#1 Posted by Thorn_ (108 posts) - - Show Bio

There was a calm in the air, a calm which no man could truly experience for the fact that his very presence would upset it. It was not a calm formed of silence, but rather a tranquil rhythm to the falling leaves, the flapping of wings, and the cracking of twigs under padded feet. Michael was the exception to the rule of men in the realm of the green. He was entwined with the forest more closely than the roots to the fertile earth.

The woodsman burrowed his back into the pit of a tree, legs hanging lazily on the branch. The tattered green coat that that enveloped him blended him with the pines that surrounded him on all sides. Only the fleeting strands of light strained through the canopy fell upon his hooded face, rough and layered in unkempt hair the color of flecks of gold lost in dirt. Four years. Had it really been that long? It seemed only yesterday he had woken up with blood on his hands, and memories of another living within him that he could not control. It seemed only yesterday he had fled into the wilderness, away from those the other would hurt. But no. It was not yesterday. It had been four years.

They must miss me, he thought, My family, my friends. God, what were their names? I've hardly thought of them for so long, I can't remember what they look like. How long was I on their minds before they gave up and let me fade away? It doesn't matter. He jumped down to the forest floor, the energy of the forest powering his heart with the still, powerful, grace of the wolf. I've been dead for a long time.

Michael stalked the woods, scaling a mound of boulders and lowering his hood, feeling the wind race through his hair as he basked in the mid-morning sun. He sprouted a thorn from his wrist and drove it into a narrow space between the boulders, wedging it deep within the rock. The spike melded flawlessly into the thick, lush vine growing from his wrist. He dove over the edge and crashed into the side of the rock face. He could feel a shard of bone jabbing his side with each breath, but he kept his hold on the vine. The rib slowly mended itself inside his torso and he began letting the vine out, belaying down the side until his feet touched solid ground. The end of the vine slithered from his wrist, the long green rope dangling before him. He could hear something rustling in the brush behind him. He didn't have to turn to know what it was. He had been here too long to surrender to such a simple response and spook his prey. A thorn slowly snaked out of his wrist. He took firm hold of the spike, teeth clenched in anticipation.

In a fluid motion too fast to see, he spun on his heel and cast the thorn with expert precision into the shade of the treeline. There was a thud, a screech, and a stomping of hooves as the tho stabbed into the base of the deer's throat. The deer thrashed, his antlers gouging the dirt and bark as he played out his death throes. Without fear or hesitation, Michael walked up alongside the writhing buck, pine needles cracking with every step. He placed his boot heel on the butt of the thorn and delivered the act of mercy.

Michael carried the buck over his shoulder, sliding down the incline and hopping over brush. The trees fell away, the hillside carved into the shape of a bowl, and at the base of it was his dwelling, his home. The distant trees were bound with vines, all converging in the center to form a web, thatched with bark and mud. Shafts of wood jutted up from the ground to form a wall for the circular house. This was no desolate hut. Between his powers, his skills, and years of refinement, it was the definition of luxury sprouting from the dirt, entwined with the forest itself. He passed through the doorway and dropped the buck down on the dressing table right outside. His bed was along the back wall, a dining table and chairs, lord knows why he made two. Every piece of furniture was ruggedly crafted, whittled smooth by his own hands. He threw his coat up on the hook, which was really a thorn driven into the wall, and sat down on the couch. He felt the fine fur stretched across the seat. His white t-shirt had turned grey, holes worn through at the shoulder, chest, and back. His jeans were brown up to the knee from mud, his shoes caked in the same forest grime. He sighed, running his fingers through his whiskers. He had shaved once with a thorn that he sharpened on a rock. It hurt. If it weren't for the medicinal green blood that spilled from his every wound, he would have lost a good portion of the skin on his face. Memories aside, he felt the years marked upon him, growing out like ivy slithering up and encasing an old, abandoned house.

As the sun began to wain, the woodsman rose up and took the thorn, sharpened to a razor's edge, from the kitchen table and walked back outside. The air had cooled. The woods were alive with creatures making their last rounds and settling down for the night. Some, at least. He rolled the dead deer on his side and began cutting. He set a few chunks of meat on a spit over the fire pit built of rocks and quickly ignited a small blaze, stoking it and building it up until the meat began to sizzle. He stored the rest of the deer meat and took a bucket of water from under the dressing table, washing his hands. The dirt and blood that had clung to his hands for years was too stubborn to be washed away beyond the superficial stains. He chewed a fistful of herbs as the meat cooked

He stretched out his aching arms and wandered into his home. He crawled onto his hard, unforgiving bed. He dared go to sleep, knowing that he could very well wake up as the other. Still, before laying down, he sat upright and closed his eyes, whispering his mantra and steadying his heart. He listened to the forest, whispered to it, asking for it to keep him, guide him, protect him. He went through these exercises of repression every night and every dawn, perfecting the art to bury his enemy deep inside himself. As he finished, he lay down and waited for sleep to embrace him, hoping once again that he would be the one to wake up. If he was fortunate enough to be the one, he wondered how the next day would be of any difference from the monotonous days passed. What would tomorrow bring?"

