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The Ties That Bind

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The Ties That Bind

Post by Cat on Mon Feb 12, 2018 6:46 am

The Tenth Time--

Ooze spit and bubbled, overflowing from the jagged edges of the pit. Coalesced, hardening into bone: A femur, a tibia, and then a spine; the white backbone contrasting sharply with the soot-grey bracket bolted directly into the spine segment located above a yet-unformed pelvis. Links of iron trailed from that bracket-staple in a chain, one that looped in on itself like a Mobius strip without beginning or end. More such chains could easily be seen extending from other identical plates soldered and fused to the regenerating skeleton's ribs, limbs and pelvis. They rattled and clanked as it took an unsteady step forward, followed by another--organs, muscle and flesh already starting to cover bleached bones and metal.

Tenth...Bloody...TIME!

The white skull seated atop its spinal cord tilted its jaws back in what began as a soundless scream, one that soon acquired pitch and volume as vocal chords reconstituted themselves and lungs re-inflated inside a brittle ribcage. Innards reshaped themselves to fit within its empty chest and stomach cavities, skeletal fingers scooping up the last of their guts and shoving them back where they belonged to complete the process. Last of all remained muscle, veins and flesh--spreading in grotesque fashion over the chains themselves to seal up any holes that remained. They pooled around the shackle solders locked on bone, shifted, and solidified...leaving clumsy, heavy chains--some even thicker than the victim's own arms--buried half-in and half-out of smooth unmarked flesh. They bent their wearer double with their weight as she stumbled and panted for breath, before yanking herself upright again by sheer force of will. And there she would continue to stand: a tiny slip of a child looking no older than ten with arms limp at her sides, slightly tanned skin exposed in abundance with only the chains enforcing some form of modesty.

Friggin' Giant. When I get my hands on him...

The effort it was taking to remain upright was taking its toll, but Cat resisted on principle--digging her heels into the barren ground below her and taking stock of the situation even as hair sprouted from a formerly bald head, yet another rebirth complete. Though it was a pointless and risky waste of time to do so, she couldn't help giving herself a once-over all the same--patting down her newly formed body and scrubbing off the sweat and grime accumulated as a result of her ordeal.

Legs, check. Arms, check. Torso...

Her trailing fingers brushed against the heavy iron chains sprouting from her chest and belly with an involuntary shudder. One would have thought four centuries would've been enough to get used to their presence by now, but feeling their weight, their nauseating tug when she chanced an experimental yank... She did not need a mirror to know what she currently looked like: three of the damned things impaled her torso; almost engulfing her with their size alone--the one on her tailbone occupying the entire surface of her belly while another dangled from its anchoring point in her upper chest; melded with a rib directly over her heart. The final one trailed from her shoulderblade to one side of her spine, whipping her mercilessly in the back with every step. Those three were the largest, their links easily as wide as her thigh. Their smaller cousins burdened her limbs, thankfully not as thick but no less an annoyance.

Cursed things... With the ease from centuries of practice, Cat dismissed their visual appearance; wishing as she did so that she could do the same with their actual presence. Having them vanish from sight was not much help, given that she still felt their weight with every breath, and the way they jostled with the slightest movement. She hated the one lodged in her pelvis most of all; especially the way it scraped her sensitive places when she walked.

Damn that Giant. Damn Merroseed and his harpy of a wife...

All she had done was question the idiot's credentials. What did SHE have to learn from some lousy Fullbringer anyway? Why force her to go to school, even--when she could run circles around the rest of those fools at Sinner Elementary? Evidently, it seemed that Professor Truglidine had objectively disagreed...and then opted to express that disagreement by making an example of Cat in front of the whole class. Staked her out for the crows, and then did some lousy Fullbringer trick to retrieve her every time she regenerated--only to repeat that process again. The first time he had done so she had been caught by surprise, not knowing he would lie in wait for her rebirth. The second through fifth times she had opted for running, which in her exhausted state did not get her far. In attempt 6, 7 and 8 she had actually managed to scratch the bastard and slip free...only to be returned to her detention by some snotty fellow classmates. She'd surrendered on the 9th, but that hadn't stopped the brute from killing her again to make the message sink in. Frickin' bastard.

Clearing her throat, she hawked a glob of phlegm onto the rocky ground and took a moment to work some life into her limbs. Small movements of the wrists, neck and ankles first as a test before moving onto harder stretches. She finished off by popping the joints in her spine, hands going behind to press against her lower back in thrusting her body outward...then dropping onto all fours like her namesake to complete the job. Sweat beaded on bare skin from the exercise, triggering goosebumps upon exposure to Hell's gritty air. It felt like sandpaper on flesh. Only then did it dawn on her that she stuck out like a sore thumb against the rest of this landscape: a naked preteen girl at the complete mercy of the elements. If the winds got any stronger they might end up ripping her to bits.

Clothes. Had to find clothes. Clothes and then shelter, in that order... But then what if the Giant came back? It dawned on Cat that this was precisely how she'd been caught in the last 9 attempts: by trying to run, and wasting time on searching for supplies. She had scrounged a shirt once, only to have it stripped from her again on recapture. No point in trying the same thing again. Hiding was the priority for now.

Dammit. This was going to hurt...

Bracing herself for the pain, she raked her own nails in a downward slash from throat to crotch, then did so again for the rest of her limbs. Rather than bleed, the wounds left behind festered and caused the skin around it to peel away in fragile fluttering scraps that she had to work on stripping away one by one. It hurt of course; as it had hurt every time she did it and would hurt for all future attempts. But the pain would be worth it, if it meant that she would be hidden from detection.

Back. Face. Torso... Claws worked in frenzy to scrape off stubbornly clinging patches of skin, leaving Cat collapsed in a heap by the time she was done. For a while she would be unable to do anything but lie helpless on her back, easy prey for anyone passing by as she gathered strength and watched the rise and fall of her chest. The Shedding had left her noticeably thinner as it always did--causing the contours of her hips and ribs to jut against the skin.

Fortunately she had the presence of mind to do this while no one was around, since it meant she was out of commission for the next few moments or so...longer than that, if she was unlucky. Hopefully nobody would be passing by in the time it took for her to recover.

She flexed her fingers though, making experimental motions to keep the nails in working order. Just in case.
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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Azalea on Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:18 pm

Once every week or so, Azalea was forced to return to Hell to regain her strength. Upon her return, she was very disappointed to hear that Morrigan, the Arrancar who Azalea had used as a training subject the week before, had been spreading a story about Azalea betraying the Togabito, that she had turned her back on Hell and was killing Togabito for the Shinigami now.

