With the challenge of the Shadow Remnants looming over their heads, and the location for their duel more than set, Akatsuki was already moving out towards the island. Jason had already chosen the members who would come along for this battle: Wendy Marvell, Iris Lavra, Mary Jane, Momoko Sitri, Makoto Loreli, and Scylla. With this ragtag group riding on the back of Riskal, they were over the open ocean in moments, soaring towards the remains of an island that belonged to the world's former strongest guild:
"Can't this giant flying whale go any faster?" Iris asked.
"It's not a flying while, it's a Legion." Momoko corrected her.
"Tom-a-to, Tom-ae-toe." Iris responded.
"I don't even know why we issued a challange, I coulda just snuck into their place and killed them all." Crux sighed to himself. "Actually, I don't even know why I'm causing all this crap anymore."
"I think it was because you don't like the orange-haired guy, sir."
"We're nearly there, it seems." Makoto braced herself for combat.
"So this is the island E mentioned before," Scylla noted, the petite, black-tressed girl staring down at the remains of what used to be called Tenrou Island. While the majority of the island was intact – specifically the centre, where a winding tree grew proud and tall – quite a bit was floating around in the form of larger island fragments, creating a makeshift archipelago. "Though I wonder if you can call it an island, given how much of it has been destroyed."
"Tenrou Island..." Wendy looked down at the floating mass of land as they loomed over it. While she had never been to this island in her lifetime, something about it struck a chord with her. She felt like she should know it, if only from another life, and the fact that she couldn't recall a single event that had transpired within these clouded memories caused her irritation beyond belief.
"Everyone ready yourselves," Jason ordered, standing tall atop Riskal's back, "we're making our descent onto the main portion of Tenrou Island."
"The hell is a Tenrou Island?" Momoko asked rather bluntly. "I don't recall anything about it."
"Nobody cares anymore." Iris replied.
"You're usually right on those sort of things, Iris." Makoto butted in.
"I fear an explanation would be wasted on the lot of you," Scylla replied snidely as the Legion began to descend towards the island.
"Everyone, on my count, we jump," Jason ordered, as several figures on the ground materialized within their field of view, "Riskal won't be touching the ground here. One...two...three...jump!"
On the order, the entire group followed Jason as he leaped off the side of Riskal, who made a sharp ascent into the air to stay out of the danger, as Jason has ordered it to do. The guild landed neatly onto the island fragment, and saw they were already in the presence of the Shadow Remnants.
"Crux..." Jason muttered the man's name with distaste, his brown orbs shooting a piercing stare at the purple-tressed man.
"IT'S ABOUT TIME YOU SHOWED UP!" Crux sounded so serious when he murmured that. "A little bit early, I see!" He immediately took a fighting stance. "READY..."
In an instant, the others appeared behind him.
Quickly, multiple blasts shot towards Akatsuki, not even wishing to face them honourably.
"Break!" Jason ordered, and they split, each member ducking around or above the explosions, seeking out their respect opponents like hounds thirsting for the blood of a prey animal. With the clanging of metal and the resounding of blows, the cowardly attempt of the Shadow Remnants was thwarted when the Akatsuki each found their targets.
Scylla, the draconic young girl, was locked in a stalemate with Esmeralda Tokiyama, whose sword found no purchase against the oddly durable skin of the humanoid dragon. "You'll have to show me better than that," Scylla smirked, forcing the heterochromatic woman's blade off her forearm, licking the spot where a wound would have been, "I can't see a human blade piercing this skin."
"If you're going to stand in the way of me fulfilling my orders, then I'll cut you down, precocious little brat!" Esmeralda replied haughtily, brandishing her sword in Scylla's direction.
To the immediate far left of Jason, Wendy and Momoko had joined each other in a tag team for the sole purpose of one thing; avenging their defeat from the last time. As if their own bad luck beckoned them forward, lithe-bodied girl and adult woman came across their former opponent, Solo. As if he was waiting for them, he simply stood, making no fighting stance, and exuding the utmost confidence.
Iris Lavra forcefully made her way through the explosion of magical energy to find herself face to face with Rory Walker, the well-dressed man she engaged in battle with seven years ago. It was clear, however, that she viewed Rory as nothing but a distraction towards her true objective.
This objective was Kagemusha; the cloaked, masked entity, the object of the hatred of the Akatsuki guild, found himself confronted by Mary Jane.