Days since last relapse: 46

#2 Posted by The_Mercenary (1918 posts) - - Show Bio

A wiry, unkempt little man sat on his sofa, gorging himself contentedly on potato chips and Coke. A teensy box television rested upon an unattractively pathetic table top across the room, the screen’s resolution belittled by the occasional flashes of static. A rerun of “The Weakest Link” stimulated the dishevelled man, his large horn-rimmed glasses perched on the edge of his large unappealing nose, a half-grown beard with bits and pieces of foods resting beneath. He stared at the television with a monotone expression, muttering the answers to the questions from the television to himself, snorting at the stupidity of the contestants. Of course, they weren’t practical geniuses with IQ over 180, but that didn’t matter to the filthily arrogant little man, munching down on his snacks.

“Rodent, you dick.”

He squealed unintentionally, the pitch of his voice succeeding a 5 year old girl’s. His chips flew into the air as he leaped up in fright, glasses soaring across the room along with dirty wrappers and crumbs. He dropped to the ground with his arms over his unusually large head, whimpering fearfully, his cowering presence almost as powerful as his stench.

“Get up, idiot. It’s me.”

The Mercenary struck him in the stomach with his foot, sending him crashing through the cheap television, destroyed by the impact of the spindly man’s careening body. The damage done to him was minimal, he would only be winded for a few moments, and a calculated result from the Mercenary, as Rodent would be unable to talk for a minute or two. He sat up against the wall, rubbing his belly dejectedly, face flushed and breathing strained. He gave the towering figure of his assassin ex-boss a steamy glare, eyes narrowed but unseeing, his glasses lying across the room from him. He kept up the pretence nonetheless. He couldn’t exactly make out all of the colours or the outline, but he was sure that the old man’s get-up looked substantially different. It seemed to be darker, almost grey, with a light mask and fiercely glowing yellow eyes. He must have been busy.

“Surprised to see me, irate? I missed you too.”

Rodent could almost sense him smirk beneath his mask. He grunted reluctantly.

“I can see you’ve been swamped with work whilst I’ve been gone, and it’s really a shame, but I’m afraid your break is over.”

The little figure’s face lit up slightly, clearly interested in where this unexpected conversation was leading. The Mercenary’s sarcasm was just, and Rodent felt a little ashamed of letting himself go over the past few months. He had let laziness wrap it’s tendrils around him.

“You’re going to come back. I’m resurrecting D.E.A.T.H… A 2.0 type deal. Bringing in new – and old - members. You and Fade included.”

Again his features displayed intrigue, eager to reunite with his old partner; and greatest (if not only) friend. Fade was a mute ninja gun-for-hire that spent most of his time wallowing in the comfort of the shadows. He had also gone off of the grid for a while, leaving to South America on an agenda of his own. Rodent wondered how Merc had tracked him down, and then dismissed the thought immediately. The Mercenary could find anybody. The dirty figure was about to say something when he was cut-off.

“Don’t talk. Just be ready. It will be soon. I just need to sort some things out first.”

The muscled man threw a wad of money at Rodent, giving a final mock peace sing as he walked out of the door, his grating voice fading away as he bid farewell.

“I’ll be in touch.”

The forest was peaceful as ever, brilliant sunlight piercing the odd-openings in the treetops, the cool breeze sprinkling its tranquillity everywhere. The birds chirped casually to the song of the green wonderland, dew from the night before keeping the shrubbery glimmering.

Somewhere in the heart of this woodland paradise, leaves parted soundlessly to make way for a shadow, grass yielding fearfully to appease a ghost. Wildlife retreated wisely, unnerved by the thick; deadly presence of this figure, clothed in death. The Mercenary’s silent stalking contrasted his towering, unnatural image perfectly, his skull-head mask illuminated by the glowing of his acute eyes. In one hand he held an aesthetically gold machete, which he used to make a path for himself through this dense gathering of green. Most would believe that a being like him, accustomed to cities and impenetrable fortresses would not be able to make such a stealthy, fluently jungle-walking effort. In truth they would be wrong, as the Prince of Predator’s had no limitations, not even unknown forestry could stop his relentless self.

His ghost-like footsteps ceased suddenly, his body poised carefully, head tilted in one direction, machete tip resting upon the earth. He inhaled slowly, taking in the scent of everything around him and sifting through it all, classifying each smell accordingly and searching. Searching. He had not come to this forest on a hit, nor had he journeyed more than five miles on foot for exercise. No, he was here on an endeavour of his own. He was looking for somebody. A man. A man that had disappeared a few years ago after a series of strange and mysterious events that involved murder and mindless rampage. He had been in the military, a strict soldier and a greater human being. The Mercenary had found it hard to believe that such a figure would just maim a bunch of people then go off the grid suddenly, leaving his life and loved ones behind for a living made from destruction and death. He hoped to find him and exploit his mysterious abilities, which would make him a fine agent of D.E.A.T.H, the world’s leading gun-for-hire organization.

Flesh.

