|Role-Play Name: March to War|
Date Started: 6 August, 2018
To Slay a DragonEdit
In ancient times, it was said...
...to slay a dragon, you must cleave its head off clean.
Anything less than that would be seen as naught but a nuisance to the creature.
Anything that was not a fatal wound would be written off as an annoyance.
Pirates. For the marines, they can be called a dragon with many heads; none more so prominent than the ones that command their respect and admiration above all others. A quartet of conquerors that rule over portions of the world taken by way of their own strength.
The Four Emperors.
For the dragon known as "pirate" to be slain, one must carve its heads off. And so this was the start of it all; a battle to slay the dragon heads called Yonko.
For a long time, it was only discussed; planned; debated. An effort to push forward in the marines' goal to end the influence of the Yonko in the New World, as the stepping stone toward worldwide peace. But today... Today would be the start of it all. Perhaps it would start as nothing more than a spark, but soon enough, it will bloom into a blaze that will illuminate the entire world.
The marines would make their stance clear to the Yonko on this day.
On this day, all the world will know that the fall of the four emperors... has already begun.
5 Days Prior to the Mission
"Three teams. Three concise attacks."
Fleet Admiral Kurama had held a meeting with several hand-picked Vice and Rear Admirals, along with the Admirals themselves, in order to discuss the mission that had been thoroughly debated by them in previous scattered discussions. It was time to finally cement the plan, and prepare to carry it out.
After a lengthy talk, the details of this monumental undertaking were finally hashed out.
Three simultaneous movements were to be made on the Yonko. In an effort to begin their efforts in removing them from power, they had to start with the outer territories. And so three islands were decided upon. Rusukaina, an island in Daddy L. Legs' territory. Shikhi, an island in Daikaku's region. And Kurona, belonging to Raptor D. Baron. Five days from now, three voyages were to be carried out by teams of Vice Admirals and other Marines assigned to those units, in order to lay siege to the three islands.
Only the pirates there were to suffer consequence. The marines would pursue dominion over those islands and provide sanctuary to all citizens that renounce servitude or loyalty to the Yonko. Above all, this was a mission of liberation, not conquest; though, perhaps to Kurama, it was both.
He stated that the marines were to storm the islands, whether by force or by infiltration, but it would be preferred to operate as swiftly as possible. The longer they could keep the pirates stationed there unaware of the siege, the better; so as to minimize the chances of marine casualties.
But there was more to this mission.
For the Fleet Admiral, it wasn't solely about conquering these lands, and beginning a march inwards toward the individual hearts of the four Yonko territories. He had also issued an additional order to the mission directive. In the most ideal case, he wanted the pirates found on those islands to be captured; brought in for questioning. Kurama always believed that people, even pirates, are resources; they have more worth alive than dead, no matter how insignificant they might be. And so, murder was always to be avoided, if at all possible.
Lay siege to the Yonko islands and capture the Yonko-affiliated pirates present.
That was the complete directive.
And so, five days later...
It would begin.
To Stomp the SpiderEdit
Wynn Erin gazed through the forests of Rusukaina, they were currently calm besides the monstrous breeze that blew through them. The island had changed ever since he'd trained there. His power had warped the weather even further, the seasons bringing blizzards, monsoons, tornadoes, and endless rain and thunder. Today was one of the only clear days on the island. It was quite the peaceful place.
"We're close to landing on Rusukaina, about twenty minutes away." Godukera spoke, he was sitting in a room with a couple other Vice Admirals and a Rear Admiral. "Sol, Gwilym, Chardonnay, and Solána. As you know us five have been tasked with claiming this island in the glorious name of the marines. It should be a simple operation as the island is uninhabited but should anything go wrong be vigilant. Those Black Widows have been crawling out of more and more nooks and crannies. Attempting to poison this world of ours. We are the cure though, the anti-venom. And we will stamp them out." His eyes narrow as his being radiated an aura of pure passion. "Establishing a base of operations here leads to taking the island of Amazon Lily and wiping their presence from the calm belt." He glared across the room. "Comments, questions, concerns?"
A hand raises. A small girl being the Rear Admiral Azeban L. Solána leans forward in her chair as to directly address Godukera himself. "Quick question, in the event we engage in combat with however many of the Black Widow Pirates, what do we do?" She crosses her legs in her chair before continuing on to say. "Do we have permission to engage in full on combat." She says letting off a large aura of intimidation for someone of her small size. "Sorry to ask what may seem like a basic an uneducated question but you can never be too sure in situations such as these." She scans the room around her taking notice of the four Vice Admirals that surround her. As a Rear Admiral situations such as this doesn't happen very often outside of training. It was clear she was slightly exited but she gave off a clear look of responsibility and seriousness as to not come off as childish.
Gwilym only shook his head in response to Godekera's response. "I have no questions on my end." he said, performing movements reminiscent to that of someone stretching. "Of course, the others may have some, it all depends on how they understood the briefing." he continued. "Do let me know when we begin the attack, I've been wanting to utilize my other form for quite some time."
Sol was staring out the island of destiny, the place where the Marines war against the Black Widow Pirates would have reached a new peak. Her height and senses alone ensured a clear view of Rusukaina, as she towered over average sized giants while sitting on leg crossed. Noticing the lack of man-made structure, the giantess smirked: no people there meant no casualties, no civilians that could be caught in the hell to follow. It was not El Dorado, that time the pirates would have faced to full extent of her fiery wrath.
Buffs of glimmering fire begun to twirl around her horns; she couldn’t just contain her desire to make those bastards pay for they barbaric practices and her defeat. Plasma splashed everywhere near Sol, on the sail, on the deck floor, leaving traces of smoldering matter and small bonfires as the pelted down. Noticing the smoke reaching her nostrils, Sol had to calm down: she inspired and blew out, as she learned will practicing her mourning training routines. The giantess knew she was stronger when taking control of the flow of her anger, rather than the contrary.
"I have nothing to ask, Godukera-san," she said "except to restate the outlines of our strategy. I know from my experience that the people we are facing are incredibly dangerous on their own and absolute monsters when faced in groups. If we want to stand a chance, our teamwork most be spot on".
Godukera stared down at the girl, completely unaffected by whatever she was trying to emit. "We simply fight at our fullest. Rusukaina is an island that we simply want the land for. Even if it's wiped clean of plant and animals life we're fine. What we want is the base island itself." Godukera replied, glancing over to Gwilym and nodding at the eager penguin. "You'll get your fun Gwilym." The half-mink look to the others on the ship. Belvedere was sitting in the corner with a couple bottles of whiskey, it was no wonder they didn't let her lead the mission. Next to her stood Sol, who was much more attentive, asking him to brief them once more on the plan of attack. While it annoyed him that they did not know it by heart yet, he was more than willing to repeat it again. This mission was extremely important.
"The plan is quite simple to begin with. This is one of the furthest territories from Wano. However due to the reach of that spider's web, she can still get troops here if needed. Hopefully it's uninhabited at the moment and we can just wipe it clean and set up. However in the case of a battle we are to drive them into the ground. Depending on the level of the opponents we will engage differently. Solána will take the weakest of their force. Sol will probably want to focus on any logia users or people specifically weak to her plasma. Gwilym will take whoever is weakest against martial arts. Belverdere will hopefully engage an opponent when she wakes up. I myself will take out whoever I can and work to support you all as well. I can span the whole island with my powers if necessary. Capture is preferable, Per Kurama's orders. But outright killing them is better than letting the scum get away." Godukera's whipped his body forwards, glaring towards the island. "We will not fail."
Gwilym nodded. He chewed up and swallowed the last bluegill fish in his bucket, his eyes showing no expression as they usually did. It was rather difficult for penguins to show emotion. His body began to ripple about, his shoulders increasing and width, muscles taking form. After a few brief seconds of strange body movements, Gwilym rapidly transformed into his preferred form for combat; his Muscle Form. He towered over others at a staggering fourteen feet.
"Well formatted plan, Gokudera." Gwilym began. "It accounts for roughly 86% of all variables. The remaining 14% are variables we cannot account for yet until the battle begins, so we are in the dark about it until then. Then again, so are the scum we are to face..." he had continued, his words eventually becoming a strange murmur. Gwilym continued muttering calculations under his breath, but remained attentive for the signal to start.
At first, Solána was slightly mad at Godukera's choice to have her fight the weakest of their opponents. Although as she thought about it with there opponents being the infamous black widow pirates the weakest may be stronger than she expected. She also saw this as a chance to show her strength by easily defeating her enemy. "Great plan Godukera". Solána let out with a smile. Solána had little words to say as she was preparing herself to engage in combat.
He could feel it, the winds changing. Erin whirled to stare at the sea, his eyes locking on the Marine ships approaching the island. He could see the crew aboard the deck, awaiting their moment to strike. There were many names on that ship but one form truly caught his eye. "Dad." He spoke softly to himself, clenching his fists in anger. He whipped his Den Den Mushi from his pocket. "Static. Marine ship inbound to Rusukaina. I need you to warp in whoever's available asap. I don't know how long we have till the first strike." He put the Den Den Mushi away, narrowing his eyes as the air of the calm belt began to stir.
Hearing the Den Den Mushi that was stationed to his right ring Static's eye lit up in anticipation before grasping the receiver but before he could even speak a word Erin's voice blared into his eardrums with a undertone of anger asking for reinforcement before hanging up causing him to look at the Den Den Mushi in bewilderment before shaking his head. "Let's see who exactly is available." He muttered to him self as a pinkish ripple could be seen with the air before it along with him dispersed.
Wolfgang stepped out of the empty air, transported from his castle in Wano directly to what would soon become a battlefield. Ordinarily, his blood would boil at the very mention of combat, but the loss of his brother had impacted him in ways so profound that he hardly knew how to stand it.
The expectation had been that the pain would begin to fade more and more, as he learned to accept his death. Yet the sense of loss was as intense as ever, and the Warlord found himself drifting between bouts of great sorrow, wanton destruction and obsessive pursuit of sex.
He was a mess, a shell of a man with an empire on his shoulders, a calling he had for the first time begun to question.
Though inwardly conflicted, the mink showed no outer sign of weakness and he walked up to a large throne, built from the bones of beasts native to Rusukaina when he first conquered the island in what seemed like a lifetime ago.
Sitting down with his legs leaning on the armrest and in an assumed relaxed position, he grinned and spoke: "Let them come!"
Much like his superior before him, Draco D. Indiana appeared in a single breath, holding onto his fedora with his left hand. Over his typical clothes, he worn a light-brown coat. His beard had been partially shaved, showing even more of his skin and jaw. "Good morning," He uttered.
Hat covering the area of his eyes, Indiana silently gazed towards Wolfgang, not even needing any single bit of Haki to sense the presence of those night howls. Howls given to those that couldn't be reached anymore. Tightening his hand into a fist, Indiana took no more than a second to reach the backside of the throne, his back resting upon it.
Instantly, myriads of vines burst out of his ankles, glowing slightly as they pierced through the floor of bones and the very earth of the island. Although he was not one of the frontal fighters, Indiana made himself available to his comrades in the mission to protect Rusukaina. Not that he would have said it, but, his eyes flickered over the form of Wynn Erin, quickly focusing back to his vines.
"Brace yourselves, lads," Indiana muttered once again, presences feeling his mind.
Travelling further and further, the vines were covered through a calm mantle of Indiana's kenbunshoku haki. They sipped into the other roots, the small insects, the land itself. Should anything happen in the land, in the trees, even in the air, Indiana would be tunned, to mentally connect himself from his vines with the land.
Wolfgang may have conquered it, but, Indiana knew it best.
Briares B. Barney appeared beside the others, simply nodding at Erin.
"So this is who we've got, alright." Erin nodded, looking to the men. "The enemy ship contains 4 Vice Admirals and one Rear. Azeban L. Solána, Belvedere Chardonnay, Marishi Sol, Gwilym, and my father, Wynn Godukera." Erin glanced back to the sea. "I'll attempt to take their ship down or at least scatter them from afar. You guys deal with them if they get manage to reach the island." Erin called before disappearing into the air.
He appeared at the front of the island, gazing at the massive ship that drew closer and closer to Rusukaina. "Dad." He breathed, his voice tinged with anger. The wind whirred as the entire area around him distorted. A massive gale erupted from his being, slitting the very sea in two as it charged the Marine ship. Two massive waves erupted from either side, curling back into each other with a mighty crash as the blast drew further from the island.
"Is that, Erin?!" Godukera mumbled as he eyed a figure on the island. His suspicions were only confirmed when the sea split apart. A massive gale rushing towards their ship spit the sea before him. "Everyone battle stations NOW!" Godukera called out as he looked specifically to Sol, "Burn the damn island." He leapt from the ship, cloaked in an aura of lightning as he landed atop the water. The half mink dashed towards the projectile, the force of his movement kicking up waves behind him. As he reached it the aura around his hands grew black and morphed to claws. He slashed the projectile, rending it in two and grabbing it before he crushed the gale within his hands. "Erin." He shouted, shooting towards his son. This was no longer just subjugation for him, this was no family business.
"Oh no." Erin mumbled as he shot into the air, flying towards the clouds. As he did he warped the wind as it attempted to batter his father.
"You will answer for your crimes Erin. Treason, betrayal, and joining up with some god forsaken arachnid." The wolf roared, chasing his son into the sky. His aura grew black as the lightning fought off the wind. "Stop running."
Sol nodded, ready to execute Raijin’s command and, perhaps, all the filth snuggling in the Spider’s nest. Her skin and clothes faded into pure white, bright as lamp in the darkest night, turning in mass of plasma, the lifeblood and fiber of stars; without the fetters of the flesh, she disentangled throughout the battlefield, scattering before and inside the enemy’s lines. With the wind-blower busy fighting his father above the clouds, nothing could stop her from dispersing her fluid though every crevice of the island, thinner and thus faster than air, but exuded in enough quantity to engulf Rusukaina’s atmosphere in a noxious cap. Plasma multiplied virally, muddling trees, rocks and edifices in an chalky mist; it had flanked the island whole, while sparing Sol’s allies from the hellish heat to come.
And what heat was to come: behind the thick haze of non-plasma, already shaped as a dome the size of the island, fire was throbbing. It started like small candles sprinkled all around, white inside white, yet far brighter and glowing so intense they could burn people’s eyes merely by staring at it. Sol had planted them on the air while in her unscrambled state, and now hovered around like masses of fireflies, pulsing predators lurking in the milky miasma. Having already reformed outside the borders of her plasma cage, Sol commanded them to burn. It took a small push from the outside to have the atmosphere ripple and bloat, tendrils storming around; the time of a thought was everything it took to make the fireflies smelter and crack, reflecting their master’s irate disposition against the Spiders.
An awe-inspiring, eye-melting flash surged from the mines, infinitely brighter and far more scorching than the shroud surrounding it, though not enough to escape and incinerate the sea surrounding it. It was fire like nothing in nature could produce, the closest thing those pirates could feel of a sun exploding right in their faces. A burst of that caliber would be enough to nearly vaporize trees, turn human flesh into ash down to its bones, melt buildings and garrisons in one pasta of lava and searing Rusukaina’s rocky floor in a lifeless, barren savanna. One part of Sol regretted that trees and wildlife had to be sacrificed to make sure those pirates won’t survive; her forecasts of utter devastation made her silently weep. Still, life would have flourished again from the land once the Marines had freed them from its scourge. Once they achieved victory and more peaceful times had come, Sol promised to herself she would have helped making Rusukaina a florid place again, even if she had to break it down and melt it back so that it could carry the necessary humus again.
If he had to be honest, alone, this would be one of the worst problems in his entire life, which was a long time. Yet, it was no time to end it. He was not a frontal fighter, though, he still knew how to sustain himself. But, Indiana was not alone, Wolf and Barney were there, they could take the chance to counter-attack at the very moment that Indiana moved for the defense.
And that moment was then. Without a moment's hesitation, the vines burst forth from the ground and erupted, wrapping around themselves to create even larger vines. Much like snakes filled with bloodlust, they circled through the air and instantly felt the presence of Sol's power, yet, they didn't wither way.
As stated before, the vines summoned through Indiana had filled the entire underground of Rusukaina, mingling and mixing with the natural roots of the many plants. Through these plants, they were absorbing nutrients and water to gather even more vitality, strengthening their layers and overall structure. Many of these plants were natural to Rusukaina, which by itself is an island with strong and healthy organisms, something that contributes to the quality of its flora. As an Archaeologist, Indiana had to know about the world around him, not only in regards to something's history, but also to its geography.
Thus, with this boost in power the layers started to regenerate themselves at similar speed at which they were getting burnt. Not only that, they were also fueled with Indiana's very Haki, however, it was not only with his Busoshoku, but, with his Kenbunshoku. Normally, such a strategy would be one's downfall when it came to defense, yet, Indiana deemed that spreading his Busoshoku throughout all the island would have been even worse. After all, Busoshoku also required quantity, whereas small amounts of Kenbunshoku could bring out more than defensive reactions.
Through his Kenbunshoku, Indiana was using Migatte so that all of the vines would get an immediate reaction, after all, it was a technique known by experienced users which involved purposefully not hesitating. These reactions followed a similar thought pattern due to how Migatte worked, also meaning that, Indiana would not get slowed down by needing to issue specific orders to each and all of the vines.
That thought pattern was just what had been happening. The vines wrapping themselves around the many suns and constantly creating layers around themselves, "Bainkago!" Indiana screamed finally. Through the aforementioned revitalization and their renewal, Indiana's vines would hold out the explosions partially for a finite timespan of a few seconds, something which would surely allow for his companions to strike back.
From his makeshift throne, Wolfgang observed the potency of Sol's devil fruit, outwardly his expression was one of quiet boredom. Although inwardly he understood the threat that Sol represented to their operations if allowed to use her powers unchallenged, in matters of war it commonly fell to other Logia users to handle others of their kind, it would seem as though Erin had opted to instead pursue some petty family matter.
When the plasma began to descend, threatening to wipe them all off the very face of this planet, Izanagi was pleased to discover that Indiana appeared capable of producing some worthwhile countermeasures although he knew that Sol's powers would be a poor match for the older man.
It was an unavoidable necessity that she would need to be dealt with, and Wolfgang was just about to rise from his throne and see to the matter personally before a tall lanky man walked up beside him and smiled.
At the briefest inspection, Nicholai appeared human, but if ones gaze lingered but a moment longer they would discover his scorpion-like tail, tipped with a fearsome stinger.. sharp canines and elfin ears. Ballard was a Nue, a terrible abomination brought into being through the combined forces of two powerful devil fruits, belonging to the Spider Queen and her favoured consort.
The unique circumstances behind his creation made it so that he had inherited a medley of strange powers from the enchantments woven into his being as part of his conception, and such was the potency of these powers that he had accumulated a respectable bounty of 144,000,000 in a comparatively short amount of time.
"There's no need to trouble yourself just yet, Izanagi-sama. In chess, the pawns always make the first move." Nicholai's voice was gentle and suave, and as he loomed by Wolfgang's side he most resembled some kind of demonic butler.
High above the island Godukera and Erin clashed fiercely. "Why did you do it Erin? Why would you abandon your family, your code, and your duty? Why would you throw Justice aside to shack up with pirates. First that brat Veno and then that fallen king Redbeard. Now you stand beside a dammed Yonko. Is your goal to make a mockery of your family Erin?" Godukera roared, fighting back the wind.
Erin glared at his father as the gale continued from all sides. "You think your Justice is right? You've got to be kidding father." Erin spat venomously. "You think you're all so great in the Marines but it's a shitshow. You slaughter the innocent on a whim if a Celestial Dragon demands it. In some cases the pirates are better than you. The goal of the Marines is to protect the people, not the mindless slaughter I've seen. What the men did, even the members of an Admiral's ship. It was sickening to me, I had to leave." A bolt of electricity flashed by him.
"Pirates better than us. You've lost your mind Erin. Pirates are scum that need to be wiped from this Earth to make it clean again. We serve the dragons because they know of this true pure Earth. They control everything for a reason, they earned their right sometime long before us. They're no different from Legs. She says jump to you, you say how high. Someone at the top must command others or your society will fall. You think anyone has ever agreed with the Celestial Dragons or a Yonko one hundred percent of the time? No. But they obey them cause they rule. I obey them cause they pay me as well so I could provide for my family and raise you right. But you took all that work and threw it to the dirt Erin." Godukera bared his fangs.
Erin on the other hand began to lightly laugh, it was almost sad. "Family huh, yeah alright. Glad you raised me right 'dad'. Always working me, telling me I wasn't good enough. Comparing me to you constantly. I was never as good as you were when you were a kid. I took up navigation for a reason and I was good at it. You were an insufferable prick, Trevor still hates me to this dad for existing, and mom doesn't even seem like she cared. So why don't you shut your mouth about this family shit." Erin roared as black wind crashed against shadowy lightning.
There was a loud snort and a burp from behind a collection of barrels on the Marine's ship. A very hungover Chardonnay sat up slowly, groaning and rubbing her temples softly "Could someone turn down the sun? It's giving me a headache..." She placed her forehead between her legs to try and calm the pounding in her head. After a few moments, something that wasn't the leftover booze in her system started niggling at the back of her brain. Something she was supposed to be doing.
"Oh crap." It dawned on her at the very last moment, prompting her to look up at the sky above. Even from this distance, she could make out the two figures locked in combat. It had to be Wynn Erin, which would mean Godukera was the one fighting him. They were here to face the Black Widows, try and drive them away from Amazon Lily. Or at least away from this island.
She stood quickly, a bit too quickly if the way her stomach lurched and her body protested were any indication. She groaned and called upon her mastery of Life Return to burn the leftover alcohol from her body and restore herself to fighting shape. Not that she couldn't fight while drunk, it was just more annoying with a hangover.
"I've probably fallen behind...damn I'm gonna get scolded aren't I? What if they try to organize an intervention?! Belvedere Chardonnay is not going to alcoholics anonymous, no thank you sir!" She was rambling quietly to herself as she made her way off the ship and to the island. She reached the shore and looked around, not really knowing which way she should go. So she picked a random direction and started walking, hoping she'd bump into someone interesting and antagonistic.
To Maim the MonkEdit
The island of Shikhi was truly a sight within the waters of the Bardsval Ocean, one of the waters in the New World that were almost always bathed in sunlight. For that very reason, it was extremely abundant in flora, its soil rich in nutrients and so resilient that the island has never been damaged beyond repair in all of its lifetime. Despite the many fights it saw.
Shikhi was quite large, the size of a small country.
Ten large trees, whose roots delved deep into the sea and soil, were responsible for the island's extraordinary amount of plants. These trees were known as the "Ten Gurus". They sought the everlasting nutrients of the water to constantly expand or regenerate themselves, allowing their structures to build height and grow tall like walls. Standing fierce, they complimented the numbers of the existing walls within the island, built by both past civilizations and members of Daikaku's crew, the Monk Pirates. Together, they all made a total of 999 layered walls, of different thickness and habitats each.
Wild beasts, though not much, and tribesmen alike populated the island, having built villages either on the base of the largest trees or at the place many trees converged. They were all strong, not only for living in the New World, but also because of the presence of such dangerous flora. The tribesmen made several pacts with the Monks, learning their ways of peace and fighting.
The plants, however, weren't only resilient, they were more than doing photosynthesis, some of them could expel acid, venomous gases, capable of paralyzing the strongest of gladiators or penetrating through the thickest of defenses. These species would do it at the mere sight of a new visitor, however, given their lethality, their reflexes don't prompt them to do it with the same person, unless willed.
A dangerous land calmed only by True Justice, the justice of the Mad Monk.
Splash, the crystal-like waves hit back and forth against the marine warships, all illuminated by the endless rays of sunlight. Some rainbows formed in the distance, their light even mixing with the ocean and making it even brighter, drops and drops flew off as if they were jewelry. If there wasn't a fight to take place, one would surely stop to marvel at it.
Naosaki Jun inhaled deeply, closing her eyes and sitting at the front of one of those warships. Alongside the wind, her hair flowed sideways, all these sounds filling her ears and prompting her to hum quietly. Her ears twitched and made her lips curve upwards, this really was something else, for an entire part of this ocean to be perpetually shone upon by the sun.
Another sniff, Jun's eyes snapped open and stared deeply ahead, "A clean view, Shikhi can be seen in the distance!" Their eyelids were vertical and sharp, expanding as she looked at the island. Jun spun around and glanced upon the rest of her comrades, "Any actions to take yet, Sir Ernest?" A smile, this was just another chance for her to improve.
When it was announced that Ernest was the leader of this party to conquer the Monk Pirates, a tremendous amount of insecurity overcame him. Ernest may have been confident in himself, but after suffering that crippling loss against Daddy L. Legs, he simply did not know if he could trust in his own abilities. Snapping his eyes open following Jun's question, Ernest looked in the distance and found the island of Shikhi in view.
From what Ernest could remember, Shikhi was an island of natural resources. Individuals lived here in peace, and continued to nurture the island in order to provide resources for the Monk Pirates. Ernest himself could not fathom how it must feel to live underneath a Pirate. But when he remembered the sincerity in Legs' voice, he could possibly imagine why people would be swept up by their chaos.
"I believe we should stop the ship here temporarily." Ernest spoke. His decision might have been viewed as cowardly, but the words of the Fleet Admiral echoed in his mind. "We are not here solely to defeat Pirates. First, we must manage to convince the civilization to support us in our endeavors. Without public support, the Marines cannot act freely."
Standing up from his seat, Ernest looked towards Shikhi, as a bright yellow scanner formed in his pupils. "From this position, I can locate the locals of Shikhi. Before we reclaim this island, I will fly to the local settlement and try to convince them, with all my heart, of our intentions. Should they support us, we will pose a considerable advantage against the Monk Pirates. Fearmongering, after all, is not the way of the Marines. Successful or not, I will be recording everything with a Den Den Mushi in my proximity. Based on what you can hear, I will have you all act accordingly. My only instruction is to avoid civilian casualties at any cost. Is that understood?"
The words and strategies of Ernest were bold indeed. But on the inside, he was fearful of his own plan. There were too many assumptions, and for a military endeavor, this was a foolish move. But for the sake of the Marines' goal, extremities like this were necessary. He could only hope that the others would be on board this strategy.
"I don't know." A voice in the distance responded. The clanking footsteps etched closer and closer to where the other members of the boat stood. Speaking for the first time since the ship took sail, or, since he'd been rejected by Jun for the third time was none other than Ferrothorn Solomon. He combed his hand through his hair, scratching the roof of his head as he did.
He looked over the front of the ship and locked his eyes onto the place known as Shikhi. "I admire you wanting to have the lowest amount of civillian casualties as possible, Vice-Admiral Ernest. But, if a crew of this level is able to get these people to remain under their belt, then I'd be pretty damn surprised if they were even the slightest welcomed by us." Solomon scratched his head more and lifted his eyebrow. "Or did I say that right?"
Solomon sighed then punched his right first into his left palm. "We have to put it down with an IRON HAMMER!" Solomon joked, mostly making fun of the average Marine.
"Jokes aside, recording with a Den Den Mushi does seem like a good idea, Ernest. However, I didn't really catch the fully layout of the plan other than protecting civillians and the den den mushi recordings." Solomon placed his hand underneath his chin, "Exactly what will be our course of action? Will we sit here until an enemy is spotted, or do we storm into the," he lifted his opposing hand and made air quotations "city and knock on doors asking questions?"
"As soon as I make contact with an enemy, the other enemies will likely try to ambush you on our ship and keep you stranded. Get to land even without my assistance, and engage the other enemies should signs of conflict appear where I am." Ernest said, relaxing his body from the tension he built up just before. "Try to isolate yourselves from civilization as much as possible. But fight with all your power. Hold even a little bit back, and you might end up getting a medal on your coffin..." Ernest shuddered at the thought, but did not let his nervousness be seen by his subordinates.
With the minimum amount of energy expended by his jets in order to prevent sound, Ernest flew through the air in order to reach the locals of Shikhi. His heart pounded in exhilaration at the nature of this plan, but he realized that the Marines needed to demonstrate their sincerity before undergoing any military plans. After all, their fascist-like tendencies had caused the public's faith within them to waver. Even if Ernest could simply manipulate the news, that simply wasn't enough. The Vice Admiral needed to show that the Marines were people that could be trusted.
He was hovering above what seemed to be a small village on the island. The people there were happily living their lives. They worked hard, together, but more than anything, seemed to be living under the helm of the Monk Pirates without any issues. Ernest bit his lip, and visions of Daddy L. Legs appeared in his mind once again. Was this how people felt under the Yonko? Was it...truly such a peaceful world?
Ernest descended from the air and reached the ground. To the citizens he seemed like an alien existence, and all eyes were on him. Weapons were brandished, and he was held at, what was essentially, gunpoint. Raising both of his arms, Ernest refused to use any sort of violence against these people. "My name is Ernest. I am a Vice Admiral of the Marines. I would like to see your village leader. I have come to talk to you all."
"You... a Marine?! Low your weapons, my people," One of the villagers closest to Ernest said. He had tribal bandanas throughout his entire being and had a pale skin, "I am Champagne, chief of the Abenaki village, just as you asked!" Champagne crossed his arms and stared at Ernest, "Sir, this is a first. Are you really a Marine?"
"Chief, look," A young lady pointed towards Ernest's hair. "It's the Marine Symbol!"
Some of the other folks nodded at their Leader's words, their attention then fully onto the newly arrived Marine. However, some of them stood still at their jobs, a tall one brought a grubber up and down against the soil. A second later, called by some other villagers, the workers joined the crowd around Champagne and Ernest, the tall one viewing them much easily.
"If what you say is true, Sir," Champagne uncrossed his arms and inclined his head towards Ernest, "What sort of business do you have with us? We need to finish these works and help the rest of the island!"
