"Redder than the rose, Whiter than the lilies"
"Is it ready?" Yasaka called out from above. She was floating in the air with Aeria, her angelic wings keeping her aloft. Her role was to serve as look-out for the guild, checking for intruders. If something got by her, there was a failsafe to ensure an Akatsuki advantage. If she saw them...refer to the failsafe.
"Of course!" Mary called up, having finished adding the last part of what looked like magic symbols. "We're just waiting!"
Vivian was merely punching the air in wait to pulverize her foes. It never hurts to train a little bit beforehand. "I think we're ready. I mean, how hard can this be, right?"
Chelia stretched her arms. "Listen up very clearly. You're about to face a mass-produced version of me."
Iris interrupted, "Isn't mass production meaning if they can cut the costs they can achieve a desired level of mediorcity?"
Chelia nodded. "Exactly."
"We're all set too!" Wendy called. "Anytime, yes?"
Jason was standing near a tree, in plain view of anything that came their way. "Of course. It seems our guests of honour have no sense of time."
Iris sighed. "Of course not. They're dirty rat-bastards..." she paused for a moment, realizing that she was the one closest to a rat there.
Vivian just applied her palm to her forehead in exasperation. "Iris, we can deal with this. Don't worry about it and just focus on the fight."
For some reason, it sounded as if a stampede were happening- an intense rumbling resounded throught the area as Iris' ears perked up.
"Here they come!" Yasaka called.
From a fair distance away, she spotted ten, no a hundred, no, a thousand or more clones of Chelia and Wendy rushing towards them. This was...an unfortunate situation. Still, something didn't seem right. Iris immediately prepared for combat.
"Iris, keep your stance, but don't move." Jason warned. "None of you step into the circle. You already know what will happen, I want you alive."
Iris seemed to blush at Jason's statement, before replying with an obedient, "Sir, yes, sir!" She was actually beginning to see Jason as a valuable asset. Vivian, of course, did as Jason said, though Chelia took a few steps towards the circle as to taunt him, before complying.
Jason stood, watching the army of girls run toward him. "That's right children. Come towards me. You won't feel a thing."
From the blue, an onslaught of smashing blasts of wind were launched, shooting towards the group at high speeds. It was in the span of a few seconds that many of the army's troops reached the group- Iris prepared to smash some heads in, but suddenly, the entire guild stepped back, waiting for the cows to come to the slaughter.
"Solis Ortum." Jason snapped his fingers as most of the clones got to the near center of the the circle, which began to form under their feet. "And so half the army is gone in an instant." The circle began to glow, releasing violently a pillar of white light, utterly destroying every Wendy and Chelia inside the holy light. "Our Guild's ultimate Light Spell, Solis Ortum, the Rising Sun."
"Perfect cast!" Wendy cheered, though seeing about fifty of her being killed before her eyes was very disturbing.
Chelia remained perfectly calm- such was life. She didn't really care, either way. "Great. So that more than halves the numbers. This is going perfectly swimmingly. Now, let's go pick them off like we're slasher monsters chasing after victims." She dissapeared in a flash of murky wind.
Wendy and Mary followed, deciding they would help out to decimate the numbers. Jason jumped into a tree, standing tall enough to be visible to anyone. "Vivian, up here. You will fight with me."
Vivian nodded. "Got it." Wiping the doubt from her mind, Vivian pushed onwards- she had but one role and task; that was to eliminate the rest of the army.
Meanwhile, Chelia was zipping about like nobody's business. WHAM! As she let out a blast of murky winds, she was blown back. Getting up as she shook his head, the Chelia clone in front of her was writhing. "Oo, oohu, buuaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!?" She was grabbing onto her mouth with both her broken hands, but both of them were strangely getting into the inside her face. For everything below her jaw was blown off sideways by Chelia's attack. Were those hands out of the way, one would find out that only her upper jaw was lining up in a row.
Chelia noticed something warm sticking onto her own cheek. Moving it with her tongue and holding it in her mouth, she chewed it along with her saliva. It had the taste of flesh. "Aha..." An unintentional smile escaped from her lips.
