Magical Juggernaut Heather Crunch versus Empress of Dead Body Mountain Dahlia Marigold

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As anticipated, she blocks it. As not anticipated, she blocks it with distressingly little effort. In fact, she’s not driven back at all! No, Miss Marigold stands her ground, and advances as I myself am driven back! She fends me off with her weapon! She is a portrait of serenity in violence!

I’m reminded of my fights with Miss Valnikov, and what I’m forced to call the “power abyss”. It’s like a power gap, but far more pronounced. It’s the difference between fighting someone like Miki and noticing the power gap, and fighting someone like Miss Valnikov and having it thrust in your face. You could tell almost from the outset that you’re thoroughly outmatched. That’s the difference between a Warmaster and the rest of us. It’s not just that intimidating presence, it’s that ungodly power that swallows up anything that opposes it. The chasm of strength and ability that stretches past the horizon and makes even attempting to cross it all but impossible. The realization that I still can’t see where it ends, even after all this time, fills me with despair.


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“An umbrella? You’re fighting with an UMBRELLA?!” I balk at her incredulously as I strike. I keep trying to hit harder and harder. Yet I’m the one who’s being driven back when she swings that thing! There’s so much force behind it that it’s unreal!

“Ah fail to see the problem heah,” Miss Marigold counters verbally as she counters physically, “it’s moah then enough to hold yew off.”

She has a point. Every blow from that thing has horrific strength behind it. As magic metal clashes against magic metal, and sparks shower us, I’m physically forced back. Still, it’s the principal of the thing. “It’s not even a WEAPON!” I protest, blocking an overhead strike aimed for my head. “Even a SCYTHE has a BLADE on it! And no sane person should use THAT as a weapon!” I hate people that think scythes are real weapons. Unless you change the angle of the blade, they’re GARBAGE!

How ironic; such a tool would have actually FIT her theme, and she doesn’t use it!

“Yew have no room to talk down to me, Miss Crunch,” Miss Marigold tells me as I narrowly avoid another hit, “as yew have shown no finesse with yoah sword.” I’ve already noticed something scary about her. Her attacks, her parries, all her movements are slow. Even so, they’re made with no wasted movement. She just puts herself exactly where she needs to be at the time.

“I have PLENTY of finesse!” I roar back. “I’ve used swords since before I could even SPELL!”

“That recently? No wonduh yew show no skill.”

“SHUT UP!” I scream at her. I overextend myself in anger, and she stabs my exposed shoulder as my swing goes wild. There’s a terrible amount of power concentrated on a very small area. But even that fails to pierce my flesh, which she didn’t seem to anticipate. I use THAT opening to kick her in the gut!

Finally, FINALLY I have made my opponent stagger back, however briefly! Yes, I WELCOME your stare of indignant surprise! DON’T UNDERESTIMATE ME LIKE THAT AGAIN! Even so, she recovers quickly enough, and continues her trash talking! “Still, to have gone this long without taking on any noticeable fighting style is stunnenly pitiful.”

“STYLES have WEAKNESSES!” I fire back, EMBIGGENING my blade to better hit her from this distance AND increase damage dealt! “They can be COUNTERED and EXPLOITED by other styles!“ And the Eversword compensates for its weaknesses as a sword! IT HAS NO WEAKNESSES! I haven’t bothered with “style” for years now!

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Somehow, my revelation makes Miss Marigold look sorely disappointed. “Ah feel yew may have missed the point of why styles were developed in the first place,” she says.

Marigold starts striding toward me, and I bring down my blade like the wrath of god upon her. Once more, she blocks it with her umbrella. She doesn’t slow, doesn’t stop, and doesn’t flinch during her inexorable advance. No matter how many times I hammer at her with my weapon, no matter how big I make it, she shrugs it aside with that puny parasol!

In desperation, I fling my tremendous blade at her! And then, I charge her! Even if she blocks it, she’ll still be open enough for me to PUNCH her! She doesn’t even try to block it this time! Rather, she extends her hand and snatches it out of the air! She caught it with her bare hand! This is even worse than what Alondight did; Miss Marigold just caught it like it was nothing!

