This terrain is unusual indeed. It consists of two small, circular discs that hover, motionless, in midair above a sea of raging flames. These discs are no more than half a meter in diameter, and are separated by a mere half meter of space; combat here is fast and furious, with nowhere for either fighter to run.
Even more unusual than this, however, is the fact that the otherwise immobile discs are programmed to alter themselves based on the health of the Angels standing on them; the current leader will find that his own disc rests half a meter lower than that of his opponent, and also conducts heat from the inferno below much better. This leads to constant, searing pain on the feet, or a lot of wasted energy spent playing Hot Potato with one's entire body to avoid prolonged contact with the disc against any body part.
People swarm into the center, trying to grab some last minute seats before the games begin. This is one of the biggest events around and more people were looking forward to it then just the players. People from all over had come here to watch or participate so the dome was packed with people of all ages. The lights start do dim and the spotlights flash on, swirling seemingly without pattern around the arena floor as the crowd falls silent in anticipation. Finally the chair holding the announcer, a rather average young man with spiky blind hair and a maroon suit, swings down over the field. This appears to be the key the people are waiting for to start going wild, the excitement can be felt even out in the lobby as everyone gets ready for the second round of matches to start.
"Welcome everyone to the second round of the two thousand and six Kanto Qualifiers. Now without further ado let's welcome the contestants for the first match." The lights snap to the door to the waiting room as the announcer exaggeratedly extends his hand towards the door. "First up, in the West Corner, A new comer to this particular tournament, Higashiyama Seishiro. His angel is elegant and skilled in the blade, a warrior with the grace of an crane, Jou."
Round two. Seishiro didn't do quite so well as he would have liked in the first round, but he refuses to be disheartened. No, he will continue enjoying himself, even if he loses every match. He never wins all that much anyway, but it's still fun to duel. Besides, he's still giving the audience a good show. That is, as long as he doesn't have another loss like he suffered against Tomoe and Chimera.
Taking a deep breath, he steps out of the waiting room as the announcer calls his name and strides confidently towards his seat, smiling and waving at the crowd above. He's not here to win, he's here to share something he enjoys with all these people that enjoy it too. Taking his place in one of the Deus chairs, he watches expectantly for his opponent, clutching Jou to his chest to hide the shaking of his hands. He's not nervous this time, jsut excited.
Kukai waits just beyond the visage of the crowd and the lights as he watches his opponent head out to the arena floor and to their seat. He patiently stands idly by as he waits for his introduction before heading out to his seat. He looks down at his angel in his hands and then ... at that moment he has an epiphany it seems as his expression lights up with what would seem like he just had an idea of sorts. He then says to himself and his angel,"That first match wasn't ours Reskai, no worries though, you still have a chance to unleash hell on your upcoming opponents. Just do what you do best, don't worry about anything else." The young man sighs and lifts his head, looking out toward the layer in the center of the floor, from his position it can seem a bit daunting and intimidating to anyone as the anticipation has for this tournament has been building for months to say the least.
The lights which had followed Shiro across the floor now zoomed back to the doorway, leaving him in semi-dark for the moment. "In the east corner," the announcer continues after Shiro takes his seat, "another first time competitor to the Kanto Qualifiers. A deus who has proven to be both a competent angel designer and powerful fighter, Morimoto Kukai. His angel is even more vicious in combat then the deus with a hunger to match his size, Reskai." Much like they had with Shiro, the lights follow Kukai as he moves over to take his seat, but once he's seated they'll zoom over to the layer as it flies through a random assortment of scenery. Finally it comes to a halt on a scenery which is little more then two floating discs on which the angels stand and battle. Two of the spotlights snap out to cover the deus as the announcer says one more important thing before his chair takes to the background. "Fallin the angels." And that signals the start of round two.
Seishiro watches his opponent take his seat, and even offers a little wave once Kukai's settled. Then he puts on his visor as the chairs raise up and gets ready to duel. This should be plenty of fun. "Ready, Jou?" he mutters to the Angel in his hands.
The scenery that comes up, though, makes him pause and his grin slips for a moment in surprise. That's going to make things more of a challenge. But challenge is good, it encourages improvement. And this stage will certainly be harder on a speed Angel than it will on Jou. His grin quickly returning, Shiro holds the warrior aloft.