She hated these rumors, for they were, quite literally, the exact opposite of the truth, but she couldn't just come out and tell the Togabito that she planned on crushing the Gotei and turning all of Soul Society into a second Hell. Which, in turn, would make Tanua far more powerful, giving him billions of new allies, which in turn would make her power increase when she tries to kill him. It was a complicated plan that had many variables, and she didn't dare say a word to anyone, lest the Horsemen, and therefore her wife, find out about it and forbid her from fighting Tanua.

These thoughts filled Azalea's mind as she wandered Hell's many Circles, crossing the wastes at a normal pace. She needed the other Togabito to see her, to reassure them that she was where she belonged.

Azalea's eye spotted a young, barely dressed girl alone. She Hell-stepped closer, her feet leaving small black flames where she had stepped that quickly diminished to nothing as she stood beside the girl. Her facial expression was one of genuine concern, for the young girl seemed to be injured as Azalea placed a hand on her shoulder and asked aloud, "Whom did this to you, little one?"

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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Cat on Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:15 am

Something loomed overhead, blocking out the light.

"Truglidine, you--" Cat added an articulate phrase in one of the obscure Mesopotamian dialects well known for its swear words. It was one of the few languages she'd managed to pick up over the centuries, and even then mostly for its swears. "Back again for more--?"

No; not Truglidine--as a closer look would suggest. This new Togabito was shorter and less bulky. One of the roamers then; if not someone working on behalf of those damn Horsemen. The former would have their way with her, but not kill her--not this close to a pit. The latter would ship her sorry rear back to school, likely stark naked to boot. All things considered, she did not fancy her options.

And then features swam into focus as her vision sharpened. Nope, not a roamer, a Horseman or even Truglidine back for round 2. The reality was worse. Much much worse.

"You!" for a moment or so she twitched uselessly on the ground, leaden limbs refusing to support the child's efforts to stand. "Usurper! Merroseed's murderer--should've known you'd...be back...one day to finish the job. What--building your palace wasn't enough for you?"

It dawned upon her only seconds after that she probably should have stayed quiet. She'd just used Guise to alter her reiatsu signatures after all. So in all likelihood the Empress would probably not even recognize her as the same kid from half a century ago; the kid who'd tried to carve out an empire using the spot between her thighs. She probably could've said anything; passed herself off as anyone, without inviting any suspicion. Too late for any of that now.

Me and my big mouth... It would not be the first time her train of thought ran along those lines.

But because it was too late to rewind the clock and unsay what had literally been a full confession of treason, Cat settled for glaring daggers at her rival and anticipating her next move. Her arms shifted slightly in an instinctive motion to preserve her modesty before she forced them open again, fighting the blush threatening to spread across her face. She wasn't going to give anyone the satisfaction of seeing her embarrassed. It was only nudity, after all: a common enough occurrence in Hell...at least where she was concerned.

"Well?!" still sprawled exposed on her back amid fragments of shed skin, she peered up at Azalea; too weak to do anything but meet the woman's gaze. "Hurry up and DO it, I haven't got all day."

She volunteered another Mesopotamian analogy as she did so, this one suggesting Empress Azalea do something anatomically impossible with her organs. Maybe if she provoked the Empress enough she could get Azalea to attack her, and come within range of her awaiting nails... All it would take was a scratch, then the Empress might forget her again, and she could keep scratching to refresh the duration until she was able to stand--by which time she could try tearing out the boss-lady's throat.

Yep. Sounded like a plan.

Or she could just as easily be killed from a distance, with not even bits left behind to stain Empress Azalea's clothing. In which case Azalea would probably just kill her over and over again, to stop her ever coming back. Just as what had been done to that idiot Merroseed

Well, such was life. You win some, you lose some. Cat was willing to pit her determination against Merroseed's any day. However many times they killed her, it would never be enough.

A tingle of feeling was slowly starting to spread through her, sending pins and needles throughout her fingers and toes that slowly crept up the rest of her nerves. It cramped like the dickens but she fought to remain still, trying to pretend she was still paralyzed. Another step closer, maybe two, and the Empress might be within her range. Cat badly wanted to flex her wrists and fingers, to work the stiffness out of her joints. Attempting any of that would give the game away before its time, however. Just a few moments more before full mobility returned.

She watched. She waited.
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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Azalea on Tue Feb 13, 2018 1:08 am

Azalea tilted her head in concern. This poor girl... She was clearly disoriented and confused. With a single motion, and quick twist of her upper body, Azalea pulled the top half of her clothing off, leaving her chest exposed as she tossed the young girl her top. Azalea had a thick, starburst shaped scar between her ample breasts, a remnant of when Merroseed had tried to kill her so long ago.

"There there, little one. Cover yourself up with that; nobody's going to hurt you any more. Especially not that-" Azalea smiled as she said a string of ancient, colorful descriptions, "- Truglidin.
He won't be hurting any little girls again for a very long time. Come over here and lets see about getting you all fixed up, alright?
"

Though Azalea herself wasn't very tall, a mere five feet, she stood with a rather maternal posture, and her tones was soothing, trying her best to be gentle. This, she thought, was bound to be the right approach to helping others. What was it the weakling- no, no, no, she though again, not weakling, but Hanzo. What had Hanzo said? 'A kindness paid unto others shall be paid back twice unto you?' She'd originally dismissed it as thoughts of the weak, but perhaps the key to understanding others was to accept such thoughts.

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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Cat on Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:07 am

Alright. So it seemed as though Fate had elected for a stay of execution, for both parties involved. Azalea hadn't come within range, nor had she made any threatening movements. Hadn't commented on any of the stuff she'd said earlier either. If not for the fact that this woman bore the telltale scar, Cat would've wondered if she made a mistake. But evidence to the contrary was there, clear as day for anyone to see. This was the Empress all right. She'd have known that injury anywhere.

For a long while she remained where she was, considering the torn but still serviceable fabric resting atop her torso. Cat did not want to accept charity from those she considered nemeses--or was that nemesii? But at the end of the day, a tunic was a tunic, regardless what its source. So she hauled herself up using the nearby rocks as leverage and yanked the top over her head without bothering to find somewhere more private. What was the point after all? They were the only two people there and already the Empress had seen all that she was able to see.

Given their figure differences, what would've served as a normal shirt for the Empress hung almost like a nightgown on the frailer girl, its torn hem ending some distance above her knees. To think that in life she'd worn nothing but silks even more costly, with attendants like the Umezawa boy to dress and undress her with little effort on her part. Merely dwelling on that memory clouded her thoughts red, causing an involuntary clenching of a fist and metal nails to leave bloody crescents in her palms. If there was someone she loathed even more than present company, it would be that little brat who had cost her everything.

