There would be no humans or Hollows that could even compare to an accomplished master of the noble arts, this he knew as fact. In comparison to their power, all else was merely desperate grabs at power, but he knew where it's true allegiances lied, and no amount of mindless swordwaving or brute fisticuffs would get them there. The time had come to test his mettle and hone his mind against a fellow master, and he relished the opportunity to test his prowess against someone who knew to appreciate his craft. There was hardly a point to making a show for mindless swines after all.
Walking through the hallways of the Kidou Corps headquarters, the man took notice of, as he always did, of the Shikigami who performed the menial chores. There they were, paper mannequins holding broomsticks and other cleaning objects, brushing away dirt and other impurities from the floor while others of their kind polished it reflected the mages that scuttled around in the hall. Running from Division to Division, tomes and grimoires stacked high in their arms. Some were in a hurry, others took their time and walked with their noses buried in some book or scroll, attempting to descipher some ancient secrets or what-not.
Each of the mages were dressed in billowing garments of all colors imagineable, their robes of silk, satin or velvet and held together by large obi sashes much like his own clothes. Although they prefered to wear lighter clothing while out doing work in the Seireitei, they prefered wearing clothes that were every bit as opulent and immaculate as their chosen craft while in the Headquarters. There was no way around it, most mages had a flair for theatrics and the excessive.
Reaching the end of the hall, he opened a set of large doors and went inside the massive room...
In the Hall of Martial Magic
The room was named aptly, for it was the centerpiece of a large arena drawn by the Joujatou corps as a training ground for Kido Specialists seeking to learn how to better manipulate their talents for combat. It was also open for senior members to test one another in a sparring match, or stimulate intense scenarios through arcane diagrams that produced illusions when commanded to. But for the sake of this match between him and Fumio, those glyphs had been deactivated for the time being.
The arena was held inside a massive translucent barrier, with benches arranged on the outer perimeter for less skilled members to spectate the matches of those who entered. Due to the fame of both combatants in this case, most of the benches were filled with hopeful new recruits and a few older and more experienced ones. The floor was made of a form of enchanted crystal which was naturally resistant to arcane energies, and was inscribed by various pentagrams and arcane symbols to fulfill its function. The moment he entered, a rush of energy flew across the soon-to-be-battlefield and several of the glyphs in the floor began glowing with magical energies.
Kazuya walked to the middle of the room and put his arms behind his back, awaiting his soon to be rival. Once he had arrived the room would change into a random form of terrain in order to make their battle more realistic and interesting. Space was rarely an issue, as the barrier was in essence a bounded field, and therefore the arena was not privy to the sort of laws the rest of the world abided by.
"Well, well! Look who has graced us with his presence!", a bass-baritone resounded with unnatural echo across the spacious room.
A simple magic trick, so to speak, as the spiritual pressure of an incoming person spread across the area to serve as a medium for his strong voice. The skill of a proficient mage exploited for mundane, if ostentatious, purposes. Preceded as such the man himself appeared shortly, pacing toward Kuchiki in long energetic strides that bordered on inelegant, given the former's station. For it was none other than Fumio Enomoto, a noble and an accomplished mage. Clad in a regal robe that hid the modest kimono underneath he quickly approached the younger Shinigami. Fumio was twice as old and did look older, perhaps exceedingly so. Regardless, accompanying him was a short-haired young woman in a fairly typical but more functional variant of the standard attire worn by ordinary members of the Kidō Corps, complete with a partial face covering. She kept up with Enomoto effortlessly, with a kind of captivating grace.
"Either I am the victim of an insidious charm or this is the eminent Ninth Division Captain Kazuya Kuchiki in the flesh!", rejoiced Fumio with a wide, friendly smile on his somewhat wrinkled face when he halted in front of the aforementioned. "I am glad to see you."
Kazuya smiled warmly at his former colleague, Fumio was an exceptionally capable mage, well-respected among evven the senior members of the Corps, and idolized by some of the younger recruits. His knowledge of the more esoteric arts that dealt with Space and Time were virtually unparalleled, no, Kazuya very much doubted that this would be an easy match.
"As I am you, Enomoto-dono. But we've exchanged pleasantries before, have we not? I say it's time we quelled my anxiety like we discussed, there's nothing quite like a battle of wills and magic to clear the mind, wouldn't you say, it helps keep me focused and confident. "
Turning towards Kazumi, the Kuchiki heir flashed her a wide smile, as he straightened his back and adjusted his posture. It wouldn't do for a man of his house to be outdone by her, with a grace befitting his house, he acknowledged her with a nod and a motion of his hand. He knew who she was of course, her skills in the art had caused her to rise consistently though the rank and it was believed that she might soon earn the rank of Vice-Kido Chief. Most impressive.
Taking a few steps away from the duo, he prepared himself, he could feel the fragmented wills all around him, they'd obey his whim if he would just reach out and seize the reins, and so he would. With nary a word nor gesture, he called upon the power all around him, as his spiritual energy turned into the shade of liquid gold and expanded in size. Motes of energy began separating from his reiryoku in wisps of yellow light, encircling the battlefield and setting it alight, glowing like innumerable lit candles. In short order, he kept them afloat and close by, he made no attempt at attacking though - without his rivals affirmation such a thing would be quite unbecoming of a master such as he. Instead he drew a deep breath before looking back at Fumio expectantly.
"Ah, that is right. How unfortunate that the circumstances which led to our meeting are so dire. And here I thought that the period of turmoil has been long over... but, I digress!", mused Fumio before he remembered the reason they met in the first place. "Takeda-kun, you may leave now. This place is going to become quite dangerous in but a moment."
"Understood", the young woman confirmed and complied, but not before showing her respect to the two mages with polite bows.
Enomoto's fatherly stare followed her as she left the arena swiftly to take a seat in the safe auditorium. Then, he turned toward Captain Kuchiki. The young man appeared very eager to begin the confrontation but waited patiently for a proper signal. They were both reputable nobles, after all, not some uncivilised brutes.
"The situation is urgent, I know", said Enomoto with a solemn face expression. "We may talk as we battle so that we not waste any more precious time."
With those words he straightened his back and folded his arms behind, gripping the right forearm higher up. He observed the emanations of Kuchiki's spiritual pressure with a faint smile. Soon, his own power manifested itself. Fumio felt the energy course through his body, invigorating him. Both his innate reservoir as well as the ambient Reishi that saturated Soul Society's atmosphere merged seamlessly in a steady flow. With that the mage became a conduit, a focal point for the impressive might of Kidō, the Spirit Way. Gentle ripples of orange-red light began radiating from his body, adorned with noticeable glitter.
"I believe I am ready", said Fumio with a slight nod.
Patiently waiting for his soon to be adversary, Kazuya nodded a single time once Fumio had declared himself ready, he then took a single step forward as their battlefield erupted into motion.
The innumerable motes of golden fire began to encircle Fumio in a rapidly contracting ring of fire, at each revolution spheres of yellow flames would form at it's rim and launch themselves towards him from every conceivable direction, several times in a second, each meticulously trailed onto his spiritual signature in order to make them as difficult to avoid as at all possible. Each time they struck the ground they culminated into towering pillars of yellow energies before disappearing, undoubtedly, Kazuya's skills within the art of destruction was not exaggerated in the least. Lesser magi would've stopped at that point, but for a master of his caliber, such a feat of magic, a powerful attack in it's own right was but a set-up to something greater. Each time they collided with something, the energy in the room grew denser and more attuned to Kazuya's own energies, which in turn made it more malleable in his hands. The bombardment continued for a few second, each revolution of the ring of flame brought roughly seven fireballs to bear upon his foe, and it extended until it had launched a total of thirty-five fireballs, each leaving but a moments respite between each volley - as much to gather the energy as it was to realign their target to prevent his escape. A necessity when dealing with someone who could fold, shift and extend space the way Fumio could.
