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Round 3: Ash vs Shigo Seikatsu

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  • Round 3: Ash vs Shigo Seikatsu

    Location: Lunar Subterrane


  • #2
    Ash came to this world, their heat skipping a beat to recognize this as a moon with the planet in the distance, but it died just as quickly as it came, as Ash felt cold air filling their lungs as they gasped. Perhaps the panic was misplaced, Ash was certain Kaishi wouldn't simply leave to the vacuum of space.

    From there it was simple... Especially here where there were so few. No reason not to go forth with what they had. Taking out their wings, they took to the air, and began flying straight for the artifact, eyes scanning the horizon, their wings black like the night sky as they made their way through this seemingly lunar settlement.

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    • #3
      Shigo Seikatsu breathed deeply. But... could he?

      This was the strangest arrival yet. Not like the Hidden Village or Whiterun. No, this was something far less familiar to him. His aura quickly rushed to gently coat him and he breathed calmly. His characteristic warmth and peaceful nature filled his mind and body.

      His icy blue eyes were awestruck at the surreal enigmatic wonders abound. What a beautiful sight to behold... where am I?

      Unlike the first two locales this was unfamiliar to Shigo. It was gorgeous and yet he felt as if the role between the moon and the earth had been reversed. Had it been?

      Shigo wanted to philosophize and pontificate on so many of the wondrous and beautiful new scenes that played out before his eyes but he quickly noticed something flying through the air. It struck him almost instantly as it clashed against the void yet streaked across it like a star. It seemed to be the only lifeform in this desolate yet beautiful landscape.

      Where were they heading? And in what haste?

      Shigo then shook his head, smiling. Stupid questions. Ah, of course. This foul artifact.

      Of course this was to be his foe. Shigo did not have a moment to think before he casually tore off towards the artifact as well. He was simply mirroring this angelic beings' movements except from the earth below. He wanted to meet them just as he had Herc Keido and the Half-Lord. By far this was the most obvious encounter yet though. If they recovered the artifact immediately, then he figured he may not have a chance to even see them up close.

      That wouldn't be interesting at all.

      This tournament contained beings of such strange origins that fascinated Shigo to his core. He was not going to let an opportunity like this pass him up. As he moved in closer to the artifact with the heavens in tow and the angelic being mirrored far above he absorbed the beauty of his surroundings and took in a deep breath of the eerie cold tranquility.
      Brother! Your crusade IS OVER!!

      NO...!!

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      • #4
        Ash looked down, taking less note of the surrounding area and it's craters and lunar halls world, over looking a planet, and yet in the corner of their eyes, Ash saw a man moving towards... Very likely their opponent. Unlike Shigo, Ash took almost no time to consider the world. It was lifeless, that was enough for Ash as they landed down in front of the great caterpillar like machine overlooking it, their wings turning bright red and green, any pretense at escaping their detection gone as they made themselves known, aiming a lasgun at Shigo. Given how he moved with such speed towards the same goal, they knew exactly what he was aiming towards.

        As they looked down, Shigo would say one, barely armored, clothed in what amounted to an off-white tunic, their body was pale, with old burn scars and newer scars caused by bullets and blades. Their feet were not that of a human but more akin to a bird, to say nothing of their wings that Shigo had already noted. Their hair was thin and in the moment Ash touched down in front of him frayed out, but it was their eyes were the most different. In a focused glare, they looked upon Shigo, almost the entire eye taken up by massive pupils, akin to that you'd see on a mouse, or a rat, and seemingly carved into their eyes was a bright white eight pointed sigil of Chaos. Ironically, that sigil had done more to make their eyes look more normal, as the where the circle of the sign of Chaos was located, was approximately where the border between the iris and the sclera would be on a non-mutated human. "I'm not here to fight you, but if you are after that artifact, I can't let you have it." They said, as straight forwardly as one could. In their mind they may as well, if their threat worked then this stranger would leave, and they could go their separate ways. If not... Ash has nothing to lose by misdirecting and frustrating every attempt made to chase them.

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        • #5
          Shigo skid to a stop, a warm and playful grin gracing his features. The soft melody of his aura flowed out around him as he folded his hands together and bowed, ignoring the strange weapon pointed at him. Like with Herc Keido and Half-Lord, any shows of force or power were not lost on Shigo but he simply did not regard them as relevant in the moment. Shigo knew his own intent was pure and had not run into a single purely malevolent being yet, he could already tell this one was no different. I am not here to fight you, eh?

          He breathed a slight sigh of relief. He did not respond at first but his aura would do the talking. He was completely passive, quiet, he gazed out at the stars, his icy eyes dancing with excitement normally reserved for children. He could barely contain his expression at how beautiful the view was.

          "I have never seen anything like this before. Not on my world. The world rising above the moon. It is the perspective from the outside looking in... I did not know I had wanted to see it until this very moment. Marvelous. . ."

          He was entranced for a moment, before meeting his foe's glare with warmth and a gentle smile. This "battle" was already over. "I do not seek this power, please do not strike. I see no need for that. I've rarely found any lasting meaning in violence. And I would judge based on both of our scars we have seen too much of it in our lifetimes." He paused, his smile becoming slightly sad at this notion. "If you wish you may retrieve the artifact. I would only ask of you, if you would be so kind, that we do continue speaking afterward."

          Shigo was slightly amused at his more straightforward wording. He then realized what Cycle he was. His astonishment had grown less and less as the worlds changed along with his foes, he had come to expect a new Cycle even though he could not fathom exactly why. Normally this only happened every several years or even decades. But these were clearly abnormal circumstances. This time, he didn't even need to look at his tattoos or scars to know. The way his aura flowed... the way he was thinking. Ah, yes...