Cat hated them all: the people in power, the ones who made rules that everyone had to follow. The ones on the bottom, fighting among each other for scraps. In some way, their pity and concern shamed even more than the worst humiliations or blows. She needed none of their charity, not when she could climb her way to the top little by little while putting an end to obstacles in her way. As Morrigan had, before the stupid bitch had called attention to herself and summoned the wrath of Azalea down upon her head. Good thing she'd lied her way out of that disaster, or else she might even now be sharing the Arrancar's fate. Shouldn't even have gotten mixed up with her to start with--useless fleabag.

She didn't want to go with the Empress. Knowing her, she'd just be dumped in school again...and having been stuck there since the day it was built--with her own hands (partly), Cat had no wish to return. She'd a better grip of her powers than most of the other kids. Than some of the teachers, even. Who did they think they were?

All the same, Cat was trapped and she knew it. There was no way she could run from Azalea, she already knew she wouldn't be a match for that legendary speed. Fighting might be worth trying, were they not so close to the pit to risk it. So she slunk over reluctantly and muttered something that only the most charitable would interpret as a 'thank-you', reaching to take Azalea's hand. One scratch from those deceptively harmless metal nails of hers could be enough to disorient the Empress temporarily, leaving her open to attack before she could think of calling on Nefarious, Genocide or her True Perfect form. That brief window was crucial. Cat had dispatched formidable opponents before, by taking them by surprise before they could use their attacks. Could maybe even have done away with Merroseed himself, if she put her mind to it. It would've been so easy to rip out his throat while he snored on the other side of the covers.

Take my hand, you know you want to...

"We're going back to Sinner's Elementary, aren't we--my...empress?" She choked out the last two words reluctantly, gut churning at having to acknowledge someone in higher authority
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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Azalea on Tue Feb 13, 2018 1:18 pm

Azalea noted the slight hesitation in the little girl's words. She was such a frail looking thing. And in the Empress' mind, she thought about how she should be improving her public image. Giving this girl the clothes off her own back was a step in the right direction, of course, but Azalea recalled the days long past when she'd too been struggling to survive out here in the wilds. There'd been no Sinner Elementary then. Just multiple levels of Hell, each filled with Kushinada and Sinners struggling to survive. Nobody had been there for her; not for a very, very long time. But this time it was different.

"You don't have to if you don't want to. Please, just call me Azalea. Have you ever been to the Palace? It's not much but we could get you cleaned up and put fresh clothes on you. Or maybe we can pay a little visit to whomever sent you back here and I'll talk to them? Doesn't that sound nice?" Azalea didn't yet reach for the girl's hand, instead kneeling to look the girl in the eye. Azalea had no weapons on her person, and her fifteen tails were hidden away. The golden lines that covered her body gave off a soft glow as she smiled at the young Togabito.

If I can make even one life better, Azalea thought, wouldn't that be great? She'd tried to do her best to maintain peace in Hell, but there was a limit to how much control a few people could have over the hundreds of millions of Sinners. After all, if they were good people, they wouldn't be in Hell.

Children were different, Azalea thought. They often knew not the consequences of their actions, and so rarely did life treat them well. And Hell had been worse, she knew. Perhaps Sinner Elementary, like herself, needed to evolve with the times to become a safer, better place for the children.

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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Cat on Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:10 pm

Cat blinked. Clemency? From the Mother of War? Had the world gone topsy-turvy?

No, because if that ever happened she'd be wherever that snotty little brat currently was--sprawling on cloud couches and snacking on grapes--while he filled in for her down here. Not that Cat cared very much for either clouds or grapes; but conversation with other Togabito seemed to imply that this was what Heaven was like: Halos, clouds and bearded old men. If so, then the Shinto priests her father had engaged to teach her were sorely sorely mistaken. To be honest it all sounded really boring overall, but any alternative would've been an improvement over present circumstances. As for present circumstances--

What happened to kill-or-be-killed? What was the Emperor's game?

Though she didn't want to admit it, Cat knew she was notoriously bad at games. The results of her choices these last 400 years were enough evidence of that. She'd consistently made bad choices, supported the wrong factions, and gotten no closer to her goal of amassing power in Hell. In life she always won whatever games she played, perhaps due to the commoner kids being too intimidated to risk otherwise. But she'd be damned (well...more so) if she was going to admit to that being due to faulty reasoning. For instance, cozying up to Merroseed had looked like  a guaranteed path to Power, dammit--at least that was until the idiot went and got himself killed by his wife.

That was the problem when you ran a long con... So many pieces and pawns to keep track of, where losing even one could result in failure. She had hedged all her bets in one place and looked to the long-term endgame, but a spanner had been thrown into the works before any of those careful preparations could even be put to practice. Perhaps it was time to be more...direct in such matters. And with the Empress seemingly in a benevolent mood, no better time than the present to try.

"I've been to the Palace," countered Cat, picking at a stray thread at her collar. "Seen as much of it as anyone, and know it better than most. Better than the Horsemen, even. I'm not some kid who died yesterday. Helped build it, after all,"

Technically true. What she had actually done was ferry mortar and supplies to and from the more experienced builders...all she was good for since her former life had failed to equip her with the knowledge of how peasants worked. Not the hardest job in the building crews, but it did leave her familiar with the structure's design layout and passages by the time she was done.

Could've hidden myself in the crawlspaces. Caught the Horsemen by surprise and slit their throats in their sleep. Could've engineered a silent coup all on my lonesome... But what good would that do, in a place where your murdered victims would simply arise again soon after seeking revenge? Cat found that characteristic of Hell both irritating and inconsiderate for the murderer. Nevermind that it was the sole reason she still remained around all these years.

"You know who I am and what I did, Aza--my Empress," just because Cat resented authority didn't mean she didn't respect the effort it took somebody to get there. If she ever became the one in charge respect was what she'd demand of everyone anyway. Her actions bordered on risky now, but centuries of chasing an endgame had left the Togabito impatient. She wanted results now, dammit--not at some uncertain point in the future where careless slips cost everything. And like it or not, the Empress was in a position of power to grant that. There may not be another opportunity for such a conversation, just the pair of them alone, without any audience or Horsemen in attendance.

"I want many things. I want to find a Kushinada and lure it to wherever that lousy Giant is; then watch what happens next. I want to do that over and over and paint myself in his ashes when he finally stops reforming. I want to do that to everyone else who crossed me. But more than that I want to stand at the top. Or as close to the top as I can," she informed Azalea bluntly, awaiting a reaction. "For that I wanted Merro--and did what I must to get him. I'm not sorry. I'd do it again if I thought it would help.

Cat drew upon her Reiryoku as years of self-experimenting taught her, feeling the irresistible rush of power that was better than any drug. No one had taught her to do so. She slept through classes and sneered at any attempts to teach her at Sinner's Elementary. All she had was the result of her own breakthroughs and no one else's contribution. "I want a place at the top. I'm not some helpless idiot child. I'm Cat. Of. The. Crossroad--" power roared in her ears as reiatsu spiked with each syllable. "Assassin. Stormcrow. Ill-omen. And I petition the Mother of War:"

"I want a place at your side, and this is the only way to prove I deserve it. Horsemen you have, but not a Harlot. Fight me, Empress--and see for yourself."