However, while this chaos was ensuing, Kazuya was far from idle as his hands moved so quickly that they became difficult to follow to the untrained eye, whatever spell he cast, whatever motion he did, it was performed perfectly, anything less could easily spell the demise of a careless Kidō Master in heated combat. Mere moments after the last sphere of flame had detonated, whether on his opponent or the bare ground, he issued onwards with the next step. As he grasped onto the residual energies of everything he had conjured up until that point and commanded it all to converge towards where he sensed Fumio's energies. With a clap of his hands he caused it all to detonate at once. The resulting explosion was out of this world.
The walls of the barrier was strained to the point that it almost seemed like they would burst, such was the power of Kazuya's unrestrained spellwork. The entire arena was completely consumed by golden flames for a few seconds, in which the spectators could see nothing but the yellow light. Once the flames lifted, the only spot in the arena that was not charred beyond belief was the spot where Kazuya stood.. which was left miraculously untouched. Only that, he no longer stood there, in fact, he was nowhere to be found, and his energy had completely vanished off the face of the earth. It was like he'd simply been swallowed up by his own inferno and devoured, but that'd be a foolish thought to think, surely?
To open the offensive with such a relentless saturation attack... Fumio expected nothing else of his opponent. Do not seek beauty in battle. Even though he was guilty of histrionic behaviour and extravagant displays, Enomoto understood the tenets of high-level combat full well. That was not the time to appreciate the sublime charm of magic in action. That was the time to act. Captain Kuchiki needed confidence to lead his future mission successfully and Fumio was determined to help him. And to do that was to clash in a contest of advanced spellcasting, to prove his own strength and conviction.
The barrage of fiery spheres came down upon him, rapid and comprehensive. Enomoto liked to think of himself as one always prepared but for this battle a passive attitude would not do. At all times, he was protected by an invisible ward. Basic, if brilliantly designed. While highly useful and true to the core tenets of Shubidō as a precautionary means of defence, the price for its virtually infinite duration and flexibility was limited resistance to damage. Not low, perhaps, yet certainly insufficient to withstand such a vicious assault. No, a proper reaction was in order. A twofold reaction, in fact.
Currents of vermillion lightning wrapped around Fumio's figure only to burst forth in multiple directions abruptly. The tendrils of potent electrical current reached out toward the incoming projectiles of golden fire to intercept them, detonate them ere they had a chance to hit the intended target. Tsuzuri Raiden, one of Fumio's favourite traditional spells by far. Thoroughly analysed and broken down into raw constituents it had long become a versatile medium for the master's intent, in stark contrast to the low-level, restricted spell known to casual practitioners of Kidō. So profoundly altered and wielded with such skill as to render it barely recognisable to anyone but a fellow Kidō specialist.
That was but one part of his manoeuvre, however. As his own lightning filled the air with premature explosions of golden flames the man himself stood ever-calm in the eye of a storm. That alone would not ensure his safety from harm. At a gradually increasing pace the emanations of his spiritual pressure, the gentle ripples spun about him with surprising force. Kojin no Kūkan promptly gave way to its far more sophisticated cousin: Taifūnome. Whatever potential damage the nearby detonations could have caused was blocked as the perdurable ward revolved rapidly to achieve full capacity. A self-sustaining wonder of a ward composed of multiple interwoven layers. Each of them endowed with the ability to detect and shield a different source of potential harm.
But that was not the end. The disturbance in the flow of energy did not escape Enomoto's notice even as he was in the middle of a deadly onslaught. That surely was building up to something. He had endured the opening attack, the distraction, the lead-up. The energy unleashed by Kuchiki had permeated the environment until it coalesced for an inevitable strike. One that warranted another response.
"Taifūnome", said Fumio quietly.
Chants were valuable mnemonic techniques conceived to help reproduce well-defined spells without error, time and again. But many, if not most practitioners of magic sought to overcome the intrinsic limitations thereof, the slowness and vulnerability a full incantation entailed. As an expert of Kengen, a high-level spellcasting technique that surpassed the ever-popular Eishōhaki itself, Enomoto needed not utter any word to produce a powerful, stable, possibly altered and guided technique at will. More than that, should he decide to speak the name of the spell anyway the ensuant effectiveness was truly astonishing. As it was the case when the earthshaking explosion drowned the world around him in blinding light of destruction. Horrible light that nevertheless failed to reach him through the protective shroud of his wind-like ward. Temporarily weakened it, yes, but did not surmount.
Afterward, the mage scanned the area in search of his surprisingly tenacious sparring partner who seemed to had been gone at first glance.
While his onslaught had raged against his foe, Kazuya had hid his presence through the use of the all-time favorite Kyōkko. It was an exceedingly versatile piece of magic which could be utilized in a myriad of different ways, however, against a mage of Fumio's caliber it's usefulness would only last for a short while. Looking over at his uninjured foe, Kazuya was not the least bit surprised to find that his wards still held - such was the strength of a true master of Kido after all. He'd need to destroy his remaining defenses quickly, thankfully, most wards were made primarily to defend against physical attacks, and ironically were therefore frequently more vulnerable to magical attacks. Allowing himself a few seconds to examine it's structure, he soon found that it's construction was mildly said, flawless - it was unlike the common warding spells utilized by most of their order. It seemed to be self-replenishing, that likely meant that attempting to wear it down was largely a fruitless effort, likewise, striking it with one exceptionally powerful spell might offer a brief window.. but the window would soon close. Fumio had been quite cautious in preventing it from being easily breached, unlike most other wards, he assumed this one was intended to counter attacks of particularly great power. Fortunately, Kazuya knew of one strategy he might use in order to defeat the ward before him.
Using Shunpo to silently relocate himself directly behind Fumio, Kazuya once again summoned his forces into motion. By now the entire battlefield was deeply saturated with his spiritual energy, which made it considerably easier for him to weave spells and seize control of the fragmented wills all around them. His hands moved quickly as he once again resumed his assault on his adversary, the entire battlefield was once again set alight with flickering orbs of golden flames, they hovered about them for a moment before they once again began to launch themselves at his foe at great speed, each detonating with great force the moment it made contact with a surface. But he knew such a spell wouldn't be able to breach the defenses of his foe, nay, far from it. But they certainly made a lot of noise.
A shrill cacophonous roar resounded whenever a sphere detonated, which along with the explosions were intended to disrupt Fumio's line of sight to Kazuya, allowing him the possibility of surprising the latter. By now, the invisibility portion of his enchantment had worn off due to his offensive actions, but he firmly kept the secondary portion of the enchantment in place, in order to make it very difficult to get a read on his spiritual energy. This, along with the noise would form the basic requirements for his true intent. Kazuya took a deep breath as he watched the ongoing onslaught of golden flames that took place in front of him, before he opened his mouth to speak softly but firmly, and with great purpose.
"Ye lord! Mask of blood and flesh!"
