Jacob Rayner was in a plane flying from Gigamerica to Electopia, en route to meet a friend of his for her birthday, when he suddenly received an Email from none other than MirrorMan, another old friend.
The email requested that he meet MirrorMan at the ruins of The Crusading Hall, the old base of operations for a Faction that they were the leading members of, years ago.
Jake welcomed this opportunity unhesitatingly, but then he noticed that the email was cc'ed to Merrill as well. This made the situation a bit sticky -- the last time he was with Merrill, there was a bit of betrayal that happened, and not on Merrill's end.
Regardless, running from the problem wouldn't fix it. And while he didn't want to bring his drama to MirrorMan, Jake knew it would have to be addressed eventually.
As the flight continued his course, he Pulse In to the Cyber World -- his mind racing back to the most memorable battle between Merrill and the original Warrior as his digital body slowly materialized on the Net.
7 Years Ago
"It's been some time, hasn't it?"
In a large grassy field, surrounded by an endless forest of trees along the outskirts, Warrior found his friend Merrill waiting there for him. They had organized a sparring session for this place and time, and he was more than eager to break their consistent record of fighting each other to a draw. This time, there must be a clear victor.
As a storm began to swiftly approach from the horizon, Warrior drew his sword and stood blade's length from his rival, clearly eager to get started.
Merrill had been waiting with a certain eagerness for Warrior. This grassy plains had often been the sparing site for several of their battles, and this was no different. He stood in a relaxed position, almost leaning on his sword that was sticking out of the ground. He was in a good mood. He noticed the oncoming storm first, and it made him slightly more excited and curious.
"This adds a new element to battle that we haven't seen before."
He spoke to himself with a small grin. Healer would be at a slight disadvantage due to the weather, but he could probably make up the difference with his own skills. Healer frowned, displeased by the weather, but was determined to make a difference. Every battle they had tested each others strengths, had ended in a tie so far. Would this time be different?
As Warrior approached, he smiled. His blade disappeared and he bowed, as custom. Warrior was already ready, eager to fight. He chuckled at his friend's comment
"It has! I have honestly been looking forward to this! This will be a first, now having to account for the weather in battle as well. I am honored that our paths cross for a test of abilities again!"
He withdrew his swords again to his side, wielding them properly.
"When I win, I request sometime we just need to hang out and relax and chat. It feels that more often we are so busy training that we forget to enjoy ourselves and get to know each other better."
With a deep breath, he let his smile fade a bit, almost to a smirk. He looked at his friend, and got into a defensive fighting stance.
" When you lose, I'll try not to rub it in during our meet ups, haha! "
Sword still drawn, Warrior took a step away from Merrill.
Whether it was pure prediction or raw reaction, this caused a blinding strike of lightning to just barely miss him. In the fraction of time that the bolt had flashed, Warrior vanished without a trace.
To the left? The right? Above? No where to be seen. However, his destination would quickly be revealed to Merrill as he heard the humming of energy being gathered in Warrior's palm from behind him.
" Let's get this started then. "
The energy he held in his palm seemed to do nothing yet, but more important would be the rising slash from Warrior's blade that intended to meet Merrill the moment he turned around to look behind himself.
Success or failure made no difference -- as Warrior's sword pointed skyward after the swing, another bolt of lightning struck down at his position, this time hitting the sword like a lightning rod and imbuing it with electricity as he swung it back down with thundering force, decimating the ground where Merrill stood.
The coming storm had now arrived and a gentle downpour slowly licked up the flaming grass that the lightning bolts had caused. Warrior's sword was still crackling with electricity as he took a defensive stance in expectation of Merrill's retaliation.
For Merrill, thinking back on this battle came with a mixture of emotions. He couldn't help but have a small smirk from, just as the Warrior of old would, albeit for a split second. Warrior always had good wit, and an air of confidence that Merrill had admired. This beginning was always one of the most comical, in his opinion, partially due to his own ignorance. However, recalling recent events, his own expression would fade away quickly, as feelings of anger, betrayal and confusion set in. He couldn't help but feel terrible, wondering how his lost companion would feel about all of this. He couldn't help but miss her too...
He couldn't help but let a sly grin cross his face as Warrior teased him about rubbing the victory in his face. He changed his stance, just in time for the lightning to strike the ground, blinding him and Healer momentarily. Healer fell off his shoulder to the ground, and tried to curl to protect herself while recovering her vision naturally. He blinked repeatedly, knowing that his opponent wasn't there, but he was unable to determine where he had went. His vision was playing in Warrior's favor.
