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Tournament Finale: Free For All

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  • Herc chuckled softly, putting his hand on Hechizago's back. "Well, I didn't get this far being afraid of death. Either you are lying or you aren't. Guess we'll see which one you are soon enough....."
    A Shadow is merely Darkness in the presence of Light





    Thanks Kid Buu for this awesome sig!

    The Emperor Protects

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    • "Very well then." He said resolutely while closing his two eyes as a third on his forehead snapped open and transfixed itself on the anguished Shigo. A torrent of arcane energy would explode around him, perhaps quite startlingly so to both Herc and Aariv as it enveloped their forms entirely. Although this was the faintest suggestion of the man who was once styled "the Archmage", his raw ability was obvious and on full display showing how one such as himself could potentially restrain an entity of such cataclysmic scale in a cosmic wrestling match.

      Herc would feel strange as his energy seemed to rewind in time to the peak of his own prowess, to the time when he was indeed the God of Reality. Herc Keido himself was not any younger however. This was a temporary boost and it was immediately drawn upon by Hechizago who channeled it through his right arm and drove it into the scars on Shigo's back. The many marks that indicated countless battles upon his flesh glowed with the furor of the three beings slamming the dark tide within him that threatened to spill forward through the small crack in the sealing spell. Hechizago did not seem to require a different state for Aariv's energies as they too were channeled and drawn into the right arm of Hechizago. His third eye glowed with a brilliance as the angular marks on his own skin burned with a ferocious light that transferred into Shigo's.

      Simultaneously, due to Hechizago's power being so faint his own psychic imprint was available to both contributors to the sealing and this unconsciously made its mark on Aariv and Herc.

      For Herc, he would receive visions of ... was it reality? Or an alternate reality? It showed most of the Keido family arriving at some near impossible to discern location that by its very physical nature seemed to disobey the laws of physics and the very laws of reality that Herc once governed. It would be entirely alien to him... despite the fact that he was now watching himself, like a fly on the wall, crossing over with his family to a hideous immobile monstrosity in the corner of a room that resembled a cluster of sapient tumors wailing in quiet agony. The monstrously huge organism was merged with the floor and ceiling as it writhed, a bulbous cancer that seemed very much a part of this strange unsettling, hostile place's architecture. If Herc looked closely enough he could even make out several faint faces painted with terror and pain along the fleshy column's surface. They had emerged from a dusty, dank hallway that also seemed to be made of the same tumor-like substance as the abomination they stopped in front of. The only other thing that could be made out as the room shifted and blurred impossibly would be an altar at the back of the main chamber containing a large tome with a cover on it stitched together from dried skin. In the center of the cover was a single massive eyeball that glared hungrily at the Keido's as if it were suddenly immersed in orgasmic pleasure. The book was silently opened to a random page by a faceless acolyte, shrouded by darkness and gray-and-brown hooded robes, who then stepped back to fall in line with others like them.

      It would seem that the Keidos had not noticed any of the entities that Herc might notice in the vision he was receiving now. The most puzzling aspect might be how Hechizago would be aware of this in the first place since he did not seem present for this moment himself.

      It would then dawn on Herc that only one Keido was missing: the family patriarch, Daemon.

      The eye on the fleshy book would bulge larger as the Keidos made physical contact with the abomination. After a few seconds, a somewhat humanoid shape began emerging from the gurgling pillar of flesh, producing an unconscious Daemon Keido who then fell into his family's arms. Although the Herc Keido that was there to retrieve his father did not realize it, although the rest of his family did not realize it, the acolytes in the back of the room would have begun falling to their knees and digging into the blackness where their eye sockets would be and tearing out their eyeballs and squelching them in their outstretched hands as an offering to the altar. The large eyeball on the tome shuddered as if it were grinning ear-to-ear and a dark force would reverberate through the room as the Keido's would then become quite alarmed and quickly leave with their unconscious loved one. And yet, once they were gone, Herc's ethereal form would linger in the room as the acolytes turned their heads towards him. They could see Herc, right now, watching this memory of the past. Or was it the present? The future? The only natural reaction to this would be complete and absolute terror as he would find himself frozen in place, blasting that accursed house of unutterable secrets and wishing for the oblivion which alone could save his mind.