Even as the first syllables were spoken, the ongoing spell against his foe grew more fervent, unrelenting and aggressive. Launching themselves towards Enomoto's position and being even more relentless in it's pursuit of it's mark, attempting to keep him pinned down and unable to move in any significant manner. Meanwhile, Kazuya began to find himself enshrouded within a faintly glowing nimbus of yellow energies as the spell began to ascend with it's power. He continued his incantation.
"Flutter of wings, ye who bears the name of man!"
He hoped that the overbearing noise from the assault would mask his spoken incantation, although it was almost always much more tactically feasible to cast spells silently - a spoken incantation by someone of their caliber could increase any given spells power tenfold or more. Yes, even to masters, Incantations served a crucial purpose. When the second sentence of the incantation was spoken, the faint nimbus grew into a halo of effervescent light, illuminating the area where he stood. The power of his spell increased vastly once more, both in speed and power.. but that was nothing compared to what would happen next, Kazuya completed the incantation.
"Sword and Laughter, the beast is stirred, a massive maw, a golden arc, the bell rings as ye move swiftly forwards!"
The change was immediate, each golden projectile changed shape into a spear of golden light, moving through the air at tremendous speeds even as they continously formed around the two mages, each missed spear caused the battlefield to tremble due to the overwhelming power behind them, indeed, the faintest of cracks could be witnessed across the barrier in which the battle took place. Even the creator of this spectacle was not spared the spells wrath as the blast waves issuing forth from each impact forced him further and further away from Fumio and he struggled to keep his footing due to the trembling ground beneath him. Even so he could not let his resolve waver, this was a test of his abilities, his conviction and his determination. From what he knew of his adversaries' unique spell, even this kind of concentrated assault might not defeat his foe on it's own, but that was not it's primary purpose - no, he wanted to keep it's defenses in check. He hoped that his spell would be enough to significantly extend the window of a possible counterattack, if his calculations were correct, the ward would be constantly broken down, reassembled, then broken down and reassembled again, in essence. He placed his bets on having the ward and his spell cancel one another out for a few precious seconds.
He'd have to take that chance, his robes billowing out behind him due to the immense air pressure, Kazuya utilized his reiatsu and wards to keep the blast waves at bay so as to not be interrupted while he prepared his true attack. While Fumio might prefer the spell Tsuzuri Raiden, the Captain of the 9th Division had a partiality towards the spell Hainawa, and while it was of much lower potency than the overwhelming assault of Ōkasen that he had just produced upon his rival, a well-placed low-complexity spell utilized in the proper manner could easily end a fight just as easily as something more pompous.
Without neither movement nor words spoken, five lances of pale light appeared hovering around Kazuya's form. Each of them was an altered version of his favorite spell, and their form was designed for great speed and lethal precision. Though he commonly rendered them capable of inflicting great injuries, in this case, they retained the effect of immediate paralysis to fulfill their desired end of ending the fight by making Enomoto incapable of fighting back. But such a simple spell would be of no consequence to the more experienced Kidō Master on their own, no, he needed to make a few adjustments. Utilizing Kyōkko once again, Kuchiki layered the spell atop each of the lances, turning them invisible to the naked eye and masking their spiritual presence completely. With but a single word, they shot forwards at great speeds.
With his previous spell work hopefully still keeping his opponents wards in check, these lances were intended to slip right through the brief window and strike at their target, causing immediate paralysis and hopefully ending the fight then and there. The only visual cue to their approach would be as five rapidly approaching ripples in the air.
Kyōkko after all. Yet another subtle indication that the young Kuchiki was taking this contest very seriously. Many a mage would not bother to conceal one's presence during battle, more than that, some would not likely even think of the possibility. That was not the case here, however, for Kazuya seemed eager to use every brilliant trick up his sleeve to overwhelm the opponent and finish the fight decisively at short notice. Easier said than done, though.
Once granted full power with the statement of its name Taifūnome was unlikely to collapse anytime soon. For it was the greatest of Fumio's three wards, and the one specifically designed to offer outstanding perdurability first and foremost. An extended comprehensive assault like the one he found himself under was not as much unlikely to overcome the defensive spell but was the very type of attack that the ward had been designed to withstand. Even as it was systematically growing in intensity, drowning the area with bedazzling flashes of light and thunderous noise.
Kuchiki surely knew that would not be enough and Fumio knew that he knew that. So what was the underlying reason for the deployment of such an ostensibly wasteful offence? What was the real, hidden purpose obscured by veritable torture to the senses of sight and hearing? Another distraction and lead-up combined, no doubt. A pattern. Enomoto quickly recognised the basic yet fundamental similarity to the previous manoeuvre. And to perceive a pattern in the enemy's actions was a small victory in itself.
In spite of his proficiency with the Way of Space and Time Fumio was not capable of divination. And while the ability to foretell the future laid outside his competence he was more than able to make educated guesses and appropriate preparations. The tempest of golden fire became ever stronger with each passing moment. But the flames did not reach him... Taifūnome was notorious among the mages of Kidō Corps for one intrinsic property. Not because of invincibility, which it was not. Not even due to more reasonable perdurability. It did not remain unscathed after a protracted onslaught, it did not simply shrug off a singular strike of incredible might... but it did not disperse either. The revolutions continued, replenishing the defensive layers as they were being struck relentlessly time and again so that the damage was repaired immediately once it had been dealt. The vicious assault grew in strength, yet the ward prevailed even if somewhat suppressed under such a continuous barrage.
It was... tantalising.
For all that, the true strike was yet to come. Fumio was certain that the infernal Ōkasen was a lead-up as much as it was distraction, so a preparation was in order for the inevitable.
"Dankū", he stated in a firm tone.
The power of a spell was a notion far more relative to an advanced spellcaster than it was to casual practitioners. The attack conducted by Kazuya very clearly exploited that flexibility to employ devastating power through the medium of a mid-level spell. As such, Enomoto felt it appropriate to reinforce the pane of splitting void with a verbal command to let it accomplish its task against the imposing ferocity of his sparring partner's attack. Although, that was only the beginning. The translucent barrier with a distinct orange-red tint started spinning about the mage at a considerable pace to absorb a significant portion of the incessant onslaught. In consequence, the ward underneath had a chance to not only cancel out damage but restore vanquished layers as well. Splitting void, the prelude for what was to occur fairly soon at this rate... But, first things first.
The strike came.
Fumio did not see the concealed lances of light. However, he did not need to see them. The revolving Dankū, whilst somewhat worse for wear after the lashings of empowered Ōkasen, succeeded to intercept most of the altered spells... but one. One that proceeded to fly past and pierce the cyclone ward beneath. And it was at that point that Enomoto perceived the debilitating strike he had expected. One swift step to the side and the lance left a burnt cut in the left sleeve of his regal robe. To be very nearly grazed so soon after the battle had started... most impressive.
Indisputably, the Ninth Division Captain had already proven his remarkable attack power, resolve and cunning. Fumio had wanted to talk but could not even afford that in the face of the former's vehemence. Yet Kazuya had come one step short of discovering the real weakness of Taifūnome, the one hidden in plain sight but challenging to exploit. Furthermore, a passive attitude would not do. Enomoto had to emulate the viciousness the unknown enemy, the kind that was by far the most threatening. Thus, with his robe fluttering in the constant winds of his ward and the Dankū swiveled behind his back he gazed toward the now visible Kuchiki. There were still many things that Kuchiki had to prove.
"Hadō #11, Tsuzuri Raiden", he uttered.
