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The Neverending Challenge

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The Peacekeeper relied much on his tricks. Too much in James's opinion. There was not much warrior artistry or technique to his attacks. The martial arts that formed the basis of the Daemonslayer's prowess in battle encompassed many forms, especially the spear. Many years ago he had taught the foundation of it to his Second, Jinsoku, and demonstrated how deadly just the basics were.  The Daemonslayer could have broken Michael's entire offensive by denying him the ability to effectively grasp the spear... but even that was not needed at this juncture. 

After all, as a famous general once said, never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.

Michael would find himself grasping and yanking on the spear. James allowed it, yet James did not move one inch forward as a result of it. His skill with the weapon was masterful, so much that even if he were blind, deaf, and dumb he could feel forces acting upon it as it were an extension of his own body. The Master Knight's left grip on the spear was fluid. It was the guiding crux for his right hand at the end of it, which provided most of the power behind a strike, and now all James simply did was turn forth his right side and feed the spear forward with his right hand, slipping it through his left, using the length of the weapon that had been between both grips. The result was as if Michael was wasting his time pulling on a loose rope in the hopes that it would become taut. 

Time which he didn't have anymore as James stepped in low to Michael's now-exposed right on a burst of flame, channeling his aura through his feet for speed and leaving behind flaming footprints. He had let go of his spear in the process with his left hand, neatly dodging the misjudged attack of the blade of light. Now the Peacekeeper was vulnerable, with his arms crossed up, the right hand on his left still occupied with having pulled on a red herring, and his left having missed, incapable of reaching across himself to assault the Master Knight.

All that remained now was for the Daemonslayer to ring him like a bell within that fancy armor.

Coming in from a low angle, James uppercut into the exposed armpit of Michael's right arm, driving his armored left fist through. There was no appreciable armor there, but a bundle of nerves and soft tissue that fed the Peacekeeper's limb. Trauma to the area could cause extreme pain and entirety of the limb to seize up and weaken greatly for a few seconds. 

In the heat of combat, a few seconds of weakness could feel like an eternity of helplessness. The Daemonslayer was in his element now, ready to follow up on his debilitating strike. 
 

Spoiler

 

1 Prep Dodge + 2 advantages: 1 Power Attack Prep. Advantage, counter sleight-of-hand. Advantage, Nullify leverage advantage. 


1 Quickdraw attack + 2 advantages: Quickdraw attack. Advantage vital spot. Advantage positioning.


Gather Prep: 1 Physical Attack Prep

 

 

Edited by Fierach

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Commager’s eyes were engulfed with tangerine light now.  Instead of flitting about to capture all, they simply did. The four crystals rotated in a square around his head, physical and metaphysical data overlaid with geological and atmospheric schematics projecting a heightened perception into his brain every moment. 

Eredas may look at Commager’s tricks as underhanded, and Commager might look at Eredas as a stuck-up knight-errant far from home, but none of their inner monologuing meant anything until the other was dead. The plain reality, if blood ever painted the earth, would that James was a great knight in his own rights and Michael in his own conventions; and they had done and earned great chivalry in their own times. How they fought was simply a recognition of their different upbringings, and Michael was perhaps all the better a man for the dark figures and training wrought on his journey, but he would certainly use the techniques he learned that killed men who adhered to honor, even to their own death, as verily as his own Peachy was Keen. For evil men pretended at honor too, and so well that they fooled themselves into fighting with it.

Along the same vein of thought, Michael was smart enough not to extend himself too far into the blow, the preceding strike a feign to begin with. While James’ style was marshal and resolute, Michael’s was fluid and comfortable to move within. James’ left hand grip on the spear proved ready for adjustment, so instead of tugging inanely on the rope, Michael twisted his hips right and released a focused burst of Explaudere to immediately blow the rope away instead. His hand’s contact with the spear, immediately as it displayed give, was a quick grip and explosive go. Even as Commager’s light sword formed and Eredas opened his already loose left hand’s grip on the spear, no fire but a raw, explosive chasm expanded between Michael’s hand and the spear with a bang! that emanated a circle of dirt from the simering grass at their feet. James’ spear would be blown wide to his right by the force as the wave rolled out from Michael’s hand against James’ arms and chest. The Knight would be lucky and skilled if the blow didn’t stop his very uppercutting motion itself, but inevitably the action would be offset and slowed by the impact.

