Author's note: This was a collaboration one-shot piece, so a /*/ will indicate a change of writer. I wrote the Fantomex parts, while my good friend NakedSnake wrote the Raiden parts. Please, enjoy!
The roar of the torrential cascade welcomed him on his approach. Proving to be a vast change from his usual choice of urban scenery, Fantomex was on his guard. There would be no thieving done this day. Out of caution, as he drew nearer, his footfalls made but the barest of sounds, drowned out by the roar of the waterfall. Hands on hips, he gazed at the showering flood, thinking aloud.
"Hmm. What sort of perils lie in wait for me today?"
A man renowned for living life on the edge, he had tangoed with evils both made of human hands and of those beyond, in other realms. Still, despite his experience, this situation had him keyed up. Casting his hands aloft, he desired to get this little show under way, and called out to his opponent.
"So then, my elected adversaire, shall we begin?"
Raiden looked around, making a mental note of his finer surroundings; a medium-sized rock lay a few feet away, its edge craggy and sharp. Since he was a child, Raiden was taught to use the environment to its full advantage. In contrast to the natural weapon, the waterfall located just by his side was a thing of pure beauty. He held his hand under the constant flow of water, a look of sadness in his eyes.
His solemn voice pierced the tranquillity of the scene. "Did you know…" he muttered, "…that it was raining on the day I was born? This setting is rather fitting." Suddenly, his voice became louder. "Just so you know, I'll strike you down where you stand! I don't know who you are, I don't know your motivations for being here, but you're in my way. I'm here to find out what's really going on."
He drew his sword gracefully, falling into his fighting stance. The visor of his helmet slid down, covering his face from the droplets of water being flung away by the torrent of water. "I've nothing left to lose, so I've got no reason to hold back. You'd better prepare yourself, for the sword of justice swings true."
"Please, stop there," he urged, outstretching his right arm so that the palm of his hand faced the swordsman. "Do spare me the sentimentalism...I've heard enough melodrama in my time to last an eternity..." Reaching within his coat with his other hand, he tossed the tail of it out behind him and took two steps to Raiden's right, his shoulders lowering. Retrieving an object from his belt he passed the sleek chrome black item between hands and flicked it open to expose a switch-blade, sharp and deadly. He imagined that this match-up would not be easy; for what were to happen in a battle between two men with nothing left to loose.
Fantomex leaned forward and began running, closing the distance between them both fairly quickly. He immediately struck out with his knife wielding hand, desiring to slice open the cyborg's abdomen. But, duly aware of his foe's glinting katana hovering barely a few inches away from him, he pulled the blow partways and twisted on the spot, aiming to ram the elbow of his free limb against his foe's upper chest, hoping to send him staggering backwards. He originally aimed for the neck but his blow fell short of its target.
Taking note of his opponent's movement, Raiden leaned back, removing his left hand from his sword's hilt. He caught the elbow just before it made contact and pushed the man back, a plan quickly formulating in his mind. He jumped forward, gliding gracefully towards his adversary. Before they collided, Raiden slammed his feet into the ground, forcing himself to a stop. However, as he did this, he curled his left hand into a fist and threw it forward. It made contact and sent the other man reeling back, the momentum behind it providing a massive amount of force.
As he looked at where the man had landed, Raiden felt dejected. The pointed rock lay a mere two feet from where his opponent had landed. Perhaps he's more durable than I thought. Or, maybe I didn't put enough force behind my attack. Regardless, what happened just now proves that this guy's not all talk, I can't afford to take him lightly. Returning his sword to its sheath, Raiden walked slowly towards the waterfall. '"Coming at me with a switch-blade? What do you take me for? If you think that you can win with a weapon like that, you're sadly mistaken. You're fast on your feet, I'll give you that much. However, speed without power is useless.'"
Hopefully that riled him up a bit. The angrier he gets, the more mistakes he'll make.
As that thought crossed his mind, he realised something. Although his opponent didn't have the best weapon, he could still cause plenty of damage with it. If Raiden was going to win, he was going to have to be aggressive; a simple switch-blade wouldn't be able to parry the blows of his sword. A voice rang through his head. "Jack, a sword is a noble weapon. Strike down your enemies in one fell swoop."