Ernest took a deep breath in anticipation. Talking to locals was a lot harder than he thought it would be. For a considerable period of time, Ernest had simply been doing his job as he was told to do, no questions asked. But, the conquering of this island was not something he could decide arbitrarily. After all, this was the home of so many people.
Clenching his fist, not in irritation, but as a means to calm his nerves, Ernest's thoughts buzzed around, "What will I do if I fail..?" Ernest tried to shake these thoughts away, but they persisted, before he realized the situation he was in and snapped himself out of his wayward thoughts.
"The Marines desire to take this island back from the Monk Pirates. In doing so, we would like to grant you independence from the Pirates. However, this island will soon become a warzone. As Marines, we do not desire to fight against the wishes of the public. So, I ask of you...will you stand against us, should we try to take this island back from the Monk Pirates?"
Ernest's voice was shaking as he spoke. This was a conversation he was not accustomed to having. Actually talking to the general public, and hearing their opinion...he did not know what sort of impact it would have on him. Either way, Ernest prepared for the worst.
With a lick of his lips, Champagne brought his hands together, "You, you stopped to check us over and took our condition into consideration, Sir. Thank you," He bowed slighty, with most of the villagers following with the same action. "The Monk Pirates haven't exactly forced us into labour," He rose, his eyes looked at Ernest's own, "But, our help goes back and forth. They help us, we help them." Champagne gestured for the large walls in the distance, covered with vegetation. "If-"
"No, Chief!" Everyone stared behind themselves, looking at the guy who had been holding the grubber beforehand. He had baggy clothes and a silver clothing surrounding his face, eyes covered with some sort of sunglasses while his hair had been covered with another silver cloth.
The young lady from before stepped up, "Mister-"
"Don't worry, Rosé-chan, just go to your brother," He passed by her, briefly patting her head, and turned his attention fully to Ernest. "You promised THEM the liberty from the Monk Pirates!" He had walked off the crowd, although, he didn't continue towards Ernest and simply stood in front of everyone. "However, you won't have to WORRY about their WELLBEING!" The man clapped several times and, suddenly, a blue energy sipped off his being, going from his legs to the ground.
Then, it quickly travelled towards the Villagers, covering all of them and prompting them to begin running. "You don't have to do this, Boy-Sir!" Champagne tried turning his head to look at the guy, but, to no avail. Everyone tried to protest, but, surrounded by such energy, they vanished into the forests of that section.
"Oh, I do!" The guy said, then looking back at Ernest once again.
The energy that this man emitted was powerful. Ernest shifted from surrendering to bracing himself for impact. He was astonished, but more than that, irritated. His scanners could not pick up on such power so close to him? He let his guard down thinking that solely villagers lived here.
The nature of this energy was peculiar, but he could not identify him immediately. "...You're a Monk Pirate, aren't you?" Ernest could only ask, preparing his defensive stance. The portable Den Den Mushi hidden within him was recording the entire conversation, so no doubt his allies would recognize the urgency of the situation. At the same time, Ernest began to utilize his scanners against this unknown threat. The physical parameters he possessed were tremendous, and matched those who stood among the elites in the New World; in other words, Ernest was in for a fight for his life.
Beat, "M-Monk Pirate?!" The man stepped back, mouth wide behind the cloth. He pushed his open palm, "No, you've got it WRONG-" Cough, "Wrong!!" Through slapping the air, the man gestured for the wall that stood far away behind them. "I can CALL them, though! One second, FUHAHAHAHAHA!" Raising his left leg, the worker dashed, hands and legs blurring.
His figure shrunk and then disappeared into the distance as a small blue star. However, a second later some dust path could be seen on the wall, rising across its surface. Boom, mid-way through the wall something exploded and it was then that Ernest would be capable of briefly seeing something mid-flight.
"-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" A person, they laughed from all the way until they crashed against the grounds close to the village. Another explosion occured, plants and dust flew in all directions, while a blue aura came from the center. The entire ground, from one wall to another, seemed to shudder, trees shaking and birds flying, "I have come to ANSWER you, Vice-Admiral Kanto!!"
"Disguising yourself as one of the citizens...Why?" Ernest inquired, raising his hand to intercept the blast of blue energy emitted from Parker's being. It was of the same nature as the energy he sensed before, and so Ernest understood the situation near-immediately.
This buzzing town was beginning to be reduced into rubble due to the Pirate standing before him, but he applauded the man on not massacring all the citizens instantly. "So I have been greeted. And I have been caught in my ploy. Now what do you want to do with me, "Payback" Parker? Will you demolish me, like the scores of Marine battleships you have destroyed singlehandedly?" Ernest's eyes were focused on the man ahead.
The figure before him was not one to be underestimated by any means. He was an elite member of a Yonko's crew. Not to mention, among the Marines, he was characterized by the sheer destruction he left after every collision: a truly dangerous foe.
Parker snorted, "You falsely ACCUSE me of being the gentleman of a few minutes ago! Your act was genuine... yes, I think that is correct. YOU TOUCHED THEIR HEARTS," His hands went up and down, chopping the air itself and making several heart symbols. "Yet, even more QUESTIONS! Very well," Parker pushed up his glasses with a finger, letting a single sigh pass through his lips, "Maybe I shall! They do say a Pacifista is worth a single warship!"
Without another breath, blue energy flared, Parker's mouth was wide and his body pushed through the area. With the first step taken, that same energy sipped into the earth itself, unnannounced, only visible by the slight ascension of rocks as it travels as if it were a beam to reach Ernest's feet.
All the while, Parker had brought his right arm back and swiftly swung it in Ernest's direction, the earth still moved, "YORKSHIRE!!" Everything roared, the wind taking the shape of a lariat that slashed at Ernest, smashing all the grass below them and pushing back the nearby trees. Despite explicitly saying a technique's name, it was clear that this wind razor carried no blue energy, though a normal eye wouldn't have time to pay attention. Should Ernest get caught by the energy from below, his body would find itself not responding to his commands briefly, leaving him open for the attack.
"Fast. But I'm not going to be slowed down by that!" The blue light that Parker emitted from his being was the most threatening thing to Ernest at this instant, and he had to make sure it could not continue its advance. In the next moment, Ernest channeled a luminous, gold energy throughout his body, channeling it towards his right foot, and stomped on the ground with incredible force. But that stomp did not occur just once. Ten times, in the same instant, that was how many times he stepped on the ground. The energy transmitted into the ground, and suddenly, the ground itself erupted with a pillar of light, while Ernest disappeared from its place.
This was one of the major achievements Ernest had recently achieved with his cybernetic body: perfect fusion of the Rokushiki with his punkfuel armaments. In this moment, he had utilized Soru, not only to maneuver himself out of the way, but to dissipate the energy that Parker had sent to the ground.
The ground began to rise and flux as the two sources of energy clashed, causing ripples that broke every form of stable footing available to the two combatants. In the next moment, Ernest appeared, flying in the air, to clash with Parker's attack with a downwards sweeping kick directed towards Parker's fist from his left leg. The clash lasted momentarily, causing the air to screech, but the purpose of Ernest's attack was not to compete with Parker in brute force.
The clash continued, and Parker's strength managed to keep the edge over Ernest's mechanical limbs, but not for much longer. For a moment, Ernest's body slipped away from the confrontation without any impact to itself, with much thanks to the Kami-e skill. While slipping, he placed his left leg underneath Parker's exposed arm, with the intent of dislodging it momentarily from Parker's control with an upwards kick.
At the same time, using his free leg, Ernest jet forward even closer towards Parker with a diving kick. Ernest's right leg had an icy mist that wrapped around it, which, upon impact, would wrap Parker's body and hopefully freeze him nigh-instantaneously, forcing Parker's body to retain the full brunt of Ernest's strength.
"AMAZING!" Parker bellowed as Ernest proceeded to counter his hidden movement, not even bothering to look at the explosion ripping the ground apart. Upon their clash, it was just like anyone would expect, their forms rippled and everything around quaked. Parker himself simply did not stop paying attention to Ernest's assault, though, he found himself with his mouth wide open once the Marine proceeded to shift under his own attack.
Air and pressure went to get pushed towards the entire area where Ernest stood before, pratically missing their target and blowing the scenario away. "Woah!" Another yell as Parker's right arm was deflected and the pressure of Ernest's next kick approached his body.
At that moment, his free arm had, too, shot forward, in the hopes of intercepting Ernest's kick without even seeing it. Once they clashed, Parker yelled, "PEMBROKESHIRE!" His arm had instantly gauged the force of Ernest's blow and sent forth the same amount of energy to equal their blows, allowing for Parker to mindlessly attack without much effort. "Hm?!" Despite that strategy, Parker had not looked at all at the ice that began to crawl into his hand. Surely enough, even if their forces were to be equal, the resulting impact would send both flying in opposite directions.
Should Parker have not used that attack, for sure, the freezing would have reached the rest of his body in seconds. It limited the reach, even if briefly, due to the impact. However, then, it was starting to travel down his forearm and elbow, "Huh?!" Parker's eyes widened at the sight on his left arm, "You are a Devil Fruit user?! NGHH," Without waiting for another second, energy flared from his being and into his arm, from the inside to outside, breaking apart the sheet of ice that sought to consume him. Indeed, by shifting motion and vibration into the ice, Parker could effectively interrupt it, though his arm was paler than normal then.
"...!?" Ernest was suddenly shocked by the man's method of retaliation, and was blown aback a considerable distance with the wind. Before he would smash through buildings and further injure himself, Ernest managed to dull the impact through utilizing intense flames from the flame shooters on his feet. However, it was not being blown aback by the impact that bothered Ernest, but it was the nature of the counterattack.
"My scanners have never once lied to me...T-then how?!" Ernest's shock could be seen in his eyes. He stared at Parker keenly, attempting to gauge every portion of him. However, he was unaware of the details on his Devil Fruit, for they had never been unveiled completely to the Marines, so it was difficult to find a concrete solution to this problem. "No human in the world, no matter how skilled, can counter an attack with the exact same amount of force that they were attacked with. The amount of finesse that requires far surpasses a human's lifetime...so there must be something in that Devil Fruit I am missing. I have to find that out, or I'll never defeat him!"
Ernest stayed back for his next attacks. He couldn't afford to be swept up by Parker's power without fully understanding it. Ernest instead gathered force within his arm, and made a single punch towards Parker. The pressure behind the punch zoomed outward, and was in-fact an application of the Marines' fabled Shigan technique transformed into a bullet-like punch. The punch was made purely to gauge the nature of Parker's Devil Fruit, but behind it was enough force that the wind parted in its presence, reaching Parker at incredible speeds.
"FUHAHAHAHA!" Parker laughed, doing his best to keep his voice high so that Ernest could hear it, though, wasn't he a cyborg? "THAT EXPRESSION -though I can't see it clearly- IS PRICELESS!" He beamed, running towards Ernest, only for his eyes to widen at the bare sight of a projectile. No, a cannon shot. No- "GAAAAH!" Parker flew back, struck in the stomach by the attack, his body leaped and slid across the terrain. Until, it just stopped. "IT'S JUST A PRANK!"
A fierce-eyed Parker smiled into Ernest's direction, saliva leaking from the corners of his mouth, having a shade of red. His eyes, too, went red, "Yours was not correct, your punishment for that is... LEARNING DIRECTLY FROM MINE!!" His arms vanished much like whispers into the atmosphere and several explosions littered the air, prompting several punch-shaped blue projectiles to rip through the area and towards Ernest. "DARTMOOR!!!" Those that flew close to the ground cracked it, while many others were more like missiles and took a high altitude. Using the air itself and his own strength, Parker could recreate projectiles directed by his kinetic force and haki.
Some of the punches even entered the ground, making the earth bend and shape as it was ruptured apart. Much like Ernest's single one, they crossed the distance between them in two blinks, though, they didn't fly in a straight line like his, being numerous. In fact, some of them would probably not even land, instead, causing explosions through trees or the ground again. Punches of earth, courtesy of the ones going underground, also erupted through the landscape around Ernest, though, they hit none of the houses.
"He didn't perform the maneuver this time..." Ernest could not dwell on regrets for long, as he analyzed the attack performed by Parker. The sheer speed and force behind the attack was incomparable to anything Ernest had analyzed before, but he had no time to admire it. Being in an aerial position, Ernest was comfortably able to avoid the attacks from the ground, but those on the air were a threat. Their radical movement was difficult to analyze, so all Ernest could do was wait until they were close to making contact.
As the projectiles neared his being, Ernest blasted directly forward as they closed in from various angles, with a burst of white mist trailing behind his being. The white mist shot outward like a shockwave, encompassing the burst of energy that intended on battering Ernest's being. Within moments, the energy was frozen in its place, taking the form of an unusually beautiful star of ice.
And in front of that star, was the Vice Admiral. He dashed forward in the air, now with fire streaming behind him. He reminded himself of a movement used by Bambina-sensei when he was describing his battle with Parker. "Rankyaku Makigai feint..." Ernest thought to himself, as he placed himself directly before Parker. In the same movement, Ernest raised his right leg from its lowered position, with a stream of flames heading its way to Parker's body, before Parker would notice a slight spiral of Ernest's foot, causing the flames to instead adjust their path to try and surround his body in a spiraling formation.
Ernest made no delay. Using his aerial position, Ernest managed to perform the technique at an even greater speed than the Grandmaster, for, while levitating, he had no need to make transitions between movements. And so, in a matter of seconds, if that, Parker's body was going to be enshrouded in a tornado of flames.
Pushing himself backwards a few meters, Ernest unveiled small openings on his fingers, where bright light was gathering once more: the energy modeled after the light of the Pika Pika no Mi. Pointing his fingers directly at the tornado, his scanners lit his eyes with the precise location that Parker was in, enabling him to home all the shots directly at his opponent. "cycling into Tobu Shigan: Kiju!" Ernest's thoughts finalized, as he decompressed the pressure built up in his fingers, firing out the ten bullets of compressed light towards Parker at incredible speed.
"...I hope that impressed you, Bambina-sensei. My variation on the Rokushiki Hiden: Fuhyo!" Ernest said aloud, once again keeping up his guard, as he began to pant slightly due the taxing nature of the maneuver.
"B-B-B-B-B-BRAVO!" Parker clapped at the sight of Ernest not only countering, but, outright negating most of his projectiles. Meanwhile, his feet repeatedly beat against the ground, though, at such speed that the image of his legs flickered, making it seem as if they were immobile. "Huh," His eyes hovered over the approaching Ernest and widened.
Crossing his arms, Parker braced for the impact, but, he only felt hot, an extreme amount of heat surrounded him. His opponent was rotating viciously, and Parker himself stood amidst a tornado, arms still crossed. "WHAT IS THIS?!" He yelled with a wide smile, sweat cascading down his figure and covering it. Only then his eyes widened out more, if that was even possible, at the presence of various attacks from all sides, his shirt and coat were burnt away, and part of his skin acquired red hues.
Muscles started to flex and Parker prepared for the incoming attack, mouth wide in a toothy smile. As soon as some of the light pushed through his skin, which gained a black pigment due to his Haki, Parker coughed blood and uncrossed his arms violently, "CAIRN-" For but a single moment, everything seemed to be frozen in the presence of the energy that erupted from Parker's figure, "-GORMS!!" All of the colors exploded at once into all directions, a hum filling the area much like a bomb, only after a second did the sound of its arrival come. Light finished sinking into Parker's skin, even when it was pushed back afterwards, thrown away a long distance along with the dispersing flames. Waves of dust and dirt erupted from around Parker and went off in all directions, the ground between them eroding, the air bending and expanding. In but a few moments, an invisible wall of force reached even higher than the island's ring-walls, walls that bent slightly while they got pushed by the force. Animals and living plants fled in the opposite direction, while the actual tribesmen only held themselves inside their safeplace.
Part of Shikhi's entire landscape rumbled, the ones closer to where Parker and Ernest stood visibly shaking, the two closest had numerous cracks throughout their middle area. Since where they were was just the second wall from the sea, part of the sea also roared in numerous waves, ships close to the beach falling over their side. Of course, the technique Parker had just used was one that had him expel, at once, most of the energy he had stored at that point at the cost of numbing his body for a certain timeframe. A technique that signaled his then-serious demeanor for the remainder of the fight.
Though, one thing he hadn't noticed was that the time had come. Which? No one but he knew.
"...Shit." Ernest swore in his head, as he attempted to brace himself for impact. However, no matter how powerful he was right now, this sort of impact, nobody could brace for. The earth beneath him, even the air itself, was shaking due to the power of "Payback" Parker, launching Ernest off the ground and into the air.
Being pushed back with a force of this size, Ernest's body momentarily seized up from the impact. The pain caused him to clench, but he had to resist it. This was only the beginning...and it was only now that he could unveil his true power. Having been launched a fair distance from Parker, Ernest only just realized what was approaching behind him: the cracked walls of Shikhi. Ernest had no desire to bump into the walls, so with all of his available firepower, he had flames eject from behind him, pushing against what felt like gravity itself, until the shockwaves had finally began to reverberate softly enough for Ernest to regain his bearings.
"This...is troubling." Ernest bolted forward at lightning-like speeds, before facing Parker eye-to-eye again.
"Bambina-sensei told me that the move would ultimately not be effective...but to think you could dispel it with that level of magnitude is shocking. At the very least though...I understand your powers now." Ernest stood on the ground once more. "You're able to absorb the kinetic energy of any impact against you, and subsequently empower your own attacks with the same energy. That's why you can reflect the same level of strength used against you..."
Ernest paused momentarily, as white mist seemingly enveloped the entirety of his body, as the metal that composed his being transformed, almost liquefying due to the nature of this transformation. "However, you cannot stop physical elements from reaching you, which is why my Frost Armament was capable of freezing you. That's precisely why...I have to fight you like this." Ernest's glare intensified, as the white mist that encompassed his body shifted into a black coloration — the sign of Busoshoku: Koka. But to be capable of enveloping such a loose substance in his Haki near-perfectly meant that it was at the level of the fabled Kanri technique.
"Life Return: Shiva!" Ernest exclaimed, with his glowing red eyes and blackened fog skin giving him the appearance of a monster born from the black snow. Formless, as if darkness itself manifested. The entirety of his surroundings began to freeze, ever-so-surely, while his wispy form was afloat, awaiting for Parker to make his next move.
"B-B-B-BRAVO ONCE AGAIN!" Parker yelled with clapping, seeing the approaching Ernest as clear as day. Day, he blinked at the thought of such a word, though, he didn't have anymore time to fully think on it, though, the little he did was enough for him to widen his eyes. Briefly, Parker turned around and spotted a house a few yards away, then he looked back at Ernest.
"WOW!" Another round of clapping, Parker nodded at the Marine's words and observed his actions. "What is this?! I don't have time for this," His mind yelled, eyes hovering and taking in the visage of Ernest's new form, no, not just the form, but the spirit shape that it had taken. Ground, air, they were all starting to freeze under the presence of that man, he could do it too, he was not to be intimidated by this, despite the gigantic amount of aura.
Nevertheless, Parker didn't back down, "Since you lasted so LONG in this fight-" Even though he used an attack at Cairngorm's caliber, "-I will be REWARDING you!" Even though he spent so much energy, Parker still made blue burst from his being, blue that completely sipped into the environment around them. With a single leg, Parker stomped at the area below him, "EXMOOR!" Rumble, waves, much like the ocean, the ground beneath the two combatants moved and erupted in all directions, Parker's body moved in tandem with them. Squat, squat, squat, his limbs moved upward and then downward with energy. The finessee at which the soil moved while under Parker's command could have some mistake such ability as Awakening, the step that allowed users to affect the world on another scale, but, in fact, Parker never stopped touching the ground and constantly issued for everything to move under his motion energy.
If this was the sea, there could indeed be Tsunamis, part of the sunlight didn't even reach the ice produced by Ernest anymore, blocked out by walls and walls of liquid-like earth. "HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Saliva shot from Parker's mouth and his jaw almost ripped, while all of the earth cascaded over Ernest's being, seeking to wrap over his figure and chilly presence. "IT'S TIME," If Ernest would be buried under the earth, Parker did not know, yet, he did not waste any other second standing there. In a single breath and step, he scurried away towards the house that his eyes observed earlier, it stood just a few yards from them, "FOR MY FAMILY REUNION!" Blurring, his figure entered the house and he quickly shut the door, confident that the earth would hold Ernest.
"...Still so much power..." Ernest commented, as he braced himself for the shifting earth. But he couldn't afford even a moment of self-doubt, as with every step that Parker took, the ground moved like water in accordance with it. Soon, Ernest was confronted with a wave of earth so large that he could not see the light beyond it. He pushed out his arms in front of the wave, as if a sign of resistance, with the white mist trailing off his body. But as it stood...it simply appeared to be too late, with the ground covering his the cyborg's body whole.
...Or so it would seem. The ground that sought to devour Ernest's body whole had seemed to be stopped right in its place, with ice forming at its roots, and slowly making its way upwards to the rest of the constructs. From the translucence provided by the ice, an outsider could observe a bright light from within the earthen tsunami, slowly melting away the ice that Ernest produced.
"Life Return: Valefor!" Ernest chanted, as a pillar of concentrated energy from within the mouth of earth handily pierced through its dense shell, before expanding outwards in the form of a sphere in order to completely disintegrate both the "mouth" and the ground surrounding him, with only plain rock surrounding his immediate area. Ernest's new form, "Valefor" had been revealed, wherein his body was coated with a faint, buzzing light. His build had become more lithe and athletic, and the cyborg's metallic components had appeared on his chest, shoulders and knees in the form of armor. Most strikingly, however, was the replacement of his hair, which had turned into two wild horns.
As Ernest broke away from Parker's maneuver, he had been surprised to see that the Monk Pirate had...retreated from the battlefield? Activating his sensors, while he could roughly discern Parker's location, judging from what the man mentioned earlier...this may be a secret he wanted hidden. "Not to mention..." Ernest began thinking to himself, as he broadened the range of his Kenbunshoku Haki. He found the location where Jun and Solomon were fighting, and could sense they were being overwhelmed by the might of their opponent.
"I have other matters to deal with." Ernest concluded his thoughts. He faced the direction that Jun and Solomon were fighting, and took a single step forward. Within that step, the energy permeating through his entire body focused down to his left foot, before he pushed down the light with such force the ground began to quake, and the energy rebounded his force, causing Ernest to leap in the air, while the residual energy lingered onto the ground, reverberating as a ripple of light that began to vaporize everything in its immediate vicinity.
High up in the air, Ernest continued to use his feet to push himself forwards, with the light emitting from his body trailing behind him much like a meteor. The speed of his steps left sonic booms in their wake, and it alarmed the whole island, that the Vice Admiral was making his move. But Ernest did not care for being discrete, as he set his sights on his subordinates' location, and homed in towards them.
And that had been that... Or was that truly the end? Both combatants concluded and took similar decisions at the absence of one another. Did Parker truly think that his attack was enough to hold Ernest down for half a hour? Did Ernest truly think that leaving Parker to himself and assisting his comrades was the best decision? Their heads stood under opposite locations, one under the roof and one under the sky.
If he had to be truly honest, Parker did not expect someone like Ernest to be held down, yet, he simply couldn't wait. It was finally that time of the week. Should one approach his house and listen from the window...
"Just say 'Aaah' to the flying spoon!"
Tale told in StoneEdit
It was a quiet day in the Port of Gautama, the biggest port on the western side of the great Shikhi. A prosperous fishing village, it was odd that the port would ever go silent. It's boats were missing, well out at sea. Away from the fighting, awaiting the resolution of the brewing conflict. Awaiting to see if the Marines would manage to Maim the Monks here, or if the rulers of this island kept control of the Great Guru Kabir's shade as they always had. However even as the port was shut down, people still lived in this village. Those that couldn't hide out at sea, the workers in the taverns and warehouses that dotted this island's shore. Their business continued as usual, though without the fishing boats in harbour many were working slowly.
They were afraid, that much was obvious to anyone who observed them. A sensitive person could feel the waves rolling through the towns, the anxieties that popped up every time there was conflict. They had heard from the ships that the Marines had come calling after all. Even the birds had fled the area, seeking safer ground.
Well except for one, that is. After all, the tale of this place wasn't yet set in stone.
At the seas, two marines stood at a warship's deck. "Ferrothorn-san," Naosaki Jun called out for Ferrothorn Solomon, her slited pupils staring into the distance as they approached Gautama Port, "The town seems pretty clean to me..." Breezes soared by, meshing with the sunlight, Jun's hair and coat waved.
Golden eyes shifted into red, Jun's kenbunshoku scanning into the town. When she reached into mid-way throughout the city, a blackness surrounded her vision, her entire hair flared upward and sweat glistened her face. In a single second, Jun leaped backwards and landed on the ship's mast, hissing, "T-There's a... an opponent there."
Peeking over the ship at the lifeless port, Solomon had various other thoughts in the back of his mind. The one which stood out among the others was the fact he had found himself teamed up with Jun. Sure, deep down inside he wanted to make Jun his beloved. Ever since that day he had different visions of the lifestyle the two could potentially live together.
But deeper inside, he thought about just how compatible the two were in combat. They were both Logia users, one of concrete the other of metal. He began to devise a couple strategies in his head but never spoke about them out loud. He enjoyed the element of surprise.
Then she finally spoke to him, a warning sign that an enemy was there. "So that means its time to dance." He swayed his body left and right, the shining sun's rays reflected off of his golden charms.
A soft song could be heard from the docks, sung in a sweet tenor voice, smoky and aged by the years.
An old man sat upon the pier, softly singing along to the ancient song from his childhood. A song that had fallen out of favor until the King of Soul brought it back.
He wore a wide brimmed hat against the risen sun, and a light jacket against the cool sea breeze. A fishing rod sat in his hand, a line bobbing in the ocean swell.
"Damn Marines, always scaring the fish away," the old man grumbled to himself as he watched the slowly approaching ship off the coast. He had hoped they wouldn't enter the village, but of course the young Marines didn't care about other people's property.
"I guess I will just have to teach the young whippersnappers a lesson." The old man said with a smile under his hat. "Stepping on to my island will be a lesson they never forget."
Flashing through the town, Jun's red and feline eyes surveyed for any other presence than the Monk Pirate, "Ferrothorn-san, the town is clean of people!" With a single beat, Jun leaped off the ship and rose high through the air, standing several streets over the old man of the docks. Concrete sprung from her being, "Lizard Egg!" Much like bullets, several shards tore the atmosphere and etched themselves upon the town behind the docks.
Even more concrete came out of Jun's being, her eyes sharp and set upon Edgar's figure, they glanced briefly at her palms, they shook slightly. Bringing her palms together, she began to form some sort of weapon while still falling, though, then she yelled, "Lizard Jungle!!" A telepathic signal got sent towards the concrete that landed on the town, more of it burst out of Jun's back as if it were rain, rain fired by a turret. Whence it acquired contact with the concrete on the town, all of it began to expand outwards and went to cover parts of the streets, buildings. Indeed, instead of simply ravaging and ripping the town apart, Jun sought to cover it as a sheet of resilient concrete, capable of absorving certain impacts whilst also keeping the structures tight together. If she could further avoid difficulting the lives of those people living under the Yonko, Jun would definitely do it, she could talk to them afterwards to see what kind of people they were, but, helping came first.
All the while she ordered the concrete to cover the place, Jun, as stated beforehand, was creating a weapon from her palms. The element had been given the shape of an extremely long and grey polearm, Jun rose both arms over her head, revealing a large cylinder horizontally placed at the end of the polearm. "HAAAAAAAAH!" Within a single second, she pushed it all downwards, making use of its long body to increase the speed and force that the cylinder had upon impact, as it blurred through the air. "LIZARD SMASH!!" Through the air and towards Edgar's figure at the docks.
The wood on the dock was grayed from the weathering of nature and the drumming of sailor's feet across it. But for a moment the wood turned blacker than the richest mahogany. Edgar's will demanded it stand the test of the concrete spear. And stand it shall.
The spear swung down as if sent from the heavens, aiming to smack the old man down. But the old man was far from ordinary. He had lived this long in a profession that usually killed the young.
Edgar raised his arm above his head as the spear slammed into it with a hearty thud. A normal man would have had his arm shattered by the blow, but Edgar's had survived a lifetime of worse. Where one would have expected his arm to break, the spear did instead, it's pieces falling into the water below as the dock groaned under the impact.
"So impatient I see." Edgar said to himself. "Though I do appreciate the attempt to reduce collateral."
Edgar stood up from history seated position and stretched his shoulders for a moment.
"Well, I suppose it's time to step up my fishing game. It's time to go fishing for Marines."
He pulled his rod back before casting his line out hard towards the ship, the hook going slightly over the railing of the ship.
"Hey, I got one." He said with a smirk as he started reeling in his first catch of the day.
While Solomon seemed to have been lacking in making the first move at Edgar, he had not been doing so for his plan. At the moment Jun made her first move which was protecting the town, he made his first move as well.
Clapping his hands together and slowly pulling them apart, five spheres of metal floatED between his palms. With a simple push, the spheres shot up into the air all ripping through the make of the clouds concealing themselves in the sky above.
After Jun gave him the report of the town being clear of citizens and jumping from their ship, he continued on. Slamming the deck of the ship he stood on, the ocean floor began to quake. In a matter of moments, a gigantic metal pillar grew from out of the sea resting in place to the left of their ship.
After its complete creation, Jun had already launched her own attack at Edgar whom she had already managed to detect all white the Vice-Admiral had attended to his own business. Solomon's eyes followed the path of Jun's spear inch by inch with the utilization of his kenbunshoku haki.