The familiar smell tickled at his nose, sending a streak of adrenaline through his being. Although there was something different about it, the scent of human skin was more than detectable, even if it did have an unnaturally artificial tang to it. The Mercenary smirked greedily beneath his mask, changing direction and prowling through the bushes and trees, eventually coming into a spot where he could make out what seemed to be a clearing. His stealth increased tenfold, his presence a mere whisper in the wonderful forest.

That’s certainly unique.

Crouched at the precipice of a type of hillside, beneath it sat a circular structure, a supposed hut, comprised solely from the woodland’s attributes. Trees, vines, leaves, grass, anything that grew in this expansive destination seemed to hold the primitive hut together. The Mercenary sheathed his machete steadily, slowly making his descent, prepared for a situation involving misunderstanding, conflict, and eventually either death or agreement. It was the way it always seemed to work.

Whose death it might be, he was unsure of.

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#3 Posted by Thorn_ (108 posts) - - Show Bio

Michael strode the hillside at the break of dawn. Mist clouded his vision with every breath as the sun began to peak through the canopy. He was about half a mile from his home, walking aimlessly with his hands in his pockets. Every day in the forest, he was forced to live deliberately. Every step carried him towards food, every breath propelled him forward to his goal. Today, he had a sudden urge to simply enjoy the forest, so gaze from the mountaintops with fresh eyes. With a full stomach and food waiting at home, he had no need to hunt, no need to build, no need to gather. He could stop living like a survivor, and for once, just once, live like a man.

The woodsman paused mid-step. He sighed. Old instinct kept him from going completely out of habit. He straightened the collar of his jacket, looking up through the shadow of his hood, out on the crystal blue sky, just now emerging from the sea of orange and pale gray. A thorn slowly emerged from the cuff of his coat, growing to a length of ten inches. He quickly thrust the, the butt still lodged beneath his skin, into the trunk of a pine tree. Suddenly, his mind burst outward, his consciousness expanding to every edge of the forest. He could feel the wind whistling through the branches, the bark chipping beneath a woodpecker's beak. He could feel the pulsations in the ground rising up into the roots, even the slightest footfalls. He could feel a figure of warmth, body pulsating with warm blood. He could sense it through the living hive mind of the forest as if he could almost see it. It was a man, tall, and very quiet for someone of his stature. He was lingering outside of the house. Michael quickly released the thorn, leaving it embedded in the tree, and used it as a step to launch himself up into the trees, running along the branches with speed and grace that not only displayed his skill, but the desire not to harm the trees beneath his feet. Someone was knocking on his door. He intended to answer.

The man stood outside Michael's house, nothing more than a primitive shack to his eyes. A thorn sliced through the air, flying just inches above his shoulder and striking into the dirt. When the stranger looked up, he would see Michael, perched high up in the trees, face shrouded by the hood of his tattered green coat, as two new thorns protruded from his wrists and fell comfortably into his hands, held low in an intimidating display of power. "What are you doing in my forest?!" he snarled loud enough for the intruder to hear, and deep enough to let him know that he was not welcome.

#4 Posted by The_Mercenary (1918 posts) - - Show Bio

The air shifted a considerable few inches and almost undetectable footsteps ghosted across the forest floor, a spectre filtering through the shrubbery behind the Mercenary, catching him completely unaware of it's presence. Following the scent of flesh into the hut, the old assassin had become careless, disregarding his surroundings. He was unable to react to the sudden whizzing of a projectile as it shot millimetres from his shoulder, striking the ground ahead of him with pin-point accuracy. The sound from it's impact reverberated around the deathly silent hut alcove. The Lord of Life paused for a brief moment, regarding the large thorn with curious calm, before slowly inching around, tilting his head at the figure above him, it's body emanating intimidation.

"What are you doing in my forest?!"

The Mercenary flinched mockingly, holding hands up in placation. He responded with a hidden smirk.

"Easy there kiddo. I'm not here to hurt your forest."

His sheathed machete dripped with the sap of plants he'd cut down on the way, his smirk increasing guiltily. He turned his body a fraction so as to keep it out of view.

"Just here to make a preposition, Michael."

He used his name with the intention of shocking him, even for a second. Any hesitation would aid the Mercenary in this situation, thorn's inching themselves from the tree-borne figure's forearm flexors. He had come prepared for a fight, but severely hoped that it did not lead to such events. It would needlessly prolong things, and he had places to be. He took a calculated step forward, spreading his arms steadily. Voice calm and placating, he tilted his head in the other direction, measuring the man's aggressive posture.

"I don't want any trouble."

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#5 Posted by Thorn_ (108 posts) - - Show Bio

Michael's eyes went bloodshot beneath the shadow of his hood. He tried to appear unfazed to the intruder, knowing that it was his exact intention to shock him. Whoever this was, whatever they wanted, he couldn't let them get an advantage on him.

"I don't want any trouble." said the intruder.

