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A Double Edged Sword

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It wasn't that Marik didn't answer Carina's questions, well, it was true that he didn't' answer them but not because he didn't want to. The subject matter of the scientist's questions weren't exactly basic topics that Marik had omniscient knowledge about. So as Sebastian and Carina climbed down into the little Hydra's nest, Marik to a seat at the edge of the pit, his legs dangling into the open space.

"Probably a good idea to ask its permission first. I can't say I recommend just, you know, stabbing it." Then he turned to Carina, having mulled over her questions for a minute or so. "Considering I've only seen this phenomenon once before, I don't have much confidence in answering her questions beyond the shadow of a doubt. But, if I had to give an educated guess, I would say the fresher the better. Directly from the source is probably best, unfortunately. And," he hesitated before continuing, "the more blood that is used, the better chances for a good outcome. I think."

As to her second question, Marik decided not to answer that. 'Sebastian will explode' was not going to lessen her anxiety. 

"What a brilliant creature," the treasure hunter said, his eyes taking on a yearning twinkle. How powerful was it? Could it fly? Would it let him fly on it? What abilities did it have? Could a sword even cut it?

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Sebastian approached the creature slowly, memories of the fight with its city-destroying parent playing through his mind as he did so. Almost as soon as his feet touched the floor of the enclosure the leftmost head of the beast slowly rose, reptilian eyes focusing on him. The other heads all perked up as the swordsman got close, regarding him with neutral expressions. He noticed that the right hand was locked onto the sword he carried. The middle head switched between glancing at Marik and Carina, like it was judging which of them was the biggest threat. 

The founders words seemed strange to Sebastian, but nevertheless, when he was within arms length of the Hydra, he stopped. 

"Hey big fella," he started, speaking in a gentle tone of voice, "I know this sounds weird, but I need to borrow some of your blood. You okay with that?"

All three heads blinked before looking to each other, lightly hissing and snapping at their fellow appendages. This went on for a few moments before all three heads turned to face him and Carina before making a movement that seemed to approximate a nod.

Sebastian glanced at the scientist, "You wanna draw it? You seemed to think it might be a good idea..."

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"The fresher, the better... the more blood is used, the better chances for a good outcome,"

"Alright," Carina said. She slid her pack off her shoulders and knelt down. She pulled out a roll of thick gauze, slinging it over one arm, and strapped a sheathed dagger to her belt.

The researcher stood. "I hope thirty liters are enough," she muttered, half under her breath. "That's around point 5 percent of its body weight and the greatest volume of blood we can draw without hurting it."

Carina approached the hydra slowly, one hand extended. The creature seemed to recognize her, lowering its left head to briefly press its snout to her palm. It still seemed tense. Carina continued walking to the creature's side, her hand brushing its neck.

The hydra tensed.

"It's going to be alright," she said soothingly. "I'm just going to draw some blood."

She stopped at the creature's shoulder, pressing two fingers against its forelimb's joint. Brachial plexus. Probably the safest option. Carina glanced up, beckoning Sebastian to approach with the sword. She returned her attention to the hydra, grimacing inwardly

I hate magic and I hate magic rituals.

Carina drew the blade, which glinted the dangerous bright blue of worldrift magic. The hydra turned its left head to eye her, strangely expectant.

Carefully, Carina punctured the hydra's side. She made sure to hit only the vein, angling the cut so that blood would seep out at a quick rate, yet the wound would be easily sealed with enough pressure. She readied the gauze, standing at the side opposite the bloodflow, and anxiously waited.

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The moment the Hydra's blood was exposed, it produced a strong aura of dominance. As would any extraordinary bloodline. It's strong pressure, however, would also prompt reactions from other strong bloodlines. A sort of primal call to challenge.

Still sitting on the Pitt's edge, Marik winced. His swords screamed silently at his side, desperate to feast on a bloodline equal to their core, and the Muhir Tribal Dragon tattoo on his arm burned like it'd been touched by fire. A metaphoric puffing of the chest in response to the Hydra's present bloodline. 

"Will you shut up," Marik growled, his eyes flashing gold once again. Turning back to the duo in the pit, "Good luck, Sebastian. Remember, accept it. Don't reject it. Don't let it overwhelm you. You accept it."

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Sebastian watched as the blood began to flow from the precise wound Carina had inflicted on the Hydra, mentally preparing himself for what he was about to do. His sword was unusually silent, which he figured meant that perhaps it was preparing itself for the coming battle as well. The swordsman nodded at the founders last piece of advice before he began to reach out to make contact with the blood. Before he could, he caught a glance of Carina, and stopped. He remained frozen for a moment before he nodded to himself and walked over to her.