          He gently felt the left side of his chest. Despite the layers of fabric he could feel the massive, thick scar that was like a crater in his flesh where his heart is - or once was?

          The price he had to pay for that power.

          What did he have to pay to come back from it?

          Had he come back from it?

          His eyes returned to the infinite stars blanketing heaven's abyss. He remained steady, focused, calm and tranquil. His own peace almost challenging the coldness of the universe weighing down around them. After a long pause he would continue speaking.

          "I'm very sorry - I only sought to cut off your advance to grab your attention. Please forgive me." He nodded. "I admit, if you had left without even saying a word, I would have been rather despondent." Shigo bowed. "Thank you for stopping, many would not. I am Shigo Seikatsu, what is your name? If I may be so bold as to inquire, why do you seek this power - why do you trust its nature?" Shigo paused, then rubbed his smooth chin. He was taken aback for a moment, normally he had a slight beard or some stubble. His facial hair was gone and he could uncomfortably feel the scar tissue that had accumulated underneath it. Shigo was never certain if his scars made him look handsome or hideous but the beard had largely resolved the question either way. This Cycle... ah, this one will take some getting used to. How peculiar.

          He breathed deeply, after a long pause as his eyes almost shuddered in ecstasy at the view. His visage calm and serene, his aura subtly embracing him like the loving arms of a mother in this cold, dark moonscape in the vacuum of space. "And lastly, if you would be so kind,"he smiled warmly at the angelic being with both his mouth and eyes, "who else have you met on your journey here if I may ask?"

          Shigo would then sit down and make himself comfortable against a rock, leaning back and soaking in the sights. As vulnerable as he was now he continued to show no signs of anxiety or worry. His foe was strangely alluring; they fit this vista in many ways. Bizarre, alien, scarred. But they still possessed a conscience and a truth and a drive towards something greater just like his other "opponents" before. They had to if they sought this power without wanting to fight only for the sake of it.

          Shigo had met many monsters in life including himself, but, during this process he'd only met fascinating individuals with rich stories to tell. It was... refreshing. A monster would not have warned him and stated intent. He had responded to his foe's glare - with their remarkable and unusual eyes - with the same warmth and acceptance he would anyone else. Just like the Half-Lord before them, Shigo wondered if they would regard his complete calm towards someone so potentially intimidating as disarming.

          He entered this "tournament" seeking truth and reconciliation. He had found that and more.

          He was happy.
          Brother! Your crusade IS OVER!!

          NO...!!

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          • #6
            Ash, wasn't sure how to respond at first. They seemed absolutely calm in the face of their threats, and as they spoke. "...Very well." They said, before casting an illusion, silently, simply making themselves invisible, and creating a double of them. The decoy would put away their firearm would go around his left while the real invisible Ash would walk to his right. Still not sold on his willingness to simply talk, they both made their way around, and assuming nothing happened to interrupt them, they'd holster the real laspistiol, before the illusion and real one would rejoin, pocketing the artifact before the illusion faded.

            It would only be then that they actually seemed to relax, if this were a ploy Shigo would have attacked or done something by now. They did not bother to reveal their deception, if Shigo was truly not hostile, there was no need to explain. "My name is Ash. I live as part of a flotilla of ships that left our overlords behind for freedom. And with these... I don't think I trust them. But I don't trust anyone else with them either. Some very powerful people are after them as well." Ash said to him, answering two questions in one answer. "There was this lady, a magic knight. For all her faults and bullheadedness, she didn't seem a monster to me. Another was a man, two meters tall with a mask that looked like a face. We fought and in the process he destroyed a town..." Their hand clenched and relaxed at the thought of Aariv. "I wouldn't talk to the last one." They said, before taking a seat on the ground, similar to Shigo.

            Shigo had brought up the sights, for Ash they rarely paid attention, the deep space was always there, they always saw planets from the outside, ever since they left. But as Shigo said it... It was scenic, they had to admit. "Who are you Shigo? What are you doing? There has to be safer ways to travel than this." They said, he clearly wasn't hostile but if he wasn't after the artifact... Well, others are, and there are even more that will fight and kill for gold let alone power.

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            • #7
              Shigo smiled gently and appreciated the company, nodding. He was somewhat aware of Ash's abilities and movements with the doppelganger by feeling out the surrounding area with his aura, but, did not act on it. It was mere curiosity. "I do not believe I have had the pleasure of meeting the two individuals you have just described. Still, I am the type to try to reason with someone no matter how unreasonable they may seem. Destroying a town is ... quite excessive - though I cannot say I have not done worse." He briefly remembered deafening all of the Blackbirds and shuddered slightly, not letting his mind linger on dark topics. "I personally would not judge the man for it, though my philosophy tends to differ from most I have met." Shigo shrugged. "I only defend myself when absolutely necessary and avoid it at all costs. It is both for my own sake as well as the attackers. I do not wish to spill more blood." Shigo yanked the neck of his robe so hard as if he was about to rip it off, revealing the crater in his chest with numerous lacerations and projectile wounds surrounding it, along with the marks of scores of blades. The scars swirled up around his neck and onto his face, slashing across both of his eyes and yet he was not rendered blind. His hair was ashen, his skin pale and eyes icy. The warmth he exuded was contrary to his appearance, and his appearance had significantly changed since the previous rounds.