Choosing to help aid with Jun's attack, Solomon lifted his leg balancing himself on one. Making a completely 360 degree spin with his lifted leg he shouted, "Rankyaku!" Sending a sharp blade of compressed air behind the woman's spear.
"He broke it?!" Jun's eyes couldn't help but widen at the sight of Edgar's might, nervousness sapping even more of her being since she didn't pay any attenion to Solomon, thus not seeing his first move. Briefly glancing at her right arm, which tembled, Jun continued to think, "His strength is more clear now..." Concrete burst from her feet, sending her into some buildings covered by that same element, though, instead of crashing against it, Jun slided.
Shards flew off Jun's legs as she slided against the concrete structures, while some of it gathered around her arms, yet again forming another sort of pole. Jun held this one down in the ground's direction, making it akin to some sort of broom. An even larger quantity went by her sides like a wave pushed by her pole and feet, it all traversed the whole town while provoking extremely loud rumbling. The sea got slightly pushed away by Jun's dash, whilst the ground beneath everything only quaked, before these things could even get a rest, Jun finally decided to employ her Haki. From her being a transparent mass of yellow moved and surrounded part of the concrete's mass, particularly its frontal row. As it did so, the concrete seemingly absorbed the aura and gained another layer to itself, flaring with blackness and rigidness, an application of Jun's Busoshoku.
Just before reaching the port, Jun roared, "Lizard Cleaner!!!" And all of the concrete exploded loosely, rising, again, as if it were a wave. A tall wall of black covered the entrance of the island, numerous pointed shards directed downards, and showered upon the docks and Edgar himself, seeking to attack his backside. The pressure was such that, before some of the shards even landed, bits of the docks acquired several holes.
"Down Cujo!" Edgar yelled as he brought his fist down in a hammer blow, striking the wave of force on the side with a heavy fist. A screech could be heard as the strikes connected, reverberating across the docks and making anyone nearby's hair stand up on end. The two attacks resisted each other for a moment before the wave gave ground. It shot downwards with a wave of water, expending itself in the seabed below. Edgar shook his hand a bit as the water dripped down from his hat. "Really no manners, attacking an old man like that, tch tch."
He yanked the reel up as he finished pulling in his catch, revealing a soaking wet Marine with an understandable look of fear in his eyes.
"Hello there." Edgar greeted the man.
"I'm Edgar, can I have your name?"
"Now then Timothy, I have a question for you."
The man's complexion whitened a bit as he responded "Yes?."
"Do you think that lizard woman will crush you with that wave of concrete?"
"Maybe?" The man answered nervously.
"Good enough!" Edgar yelled loudly as he pulled the hook out of the man's uniform, grabbing him by the belt as he moved him to be a shield from the concrete wave. Down do his side, his arm turning a dripping black as his hand formed a claw.
"Oh God please don't!" The man screamed like a little girl as he curled up in front of the wave as if that would protect him. "I don't want to die like this!"
Edgar merely smiled.
Stop, Jun's mind had no other thought at that very second, whence her Haki yelled to her the presence of another marine, another person, in-between her and Edgar. Being a Logia didn't only mean that she could produce and shape the element of Concrete however she wanted, it also allowed her to be... any of that element. Her will carried over into any part of that concrete, she could feel the touch and vibrations coming from any that was produced by her.
Thus, she could command all of the moving concrete at once, down to the smallest shard. Jun was a Marine, a person of justice, she fought to clean the world itself. Could she stain herself and later on try to clean it off? Would it really work in such a manner...? After all, sins were a thing that would never unlatch from one's back.
No, she couldn't get stained, "Sorry Solomon-kun, Ernest-san!!" Jun bit into her lips and pushed her arms backward, instantly halting the piercing shower of concrete just before it could even scratch the marine that Edgar got. In doing so, the concrete had retreated to a point where her figure was fully visible to Edgar and Solomon.
Solomon took no time hesitating after Edgar grabbed one of his own men to use as a shield. Leaping from the deck of his vessel, he kicked through the air trying to make his way towards Edgar as quickly as he could. But, while doing so, Jun took it upon herself to step between the wave and the two men in an attempts to stop it.
"Shit!" He cursed to himself, "Did I take too long?" Before he could go deeper into his regretful thoughts, Jun stopped the wave on time before it could harm Timothy. Landing to the ground near Jun, Solomon locked his eyes onto Edgar and let off a slight grin.
"Oh what a dirty play, Edgar..." He called out to the Monk.
"So's attacking an old man while he's fishing Sonny." Edgar responded calmly to the Marine before he looked at Timothy. "See Timmy-boy, they do like you. Though that woman is clearly engaged is false advertising. Claiming to be a lizard while really being a cat."
He returned to addressing the two higher ranking Marines, "You know, you Lawmen types picked a really bad day to attack my island. If you had waited merely another week it would have gone a lot better for you. Cause then it'd be just me on this island. Now you have some others to deal with. But that's enough about that. I'm going to go somewhere else now."
With that Edgar jumped, clearing thirty feet up with the power of his legs alone. Feathers sprouted all across his body as he entered the hybrid form that game him his nickname of Tengu. He caught Timothy in his one of his claws as he yelled, "Now catch me if you can!" Then he started to fly off to somewhere more appropriate for this fight.
Rocking Like A Hurricane Edit
Ernest had dashed through the air, his form becoming ever-so-solid again as he reverted from the form of light he had adopted before. Returning to his neutral form, he continued to move through the air. However, as opposed to glide in a single motion, Ernest resorted to employing Geppo, stepping through the air, with massive pulses exuded in every step.
His trackers continued to monitor the other battle, and he could feel the struggle from Jun and Solomon's end. From a distance, he could feel the emotions held by his comrades, and was happy knowing that Jun had followed his orders, and refused to harm her comrade, even if it compromised her battle strength. He did not know if she knew he was on his way, but it did not matter. Jun was an admirable Marine who stuck to her code.
With another large step, Ernest found himself being able to view his comrades' fight with his own eyes, meaning that the distance between them was not far. He would no doubt be sensed in this instant, which meant that he had to act faster than ever to avoid being tracked. But if there was one thing that Ernest prided himself in, now of all times, was the speed of his actions. "Not even the Yonko themselves could be on-footing with me...I am sure of it!" Ernest reinforced his own thoughts.
Ernest zoomed forward with a single step of Geppo, and his appearance was made clear to the Pirates and Marines of the area. His eyes were focused purely on Timothy and Edgar in this situation, for he had to rescue his comrade, at any cost. Without any warning, large quantities of ice, fire, electricity and light exuded from the blades that were placed on his back, but Ernest made no effort in manipulating their shape just yet.
"Rokushiki Hiden: Isshin Senkyo!" Ernest proudly declared the name of his new technique. He seemed to place even more force into his step, apparent by his knees bending down in the air. In the next moment, what would appear to the onlookers of this technique, was nearly one hundred, no, perhaps even one thousand steps, all taking place within the same instant. To the world, what appeared in their vision would be dozens of "Ernest's", all appearing within the same area, surrounding Edgar and Timothy, in an attempt to assault them.
However, the truth was slightly different. These afterimages were all individual entities, each created with a single step. Through combining the principles of Geppo's stepping movement, and Soru's shaving movement, Ernest shaved off his presence with every single step, creating an afterimage in the wake of every few steps performed, which had all scattered with the principle of Geppo, thus surrounding Edgar with afterimages that had all been prepared in slightly different positions.
Contrary to popular belief, however, every single afterimage was, visually, completely opaque, in other words, they appeared to be a solid entity. After all, Ernest did not perform merely a single step, but rather, these steps were continuously happening within the same instance. As they continued to be performed, a few clones began to change in appearance. Flames began to transform some clones into fiery spirits, but that wasn't the end of it: icy mist, electricity, and even light, had all begun to be imbued in a portion of these afterimages, transforming harmless afterimages into truly valid threats.
How did this process occur? It was simple. With every continuous step taken, these afterimages had become less afterimages, and more akin to vacuum shells, taking principles from a swordsman's flying slash attack. These vacuum shells were only possible due to Ernest's continuous movement within these small moments, and the elements that he had produced from his shoulder blades had begun to be imbued into these clones as his movement continued.
To those who were afflicted by the technique, it wasn't their vision that gave away the steps had stopped, but rather, their ears. The sound of the wind howling vanished, and suddenly, all that had been left was the whisper of the elemental clones that had surrounded. All the clones had remained still for the next half-second, but that was all the time Ernest could afford to give to Edgar.
The wind howled in the next half-second, but in that time, all the clones had begun to swoop into Edgar's location. Would Ernest be cruel enough to sacrifice his subordinate in a bid to defeat this man? No, of course not. In the half-second of silence, the real Ernest had already made his move, in complete silence, and in the instant prior to the clones reaching Edgar, Ernest had already reached Timothy's location, and with a forceful grab, snagged him away from the claws of the raven, and bypassed his clones, soaring downwards towards the surface.
As he did so, the clones converged in on Edgar. Even if they did not land specifically on Edgar, the collision of elements had already begun making their mark, as violent explosions would riddle the air in all of the elements. Edgar's senses would be jarred, as flames, ice, lightning, and light combined to make a display of fireworks quite unlike anything else.
As those fireworks made their way, Ernest had reached the ground with Timothy, landing him on the now-vacated town. He looked upon his newfound enemy, and once more began to launch himself into the sky. While he did not exchange any words with his fellow Marine, he had already paid his gratitude to Timothy for holding out for him. He had fulfilled his duty splendidly.
"Not bad metal boy..." Edgar said to himself as the clones started to close in around him. He was forced to acknowledge the Vice-Admiral's speed, his ageing body just wasn't capable of movements at that pace on its own anymore. The Marine got away from his grasp without retaliation, but Timothy had served his purpose already, so Edgar wasn't worried.
But where the body can't keep up, the mind can.
The half-raven of a man placed his hands together as if he were about to pray as the air around him started to twist and turn. Edgar's body had weakened with age, becoming less and less each year. However his mind had only ever sharpened, his will strengthening even has everything else failed.
The twisting of the air became more and more prominent as Edgar forcibly circulated his will through his body, flowing it like water and blood with such force the air around it followed. An advanced application of Busoshoku, the internal motions of his Haki amplified the force of his will in a manner similar to the momentum running could do infuse into a punch.
Edgar pulled his hands apart for an instant before clapping them back together.
A shell of black exploded from his collapsing palms as the air around him froze for but an instant. His leaked out into the atmosphere, empowering the wind around him with the force of his will. It expanded, flowing past Edgar as it sought to protect him from that which sought to tear this old bird asunder.
The clones ran headlong into the black wall of will and air, pushing in for a moment before the pressure outwards became too much to resist. Flames, ice, lightning, and light poured around the sphere of black as the clones detonated, zagging across the surface of the bubble as their forces were spent outwards.
Edgar began to fall as even the air had been pushed away by his stroke, his wings having nothing left to push onto. The old man reverted back to his normal form as he fell through the bottom of the bomb of will and air that marked the sky above. He landed upon the ground with a kneel, taking out a worn feather fan as he regained his feet.
A simple flick of the wrist was all it took to cover the bottom of his face like a geisha of old. "Well wasn't that just rude. I had picked out a proper battlefield and everything." Edgar harrumphed as he watched Ernest began his trip back with his mind's eye.
Edgar continued his tirade, raising his voice with a weight that even Ernest would be able to hear. "Parker, you were supposed to keep him busy. Daikaku is going to be so mad when he shows up tomorrow. Oh well..." The old man finished with a sigh.
"...Daikaku?!" Ernest reacted instantly, making his way more slowly to the older man. He was surprised, to say the very least, that Edgar had barely been injured by the assault. "What sort of power..." Ernest maintained a fair distance from Edgar. He did not wish to get caught up in the man's Haki, although he had no way of discerning how far it would be able to activate.
"Are you speaking the truth?!" Ernest yelled from a distance, his voice in an evident panic. "Was Daikaku being sent to this island?!" As he exclaimed, he took on a guarding position, unwilling to allow his opponent the edge over him. But if a Yonko was really sent to an island like this...the Marines had to work even faster.
"The Monk gets sent nowhere my young foe." Edgar grinned with a bow. "He only ever goes where he pleases."
The fan covered his face once more as he stood up, "But riddle me this oh Ernest of the Marines. Why would the Ace and King of Diamonds be here just in time for your assault?" He paused for a moment to let the cyborg process this. "Just in time to foil your master stroke to take this island. I would be hard pressed to fight all of you alone. Even with my ability to direct my forces to delay you for as long as possible, I would quite possibly lose before the nearest reinforcements show up. You Marines... Well, you're just incredibly unlucky. All I have to do is keep you on this island for one day. One day and you all lose." Another grinned flashed to let everything sink it. "Sounds fun, doesn't it?"
Some denizens of Shikhi decided to make their homes on the shores, others between any one of the 999 defenses the island was known for. It was only natural that there would be individuals who would carve out their place, literally, in one of the Ten Gurus. The Tree Village of Mirabai, nestled within the branches of the Guru Meera, was one such place. The villagers were known for producing the tastiest fruits on the entire island, people coming from other villages and even other islands if permitted to have just a small taste of their pride and joy. Alongside their wonderful fruit, they were known for their extravagant festivals and for their music.
The last was what made this village a favorite of the King of Diamonds Ishida Mitsuhide, of the Monk Pirates. The villagers marveled at the blind man's musical talents. When he had first arrived, he knew nothing of how to play their instruments, but after nary a weak he was composing pieces that would put their best to shame. They held him in high regard because of that, gifting him a house high in the branches of their village. It crested the tree line, Mitsu being able to climb onto his balcony and play to his heart's content, letting his music wash over the village below and carry past the Guru to the others surrounding her.
That was where he was, tuning his favorite violin, when he heard them. They weren't too stealthy. Or maybe they were, but not many could shield themselves from the type of surveillance Mitsuhide employed. Losing one's sight often heightened a person's other senses, but for him it was taken to an extreme thanks to the addition of his Logia, the Hibi Hibi no Mi, his hearing was second to none. He was able to pick up sounds from every corner of Shikhi, a testament to his skill, and through the use of his Kenbunshoku, he could "hear" the souls of the inhabitants within. It was a lot of information to take in, what with the size of the island and number of inhabitants, but Mitsu had practice in dealing with it. And that practice alerted him to the presence of people that had arrived to the island, people who didn't enter through an official port. People, he could assume, shouldn't be there.
He narrowed his hearing to them, blocking out others and focusing. One attempted to sway the people of a village, only to be met with the Ace Parker. The man was Mitsu's own superior, so he simply wished the man luck in expelling the intruder from their territory and moved on to the others. Two had made it to a port. Based on the direction the sound was coming from, Guatama. Someone was there to greet them, so he didn't have to worry about that either.
There were at least two others, Mitsu just needed to find them. Make sure that they were met with the proper force. As he looked, he brought his violin up to rest between his shoulder and his chin. The bow of the instrument was balanced delicately in his right hand, swishing through the air with practiced elegance. As he set the resin-coated silk to string and began to play, sweet notes of music filled the air that hung over the entire island-nation of Shikhi. Sweet notes soon turned to harsh, deep tones. It wasn't so much a soft ballad but a battle hymn. He used his ability to project the song outwards, letting everyone know, symbolically, that they were at war. The Marines had come to face the might of the Monks at long last.
Cynthia stood still, motionless: perching on one of the farthest branches of Meera from the Tree Village, she was stalking the King of Diamonds with utter concentration. Studying her target’s weakness with the patience of an owl, the sneakiness of a grass viper and the quick wit of a mongoose. Feeling like a sneaky animal, a really sneaky kind of creature, like spiders or mice, or fleas; or spiders crossed with fleas, or fleas crossed with mice, or mice crossed with spiders…
Cynthia struck her left temple with her knee. How could she be so stupid? Spiders are arachnids, fleas are insects and mice are mammals, these groups aren’t meant to interbreed. Well, mammals are a class according to taxonomy, but the point stood still. There was also the fact that mice are usually so much bigger than fleas they can’t make snu-snu in the first place. Wait, she was also much bigger than fleas as well, and got sick boobs: did it mean she was a mouse too?
She struck again her left temple, hitting it with the heel of her right leg. Right, she had forgotten again the proper rules of biology and formal logic. Linnaeus and Aristoteles would be ashamed of her profound ignorance. It was now time to keep one’s head cool and focus on the target ahead, who was one of the most dangerous assets of the Monk Pirates. Would have helped to put in her head in the fridge just for a second or two? Cynthia pumped the conditioner within her helmet to the max, before the cold shut straight at her face forced her to turn it down a few notches.
Her eyes focused its scope on the King of Diamonds, scanning him through multiple spectra of light beyond what humans are capable to perceive. Cynthia evaluated Mitsuhide’s attractiveness, and he just scored a pretty respectable 7,9 regular. He had a feminine yet sharp looking face, golden eyes like cats and pale skin which could pair her own; a fine example of a bishonen through and through, Cynthia’s favorite type of men, just like she loved big and burly women. One thing only the assassin found ugly about the man, so much so she wanted to gauge her eyes out and vomit rage-induced curses to the Seven Heavens: that horrid, abhorrent white cape. She would tear into shreds with her hands and threaten to castrate the musician if he ever dared to wear so much white at once in due time, however. Oh gosh… she was there to fight against Mitsuhide, not flirt with him, for fuck sake!
She had to admit, however, that there was something quite magical about the man. Well, about his music: a melody of sorrow, melancholy, and glory, balancing jumps in tones and even keys with pitch-perfect execution. Cynthia had practiced classical music in early days as well, blowing everyone away in Karate Island with virtuoso performances of clarinet once they taught her it wasn’t something edible. That was melody she really wished her sweetheart would play for her regularly. Well, maybe not the part when Mitsuhide was clearly trying to use her violin as a sonar to locate enemies. Cynthia was advised of some unique frequencies the moment she stepped into the island by her C-Suit and had noted a second later the powerful Kenbunshoku Haki carried with the tones.
That Mitsuhide had brought on the table an incredibly effective way to trace intruders: but she could hide even better. Her Usu Usu no Mi allowed her to completely delete aspects of herself. She had swiftly used her Level 1 Dilution to eliminate any resistance her body had to lightwaves and her ability to produce any sound or echo. The pretty boy could have strummed as much as he wanted, but she wouldn’t return a drop of the soundwaves spent; when it came to Haki, she was great at her own in muting her spiritual presence. The one measure she couldn’t take was to directly hide the sound coming from other nearby sources: hence why she had to make the most attention while moving or setting up traps. She had to find a lapse in Mitsuhide’s concentration before even attempting a stealthy move.
Tremors from below interrupted the assassin in her musing: they came from deeper layers of the earth, shaking up the gargantuan Guru from its roots to the tip of its trees. Birds and animals flocked from the foliage, sensing the current struggle could bring destruction to their home. Surely two top brasses on both sides of the war were already in for a hell of a fight. A more perfect chance to strike could not come.
Diluting her weight just a bit, she jumped from the higher branch and floated above the swordsman. The tree had recoiled, springing forth a nigh imperceptible tune smothered in the chaos. Even so, Cynthia wasn’t sure that the King of Diamonds legendary sense of hearing couldn’t have picked it up, so she had to literally beat the echo in terms of speed. She returned her body to her normal level of gravitational mass, folding her frame in an axle maneuver, then touching the ground on the right of Mitsuhide with the tips of her shoes. Her toes tipped against the ground tens of time, kicking up puffs of dust: a cover which would have distracted her adversary, while she executed a Soru and landed right under his blind spot.
“There you go, mister bisho”. She whispered, stretching a leg all behind her back and coating it with black Busoshoku Haki. “Sorry I have to turn your face in bolognese sauce: we’ve got excellent cooks down in the Legion to bring you back in top shape. Your nose will be turning fine so soon you won’t even miss playing flute. Oh, wait! I have got my Level 1 Dilution active. He can’t hear me, and playing flutes with the nose is anti-hygienic and disgusting as fuck!” She punished herself again by slapping her right temple with her tongue, though not in a way that broke her offense.
Cynthia’s stretched leg shuddered, rippling its surface until blurred down. Instead of expanding forward, the mass of her Rankyaku coiled on her leg like a python, jutting out in myriads of rotating blades resembling the end of a sickle. Once she turned her lower limb in a combine harvester, Cynthia broke loose with a sweeping kick, delivered at supersonic speed against Mitsuhide’s head. Blessed by favorable genes and bolstered by years of grueling training, Cynthia’s legs were charged with muscles harder than titanium, capable to burrow through armors, barriers, and even buildings with awful ease. Made denser by Haki and shrouded by a windy Buzzsaw, there was very little they couldn’t steamroll; the fact that she was also invisible and inaudible didn’t hurt either.
Parker's power was much like the male himself: loud and disruptive without even trying to be. Where the attack shook the island, Mitsu's ability to pick up sounds was weakened. He might've been able to account for it if he had been forewarned, but alas he wasn't. Just as he was withdrawing his Kenbunshoku from the island at large to focus around a smaller area, he noticed something off with his surroundings. Just like his hearing, his other senses were heightened by the loss of his sight. He could track scents much like a well trained hound, scent the air like a predatory snake and even feel minute vibrations or displacements of air pressure.
He could tell he wasn't alone anymore. He smelled the trees, the resin of his bow and the wood of his violin, and something foreign. Someone foreign. But that was impossible. For someone to be able to hide from not only his hearing but his Haki was an impressive feat to say the least. Either that or he was getting sloppy, and he doubted the latter was the case.
He couldn't hear them move, so he would focus on feeling them move. His Kenbunshoku bolstered his sense of touch as easily as it did his hearing, now allowing him to pick up on any and all displacement of air in his immediate vicinity, as well as a general idea of what was going on across Meera's top branches. The other individual, his opponent from the Marines he assumed, moved. Fast. He could only assume through Soru but it was quite possible they were using their natural speed or something else entirely to move that quickly.
He wasn't the best at reacting with his other senses, he would admit. He relied a bit too much on his hearing, and was just able to irk by with his other senses when he had to. When he felt the churning of the Rankyaku, he came to regret that fact just a bit. He could promise himself he would train more and improve his reaction time across the board but he knew he'd just be telling a lie. More likely than not he'd get back and throw himself into his various compositions or musical studies.
The attack was aimed directly at his face, which was a shame. He couldn't see it but he was told he was rather attractive. He wasn't in any way vain, but he was already blind he didn't need another reason for people to look upon or speak to him with pity in their voices. He though he lamented having to do it, he dropped his violin to the cushion of leaves below him and felt his body turn to pure sound. He was singing, soaring, resonating through the air. He felt he would never get used to this feeling, of being one with all sound and music. But now was not the time to dwell on that. Mortal peril and whatnot.
He moved through the air swiftly, at the speed of sound naturally, and reappeared several feet above and away from his would be attacker. He knew their approximate position, how fast they could move (or at least an idea). He focused on feeling them, honing his sense of touch on them alone while drowning out all else. Of course this meant he would be blind, touch-wise, to all but the unknown individual, but he would also be able to pick up every movement they made. From a twitch of a finger to the batting of a lash.
"I must commend you, not many could get the drop on me. You must be a skilled individual indeed." He held his hands out to his sides, palms forward and fingers splayed "Shall we begin our bought? Crash Cymbal." He brought his hands crashing together in a clapping motion. The sound generated by the movement was magnified one hundred times over by Mitsuhide's own power, sending forwards a shockwave of force threatening to bludgeon Cynthia and send her crashing down to the roots of the Guru Meera if it struck true.
Cynthia could already taste the sound of Mitsuhide’s head being bludgeoned against her legs, his skull making cracking noises and blood smearing all over her black trousers, when the King of Diamonds turned his entire body into a mass of amorphous soundwaves and slipped right behind her leg and herself. What the hell was going on?
“Well, you are surely as strong as you are skilled with music, pretty boy! You truly suit your bounty and position”. Cynthia commented, this time not even bothering to hide her voice or appearance through her Level 1 Dilution. Well, she always thought the bounty system was crap anyway: people should be charged with a bounty on the basis of their physical attractiveness. No man above three meters of height should be given bounties higher than a million beli, while the same amount should be assigned to every woman past that threshold. Cynthia dared only to fathom (and foam at the prospect of) this ideal word: one where she would hunt only delicate and gorgeous bishonen and buff, statuesque beauties! If she had done more than just fathomed, her pants would have turned wet in a very inappropriate occasion.
And few occasions were less appropriate for arousing thoughts than facing a sonic boom dashing on your tail with the speed and power of a freaking train. The damn wall of sound run so fast Cynthia hadn’t the time to give it an hand of painting, and she would have loved to paint every construction with obsidian black or pretty periwinkle, goddammit!
Since she couldn’t decorate the wall, she settled for avoiding it. Cynthia switched to her Level 2 Dilution: a state of being in which not only her external traits but her physical flesh was erased. The crashing blow passed through Cynthia as if it struck a ghost, missing her for a spitting hair: it hurled down below, falling against the roots of Meera with a booming, resounding clap, making the weaker leaves fall in stacks from their branches.
Cynthia didn’t even break her form: her limb was stretched and still infused with the whirlwind shaped Rankyaku. Switching form from a Level 2 to a Level 1, she spun on the pivoting leg and gently slammed one heel against another. That small clash dissipated the Rankyaku through the earth, resulting in a shockwave even more violent the preceding two, given the close proximity. The trunk of Meera churned; every window in Mirabai shattered; the home where Cynthia was standing cracked and screeched, ready to fall down in every moment; the outer balcony turned in nothing but debris and shrapnel scattered in the wind, alongside some odd, metallic spheres the size of a marble.
Amidst the chaos and immense discharge of air pressure, not even Mitsuhide would have noticed Cynthia performing a Soru, one incomparably faster than most given the powerful push of the Rankyaku. Cynthia jumped behind the King of Diamonds once more; her form during the step had been switched to Level 2, so that she wouldn’t just be invisible and inaudible, but wouldn’t have pushed away a molecule of air while moving. There was no way Mitsuhide could predict that blow with his senses alone, no matter how superhumanly developed. She was in perfect position for an ass-whooping from behind.
And then, she saw it. That abhorrent, accursed, anointed, abominable, abject, and every other deplorable word with “a” white cape, flapping on Mitsuhide’s shoulder like the flashy drape of a bullfighter. Cynthia loathed this level of white in anybody’s garment: it remembered her too much those horrible men, back in the days in Faleria, those devils in white suits… and those assholes from Cipher Pol 0… Memories of pain, fire, and gunsmoke flashed back in her mind; her eyes became jettisoned with blood.
“How dare you to wear such devilish piece of garment before my eyes!” Cynthia hollered with pure rage. “The only one I know who continues dressing in white and lives to tell the tale is Vrag: and that’s only because I am scared shitless of hiiimmm!!!”
Cynthia had deactivated all her level, turning normal so that Mitsu could hear her hatred and fury. That did not matter, cause her assault was coming much faster than her words or even her thoughts, attacking as if she was possessed by a raging demon. Cynthia swung her arms like machine guns, her hands flared back and forth in flurries of Shigan, punches and palm strikes suffused with the ichor of Busoshoku. An unrelenting assault, composed of thrusting blow of such speed that they were breaking the sound barrier, leaving nothing but afterimages on their path and pistons of air flying everywhere, sinking deeply in Meera’s bark or tearing through roofs and ceilings.
Mitsu heard her words and then the force of his attack striking the ground below Meera. He also heard the destruction that reached the village and lamented in his soul. He threw his voice, a simple whisper to the leader of the village that he was under attack and they needed to evacuate immediately. He didn't want any of the villagers to get caught in the crossfire of his fight. He would blame himself if anyone was hurt, or worse yet, lost their life to something that was no more than a minor scuffle in his eyes.
That was assuming the fight was about to drag on, of course. He hadn't heard his attack strike a body. Something the likes of his Crash Cymbal was sure to shatter bones and bend one's body out of shape. The sound would be noticeable, at least to his ears. He focused on his ability to feel the air and his hearing, trying to pick up tell of any movement. But he couldn't, and that was highly disconcerting. He crooked a finger and soundwaves surrounded his violin bow, saved from the destruction of his balcony. His violin wasn't so lucky, but he had more. A bow was all he needed.
The main downfall of the four Rankyaku known as Shigan, Rankyaku, Soru and Geppo was that no matter what, their very nature relied on the displacement of air. Of course he would only be able to sense their point of origin and their path of travel, being only useful in tracking an opponent if they are using the latter two, however his opponent was close. She was attempting to overwhelm him with a barrage of attacks, so she wouldn't be moving from her position for a while yet.
The violin bow was coated in an armor of black, Mitsuhide's own Busoshoku Haki springing to his defense as he moved at a blinding speed to match each and every one of her attempted attacks. Mitsu's skill with music was matched only by his skill with a sword, and while a violin bow was no sword it was just as good in his hands. The power he put behind each of his blows was equal to that of the attacks Cynthia was launching at him. The force equalized, dealing no damage to him outside of a few scrapes and minor bruises but unleashing powerful shockwaves outwards with them at the epicenter. The branches blow them shook wildly and the wood creaked under the force of their bought. Mitsu didn't know if Meera could survive this unscathed...but he would do his best to minimize the damage to her.
"I must say you flatter me, my dear." He spoke evenly, his tone measured and his eyes focused on Cynthia's face yet unseeing "For someone to be able to hide from all of my senses so effectively...I must say I am at a bit of a disadvantage here, but I can handle myself. What I will not abide" With that his strikes when from defensive to offensive, exerting more force to match the woman's blows and striking out with his own attacks in the gaps between "Is you putting the lives of innocent villagers at risk! Let's take this somewhere else. Pizzacato!"
Just as fast as his strikes came, his free hand came to the bow string and plucked it once, sending a non-damaging shockwave of force centered directly at her chest. It wouldn't so much as sting, but it would send her careening into the sky away from Meera. He needed to make absolutely sure that no one would be hurt, and that could only be accomplished if he took the fight away from the island proper into the sky.
