Vanguard narrowed his eyes as he watched Forte's expression, noting the annoyance and - was that frustration? - on the original navi's face. His blow connected with Forte's defense, but did not pierce past it. That gave him a good indication of his minimum versus his maximum required force.
Then, Forte darted backward and raised up his hand for his first true offensive. Vanguard watched the ball of yellow energy form and then the massive wave after wave of energy as it surged forward. Within the coils on his wrists, his chips shifted places and moved about, and another hard body burned itself into his code. As the waves of energy bombarded him, a series of light, green veils rose off of his body, and the easily identifiable aura of the dark recovery also raced across his body.
As the smoke cleared and the rest of the Network was rocked, Vanguard stood, damaged, battered and bruised, but his body was alight. Every flame pouring out of his verniers, from around his eyes, bursting forth from his wrists, and even wreathing around his form seemed to burn more intently, with more zeal and power. He glared up defiantly at the first Navi, noting the force behind the attack. He could have taken the brunt of it without needing to use any additional chips, but, decided it was best to continue to play it safe. There was no need to assume anything of the navi's power other than that it was not safe to assume it would be forgiving.
His adrenaline pumping and all of the data he had collected flying across his visor in front of his vision, Vanguard gave one last, calculated look over Forte and his defense, as well as his weaknesses, and decided his plan of action.
Raising his hands, Vanguard shifted the coils along his wrists once more, lining up yet more of his arsenal in preparation for an onslaught. His next choices were crucial, and he doubted he would be able to outright destroy the first Navi, but, his goals never intended that, anyhow. His goal was to get the Navi to recognize him, and to see just how much his own mettle was worth when tested by supreme power.
"You've decided to get serious enough to hit me with something I'd actually feel," Vanguard noted as he stood there, tossing yet another burning reticle between his hands. "I suppose that means I am allowed to get serious, too then? Just in time, as I have the data I need." He let his indignant taunt hang in the air for a moment, staring him down, feeling more confident with every passing second. "If this is the extent of your power that you have displayed to me, then, like every other enemy before you . . . in due time, I'll consider you another puzzle solved." Raising his hand, Vanguard released the reticle into the air. The flames expanded, and his prominence bursted outwards again, the meteors coming forth with their full force and then some.
He stored the remainder of his excess energy within his reserves, preparing for when he would declare his check mate.
::HardBodyCode:: [2/3] ⇪⇪⇪⇪⇪ Defense Skill || Costs 1 Skill Use to activate ::°:: User gains [100 + (V * 5)]  Armor against [1 + (1 * ⇪)]  Attacks. ::°:: Upgrades extend the armor duration by 1 Attack
[Darklight Burst] [B-Tier, Attack Slot+] Vanguard's natural systems have learned to take into account the strain on his reserves from using an expanded arsenal, and have adapted to benefit from it regardless. - This skill grants Vanguard 1 Attack Slot each time a use is expended from it to activate a Chip. -- [Active, 4/9 Uses], +1 AS!
[Vanguard has 410 Armor against the next 5 attacks]
[Air Burst] - Taken for 800 Damage! [Air Burst] - Taken for 800 Damage! [Air Burst] - Taken for 800 Damage!
::Recovery200Code:: ⇪⇪⇪⇪⇪ [2/4] Support Skill || Costs 1 Skill Use to activate ::°:: User restores [200 + (50 * ⇪)]  HP ::°:: Upgrades increase HP Restored by 50
[Darklight Burst] [B-Tier, Attack Slot+] Vanguard's natural systems have learned to take into account the strain on his reserves from using an expanded arsenal, and have adapted to benefit from it regardless. - This skill grants Vanguard 1 Attack Slot each time a use is expended from it to activate a Chip. -- [Active, 2/9 Uses], +2 AS!
Dark Recovery [1/3] [-1 Chip Use] Support Skill || Does not cost a Skill Use to activate ::°:: User Restores 1000 HP ::°:: Glitch: User loses 300 HP per turn
[Air Burst] - Taken for 800 Damage! [Air Burst] - Taken for 800 Damage!
