilgamesh said, pointing his swords downward and then raising the Sword of Geburah along with his gaze. "I will end this duel before you bring further shame upon yourself! Oh majestic meister, I implore thee! Sentence this mislead maiden to the punishing darkness! Veritas Fold!"

 

He swung the sword down to the ground, carving a perfectly vertical line through the air, the edge uttering a metallic note as it traveled. A short gust was conjured, causing Gilgamesh's dirtied plume to tremble and a few unstuck strands of Heather's hair to quiver, clouds of blue and green powder being lifted up and sent in front of the sword collector and behind the BioSuit. Since nothing else then happened, Heather aimed her gun and fired, though Gilgamesh opted not to take it this time, bending down with a loud wheeze and then snapping straight, his jiggling physique rocketing into the air and leaving a goopy dent where he stood, the flaming fudge missing its mark by a sizable margin. Heather was too busy watching Gilgamesh to see her attack miss, the sword collector tearing through the cotton candy cumulus above and ripping a hole through the sponge cake sky beyond, disappearing into the darkness of said hole. She decided not to stay in one spot and turned around, scaling gum, gummies, and tart as she grew farther from where Gilgamesh took off. She slipped down the slick side of some frozen yogurt, managing to land on her feet on the vanilla icing below. Her eyes looked ahead, showing a bit of surprise.

 

"So this is where you've been," Heather said, eying Enkidu, the matted monster having stopped his feast of funnel cake mid-chew upon Heather's landing. He slowly arose and walked away, pretending he hadn't seen anything at all. He still wasn't up to coping with his noisy summoner and his dodgy opponent, the idea of eating the far-off cupcake fields being much better by comparison. "The hell IS that thing?"

 

A rowdy roar came crashing from above, Heather looking towards the sponge up high to see Gilgamesh in all his folded flab glory. Her legs flicked to move her aside, but she fell to the floor instead, feet caught in the thick molasses hidden below the icing. She pressed her lips inwards, head turning back to see the blubbery ball's approach.

 

"Shit," she said, eyes nearly popping from their sockets as Gilgamesh crashed on top of her. He shot through the molasses below, parted the moist filling that followed, plunged through the cola without pause, the fizzy fluid following after he cleared the gelatinous bedding below, plummeted by buildings of graham cracker, slammed a hole into a street of dark chocolate, tunneled through the peanut butter beneath, entered a cave of caramel and exited downward into solid sundae that wasn't nearly solid enough, finally falling into an underworld of deep fried donuts and slamming down on top of bedrock made of rainbow water ice, Heather caught under him all the while. Disheveled and covered motley, her hair slicked up by all the junk food that flew by, Heather clawed at the ground as she tried to get out from under Gilgamesh's great girth. She budged as much as Gilgamesh did, which wasn't at all.

 

"Sonuva..." she choked, fingers wrapped in curls of cherry, blueberry, and lemon flavors. "Get your fat ass off me!"

 

"As much as I'd like to oblige, the splendid Gilgamesh is feeling a tad... fatigued," Gilgamesh said, burnout finally starting to settle in. Heather strained every part of her worn body in an effort to escape, but to no avail. All the sugary grime and tasty goop that had accumulated across their bodies had them glued together and down. The BioSuit heaved.

 

"Someone just end this already!"

 

"Words of defeat?" Gilgamesh said, perking up a little. "You forfeit?"

 

"Yes, just get me out of this!" she said, elbowing Gilgamesh in the gut. "Come on! This blows!"

 

"This conclusion should come as no surprise to the wise!" Gilgamesh boasted, belly (and just about every other part of him) bouncing. "The great Gilgamesh savors the sweet taste of victory, then cringes at the sour aftertaste of shame! To match swords with a maiden, I cannot truly win!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Not fucking around. I'm going to explode if this doesn't end right now."

 

*Nostalgia Note: The Flaming Fudge Flinger Heather gets in this battle is a family friendly(?) mockery of Billy Chilly's Flaming Shit Launcher.