A formal invitation, with clear rules. Whether it would be to first blood or to the death was the other party's decision, but it wouldn't matter either way--not with the spawning location so close by. Either she would impress Azalea enough to win the higher status she craved, or she would not. Either way the Empress was always one to abide to the rules. If she ended up dying, she would respect formal challenge enough to not try the obvious thing and do to Cat what she did to Merroseed. Which was certainly sporting, especially considering that were their situations reversed so the child got the upper hand; Cat couldn't promise she herself would be quite as generous.

Even so, the former Empress; the one she remembered, would not turn down such a challenge. Cat ratcheted her reiatsu up higher, hoping to pique the other's interest; to come across as someone worthy of Azalea's time.
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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Azalea on Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:26 pm

Cat of the Crossroads? Merroseed? Long forgotten memories linked together in the adult woman's mind as she made the connection. Standing up as if she'd been insulted, Azalea's eye narrowed. With a sound like thunder, the skin of her lower back ruptured as a large, silky tail burst out, from which ten long tentacles rushed out, their hard carapaces smacking the ground as Azalea's spiritual pressure increased with her loosed temper. "You! You're that brat that Merroseed-" Azalea's eyes glared daggers at the younger girl, her ten long tails moving around her body threateningly, multiple eyes filled with hate.

But, just as quickly, Azalea caught herself, struggling to get her emotions under control. This... hussy, this little girl. The homewrecker! She'd been the one Merroseed most often cheated on her with. But, as Azalea reminded herself, she was happily married now. She loved Natasha, and Natasha loved her. And Azalea had just been trying to be a good person. She wouldn't let some... incident from decades ago ruin this for her. She was going to be a good person, damn it!

"Clearly you haven't been paying any attention in your classes,
little girl. I've been married to Natasha for almost twenty years now. But lets say I entertain this little... whatever it is you have going on, this obsession with power. Let's say I make you my Horsemen of Death, right now. What would you do? To put it in a way you might understand: Why should you have any authority in my Hell, Cat of the Crossroads?
"

The Empress stood with her hands on hips, her ten tails moving constantly. Though her tone was softer, her golden veins glowed brightly, the golden lava-like blood of her body flowing fast as a sign of her clear agitation.

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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Cat on Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:34 am

Ah, good: now here was a reaction more similar to what she'd been expecting.

"Because the system isn't working," Cat manifested her Chains--the only option given the distance separating them. Charging up into melee range to scratch would just make her a sitting duck for bone-crushing blows from any one of Azalea's tails. With their sheer differences in speed there was little point in dodging on the run.

There was a difference between being reckless and stupid.

"Because if there's even one; there's also a dozen of 'me': Those who don't agree with how things are run, but are less vocal about it. You think that just because no one says anything it means everyone is happy?" Cat laughed, a sound filled with world-weary amusement completely at odds with her appearance. "For every one of us bending the knee there are five who disagree, but value their own hides too much to say otherwise. Why argue, when we can plot and scheme a downfall? Oh, I'm sure you and your Horsemen have it covered...done pretty well in fact, haven't they? But don't forget you can only foil the plots you know about...and there are dozens unknown for every one of those. Most of them petty and pathetic, of course--but can you take the chance that ALL of them will be? All it takes is one slip, one lucky shot...and that could be the end. I know what that feels like,"

"And because, when you look at it that way...there is nobody more suitable than me: An outspoken advocate; formerly of the opposition? Somebody NOT of your cohort and therefore unbiased to its aims? A bold move, bringing the serpent to the bosom--a viper into the fold. The peasants," Cat rolled her eyes, giving a wrist chain some exploratory swings to build momentum "They'll lap it up, I'm sure. You'll go up in popularity just by doing so. Just ask anyone--everyone's heard of me: Of Cat,"

She launched one of the smaller Chains, aiming to loop around one of the tails and draw it close. Not as hard as she could have; just an feinting blow.

"And because you know I can be more useful under your thumb than otherwise, lurking who knows where... But not least because," the shadow of a grin arose on her features. "Because you view yourself fair, somebody who judges others based on their present merits and not their past histories. Because your word is your Bond; including the offers you've made to Sinners in the past promising recognition if they prove themselves against you. Far as I know, there wasn't any expiry date on those challenges. I didn't take you up on them then, but I'm doing so NOW. So be true to your words and judge, Mother of War. See for yourself,"

So saying, Cat resorted to the technique of forming a Reiryoku Sphere around herself in anticipation for her opponent's response. With it in addition to the Chains acting as armor on her torso, she was better defended than people initially assumed she was: each Chain extending from the child's torso was HUGE in comparison to the rest of her, limiting the number of places an opponent could easily target without one of those getting in the way.

"As for what I'd actually DO in your service... Well--" she strengthened her Sphere, making it nearly opaque with all the energy being packed into it...enough to not only withstand most attacks but also possibly backlash against an assaulter.

"Let's find out,"

Techniques:
Reiryoku Sphere
Spirit Combat: Master (+1 from species bonus)
Chain Mastery: Expert
Unarmed Combat: Advanced (base)
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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Azalea on Wed Feb 14, 2018 2:07 am

Azalea didn't yet try to parry the chains, instead simply moving out of the way. Just small shifts, no need to over-exert herself. Her speed was legendary in Hell; she could run laps through the entirety of Hell while her enemies tried to get her. But sheer speed wasn't enough. No, she needed to be fair. She had to be better than the Nocens of the past. Azalea was as much bound by her word as Cat claimed.

The Empress smiled sadly as she stepped sideways, holding her left hand outwards, palm down. "You think I'm unaware of the sadness here? The hate people bear for me? That five Togabito ruling over the rest is unfair? Of course I know, but what would you have me do about it? Go back to how it used to be? So we can all just go back to killing each other meaninglessly? To butcher children and paint the wastes red in their viscera?" As she questioned Cat, the golden blood on her palm dripped, elongating into a slim, golden blade which she gripped, holding the blade downwards as she moved, slowly around Cat.

The Ascension-made weapon was merely a more powerful version of the Nefarious her younger self used, but these weapons were only harder and more powerful because Azalea didn't wear them as armor as well, allowing more to be devoted to forming well-made blades and weapons.

With a flash of her wrist, Azalea sent the tip of the golden weapon to strike twice in quick succession against the sphere. She wasn't using her full strength, only about three-fifths of her ability. Still, she was surprised by the sphere's sturdiness as she continued to move around the young Togabito.

