2203 Entanglement : Futility

Seeing an Angel Attendant's Staff appear in Eshavi's hand, a hint of surprise appeared on the faces of Kusu, Vados, and Marcarita. They had heard about Gifts and abilities that could copy, borrow, or outright steal the abilities of others, but, having never experienced such a thing in their remarkably long existences, the trio of Angels couldn't help feeling marginally surprised.

Amused by the trio's reaction, Eshavi attempted to activate the Angel Attendant's Staff only for a synthetic voice to respond, "Unauthorized Access."

"I beg your pardon...?"

Without responding to the ashen-skinned woman's words, the staff in her hand promptly vanished into thin air. This left her far more surprised than the trio of Angels until Vahn, with a wry, somewhat apologetic expression on his face explained, "Sorry, but, so long as I don't approve of it, no one has the right to borrow or steal the identities of my friends, family, or lovers. I might not have interfered if they knew what they were getting themselves into and you challenged them to a fair competition. Thinking you can get away with something like this right in front of me is simply foolish..."

Clicking her tongue, Eshavi dismissed the eerie black and white grimoire before raising her chin and adopting an accusatory expression as she stated, "How shameless. Even if they were unaware of my ability, they still gave their names willingly. You can't seriously expect-!?"

Performing a flicking gesture with his right middle finger, Vahn sent Eshavi stumbling back a few steps as he said, "Don't put words into my mouth. If it were any other type of Gift, I wouldn't care in the slightest. Your fault is thinking you could steal, even temporarily, the identities of people I care about. If this weren't a Gift Game, I would have crushed you on the spot."

Surprised by the pain radiating from her forehead, Eshavi rubbed the area with one of her gloved right hands to check if she was bleeding. Confirming this wasn't the case, she directed a remarkably indignant look towards Vahn, stating, "There were no rules against it..." through gritted teeth.

Unperturbed by the woman's venomous look, Vahn raised his left brow, an expression of mock incredulity spreading across his face as he rebutted, "Are you going to make an actual point? It's not as though I prevented you from using your ability; I simply negated it after the fact. If the only thing you're going to do is complain, I suggest making way for your sister. I'm not particularly fond of the overly prideful and petulant."

Gritting her teeth hard enough to cause black blood to appear near the base of her gums, Eshavi held her glasses in place as she lowered her head slightly and said, "I challenge you, Vahn Aldrnari Mason, to a battle of wits..."

Rolling his eyes, Vahn lazily leaned his head against the knuckles of his right hand as he said, "Yeah, sure, whatever. Just know that I reserve the right to annul the competition if you attempt to exploit, break, or bend the rules..."

Snorting through her nose, Eshavi surprised Vahn quite a bit by manifesting what appeared to be an ancient-looking, remarkably ornate chessboard. It was comprised almost entirely of opal-hued stone. As for the pieces, both were carved from pure white ivory but one side had been stained an eerie, blood-red color. They were also themed to resemble members of the Rakshasa Tribe, the only exception being large, mammoth-like creatures with multiple horns and tusks.

Speaking before Eshavi could begin explaining the rules, Vahn asked, "Chaturanga?" in a pleasantly surprised tone.

Blinking in surprise, Eshavi's expression appeared to brighten ever so slightly as she asked, "Oh? Are you familiar with Chaturanga? Most people mistakenly believe this to be a simple chessboard."

Returning a smile of his own, Vahn mused, "I'm familiar with many things. Now, out with it. Even if you're supremely confident in your intellect, I doubt you would challenge me to a simple game of Chaturanga. What are the rules, and, more importantly, the stakes?"

Pushing up her glasses, Eshavi adopted a confident grin as she explained, "The rules are identical to a standard game of Chaturanga. The only difference is, every time you lose one of your Padati, one of your appendages will be rendered useless. If all your Padati are claimed, you lose the game. After all, a Raja without any subjects is no King. As for the stakes...well, that's for you to decide..."


Though he knew Eshavi wasn't revealing everything, Vahn wasn't too worried. He had implemented quite a number of measures against foul play. More importantly, he has reserved the right to annul the competition if she attempted to swindle him, so, after a moment of considering, he nodded his head and said, "Very well. If you win, I will allow you to make a request of me once the promotional Gift Game has come to an end. As you have nothing I desire, I will forgo my right to a prize on the condition each turn lasts no longer than fifteen seconds. As fond as I am of board games, I have no intention of being trapped in one for all eternity just because you refuse to make a move..."

Covering her mouth to stifle a laugh, a playful light flashed across Eshavi's eyes. It hadn't been her intention to stall out the game indefinitely, but, if Vahn proved to be ahead by a large margin, there was a very good chance she would do exactly that. At the very least, she could have leveraged each of her turns against him.

"I understand and accept your conditions. Now then, would you prefer to play as white or red...?"

As it ultimately didn't matter, Vahn answered, "Red." before shifting his attention to the Geass Roll that had manifested next to him. At the same time, Eshavi sat in a seiza-like position before hastily moving one of her Padati, the Chaturanga equivalent of a Pawn, forward. This earned her an eye roll from Vahn as she was, very clearly, trying to pressure him. Unfortunately for her, he was able to read the remarkably complex Geass Roll in less time than it would have taken an atomic clock to record a single moment.