"If I'm about to die," he said, reaching up to brush his hand across her cheek, "Than the only thing I'd regret is never doing this sober."

With that, he leaned in and kissed her like he had back when they had both been drinking, but this time he was gentler, less rushed. If death was about to come for him, than he would take one more good memory with him to the next world. Once the kiss ended, he smiled as confidently as he could.

"I'm coming back."

Then he turned and placed his free hand in the Hydra blood, and the world went black.

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Cursed swords, blood from three-headed beasts, random men who dropped from dragons out of the sky - these things fell in the category of magic. The bizarre, the nonsensical, the things that diverged from reality in often messy, irregular ways. Thus, why despite the heavy presence of magic on this planet, Carina had clung to science and technology (and magi-tech, occasionally, provided it made enough sense). Magic was disorganized and random- one spell worked in one place, yet not in another. Even magic systems could exist in contradiction with each other, their rules easily broken or subverted.

Maybe she'd never gotten past thinking of magic as a huge joke from an incomprehensible, unknowable creator. She'd trusted only what she could sense - all her data on Taen, for example. That which she had recorded and transcribed, as strange as it was, all fit together in a way that made sense.

This: holding a strange reptile's artery open for her coworker to dip his sword in? This did not make sense in the least.

When magic was involved, the laws of reality became skewed. The dead rose. Lethal injuries knit themselves together. There was something here, or someone, that wove together all this ridiculousness into what resembled a story that wasn't quite real or fiction.

Despite all this, Carina found herself worrying.

The hydra's blood smelled salty, wet on her hands, dark on the ground. Her fingers ached with how tightly she was gripping her knife. The beast shifted under her hand, but she kept her palm pressed against its hide.

For once, she didn't have the assurance that things would work out.

There was the brush of a hand against her cheek. She looked up.

Sebastian was standing in front of her. "If I'm about to die-"

That's not going to happen- she wanted to say.

He spoke first. "Then the only thing I'd regret is never doing this sober."

She didn't get the chance to try speaking again.

Ridiculous. Nonsensical. Idiotic, she thought.

Still, she couldn't stop the ghost of a smile from spreading on her face when he broke the kiss.

"I'm coming back," he said.

"You'd better. I'm not willing to be governor of Lunaris."

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When Sebastian came back to his senses the world was dark, and he could feel the distinct sensation of falling through empty space. He had no idea how long he had been falling, and he wasn't sure how long he continued to fall, but eventually he hit something distinctly liquid. The taste and smell of blood overwhelmed him to the point that it took a few moments for him to realize that he was still falling through the blood, as though pulled by some malevolent gravity. Soon his lungs burned for oxygen, and he struggled against the unseen force, desperately trying to get to the surface, but to no avail. Just as he thought he was going to black out once again, he seemingly reached the bottom of the pool and fell through, plummeting through the air again for a few moments before landing on something solid hard enough to rattle his bones.

Though his body was racked with pain, he managed to roll over onto his side before starting to cough up the blood he'd swallowed while falling through the pool. Once the fit had passed, and he could breathe again, he noticed that he could see the sun reflected in the blood he'd just spat up. Looking around, he realized that he was in some kind of cave with an open ceiling, and he could see the sun and the sky through a canopy of tall trees blanketed by snow. For some reason it had taken seeing the frozen forest for him to realize that it was cold within the cave, and he instinctively began to rub his arms to warm them up. Stumbling to his feet, he finally saw something that told him exactly where he was.

Stone stairs carved into the rock of the cave led to an altar which was framed by ornate statues of demons and monsters standing vigil around it. When he took a second look around the cave he realized that the walls were lined with carvings of scenes of sacrifice; victims with their limbs hacked off, eyes torn out, hearts ripped from their chests, and miles of intestine being pulled from stomachs. It was as though he had found himself in a shrine to blood and pain, and that was when he remembered that he had been here before. This was the cave where he had found the sword so many years ago. On a hunch, he began to ascend the stone stairs and sure enough, there was the blade, the midday sun gleaming off the steel. He reached out to grab the blade, only to feel a heavy blow land on his chest, and find himself flying through the air. He landed rough on the stone, and groaned as he sat up to see what had hit him.

The statue that had been directly behind the altar had stepped forward and punched him, it's carved face an expression of pure rage. Now the other statues began to move, walking toward the first one to be seemingly absorbed into its body. Once all had been absorbed, the thing was at least four meters tall, shaped like a heavily muscled human, but with the faces of the various other statues that had been absorbed forming a disturbing tapestry over the things body. The main face looked at him and grabbed the sword, which let out a scream that chilled him to the bone. So this was what it was like to be on the other end of that thing...

