sternitfortem: (Default)
Yuki Juudai (RP Account) ([personal profile] sternitfortem) wrote in [community profile] herobox2012-07-23 12:00 am

moved log: merged dream from kannagara!

Who: [personal profile] sternitfortem and [personal profile] red_handed_jay
Status: Closed
Style: Third-person, present
Where: dream: Dream Gotham City aww yee / real world: Mizusato (though they're in different locations)
When: Week 31, Day 6 (slightly forward-dated)
Rating: PG-13/R? depends on internal monologues probably lol
Warnings: Violence, swearing, horribleness


[ Shut your eyes. Now open them. Did the world disappear in the moment it left your sight?

Or did you?
]


The world rearranges itself between blinks.

Or perhaps Juudai has simply opened his eyes for the first time in a while, broken out of the over-ripe paradise that is Kannagara stamped on the backs of his eyelids. Kannagara, a world where dreams are more real than reality. There is no difference there between the symbol and the substance, between the thought and the action or the dreaming and the waking. (He remembers thrashing awake from fever-dreams, begging Shou over and over again, Don't let me fall asleep. Don't let me fall asleep. Don't...) It feels real here. Doesn't it?

He blinks. He's still here.

"Here" being a darkened city - like Domino only realer, somehow; grittier, more tangible. The real is shades of brown and black, with the dead-red sky of city light pollution illuminating the back alleys in grays. In the real world, everything is colored in grays and darker grays. There are no true thresholds. Juudai grips his shoulder for a second. He'd dislocated it jumping from one of the skyscrapers, as it exploded beneath his feet. (He remembers that vividly - except he can't quite remember what building it was or why he'd needed to jump.) Even now it sends white-hot spikes of pain shooting up his neck when he jars it. The pain reminds him what's at stake. What he's doing. It sharpens his thoughts.

(But he should be careful - because pain takes away as many things as it gives - takes away empathy and warmth, takes away the broader picture, takes away a world outside yourself. He remembers thrashing awake from fever-dreams, begging Shou over and over again, Don't let me wake up. Don't let me wake up. For God's sake, never let me wake up.)


[ Shut your eyes.

No.

He's still there.

You know this. ]


Juudai's Duel Disk is activated on his arm. His field is empty. He has two traps lying face down. No monsters in his hand. Three thousand life points. He bleeds from the attack he just took, from three gashes on his forehead that drip blood into his eyes.

"My turn," he says. His voice shakes. With what, he doesn't know. It could be fear. Could be anger. Could be exhaustion or pain. (It could be the rush.) His opponent's field is invisible. Juudai stands in an abandoned city street, all blues and grays and blacks, little lights in the high-rises standing in for the stars he can't see. Smog. Light pollution. So many reasons. The end of the street is bathed in black, in shadow that pools like water. Whomever Juudai is dueling cannot be seen.

He repeats again, more strongly: "My turn." His fingers rest on the top card of his deck; he wills his next draw to be a monster - or he's done. "Draw!" The card scythes out of the holder, slices the air. Please. He checks his card.

A tiny, tight smile.

"In attack mode, I summon - " He slaps the card down onto his Duel Disk. The hard light system gleams. " - Elemental Hero Jason Todd!"

---

He's in his city. And it isn't a question of coming, going, how he got there, if he'll stay. Because he's here now, and it's his city and he will defend it.

He stands up tall, and there's an odd moment, because it should feel strange, the heavy plate armor on his shoulders, the dull black breast plate over his chest, battered and worn, scarred from use. But then it's not, because he is the Champion, he's this city's Dark Knight, and he will defend her. Defend a place rife with corrupt and greed, and vice. Defend her to fix her, to cleanse her in a deluge of blood and fury until it's all right again, until it's beautiful again.

His hand slides back, gripping tight on the hilt rising above one shoulder, slowly drawing the sword from its sheath with screaming scrape of steel on steel. He hefts the broadsword as if it's a part of his own arm, the blade heavy, thick and ugly, tinted rusty-red.

"Hey motherfucker!" Jason shifts his stance, sword raised before him. "You messed with the wrong city."

---

( Somehow, this is all Juudai needs to know about Jason. That this place, this sterile city of blacks and grays, belongs to him; that it is his own, his home, this city that breeds heroes hard as steel. (Hard as steel, yes, but just as prone to rust.) Where the pale lights of exhausted office workers stand in for stars, where the building and towers break the skyline like jagged teeth - this is a place that fits Jason. )


Juudai pauses to glance at the text on Jason's card. (Strange that he has to - he normally knows all of his cards by heart.) 1400/1000. Attacking with him right now would be a poor idea. "I activate Jason's primary effect," he says. His voice is stronger now. It carries. "By skipping my Attack phase this turn, I choose one monster on the field and destroy it." He gestures towards the mass of darkness at the other end of the alleyway. "Hell Gainer."


Jason's sword gleams brilliant red for a moment. Behind the shadows, something explodes, illuminating the end of the alley for half a second - a shape, a strange silhouette that doesn't seem quite human, too jagged and grasping, clawed. The impression is gone as quickly as it appears.