"Kagemusha...you..." The blue-tressed girl's face contorted in an expression of hatred and rage as she locked eyes with the object of her loathing. "You're the one who stole Onee-chan from me...and from the rest of our guild. Gripping the hilt of the blade that adorned her back, it's cloth wrapping came undone, revealing the ornate blue and golden blade of Eisivori, which she was only too pleased to brandish towards Kagemusha.
"I'm going to slice you into so many pieces you'll never move again!" The girl snarled in rage.
"I see Akatsuki has been brooding since our last encounter," Kagemusha mused, a hidden smirk beneath his mask, "and to think you of all people would stand and face me. Mary Jane, wasn't it?" A laugh escaped the man's throat, a mirthless laugh that left the enraged young girl only further frustrated. "Life truly can be...funny."
"Oh dear," Anguis Bane pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, a smile slipping across his pale visage. "It would appear we three are the only ones left without any partners. Since our comrades are engaging in this dance, it's only fair we begin this lopsided tango, isn't it, young miss?"
Iris Tsubaki, the man's daughter and creation, sighed at her master's polite attitude.
The 'young miss' he was referring to, was Makoto Loreli.
Iris only let out a bestial snarl- "Get out of my way." Iris' magical aura flared up, in the form of an enormous, unidentifiable beast. She punched the ground, causing a large crater to erupt from her fist. "NOW!"
Momoko circled Solo, her watery aura beginning to flow out like a raging tidal wave. "Alright, round two." She cracked her knuckles. "Time to even the score, huh, Wendy?"
Makoto drew her blade, sweat dripped from her forehead- she was awfully tense. "It's the evil Iris!"
Jason looked on as the respective guilds split off against their designated opponents. In any other battle, this divide-and-conquer strategy would be suicide; foolish, most definitely. But, something in Jason wanted this battle to Crux to be one of his own. They had a score to settle, and his foolish pride demanded he settle it on his own.
"It doesn't surprise me that you resort to such a cowardly sneak attack," Jason shot a look of distaste at Crux, "I should have been far more suspicious when you sent that writ of challenge."
Crux stood up straight, a far cry from his usual, hunched over self. "First off, it is not a sneak attack if you announce it. NOW!" He let out a war cry, before slamming his fist into the ground at tremendous speeds with over ten tonnes behind his blow. *WHAM!* A loud and extremely powerful tremor roared throughout the ground, shaking the ground itself to the very core- such a powerful force would shake the battlefield for the remainder of the clash. "Let's begin."
The force of this strike crushed the very earth, leaving an array of cracks and craters in the ground; from which birthed an array of earthen spires which threatened to skewer his foe in completely random places. It seemed as if Crux Kouga had messed with the tectonic plates of Sirius Island- again. These shockwaves tore apart the surroundings, as fissures erupted from the ground which lead deep into the darkest of oceans. The water couldn't help itself. In an instant, an entire mass of water erupted from the ground like a horribly malfunctioning fountain- this was the strength that defeated a Wizard Saint, that was for sure. The water continued to ascend to the heavens, mimicking a rainstorm as it refused to cease. In such a situation, complete zen was a benefit- Crux leapt into the air, ready to clock Jason over the head amidst the confusion.
Jason remained staunch in his position, unperturbed by the quaking of earth and sloshing of waves. Try as Crux might, Jason was a rock on the shore, unable to be moved by normal means. To guard himself, Jason quickly raised his left arm in front of his face, effortlessly blocking Crux's blow. The shockwave from this attack ripped through the island further, creating a large crater and explosion of land several meters outward in all directions from where Jason and Crux stood.
And then Jason swung, thrusting his right arm forward, towards Crux's gut. The force of his blow caused the wind to ripple and spiral around the Esper's dominant limb, coming close to shattering the sound barrier with one single, precisely timed physical strike.
"Move Point." It was that blasted teleportation magic spell again! Instantly, eternano surrounded his frame, swirling around him in a similar manner to a miniaturized typhoon. As the eternano fully engulfed his figure, Crux vanished in the blink of an eye. "NOW!" The eternano which once amassed itself around Crux's body faded away, as he reappeared behind Jason, ready to strike him; drawing Elysdeon, he slashed upwards towards him.
"That parlor trick again," Jason thought, gripping the hilt of his longer blade the instant Crux vanished. Empathy came in handy here; Crux's intent to kill spoke to Jason like pheromones to an animal in heat; simply lifting his blade, turned on his heel, swinging his blade with the arc of his turn to meet the oncoming slash from Crux's weapon. The flatside of his cleaver crashed against the metal of Elysdeon, only furthering the impact tremors as sparks flew from the blades.