Conversely to the spear being blown to one side, Michael was pushed a few inches back and to his right, the other way, following his hips and the force of Explaudere before James resolved in the uppercutting position, if he even did. With the Wielder’s rotation fanned the left handed Peachy Keen, aiming now with a downward-right diagonal sweep to sever James’ head. His feet were planted roughly squared to James, feet cocked a little to Mike’s right, so that the blade’s extension took place fully with his arm. When Michael's feet planted after the small detonation, his arm would be the only thing moving as his body positioned itself for a quick afterstrike after his swipe.

His left hand was trained on the blade’s deft swing, arm fluid, right ring finger gleaming, all of the light a sheer extension of his will bleeding from the sword and his eyes with increasing intensity during their motions.

Spoiler

Quickdraw dodge: Explaudere burst (2 Advantages: Michael's augmented senses, Significant physical stimulus on James right before his strike)

Quickdraw slash: Peachy Keen resolves as James dodges to (James's) left, sweeping for the right crook of James' neck

Gather prep: Light

Stored prep(s): Bull Ring

 

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James sensed Michael's aura flare, but he was too close to adequately counter its effects. He made note of it though, it was similar to one of his own offensive defensive techniques where he unleashed his aura in a point-blank blast. The Peacekeeper's maneuver managed to throw them apart and buffer himself from a potentially tide-changing injury.

So you can do that then” James thought to himself. The spearhead was blown away, being closest to Michael, and therefore suffering the brute of the pressure wave in comparison to the rest of his right arm, but the Daemonslayer retained skillfully retained control of his weapon, using the momentum from Peacekeeper’s defense to swing the spear around his head to his back, pivoting his right side back again along with his right foot. This would result in his spear braced, pointing forward along the length of his broad back, pointed straight into Michael’s neck. At the same time, since he was denied the effective range for the uppercut, instead James reached up with his left hand and grabbed the incoming slash by the Peacekeeper’s wrist, stopping it from reaching his own neck. A slight jolt of his right hand was all it took for the spear-tip to go stabbing into his opponent’s gorget and unprotected flesh. Of course, at the last second, James twisted the shaft, so the tip would pass by the Peacekeeper's neck on his right, with possibly a small nick at the worst.

He wasn't trying to kill after all.

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Even when it came to close-quarters combat, James could use his spear effectively. Arguably, it was where he was most effective, period. The Daemonslayer’s wargear was not as advanced as his opponent’s either, but there was no doubt that in between artifact spear, glowing warbelt, and burnished Daemonbane armor and other weapons, Michael would be hard pressed in finding a way to win, if he could at all. And then as a professional courtesy, James gave his foe a simple warning in anticipation of what was next.

Get ready

Spoiler

 

1 Quickdraw defense

1 Quickdraw attack

Stored Prep: 1 Physical Attack

Gather Prep: 1 Wargear

 

 

Edited by Fierach

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As Michael swung, James’ other hand blown wide, the brow over his now blazing eyes furrowed with the effort behind his sudden release of holy power. Even as James’ spear approached halfway through its rotation, the Peachy Keen would plow down on his neck, never intending to even slow as the hand touched him but instead put everything into blasting right through anyway.

The Bastion pressed his blade down from the high ground with a quake of sudden, horrible, blessed might that couldn’t seem possible from one his stature. And if that wasn’t enough, the Keen itself would flex at the hilt to account for James’ movement in order to sustain his beheading.

Rotating into the swing as he powered through, he would be standing a couple inches to the right of James’ headless body by the time the spear came ‘round. The Daemonslayer would never connect such a blow on the boy, never make his utterance. Even still the light roared from the Wielder’s eyes; yet his mouth carved a stern line through his face, his sword a stern line through reality. He kept its comfort between him and the body.