Tip of the iceberg. The currents of lightning arced in multiple directions with the mage's body as their source. That was only half of the impending attack, however. Empowered with the full designation spoken aloud, the spell was at the same time reinforced and augmented with another one in complete silence. Tenran, the second spell Fumio sought to master and turn into a malleable extension of his will, combined torrential gusts of wind with the currents of electricity to produce a gestalt. The two elements formed composite tendrils of bedazzling light the colour of Enomoto's spiritual energy, a subtle indication of his reign over the constituent energy. The astonishing speed and attack power of lightning plus the swiftness and gentle flow of wind.
Several such snakes of the storm of energy shot toward Kuchiki at an alarming pace.
For a moment, Kazuya could only look upon his mostly unscathed foe in disbelief. He'd honestly believed that this would have a bigger impact on the older Kidō Master, it would seem that Fumio's skill was not at all exaggerated. He might've underestimated his prowess, but that kind of foolish mistake was not going to be one he'd make again, for now he needed to take a moment to assess the situation. Although his hypothesis had indeed been correct, he had not considered that his adversary might utilize follow-up spells to further increase his defense, a silly oversight on his part. Straitening his posture, Kazuya attempted to ignore the pang of fatigue that rushed throughout his body. Although his earlier feat had been accomplished through the medium of a mid-rank spell, it's immense power alongside all of the additional components had drained his reserves by no small amount, even if he was by no means finished yet. He briefly considered releasing Gin'Iro Odoruchō - but he dispelled the thought almost immediately, it was too early in the match to summon her powers.
For now he'd need to remain patient and figure out the wards weak points, while weathering through Fumio's counterattacks. His foes protective spells had proven to be quite the nuisance, they messed with his preferred style. As someone with a marked specialization within the Way of Destruction, his battles were frequently won before they even begun, it was not at all unlikely that Fumio knew about this and that he had summoned Taifūnome for that exact purpose. He was grateful for Fumio to push him this hard, and he would repay him in kind, as he well deserved. For now though, there was the matter of Enomoto's counterattack.
In comparison to Kazuya's own spells, there was little point in denying that Fumio's offensive seemed a bit modest, but only a fool would underestimate a Kidō Master. Both spells employed in his attack were cast with the utmost perfection, they were both signature spells from what he could tell, deflecting them with his own prowess alone would prove impossible, he'd need to defend against this attack somehow. But for that he needed time. The arcing bolts of magical energies moved too fast for him to be able to erect a suitable barrier in time, thankfully, he had been privately trained in the use of Shunpo by the current Yonkō of Hoho, Shihouin Kurama.
The Captain of the 9th Division let himself issue into motion, as he easily traversed the entire distance of the room in a single step. But this was not enough as immediately, the spell cast by his adversary turned in mid-air and pursued him relentlessly, a single bolt approached his back at great speeds, it would no doubt strike with full force were it to make contact. But in the last possible moment, Kuchiki pivoted elegantly to the side, leaving the bolt to pass him by harmlessly, he then narrowly avoided the ensuing bolts as he darted off in the opposite direction, all while reaching out to the energies that by now completely permeated the arena. His opponents attack were moments upon him.. as they collided with several discs of spiritual energy that emerged practically out of nowhere to intercept their attack. These shields rapidly began to crack under the pressure, but Kazuya reinforced them by gathering more and more energy within them from the surroundings and quickly conjured new shields whenever one was broken. After a short while, both shields and lightning were firmly neutralized - although his opponents spell had been far stronger than imagined, belying it's apparent simplicity.
Stepping in front of his rival once more, Kazuya took the time to make a respectful nod towards Fumio before he continued with his next move. As if on his spiritual energy began to expand at an accelerated pace, and it soon assumed the form of tongues of fire lashing in all directions - the temperature increased tremendously, to the point that the air between them rippled and was otherwise distorted. His spiritual energy began to cascade off his being in expanding ripples of golden fire, brushing against Enomoto's powerful ward like waves against a rock. Were he not so well protected, one might easily get the impression that his reiatus could burn on it's own, spell or otherwise. As the flames danced luridly around his form, Kazuya smiled at his friend and spoke softly.
"Your grasp on the art of Shubidō is truly impressive, Enomoto-dono. I can detect no glaring weaknesses or flaws in your Ward, most extraordinary my friend. But the time has come for me to show you that I too, am no slouch within this specific field."
With that, Kazuya raised his hands into the sky and spoke with a voice filled with passion for his craft.
"Amaterasu no Shukutō!"
Once again the battlefield was consumed by a bright white light, which seemed to expand from Kazuya like an angels halo. Making it difficult to look straight at him without severely straining ones eyes, and even then his form appeared blurry and unfocused, visible only as the faintest black shape amidst a veritable sea of light that seemed to drown out everything else around him. However this time, the light didn't go away and remained firmly in place until he dispelled it.
However, the greatest change of all was how the immense otherwordly heat of Kazuya's ward set everything within the perimeters of the arena aflame, the barriers that enclosed them burned, the ground was an expanding inferno and it was only confined due to the mentioned barriers. Yes, even the very air around them seemed to burn.. even though one might not have thought it capable, tongues of fire licked across it and soon it began to consume the very air the combatants breathed, with it's effect particularly centered on Fumio, although if he did not finish this quickly enough, he would feel it as well. There was no time to waste.
The air around them surged with arcane energies as thirteen spheres of crackling red energy appeared in mid-air above the Captain, although their form and state would suggest that they were simple fireballs, much like the ones he had conjured before, this was not the case. Amaterasu's Benediction was a ward that contained a permanent and empowered version of the Weave of Fire, and thus, whatever spell he cast, or however he cast it, would always act and behave like a fire spell. In truth, these floating orbs were not fire at all, but lightning mimicking the properties of flickering flames. Each element had it's strengths, and the strength of lightning was it's unparalleled penetrative power - he would not overpower nor overcome Fumio's Ward, he'd bypass it altogether, for when the Weave of Fire was applied to lightning, it produced bolts of red energy that scorched their way through virtually any form of defense, whether magical or otherwise. It was not a matter of raw power, it was a matter of focus and precision. Unfortunately..
Each of the thirteen "fireballs" shot forwards at once, slithering through the air to strike at Enomoto from every conceivable angle, while in flight their appearance were akin to red flashes of light, whose speed were too much for any ordinary eye to follow. Three of them however never found their mark and instead shot straight through the Confinement Barrier without even the slightest issue, indeed, the bolt didn't even slow down as they continued their momentum through the opposing wall and onwards across the headquarters before dissipating on their own. Kazuya had to strain himself not to accidentally injure something with them.
...It required great effort to control properly, as Lightning and Fire were the most unruly of elements, when put together in such a union their speed and piercing power might be unmatched, but so was their unruly elements. To guide them as best he could he reached out with his hands and utilized somatic gestures to steer them in the direction they wished to go, the moment he sensed that they might be evaded or blocked, he immediately repositioned them to attack from another angle, giving the audience the illusion that these bolts of lightning were alive, with their form possibly reminding one of red serpents slithering through the air to find their prey.
Each of the bolts struck down towards Fumio in turn, attempting to scorch straight through his powerful ward and strike at the mage in question. Some might find such intensity brutal for a sparring match, but while they remained inside the Headquarters medical treatments could be applied by a private staff of powerful healers that the organization kept on hand for situations like these. The message was clear, Kazuya was done with having his spellwork disrupted any further, to further aid in his success, he utilized the secondary characteristics of Amaterasu's Benediction in order to shroud several of these red lances within optical illusions, making them either vanish entirely from sight or seem to spontaneously duplicate to confuse his rival.
