The sun began to creep over the village, casting a warmth onto the sleeping group. Jason was the first to stir, and his nose caught the scent of a woman. His eyes opened to reveal Solele sleeping next to him; sure enough, she'd crept over when she figured he was asleep. He could already hear her denials and claims of sleepwalking now. He set up, gently stroking her hair.
He was happy to have her back.
Jason stood up, stretching his body before walking over to the river and splashing water on his face. He couldn't help but feel a chill in the air; it seemed to be permeating all around, mixing in with the strange silence of the morning. He frowned. "Where's Tsuruko?"
Solele's eyes snapped open as her emerald pupils swirled a few times- a regular trait of an Esper, apparantly. She herself leapt from her position, somewhat annoyed. Then again, when wasn't Solele annoyed? Adding onto that, Solele was an absolute saint compared to you-know-who. "...Did we just do...that?"
"No, Solele, no we didn't." Jason said with a slight edge to his voice. He didn't meant to come off as rude; there would be, after all, plenty of time to do 'that' later. "I hate to make this a rough morning, but we need to find Giselle and Tsuruko, take Riskal, and get moving. I have a feeling something's about to happen."
"I think that crabby woman's just pissed off and left us for a bit." Solele responded, rather unsure of herself right about now. But one thing was for sure- Giselle had definitely, probably left, though Solele wasn't sure if she actually knew how to return to a regular world and left them there.
"She'll be back, she's not our concern right now." Jason said hurriedly as he swiftly stood up. "We'll find Tsuruko and move, Giselle will be back at some point."
"HEYHEYHEYHEYHEY!" Tsuruko...immediately ran past the two at full pelt- she appeared to moving faster than a speeding bullet. No doubt; this was her lowest speed. "Canyouatleasthelpmegetawayfromthesepeopletheyrehardtoreasonwithandtheyrechasingmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-" ...What?
And there was no doubt about it- an angry mob of villagers was chasing Tsuruko Sejren down with torches and pitchforks, screaming and ranting angrily- something about "The railway bujin" or something along those lines.
"....." Jason was speechless. This was the result of Tsuruko's carelessness yesterday; had she just let him handle that beam situation, this angry mob wouldn't be an issue. "Tsuruko, Solele, get to Riskal now!" Jason ordered, and, surprisingly, the two headed towards the Legion. "Tch..." Jason swung his arm in the direction of the angry mob, releasing a large blast of wind from the force of his blow; it upset the ground, causing a large amount of earth to raise up in a wide arc, serving as a barrier while Jason quickly hopped onto Riskal's neck. "Riskal, up in the air, now." Riskal heeded its master's orders and immediately took the sky, spreading its wings as it launched upward, far above the mobbing village. As soon as they were in flight, Jason shot a cold glare at Tsuruko. "Are you aware that situation was your fault, Tsuruko?"
"Not really!" Tsuruko retorted ever so casually as she rolled around on the Legion's back, trying to keep a steady hold. "Can't they notice that Gaiki is different to the bujin version? Mine's of a lighter colour, and it doesn't have the wings, and that one's visor is inverted! It's as clear as day!"
"They're humans, what did you expect?" Jason replied sharply, sounding remarkably like Levi. "You looked like something they're scared of, it's natural they'd react violently. In fact, I'm surprised it took them that long to actually form a mob." Riskal took them farther away from the village; Jason couldn't care less where Giselle was by this point, he just didn't feel like killing a bunch of innocent people to protect Tsuruko. And it wasn't just that. He still felt that dark edge in the air; it wasn't from the humans.
"We need to keep moving. Something's coming."
"Oh, please." Tsuruko got back at him. "I'm sure that I could have talked them out of it..."
"I'M GISELLE MERCURY, THE PHOENIX KNIGHT!"
Tsuruko's bad flashbacks were a reminder- that she wasn't good at handling angry, irrational mobs. "...Or not."
"...What's coming?" Solele ignored Tsuruko, asking Jason such a question in confusion.