"I can track your every move," Jason hissed, pushing Crux back before swinging the blade down in a powerful slashing motion.
"Really now?" A devilish, bestial snarl was released from the bottom of Crux's throat. "Jigen Haoh!" Eternano gathered and condensed upon his fist- compacting to its utmost limit. "Seiken..." The aura was so overwhelming that it began to flow off of his fist, northern lights style.
However, a sharp *bzzt* sound echoed- as a voice that only Jason could hear told him matter-of-factly. "...Can you hear me?" That voice—it was Giselle's. "I'm using telepathy right now. Anyway, you need to leap away from that right now. It's one of Tsuruko's techniques- the Jigen Haoh can hit from everywhere at once- and there's no way to dodge it, no matter how simple it looks."
"...ZUKI!" Crux released the eternano gathered upon his fist with a forward punching motion- somehow, an effigy of Crux's fist appeared everywhere around Jason, zoning in....
"Give coherent instructions or don't bother to assist at all," Jason replied coldly, before gripping the hilt of his smaller blade. "Just because I cannot move out of the way of an attack does not mean I cannot mount a defence, now does it?"
Eyeing the situation quickly, Jason could feel the effigy's of Crux all around him; the contempt and his killing intent filled the air, informing Jason of the fists that surrounded him even to his left, right, rear, and above his head.
"Shataiyō." Thrusting the smaller blade out in front of him, Jason erected a large barrier; with no wasted movement, he gripped the larger blade, Hagestu, and cut his own barrier, before moving his blade with the elegance of a weaver. Manipulating the barrier in mere seconds, it encased him, like a cocoon, in a swathe of golden light, bracing for the impact of the clenched effigy's.
"Not bad." Crux smirked- as his Jigen Haoh simply bounced off of Jason's shield. He wasn't even trying that time.
"Not my fault I didn't know he modified the damn thing; and it's not my fault I didn't know you had some shield ability- I don't know damn near anything about you, boy." Giselle snarled at Jason, "It also seems that Crux's attacks are MUCH weaker than Tsuruko's. He hasn't fully learnt how to use it properly yet. Seiken-zuki is a starter technique anyway."
"Enough chatting, mother!" Crux shouted- he could hear them both. Orbs of light spiralled around Crux's body, as he closed his eyes. Slowly being immersed in said orbs, a miniature galaxy formed behind him, enveloping him, with others around it. After a few brief moments, the main galaxy spectacularly exploded. Black slashes formed under his eyes, which then thickened noticeably and merged with the shadows formed on his face, which became stylized black; his skin tone also became much darker. Crux's entire body turned a horrific pitch-black, with crimson markings around his chest, arms, as well as under and above his eyes. His hair spiked on end and grew out as twin chains manifested upon his arms. "Corpse Shell, engage." Without a moment's hesitation, he rushed towards Jason on all fours like a wild beast, orbs of spiralling light being flung towards him like a geometric curtain of death- all have piercing effects that would break through a shield. Not only that, a blade composed of azure flames formed within his hand- allowing him to swing wildly at Jason.
"...Huh." Giselle thought outloud, "The way he fights, it's almost like Chakravartin's..."
Reacting within seconds, Jason pulled the Mask of Truth onto his face with a noncommittal jerk of his head, magical energy forming into a thick, white substance which enveloped his face, hardening into an alabaster mask in the design of a menacing skull, donned with thick, red lines on either side of the head and under the eyes. The white sclera darkened into an ominous ebony, the brown of his irises flashing vibrant gold.
"That's it...!" Jason growled, his voice trembling with an odd excitement as he dashed forward, weaving in and out of the orbs that Crux had shot towards him, the air whizzing with the force of these strange energy sphere. Gripping the hilt of his larger blade, Jason swung with great force, cracking and destroying the ground as the sword made its way towards the beast that was Crux.
"Too slow." Jerking his body upright, Crux effortlessly caught Jason's blade between both of his hands. While you've gotten stronger...I'm still more powerful than you." Smirking, Crux raised his own Elysdeon, which began to glow brilliantly. When in close range, Crux shouted, "Halo Blade!" Instantly, a disc of light was launched forward right at Jason.
Jason responded on instinct; like a wolf reacting to a scented rabbit, his dominant hand moved, the moment Crux's hands released his blades, at breakneck speed, slashing the air and creating a massive shockwave of pure air pressure, merged with his own magical power.This compressed blast of magic-enhanced wind collided with the 'Halo Blade', each attack threatening to overwhelm the other before they exploded in a fury, forcing Crux and Jason away from each other, as well as creating a large crater between the two combatants.
