Description: Rock's SLAMitude is put to the test by the swiftly aggressive Shinobi of Slam. No time for the ring, he can't even make it down the hall without being ninja hassled!


Some big documentary on SLAMFEST aired on late night TV. Terry dozed, his large frame occupying at least half of the couch while Rock stalled in completing a Physics assignment. He stared at the screen, enrapt by the footage. Cupping his chin thoughtfully, the teen leaned forward and he cleared his throat. The other blonde started, mumbling, "Something caught your eye, Rock?"

"Yeah, actually... Do you know how to SLAM?"

Blinking first, Terry knuckled away sleep and grinned, "Guess it's that time, hey rookie?"


Finally, Rock "The Rock" Howard has come back to-- wait, he's never been here before. The boy musses his tousled mop of blonde hair as he leaves the change room... Which was more of an awkward storage space for bears and fighters alike. One looked at him -- SERIOUSLY LOOKED AT HIM -- as he changed his shirt. Because he was afraid that he might be eaten or worse, he's early.

But hey, perhaps being early isn't exactly a bad thing. With luck, Rock might be able to catch at least a match, maybe two... See real SLAM, get a feel for it. He puts his best foot in front of the other and starts down the long corridor. Behind the scenes is fairly nondescript. There's posters of wrestling's finest, champions with their belts and rookies who later became the greats we all know and love today. The portrait of Mike Haggar receives its own patch of wall, given a wide berth of reverence and respect.

The Southtown-native pauses at this enlarged photograph, his head roughly the same size as Haggar's left nostril. Not the right, that would be silly. Gazing up at the mayor of Metro City's massive face, with a moustache that could wrap twice around the world, Rock wastes precious moments of SLAM-watching reading the blurb beneath it. "Huh..." He says once finished, "That's impressive." Adjusting the fingerless gloves, may they lead him to as many titles one day, and revenge. SLAMvenge.

Entering public fighting events was a challenge. When your clan members have unleashed trained killers as tenacious as a swarm of ninja bees to hunt you down, showing up anywhere that has cameras, mics, and thousands upon thousands of people is taking a gamble. This is why, other than her vengeance fueled rampage through the Dead or Alive tournament earlier this year, Kasumi has never braved anything larger than small-time local exhibition matches in Southtown to get by.

She can't not participate in them. She needs the money. She was raised and trained for a singular purpose. And now that her own father has issued her death warrant for abrogation of duty to the Mugen Tenshin, she is having to figure out an entirely new life.

Unfortunately, that takes money. And her list of the kunoichi's employable job skills is pretty limited. Mostly just being a ninja. Which there is undoubtedly a market for but she has yet to make the kind of contacts necessary to get by on that. And so she shows up, fights for small fight purses, and goes back into hiding while trying to forestall the inevitable.

SLAMFEST 2014 was a unique opportunity, however. An island nation, far from Japan... no one would be looking for her there. She could get in, participate in a high profile match or two, collect her pay, and be gone before anyone could possibly get there.

Registering under the psuedoname of Kaede, the rogue ninja was pleased to discover her match was scheduled on the first day. All the easier to get off the island fast after her gambit at public fighting. A short time in the ring and she'll-

What's this? They don't want an arena match at all? They want her to ambush some young man who has no idea what is even coming as a verification as to whether he is SLAMworthy? Well. Okay. That IS closer to her expertise. Time to waylay some boy. Get paid. Escape!

Rock's time alone in the corridor is interrupted as some event staff move through, carrying recording equipment and chattering to each other regarding where they need to get setup at. It seems inocuous enough.

Things get a little stranger when speakers imbedded just below the ceiling along the hall suddenly burst with music with the same kind of volume generally reserved for the passive arena itself.

As if on queue, the event staff whirl around and start recording Rock. No one is remotely bothering to explain to young Howard what is even going on here, but he seems to be the sudden center of attention.

Three meters to Rock's right, a small swirl of sakura petals surges up out of no where... a second later and he is joined by a young woman in blue in a low crouch, arms out at her sides, as if having just landed from a high fall in spite the low ceiling of the hallway.