Ignoring the unwelcome interjection, he ran forward with his right hand on the hilt of his sword, ready to draw at any moment.
Staggering away, but failing to falter entirely, Fantomex scrambled to recover his stance before he could be struck with a follow up attack. To his chagrin his foe proved to be too lithe of feet, and subsequently he felt the raw might of his fist burying itself into his diaphragm, sent off on his way for a second time in such a short while. Heels digging into the damp dirt, he slowly regained his composure. Shaking his head vigorously, he blinked in quick succession, dazed ever so slightly. It took a moment for his vision to settle and refocus on the cyborg, but soon enough all clarity was his once more.
"So sorry to disappoint, mon ami..." Gasped the winded pretender, shaking off the intentionally baiting talk. "I'm not partial to the idea of flashy weaponry..." What a punch! He of course let on that he suffered more damage than the punch inflicted in reality, but there was no denying the substantial power behind the single jab. He hits harder than Ultimaton...! Remarked Fantomex to himself, Better keep the close combat to a minimum... Ultimaton, or Weapon XV, was another product of humanity's evil machinations. A towering human-sentinel hybrid, Fantomex had turned Ultimaton into his chief watchdog, put to work guarding his own secret experiments from prying eyes. And if his foe was on par with a hunkering giant like Ultimaton then Fantomex knew he couldn't afford to mess around.
Catching a glimpse of his adversary on the move again, Fantomex hastily glanced over his shoulder and spotted the jagged rock formation lying nearby. Caressing the hilt of his blade thoughtfully, a new tactic took root in his mind's eye. Putting it into practice immediately, Fantomex withdrew to the boulder and adjusted his purchase on the knife in hand so that he held it between index finger and thumb its pointed edge rather than the handle itself. Back pressed against the boulder's moist surface, he upraised his knife wielding hand and threw it forward, letting go of the blade. Watching it sail towards the cyborg Fantomex bent his knees and pushed off of the ground first, then touched the boulder's surface with his foot and kicked off again, elevating his ascent ever higher.
As he connected with the boulder, he crossed his arms to either side of his thighs, taking grasp of his holstered guns. Brandishing the cold chrome weapons, he poised them at arm's reach and fired off a round of shots as fast as he possibly could, while falling in mid-air, allowing his foe a minimal amount of time to prepare. Distraction and retaliation was his sole intent, his one desire. He only wished that his aim proved true enough.
By the time Raiden had fully understood what his opponent was doing, it was too late. He drew his blade, cutting a thin arc through the air as he deflected the flying knife. The tell-tale sound of a gun firing caused him to instinctively fall to the ground. As he looked up, he did his best to avoid the oncoming shots; swerving and slashing as fast as he could. However, he underestimated the amount of bullets the man had fired. Raiden felt a searing pain in his abdomen and fell to one knee. A bullet had pierced his armour. Although he was a cyborg, he could still feel pain. He had pain inhibitors, but they did little to lessen the assault on his nerves. S-son of a bitch! I don't know if it's because he fired from above or maybe he's using custom rounds, but that hurt like hell!
He looked down at his body. There was a steady flow of artificial bloody flowing from the wound to his abdomen."Heh, you did a number on me. Y'know, for someone who doesn't like flashy weaponry, you sure like to make a show of things." A voice assaulted his mind once again. "Come on, Jack! This is pathetic! You're telling me that you only took two lives today?! I taught you better than that!" Grasping his head, Raiden muttered quietly, "N-no. Shut up!"
A twig snapped in the distance, shaking Raiden out of his delusion. He had to get this battle over with as soon as possible. He had a stock of artificial blood in reserve, but if it got to the point where he needed it, the outcome of the confrontation would be decided already. Breaking into a fluid sprint, he quickly retrieved the fallen switch-blade that his adversary had thrown at him just moments prior. "Let me return the favour!" he yelled, throwing the blade towards his opponent's temple. After doing so, he dropped down into a slide, drawing his sword and swinging for the man's legs
Landing back on terra firma in a low crouch, his coat seeping into the increasingly muckier ground around him. His opponent's remark prompted Fantomex to go back on his previous word, something which he had rarely done, confessing; "I suppose I do enjoy a grand spectacle...but this is nothing yet." Guns and knives were the firstlings of what powers he truly possessed. He concealed the ability which they bestowed upon him, along with the countless lies and falsified promises, on the pretence of his original objective - the extermination of all mutants - left untapped. Kept hidden away until such a time as when he was truly desperate. Falling into the grip of his own delirium prompted by memories past, Fantomex's attention was forcibly dragged back to the present by the cyborg's yelling - and the deathly approach of his own tossed weapon!