              From the first to the second, there had been a change however subtle. From the second to the third it was fairly dramatic. Shigo paused and chewed on this as he bounced between making eye contact while speaking and gazing out at the skies again. "I suppose your goal makes some sense. If you do not trust someone with power then you keep it for yourself. Still, do you intend to add the power to your own if you do not trust it? To augment yourself with something potentially life-altering or unstable?" Shigo's aura hummed lightly around him, caressing him with a gentle warmth. "I had a piece of that artifact. The power surging through it... one version of myself or another may have been tempted to take that power as mine own - to wield it as an arbiter of justice that I thought right and good for the world and people around me." He shook his head, his smile unwavering but his eyes filled with sad remorse. "Instead, I gave it to my previous foe for no other reason than to thank them for opening up to me." Shigo laughed heartily. "Some may call me a fool. I figure if it is meant to be mine it will find its way back to me in the end." He paused, having not thought that far ahead. "Though I confess to not knowing what I would do in that situation Destroy it? Give it away again? Wield it? Why would I?" Shigo paused. "I do question my own motives sometimes. However, I do not trust these hosts. And yet I am here. You ask why?"

              Shigo smiled, paused for awhile, then shrugged. "To find perspective. To find truth. To seek the peace and knowledge in the answers others have found for themselves in their journeys. I have slain many whose stories will forever be lost to me now. I have spent my lives losing perspective, regaining it, only to lose it all over again." He finally broke the pattern of eye contact and gazing back at the stars. "Now I suppose I wish to teach others, though this Cycle of myself does not know quite why that is a strong desire of mine. It's queer... I feel like I am grasping at the ether right now, the exact reasoning just out of my grasp." He gazed down at his hands. "Truthfully, this is not about travel. I have simply been blessed with the opportunity to visit a variety of different locales that I've found aesthetically unique and pleasing. Some not so different from my world. Some... like this..." Shigo gazed around him once more.

              "I have never witnessed something like it. This is commonplace for you? Where are these flotilla of ships - among the heavens as we are now?" Shigo felt naive, paused but continued anyway. "Who were your overlords? How did they wrong you? Why did they?"
              Brother! Your crusade IS OVER!!

              NO...!!

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              • #8
                Ash waited patiently as he talked, waiting until his final question, and with a sharp exhale, they responded to him. "Those three questions are far closer to each other than you realize, traveler." Ash said, their eyes briefly trailing along the scars at the lower jaw, down to the chest and back up to his eyes. "My overlords were... No one special really. I answered to some overseers who answered to factory owners who answered to district managers who answered to the planetary governor who himself... It goes on forever. But I only got to see a tiny slice. A baton slamming down on the 'lazy...'" Ash said, saying lazy with a venomous sarcasm, their eyes having lost focus to almost glare at some far off memory. "They worked us until we died. That's how my mother died, I found her crushed beneath a great big gear when she collapsed out of hunger. And from there I was angry. You can talk about defending yourself, but you seem rather free." Ash said, and why wouldn't he be? From what they saw, this was a man without a care in the world, serene as can be.

                "I was a slave. We were all slaves. And I began to awake to... How unacceptable it all was when my mother died. From there another woman found me, brought me into a resistance movement. It turned out our God... God-Emperor as the Ecclesiarchy say... He was not our original God. We worshipped a pantheon of four Gods, Two representatives each." They pointed to their eye briefly, "It made this symbol, the one in my eyes. They didn't like that... So they flattened our world. Made those who lived slaves. They stole everything from me. My mother. My freedom. My home." Twice. First with then, then when Ash and the rest had to leave their planet in the flotilla. "I needed revenge. So I worked with her but to rebel was..." They looked around, not at the sky nor the planet above them, but at the ground here. "You look at this and think it's a moon right? That's what most people think in my experience. But if you rebelled against the governor, it wasn't just the governor. The people he answered too... They could park a fleet, a thousand fleets... And just fire upon the planet. And keep firing, for centuries if they had to... Until it looked less like a planet and more like" Ash motioned towards the world. "If you were to fight an enemy like this, powerful enough to reduce whole worlds to nothing... And fanatic enough in their false God-Emperor" ash said, their eyes almost seeming to burn with intensity. "Our old faith becoming resurgent brought the enforcers, it brought inquisitors, it even brought astartes." Ash said, before looking back and realizing that astartes did not exist outside of their home, not even in language. "...Think of them as the angry smiting angels of God." Before continuing. "I couldn't augment myself exactly... But I gave my faith and my soul to unstable forces. Daemons. When the day of rebellion came, the Astartes told me something not unsimilar. That Chaos may be powerful... But that it can't be trusted. That it was unstable. That it would change me and twist me. And I believed them. And...." Ash's hand had balled up unconsciously into a fist, their posture stiff and rigid.

                "...I had killed the enforcers that found us to protect my people. I killed the Inquisitor because she would have seen us all dead. I thought I could trust the Astartes. They almost killed us. And I embraced the power of the Chaos Gods. You can see the results of that before you." motioning at their own body, their bird-like feet, their wings, their eyes, "I killed an astartes that day. And so many of us fought to be rid of them. And... That still wasn't the end. So... We went to the shipyards, and took to large ships and left the planet." Ash said, they skipped over a lot at the end of it. "These ships fly in the heavens now. I live among them, another one amongst billions. We left the planet, left the galaxy even. It wasn't that many ships, but more than enough for the people of our world to escape. I shed a lot of blood to protect my people, and ultimately, if you want to prevent bloodshed, you need to silence the ones that would see violence done. What I had was not bloodless, and if we hadn't rose up we would have stayed slaves, worked to death until we all died and the governor had the planet recolonized again by the next generation of hapless workers... If you want to preserve life, you have to be willing to take it as well. If you want to stop others from using artifacts of immense destruction, you can't let them have it. If that means I end up assembling the pieces in the process then it is what it is." Ash said, before looking back at Shigo, compressing from their agitated state.