“I told you I aim to kill, Master Knight.” came his voice from his technicolor aura.
 

Spoiler

Expend 2 Preps) Bull Ring, Light; 2 Advantages) High ground, Preternatural augmentation of cognizance and strength

Gather 1 Prep: Light

 

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The intense edge of Michael's Peachy Keen would close in only an inch more upon James's neck before it was halted by equal strength, the Daemonslayer grunting in the effort.

Raw power was not solely the domain of the Peacekeeper. James had anticipated the maneuver and tapped into the abilities of his own war-belt to match, boosting his own ample strength to immense heights. The Scourgewrought belt was an artifact of tremendous power, fit for a barbarian king of old, and that was what James truly was akin to, a warlord unmatched. Michael would not be able to best James through physical strength alone as the Daemonslayer pushed the attack down to the right, redirecting it with a vice grip on the wrist. The closest Peachy Keen came to damage was scouring a line across the front of the Master Knight's breastplate, and further down, a similar line down his wargear's reinforced armored skirt.The Master Knight's aura seemed to intensify in response to the ensuing clash in melee, continuing to draw out power.

Of course, James would still intentionally miss with the back-sided spear-thrust, but Michael would have bigger problems to worry about, like a sudden inability to breathe. The spear-thrust was the feint, the true attack was the weapon’s blade guard, placed at just below the spearhead. Turned horizontal, it'd fly into the crook of Michael's neck between helmet and armor, as if striking him in the throat with a knifehand.

Spoiler

 

2 Prep Defense: 1 Wargear. 1 Physical Attack. 2 advantages: Preternatural augmentation of strength, Armor defense and deflection.

1 Quickdraw attack: 2 advantages: Preternatural augmentation of strength, Vital spot and feint.

Gather 1 Prep: 1 Powers Attack

 

 

Edited by Fierach

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The Peacekeeper had tried to jest. He tried to use James’ colloquial title. He had started off easy. But at each of those turns, the Master Knight had turned him away. Disdained his choices even in battle. The Peacekeeper understood who his opponent was now better than ever.

Now Michael’s sword arm was like heavy artillery. After years in the eye of the power storm, it was hard to remember what being a normal human— or anything close to it— had ever been like. Even as they traded blows, Michael had yet to discover that his origins were traced in direct lines back to the Mother Gaia. If the day ever came when his purpose was confirmed, become more than just a feeling that drove his every motion, Commager would be unstoppable. For now, though, he sneered at the comparing of their abilities. This had all been anticipated for that very reason.

The spear’s crossbar coming in behind James’ head should have been no concern to Michael, who tried to rotate well out of its vicinity— a foot and a half to his left (James’ right)— with the same sword-swing Eredas attempted to stop by grabbing his wrist. But as the Peachy Keen bent at one point, originally intending to swing in through his chin and neck, the vice grip on Michael’s wrist prevented him from fully escaping the crossbar. It wouldn’t impact his adam’s apple, but it would bruise the side of his esophagus and drive him backwards. While the Daemonslayer was fortuitous enough to stop an untimely beheading, the Peachy Keen had already been soaring in at a controlled angle, and deprived of the head would gnash out at any target presented.

As if it were a living organism magnetically driven away from their respective power, earth on the hill had boomed away beneath the dueling titans in a devastating crater following the impact of Michael’s blow. James’ hand just having met Michael’s wielding wrist, he would find that the bending saber would, driven by the momentum of both their impact and now Michael being driven away from him, just keep bending at the single pivot point nearest Michael’s hand until it swept through Eredas’ blocking forearm at a diagonal angle just below the elbow. To hold onto Michael long enough for the spear to connect was to hold onto Micheal long enough for his saber to connect. The attack occurred with the momentum of James’ brute resistance of Michael’s downward swing, nearly simultaneously with the impact of the crossbar, little more than a shift of the sword elbow— a shift that was practically natural after the blow to the neck— would further ensure its connection.