Cynthia felt a nudge on her chest: the attack hurled her hundreds of meters above, far above the village of Mirabai, straight to the highest branches of Meera. She recovered her equilibrium and landed on one of the branches with help of a little Geppo. Despite the rapid-fire onslaught on between her and Mitsuhide, she didn't suffer any important damage: just a few bites on her arms and bosom, which her C-suit had already absorbed. However, looking back at her opponent, she realized he had not suffered any real harm from the struggle either. Almost back to square one, then; though she wondered where squares had gone. There were conic shapes with the big tree, triangular to fractal shapes with the leaves, and weird-as-hell shapes with the branches, but no squares. She shrugged on her shoulders.
“You are pretty damn good with your violin in more than just one way. But I warn you that I haven’t done my best either, far from it: I tend to be sloppy when I am angry, and this is a weakness I won’t let you exploit again”. She stared at Mitsuhide, watching him like an owl. Strangely enough, the man had positioned himself upside down, yet neither his hair nor his clothes were dangling around.
“You must really use a great hair gel to keep your haircut in one piece while hanging topsy-turvy like a bat. If we were engaged, you should totally lend me some of it too. I can also tell you places where you can find amazing tailors, some of the best: they will unravel your ugly ass white cap fiber per fiber and give’ya something wearable”.
A strange pulsation on her temple made Cynthia realize the truth: “Wait, you are not dangling topsy-turvy, I am looking at you upside down!” She was watching the King of Diamonds almost literally like an owl: her neck was bent to an unnatural degree so that her chin could touch her of her head, if she tried. Cynthia turned herself around in the right position, just before returning to her Level 1 Dilution again.
How to take care of that damn musician? Cynthia was physically impossible to be spotted in her Diluted forms, even by those with the most acute hearing. As far as she knew, Mitsuhide was using two methods: either he was sensing her with a Haki much more powerful than her own, or he had somehow trained himself to perceive air displacements on a reflexive level. Dazang-sama had told her that this was a skill monks and ascetics use to develop after years of meditation and rigorous training. If that was the case, she has got a couple of really good ideas to deal with it, so much so she had already planned their first date, wedding, and honeymoon: Mitsuhide, of course, was among the guests.
Cynthia took deep breaths; her body begun trembling, in small ripples at the beginning, but more and more pronouncedly with each inspiration. The surface of her frame, while still invisible per se, reflected that constant shaking motion: air wrinkled all around her, covering her body in a blanket which resembled a crystalline pool of water bombarded by waves. A basic principle of Hasshoken, an art which had become a staple in the fighting repertoire of the Legion since Dazang had joined them: though she was certainly no grandmaster like her sensei, and certainly not strong enough to match a sound based Logia user in an all-out vibration battle, she still got few nice tricks, the first of which was to boost the power of her attacks.
Cynthia gave a strong push to air with the sole of her foot, aiming to the King of Diamonds. The vibrations in Cynthia’s Legs gave her attack much more vigor and speed, as well as an entirely new shape: a bearded dragon, bearing the wizened appearance of eastern’s wyrms, but much stockier and more provided with bird-like wings. The great creature rushed toward the King of Diamond to inflict him a bite large enough to cleave him asunder.
In the meanwhile, Cynthia had switched to her Level 2 and flew in the deepest fronds of Meera, where the foliage was often so thick, she could barely be seen even in her basic state. Her wrinkling simulacrum remained in place of her, programmed to send continuous vibrations through the air and the tree branches for at least a couple of seconds. Other metallic marbles fell again, disappearing in the chasm below. She stared again at Mizuki, aided by the magnified scope and increased clarity provided by her high-tech visor. Witnessing him to peek all his reactions, to understand every thought running in his beautiful, well-groomed head.
Mitsu was glad to note that his attack had landed, though buying the villagers enough time to make their way out of the tree and away from it. Their homes may be destroyed but at least they would keep their lives. The Monks would help them rebuild, Mitsuhide would make sure of that personally. But for now he needed to focus on his opponent. She was powerful, and it wouldn't do to be caught of guard in such a situation.
"My dear you are a talkative one." He laughed softly "But you have a lovely voice. Do you sing?" He couldn't help but notice she had called him "pretty boy" before. It sounded more like an attempt at an insult, but flirting to throw off your opponent was a valid strategy in any situation "By the by, I only put the best organic products in my hair. There is this amazing wax from a rare species of bee in North Blue that I favor. I would definitely recommend using it!"
Then there were vibrations coming from her. But not those that came with sound or movements. They were stationary, emanating from her like waves from the ocean. He knew this, if only because he had often seen his captain utilize this style before. Hasshoken. The fighting style of the Happo Navy. He had studied it himself, in passing, when he was just learning to command the power of his fruit. To figure out how best to mold vibrations. She was planning something...and he didn't like it.
Then there was the attack, he could feel the shape of it from the vibrations alone. A dragon. It was a powerful attack, he could tell. He could feel it, and it was very dangerous. It had been some time since someone was able to give him a run for his money like this. His mastery of his Logia usually crossed the gap in power that was present with those he fought against. He found it entertaining, like a composition you could lose yourself in. He would show why he was the King of Diamonds, the second most powerful Devil Fruit specialist in the Monk Pirates.
Mitsu crossed his arms over his chest and closed his eyes the air around him shifting and changing, vibrating in a similar manner to what Cynthia had just executed. Though this was more refined, a sign of years spent honing one's power. It swirled around him defensively, the dragon striking the shield of currents and, rather than breaking through or being destroyed upon impact, simply had its force dispersed around it.
The air then stilled, taking the shape of the torso of a beautiful woman with long flowing hair and her eyes shut. Her arms were crossed over her chest much like Mitsu's own and her eyes were just as unseeing. She dwarfed him in size, the musician being able to sit in the palm of her hand like a particularly fleshy chair if he was so inclined. She was calm and serene, much like him, and she was humming a constant soft tune to herself and Mitsu. Something along the lines of a lullaby, sweet and soothing.
"Once the opera has begun, none may leave the THEATRE. At least...not alive. I hope you understand." His voice was soft, but carried much farther than it should in such a situation. A sphere of soundwaves had been erected over the upper half of Meera. Nothing, no attack nor item nor person, not even sound itself would be able to leave the confines of the spear. Not without the backing of immense destructive force.
"Acapella." Mitsu spoke but the woman opened her mouth, aiming a shell of sound the size of a cannonball at the copy of herself Cynthia had left behind. The shell ripped through it and struck the tree, not exploding but simply ripping a large circular area from the treeline. Branches, leaves, and any fruit that was once there was torn asunder in the wake of the attack "That is the fate that awaits you, dear. Next time, I won't miss."
Cynthia witnessed Mitsuhide blasting her clone away; she heard him giving his omen, a sign he wasn’t being fooled by her trick; she took notes about the fantastic wax which made Mitsuhide’s hair looking like golden plums: though herself was raven-haired, and not in the avian sense, her blonde friends would have totally benefited from a good shampoo. Man, what a wonderful man that bisho was! Not many would have complimented the sound of her voice while she was trying to beat them to an inch of their lives and fetch them to the Marine, even though she kinda sounded like Michelle Branch.
And more importantly, she saw her. Cynthia’s heart skipped many beats, her face blushed, painted with all possible shades of red at once. The assassin was mesmerized by the woman’s luscious, silky hair, bewitched by the pearly quality of her skin, enchanted by the perfection in her proportions and completely awed by the sheer hugeness of her freakin’ hot body.
“Fuck me!” She thought with highest possible voice her Level 1 could have concealed. “Let’s go married first if you hold conservative values, and then let’s make snu-snu night and day, day and night! And if Mitsuhide ever feels jealous, let’s do a threesome!”
A shock snapped Cynthia from her fantasy and back to her (not many) wits: not because she realized that the large and smokin’ hot woman was made of pure sound, so it could have never married her, let alone have sex with her; such realization came only a few seconds after her helmet had made her hair and head fizzy with a due electroshock.
“Right, back to our much less sexy battle… sigh… why can’t I get nice things? She’s got a first prize rack…”
Things were getting more complicated than usual: Mitsuhide had seen through Cynthia’s trick and destroyed it just as a form of mockery. This could validate the option that he was a masterful user of Haki: after all, most heavy-hitters in Yonko’s crew were. But then she recalled that Mitsuhide was serving under the Mad Monk Daikaku: many times during their training Dazang-sama had sung praises about him, regarding him as one of the foremost master martial artists in the planet, one that has also reached extreme proficiency in the use of Hasshoken. No doubt he would have exchanged tips about the functioning of this martial art, given how air vibrations were Mitsuhide’s bread and butter.
What to do, then? First of all, assessing if there was any difference in Mitsuhide's pattern of attacks; namely, if the coming of that woman meant a strengthened use of his soundwaves or his Haki. No matter how powerful his soundwaves were, they couldn’t it what has no mass nor body. Her first evaluations coming from on her C-suit leaned toward the latter: her sensors were flaring up, indicating a rise in the soundwaves with the Opera woman at their epicenter. Cynthia tried to steer her mind and focus in her Kenbun, to see if Mitsuhide spiritual pressure had somewhat augmented: she didn’t perceive any increase if anything it looked like Mitsuhide was busier holding his gorgeous creation in one piece than putting energy in his Haki.
But what if it was only a trap? Mizuki could have done that on purpose just to lure the assassin to her demise. Cynthia wanted to toy with one of the Zyklon-N Pills she had brought for the battle, squishing its grainy texture under her fingers to relieve the tension; the first good use of those in this match yet, instead of having them spread out aimlessly or get moldy inside. But she had to be careful with each movement made, even at her Level 1: getting sound blasts on her face was among the types of bang she never wanted.
“I have no idea, of what this big woman can do to me, except giving me a big itch in the underbrush”. Cynthia murmured in her mind. “So, let’s go and try it on by myself”. Her C-Suit sensors all pointed at Mitsuhide, imprinting their image in Cynthia’s eyes like a burning mark. She would really need a clear point of reference, cause the shot she was taking at was worth of many hangovers at once.
Vibrations arose again from the assassin but did not spread all over in her body. She kept the turbulence deep in her diaphragm, the center of her breath; she gave it weight and power, rising higher and higher with each inspiration and expiration, as she was filling up a zeppelin with her own air. Dazang-sama would have been proud: her body had a furnace of energy boiling up within but still looked cold and still from the outside, which demonstrated great mastery over the Eight-Impact Fist. Turning briefly into her Level 2, she slipped past the labyrinth of branches and reached the massive trunk of Meera. The only pace sturdy enough to hold the recoil of her next leap. ‘Cause she was trying her own spin on what were perhaps two of the deadliest techniques both of Rokushiki and Hasshoken.
“Soru: Kiryu Kirikugi”
The principle behind that technique was relatively simple in theory: concentrate an incredible amount of vibrational power in your Legs through Hasshoken, kick the ground tens of time with Soru, then have all the energy discharged in a little jump: one a crapload of times faster than even the mightiest Soru, capable of shattering through any defense. In that state, it didn’t matter whatever the Opera soundwaves would spot her, ‘cause she would go so freaking fast that, by the time the returning sound waves had bounced back, she could have gone, baked a cake and offered it to Mitsuhide. My gosh, Cynthia really hoped the pirate would appreciate her cooking: after having understood she hadn’t to stuff red velvet cakes with real fabric, she had people back in Karate Island waiting in line for her pastries.
From an observer’s perspective, it didn’t look like Cynthia had moved at all: her form shrunk into a thin black line until it completely vanished from the world. In her place, she left a gaping tear in the atmosphere, a bomb of void rimmed with such friction it burned down to ashes everything around. The trunk of the Guru trembled with such intensity the previous tremors felt like jitters in comparison; charred branches and burning leaves poured down; large cracks slithered through the bark, creeping dangerously close to the roots. To summarize, the mere recoil of the Soru tore down an entire side of Meera’s fronds, leaving just a cloud of splinters in their place and inflicted grievous damages to the tree structure.
In the meanwhile, Cynthia was cleaving through the wind with speed calling it breakneck would be a massive understatement, easily Mach-a shitton in her personal scale. Hails of air molecule were hailing on her body, while her muscles were tearing down like pieces of tissue under a hurricane. It required nothing less than her own superhuman constitution to pull off this stuff without unraveling oneself in strings of flesh; her C-suit was also helping a lot, using the nano-bindings within their fiber to hold the woman in one place. Regardless, she could reach such speed only once per battle, and then she would have felt like absolute shit.
Cynthia’s leap would have brought her right in front of Mitsuhide, being ready for a frontal smackdown. However, her C-Suit pointed at the large barrier of sound surrounding the pirate, so she had a better idea. Using a combination of Geppo and Soru, she maneuvered herself right above Mitsuhide, then on his left, on his right, below, and on his left again. Her pattern of hypersonic movements, accomplished by some level of vibrations left in her legs, had the purpose of releasing as many shockwaves in the air as possible. A cacophony of shrills and booms, grazing the sphere of sound but never entering in it, before delivering the final blow.
“Level 2 Dilution, Shigan”, she whispered while turning around a final time, finally stepping inside the sound dome; she aimed her comparatively large finger to Mizuki's back and launched a lightning fast (but non lethal) thrust.
Motionless Metal Edit
The arrival of Ernest caught him off guard a bit. Not that he couldn't sense his comrade entering the fray, but because he didn't expect him to do so. In fact, to be honest, Ernest's appearance couldn't have been timed any better. Solomon's preparations for battle seemed to have taken much longer than he'd have wished and because of that almost caused one of his comrades their life. Fodder or not.
Above everything else, Ernest's combinations of multiple Marine techniques peaked his interested. It was actually the first time he'd seen them used in perfect unison the way Ernest displayed, let alone it actually work in such a unique way. The newly appeared Vice-Admiral actions forced Solomon to lift his eyebrow in surprise. "Ah, this is Ernes-" before he could fully process his thoughts, Ernest's clones had launched elemental attacks at Edgar at all once.
"What a lovely array of colors these elements give off." He stated, but since he was near no one, only he could hear himself. Turning th Ernest he clapped, "Vice-Admiral Ernest, allow me the honors of naming this technique "Rainbow Squid"! It'd be rude for you to not accept my offer."
Solomon's ears twitched. Breaking his neck to turn and look down the path Ernest traveled, he could sense something. "I was about to ask how'd you managed to take down your opponent so quickly, but I see you did not, Kanto." Lifting his arms and shrugging, Solomon smiled at both Ernest and Jun. "I don't know if you came to help or if you came to bring your fight here, but..." Solomon smashed his palms together quaking the ground he stood on slightly. "I've never been a foursome kinda' guy myself."
The metal pole from earlier that stuck out next to the vessel Jun and Solomon traveled on began to mold. Two blobs of metal dissected from it and made their way towards Solomon. There, they would begin to bend, fold, and mold as though there were something within them. It would be long before they formed themselves into silver featureless humanoid figures.
"Just do me a favor Ernest," Solomon requested, separating his hands and lifting his thumb to point at pole next to the vessel. "Keep an eye on that for me." A glimmer of light shinned off the humanoid figures and once it died down, they both too the full appearance of Solomon. They were both clones of the man. "Jun-baby, stay alive for me!" He shouted, leaping into the air with his two clones following behind him. His destination: Ernest's old battlefront.
Going into Ernest's battlefield he did. Yet, the only sight that awaited for him between those nearly broken walls were destroyed landscapes and a few houses, all scattered. There were a few villages there, more than just Abenaki in fact, but no villager was nowhere to be found.
Even then, amongst the houses, one had smoke coming out of its chimney, though, in small amounts. Should one use their Observation Haki or even listen close enough, they would notice a faint aura inside the house.
Ears twitching, Solomon dashed forward in his traveling direction, appearing as though the man had acquired some form of flight. In the distance, he'd noticed an array of houses scattered across the land, but he couldn't sense the presence of life. Just like on his previous battlefront, it seemed as though the land had been vacated.
"Oh, Ernest. So you didn't defeat him, eh?" Landing to the ground, Solomon lifted his leg upwards like an upside down "L" shape. A simple kick from his leg was all it took for a compressed slash of air to be fired from it. Traveling through the winds whispering as it made its way, the size of it continued to increase with each passing moment. It was as though the slash had been absorbing the passing air and using it to increase its own size.
As it traveled, the slash cut anything in its way slicing cleanly through the roofs of the homes in a beheading manner. Solomon lowered his leg back to the ground. "I know you're here," he mummbled to himself. "Now come on out."
"Mhmhmhmhmhmhm," Steam brimmed through the atmosphere of that same house from before, where Parker went to. A table laid in its kitchen, on top of it were an absurd amount of plates, before them were several high chairs, twenty eight to be more or less exact.
Sitting on them were small bodies, feminine looking dolls, all with different clothing, hair styles, and overall appearance. By the side of each of their plates were tea cups, all of them filled.
At the end of such a long table stood a tall individual, none other than Parker, who held several bottles of steaming tea. "Hmmmmmmmm!" He hummed loudly, "Tiana-neesan, do you wish for another cup of tea?" His eyes hovered over a doll to his right, notable by the dark skin and green dress.
Suddenly, Tiana glowed in a blue aura and proceeded to move, soft fingers holding the cup. A smile, "Oh! Apologies," Parker bowed, causing a light shockwave, "You're not finished!" Indeed, Tiana rose the cup to her doll mouth and pushed it, steam and liquid spilled over her form and the chair. "OH MY GOD!" No second passed, Parker stood beside Tiana and picked her out of the seat, "Neesan, I know you're one of the youngest, but this requires a WASHING!" Yet again, she glowed and jumped out of his arms, headed towards a sink in the room.
Parker swiftly opened his arms, forcing wind out of his surrounds, "You can't EVER open that restaurant if you don't learn!!" Some of the dolls got that same aura around their frames, hands moving to clap at the scene. "Sisters! You all need to focus on the table, not on small ME- AH, Ariel-neesan!" Jumping over the table, Parker landed close to a doll wearing a green dress and possessing long red hair, whose strands seemed to mix with golden locks from the side. "Your hair has tangled with Rapunzel-neesan's!" From that same side, stood another doll, this time with extremely long golden hair and a purple dress.
"Let me-" Swoosh, something akin to a turbulence invaded the place, all sides of the house were cleanly cut off their base. White colored the atmosphere, colliding against Parker's waist and above, the impact made whatever it was twist violently and bend. Many of the other houses and trees were shaved off still, dust erupting in all directions, yet, the Rankyaku didn't fully travel its course, gradually vanishing towards where Parker first stood. "FUHUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
Walking briefly out of the smoke cloud, Parker stopped just at the house's door, his muscles expanding and moving with blue energy, "I see you are BACK into action, Kanto!!" His smile then faded, however, as the aura that entered his field seemed not like Ernest's at all.
To Topple the TitanEdit
Kurona was an island within the New World with a peculiar layout. From an aerial view, the island could be seen as something resembling a clock face. Outside of its dense forestation, there were thirteen key landmarks the island held: thirteen clocktowers in total were on the unusual island. Twelve towers on the outer rim were placed in even horizontal distance from each other, forming a circle that appeared as the numbers on a clock, while a single, even larger tower, stood grandly in the center of the island.
In fact, the central clocktower in itself was so high up in the air compared to the others that the tip of the tower appeared to be covered by the clouds itself. Although, even on this clear day, the tower was perpetually concealed by darker, almost smoky clouds. Whether this was due to abnormal weather devices or other reasons was left undisclosed, but the reason did not matter.
Across all thirteen clocktowers, workers were hard at labor producing clocks for the New World to use. Watches, pocket watches, grandfather clocks and even clocks adjusted to very specific circumstances were all being produced. The tick tocking permeated the grand island, which was protected by the towering Titan Pirates.
Little did the humble citizens know. Today would be a grand battle for the world to remember.
"Kurona the island of clocks. Basically, the reasons why the Titan pirates have no excuse to be late anywhere." Valentine chuckled at his own joke. "So we're all clear on the plan right, Hyoshimaru, Ein, Margret. I'm trusting you all to get this done as smoothly as possible. Try and keep casualties to a minimum." His tone grew darker. "This is a territory inhabited by a Yonko so I suppose there are no promises."
Glancing upwards towards her the Vice Admiral from her seated position which was located towards the outer section of their current location pressed up against a wall of sorts which granted her a full 180 degree view of the layout before her which was ideal for her considering the advantage her Devil Fruit and recently awakened the sixth "Sense" granted her on the unlikely event of an attempted ambush.
Quietly mulling over the layout plans that Valentine had discussed earlier Margaret merely hummed in slight satisfaction as her mind had long since analyzed the layout of the island in it’s entirety and had already marked various locations around the island in which she held the advantage something that nearly cracked her emotionless faced with the smile that desperately wanted to surface but was forcibly subdued as her mind vaguely registered Valentine's instructions and warnings about their current enemies and their threat as one would expect from the subordinates of a Yonko.
Still the mere fact that only a few months prior she had been caught in the chaotic clash which the world now dubbed the Battle of El Dorado a deadly clash against another of the Yonko and her crew in a dramatic war for the island which was destroyed due to the titanic clash between the Fleet Admiral and the Black Widow herself. The Titan Pirates, just the name alone was enough to send a shiver of both fear, respect and excitement down her spine as it was not every day a marine of considerably low rank would be included in what is basically a high scale mission the thought along filled her with a sense of accomplishment and smug satisfaction as she no doubt has proven herself more than capable at handling such high powered situations.
Ridding her mind of her distracting thoughts Margaret refocused her attention back towards her group briefly narrowing her eyes at Hyoshimaru being well aware of the red demons deeds and connections with the Underworld before moving her eyes over towards Ein as they filled with awe at the beautiful wings currently sprouting from his back that seem to give off a faint holy glow of angelic power something which befits the leader of the Marine Winged Forces, idly her mind wondered if Middwun would look good with a pair of angel wings before she scrapped that train of thought as the image quickly became not kid friendly. Finally taking her eyes over Valentine Margaret eyes held nothing but respect and admiration for the Vice Admiral, a veteran in the marines and quite possibly one of the few closest to the rank of Admiral.
"Pardon my interruption Vice Admiral". Margaret began as she draws all attention towards herself while making sure to retain her fridges facade. "However I merely wanted to know the reason for our sudden attack upon the forces of the Yonko". She continued briefly mulling over what little information she received from the Alsa Kingdom in regards the activities of the big names in the world before retiring to Valentine. "I may already have my own assumptions of our current situation however due to my rank I do not have privileged of knowing the full situation and my curiosity as began nipping away at me". She finished in a professional manner never once breaking eye contact with the Vice Admiral nor wavering in her question.
He noticed the younger marines excitement and grinned. "It's really quite simple. Kurama wishes for us to liberate this land. Take what civilians renounce the Titan Pirates under our protection and eliminate those that swear loyalty to him till death. Destruction is inevitable but we still want the place to be habitable. Finally, there are main crew members of the Titan Pirates here. While capture is Kurama's preferred method if they are going to get away it's better that they die than leave alive." Valentine answered Margret very clearly, mostly just reciting an abridged version of Kurama's short speech to him.
"Yep, that's the gist of it Margaret-san. Although Kurama is reckless overall, his intentions are for the good of all. That's why I chose to follow him because he understands what needs to be done, yet finds a balance while doing so." Ein gently smiled at Margaret, agreeing with everything Valentine said.
"Now..." As he said this, he was looking towards the direction where the ship was headed, his eyes turning orange while gaining a triskele pattern to them. "I sense three... no, four powerful energy signature on the island we're facing. It's no doubt it belongs to high-ranking Pirates of Raptor-san's crew. Our opponents will truly be fierce." A drop of sweat fell from his face as he said this. Was this nervousness? No. It was something different.
"Anyways, Valentine-san, since you're our leader, I'm going to ask this." Ein was curious about what his senior's plans are, given that there are multiple factors that are taken into account. "Do you truly believe that your plans will work? Simply denouncing Raptor will prove fruitless if they truly swore allegiance to him in exchange for their safety, and simply killing them is no different from acting as savagely as a Pirate. Another thing, how will we get them off of the island without alerting the four Pirates on said island? Something tells us that all four are experienced users of the Kenbun shade, thus will immediately detect our presence approaching the island. This will make things difficult."
Still wanting to clear his doubts, he only continued with worry. "It seems that a formation nor a distraction will work. Since there are four of them and four of us, this will probably devolve to one-versus-one matches, and like us, they will have some sense of teamwork due to them being on the same team for a long time, so any formation we've prepared will be immediately disrupted the moment we make the attempt. You still want to go forward with this?"
"So you are going to take the role of not only of Justice enforcers but of jury and executioners? Most interesting, yet not quite wise I may say. I'd suggest you picking your junior's advice to the heart, Valentine-san".
A devilish sneer came from the Phantom Shogun. Sitting on the foredeck, his leg placed on a squatted position, he casually honing his katana. He passed over and over a sharpening stone upon the edge of the blade, thinning the more blunt segments. He could afford not to care about earthly steel, as his chilling powers already bit colder and deeper than metal, yet his desire for a proper and prim massacre and maim spurred him not to neglect any of his tool of death. In the warlord's mind, hacking limbs and stabbing hearts with a dull weapon is the epitome of uncouth and uncivilized.
"You Marines have the foolishness to underestimate how thoroughly the Yonko had managed to replace your Justice with their, to sway their hearts to their cause. Raptor is not like Shiguma: he does command with a velvet glove, rather than smiting his subjects with an iron fist. Offering your peace to Kurona's civilians after you had just stormed through their home, beaten down or butchered their beloved protectors and slaughtered their friends and/or relatives won't win anyone to your cause but ruffians and sycophants. If Marines' power is built on men's conviction, this is what you need from citizens; prosperous kingdoms under the sun cannot hope to thrive without the love of their subjects".
Hyoshimaru's edge screeched under the stone, embers falling from the metal, a horrendous noise breaking the already tense atmosphere.
"I do not care about any of those things: my empire does not belong to this world. It is fueled and held by the hatred of the deads, not the trivial, messy passions of the livings. Ein-san, you do forget they we are far from being only four: there is a Legion under my command. One that does not waver nor hesitate; one whose weapons are always sharp, and their ruthlessness even sharper. My specters could clear the city of its pawns: I could possess and telepathically puppeteer most of the civilians and terrorize the rest. Of course, rebellious spirits shall always exist, flames burning brighter; I shall locate them ahead of time and sniff all those pesky lights out". Hyoshimaru's grin turned wider under the ghastly mask, and even more savage and bloodcurdling if that was possible.
"Let me be your vanguard. Stirring up chaos is my forte. All of their schemes, all of their composure will be torn asunder under hundreds of screaming wraiths. They won't be able to strategize, while we can take utter control of the battlefield, dictate them the most advantageous formation for us. Once the battle is over, I may stage a fight between you and ghosts. I shall forfeit the match, and you shall gain the adoration of those who have been spared. Marines shall be adored by the masses as the true divine agents they are. Does my plan suit you?"
"Hyoshimaru-san, I thank you for agreeing with me. And forgive me for not include your phantasmal legion. In addition, your plan is a bit more sound and will give us a great boost to our reputation." Ein said with the utmost respect and sincerity. "However..." Ein's tone has gotten quite serious after this word. "I would suggest that you shouldn't be so trigger-happy to sniff out the rebellious ones. Simply knocking them out and capturing them will prove just as effective. They're citizens after all. I believe your phantoms are more than capable of doing that, as even I heard of your prowess despite you being a denizen of the Underworld."
Closing his eyes and reflecting on the ghastly samurai's advice, he only sighed and continued with the following. "I pray that this goes well and we have little to no casualties, but alas we're up against a Yonko, so I have my doubts. I can only pray for the souls of the fallen."
Valentine stood quietly, listening to the two talked. As they finally stopped he opened his eyes, letting out a breath. "The answer to all this is quite simple, We raze the island. Or at least we make them think that's our goal. Hyoushimura, take over as many of them as you can and begin some panic, have them fight but not kill each other. Tray and take the fight out of the town and away from the clock tower. Ein and Margret once that has begun to pick a target and engage from above. In the meantime, I'm going to bring down all those clock towers, keep your distance from them for now. We can deal with whether or not the civilians like us after the enemies are eliminated." Valentine grabbed his glass, finishing the last of his wine.
"We're all extremely mobile and capable of flight in our own ways, our mobility is what will make us able to control this battlefield so easily. We can swoop in and out of battle on a whim, I can't say the same for them." They were close enough to begin the assault now. "Alright everyone no more questions, now is the time for action," Valentine spoke in a booming voice. "This is going to be hell. Marines lets rock!" He looked directly at Hyoshimura. "Go."
“With utmost pleasure, my liege”. Valentine’s order was like the beginning of a symphony for Hyoshimaru, the music of carnage already ringing in his ears. The Phantom Shogun soared the tip of his shining blade to the sky, signaling his army to come and feast. As with any ghost invasion, their presence was always accompanied by chill and gloom; the damp marine breeze begun to frost, coalescing in a fog bench. The twelve towers at the rim soon found themselves in the same position as their brethren, shrouded from the natural light of the sun as the cold marched on and sieged the island.
After the cold, dead manifested. At first, there were only cerulean flames transpiring in the sky; candles with little brightness and no warmth, which swarmed in every corner, every district, every home of Kurona. Civilians were astonished by such drastic change of weather, turning even more flabbergasted the moment they saw wisps of ghostly fire diving through walls and closed windows as they were nothing, getting closer with their noxious cold. Surprise and fear devolved in utter horror as the first cackle echoed through the air. What were formless gas masses acquired humanlike shape, pale limbs and covetous smiles emerging from many of the wisps. They were men and women of many ages, the majority of whom carried out spectral simulacra of the weapons they brandished as living beings. Ragged clothes, dull armories, flayed skins and rotten teeth. All of them were translucent, the dim light passing through they intangible yet wholly visible bones and flogging entrails. All of them had a savage gleam in their eyes, a will to kill in the most grueling manner possible.