Which means…

“Ah believe this belongs to yew.”

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A metric crap-ton of glowing metal smashes into my gut and knocks me completely off balance. Something bursts inside me, and I start feeling nauseous. I stagger back, putting distance between myself and that… that THING that just… I think it was my kidney just exploded! I feel nauseous… then I get to taste Nakajima’s breakfast again as it splatters all over the dirt.

And when I think things can’t get worse, they do. Something grabs me by the ankles and hauls me back. My face slams into the dirt and compost. I try to right myself while I’m dragged away. I try to claw my way back. I try to grab hold of something! And it’s no good! Whatever it is, it has a firm hold on my legs!

My arms are grabbed next, by what look like vines. I am lifted from the ground by whatever force is restraining me. I spit out dust and bile as I’m held aloft by plants. Goddamn plants! I can’t believe I’m losing to a flower girl! How can she be this strong?!

Miss Marigold smugly strides forward. “That was, perhaps, the most disappointing fight I’ve ever had,” she chides, close enough to spit in my face if she wanted. “Yew rely on yo’ah powuhs too much instead of yewzing yoah head.”

I still can’t believe it. This is it. This is all I was able to do. I haven’t improved at all. The gap in power and skill between myself and a Warmaster is nearly as large as it was fighting Miss Valnikov. I struggle against my bonds, but it’s not working!

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You dug this hole yourself, sneers that voice, and now you get to lie in it.

Yeah, I really did screw this up, didn’t I? I was careless enough to ignore the warnings of Nakajima and the Soul Temperer. I was careless enough to ignore my own instincts. I knew I couldn’t cross the power abyss. I tried anyway, and now I’m screwed. I don’t know what she’s planning, but it’s not anything good.

…There has to be SOMETHING I can do, though…

As Miss Marigold makes a fist and gets ready to strike, I do the first thing that comes to mind. Okay, the first two things.

“HEADBUTT!” I yell, and CRASH my forehead against hers! I hear a CRACK as Marigold staggers backwards, finally appearing inconvenienced! I dismiss my Eversword from wherever it is. And I WILL it back into my hand! But THIS time, it’s less of a sword, and more of a dagger! Easy enough for my determinedly dexterous digits to MASTERFULLY MANIPULATE! I CUT the vicious vine on my right arm, SLICE apart the ones on my feet, and DISPATCH the binding on my left arm!

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“Now yew’ve gone and made me angreh,” Marigold says suddenly as I approach her again. Her SCOWL brings back that TERRIFYING AURA OF OPPRESSION again, but I am DETERMINED! I SPRINT up to her, ARM RAISED, and BRING THE DAGGER DOWN!

“You know what, Miss Marigold? You’re probably right. I AM over reliant on my powers!” I admit to her. My attack, of course, is BLOCKED! That’s GOOD, because I was COUNTING ON THAT! With but an IMPULSE, my Eversword dagger is in my other hand! I SLIP beneath her earlier attack and WHIRL about!


“But they do offer their own advantages!“ I exclaim as I drive the blade in. I will it bigger and SCREAM my attack aloud as it takes effect:


A disgusting tearing sound is made as the weapon grows to its former size. Any intervening flesh is torn apart as the Eversword reasserts its normal form. And then the dagger becomes a big sword between Miss Marigold’s head and the rest of her body. It’s over in a heartbeat. She doesn’t even have enough time to look shocked.


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Dropping the head, I strike a victory pose! Which is less of a pose and more of a short dance, and THEN a pose! In either case, posing! And winning!

That’ll teach you to underestimate Heather Crunch! Look at me, Soul Temperer! LOOK AT ME! –I- AM THE WARMASTER NOW! Or at least on the level of a former one!

Oh man, I can’t wait for her to heal up and admit she underestimated my GREATNESS! Ahaha, I’m getting goosebumps just THINKING about it! “Yes, Miss Marigold, you may now praise me,” I say aloud to myself as that scene continues to play out in my mind.