"I don't know yet." Jason replied rigidly. "The only thing I know is this; it's dangerous, and it's here to kill." He could feel darkness approaching; darkness intent on swallowing them whole. And all he knew was every instinct was telling him to run. He'd never experienced this before; abject fear. Even against Gehaburn.
"Riskal, move faster!" Jason urged, egging him on. The thing that was following him, it felt similar in essence to Gehaburn. But worse. Far worse.
Tsuruko murmured to supposedly herself, "Of course, if the thing that's chasing us is what I think it is, it'd probably punch a hole in your flying giant cat..."
Solele tried to slap Tsuruko, but the wing resistance put her off a bit. "It's a Legion! L-E-G-I-O-N!"
"I just name things how I see them..." Tsuruko seemed to emit a low growl. "And why do white-haired people always try and hit me!?"
"I need you two to focus." Jason hissed. "Tsuruko...what do you know about the Primordial Demons? The Two Heavenly Demons, if that's what you prefer." His own knowledge was hazy; a combination of research and two hundred year of 'ghost' memory forced into his head by Hephaestus — by himself. "They are Gehaburn and Elsydeon. Do they sound at all familiar?"
"Yep." Tsuruko responded, adding, "I think that I've seen them before...along with their clones. Many, many clones. Like, maaaaaaaaaaaany clones. Well, one's light and one's dark. They're cast off from Origin and Varian, Elysdeon and Gehaburn are, respectively. I think it was kinda vague what I learned other than that, though."
"I used to have Gehaburn sealed within my body." Jason explained shortly. "Someone else — and I only recently discovered who — has Elsydeon sealed inside him. The problem, however..." He looked back towards them both. "...is the thing coming for us feels exactly like Gehaburn, only much, much worse. I don't know what good fleeing will do, but every instinct in my body is telling me not to fight it."
"Ah, that's Hikari, right?" Tsuruko paused momentarily. "But Hikari is a girl." She looked back- her head unnaturally twisting around with a mechanical whir. "We should get to the next bit of land we see. Preferably near the sea."
Jason had Riskal lean slightly to the left and began a slow descent. "Do you have a plan then?" Jason inquired; he was curious as to why she would advise landing when he could still feel it following. It hadn't decided to stop, though it did seem to be slowing its pace.
"Of course I do!" Tsuruko seemed a bit snippy, at least momentarily. "I plan everything from the very beginning! Now, land over near the sea, so we can try something new!"
Riskal, on Jason's command, began a long descent down to the rocky shoreline; the Legion dug its claws into the stones to slow itself to a full stop and the three slid off Riska's back. Now fully on the ground, the smell of the seawater hit their nostrils; Jason found it unpleasant.
Tsuruko herself seemed to fall straight off- not sliding- but barelling down involuntarily, ending up with her landing with her limbs in a twisted mess. "I was never good with landings..."
"Huh?" Solele was starting to get worried about Tsuruko's exploits.
"Oh, I just kamikazed a being of pure energy into a active volcano." Tsuruko hopped to her feet, scratching her ears. "I remember it like it was yesterday."
"Is it impossible for you not to turn every conversation into one about your achievements, Tsuruko?" Jason asked, his tone admonishing. "We need to focus; you were the one who made us land, what are you planning?"
"A surprise attack." Tsuruko's eyes seemed to light up like lightbulbs as they flickered numerously. "Just wait for iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit."
That great darkness that was pursuing them suddenly landed with a loud *THUD!* The darkness suddenly took upon a tangible form- that of Bujin Gaiki, whose deep crimson visor stared straight at Tsuruko.
Tsuruko, in response, donned her Soul Armour once more- providing an interesting contrast between light and darkness. She urged to Jason and Solele, "Lure him into the water. That should do the trick."
