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This article, Horror from the Deep, is the co-property of both DazzlingEmerald and Ash9876.

...And so the war wages ever so gently, in its wake emerging a more refined pair of salamanders, through dust and smoke; though not yet quite accomplished enough to refer to themselves as dragons, they are but furnished further, having established themselves as apart of a separate breed.

The journey to the peak continues.

The Cradle

The whistle of the wind, the steady trickle of falling water; these are but two of Mother Nature's sons beckoning in distress as the sun escapes into the horizon, pardoning all from its warmth and safety. Still yet, as it ponders a moment, the pride lands are still but tainted by her glory; however, much of the universe has now been cast beneath a shadow, especially that which lies beneath a mighty ravine.

From over the top of one side, a sole magician stands tall, composed, but never rattled, his queer, aquatic hair-coloring being by far his most distinguishing factor. Like a child afraid to leave his mother's side, the dark fabric of his upper garment clings to his flesh, nestled beneath a close-knit scarf lying in roost along his chin. His trousers are kept liberate, doing as they please with regards to their clear lack of fit; the one known as Jiretto stands tall, composed, but never rattled.

He looks about the world with perplexed vision, for he is keen of sight, of mind. The battle before had left him dissatisfied; now hanging below the dying sun, he sought a true competitor —if a person such as himself would even be allowed such a luxury. His hands, anxious for warfare, pry into unison across his chest, and with his eyes closed —his mind open— he awaits the arrival of his opponent.

On the other side of this vast terrain was another man. He looked a tad bit more humble. Ebony black hair travelling to his neck, ghastly pale skin, bright green eyes and a completely white outfit. Witnessing the appearance of his newfound opponent, he briefly released his magical power to determine the nature of this man's abilities, and found a chilling sensation running through him.

Rather than anger rushing through the man, he was genuinely surprised. Here was another Dragon Slayer with the same goal as his own: acceleration to his pure Dragon form. However, this was no time to be exchanging pleasantries. He drew his blade, the Rokushin Kenzoku: Chikage, with his right hand, and pointed it towards his next opponent. No words were said, for he knew the oncoming battle would say all that both needed to say.

It was strange; Jiretto was the one to have recently bathed in blood, yet it was his opponent who reeked of it. His eyes opened slowly, in time to witness the blasphemy of what was a white fiend holding a blade in his direction. Upon a more thorough examination, Jiretto was able to deduce his opponent's identity as being none other than Ash Sangria, otherwise known as the "Bloodborne Enemy of Dragons". Fable had quite some information on him already, though they had never seen him in actual combat. All they truly knew of was his objective; something that Ash himself was quite direct with in explanation alone.

Such a find was truly remarkable. As an under-operative assassin serving the Magic Council, any time Jiretto came across another Dark Mage such as his supposed self, he was to either dispose of them immediately or simply arrest them altogether. An opportunity such as this would surely not come again. Under any circumstance, he had to win.

"Fancy seeing you here, my good friend," Jiretto began, "I've searched both long and hard for a matter of your happenings; yet, all of a sudden, here you are in front of me. Would this not be a measure of fate?" His hands fall to his sides, as his voice grows ever more shallow. With the utterance of each syllable, a white apparition left his mouth, until the world around was plagued by a horrendous white mist. Jiretto's frame was obscured swiftly, and as he made to speak again, his voice branched apart from several different directions.

"There lies a purpose with the way you hold that katana," his voice echoed faintly, through the now completely blank canvas. "I shall see to it that I fully comprehend it."

Adorned within vanilla fabrics himself, Ash blended quite well with the whole mix of the mist, though it was quite apparent by now that Jiretto didn't mean to rely on his sense of sight in a circumstance such as this; the cry of Ash's heart was able enough. Had he taken the obligation to look around, Ash would have been unable to see so much as the ground beneath his feet; it was as if he was roaming about a world of white, where the only audible sounds came from the tapping of several claws, many of which had already crept upon his location, and the sly formation of frost nearby. Even ordinary constructs that spoke to Dragon Slayers on a daily basis had grown silent.

Over the course of such turmoil, Jiretto's magical energy —which Ash had caught a taste of earlier— was momentarily unidentifiable, until it returned suddenly at Ash's flank, in the form of a frozen fist heading towards his skull. From the skies plummeted a frigid calibration, and a chilled sensation came from below; it would have proven difficult for Ash to navigate through the mist, most nearly because of his current lack of orientation, and had he attempted a stutter with his step, he would have found the pavement beneath to have become evasive, much like a slippery floor.