"Honor guide thy sword," he intones, loud and proud as always, "and thy spirit be indominable! JOU!" As the Angel's name is announced, the lovely Deus casts him towards the Layer with a practiced flick of the wrist. His aim has to be much better this time than in previous duels. Fortunately, his aim is true, and Jou tumbles through the air towards one of the discs. Twisting around, he manages to get his feet under him and lands solidly in the middle of the disc. Once he's sure his footing is stable, he holds up his sword for the ribbon to unfurl before tucking it back through his belt, and assumes his typical low stance. This should be interesting.
Kukai moves across the arena floor toward the layer and to his designated seat as he steps infront of his seat, his custom visor already setting on the layer pre-match preparation as he reaches down to pick up what he likes to call the 'Viper Visor' and lifts it to put it on over his head. He then extends both arms, that huge snake-like angel held over the layer and then dropped, it hits the barrier and plummets down to land on one of the discs, it tips the scale just slightly for a moment before they readjust. Kukai says as he drops his angel on the layer, some of his words directed toward his opponent,"Prepare to meet your maker, kid. Behold, the demonic destroyer has been summoned! No mercy, no remorse, no way out .. your angel shall be devoured... Fallin Reskai!"
That monstrous angel has come to life once more, it looks around at it's surroundings and then it hisses as it turns it's attention toward the announcer, snapping that pincer at the announcer menacingly and then it turns his attention to the other Deus, it coils that tail around the disc it's on to keep it from hanging off. The unusual demonic angel makes sort of a vertical grin on that oddly shaped head, it's maw strangely is not horizontal like a normal mouth but rather it stretches up and down, assumingly sort of alien-like.
Kukai then plops down into the chair and like an evil mastermind, he sits back and rests his chin in his hand and his elbow on the side of the chair in a contemplative pose. "Sadly, your going to regret coming to this tournament kid. Because here is where it will all end for you.".
Before the announcer can even declare the match to begin, the monstrous angel on the layer strikes out at his opponent fiercely, unravelling and swinging that massive tail out at Jou aggressively, hissing and squeeling, making that high-pitched sound. Reskai is definately not the type of angel to wait, and since it's rebelious nature toward it's Deus it does what it wants freely, it doesn't care if it's a tournament or not, it just wants to unleash havoc on it's opponent.
The other Deus' threatening words don't intimidate Seishiro, who, having performed his fallin, has taken up his smile once more. "Your confidence and enthusiasm are commendable," he calls across the Layer to his opponent. It's an honest opinion, too. To him, Kukai doesn't sound mean, he's just really into the game. "I expect a good fight, and good luck to us both!"
But the premature assault wipes the smile from his face in favor of surprise. He just barely manages to react, sending the mental command for Jou to draw his sword. Tail clashes against steel and drives the warrior back, the heel of his hindmost foot drawing perilouly near to the edge of his disk, but he keeps both feet firmly planted. Maybe Kukai isn't just enjoying the game afterall. "That wasn't nice, Morimoto-san," he calls, frowning. Is that even legal? Shouldn't there be some sort of penalty for taking such action? "Have you no sense of sportsmanship?"
Well the announcer was right about to signal the start of the match, but the slippery serpent's sneaky sweeping strike sorta made that useless to say anymore. So instead the announcer flips about what he was about to say, holding the microphone so close to his mouth it would be a simple feat to take a bite out of it. "It seems that Reskai has a mind of it's own, trying to take out Jou even before the match starts." Apparently having received no word for the fight to stop, they aren't going to do anything about it.
The crowd is displeased by the angel's actions at first, but they turn quickly enough as the action rapidly begins, it's a show after all, people love a good show.. it's the honorable samurai verse the evil demonic monster. Booo! No fair!! FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT! Perhaps some more of the fans routing on Seishiro and Jou now, to take down that nasty evil monster of an angel and their Deus.
Kukai scoffs at Seishiro's comments and shakes his head. "Hey, don't look at me. Reskai does what he wants, I merely sit here and offer suggestions. Perhaps now, you'll take us a little more seriously, eh? It might be just a game, but it's the game of a lifetime."