      Suddenly, mercifully, it would all fade away. The last thing Herc would see in the vision is the eye on the tome rotting away as it grew blind and molded. Herc would hear the following poem whispered in a million-voice chorus from the choir of sycophants. Behind each of their words he could hear a series of disturbing wet sounds as if something were being constructed from the mashed remains of inky, pulped eyeballs.

      "I can see what you see not.
      Vision milky, then eyes rot.
      When you turn, they will be gone,
      Whispering their hidden song.
      Then you see what cannot be,
      Shadows move where light should be.
      Out of darkness, out of mind,
      Cast down into the Halls of the Blind."

      Aariv on the other hand would be subjected to a different experience... he would feel a strange urge to flee from Hechizago as a single door would emerge in their linked minds. A huge torrent of resistance would meet him as he would find himself beckoned forward toward the knob. Even if he tried with all his willpower to avoid opening it, he was driven by the dark entity. Normally Hechizago would be impervious to any psychic intrusion. Perhaps it was Aariv's greatly heightened senses from the Abyssal Artifact detonating. And perhaps it was due to Hechizago himself being only a faint echo of himself, the vast majority of his strength still sealed within the entity that Aariv suddenly had a name for: Xy'toth the All-Seer. The Worldgorger. The devourer of reality. Of all life. Regardless of the reason why, Aariv would be ... treated ... to a number of visions when the door inevitably creaked open. Energy was draining alarmingly fast from his body and would not respond to any commands he gave it.

      Initially the visions were confusing and difficult to make out. Children? Three stars in the sky? A woman holding a boy's hand? A war? A ship in the sky, tearing the clouds apart? Innumerable more would quickly disorient that could scarcely be deciphered before a torrent of energy cast Aariv's consciousness down like a thunder bolt into the depths of space and through the dimensions of the multiverse.

      Unlike Herc, he would find himself inside a corporeal human form for the bulk of this next vision; although he was trapped in the body of the beholder and could not control their actions. He saw what they saw, felt what they felt, and they were unaware of Aariv's presence. Again, unlike Herc, he could distinctly tell that this was in the distant past.

      He felt something cold and clammy as he looked down at a dead girl being carried in his arms. Aariv was in the body of a dark-skinned man who was carrying a dead young woman. She had fine features, red hair and light freckles. Recently deceased. There was a pang of guilt that hit the man somewhere deep within his soul at defiling her like this but it was largely suppressed. He would lift his head and there was Hechizago walking ahead of him as they approached an elevated platform. Hechizago gestured quietly towards it and the young man placed her body upon it. The world around them was filled with darkness save for a smattering of distant, dying stars in the sky not unlike the dead girl's freckles. They stood on a large floating platform which pulsed with arcane energies and as far as the eye could see it contained strange and ancient constructs beyond Aariv's understanding and outside of his field-of-view.

      Hechizago suddenly paused, his fluid movements ceasing entirely with his back turned. He stood eerily still as his head slowly turned back towards the young man. The only sounds were the distant hum of magic.

      "Aprenulo?" He called quietly as if inquiring if his disciple were still awake.
      "Yes?" He answered after a short and uncertain pause.
      "...no, not quite." Hechizago murmured after a few seconds.
      What? Is he talking to me?
      "I'm... not sure I understand, Master."
      "I suppose you wouldn't. Would you?" Hechizago turned around with a smile - no, a grin - tugging at the corners of his lips. His dark eyes furrowed and pierced through Aprenulo's soul and straight into Aariv's. A flood of darkness would throttle him that was distinctly not of Xy'toth. No, this darkness belonged to the other monster bound within Shigo Seikatsu.

      Aprenulo had no idea how to respond and was confused. He glanced over at the lifeless body as Hechizago moved silently over her without breaking his uncharacteristic glare towards him. Aprenulo could not recognize his Master suddenly and a rush of strange fear that he'd never felt before in his presence screamed through his boiling veins.