"Rock Howard." she murmurs as the music cuts out at just the right time. The lingering blossoms drift to the floor and settle.
"I'll make this quick."

Her fighting attire is definitely not for stealthy events - a rich blue wrap blouse and skirt with golden embroidery, thigh-high white stockings, blue sandals. Her long, strawberry blonde hair is tied back into a lose ponytail with a blue ribbon. At her back is a sheathed blade. Don't worry. She'll never use it.

The speakers blare that the match of KAEDE vs Rock is underway as event faculty continue to scramble into position to get all the best footage. 'Kaede', herself, isn't making it easy, however, as she is immediately on the move, already blitzing toward the potentially unprepared prodgy. A forward flip would have her attempting to plant her feet on the blonde's shoulders before continuing to flip forward, pulling him up off his own feet to slam him against the wall just as she lands!

COMBATSYS: [Yin Yang Twins - Dangerous] "WOO HOO HERE SHE COME / Watch out boys, she'll chew you up... / She's dangerous... / DANGEROUS!" It's a stone groove that echoes over the overheads when the kunoichi steps up. KAEDE (Kasumi) is ready to SLAM!

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Kasumi           0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: [Capcom - Rockman 2 Intro] Standing opposed by an opponent, Rock Howard slowly becomes aware of an electric beat pulsing from what feels like inside his own eardrums. That's the power of synthesizers for you. Damn wrestlers. Least it's a damn heroic tune. ROCK HOWARD is ready to SLAM!

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Rock             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Kasumi

COMBATSYS: Rock blocks Kasumi's Rebound Throw.

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Rock             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Kasumi

To say that he is caught unawares is an understatement. Rock was just minding his own business, loping along like a young wolf to the grandstand, when a camera is shoved straight in his face; viewers across the globe are privy to a rare look of dawning comprehension. The perfect 'O' his lips form as he realizes what this ultimately means. Thin eyebrows lift in surprise and disappear behind a windswept blonde fringe, but I suppose as there's no wind, 'fingerswept' would be more accurate. He stumbles back, then claps his hands to his ears. The horrendous hip-hop melody blares, the phat beat reverberates all the way down the long corridor and in his head, more annoying than anything else. Whoever's 'singing' has got the worst vibrato and deserves a swift punch in the throat. Hopefully he's somewhere at this venue and gets SLAMMED as God intended.

So, who is it that intends to ambush him? Inquiring minds want to know if it's a wrestling great past his prime, some hopeful, or a... Woman? A kunoichi?! 'Kaede' appears in a dense flurry of sakura petals and the teen forgets himself, struck by just how pretty she is, the delicate quality to her doll-like features. Surprisingly, he doesn't glance anywhere else, and he doesn't know what to say. He knows that the organizers of SLAMFEST don't take him seriously, however.

'I'll make this quick.'

The knuckle of his forefinger and his thumb nestle in firmly at the bridge of his nose, pinching it; his brows furrows; crimson eyes vanish as pale lids winch shut. He allows himself a steadying breath, but only one. If the boy must prove his worth by punching a girl, f..fine. Rock "The Rock" Howard will take her down to Know Your Role Boulevard on the corner of Jabroni Drive, and check her directly into the Smackdown Hotel!!

This is assuming she doesn't start crying. That would make Rock feel bad.

As his own theme music erupts on the overhead speakers, the filming crew with their microphones yell things like, 'This way, kid, you must be a real heartbreaker! Let's get your best angle!' and 'Niiiiiiiiiiiice legs, Kaede! Can we get a close-up of your stockings?' The blonde teen flinches as though he were physically struck, "Show some respect or I'll take that camera, shine it up real nice, turn it sideways--"


In a comfortable two bedroom suite, there is a man who sits at his laptop and takes in the soft mellifluous notes of marine song. He leans back in his seat, closes his eyes, and allows himself to drift along. He imagines that he is a magestic humpback whale at play with all of his whale pals. They swim and frolic and eat fish and sometimes wind up on beaches. The dream is interrupted by a muscular man in a speedo with a bald head. Grabbing the seated guy by the shoulders, he is SLAMMED into the carpet without provocation. No rhyme, no reason!