Jason, however, was frozen; his brain was going haywire. Just looking directly at this...thing, was beginning to send unimaginable waves of panic through his body. He could feel a massive aura from it; foul, corrupted, the darkness it emanated seemed as if it was trying to strangle him. This creature wasn't normal. And then, Jason did something he would have been best to avoid; using his new abilities, he focused onto the beast itself, using his empathic powers to peer directly into its mind...and let out a loud, shuddering gasp that made him jerk back, collapsing. Darkness filled his vision; within his mind crossed the countenance of a monster, a draconian creature whose body was mostly obscured, but was jet black, with six, glowing red eyes that seemed to peer into Jason's soul as opposed to him peering into its. It was larger than anything he'd imagined; Blake, in her former state, couldn't match it in size. And what was worse?
It knew he was watching.
Jason snapped back into reality, slowly moving a hand to his face. He was sweating. In total and complete fear; Jason LaHote had broken out into a cold sweat.
Tsuruko herself backed up a fair bit- she seemed to recognize this familiar aura, but not the being inside of it. "...Huh." The grip upon her gunblade never faltered, continuously wary as she began to slowly walk towards it. "This is awfully familiar...but I don't remember what exactly it was..."
"Tsuruko, we need to run." Jason hissed, teeth clenched. He was still collapsed on his knees, staring directly at the Bujin Gaiki. He couldn't even feel his legs anymore. They were no longer listening to his brain. "That...thing isn't normal. It's connected to something...something terrible."
"It's certainly not normal." Tsuruko actually didn't have much to say- not because she was unfazed, but rather that she couldn't say much about what was inside it. She'd seen it before- but she was having a hard time remembering what it was. "....Yeah, definitely not normal." She kinda agreed with Jason- they had to run. "Alright, let's slowly back away..."
Jason, however, found his legs simply refused to listen; in a desperate bid to move, he grabbed the sharpest rock next to him and simply thrust it down into his leg, the searing pain snapped him back into reality as he scrambled to his feet.
"Riskal, you go first. Go, he only wants us!" Jason ordered. "I'll call you back when we're safe!"
Riskal, reluctantly, heeded the orders, flying away. Jason and the two girls began to edge away, testing the waters to see what the Bujin would do.
Start running!" Tsuruko called out to Jason and Solele, as she readied Dragredder, twirling it around her wrist before it flipped back, transforming into its gun form. With that, Tsuruko Sejren fired a volley of silver bullets towards her Bujin counterpart. Tsuruko, immediately after firing a few shots, seemed to gather eternano particles at her feet, boosting forward as to evade the 'instant death' radius that Bujin Gaiki was emitting from its deadly figure.
Jason immediately grabbed Solele's hand and the trio began to run full pelt in the opposite direction. The only thing on Jason's mind was getting them all as far away as was humanely possible from this...this thing.
Solele, however, couldn't see a thing- maybe she wasn't magically attuned? "Besides an obviously pissed off animated armour, what are we running from...?" She continued to be confused, even as she was dragged around.
"Because it's an instant death radius, shouldn't that be obvious?" Tsuruko began to note as she continued moving, "It also has this little trick where it plays dead...and catches you in its grip once you fall for the bait. So that's that."
"Solele, questions can wait!" Jason insisted as they ran. "None of you want to know what I saw within that thing's head." His entire body shook again, a violent, fearful shudder. "What the hell was that? Why? Why am I shaking!?"
"But questions can't wait, Jason!" She was concerned, completely and utterly. The hell was this flying phoenix railway thing? It seemed that all the information that they gathered had flown past her head. "What IS the deal with this thing!?"
"Hurry up!" Tsuruko, on the other hand, was far ahead of them- not really caring about their problems. Normally, she'd try and help people through their troubles, but now was not the time to do so- rather, now was the time to run the fuck away from that thing.
Jason, in frustration, picked Solele up, carrying her bridal style as he tore after Tsuruko, catching up in a matter of moments. He had persisted in dragging the girl, he'd have been left behind. "Solele, just be quiet. The person pulling the strings...it isn't human. It's not a demon, or an Esper, or even a dragon. It's nothing like us!" He hissed the last sentence, desperately trying to get the point across to her. "And I have a feeling that it's what brought us here — it's impossible for this to be unrelated."