There was no point in sparing infinite time with a battle-incapacitated girl. Chelia staggered to her feet. She had become somewhat happy. Even though she thought of it as useless, she couldn't suppress the feeling of freedom as if it had burst open. As she messily and sloppily chewed with her mouth, she stood in front of her doppleganger whose jaw was blown off. "...Gyahahahahahaha, so your face turned to something good for a pacifier."
.*Snap!*, the woman whose lower half face disappeared looked at her. 'Now what kind of face do I have', Chelia couldn't even imagine that. "And how dare you still live!! You've got to be kidding me!" In any case, she started to kick on the groveling clone's stomach. A thick sound occurred in succession. As she gave five, ten, fifteen, then twenty kicks, the clone's body suddenly displeasure into nothingness.
Wendy was making fairly decent progress. Not being as naturally battle inclined as Chelia seemed to be, she seemed more worn. Ducking an assault from one of her own clones, she hit the ground, propelling herself upwards with her arms, both feet hitting the clone in the chin, stunning it. "I can do this!" She egged herself on, elbowing another clone in the face. "Akatsuki won't fall to the Rune Knights!"
"Bubblebeam!" Mary cried, releasing a blast of bubbles to take down two clones at the same time, before releasing a water shockwave to defend herself against a Chelia. "That's right! We'll fight for our guild!"
Even Yasaka was in on it, moving around the field at Maximum Speed and taking the rare clone by surprise with a headbutt, distracting it enough for one of the three girls to get a an attack in.
As Jason overlooked the slaughter, he wondered. "Where is the leader?"
A flash of azure reverberated throughout the area; it seemed as if this whole escapade was about to end at any moment. Well, that was the general feeling exuded by that singular movement. Like a bolt from the blue, a hulking, imposing figure appeared out of nowhere; WHAM! He threw his fist forwards, releasing a sparking, azure blast of magical energy at Jason with surprising speed. "Your sunlight ends here, Akatsuki." His words were as cold as a blade.
Raising his sword block the blow, Jason felt vibrations through the blade as the fist collided, and, awkward as his footing already was on a tree, he was sent flying backwards, his hand catching on Vivian's collar and comedically dragging her with him as he crashed into a couple of trees.
Vivian snarled, "The hell are you doing...! Lemme go, you...~!" she seemed pretty pissed off, for one. Nevertheless, Vivian managed to escape Jason's grip, before catching herself ever-so-slightly. Slowly, she stood to her feet, only to gape in awe as Barakiel approached them.
That Chelia clone cannot see anything, but even so she aimed her next attack by guesswork and shouts. From a short distance, she felt a laughter coming back. Clearly it wasn't not the hearty kind, she felt it's a smile that is unintentionally shown even though the mouth was shut. Afterwards, a thick sound occurred consecutively. In about ten seconds, the screams were interrupted. Eventually, the Chelia clone was unable to move about. Nearby, her partner, a Wendy clone had landed on her backside.
Her mouth moved, flapping open and closed, but no voice totally came out. However, with her face pale, she pointed at the ground with her unsteady index finger. Before she knew it, the Chelia clone was knocked onto her arse as Iris finished her off with a punishing uppercut, sending her upwards into the air like a rocket.
"Former Rune Knight Starrkewolfe. It saddens me to say that your journey ends here." His words, while cold, had a hint of remorse in them. He began to charge up that azure aura in his hands once again, before punching forward, releasing a sparking beam of blue which ripped through the air, straight towards them.
Jason groaned, getting from the rubble of wood. "Dammit girl." He hissed, running forward and making a leap towards Barakiel. In his head, he was exasperated with Vivian's hastiness, and now he had to make haste to make sure he didn't have to bear witness to her getting slaughtered. As he neared Barakiel, he swung his blade, releasing an arc of blue energy that shot forward.
Barakiel gritted his teeth. "Ngh!' With a slight grunt, he instantly countered Jason's blast with an attack of his own. As Barakiel yelled, he spread his hands above his head like he was trying to embrace the sky. "Compress the air. Compress, compress. Hahn, I see. Excellent. I just thought of something really nice. Play along."