As she moved, still not using her speed, she continued to press the young girl. "You tell me, Cat of the Crossroads, tell me what you would do to bring happiness to murderers, rapists and thieves. Tell me how I can make psychopaths and genocidal regents happy, and build a world where the weak can survive without fear. What should I do with all those children at Sinner Elementary, half of whom don't even know why they're in Hell because they're too young to understand the consequences of their sins? What should I do,
Cat of the Crossroads?
"

Combat:

Dodge the chains- Grandmaster Hoho used against Expert Chain Mastery at untrained Hoho speed. Azalea successfully dodges.
Striking the Sphere- Azalea used Advanced-level Armed Combat against Expert strength Sphere. Sphere withstands each blow without damage.

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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Cat on Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:30 am

"Easy: Stop. Trying,". Repeated strikes against her barrier and the energy discharging as a result was making it difficult to focus. But the question posed was too obvious to refuse a reply. "Why do you CARE, Mother of War? They are peasants.  Peons. They live at the sufferance of their betters. Every single one deserves to be where they are. It is not the role of the ruler to provide the ruled with happiness," The child scoffed, focusing her efforts on a section of the sphere to force Ascension back. "The reason why leaders like my father sometimes heeded his people was to stop the rabble from arising against them. Because mortal rulers have only one life to lose. Here we're immortal. They can't kill us. They know we'll come back stronger so they don't dare to even TRY. "

"My nursemaid once told me a story about a farmer and his donkey. He desired to please everyone but ended up pleasing no one. You say it yourself. No matter what you do, there will be discontent. It will always be there. It will not go away. But what a leader CAN do, is manage backlash from it. Build your palaces and parliaments," Cat altered the momentum of her flung Chain, turning what had been a missed thrust into a sidelong sweep that would force the Empress to jump or duck if she hoped to avoid it, interrupting her current barrage of attacks on the Sphere. "Or revert to the way things were. I don't care. Why should I care if kids get killed and butchered? The same thing happened to you and me. Why should the new ones enjoy an opportunity denied us? All I care about is making sure that it doesn't happen to me ever again. And if serving at your side is the price required, it is a price I'm willing to pay."

There were better times to hold a debate; and present circumstances were none of those. Better to focus on the here-and-now of combat, especially for someone who did not exactly excel in direct assaults. It was more Cat's thing to strike from shadows and surprise, to overwhelm prey before they even registered her presence. The issuing of a formal challenge had made any sort of ambush impossible of course, matching her with a formidable opponent instead of the quick, easy kills she was more accustomed to. Having just regenerated, she had no weapons on her; nor Azalea's ability to create one with her Power. And even if she did, it would do her little good. Because apparently her former familiarity with the bow and katana had failed to translate to Cat's current incarnation in the afterlife.

Fisticuffs it would have to be, then. For that to work however, she would have to bypass her shield somehow--to draw the Empress in range. Cat worked on subtly weakening the sphere, just enough for Azalea's sword to penetrate but still be significantly slowed by the impact of doing so. That would cut down on its speed somewhat, and make it possible for even one such as her to scrape it with her talons. She hadn't missed the way it had been formed through Azalea's own blood, and was willing to bet that scratching it could transfer Forget's effect to the Empress herself. It was a theory worth testing, anyway. "You assume I care about the way things are done. I do not--not unless they relate to me. So worry not, my Empress. Just give the order, whatever it might be: I'll snare. Pleasure. Slay. Woman, Man, or Child. Giant, Hollow or Wolf. Say the word, and it is done--you'll never need to fear I'll develop a conscience. A place at your side, that's all I ask."

Her green eyes glowed as bright as her namesake as she readied to intercept the next sword strike--one that would be able to pass through the barrier this time, and within range of her infamous claws.


Last edited by Cat on Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:46 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Azalea on Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:44 am

Azalea frowned. She'd figured as such. Togabito were inherently selfish. They cared little about the well being of others. And that was something Azalea thought was crucial to being a leader. As she moved, flowing gracefully around the girl's chains, swatting them aside with hard and fast parries of her sword, or ducking them entirely, she recalled being alive.

Azalea had lived during a time where people could not afford to care about others to survive. By teaching her hunters to aid one another, and to take advantage of others, they had grown strong and spread her rule wide. But, her conquest had led to her death, though now she knew it had been caused by the White Haired Shinigami. The Living men had only revolted after that man had killed her precious lions, the symbol and constant threat she'd held over the entire region.

Was the key to being an effective leader to not care, then? Rule however she chose, ruling by right of might and fear, killing as she saw fit? She couldn't accept that. That was the thought of Togabito loyal to the Left Hand. That was Tanua's philosophy.

Azalea suddenly lunged forward, accidentally using her full speed and strength as she rammed the sword against the Sphere, level with the girl's shoulder. Unable to stop herself, she gasped in horror, hoping the girl would be okay.

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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Cat on Wed Feb 14, 2018 4:51 am

Contact!

If not for the presence of the Sphere she maintained in place, Cat would have been skewered by the speed and force of that incoming blow. And indeed she was, though her defenses had bought her just enough time to shift moments before--taking some of the force on her chest chain and reducing its impact on striking her shoulder. A new tear opened up in what had been her opponent's shirt, one that darkened slowly in red.

For a moment the pair stood frozen, with Cat studying the Empress speculatively instead of looking at the wound. She had been stabbed through enough times to know this was a shallow one, of little consequence. Strange that her opponent was acting so oddly as a result. Was she merely surprised that this strike of hers' had connected? Was she taken aback by the unexpected weakening of the barrier? Wait, no--Cat tapped on her capacity to Perceive: a trait that had served her well in the past.

The Empress appeared concerned. For her. A current opponent and likely enemy. What in the--? For a moment this revelation rattled her as much as it seemed to have affected Azalea herself. What was the required response here?

Press advantage. Wounded-duck gambit. Make her lower her guard then take her by surprise... It had been a valid strategy that had worked well for her in the past. She couldn't count all the times faking an injury had fooled an enemy and earned her another kill.

So Cat reacted how she assumed the Empress expected her to react; instinctively pushing away at the golden sword and arm connected to it, flinging herself back but making sure her nails scraped along the surface of its length as well as aiming for Azalea's arm for good measure. Not wanting to alert the Empress of their true nature; she did not apply the full force as of yet--making the scratch seem like an accidental panicked action rather than the deep lacerations they could potentially be. Possessing metal nails that could parry a sword strike head-on if timed correctly, Cat had no real need for artificial weapons.

In an encounter with any other, she would have remained on the ground where she fell, waiting for the opponent to either approach and see to her wound or else lose interest and walk away. Whatever option they chose, they would do so in complacency--leaving themselves wide open for a surprise attack.