"Don't tell me to be quiet!" Solele snapped at him, "As your fiance, it is my right to know everything that's going on around you!" Her eyes seemed to turn red as her fangs were bared at him, screaming her head off as they sprinted.
Tsuruko almost stopped herself in her tracks- wishing to shut Solele up so that they could get out of here faster. "...She complains more than Kaguya."
What confused Jason, however, was that the Bujin didn't seem to be moving. He could still feel it, but it was stationary now, almost as if it was simply watching them. It was some consolation that it hadn't gone after Riskal, and at the speed he and Tsuruko were running, they had left it behind long ago. But that didn't convince him that it was done.
In an instant, Bujin Gaiki immeidately reappeared in front of Jason and Solele- perhaps via teleportation, or something akin to that. Whatever the case was, it was harnessing Tsuruko Sejren's natural speed, along with its own powers. Manifesting an enormous blade of energy within its right hand, swinging towards the couple.
"Defend me from it, Jason!" Solele seemed to grab him tightly, almost choking him in a panic.
"Shit!" Jason grit his teeth, and reacted instinctively. "Solele, hold on!" He proceeded to throw the girl into the air, high enough that she was out of the way, ignoring her shrieks entirely. With surprising speed, he ripped his mask onto his face, and right before the sword made contact with his body, erected the prison like shield he could generate in this state — only for it to be utterly destroyed as the blade knocked Jason several feet back along the rocky surf, his mask shattering up to the portion above his right jaw. "So...fast..." It was all Jason could do just to erect that last minute defence and the beast had destroyed it in a second. As fragments of his mask fell to the ground, he kept his eyes, now with blackened sclera and golden irises, locked on the Bujin. "Tsuruko, catch Solele before she hits the ground!" Jason called out, before launching himself forwards towards the Bujin Gaiki once more.
"Ah, right!" Tsuruko leapt up in a flash of light- moving so fast that it was hard to see her- as she caught Solele flawlessly.
"Let me down this instant!" Solele shouted at her, still furious.
"...I can really sympathize. I've been used like a boomerang before, too..." Tsuruko sighed.
The Bujin Gaiki let out a distorted roar, zipping up into the air instantly, before descending at high speeds leg-first like a meteor, aiming towards Jason with intent to kill.
Jason had to admit it to himself; he utterly terrified. He could still feel that creature's presence behind the Bujin, however, running was pointless. It would simply follow them and they couldn't get away. While he knew he had no chance, he had to fight to protect Solele. As he and the Bujin neared each other, Jason formed a purple blob of energy in his palm — fueled by his own negative emotions — and launched it forward at the Bujin in the hopes of slowing it down.
With a swing of its blade, the Bujin Gaiki effortlessly dissipated the orb of energy that Jason launched. It wasn't that the being deflected it- rather, Bujin Gaiki's dividing power allowed it to rapidly divide the attack into nothingness instantly. Shooting forward with a large stomping movement, Bujin Gaiki aimed to embed its fist into Jason's face.
"It's too fast!" Jason barely had time to react, only moving instinctively to preserve his mask, but the armored fist collided with his jaw, sending him careening backwards once more. His mask fragment, however, remained intact, and as such so did his jaw. He rubbed his face, standing up, now not only fear, but irritation bubbling inside him. "Tsuruko, this isn't supposed to be a one-on-one fight!" He called over to her in his distorted voice.
"Ah, right!" Tsuruko....kept getting distracted. For some reason. It wasn't that fear was a problem- it was rather that she had other things on her mind which were more important to her. Something was definitely a problem here. In the blink of an eye, she shot forward like a bullet- as Gaiki's armour was formed upon her body- she shed the back portions as to achieve a speed surpassing her normal velocity, attacking the Bujin version with a spinning kick.
Bujin Gaiki performed several somersaults backwards, evading Tsuruko's strike as wings of pure darkness formed upon its back, while it launched dozens upon dozens of projectiles formed from light as the two.