Vivian did not respond to this- Countless branches were stuck into the ground like crosses and a deathly wind blew through that graveyard like area. Only the violent wind and Barakiel's deep voice could be heard. When the raging wind gathered there, a bright white light appeared as if from welding. It was plasma- that was what the azure energy was. Compressing the air created heat. Internal combustion engines used that fact. By compressing the city’s air with a ridiculous compression ratio, it had turned into a mass of heat exceeding 10,000 degrees Celsius. This forcibly caused the atoms in the nearby air to split into cations and electrons which turned them to plasma.
That point of light swallowed up the surrounding air and instantaneously grew to have a radius of 20 metres. The surrounding darkness was annihilated by the pure white light. The heat of 10,000 degrees caused a burning pain on Vivian's skin. "...!" A chill ran down Vivian's back that seemed to freeze her spine. That was not an attack that humanity could defend against. That mass of heat could dig up a nuclear shelter from the ground, so there was no way a flesh-and-blood body could do anything about it.
Plasma was created from the atoms separating into cations and electrons, so she may have been able to return the plasma to the original atoms by putting the electrons back together with the cations using Solar Dragon Slayer Magic. But how would that help? Even if she did manage to return the plasma to its original state, Barakiel would just gather the wind again to recreate the plasma. Vivian gritted her teeth at the uselessness of her power in that situation. She realized the simple fact that Barakiel could be stopped as long as the wind could be manipulated.
"Plasma?!" Jason was shocked, to say the least. "Pure, superheated energy. None of my swords spells can stand up to it. Even that would be powerless." He could feel the heat emanating from the plasma Barakiel summoned. He couldn't get too close.
And unlike Barakiel who was calculating the flow of the wind in just his own brain, with Iris' Organic Link Magic, everyone's brains could be linked, so they could predict the flow of the wind using parallel calculations; though the problem was, they all weren't that smart. It was just like how Magic Council used high performance parallel processors to determine magical power. "Iris! Now, use your magic to syncronize our brains so we can disrupt the wind!"
Iris, already having trouble with rush upon rush of clones, shouted back, "Sorry, I'm busy! You're on your own!" Sadly, she didn't want to admit so; Iris turned back to the onslaughts of clones and returned to smashing them around like nobody's business.
Vivian sighed. "...Dammit." She was stuck in an inevitable situation. Nevertheless, she had only one choice. "Solar Dragon's..." Vivian gathered heat and light within her mouth. Charging, accelerating those forces, she decided to give it her all. "...Roar!" Suddenly, Vivian expelled the heat and light from her mouth in the form of an extremely large and destructive sparking blast towards the plasma above Barakiel's head; WHAM! The sound of both energies colliding resounded throughout the air. With a roar, the sphere of plasma floating above lost its form.
"Wha-…?" Barakiel looked up. That plasma had been created from all the wind flowing through the area being condensed into one point. The flow of that wind had clearly shaken for an instant. That had caused an error in the compression ratio which caused the plasma to be shaken as well. Barakiel thought he might have made an error in his calculations of the wind, so he rebuilt those new equations. Unlike simple reflection, he had to calculate both, the vector before alteration and the vector after alteration which was a pain in the arse.
But Barakiel managed to perfectly revise that huge set of equations in less than 10 seconds. His brain had developed to the point that something of that level was no problem. But the movement of the wind flowing through the area suddenly changed as if escaping from the supposedly perfect equations he had built up in his head. It was not a mere coincidence. It was as if the wind itself had a will and was slipping through the gaps of his equations. The mass of compressed air above his head scattered and the plasma disappeared as if it were dissolving into the air.
Jason didn't know what was going on, but he had no complaints. He could see the plasma dissipating, and a surge of confidence ran through him. "I'm going to take this chance." He swung his sword in an arc, releasing a large Trinity Sword spell, a blue delta formation. This was meant to test the waters, but also to kill Barakiel, shooting at immense speed right at is head.
SCHWING! The blast collided with Barakiel's face; in an explosion of azure, it dissipated. "...I must apologize, what was that?" His tone was one of that full of mockery. His body was unnaturally tough, that was for sure.
