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"There is no need to hold back for our sake Lady Yukari. After all, you'll need all the help you can get."
"An amusing idea Ran. I suppose we should move out of these cramped hallways. So at least we can stretch our legs out properly."
Gaps form beneath all three of us, swallowing us whole. It's for just a few moments but every time I'm transported this way I can catch glimpses of Yukari's domain. A nonsensical space that only she understands. Endless eyes peer from the void but I've never gotten a good understanding of their purpose. We escape back to sanity, the cool autumn breeze laps at my face. Chen and I get our bearings and quickly recognize that we are several hundred meters above the ground. In the distance I can see Mayohiga and below is the vast ocean of trees that make up the forest.
"If you are truly serious then I thought I would bring this with me." Lady Yukari twirls her trusty umbrella on her wrist. "I hope you two are ready."
A loud crack of thunder booms and a massive beam slashes from beneath me. I jet to the side with all my might and barely avoid contact. I glance to my side and see it sweep though the air, it crackles as it warps space around it. The amount of energy contained within is unfathomable for most people. It is enough power to construct and destroy realities at a whim. That show of power was merely a warning shot. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up and my body tenses up, no matter how many times I see it I am in awe. Any mistake will instantly end this match. I look over to Chen and see she has frozen up completely.
"Place your life into my hands Chen, I will show you what it means to be a shikigami." I can feel Chen's legs trembling. Even though she is so far away from the source, she can still feel the effects. This is the first time she's experienced the full extent of Lady Yukari's abilities. I forge a direct link with Chen and begin channeling my energy into her. As I pour strength into her, Chen's mind, body, and soul are reinforced several times beyond her latent and natural ability. In exchange for her drastic improvement, I gain all her senses. Each nerve in her body is directly relayed to me. No matter how insignificant it is, I feel it. What she is sensing, what she is feeling, what she is thinking, there is nothing that I cannot touch or control.
"I'm ready Lady Ran!" Chen exclaims with the new vigor coursing through her body.
The next few moments to the layman observer can only be described as complete chaos. An endless amount of lasers shred apart the sky. Layers upon layers of moves and counter moves are made, Lady Yukari is proceeding defensibly for now. For each laser that I create either a counter laser is instantly created to cancel out mine or it is redirected by a gap for a new purpose. The sky is filled with a complex maze of energy not too different from danmaku but instead each individual beam has just one purpose. There is no wasted effort in any of these attacks, each of them are created for the sole purpose of directly destroying anything in its path. Chen and I have to make exceptional effort to weave though the cracks of Lady Yukari's defenses.
"You two are getting a little feisty today." Lady Yukari stands there with an amused expression, any stray beam that comes in proximity to her is instantly deflected by her barrier. Just as if it were simple rain, she twirls her open umbrella underneath the torrent of energy.
I just need one opening, anywhere is fine, I guide Chen as my extra set of eyes. Just ahead! There is a small pocket where I can engage Lady Yukari with a direct assault. I barrel into place and unleash my attack on her. A barrage of beams bear down on Lady Yukari, but she nonchalantly raises her hand to block. A deafening impact echoes throughout the land as the array of lasers clash against a gigantic multi-tiered barrier. Without warning, my lasers rake the forest floor and permanently scars the earth below. Lady Yukari is gone! I frantically look all around and I'm soon met with shouts.
"Lady Ran! Above!" Chen yells at me. I can see through her eyes the pillar of marble traveling towards me at absurd speeds. It's too late to escape completely, so I brace myself and it catches my shoulder. Stuck underneath, it drags me plummeting towards the ground. I manage to shake loose and as soon as I do, the sizable amount of rock is instantly eviscerated by a set of saws below. Each section of the energy blades rip wildly into the structure leaving nothing but dust when it passes through.
"I was sure that would have been enough." Lady Yukari ponders as she sits to cross her legs in the air. "My turn, right? I guess I'll go on the offensive now."
My arm is still throbbing from the last attack, I'm given no time to rest. Lady Yukari is relentlessly attacking now. While Chen still has to dodge, the attacks are focusing completely on me. Desperately I shift my weight to survive, a near-hit of a beam singes my body. The smell of burning fills my nostrils. Anything imaginable is being tossed at me. Signs, pillars, vehicles, and rocks, repeatedly the same items careen by me several times. They must be using the gaps to redirect their vectors. I graze each object and slyly slap a tracking seal on what I can. I map out Lady Yukari's network in my mind, I'll abuse her own power and turn it against her.
"Now!" I telepathically beam a set of instructions to Chen.
Chen and I grab onto the debris and allow ourselves to be transported by a gap. A pincer attack! I leap from below while Chen dives from above, we close in rapidly. As we approach we are diverted by a set of gaps, just meters away from Lady Yukari we are consumed by darkness. When I reappear, I'm on a direct path to collide with Chen. I shift my weight to the side, just enough clearance to graze past her. Quickly, I strip off my tabard and hand off an end to her as we zoom past each other. We snap back and rotate violently in a circle as the garment acts as a tether between us. My hairs get tickled by an immense energy, a follow-up beam pieces though the neck-hole. Now for the real attack!
As we pull closer together we spin exponentially fast, I slap several seals onto Chen and send her hurling towards Lady Yukari. I thrust after her and approach from beneath. Lady Yukari throws up a gap in the way of Chen's predicted path but it isn't enough. Like lightning, Chen's position instantly shifts to the side and smashes violently against the barrier. A tangible shock wave ripples throughout the air as the barrier shatters into a million pieces. Lady Yukari is forced to deflect Chen with her umbrella. The last thing I see before my link get severed with Chen is a face full of fabric. In a move of desperation Lady Yukari places a large rock barrier between herself and me. It groans as its massive weight shifts through the sky.
"Chen!" I yell out and shear through the tons of earth easily with my hand. It cleaves cleanly in two and reveals the woman I've been chasing my entire life. She hasn't lost an ounce of strength over all these years. No... she's gotten even stronger than before. Even after tirelessly training day in and day out, I've never felt so distant from her power. I can only look in envy as fragments of the barrier shimmer all around Lady Yukari. That same immutable and untouchable smile graces her face.
"Checkmate." Lady Yukari has been waiting all this time, her finger half poised to issue my destruction. I've never felt more defeated in my life. That is until Lady Yukari's posture wanes and a grimace appears on her face.
To be continued