The cloaked figure walked calmly amidst the carnage, her scarf and pristine white mantle fluttering in the air rushing away from the fire that jetted forth from the windows and doors of the crumbling, blazing building. A dull, reverberating thud sounded across the courtyard as this breeze was deflected back towards the building, returning to the blind mercenary the details of the scene before her unseeing eyes. Water sprayed upward from the hands of an assembled group of mages and showered down on the fire, forcing it back only to be evaporated as the searing blaze rose ever higher, as though in defiance of their attempts to stifle it. Ren shook her head. A few magicians with low level spells would never overcome a powerful spirit in a contest of the elements. Still, they were keeping it at bay at the very least, which would make her job that much easier.
"Hey! Lady! Get away! Can't you see it's dangerous?!" Shouted a voice to her left as a man came rushing up beside her, laying hold of her shoulder and trying to drag her away from the building. Judging by the liquid that she could feel soaking into her mantle, he must have been one of the mages, probably one who had already exhausted himself trying and failing to fight the fire. Raising her hand, she gently, yet firmly took hold of his wrist and removed his hand, turning to face him with her eyes shut and a faint smirk playing upon her lips.
"That would be a rather difficult for me to do, I'm afraid," She said sardonically. "However, I assure you, I am well aware of the danger - and, more importantly, of its source."
She heard the mage opening his mouth as though to speak, then shutting it again. A moment later, he at last collected himself from his confusion. "What do you mean, miss?" He asked.
"An elemental spirit of fire has been summoned within that building. It embodies the raw essence of destruction, and will serve to imbue its conceptual nature into everything around it until it is banished back from whence it came. In short, nothing can stop these flames until it is dealt with."
"A spirit?" The man asked. "You mean some kind of rogue familiar?"
"No," Ren replied, shaking her head. "I mean a fully-fledged avatar of fire itself. Rather than a metaphysical entity given form by the will of a caster, it is a universal constant that is simply occupying a mortal body of its own choosing in order to proliferate its own essence within the physical world, thereby increasing its own power."
"...Sorry, what?" The mage asked."I don't think he gets it,"
Observed Leo with no small level of amusement."This is why I hate dealing with amateurs,"
Ren thought back with an audible sigh. "The long and short of it is that the thing inside that building isn't something you can fight with physical means, or with magic. You have to either kill whatever person it's possessing in order to make it leave," She explained as simply as she could.
"We're not authorized to kill anybody," Protested the mage. "There's gotta be some other way to stop it!"
"Well, you could simply attack it with a spirit of a related concept. For example, if you could convince an embodiment of water to help you, you could overwhelm it through the Natural Law of the Spirit World that dictates that fire cannot burn in water."
"How do we do that?"
"You don't, because spirits don't usually just pop into the physical world as they please like this," Ren sighed. "The being that's causing this fire is an aberration, you see. So, to really, properly fight it, your best bet is another being with an unnatural existence that exists both in the spiritual and physical planes."
"Well, then where in the bloody hell do we find one of those?!" The man screamed, his frustration boiling over.
"Find one?" The blind blonde gave a faint chuckle, her smirk broadening. "Why would you do that when there's already an unnatural existence here?"
"Huh?" Asked the man. "Who?"
The Emerald Manslayer raised her artificial hand, constricting it into a fist as, standing by her side, the spectral form of her partner flickered in and out of view. The magus stumbled back, giving a cry of surprise as the ghostly specter moved in unison with the woman, drawing back its hand and lowering itself into a ready stance.BGM: Blumenkranz
(Because holy crap, this song actually goes really well with Ren. 0.o)"US."
As two voices - one soft and determined, like a calm spring breeze, and the other proud and commanding, like a roaring tempest - spoke as one, the girl struck out with her fist, the spectral hand of her partner extending from her own palm and slamming into the blazing door of the building, tearing it free from its hinges. A cry of surprise ran through the crowd as, her cloak whirling around her like a tornado, Ren stepped forward through the opening. The flames around her rose up wildly, as though a gigantic blazing maw had opened wide to consume her. Yet, in an instant, all were blown back as the looming form of the spectral lion shone forth around her, made visible for all to see by the light of the fire. The flames drew back, unable to assail the air that gave them their very life. Ren smiled calmly, the path through the flames already mapping itself before her eyes as she made her way without delay towards the center of the archive. The fires parted as she passed, then collapsed, simmering down to a mere mass of sparks as they suffocated, the air itself refusing to sustain them. The smoke billowed around her harmlessly, deflected by a whirling mass of wind surrounding her upraised hand.
