Cutting to the Quick

Apatite attempts to end Signum's attacks on innocent magicals once and for all, but comes just short.

Date: 2019-06-29
Pose Count: 11
Signum 2019-06-29 00:18:16 105804
One could imagine it's pretty alarming for most people when, all at once, everyone around you vanishes in broad daylight.

That's half of why one civilian is now running down the usually crowded Tokyo city streets screaming.

The other is that they're being chased. Not very far or for very long, though, as Signum of the Wolkenritter went from a steady gait walking after them to a sudden blur of movement through the air until she was directly in front of them, lifting them up by the shoulder with a hard, unreadable expression on her face. "Hold still." She says coldly, rearing her free hand back to prepare to lunge. "... I have need of your power."

And then she stops, tensing suddenly as she senses something else; something powerful, her hand immediately going to Laevatein as she pivots in place to look behind her, already in the motion of drawing her sword.
Kyouko Sakura 2019-06-29 00:35:19 105805
    If one were to ask around about the best way to get under Kyouko Sakura's skin, polling those who have been her greatest antagonists in the past, the answer would be pretty universal- beat her in a fight. And while it's true that Apatite and Signum's previous encounters have all ended without a clear victor, to Kyouko, not winning is the same as losing. When you add to this the continued predation on innocent civilians, terrorizing people in what she considers 'her' city to protect, and the demeaning comments made during their last encounter, and it's fair to say that Apatite has allowed her conflict with Signum to become very personal.

    She has other things going on. Kyubey is trying to repossess her soul, for one. But in some ways, going out on patrol is a way to relax. Take her mind off the problems that are really quite outside her wheelhouse. It was really just coincidence that she happened to spot Signum while out on this particular evening. Really it was the barrier that gave the Wolkenritter away. Apatite was nearby, doing her normal route, when she saw it pop up and swallow a section of the city. Immidiately she turned and headed towards it to figure out what was going on. When she saw who it was that had called the barrier up she.. did nothing. At first.

    Many people have called Kyouko a hothead over the years (and less kind names for the same thing.) And they aren't wrong. But she also isn't stupid. She's attacked Signum head-on several times before, and it's never worked out. But she has other skills, too. In her past, Kyouko was an ambush predator. Illusion and misdirection were her tools. She's lost those abilities, but not the senses and skills years of hunting in that fashion have given her. So this time, instead of launching herself into an attack right away, she simply follows Signum, at a distance, and doing her best to mask her magical aura, pulling her power close. She saw the girl who was being chased. It hurt her to see the girl's terror, to not intervene right away. But it was for the greater good- she needed to bide her time. Then no other little girls would have to be scared in this way again.

    She sees her chance when Signum makes her move and catches the girl. It's going to be a bit tricky.. hitting Signum without hurting the girl in her grasp. But Apatite is nothing if not confident in her abilities. Baring her fangs, as Signum rears her hand back to drain the girl, she launches herself from the shadows of the nearby alleyway she had been watching from.

    Signum's instincts save her. The Wolkenritter has eons of experience and battle senses honed over countless fights. As sneaky as Apatite is, as skilled, Signum still senses her approach at the very last moment and turns.. which is why the viscious spear-tip, triangular blade glowing with red-hot magic, which was intended to pierce the woman's heart misses.

    It doesn't miss Signum. It just misses her heart. And not by much.
Signum 2019-06-29 00:57:05 105806
Signum starts reacting before her eyes have even processed the spear in motion, centuries of experience moving her body before a normal person would even know they're in danger. It saves her life. But only barely.

"Hhhg-" Signum begins to grunt through gritted teeth before a burst of air escapes her suddenly open mouth as she's run through entirely, pushed backwards by the weight of a spear that is simultaneously trying to move through her and drag her body along with it until the spear head embeds itself in a concrete wall.

It all happens so quickly that one can't even see Signum's expression. She slumped forward on the spear as soon as it hits the building behind her; her hair hanging over her eyes, blood quickly soaking her clothes and running down her body.

One could be forgiven for thinking she was dead.

But her hand's been weakly gripping part of the spear in front of her since it hit her. It quivers. It loosens. And then it tightens. "Ruuuhk..." she croaks, "... Ruuuaaahk..."

In a certain part of the galaxy, at a certain point in time - to an extent that still echoes in legends across space - The Wolkenritter were synonymous with war.

"... Rustungsgeist" <Armor Spirit> The scabbard still held loosely in her hand lights up briefly before a dome of pink energy erupts around her, growing outward from her and pushing Kyouko and the spear backwards, launching it out of Signum's body the same way it came in, with almost as much force, drawing a ragged gasp of pain from the General of the Raging Fire.

