- April 14th, 2010
And the conclusion, part 2. Go read the first one if you haven't yet, fools. *hit* As always, COMMENTS and critique appreciated.
No sooner had the gargoyle said to begin, it was struck suddenly in the chest by Zags' palm. There was no recoil, actually the stone figure didn't budge an inch, but it let out a sudden grunt as though injured by some invisible force. Zags stepped back, shaking out his hand slightly. "And that's why I wear gloves. In case I ever have to punch a gargoyle. Anyway, do I get a first strike bonus or somethi-- whoa!" Only the slight premonition he got through Psi mode saved Zags' chest from being brutally torn open by jagged stone claws as they swept through the air a fraction of an inch from his shirt.
Zags stepped back a few more feet, waiting for the next attack. The gargoyle seemed to be breathing heavily, if a gargoyle could breathe, but recovering rather swiftly. Incredibly swiftly actually, as evidenced by the fact it made another sudden lunge at Zags, claws going for his face.
Zags went to step back out of the attack, and his foot ran into something, throwing him off balance. It was the woman his opponent had been possessing earlier, still collapsed unconscious on the floor. Time seemed to slow as Zags fell awkwardly, the stone claws bearing down on him. There was no way he could dodge it. But he could make it miss.
“Psi Remote!” Zags’ right arm went limp suddenly as his spirit left it, aiming to enter the gargoyle’s right arm and redirect the attack for enough time for Zags to recover. The ploy worked, though not in the way Zags intended.
The arm pulled back suddenly as a horrific scream issued from the gargoyle. Zags broke off the Remote, life returning to his arm as he looked rather shocked at the recoiling stone figure. Shock is not something generally found on Zags’ face. What the…?
The scream ended with the gargoyle taking flight suddenly, flying off into the night. Zags recovered, scrambling to his feet. “Hey wait!” Without a moment’s hesitation he dived over the slightly collapsed fence out into the open air. He pulled out the staff from his belt as a flash of light shone through the glove on his right hand, the flame pattern evident with the symbol “Δ”, the Greek letter Delta, blazing in the middle of it. Two white translucent triangles appeared on either end of the staff, with two more forming in the middle, edges against the length of the rod. Zags pulled out of his dive and zoomed off after his opponent on his newly formed hoverboard.
Because they were so high up, Zags had a clear view of the gargoyle’s flight path and plenty of maneuvering space between the skyscrapers to catch up. Which was great because pretty soon, stone feathers were flying his way like guided missiles. Zags narrowly ducked the first one, wobbling a bit on his board, but regained control in enough time to swerve out of the way of the next as it zipped past. “This is gonna get old real fast…” he muttered, generating a large triangle to hover in front of him as he flew, which a third feather promptly shattered against. With a defense in place, Zags was free to concentrate purely on speed in order to catch up with his opponent, which was slowly beginning to ascend now, several more feathers shooting Zags’ way. But it seemed to be using the attack sparingly, doing just enough to try and discourage Zags from following. Probably because it didn’t want to run out of feathers so it could stay airborne.
Zags was rapidly pulling closer now, when suddenly the gargoyle pulled its wings in and angled into a power dive, plummeting toward the city below. Though he was slightly caught off guard by the move, Zags quickly altered course and dived as well, crouching low on the board, the triangles that made it up angling slightly to keep Zags from slipping forward as he dived. A few feet from the paved concrete of an intersection, the stone creature pulled up, wings outstretched to brake its fall. One thing about being made of stone: you don’t stop all that fast. The concrete cracked with a loud “boom”, punching a good five feet or so wide crater. The gargoyle didn’t seem all that effected by the impact, for it went to take off again. But at that point, Zags was already on top of it.
Zags had pulled out of his dive considerably earlier, to give himself enough braking time, and now stopped his downward motion completely by slamming into the gargoyle’s back, pinning it flat to the ground. “Taking these!” he said, raising his arms up crossed in front of him. Two triangles appeared, one in front of either hand, and both began spinning like buzz saws. “Delta Edge!” The arms came down, triangles whizzing, and sliced clean through both wings a few inches from the stone back. The wings fell to the ground, stone feathers crumbling.