                "The way you talk, you make yourself sound very old, and you're still searching for truth and perspective?" They supposed it was an eternal thing people searched for... "...I suppose we never truly find that do we. Only lies uncovering more lies." They said, thinking of their own patron God, Tzeentch. Prince of lies... They always thought it odd that none of them seemed to hold truth, the future, fate, but never truth itself. "You mentioned losing it again, is it age?" Ash had heard of the mists of time shrouding the past for the longest lived of humanity, their memory failing them as they grew older.

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                • #9
                  Shigo listened intently, moderating his own breathing, deeply in and out. A small smile graced his warped and pale features, although it was much more of a sad visage than it had been in the past. His ashen hair was so long that his own profile would become obscured at times and even his own vision if he wasn't cognizant of it. This Cycle in his life was unfamiliar to him for some time. He idly wondered in the back of his mind how he managed to deal with this dramatic cosmetic change. His aura seeped in and out of his pores with each breath. He noticed the fog that exhaled from his lips into the void, the warmth and gentle nature of his aura and breath conflicting with the chilling abyss that Ash and Shigo were currently inhabiting. For parts of the story he stared at the ground - especially when Ash would gesture towards it. At other times, he would gaze into the stars. He'd occasionally make eye contact when the story and common social practices dictated he should. He'd occasionally stare at his own milky white, smooth hands while listening. The fact that these individual reactions were something being consciously processed puzzled the "holy man". Why was he so conscious of his each and every action and reaction? It was strange - as if he were being forced to breathe manually. He grew more and more anxious for reasons he was only starting to discern, like a miasma he was just about ready to pierce the veil of.

                  How peculiar.

                  Shigo Seikatsu had made a mental shortlist of the major things that caught his attention during Ash's explanation. He rubbed his temples momentarily during his characteristic pauses. A headache had started to set in, and a bad one at that.

                  What...?!

                  "Bureaucracy..." He started off slowly, softly, almost as if he were saying the word like his lover's name, except with the same hint of scorn and malice that could be found in Ash's enunciation of "lazy". "Ah, that is something I am all too familiar with..." He paused again. "Special... they were no one special...? How would you define special exactly? I speak not to defend your former oppressors, but, to merely understand where your definition for the word might be sourced from. It is a word I have found defined carelessly by some and exact by others... or undefined entirely. I have found that an enigmatic pattern within... the people I've encountered." Shigo was having a problem articulating himself. Sure, his overall meaning was getting through, but, he wasn't exactly saying it the way he wanted to say it. It sounded all wrong as the headache crawled down into his spine.

                  "Free... heh." Shigo shook his head, neck loose as if he were a dog trying to shake the headache off. "I suppose I was never directly enslaved, although in a sense my "employers" in this current Cycle had been little more than forcing us into servitude due to a lack of available options otherwise... they... hailed from technology I had never seen before in my lives." Shigo's vision blurred ever so slightly as he found himself lazily gawking at his sweaty palms again, his fingers curling and uncurling into fists. Suddenly, Shigo broke from this train of thought and moved on to another without realizing it. At this point, he had become visibly discombobulated. Although it had been perhaps apparent from the very beginning, now it would be noticeable in his speech patterns and behavior.

                  "Your mother crushed...?" Shigo found a bit of fury within his oncoming delirium. "By a gear...? Yeah, I know what those are. I am... I am sorry. That is abominable. I speak of defending myself out of necessity in my current condition. Back when I lived the way I did in this Cycle, though, I had found myself in situations not all that different from the ones you're describing... though I had... lost... both of my parents and all of my siblings by the time this Cycle arrived. They... were taken early. Zealots... fanatics." Shigo cracked a sad smile, his eyes full of regret. "I was once a fanatic myself."

                  In a flash, the Holy Revenant would appear before Ash and then in another flash the Blackbird, only for the image of Shigo to return to the ashen-haired clean shaven trembling man before them now. Shigo was not aware he had accidentally made a mental projection of two of his former Cycles with his aura, but, he had been losing control. His aura was still warm, but, perhaps too warm. Sweat dripped down his brow.

                  "Sometimes we only realize the cage we are in when we break free of it... I'm jumping ahead here, but, you ask me how I lose perception, how one as old as myself may not have the truth?" Shigo shrugged and grinned. "It is not my age, I do not think at least." He chuckled. "One cage to another, that's how I've found myself living. Each Cycle, its own cage. I do not know the limits of my current one. I suppose that is the truth and perspective I am always looking for. Your decisions have put you in another cage, have they not? One you can perhaps swallow better than the last... but a cage nonetheless. You look at the world around you and you see what you are supposed to see... but only when you're looking back at it with hindsight do you realize the chains that shackled you down in that memory itself. That held you in place and forced your own choices onto you, until they really were not choices at all anymore. I see all the regrets so clearly and the options I could have had if things had been different, but, alas... I did not make those choices. I live with regret. I think... we all feel that way. I do not want to live like that." He sighed heavily, winded. "I am truly sorry... bit of a tangent, my mind... seems to be racing."

                  Shigo traced over other details in his mind. Lots of gods he had been hearing about, lots of gods he had heard about. A twinge of doubt in any of them started to crawl up his chilled spine. He glanced at Ash's strange eye and the symbol it represented. It made sense to him but he couldn't quite focus.