The shield flicks and dies almost as soon as it pushes Kyouko away, but Signum's eyes are blazing. <V-Violet... Lightning Flash...!> She hisses weakly in Belkan, swinging her hilted blade onces, and sending a weak wave of pink fiery energy in Kyouko's direction. But that's not the point. The flame stays on the hilted blade for several seconds, during which time she presses it to her wound, her eyes squeezing shut as she grits her teeth against the searing pain as at least the front wound is forcibly cauterized shut.
Kyouko Sakura 2019-06-29 01:03:45 105807
    Apatite knows right away that she missed. Signum moved at just the right time to render the blow, if not ineffective, non-fatal. Her lip curls in a combination of anger and frustration even as the spear crunches into the concrete, pinning Signum to the wall. A moment later, her eyes widen as the General manages to gasp out her spell, and that pink dome launches her back away. But it's weaker than the last time. It does succeed in pushing Apatite back, ripping her spear free, but rather than send her flying, she is able to right herself in the air, her cape fluttering behind her, and land lightly on the balls of her feet some distance back.

    At once she sinks into a semi-crouch, bloodied spear held out in front of her, and when that wave of energy comes, she's ready for it, even if it too is not the powerful attack she might be expecting. She tosses a hand out, a barrier of red-and-black lace forming in the air, the arc of pink energy parting around it without much struggle. She doesn't miss what Signum does, using her sword to cauterize the wound.

    A moment later she straightens up.. sensing that no attack, or at least nothing terribly dangerous, is immidiately forthcoming. Her lips curl back from her fangs again, and she practically spits at the injured Wolkenritter still up against the wall, "Do you still think this is a game to me?" Apparently that comment had really gotten under her skin.
Signum 2019-06-29 01:08:38 105808
Signum sinks to one knee as soon as the wound is sealed; still bleeding in the back, her white coat turning slowly red as she pants heavily. She chokes down her fatigue as Kyouko speaks, slowly looking up at her from beneath her downturned brow. After a long moment, she rattles, "... You're trying to impress your enemies." Signum rises slowly to her feet, looking unsteady, grimacing in pain, though not nearly as much as she should be. "You tell me."
Kyouko Sakura 2019-06-29 01:14:03 105809
    Apatite's lip curls at the response. "Impress you? No, I'm sorry. You got it wrong, lady. I was tryin to kill you. Even though I knew it'll make my boss mad. He don't like it when I kill people, y'see." She paces forward as Signum rises to her feet, moving with the fluid grace of a predator, her cape flowing out behind her. "But since you ain't dead, I feel like I can take the time to make a point." She stops a few feet away- dangerously close, under normal circumstances.

    "I know you ain't from around here. But let me make this clear so that even you can understand. My name is Apatite, Knight of Sincerity and Respect. I serve Endymion, Prince of the Earth. Y'know, this whole damn planet we're on? This is my city you think you have the run of. I can't call myself a Knight of the Earth Court if I let you and your buddies run amok attacking kids on my watch."

    A pause, then, "Those kids, the ones with magic.. they deserve a chance to figure it out before getting it all robbed away from them by you and your damn book."
Signum 2019-06-29 01:30:06 105810
"Trying." Signum croaks, and then coughs violently, holding her burned wound, pressesing her lips tightly together... before an eery, rueful sort of smile comes to her face. "... Perhaps they do. Yes, of course they do. I've scarcely found... nnngghh... such a helpless planet in all my life. Yet defended with such passion... and power..." Her eyes narrow, "... By people who aren't willing to do what needs to be done."

She takes one step forward.

"Except you. You've defied your Lord... such a *kind* lord by the sound of things. Who else would dub a Knight for their 'sincerity'. To do what needs to be done... for his sake..."

Signum's expression hardens. "... But it's not, is it? This? This... is what *you* want. And no doubt... you do it knowing... your kind lord will forgive you." Signum hisses sharply through gritted teeth, and a thin spray of blood is released onto the ground. "... So tell me. What *shame* would you endure for your duty? What humiliation would you endure for his benefit, knowing he'd *never* forgive you."

Her words are growing slow and slurred. Signum may be a bit delirious by now.

"... Do you have it in you? 'Knight of Sincerity'?"
Kyouko Sakura 2019-06-29 01:47:04 105812
    Apatite watches Signum taking a few steps towards her.. taunting her. Asking her if she has what it takes. Her answer is, first and foremost, in action. She raises her spear again and, almost casually, stabs the point into Signum's shoulder, forcing her back into the wall again. "You're right." She says quietly, her crimson eyes hard. "He is kind. The Earth Court, they're all good, kind people." She steps forward, her hand running up the haft of her spear, her voice lowering to a hiss.