"...It was this!" Vivian roared; she shot forward with intense determination, Barakiel thrust his right hand at the young woman; his right hand that could kill with a touch was aimed straight for Vivian's face. Vivian avoided it just by swinging her head to the side. Even with her Rune Knights training, she was still just a regular human- so how was she easily able to evade it? Vivian clenched her right fist, which became immersed in heat and light. "Solar Dragon's..." She moved in toward Barakiel to counter Barakiel's missed attack. "...Firing Hammer!" Vivian's fist plowed into Barakiel's face.
Barakiel moved his hand back and forth in complex trajectories like someone swinging a knife around, but Barakiel never once grazed Vivian's skin. Vivian slipped past Barakiel's poisonous snake-like arms and attacked Barakiel's face with her fist again and again. "Rune Knight Starrkewolfe, you are not an eel, so quit wriggling around like that and stay put." Barakiel growled; Vivian smirked.
"Hah. You've never lost." Vivian danced around with precise footing. "And that is why you're weak! You defeat all of your enemies in a single strike and you can easily reflect any attack with your calculations. There's no way you would actually know how to brawl!" That summarized the gap between them. Barakiel's fights had no chance of loss on his part. They were just one-sided slaughters. Because his magic was simply too powerful, he had never needed to learn how to fight.
Barakiel's stance was sloppy. He did not clench his fist. His fingers were spread out like he was just asking to have them jammed and he gave no thought to his footing or his center of gravity. However, Barakiel's magic was so powerful that he did not need to worry about that kind of thing. If you could kill any enemy in a single strike, there was no reason to train in techniques to defeat your enemy well. If you could reflect any attack with calculations, there was no reason to put any effort into predicting and evading or defending against your opponent's attacks.
Simply put, techniques and effort were things that weak people used to supplement their power. But that strength was not Barakiel's strength. It was the strength of his magic, Vector Control. So what if there was a power borne from dragons that could seal off that magic via confusion? Barakiel was not someone who there was absolutely no way of defeating. He was not invincible. He was merely exceedingly difficult to defeat. He was merely the strongest. A chance for Akatsuki's victory lay in that slight gap between invincible and strongest.
"Tch. Silence, you third rate!!" Barakiel's foot lightly tapped the ground. Like there was a spring beneath it, a steel rail lying at Barakiel's feet stood up. If he knocked it away, the mass of steel would fly straight into Vivian's body; which it did- her brief moment of triumph was shattered in an instant into innumerable fragments; she was blown away, repelling across the ground like a soccer ball before smashing into a tree, seemingly unconscious.
Jason was already on the move, only sparing Vivian an aside glance. "She's fine, merely unconscious." He shifted his weight onto his legs, moving forward at high speeds, appearing behind Barakiel. He grabbed him by the should, and placed Gehaburn's edge to his back. "I've got you now." His blade began to glow. "Tactus Pluvia." In the blink of an eye, no, faster, a flurry of blades was released furiously from Gehaburn, and Jason felt each and every one of the blades impact the man's back. This spell was nearly always lethal.
"...Gh." Barakiel spat up blood; those flurry of blades had struck him in the back in every direction imaginable; it was hard to imagine that he actually managed to hit the Azure Devil of the Rune Knights. Nevertheless, he released his magical aura to cause them to dissipate in the span of an instant. Barakiel quickly swirled around, swinging his fist towards Jason at break-neck speeds; he was sure that this blow was going to be almost critical. His fist was enhanced by applying vectors to them, meaning he could knock Jason a few yards back if it connected.
"Dammit!" Jason gasped as the fist connected with his stomach, and it sent him hurtling through the air. Once again, his landing was less than dignified, but helpful as he managed to knock a few Wendy and Chelia clones out of the way. He stood up, coughing up blood and sweeping his blade in an arc, destroy the nearest clones around as he took off towards Barakiel. His eyes were bright with rage, his face contorted into calm anger.
"What...happened...?" Wendy stood, bewildered.
Jason wiped the blood from his face, imbuing it with magical power and cast it towards Barakiel's eyes, intending to blind him with blood. In this movement, he made an additional movement, closing in and swinging the hilt of Gehaburn up at Barakiel's chin, a move that, if connected, was sure to at least briefly stun him.