[Slotted Coils] [S-Tier, Custom Support] No resource wasted, no situation tackled unprepared. Vanguard fights with care to ensure that all of his options are always open, and ever quickly replenished. - Vanguard's Dark Chip Expansion also applies to Standard Chips. -- [Passive]
[Empowered Arsenal] [S-Tier, Damage+] His power is not necessarily within his own arsenal, but in the total spectrum of ability across all of his possible options. As such, he focuses less on further enhancement of his natural abilities, and fine-tunes his add-ons. - Vanguard's passive damage increases affect his chip damage. -- This does not apply to chips that cannot be augmented. --- [Passive]
[Pinpoint Offense] [Advanced Skill, Damage+] Vanguard doesn't hit hard, he hits accurately. His potency on the battlefield is in his observant and powerful eyes, from which no detail can hide, and he can focus his energy from each strike into a fine-tuned assault on his opponents' vital points, capitalizing on all mistakes and openings. - Up to 5 of Vanguard's Passive Attack Slots gained from sources that do not proc mid-battle are converted into stacks of Constant Charge. - All remaining Passive Attack Slots are referred to as Vanguard's Natural Attack Slots. - Attack Slots gained from Mid-Battle are entirely unaffected and operate as normal. -- Constant Charge applies a multiplier to one Attack's Damage per turn, based on the Optional Charge Multiplier, without requiring actual turns of Charge. He may possess a total of 5 Stacks at a time. --- Attacks with Required Charge used in the Natural Attack Slot must also have been charged in the Natural Attack Slot. ---- Any Attack Slot reducing effect afflicting Vanguard also removes a stack of Constant Charge, upon infliction. ---- Vanguard cannot gain immunity to Berzerk, Attack Slot Reduction, Bubble or Paralyze. ---- Interrupt removes all stacks of Constant Charge, for one turn, upon infliction. --------- [Passive]
[Garnet Star of Power] [+2/2] A shining star forged of garnet, sparkles with an otherworldly power ° +1 Attack Slot when at or below 75% of your Max HP ° +1 More Attack Slot when at or below 25% of your Max HP
[Adrenaline] [+4/4] Vanguard fights to the purpose of efficiency and care against most opponents, and shows his true colors against those that push him to his limits - he need not fight at full capacity against every foe, but, for those that deserve it, they see his true power. - Vanguard gains +1 Attack Slot per 20% of his maximum health missing, to a maximum of +4 Attack Slots while at or below 20% of his max health. -- [Passive]
[Last Stand ⇪ Alpha] Passive Program User deals +30% Damage while below 15% of their Max HP.
Offense Phase 3 NAS | 11 AS | 5 CC | 10/12 Chips | Mega Chips: 2/6 | Giga: 3/3
1. [Zealot's Prominence] A reticle that, once placed on an opponent, blazes with the agony of a previous assault.  Fire S-Damage [100%] ::S::+ Copies the damage and effects of the last dark chip used. ::°:: 1-Turn Required Charge, -1 Total Attack/Use. ::°:: [2/4] Uses/Battle
::DarkMeteorsCode:: ⇪⇪⇪⇪⇪⇪ [5,225,036,580] Fire/Dark S-Damage * 4 Hits ::°:: Breaks Unbreakable Shields, Fully Undodgeable, Hits All ::°:: Aimed ::★:: This Chip's Damage is halved, but applied to all hits ::★:: Avoid Separately ::°:: If this is the only attack used this turn, this attack deals x3 Damage. ::°:: Ignores Damage Mitigating effects. ::A:: Can be charged for up to 2 Turns to gain +1 Hit per turn charged ::S:: Auto Attacks for 2 Turns after use with full damage and effects. Only one instance of the attack may be in effect at a time ::°:: Glitch: User has -1 Attack Slot while Dark Meteors Auto Strikes
Forte's scowl darkens at Vanguard's words, causing the pressure that his very presence brings to wash over the battlefield like a shockwave. At this point the original Navi wouldn't move, wouldn't defend. He drops his aura and allows the onslaught of Vanguard's power to wash over him.
Forte 0/5,000: ...
...and in the end, he doesn't even flinch from it all. When all is said and done, Forte holds his dark scowl and continues to stare at Vanguard for a time, looking him over carefully for several moments before at last speaking.
Forte: ...an adequate warm-up.
The insinuation drops like lead between the two as Forte's unblinking stare continues to pierce the distance.
Forte: Fine; you can live for now. You may be strong enough to see my new world some day.
Forte hovers forward and then turns his back on Vanguard as he very purposefully glares in Misair's direction. He then tosses his cloak in front of himself and beams out. Within a few moments the net returns to normal as the pressure exerted by Forte's presence dies down. Vanguard would notice a small chip hovering where he'd been standing just moments before.
REWARDS: 1,000 EXP 10,000 Zenny
::airshotcode:: # Wind S-Damage ::S:: Destroys Clones ::S:: Destroys Objects ::°:: Costs 1 Use from a Skill or S-Tier Attack to activate
He moved, still in motion from his continued onslaught, and was prepared to dash back into melee when he watched the aura around Forte fall.
His adrenaline immediately dying, Vanguard halted in his tracks. The burning fires of his life essence coiling around him, Vanguard listened to what he could only assume to be a compliment, but could not help but feel his dark anger boiling within himself. This whole time, he had devoted to giving Forte his all, and all the titan planned on doing was wasting his time? Sure, he now knew a little more about Forte's defenses, and even a little about his offensive options. The energy still burning within his core screamed for a battle incomplete, a data set unfinished, all of his information still ungathered. He knew that Forte was just testing him the whole time, but, he couldn't help but feel robbed of an opportunity to test his data analysis against the most powerful force on the Net.