The fact that this elicited little to no reaction from the gargoyle compared to the scream from earlier pricked something in Zags’ brain. Not that he had much time to focus on it, as he was rather roughly batted away by a stone arm as the possessed statue began to get back to its feet. Fortunately, the staff took most of the blow, it went flying off while Zags went another but on a shorter and rather lighter flight path. He skidded to the ground, rolling a few times before recovering.
Scrambling upright, Zags looked around for the gargoyle, which you’d think would be pretty easy to spot, considering it was about eight feet tall and made of stone. But a crowd had started to gather, not to mention they had crashed into the middle of an intersection, so stopped cars were all around, honking noisily at him to get out of the way, in true New York fashion. And all this despite the fact it was past midnight. Zags sighed. “And it couldn’t have been any other place except for the city that never sleeps?”
A loud screeching reached his ears through the noise, and whirling around toward the source of the noise, he spotted his opponent making its way through traffic, causing cars to slam on the brakes and swerve out of the way. It did little to improve New York’s traffic condition, needles to say. “Geez… you don’t have to make a mess of it… so much for keeping a low profile,” Zags muttered, getting into a runner’s crouch, snapping his goggles down onto his eyes. A flash of light appeared through his clothes on his back, the symbol “Σ”, the Greek letter Sigma, showing in the middle of the flame tattoo this time, before the light faded and Zags’ clothes once again hid the location of the white design.
“On your mark…” Zags didn’t even wait to give himself “Get set, go”. He took off instantly at an amazing speed, faster than any car was going on the street, heading straight after the gargoyle up Fifth Ave. Weaving around vehicles, and even vaulting over others, Zags was making great headway, catching up even with the gargoyle dashing along at a speed that belied its physical makeup. Most of the drivers didn’t even realize how close they were to running into the hero, and kept driving as if nothing had happened, though a few were reactive enough to slam on the brakes for a second. Not that it made any difference to Zags, to him the cars might as well have been standing still. The wind whistled around the edges of Zags’ eye protection, the purpose of which was clear here. If he didn’t wear them, his eyes would be watering from the force of the air at the speed he was going.
With one final burst of speed, Zags stepped up onto the roof of a taxi and leaped for the gargoyle, wrapping his arms around its neck in a headlock. “Hey, where do you think you’re going in such a hurry?” he said, gritting his teeth as he hung on while the gargoyle tried to throw him off in a reflex. The fact that there were the two nubs where he had sliced off the wings as well as ridges along the gargoyle’s spine didn’t make this the most comfortable situation. Though soon it became apparent that this was doing nothing to slow the stone mammoth down, as it kept charging through traffic.
Man, I’ve gotta stop this thing, Zags thought, neatly ducking a stone arm as it wheeled back over his head. But Sigma doesn’t have the power to take it down, and I still need the speed in order to stay ahead of its attacks. This point was proved by Zags having to quickly bend his body to avoid getting smashed by the gargoyle’s fist which hit its own body instead. Zags let go, jumping off and skidding onto the sidewalk, watching the gargoyle advance further down the street. Nothing for it, it’ll cut my abilities by half, but I have to use a combo here.
Diving once more into the flow of traffic, Zags tracked the gargoyle from a short distance behind, looking for an opportunity. It came a few blocks later, as they crossed through an intersection. Only with Sigma’s enhanced speed and reflexes could Zags have spotted his attack path and reacted quick enough to take it. Dodging past the cab of an oncoming tractor trailer, he ran up the side of the trailer, jumped off, grabbed the overhanging street sign, swung around it once and let go, propelling himself feet first straight toward his target like a missile.
It was during the swing that he activated his combo. The light from Sigma on his back shown through again, but then faded slightly, as a new light joined it on his chest. The flame pattern spread across his neckline, the tongue of it pointing downward with the symbol “Ω”, the Greek letter Omega, blazing in the middle of it. Both lights faded to hide under his clothing again as he sped through the air, finally impacting into the gargoyle’s side, sending the two of them flying off the street and into Central Park.