"Come on, show us what you got kid. Reskai is ready, give him your best shot." Kukai states, his angel on the layer kind of standing there, giving Jou a menacing look, but then it makes that same expression as before, it's like it's grinning at the other angel.. almost mockingly as it snaps that pincer, trying to seem imposing to the smaller angel. The aspiring angel designer shrugs his shoulders helplessly and smirks evilly at his opponent, and then he calls out seeing as how the announcer didn't,"Anngggggeellllliicccc fight!"
Still frowning uncharacteristically, Seishiro leans back in his seat and focuses on the Layer below. Kukai wasn't following that rules, and that upset him. The rules are there to make sure everything is fair so everyone can enjoy it. But it's not his place to decide what his opponent can and can't do, and those whose decision it is haven't said anything about it, so he might as well just go with it.
"You'll regret that," he mutters, steeling himself, all expression vanishing from his face. Jou replaces his sword in the saya, re-centers himself on the disk, and takes up his stance once more. Reskai isn't forgiven, but the samurai won't be goaded into countering unprepared. He'd be foolish to do so. But the great snake has given away a lot with that one strike, and from this the pair can begin to form their strategy.
Kukai didn't show any concern, though he was definitely thinking otherwise. Even he didn't expect his angel to begin the match so quickly, or at least he was hoping it wouldn't, but after that first loss in the first round it's obvious that his angel is anxious to put a hurting on it's foe, and that just happened to be Seishiro and Jou. He really has no control over what his angel does, he merely only makes suggestions to it.
However the lack of a counterstrike by the opponent doesn't phase either Deus or angel, infact, Reskai presses the attack now as it seems his opponent is prepared, the monstrosity takes it's fist and like a hammer it raises it's above it's head and swings it down at Jou, trying to pound the angel, it's tail wrapping around it's own disc to secure it's position and safety.
From here on, Seishiro can't complain, since the match has officially started. The timer is counting down and everything. He already has a slight dislike for Kukai, but he'll no doubt overcome that at some point. Reskai's next attack is relatively easy to block. Jou brings up sword and saya together and blocks the downstrike, his platform bobbing slightly with the impact. Keeping the saya raised in attempt to occupy the hand that struck the blow, he draws the nodachi and makes a fast swipe at the "snake's" side. It's not a very strong blow, but it's fast and should be hard to evade. It'll serve as a decent gage of Reskai's speed.
Reskai doesn't let up on it's relentless attack, taking the sword strike from Jou and it let's out a high-pitched, hideous squeal as it's struck, but it doesn't budge from that disc. As the match goes the discs begun to move, dropping each side with each hit, first Reskai's then Jou's, both getting just that much closer to the bottom, their discs are even for the moment at least as they exchange hits. The monstrous snake then uncoils that tail from the disc and spins, lashing out with that massive tail again like swinging a huge baseball bat, trying to knock the samurai off it's own disc aggressively.
As the fearsome tail whips towards him, Jou withdraws his sword and slides it back into the saya as he uses it to block once again. The blow is a little lighter this time, and the samurai stubbornly refuses to let himself be moved. The enamel on his saya cracks, though, and a few flakes fall away. That'll have to be redone later. Least of Seishiro's concerns at the moment, though.
This time the saya is put back through his belt, and the sword is gripped in both hands. The samurai takes a lunging step to the edge of his platform and makes a powerful thrust at Reskai's chest. Another Angel might suffer on this disk, so separated from its opponent, but Jou's nodachi gives him ample range to work with. It actually suits him quite well.
Just as Jou attempts to strike the monstrous snake's disc drops as the minutes tick by and the rounds decrease yet again, unfortunately for Jou as the snake tilts his head back to simply avoid the possibly devastating blow.. all the mean while, the crowd going with the motions as well, 'ohhh, oooo, ahhh, eeee!'... Let's go Seishiro!
Meanwhile, the monstrous snake is a bit distracted as it starts to feel that heat coming from the bottom of the layer, it's disc getting warmer and warmer. It pretty much distracts the snake for a moment, hissing and squeeking. Kukai simply scoffs and shakes his head,"Stop messing around, Reskai, hurry up and beat them." Finally, the demon angel turns it's attention back to it's opponent.