[ Shut your eyes.

Open them.

It's useless. ]


Juudai glances at the two cards left in his hand, but there's nothing to lay down. "I end my turn," he says, and swallows hard.

---

"What?" Jason shouts, turning back glaring the dull furious gleam of his sword reflects in his eyes. "You're not going to fight?" He spins on his heel and he looks up, that red glint in his eyes flashing sharper, brighter now. "I know this place, I know it, and if you'd just let me fight it my way I could win it!" His teeth are bared, his face wholly feral.

A true scion of this city.

---

"We are fighting," Juudai snaps, tension and fear tightening in his throat. Jason doesn't understand; his fighting is by hand and blade, bruise the body and break the bones. But dueling is something more. You can be hurt, yes, hurt in a lot of ways that look like physical violence - but the real challenge takes place in your mind. In facing down your opponent and retaining the ability to plan five turns ahead, in trusting your spirits, in knowing your deck. In every duel, what you really fight is fear.

What you really fight is yourself.

And speaking of -


A voice, from the other side of the field, dark and cold like nights under a starless sky, edged in all the right places; it gives nothing and takes everything. It is a voice as empty as the spaces between stars.
( His voice, if you know how to listen right. )

"Funny," it says. "I couldn't tell."


[ Don't shut your eyes.
You'd just be alone with him. ]

The shadows blow away from the end of the street. He's there. All black armor and steel, visor down, standing utterly still. Not a twitch. (Human beings shouldn't be able to stand that still, he thinks, and a shudder runs the length of his spine.) His field's empty, but Juudai knows - he knows - that doesn't change a thing.

The visor betrays nothing (were it up, Juudai knows his face would reveal nothing either), and he places his black-plated fingers on the top card of his deck.


"My turn," he says.

---

Something isn't right here. Or rather, something isn't more wrong in a city that lives on shades of grey. There's a charge in the air, leaping between the opponents like a overloaded circuit, and Jason can smell the rank stink of ozone. He can feel the thrum of Juudai's heartbeat, fast and frantic, the vibrations traveling down his body, through to the cracked asphalt, to Jason. He breathes in deep and his nose filled with ozone, his head echoing with Juudai's heartbeat, but his eyes flash with defiance, the red glint inside them flaring out, and suddenly green turns russet, and exact match for the crude runes that started twisting along the length of his ugly blade.

He doesn't know who this man is. All he knows is that he's Juudai opponent, and the city doesn't like him and that there's something wrong here. Something deeply and inherently off with the natural order of things.

Just like you, a dead boy walking, living, breathing, playing at being alive...

The thought's like a red-hot spike of agony driving through his skull, and red of his eyes dims for a moment, but then he shakes his head, shoving the thought back. It wasn't important now, the only thing that mattered now is the fight.

His teeth glint as he bares them, his stance aggressive, sword raised before him, unwavering.

Bring it on, asshole.

---

Juudai is shaking.

Juudai can't stop shaking.

( Because these are the things he doesn't let himself remember: dead light over his head and parched earth beneath his feet. The smell and taste of smoke at the back of the throat, sticking there, death going down with every swallow. And more: the weight of black steel on his shoulders, arms, legs, the hardness, the edges. A total rejection of feeling, like walking in nothing, in the grip of a shadow.

He had grown numb, after a time, his muscles and sinews growing accustomed to the weight. His skin had burned in a number of places, where the heat from the fires leached into the metal and stayed there, but he hadn't felt it. He had only felt cold. The core of him was all ice and absolute zero, barren frozen rock, untouchable, untouched.

There had been nothing inside him, for a while. Not even his own name. )

And it is strange, a kind of creeping horror, to see himself that way, what Jim and O'Brien must have seen when they'd found him after months, what he looked like when he wasn't real anymore, less than a real living thing. When he didn't have a name, other than that title they gave him, trying to understand his motives when in fact he had no motives at all. Take everything. Leave nothing. Reduce it to nothing, to ash and ice, because he wasn't anything, didn't want to be anything but had to be something if he was still drawing breath.

( Because the dark had welled up behind his eyeballs and gushed in his veins; had collected and crackled in his fingertips and pooled in his lungs and dripped from his tongue and oozed up his spine; it had thrummed in his throat and spoken his words for him. Or he had spoken its words for it. )

It is like seeing himself dead.


"Draw."

And as if he had been party to that thought (it wouldn't be impossible), the figure at the end of the street reaches up one hand, curls his fingers underneath the rim of the helmet, and tugs it off altogether. (Juudai flinches. This is not something he had ever done during a duel. This is new. Here, new is dangerous.) He tosses it, almost casually, underhand. The helmet bounces, clanking noisily against the concrete, until it rolls wobbily to a stop at Juudai's feet. The eye-slits in the visor stare sightlessly upwards.

He jerks his head towards it contemptuously. "If it would make you more comfortable," he says. Juudai's lips pull back from his clenched teeth in an expression best termed a snarl; by contrast, he does nothing but turn his attention back to his hand.