Michael dropped the thorns in his hands and sprouted a new one from his right arm, the butt of it melded seamlessly with a vine. He hurled the thorn and it buried itself deep in a neighboring tree. Slowly feeding out the vine from his wrist, the woodsman jumped down from his perch, allowing the vine to drape over the branch as he lowered himself down to the forest floor, severing the vine a few feet off the ground. Pine needles crunched beneath his feet as he looked down from the slope on the man who stood, silent and menacing outside his house.

"Then what do you want?" Michael asked in a tone that conveyed no patience for intruders. He had been alone so long. This was the first person he had spoken to in ages. The last thing he wanted was for it to turn into a fight, but the way the man dressed, the way he talked and acted, the simple aura of his figure, told Michael that he was made to fight.

#6 Posted by The_Mercenary (1918 posts) - - Show Bio

"I want you to work for me. As a mercenary for my organization, D.E.A.T.H."

He wouldn't beat around the bush here, he hit the man with it straight, letting the preposition linger in the air. He wasn't sure whether the man knew of his top-secret shadow squad of elite killers, but didn't underestimate his knowledge, his military experience noted duly at the back of the Mercenary's mind. He doubted the man would agree, he had had reports of numerous noble acts of service in the army, he was a pure man at heart. But the Assassin of Ages was counting more on his counter-part, the beast nestled within him.

"The business is good, and the adrenaline is even better."

He shrugged convincingly, his cold voice taking on a smooth tone, hoping to sway the man before he had to knock agreement into him. His muscles were tensing already, his mind planning attack strategies and manoeuvres, body poised to strike like a viper should things turn sour.

"Maybe your other half would enjoy the experience?"

He smirked maliciously.

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#7 Posted by Thorn_ (108 posts) - - Show Bio

"How... how did you know about HIM?!" Michael he whispered in shock. He averted his eyes and pulled his hood further over his face. "It doesn't matter. I'm not interested." he began to walk away as he spoke, "Now, get out of here before you do something you'll regret. You've got no idea what he--" Michael stopped in his tracks, a twig snapping beneath his boot. The crooning birds and the winds themselves fell silent as his mind stirred. "Run," he whispered, "Now, while you still can." He began running, shambling across the forest floor as fast as he could. He could see the darkness clouding his peripheral vision, closing in swiftly. His blood slowed in his veins. His lungs constricted as if his ribs were crushed in a vice. This was what it felt like to die.

Michael's legs failed him and he collapsed against a tree, fingers scraping the bark as he fell to his knees. Labored breaths pumped in and out of his lungs as his dilated eyes fixated on some unseen detail in the dirt. "P-Please..." he begged, "Don't... don't make me kill again. Run. Get away. Please, just GET AWAY!" His whimpering desperation took on a sudden anger. His gloved fingertips pierced the wood, and ripped it apart as he turned to face the mercenary. His teeth ground together like the plates of the earth, nostrils flaring like a feral creature with its back against the wall. "THIS IS YOUR FAULT!" he shouted, pointing to the man, "WHY DID YOU HAVE TO COME HERE?! ALL I WANTED WAS TO BE LEFT ALONE! WHY COULDN'T YOU JUST LET ME LIVE IN PEACE?!" His hood fell around his shoulders, unwashed, unkempt hair catching the breeze, his wild, dark eyes burning in the light of day. "WHY COULDN'T YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE?! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!" Veins protruded from his neck, and with one final, agonizing howl, the woodsman was gone. Only the monster remained.

A pair of thorns shot from his wrists, one of which was melded to a vine which snaked from the slit in his arm. He flung the first as a feint, a distraction. That was not to say it could easily skewer the mercenary's brain. Before the first made contact, the second flew from his hand. He pulled the vine taut, throwing his arm up over the green rope and rapping it around, thrashing the vine downward to thrust the stranger face-first into the ground. By the time he got his wits about him, the Other would have his knee in his back, and the vine around his throat. This would be a short fight. Such a shame. He had been away for far too long. He had a nauseating period of bloodlessness peace to make up for.

Days since last relapse: 0

#8 Posted by The_Mercenary (1918 posts) - - Show Bio

The Mercenary watched on, sadistically intrigued as the pained man fell to his knees and seemed to tear into the tree. His strained, raspy whispers took on a more severe stature, his throat bulging with ropes of blood, words tainted by the sheer ferocity of his roars. The woodsman shrieked at the intruder, finishing his combo of anger-induced syllables with a blood-curdling howl that seemed to shake the very earth. Leaves fell from trees, birds fled the scene, even the shrubbery appeared to strain against it's roots, swaying in a powerful breeze.

The old assassin's signature smirk increased in size, lips parting beneath his mask to reveal two sets of stained, slightly jagged teeth. Bloodlust rushed through his frame, a frightening twinkle appearing in his soulless eyes. The muscles across his body, contracted and ready, seemed to ebb in anticipation.