Yes, that was what Fumio wanted. At last, he had witnessed Kuchiki's ward. While his own fondness was divided between the elements of lightning and wind the young Captain seemed to favour fire above all. Appropriate, considering his ferocity and the incinerating might of the onslaught he had carried out. He evaded the trailing appendages of the composite element of storm with respectable skill only to swiftly resume the assault. Multiple fiery strikes from various directions. More focussed, powerful, as if tailor-made to pierce through the shroud of perpetual whirlwind. Fast, very fast. But predictable.
It was time.
A single ripple of augmented spiritual pressure swept across the aflame area with the potency of a shockwave. Veins bulged out on the mage's temples, the droplets of perspiration adorned his forehead. The battle had been brief but intense so far, and that intensity began to take its toll on Enomoto. Although, he was not exhausted just yet. The weathered Dankū was assimilated. The flow of spiritual energy sped up, invigorated with additional Reishi absorbed from the environment. With that and his influence spread, Kuchiki no longer having sole control of the power that saturated the air but now locked in a struggle for supremacy with the other mage, Fumio was ready.
"Ken'o", he said with solemnity.
Tokikūkandō. The Way of Space and Time. One of the most arcane and sophisticated categories of Kidō, obscure, demanding, partially forbidden. The ability to tamper with the most profound aspects of existence, to alter the state of reality with but a thought, the willpower of a single mage acting through the medium of his spiritual might to enforce fundamental change. The art that select few endeavoured to practice and even fewer managed to grasp to any sensible degree of competence. The subject of Enomoto's advanced specialisation. His most ambitious goal, his crowning achievement, his forte. As the reach of his resolve spread beyond his immediate vicinity Fumio grabbed at the very fabric of existence and pulled, twisting the plane in unimaginable ways. The rapidly incoming bolts of joint lightning and fire threatened to strike down the older mage in one fell swoop... provided they could hit the target. Which, unfortunately or not, was not the case while the spatial distortion bent their trajectories, causing them to harmlessly twist about the mage and coalesce into a single focal point...
Fumio was certain that Kazuya could crush any ordinary, or many a high-level foe with a single brutal onslaught. But what if? What if the enemy had withstood the attack? What if the enemy had retaliated with comparable ferocity? What would be the young Captain's reaction? Would he falter? Retreat? Panic? Or perhaps continue unabated to emerge victorious at any cost? That was a vital question that demanded a quick answer, one they were about to discover.
The saturation attack that had been launched by Kuchiki promptly returned to the master in the form of a single, extremely condensed beam of elemental fury. But that was but the beginning. Impressed by the Captain's earlier displays, Fumio was eager to exhibit his own offensive prowess. Tokikūkandō was not spectacular the way Hadō was with its manifold mesmerising manifestations, but its horrible effectiveness was inarguable.
"Hassha", said Enomoto with a snap of his fingers.
He repeated the ostensibly superfluous gesture twice in short succession. In truth, a simple magic gesture that belied the inherent complexity of the spell it triggered. The space around Kazuya's form, immersed in flames, imploded in three abrupt contractions. A bewildering feat, to contort the figment of reality as if pinching the nose of an unruly child. The momentary compression of reality was largely harmless of its own but the result thereof was another story. That sheer atrocity against reason caused a threefold outburst of primordial forces, extremely potent shockwaves of concussive and kinetic energies that strove to overwhelm the young mage as they were intended to converge and overlap upon his person. Still, Fumio had not been done just yet.
With a swing of his left arm not unlike the gesture of a stage magician six translucent discs appeared out of thin air, air they promptly proceeded to distort with their unholy existence. Six circular planes of contorted space, humming with a quiet but piercing drone. Their ability to cut and pierce was not as much impressive as it was unnatural and unbelievable. For they did not overcome, they separated what was one no matter its durability or nature. Acting fast, Enomoto guided four such round blades of warp to burst forth toward Kuchiki in erratic trajectories bound to find their destination point where he stood. For all that nigh simultaneous barrage Fumio did not intend to let up in his effort. The strain was increasing, but his resolve remained strong. Observing attentively the outcome of his own offence he kept two discs close: one to strike Kazuya the moment he would attempt to evade the preceding assault and the other to follow shortly should its forerunner fail.
While his opponent was preoccupied reweaving his own spell as a weapon against him, quite masterfully so as well, he should add. Kazuya was once again focused upon the ward around his opponent, part of the reason he had utilized Amaterasu's Benediction earlier was precisely because of how it's energies emanated outwards in an aura of flame, expanding the field of his influence across the perimeter without him having to do anything. As his foe had just proven by him seizing control over Kazuya's own spellwork, the art of magic was a neutral one, there was no kinship between mage and spell. Not even the most powerful and complicated of them, most of them were based on a single fundament, and it was their mutual understanding of this that allowed them to turn their spells against one another. Although between masters of their caliber, such occurrences only occurred after a significant amount of time had passed for a mage to build up a level of control.
Fumio's action of weaving Kazuya's magic about him and into a single point, proved to be the last form of saturation he required to move onwards with his plan. By now it had become readily apparent that Fumio protected his ward jealously, and any obvious attempts at targeting it (which pretty much every actual spell in his repertoire, to put it bluntly), it'd be an uphill battle. Although, with his own considerable skills at fighting other mages, he had after all been formerly associated with the Joujatou while he was still a part of the Corps. He'd brought many rebelling mages to his knees alongside his comrades, and the most essential skill to use when your work required you to fight mages of similar skill to you, was that your own mastery of spiritual energy, and grasp on the world around you remained strong enough to wrest away control and retain your own.
So, moments before the massive blast of flame issued forth at Enomoto's command, he reached within the other wizards ward and attempted to utilize his own energy in tandem with the aura of flame that emanated from his own ward, which had for a while now brushed up against Taifūnome. He then utilized his exceptional spiritual control and experience within the field in an attempt to literally pull at the ward from all directions at once, stretching it thin in such a way that it would destabilize and snap. Best case scenario, it would be dispelled entirely, worst case scenario it would be destabilized to an unknown degree. Although a destabilized spell might be corrected, doing so with a Majestic Ward was a highly complicated matter, it was unlikely Enomoto could manage that in an intense battle like this one - then again, he could never be too sure. However, since it had to be done while Fumio was otherwise occupied, it carried a pretty hefty price to do so - because if he did, he'd be unable to avoid the rivalling Kido Masters counterattack. Still, if it meant getting rid of Taifūnome for the remainder of this battle, he'd take that trade.
Moments before the blast of condensed flame made contact with his body, he could feel the ward in question begin to loosen up considerably, although he didn't have the time to assess the damage he had done to it before he was forced to spend a precious moment defending himself unless he wanted to end up a soot stain on the Corps wall. Whirling his hands in a circular motion at incredible speeds, Kazuya commanded the flames to discorporate into a blazing funnel which travelled down into his outstretched palms. Although he was buffeted by it's overwhelming heat, had he not been enshrouded within Amaterasu's Benediction, he might very well have been forced to surrender due to the damage inflicted. Burn wounds soon covered his entire body, although serious, he would not let them bother him overmuch. Whatever the outcome, this fight would soon come to a close, battles between masters like them rarely lasted particularly long, when you were dealing with forces primordial and raw, a single misstep could usually translate into a quick defeat.