The knife whizzed by his head, but not without leaving its mark. Fantomex roared, indicating a hit, and felt the hot, unmistakable trickle of blood seep down the right-hand side of his face beneath his mask, bleaching the fabric a nice, rose-red hue. The flow of precious lifeblood had begun to play havoc with his right eye too, and so he was forced to close it, limiting his field of vision. Craving revenge, Fantomex faced the cyborg head-on, still lingering in a crouch. He paid close attention to his imminent approach, and refused to move even as the distance between them shortened significantly fast. Thirty feet, twenty feet, fifteen feet, and still, nothing. But that would change soon enough.
Only when his foe came within ten feet of him did Fantomex decide to react. Pressing against the unforgiving ground, which had since degenerated into a partial quagmire thanks to the combined efforts of the waterfall's foamy spray and their oh-so-brief scuffing, the thieving gunslinger vaulted backwards. Wielding his guns, this time he took aim at his foe's incoming path and proceeded to empty rest of the remaining ammunition left in his magazines into its depths. The heated report of his blazing guns offered no mercy, as each shot tore up first the soggy ground, and secondly, provided he ascertained correctly, that of his foe's cybernetic hide as well, least he not take drastic action at once and diverge from his line of fire.
Raiden skidded to a stop. Clearing his mind, he stood calmly, watching as the bullets flying towards him seemed to slow down. Bringing his sword up, he sliced through the first one with ease, then the second, then the third. He lost count of how many he cut down until the barrage stopped. I got pretty lucky, there. If he'd been any closer or I'd been up in the air, I wouldn't be here right now.
"I hope you're done with that now!" he yelled, casually swinging his sword around. '"I haven't got all day here. If I'd known that I was fighting a one-trick pony, I wouldn't have been so worried!'"
Fastening his grip on the sword's hilt, he ran forward once more, intending to end the battle in one strike. Making sure not to fumble on the uneven ground, he sped up. As he got closer to his opponent, he pulled out the knife that was hidden underneath his sheath, throwing it at the man's foot, intending to detriment him. Raiden guessed that his adversary would jump out of the way, so he pushed his feet against the ground and took to the air. As he was descending, he brought his sword down in a graceful arc, aiming for his opponent's shoulder.
Firing for long as he could, Fantomex endeavoured to keep the swordsman at bay.
An unfriendly sound, one that assured him that his handguns were well and truly spent. Decision time. Should he risk refilling his ammunition? Or abandon his only remaining hardware in order to free up his hands and therefore better fend off his foe? Sighing regretfully, he choose the latter option and tossed either gun to the side, failing to even spare them a parting glance, and geared himself up for the danger hurtling his way, fast and mean. "Come on, then!" he shouted, reaching out with inviting hands, standing tall and bold.
He felt the dart of pain shoot up his leg like an electric bolt before he saw the formally concealed knife half submerge itself in his left foot, pinning the limb to that particular patch of muggy terrain.
Muttering a curse spoken in French, his stance momentarily swayed upon receiving the striking blow. Still, he endeavoured to fight through the pain, to put up with it. He could withstand far more beatings than the average man, this was true, but there was only so much assaults from swords and knives upon his vulnerable flesh he could deal with before he would be forced to switch over to his secondary nervous system, which was at least sub-par to his primary one on a good day, or even yield to unconsciousness entirely. As his foe's venturing killer blow reigned down upon him, he mustered up the strength to raise his right palm in sheer defiance of the weapon's descending path - and caught the sword barehanded! Feeling its keen edge sink comfortably into his gloved palm, he curled the rest of his hand around it and dragged the sword down with him as he pitched to the right and sunk onto a knee.