But this was the Empress she was dealing with, and so Cat didn't want to take any chances. Though she'd landed a scratch, she knew Forget's limitations all too well; and how both the effect and its duration were greatly reduced against formidable enemies. Against targets her level or lower, she might have succeeded in erasing all references to herself from their memory for a precious few seconds--appearing as a random Togabito the other would have no recollection of and no reason to guard against. In those seconds she could approach, ease their suspicions further and renew the effect by making more scratches...until she felt secure enough to dispatch them unopposed.

With more formidable opponents, however, there was a possibility that the effects might be resisted, or fail to last as long as they should. Cat would only have a brief window against someone of Azalea's caliber, assuming the Power even took effect: too short a time to stay put and wait on the target's response. She needed to use the opportunity, before any existing effects could wear off and the Empress remembered her again.

Recalling all her Chains to her, Cat sprinted forward--choosing a trajectory that would take her right past the Empress instead of charging her head on. This was a nifty little trick she'd picked up over the decades, having learnt that while people would normally object to a total stranger (which she currently was, assuming Forget was working) rushing them in attack, they would be less concerned if the 'stranger' seemed to be running past them instead.

Leaping at the last available moment before momentum brought her past, Cat shifted direction and pounced for her opponent's throat--wrapping herself in heavy chains as she did so to lend more weight to her lunge. She wouldn't have bothered with that last bit normally, but in this case was aware that Azalea's weight would make her a challenging target to overbalance. Nor was she certain she would even succeed in the first place...but at least the Chains would still be there to distract while she went for the throat.

"What you feel is the effect of my Hell Power: Masque. Anything I scrape with these nails will forget all about my existence in relation to them, seeing me for the very first time. For a brief moment they will not know who I am, or even that we were fighting. The effects do not last long, but it is enough for me to score my kills. Not many can say they've survived a brush with Masque, my Empress. Yield, and you might be one of those few. "

What am I doing? Kill her, don't waste time on mercy! Tear out her throat, now! She'll do the same to you!

But Cat hesitated, the expression she saw on Azalea's face when the Empress thought she had stabbed her lingering in the back of her mind. Cursing herself for a fool, the child settled for merely clinging to her opponent's neck for now, claws in place to shred and ready to take the impact if her momentum caused Azalea to fall. Pushing with all of her weight and that of her Chains, Cat attempted to bear the Empress to the ground while holding her in place. It was taking far more effort than she was happy with.

'Why. Won't. You. YIELD?"

She had the presence of mind to keep a few lengths in reserve for her own defense, however. If things went wrong.
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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Azalea on Wed Feb 14, 2018 12:07 pm

Azalea, the moment between striking Cat and being struck in return, felt horror at her actions. She'd been thinking of the man who'd violated her so long ago and struck out in anger; she hadn't meant to hurt the girl! But then the nails cut her, and Azalea's grip on her sword slackened.

This girl was hurt? Why? Why was Azalea holding a sword? Wasn't that her shirt? Was that blood!? What was going on, the Empress thought silently. Azalea watched in confusion as the girl fled from her, running right past the Empress it seemed. With the after effects of her own horror and of the girl's ability, she was left dazed and confused.

But then a weight pressed into her shoulders as something wrapped itself around her throat. Azalea's own weight prevented her from falling over, weighing nearly six thousand pounds. Instinctively, she activated her technique Azrael's Blessing, a very small but power coating of Nefarious, in this case her Ascension. It coated her jugular in a thin, hexagonal diamond-hard layer, but left the rest of her neck exposed.

As the girl pressed into her, Azalea felt the girl's loathing. She hates me, doesn't she? Why? What wrongs have I done to this stranger?

Not sure how to react, Azalea staved off the brutality her younger self would have gone for. In her youth, she'd have a version of her 'Țepeș's Strike: Absolution,' a sub-technique based on how she could generate weapons from her body, to create huge spears coming from her neck or shoulders.

Instead, her ten tails, with surprising dexterity, groped at the girl, the small tentacles at the ends that covered the eyes seeking any exposed flesh and latching onto it, going for her thighs, calves, arms, torso. The tentacles, while surprising soft compared to the hard carapace of the tails, would cling with enough force to draw blood, but she didn't yet toss the girl aside.

"I'll... never... submit again..." Azalea murmured, her voice raw from the claws tearing at her flesh. She thought of the last time someone had forced her to yield in combat, millennia ago now. While there'd been no shame in losing a fight against actual divinity, the two centuries of slavery at his hand had scarred her for the remainder of her life. "What... do you want... with me?"

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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Cat on Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:20 pm

There was one good that came out of lifetime of failures: It allowed a person to recognize the moment they had lost. And she knew this; knew it as irrefutably as she knew the limits of her Power, as certainly as she knew that it would be scant seconds before her opponent remembered everything which had been forgotten. Cat had lost. Had lost in that moment of crucial hesitation; when she had chosen not to press the attack on her opponent's throat.

It had not been a question of ability. Though brief the opportunity might be, she had proven capable of acting within those moments in the past. Something had stayed her claws this time, however: an instinctive impulse which warned that were she to strike, she might inadvertently be ruining everything she had sought to achieve. Was it out of misplaced Mercy? Reciprocation? Or some inner subconscious fear of passing some point of no return--of going all out and then FAILING, which would resign herself to an eternity of continuous dying and reforming at her enemy's hand?

--or maybe; the reason she had held back even with a chance at winning was because she didn't WANT to win. Didn't actually WANT the full burden of responsibility that victory would entail? Surprising as the notion was, Cat didn't want to be Empress of Hell. She wanted to be Somebody for sure; but not the head honcho with a permanent target painted on their back. She did not want to win; never expected to in fact, merely wished to prove her prowess enough to eke out some cushy little fiefdom somewhere--high enough that her position was unassailable, yet not so high that rabble Togabito would blame her for the wretchedness of their condition.

It was anybody's guess at that point. The notion paralyzed and made her unable to react to the situation at hand, early advantage already all but lost; merely clinging on to avoid falling and not even registering the tentacles systematically rending skin and shirt fabric alike.

Even at this disastrous reversal, there was still time to turn the tables around. The close proximity they were in made it difficult for the Empress to maneuver that gold sword and limited her arsenal to eye stalks and hand-to-hand combat alone. Moreover, she was still in place and primed to strike; either to befuddle or lacerate, putting an end to it once and for all.

And then--what? Say she managed to drain the jugular, what then? Would she stay by the pools, cutting down her enemy's reforming body again and again until it no longer regenerated? Would she do the same to the War-Mother's current cabinet of supporters? The Empress had mentioned being married, and Cat wasn't so naive to think that whoever her spouse might be; that person might be just a tiny bit pissed off at her were they to learn of their companion's demise. Being caught seducing a married tyrant had resulted in consequences bad enough, so logically speaking regicide might be associated with a worse punishment if the ruling party remained alive. She would have to hunt them down one by one, wipe out the monarchy and start over to have any hope of escaping that fate. And even then, that left her in charge of an unstable and empty power structure...a prime target for any other ambitious Togabito thinking to follow her example.