Jason extended his hand upward, forming another caged shield barrier to defend both himself, and Tsuruko. This time, however, he reinforced it, adding several shields atop another, stacking them in layers until it created a thick wall, a hopefully durable defence against the rain of light.
The Bujin Gaiki seemed to charge up pure energy within its clawed hands- before condensing said energy to its utmost limit, as it expanded into the form of twin giant discs of energy in each hand. With all of its might, the Bujin Gaiki swung forward, releasing said discs towards the two- mid-flight, the discs transformed into an enormous...glob of energy, which aimed to destroy the barrier instantly.
"It's going to destroy it!" Jason immediately created a large, two layered cage and pressed it to the back of the pre-existing barrier. The glob immediately crashed into the first, thick layer, warring with its defences until it cracked and shattered; it then immediately ripped through the second additional layer, bearing down on Jason and Tsuruko like a meteor. However, it had accomplished what Jason had wanted; the collision with the thick layered barrier had slowed down the glob's speed, even if it hadn't stopped it completely, giving them both enough time to avoid direct combat with such a large attack.
Naturally, the Bujin Gaiki was expecting this- as it launched itself forth, turning its wings into additional limbs as it catapaulted forward, aimed feet first towards Jason, aiming to snap him like a twig.
"Aura Wall!" As she evaded, Tsuruko, however, had solar energy radiate from her being, expanding magnificently as to form yet another wall of energy- causing the Bujin Gaiki to leap upon the wall and perform an acrobatic flip backwards, narrowly stopping itself from colliding with the wall; granting them a few more seconds of breathing room.
"Tsuruko...you said lure it into the water earlier?" Jason eyed it carefully. It seemed to be appraising them. "Are you confident that's going to work?" He had to admit, they didn't really have a chance anymore. By this point, he was grasping at straws.
"You should probably go and lure it into the water." Tsuruko took off, as an attempt to drag the Bujin Gaiki towards her. "If you don't hurry up, then it'll kill us all. Now, follow my lead!"
Jason immediately tore away from her, slipping his hand into his sleeves, pulling out his classic wire; during the three month stay in Nethran Forest, he'd managed to procure a new set of his former signature weapon from his grandmother. Extending it forward, he managed to wrap it around the arm of the Bujin, and pulled, managing to budge it slightly and officially gaining its attention. "Focus on me..." He hissed, and as quickly as he'd moved to entangle it, made a break for the ocean, the wire still attached to the creature's arm.
The Bujin Gaiki instantly itself stopped in its tracks- rooting its clawed feet straight into the ground, attempting to stop Jason from pulling it towards him. For some reason, its position began to slip- as it attempted to pull back with all of its might.
Jason used all of his strength to resist, and, taking note of the creature slipping up, began to apply as much of his strength as he could to reeling it in. "Come on now..." He kept his grip on the wires firm.
The Bujin Gaiki's eyes shone red momentarily- as it launched a pair of eye beams towards Jason, aiming to knock him over....however, instantly, Tsuruko released a small vertical tornado of aura, encapsulating the eyebeams, allowing Jason to continue pulling on the demonic armour. All of a sudden, the Bujin Gaiki lost its holding, almost tripping as Jason tore at it.
And from that point, Jason simply pulled, dragging the armoured creature through the sand as his own feet hit the surf, and he continued to wade quickly into the water as he pulled the Bujin even closer.
The Bujin Gaiki responded in kind, by immediately rooting its feet within the ground while still knocked down, emitting a faint pulse of magical energy as to attempt to resist- though it was noticeable that it was still being pulled- and yet, its armour began to crack...
"You're not getting away!" Jason began to pull all of his strength into pulling the Bujin, his own mask cracking under the pressure as he drew all of the remaining power from the fragment over his eye. With all of his power, Jason gave a mighty tug on the wires.
In an instant, the Bujin Gaiki was pulled straight towards Jason- it was left in a seemingly helpless state...