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For an apology regarding Kane and his assault rifle up until now, please check out the spoiler thing here. If you'd rather read this story first, which may or may not be the better option, feel free to do so, yo.

 

 

So it was some time after writing the last battle with Kane (where he fought Gilgamesh) that outside sources made me realize that his primary weapon, the assault rifle, is popularly regarded as being AUTOMATIC. This was something lost on me in his profile, and I was too stupid and lazy to read through the posts of 9's main story to likely see the proper portrayal it probably has therein. As a result, the stories with Kane in the Afterbattles thus far, which have been 3, all have him firing the weapon one bullet at a time, with noticeable intervals in between, because I was thinking of my experience with normal rifles from games, of which Phantasy Star is probably the only thing contributing to that experience. The thought of going back to those stories to rework the scenes where he uses the gun disheartens me because I'm a lazy, unmotivated crap, so for now I'm just going to be an ass about things and make it out so that his improper use of the gun has been on account of his true identity's forgetfulness. It's stupid, but hopefully in time I will do something about it directly, possibly providing two scenarios: the original, where I didn't know how assault rifles actually work, and updated, where I write the gun properly. Both scenarios would eventually lead to a unifying point where the story would resume on one path.

 

But yeah... sorry, especially to ISH. It's probably no consolation, but at least I realized this before writing all the battles Kane's involved in, right? Ehh...

 

 

******

 

Soft blue lights shone over auroras of green and turquoise, the spaces between filled by a psychedelic fog that churned with dark blues and violets, star-like sparkles occasionally peeking through. A bevy of bluish purple cubes were frozen at the center of this dreamscape, some connected by their corners, some by their edges, some by their sides, and some not at all, motionless in the air like the bulk of the mass. The lights shone on their lustrous sides, a darkish haze surrounding the cubes as the light filtered through their translucence.

 

Kane flew up from the vibrant void below, his path curving back down as he aimed his feet for a cube within the connected crowd, falling by several other cubes before making his landing. Though the impact sounded with a loud, bell-like tone, the cube did not move under Kane's weight, nor was it chipped, cracked, or damaged in the slightest. The Psychopathic Space Hunter rose to a stand, assault rifle at the ready.

 

"Starting mission," he said, checking the state of his ammo in a robust motion, something that was more out of theatrics than necessity. "Nothing personal, pal... YaaaaaAAAAAAWWwwwnnn... Hum, hn, num. Really, though."

 

A wire suddenly emerged from behind and to the side of a distant cube, traveling through the air like a swimming eel. Its end veered towards a cube on level with Kane's, the round tip bulging and splitting into three fingers. The claw grabbed the cube, the wire being pulled toward the claw, its opposite end coming into view with Mebius holding on tightly to it. The MutaStone wrapped around the cube's top to brace Mebius' landing, shrinking back to a more portable size once he was firmly on his feet.

 

"Assuming the identity of another?" Mebius said, borealis reflecting in his eyes. "Escaping from one's true self, even if merely an act. But if you lose your original self... what if I lost my original self?"

 

The air rippled thrice, then farted really loudly. The fighters did their best to ignore this and proceed as though it were the usual fanfare, something excruciatingly difficult for Kane's imposter to do given a habit of responding to flatulence, amongst other silly sounds.

 

Kane aimed his assault rifle and fired a round, Mebius steeply leaning away and feeling the slickness of the cube underfoot, the bullet missing and ricocheting off a cube behind him, zipping away and in front of him before hitting another cube and being deflected a second time, whistling passed Kane's head and vanishing into the colors behind.

 

"Huh," Kane quickly assessed the recent events and shifted his aim, pulling the trigger again. This time the path wasn't headed directly for Mebius, the nearby cubes ringing as the round bounced about, the thief quickly looking into the thoughtstream to foresee its way and reacting in time to avoid a bullet to the head from behind, though it ricocheted once more after his, carving a line on top of the skin above his right ankle, his JETSPA flaying a bit before weaving back together and sinking into the shallow wound to halt the blood loss. Kane paused for a moment, looking down at his assault rifle, something clicking in his head. "Ooooooh, right, ahahaha! Me so silly."