The figure opposite him, what had moments before been the woodsman, raised his arms slowly, a pair of sharp objects seeming to slide from his wrists. The Mercenary nodded approvingly to himself, pleased with this display of intimidation. The Other thrust a single arm forward, projecting the thorn through the air, straight at the skull of the Lord of Life. The ancient warrior, calm as ever, simply side-stepped the object, keeping his focus on the remaining thorn protruding from his opponent's wrist. Sure enough, it too propelled through the air at him, but seemed to have something attached to it. The Mercenary ducked beneath it, simultaneously reaching across his shoulder to grab the hilt of his infamous broadsword, unsheathing the large weapon in a single fluid movement. He wrapped another hand around the heavy blade's hilt, coming upwards and cutting a swathe through the vine, moments before it wrapped around the Shinigami's torso and reduced him to a defenceless heap of flesh. He stepped underneath the remaining piece of organic rope, twirling the broadsword around in his hands as he made a speedy dash towards his foe, coming up on the Other's outside, hoisting his weapon into the air with one hand, then spinning his body around viciously and bending his knees, grasping the hilt tightly as he brought it down with all the momentum he had mustered. It was aimed at the Other's shoulder, if it made contact it would cleave a third of his torso apart. He continued the movement, once more spinning his figure around the base of his weapon, lifting his arm, directing a ferocious elbow to the former woodsman's temple. Using up the last bit of momentum he had managed to attain in the last few moments, he spun his body around a final time, launching his leg through the air with the intention of striking his opponent just behind his knees, possibly delivering an immense amount of physical trauma.

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#9 Posted by Thorn_ (108 posts) - - Show Bio

The killer leaned back at the precise moment that the sword sliced for him, only scathing the flesh of his arm. The shallow wound closed almost immediately, thanks to the pale green medicine that pumped through his veins. The intruder was quick, no questioning that. Before the bloodthirsty predator could get back on the offensive, an elbow crashed into his temple. Filthy blonde hair was matted to his scalp by blood, but the wound quickly healed. A boot crashed into the back of Michael's knee, but he was not the one receiving the wound. Michael had been severed, suffocated completely by ferocity and blood lust. Now, only the rage of the Other was in control.

His left knee buckled, but instead of falling to the ground, he reached back with his strong hands to clutch the intruder's ankle before he could pull it away. His right foot swept through the dirt and pine needles, aimed to take the assassin's other foot out from under him, or at least knock him off balance for the required amount of time. Michael's body spun, ready to pull the intruder off the ground and flail him into the dirt as if he were a sledgehammer. When his hands finally let slip the outsider's ankle, he would fly headlong into a thick tree. By the time he even touched the ground, the Other would be on top of him. A thorn in each kidney to weaken him, make him bleed. One through each forearm, pinning him to the dirt and the tree. One in the thigh to cripple him. To in the throat to end it.

The sky would be red before nightfall, and so would the earth.

#10 Posted by The_Mercenary (1918 posts) - - Show Bio

His kick hit home, but nano-seconds before he could move away, the Other's form blurred before him in sheer speed and he felt powerful hands grip his boot around the ankle. His leg was tugged upwards, disorientating him for the briefest of moments; which was all that the beast required. A swift sweep of his other leg sent him crashing into the earth with unhealthy force, his blade slipping from his fingers as soon as his spine kissed the floor. Unable to properly react to the locomotive that was the Other, he felt himself spun once more, his body careening through the air, the utter momentum at which he was launched leading him to slam into a tree, the sickly sound of impact reverberating through the expansive forest.

The Mercenary groaned, jolts of pain were fired off around his formidable being, but he didn't stress it, as he could feel his regenerative abilities kicking in already, hastily tending to his bruises.

White affliction flared through his sides, the sudden appearance of the Other upon his self, a thorn embedded within each side of his abdomen. The Mercenary had lost focus for a second, believing the creature to have ceased his attack. An amateur move on his part.

Another streak of agony through his right forearm, and then one more in his other. He clenched his jaw, watching his feral opponent lift his arms above his head, preparing to strike the finishing blow. The thorn came down with insurmountable speed, slicing into the earth with frightening force, dust billowing out from all directions, wisps of ebony smoke-like haze mixing in with the brown substance.

"I gotta say... You're more than I expected, fellah."

The Mercenary stepped out of thin air, a cloud of black in his wake, behind the bewildered creature, who seemed suddenly more vicious to find that it's perfect combo had failed in successfully taking out the intruder. The Lord of Life pulled the nasty looking projectiles from his forearms slowly, whistling softly through his teeth as he dropped the grotesque objects to the ground. His wounds instantly started to heal over, bubbles of flesh forming around each gash, slowly filling up the holes. He grabbed at the thorns in his sides, where his kidneys were supposed to be, had he possessed any organs besides his lungs. Finally, he tugged the final piece of organic weaponry from his thigh, letting it fall to the floor in dramatic fashion.

"Now that we've said hello, how about we get serious?"

The toe of his boot slipped underneath his grounded broadsword's hilt, a slow smirk breaking out across his monstrous face, fortunately concealed by his navy blue and orange mask. He flicked his foot upwards, the blade twirling through the air, landing accurately within his outstretched palm, fingers tightening around the weapon's hilt. He pointed the tip of the broadsword at his opponent's chest, his arm straightened out before him.

"Here I come."