And they had their killings. Not all of them: most citizens were sheep protected by lions and did respond to a ghost entering their home to kidnap with a feeble and toothless surrender. Some of them tried to fight, desperately clutching onto their loved ones. A foolish move: unlike what Ein suggested, Hyoshimaru control over his Onryo was not absolute all the time. Not in that occasion, when he had brought on the battlefield a very special brand of ghosts: pirates and butchers of the worst kind, slain in battlefields where the Titan Pirates had fought. Vengeful and ruthless spirits, wanting to pay back their death with ruin over what and whom the Yonko crew held dear. Sure, Hyoshimaru could have mixed the proportions of his vanguard better, inserting more grudging spirits with no bone to pick with the Titan, but were they as effective? As fun to command? Ein should spare him the fuss: Hyoshimaru was already making enough of an effort in keeping the Onryo from butchering anyone on their sight.
Besides, a far more violent fate was reserved to those bearing the Titan’s banner. Smaller fishes, assigned for patrolling duties by Raptor himself. Little lambs before the knives and claws of his ghosts. Preceded by the most chilling mist, phantasms flanked the seamen, twirled in erratic formations, uttered bestialities and threats with a rasp no living being could emulate. Despite fear grabbing their hearts and bowels, the pirates put up a valiant struggle. Still, few of them mastered Haki, too few; sword slashes and gunshots flew past their opponents’ ectoplasmic flesh, eliciting only amused and sadistic cackles from the ghosts. Onryo’s unholy weapons, on the other hand, could pierce and cut matter as they had substance, with the added advantage of bypassing all mortal barriers.
Screams ruptured in the outer rim; one with a particularly acute sense of hearing could hear the pour of blood the crack of broken bones. The garrison was, on a whole, beaten and broken, yet with few casualties. The dead had many more nasty games to play with livings, some much more pain to inflict on their defeated toys. They began possessing the pirates, slipping in their flesh as if they were clothes, many ghosts for each man, drowning the mind of the unfortunate victim with a cacophony of horrid cries. Maimed but still living pirates were lifted above the stronghold, so to be seen by the entire city; ghastly limbs were holding their arms wide open and legs, nailing their wrists with the sharp phalanxes of their hands. A macabre start of a crucifixion. visible from afar the tower.
“Now, honorable-allies”, Hyoshimaru addressed “the little ones have been caught by our net, so that their parents will come and try to rescue them. To divide they caretakers, I shall split the litter even further”.
People were flying everywhere across the city, civilians caught and raptured by ethereal manifestations. They were spared from further harm, yet their pleas for help were still overpowered by manic screaming and demonic laughter of the Onryo. Directing the orchestra with his own thoughts, Hyoshimaru had the lures split from each other, scattered in groups far from each other and the great central clocks. The city of clocks was swept on its inhabitants, flocking in whirlpools of ghosts. From a nearby position, the city was thrown in an utter disarray, but Hyoshimaru had imposed a certain logic over his chaos: making Kurona city fit for open war without further casualties, while keeping the poor citizens too busy dealing with heart attacks and wails to keep attention that the Marines were fighting with the supernatural invaders. Most importantly, the baits were arranged in a way the Titan Pirates had to split their forces in trying and rescue all if they sought to prevent a bloodbath. Taking advantage of people kindness and sense of morality and spitting over their fruitless efforts in martyrdom was truly one of the samurai most exquisite pleasures.
On some level, Kurama could observe the events as they transpired through his Kenbunshoku Shared Sight ability. He himself was stationed at sea on a ship located in the New World waters, a somewhat equal distance from each of the three islands he sent his people to, and through his Haki, he could keep tabs on some of the details occurring. With so many people acting at three different faraway locales, even somebody as powerful as Kurama could only perceive some small amount of the happenings there if he wished to maintain that connection and stay 'in the know'.
But his attention was shifted almost exclusively on the island of Kurona once he saw what his men were unleashing on the civilians there. Did they not hear his orders? Discretion was the utmost of importance, and if it was impossible to do so, then the priority of the mission would be to prevent as many causalities as possible. But here they were, unleashing a storm of ghosts on the innocent citizens of the island, and Kurama simply wasn't having it. This attack was public to the entirety of the marines; it wasn't some private mission orchestrated behind the scenes. And soon enough, the Yonko, and the rest of the world, would learn of what transpired on the islands.
World Government wipes out the entire island of Kurona to kill off the pirates stationed there.
Normally, Kurama didn't care about the way the marines or the government were painted; even if they were devils in the eyes of the people, they would carry out peace and justice as they always have. But in what way was this for marines to act in pursuit of these ideals? This wasn't going to be the way they win. In Kurama's eyes, pirates and revolutionaries — criminals — were the ones who were willing to kill indiscriminately if it means getting their way. All for their selfish ideals. Kurama in no way considered him to be noble, or a good man in general for that matter, but to him, the killing was the easy way. It wasn't going to be their way. This wasn't about beating them, this was about winning, and to win, it meant to crush not the Yonko pirates themselves, but the belief the people allied to them have in the protection they provide to their territories.
Once he had the chance, Kurama projected his voice through the connection of Haki that existed via Shared Sight, so that all the people on the mission to Kurona could hear him speak. Haki itself was willpower, and was known as nothing different than the ordinary things people can sense and perceive; among those, the five senses were the most common, and through this basic understanding of Haki, Kurama could use his own Haki to transmit his voice directly to their sense of hearing. It was without warning, and like a nail being driven straight into their hearts, his voice would spike through into their minds.
"Oh... I am doing my best to hold it together right now. My orders were clear... and precise. But maybe my words were lost on some of you, so for the fuck of it, I'm going to clarify something. Killing everybody, risking their lives for the sake of our duty, letting them take responsibility for our actions... That is the easy way. That is not our way. We save people, we don't throw them to the wolves to save our own hides. Saving people might be a difficult... and hard-ass ass-hard job, but it's our job and we're going to fucking do it. So you're going to choke back whatever shit is stirring up inside of you, and remind them that we are their saviours. We are their god-damn godsend."
For a moment, it seemed like the Fleet Admiral had calmed himself down, before resuming his dialogue with them.
"People are a resource. We never risk their lives unless we know for sure that it is absolutely necessary. That's what we do. Putting them through anguish and suffering, there has to be a damn point to it, or else we're no different than the garbage who own their island. So I'll say this... just... once."
Kurama took a brief pause.
"You will do exactly as I ordered. And you will do your jobs!"
With that, the Fleet Admiral concluded his reprimanding, and closed the connection allowing him to transmit his voice to them.
Gush, water both ran across the bottom of the Clock Tower and fell from its higher floors, the place itself was famous for its many clocks indeed, but, it was also known for its large pools of water under the soil.
Many fish swam through these, their colors notable through the transparent liquid. A heavy breath, the fish along with the water changed directions, flooding away to the right.
The water in there was enough to fill the whole bottom, however, one specific area in the form of a sphere had no water in it. Amidst that area was a large figure, who sat down with legs crossed and tail waving around, the skin was grey and the body covered in many intricate garments. Most notable was the figure's head, it had extensions to the side, as if it were a hammer.
Whether it was water falling or running, it didn't enter that area at all. "Where are the others?" It wondered, were they all off doing their hobbies? He should chastise them for that, except Clau, Clau was cool.
Another breath, the water changed courses to the left, "I sweater god, Steve, you talk too loud." The figure spoke at once, his sharp teeth showing with his mouth open. A fishman by the name of Veny, one of the top members of the Titan Pirates' Seventh Division and one of Kurona's protectors.
Blob, the fish let out a few bubbles.
Some of the fish were staring at him through the water, "S-Steve, I want to hear Noodles- WHAT!" Veny screamed, eyes widening. "Marines?!"
Blob blob. The fish tranversed not only throughout the whole town, but, through the ocean, Noodles was telling him that its cousins saw a Marine Vessel approaching the island.
"It are truth?!" Veny gritted his teeth, quickly getting to his feet, "I need to find Marcus-dono, Koji-dono, Clau-dono! And Veny-dono?" He palmed his chin, "Wait, that is me." He glanced upwards, wondering if his companion had already seen their ship.
With an extremely vast forestation surrounding both villages and the various towers, being known for its vast amount of fauna and flora with numerous species deciding to make their homeland within the Titans protection.
In one of the many areas of the forest, one particular area can be seen to emit more wildlife activity than usual. And going further is seen that most animals seem to be gathering in a specific spot, surrounding an extremely robust tree, with various rots bursting out of the ground due to their immense size and numerous small animals can be seen utilizing them as their home.
As the animals began to be watched with closer attention, it can be seen that their focus is not just on the ancient tree, but mostly on a being that was seen seated right in front of it. Surrounded by animals and plant life, the tremendous person would be described by those watching him as meditating, due to his crosslegged position and unmovable body.
It was no one more than Kojīmi, the Mink top member of the notorious Titan Pirates 7th division. Appearing to be meditation after a training section he seems to focus as the various animals sitting on his shoulders and lap didn't seem even to affect him. "Prrrrrrr" suddenly was eared as several leaves and branches could be seen moving, or he was sleeping, not the best sleeping position but if it works.
Standing at an incredible height, completely covered in short white fur the various mink features could be seen, as the biggest one being his feline head with sharp fangs, small ears, and several whiskers. And as with that in a mere second, his peace and calm were interrupted as several of his whiskers began to more causing him to wake up.
"What are those noisy humans doing now?" Showing close to no care for then initially but after just a quick glance with a refined view all of the hairs on his body went up as the various animals that were once resting alongside him began to run away. Clenching his fist in extreme anger as if what he was about to say was causing him pain "I need to find the Claude."
As the Mink began to move away from the former tree, the bigger picture can be finally seen as right next to it was a colossal bolder with several crackings all around. To an average person with would seem as if Koji was merely trying to break it, but to those that knew him, it was evident that he could easily destroy something of that size.
Which then as the many animals left the area both the floor, the massive tree and several other trees could be seen to have lightning patterns within them, showing a great control by Koji that instead of destroying its surrounding his Electro was affecting the insides of the surrounding environment.
Thud Thud Thud
The ground shook as a giant walked, walking around one of the clocktowers that surrounded the island. The tower was being refurbished, it's mechanical parts updated and replaced. Antony Marcus was helping, acting like a crane and carrying objects far too heavy for any normal man. A fighter for the Titan pirates, the titan of a man was not above helping the people of the island carry about their lives.
He currently held in his hands a gear many times the size he was. A gear so heavy that many giants wouldn't be able to budge it, let alone lift it. Marcus was currently carrying it towards it's resting place, where it would be the central gear of the entire facility.
As he finished his task, the clocktower whirring back to life as all of it's gears started turning once more, a man ran up to him with a Den Den Mushi in hand.
He took it in his hand before the snail came to life. "Sir, lookouts have spotted a marine ship on the horizon. It appears to be heading straight for us."
Marc gave a loud grunt before putting the receiver down. He then looked to the foreman before motioning the foreman towards the central tower. He was understood its meaning to be to start getting ready to evacuate in case of a raid.
With this, Marcus began walking, each step eating meters of ground with his 16 foot height, towards the central tower. He had to meet with the others, he was the shield. Now he just needed the brain to put in an appearance.
"I could tell what was happening. But I appreciate your concern, soldier." A refined voice spoke to back to the Den Den Mushi that brought him the news. This was the, for lack of better terms, "ruler" of Kurona, and the man who united the Titan Pirates on this island into one cohesive force.
Long, black hair could be seen tied into a ponytail, and elegant black robes were worn by the man as he sat upon his makeshift throne at the tip of the central clock tower. "Hmm..." On the man's sharp face, his pitch black eyes suddenly pulsated, turning red, as he looked past the cloudy exterior and viewed the entire island in a top-down method, almost as if he were a gamemaster controlling the game board.
"Everyone is present. Wonderful." The man stood up, and made himself noticeable on the balcony of the floor he was seated in. A magnanimous presence that riled up the morale of the Titan Pirates, and even the citizens, by a notable measure.
Grabbing the nearby Den Den Mushi, he spoke. "Greetings, Titans. Today, we have intruders upon this island. My vision is telling me the Marines are foolishly attempting to divert our attention to the civilians with a simple tactic. To those who are curious, they are employing Tactic Number Four of my book, 'Divide and Conquer', with our humble civilians as bait. Of course...the Marines attached to us are rather foolish. By capturing hostages...they are only marring their own reputation. But indeed, they are Marines, and they will not willingly claim civilian lives. So let us ignore the spectres for now."
Claude coughed, he realized that he was rambling again. A bad habit of his, but what could he do..? Tactics were his favourite thing, after all. "Now then..." Claude began to speak, as he outstretched his free left arm to the sky, revealing four fingers. "Let us employ the same tactic against them and see how they fare. Bishop Veny, it is time for you to shake the seas, and destroy their ships!" Claude announced, with a grin appearing on his face.
Back on the ship...
"Tch, it seems like Lord Kurama is getting impatient with us, and we're just beginning the operation." It seems that Ein was slightly distressed after hearing the message administered by his superior, knowing well his ability to view what others are seeing via his mastery of Haki.
"Welp, I have to act. The cries of the island's citizens are distressing; but, as much as I hate to admit it, Hyoushimura is quite fitting in his role." As Ein said this, sunlight cloaked his body. Before he was in his standard Marine attire when on-duty, but now he was donning his battle gear — preparing to act on behalf of his Marines and "defeat" the villains at hand.
Spreading his wings and flying at breakneck speeds, he touched upon the island instantaneously. Soon after, his body glowed — the luminosity increasing by the second until his visage likened to the sun itself, with the skies turning a brilliant golden color. Soon after, streams of piercing light descended from the heavens — raining down on the citizens and the "evils" that haunted them.
Though it was like a warm shower to the citizens, it was the opposite of the spirits that plagued them. One-by-one they started to vanish as if they were purified. At the same time, those injured to various degrees slowly started to heal, as if all their pain and suffering started to melt away — replaced with a feeling of euphoria. The panic died down, peace was restored.
Looking towards the sky and marveling at its luminous color, some of the citizens started to pray, thanking the heavens for saving them at a dire hour. "Good, this is my chance." Using this opportunity, Ein called out to them. Due to being clad in light, his voiced bellowed — slightly deepening as the winds carried his message to the citizens below.
"Dear citizens of Kurona, I have come to liberate you from the evils that dare sire themselves as "justice". As you've witnessed, I saved those who were injured and dulled any sense of suffering amongst you. But... I apologize for those I couldn't save. In honour of their sacrifice, you must live. Thus, I will provide you with a lifeline. Go to the edge of the island. There, Marine boats will escort you to safety. When you return, the island will be yours again and you'll be autonomous; none will govern over you."
The citizens were in awe of the message, and seeing the devastation that took place, they heeded Ein's message and made their way towards the edge of the island.
"Good, I've done my part." Ein was relieved that it went as well as expected, despite minor setbacks. However, this was quickly followed by the anticipation of the enemy revealing themselves. "Now, let's see if those four will come out since the distractions are gone." Since the citizens will be escorted off the island and into the Marine vessels, there will be no distractions for the upcoming battle.
The Marines hadn't done a sole mistake at that point, no, just when Claude had informed his partners of what was happening, Veny had been ready, it was 02:09:05PM according to the nearest clock. Preparations began when the fish informed him, however. Umidity, the presence of water upon another body or object, including the air itself, which was not spared, such was the ability of the Jujutsu practioners. Along with the flowing water of the tower and the river that connected directly into the ocean, towards the marines' direction, all of the umidity had been drawing in towards Veny, such that the river and the ocean below the ships got lower to the point the sand was more visible within the frame of a single second.
Upon arriving, each droplet of water stood like a wall before Veny, whose right arm's muscles nearly burst out of their flesh. Drop, drop. His left foot stood to the front and his right fist was drawn back, teeth grit, Veny's eyes never left the visage in front of him. Part of the tiles beneath his feet cracked.
Veny hadn't known whom specifically had come from the Marines, but, judging from Senpai's words, he couldn't just go easy. He couldn't help but wonder, however, upon noticing how the citizens floated and that a blinding light emcompassed the beach. Then again, he had never gone easy, or so he thought. The water continued to gather, the sound of droplets filling the streets, another second passed, the atmosphere was tainted with blue.
Upon his request, the fish schools he befriended managed to send several messages to all of their companions in the frontal vicinity of the island, including the ones swimming below the Marine Ships. A message of warning. Not a second later, all of them swum away to the left or to the right, whichever was closer, although there was certain difficulty. It was at that moment that the light expanded and emcompassed the floating citizens, Veny's eyes widened slightly, and the droplets went quiet.
Jujutsu did allow him to touch the water much like it were tangible, but, Veny was someone who could take it a step further through his usage of Karate. "Ogi..." He uttered, just before his attack launched. "Burukun."
Veny chose not to roar, he knew that whatever roar he spunged from his body would not be louder than what happened the next instant. In a scream, the air was torn apart by Veny's straight punch, several rings surrounded his arm, the ground behind him was pushed backwards along with part of the tower's base. Meanwhile, the blue of the atmosphere vanished away without any resistance and painted the atmosphere of the ocean instead, the water that stood before Veny shot forward without a whisper, before his fist even touched it, and went straight down the path of the river and into the ocean. The blow was certainly not aimed for the surrounding city, yet, with the ferocity it went forward part of the water caused a festival of steam explosions at the sides of the river, all appearing at the same time and likely disturbing Sophaur's work with the citizens, seeking to soak his sunlight. Similarly, the part of the island opposite to that one was engulfed in a gush of wind, the ocean behind it pushed back only a few meters.
Much like a whip, the water rispped at the atmopshere and hit the ocean in that same instant, creating another ain ring and provoking a loud hiss before the marine ships. A hiss that instantly grew into a below. More steam birthed from the strike and sent several explosions across the marine ships, the water ran away to the left, to the right, backwards, anywhere away from Veny's strike, everything rumbled, including the targets. The bottom of the sea was uncovered, its sides rising and rising until they were towering tsunamis which, too, ran away from the area and reached up to most of the highest clocktower's size, carrying away most of the fish with them. Even the sea behind the marine ships rose away into smaller tsunamis and divided, leaving all of them to fall into the sand and corals of the ocean's bottom. A spherical-shaped area was scarred upon that part of the sea, its borders made up of rising water as it refused to go back to where it stood previously.
Another glance upon the clock, Veny noted it to be 02:09:10PM and stood by there, reminding himself that once the strike was finished, his companions would rush right in. He knew this was not the decisive blow to the fight.
Pure unadulterated awe was perhaps the only to describe the feeling currently coursing throughout every single fiber of Margaret's body as her mind tried to comprehend the situation that was unfolding before her very eye. As the awe faded from her mind the reality of what happened finally settled in and that alone was enough to silently send her nerves rattling about before she managed to wrestle control of them again as her eyes beheld the now empty harbor that was once wrapped up in the ocean's embrace, now it was a wide circular dome of pure sand, coral and dying sea life. "T-This is the power of those who server under a Yonko.... ,This is the power of the Titan Pirates." Were the thoughts of Margaret while still reeling from the effects of having the Sea literally ripped from beneath the marine vessel she was on, and for the first time in a longtime Fear grasped Margaret's heart as her standing within the world slowly became more pronounced, as for all her accomplishments she was still naught but a small fish in a sea of predators and upon that revelation her tightly guarded mentality shattered.
However where one might normally crumbled under such a life altering realization Margaret thrived, with the fear that gripped her heart still lingering another emotion one far stronger than the fear suddenly rocked throughout her body. Ever so slowly a smile began to form on her face as euphoria bubbled within her hear banishing the fear that gripped her heart to the side and with that action her body suddenly felt as light as a feather, her mind feeling more clearer than it ever has in her lifetime, and for the first time since her consumption of the Goro Goro no Mi she understood. Her brother often stated that when your mind is completely submerged with fear and your reality comes crashing down only the will you be able to perceive the world in it's truest beauty, something she finally understood as Clairvoyance began to take hold of her mind whistle her body began to move without command as if it already knew what it wanted.
Unbidden as a wealth of information flooded her mind, information she recognized as ideas she had previously in her closed mental state scraped and labelled as failures, now however with her new mentality she understood them saw her previous flaw and fixed them within seconds. However, throughout all her ideas only one stood out the most current one which she previously would have been unable to utilize properly. Steeling herself, she drew in a deep breath, kneading the ambient electricity within the air, willing it into her desired shape and form as her eyes shut and her hands clenched in concentration and steadied her breath before she snapped open revealing them to be glowing with electricity. "Oeil Céleste" she ever so silently whispers into the wind as a large single eye made out of pure electricity eclipsed the sky creating a shadow over the town, before the began to rapidly search the entirety of the town before solely focusing on the town center at the very base of the clock tower and narrowing as it caught sight of Veny before as a single bolt of lightning sparked into existence from the centre of the pupil revealing Margaret who proceeded to deliver a powerful sucker punch to the fishman's face.
Valentine watched as the plan begun. The ghosts began to jump into the fray, running wild as they possessed and mutilated people. As the ghosts began to kill Valentine's eye twitched, this was not what was supposed to happen. This was not the way. But he liked it, he liked it a lot. He almost wanted to urge it to continue and burn them himself. But this was not the way Kurama wanted it. Almost on cue, the voice of the Fleet Admiral boomed in his head. There was nothing like a scolding from your boss delivered via haki. That shit sure as hell woke you up. "Well looks like my improv was worthless." Valentine thought. He was entirely aware that he wasn't exactly the best choice for the mission. His methods were not exactly clean, though not overly murderous either. It was partially due to his tendencies, the violence got him all heated up. Though despite his methods he was the senior to his entire team and the one to keep Hyoshimaru in check. He needed to start acting like that.
Before he could make an order though, the sea ripped itself from beneath them, breaking outwards to create a wall of sorts around the island, with them trapped inside. The seas were gone beneath them, they were suspended in midair for a brief moment before the ships began to fall. "Well, this is wonderful." Valentine sighed as Ein and Margaret swiftly departed from the ship. Leaving only Hyoshimura and Valentine. He didn't even glance at Hyoshimaru, not trusting him to do the next task. As the ships fell the air warped beneath them as many massive etherial figures appeared, the souls of giants. They gripped the ships in their massive hands, saving them from crashing to the ground below. Valentine hopped from the ships, shooting into the sky. "Hyoshimura, cease your attack on the civilians and aim, ONLY for the pirate leaders." He spoke mentally to the man, using their own language of spirits. As for Valentine, he planned to stop the ocean. Hellfire erupted from his being, flying backwards into the wall of water. A towering flame was created that spread around the wall, coating the circumference in a colossal amount of fire. The water that even attempted to return to the wall would be burned away if it tried to come back through, for water could not extinguish the fires of hell.
The giants moved forwards, placing the ships upon the island's edge, the Marines would move out from there, storming the island from the land. "Margaret and Ein." Valentine spoke, using a similar haki communication method as Kurama. "Both of you focus a target, though I see you're already after one Margaret. The leaders are our main priority now." He closed the line, activating his own Kenbunshoku as he gazed over the island, locking onto a target. The area around him began to glow as multiple small crosses of fire began to form around him, though they seemed to be growing in power they did not grow in size. As he shot towards the island the crosses shot off into the sky, above the clouds.
The smell of blood, trembling of lightning and the familiar power of his fellow companion. Were what was passing on Koji's mind as the constant chaos spread further and he got closer. With his small, white fur trembling in every direction possible, he was able to sense everything that was happening, from Veny's aquatic attack to the marine's counter, bringing all of his attention to the nearest village.
Realizing the various situations, as he makes his way into the centre of the action, he understands that his options became limited. "Veny." Seeing his companion on a not so favourable position, Koji placing his arms on the ground began to press a great amount of strength seeing as the floor under him began to crack and his muscles to bulge. And right before finishing the previous action, he took a quick glance at his surrounding seeing both the demonic looking swordsman changing his focus from the civilians to Veny, as well as the one who decided to strike him.
Making the decision of finishing their meeting as quickly as possible, Koji used the force formerly used towards the ground and launch himself right into the young marine that was located near Veny. Travelling at an enormous speed he quickly imbued his right fist in a dark coloured armour directly onto her.
Veny truly wasn't the best at reading Haki, after all, he couldn't even remember any application from Kenbunshoku. Yet, his eyes were those of a hunter, of a predator, he could see his targets clearer and notice many actions within one, "Heh." He buffed out at the sight of lightning, not even covering his sight, palm held out whilst water travelled to gather at it in the shape of a sphere. Busoshoku procceeded to coat said hand, he was an idiot, but not ignorant to that point, to face lightning without protection was a great risk.
He did wonder why she didn't use Haki herself, however, though, it was a thought that lasted barely a single instant. For Veny was concentrated in using all the water to take Margaret out in a single precise blow, it was the Users' weakness after all. That amount of lightning exhibited could only be from a User.
Before he could fire off a response to Margaret's own punch, a large haki water fist, Veny's left eye caught sight of Kojimi. "Oh," Veny mouthed once again and the water on his hand instantly compressed into itself, further decreasing its size until it seemed to be a mere droplet. Since Kojimi was amidst this small battle, he couldn't afford to not concentrate his attacks, thus, Veny had to aim from a specific angle as to not damage his comrade.
Something he learned from fighting other forces of nature, Veny knew that simply using brute strength wasn't enough to add power to his water shot. Focusing all of his muscles and haki in his arm and not pressing his arm back, a common preparation for a punch, instead Veny pushed forward in a single whisper, with such delicacy that it seemed as if his arm vanished for a blink without leaving its place. The ground beneath him erupted away, a ring of air exploded from where he launched his attack even if it had no previous preparation, due to its compression it exploded into several shots so that they would hit her should she go any direction and, then, she would get disorientated. Even if it just grazed her, the water bullet could surely wound her flesh, Veny didn't know if she was a logia or not, but, he couldn't hold back either way.
Sensing the turmoil taking place in Margaret's direction, Ein decided that his intervention was necessary as two on one was both unfavourable and dishonourable. He was livid that the pirates would try to kill their citizens, who were being escorted to safety from the impending battle, but ganging up on another on top of that? Unforgivable.
"It seems another is approaching Margaret-san's direction at an incredible pace. Well, not on my watch!"
Turning his body into the sunlight and travelling at immense speeds, Ein caught up with the one called Kojimi — his newfound opponent. The sun shined brightly in the sky, and although his additional power was slowly waning with the passage of time due to the sun's position, it was still enough to thwart the efforts of the one he'll face.
Instantly, a large red orb formed in above the island — taking the visage of the sun itself; it slowly started to glow immensely gathering ample amounts of light and heat into its being. Upon Ein's mental suggestion, the orb fired a grandiose beam of fiery sunlight towards the direction of tiger mink, scorching the air and lighting itself aflame — turning into a large pillar of blazing energy that dwarfed most of the surroundings.
"Let's see how you counter this, tiger mink." Ein was hoping that this simple, yet powerful manoeuvre would give him some insight into the opponent's abilities, fully knowing that such a tactic would be easily countered.
The beam of sunlight never reached Kojimi. A shadow fell across the running pair, a giant of a man appearing behind them and in front of the sunbeam. He was facing towards the pair, his right arm outstretched towards the two.
The beam of light raged into the giant's back, but it would find no purchase. Marcus stood within the heat and light, unflinching and unwavering in the strike. By the time it finished, anyone could see that Marcus suffered little to no damage from the strike.
Now it was time for him to Divide and Conquer, just like their tactician said. Ein would find his path impeded, a rapidly widening web of cracks marring the air in front of him. He would be divided from Kojimi, and his companion would be conquered by the Titans in short order as the web of cracks expanded greatly, aiming to encapsulate the trio in a dome as it separated her from her teammates so she could be removed from the fight in short order.
Marcus had taken his fruit much farther than the last known wielder and had become a Hardening Human. He was capable of hardening things he was in contact with. Indeed a single crack could be seen forming from the barrier to his outstretched hand, the hardened air stretching from him his hand to the dome that threatened to spell the downfall of the overzealous Marine.
Then Marcus decided to make the choices harder. His left arm flashed out, a line of blackened air leaping from his fingertips, hardened air reinforced with Haki. The line flashed through the forest, drawing a line at the centre of the Marine ship, threatening to cut it amidships even at this distance.
Then almost as if these events were a signal flag, the Titan grunts who hadn't succumbed to the ghosts moved, rushing into the village to grab every civilian they could in an effort to complete the evacuation of the island into the bunkers that had been prepared in case of invasion. All of the residents outside the primary village had already finished their evacuation, the ghosts just had prevented this village's until now. But thanks to Ein, the recovery could proceed before the Marines finished clearing the beach in large enough numbers to matter.
Marcus himself thudded along even as he continued spreading the dome, approaching the second marine to enter the fray with little fanfare. Hopefully, the Marines learned a valuable lesson today. Trying to Topple a Titan was a good way to get smashed underfoot.
"Hmmm..." Claude overlooked the battlefield with his senses and found everything moving according to plan. All of the Marines were occupied in their own battles, and there was only one target that seemed to notice his own presence. "The Calamity Fiddler...is it?" He grinned, not out of malicious intent, but out of sheer enjoyment. If somebody could engage the great Monopoly Claude in a battle of tactics...it was a matter of joy!
Claude wove his arm upwards into the air, with a single finger pointing to the clear sky. An orb of crimson energy formed at his fingertip, rapidly increasing in size, while Claude stood still, composed. "Queen's Rain!" Claude's eyes had been closed, and his senses awoke. Every aspect of the battlefield became absolutely clear to him. He could see, hear, feel the gameboard at his fingers, and accordingly, pinpointed the key players that needed to be targeted.