 

He squeezed the trigger, opening the way for a steady stream of armor piercing bullets, Mebius still dipping into his fifth dimensional clairvoyance and taking the road that offered him the smallest amount of bullet-induced body deformities. He leapt briskly off the right side of his cube, whipping out the MutaStone and having it grab the farthest cube ahead of him, Kane's rapid line of shells bouncing off the cubes and creating a skull-shaking symphony as they chased and overtook him, his left shoulder, right side, and the right side of his left thigh receiving similar gashes to the one on his lower right leg. The MutaStone tightened and pulled him out of Kane's range, though the bounty hunter could still make out his target somewhat through the reflective, translucent blocks.

 

'If I can still see him, he can still see me,' Mebius thought, his armored enemy blurry but still visible, his reflected doubles appearing darker. His JETSPA started to creep up around his head. 'I hope the one who loses himself will lose me.'

 

The colors on Mebius' body-encompassing armor-cloth intensified, becoming white while simultaneously letting out intense radiance, the light reflecting off and through the cubes, the center of the entire area growing out into a brilliant flare. Kane's visor kept the spectacle from doing anything unpleasant to his eyes, though everything beyond it was still solid white. When the glare faded and he could make out the peculiar scenery once more, Mebius was decidedly absent from it.

 

"Aw, nuts," Insaney said, taking several wide glances with none being able to pin down even a vaguely Mebius-shaped thing amidst and beyond the cubes. He kept still, thinking to himself what the real Kane would do. 'Pursue and finish off a possibly wounded dude? But no, he might not be wounded at all, and going all defensive about things might be what Psyche would do in anticipation of a sneak attack. Maybe he'd go get a rootbeer float? Hm, nah, I think he's more of a malt guy. Or ice coffee.' The quieting sounds of the cubes still hung in the air. 'He probably wouldn't be standing here thinking like a looney about what his brother I mean himself likes in an unconventional beverage. Guess that means shoot of faith time.'

 

He raised his assault rifle and opened fire at the distant cubes, his aim waving around in an effort to have bullets zing through every part of the blocky maze. A few seconds passed, the sound of Kane's rifle clicking in the absence of ammo being drown out by the gonging of the cubes. He still felt the lack of kickback, however, along with a strange emptiness below his heels. He looked around at his feet.

 

"Well now, was I this close to the edge before?" He questioned, then felt something hit him hard in the chest.

 

"No," Mebius answered, his JETSPA taking him out of cloak and crawling off of his face. He flew back off of the two-footed kick he used against Kane, MutaStone in hand, one end reaching back to secure his landing on another cube, the other having wrapped around Kane's assault rifle and yanking it from his grasp as he fell over the edge. Several floors of other cubes flew by, Kane entering a somersault and exiting it with his feet beneath him before landing on an isolated block.

 

"Enjoy your empty gun," Kane said as he knelt, taking out the BFG to readjust it to his ever so slightly unfaithful to the original DNA. The sound of his rifle being reloaded entered his ears. "Oh yeah, he's a thief."

 

He jumped across to another cube as bullets rained down on him from above, his landing doing nothing to halt his momentum as he slid across the cube's surface, forcing him to hop to another cube, turning himself around in the air and drawing his plasma gun as he did so. Mebius emerged from above where he had been only a few moments before, MutaStone wrapped around his waist like a belt and having sprouted four noodle-like arms ending in claws that bolstered his movement, keeping him anchored to the cubes while also maneuvering him around Kane's plasma shots. Mebius unloaded the assault rifle on his cyborg opponent, head aching as he kept ahead of him using the throughtstream and arms burning from the kickback of the gun, every bullet hitting Kane and punching and widening holes in his armor and body while pushing him farther along the cubes until he reached an edge. Once he fell over, Mebius lowered himself to the ground, eyes clenched shut as he tried his best to cope with the pressure behind them.