...zzt! Barakiel was struck by Jason's blow; knocking him back. Barakiel gave that sound of slight admiration and a series of containers struck the ground an instant later; this was the doing of the Magic Council, or were they just obscured from the area the whole time? A large amount of gravel flew up into the air and a cloud of sand was kicked up. Suddenly, countless containers came rolling through that cloud of dust as if to crush Jason. The containers rampaged around on unpredictable paths like living beings similar to dice dancing around in a giant cup.
They finally stopped moving, but the cloud of dust continued to rob Barakiel's foe of his vision. No, it was not a cloud of dust. It seemed the containers had held flour. The cloud of powder was like a white mist as it hazily obstructed Jason's view- only Barakiel could see properly. That white curtain surrounded Jason in all directions. It was an undetermined factor if Barakiel would slash straight through that curtain and attack him- the tension rose evermore.
A voice came from in front of him beyond the white curtain. It was as if Barakiel were showing off his location. "Heh. It looks like these containers held flour, but this nice windless air might be making this a very dangerous situation. There are stories of explosions in mines, right? Those don't happen because someone didn't use their explosives properly." The voice sounded like it was grinning and enjoying itself. "They were caused by the fine dust from the stones filling the air in the mine. A lot like now."
Barakiel's voice than pierced into Jason's back. "Surely you've at least heard of a dust explosion." Immediately afterwards, all sound was blown away. The area with a 30 meter radius in which the flour had been scattered became a giant bomb. The entire area became wrapped in flames and heat as if gasoline vaporized into the air had been ignited.
"You talked to much." Jason replied, however, he had to backtrack, keeping out of the explosion's range, however, he didn't want to get caught up in the attack of the clones behind him either. Jason gritted his teeth in anger."He set off an explosion while Vivian was unconscious!?" He was furious, but the problem was, he couldn't stop it.
Barakiel was walking there. He was calmly walking through the crimson purgatory he himself had created. "Curses. I am sure you just experienced it yourself, but the lack of oxygen was tough on me, too. I honestly believed I could have perished. You should be glad. I think you, Akatsuki Guild Master, are the first in the world to make me, the Azure Devil think he was going to die."
His voice was light, like he was just having a casual conversation. "It seems that I am unable to use my tagline about being fine even in a nuclear explosion anymore, can I? Well, I can just bring an oxygen tank with me. They make ones about the size of a can of hairspray, right? Do you know how much one of those costs?" Barakiel's cheerfulness while within that hell of flames was terrifying, indeed.
Amid the flames, Barakiel tilted his head to the side like a child. "All your frantic efforts were for naught; you have not advanced even a single step closer to me. And what in blazes do you even think you can do if you were somehow able to get near me?" Barakiel refreshingly spread his arms open amid the hellfire. "I can manipulate every vector that touches my body. That includes the flow of your blood. In other words, the instant you touch me with your bare hands, every blood vessel and organ in your body will explode. Can you honestly comprehend that?"
The right hand of suffering and the left hand of poison. Those hands could convert any vector that they touched and were therefore hands of darkness that could bring death to any living thing. Just by touching the skin, they could cause a human heart to burst from the inside by reversing the flow of the blood via the capillaries and reversing the flow of the bodily electricity via the surface of the skin. Barakiel brought both hands together. His hands were pressed together at the wrist like he was wearing handcuffs and he thrust them toward Jason's face, about to strike him dead, when...
Opening her eyes weakly, Vivian saw Jason about to be killed. That was enough. That was more than enough reason for her to stand up. "Amazing, Starrkewolfe." She heard Barakiel's voice. "You truly are splendid." Barakiel shot forward, clenching his fist in order to crush Vivian Starrkewolfe. He did the same alteration of the vectors of the force of his foot as he kicked the ground as before so that he flew forward like a bullet. Vivian was thankful. If her opponent was coming for her, she didn't have to walk any further. With Vivian's battered body, she would likely collapse before making it to Barakiel.