He disappeared in another cloud of darkness, appearing directly beside the Other, both hands around his weapon, bring it down across the beast's jugular, aiming to slice apart its throat, careful not to use so much force that he decapitated it. He vanished again, stepping out of the air behind the monster, crouched before he rose in a deadly vertical swing of his sword, intending to cleave his back open. And once more, he teleported from his position, appearing on the other side of the Other, their faces inches from each other.

"Isn't this wonderful?"

His raspy whisper was cut short as he brought his blade in viciously, hoping to impale the enraged beast through his diaphragm.

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#11 Posted by Thorn_ (108 posts) - - Show Bio

"Yes..." the Other whispered, pulling himself deeper into the sword, "I'd say it is." His neck had healed shut, as had his back. His jacket was stained with the pale green of his blood. A pair of thorns shot from his wrists and he aimed them under his opponent's arms, ready to decimate the ribs and puncture the lungs. A harsh twist would do him in. For the moment, at least. He thrust his head forward to crush the man's nose, maybe drive a shard of bone deliciously into his brain.

Michael swung down, trying to crash his forearms into his enemy's wrists with substantial force and jumped back to wrest the blade from his hands. He ripped away the tattered green coat, his shoulder length blonde hair and beard waving in the breeze as he cast the tattered rags of Michael Horton down to the earth. The Other withdrew the sword from his abdomen. Until the medicine of his blood kicked in, he was only a man, and the blade in his belly took the appropriate effect. But the rage, the unending blood lust of the Other kept him on his feet, smiling.

"I've been buried down inside that fool for too long," he snarled, "I've gotten hungry for war in all that time. I suppose I should be thanking you for letting me out, but..." a thorn slithered from his wrist and he brandished it with sickening intensity, gripping his enemy's broadsword in the other, "I think the challenge is more commendable."

Without warning, Michael lunged forward, slashing once with the sword in a broad sweep across the chest, following through with his charge to bury his shoulder in the challenger's stomach. He kept running until he felt a tree tremble and bark scatter on the dirt. He started stabbing with the thorn, over and over, trying to sink it deeper with every jab, aiming for different parts of the body, organs, muscle groups, gouging and slashing. He couldn't heal from all of it at once. On his final thrust, he would jerk upward and leave the thorn buried under his ribs.

Michael stepped back, throwing the sword into the air and catching it as it twirled. He eyed his enemy with a sadistic grin, "Let's see how long it takes to pull you apart for good." He thrust with the sword, aimed to skewer his enemy through the stomach, pierce his spine, and pin him to the tree.

#12 Posted by The_Mercenary (1918 posts) - - Show Bio

Instantly the Assassin of Ages released his weapon, making a hasty two-footed retreat, evading a deadly pair of protrusions to the respiratory system, and a vicious strike to the cranium. He barked a surprised laugh, voice tainted by arrogance. This candidate was proving far more rowdy than previously considered. It looked like the Mercenary would be able to dust off his old box of tricks and pull some moves off, for a change.

Unfortunately, the Killer Supreme had inadvertently lost possession of his favoured broadsword upon dodging the Other's feral, efficient attacks. Now it was at the mercy of the crazed being, his unnatural eyes gleaming with bloodlust. Wrapping it's hands around the hilt of the massive blade, he pulled it from his abdomen, slowly, tauntingly. He let the tip of the weapon kiss the dirt, flexing the fingers on his alternate arm teasingly, a grotesque thorn sliding it from his forearm flexors and into his readied palm.

The Mercenary smirked beneath his mask, his ugly teeth grinding together with the action, sadistic grey eyes narrowing excitedly as a blood-lust of his own powered through his being.

"Challenges."

He chuckled softly, both to himself and the Other.

"Something we both enjoy."

THWIP

The sound of his own broadsword slicing mightily through the air made him happy, and as he tore a wakizashi from a sheath across his spine and brought it up masterfully to have the blades kiss each other, he felt proud of his signature weapon, his torso barely managing to swerve away before the Japanese short sword was cut in half, both pieces flying into the earth. The Sadistic Soldier-Of-Fortune smiled at his blade, entirely remorseless over the immediate loss of his wakizashi.

"Its a perfect thing, is it not?!"

He laughed again, manically, cold voice cutting through the air.

CRUKKK

His cackling was interrupted by a steely shoulder striking his torso just below the diaphragm, his feet lifted clear off the ground as he was pedalled straight towards a mountainous tree, the sheer force from the impact taking his breath away for a moment. He gasped for air, psychotic smirk playing at the edges of his mouth as he did so. Suddenly pain flared through his self, the feverish movements of his opponent bringing his attention to the source of affliction, a pesky thorn piercing his body with repetitive precision, striking touchy parts across his being.

"Sneaky! I...Ugh...Like it!"

And then the stabbing paused, the Other's muscled arm flying backwards through the air, rearing up for a fatal strike to the sternum. Almost face-to-face, the Mercenary winked at his deadly assailant, his own arm moving with insurmountable speed, powerful fingers grabbing the feisty being's fist and stopping the final strike, organic knife inches from the Lord of Life's stomach.

"Let's try that again."