- * - * - * - THE SMACKDOWN HOTEL! - * - * - * -

We layeth the smacketh down.


'Kaede' seizes the opportunity to strike first as her teenage opponent swipes his fist through the air, the event faculty taking his threat to heart. They keep tongues in check and maintain their distance, which is good, because the kunoichi lands on Rock's broad shoulders and... He needs to wrestle with the boy's urge to look up, which would mean he's a hypocrite. Wrapping gloved hands around her ankles, he leans into the momentum that bends his lean form over backwards, drawing up his legs and the leather of his pants creaks. The Howard scion is pulled off his own two feet into a controlled throw, but instead of slamming (not to be confused with SLAMMING) into the wall, the soles of his boots stomp down on some guy named Zangief's portrait, scuffing up the Russian's painted face.

Knees bend, all the better to cushion his impact. The blonde head snaps up. Time grinds to a halt, or that might be the crew using a nifty slow motion feature. They capture the fall of each flaxen strand of hair as it frames Rock's attractive visage. "Sorry about this." He apologizes before he springs. Arm crooked at least 60 degrees at the elbow, to stand in his way means he'll catch the pretty girl around the neck, the force of his jump and his weight enough to slam her harshly into unforgiving cement. Already staff is wincing in anticipation of the hit, but it looks like the American is off to a SLAM-tacular start!

COMBATSYS: Kasumi dodges Rock's Medium Lariat.

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Rock             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Kasumi

The Dead or Alive tournament was her first exposure to big media event style combat - a far cry from a life of training and education in the remote mountain Mugen Tenshin village. The lights, the noise, the shouts and yes, catcalls, are all easily shunted aside as not worth her attention. Whether her comfortable but revealing public fighting attire is just what she is used to or is designed with the specific intention to distract is hard to say as she doesn't spend any time playing to the attention she's getting. For now, her precision focus is on the one they want her to fight - a task she will take to completion unless the boy proves to be more Wolf than Pup when it comes to matters of SLAM.

Soft, brown eyes had stayed focused on him as she delivered her brief warning. Had this been an actual assassination, she could have gone from landing to striking in an instant, going straight for the throat.

Yet, even as she speaks, she can see the boy is no slouch. His recovery from the cacophony of noise exploding around him in the form of churlish music, crew calls for him to pose for the cameras, flashing lights as key frame photos are taken... it doesn't seem to distract him as much as she expected. The SLAM Techs said there were doubts about his ability to SLAM. Perhaps, she had thought, her mouth curling into the slightest of smiles, but his instincts as a fighter are not lacking. This isn't going to be as easy as she expected. He's also not a boar she considers quietly as he risks attack long enough to start chewing out the SLAM crew.

His opponent is as beautiful in motion as she is to observe, her technique fluid, her body turning into the flip that plants her feet on his shoulders for a moment before she continues, transforming all of that forward kinetic energy into an attempt to put Rock through the wall.

Fortunately for him and his skilled control over his journey to the wall - they make them tough here at SLAMFEST, and other than a scrap across a proud, growling Russian wrestler's face, there doesn't seem to be any further damage. His nimble opponent had already completed the rest of her motion, landing on her feet in another low crouch, hands down at her side. She already knows without looking that there was not the expected crunch of confirmed SLAM she had anticipated. But she DID send him into the wall. That can only mean-

She moves, her back still to Rock, acting on tactics honed by a lifetime of training. The kunoichi doesn't have to see him to predict his trajectory, especially when his voice confirms her expected mental note of his current position. A lowering of her head, a step to the right. Perfect timing.

"W-whoa, hey-!"
Intricate recording electronics hit the concrete as one of the men dives out of the way at the last second. That sounded... expensive.
"Get camera four back online!" shouts another one of the crew as they frantically attempt to keep every moment of this fight in frame for the viewing audience out in the stadium.