And if she killed the Empress but allow her to reform, she would be wasting a valuable ace in her arsenal. With newfound knowledge about her abilities, Azalea would be unlikely to succumb as easily in future. If she regenerated angry at her recent defeat, Cat would be out of tricks and as good as dead.

The whole thing was moot anyway. She'd wasted so much time hesitating that opportunity's window was almost gone. In another moment the light of recognition would return to her opponent's eyes as she recalled everything about their interactions which had been forgotten before; as well as the experiences happening during that 'confused' state--which would include the explanation Cat had given of how her Powers worked. There would be a second's pause as 'original' and 'amnesic' perspectives fused, becoming again one and the same.

That pause would prove both damnation and salvation for Cat; allowing her to disengage from her opponent's body by kicking off in the opposite direction when the eye stalks slowed their assault--using her Chains to cushion her landing and rolling into a defensive crouch a safer distance away. Air shimmering for a moment as the child instinctively remade the Sphere, then fading away as she thought better of it. What was the point?

"I yield, my...Empress," the last three syllables took on a sibilant hiss as she dropped to all fours in supplication, nails digging frustrated furrows in the sturdy ground below her palms. "Through no fault but my own. You see now the risk you invite, Mother-of-War," craning her head upwards allowed Cat to lock gazes at her adversary. "When you allow yourself to be governed by...emotion," the word was spat out with enough vehemence to almost be a curse. "It would've been your undoing, my Empress--that moment of hesitation when your sword hit my shoulder. It SHOULD'VE been your undoing, if I hadn't fallen prey to the same. I am not too proud to admit my mistake. Hesitation foiled me once..." one deceptively frail fist closed around a nearby stone, metal nails reducing it to rubble in an instant. "Never again."

"If nothing else, learn from my mistake War-mother. This is the cost you invite on yourself by choosing to care, by investing oneself in others instead of your own. They told us some of your history in School, and sometimes I pay attention--like my father you were a leader, a commander of Men. You were the first to conceive of groups working together to achieve the same goal. But you forget...camaraderie only gets one so far. It is all very well for equals to band together, to support each other in small groups. But when groups get larger,
and contain members no longer equal...
" Cat repeated the lesson Shingen had once expounded; the lesson that had continued to echo through the disasters that followed. "It is pointless to try. Appeasing some party will just insult another. Considering their needs will distract you from your goal. Only when it is necessary to prevent mutiny or rebellion should you make an exception, and sometimes not even then. Or is it your reputation that you wish to preserve? I can help you with that too..."

"Make me your instrument of fear, War-Mother. If you desire I can be the scapegoat. I can be the serpent in the shadows. The creature at the crossroads which Sinner and Kushinada alike learn to hate. The Horsemen sit at your Right Hand, imposing your will across the land. But armies are nothing without an opposite counter. Kingdoms are nothing without a rival to despise. With your permission, I could sit at your Left, my Empress--and doing so help unify your subjects through their sheer hatred and dread of me."

"Unleash me to prey upon the unruly. Allow me permission to hunt those who stray. When word spreads, those you rule will look to you for protection and abandon their petty notions of rebellion. You can make me despised, and deny any association. No one need ever know. This is the service I can provide to you...in exchange for power and protection at the Mother's side."

An intense light flared in her gaze as the child licked away blood from the corners of her mouth with small motions of a tongue before moving on to lap at the other numerous scratches Azalea's tentacles had left on her arms and person. "I promise you will not be...disappointed."
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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Azalea on Wed Feb 14, 2018 10:21 pm

Azalea's multiple eyes looked at the frail girl as memories settled into place, mashing with more recent ones. She knew this Cat of the Crossroads. Memories returned to her, about their fight and Cat's wishes. The wrongs Cat had done onto Azalea.

No, Azalea thought as she clenched a fist. It was that bastard Merroseed; he'd wronged us both. Azalea was honestly getting really sick of Hell. Sick of everyone wronging her. She'd provided for her tribe while alive and was murdered by the White Haired. She made herself strong in Hell, and was enslaved for it. She tried to love someone weaker than herself, and he tried to kill her. Why? Why was everyone constantly fucking each other over? In her day, the strong provided for the weak, as they should!

"That's the only way you can see it, huh? Kill or be killed?You want to be given protection in exchange for my using you as what,an assassin executioner? A common enemy? No... I have a much better idea, actually. I know exactly what to do with a stray cat." Using her superb speed, Azalea moved close to Cat, kneeling with her chest level with the girl's face as Azalea's fingers found their way around her chin. Her single facial eye looked down into Cat's face.

"You're sick of it here... being killed again and again. Of struggling. You want to be strong, feared and obeyed. You want the power but not the responsibility of caring for all these unfortunate souls because you cannot care for them. You really can't, can you? You're unable to put yourself in their shoes even though here, none of us are better off than anyone else, not really. The only difference between me and those on the First Circle is that it takes far more to kill me, but even I die. I feel pain, sorrow, love...You, Cat of the Crossroads, you don't feel a damn thing, do you? Hate, envy,jealousy maybe? No, no, no. That's too harsh of me. Perhaps you feel, but chose to ignore it. But someone like you... I think I know just what to do with you. Don't worry, little Cat. Your Empress is going to take. Very," she tightened her fingers, not harshly, on the girl's chin, pulling her closer to Azalea. "...Good," Azalea dragged the girl closer, her multiple tails coiling around the girl's body and holding her to Azalea, the long limbs pressing against her body. "... care of you. You're going to help me with a certain secret mission." Azalea finished, a wicked light in her eye before her face was rapidly covered in a golden fluid which hardened into a wicked, cruel helmet that covered her head and the entire right side of the Empress' face, hardening in time it'd take the girl to blink.

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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Cat on Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:22 pm

Bristling to hear all the assumptions the Empress was making, it took every iota of self-control not to swat those fingers aside.

Not better off? Blessed Amaterasu, did the Mother still not understand?Of course they were better off. The very fact that they had strove to get to where they were now was concrete proof of their superiority. If not for skill, talent and raw determination neither she nor the Empress would be where they were today--wielding their current Powers instead of being Kushinada bait in the Circles above. They had started from nothing, as one of THEM...but the difference was they had bothered to make something of it: to claw and bite and scratch their individual way through all the whimpering offal and emerge stronger on the other side.

And even if none of that were true, even if the only real difference that separated their pair was being harder to kill than any others--that alone was difference enough.