"Aaaaarghhh...C'est la fin des haricots...You're quite the prickly little foe...n-non?" Feeling a heavy weight beginning to bear down on his shoulders, he urgently craned his neck several degrees higher in order to stare up at the cyborg, his uninjured hand slyly moving towards the knife wedged in his foot. "You certainly rival Logan's skill with a blade...I still have the claw marks from that occasion..." explained the scheming thief, buying for time. "It's been a...pleasure...but the fun's over...!" And with that, he yanked out the small knife, turning the weapon against its owner, then rose to his foe's level and pitched the blade in a tight arc veering towards his throat in the same motion, aiming to inflict a final, decisive blow.
Raiden's eyes widened as he saw what his opponent had done. Catching his sword with a bare hand! That was no mean feat. Nobody he'd met on his travels had done anything close to that. He heard the pain in his adversary's voice and allowed himself a moment of relief. However, he failed to notice the other man's swift motion. By the time he saw the blade, it was all he could do to stop himself from being killed. He veered his neck to the right, allowing to knife to enter from the side. Letting out a gurgle, Raiden grabbed the man's arm and applied as much pressure as he could.
As the other man pulled the knife out, Raiden could've sworn that he'd heard a snap of some sorts. He pulled his sword back, feeling it cut into the other man's hand even more deeply. Retreating to a safe distance, he could fully review the damage of the blow. As he'd moved his neck, he'd managed to avoid any damage to his spinal cord. On the other hand, the harsh blade had pierced his neck. Artificial blood spurted out of his neck as he evaluated his options. 'I've got a few good moves left in me. Once they're used, I'm through. I'll just refill and then I-'. As he reached for the vial of blood, he felt nothing. Frantic thoughts ran through his head as he tried to find it.
"D-damn. It must've fell loose when I was running. Without it, I-". He cut himself off. Speaking would do nothing but decrease the time he had left to actually do something. He charged forward, sword gleaming magnificently in the sunlight. Blades of grass danced as a cold breeze flew through the area. Thoughts of Rose and his 'life' flashed through Raiden's mind. In that moment, he realised something; he wasn't a man who had nothing to lose. He had Rose, and he had the opportunity to live a life that was devoid of simulations and falsities. As he once again honed in on his opponent, he swung his blade in a violent, horizontal slash, his thoughts and determination guiding it.
The cyborg's crushing grip prompted a muted yell of anguish from Fantomex whose jaws opened to scream at the fabric covering his mouth, but not a single syllable dared to venture forth. He broke away from the site of their clash just after his foe had also retreated, dealing further damage to his cut to ribbons hand in the process but relieved to have a moment's reprieve nonetheless. Withdrawing as far as he possibly could so as to put considerable distance between himself and his blade-packing opposite, he took definitive stock of his countless afflictions, recording a mental note of each injury: his left arm hung limply at his side and was thus rendered useless; his left foot ignited a fiery jab of pain that shot up his leg each time he applied pressure to it; and his right hand, where most of the black and white fabric was replaced by blotches of blood, was frayed worse than a sliced ham, any movement performed by the limb immediately prohibited by intense pangs of discomfort; but his head wound, thankfully, had finally stopped gushing blood.
Gracious for the small mercy, he had no choice but to activate his secondary nervous system. Straight away it eliminated all sensations of his numerable injuries, disposing of all pain. Unfortunately, such heavenly relief came at a cost; he was rendered truly colour bind, unable to even distinguish his own blood from the colours of his attire. Granted movement without suffering pain, it was his stamina that would deteriorate instead, and, as he began to breathe shallowly, shoulders rising and falling with each inhale, Fantomex was pushed into a very precarious position. Far off, the cyborg swordsman made for another attempt on his life, coming around this time almost completely noiseless. Surely he must be near his limits too? speculated the weary faker, as he stood opposed to his foe's latest rush attempt.
His hand was being forced. He was running out of options. He needed to play his final gambit.
Inhaling a large breathe, he attempted to steady himself, then reached out with his bloodied, half-useless arm. Fingers sprawling, globules of thick crimson liquid dripped from his fingertips, yet nothing happened to start with. But then it began, a visual change so faint that all but the trained eye could know what was happening. The very world around them, from the muddy dirt and billowing grasses to the roaring waterfall and lonesome boulder beside simmered for all of a nanosecond, confirming to Fantomex, the illusion castor, that the trap was set. The apocryphal event, set in motion. His 'misdirection,' activated, with the child soldier successively ensnared in another lie.