Letting loose a bellow of rage, the guardian leaped through the air, leaving Sebastian to roll out of the way just in time to avoid having his body crushed like the stone where he had just been. With unnatural grace, the statue rounded on Sebastian, whipping the sword through scything arcs that the swordsman was only barely able to dodge. There was no room to counterattack, no time to think about anything but evading the next strike. As the two danced their deadly waltz, the carvings on the wall began to ooze with blood that floated through the air, to gather on the guardian's sword. Little by little the statue was speeding up, and the swordsman knew that he wouldn't be able to keep dodging forever. But that was when he saw his moment. When the guardian brought the sword down for a vertical downward slash, he stepped in, caught the thing by the wrist, and pivoted inwards, using it's momentum to throw it across the room where it plowed into one of the carvings in an explosion of stone and dust. 

Sebastian barely had time to even think about trying to run when he was impaled through the gut by a streak of red energy that burst through the dust cloud. All the strength seemed to leave his body, and he fell to his knees. Numbly he reached out with his right hand and grasped the solid energy, and it was like touching a live wire. The physical pain was enormous, but worse was the sudden pressure in his head. It was like some kind of beast had crawled into his skull, and was now screaming it's fury. If he focused he could almost see the shape of it, a great beast... with...

Many heads.

The realization hit him like a freight train; and he now understood. It spurred him to grab the energy blade once again, fighting through the pain as he struggled to address the thing in his head.

"Fight with me! If you don't, it will consume us both!"

The roaring intensified with the words, but he managed to hang on. By now the guardian had picked itself up from the ground and was beginning to charge toward him, more and more of the energy running through him. Gritting his teeth, he addressed the Hydra again.

"You WILL fight for me! You WILL accept me! Or you will DIE!"

Suddenly the roaring stopped, and the red energy flowed off of the blade and into Sebastian's body before pouring out his right hand; glowing white, and in the shape of a new blade. As it coalesced, the Guardian had just about closed in on him. But where there was once fear, there was now only certainty, and with a casual swing of his blade, Sebastian obliterated the statue, and shattered the dreamscape he had been fighting in. Now the white energy that had formed his sword swirled in front of him to take a vaguely humanoid shape. Despite this, the swordsman could still tell he was facing the hydra. It seemed to be waiting for him to speak, and he didn't keep it waiting. 

"Now it's just you and me. We can fight each other to the death if you really want, but I think I've proven myself a worthy master. What say you?"

Sebastian extended his hand, and the glowing form seemed to eye it skeptically. Then it looked back up at him and shook his hand as the world went white."


Back in the Hydra pit, Sebastian fell to his knees before coming to his senses. He looked around and saw Carina and Marik, offering a weak smile to both of them before he realized that he could feel something on his right arm and shoulder. Rolling up his shirt, he was greeted by a tattoo that hadn't been there before.

Image result for hydra tattoo

He looked up at Carina, "Not bad right?"

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"Fascinating," Marik muttered, whipping out a small notebook he kept stashed in his cloak as Sebastian entered the trance-like state. Whenever the governor groaned, bled, or even simply twitched, Marik jotted it down. Not very neatly and perhaps so disorganized that only he could make sense out of it, but nonetheless he did so. It never hurt to take note of incredibly rare events or creatures, despite the fact he usually just tried to remember them. But lately he had discovered it was rather nice to have a source he could refer back to in deja vu type situations.

When Sebastian collapsed, scattering dirt and blood as he fell to his knees, Marik's eyes widened in approval. The man had received the bonding tattoo. Two hydra heads and a long body that rolled its way across his right arm and shoulder. Its position almost an exact replica of the dragon tattoo on Marik. The treasure hunter whistled and then he laughed. 

"Welcome to the club, Sebastian. How do you feel? Sword's probably a lot less irratating now, huh?" Though he wanted to clap the man on the shoulder in congratulations, Marik's eyes were trained on the small notebook while his hand moved like a blur to draw the Hydra-bonded tattoo. Absently, Marik wondered whether the bonding would produce new abilities in Sebastian. It had in him and Max, so the chances were high. 

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Carina wasn't sure how much time had passed.

She kept her hand on the hydra's flank, her gaze darting from Sebastian's still form to the dark-haired man sitting at the edge of the pit. Ironic, that it was him and not her who was first to pull out pen and paper and start taking notes.