Soon, the entirety of the flames thrown at him by his opponent were condensed into a moderately sized fireball in his hand. It crackled with arcs of red lightning, and felt heavy in his palm. For after all, it did contain the combined efforts of two Masters. Had Kazuya not been a specialist within the art of destruction, he very much doubted he could perform such a feat, a feat only made easier by the presence of Amaterasu's Benediction, which was the antithesis to a common ward, it was a ward without any true defensive applications aside from that of retribution, it empowered his offence, not his defenses. But there was the remaining matter of Fumio's follow-up spells. Closing his hand around the sphere of concentrated Kidō in his hand, the Captain once again effort to utilize the secondary characteristic of Amaterasu's Benediction, namely the ability to manipulate and distort ambient light to create elaborate and life-life optical illusions. Similar in concept to the mirages found in the desert.
Stepping backwards, and concealing his presence, bot visual and spiritual with a silently cast Kyokkō spell; Kazuya utilized it's powers to display the following sequence of events to his rival, while taking great care to hide the events that actually transpired behind the "curtain" of illusion.
Shortly after sustaining serious injuries after reassuming control over his spell, which was in fact correct, Kazuya poised himself to unleash the reacquired powers upon his opponent once again, only to be thrown off guard by Fumio's follow-up, conjuring several defensive spells to take the brunt off their force. However, he evidently appeared to be misjudging their power, perhaps out of a relative lack of experience compared to Enomoto and was picked up by the distortions in space, thrown around like a rag-doll for a moment. Before the culminating forces suspended him briefly in mid-air before launching him straight across the room towards the wall with immense force. Witnessing the Bunretsu, the illusion of Kazuya evidently utilized his mastery of Shunpo to narrowly dodge each one, even the ones set to attack under secondary conditions. It should after all not be huge hassle for the student of Kurama after all. The last attack evidently leaving a long gash across his cheek as it passed him by.
In reality though, events progressed quite differently. Sensing the distortions in the air as they began to form, Kazuya, still carefully masked by Kyokko, quickly side-stepped the ensuing shockwaves of concussive force, utilizing spontaneously manifesting walls of petrified space in conjunction with his few remaining wards in order to avoid most of the damage altogether, although these movements brought him no small amount of pain, but he bit his teeth together and weathered through it nevertheless. However, it was Bunretsu that proved to be something of an issue, fortunately for him though, he had just the solution on hand in the form of Dankū. The spell had been constructed shortly after the Gotei 13 was founded by the very first incarnation of the Kidō Corps, making it one of the oldest and most well-known spells in existence. Although it looked and acted the part of a defensive spell, in truth, it didn't conjure a barrier as much as it conjured a section of petrified space. It's true nature could be his savior in this circumstance.
Splitting the wall of Danku into eight pieces, he had each piece collide with one of the discs produced by Bunretsu - the moment these two spells met, they caused a short-lived distortion as they effectively cancelled one another out and crumbled away. In the first wave, Kazuya's sharp reflexes and accuracy immediately managed to destroy four in one fell swoop, with the remaining four being picked up once he made an attempt at stepping to the side, triggering the condition of the last shard. It didn't take long for the entire spell to be neutralized, although the strain on his reserves had been suitably straining.
Now then, to make a last ditch effort to defeat his foe now that the ward protecting him might be weakened enough to land a proper hit. But Kazuya knew he could not unleash his spell at range, otherwise Fumio might rearrange it's course, no, it needed to be delivered at a range close enough for him not to be able to respond properly in time. That was where Kurama's teachings might come in handy, while his illusion was still entertaining his opponent, and while he was still masked by Kyokkō he took a single step and immediately found himself face to face with his foe. Their bodies mere inches apart, reaching out towards the mans torso with his right hand, he opened it to reveal that the sphere was still whole within. At that point, not even a moment before his attack was unleashed, he briefly became visible due to his hostile intentions.
But there would unlikely be much time for either of them, as the sphere within his hand erupted practically in their faces, at point-blank range. The ensuing inferno completely obliterated the arena and sent Kazuya hurling straight across the room and into a nearby wall with a sickening thud, with a properly timed Tsuriboshi cast in mid-air being the only thing that saved him from sustaining otherwise life-threatening injuries. He merely remained in place, sitting there panting in both exhaustion and pain, if there was no injuries, pain or exhaustion there really was no point to sparring match. He looked towards the center of the room, and at the audience that had long since flooded the arena - and now sat on the very edge of their seats in amazement at the intensity between the two masters. The containment barrier that had been erected at the start of the fight was no more, it lead spread around them in shimmering green pieces, it had been unable to withstand the immense power of Kidō unleashed in the ring. Although fortunately enough, no observers had been hurt.
Kazuya looked towards where his opponent had previously stood, whether he was still there he could not tell due to a massive twister of flames that had formed where his spell had landed...
Fumio had felt that his whirlwind ward was the target of a direct attack. One that sought to stretch and disrupt the ward so as to hinder the continuous flow of energy that was its greatest asset and crippling weakness alike. The weakness hidden in plain sight, one that was as difficult to recognise as it was challenging to exploit. Nevertheless, Kuchiki at last comprehended that peculiar flaw in its design and decided to use something else than raw power, the very thing the ward was intended to protect against, in order to dispel the technique. An attempt that very nearly succeeded, the revolution of the barrier upset and its form diminished considerably as a result.
But Enomoto proceeded with his own assault unabated, unleashing a several-stage attack upon his sparring partner in order to overwhelm him quickly in his own, less destructive and more energy efficient manner. He was observing the young Captain struggling to keep up, his performance slightly worse than expected but excellent all the same. In the meantime, the older mage strove to replenish his ward once again and accumulate an amount of spiritual energy sufficient to cast a Tokikūkandō spell more potent than the previous ones: Yugamekyō. An advanced supplementary technique, the indication of Fumio's remarkable skill in the art of Space and Time as well as a way generate a distinct advantage for the mage where there had been slight or none formerly. For Yugamekyō spread across a vast area to contort the fabric of reality in a veritable erratic maze of spatial distortions. Unlike an illusion a very physical, tangible phenomenon that Enomoto was ready to exploit.
All he had to do was to trap Kazuya in the aforementioned warp. With that, the young man would most likely become confused as he would begin shifting from one random location to another, his nimble evasive manoeuvres rendered ineffective in a plane of existence where notions of direction and distance were nigh meaningless. Then, it would take a few well-placed offensive techniques to hopefully knock Kuchiki out and end the fight. But something was not right.
The earlier nearly successfull attempt to nullify Taifūnome had to be a part of a plan. Yet another lead-up. Enomoto did watch his opponent enduring the onslaught of Tokikūkandō spells, but one had to wonder...
It was an illusion.
In truth, Kuchiki's performance had turned out slightly better than expected. The undeniable proof for that was when the young Captain spontaneously appeared right next to Enomoto, worse for wear but ready to strike himself. But a moment... caught off-guard, Fumio had to rely upon a reflex reaction to address the abrupt development. All the energy he had amassed for the purpose of Yugamekyō was immediately employed to cast another high-level technique instead: Jikangire. A sudden, hasty Jikangire. The spell that normally let him disconnect his person from the flow of time and perform several actions undisturbed while the rest of the world ostensibly stood still, which was actually not true beyond his own perception of the effects of the spell. Regardless, performed in such a hurry, the technique did not provide him the valuable window of opportunity it typically did. Just enough for a single Shunpo leap to move away from the inevitable explosion...