A wicked, demonic cackle assailed her ears as she reached the heart of what had once been a grand archive. Amidst the flames, a man - although he was so distorted by the flames that licked his skin, yet did not harm him, as to be hardly recognizable as such - danced wildly, clapping manically as the fire wreathed him, forming the shape of a serpent perched upon his left shoulder, and a cat's head upon his right, giving him the appearance of having three heads. A piece of the ceiling gave way, crumbling between them as the mercenary sidestepped, walking around the fallen masonry."Aym, who is called Haborym,"
Spoke the wind spirit, skulking behind the body of his master as his form flickered in and out of view, ephemeral as the fleeting wind. "How long has it been since I last smelled this stench? The distinctive smell of the smoke gave you away.""Why, Focalor!"
Cried the man, turning as his eyes snapped open, scarlet flame pouring from within his eyelids as he laughed wildly, clapping his blazing hands together again, a gesture which released a pillar of radiant hellfire that spiraled towards the crumbling ceiling. "I wasn't aware that you, too, had decided to take a romp in the Human world!"
The possessed man grinned wildly, spreading his arms and spinning as though dancing amidst the carnage, a cascade of fire washing out over the room only to be shattered into a naught but a few stray embers as the blind warrior planted her foot firmly, a spectral paw overlaying itself over her own limb and releasing a violent shockwave that smothered the other spirit's rampaging fire in an instant."Whatever are you doing?"
Asked the spirit, confused. "Didn't you come to join my game? Let's play as we used to, dear Focalor! I'll burn this place to ashes, then you can sweep up the wreckage in a tempest and carry my flames across the land! Oh, these mortals are so much fun. You can break them and break them and still they never give up! What a silly way to live, isn't it?""Sorry,"
Said the air spirit at last, his resounding voice ringing solemnly throughout the crumbling chamber. "But I don't go by that name anymore. My partner here chose to call me 'Leo,' so for now, that's my name.""Partner? Surely you jest!"
Exclaimed the other spirit, taken aback by this. "How could a spirit of your power be resisted for even a second by one of these funny little mortal creatures, let alone bargained with on equal terms?""I didn't resist him,"
Spoke up Ren at last, grinning calmly. "Just the opposite, in fact. I accepted him, allowed him to dwell within me without attempting to push him away. And, in exchange for becoming his avatar, he helps me achieve my goals during the time I remain alive.""But why would a proud spirit ever accede to the wishes of a mortal? I don't understand, Focalor!""I told you, Haborym,"
Replied the spectral lion. "My name is Leo. In any case, do you really understand so little that you even have to ask why a contract is preferable to a one-sided possession? Just look at yourself - a flame, burning wildly. You can barely control that body, let alone its energy. Soon, your flames running rampant will drain that human you've possessed of all his strength, and you'll lose your host body. But me? I can stay here for years with this girl's will to help keep me from wasting my power needlessly.""But still, that's no reason to submit to her!"
Protested the spirit, trying to persuade his former comrade to join him once more. "Even if this toy breaks, I can always just take over a new one!""No,"
Replied Leo with a quiet chuckle. "You can't.""Why not?!""Because we're going to kill you."
In an instant, the specter of Leo merged completely with Ren's body, the air whirling wildly around them as the lion took its full shape, encasing the girl's lower body in the now physical form of the powerful air spirit as a gust of wind tore through the entire building, snuffing out the flames that had threatened to consume it in an instant."You... what?! But why?! Have you lost your mind, Focalor?"
Cried Aym in fright and confusion."On the contrary. I haven't lost anything. I've simply gained a purpose for my existence.""What do you mean? Are you saying that you've thoroughly become this mortal's servant?!""Don't make me laugh. I am the wind! I serve no master but my own whims! And right now, I can't help but think how much fun it would be to kick your smug ass right out of the physical world! You pose a danger to my host body, and I just so happen to be itching for a good fight. That's all the reason I need to kill you!""Then you really have forgotten your old self... Very well, then. I'll kill this body that's so precious to you, and return you to the Focalor of old!"
Laughing maniacally, the fire spirit's form also took shape around the body he'd possessed, its flames blazing wildly back to life as it towered over the duo. Leo roared, phantasmal wings spreading from his back as he launched himself into the air, a rippling blade of wind taking shape within his closed jaws as he slashed it upward, sweeping through the flames that formed the fire spirit's serpentine "head," and snuffing this out in an instant. Aym, in turn, brought up a blazing hand and struck the air spirit, sending Leo flying backward before he righted himself, a single beat of his mighty wings snuffing out a second jet of flame sent to strike him down from the air. Diving from on high, he raised his clawed forepaws, slashing apart the feline head of the spirit with a blow that sent it reeling backward, its flames surging wildly, then just as quickly burning out as its energy began to collapse."I told you,"
Said Leo as his form dissipated once more, leaving his master standing on her own two feet at the center of the chamber once again. "Your power is unstable, and ultimately, useless against me.""Shall we finish this, Leo?"