Much like his bout with Magnolia, he would forever be stuck with an idea of how to put Forte into checkmate, and would not have his chance to test it out. The power of his DarkMeteors still fell on all sides of him, and he felt his incredible power building within his verniers. Gripping his hand, he channeled the last of his purple flames into his palm, and released the stored up power as a wave of darklight flames in front of him, turning about in the same motion. Picking up the small chip left behind for him, Vanguard studied the little chip and frowned. All of that, and he barely walked away with anything to show for it.
Looking up, he looked back across the room at Mistair. He hadn't had the time to see how she was doing since he got focused on his target. The other benefit of the fight coming back to him, he remembered that she was okay because of his decision to take the challenge. Racing across the distance, he found his way back to her side.
"I have no idea how, but, I somehow managed to stand against him. It was evident he was just testing me . . . I don't know why I've caught his interest, but, we don't have time to lament on the matter. Where to next? How do we get to our tracking device from here?"
Through it all, she let out a subtle sigh of relief. She kept her composure the entire time as showing her own wasn't exactly ideal for the situation. As long as she managed to keep that up, then it was fine. And then--this sensation... it was in the air again. He was on his way and she was running through any number of scenarios of what to do about it. So instead she nodded to Vanguard. It was better to keep them out of the line of fire seeing as they had no stake in this short of Vanguard himself.
And as expected he wasn't here for any small talk. Time was running out as his look and words made pretty clear to her, her hand reaching for the scar he personally handed her. But then the twist arrived that he asked Vanguard a query. She couldn't tell if she was more relieved or more concerned that the center of attention wasn't her as she sought to sort her disoriented thoughts now. And as he started to close in on Vanguard she considered an action that was also silenced swiftly from the telling glance in her direction. This was Vanguard's fight and not her's to take place in. It was another mixed wave of emotion then. And then her eyes became a bit jaded, as if she was somewhere else at the time. But she was clearly surveying the fight now as she took a step back. It was only up until Forte made his attack, blinking twice before the field was blanketed in his attack. She managed to shield herself, but she visibly frowned then as she did. There was disarray in her features and her head then, placing a hand to her head and looking down as she thought about something then.
A visible blank. She could see it all too clearly. It wasn't a large blank but she was missing information. Something sparked it and as a result she knew something was wrong in the warm-up exercise that Forte had with Vanguard. A warm-up? She shook her head. Tasks in front now, other tasks later. Reassorting her priorities, she breathed in and out twice. And then took stock of Vanguard.
"...There's a problem, but that's for later. If we go forward a bit more from here and then to the right, we'll reach our mark."
Vanguard watched the confusion on her face form as he moved towards her, and saw her place a hand to her head in concern. She seemed to be in a situation much like himself, dealing with a lot of thoughts at once and knowing only a few of them were immediately relevant. He watched her breathing and felt his concerns, but, knew they didn't have the convenience to worry about anything other than what was in front of them. They would both take time to cope with what they had survived after they were done.
He wanted to reach out and make sure she was okay, now but he respected that, at least for now, she had collected herself. Holding out his hand, Vanguard helped Mistair to her feet. "Then let's go, then," he said simply, hoisting her back up on his shoulder to dart along at his adrenaline-powered speed, once again.
She nodded as she took his hand, steadying herself as Vanguard continued as his namesake. When they made their way ahead they reached the room in question, Mistair placing her hand to the door as it ran a confirmation scan that allowed it to open after. It was almost an empty room now, as this was on the basement level and a room that was mostly just for storage. The things it stored had to be used now after the attacks in Netopia, so it was cleared out. She simply had taken the liberty of setting it up as a roundabout way for them to get what was theirs in case they were under attack.
The attack just wasn't supposed to be from the NIA. She wrote a string of code in the air next, the proceedings taking place as the device formed in the air, taking it into her hands. It was two handheld devices, at least the portable form was. It was so transportation could be made easy and would be refined more over time, but what they had now still worked. Just when it was in use it wouldn't be quite so small and easy to carry around because they needed it to have a proper radius. She sent both away into her personal storage, though she paused for a moment before she had done so.
As they neared their destination, Vanguard noticed the basement room. He had been inside of this room plenty of times before hand, so, why didn't he remember how to get to it? He may have disoriented himself when he whisked himself up to Mistair's rescue, or, in the moment, he just forgot where he was. He also never made it to this space in this same way, as he and Mistair had been working down here almost constantly. He shook his head to dismiss his concerns, making his way into the room behind her.
The room was just how he had left it, what seemed like almost ages ago, even if it had been mere minutes. What a world to live in, that the entirety of your life could be flipped around by a few decisions made in such a small time span. He had the space of mind to remember to put away their devices, and Mistair wrote a string of code into the air in order to retrieve them again.