Michael would be driven back three steps, rotated farther to his left by the impact of the spear. His swinging saber would rotate cleanly through James’ arm as Michael was jostled a few steps back and left (James’ right) from him. After one fan through James’ arm, the Peachy Keen straightened in his grasp, one single line of crimson tracing from Michael’s hand up its length. Commager was barely able to keep it between them as he gasped and wheezed for air, free hand moving to his throat, the crystals over his head began rotating with speed that blurred their visibility.

“Nice move!” he spluttered, swallowing hard a couple times, trying to soothe the aching tubes in his throat.

Spoiler

Quickdraw dodge: Failed

1 Prep, 2 Advantage Attack: expend light prep; element of surprise, backed by the movement of a prior light prep

Gather one prep: light

 

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Michael's Peachy Keen was an incredible weapon, capable of turning any tide of battle with its flexibility and power, but James had an ace up his sleeve, as he expelled his energy from the palm of his left hand. 

The technique was actually akin to Michael's Explaudere, except much more focused. Whereas Michael had emanated his burst off his whole body, James channeled his through the palm of his hand, in a powerful point-blank blast that would blow and wound the Peacekeeper's wrist away even more surely then the other man did James's spear earlier. It was not the sort of attack like that of a physical blade that could be more easily turned aside by armor, but blunt force trauma like that of a mace, capable of inflicting injury through armor. The maneuver had a bonus in sending Michael's sword arm flying, effectively mitigating the effects of curving energy blade, As much as the living energy blade bent and arched it would succeed not in cutting off James's left arm, but badly maim it instead, carving deeply through armor to bleed heavy crimson.

As the Peacekeeper staggered away, James stepped back as well on his left foot, seemingly creating a step or two more distance between them to avoid any more retaliation from the arching energy blade, but Michael was not free from another attack in kind. The same motion saw James whipping around the advantageous length of spear in his right hand, coming into Michael's left in a sharp diagonal arc, to strike down at the younger man's feet with the spearhead. It was not a powerful attack, but it was fast, using the spear's brace on his rolling shoulders and neck as he had stepped back, to sling it around with speed. The Daemonslayer's raw physicality was on display, his mastery of several martial disciplines and weapons allowing him to push the Peacekeeper relentlessly with an inspired combination in conjunction with his powers, always ready to follow up with another technique. The pain in his arm seethed, and he'd have reduced power in his left arm for now, but it did not prevent him from pressing an assault. Infact, the pain fueled James.

Spoiler

 

1 Prep (Counter)Attack: 1 Powers Attack. 2 advantages: Point Blank! and Focused area. 

1 Quickdraw attack: 1 advantages: Speed

Gather 1 Prep: 1 Physical Attack

 

 

Edited by Fierach
Edit as per judge call for damage sustained

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As the Peachy Keen bit into Eredas' arm held by the same hand whose wrist was blown away by Eredas' aura blast, two things happened. The first was that Commager, in the numbing impact, had to hold steady to the blade, an endeavor that would have been more difficult were the sword not attached to his hand; and the second was the sword's filleting effect as it slid beneath the meat of Eredas' forearm when the wielding hand was forced away. Wrenching his blade free with a bright stripe of pain from him and blood from Eredas as the two backed apart, Michael found his hand locked around the Peachy Keen, his wrist immovably cocked forward at an unnatural angle. He would next find that he couldn't move the thing, a dull ache sweeping up the locked appendage.

Sir! Let me—

I’m fine, Tori.

Tori's mechanical chuckle clicked in Michael's subconscious. It seemed that projecting field data was all her master would let her do today, even as danger encroached.

Yes, sir. Sorry. It appears you have a triquetral fracture in your left wrist. Standing by...

He could taste blood in his throat and his left fist was locked completely in a forward angle. Finding immediately the locked state of his wrist, Commager called for reparations. Now the crimson-imbued white from his sword crawled over his wrist, bathing the hand in white light. As the duo moved, a similar line of light traced around Michael's throat.