    "But me? I'm not. I'm the monster they took in, because sometimes kindness and love just don't get the job done. Those guys, my Prince- they're too willing to forgive, to quick to seek alternatives to violence. But I know. I know that sometimes.." She leans on the spear, pushing it further into Signum's shoulder, "The only effective strategy is blood for blood."

    She peers into Signum's pale, blood-flecked face. "I am a reaper of your kind. I have killed more monsters, more beings who prey on the innocent, than I can even remember. I hunt the hunters, even when my Prince tells me that I should try and forgive, or seek to make peace. Do you know why? Because I remember being innocent. And I remember having that taken away. I know what it feels like to have your innocence stripped away, to have the hard cruelty of the world forced into your soul before you're ready for it. It made me into the monster that I am."

    Her voice grows hard, heated. "I will not let you do that to any more little girls, or boys. I will not let you terrify and steal their safe, peaceful worlds away. I will not let you make more of me out of the children of this city. For that goal, I will do whatever it takes. My hands are covered in so much blood already, a little more will hardly be noticed. And maybe I'll be forgiven. Maybe I won't. But I'll know that I've prevented some kid, maybe a bunch of kids, from ending up like I ended up. And that's worth any amount of shame, of dishonor."

    She pulls her spear free with a wet schlunk, stepping back from the wounded General. "There has to be someone willing to make the hard choices to keep this city, this world, safe. I do what I think is right, and my Prince will understand. Or he won't. But it won't stop me doing it. Nobody is gonna be hunting kids in my city while I'm capable of wielding my spear to stop them."
Signum 2019-06-29 02:03:07 105814
Signum barely makes a sound when the spear pins her shoulder to the wall. But she groans and grabs the spear weakly with one hand when it pushes further through her... and gasps when it's suddenly pulled free, slumping down to the ground on her knees, leaving a trail of blood on the wall. She holds her shoulder and grimaces.

"... Ha." She gives a short huff of a laugh. The first hint of humor that you've seen from her, and possibly the first she's had since she was summoned on Earth. "... I see." She looks down. "A pair of sorry monsters on an empty street. If you knew my Master, you might even... understand." Her head sinks. "... I've slaughtered thousands for a hundred masters. I've laid proud nations to waste, forgotten forever." Her head sinks lower, and her voice grows weaker. "... And now? I've snuck like a thief to hunt the weak. I've assaulted a girl with eyes just like... like hers for... pages. Just a few pages." Her words are growing slurred and slow, bordering on delirious if she's not there yet. She would certainly never say these things otherwise. "... My pride as a Knight can never return. I've thrown it away for this shame. For her. Maybe I don't deserve to live."

Slowly, Signum looks up at Kyouko, face streaked with a splatter of blood, her eyes... sharp. "... But my life doesn't belong to either of us. And I won't die until my Master allows it." Then, she raises one quiveringg, blood-soaked hand... "So... one more humiliation."

Signum snaps her fingers.

Signum's intended victim ran away in terror when the first blow was struck. But suddenly the empty streets are filled with a teeming sea of hundred of people going about their business in the city as the barrier goes away. Surrounding the both of them. Standing between them. People start to stop. People start to look.

And someone starts to scream.
Kyouko Sakura 2019-06-29 02:07:56 105815
    Apatite listens to the words of the General.. her brows drawing together as she hears sentiments that.. well, if they don't exactly echo her own, there's some resonance there. She idea of sacrificing yourself, being the bad guy, so someone else doesn't have to. She might have asked more. She might have finished Signum off, and never sought to know more. It's impossible to say. But that choice is robbed from her.

    Because Signum banishes the barrier, and suddenly everyone around them can see. Signum slumped and bloody. And Apatite, holding a bloody spear. The veil of magic, of henshin, might keep most people from noticing magic. But not when it's right in front of them like this. Her eyes widen instantly. "Oh shit."

    There's no time to do anything but flee. And so flee she does.. leaping straight up with one powerful jump, to the top of the nearest building. Out of sight in moments. People will forget, will rationalize, soon enough.

    And besides.. she's made her point. Even if she didn't make her kill.
Signum 2019-06-29 02:12:11 105816
Signum watches Apatite flee, but there's no satisfaction on her face. Not a hint of pride. She's done worse than flee from an enemy... and made a public spectacle of her sorry state.

There's no blood on the wall behind her anymore - that was created in the pocket dimension - but it begins to pool around her as she watches the gasping, horrified, and concerned faces around her. People. Prey. None of them worth even a page. But not one of them disposable. Not anymore. As always, the simplest solution has been robbed from her.

Slowly, unevenly, Signum begins to levitate slowly, and then, with a grimace of pain and effort, she picks up speed, vanishing up into the sky.

The people will rationilize that too, but completely forgetting it will be challenging.