"Tactic Number Seven: 'Hand Over Heart.' Let us see how you protect your subordinates, Akaoni." Claude thought aloud, uncaring if his enemies heard his intentions. A masterful tactician did not need to hide his plans, for they would be successful in the open! In the next moment, the enormous sphere of red energy rose into the air, before it began to rip itself apart, splitting at its seams and releasing a colossal number of smaller spheres of energy that rained across the battlefield in select locations.
At the very least, twenty explosive spheres of energy were headed to every Marine-affiliated combatant within this battlefield, while avoiding his own allies, as each sphere was expertly guided by the tactician's constantly-moving mind. This was not a move meant to kill, but it would force Valentine into action. This was especially true considering his subordinate, the one known as Margaret, was in the most danger from being defeated by this attack.
"Kojīmi." The tactician spoke, transmitting his voice through Haki to the tiger Mink, "I am sending explosives to that girl's way. Use Tactic Number Twenty: 'Hide and Pounce,' and use my explosions as cover to kidnap that girl. We shall cripple these Marines using their precious, foolish, and weakest link."
The roar of a cleft sea, the crackling of rising hellfire, the buzz of an eager lightning bolt: wonderful sounds, followed by blows of burning essence, red as blood and black as death. Chaos, a maelstrom of chaos singing everywhere in the land of broken mechanisms! The Phantom Shogun was ecstatic, drowning in the blissful melody of discordance and dismay. One sound only ringed sweeter in his ears: the impotent whelp of hatred-filled despair. Something those Titan were quite eager to evoke in the Marines, with their waltzing of strategies as smooth as a clockwork. That Hyoshimaru would not allow, for only he, master of life and death, could dispense utter terror as he saw fit.
“I shall defend our pup, Valentine-san,” Hyoshimaru spoke back in the unholy tongue. “Civilians shall not suffer further arm for my assault. That doesn’t mean my puppet show shall stop there: contrary to what our glorious commander has commanded, there is always a greater point behind each of my action, no matter how gratuitously debauched it may see at a first, superficial glance”. His voice turned acrid: a lecture from Kurama was the kind of speech he could aspect from a great leader reining back his most unruly subordinates to the true spirit behind their war. Everybody in his position and with such power at his command would have kept tight control over one tyke-bomb like Hyoshimaru, was loyalty was truly only a matter of personal interest and sadistic curiosity. None of those reasons made Hyoshimaru wanting to peel the Bastard Fox’s skin away bit by bit and ripping off his screaming soul any less.
But then again, not even he could argue with the results: in less than a minute, the Titan Pirates had recklessly dissipated any love citizens may hold for them, and our saintly angel had replaced had replaced such affection with the glitter of miracles. Fools, all of them were dumb fools. Especially to consider that his army of ghosts would just wither away after Ein admittedly impressive light show.
Sometimes, a blade must reamin sheathed in its scabbard until the very end to deliver an unseen strike. When Ein summoned his holy sun powers to exorcise the demons, Hyoshimaru had ordered his Onryo to take shelter in the closest shelter they could find, which was the basement and soil of Kurona itself. The legion Hyoshimaru had brought brimmed with hatred for the Titan Pirates, but in a way that did not detract from intricate reasoning: without even a need for him to command, they had scattered throughout the island and followed the trace of the strongest fighters like moths do with flames. He could see what they saw, even from stone and metal, and her things one wants to keep unknown, such as strategies and battleplans. That battle had just begun, and he had already gripped the entire island in his web with no one being the wiser sans mayhap Akaoni, if he had bothered looking the lurking swarm of specters with his demonic eyes.
The most immediate role, however, was to be taken by the cohort he had kept above; many of those were still enthralling the lesser pirates they had fished, whom they kept airborne like dolls on invisible strings. Still uttering laughs and curses, they threw themselves and their meat puppets against the crimsons spheres with total abandon. There were rose flashes and aborted cries; soon after, a much darker hue of red poured on the rowdy sea below. The ghosts inside emerged from the bloody cocoon, howling with hellish joy. The phase of the onslaught was over, and every potential Marine victim was saved and paid with the splattering remains of a Titan mook.
Margaret was the exception: the samurai had better targets for the blow intended to her than a mere pawn. Many wandering spirits came together, forming two unholy process shimmering like comets in the dark. The two tails rushed to the Mink and the Marine Lieutenant, diving deep in each of their bodies.
“Do not panic, woman,” Hyoshimaru spoke in Margaret mind with a reassuring tone, an intent as unlikely as they come for the Phantom Shogun. “Let the spirit give you the extra push and avoid those troublesome spheres and water droplets. Do not oppose any resistance, lest not suffer the same fate befallen on these possessed pirates”.
He could not expect the same cooperation from the Mink: the warrior was strong, he had a will powerful enough to resist and, eventually, overwhelm most attempts at possessing him. Hyoshimaru only needed to take advantage of the surprise and his forward momentum to steer him right in front of the hovering explosive beams.
“Valentine-san, I would like you to keep the tactician busy before he can maneuver his feline partner back”. He spoke to the the demonic Vice Admiral. “Time is of the essence when it comes to slippery bastards of such mettle. I will keeping a corpse close to Margaret, should the worst predicament transpire”.
That was also especially true of the blade of Haki and smoke tearing air asunder just in front of him. Blows like such require immediate and forceful action. Hyoshimaru form gleamed with blue, he vanished from the Marine vessel and appeared just between the huge man and the vessel. He grinned with pleasure: dealing pain and spilling blood with his own blade was a pleasure on its league, something mandate killings from ghosts could never quite hope to match.
Feet well balance and slightly bent torso: that was the beginning of his swordsmanship, the art of butchering men and walk away in one, fluid motion. He gripped on his trusted blade, baring the slightest amount skin. An icy fog exuded from the sword’s thread, its surface was covered with rime: that was the chill of the underwood, the best way to fight an attack based on heat. Hyoshimaru drew and folded his sword in true Iaido fashion against Marcus attack, bending with the grace of a willow and the speed of lightning. The two cutting trails became one, of which he controlled motion and purpose. The rapt blade flew back to the gargantuan man, seeking to hit him right in the middle of his nasal bridge with the double the strength.
"The Monopoly himself, to what do I owe this pleasure?" Valentine called to the man, he himself grinning as well. The two men stared at each other briefly before Claude acted. Valentine watched as the man created a large ball of energy and began to cause it to split apart and rain down towards the city. He acted quickly, as hounds of hellfire appeared and rapidly moved towards the falling spheres, consuming them as the energy was harmlessly burned within them. Hellfire could burn anything in the mortal world, even other fire and heat. Though as Valentine noticed Hyoshimaru moving his own pawns to defend from them he ceased his hound creation and turned his full focus to Claude. "If you don't protect them I'm going to burn your soul away." Valentine responded to Hyoshimaru's constant talk, choosing to keep it short and sweet. Though his threat was very real.
"Four Queens just won't do." He mocked. "Four, five, six, seven, and eight, all diamonds. Looks like I win this hand so I'll show you some real power. Straight Flush!" The sky became alight with fire as a massive ball of flames formed in the clouds, growing to hover over almost the whole island. The heat it radiated was intense, it could be felt on even the streets but it was particularly hot above atop the clock towers. "Any closer and I'd probably set the island on fire." He laughed as the sun-like orb began spitting spheres of fire that rained down from above, almost homing in on Claude's position. Meanwhile, other spheres fell outwards, towards the edges of the island and the sea. Those specific ones the ones would eventually stop and linger in the air. Forming a scattered pattern around the entire island.
"Tactic Number Twelve: 'Show of Force'? How dull." Claude yawned, looking upon the streams of hellfire that were rought. There was no doubt immense power radiating from them, but at the end of the day, it was all still fire. Waving his hand outwards, he mimicked the creation of Valentine's hellfire spheres. However, his own did not burn. They were simply a crimson, pure red that was soon tinged with a pitch black. These gargantuan spheres followed the trails of Valentine's spheres, and blanketed the sky in explosions. He could not completely cover the island from the Vice Admiral's hellfire, but managed to ensure his own subordinates were not caught in the crossfire.
"Let us stop playing around. A match between two elites does not require the presence of so many pieces." Claude telepathically spoke to the Vice Admiral, urging him to come up to where he was and fight mano-a-mano. Overlooking the battlefield once more, he found the biggest threat of all these opponents was no doubt the man who manipulated the undead. But he was confident in his allies' skills. No matter what they were faced with, these Marines would not win without suffering a loss, that was for certain.
Burn the BeastEdit
Though many had died in the process, the Titan grunts had done their jobs, with the civilians all, for the most part, fleeing towards the central tower and the bunkers beneath. The seastone used in the construction should fully protect them from the ghosts as well. It would also help that the giant fireball that Valentine produced would cement any Narrative about the Marine's willingness to destroy the civilians that might already be at play.
At the moment however, Marcus didn't really have the time to think about any political and moral intricacies that may be going on in the background. After all he had two high ranking opponents to deal with at once.
Marcus watched the slash be redirected out of the corner of his eye as he watched both of his enemies carefully. The swordsman was definitely going to be annoying to deal with. But he wouldn't have earned such a widespread reputation if he wasn't.
Marcus shifted more towards the Shogun as his mouth opened to reveal the inky blackness within.
Marcus released a mighty bellow, the darkness pouring from his mouth as his stomach deflated, the air he had been kneading with will power within his belly pouring out in a torrential gust aimed straight at the lick. A wall of black formed, this first bellow exceeding all the others in strength as it had been infused with will for weeks, if not months.
The flying slash was the first to impact the wall of black wind, cutting in slightly as it first slowed, then stopped, and then finally dragged back towards the Shogun as an attack within an attack.
Trees were pulled up by the force of the bellow, being dragged along with its dark embrace. The Shogun wouldn't be able to redirect this attack.
At the same time Marcus pointed his unoccupied left hand across his chest towards Ein, blackened air flowing around his fingers as it hardened. The blasts of it shot off, each the size of the smaller man's fist as Marcus flicked the hardened air towards him in a manner similar to Shigan.
This would be the time when the pair experienced the Bellow of the Beast.
As the bellow finished, Marcus's abs could be seen, though his stomach was starting to slowly inflate again.
Seeing how such a large attack was produced by the equally-large Pirate, Ein could only react in the appropriate manner; however, upon closely observing the sudden change in attack — the air-enhanced technique being compressed and scattered similar to Shigan, Ein has no choice but to go on the defensive.
As Ein stated the technique's name, a blue sun — known as the Bufuamun, formed around his person instantly and staving off the assault; however, the force was enough to push him back a great deal — sending him flying some ways.
"Though I remain uninjured, that Giant packed quite the punch. Such an amazing attack." Despite being in a life-or-death battle, he couldn't help but compliment his opponent. However, he didn't have time to relax, as he sees Anthony inflating once more. Given his size, this attack will do something extraordinary if it isn't halted on time.
"Sorry, but I'm going to have to stop what you're doing." As Ein made the self-statement, multiple orange orbs much larger than Ein himself started to form around his person, continually multiplying in great number. Soon, they started to take on a reddish-orange color; it was then that they started to take on the shape of various weapons: swords, clubs, scythes, arrows, any weapon that Ein could imagine at that moment.
"Sorry Lord Kurama. I'm going to steal a page from your book if I'm going to defeat this enemy". It seems that Ein wasn't done; he then imbued these weapons with Haki, enhancing their durability while bypassing any Devil Fruit power they may have in their possession. Normally, this would be taxing on any Haki user, but like the Fleet Admiral and Admirals respectively, Ein has massive reserves of Haki at his disposal, all of which has been refined over decades of combat and specific training regiments.
Upon completion, Ein can only call out the names technique — derived from the ancient tongue of his people.
Upon his signal, the weapon-shaped, Haki-infused sun orbs began to spin rapidly gaining momentum and increasing their already massive offensive potential. Upon a wave of his hand, he fired them off at great speed at Anthony's direction — creating friction and gathering large amounts of heat as it traveled. He only prayed that he would make it on time, and most possibly back up his ally simultaneously.
The black bellow rushed against Hyoshimaru like a black avalanche, a massive bellow of darkness which completely overshadowed his dim glom. Bread and butter for the Phantom Shogun, as it was in dark weathers and roaring storms that Onryo thrived and conquered. Cackling in defiance, he floated few palms from the grounds, placing its sword in parallel. His breath, coated in black ichor, faced the incoming storm, bracing for its full impact.
The bellow met little resistance in the warrior with no mass, less than one found in leaf against the blowing wind. Hyoshimaru found himself hurled by the pressing gale, catapulted away from the battlefield and miles in the sea behind Kurona. Such wind would have massacred most warrior without fall, tearing their flesh and smashing their bones if they opposed it steadfast and yet stiff resistance. But the Phantom Shogun had a body with no skin to peel or bones to break while summoning his Devil Fruit power: force was of no threat for him by itself, only the Haki with which it was infused. With his own blackened sword, he was reining back the brunt of the beast roar, ambition grinding against ambition in a screeching stalemate. He followed the suit with the rest of body, shrouding him with Haki to protect himself from maverick whirlwinds.
Needles of air slashed parts of Hyoshimaru’s flesh; he did not bleed, but pain ensued in copious amount. Joyous pain, as the Phantom Shogun could not feel but happiness whenever there was suffering and misery, which included its own to a certain extent.
“Splendid, splendid!” He bellowed, even if he knew his compliment would have been lost in the maelstrom before reaching his desired target. “Antony Marcus, your strength is indeed remarkable, a colossus among Titans in strength and power! Still, you are but one man…”
Hyoshimaru had not the power to hold back the storm indefinitely on its own, so it had to rely on outside help to best the bellow: he had brought plenty of it, in many of the angry spirits encroaching the island. They poured out in droves from the innermost district of Kurona, the clocktowers where Monopoly and Akaoni were commencing their battle, flying toward their lord to give him help. Each of them was clad in pale wisps; together, the looked like a flock of fireflies irresistibly attracted to a source of light. As they came by his side, Hyoshimaru opened his mouth in a manic rictus; the wills threw themselves inside it, as willing food for the ghost.
Hyoshimaru's strength rose with every ghost he gorged on. His mane of hair became encrusted with a carpet of flames, his eyes turned into small cerulean pyre. The pale glow which exuded from his body rose in a chilling bonfire, whose light alone could freeze the heart and soul of men: a suitable complement for the bellow, in color and in power. Hyoshimaru pushed back the blow with renewed strength, not a victim anymore of the enemy wind. His katana, once fluttering like reed, had found new firmness against the bundle of blades. Time for defense was over: the Phantom Shogun tilted his blade once more, drawing it deeply in the gale, where it caressed the unruly streams forming its bulk. At last, he bent the currents under its thread.
“We, on the other hand, are Legion!” He whispered, hundreds of voices in one. His blade swung in a bright arc, shaping the lion’s share of the tamed wind in a funneled blade while dispersing the rest. A second strike of Iaido followed, ten times stronger and faster and perhaps with even more masterful execution. Given how Erin was trying to skewer the Titan with an upfront sun, Hyoshimaru slash slithered on the ground with more blitzing pace, striking at Marcus’s feet while he was busy drinking gallons of air. A grass snake helping a lion to kill an elephant.
Marcus smirked a bit as his original objective had been completed. The marine ship was no more, shattered into a hundred pieces along with most of its crew when the Shogun put more emphasis on protecting himself than the grunts behind him. The dead Titans had been avenged with the deaths of all the Marines remaining on the beach and ship. It was a waste of life that could have been avoided if the Marines hadn't decided to be so aggressive and attack this peaceful island directly.
By the time that the Shogun had stopped his backwards travel, the sea had been dyed red by the bodies of the fallen Marines. Some had cleared the beach and were moving through the deserted town, it's inhabitants already having fled into the bunkers where the ghosts could not reach them. The remaining Titan grunts had followed them.
But now Marcus had bigger things to worry about. A series of blackened suns in the shape of weapons roared towards him as the Shogun prepared his counterplay. To top it off Marcus was stuck in one place as he maintained the dome, which he was currently repairing after Veny went a bit overboard.
Blackened cracks started radiating out from Marcus's body as he reinforced his defence in preparation to receive the vice admiral's attacks head on. They webbed and weaved their way out as he cocooned himself in a smaller dome of hardened air. Marcus was known as the big shield for a reason, even among the Titan Pirates, the strongest crew in the world, his defence and durability were top notch.
The first few weapon shaped suns failed to find purchase at all, breaking up upon impact with the hardened air. However, each one found a bit more purchase after capitalizing on the previous impacts. Even then, Marcus was confident his defence would hold out until Ein tried something else.
Then the Shogun's slash arrived, biting and tearing at the web of blackened wind. The sheer amount of Haki involved in the thousands of consumed souls added to the Shogun's and his own made for a deadly combination, allowing the slash to slowly start making its way through the barrier.
Marcus thought quickly to come up with a solution to his situation, even if it was a bit risky.
The slash, which had been aimed straight at him, started to shift to the side as Marcus selectively weakened parts of his barrier in order to direct the vicious flying slash away from himself. It would be drawn further to the side as it found the easier path forward.
But pure defense wasn't the name of the game here. Marcus drew the slash further and further around him as the suns kept trying to bring down his barrier. He had a target in mind. As the slash finally reached the point where it had almost turned completely around, Marcus let go of his barrier.
Tangled cracks of black faded away as the dome faded from existence, allowing the enemy's techniques to move freely, straight into each other. Sun after sun was rent asunder by the slash, their Haki failing to the combined haki of the Shogun and Marcus that permeated the attack, as it raced down the field, aimed straight between the arms of the angel.
However, not all of the suns came straight from Ein, the tail end of the barrage seizing its chance to finally reach Marcus.
The large man was engulfed in several massive explosions, with only his body, haki, and fruit to protect him as the resulting shockwave shook the island.
A large smoking crater appeared where Marcus stood, a large shadow moving around inside, appearing to continue to increase in size as Marcus's gut continued to refill. It was obvious he had felt the attack, though with the smoke in the way how much was hard to discern.
Marcus let out a wordless roar as one of the Shadow's arms reached out and seemed to keep stretching before a pillar of blackened cracked sky shot out of the smoke, also aiming to smite the Angel for his transgressions, easily the size of the huge man's arm. A blackened hand could be seen receding into the smoke in the pillar in its wake. However injured Marcus was one thing was for certain, he definitely wasn't out.
Approaching fast to his location, this blackened tower dared tried to "ground" Ein — taking him from his vantage point while heavily injure him in the process, putting him at a disadvantage; this is something the Sky-Dweller can't allow.
"This is starting to get intense, but it wouldn't be worth a true battle otherwise." As the attack closed in, Ein formed the Gevurah: Erelim defense once more. As the attack clashed with the blue sun barrier he formed, because it was hastily made, barrier shattered under pressure and Ein was sent flying to a distance — taking moderate damage.
Though he was sent flying, he was able to soften his fall by using his wings as leverage and utilizing the Seraphic Arts to manipulate the air as a "counter-force". While he was sent hurdling to the ground, the impact wasn't as great as it should've been.
"Tch, this is getting a bit out of hand, and we haven't got that far into the battle yet. As expected, a high-level Yonko pirate is no joke. This Marcus has my utmost respect." Covered in wounds and scratches and his head suffering some moderate bleeding, it wasn't enough to impede the Skypeian Vice Admiral.
Though he was a distance away, it puts him at a slight advantage. Now, he can prepare for his attack unperturbed. He also relied on his partner to act as a distraction while he made the necessary preparations.
Flying into the sky, he reached far into the atmosphere at breakneck speeds miles above the island; he wanted to be near the sun, and gain its power if he wants to utilize one of his more powerful techniques. Spreading his various pairs of wings, he gathered large amounts of sunlight, his body steadily glowing until he was lit in a golden hue.
This continued until the sky itself was bathed in a bright golden texture and the surroundings became steadily warmer. Typically, such effects cleared away the remnants of the artificial weather left on the island. It was then that Ein's entire being was surrounded in a large glowing orb of sunlight that mimic's the sun's appearance.
"Let's see how you handle this attack, Anthony." On Ein's command, a large pillar of heavily concentrated sunlight was fired down to Anthony's location, large enough to engulf his body and potent enough to cause long-term damage to both the giant and possibly the surroundings.
Kochos Hanefesh: Emunah
Stating the technique's name mentally, the large pillar traveled at breakneck speeds to Anthony's attention. As it traveled, the air started to shift and sway, like a heat haze; this was a clear sign of how the technique affected the surroundings. In addition, the heat become even more intense and the light became brighter. The force behind this technique would be enough to cause the lands below to quake and create a great pressure. Reaching his location, the intensity was such that even those in other parts of the battle would surely notice.
Ein can only wonder how the giant will respond, but one thing's for sure: this attack isn't something that one could take likely.
If there was a feeling the sight of an angel being batted away and then responding with a massive pillar of holy light could elicit in the Phantom Shogun, it was surely amusement. Yet also of moderate perplexity, since unholy chills and heavenly warmth do not mingle well together, not one bit. Hyoshimaru rimmed the thread of his katana with his finger, thinking of a way to have the beast slowly burn out and crumbling in pain and fatigue. The most obvious solution was a simple flanking manoeuvre, from a place naturally impervious to sunlight: ground itself.
His ghosts had already usurped almost every acre of Kurona, but the time to reveal the full scope of his possessions to the enemy. Appetizers were more than suited for his next move, for even they were spicy enough to leave a bitter taste in the Titan’s Mount. A handful of Onryo traversed the matter between the soil and Marcus’ flesh and soul, taking advance of the moment his Bosushoku Haki armour had diminished its fortitude. Wrathful spirits, people who had been broken by the Beast of the Titan, who couldn’t wait to repay Marcus with a death filled with dread and torment.
Were they enough to bypass such man resolve, yanking him away like a wooden puppet? Hyoshimaru hardly believed it so: Marcus boasted mental resilience almost as impressive as his nigh-impenetrable physical defences, he had tried and measured the extent of the man’s Haki in a clash. But that, unlike the powers provided by his Fruit, was still far from infinite. Onryo were at their absolute most powerful and savage against the target of their undying fury: expelling them through Will alone would constitute an endeavour only the absolute strongest souls would succeed in, and that not without being taxed. Being able to concentrate in itself was a struggle, for Onryo always screamed and wailed incessantly in the targets' head while possessing them. Hyoshimaru could already hear his cohort launching in a tirade of curses and threat it would make most men’s mind chill, with a volume to shatter anybody's sanity. A concert of screams was the perfect mean to discombobulate Marcus, diverting his attention from light smiting him mercilessly.
Marcus winced as he saw the concentrated light, and knew he could no longer divide his attention while fighting this duo. The barrier crackled and died as his hand left it, freeing those within. This defence would require all of his attention, and both of his hands to maintain. He wasn't called "Big Shield" Marcus for nothing.
The ground beneath his feet hardened, Marcus concentrating his devil fruit on the land away from where he had maintained his barrier. Sometimes even the shield needed a shield. Earth shattering resonated around the island as Marcus stomped down, the hardened earth staying together even as it was wrenched along its former perch. A not insubstantial part of the island started breaking away from the ground around it, the bowl shape becoming apparent as it was shoved up into the air.
Marcus grabbed the hardened earth as he heaves the massive weight above his head right before the blast consumed him. Sky crashed into the earth as the pillar of heavenly light collided with blackened dirt. Marcus's muscles groaned as the force of the blast knocked him to a knee, but his earthen barrier held against the searing light.
At least as long as he could maintain his concentration.
The screams seared into his brain, the ghosts having gone unnoticed in his efforts to withstand the light. Marcus grunted in pain, attempting to maintain the flow of haki through the earth even as the ghosts shattered his concentration.
Where once earth stood firm against the sky, the dirt and stone slowly crumbled as Marcus was forced to once again divide his attention. It crumbled and crumbled until there was nothing left.
Marcus roared in pain as the pillar of light flayed across his back, his hands gripping his head in an effort to block out the screams. Even his impregnable hide had limits, and his back slowly blistered under the scorching heat. He had challenged both opponents and had so far held them alone. But the moment the two started working together, Marcus didn't have the power to stop them alone. Even as his back was being damaged, Marcus's gut finished swelling, returning to its original size.
But in the Seventh Division, a soldier was rarely alone.
Through the Kenbunshoku Haki, Ein witnessed the events that transpired below. The results had surprised him; due to his partner's intervention, Marcus took the attack directly and suffered some serious damage. However, that attack had winded Ein quite a bit — understandable since he's been launching high-level techniques at the giant since the battle began, not to mention the damage he's taken by one of his attacks.
"Hah... Hah... I guess that this will require more effort on my part. Though this is getting interesting." Looking down below with glee, also observing how his partner assisted in this successful assault, he then looked up at the sky to check the position of the sun.
"I see, so dusk is soon approaching. I need to find some way to land a critical blow before my power starts to severely wane." At this point, Ein was cautious. His time was limited and he needed to do something if his side would be victorious.
"I guess I would have to be wise about the way I utilize my power from here on. Close-up assaults would be my go-to for now, but I would have to apply long-range techniques at the right moment if I want to make a difference."
Preparing for an all-out assault, something that he wouldn't normally do, playing it cool and utilizing his surroundings to the best of his ability to make an opening, his wingspan extended and with a swift movement, he dived to Marcus' location.
"I guess, this will be the perfect time to show you what the Seraphic Arts can do." As he dived, his wings beat rapidly in front of him — creating a powerful tunnel of razor wind that would shred anything in its direction. That direction is apparently Marcus' location.
"Matragne. Simple, yet effective in the hands of a master. Let's see you handle this maneuver." Ein stated. He wanted to damage Marcus further, adding on the pressure. He needed to end this battle before things got complicated.
Indeed, Soldiers were not alone. A warrior should not simply stand behind his shield, but, that was why the warrior's lance came flying. Like a blurr through the atmosphere, which was littered with fireworks and rings, a stream of water flew high towards the trio, wetting wherever close it passed by. Shining eyes glared through the water, hovering over the many combatants that were there, specifically, over the Marine that flew at his companion.
Despite his wonder, Veny did not stop for one second. The water that went along his body came from one of the city's rivers, draining up a portion of the island's internal reserve. Suddenly, its mass was as wide like three waterfalls standing side by side, all of which fell forward without another beat. Roaring, the water washed upon part of the scenario and fell much like a curtain, being wide enough to almost completely fill the bowl-like hole left by Marcus's earlier action.
Amidst that curtain, however, Veny did not stay quiet and drew his right arm backward. While the pressure and weight of that amount of water would fall over the small hurricane provoked by Sophaur and provide some sort of cover over Hyoshimaru's watch. Wind soared and beat against the falling water, struggling to keep itself going, while Veny was already shooting himself through the droplets of water. Droplets which suddenly vanished, having taken a second to register his passing by. They all hissed and Veny revealed himself from inside the water, his arm surrounded by air rings and a small distance from having its flickering punch meet against Sophaur's figure.
Seeing the sudden assault by the Fishman, Ein meets it with his own — filled with the wind currents created by his Seraphic Arts and further enhanced by his Haki. Since it's a head-on collision his opponents desired, it's one that the Archangel will grant.
As the two fists clashed with one another, the elemental surrounded them was torn asunder by the impact's incredible shockwave. Clearly, these two combatants were powerful, but there could only be one winner.
"Veny-san, was it?" Ein inquired, "I wonder how long you can keep this up. You may be a Fishman, thus a natural predator to us Devil Fruit users, but that won't be enough to overpower me. If you want to obtain victory, I suggest you put your all into this strike and hit where it hurts. Otherwise..."
As Ein made the bold declaration, he manifested another pair of wings, totaling to three. In this moment, he used the Seraphic Arts to gather more wind around his fist, increasing the rotation, and by extension — its power, making the strike ever fiercer with the desire to win the clash and land a powerful strike against the adversary.
"...you'll end up falling flat on your face." Ein's empowered strike, slowly pushed Veny bit by bit, but even he knew brute force wouldn't be enough to triumph against one of Veny's caliber.
Veny's sudden show in this side of the battlefield was quite the trouble: not that the Phantom Shogun feared him, or anybody of the fighters currently defending Kurona. In his eyes, all of them were nothing but carcasses to spoil ‘till not even bones were left. Individually, all of them were much weaker than what the Marine could display blow for blow. But they could boast much better teamwork: Titans had been spending years working as unit, while the invaders had barely got a day to know each other; a day after which they were already at each other throats. Sometimes, a lion with many sheep under his command is much effective than many lions squabbling for leadership. So, it was time to remove one of the biggest sheep out of the picture.
Marcus was the perfect candidate: that fortress of man was grunting, pearly sweat on his forehead. His body stood proud and tall, but his senses were much closer to exhaustion and collapse. That process he had to continue, like a blacksmith hammering on his material until he was sure every resistance was broken, and every impurity removed. Also, being the angelic one already occupied with the shark-man, he wouldn’t be bothered by cruel sunlight.
The Phantom Shogun’s form flashed in front of the colossal Titan; time was due for taking this matter on a personal level. Reeking with bloodlust and chilling sadism, Hyoshimaru whipped his katana toward the ground, lifting dust and opening up a perfectly symmetrical wound. He moved three o clock and repeated the process again. Then once more and once more for many more times, each blow delivered on a different spot. He wanted to give Marcus a taste of the humiliating defeat waiting for him.
“Now, Giant of the Titans, can we prove once and for all whether the Irresistible Spear can pierce through the Unassailable Shield? The philosopher inside me can’t wait for an answer.” The Phantom Shogun taunted; despite he could levitate, his feet remained steady on the ground. A basic tenet of Iaido: keeping a strong balance before going all out with a blitzkrieg. The spectral luminescence on his blade presaged an assault of unparalleled speed and ferocity, matched by the cold flames coating his mane, flaring up in a pale bonfire.