Michael just couldn’t help feeling good-natured even as he drove a man to death’s doorstep. On Valucre, Michael had been born into a role that suited him perfectly. An unchained dog in his early youth, Michael’s unerringly violent nature seemed a curse; but the fates saw him shifted into a place and alignment where his violence could be focused and honed for a greater purpose: defending the worshipers of Gaia from their attackers. But here, in the Universal Colosseum, Michael was bereft of such direction. Here he crafted scapes on a whim but to destroy others in practice. There was no honorable fighting or dishonorable fighting in the Colosseum, in his eyes, because in this floating realm abstracted from Gaia’s womb, there was only life and death. Here he crafted  scapes for only the purpose of separating one from the other. Now Eredas and him fought to tip those same balances in their respective favors.

Eredas’ spear moves, as those of most spear wielders, were flashy but inconvenient and easy to counter. A little disappointed in the lack of swordplay, Michael anticipated the entire 360-degree rotation of Eredas’ spear and the gaping exposure it left coming from a mile away. So instead of just backing a step or two away and stopping, Michael continued backing away so he would be well out of both the spear’s range when Eredas swung it, and the potential range he could reach by lunging with it. Even then, he was even prepared for some haphazard throw as well, keeping his sword erect between Eredas and him. That is, if Eredas was even able to complete the drawn out movement with the rapidly incoming attack.

While Commager backed away, the zooming square of crystals over his head razed toward Eredas. The rate at which they spun created the visual of a spinning square that shot in a buzzsaw assault into his face before the spear’s rotation ever nearly reached its fulmination.

Chunks of earth had been flung into the air by the momentous collision of their limbs. With a sweep of the hand before him a line of runes illuminated between Eredas and Michael, the floating debris from the hill around them froze, suspended in the air. Clods of grass, rocks, and dirt froze in animation around them.
 

Spoiler

Quickdraw defense. 1 Advantage: Armor, Eredas' attacking arm being maimed simultaneously to, if not before Eredas' aura blast

Quickdraw attack, 2 Advantage: Crystal square buzzsaw homing for Eredas' face, Eredas having no arms to guard with and being in an awkward position (spear arm flinging back from behind him), Perfect timing to be as unavoidable as possible (courtesy Tori's computations)

Gather Prep: Earth rune

1 Stored Prep: Light

 

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Tori's computations would be inaccurate. There was something about just being human that was unpredictable and could not be measured accurately by any means, and whereas Michael had been attempting kill strokes with every strike, James had been undoubtedly holding back, yet still keeping pace all the same. After all, one could be subject to life or death like the Peacekeeper was… or they could create another way through sheer will and skill at arms. Ultimately the Peacekeeper was right of course, there was no honorable or dishonorable fighting in the Colosseum, in this realm beyond realms, fit only for the slaughter and bloodshed. But James would never be bereft of direction nomatter where he was. After all, who better than the Daemonslayer to know, that one’s true character was defined by what they did in the dark.  

James didn’t need his arms to defend himself. He simply allowed the momentum and weight behind his sharp-angled spear swing to carry him down into a low forward-leaning crouch, neatly ducking under the make-shift buzzsaw with his fine haircut as victim, moving faster and with more surety in response to the fact that Michael was apparently, trying to kill him in earnest with every strike. It had not a true 360 degree swing, as the fact that James had twisted his left side back at the beginning of the maneuver shortened the spear's arc to only 180 degrees, shortening its distance and thereby increasing its speed. The Master Knight was far more agile then any warrior in his armor had a right to be ontop of his strength. The Peacekeeper was a magically powerful being, and the Master Knight was more along the lines of physical prowess. The inexplicable nature of the magical would trump the realities of the physical easily if he was not careful. James’s aura pulsed and strengthened as he prepared a counter in kind, channeling his powers into his weapon, clasping the bottom length of it with his wounded left hand as his right slipped up the shaft somewhat to make space. Even injured, he had enough grip strength left to do what needed to be done.

Michael seemed to attempt to cut off James's movement. That was fine.

There was nowhere his spear couldn't reach. 