Vivian Starrkewolfe had no power. She did not even have the slight bit of strength left needed to walk on her own two feet, to form words with her own tongue, or to think with her own mind—it was like something was about to take her over. "KUKUKUKUKUKUHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!"
For a moment, facing this completely unexpected response, Barakiel inadvertently backed away. That previously unconscious woman was actually sneering. Was she crazy due to pain and fear!? No, that wasn't right. Her smile was a confident one, a very natural smile that indicated the belief that she could win. But to remain 'normal' in this critical situation was the most abnormal thing.
"What, what's going on...?" Barakiel was feeling more like 'unhappy' than 'afraid'. Though he didn't know what Vivian was thinking about, the victor was already decided. If that's the case, there's no need to continue making himself 'unhappy'.
Vivian's shoulder was bleeding, an unbelievable amount of fresh blood was gushing out from her right arm. The blood splattered on Vivian's face, covering it with blood. But Vivian was still something. It was as if the darkest part of the body was gushing out from the arm. Vivian didn't do anything except to smile. Vivian seemed to be laughing from deep within, and she stuck out her tongue out to lick the blood on her lips like it was sauce.
Even a vampire couldn't possibly do such a thing--to revel in eating one's own blood! Vivian Starrkewolfe, who should have lost all her powers. That pitiful image of her seemed to be muttering something. She was sneering, staring at Barakiel and laughing.
"OI!" He suddenly heard Vivian's voice. Barakiel looked like a child being lectured as he trembled.
Vivian cackled, "YOU DIDN'T THINK THAT YOU COULD GET RID OF MY POWER JUST BY KNOCKING ME OUT, DID YA!?" She bared her fangs, and her eyes seemed to have a reddish glow. Vivian seemed to have said that happily from deep within the bottom of her heart.
Barakiel could only pray, but he still couldn't stop his thoughts. Immediately, an abnormal change seemed to appear on Vivian's right shoulder that was spurting out blood like a fountain. The blood flow started to increase, and it looked like a transparent glass statue had fresh blood spilled all over it, as an unbelievable object started to shape itself. What rushed out of Vivian's right arm wasn't a human arm.
It was a head. And it was a savage looking two meter large thing head that could only be seen in ancient legend--the head of the huge and almighty Tyrant Dragon, Vritra. The dragon head that should be transparent was dyed with blood. Vivian raised it and swung it, and slowly opened the chin that had a row of saw-like teeth on it.
It was as if it were saying that this is the real identity of Vivian Starrkewolfe. The teeth were bared. On first glance, it may look like nothing happened, but in aspects that are invisible, it was starting to change. The presence of the Azure Devil which once dominated the entire area disappeared. It felt like the lead was forcefully switched.
The area shook violently, and Vivian started to emit a blood like red aura. That aura started to rise, and it got bigger. It started to dye the whole area red. That aura...WAS dangerous! From Vivian's mouth, a curse like chant was emitted. The voice wasn't just that of Vivian. Young. Old. Male. Female. A creepy sound which was mixed with voices of several people.
"I, the one to awaken…"
[It started. Looks like it will start.]
"The Dragon Slayer which was stolen the principles of domination from the Gods…"
[It was always like that, no matter what. That's not right, it was like that every time.]
"I laugh at the "infinite", and grieve at the "dream"…"
[The one Fiore seeks…The one Fiore rejects…]
"I shall become the Dragon Queen of Domination…"
[It was always power. It was always love. You guys choose destruction no matter how many times!]
Vivian's form started to change…. She had black wings with multiple red eyes and a single yellow eye, and gained black shoes with and a black hairclip, with demonic wings on both. That appearance was a dragon itself. And then, from all the jewels in its body, a mixed scream like voice of the old, the young, man, and woman was emitted. Those wings of darkness stood unnaturally. That demon whose upper body was dyed red with blood and whose lips and teeth had even been turned crimson slowly rose up smoothly as if ignoring gravity altogether.
"And I shall sink you to the depths of crimson purgatory!"
Vivian's surroundings were blown away. The floor, the wall, and the ceiling were obliterated by the blood like red aura emitted from Vivian's figure. "Gugyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!" Vivian made a beast like roar and stood with her four limbs at the spot while her wings flapped.