She could've said any number of those things, or all of them. Wanted to fling each offensive accusation back in the enemy's face, preferably accompanied with a flurry of swings from her Chains. It was what she'd done to Truglidine after all; and given the way things had turned out then, was also a good argument against doing anything rash. With the eye tails wrapped around to restrict her movements it was unlikely she could move either arm, nevermind striking anything with her claws. Whatever the Empress might be, she wasn't a slow learner in that regard apparently. If anything, she caught on faster than Cat herself. Unfortunately.

But slow as she was at learning; Cat did learn eventually--especially after being made aware of the consequences. So she forced down a rebuttal, made herself go limp in the other's grasp and waited to hear what Azalea would propose.

Something told her she probably wasn't going to like it.
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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Azalea on Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:46 pm

Azalea smiled behind her helmet, releasing the girl abruptly so she'd fall, moving back rapidly as two more swords grew from Azalea's palms. She wasn't using her Genocide, her true Hell Power, but she was close. Since regaining her memories and being trapped in her adult body, Azalea no longer needed to cocoon her body to unleash her powers. Now she simply wielded them. The golden helmet and swords she summoned though were unlike her usual. Normally, she had a saint-like appearance. Here, the thought that came to mind was 'death'. The long swords were jagged and cruelly sharp.

"I'll give you power, Cat of the Crossroads. I'll give you territory, and victims and all the peons you could ever dream to order around. But you're going to have to do something for me."

Azalea twisted her wrists, the two swords in her hands slashing the ground at her sides. As the blades bit through the ground, another tail burst from her back, increasing the spiritual energy Azalea was giving off.

"As you said, I'm not without enemies. Even now, that Werewolf Morrigan is spreading lies about me. There's a coup in place to overthrow me, to overrun the Palace." Again, her wrists twisted, but as they did, two more blades appeared from her hands, the previous two now floating a foot away from her body. Two tails burst from her lower back, increasing the energy she was putting out even further.

"I don't have the time to correct these wrongs. Not with the war that's coming. And for that, I need you. I'll give you everything you ask for, but you have a choice to make. Together, me, my Horsemen and you can try to kill the Togabito whose powers exceed even my own, or you can help me kill a certain someone. If you choose the latter... I'll free you from this Hell, Cat of the Crossroads, and let you leave this world forever if that is your wish." Again, Azalea spun her wrists, and three tails burst from her lower back. At fifteen tails, she was at her full strength, even without Genocide. The power she'd amassed over the last fifteen thousand years quite literally warped the landscape under her feet, the sands twisting and forming something new. The ashes around Azalea for five feet of her body became dead grass, and even a stunted shrub started to grow near her foot. At this point, there were three swords floating on either side of Azalea, and two in her hands. Her upper body grew golden, hellish armor, the shoulders bearing the faces of roaring demons. "Tell me, Cat of the Crossroads...Do you want to leave this world?"

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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Cat on Fri Feb 16, 2018 8:51 pm

"Leave?" shifting abruptly in mid-air allowed the child to land more-or-less on hands and feet, in relation to her name. "Why would I want to?"

"I have no interest in leaving; in trading permanent damnation for a temporary reprieve. As the Mother points out," her arms gestured to them both. "We both belong here. And not even an escape--were such possible--would make it otherwise. To return to Life would make me mortal again and powerless...only to return here at the end of that natural lifespan. I'm not trading centuries of waiting and growing to go back to being a lowly Sinner again. And neither, I think, would you,"

"Lands, reputation and Power, however--those I'll take," she thought back on the other's words. An opponent...a rival? "It's not the place of a vassal to determine conditions of employment. I would serve, in any capacity, if you can bestow those three in exchange. It matters little to me what my target is. You've history with this...Togabito, I can tell,"

That was something she could understand. Cat; too, had history with a great many people, a personal hit-list longer than the Chains which bound her. But there would always be one name topping that list, one whom she'd sworn to place foremost before all else. She had told the truth about not wanting to leave Hell. What she wanted was to drag those she chose to join her; to hold their fates at her fingers and experience their suffering.

She had a suspicion as to who the Empress was referring to; and it said much about her person that this possibility excited and interested her. The Kikuhime of the past would've considered it impossibility, would've seized upon the chance for freedom and brokered everything without a second thought. But that Kikuhime was little more than a whisper now.

And so it was Cat who smiled back at the Empress, nails tapping a staccato rhythm against the rocks beneath. "Why not do both? I've never preyed upon a God before..." Would Gods feel pain? Would they feel despair at the moment of destruction, at the realization that they were trapped and doomed to an eternity of unmaking? Would their blood and entrails taste as good as anyone else's?

Cat did not know the answer to most of those questions. But she would be happy to find out.
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Re: The Ties That Bind

Post by Azalea on Fri Feb 16, 2018 11:15 pm

Azalea laughed hollowly from behind her helmet. "Oh, I think I might start to like you, Cat. But, before we can do either of these things... We both need to die."

Azalea took a step towards Cat, her swords humming as they spun circles in the air around her. As she moved, the transformed ground expanded, more ashes becoming grass. But, the grass behind wilted and returned to ashes, her power not yet great enough to truly remake Hell in her image.

"I need to kill you, Cat, but not just in any ordinary way. You see, if I summon Hellfire within your body, you'll regenerate with an additional Hell chain; specifically one connected to me. You'll be bound to me, forever. But, it's not without its benefits. At any time, I can send power through this chain to strengthen you. And, by pulling on this chain, you can call me, even if we are in different worlds. But, as a consequence, I can summon you at any time, from anywhere. The chain will connect our souls eternally; as long as one of us bears the will to survive, the other will never turn to ash." What Azalea neglected to mention was the significant power consumption binding another Togabito to her took. She'd be, at most, at half strength for a whole week afterwards.

"And whom said I would be granting you life? I merely asked if you wanted to leave Hell. Not even I have the power to purify your Sins, Cat of the Crossroads. I'm merely asking if you'd like to be allowed to leave Hell, maintaining all of your powers and abilities, at will. The Kushinada won't be able to stop you from escaping if I assist you." By now, Azalea was standing just in front of the girl, so close that Cat was actually in the grass. Though it looked real, touching the blades of dead grass revealed their texture was more like shaped sand than anything organic.

"By killing you, I'll be tying our souls together. But, I too will need to die. And I will need you to rally Hell against me, Cat. Our deaths need to be public, but far from this lake. You need to convince them that the Empress is a traitor, tell them that I turned away from the Left Hand. Make them hate me, Cat. I want them calling for my blood by the time we talk again. You will need to make it known that you side with the Left Hand in all things. But do not involve the Horsemen. I will need them where they are, if everything goes according to plan. After our 'battle,' Cat, I grant you permission to hunt the entirety of the Giant Truglidine's old territory, as well as whatever he carved out in the First Circle."

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Re: The Ties That Bind

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