Spoiler

 

1 Quickdraw defense. 1 Advantage: Physical agility.

Stored Prep: 1 Physical Attack

Gather 1 Prep: 1 Powers Attack (Channeled into Weapon)

 

 

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The simple matter was that Eredas had come here, whether knowingly or unknowingly, to die. Michael didn't care what Eredas thought of him— the simple matter was that, in unhesitatingly unfurling this salvo of attacks that would have killed weaker men ten times over, Michael was showing Eredas respect. He wasn't going to hold back, even if Eredas would. He'd even said so at the beginning. And while Eredas might have recognized the red glimmer buzzing around Michael's head a time or two, he just couldn't fathom how the thing or the Wielder Himself worked. To believe he, or any mind, was so special that it moved in entirely unique and unconquerable ways for a decades-old war-mind whose computational processes had been developed for the sole purpose of anticipating such things, was dangerous thinking. Michael was always learning, but if he could be perceived as anything less than he really was on the battlefield, that was an advantage. So it was that Eredas just might belittle Michael to his own grave.

Michael had cornered Eredas right into his hands with the help of Tori's computations. Still backing away, diagonally uphill with his sword already pointed at Eredas, Michael— who had been waiting for the dodge— simply fired the crimson bullet just as Eredas’ body lowered, Eredas' spear coming into its intended place just as his lowered chin caught the Peachy Keen’s laser. A one-meter-long ray of red had come to intercept Eredas’ face just as he dodged the buzzsaw. (1)

Largely unhindered once it had wedged into Eredas’ fleshed, the Peachy Keen would do a gruesome amount of damage on its way out of the arm. If Eredas was still able to grab anything after having his arm fileted like that, Michael quirked an eyebrow above his still-gleaming eye. Even if Eredas could somehow wield anything using that hand, due to the nature of its guttedness it would be an unavoidably horrible detriment if someone were to target that grip.

The floating glyphs of ghostly light between Michael and Eredas thickened. Now, instead of just clumps of earth floating in an expanding circle around the fighters, a slow upward rain of earth had begun. (2)

Still, Michael’s sword remained trained between them, its tip aimed at Eredas. The warbling energy warmed his face, a light sheen of sweat evaporating in the wake of their collision. Now the bracer on his broken wrist resolved, a keypad visible on the topside. The fist was locked into place, the light sword extended at a fixed, awkward angle from Michael’s wrist.

Sir, I recommend you switch grips.

Eredas wouldn’t hear Tori’s voice humming in Mike’s head, but if he still had a face, he would see Michael chuckle this time. Something about his smile was.. more ravenous than before. A predatory shift in his instinct had become him. The pain in his wrist, while blunt and impairing even to a holy monster of his capacity, was a far away thought in his head; for victory was nigh.

“I will, I will.”

Spoiler

Expend 1 Prep: shoot a laser through James' face; 2 Advantages: last quickdraw a diversion, Tori's computations

Gather prep: Earth

Stored preps: 1 Earth

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Perhaps the true danger was that James could fathom how his foe worked. He was a man born fought dangers vastly more ancient then Michael and his AI Tori, terrors against whom the entire existance of Man was as a footnote in history. Perhaps it was the arrogance on the Peacekeeper's aspect, believing that his computations were ironclad against that most capable of men. 

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In truth, Michael and Tori already established for themselves a telling pattern. Nearly every single attack they made was a headhunt, a killing blow. It made them predictable in turn, and James easily read the new projectile attack for what it was and leapt up what looked almost like an impossible height, for an ordinary man, well above Michael, with preternatural reflexes and speed, shifting his right side back. The increased distance made it easier for him to pull this off as well, not slowing the rest of his actions down in the slightest even with the laser searing past past his side, ripping through the armor there and glancing off his lower ribs painfully.

Michael might have raised an eyebrow at the Daemonslayer's handling of his weapon. Perhaps the ease of use of the Peacekeeper's armaments and abilities made him forget the basics of handling more mundane weaponry, as James was just adjusting his grips. The powers being channeled into the mighty weapon became more visible now, flames bursting into being from the spearhead, down to his arm and right hand, and from his body. The Master Knight seemed to hang in an air for an instant, with his spear reared back and ready for the finishing blow.

"Soulchiou Style, Spear Form-" 

Spoiler

 

1 Prep Defense: 1 Physical Attack Prep. 2 advantages. Prediction. Armor. 

Gather Prep: 1 Powers attack. 