The following slash was done with immense speed, precision, and ruthlessness, but elegant to an even greater degree. Hyoshimaru waived his blade like a true artisan, with movements flowing onto other with the smoothness of silk. A drapery of blue beams, gravid with Haki, sprang from the sword, forming motifs of butterflies, sakura petals and ideograms of the ancient tongue spoken in Wano, before heathens and intruders had soiled their land with their barbaric idioms.
The samurai’s assault was as polished as it was merciless, as every figure came after the previous with no room for reprise. To make things even more complicated for Marcus, Hyoshimaru was combining his ghostly teleportation with his Iaido blows, phasing in circling motion so that he could bombard the man from all sides. The Phantom Shogun had Marcus completely flanked, his afterimages were trapping in him inside a ring with no exit, cruelly laughing about his imminent demise.
Shock the Shark (And Cat)Edit
With her bright blue eyes still glowing with electricity Margaret stares down her two opponents across from her having distanced herself from her initial target after her failed attack on Veny due to the interference of the Mink and her "surprising" rescue from what would of been a devastating attack as in her haste and newly found clarity forgot to take into account that the Titan’s knew and had mastered Haki to a respectable degree.
"This situation has truly became really troublesome" Thought Margaret as her eyes drift from Veny to Kojimi while her mind began to think of various strategies before she manipulated the electricity around her and simultaneously sending bolts of longing towards the two titan members in order to test their reactions and hopefully find an opening.
Something Veny would never say would be that he was pretty good when it came to reading other's auras or anything of the sort. Regardless, he had been a combatant for quite a large portion of his life, Marcus' tactic would only help them. By the time that the plan to capture Margaret was laid out, Veny was already pushing himself forward, so that he closed the distance put by Margaret. His eyes were those of a hunter, even better than most normal sharks', his preys couldn't get away easily if they were still on his field of vision.
Could their opponent read auras? Could they predict attacks with electricity? To where would they dodge? Those thoughts lingered not long in Veny's mind, his body shooting forward along the water much like a missile, instants after he passed the rest of the ground would break. Fist drawn back, Veny had coated his entire arm with his Busoshoku, making sure to engulf it both internally and externally, so that the lightning wouldn't travel through it, even the air surrounding it seemed to budge.
"Gosen-maigawara Seiken," Veny grunted out, pressing his blurring right fist forward at Margaret's figure. A sonic boom hissed from behind him, exploding away along with the water in the atmosphere, another one hissed from in front of Veny, seeking to hit Margaret before the very fist even collided against her figure. Despite its following large sound, the impact started much like a whisper, concentrated into the Marine as to give her the full force of its power.
Though lightning was fast and maybe this woman had something more, the water that would break off would expand largely from Veny's fist, going offwards much like an ever-growing sphere. Much like before, Veny had to make sure that even if she dodged it, she would somewhat be affected by his attacks, Fishman Karate was to affect the water around and, surely, even a lightning human was still made of water.
Were Margaret hit or not, the scenario in front of Veny's strike was swiftly washed away with the exploding water. When it met Marcus' dome, it was confronted by its resistance, though, after a few seconds... the dome bloated at the area it was hit and expanding water pierced through. It procceeded to ravage the houses behind it, either pushing them away or completely demolishing them.
After witnessing the incoming debating attack that Veny launched Margaret couldn’t help but wonder if she once again underestimated her opponent before brushing that thought aside as she clearly realized that she didn’t the problem later in the fact that she never expected him to be beyond the scale she had limited her mentality to perceiving which in itself was a mistake and something she promised herself she would undoubtedly fix as she willed her body to move while subconsciously channeling Busoshoku Haki to her midsection to lessing the blow that would undoubtedly hit regardless of any action she should take.
Perhaps this was a mistake, one that she should undoubtedly avoid was what the rational portion of her brain was yelling however the newly awakened clairvoyant portion easily argued that it wouldn’t be the most stupid think they had done and the beneficial outcome from this reckless behavior would be good. Would this really benefit her, would the pain be worth the out come, would her plan even work against such a powerful foe. These were the thoughts running throughout her mind as the impact from Veny’s attack hit her causing her to grit her they in unbelievable pain, as she felt her very soul rattle and her bones quake for the split second that his fist meet her stomach before her body dispersed into a flurry of sparks that scattered and filtered across the water that Veny had accumulated before she reassembled behind him launching a lighting fast Haki covered fist towards Veny sending him flying towards Kojimi before dropping to her knees and coughing up some blood before once again turning into lighting and speeding up the clock tower.
Unlike what Margaret thought would have happened, Veny was not sent flying by her punch. In fact, if anything, to hit him while he was covered in his Haki was a risk. While Margaret had somehow used Haki, Veny knew that she was a novice with it, purely from the amount of aura that had gone into her fist. As her fist landed, Veny felt only its touch, for Margaret would find herself in pain for having collided so harshly against his mass of muscle, specially when the spot she hit had Haki.
"Huh?" Veny turned to look at her one second later, "How is you alive?!" He spat out at her while she seemed to vomit. Quick steps toward her, though, each of them seemed as if a giant had been walking and the entire block trembled. It seemed she tried to move away with her lightning, Veny frowned as she headed straight into the dome that Marcus had created with his power. After all, the part that he had broken was behind them.
Margaret would find herself headbutting the dome and falling back towards the ground. Was she stupid? To have travelled at that speed towards a barrier... Water covered part of the dome, so that Margaret would not try to escape. Veny towered over her, his shining eyes glancing upon her form whilst he rose his right fist in the air, "Doesn't move, I need to cage you." Like a blurr, his punch ripped through the air in several rings, carrying a turrent of water along with it, much like a dozen waterfalls were shooting their water at a same spot.
Though he had intended to merely trap her in a cocoon of water, so that her body couldn't use its power and they would capture her. Even the water that surrounded them went in. However, his punch didn't stop when she would get covered and instead dived straight towards Margaret's legs, the ground was already exploding before the contact. And, indeed, if his fist connected with her, Veny would likely break her legs, incapacitating her even further.
Shaking her head after impacting the top of the dome one which she forgot was there due to the heat of the moment Margaret found her body impacting the ground before a silhouette appeared above her and a mumbled voice rang out about Cages before one again her instincts acted up flaring of an imminent danger"Or perhaps this is Haki" she wondered as whatever it was she finally decided to trust. With naught but a mere thought her body once again converted into lightning however this time it felt as if her body was moving on it's own as she felt her conscious slip into a sort of view mode allowing her to watch as her body now converted into raw electricity filtered up and across the turrent of approaching water riding it like a stream ruining across it's surface with an immense speed that heat was generated causing some of the water to begin steaming and evaporate.
As the electrified Margaret reached her objective her body began to stabilize in a human form but still made completely out of lightning before bringing down a rage of lightning encased Haki clad fist in a barrage of attack before grasping the face of Veny before Margaret felt what was akin to a mighty willpower envelop her entire being before the sky began to shudder and a streak of lightning ripped free from the confined of the heavens however where the usual lightning produced was a light blue color this one was colored a deep blood red and quickly reaches the ground in 1/1000th of a second rendering the are in which it struck into nothing but a crater. Idly she wondered just before the bolt hit the ground how she always ended up in situations facing powerful opponents.
"Huh?" Veny blinked once, trying to decipher just what kind of maneuvers his opponent had been going for. As some of the water was hit with the lightning, he instantly let go of it and took a step back, saving both it and himself. His punch hadn't been stopped from hitting the ground however, and that was when he took the chance to send most of the water shot into the ground.
While he was not a user of the Kenbunshoku Haki at all, his eyes and his animal senses, due to needing to keep up with his speed, were all in tune with Margaret's movements. Margaret had materialized in front of him once again and before her fists could hit his body, Veny, face still unchanged, rose both his own hands, covered in Bogyo, and they disappeared in a flash.
With Haki covering both his insides and outsides, Veny went on for a much great defense and offense, his fists lightly tapped against all of Margaret's rapid-punches, appearing as blurrs for those with keen eyes. Furthermore, the density of Haki acted as some sort of insulator and didn't allow for the lightning to travel through his flesh. Veny couldn't only sense the sudden surge of electricity from Margaret, but, he could see it as a flash surged into the dome's direction. Suddenly, she tried to grip his face and he took it as an opportunity, one of his hands shot up to grasp her forearm.
Veny didn't have that much time to dodge the lightning, after all, he had been deflecting and countering her blows. And he couldn't guess how the lightning would react against the dome, if it would disperse or reflect the bolt, though, even so, haki appeared atop his head. At the same time Margaret had sent the bolt, the turrent of water that Veny sent underground was already coming off, bursting like a volcano from the ground beneath Margaret, masquered by the rumbling of her own thunder. With her having tried to grip him, but, possibly falling prey to his own haki-imbued grip, the hardships of evasion only increased.
Though she gritted her teeth, Margaret made sure not to open her lips while Veny took hold of her arm. Were the Titans supposed to be this strong? Why?! Was she only this strong, could she not push forward? She had a Logia Fruit, for heaven's sake, she served under Alsa, she was on the Marines' side. Haki flared into her eyes, the pressure of the situation weighting upon her.
Flashes of other Marines looking up to her passed by her mind, "Not yet." Just as the water shot from Veny erupted off the ground, Margaret's figure sparked with electricity, her body deforming into a flicker and molding itself to the borders of the attack. Indeed, as a Logia, she could take on intangibility, but, she could also shape her own body. While droplets cut up part of her clothes and her skin, Margaret still managed to avoid the attack full-blown.
Veny blinked. "Huh?" His shot surged and pierced through the dome in a full second, creating a stream of steam which covered part of its insides and the outside area. Something sparkled within the cloud, Veny blinked again and suddenly a painful flash completely covered his vision, "Gah!" He filled his face with Haki, though, it was already quite late for that.
His grip on Margaret's arm strengthened, though, he seemed to have crushed it. After a few seconds of the flash, Veny could see that what resided within his hand was nothing more than part of Margaret's arm-cloth. Something hot went out of his nose, "Hoh." Veny uttered, cleaning the thin stream of blood, and looked around for signs of the Marine.
"Veny-dono!" Kojimi appeared in a burst of cyan electricity, coming through the hole in the dome. "Apologies for my delay," He bowed for a moment, "I have been covering Marcus-dono's fight." Pointing towards the hole caused by Veny's attack on the ground, Kojimi continued, "My senses tell me that the Marine Woman has escaped."
"-Right," Veny replied quickly, looking to outside the dome, "That just means that I has to fight in your place." He bumped his fist in his open palm. At that same instant, Veny turned his body around, bending his knees to jump from the dome and reach towards Marcus.
Electro engulfed Kojimi's figured and his eyes widened, "Precisely." He leaped towards the hole, "My Haki will allow me to locate her!" Both their figures disappeared as if they were blurrs, causing shockwaves within the dome. Kojimi's eyes shone within the dark tunnels, while Veny's glared towards Marcus's enemies.
Terrorize the TacticianEdit
The heat of the "sun" above the island still beat down on them. "Oh man you're already using haki." Valentine nodded to the explosions that lit up the sky. Many of the hellfire balls over the ocean still stood but most of those over the city had gone. "Oh well, guess we're gonna have a hell of a good time." He was quite certain his comrades would be fine, allowing him to focus entirely on his fight with Claude. The devil grinned, teleporting a good distance behind Claude. With his immediate resurgence a wave of black flames shot from him, threatening to once again consume the clocktower. The haki enhanced flames would eat away even Claude's haki enhanced explosions this time.
This was an attack aimed at the clocktower, and although Claude was dismayed at its destruction, ultimately it meant he could avoid the attack with greater ease. Claude dashed off the clocktower's perimeter to the right of the flames' trajectory and kept his physical eyes closed the whole time, while the eye of his mind had remained wide open. The tactics that Valentine used did not amuse him in the slightest, but if a long-ranged battle of grandeur would be disadvantageous to the tactician, then he would not make use of such tactics.
Claude opted to keep himself elevated by using his own mines as footholds, constantly producing crimson red energy spheres at his feet. At the same time, he shot forward to close the distance, making use of the explosions from his Devil Fruit power as propulsion. With tremendous speed, Claude had already appeared before Valentine, with his arms covered in black energy radiating with explosive force, intending to use the small opening that Valentine had presented to batter him with close-ranged explosions across the entirety of his torso.
The blacks flames consumed the tower reducing the upper portion to nothing as they lingered in the air, awaiting the further will of their master. Valentine grinned as he watched them overtake the tower, though Claude had dashed out of the way. With his Kenbunshoku still active from earlier in the assault, Valentine watched Claude. To his eyes the man wasn't moving fast at all, gingerly hopping from orb to orb. It was almost as if time itself had slowed to a crawl. As Claude neared him, Valentine readied himself quickly creating a flaming cross in his hand. It was then that some of the black flames formed points, launching themselves at Valentine. With Claude's focus on Valentine, he might not notice them before it was too late. Right as Claude was about to make his attack Valentine disappeared from view.
Teleporting below Claude as he released the cross and then appearing further down the line from his original position. This was the moment of his attack. As the black spears fired on Claude from his left, the cross exploded, releasing a wave of scarlet hellfire at him from below. "Tactic number 894: Attacking." Valentine mocked, four more hellish crosses beginning to form behind his person.
There was little elegance or tact in the maneuvers used by his opponent, and it caused Claude to become bemused. If Valentine thought a shoddy attempt at a surprise attack would work, he would have it coming for him. As he noticed the assault from below and from the tower itself, he used the only maneuver appropriate. Concentrating his explosive power at his skin, Claude turned what was essentially his body into a living mine. In the next moment, a spherical shockwave of black energy, littered with enormous explosions in every centimeter, radiated outwards, repelling the scarlet and black flames by their sheer concentrated power, allowing Claude to safely move out of their range once again.
Unlike his witty comments before, all Claude could really do was form a face of irritation at his opponent's conduct. In the next moment, from his body surrounded in black energy, he concentrated the explosive power to his palms, sending out crescent waves of explosive force that were intended to entrap Valentine from all directions in a bid to cause significant injury.
The scarlet sun above the island continued to beat down on the two the extremely hot area where they stayed had no effect on the demon. However the heat must have been getting to the tactician after all this time. It was apparent that his opponent was becoming irritated with him. But this was the goal, the fun of it. Tacticians were an easy breed to take on if you knew how to deal with them. You make them mad, irritated, or even make them thing less of you. Make their focus slip. You quip at them and make attacks that don't quite click. Why use the flames that lack haki? It was much like a game of cards to Valentine. As expected the attack didn't work on Claude. The man had blown himself up. The explosion, thickly enhanced with haki, had blown the scarlet flames away. It had also beat back the spears of black flames, sending them back to the bonfire atop the clocktower. Valentine smirked as his opponent leered at him. As Claude pointed his hands towards Valentine the demon's eyes glimmered.
The crescendo of explosions marched towards him, once again slow to the eyes of the demon. This time however, Valentine did not teleport away. Scarlet flames wreathed his body, dying themselves black from his haki. The infernal fire pulsed from his being, an incendiary aura of malice. The deep black explosions collided with the shadowy flames creating a tumultuous tug of war. The explosions were fleeting but powerful and the hellfire was relentless and all consuming. A new explosion would rock them but was not enough to extinguish them. As the tug of war continued Valentine looked to the four crosses of black fire that floated behind him. He set two aside at the center of the flames, meanwhile he teleported his own body from the fray. The fire from the crosses would keep up the tug of war, holding back the flames that threatened to consume Claude.
This was the true moment to strike, with Claude occupied on completely suppressing the fire. Valentine appeared a good 40 yards behind him pointing the two crosses towards Claude, one held in each hand. The crosses expanded outward into massive columns of erupting black hellfire. The two massive columns overlapped each other as they grew into a superheated beam, threatening to rend anything caught within it for even a moment to utter nothingness. The beam was aimed for Claude's back and travelled extremely quickly with both the propulsion force of the flames and the growing size freely extending the length.
Claude landed in a pickle of a situation, or so Valentine thought. Claude's insight into the situation was unsurpassed. His haki had granted him a complete view of this gameboard, and so when Valentine teleported behind him, Claude was not fazed. The attack that Valentine sought to exterminate Claude with, had no effect on him whatsoever. "Pyromania."
Claude uttered a single world, as from behind his back, black spheres of explosive energy gathered, expanded and shaped themselves nigh-instantly into perfect replicas of Claude's figure. "Ignite." Claude ushered, as he focused on the flames before him. The black explosion clones shot forward at tremendous speed, colliding with the incoming beam from various angles. Initially dissipating, the explosive power of these clones actually entered inside the beam that Valentine sent out.
Before the beam could reach near Claude, the beam's structure began to rupture within itself, before exploding outwards, creating a structure much like a flower in bloom. Claude himself, in this time, had a hand free after causing Valentine's allotted crosses to dissipate in intensity from continual battering by his explosions. Refusing to even look towards his direction, Claude swiped his spare hand towards Valentine's direction, creating numerous black spheres containing powerful explosions, before sending them towards his direction. It was a temporary maneuver as he continued to whittle away at the remnants Valentine left before him.
Valentine raised an eyebrow, quite the beautiful explosion but all it had done is stop the flames. The spheres shot towards Valentine as he extended a hand forwards, swiping downward has his haki extended forwards. A mess of minuscule blades through the air that cut apart the spheres far before they could approach him, causing them to explode prematurely. The blades continued towards Claude. His attack was ready as soon as Claude began shooting his spheres, there was no move fast enough to pass his gaze. "So this is it huh." Valentine spoke as the black flames lingering from the explosions became pointed and disappeared from view and shot at Claude as well, moving both like and as fast as lightning.
Valentien then appeared a distance from Claude's side. Giving a small wave as waves of scarlet flames burst forth form the air around him. Rushing towards Claude. They would reach Claude after the other attacks would have hit and continued, once again attempting to consume the tactician.
"Unfortunately, this is not it." Claude sighed, before preparing himself. Shooting himself towards the island's surface with the power of his explosions at an incredible speed, Claude managed to narrowly avoid the flames and blades that made their way to his position. Their property, from Claude's discernment, was similar to lightning, so re-adjusting their direction would take a small amount of time, enough for Claude to make his next move.
He placed two fingers on his temples, "Everyone," Claude's thoughts came alive, with the other members of the Titan Pirates being able to clearly hear them. "I believe it's time for us to turn the tables...Unfortunately, we may have to sacrifice the island to do so." Claude continued to shoot downwards with his explosions bolstering his momentum, in the hopes of reaching the surface to assist his allies, and perform yet another brilliant strategy.
"That's what I like to hear." Valentine grinned. His Kenbunshoku once again let him see Claude dashing away at a much slower rate. "Suppose I really do need to kick it up." Val thought as he teleport once again. Unlike before though he appeared quite close to Claude and right in his path. Normally anyone else would be bowled over but due to a combination of his haki and keen reflexes, Valentine was able to act just fine. He fist, coated in black flames shot forwards towards the rapidly approaching Claude. Meanwhile in the sky above the lighting-like flames pivoted to once again purse their rapidly descending foe.
The Clock Spins Edit
Claude was no fool. His foresight with Haki was one of his greatest traits, and as Valentine began to teleport before him, Claude's entire body shimmered with a bright red hue, before suddenly being coated with dense Busoshoku Haki, becoming enveloped in a wispy darkness. As opposed to moving further downwards, Claude's shifted to the side rapidly with his explosive momentum. With that explosive momentum, suddenly the black aura from his body detached into four pitch-black explosive clones of Claude.
Two of those clones rushed towards Valentine's position, intercepting his black flames and blanketing his vicinity in an enormous explosion. The other two came in the path of the lightning flames, their collision also causing in another explosion. During this explosive festival, Claude had finally made his way onto the ground.
He was separated from his team-mates, but not for long. In the next moment, Claude moved both of his hands rapidly, creating a dozen spheres of explosive energy drenched in Busoshoku Haki. The wispy black spheres then shot towards Veny and Marcus' battles, aimed towards their opponents in an attempt to distract them with enough time to reunite the Titans.
At the same time, he kept his eyes closely on Valentine, knowing that he was in hot pursuit.
The shockwaves were good for Marcus. The clash of Veny and Ein produced a wave of haki strong enough to shake the island and even cause Marcus's own body to quake. It wasn't much, but it was definitely enough. The ghosts paining him were dislodged by the force of the haki wave, and Marcus took this instant of clarity to act. He could almost feel them squirming as he grabbed them with hands dyed black from out of his head, slamming the pair of wiggling spectres into the earth. His hands started steaming as the earth around them began to melt, the spirits very essence being burned away by the heat he was letting off as Claude broadcast his message.
Then the ghost shogun got his attention with his display.
For once Marcus was grateful to an opponent if Hyoshimaru hadn't decided to show off to him, then Marcus wouldn't have been able to stand up to his attack. His skin began to show cracks of black as Hyoshimaru made his assault, dampening the flaying that the Shogun promised to mere cuts with its hardness and will. But even then his hide wouldn't last forever under such an assault.
But with what happened, it never needed to.
Marcus expanded his hardening across the ground, taking care not to let it show on the surface as the Shogun continued his dance. Another dome, this time to trap Marcus and the Shogun inside. It crept up and around the pair as the slashes came again... and again... and again...
No Haki would sense it, as there was no intent to attack, and with how much focus Hyoshimaru was placing on him Marcus doubt he would notice the dome being formed until it was too late.
The island itself shook and groaned under the force of Claude's bombs, trapped and amplified by the prison of black Marcus had thrown up around himself and hopefully his opponent. The tower in the centre of the island, already slowly burning tilted and listed before the shaking tore it apart, sending the colossal structure collapsing to the ground even as the light illuminating the island faded.
The cracks in the sky melted away as the dome dissolved, its purpose served. In its center a giant of man slowly stood, blood trickling down his battered and bruised body. Marcus took the explosions head on and lived, albeit heavily injured. But for now, the Big Shield stood strong as he waited for the rest of his compatriots to arrive.
That homing mine had left an enormous toll on the island: the earth was throbbing long after the blow had impacted, its shakes moved upward waves as tall as houses nearby the broken remains of the shores. Pretty much nothing was left in one place after the attack, nor the terrain, frayed in many jagged, rocky tatters, nor the few remaining wildlife, which running in ruckus to find a hole they could slither in, hoping to find a semblance of a shelter, in the only way they could: shivering out of fear and bracing for the next impact.
Fools, as that was not a land fit for living beings anymore.
Dust rose all around Marcus; it billowed like a cloud, shrouding him in carpet through which he could not have seen anything at all, even if it wanted. Those millions of minuscule particles, a legion, hovered in the still air in the ground zero, rattling in too much amount for the still lingering impact to deposit on the ground they belonged. It required a blowing wind to clear off this mist.
And it came. It was chilling, a bora. Which was followed by the rising echo of a slow-paced clapping.
“Bravo, Bravo!” Hyoshimaru hollered. “A round of applauses for our crew of Titans. Your companion might have passed you good inputs, but that idea of trapping me in a dome of hardened air and Haki while I was busy pummeling with my swordplay was genuine a stroke of brilliance, I must concede”.
Hyoshimaru’s index marked his ghastly mask, then his right spaulder, a red lacquered sode. The mask bore cracks in more than one point, few threads slinking over his eye which turned in a more conspicuous mass of cracks and rough edges the further they went, so much so that a chunk of ceramic had been broken off near his temple. The sode fared better, to a minute degree, but still showed a fair share of dents and scratches. Pale flames were flickering at the hems of those wounds, ending up covering most of the blemishes in the Phantom Shogun’s war panoply.
“You see, Marcus, we were not the only people so caught in our dance we couldn’t notice anything few palms further than our nose. Did you honestly think the measly specters I sent to harass you were the entirety of my great and powerful army? I had ghosts encroaching everything in Kurona, from the pits to the tops. They were there to witness every move from each key player; and when they saw Claude pouring his rain of crimson death upon us, they didn’t waste a breath in advising me.
That is right: I have been knowing about the sphere of energy since it crossed halfway its path. Also, I wasn’t so caught in my desire for an excellent manhandling to notice air turning hard, being imbued with Haki and Devil Fruit. I could have slipped past your barrier with even less damage: but, to be fair, you were just putting so much effort in your defense I had not the heart to spoil it with a retreat”. The ghost cruelly grinned: turning the hunter in prey, paying back traps and subterfuges with even more underhanded coins. What a pleasure!
“We had a fun match, my quiet and lumbering friend. But you had so little to offer to the table but your resilience and sturdiness: you showed those virtues in abundance, make no mistake; however, your strongbox is all but depleted. You have nothing more to give me, if not tears and screams of agony”.
The dust below had fallen completely or was blown away by the unnatural current. The terse air revealed a detail about the ground: all around Marcus, it showed wounds. Deep cuts, thrusting in the dark far below the outer platform of the island. They were not a result of the explosion: each cut was incredibly precise, carved with utmost care. Even more so, they surrounded Marcus with a perfect symmetry between one another. It was evident that Hyoshimaru, during his assault, had created a ring around the Titan, a basket to put the bushmeat.
“Sayonara, Marcus-san. Kiss the soil of this city, for it is the last time your feet are ever touching a free land!”
A tremor spread over the ringed surface, sending nearby pebbles throbbing around. Risen by an invisible hand, the circle began a sky-high ascent, with Marcus standing still. So rapid it was the upward lift, it looked like a bundle of sand lifted by a rambunctious child. Hyoshimaru had well does is swordplay, he hewed the soil with the skills of virtuoso, splitting completely from the rocky basement Kurona rested upon. When looked from below, he could see an egg with so few blemishes, even roots had been cut away. How kind of Marcus was to have hardened the ground for him, just for his ghost to possess it and hurl it in the sea?
Few moments to contemplate his masterwork, then Hyoshimaru drew his blade. The platform of rock, akin to a hill in mass and width, was flung away from the Kurona with the pace of a cannonball. The chunk of rock soared, cleaving through the air with breakneck speed. One could imagine windstorms battering over Marcus’s eyes, oxygen coming and going in streams, blisteringly cold for the combination of temperature and altitude. All to have Marcus flee as far as he could from its companion. Making him look like an ugly dot, then a speck in the blue horizon, where none would have helped and none but the Phantom Shogun and its ghosts would have savored his screams.
Marcus was down, but not quite out. He had one card left to play. Not that he would be much more useful than a punching bag afterwards. His haki was near depleted, maybe enough to coat his fist one more time left. His hide was battered and broken, and his strength at an all-time low. Marcus was beaten, but not broken.
Marcus's roar was produced by kneading haki within the pouch of his stomach, a birth defect that marred him greatly. He gathered vast quantities of air, then infused the haki within it to achieve much greater densities of power than he could normally produce. It took about a minute to refill the pouch and infuse the power, but that minute had already passed a little while ago. That being said, once he used the roar he no longer had enough power to use it again at this point. Staying alive against the Ghost Shogun had taken too much out of him, and even his last-ditch gambit had failed.
He'd probably survive where he was going to land, that was never the worry on his mind.
But Marcus had decided a long time ago that if he was going down, he'd go down with his friends and comrades. As he shot along the sky, he looked at his hands, at the VII etched into his palms with one solemn glance.
Then he roared once more.
A hurricane of black ushered from his mouth, resisting the meteor of earth and man that shot through the sky. A meteor that slowed and stopped, failing against the savage storm, before eventually reversing direction. It accelerated back, jetting across the sky on a pillar of black, moving even faster than before. It was a streaking meteor across the sky by the time those from Kurona could see it again.
Marcus utilized the very last of his Busoshoku Haki, hardening the ground and his own body to their absolute limit as he approached. This manoeuvre made him a massive target, unable to dodge out of the way. All he could do was take the next hit if anyone deemed it appropriate to attack him on his way back. It was a risk, but it was a risk he had to take. He was going to make it back or die trying.
“Marcus, Marcus… if staying close to your friends pained you so much, you could have just asked”.
The cruel hooting of Hyoshimaru echoed straight in the Titan’s head. It wasn’t the only sound: tens of voices reverberated in each of the Shogun’s syllables, ambient noises chuckling with the same sadism of their master.
“My ghosts weren’t hidden merely in the ground, my friend. To paraphrase an old motto, the closest you keep your enemies to you, the more advantages you can leverage. And what better strategy to keep my phantasms encroaching in your thick mind? There is no will left inside you that can cast away my presences”.
The final, desperate rush of Marcus stopped abruptly: his massive frame floated just a few palms from the ground, soaring like it had less weight than a feather. Had he stretched his fingers, the Titan’s shield would have almost touched the ground. But never reached it. For Hyoshimaru adored to keep his playthings dangling in front of their only chance of safety, so close to successes yet a chasm away from it.
“Close your eyes… Marcus… for I have won… Sleep, and sweet nightmares”.
From a cackle, the voice of the ghosts turned in a whisper. Chilling words proclaimed with utterly chilling hate, yet oddly... alluring, inviting. The cold forecasting Onryo, and their everlasting rage for every living being, was now being poured inside Marcus’s conscience with no veil to shield it. It started with a frizzling wind, pain like thousands of needles lodged in every nerve of your brain. Screeches and howls with no reprise, coming from a horde of rasping monstrosities lusting for your sanity. Then it came a measure of piece; cold slowly transmuted in a warm, cozy feelings. Clamors became muffled, screams turned in a distant echo.