Merrill heard a buzzing noise behind him. Not hesitating, he began to rotate with a horizontal slash, but was too slow. Instead, he barely began his rotation when Warrior's slash knocked him up in the air. He used the force of the blow to actually propel himself out of striking range, only to almost be struck by lightning himself as it struck his friend's sword. He barely had time to touch the ground before the next strike; the explosive force from the sword swing streaking towards them. Then he remembered he still had to protect Healer as well. Instead of dodging, he stepped forward, in front of Healer, summoning strength and forming it into a thin Aura made from pure life energy to protect them. The blast was still strong, as it pushed both of them backwards several feet, causing minor wounds. But they had survived the onslaught.
"I admit, your speed never ceases to amaze me! Your swift, and utilizing that lightning like that... It really suits you!"
Warrior would notice the wounds he inflicted began healing up immediately. There was a small flash of light, and the damage that had been dealt to Merrill's shoulder and back had vanished almost completely, a small grin crossing his face as this occurred.
"But you'll have to be faster than that, and you'll have to hit me harder than that, to win this fight!"
The rain that had threatened to dampen the battlefield roared forth as it began pouring on all of them. This was an advantage for Warrior, as it weakened Healer and caused her to have to be much closer, almost on top of Warrior, in order to strike. This didn't dampen their confidence or determination in the least however. The pair nodded at each other quickly, agreeing on something.
Without wasting any time, Merrill dashed forward, releasing grip on the pristine blade in his left hand with a grunt as he launched it at Warrior. Using what time he bought, he closed the gap between them, his foot slamming down as he went in with a cleaving strike towards Warrior's sword arm. At this range, Warrior would also hear the faint hum of energy being charged, but this time not just coming from him. With the keen eyes of his, Warrior, should be able to tell where that energy was being stored at, the feint glow of Merrill's crystal becoming slightly more prevalent. Not relenting, Merrill struck again, yanking his unarmed hand back. The blade he had thrown originally now returning for another attack. Merrill repeated and alternated strike from his blades, doing everything he could to off balance Warrior. Then, feinting a strike, he jumped back, with Healer propelling herself off of Merrill like a spring board.
She aimed two quick fireballs in rapid succession towards Warrior's face, the second one being closer to a punch than a ranged attack. She used the force of the second, slightly larger fireball to move to the side, and quickly retreated to stand under Merrill, out of the rain. The pair stood defensively in the pouring rain, waiting on seeing the results of their efforts, and waiting on the counter attack.
Warrior chuckled at Merrill's retort, responding to it exactly as Faith would have.
" Faster and harder it is, then. "
Merrill struck back more swiftly than he expected, though; blocking the first strike caused Warrior to recoil back much more than intended. The successive blows did manage to keep him off balance, as well, even resulting in his sword arm getting cut in just the right places for him to lose the strength to hold up the weapon by the end of the onslaught.
" ... "
He showed no indication of the pain or the disadvantage that he found himself in though, other than his sword falling to the ground as he stood there confidently.
" ! "
Even through the dark visors, the surprised expression in his eyes could be seen as Healer caught him off guard with her fireballs, striking with just enough force to break the visors in two. One piece remained on his face while the other fell between his feet; a still-determined blue eye exposed by the missing half of the broken visors.
" No holding back allowed, even now. I've still got plenty to work with. "
A more serious tone was in his voice now than the jestful tone from before. The humming coming from the energy gathering in his still-functional palm was much more prominent now, as was the brightness of the light that bathed it. Merrill was able to easily out-regenerate any lakcluster attack -- even plenty of solid blows, in fact -- so he'd need to strike decisively if he wanted to overcome it.
That'd take just a little longer, though.
So in the meantime, Warrior raised the glowing palm toward his friend, boldly bluffing that he was going to fire it off straight away. Rather than doing so, however, a gust of wind twirled around his downed sword like a small typhoon, lifting it up and causing it to spin toward both Healer and Merrill, threatening to cut through them while Warrior reached down to grab the sundered piece of his visor.
Shattering the remaining glass of the broken device, he held the leftover spike as if it were a dagger, knowing he'd need to keep Merrill busy as his charge completed even if he couldn't deal any meaningful damage using just this as a weapon.
After the duo had finished dealing with the flying sword, another flash of lightning illuminated the sky and Warrior had dashed to them in an instant. Three more lighnting bolts, three more swings of the make-shift "dagger", his movements seeming to have a strobelight-like effect to them as he moved to attack from a different angle between each strike of lightning.