Stored Prep: 1 Powers attack (channeled into weapon)

 

 

Edited by Fierach

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Consider the myth of Oedipus. Consider that sometimes, by trying to escape something unavoidable in one way, one is in fact exacting it in another way.

Michael had prayed for moral strength so that there was no more temptation to idleness this day, only mountainous power and battle sense. In the moment before he fired the laser, Michael had swept his unbroken hand across the air to create runes of light. Mother Gaia, even unknown galaxies away, blessed him with her acquiescence. The rapidly increasing pace of rising earth would come to a fulmination, the buzzsaw halting in midair just behind Eredas, who in the midst of desperately trying to prove he was as wily as he was powerful leaped into the air. There was no buzzing sound, no whoosh of air, no light to alert Eredas of the spinning square behind him. (1)

Not as a reaction to Eredas jumping, but in immediate succession to the moment his laser hit Eredas, now the hand Michael swept simply clenched into a fist. Just beneath Eredas’ leaping feet, four spears of earth not unlike James’ own in shape shot to create a triangle that converged in Eredas’ suspended chest cavity. Two up between Eredas’ legs from just behind and just in front of him, upskirt to drill through his pelvic floor. The other two spears screamed up to blast through Eredas’ armpits, piercing Eredas body in four spots in the fulmination of Michael and Tori's strategy. Before the light could coalesce around James to any greater a degree, before he could utter the name of his attack, he would find his soft spots and innards pureed by the attack. (2)

Pausing at 15-feet away, having watched the spear come ‘round all along, Michael turned to present his narrow left side the spearman, readying himself to dodge any which way the moment its arm moved.

Spoiler

1) Gather prep: crystal buzzsaw

2) Expend 2 preps, 2 Advantages: 2 Earth preps. Innate Advantage: Michael's connection with Gaia invigorates connection with the earth, Environmental Advantage: James is suspended in midair, just got hit by another blow, and is also trying to throw his spear as the earth attack comes

 

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There was no utterance of the attack, only thought. James and Michael were both men with reflexes and action as sharp as thought, and in a fight between such warriors, dozens, if not hundreds of attacks were crossed and exchanged in minds before they even took place in reality. This was one of them.

"-Serpent Pierce!"

James was no amateur. He knew being in the air was among the most vulnerable of times for any warrior. Even as he performed his dragoon's leap, he knew the Peacekeeper's masterstroke was coming, and he counted on it, reacting to that one opening he knew he had beyond any any shadow of a doubt, the ironclad knowledge that Michael saw his kill take place. He relied on his most signature of aura techniques, one he had mastered as a staple of his flame-based powers since starting upon the bloody path of a Slayer as a child, and one he blended in with his various martial forms and weapon forms as he grew and honed his abilities and mastery. As the four earthen projectiles jetted up after him to transfix him, James hurled his empowered weapon right at Michael, dead center as the latter was turning in an effort to avoid it, fire washing off in the wake of the immense cast.

giphy.gif

The Master Knight's spear traveled as though it were bolt of lightning instead of a mortal weapon, such tremendous power infused into it and into the force to throw it that it could have broken through the greatest of defenses. If it pierced Michael, it would not so much as pass through him as send him flying, although from current angle it would rather pin him into the earth as a as a deep, permanent fixture upon the hill which the two warriors fought. It would be a mortal blow, but James remained merciful to the last, it would not be instant death, although even being grazed by the deadly spearhead would devastate the area it struck and likely cripple Michael from fighting further. Such a technique and its power was normally cast while on the ground, with a stable footing. Casting it in the air had interesting effects, effects that James weaponized, with the recoil of the maneuver pushing him backwards violently out of the path of the opposing attack, the four of them slashing past him with venomous force.

It was a close thing. Any closer and he would have been killed for sure, the four spears leaving three fresh furrows in his Daemonbane armor and body, up the chest, and near the front of each shoulder, each spraying blood from fresh gouges. One of them missed entirely at the angle it had came from, small miracles, but still James gritted his teeth against the pain and kept his nerve. Although he had he had likely dealt just as debilitating a blow to the vaunted Peacekeeper, the battle wasn't over yet.