He noticed it, then, too. The pause. The uncertainty. Something was very wrong, as this woman was nearly as calculating, if not more calculating than he was. He could not remember a moment of doubt ever flickering across her face, even in dire situations. She may have grimaced, she may have been unamused, and she may have even been frustrated - but she was never doubtful. Where did this hesitation come from? His instincts told him to question it, and the last time he had denied his instincts, he made a fatal mistake against Vamin.
But, also, Mistair had become close to him. He kept his eyes on her as she whisked the device away, and realized that he stayed staring at her for far too long after she had turned back around to talk to him.
He saw the warning signs. That stretch of time he was looking at her, dumbly, his mind was racing. He took a deep breath, exhaled, and took a step forward, turning back around to offer his shoulder to her. "Then let's be on our way," he proffered, his voice as stern and collected as one could expect it to be, given their day.
Once she was on, he raced off, burning a trail of violet flames behind him as he darted off, moving his legs in order to refresh the bursts of speed every now and again. He started off back the direction they came in and then made a point of pausing just within the crater that they had fought Vamin in. Looking up to the hole he had blasted into the ceiling, Vanguard pushed his massive concentration of energy into his legs and created just enough propulsion to clear the distance, bounding up at high speeds. He kept a hand on Mistair as he moved, providing her more support as he did so, allowing silence to hang in the air. For what seemed like far too long, he kept his eyes forward and his head down, darting through the hallways within the under caverns by memory in order to retrace their steps, knowing they would need to exit through the front doors. The only noise between him and Mistair, as far as he was concerned, was the sound of his verniers blazing all around him.
He was finding it somewhat difficult to control his pyre. His voice was silent but his mind was alight, his eyes darting too and fro behind his visor, but, not at all focusing on the road ahead. He was doing what he always did, trying to connect the dots, figure out what their enemies were planning, and trying to figure out how to get a step ahead of them.
Everything up to this was catalyzed by Nightshade's revelation of information, and Mistair happening to overhear the scenario. They were causing waves and creating scenarios where it looked like other navis were the bad guy, or at least somewhat the root cause. Due to the presence of the Reaverkings, they had somehow aligned themselves with Juno's forces, but, Vanguard was excluded from these orders. His access to Elysium had been cut off for a good bit now, and he could only imagine why. He had already discovered that, for whatever reason, they had begun collecting the Cybeasts, and it was not impossible to rationalize that they were therefore after other sources of power. They had lost the Cybeasts, though, and it had appeared as though some strange being had absorbed them - assuming Nightshade's words could be trusted even slightly, that is. The mission to search after the Cybeats was both pressured by the NIA and the Original Navi, whom had been aggravated, presumably, by these navis stirring up trouble and awakening ancient programs. He only had but so many pieces of the puzzle, and it was frustrating that he was playing into their hands. Every step they made was to push their opponents in the direction they wanted them to go, and he couldn't help but think that Vamin accomplished their goals of stalling for time, and Forte inadvertently bought them even more.
. . . No. There was no way they had arranged for that, too. He shook his head, trying to clear it, and glanced back at Mistair on his back for a moment. He took another deep breath, shifted his legs, and continued forward on his path. All he could do was blaze onward, and wade into wherever his conviction and knowledge led him next.
Just what was he walking into, though? . . . and what if his gut was right?
At first she was going to ask him if something was wrong when she saw that he was just staring at her like that. But she knew that she didn't have to do that. She could tell that he noticed it from her own responses already. That she was beginning to foster her own concerns. But she said nothing just as he did, taking to his shoulder as he blazed a trail toward their next destination: escaping the facility with their work in hand. The silence felt as though it dragged out forever. It almost felt too long despite the speed at which they were traveling now, her eyes forward as she considered possibilities. Their current situation aside, the situations elsewhere would lead to a problem as well. With what Nightshade revealed if one picked it apart, the fact remained that Electopia had been just as compromised as Netopia according to what was broadcast and on top of that the Navis shown were frequent troublemakers as well. As this wasn't their first offense either it would be all too easy to plant the blame solely at the feet of the one everyone would presume to be the most aggressive about the world at large.
That was to say nothing of their own situation. If Vamin was with Juno, had he not been dealt with properly those months ago? Was he assigned this task to eliminate them or to stall them? Were they truly after the other entities of power that existed? Had they already managed to obtain them? Her eyes narrowed, considering all the grave possibilities that were behind why they would be doing such a thing. They could only go off of what they knew among themselves, seeing as it was just the two of them now. What could their next move be? And what would their own next move be? They would have to consider it soon enough.
Because as is they managed to get to the froot doors and exit through them thanks to having cleared their obstacles. For better or for worse.