                  "Institutions with the power to reduce worlds to cinders... I cannot imagine it on that scale. I have met institutions and even individual men who could do things like that on a smaller scale." He paused again. "But... why would they do that? I apologize if this sounds crass or as if I am giving your oppressors some credit they do not deserve, but, no sane individual - and by extension their organizations - behave solely to act cruel and to enforce cruelty. What was the purpose, the 'greater good' as one might call it in their own twisted minds, that they strove towards by using you, your people, your family, in that way? What was the meaning of it all? How do you think they allowed themselves to sleep at night with these decisions weighing upon their minds? Was fanaticism all the justification every member of these castes required to quench their conscience?"

                  The headache began to evolve. His veins began to bulge and throb. He hated his inability to properly articulate himself, he felt like he was slow and lacking in grace with his words. He wanted to apologize again but he choked back the dry feeling of sand coating his mouth and throat and swallowed hard before continuing. Shigo went to rub his stubble with his hand, now heavily shaking along with his words, but, found his chin bare. His face began to crack and tears began forming in his eyes. "I have committed genocide with my own hands - by myself, really - in response to the need to combat violence with violence... I do know the necessity of using force to find peace... sometimes peace can only be found in the bloody ashes we leave in our wake." He paused, his breath hitching. "I merely say between us two as individuals I would only resort to self-defense... that is... my goal... with everyone I meet... unless they threaten far more than my life..." He searched his mind again. "This vile artifact... power. It is my belief that if the individual is incapable of wielding it responsibly, it will destroy him in the end... balance will restore itself. Or if it is to corrupt them they will be destroyed by one force or another. Nature... it takes care of itself... though... you are right... sometimes others like yourself are trampled by the deviants before this can transpire..." He paused, his breathing ragged as his aura turned hot. "S-so you were betrayed... and you had to fight to escape. You took a deal with a devil to take on another. I see."

                  "I am sorry..."

                  His words obviously held a double meaning that he hoped Ash would pick up on but he could not accurately convey. His chest throbbed, his mind felt like it was ripping into several different directions - as if the Cycles within the man were attempting to rip free from him and the headache split into a migraine. "To free yourself from one cage you had to enter another. You had to ..."

                  His eyes grew wide as dinner plates, his eyes shaking like a madman as he gazed at their form. He saw what they had been twisted into. He did not find it ugly or repulsive, but, the realization of what was happening physiologically dawned on him.

                  The tears fell from his eyes as he began chuckling like a lunatic. He reached deep into his pockets like a fiend and produced a vial. Inside of the vial were numerous little white orbs.

                  "These.... -these... are my cage." Shigo laughed as he fumbled with the seal of the vial until his jaw clenched so violently he shattered the container, the veins in his neck bulging as if to explode, his demeanor suddenly becoming ferocious as he stared down at the broken glass shredding his right hand. The pain was nothing to him. With his left, he delicately grabbed two of the blood covered orbs and hungrily swallowed them like a famished man receiving a meal for the first time in weeks. He swallowed and slammed his head back against the rock. Within moments, his expression turned from sadness to pure ecstasy, as he laughed and yet the tears streamed down his face as he stared into the sky.

                  "Yes. This was my cage." He gazed at the beauty of the heavens. "I feel God within me now. I am sorry for that display and if I failed to articulate or display clarity at points there. I forgot ... I forgot a great deal about this Cycle. Perhaps that was for the better." Shigo's aura suddenly began working on autopilot, gently pulling out the glass shards from his right hand as they began to gently reassemble the vial with the pills to follow, then his aura sealed it all shut and slid it back into his pocket.

                  He felt the lullaby enter his soul as the Blackbird's song completely faded within his mind, allowing only the music of the new world to dance among the starlit heavens he captured within his icy eyes. The rains had washed away all of the pain. A euphoric numbness tingled through his body as it eroded all the awful feelings away like a wave crashing against a shore. A warm and happy smile graced his features again as he returned to a now-artificial peace. All of this was the result of a choice his situation in this Cycle forced upon him that exacted a great physical and mental toll.

                  Shigo Seikatsu could empathize with Ash.
                  Brother! Your crusade IS OVER!!

                  NO...!!

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                  • #10
                    Ash listened as he spoke. "A million worlds full of humans all, any one person that died could be replaced. I Don't know the fully picture, but people tell me the cheapest resource in the Imperium of Man was people. It's the same reason my mother died. She could be replaced and the people in power would never notice. Just thinking about their... War on everything. As far they're concerned it's what needed for humanity to survive." Ash huffed at such a notion "If that is what it takes than humanity can die for all I care." They said, with contempt for those who called themselves the protect of humanity in their own universe.

                    Ash bristled at his mention of Ash moving into another cage, even if he seemed sympathetic. "This freed me in ways I never saw. Before that I feared looking up into the sky without a roof, and now I can soar like... A bird." They said, adding to it. "I have the power to fight for what's right against even the strongest of people, I don't know what you mean by a cage-"

                    They never quite got to continue however Shigo seemed to be suffering from something in his throat, his veins seeming to bulge. He spoke of regrets. His own crimes. Ash was silent, simply listening as he spoke before he began to chuckle. They began to tense, while Shigo hadn't been hostile yet... The way he was acting was erratic, and Ash had seen quite a few turn to violent rage at almost no reason whatsoever.

                    It passed however, as he ingested looked to Ash as if a drug, especially in how he had calmed down after taking it. Ash looked at him for a few moments as he spoke of his own cage. Ash took the point to relax and ask him "Those orbs... A drug on your world?" Ash said, it was the first idea they had to come to mind. They had no judgement in mind, but all the same, such a reaction and such a need... If it was a drug it was clearly an important one for him.