 

"Yep, this probably isn't good," the Hunter said, several tiny streams of his cyborg ichor trailing in the air above him as he plummeted towards the nebulae surrounding the blocks from afar. Shortly after being swallowed by the light his vision was overcome by undulating waves of black, blue, and lavender, his body being pummeled by dark blue bolts all the while. A spark crept out from the hues ahead, growing massive as he approached it. The lightning bombardment ended as he entered the light, exiting it to see the arena once more, the cubes now far below him. "Non-fatal barring suitable remaining stamina? Sweet! Too bad I can't seem to right myself before-"

 

He slammed down on his stomach on top of a cube, his hole-riddled, bolt-blasted armor flying off of him in pieces. Mebius opened his eyes to the sound of a distinct ring from above, the sound doing nothing to diminish his strained brain though it did alert him to his opponent's new location.

 

'Discarding one identity for another' he thought, the MutaStone arms lifting back into the air and taking hold of the cubes above him. 'It may offer one new advantages and disadvantages... but some of their originals would remain. One might lose more than they would gain.'

 

Kane wobbled to his feet, trying to keep his place on the cube. He had lost his armor and now found two of his remaining three armaments on opposite sides away from him; only his tachi remained readily available. Subtle rings entered his ears, Kane jumping to his left and reclaiming his BFG as the MutaStone pulled Mebius up over the edge, assault rifle raised. Kane jumped again to avoid a fragmentation grenade and allowed himself to slide off the cube he was on when an incendiary one was fired ahead of him, bits of fire and shrapnel showering down above him as he reentered the maze of cubes, making adjustments on his BFG at the same time. Landing with a ring, he immediately bounded off further into the maze, hearing another ring behind him, a quick glance behind revealing there was nothing.

 

'Uh oh, da cloak!' he thought as he pressed on with more jumps, kicking himself off a corner and behind a wall of cubes. He felt the sting of plasma against his right shoulder, spotting Mebius ahead, only his head and plasma gun holding arm fully visible out of his cloaking cloth. Kane swung the BFG up and launched one of its annihilating rounds, the crackling ball of green death passing right through Mebius, his body reforming from static. 'And that's totally not the real Meebz.'

 

A grenade plopped down on the end of his gun shortly after he thought this, Kane chucking the BFG down into the pit ahead of him as the first shot exploded, its green light refracting through the cubes to dye everything an odd shade of bluish gray. Unfazed, or at least acting as such, Kane swung his tachi upwards, knowing with a good deal of imitated certainty where the real Mebius was, the duranium blade striking against a MutaStone edge as the area's color faded back to normal. Kane grabbed onto the JETSPA around Mebius' chest as the thief fell back in front of him and attempted to push Kane away across the slippery flooring, the cloth under his feet having gone rough and cleat-esque to keep him from sliding around, a trait that now extended to the one with a grip on his armor. The cyborg swung his tachi around, blade aimed for Mebius' neck, MutaStone quickly stretching about and concentrating near the spot to block the blow just as the falling BFG blew up, green light flying up from below as a bluish gray color fell upon the two. Kane pulled his sword away and then swung it down, cutting hit stolen plasma gun in half and then cleaving Mebius's left leg from the left side of the knee down to the right side of the ankle, the thief falling back with an anguished cry as the MutaStone stretched behind Kane, extended and hovered around his neck, then constricted while thinning to a thread, decapitating him. As his noggin tumbled backwards off his shoulders, the remainder of Kane twisted around to watch as though it still had a head, then turned back to Mebius and shrugged, freezing in this position before slowly tilting back and following after its severed cranium. The distance below sung as the two pieces knocked against the music echoing cubes during their fall.

 

Mebius cringed, staying seated back as his JETSPA reattached his severed leg and kept it held in place, though not as tightly as what might've been best. He listened as the sounds from below lessened, then ceased, letting out a shaky sigh.

 

"An imitation... if I could be another, what would I say of my initial self? Would I... even remember it?"

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