There is a window of time for him to land after that as the young woman corrects her own positioning, leaning forward, sliding one foot up, toros turned as she winds up to blitz him again.

"Please. Do your best," she advises him. Even her tone is delicate, her expression neither hostile nor intense - simply focused, and full of purpose. There is no bravado, no vehemenence to be felt here. She simply wishes the talented youth to put his all into it. Every fight like this is a chance to learn, prepare, to be ready... for the fights where far more severe stakes are on the line.

Of course, things might get a bit more incomfortable for Lone Wolf's apprentice when Kaede makes her next move, darting forward without hesitation, arms snapping up. He has over a half a foot on the kunoichi, so she has to reach a bit, going for his head with one hand, attempting to get her fingers behind his neck to get a controlling hold over his movement. She's in close at that point, her other hand reaching for Rock's forearm in an attempt to limit his options to retaliate...

If she seizes hold of the blonde, her face looking up at his, he might glance down in time to see a flash of amusement in her soft eyes - is he really doing his best? He can do better than that. The moment would pass, however, the girl using her torso and leg strength to wrench Rock down to to the concrete. It would be a contest of not just strength but also execution of technique, to avoid being SLAMed in that instant. "YA!"

COMBATSYS: Rock blocks Kasumi's Tie-up Lock.

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Rock             0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0           Kasumi

Straight up, Rock overshoots his graceful attacker by a large margin and soars into a nest of wires, recording equipment and crew, who scramble to avoid grievous personal injury. At least the teen manages to get his feet under him in time, but camera four is SLAMMED offline, and something else has shattered into ten indistinguishable pieces, all varying in shape and size. He runs a gloved hand through his hair, ruffling the silken locks, sending them into a state of disarray. Crap, does he have to pay for it?


At that precise moment, one crew member sneaks in close to capture the sheepish expression the Howard scion wears, lower lip pulled between his rows of teeth. "Wh... Hey!" Rock cries, startled, "Where did you even come from?!" A reply may be on the tip of the photographer's tongue, BUT IT DOESN'T MATTER WHERE HE CAME FROM. The teen blocks the lens from snapping any other embarrassing shots, refusing to release the professional looking still-frame device until it's lowered.

"That guy, you'd think he doesn't want to be on the cover of Teen Fighter Magazine." grouses one sound technician, wielding the boom microphone with skilled precision.


Urp. The man jumps as Rock pins him down with a steely glare, "Nothing! Carry on!"

Damn rights he will. Rock "The Rock" Howard steps out from the wires coiled around his boots like so many black snakes, shaking out tension from his shoulders and legs with a bounce. He flexes his thin fingers, then scans the corridor for the fair jabroni. Crimson eyes do not search for long. 'Kaede' moves like notes of music, and I'm not talking the obnoxious noise and blathering that preceded her arrival. There's a quality to it that speaks of her experience, and of her beauty. She is poetry given life. A grand symphony. She is really short and getting up in his grill, so he doesn't have much time to admire the kunoichi's skill and fluidity.

Advising that he do his best earns a grim nod and a determined set to his jaw. "You too," he says, polite but monotone, and her hand locks around the back of his neck. The sparse hairs stand on end at the threatening touch. His forearm evades her grip, simply snapping out of reach, windmilling once to find her shoulder instead. Rock, all broody-faced, won't enjoy this. Should his attempt to snag the ninja girl yields favourable results, his lean frame spins in, black soles leaving scrapes on cement. The Southtown-native eases his foot into her path to trip 'Kaede' before hauling the woman off the floor come hell or high water. Normally, this would be a shoulder-throw, but to do that to a female... Seems cruel. She'll be at the mercy of a harsh toss over his hip, ending in a SLAM that will lay the smack down on her candy-ass.

If this doesn't prove his worth to SLAMFEST, nothing will.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi blocks Rock's Kokuusen.

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Rock             0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0           Kasumi

That Rock can handle all of the distractions of the recording crew but keep his wits about him well enough to avoid being caught off balance when Kaede engages him again is proof that he's got talent. That he manages to pry himself free of her close range grapple is evidence that he's also got raw power packed into his svelte form, his muscles responding to the pressure in time to extricate himself from her lock before she gets too secure of a hold on him.