The Other launched himself backwards, catching the Mercenary's broadsword from the air above him, twirling it tauntingly within his fingers. And once more, he mobilized, lightning styled speed propelling his organic figure forward, blade aimed directly to skewer the Shinigami's abdomen. The Grandmaster of Gutting allowed his opponent an expansive window of opportunity before he twisted his self away from the behemoth tree and leant into the Other as he moved, locked in a straight movement, travelling far too fast to stop. The Mercenary whipped his hand past the creature's throat, a deadly sai suddenly within his palm, tip of the blade aimed to enter the beast's skin and very easily tear his head off from the utter force of their opposing momentum's alone.

After the attack he would spin away from the creature and collapse to one knee, pausing for a moment so as to allow the regeneration of his heavily injured torso, keeping his hungry eyes on the Other at all times, twin sai's gripped firmly within each hand.

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#13 Posted by Thorn_ (108 posts) - - Show Bio

Without taking a moment to process the challenger's blinding movements, Michael charged forward, his imposing form moving with the speed of a better man. The sai came seemingly from nowhere, giving the Other only an instant to move his head out of the way. The tip of the sai dug under his lip, gouging a deep wound in his face, around the corner of his eye, up to his hairline. As his enemy sped past, the Other fell to his knees, hunched over in a sick combination of pain, exhaustion and delight. Aloe blood spilled between his fingers, nourishing the soil, running into the roots far below and breathing his spilled life back into the forest that protected him.

It protected him.

The forest protected him.

He had walked among its trees and he had grown to love every inch of it, and it had been generous. It had been kind. It loved him, too.

He was loved.

"I don't need to fight..." he whispered, the Other's influence beginning to clear from his mind as he peered out at the sun streaked canopy, "You want something to kill? Someone to hurt?" He shakily rose to his knees, turning to face his enemy, the broad, angry scar running up his face already dissolving back into his skin, "Look somewhere else."

Dry, fallen pine needles crunched beneath his feet as he approached. The Other still had a hold. It was a fight for control, but Michael knew he was winning. He stared down his opponent and drew closer. "He... doesn't own me. Do you understand that?" he asked, "DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!" He grabbed the stranger by his shirt and pulled him close, eyes burning intensely. It was the anger of the Other boiling back to the surface. He had to stay in control. It was the only way he could end this. It was the only way his forest would be safe.

He released the warrior and backed away, leaning against a tree for support as he drew in long, heavy breaths. "Violence won't define me. As long as I'm in control... if you're looking for a challenge... look somewhere else."

#14 Posted by The_Mercenary (1918 posts) - - Show Bio

Skin grew over, freshly born cells grabbing hold of each other, every single one of their minuscule embraces creating a diminutive scar that only degraded the sight of his already hideous form. The front of his costume, however, possessed no regenerative abilities and lay in tatters across his frame, revealing his slowly healing chest and abdomen. Mercenary coughed up some of his lungs, grabbing at his mask with his free hand and tearing it off in one vicious, fluid motion. He picked bits of ugly flesh from his mouth, never taking his eyes off of his equally regenerative opponent as he struggled to regain control of his being. The kneeling gun-for-hire remained silent throughout the ordeal, not even bothering to smirk.

Distraught fingers grasped at the lapels of his ruined costume, lifting him clean off of the ground with unknowing strength. The cruel assassin bore his eyes into those of the agitated man, barely flinching. He was released just as forcefully as he had been grabbed, staggering backwards a few feet, coughing up some more of his respiratory system, slightly winded from his assailant's shove.

"Violence won't define me. As long as I'm in control... if you're looking for a challenge... look somewhere else."

Mercenary remained quiet for a moment, allowing the suddenly battered forest to share it's cool breeze with the battlers. The ancient warrior dropped his sai disinterestedly, reaching up with both hands and ripping the upper portion of his costume from his frame, grunting with the effort. It was a tough fabric, designed to withstand some of the roughest blows. To have it torn asunder by a mutant's bare hands was an incredible feat. He let the material sink to the earth, silently working out the kinks in his neck, the true horror of his visage on an unfortunate display. Hundreds of thousands of scars littered his epidermis, criss-crossing over his mouth, his eyelids, even his nostrils. This was made worse by his Asian skin, a light shade leaning dangerously towards yellow. He bore those soulless eyes into the shattered and conflicted ex-militant's, before finally breaking out a little smirk. There was something different about it, though. It was far more sadistic than the earlier ones, and seemed to drip of undiluted evil and psychosis.

"You don't understand, boy. What do you think I am? Some school yard bully? Prowling around to beat on little meta's that fire their puny laser beams at me?"

His smirk turned watery for a moment, entire face twitching suddenly.

"No. No. No no no. I am far more. I am murder. Death, she is my constant companion. We're inseparable, the pair of us. Been with her since day one."

His hand shot up, clawing at his features irritatedly as he spoke.

"I don't fight weaklings. I don't. I'll leave that to the B-Siders. The chumps."

He snarled through his manic smirk, almost angrily.