"I can feel it," Jason thought to himself, watching Crux regain his bearings as he tried to compose himself as well, "He's already getting serious. But for a moment, I could have sworn I felt his emotions falter when he heard Giselle speak. And he called her 'mother'." Jason found the latter development to be the most intriguing. After all, he could admit — silently to himself anyway — that Crux was still stronger than he was.
This was someone he'd need to manipulate into a loss, not simply try to beat down. The catch being he'd need a chance to even attempt getting under Crux's skin. And to do that, he'd need to silence him. Deciding to waste no further time deliberating, Jason moved to close the distance between them for yet another time, getting into close range against Crux within moments. He formed a tri-pronged sphere white energy with a vivid red outline in his palms, focusing the memories of bitter experiences onto the sphere to increase its power; his multiple defeats at Crux's hands, the time Iris was cut down, Vivian's kidnapping — the sphere increased exponentially when he recalled these last two — before releasing his Abhorrence Blast from a compressed orb of energy into a overwhelming wave of foul magical power. The beam shot towards Crux as a near point blank range, enveloping everything in front of Jason in its ruby hue.
"Armure Lumiere." Crux shouted to the heavens defiantly. Using his sword as a conduit for his negative emotions, he thrust his blade into the ground, causing several helixes of dark emotions to spike up from the ground, erupting loudly with a notable sound—they then solidified into a jail-shape. Jason's strike bounced off of Crux's defense- from within the Armure Lumiere, Crux activated Short Jump, translocating in front of Jason. "Gathering Clouds of Heaven!" Molding his light magic, Crux formed an enormous blade of light within his hand, twirling it around alongside that azure flaming blade. Crossing both swords, Crux unleashed a vicious blast of energy from both towards Jason.
"Point blank!" Jason thought in an abrupt panic; reflexively, the man raised the smaller blade, erecting a hastily formed barrier to minimize the damage. The two swords collided with the luminescent, golden structure, easily finding purchase against the hastily constructed protective wall. The resulting explosion - the destruction of the barrier - sent Jason careening backwards in a thick smokescreen. Regaining his bearings in only moments, he skidded along the ground outside the smoke, trails of the gas wafting off him. His mask, while cracked, remained intact.
"He's as strong as ever," Jason mused, "I can't say I'm surprised; he's always had the edge over me." Despite this admittance, Jason wasn't ready to simply let up.
"Bah, he isn't too strong." Giselle remarked over the telepathic connection. "If you want, watch me slap him once. It'll be hilarious watching him cry."
"I can hear you, mother." Crux snarled like a wild beast- letting out an echoing roar as he thrust his hand forward, causing a multitude of seekers to spew forth from nothingness, shooting forward in an arrow pattern towards Jason, giving him no time to rest.
"Alright, these things will track you, so defend." Giselle instructed Jason. "Huh, that voice.. Oh yeah, I sent up a telepathic communications network between my family and it's always on." Giselle paused. "...No, that doesn't mean that Crux can hear you when I give you instructions."
"If you're going to continue to talk, why don't you answer a question of mine instead," Jason swung his sword in an arc, releasing a violent blast of magical energy that disrupted the seekers, destroying them but canceling itself out in the same time. "What is Crux? I'm not referring to his power, either. I can feel something inside of him, beyond the anger and hate; something desperate and lonely. And yet it feels so distant, as if its not a part of him, but...trapped in there."
"Didn't I alrady tell you. Or didn't he tell you?" Giselle seemed a bit annoyed at having to explain things again. "He's a homunculus made from a fragment of Origin, which makes him a lot more powerful than others. And that Corpse Shell, secret art of the Sejren family, makes him a beast even stronger than a Wizard Saint. But to cut to the chase, he's just a scared kid being forced to be a grownup."
"I can HEAR YOU!!!" Crux snapped- leaping into the air, his fist was set alight. "Jigen Haoh!" Shooting down like a meteor, he announced, "Ryuusei Rasenken!!"
"Then I'll just have to bring that child back out, won't I?" Jason thought to himself, despite the fact that it would be far from an easy feat. He knew nothing about Crux, and had gleaned nothing knew beyond what his Empathy could sense; a pitiable, suffering child. Raising his larger blade, Jason tanked the punch, allowing the force of the blow to dissipate, only forcing him back slightly.
"Looks like I know how to handle you now, Crux," Jason grit his teeth behind his mask, narrowing his black-and-gold eyes, "I'll drag the real you that's buried beneath all that shadow and misery back to the surface!"