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                    • #11
                      Shigo had been near delirium and was ranting endlessly as his physical symptoms began to worsen, his mind racing faster than he had experienced in centuries. He breathed deeply, clearly relaxed and focused now despite the sad look in his eyes. He was at relative peace again, his aura was no longer frantic and hot, but, simply warm and loving again. He was now suddenly aware of the visages of the Holy Revenant and the Blackbird that played out for Ash to see, so he did not feel the need to speak at length on their origins.

                      "Yes, something like that." He spat at the memory of those who instituted such a cruel policy upon him and their subordinates. "I'm... unclear on the precise details right now I admit," Shigo hesitated. "however I think they were used to keep people in line in this militarized organization I was once apart of. They were not like their predecessors in my life whatsoever. I would not go so far as to call the Faith or the Blackbirds a military. The former were fanatics but they were not violent in origin, I was more or less born into that culture myself. The latter were pacifistic extremists and overly devoted to the idea of death but also of many virtues in life which is what originally attracted me to them." He gazed deep into the eight pointed sigil of Chaos within Ash's eyes, his aura unconsciously gauging their feelings and general mood. "This military organization though? The one that made me look like this? That saved me from this?" Shigo yanked on his neckline of his garment again, pulling it down to his exposed chest to once more reveal the crater and hideously deformed scar where one's heart would be. "They relied on drug addiction to keep everyone in line and dependent on their superiors; the culture was technologically advanced beyond anything I had ever seen before. Their methods were cold in the cruelest of ways. They believed in nothing but themselves."

                      The eternal postulant frowned. "They were entirely selfish, self-aware, and proud of it. They did not accept dissent or nonconformist ideas." Shigo shook his head. "This 'Imperium of Man' reminds me of them somewhat. I feel like that may be why I was matched with you in this particular Cycle of mine. And despite their mutual atrocities - albeit the Imperium's seem to operate on a far greater scale - I do wonder what motivations founded in self-preservation would be so extreme as to lead them down into the bowels of hell, sacrificing all that is good and righteous in their souls. What amount of fear could inspire that?" Shigo pontificated. Once again he turned and enjoyed the skyscape, trembling ceasing as he chewed on his next thoughts for a few moments.

                      He recalled Ash bristling at his words before his breakdown. He wondered if he should broach the subject again. It would be inauthentic and directly opposed to my nature and reason of participation in this tournament if I do not.

                      "Forgive me for what I said. If you are insulted during our conversing please understand that was not my intent. I do not know you but wish to and if I am wrong... I do appreciate being corrected accordingly." He bowed, as much as someone sitting down could bow without it being excessively awkward. "I am sorry but I do wish to bring this up again as I rudely interrupted you before with my withdrawals and manic state." He jested with a hint of anxiety. Shigo was much less calm and composed even with the drug in his system than he had been in previous Cycles. Despite that he was attempting to be as polite and amiable even if failing to be as succinct. "When I said I do not know the limits of my current cage - which is why I am seeking enlightenment through the truth and perspective of others - I was referring to the one I am in... outside of this tournament."

                      Shigo paused as he realized immediately that statement may be perplexing and enigmatic. His hand went to rub the stubble on his chin again only to feel the smoothness of his pale skin save for the wicked scars that trailed up his neck and onto his face. "I do not mean the boundaries of power, might or battle capabilities. I do not care for those things. I mean in the sense of... how free am I? How much of my truth do I truly comprehend? Have I reached nirvana, if not, what is it? What else is there that I may or may not be able to see? Who or what is suspending my ability to perceive it? I suspect that there is no being alive or dead that was not bound to something against their will."

                      He paused and watched a comet burning through the galaxy, his face lighting up with joy for a few moments as it careened through the cold and limitless void. His warm aura gently grew alongside his bewilderment. "I will not know my truth unless I ask the correct questions of the right individuals. I cannot live and die inside the confines of my home world and expect to receive all of my answers. As for this Cycle, you witnessed the boundaries of my freedom when I had to take these damn tablets to avoid advancing into further delirium which would have put us both in mortal danger." Shigo spat out the word "tablets" with vitriol.

                      "In your case you required a means to gain great ability to escape your perilous and debilitating predicament and to free your people." Shigo carefully considered his words. "And you said yourself that you were warned by those astartes that the power of this Chaos would... corrupt." Shigo paused, wondering if that was the correct term. "Even if they were your enemies that had an agenda in telling you that does not necessarily mean they were factually incorrect. Your physical appearance changed just as mine has due to outside influences. Perhaps you broke free of the confines of one cage that was suffocating and defined for you by the Imperium of Man only to enter another whose boundaries are shrouded and unclear... manufactured by Chaos."

                      Shigo Seikatsu paused momentarily. "While I will not sit here and pretend to grasp the true nature of Chaos - I suspect I would have to live your and others' lives to truly comprehend that - I do understand the nature of power and that is enough for me to issue this warning." His tone was gentle, warm, loving. He was genuinely concerned for Ash's well-being despite the two being virtual strangers. Shigo carefully articulated his thoughts into words. Inevitably he had ended up rambling again as a clumsy means of clarification.

                      The way Shigo saw it Ash had done him a great favor by engaging in dialogue. The least he could do was provide his experiences as food for thought for someone who seemed to have high aspirations and a noble goal. "I am not disputing your decision in accepting Chaos; on the contrary, I cannot see what other path you could have walked to escape that unacceptable oppression." He studied Ash closely, a loving smile gracing his rough features. "One thing I have learned in my Cycles is that great might comes with great cost. When gifted from someone or something far greater than oneself, the power that was once your salvation may one day become your prison." Shigo finished.