Jou, on the other hand, has no such problem dealing with the heat. His mind is tempered against pain, against fatigue. Or would be if he were capable of such. He withdraws quickly, sweeping his sword around into a vertical block to intercept whatever attack the beast counters with. But nothing happens, save for the ribbon tethered to the pommel of his sword fluttering madly in the wind stirred up by the heat, the end singed. It would seem his foe is momentarily distracted. A foolish mistake.
"You should keep your beast's attention on the duel," Seishiro calls across to his opponent, his face still unreadable, "or you might regret the results." As he says this, the sword sweeps around again. Jou aims a low slash at Reskai's legs as the platforms begin to level out again, the fire below having done enough damage to tip the scales. Let's put the snake back down again, shall we?
Kukai glances across the layer at his opponent, peering through that visor calculatingly. "Don't underestimate Reskai, kid, or you'll /regret/ it", he simply states. "He might seem lik a mindless fighting machine, but he's much much more than that. He's state of the art mechanics, I've put alot of work into him, sure he might be impolite or rude, but I didn't build him to have a cup of tea with his opponents, I built him to be the best, you'll see." And to Kukai that is no joke. He isn't going to sit idly by while this kid tries to under appreciate his lifetime's work... although it isn't necessary, or maybe it is, only Kukai knows but the Deus verbally gives his angel a command,"Devour him, Reskai. Swallow that angel whole. You think we were being unfair before? I'll show you, Reskai is a force yet to be unleashed my foolish little friend. Now your going to see his full wrath. Now your truly going to bare witness to your angel's demise."
And at that remark, for once, a truly rare moment occurs where Reskai actually acts on it's Deus's behalf and that maw begins to open horizontally, very unusual.. but that mouth of his begins to expand and open to a simply stunning and amazing width, showing that it is capable of swallowing the smaller angel in it's entirety.. But then it's mouth snaps shut as Jou takes another strike at it, at it's lower extremities, it easily avoids it however by leaping off it's scale and then the scales begin to tip now, Jou's scale starting to fall as Reskai is longer on his own, the snake lunging forth at the samurai and again that mouth opening, this time it springs open, almost in a parachute like fashion as it dives down to Jou, looking to do as it's Deus instructed... not because it must, but because it wants to...which might be a little deceptive at this point.
Seishiro's expression remains even and calm through Kukai's monologue, but as it goes on his eyes darken and take on a new intensity, hidden by the visor. "That's wrong," he says quite succinctly, his tone flat. "Being the strongest doesn't make you the best. It's not about winning, or destroying your opponents, or having fame and glory." His voice slowly picks up intensity to match his eyes as he speaks, until he's practically shouting at the person seated across from him. "Angelic Layer is about having fun! It's about friends coming together to express themselves! Because that's what we are. We're all friends, bound by a common interest. Even the people you don't know, they're your friends too. This isn't a /battle/, we aren't enemies!"
The great beast bears down on Jou from above, and there's not much he can do about it. Holding up the sword, he attempts to block the great maw from enveloping him entirely, bracing the blade against his palm. Unfortunately, the impact is still enough to do some damage, and the fangs still sink into his hands. He shoves Reskai aside before it crushes him entirely and dives across to the now vacated platform, leaving the beast alone once again. He whirls to face it lest he be struck from behind, but doesn't have the balance to make a return strike just yet. Seishiro isn't done with his verbal assault, though. "Reskai may be the strongest, he's probably stronger than Jou. But if you keep playing this way, you'll fall! And then your Angel won't be the only thing that gets broken. You're going to keep building yourself up, raising yourself higher and higher, and when someone brings you down again it'll ruin you. They might not mean for it to happen, but it will. And no one..." The boy pauses, and when he speaks again his tone is much softer, almost sad, but he has to keep up his volume to be heard. "No one deserves to be hurt like that. Not you, not anybody."
Kukai scowls and pushes out of his seat now, standing to his feet, the crowd is only getting louder and louder with each moment, they are definately putting on a show to say the least, as far as the fans are concerned. "If your afraid of failing to succeed then you'll never reach your dreams, Seishiro... That's why we do what we do, that's why we're here. Because we have a dream! Our dream is to become a world renowned angel designer! And in order to do that we must prove to the world that our angel is the best, by winning this match here today in this tournament, we shall come one step closer to realizing our dream come true!" The mechanic extends his hand, pointing a finger at Seishiro as he gives his short speech, then he moves his hand to point at the boy's angel Jou and calls out,"Go Reskai! Don't let him get away! End this here and now!"