It was not a feeling of relief, however: just Marcus conscience completely surrendering to the fury of the Phantom Shogun and his cohorts, giving in to avoid further pain, further meaningless toils. Why continue the struggle, if every drop had been squeezed from your soul? Why try to rein the tides, if you were left with nothing but two weak, shriveled hands. Better just to close your eyes, let the hum be your vessel for some rest. Torture and agony would be dealt with afterwards. For now, all that it remained for the Titan… was sweet sleep…
If that was all that Sophaur had to offer at increasing his own blow against Veny's, Veny's worry did not increase even if the water and part of his skin boiled at the intensity of the heat. At that very moment, he had also implemented his Haki within the equation, but not around his fist, instead, it was the water around his arm that acquired a darker texture, the bubbles caused by the heat swiftly vanishing. Veny didn't even utter its name, known as Bugutai, that served to create an outer layer of strengthened aura armor around him, an aura which he had indeed covered the water with. In a flash, sparks flew from between them, mixing in several colors as they hovered around the atmosphere.
In fact, Sophaur was already using Haki before Veny did, in conjoint with his devil fruit and whatever those wings were, yet, he was just barely pushing Veny back, did he not take him seriously? Sophaur may have been capable of using it in a higher magnitude, but, "Possessin' a skill and using it are different things."
One way or the other, it was clear that Veny had the advantage, the grounds and buildings behind him would normally be shaking due to Sophaur, yet, they shuddered at the pressure of his water strike. Maybe Veny truly was dumb, maybe he truly didn't know how to spell out his speech, but those were simple things that held no strength to hold him back. "Fall back to Kura-mama," With a single step, Veny pushed all of his right arm forward creating a boom between the two combatants and exploding everything else besides them. The falling tower was slightly pushed away by the force of this impact, promoting Veny to notice his companions had taken a position.
Knowing the blow would be enough to push the Angel-wannabe back, Veny jumped side-ways and quickly moved over to reunite with the other Titan Pirates. Claude joined them from above, while Marcus stood in the middle of a broken barrier, a barrier which made Veny sweat once again, though, he nevertheless stood there.
"I see that my technique warrants a retreat, but..." As Ein used his Haki to sense what's taking place, witnessing Veny's reorganization with the rest of his allies, the Skypeian decided to do the same, especially considering what may happen next depending on Valentine's actions. "...it seems like things are progressing in a different direction."
Taking the wisest action, he followed suit and regrouped with his comrades, especially seeing how nightfall was quickly upon them and they may be at an advantage because of Ein's Devil Fruit weakness.
It was a difficult situation for Claude. He had witnessed Marcus being launched aback, and then fight against the overwhelming terror of the Phantom Shogun single-handedly. Even his body had reached its limits. "No, I cannot let a subordinate like him...lose his life here!" Claude's Kenbunshoku Haki had been at its peak. He was a strategist of the highest caliber, and he viewed this entire battlefield, and its combatants, as pieces on a chess board.
As the Phantom Shogun begun his descent on Marcus' consciousness, Claude could simply not allow it. "Phoenix Flower Formation!" Claude spoke aloud, as his body burned a bright red, enveloping the entirety of his body. The flaming red energy soon liquefied around his body, and stretched out from his body from all angles, with the liquefied energy becoming solid clones of Claude. These clones soon were imbued with a dense quantity of Busoshoku Haki, their coloration becoming pitch black, as they all congregated to their enemies.
Half a dozen clones split equally among their Marine adversaries. The Vice Admirals Ein and Valentine, along with the Lieutenant Commander Margaret, would quickly be locked in combat with a single clone that sought to bombard them in a series of deafening and blinding explosions that smothered the world from their view, and numbed them to the world's sounds. What should have lasted in only a single explosion, suddenly, reformed and repeated itself, no doubt shocking his enemies. As opposed to most of his techniques, which lasted only an instant, the Phoenix Flower Formation sought to utilize the fabled regenerative ability of the phoenix. At the instant of an explosion, the liquefied energy that the clones were composed of would act on their cohesive properties, adhering together and allowing for continuous explosions until the entirety of the energy was evaporated, whether it be by cyclical explosions or the enemy's assaults.
Every explosion possessed enough power to decimate any one of the Clocktowers. And these explosions were being condensed into a liquefied form, and repeated, continuously, until every ounce of liquid would evaporate from the energy expended by these explosions.
While the Marines had to face a single clone, which was overwhelming enough, Claude sent three of these clones over to Hyoshimaru, who managed to reach him the fastest. At this point, it did not matter whether Hyoshimaru had already seen the maneuver occurring with his ghosts, his senses would no doubt be overwhelmed by the blackened explosions that overwhelmed his senses. And with every consecutive explosion, Claude sought to separate his concentration away from Marcus, granting his comrade a chance at reprieve.
At the same time, Claude created explosions from his feet once more, dashing to his unconscious comrade, before signalling to Veny. "VENY!" A shout of such intensity, it pierced through the explosions. "It is time for us to conduct our plan! Let us make a tactical retreat!"
Just what did the "Monopoly" Guimmard Claude plan? Only a so-called God would be able to tell you!
Ran, dashed, those simple words couldn't convey the action that Veny had took once Claude voiced out his name, yet, he did not head directly anywhere on the horizon. Rather, his figure smashed his legs against a nearby area of the ground they all stood in and, instead of dust and rubble, what erupted had been water. The Marines had been bombarded by Claude's Devil Fruit, but, even if they saw this somehow, this should have not been any surprise. After all, all around them there was not only ocean, but, several rivers going through the entire island. Some of which went into the underground even.
Bringing them to the surface was no difficult task for someone like Veny, not only for the mere might he exhibited, also with the proper knowledge he has about the island's geography. Indeed, Veny was nothing more than one of the main navigators of the Titan Pirates, although not someone versed in language, he was still more than capable of relaying his navigating.
However, then was not the time to relay anything, Veny was to take full command at the time, having used all of the water that came to envelop the area and all of the Titan Pirates in a spherical wave. Within a heartbeat, "HRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Veny had commanded all of the water to scurry away from that location, taking a push from the many explosions and managing to carry the Titans present. No one was to be left behind, he knew Kojimi had disappeared, but, no one else would, not on his watch. Water phased along the buildings, the ground, almost invisible due to the speed it showed, after all, they were all headed for the ocean area opposite to where the Marines were.
Veny knew where to head, how to proceed, Claude had to give him no other instructions, he had not to look back and see how the Marines were even doing. They were over the ocean's waters before they even knew it, their own water sphere mingling and submerging through the sea, further protecting them from being interrupted. Over the distance, they could already see... something.
Valentine watched Claude below him. The group was clearly gathering to do something. Valentine didn't like that one bit. In mere moments black visages of Claude began to appear around him. The visages jumped from the man, spreading out to chase the Marines. Of the many, one chased after him. Dashing up towards his rather comfortable spot in the sky. "Only one for me? I'm honestly a little disappointed." He spoke as the clone neared him, as it did it briefly began to glow brighter, a detail noticed by his impeccable Kenbunshoku. The clone then began to burst in slow motion, at least to his eyes. "I should have expected more explosions." A massive flaming aura of black hellfire burst from Valentine as the clone blasted outwards in a massive explosion. He began exuding a large amount of it to push back the force of the explosion and keeping himself safe from it. However that damn sound. "Gah. Ahhgh. You're lucky I can repair my eardru.." The clone exploded again, it's force once again challenging his own fire. The sheer intensity of the explosion once again destroying his eardrums. He began to backpedal through the air, using his own fire to launch himself away from the clone.
Even as he shot away with his own fire the clone pursued, chasing rather than exploding. "So this thing is just gonna come at me and explode. How the hell is he powering this what is going on?" The demon thought to himself. However his best choice was to currently move far enough away that it didn't explode at him again. Seeing as his fire couldn't exactly burn what wasn't there. He glanced upwards, noting the massive orb that still loomed above the island. He disappeared from view re-appearing far above in the sky. "If that thing is still chasing that should give me a bit of time." Valentine thought, glancing down, finally able to see around him again now that those explosions weren't nearly blinding him. The clone was moving to come after him again but he had a bit of time. Due to his haki though he still had a lock on the pirates. They were moving fast too. A massive bubble of water had nearly reached the ocean on the other side of the island. The demon scowled, they were not running away. Not that easily.
Boils of hellfire began to form on the surface of the mock sun. A massive beam of hellfire boiled to life blasting from the massive sun. It shot downwards with intensity Valentine had not shown this battle. The heat it exuded around it would cause water to evaporate. He aimed the beam not at the bubble but at the ocean before them. When the beam hit the ocean it would create massive and continuos column of flames that would evaporate that portion of the ocean. Creating a massive amount of superheated steam as well as causing that bubble to disappear and boil them should it attempt to get close. Should the bubble reach the ocean before the beam it would simply be roasted by the mere heat as it closed in. However Valentine had only time to aim and fire the beam. It didn't take much but that clone was fast and persistent. He disappeared from view again, appearing a lower and closer to the far right side of the island the bubble was moving towards. "Catch me if you can ya fucking explosion." Valentine spoke within his mind. Glaring at the clone as it pivoted, turning on a dime to once again pursue him.
Claude, Veny and Marcus continued to drift across the ocean. Their route of safety was nearly secure, for the closest island to Kurona was yet another Titan territory: Hyperean. Not to mention, the 7th Division Commander had stationed themselves on that island, so the Marines understood never to cross it, lest they be willing to sacrifice their lives in their endeavors against the Titans.
Of course, Claude was no idiot. The man regarded as "Monopoly" among his peers and allies had full monopoly over the course of battle, and had not forgotten the presence of that monstrous sun that Valentine had erected in the beginning of this battle. Now, the patron of Hellfire would direct that monstrosity towards their escape, and seek to drown them in the ocean.
"We won't fall here on my watch you two! Veny, try your best at keeping the orb alive! Marcus, continue to rest as much as you can!" Claude yelled towards his comrades, as he faced the direction of the explosion.
While the laser came raining down hot, Claude gathered both his hands together and clapped. In that single motion, the perpetually exploding clones had suddenly responded to his commands and gathered in an area that was directly in the middle of the beam's trajectory and Veny's water sphere.
"Phoenix Flower Formation: Sunflower!" Claude exclaimed at the top of his lungs, as the six clones began a process of fusing together, rapidly increasing in size until the towering figure of Claude could be seen from any distance.
"HAAAAH!" Claude's scream echoed from the bubble of water. The blackened, gigantic clone of Claude began to move, launching its fist at the beam. While it could not completely stop the heat of the beam from passing through, it enabled a brief moment of reprieve for the escaping Titans.
As the two forces of heat collided, the entire island had seemingly been wrapped in tremendous flames, beginning to burn the forests into ash, and melting the clocktowers and other residential areas. The titanic Claude's black fist, and the near-infinite energy of the hellfire clashed together violently, with shockwaves reverberating the air and likely causing mirages to form in the eyes of those who were exposed to such violent heat.
Again, Veny really wasn't that smart, he didn't read a lot of things, most of his companions did that in his stead. Plus, he wasn't a user of Kenbunshoku Haki, at least not by his initiative, after all, if anything was to happen, his instincts would tell him. Yet, he needed none of that to gaze and actually grasp the effort that Claude put into saving them all, not only for his duty of Island Master.
Instead of simply sitting, Veny could very well had attacked in unison to Claude, no doubt that they would quickly overwhelm their opponent. Brains and Braw ruled over all. However, what he did next was not only simpler, at least in his mind, but also much effective than prolongating the battle. They were all inside Veny's territory, they were all surrounded by water, the moving bubble was directly into the ocean. Veny smiled, sharp teeth flashing to his team mates, veins could be seen all throughout his body, he wouldn't let them down either.
All he needed was but a single breath, a single desire that etched from his skin and into the waters, the surrounding water compressed more and more around them, both increasing the bubble's defenses and allowing for it to burst through the water much like a torpedo, provoking a boom behind it. Furthermore, with the clash of Titans above them, the bubble was further pushed through the waters, also sinking into the seas, so that tracking them was to become even harder.
"...Thank you, Veny!" Claude could only say in gratitude, as he clenched his hands together tightly. "And thank you, Prometheus!" Claude's gesture caused the titanic, explosive being to, instead of colliding with the beam with his fist, instead charge with his full body upwards, against the beam.
Its body began to reach closer and closer to the source of the beam, the sun that overhung the island. However, it was beginning to reach its limits. Against a nigh-infinite power, Prometheus' own strength was simply lacking.
But that didn't matter. He had negated the beam. Long enough for the Titans to truly make themselves a far-away distance from Kurona. All that was left on that island were the melting clocktowers, the innocent people that were wrapped in this conflict...and the Marines.
With one last push, Prometheus launched himself towards the sun. He had nearly made it. There was only a few meters left. But its power wasn't enough. But it tried its hardest, and now, the body of Prometheus, from a pitch black, had been dyed a bright red.
An explosion. An explosion that shook the very core of the island, even if it took place up in the skies. It was a beautiful symphony of red and black, and a true display of Guimmard Claude's power during this battle. The shockwaves rippled the air and ground, pushing back the sun itself, and igniting the sky in a symphony of fireworks that could only visually be compared to a Sunflower.
It was unfortunate that Claude and his companions could not see the beautiful life of Prometheus come to an end, but Claude himself knew very well, that the power Prometheus displayed in this battle was unmatched. To him, that was all that mattered. A beautiful display of his resolve.
From a higher position in the crisp air, far from the raging clash of crimson blazes which took the island down to its demise. Hyoshimaru was positively livid, the pale flames of his mane cracked like he was a tree ravaged by a wildfire. He had barely managed to anticipate Claude’s movement, as it was too fast and too costly to stay there a second more in the soon-to-be eclipsed island; because of that, the prey he fought so hard to capture had been snatched from its clutches in the most untasteful manner. It demanded castigation, it demanded pain, it demanded furious retribution.
But wounded pride was all the extent of his loss in such escape. Steered by a powerful Kenbunshoku, but even more so by an innate affinity toward destruction and carnage, Hyoshimaru had beaten a retreat the movement he noticed the three clones approaching it. The vast majority of his ghosts followed the command and fled; few of them, those guarding Marcus, were obliterated; others, more cowardly and repugnant spirits, run with tail between their legs even before the samurai had ordered to do so. Foul lot, that Hyoshimaru would find and punish in a suitably horrifying fashion after he had dealt with the Pirates.
The Phantom Shogun’s flesh was clad in black ichor: Bosushoku Haki, for the first time in this battle, was shrouding his entire panoply, a sign he was tired of games he wasn’t at the top of. His armor of will brimmed with power and fury, not only his own but of the entirety of his spectral cohort, he had summoned back in his body. Hundreds upon hundreds of irate spirits, whose desire to annihilate almost overflew from his body. With that power on his disposal, it was child play for the shogun to destroy the mastiffs Claude had sent against him: he had escaped their clutches at the moment they were triggering their first explosion, then froze their scattered particles while they were in the process of reforming.
Hyoshimaru’s covetous gaze flickering from place to place. Though they were hidden within the ocean’s bosom, the Titan’s could not escape his attention, for he could follow the scent of souls with precision and clarity even expert practitioners of Kenbunshoku would envy. He noticed with dismay that the convoy was trailing away at an impressive speed, surely a place were even more powerful reinforcements; their captain, perhaps. The advantage they got over the Marines meant he could not waste a fraction of second.
The Phantom Shogun flashed from his existence: a perk of his ghostly transformation allowed to ignore the laws of physics to a considerable degree, and among those, there were the limitations concerning “space” and “energy”. He could achieve short-ranged teleportations through shorts, small bursts of movement as instantaneous as human thought. With few hops, he had recovered a considerable amount of ground between him and dome of water. Almost enough, sufficing for a true onslaught.
Coming out his scabbard, his katana flashed in out of sight, smoldering of deathly blue and vigorous black. More thrusts, slashed, coils and strikes of any kind were thrown in those fractions of seconds that Hyoshimaru had ever launched in the entire fight. He was attacking as a demoniac, carrying the fury of and breathtaking speed of a thousand with each motion of his swords. A human could not discern a single strike of air pressure from another: rather than a hail, they came to crash down against the dome as a single monstrous torrent of black and azure.
There was no chance against his wave of death and will, Hyoshimaru could bet on this outcome. Valiant they might be, the Titans Pirates were on their last legs both in Haki and physical fortitude. Marcus, his favored prey, was completely out of the fight, having just enough time to recover from the unholy drowsiness; Claude fared better, but his continuous use of blackened firework was taking his toll. Hyoshimaru feared no fatigue: the vigor of dead men is as inexhaustible as their hatred for livings. His specter would supply him with energy and Will unmatchable by mere mortals.
Veny, however? The dim-witted shark man, the uncouth creature from the abyss. He feared him the least: and that was not even for his relative slowness of thought, but for the properties of his attack. For the cold carried with his blade, one arising from the darkest pits of hell, places where any warmth was forbidden just as hope, could not just chill the heart of man, but water and air. His strikes were infused with such frosty power they would freeze anything in contact with me; any of Veny’s Fishman arts would turn into brittle snowflakes and break down before the bora of his strength.
Which brought to another layer of his offense: a considerable amount of strikes flew off far from the bubble, apparently wasted in carving aimless scars in the sea. No thought could be more mistake: each blow rose a wave of crystal out of the water, sculpting roses of ice in the middle of the oceans. A rose whose Corolla was a deadly maze of massive ice walls, surrounding the Titans and cutting off away from their supply. So close to a safe shore, yet they would face a labyrinth between themselves and the closest. Navigating through it and warding off so many powerhouses at once was beyond arduous, it fell straight into the realm of utter impossibilities or fools ’errands.
Amongst the Titans, Claude was famed for his usage at Kenbunshoku Haki and, as a long-time ally of Veny's, "An ice attack... above..." It was no surprise that he could swiftly share his thoughts with the latter, through an exquisite usage of that very Haki no less. For, the true users of Kenbunshoku couldn't only gaze into what was to come. Veny's own Haki, though in the form of Busoshoku, manifested, while half his body stood outside the moving bubble. His eyes gazed at Hyoshimaru keeping up with them above the water, though not truly, "Hm?" That same dim-witted man had been indeed been the only one that was still in a fine state to even react to he who had been the most insistent and biggest of the threats. People often remarked that fighting a Fishman inside the water was suicide, but, that was something too generous in regards to all Fishmen. Accomplishments such as those were done by individuals, not an entire race to the point that all of them could claim such strength.
Veny had utilized the rivers of the city back during the conflict, but, then that was he was completely surrounded by water... it was almost as if he couldn't hold back. Oh, who was he fooling, he didn't know how to do that, his sharp teeth flashed into a grin. That and the amount of prepation required for his techniques decreased by a signifficant margin, whereas Veny had to gather water while on air terrain. "Ogi," Bubbles erupted from all around, this was the only way, even if this tactic wound up somewhat hurting his tired comrades. It seemed as if the ocean bowed before not just any other Fishman.
Their opponents were persistent, too persistent even, Hyoshimaru painted the atmopshere with uttermost speed, one that the Fishman couldn't even fully comprehend, only having preparation due to the efforts of his comrade. They all flew like flies around a human who peacefully ate, yet, this time it was a Titan rather a human. Veny wouldn't ask the Marines to let go, rather, he would make them. Usually, combatants resorted to using several tactics to round and finally overwhelm their opponents, but Veny, Veny had but the simplest of thoughts when fighting. "Take the most out of a single blow," The words of his old master sounded within his head, serving to increase even more the output of his willpower onto his right arm. Veins, skin, bones, they all went pitch-black, sparks signalizing his first usage of Bogyo, travelling from behind him to into the water again, Veny's fist exploded.
Fish, mammals, other humanoid beings, all that swam and even the flocks of birds that flew over the ocean, a simple thought crossed the cells of their brains. "If we died today. What would be the last thing we would like to do?" Those that were hunting a prey, those that were resting, those that were eating, or even those that were already eating. All of them increased their peace, their dedication so that they would feel no regrets in their afterlife, if something like that truly existed. Whatever was it that they breathed, these creatures gave no more bother to what kind of sensation cursed through their very existence.
If beforehand, Veny intended for the sea to simply be swept from under the marineships, then, this one was more of an actual attack in itself. It wasn't solely the water that diluted before his fist, "BURUKUN!!!" Veny's battle cry went completely numb before the sheer intensity caused by his technique, which also managed to silence the rest of the surrounding waters. The waters around his punching hand vanished for a moment, and then the world screamed. Like a rupturing eruption, causing even steam to be brought into the sea itself, the impact travelled directly into Hyoshimaru's slashes, using the ocean's very water to make it split itself. Even then, it was almost as if it had no form.
Hyoshimaru thought Veny would have sent several and smaller water shots? Ice truly could freeze and triumph over most things, including its liquid state, however, at the end of the day, they were one and the same. Hyoshimaru's crazy fast slashes would travel even quicker through water, but, they hadn't dominated it, they came from the powers of a Devil Fruit, powers of the undead that Veny sought to counter-attack through a sheer wave of Haki, water, and might. No, the key was in how Veny's technique would completely obliterate the freezing shards, while also diverging the trajectory of the hundred cuts and allowing them no water to travel through.
However, that was not the sole thing it accomplished. With such pressure and having been fired off from the backside of the bubble, Veny managed to even further propel the transport through the vastness of the sea, sea that could only cry. Though, as stated, that would likely have some physical consequences on Claude and Marcus. Along with the direct impact diverging the path of the slashes, it was pretty unlikely that their transportation would get caught into any ice cage that Hyoshimaru planned. They left nothing but aquatic booms and after-images in their wake, such that the prospect of allied ships was even closer.
As the sea roared, almost as if hit by a myriad of thunderstorms, water pushed itself through Hyoshimaru, through his ice, into the very island of Kurona. Its entirety almost bent in the opposite direction, the clouds that still somewhat hovered above it, threatened to go away. Giant waves soared by the island's sides, not willing to wait and finally run over the entire place, they reached heights as big as tsunamis. Beneath the sea itself, the sand crumbled and cracked violently, extending into a underwater ravine and revealing small volcanos. If Kurona by itself wasn't going to be left alone by these Marines, who only brought forth destruction, Veny would make sure to leave a different mark, the mark of the Titans.
"You're still following me huh." Valentine turned to the clone slightly raising an eyebrow at it as it rushed him. He backpedaled through the air as flumes of black fire encircled the clone. As long as it wasn't in exploding range it was solid enough to be consumed. And it was as the inferno encircled it, the fires of hell eating through it as it struggled to reach Valentine. It was useless though. With the annoyance gone, Valentine turned to see the results of his attack. He scowled as it was met with a massive giant no doubt created by Claude. It was odd watching the behemoth push the beam of hellfire back. The blackened giant fought the near infinite onslaught of red flames valiantly. It almost touched the sun too but it nearly fell short, or so Valentine thought. The explosion of the clone caught the sun in it's glorious explosion too. Scarlet flames mixing with the lights in the sky in a magnificent display. The very sky was dyed like a sunset.
"Monopoly huh. I'll remember that one." The devil smiled as he took his hat from his head, letting his scarlet hair shimmer in the light of the sky. Below him Hyoshimaru launched a valiant assault on the sphere, but their fishman put up an equally valiant effort, possibly more. The force of the wind produced was impressive in itself. But the magnitude of his efforts were extremely admirable. The sea erupted in a mass of towering waves. Not just towering waves but waves that stood up far enough to be face to face with Valentine. Even Valentine was a little shaken by the sheer scale of the wave. "Quite the fishman you have there Raptor." He spoke as he eyed the massive wave that rapidly approached him. Black flames erupted from right arm as they collided with the wave, spreading outwards as the water sizzled from their touch. "I wouldn't call destroying your island a sign of victory. But it's a nice fuck you." Val thought to himself. The massive amount of heat he emitted carved the top off the wave. Half of it was still left though. He quickly sent a message to his companions via haki. "Stop that massive wave, then follow me." There were more pressing matters to attend to than the wave, such as the escaped Titan Pirates.
The sphere rocked off but he could still sense them, still see them. His Kenbunshoku flared as he pinpointed the sphere. A flaming cross formed behind his back It began multiplying rapidly as the crosses spread out around him. Knowing both their location, depth, and speed. Valentine hatched a plan. He disappeared from view, appearing far out in their path forwards but far enough that he could act just before they reached his position. The scarlet crosses that surrounded him spread out in massive pattern, covering an medium island sized radius around him. They were littered in various places inside the radius as well. He floated just above the ocean and then he spoke. "Grand Array." The crosses exploded, growing in size as they produced otherworldly amount of heat. The very ocean in that radius turned to steam around him and kept rapidly evaporating as the massive crosses grew larger extending both outwards and downwards.
In almost no time at all a large portion of the ocean sea before the Titan Pirates ceased to exist. The ocean that attempted to spill in simply became steam. As the crosses shot downwards at lightning speeds they destroyed more and more water. The sphere may have been deep in the sea however it wouldn't be deep enough. Water couldn't even exist within many many meters of any of the crosses due to the sheer heat they emitted. To anyone observing him the usual playful look in Valentine's eyes was gone. But he was smiling widely, a gleeful smile matched with dead serious eyes. For Valentine it was finally time.
They were no longer protected by their little island and Kurama had said he'd rather them dead than escape. No more rules bound him. His own aura of hellfire forced itself outwards, washing over the massive area the crosses covered as it contaminated that heat allowing them to spread even further outwards, rapidly approaching the radius of a large island. The pirates may try to move around the heat but it was all in vain. It would take far too long to correct their route. Not to mention Valentine was watching them like a hawk, and to him they moved as if they were barely crawling along. He would not let them escape this island, not alive at least.
At some point during the reckless chase given pursuit by Valentine, he would find the road between himself and his pirate pursuers blocked by the sudden eruption of silvery pillars that erupted from the seafloor. They burst forth from the waters, causing enormous upheavals as they worked in unison to create a wall blocking any further advance by the Vice Admiral. Of course, he may have tried to simply break through to continue, but perhaps after feeling the subtle Haki imbued within them, he would think twice, for to him, it would have been familiar. For, they may have resembled pillars, but if he were to look at them closer, inspect what composed these pillars...
But back on Kurona, where the flames continued to dance along the devastation that was once a bustling town of clock exports, a similar sudden appearance of pillars started to inspire shock in the inhabitants still residing there. Whether marines, pirates, or civilians, they were likely to all observe at the silvery lights that glowed off of these pillar-like constructs that surrounded their island from all sides. Yes, these pillars were forming from the shores on every side of the moderately sized island, although these were noticeably thinner than the ones used earlier to stop Valentine's pursuit. Furthermore, while they began to spring up on the islands shores in straight vertical lines, they quickly altered course and began to take on diagonal paths, assuming somewhat of a spiral design over the entirety of the island.
Moments following, another series of columns began to rise into the skies above, and they too started off vertical but went off to the sides, although in a different direction from the previous pillars. In appearance, these two altering spirals of thin silvery constructs were forming a patchwork over the entire island, surrounding it in intertwined constructs. They only stopped motioning for the skies after reaching a certain altitude, as now all of Kurona was covered in this chessboard-like arrangement. Vast miles of these constructs spread across the entire shoreline of the island and for a moment all was silent, only the awe-struck gazes of the individuals on the island left to serve as onlookers as to these strange events. To those few marines, however, it was difficult for them to mistaken what was happening, or rather, what exactly was surrounding the island of Kurona at this time.
These were not pillars, structures, constructs, or what have you.
No, it was something far more mundane.
They were strings.
A woman with long flowing blonde hair was seemingly levitating in midair, though underneath her feet, sat two single threads of string that formed a circle at the base of her heels. Her arms were risen above her chest as she took a deep breath and lowered them, as though she were the conductor of an orchestra, carrying out a concert. She gazed upon the island with her piercing lavender eyes and then snapped her right handed fingers.
These strings were clearly the result of some kind of power this woman possessed, but there was another component to them as well. Busoshoku Haki was imbued within them. Not enough to darken their color but just a small amount to each of the constructs she created out of strings. With that single flick of her fingers, the Haki within the strings reacted, as the strings themselves started to vibrate against one another in the patchwork. Together with the Haki intertwined with them, a tremendous reverberation of sound erupted from all sides of the shoreline, a harmonious cavalcade of tune spreading towards the island in every direction, aiming for the shared center.
The sound carried was one of titanic properties, shaking the entire island in its path, yet the tune it transmitted was nothing short of beautiful. It sounded almost divine, like violins played by angels, but what was more important was the purpose for these massive soundwaves. It was a simple yet curious scientific principle. These acoustic soundwaves created by the Haki-induced reverberation of the strings were transmitting air velocities that washed over the widespread garden of flames covering the entire land. By thinning the air around the flames themselves, an entire mechanical series of events transpire where a vacuum is created at the source of the flames, causing the fuel source — that which was allowing the flames to continue burning — to become separated from the oxygen in the air feeding the fire. The end result was a domino effect of localized quenching of the flames.
Flames from the shoreline all the way toward the center of the island were being snuffed out, vanishing into mere sparks and embers before dissipating out completely. It was like the work of a god, the sight of the phenomenon itself resembled something out of the fairy tales, as the flames were flickering out of existence; glowing all the more brighter as their lifespan was snuffed out. The woman continued to play her vibrational tune, causing more and more of these powerful soundwaves to wash over the island until not even a single sign of fire remained burning on the remains of what was once Kurona. The individuals on the island were unharmed by these soundwaves, as they were not strong enough to cause any internal effects besides momentary loss of feeling which was to return within seconds at most.
As Kurona found itself finally extinguished, the one responsible for saving the island descended from the skies above and down to the ground at a steady pace, reaching where she spotted her fellow marines. Upon landing, the blonde woman dressed in all black took her steps toward the marines, her heels clicking against the rock below as she crossed her arms, glaring at them. "Honestly, forcing Kurama-ku- err... Fleet Admiral Kurama-san to deploy us in order to clean your mess... What a pitiful bunch of marines! You were lucky I was not already on another assignment!" she reprimanded, stomping her foot onto the ground.