      "I'm allowing you to see this now. Consider it a rare gift for assisting me in this matter." Hechizago spoke softly and yet with heavy intonations as his stare did not break. Aprenulo again did not know quite what to say as his Master continued. "I wonder what led us to this moment, don't you, dear and loyal Aprenulo?"
      "I apologize if I did something to upset you. I thought... I thought I did everything right?" He responded, wanting to run and yet there was nowhere to go. At the same time he had always known a fierce unquestioning loyalty towards Hechizago so the conflicting ideology with these unfamiliar fight-or-flight emotions rendered Aprenulo paralyzed.
      Hechizago's dark visage finally broke and the terrible fear clutching Aprenulo's heart released as he found himself breathing again. He hadn't even realize he had stopped and that he had been nearing a loss of consciousness.
      "I think it's fair to say that if we're in this situation that things did not go exactly according to plan." Hechizago looked up again, this time he was not commanding such fear and had relaxed. "Not that it is your fault of course." His words had a double meaning unknown to the disciple who let loose an inaudible sigh of relief.
      Hechizago on the other hand seemed slightly tense himself. "Do you trust me, Aprenulo?"
      What kind of question is that?
      He arched an eyebrow and answered immediately. "Yes, entirely. If you believe this is the best course of action, I see no reason to dispute it. I've always thought you were right to separate them. And now we can observe what happens to both now." Aprenulo straightened up and articulated himself well and yet Hechizago seemed dissatisfied with the response.
      "I believe I have already learned a great deal." He said carefully as his hands glowed with two different colors of energy that Aprenulo had never seen before but Aariv would recognize as the color of the energies Hechizago was now wielding in the sealing process. Down his robed right arm a bright green, through his left a golden yellow with flecks of arcane blue brilliance coursing like liquid sapphires through each. Aprenulo watched as he began returning life to the girl as color filled her face once more and she slowly began breathing.

      The three eyes of Hechizago would once again snap up from the girl's body directly locking onto Aprenulo. "It's time to go."

      Aariv would be cast out of this moment in time and begin to see clearer images... a wandering monk on a planet called Earth, drinking and smoking his pains away as he remembered the dead girl on the table. Aariv could sense his sorrows as he tried to extinguish the burning embers of rage that stoked within his immutable soul every night as he clearly held Hechizago, Aprenulo and especially the girl in high regard and yet believed them to be gone. He blamed himself for his powerlessness. This rage and sorrow would only fester and grow, burrowing deeper within the fake smile the man portrayed to the world. That smile, too, would eventually shatter and one day he could no longer maintain the ruse. The only feeling Aariv could sense from him now was a strange emptiness, a nausea in the pit of his stomach and the feeling that he was about to snap and let loose something sinister that had been brewing deep inside of him born of his own self-hatred.

      He would see the girl, although he did not know her original name, he could hear it clearly now, "Ambers". And it was indeed a different person as he watched her commit vile acts that betrayed every instinct within her moral compass in her forlorn journey to simply remember who she had once been. That had been taken from her by Hechizago as part of some ploy that only Hechizago could truly understand. And yet, every action she took to get her closer to the truth took her further from who she once was. In the end, when she finally did learn, the person she once was could no longer be returned to. And yet... there was something more here. Something more that Aariv could perhaps dig further into if he wanted that even Hechizago was unaware of...

      Was this Xy'toth's influence? Or something else entirely?

      A million images then flashed before the mind's eye of Aariv. Of the horror that Hechizago was trying to stop. The danger it posed. He saw the effects of it on lives beyond counting and Hechizago's struggle to contain it. He then would see Hechizago committing acts of mass genocide on a scale that would make the worst tyrants in the history of the cosmos look like amateurs all in the pursuit of slowing down Xy'toth's corruption. Although Hechizago would often apologize to his victims before taking their lives and souls and transferring them to his dimension, Aariv would probably be able to tell that he had long since justified mass murder. Just as the meaning of all these things seemed ready to make itself obvious to Aariv it would all suddenly stop and he would be returned, weaker than ever, to his body on the tournament stage.
      Hechizago spoke somewhat grimly to the two of them. He was aware for the most part what both of them had just experienced and yet it was unimportant, nigh irrelevant to him. "I did not foresee this, but I must use your life essence to finish the sealing. In short, I must ask you to momentarily die and trust that I will replace your lives with two Cycles within Shigo." He looked over his shoulder at them, Aariv in particular. "All of those lives that I took are now within him." He leveled with them. "This seal is built on blood, death and sacrifice. I will be casting two of the souls, two of the Cycles within Shigo, into oblivion in your stead and I must ask you to please trust me to save you from paying the ultimate price." He awaited their answer and was awkward, uncomfortable and unfamiliar with asking for help especially of this magnitude.
      Brother! Your crusade IS OVER!!

      NO...!!

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