Carina flinched as Sebastian dropped to her knees. She took a step forward, stopped, then looked towards Marik- would it be safe to approach him already? The adventurer seemed impressed. She looked back just in time to catch Sebastian's smile. Her eyes landed on his rolled-up sleeve, the tattoo now snaking around it.

"Not bad, right?

Carina let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding. "Not bad." she repeated, then set about staunching the bloodflow from the hydra's forelimb.

The beast seemed calmer now. As she pressed the gauze tight over the wound, she took note of Marik's comments. Carina approached the two men as she finished, wiping the blood off with a scrap of leftover gauze.

The worst seemed to have passed. "What now?"

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With a swing Marik brought his feet out of the pit and back onto the ground above, the faint smile of interest contorting itself into one of fearless joy. His hands crossed, landing slightly on their respective sword which were sheathed on the hip opposite to them. As he slid them out, they shrieked excitement, the sound so thinck it would be nearly palpable to those whom did not world cursed blades. Carina, for example. 

The blades flashed with a ton of purple, dark haze wrapping around them like dragons without bodies. Grinning Marik pointed a sword at Sebastian once the man had climbed from the Hydra's pit. 

"Now we see what the governor can do," he said, the nonchalance of his voice betrayed by the excited trembling of his hands. Other than Max, he'd never met another who'd gone through a blood-feud. "Give me your best shot. Don't hold back. I'll know if you do."

The best way to test something, after all, was trial and error. You'll never know until you try!

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Sebastian sat there for a moment, wondering for a moment if he had really heard what he thought he had. But then he nodded, and then looked down at the sword in his hands, reaching out to it cautiously as he had done many times before. Unlike before, where he had felt barely contained blood lust and hate, the presence he felt now was calm, and welcoming. If the sword had been like a volcano before, now it was like a great ocean; vast and powerful, but only when provoked. Now when he reached out for the power held within the weapon, it acquiesced gladly, and the energy flowed through his body. As his body was suffused with a white glow, his tired, aching body felt renewed; as though he had just woken from a great sleep.

Now he focused on preparing for an attack, and the aura surrounding him grew larger before splitting into three distinct shapes; recognizable as the spectral heads of a Hydra. Experimenting, he found that he could direct the heads as easily as he could move one of his limbs. Somehow he knew that the heads would duplicate if cut off, just like a real Hydra. Yet still there seemed to be something deeper, and a gentle urging to reach deeper, Doing so, he found the aura surrounding his body forming into something tangible, and before he knew it, he found himself inside a suit of armor, holding a supersized version of his sword.

Knight-Armored Man-Fighter-Honored Man. Find more on the "Creativity+Fantasy" board.

Raising his sword, he jumped at Marik, unleashing a slash that would have cleaved the building they now occupied in two. Part of him did question the wisdom of doing this here, but if the Founder was sure, he wouldn't second guess him.

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Ookurikara (Touken Ranbu)There was a difference, always, between raw energy and disciplined usage of it. Though Sebastian may have had high levels of swordsmanship, an understanding of how to wield a sword does not a magic swordsman make. Especially one of their unique variation. The purple haze around Marik swirled and flickered, erupting into the length of a dragon much as Sebastian's had the Hydra heads. 

Marik resheathed his rapier while Sebastian was experimenting with the aura. Dual wielding was not a intelligent choice, considering the way it'd been bickering with its sibling earlier. Thus the purple dragon curled around the katana's steel, blanketing the weapon in a corrupting pressure. Then the dragon turned back and the aura around Marik flashed gold, pressing inwards so that it was a single layer. Strong and dense the defensive aura was high armor unto itself. 

When Sebastian finally charged, lengthened sword and armor, Marik matched the movements. The swords met with a clash of power that reverted into the very foundations of the building. Fortunately it was made of Elder wood and would take much more than mere pressure to collapse. Marik had discovered that early on after getting beaten bloody by a forest of Angry Aspens. At least that was the name he'd given them. 

As the force of both weapons expelling blood oath energies at each other pushed them both backward and Marik smiled, taking a moment to analyze the left over powers still hanging in the space between them. "Good power," he said, pointing to the supersized sword. "But in smaller areas making your sword bigger might not be the best choice. Try keeping your sword the same size but extending the pressure to beyond it." In a demonstration of his words, a purple haze enveloped Marik's katana. Eventually the haze ran past the katana's tip, seemingly lengthening it. But when the haze vanished there was only a slight shimmer beyond the tip; the sword itself was the same size. 