On the layer, the monstrous angel seems now, to be acting at it's Deus's whim but that's only because it's Deus has the same intention as itself, to defeat their opponent no matter what. As the tension builds so does the action. That demonic snake doesn't give the samurai a moment's rest as he escapes to the other disc now, putting Reskai that much closer to the bottom, it reaches up to smash it's fist against the disc and then it starts to rock it, trying to knock the samurai off of it, he actually shoves the disc, sending it swinging away and then back again, it raises that pincer up and closes those three claws tightly together, lining up it's next attack as the disc and samurai come swinging back in closer to them, aiming to impale the samurai or knock it off the disc if it can.
"No!" cries Seishiro angrily, rising to his feet to match Kukai. Clenched into fists at his sides, his hands tremble slightly. "Stepping on other people's feelings and hopes? Is that how you intend to reach your dream? By possibly denying someone else theirs? Is that the kind of person you are, Morimoto-kun? Do you think that the Angelic Layer company, whose goal is to bring joy to people, would want such a person working for them? I certainly don't."
Jou holds his ground as the great beast below him shakes the platform, his low stance giving him excellent purchase, his training having granted him nearly perfect balance. Well, Seishiro's training, anyway. The swing almost uproots him, but more for inertia than anything else, and once his momentum catches up with that of the disk, it becomes a matter of balance again. When the disk swings back, the beast's drill-punch comes in hard and fast, the combined force of the swing and the strike should be enough to send the samurai halfway across the Layer, nevermind off the disk. But he simly raises his swod before him and closes his eyes. With such raw emotion flowing through his Deus, some of that translates into energy in the Angel. Just as the blow is about to catch him square in the chest, there's a barely-visible shockwave that goes out from him, stopping both the pincer and the platform where they are. Taking advantage of this brief opening, the warrior slashes his sword down at the stationary claw. If he can't take it off completely, at least he can maybe score a few more points and make the beast think twice before coming at him again.
Reskai is a little surprised and so is Kukai as the action just suddenly stops all together, but the opening that the samurai thought he had was quickly closed as Reskai's pincer twitches and then suddenly as that sword comes down at it his tri-clawed pincer shifts to the side, deflecting the sword away and then swinging a backwards forearm at the samurai to try and knock them off balance again, still trying to knock them from the disc.
Seishiro doesn't sit back down just yet. He may not be done. Maybe not until they've both left the Layer. He has some very strong beliefs, and Kukai has dared to challenge them. That won't be ignored, nor easily forgotten. The backhand strike from Reskai is easily cast aside, though, as Jou blocks it with his blade and deflects most of the force away from himself. He and his Deus are of like mind at the moment, both of them waiting, but for different reasons. Seishiro waits to hear what Kukai has to say for himself, and Jou waits for a chance to make a strike that will actually count for something. This is a most formidable foe, and he's been worn down far faster than usual.
Kukai had focused on the match at hand for a moment, still emotionally stirred by this kid's words as he contemplates how to respond, he then simply states, though the roar of the crowd makes it very difficult to hear what the Deus says in response, it might just mostly seem like his lips moving and nothing coming out to Seishiro, but he says,"If that's what we must do then so be it." He sighs and lifts his head now, looking at Seishiro and then yells across the layer to them so they can hear him better,"If we don't live for our dreams then what's the point of life? It's meaningless if you don't pursuit your own happiness. I can't worry myself over who I have to step over to reach my dreams, otherwise I'd never reach them!"
Reskai avoids the attack yet again and his disc drops down a little more, the monstrous snake squeels angrily and then suddenly turns it's body, whipping that tail out again, just like he did at the beginning of the match but his opponent is fully aware of the attack as he utilizes his insane speed to lash out at the samurai, either to hit him or hit his disc, either way he's looking to put this match to an end and it doesn't matter how it's done at this point.
"I feel sorry for you, Morimoto-san," Seishiro says earnestly, sitting down again. That's all there is to it. He's obviously not going to change this person's mind, so there's no point in trying any further. There's still a chance that he can prevail on the Layer, though.