Merrill was his primary focus now -- dealing with Healer would just slow him down at this point, and he was rushed enough as it was. His wounded arm was barely able to hold up the weightless dagger in a defensive poise after he had finished, prepared to fend off one last assault before his own final strike would be ready.
Thinking back, Merrill had to give Warrior a lot of credit for back then. His solutions may have been rather unorthodox, but in most cases (such as this fight in particular), were surprisingly effective. He couldn't hide the small smirk of the image of Warrior and his would-be daggers. He shook his head though after, his face returning to a neutral state, as he continued to meditated, thinking back on that fight...
He couldn't help it, seeing his friend's eye staring back at him, wannabe weapon in hand caused him to have a small grin. Warrior was inventive, that's for sure.
Warrior's flying cyclone sword was an effective stall tactic. While Merrill was able to leap up over the blade, Healer was not as lucky. The sword managed to clip her in mid air, her body unable to clear the blade. She was sent flying quite a distance backwards, effectively out of the fight for at least a minute or two. Depending on her injuries.
Unfortunately for him, Merrill was not given the time to assess the situation. Because he had turned to see Healer blasted backwards, Warrior was already on top of his position by the time he landed.
A quick burst of lightning, and as he blinked, he felt the dagger pierce his armor, a burst of pain rupturing from his shoulder. A second bolt, followed by pain in his right shoulder. His arms went numb, and he was unable to block the third slash that was well aimed at his gut. One of the lightning bolts singed the side of his face.
He grunted, staggering back from his wounds. He fell to one knee, light pouring from his crystal in an attempt to counteract some of the damage he had just been dealt. His own restorative powers tried kicking in, but due to the damage he had sustained, he couldn't heal himself and charge his powerful attack he was planning simultaneously.
That's when Healer had somehow made her way over to him. Using most of her strength, she managed to heal up the wound in his gut.
"Thank you, little one..."
He managed to stand back up, his breathing heavy. He paused his charging, focusing on healing one shoulder, to at least continue the fight. Taking advantage of the lull, he began manipulating the water around them. It swirled around his body, obscuring his body from view. With a leap, Merrill jumped, taking the "rising tide" with him. As he came down, he swung his arm down, sending the wave of water toward Warrior. Waving his functional hand, he created a small white barrier to protect him. He knew it wasn't very strong, but might by him a couple of seconds.
Unbeknownst to him, Healer followed close behind his attack, at first using it as a diversion to get behind Warrior. From there, she jumped up, trying to hit him with a fireball in the back of the head, while trying to find something to hold on to, and set him on fire with her breath so he couldn't escape immediately. She hoped to buy as much time as her little body would allow...
His stoic expression went nowhere as Merrill began his counter-offensive. He had prepared for this after all. Warrior braced for impact as the wave came, making not effort to avoid it, as if to devote all of his energy to the still-growing white light in his hand, which had reached a fairly respectable size by now, about the diameter of a basketball.
The water sent him skidding back, but it wasn't too devastating.
" ! "
He was caught offguard once again by Healer's interference, though. Fortunately, being drenched by Merrill's wave spared Warrior from being ignited by the fireball and the flame breathe as she latched onto his back and continued spewing the flames onto his back.
" Ngh! "
He shifted his weight forward aggressively, the jerking movement of his body creating enough centrifugal force and whiplash to loosen her grip as he made a frontflip motion. Toward the end of his body's rotation, he'd created enough of a difference in their velocity that he was able to pin her under his feet as he landed, effectively reversing their positions.
The rain helped lick up the residual flames from her attack, and it certainly succeeded in slowing him down, but the white light in his hand flashed brightly for a moment, signifying his charge was completed.
" This is it, Merrill! "
His Fatal Barrage.
It wasn't intended to actually be fatal though, hence the warning.
Warrior punted Healer toward Merrill, intending to keep him busy focusing on catching her while he threw his own arm forward as if hurling a boulder -- the white-orb in his hand suddenly expanding in diameter to match the size of his entire body as the attack was unleashed.
What came next was indeed a barrage of sorts: the white orb breaking apart into many smaller, baseball-sized orbs that spiraled forward in a manner such that they almost resembled a laser tearing through the terrain, vaporizing the rain along the way, and closing in on Merrill and Healer. Some stray orbs fell from the formation and made earth-shaking impact on the ground along the way, almost as if to demonstrate the fatality of each individual ball in the volley.
" ... "
He was fully spent after that attack, though, left holding his arm and breathing heavily. Yet he stood at the ready nonetheless, confident Merrill had some way of dealing with the new technique.