Zags shoved off the flying stone body, flipping once in the air and skidding along the ground for a few feet. The gargoyle meanwhile flew for a few more seconds, coming to a halt, courtesy of a tree which splintered for its trouble. “OK buddy,” Zags said, taking off his goggles and getting in another set position as the gargoyle emerged from the wooden wreckage. “Enough running around. Let’s finish this up.” The gargoyle seemed to silently acknowledge this, getting in a fighting stance as well, though Zags noticed it looked rather clumsy doing so. There was a moment’s pause, and then, as if the two had heard some silent signal, they charged at each other.
Zags was pushing everything he could get out of his restricted use of Sigma, with the result that he was able to stay well ahead of the gargoyle’s movements. He scored the first hit easily, a jumping spin kick to the side of the face. Omega’s force added to the damage, cracking the stone features and sending the heavy body down to the ground easily. Zags didn’t stop there though; he landed, swung around, and flipped forward, bringing his leg down like an axe onto the stone body’s mid-section. More cracks shot across the gray surface, and the force of the blow left a deep imprint of the gargoyle’s frame in the ground.
Zags stayed put for a moment, his leg still across the gargoyle’s body, and breathing heavily. Pushing to get the maximum speed out of Sigma, even when he was using it on its own, took a lot out of him. And usually he was only doing that for split-second intervals. In this situation, he was attempting to maintain maximum speed at all times, so it ended up being a lot more draining. The gargoyle, however, being a non-living object, apparently didn’t feel the same effects. Zags found his leg suddenly gripped in stone claws and whipped through the air, the rest of his body following suit. Zags’ vision was all a dark blur as he felt his leg released, and a short interval afterwards, his face impacted into the ground.
Head still spinning, and now a sore, bruised up face to go along with it, Zags attempted to get back up and into the fight. But his opponent was relentless now, eager to not let Zags get a chance at a blow like he had before. The hero found himself grabbed by the arm and flipped over, his back being the part to impact with the ground now, which only added to the number of sore points.
Despite the fact his head was still unfogging, Zags could tell enough to quickly roll out of the way to avoid the claws that were about to puncture his ribcage. A quick rollover into a sweep kick followed, but Zags’ movements had slowed sufficiently for his opponent to see the attack coming and jump it. What it didn’t see coming was a second pass for the sweep kick, though at a higher level, with one of Zags’ legs sticking out upward into the air to catch the stone creature as it jumped. It was enough to catch it off guard, cracking the stone legs were it hit and knocking the gargoyle on its side into the dirt. Zags took the opportunity not for a further attack, but to roll out of range and allow himself to recover.
But he had only just gotten back into a standing position when the stone form rose from the ground like some predator out for blood and charged, coming on top of him in a few moments. Zags drove his fist forward to meet the gargoyle in its gut, but it wasn’t to be denied this time. Its own arm shot forward, gripping Zags around the throat, and carrying him off his feet as the stone juggernaut continued its mad charge through the trees. With stray branches whipping his body and even managing to snag and pull his headband off his head, Zags unleashed a furious assault on the stone guardian’s midsection, fists pumping away as fast and as hard as they could with whatever he could get out of Sigma’s enhancement. But all they did was chip and crack away the stone; his fatigue and injuries were draining his concentration and consequently his power.
The charge finally stopped as Zags’ back impacted with something once again, only this time it was the rough bark of a tree trunk. The stone claw pinned him to the tree by his neck, not trying to suffocate him, but just keeping him there. The free arm came up, moonlight glinting dully off the sharpened stone, and then it shot forward, plunging towards Zags’ face to end it all.
On a mad instinct, or just perhaps because the situation seemed so similar, Zags suddenly cried out in a slightly hoarse voice, “Psi Remote!” His forehead was completely bare, no sign of any flame mark in sight. All it was was a random shout on the spur of the moment. And yet, the gargoyle visibly flinched, the claw stopping on a dime about a foot from Zags’ nose. It was all the chance Zags’ needed.
The light engulfed his chest, the symbol “Ω” shining bright and clear as Zags swung his left arm down onto the stone limb that was pinning him, completely shattering it into stone fragments. He dropped to the ground, crouched for a split-second as a white engulfed both his feet and his right fist. “OMEGA AERIAL!!” An explosion of dirt and flame ensued as Zags was propelled upward, fist first, straight into the gargoyle’s chest, lifting the entire body a clear fifty feet into the sky along with him. Zags’ journey stopped there, but the gargoyle’s didn’t, the added sudden propulsion from Zags’ fist sending it flying another several hundred feet straight up, its chest shattering as well, revealing a small cavity, in which a glowing blue light was seated.