"Foolish deceptions." Ash thought to himself as he was blanketed within a white mist. He adjusted the positioning of his sword to his immediate radius. Stabbing the ground just beneath him, he ascertained his grounded position and subsequently flared his body with crimson magical power. This crimson red shone even within the white surrounding him, and rushed towards the edge of his blade. Upon reaching its end point, Ash swung his blade in a circular formation on the ground, releasing a wave of crimson energy outwards from his being that broke through the white mist near his being, granting him both visibility and greater knowledge of his surroundings.

With the spreading of this crimson energy came the continuation of its path. Its strength was reinforced by Ash's full power, rather than the limited radius he could employ in his previous match. Accordingly, the wave smashed through its opposition: it obliterated Jiretto's frozen fist and rendered him momentarily immobile, it then fell onto the ground in an almost solid state, smashing through the frost that surrounded his being and rendered him impenetrable to Jiretto's attempt to defeat him with underhanded tricks.

In accordance, his next move would be a direct counter. His eyes locked onto his flank, shining a brilliant red as he adjusted the grip on his blade to a reverse-grip, lifting it from the ground with the intent of slashing through Jiretto's outstretched fist, bones and all, in the hope of seizing his victory in a single, precise blow.

Taken aback momentarily as a result of the sudden illumination of red light released by his opponent, Jiretto himself froze, being unable to garner movement through his own body, and coincidentally, left without the ability to fend off against Ash's incoming counterattack. The blade of the latter's weapon cut Jiretto's arm, heaving directly through it en route to his stomach, where it was halted half way, being unable to continue, for a reason that had yet to be ventured. The severed limb fell to the floor, leaving no blood in its wake, only flakes of ice.

Rather swiftly, a new arm sprouted from Jiretto's body, born from tiny blue particles that floated in its direction; at the very same instance, the additional "flesh" that had been blown through earlier carefully reformed itself as well, leaving the blade of Ash's katana plastered within Jiretto's stomach, as if it were trapped by two walls, being composed of the two sides of Jiretto's hips respectively. Thereafter, Jiretto reached out with both hands, grasping ahold of the weapon firmly, which prompted it to first freeze instantaneously, and then wither away into nothing more than specks of chilled dust, even despite the magical energy it had been coated in prior, which could have only meant that Jiretto, along with his ice, had already adjusted to make do of Ash's magical signature. This process began from the tip of the sword, before quickly traveling toward the hilt, and if Ash had not discarded it immediately, it looked as though it would carry on towards his hands.

It would have been at this point that Ash would have realized that the figure before him was nothing more than an ice sculpture; being a Dragon Slayer himself, he would have heard Jiretto's voice branch off into several directions, and then the several claws that stormed all around him; in truth, the assassin had summoned the mist as a guise to formulate clones, and the frozen fist from earlier had been nothing more than a mere intervention. Jiretto was not one to defeat his enemies in the same manner; he had never planned for his attack to land upon Ash in the first place —not the first one, anyway.

Held in place due to the disposition of his katana, Ash would have been caught off guard, without a doubt. This time, it would be he who would have been unable to move away from the forthcoming attack that had been the primary focal point of Jiretto's scheme all along; that was, the frigid calibration —known to Ash as Jiretto himself— that had been soaring through the air earlier, concealed not by the mist, but rather the presence of the sleet upon the ground. That in itself was another deception; while the mist was meant to guise the clone, it had been the timely construction of the floor that was meant to aid it.

With the ice nearing Ash's hands —devouring his valiant partner in the process— Jiretto translated the situation into a disaster by descending downward from the skies at a horrendous speed. About his body he carried a green aura, framing his physique like an additional layer of clothing. He supposedly sought to come down with tremendous force and plaster Ash along the brute of his physical powers. The technique, while devastating in its own right, would have been only enough to crush Ash through several layers of the ground, and therefore, not nearly enough to take his life.

The fall of Jiretto's arm exposing the light blue flakes of ice had immediately given Ash the necessary realization that he was caught in a deception; it was a foolish maneuver on his part. With the regeneration of both clones being an extremely swift process, the Chikage had been frozen in between Jiretto's stomach. In accordance, the blade began the process of being frozen. With no other option left, Ash ignited the blade with his own magic as the ice travelled through it. The sheer quantity of his own crimson magic managed to repel the overwhelming cold brought by Jiretto; although he sacrificed his blade, leaving it cut in half.

It was only now that Ash could form any sort of counter-measure. With the new realization that all around him was nothing more than extensions of Jiretto's being, he instead formed blood-red wings on his back, soaring upwards in an attempt to prevent the man rushing downwards causing an irreversible impact upon himself. When reaching a sufficient height, the man's skin began to turn a blood-red. When Jiretto descended near his being, the man used all of his force to go against the staggering downward forces exerted by Jiretto and attempted to grab his shoulders to break the impact of the descent, using the blood on his wings as a reinforcement to this attempt.