The Daemonslayer performed an ukemi, or fall-break in midair, using the force of the kickback to gracefully back-flip, in the process spotting the previously cast buzzsaw beneath him that threatened to impede his landing. 

No doubt it would come up after him as well with the way things have been going. James readied his limbs for it as he came back down to earth, his power temporarily spent.

Spoiler

 

2 Prep Powers Attack:  2 advantages: Advantage: Self-inflicted recoil from sheer force. Advantage: Deliberate timing for earth attack to avoid a fatal blow.

Gather Prep: 1 Physical attack.

 

 

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A well of light forming around the clashing Michael Commager and James Eredas sucked in photons faster than the atmosphere was being replenished by them, darkening their arena even with the sun hung above. The two piercing entities, Michael a stark white and James a burning crimson, had duelt into a fine finale. Michael had filled four cisterns, one for each geological direction and one for each element, so that he could bring someone young and moldable to this dimension and teach them.

But what, when a master of another art came to challenge him, did he have to teach? After a few minutes one quarter of the arena was wartorn and would be left to molder a monument in Michale’s memory to the most recent time he wasn’t outright victorious. One head over all those who ran, faltered, died, Eredas had been the most steadfast in recent memory; a signal to Michael that he would never be done growing stronger. 

James was able to get off his spear attack before being entangled in Michael’s killing blow. The very motion saved him; and to be frank, the very necessary rushed nature of the attack saved Michael.

Rotating to his right as the rapid throw took place, Michael realized that due to James’ skill, he would be unable to evade the distributed aura of the attack. Continuing to rotate, flicking his blade wielded by a broken hand against the spear’s blazing approach, Michael could ultimately only offer his left shoulder as a sacrifice for him to escape without whole debilitation. After slamming into and destroying his left shoulderguard, half of the spear’s sharp edge would slice through his left deltoid; but the crossbar would slam into his shoulder and back with enough velocity to send him tumbling forward with the attack. Extending his left arm before him, fingers plunging into the dirt to stop his momentum, Michael’s right arm was thrown forward and against his chest. The dispel bracer on his left arm ensured that his wrist wasn’t further damaged, absorbing red aura from the spear and processing its origin to dispel it next time; however, the Peachy Keen flickered out of existence with the impact.

One day, he hoped to bridge a semblance of this experience to his on-world self. 

James would resolve on his feet at the same time Michael was able to face him in a three point stance. Both of them were badly injured in their own ways, Michael’s entire left arm a useless ragdoll for a limb, James’ arm and torso bloodied and exposed. Dirt rained around them and fire licked at the bubbled fringes of the crater in which they stood.

Michael was breathing hard as he straightened, mostly from the pain blazing up his arm. 

“Okay, you’re good. I admit it.” The sharpness in his eyes softened and, maybe suddenly in the wake of their bout, he laughed. “I just wanted to train some newbies, never thought I’d catch a big fish like you! What do you say we call it a draw so I can get to teaching people before you kill me?” 

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There was always teaching done, even if the participants were both masters. To be stagnant was to die.

The blood he felt dripping down felt good, a symphony of pain and aches that made him fill alive, and James relaxed his stance, sensing a mutually agreed upon conclusion to the duel. Michael's arsenal of wargear and abilities were a match for his combat sense and martial techniques.  Particularly that energy blade of his, James had seldom seen its like, a fully prehensile and articulate and extremely deadly weapon that went against common restrictions for objects of its type. Well, Peacekeepers had all kinds of toys, he knew.

When Michael called him a big fish, the most nonsensical thought struck him, a children's lullaby from a faraway land. 

Just keep swimming~ Just keep swimming~ Just keep swimming~ 

"Just keep swimming Michael. Thats what we do. Toss me my spear, aye?" The Daemonslayer replied with a smile, the battlelust vanishing about him. After Michael did so, the Daemonslayer would walk away, and leave the same way he came. Keep swimming, and learning, and fighting until the last.

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