Zags dropped the ground, turning to face the sky where the gargoyle was now slowing its ascent and beginning to fall earthward, a white light appearing on Zags’ right palm, the symbol “Δ” in clear evidence. He stretched his open hand outward to the gargoyle, and four triangles formed around it, one below and three positioned at various points around it, suddenly coming together to trap the stone creature in a triangular prism. “…Delta Core.” Zags’ outstretched hand closed and the prism contracted inward suddenly with great speed, crushing the gargoyle in on itself, and then exploding outward, losing its form amongst a fireworks display of stone fragments and white flame energy.
Zags fell back on to the ground, breathing heavily, though his hand still seemed occupied with something. A small prism came floating down out of the dispersing stone dust and flames, within it was contained a blue glowing orb. “You seem awfully relaxed,” came the voice from the orb. It still seemed to retain its emotionless tone, though there was a slight difference to it from before…
Zags didn’t even bother responding, waving his other hand off at the orb, as if to say “Oh shut up”. The prism drifted down and hovered just above Zags, slowly rotating in the air. “You beat me. Our business is finished,” the orb spoke again.
“Uh-uh,” Zags finally managed to get out, wriggling backwards a bit to prop his back against a tree. “You might be down with me, but I’m not done with you.” He took a moment to catch his breath a bit more before continuing. “Before we started you said you wanted to fight me to prove that having no emotions was better than having them, right?”
“Correct. And you beat me, so I was mistaken.”
Zags shook his head. “Nope, it wasn’t a fair test, at least not to prove the point you said you wanted to.”
“…I don’t understand.”
Zags sighed, looking up to the sky for a moment. “Man, I have to explain everything? Alright here, that move I used, Psi Remote--” Zags stopped for a moment as the orb seemed to pulsate very quickly when he mentioned the name, as if it were shuddering. “Yea, see, exactly. You were scared of it.”
“…I don’t understand.”
“Yea right. I wouldn’t have beaten you if you hadn’t been scared of it. I called the move as a bluff and you hesitated, giving me an opening. And even before that, after the first I used it, you were running from it.” There was a few moments of silence. Apparently Zags was looking for some sort of reaction. When he didn’t get it, he prodded further. “So for someone who actually has emotions, why do you bash them so hard?” He crossed his arms behind his head, leaning back against the tree more. “Don’t get me wrong, emotions can be kind of a pain sometimes. But it’s just like most everything in life; you gotta take the good along with the bad. Nobody every said things were gonna be perfect, but nobody ever said they were gonna be completely sucky either.”
The orb remained silent for a few more moments. The prism around it dissolved suddenly, but it didn’t make any move to flee. “I… understand…” it answered slowly. Zags noted that, for the first time, there seemed to be some emotion creeping into the voice. And along with that, its tone had changed slightly so that now it could be recognized as distinctly… female.
Zags nodded, smiling a bit. “Well that’s good. Now if you don’t mind my asking, there’s one other thing that I’m curious about with you. Well, actually two.”
“…Alright…” The tone seemed to say that it wasn’t quite sure how to respond, at least with what emotion to put into the voice anyway.
“Psi Remote,” Zags said, suddenly looking oddly serious. “And no, I’m not going to use that on you again,” he assured the orb, as it pulsed again, pulling away slightly. “But it does come back to that. Psi Remote is a move that extracts my spirit from a particular point in my body, and then inserts it into the same point on the target’s body, temporarily overwriting their spirit with mine, giving me control of that point. Now generally, the move has no lasting effect on the target; they can take back over and regenerate the part that was overwritten just fine so long as the rest of the spirit is intact. But you...” He eyed the orb closely. “That move wouldn’t inflict any pain to a normal person. Even to a disembodied spirit like you, the pain would be minor, though considerably more than someone who has more levels of existence than a spirit. So why did you react the way you did? It seemed like I might been trying to forcibly tear your arm off from the way you reacted.” He recalled the ear piercing scream that had issued from the gargoyle the moment he had activated the Psi Remote. After a moment of further silence, he spoke again. “And don’t worry about the whole emotion thing, I won’t hold it against you if you start to show them now.”