( Eyes like molten steel, white-gold in their own heat - they're the eyes of the dark. Juudai's learned to wear them when there was no other choice, when there were lives on the line. Misawa gripping his arm, he remembers: "What are you meant to do with special powers, if not to help people?" he'd demanded, and Juudai has tried. He's kept breathing when the dark rushed in, kept his thoughts clear and his head above water.

But back then -

He'd drowned in it. )

He looks up. Standby phase is over. He lays one card - one - on his bladed Duel Disk. "In attack mode:" and a shape rises from the ground, claws up from the concrete, like a man digging his way from a grave - and for a second Juudai thinks the spirit has no face, but it's just some sort of red mask -

Nearby, Jason stiffens.

"Evil Hero Red Hood." And though Juudai can't see the man's face behind the red, he could swear he knew it was smiling.

---

Jason saw the other dueler for a moment, jerking in surprise when he saw Juudai's face. Well, Juudai's face, but with different eyes, freezing eyes so icy they burned. A twin, a doppleganger, but it didn't matter, because this is what they were fighting, this is what's got Juudai's heart hammering, frantic, the low thudding audible as it thrummed thought cracked asphalt to Jason.

Finally, an enemy with a face, and Jason's smiling just for a moment, hefting his sword for attack, when he sees him.

The other monster, the other hero.

The red helmet is almost a suggestion around him, solid for one moment, smoke for another. But it’s enough, and Jason can see the familiar features, familiar but improved somehow. His own face idealized to the point of becoming alien. Because no one’s that perfect, every one has flaws, everyone has scars.

But Jason is sure that this creature does not. Not a single imperfection, down to the smooth skin of where his mouth should have been, down to his armor sleek and dark, fit to every contour of his body, riveted in place, soldered onto his form, perfect and unremovable.

Jason trembles, bile rising in this throat and for a moment, he just wants to run, and run and run, and never come back.

And then Red Hood looks at Jason, and he can’t smirk, but he didn’t need to, because his eyes communicate the feeling, smug, calm and arrogant. His fingers curl, a dark smokey cloud coalescing, darkening above his palm, turning into a heavy, automatic pistol. He levels it at Jason's head, finger resting against the trigger guard, ready. Waiting.

Jason's knuckles whiten at the hilt of his sword, of his pitifully archaic weapon. He looks up at his opponent and knows he’s outclassed. His sword wavers for a moment, and then steadies, and the red in his eyes flares even higher.

He’s outclassed, but that doesn’t matter. He’ll still fight. His city, Juudai, still needs him.

---

Right now, Juudai can barely think for fear. This is the feeling he has when the memories rise up and threaten to drag him to the ocean floor - the paralyzing feeling that he is standing at the edge of an abyss. That if he moves one single centimeter, he will fall, and fall, and fall, and never stop falling. That if he even thinks himself closer, he will be dragged down into the black depths. Crushed by the pressure. Like a hand around his ribs, slowly and inexorably squeezing the air out of his lungs.

That's what this fear is like. This terror that whatever insane, sick things happened inside his head back then, that could turn him into that - that they could just happen again. With no warning or control. It is completely irrational. Juudai is entirely aware of its irrationality. Doesn't make it any less real. Doesn't rob it of its power.

His hands tremble.


He only regards you with something like an empty, distant pity. Like he'll be doing you a favor by putting you out of your misery. (Out of your misery. Better off dead.) Better off dead. (No, he grits his teeth, no, those were the thoughts that did it, those black, shrieking, hornet's-nest thoughts that ate up all the realness in him, flew in his ears and nested in his brain until something broke and he broke open, hollowed, eaten up inside - no, he won't let them in, he won't let them win - )

"Battle," he says.

Red Hood leaps forward, black smoke curling around his hands, something bladed, then something twisted, then -

And Jason is screaming something, readying his sword and charging forward, that anger burning in his eyes -


(In that moment, something manages to break past Juudai's paralysis: Jason isn't going to win this. His attack is lower. And Juudai doesn't even have a plan and Jason doesn't deserve to be taken out if Juudai can't follow it up, and they cannot afford to lose this -

and Juudai makes a decision.)

"Trap card open!" he shouts, Red Hood's twisting, sharp shadows inches from Jason's face - this is probably the latest possible second in the Battle Phase Juudai could have declared a trap in - "Astral Shift!"

Astral Shift: turns attack damage into direct damage. Red Hood turns suddenly, swerves past Jason and the shadow forms the gun again -

Bang.

Juudai grips his side. Shit. Shit. That hurt. That hurt a lot. (Shit.) Two thousand damage. His Life's at a thousand now. (Shit. That might have been more than he could afford to lose.) But Jason's still on the field. That counts. That's something.

"By Astral Shift's effect," Juudai grits out between clenched teeth, "I draw one card." This could be the card that saves them. And Juudai's always trusted his deck. Come on, he begs silently, pulling the top card. Make it count.

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