Leaping into the air, Tsuruko uttered, "Lucifer's…" As the hilt of Dragredder emitted a surge of solar energy, which spiraled up the length of the blade, coating it in a truly immense amount of solar energy. Gritting her teeth, Tsuruko bared her sharp incisors, and her pupils contracted, giving her an almost demonic visage. The solar energy upon Dragredder condensed itself to its utmost limit. Howling, "HAMMER!!" Tsuruko swung the blade forward, releasing all the solar energy upon Dragredder in a single blow, solidifying and shaping itself in the form of a fang shaped wave of magical energy that aimed to tear her foe in half...
The converging beam of solar power instantly shattered the armour, revealing a humanoid demonic form. Its entire body is wrapped in teal thorns, and both of its wrists and ankles had manacles on them. The chains on its arms were broken, but the chain connecting its feet was not. It had a large, red, toothy maw and beady, glowing yellow eyes. While it was muscular and had large hands and feet, it also had rather thin limbs. Each of its limbs sported three digits with long, red claws. It had two enormous, orange horns and a massive, orange mane.
"Well, that's not me."
Jason's mask finally shattered; the remaining section breaking and cracking to the ground and his eyes returned to their normal state as he cast a look onto the strange scene. "So this is the inside of a Soul Armor..." Even the thing inside, despite being monstrous, was strangely mesmerizing; he'd never seen anything like it before, a cross between monster and human. He held himself back from leaning in; his instincts told him the creature wasn't dead, only briefly stunned. "Tsuruko...we should move now, while it can't move."
"Well, rather, it seemed to be sealed inside of it." Tsuruko's eye recepticles zoomed in- observing the demon in front of them, as she began to take in data about the thing. "Hmm, I think that this is the result of-"
"Come. On." Solele grabbed Tsuruko, dragging her off as she began to run off under Jason's direction.
"I'm not done yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet...!"
"If your technology is so sophisticated, continue the scan as we move." Jason instructed, uncharacteristically snappy, the group moving as fast as they could once ore in the opposite direction. The creature wasn't dead, he knew that, and, if it could survive the move Tsuruko could pull off, he didn't want to see what else it had in store.
Tsuruko's recepticle eyes extended, as it began to gather and collect eternano- and more importantly, data, from the surroundings. "....Ehhhhh!?" She exclaimed. "...That's odd. This is stronger than a primodorial demon..."
"...A what?" Solele had...much to learn.
"It's a really powerful demon and there's two of them and they can fire beams from their mouth and this one's a fusion of the two."
"...We're not staying for a second longer." Jason immediately latched ahold of them both, and began to draw on magical power that he sent to his feet, boosting his speed immensely as he tore across the shore. He had to admit, even dragging them along, he had no idea where he was headed, but anywhere was better than here. If this was truly Gehaburn merged with Elsydeon, they had no hope, except to escape while it was reassembling its body. He could feel the darkness begin to creep out again — the creature within the Bujin was stirring.
"Ah, so that's a phantasmal beast form." Tsuruko sighed as Solele continued dragging her. "He has a lot of forms, each scarier than the last- but they're all fake. He only shows his true form when he's taking you seriously...."
Solele tapped Tsuruko on the head lightly- but not so lightly as to make her not feel anything at all. "Stop gawking and hurry up, you boltbrain."
"Tsuruko, we don't have time to talk." Jason snapped; again, sounding much more like his stepmother more than his actual parents. "Your attack did little more than irritate that thing; it's reassembling and coming back. If we can make it over that mountain, we'll clear some distance." He was running on blind hope right now; blind, useless hope that the creature manipulating the Bujin would lose sight or interest in them if they cleared the mountains.
"Fine, fine!" Tsuruko seemed to growl in a lower voice than usual- though she wasn't angry at all, rather put off by all of this. "I kinda think that this would have gone better if Giselle was here..."
But nevertheless, the trio ran for their lives, managing to evade the demon- whom just mysteriously, stood there, not bothering to give chase at all...