Without waiting Marik launched himself toward Sebastian, sword curving upward as if to cut through Sebastian's left hip to his right shoulder. Oddly, the Taen Founder swung early. The point of the Katana would be at least foot away from Sebastian. Marik, however, remained unperturbed. The simplicity of demonstrating his words clear enough. 

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Sebastian's reflexes were sharp enough to allow him to jump back as Marik approached, and if he had been facing a normal swordsman that would have been enough. Against the Founder however, he came up a bit short, and the tip of the magically enhanced sword drew a shallow scratch against his breastplate. If he hadn't been wearing the armor, the blade would have cut across his torso, not deep enough to kill, but a serious wound nonetheless. So that was what the other swordsman had meant when he mentioned extending the pressure beyond the physical blade. But he still wasn't sure how to apply that knowledge, as he hadn't even intentionally summoned the armor that now surrounded him. Right now the protection almost felt like a burden; as he felt he needed more attack power, more speed. 

At the very thought, his armor began to glow, and seemed to flow over his body like a rushing river to envelop his sword. Once the armor was gone, the energy solidified once more around the blade, leaving the sword even bigger than it had been before.

No. Compress the power, control it.

Focusing on that goal, he felt as though the energy of the sword was pushing against him, like he was trying to hold back against an avalanche. But little by little, the sword began to shrink, and then glow before it finally compressed itself into the size of a normal longsword. The Blade now shimmered with energy that gave the bade the appearance of having scales engraved into the blade.  

Readying himself once again, he rushed at Marik again, but moved faster than he'd expected and brought his sword down onto the wall behind the man, blasting a large hole into the side of the building. He turned back to the founder, and twirled the sword around in his hand, looking at it curiously. Then he gripped the sword, and swung it in a horizontal arc at the other man, which had the effect of sending a snake headed tendril of energy rocketing through the air at the Founder. It would cross the distance with great speed and force, before retracting into the blade just as fast.

 

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【刀剣乱舞】とある審神者が描いた大倶利伽羅(極)の素晴らしいイラストBeing in no rush or having any interest in actually harming Sebastian, Marik was momentarily satisfied to just watch the Lunaris governor find his bearings and discover how to use the new abilities. Although Marik could give advice and help Sebastian through it, Marik hadn't bonded with a Hydra so the inner workings of the specific bonding was up to Sebastian to figure out. Marik himself could only do so much, even if he wished he could help more. 

Not that he was lazing or unfocused, but he was relaxed. Waiting was boring, regardless of the reason behind it. Still though, his blood started to pump once against when Sebastian's sword shrunk and armor glowed. 

Yes, finally, let's do this!

Only Sebastian literally blew past him. Marik followed the trajectory, raising his own sword to block Sebastian's potential attack. But instead of striking at him the governor, in a bizzare move, struck and blasted an over-sized whole in the building's side. Was that on purpose?"

"Uh wh-" Marik started to say when Sebastian crossed his blade through the air, sending a snake head blasting toward the founder. Now definitely caught off guard, Marik jumped back and side stepped, his own sword catching the snake head at an angle to divert it. Further enabling the block, and as an instinctive defense, black and gold armor crawled up the length of his right arm. From finger knuckles to shoulder. 

Following up the defense with a medium powered offensive strike, Marik punched his blade forward while the snake head was retracting. A thick gust of purple fog erupted from the cursed katana like a miniature tornado, aiming to sweep up everything in its path with paralyzing chemicals. 

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The vortex of purple fog closed in on him menacingly, but with the power he felt flowing through him at that moment, Sebastian knew he needn't fear it. He brought his sword up over his head and brought it down in an overhead slash, cleaving the whirlwind in half and throwing up a miniature wind storm of his own. Little by little it felt like he and the blade were getting used to each other; learning to fight as one instead of struggling for supremacy. It was an exhilarating feeling, the kind of physical high that came with a rush of adrenaline intermingled with the warm emotional feeling of knowing a friend has your back. At the thought of a friend, he felt eyes on him, and looked over to see that the hydra was watching his battle with Marik with great interest. Something told him that it had been watching since the beginning.

Are you worried about me?

To his surprise, the beast snorted and made a motion with its head that approximated a human shaking their head no. Then he felt a rising irritation that was not his own, and knew that he was being given an answer.

Ah. You're telling me to get on with it then?

A fierce grin spread across Sebastian's face as he turned back to Marik.

"Founder... sorry, but my friend is getting a little impatient, so I better get serious now."

Once the words were out of his mouth, Sebastian moved in a blur toward the Founder before leaping into the air. Another swing of his sword produced at least a dozen of the same snake heads as before that would rain down with enough force to punch holes in the ground beneath him.

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