That seemed to be enough for the orb as it started speaking soon afterward, and sounding more and more like a normal voice as it continued. “The sensation… was similar to something I had experienced before… though substantially less painful, yes… but the memories it brought up…” The orb fell silent again, quietly pulsating.
Zags leaned forward, placing his hands on his knees, frowning. “What happened…?”
There was some more silence as the orb pulsated irregularly, as if trying to get a hold of itself, but Zags waited patiently. Eventually it answered, with long pauses between the phrases, with Zags saying nothing in between. “…My body… my soul… and my spirit… were all ripped apart from each other… I don’t know what happened to either of the other parts… only that my spirit is as I am now… I know I ended up in that situation… because of emotion… because of… love… So in the hundreds of years since that time… I decided that emotions did more harm than good… and trained myself to be rid of them… but now…”
“…It seems like you weren’t all that rid of them after all,” Zags finished after its last sentence had dissolved into a particularly long pause. Zags himself was silent for a moment, contemplating whether or not he should ask what he was thinking. Eventually though, he did. “…Do you have a name?”
The orb seemed to freeze in time for a moment, stopping pulsating entirely, as though it suddenly caught its breath, if it had had breath. “…Aléstra,” it answered quietly.
“Aléstra…” Zags repeated. “Why were you so interested in me in particular…?” He had a an idea of the answer, considering what she had told him so far, but he wanted to hear it from her.
“You… I’ve been looking for someone… for him…” she corrected herself with some difficulty. “And you… your name at least… reminded me of his… his real name though… not the name I knew him by…” Her voice trailed off again, though Zags could sense a bit of bitterness in her tone.
“...So our entire meeting has been based upon emotion right from the start,” he said, his attitude suddenly changing back to that of the regular Zags, as he leaned back against the tree trunk once more. “Ironic, huh?”
“So you gonna keep looking for him now? This mystery guy?”
“I’ll help you out if you want,” Zags said grinning. “I am a hero after all.”
Aléstra seemed hesitant. “But I… even after all this…?”
Zags waved a hand. “Eh, in the past. I’m a very forgiving guy, you know.”
The orb pulsed again, though in a softer way now. “You are… not very much like him after all,” Aléstra said, her tone carrying an amused note to it.
“Well I wouldn’t want you to end up getting attached to me instead,” Zags said, grinning. “I mean, no offense to you or anything, but I don’t think a floating ball of light makes the greatest girlfriend.” He went to stand up and promptly fell back against the tree again, holding his back. “Ah, pain pain pain.”
“I don’t think you’re in much state to help me at the moment anyway,” Aléstra said, her amused tone still evident, though slightly more pronounced now. “Some hero you are, injured when you’re needed.”
“Hey,” Zags said, smirking. “I think I liked you better as the emotionless jerk.” He slumped back down to the ground, sighing. “Tell ya what, I’ll rest up; you go ahead and get back to your search, I’ll catch up later.”
“Are you sure? How will you find me?”
Zags tapped his forehead with the back of two of his fingers. “Don’t worry, I will.”
“Alright,” Aléstra answered, pulsing again to show she was laughing. She paused a moment. “…And thank you.”
“No prob really,” Zags responded, grinning. “All in a day’s work for a hero. …Or night’s.” Aléstra pulsed again in acknowledgement and zoomed away from the trees, gaining altitude fast. “I think your boyfriend would like you a lot better with emotions anyway!” Zags called after her.
“Ah man…” Zags sighed, slumping back against the tree as Aléstra disappeared amongst the stars. “What time is it anyway? Ah who cares… I’m tired and sore as hell…” He leaned back, closing his eyes. That girl… must’ve been a rough time for her… wonder what the details of the story are… and who this guy she’s looking for is… first things first though… rest…
And so, the moonlight shined across the park, several craters in the dirt, a couple splintered trees, traffic tied up for blocks down the street due to spun out cars and several collisions, and above all that, one building was very pointedly missing a gargoyle. But the hero was oblivious to all that, asleep in the middle of the city that never sleeps.