"I am the Mercenary. I'm the Assassin of Ages. The Shinigami. I am the epitome, I am the very best."

He barked a coarse laugh, scratching more feverishly at his face, grinning wildly amidst it all, even with the malicious undertone to his voice.

"I knew it would end up like this. You and I. I knew there would be... Fisticuffs."

He cackled dementedly.

"But that's how it has to be. I didn't come here to win! I came here, I came here to test your mettle. An application form, if you will."

He stopped scratching, pulling his hand away from his face with his other, staring at his fingers curiously. He paused, slowly levelling his gaze, straight on the distressed face of the Other.

"Guess what? You passed. You-"

He took a step forward, touching his palm to his fallen broadsword on the ground as he did so.

"-Got the job!"

The Mercenary's form disappeared in a puff of ugly, noxious smoke, appearing directly above the slumped figure of his opponent, legs bent backwards, entire body making a backwards C as he gripped the hilt of his signature weapon, it reared behind his head, both hands wrapped around the blade. He roared with insanity, instantaneously launching his entire being forwards, limbs snapping in the direction of the target's forehead like coiled springs.

In order for the Other to live, Horton must die.

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#15 Posted by Thorn_ (108 posts) - - Show Bio

Michael kept control throughout his attacker's speech, despite how hard it was. The Other had been awakened, and it was not easy to suppress him before he was willing to go. Michael kept his breathing slow and steady, meditating as best he could with the constant distraction of the Shinigami's boasts.

The Mercenary told him that he, "Got the job!" In no way did he make it seem as though Michael had a choice in the matter, and the action that followed confirmed that.

The woodsman was taken off guard as smoke burst around him, filling his lungs with a searing, clawing pain. He wanted to cry out as a boot heel crushed his kneecap, but the air stalled in his trachea. His scream was silent, as were the pained howls he gave for the other attacks, collapsing onto his back in agony. The forest would not watch him suffer like this. It wouldn't stand by and watch him fall apart at the hands of a madman.

Michael gasped for air, choking on the soft flesh of his own windpipe as his eyes bulged from his head. He watched the toxic cloud part around a dark form sailing through the air. The flash of polished steel blinded him, robbing Michael Horton of his last sight.

Pale green blood stained the forest floor.

The blade's tip punctured the long root of a tree buried underfoot.

Michael's outstretched arm went limp, supported only by the thorn still rooted in his wrist, jabbed deep into the trunk of the tree. For four years, his heart and the heart of the forest beat as one. Now, tapped into one of its innumerable veins, his had ceased, and the trees took notice.

In perfect unison, the trees shed their leaves. All around them, a torrent of green cascaded down into the dirt. The storm of leaves was a beautiful sight, but it was more than a simple spectacle. It was a funeral procession.

The blood pooled around Michael's head began to change. Moss flourished from it, scouring the soil. It crawled up over his blood soaked forehead, covering his face. Inch by inch, his form was wrapped in a blanket of tender moss, melded into the earth. The rapidly growing moss scaled the gleaming sword buried in Michael's forehead, not stopping until it reached the pommel.

As the moss crawled out to embrace his fingertips, the thorn slipped from his wrist and his arm fell lifelessly to the ground. The link had been severed. The forest was silent.

Silence.

His eyes opened, scanning aimlessly through the green haze. He... who was he? A sharp, cold sting ran through his skull whenever he tried to focus, originating from the center of his brain. His eyes rolled in his head, barely able to stay open. The sound of bubbles passing by his ears was the only sound he could hear. He was... weightless. His body drifted in a vacuum. There were tubes, buried deep in his arms, linked into his chest, filling his mouth and nostrils. They had kept him alive. His powers could heal superficial wounds with ease, but a blow like that took time to heal, and it wasn't a guarantee that he could survive.

Wait...

Powers.

He had powers, and they were the only reason he had survived... the forest. He began to struggle when he realized that he had been stolen from his home, but he was too weak to move. Whether it was some medicine he was being fed or the still recovering damage to his brain, he drifted, motionless, inside the tank. Still, he took solace in the fact that he remembered. His name was Michael. He was dead. The blade of a madman had put him here. But where was 'here'?

He strained his eyes to see past the blur and the shroud of bubbles that burst from his respirator every few seconds. It was dark. There was some sort of hole across the darkness, and light was pouring in through the narrow slot. Something was flapping in the breeze, casting its shadow over the slender spot of light. There was a rumbling that shook the glass of his tank, sent the water trembling. An engine. He looked up and saw the surface of the water tilt slightly. The ground beneath him was turning on an angle.

A plane.

He was on a plane.

The rumble of the engine was familiar. A C-130 Hercules, if his time as a Marine had given him any sort of reference. A cargo plane. It seemed he was the cargo. Everything about it was cold, industrial... lifeless. He was so very far from his home. But where he was being taken was a mystery as great as the origin of the many scars on his enemy's face. He had so much left to piece together.

A new cocktail of drugs rushed into his system and his thoughts were scattered to the wind. As his eyes fluttered shut, he was left with the same fear that plagued him every time he closed his eyes.

He might not be the one who wakes up.