Spoke Ren with a smile, cracking the knuckles of her right hand."Getting right to the point this time, are we? Good. I do so hate playing with my prey.""It's not for your sake,"
Said Ren with a smirk. "I'm just worried that the body he's possessing will die if we don't tear them apart soon.""Aww, disregarding my feelings so blatantly? I'm hurt,"
Replied the sarcastic spirit. "But I do so love tearing things apart, so I'll forget I heard that for now. So, would you care to do the honors?""We do it together,"
Replied Ren with a grin. "Got any good ideas for one liners before we finish him off?""Like you have no idea. I've been waiting the better part of a century to kick this idiot's ass, after all!""Then let's end this charade."
With these words, Ren struck, punching forward as the phantom within her arm did the same, a ghostly hand stretching instantly across the room to strike the flaming aura that formed the chest of Aym's spiritual form, within which the body he had possessed no doubt dwelt. The flames rippled and drew back, smothered by the force of the impact. In an instant, she followed this strike up with a second from her back hand, and then a third, then a fourth, accelerating all the while until her hands, and the ghostly fists extending from them, were naught but a blur, the images of one strike and the next blending together until it appeared that the spirit was being struck by a literal hailstorm of fists. Leo roared as he struck his prey again and again, the flames that made up Aym's spiritual body beginning to crack and die out, until at last the body they had consumed was visible. Then, striking her palm through the flames, she laid hold of the possessed man with a spectral hand, and ripped him forth, the flames that licked his body scattering away from him as Aym's spirit began to scream wildly, unable to sustain itself within the physical world. But Ren and Leo had no intentions of letting him retreat to the spirit world, to live to fight another day. They were going to end this pest here."It's all yours,"
Ren said, raising her right hand as Leo's clawed arm extended from it and grasped the writhing spirit by its sole remaining head."Ashes to ashes,"
Spoke Leo's booming voice - and then the girl closed her fist.
The fire spirit's head shattered into countless embers, crushed beneath Leo's mighty claws, and its body followed suit, dissipating into a few feeble sparks that soon died out."Dust to dust."
The cleanup didn't take long. Soon, there were mages bustling to and fro, trying to salvage whatever they could from the burnt archives. Ren didn't learn until after the fact that there had also been several novice magicians on a field trip of sorts who'd been caught inside, most of whom approached her and, much to Leo's amusement and her chagrin, asked her to teach them how to perform spirit magic. Much explanation into the nature of her contract with the air spirit later, she finally managed to disentangle herself from the commotion, and left the archive no richer or poorer than when she'd entered it. Nothing had been lost, and nothing had been gained. Well, perhaps not nothing,
as her partner had taken the luxury of draining the other spirit's remaining energy and adding it to their own stockpile of power, which more than made up for the strength they'd spent in defeating the menace. Still, there was one thing that didn't add up."I thought you said this was supposed to lead us into contact with the other 'chosen heroes,' Ren,"
Observed the lion, seeming rather unamused. "I don't see them anywhere.""Tch. Some destiny this is, if I've still got to find my way by myself,"
Ren sighed irritably. "You'd think the least a god could do is point me in the right direction if she wants me to save the world."And this is why I hate dealing with deities,"
Said Leo smugly."On an unrelated note... what exactly was the relation between you and that spirit back there?"
Ren asked, somewhat curious about the things Haborym had said."We both embody - well, embodied, in his case - elements that can be very volatile. It's only natural that we worked together on occasion to wreck some havoc in the mortal world. You might say that was just part of my job as a manifestation of the more chaotic aspects of life. I abandoned those duties when I abandoned the spirit world, however.""I had a feeling it was something like that,"
Ren said, shrugging. "In any case, no matter how many people you've killed in the past, it doesn't really concern me. All that matters to me is my goals, which can only be accomplished by working with you. A few unsavory duties in your past mean nothing when compared to the possible benefits of your powers in the now.""I'm glad to know we're of one mind.""So... out of curiosity, you ate that other spirit, right? What exactly did he taste like?""Chicken. Really, really burned chicken,"
Leo replied without missing a beat.
....."Okay, now you're just screwing with me.""The hell were you expecting? Spirits don't even have a sense of taste!"
"The Apocalypse is basically just a tutorial." - Sicon112.
"Due to the ambiguity of this wording, I am unable to determine whether or not I am the leader of the X-Men!"
"UNIVERSE-BREAKING EPILEPSY RAVE!" - AMimsyBorogove