Flash of light, pressure and heat. Weathered as it was, Taifūnome vanished ultimately, though not before absorbing a portion of the detonation. The vortex of protective wind dispersed. Fumio was engulfed by what remained of Kazuya's last ditch attempt to defeat him, now moving backward with the combined force of his own motion and the powerful shockwave of said attack. Then, he plummeted toward the scorched ground of the demolished arena. However, a cushion of his spiritual pressure lessened the severity of the impact sufficiently to let him actually land, though not exactly in a graceful manner.
The mage straightened his back. His robe was tattered and burnt, with a few streaks of smoke rising into the hot air. In fact, there was a single small flame that lingered at the height of his abdomen, but Fumio extinguished it with a pat of his hand that served as a medium for a single pulse of spiritual pressure. A burnt, exposed hand that was covered in blisters. His skin was singed and his peculiar hairdo ruined. But he stood straight and gazed upon Kuchiki, panting and damaged but ready to strike one final time.
Kazuya's skill was impressive, even if his approach was quite reckless and focussed more on vicious application of overwhelming power rather than tactical acumen. That was only Fumio's opinion as a scholar first and battle-mage second because he did recognise the fact that young Kuchiki was a proficient warrior, unlike himself. Be that as it may, to encourage the deployment of Taifūnome so soon, the ferocity of his saturation attacks, his unwavering attitude and that last elaborate manoeuvre that bordered so close on leading to a victory... So dangerously close. Enomoto noted that Kazuya was in a bad shape. But he had not been defeated yet. There was only one sure way to finish this astonishingly intense sparring match there and then.
Grabbing hold of the ambient energy permeating the environment through his spiritual pressure, Fumio rapidly clasped his hands in front of his chest. The pain of doing so with the right, burnt one was somewhat unpleasant to say the least, but there was no other choice. For the gesture was a magic one, a hand seal necessary to unleash a stable intermediate spell of the Way of Space and Time category. Seifuku. The spiritual energy both combatants were immersed in coalesced only to contract violently in a single, lightning-fast implosion with Kuchiki in the centre. An ideally inescapable, unblockable attempt to knock the Captain out given his current condition. At least that was what Fumio hoped for the spell to be since he was not certain he could muster any sensible follow-up at this rate, after such an ordeal of a sparring session.
By now, Kazuya had grown accustomed to Fumio's sorcery, there were telltale signs - reality seemed to groan and contort moments before his spells were issued into motion. His newest trick could certainly prove quite problematic - thankfully, it was a simple if certainly powerful attack, and he should be able to do fine. He suspected that his adversary was more tired than he was, after all, Kazuya was more injured than exhausted. Steeling himself for what he knew was to come, the Captain of the 9th Division snapped his fingers once, as numerous golden barriers of various sizes issued forth from the air all-around him, quickly curving, shaping and adjusting themselves to his body in order to form a set of golden armor which left not a single part of his body undefended. Seifuku struck, and it struck hard, the very fabric of reality seemed to groan in agony as Enomoto's sorcery grabbed ahold of it and turned it against him.
Just before the spell took it's hold, Kazuya relaxed all of his muscles and let himself fall downward, it would not do to resist a spell such as this. His only salvation would be to just let it run it's course, and so he did. With his body limp like a rag doll, the spell had the vast majority of it's destructive potential absorbed into the makeshift armor he had conjured for himself, and he suffered no external injuries as a result. Once the spell had run it's course he stood up and dusted off his clothes, he'd suffered several smaller injuries, like innumerable smaller cuts all along his body, and he could feel a dull ache in his legs. But his golden armor soon cracked and then fell to the ground like pieces of stained glass, evidently, the force of his adversaries spell was greater than he had at first surmised. No matter.. he'd been haphazard in his attack, and it might potentially have cost him the fight, Kazuya knew what a true finisher was supposed to look like.
Taking a step forward, the second in line of the Kuchiki House raised his hand towards Fumio. With no words spoken, and with only the barest hint of a somatic gesture of his hands, Kazuya unleashed the next spell in his repertoire. Sparks of black energy began to dance at his fingertips, and the arena gradually darkened and soon a chill spread across the room, heralding the arrival of his next spell.
Another step was taken, then another, with a flourish of his hands, the battle mage arranged his hands in such a way that his palms were positioned perpendicular to the ground. He then hastily undid the gesture and reached his hand out towards Fumio once more, the shadows darkened, and the cold intensified and the very forces of gravity seemed to turn on Enomoto. It would begin to rapidly climb around him, growing higher by each passing second, Kazuya's intentions were simple - he wanted to overwhelm him by multiplying the forces of gravity tenfold, ensuring that he would be forced to remain in place, unable to even open his mouth to speak, or raise his hands to make a sign. Soon the very ground beneath him would start to crack under his tremendous weight.
But the spell was not yet over, far from it. The pall of darkness that had descended over the two fighters soon covered the entire ground in liquescent black. Neither could even see their feet at this point, and that was when Kazuya wiled his spell into completion. Like a palpable miasma, it rushed inwards towards Fumio, but before making contact it instead flew upwards and weaved itself into an elaborate black box without exits. Within this box gravity would be increased to many times what it had been before, it's secondary effects isolated and concentrated all at once on Enomoto. As if on cue all the broken barrier shards that by now littered the battlefield were reformed in twelve long spears of pitch black energy which then proceeded to impale the large box in quick succession, each spear impaling a different direction, to minimize the chances of them all missing their mark. But while it had been a flawless execution of Kurohitsugi, it was still not enough for Kazuya.
So the former Assistant of the Yorutai snapped his fingers once more, as the entire black construct erupted into a massive pillar of purple flames, in order to put a definitive end to their their little sparring match. Some might call it overkill, and he was inclined to agree, but one thing was certain - as powerful as the attack was, he severely doubted it could do Fumio in. If it did.. well, he might not have been the best pick for a Commander after all.
He had made another mistake.
That was the second mistake Fumio had made during the duel. To be confident in his own skill was one thing. But to underestimate such a competent opponent as Kazuya Kuchiki was... unbecoming of a mage of his station. Enomoto's arbitrarily restricted performance could have nearly been his own undoing at that rate. After all, similarly to the young Captain he had something to prove, to demonstrate his prowess. It was high time he acted like the man he thought himself to be. It was the time.
Speaking of which, he also required time. There was a simple solution to that issue, however. A single pulse emanated through his expanded spiritual pressure, virtually effortless and barely perceptible. The carrier of Mukiryoku, a peculiar trick of Fumio's own make. To alter the flow of time was an endeavour both demanding and perilous. To distort the perception thereof, though, was a trifle matter for an advanced master such as him. With a minor tweak he caused Kazuya to perceive his person as ostensibly sluggish, probably dumbstruck by his recent failure to finish the fight and thus slow to react. In fact, both acted within the same period of time unabated.
Energy. Fumio felt the ambient energy coursing through his strained body. The damage he had sustained earlier remained unchanged, for he needed that energy somewhere else. He could manage. Yes. Because impressed by Kuchiki's ferocity he was now highly determined himself. True, he could shield himself from the impending attack. While cast in utter silence the properties of Kurohitsugi could not escape the notice of an accomplished mage the level of Fumio. He could withstand that powerful spell given his superior proficiency with the aspects of space and time. But what then? What would happen? Would they both collapse, at last overwhelmed by the exertion of intense combat? Or, more likely, would Fumio collapse, leaving Kuchiki an exhausted but undeniable victor?