Shaking his head in mock exasperation, Vahn mused, "Nice try..." before motioning with his right hand to manipulate one of his own Padati. Eshavi had made herself comfortable more than twenty meters away from his throne, so, unless he got up and walked over, his only options were to move the pieces at a distance.

Seizing the initiative, a sly smile developed across Eshavi's face as she stated, "You just violated one of the rules. Pieces must be moved via hand or foot. Using Gifts or other means to manipulate them will result in the aforementioned piece being eliminated."

Showing very little care for Eshavi's statement, Vahn issued a yawn before waving the hand he used to manipulate the piece, asking, "What does this look like to you? I'll give you a hint. It rhymes with band."

Confused by Vahn's words, Eshavi's thought process momentarily stalled. She wanted to point out that, while he may have used his hand to activate whatever Gift he used, it was still relying upon a Gift. He needed to touch the piece directly or he was violating the rules.

The only thing that prevented Eshavi from saying this out loud was the fact that the pieces were designed to vanish the moment they were eliminated. This included eliminations as a result of rule violations, so, seeing the piece resting comfortably in its place, Eshavi could only conclude that the Central Network didn't recognize Vahn's actions as cheating. She simply had no idea how he pulled it off...

In an effort to save face, Eshavi chose to remain silent as she moved one of her elephant-like Gaja, the Chaturanga equivalent of a Knight, two spaces diagonally.

Unlike normal Chaturanga, where Padati were readily sacrificed to protect higher-value pieces, this particular variant completely reversed the usual dynamic. Losing a Padati meant losing one of your limbs, so, while she had plenty of limbs to spare, Eshavi elected to play it safe by eliminating a few of Vahn's as quickly as possible.

Amused by Eshavi's abrupt seriousness, a teasing smile developed across Vahn's face as he reached through space-time to move one of his own pieces forward. The Law of Perception was remarkably convenient at times like this, as, even if an object was tens of millions of kilometers away, he could still interact with it so long as it was within the domain of her perception and authority.

Seeing Vahn move his Raja, the Chaturanga equivalent of a King, into the space previously occupied by his Padati, a gloomy expression developed across Eshavi's face. She now understood the trap he had set for her when he decided to forgo a prize of his own.

"You never had any intention of winning..."

Shrugging his shoulders, Vahn maintained a relaxed smile as he replied, "Winning isn't everything. I also have a habit of honoring any requests that don't touch my bottom line, so, even if you came to me of your own accord, I would have helped you. Now then, I believe it's your...turn...?"

Without waiting for Vahn to finish speaking, Eshavi knocked over her own Raja, a surprisingly pouty expression on her face as she said, "Screw you." in a scathing tone. She loathed being looked down upon, so, believing Vahn was either pitying or making a fool of her, she decided she wasn't going to play his game. Instead, she kicked off the ground with explosive force, the muscles in her six arms swelling ever so slightly as she launched herself towards the 'infuriatingly relaxed' man.

Raising his hand to prevent Kusu, Vados, and Marcarita from intervening, Vahn maintained the same casual expression on his face even as Eshavi began raining meteoric punches on the invisible barrier separating them. He had already allocated the ashen-skinned woman seventeen minutes and forty-five seconds of his time. How she chose to spend that was up to her.

Though she wasn't much of a warrior in her default state, Eshavi still felt an unbridled sense of frustration seeing her attacks stop just a few centimeters away from Vahn's face and body. The barrier he had erected wasn't a physical membrane, so, rather than the feeling of striking a solid object, she felt as though her attacks were simply falling short. It didn't matter how much power she mustered in her blows. Everything she threw at him, even magical attacks, simply stopped the moment it seemed like they were about to make contact.

The most frustrating thing about the present situation was that she was literally able to step on Vahn's throne, but, the moment she tried to stomp his groin or thighs, the same invisible barrier prevented her from doing so. She was even able to sit atop his lap, heavily breathing with virtually zero distance between them. However, the moment she attempted to crush him with her thighs or wrap her hands around his neck, absolutely nothing worked. It was like, even when she was seated atop his lap, there was an infinite distance separating them...

Realizing the futility of her actions, Eshavi ultimately slumped her head and shoulders, her glasses having long since dislodged themselves from her face as she muttered, "I hate you..."

Shaking his head, Vahn simply leaned against the backrest of his throne before saying, "No, you don't. You are indignant as a result of the transgressions you believed I have committed against you. In reality, the only thing I did was prohibit you from borrowing the identities of people I care about. Other than that, I've tolerated pretty much everything you've done. Saying you hate me is just an excuse to protect your pride..."

Gritting her teeth, Eshavi made one last effort to punch Vahn in the face. To her surprise, he actually allowed her to do so, as, unlike her previous attacks, there was little to no power contained within the strike.

Feeling as though she had been seen through for the first time in hundreds of years, an indignant feeling swelled within Eshavi's chest as she powerlessly headbutted Vahn's and muttered, "I really, really hate you..."




(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'Nice try...','Loki would be wheezing...','Mada Kirai...')

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