“Ah suppose yo’ah not the worst Ah’ve evah fought,” she says, “but don’t get ahead of yoahself.”

Yeah, it’d go something like that. It’d probably be hard to admit that-

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Wait, that came from behind me, didn’t it? No, it must have been in my head. Nobody’s going to recover that quickly after having their head cut off. Surely, SURELY it’s just my imagination, right? PLEASE DON’T BE REAL! PLEASE JUST KEEP LAYING DOWN!

When I turn around, cruel reality greets me. Dahlia’s head is reattaching itself, pulling itself along with root-like appendages. The area that was severed is covered in blooming flowers, which wilt away to reveal smooth, unblemished skin. She turns her head to work out the kinks in her neck, and seems to be good as new. She’s ready to brandish that damnable parasol once more.

“What the hell are you?” I ask, trembling slightly. I knew she was strong, but that’s just unfair, isn’t it?

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Miss Marigold smiles menacingly and says, “Ah’m just a simple gal who loves flowers. Ah’m just stronger than yew are.” To prove this, she lunges at me with her umbrella. It wasn’t fast, but it was precise. None of the movement or energy was wasted. All of that power was directed to pierce my chest. I block it with my blade, but it’s turned aside by her inhuman strength! It hits dead on, hurling me back. I skid and roll across the dirt as I lose my grip on my Eversword. I come to a stop in another patch of carnivorous plants, dizzy and struggling to breathe.

What the hell was that? That was even stronger than her attacks from before! It’s like she hasn’t even been trying until now!

I roll away from the plants before I am grabbed again and pull myself to my feet. Even though whatever organ was ruptured earlier has healed, now I have to deal with whatever this is. A collapsed lung, maybe? Something’s wrong with it, I know that much. I also know I don’t have time for this! Miss Marigold is advancing on my position even now!

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I race to retrieve my Eversword while ducking and dodging past the much livelier greenery – even the plants are more aggressive now! My head’s spinning from either lack of oxygen or from the tumble I went through. Either way, I’m in trouble. I have my Eversword back, but for all the good it does me I may as well be unarmed!

“You really are stronger than I am,” I admit to her aloud, planting my blade in the ground. “You’re far beyond my level of ability. I really can’t hope to win against you.” She doesn’t pause her stride, and I look pitiful, hunched over my weapon and gasping for breath.

“BUT SO WHAT?!” I scream defiantly, tape erupting from my sleeves and wrapping around the hilt of my Eversword. I gesture emphatically as I can from my position, wasting precious oxygen to get my feelings across. “I don’t care what you are! Even if I can’t see the other side, I WILL bridge that abyss of power between us!”

With that bold declaration made, I shout out, “ASCEND!” and WILL my blade bigger! Bigger than EVER before! BIG ENOUGH TO CROSS THE SKILL ABYSS!

The wind RUSHES past me as I ROCKET skyward, PULLED up by the ever-growing Eversword! A LESSER person would pass out from the FORCE that I am PROPELLED with! BUT I AM NO LESSER PERSON! I FLY HIGHER INTO THE SKY, POURING MORE AND MORE MAGIC INTO MY WEAPON TO MAKE IT GROW! I’ll certainly need a grief seed after this, but IT’LL BE WORTH IT! I SOAR through the clouds, my breathing problems becoming MORE pronounced at this altitude! HOLD IT TOGETHER, DAMMIT!

At the APEX of my ASCENT I DECELERATE at JUST THE RIGHT SPEED! That means rather than be flung skyward, I instead appear to LEAP onto my enormous cross-guard! Because of my CLEVERNESS and ATHLETICISM, I EASILY stick the landing!

And now, the most important part: I cross my arms under my chest and face the wind. And I hold that pose for several seconds. The wind causes my cloak to billow out behind me.

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Even if nobody can see it, you HAVE to do a cool pose for something like this! I am the very picture of badass right now!

…Okay, posing time is done. COMMENCE ATTACK!