In a response to yet another exaggerated exertion of magical energy presented by Ash, the clone was momentarily severed, until it began to reconstruct itself for a second time —this process was essentially limitless, so long as the air carried trinkets of water along with it— allowing the Bloodborne Enemy of Dragons with enough breathing space to soar into the skies in an attempt to content against the swooping Jiretto himself, upon having scarified a hefty portion of his blade. The two dragons met in midair with a triumphant clash of energies, though it was the presence of Ash's wings that granted him an advantage, allowing him to successfully latch on to Jiretto's arms, and therefore establish indisputable physical contact.

However unfortunate, the events did not exactly unfold as per Ash's desires, for the heat of battle had lead him toward yet another disaster. Jiretto, in all aspects, was associated with the color blue, from the color of his hair to the color of his ice; the same argument could be made in regards to the color of his magical aura, though the problem for Ash lied in the fact that the cunning assassin had not allowed him to see it throughout the course of the battle, so in truth, he really could not have known any better. Yet, even prior to the collision, Jiretto had unveiled a green aura, one that shrouded his entire frame, and one that Ash himself had made the mistake of openly welcoming.

While it was true that Ash had taken the precautions of coating his body in a mystical red substance —which, by the scent of it, appeared to be blood— the spell Jiretto had cast was especially designed to counter against defensive mechanisms of the sort. As the two came about a sudden suspension in their duel, it was not because of the force applied by Ash, nor the advantage awarded to him by his wings; it was because Jiretto, through the principles of his secondary Dragon Slayer Magic, had translated the air around him into that of a solid, and was now literally holding the two of them locked into place, a feat far beyond the application of mere flight. Yes, the air was his terrain; the fact that he had tricked Ash into an aerial battle was something along the lines of a checkmate.

The true damage had yet to be realized. While Jiretto had cast the spell long ago, and the effects would have taken their toll upon Ash at the exact moment of their coming into contact, it was only until now that Jiretto unveiled the name behind his technique, as if mocking his opponent for having activated his trap card.

"Ille Regalia."

It was because of this reason that Ash's supposed attempts in taking possession over Jiretto's movements with his blood had resulted in a failure. It was because of this reason that Ash's defenses had become of no use. It was because of this reason that Ash's fate may have forever been sealed.

What most did not comprehend was the fact that the true power of a Sky Dragon Slayer resided not within his offensive power, but within the sheer versatility of its stratagems. With access to such articulate magic, Jiretto was able to increase the capabilities of others, including himself, whether it was in terms of speed, strength, power, or anything of the nature. If the aforementioned was true, then indeed, so would be the opposite.

A double incantation, Jiretto had more than simply crippled his opponent. Not only would Ash's defenses have become comparable to a thin sheet of paper, but the measures of each and every one of his attacks would have been akin to the tickle of a sly feather. What was even more horrific were what Jiretto referred to as the "tortoise-like" effects that were now plaguing Ash; literally every ounce of his being had been slow down, be it the rate of which he perceived affairs, the literal movement of his physical being, and even more fatal, the beating of his heart. Scornful was it, that with such a procedure, both the dexterity and potency of Ash's magical aura had weakened several times over, meaning there was no chance for him to simply negate the effects of the spell with his energy like he had tried many times before.

With his prey akin to nothing more than an ant caught within a woven web, Jiretto, whose shoulders had been grasped by Ash, sought to claim his victory. Within seconds, his frigid body temperatures were calibrated to the utmost degree —entering subzero levels. While Ash's vast supply of blood would have awarded him with great warmth in most cases, the fact that it had now been degraded to such an extent that it was essentially of no factor made all the difference in the world. Instantly, would his body have been frozen; instantly, would his body have shattered into nothing more than specks of dust, far sooner than any extraneous regenerative maneuver could have kicked in to save his life. Deprived was a dragon of his refined senses, to the point where he would be unable to so much as perceive his own death on a timely manner due to how severely sedated he had become.

It was the end for the Bloodborne Enemy of Dragons. The man who had spent his entire life struggling to achieve, not his own, but his ancestor's dreams, was finally crushed by the weight of his own ambition. Although he thought he could win, it was pointless now. Bathed in anger the man neglected to see that Jiretto had caught him through and through. His hand, despite being covered in temperature-resistant blood, was now utterly frozen. The ice had traveled through his entire body and, within an instant, his body was no more than a sculpture of ice. With a final expression of nihility written across the man's visage, the sculpture had shattered into no more than crystal dust, flying away with the gales of wind that accompanied Jiretto's complex assault. There was no more to be said, the final breath of Ash Sangria had passed.

Fin

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