"See if you can get a little lower, she might kick him any moment now!" urges one staffer in their tireless pursuit in trying to get just the 'right' footage of this fight.

The music is gone, having shut off not long after the bout began for real. The audience wants to hear the noise. The creak of the young man's leather gloves; the swish of Kasumi's azure ribbons in her hair and outfit; the snap of a step against the hard concrete; and the spares words shared between combatants.

'You too.'

His response gets him an even slightly warmer smile as the two clash, the smaller combatant bracing herself, powerful legs pressing against the floor in an attempt to overpower him. It is a test intended to determine his prowess in close quarters combat. His ability to withstand her proves he's got what it takes. The windmilling nature of his evasion also gives her a clue as to some of the arts the youth has learned in his life - Hakkyokuseiken. An extremely rare style, she knows, having been well versed in all the famous styles of known threats around the world. His last name then... does that mean he's the son of /that/ man?

She has no time to wonder as his arm snaps back around out if its escape to grip the kunoichi by the shoulder. Having already been trying to press into him she realizes an instant later that he's about to turn her own effort against her. The squeak of his shoes against the concrete is audible as he shifts to moving her forward along the path she had already tried to twist him, his leg sliding in expertly to deny her any further traction with the floor.

"Ah!" she grunts, bodily hefted now. Without her feet having a grip on the floor, the young man will have no trouble lifting the featherweight fighter. If she knew he was still struggling how to fight the delicate looking ninja, she might chide him further. If she wasn't about to be SLAMed, of course. A desperate twist of her flexible torso has her hook an arm around the back of Rock's neck at the last possible second, slowing her potentially painful descent against the unyielding floor enough for her to snap her feet down just in time to brace herself.

There would be no time, her arm slipping through his blonde hair as she completes the motion started mid-air to finish turning around on him completely. Her left hand snaps out, attempting to brush aside his right arm and make it harder for him to guard, her entire body tensing for the strike to come-

When she moves is is almost as if she teleported through the young man, so swift is Kasumi's movement, bluring to two meters past him, coming out of a powerful slide on her feet, arms swaying just so in order to counterbalance her motion and restore control. If she was successful, it might take Rock a split second to register the crushingly powerful elbow this Shinobi of SLAM just dished out against his ribcage, the girl pausing in her half-crouched position before she starts to rise up and turn back to face him.

"Did anyone even get that?" one man asks.
"Can we get an instant reply, what just happened?!"

COMBATSYS: Rock endures Kasumi's Oboro Gake.

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Rock             0/-------/--=====|===----\-------\0           Kasumi

Who is this roody-poo? The crew member hell-bent on the 'right' angle offends Rock's delicate sensibilities! He deserves a SLAM.

A /million/ SLAMs.

Maybe once this SLAM has been SLAMMED--

"Don't you think they'd make a nice couple?" chirps one videographer, a prolific SLAMtube contributor who often weaves facetious details into his accounts in order to draw in female viewers, "Watch, it's like the complicated steps of a lover's dance." Several camera hands 'oooo' and 'ahhh' as if they understand, but they don't.

Rock does. Heat crawls up his neck and his cheeks redden, but he maintains focus throughout every distraction and remark, no matter how inappropriate or unprovoked. Why? This is /just/ a fight, no matter how pretty her smile is or the ribbons in her hair, the teen wants to shout the obvious from the rooftops as he secures his hold and feels the featherweight of 'Kaede' transfer from arms onto his hip. It seems almost too easy to SLAM, too good to be true; she slows her descent by half hugging him and landing in a way that would be awkward were it not for her natural agility and elegance. That's good, for her.

Sucky darn, the Howard scion is denied. He looks for yet another opportunity to prove himself in this test of his SLAMabilities... And possibly be lectured because with each attempt, it will become more apparent that Rock treats the runaway shinobi gently. While he would deny that he is the only child of /that/ man, something that brings him great shame, it does not make that fact any less true. At least the son is without the father's cruelty, especially towards the fairer sex. Women are... Well, they make him nervous. Attractive females even moreso.