But not much of one. The tail strikes Jou full in the side with rib-cracking force and pitches the warrior sideways. Curiously, no points are deducted from his lifebar, and to those that are paying careful attention he appears to glow faintly for a moment. He goes off the side of the disk, though, and there's not much to be done for that. Except that he grabs onto the edge of it with one hand, the other still gripping the hilt of his sword. This isn't over yet, and he intends to see it through to the very end. One of them is going to go down hard, and he doesn't intend to let it be him.
With a little effort he manages to swing himself back up onto the platform, and immediately launches himself back off of it towards Reskai, his sword aimed this time at the beast's neck. If this doesn't kill, it can at least cripple. Unless, of course, it's dodged entirely, which is likely. But dammit, he has to try.
Kukai is staring at Seishiro, he isn't even looking at the layer anymore. "You might think that is a bad thing, kid, but you don't realize that can't worry about the world's happiness until you yourself are happy. If you aren't happy, then how can you bring happiness to others? How?! You can't! And that's why I must win now! So that I can achieve my dreams in pursuit of my own happiness, but don't worry.. I'm not as heartless as your thinking... once I've reached my dreams, then I can help others with their's. But right now, your an obstacle in my way, I'm sorry if I must crush your dreams this day."
Kukai's head drops, his gaze falling upon the two angels on the layer once more as Jou lunges forth desperately to turn the tide of this match in their favor, but unfortunately for Seishiro and Jou, they've underestimated the potential of the monstrous angel and this Deus. Right as Jou jumps up onto the disc again it suddenly turns and is flipped over, Reskai's tail had wrapped around the disc and with a simple pull of it's tail it was able to twist and send the disc spinning it vertically, making it impossible for Jou to balance on it, but the samurai manages to leap off just in the knick of time, as he sticks that sword out infront of him aiming to impale Reskai, but in an instant that pincer is lifted and those tri-claws springing open again as he easily catches the samurai right before he can manage to hit him. Reskai hisses and squeels, but ... he does nothing else but just hold the smaller angel in it's grasp for the moment. Reskai then looks up to Kukai and the mechanic simply shakes his head, then the monstrous angel lifts the samurai up over it's head as though it's going to throw it.. but where? Into the fiery pit below? Off the layer? ... Reskai then quickly turns and throws the samurai off the layer and at it's Deus. Well, it could have certainly done worse, but it showed a little respect by taking the higher path.. sort to speak.
Kukai then says,"Game over."
And it's over, just like that. No, Seishiro's dreams won't be crushed by this, they have nothing to do with Angelic Layer. And normally he wouldn't even be upset about losing a match, but to lose to this person...
Jou struggles fiercely for a moment before his energy runs out his attempts become feeble at best. Then he stops moving altogether. It just became too much for him. After which, courtesy of Reskai, he's delivered rather abruptly to Seishiro. The Angel falls just short of its intended target, but the boy manages to lean out and grab him before he can fall to the floor. "I'm sorry," he mutters, cradling Jou protectively. "We'll do better next time."
The buzzer sounds as the barrier is broken, and for a moment afterwards there's only stunned silence from the crowd. It's quickly shattered, however, by the oh-so-familiar voice on the loudspeaker. "Reskai... WIN!!" And the arena bursts into a violent cacophony of applause and jeers. Even after his defeat, there are still a few people cheering for the tiny hero that is Jou, but far more scream out to the winner. "What a match! That was unbelievable, eh folks?!"
The scenery on the Layer fades away, leaving only the blank white surface, and both Deus seats lower to the ground to allow their occupants to exit. Seishiro hops down and stalks over to the other side, right towards Kukai, and sticks his hand out. "Congratulations," he says flatly. Even if he doesn't like him very much, Seishiro is still bound by his own moral code to be a good sportsman.
Kukai was already standing, so he just reached into the layer after he was declared the winner and takes Reskai off the table. He starts to turn away but notices Seishiro approaching him and then he stops and narrows his eyes on the boy. He smiles a little creepily at the boy for a moment before he reaches out and grabs Seishiro's hand and shakes it firmly, he then bows his head. "Thank you. You put up quite a fight, I'll be looking forward to facing you again in the future, kid. But today was my day to shine, unfortunately for you. I wish you the best in trying to make your dreams come true." The mechanic then releases Shiro's hand and turns away, heading for the exit now with his angel.