                      He reflected briefly on his own lives. "I have paid that price over and over again. The only power I trust is one we forge from our own individual will and unbreakable spirit. Unfortunately, as you illustrated quite clearly in your own beginnings, it is all too common that we must first possess considerable external strength to harness the internal... which is why I cannot say it was a mistake to embrace Chaos to end your people's injustice." Shigo shook his head at this dichotomy.

                      "This... tournament... this situation... is different. The artifact is a great power we were both divined here to fight for. I refused to fight. Ergo the artifact is yours. But these tournament proprietors who are suspiciously and freely giving it? I wonder... will the winner have fought for their own undoing?" Shigo rubbed his hands together as he could not stand the feeling of his hairless face. "I understand the pursuit of this artifact for you is to disallow its falling into the proverbial wrong hands which is a noble cause in and of itself."

                      "Of course, I neither understand the nature of Chaos nor the tournament holders enough to assess the true danger they could pose. I merely insist on caution. What do you know of both of them exactly, if I may ask? What might you do after this tournament if you succeed or fail?" Shigo bowed again. "Thank you for listening to me speak by the way! It is something I am quite fond of. Besides, I articulate better than I exchange blows." He laughed heartily, slightly guilty for speaking so much and coming off as if he was lecturing Ash. He smiled and radiated love and warmth, he only hoped that it would be interpreted that way.

                      Shigo's eyes returned to the heavens as he waited for Ash to respond to that onslaught of ideas and queries.
                      Brother! Your crusade IS OVER!!

                      NO...!!

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                      • #12
                        "If I am to believe them. It's to fight the mutant. The heretic." Ash would point at themself to exemplify how they were both. "They hate me. And people like me. All while creating more like me."

                        Ash had to wonder as he talked about his freedom, how much of his truth he comprehended. To an extent Ash didn't much like him asking so much. Ash had forged a deep compact with their own beliefs. Not that Ash wanted to open up on that to them, but they had learned to harden their heart and plow forth regardless. The last time Ash softened like that, the Astartes killed Ash's loved ones.

                        The way they sad tablets, with how they were acting... Ash couldn't disagree. "If you end up that dangerous, I can take care of myself. Don't worry on my account, I can always run if I need to."

                        Ash still bristled at that, though unlike so many others, Shigo did not claim to know the 'true nature of chaos.' The others spoke so authoritatively. Shigo in comparison seemed more concerned as he said, with the nature of power itself...
                        Power itself. That had given Ash more pause. Power over them is what had worked her mother to death. Power over them is why they were thrown away like useless rags.

                        A thought had occured, if perhaps the Imperium had once been founded on such things before turning into this monstrosity. Freedom into a prison. Ash pushed down such a thought.

                        "It's fine, you give a lot to think about. But as for that... I'll probably hand the artifact to a friend of mine. He knows about these, and how to destroy it... If I fail... I'll probably track the victor down. They might be able to win in a single conflict, but I'm more than capable of assassinating someone if I have to. I do thank you for your concern though, but for now, these wings are freedom. These talons are what I use to free others." Still... Ash Ash wondered, they never truly were in a position of power like he described, they weren't sure if they would ever be.

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                        • #13
                          Shigo nodded his head, his hand fiddling with the vial of tablets in his pocket as he shuffled to his feet on the surface of the moon. His mind wanted to produce another tablet but he resisted these urges.

                          "I see... you seek to destroy it?" Shigo was given a great deal of pause over that. And it was not his characteristic pausing where he would stop for a moment to embrace the moment and articulate. This was actually quite surprising. "You do not seek the power for yourself? How fascinating... I do believe the other two I have encountered wanted it for themselves, though, I cannot say for certain as to what they would use it for exactly. Personal power? Lifting others up, as you once did with your might? Oppressing others as the Imperium of Man has?" Shigo went to rub his chin again and then remembered, shoving his hand back into his pocket and onto the vial which was a frustrating cycle of behavior. "I warn you of these things out of a sort of idle curiosity and genuine concern for a seemingly good-natured stranger. I enjoy seeing how others respond to such things like my philosophizing." He smiled lightheartedly. "Thank you for listening, dear Ash."

                          He leaned against the rock he had been previously sitting against and cocked his head slightly back. His thoughts raced for a moment and a long pause held. "What would I do if I won it?" He laughed playfully. "Well, I would probably be running from you!" He shook his head and waved away the joke. "In all honesty, I take these things moment by moment. Though I cannot see myself accepting this external power. My strength is from within. My Nen, my aura, my latent capabilities. My aura has changed with each Cycle and that is part of my great journey - to study the Cycles and analyze the lessons they have for me. To accept this artifact's full power would be to disrupt the nature of my Cycles. I suppose then that I too would destroy it." Shigo paused. "Or if I could not do that, neutralize it in such a way that it could never function again. But... I am a man that lives in the moment. I will have to see if the moment comes, though I do not anticipate that it will. I have either ignored, given away or willingly allowed another to retrieve the piece of the artifact in each of the areas I have traveled to. Though I did hold a piece - the temptation of power is great. I can see how one might be compelled to throw their virtues aside."

                          He paused again for a long moment. "If I may ask, how are your people now? Are you their mightiest defender? Outside of this artifact, where do you see yourself headed? What is your own endgame? What is it that you want from life now in your own Cycle?" Shigo Seikatsu paused as he unconsciously took a tablet, then realized it as he swallowed and sighed. "Dammit... speaking of Cycles, I will not miss this one... I wanted to seek others' truths and perspectives in this tournament, perhaps find someone to teach - not become an addict again." Despite this, Shigo's energy was still tranquil and positive. He tried to be as lighthearted as possible about his primal physiological and psychological cravings for this substance.
                          Brother! Your crusade IS OVER!!