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I take the grip in both hands. I leap off the cross-guard. And I take the impossibly large sword with me as I fall to the earth below! YEAH, EAT IT, PHYSICS! I DEFY YOUR COMMON SENSE!

NOW! As I PLUMMET to the ground at increasing speed, I hold my Eversword up high! And I declare my attack over the rushing winds! Directing it at the fast-approaching blob below, where Dahlia Marigold’s garden sits!






A twinkle below catches my eye. I have enough time to comprehend something is headed towards me before a gargantuan beam of light hits my sword. It effortlessly rips it out of my hands and hurls it into the sky in the time it would take to blink.

But… but that’s not fair.

That’s just not fair!

How do you even fight something like that?

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CAN you even fight something like that? If she just had an ultra-powerful magic laser, it wouldn’t so bad, but she’s strong, skilled, quick to regenerate, and controls plants, too? That’s just unfair! I can’t match that!

I hit the earth hard, nothing breaking other than my optimism. I contemplate just laying down like that and sleeping until the world makes sense again. But that won’t happen, so I have to stand up. At least my lungs have stopped hurting, but I have nothing to show for my efforts other than a gem full of grief. I’m just tired now. I’m tired and I want to go home and act like I didn’t do something stupid again. Maybe drink myself into a stupor and watch old sentai films. Except I’d just do something even dumber tomorrow, probably. I’m really outdoing myself there lately.

“Ah suppose Ah should commend yew for making me stop holding back,” commends Miss Marigold. She’s a lot closer than I thought she was, I didn’t even see her move. “But yew would have done irreparable hahm if Ah did not stop yew.”

Irreparable harm? What does she…?


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I look around and see a large fissure where my Eversword was. A great tear in the earth because I wanted to ride it to the sky. Because I wanted to look cool, I created an actual ravine in the ground. I could have physically damaged the Seventh Officio building with that stunt. And I just ruined her garden again. Even if we were fighting, I could have just stopped. I didn’t have to go as far as I did. Hell, I could have tried using common sense and realized it was a terrible idea to use a weapon that big near another Officio! I let my head hang in shame; maybe it’s just the grief talking, but I’m just so angry at myself for doing something so pointlessly reckless. I could have hurt a lot of people! And even with all that, I couldn’t get past the power abyss after all. Dammit.

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“Ah didn’t want to crush your optimism too quickly,” Miss Marigold continues, getting uncomfortably close. “It’s moah fun to cultivate it fuhst, but yoahs grew like a weed. Ah had to pull it out at the root.” She tries to demonstrate by pulling out a strand of my hair, but it refuses to come out. Much to her frustration, and to my pain.

“Ow! OW! I yield! Victory is yours! I can’t match you in battle!” I yell out at her! I get it, I lost! I concede! I’m not being a sore loser so stop hurting me!

And that’s when Miss Marigold grabs me by the windpipe and lifts me off the ground, strangling me.

“What… are…?” I rasp, unable to form any more words as my air is slowly cut off. The bones don’t break or crack, but that doesn’t matter when you can’t breathe! What the hell is she doing?! WHY?

“This doesn’t end when yew give up, Miss Crunch,” Miss Marigold sneers. “It ends when Ah feel like forgiving yew.”

She jams the tip of her umbrella into the back of my throat. A vaguely familiar glow envelops what little I can see between the dancing spots. I try to wiggle out, to remove the taste of dirt and blood from my mouth. To do something, anything at all. But it’s every bit as pointless as the earlier fight.

“And right now, Ah am feeling very unforgiving.”

For one short, agonizing instant, everything is pain. My entire being is flooded with agony as my insides are cooked by a magic laser. My eyeballs blow out, my eardrums rupture, and my organs become nothing but ashes. My body is a hollow shell of skin and bone, and again, it only took an instant for it to happen.

Fortunately, my nerves burn out, too, and I stop feeling, or sensing, anything, right after that. Now, there’s only darkness, and the lingering taste of failure as my consciousness fades.