Now that the stage was fully prepared, all that was required was for him to remain where he stood and adopt a stern expression, eyebrows furrowing into an intense stare. Inwardly wanting to draw his foe to a precise spot from which he could carry out the next phase of his plan, while outwardly feigning the air of a man welcoming the end.
In his foe's eyes, such fooled eyes, he would've seen his blade skewer "Fantomex" in the centre of his chest, barely missing his twisted heart. "Fantomex" would then spasm from the shock of the fatal hit, like a hapless fish caught at the sharp end of a fishing pole, before going unsettlingly limp, giving up the fight.
This event of course was unreal, and the cyborg had in fact clashed with a tangible image of his roughish thieving self a whole 5 feet from where he actually stood. From Fantomex's view, the genuine, heartless article observed the determined fighter with his blade stretched out before him, a seemingly relieved expression gracing his grim-jawed demeanour as he did battle with a phantasm, no doubt relieving in his fake victory. Upon seeing this, he made a beeline for the cyborg before either his body truly gave out or he was overcome by his own guilt for restoring to use this heinous ability. Weapon-less, the man of distractions limped slowly over to his set-up adversary, preparing to fell him once and for all with his one if only partially functional red right hand.
Yet, as he came within striking distance of the man a sudden, slight pang of pang attacked his chest. He pressed his usable hand against the tense spot and looked down in horror to see his chest starting to seep blood. Despite being robbed of his ability to perceive colour differences, instinct informed him that the blood on his chest wasn't coming from his countless other wounds, that it was a new addition. And something that caused him great alarm, as it could only signal one thing; his misdirection was wearing off faster than he thought!
He had but seconds to make it over to the man's side. Manoeuvring around the swordsman, Fantomex shakily lifted his arm over the small of the man's neck and let the limb surrender itself to the effects of gravity while his imagined world crumbled all around him, the real, stark truth shared with his duped enemy right before the end.
As his sword entered his opponent, Raiden allowed himself a moment of relief. This was the final moment; he was successful in his battle. However, something didn't feel right. He couldn't put his finger on it. Everything looked to be fine, he'd just impaled his adversary and secured his victory. Feelings he hadn't felt in years came back in a flash. 'This isn't real, Jack.' 'This is just a simulation.' Stumbling backwards slightly, he brought his hands up to his head, cradling it as he tried to escape the onslaught of unwelcome memories. As he dropped his sword, he felt as if it hit something, although that was the least of his worries. Attempting to clear his head, he looked over at his opponent. "W-what?" The body that lay on the ground was flickering, as if some sort of hologram. N-no. Not again. I KNOW this guy was real, so what happened? Is it one of those AIs? Why the hell can't they just leave me be?!
Caught up in his internal anger, he failed to notice the sounds of heavy footsteps behind him. Once I find out what's going on here, I'm gonna find where the Patriots are and mur- His thoughts were cut short as he felt a sharp pain in his neck. Looking out of the corner of his eye, he could see his opponent, breathing heavily and looking wearier than Raiden himself did. Succumbing to the pain, Raiden collapsed to the floor. So, it really was another lie. Heh, looks like I can't escape them, no matter where I go. Struggling to open his mouth, Raiden murmured, "'It looks like you, *cough*, win. I don't know what you did, but you tricked me. There's no true honour in battle, you've got to do everything in your power to win, huh? Tell me, a-are you part of the Patriots?"
As he fell into darkness, one thought passed through Raiden's mind.
Thud. The blow connected, his foe went down, victory was his. Looking on as the cyborg came to realise what had transpired, he regarded his defeated adversary with bitter contempt. Unusually distant, Fantomex's eyes gleamed with a kind of callousness which hadn't dwelt there previously, suggesting that in addition to the collapse of his illusionary distraction, another, personal façade of his own construction had crumbled as well. Indeed, there was a marked change in the thief's mannerisms as he dispensed with all banter, and even dropped the French accent, favouring the timbre of his correct, British descent. This was his authentic nature, bleeding through. The true killer at heart.
Half-turning to leave and reacquire his knife and guns formally scattered across the field of battle, he gave the fainting warrior a cryptic answer. "No, I'm part of something far worse."
Leaving their correspondence at that, Fantomex promptly hobbled off to reclaim his misplaced property, failing to spare the warrior a second's thought.