                          NO...!!

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                          • #14
                            Ash simply nodded in response. This entire conversation was far different than they expected on this stcramble for the artifacts. Ash certainly didn't expect to be laughing in such a good natured way. Even if it was partially true, though Ash doubted that Shigo would be using it if this was any indication... Still, as Shigo said, power can become it's own cage... Or perhaps corruption, thinking back to the Imperium once again.

                            "They still are nomadic, but they don't have to fight for their lives. They live in this other world, I hear people are thinking about settlign down even, in this mystic realm... A range of different disc worlds. I'm..." Ash had to chuckle at that. "I'm just one amongst many. There's a lot of people out there that fought for their freedom, not just me. I do show up to help talk but..." The edges of their mouth began to tug down, a frown "Sometimes they listen to me, other times they tell me to shut up. We've brought along a lot of people as time went on, including some... Astartes. They say they do not recognize the Imperium, but they're still created for war... But ultimately everyone wanted them along, their power and strength was important in the end."

                            Ash did look again at the shards of glass on the ground after that episode. "Perhaps there's something to be learned from that?" Ash said, trying to prod, their cycles, cage to cage, Ash only somewhat understood, but at least at this moment he was clear-headed, perhaps he could look into himself. "There may be a reason the cage is one of an addict again."

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                            • #15
                              Shigo smiled warmly, his aura gently embracing him as it naturally gravitated towards Ash as well. It was a free-flowing thing after all, born from withing Shigo Seikatsu and nurtured by his life experiences. It was an unconscious decision and it was unlikely they could even feel it. Shigo glanced at the abyss in awe but mostly kept his attention focused on Ash for they had proved a good conversation partner and interesting being. He found them more alluring than the heavens. For while the heavens remained the same, the one before him was constantly changing with each new detail as a part of their life story.

                              He nodded slowly. "I see. Do you trust them - the Astartes? Why would they flee the Imperium of Man? What does it mean to no longer recognize them? Why might they defect? Who created them...? Or ... perhaps I should be asking what created them?" Shigo rubbed his hands together as he racked his brain. "I still will not pretend to understand the intricate nature of the powers that be in your universe nor the nature of such beings but from what you have told me, that seems peculiar. I also figure you may have pondered this as well. What do they desire that is congruous with your own wants and needs?" Shigo paused again. "Also, if I may be so bold as to inquire - do you fight for them despite them wavering in their appreciation for your own word? Or do you accept such differences as an inevitability in life and take no personal offense - are you here in this tournament for yourself or for them?" Shigo gestured towards the heavens. "I realize the nature of these things is not so black-and-white. It is likely a mix of both and some other things, no? But if you had to say which you leaned more towards... would it be yourself, or the collective?"

                              So far, Shigo had been the one postulating on others' nature and philosophizing greater points. He did not lack for worthy opponents in dialectical engagement. However, none had given him his own existential question to ponder.

                              "A reason..." Shigo's eyes narrowed as if he were trying to solve the enigma that were his own Cycles, something he had oft tried to do but rarely attempted anymore. How could he solve such a riddle? For the most part he had simply accepted them. That was still true. But the rules and nature of this tournament was forcing him from Cycle-to-Cycle, whereas naturally it would take him several years of maintaining his existence in one cycle - or even decades - before he would naturally transition to another. In this tournament, he found himself snapping from one to the next without respite. Perhaps each foe reflected something about each Cycle. Perhaps this Cycle's nature had something to do with Ash themselves, or perhaps it had something to do with the environment?

                              "Hm..." He rubbed his chin without care for how uncomfortable it was. "It could be entirely random." He admitted. "But that is not an interesting answer, is it?" He laughed. "There is some rhythm to it, I feel. They are happening in chronological order, I admit that." Shigo sighed. "The Holy Revenant was first. The Blackbird second. Then this... whatever this is. I fear a bit of amnesia has struck me in this Cycle though I do not understand why. I did not want for context in the first two. I even forgot that I needed these damn tablets to survive in this Cycle until the grip of the withdrawals nearly took my sanity. I know certain things about the people that helped shape this Cycle. I remember generalities. I do not remember what they called themselves, what I was called - besides my name of course - nor what our exact mission was. But perhaps that plays a role too..." Shigo gazed up in the skies. "Maybe my fixation with the heavens is related to the Cycle itself. It could be that these environments and/or my opponents are some reflection of the Cycle themselves, though that would be a bit presumptuous of me and assuming that I am important enough to warrant all of these celestial forces to align and bend to my nature and my Cycles."

                              Still, that did not stop Shigo from thinking. He thought of Herc Keido and how he might be a reflection of the Holy Revenant. The Blackbird and the Half-Lord sure had a fair bit in common. With that, Shigo grew slightly wide eyed. "...in the last round, the Half-Lord that I faced - an avatar of darkness riding atop a mighty steed equally as dark as its master - could divine intimate details from my first two Cycles. It was surprising at first. He is the one I gave my artifact piece to." Shigo explained. "This amnesiac state that I find myself in could be why he could not use his grand ability to discern this Cycles' nature and the events that transpired in it. That, in and of itself, is quite fascinating. It could have been a self-defense mechanism of sorts? But how?" Shigo wondered some more. "You have certainly given me a great deal to chew on. I do not know the answer. I had not considered the idea that it may have a deeper meaning other than being purely chronological." Shigo paused once more. "Do you believe the order of the foes you have faced carries any significance? What lessons have you learned along the way?"
                              Brother! Your crusade IS OVER!!

                              NO...!!

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