He had been passive long enough. He had been sparring, but he should have been fighting. And what he was about to do was an integral part of his fighting style. To weather the vicious assault of a relentless enemy with minimal effort of his own, to analyse his techniques, discern patterns, block, evade and redirect... Yes, but then came the time for a finishing blow. A proper, decisive finishing blow. So he made up his mind. He knew how to react. The Kurohitsugi around was growing in intensity, surrounding him with spatial distortions and increasing the force of gravity substantially. Enomoto stood there, dumbfounded or once again preparing to defend... supposedly, at least.
He had been gathering energy but for a different purpose. The black coffin rose around him, threatening to extinguish his very existence. He was drowned in the pitch blackness, bound by the immense gravitational pull. He felt the wounds in reality slash at his body...
Timing was everything. If there was a man who knew that full well it was Fumio for sure. The spell was a perfect means of escape, one that virtually translocated his being from one point in space to another irrespective of outside influence. Not completely, however. The powerful Kurohitsugi hindered his technique somewhat, altering his transition and slowing it down for precious fraction of a second. A calculated risk on his part, one that could not have been avoided and was absolutely necessary all the same. Some of the fangs of severed reality reached him, cutting his skin and reducing his formerly elegant robes into a tattered rag. Yet he succeeded. Ugokinashi tore him from the deadly claws of Kurohitsugi and instantaneously placed him behind Kuchiki.
Resolute to ignore the pain, Fumio aimed his left arm at the opponent.
He was a calm and stalwart man of amiable disposition. This carried over to his attitude in battle. He was perceived as weak or foolish for his unwillingness to destroy enemies in a spectacle of groundshaking magical power. He was called passive and meek for his penchant for caution and finesse. Why did he content himself with merely withstanding the continuous onslaught of his adversaries? Why did he prefer to observe their struggle rather than exert himself? Why were his responses so underwhelming? He knew about that way of thinking. He could notice that in the way he used to be treated. He knew that, he fostered that, he exploited that short-sighted delusion. He had power, but did not consider it his main asset. He was a scholar, a man of refined skill and genius intellect, and these were his primary weapons in battle.
Thus, he had escaped an exceedingly powerful, and likely strenuous, enemy attack with minimal effort and tolerable damage. The very same ferocity that had nearly overcome him now drove him to make that final effort, to show that he too was a mighty spellcaster, one worthy of his rank. He lifted his self-imposed restraints and drew from his innate reserves. There was no need to worry about his sparring partner; he was a gifted, proficient mage in his own right, and there was no damage Fumio could not reverse should the worst case scenario really occur. Regardless...
"Hadō #88, Hiryū Gekizoku Shinten Raihō!", he exclaimed.
With the Mukiryoku still active, Kuchiki was unlikely to hear even the beginning of the verbal command ere the spell had actually burst forth from Enomoto's lacerated palm. A last ditch effort. Sublime union of wind and lightning in the form of a devastating cascade of bedazzling, orange-red tempest adorned with currents of electricity. The spell rampaged across the already ravaged arena at about the same time Kurohitsugi was completed. Not one, but several barriers of Dankū stood in its way as the spell escaped the boundaries of the designated area and threatened the audience. The ensuant explosion quaked the earth horribly with a thunderous noise.
Fumio's arm dropped. He stood slanted, gazing upon the results of his last attack. Panting, sweaty, singed, lacerated, but with a faint smile on his face.
Despite Kazuya's power and combat experience, or perhaps because of it, he failed to realize Enomoto's counterattack in time, but even so, he still had hope. The moment he witnessed the Commander appearing behind him he immediately utilized Shunpo in order to position himself on the opposite end of the room in a sudden blurr. He'd been mindful of Fumio's particular brand of magic since the very beginning, him appearing at point blank range had been a way for him to minimize the reaction time of whatever his attack was going to be. Fortunately, for a Shunpo Master of his caliber, there was always enough time.
However.. Fumio's movements were far too sluggish to be natural, and while he could see nothing - he could feel a massive spike of reiryoku coming straight at him. That was when it hit him, he'd been bewitched! Wasting no time in trying to figure out exactly what kind of spell it was that enclosed upon him, Kazuya instead mustered his resolve and mastery of Hadou in an attempt to seize ahold of the spell itself before it could even connect.
With that thought in mind, he reached out with both hands and spirit towards the raging blast of energy that approached at great speed, causing the earth to tremble underneath him. With circular motions and dance-like gestures he appealed to the fragmented wills that composed it, urged them to follow his lead instead, and so, just before the spell made contact, it split apart down the middle and steered clear of Kazuya altogether, but the feat was not yet complete. With a great show of effort he increased his control over the spell and steered it clear of the audience, causing each part of it to make a sharp U-turn before returning to Kazuya like two obedient serpents. It then engulfed him within a raging tempest as Kazuya repurposed the spell for a retaliation against it's former master. It felt strange commanding a spell he could not see, but he was confident in his success. With another set of gestures, he directed it towards Fumio, the spell only held back by virtue of sheer willpower and experience within the art of destruction. Not to mention excellent tutelage. However, Kazuya never retaliated, instead, he clapped his hands three times and had the energy that composed Hiryu Gekizoku Shinten Raiho dissipate on it's own, dispelling it within moments.
He then turned his attention back to Fumio and smiled heartily.
"Well, that felt refreshing. But I think that's enough, my gratitude for your support, Enomoto-Dono."
Fumio took a deep breath and straightened his back. He wiped the droplets of perspiration from his somewhat wrinkly forehead. Good thing he was left-handed, the right one was out of order for the time being. Nevertheless, he returned Kuchiki's friendly smile.
"I agree. After decades of constant study it was highly refreshing to experience the thrill of battle once again. I have become slightly rusty in that regard", replied Enomoto while attempting to dust off his tattered robe. "Be that as it may... excellent! Excellent! I think that you have proven your merit no doubt. You boast unwavering conviction and immense power. Most importantly, you do not falter in the face of the unexpected. I sincerely believe that whoever has caused us so much grief with their actions in the Human World should be wary of you."
In the meantime, they were silently approached by Kazumi. She suddenly appeared nearby with a single Shunpo leap. Even though the lower portion of her face was concealed by a bandana, the two mages could see her green eyes transitioning from one to the other a couple of times. Examining their condition.
"That was an impressive spectacle", she said rather quietly with a nod.
Kazuya smiled warmly once more, at each of them in turn. As was only polite, he addressed Kazumi first, making sure to keep his back straight and poise firm. He was a Kuchiki after all, it was high time he act like one too.
"Your words warm me, Takeda-san." He emphasized his gratitude with a short nod in her direction, before turning to Fumio.
"We rarely faced former members such as you in the Yorutai, it was an interesting experience, to be sure. I'm sadly quite lacking in knowledge about magic that influences space, time and reality. Would that I had known sooner, but I'm impressed all the same, and you've certainly succeeded in lifting my confidence. Unfortunately, I cannot remain here for long, and I should head back to prepare properly for tommorow. Farewell"
Inclining his head towards each of them in turn, Kazuya took a single step backwards before he vanished entirely from sight.