'Kaede' escapes a split-second later, leaving him in a lurch. Fingers slip through his hair almost *intimately* according to some, his guard blocked and... Rock is about as confused as the recording staff who demand silly replays and explanations, her movements too quick to follow. All he knows is that whatever struck him in the sternum felt like an elbow, maybe, and pain radiates out from the point and spreads across his chest. He bruises instantly. The blonde-haired boy stumbles back a half-step, the leather of his pants creaking in protest; he did endure the strike, but only due to sheer ignorance that it had even happened.

Still, he finds himself in an undeniably great position, the next backwards step transitioning smoothly into a sharp pivot. There is no warning, no sound of boots marking cement or the rustle of the kid's red and white jacket. His lean form twists, his hand snaps out like a whip. I must ask you now, CAN YOU SMELL WHAT ROCK "THE ROCK" HOWARD IS COOKIN'?

Success means gloveless fingers fasten tightly on her collar, front or back. 'Kaede' is drawn up and over his head, Rock manipulating her trajectory like a BAWSS into a cushioned landing... Atop some of the staff, ho ho ho. Hopefully she plants a foot in that one jerk's face. He is a jabroni beating, pie eating, trail blazing, eyebrow raising, the best in the present, future and past. If y'all don't like him, you can kiss the people's ass!! Don't mess with the ROCK and SOCK connection!


Mmmm, pie.

COMBATSYS: Rock successfully hits Kasumi with Shinkuu Nage EX.
+=+=!= Power Slam! =!=+=+

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Rock             0/-------/--=====|=======\-------\1           Kasumi

Like blue lightning, Kaede had dashed past Rock with her incredible speed. The slow motion replays will be able to find the exact frame where her elbow had connected with his side in passing though that does little to reduce the sheer mystique behind such incredible velocity. How much training must she have put her body through to be able to achieve such a point blank launch? There is a tradeoff, however. It takes precious seconds to recover from the burst of momentum, to twist back around and be able to defend herself. A process the smaller of the two SLAMsters is presently engaged in when Rock, stumbling conveniently into closer proximity, extends his hand.

His fingers curl tightly into the fabric of her collar, the girl having not yet managed to spin on him or she might have been able to lean back and slip just outside the length of his reach. He will see the immedate reaction as his grip closes over the pliable yet robust fabric as Kasumi's entire body reacts in an instant bid to escape the inevitable, legs pushing up, right arm swinging into a backswing with the intent to smack away his hold...

Too little, too late. She's already off the ground before her backhand gets near enough to matter and by then, she hasn't the traction to strike with any kind of force, knuckles simply glancing off his forearm as he elevates the shinobi into the air. The Hakkyokuseiken technique is the rare combination of simple yet complex - happening in an instant, it appears simple until one attempts to mimic it... and then awareness sets in that mastering the Shinkuu Nage is no small feat. There's no time to really appreciate the talent Rock has in his father's legendary style when being flung up over his head though as The Shinobi of Slam gets to experience the same sense of helpelessess as anyone else who has been hurled by Rock's own father.

No amount of flailing, twisting of her body, or attempts to take control of her trajectory has any effect. Such is the real issue with being completely airborn with nothing to take hold of. For a few frames of her flying through the air, it looks as if she might just barely recover and end up landing like a cat on the ground rather than crashing outright... except for the crew themselves. Being subjected to SLAMs is an understood occupational hazard for SLAMtechs and right now, they're making good on their hazard bonuses as the flailing kunoichi crashes into three of them with enough force to bowl them over.

Cameras, recording stands, bipods, and more end up in the pile of limbs and bodies as Kasumi immediately begins attempting to extricate herself as quickly and efficiently as possible. For those NOT caught up in the impromptu game of Twister, it might seem like a fine situation for the crewmembers that just got body SLAMMED by Kasumi! But for those actually in it, their opinion on the whole experience can be interpreted by the grunts of pain coming from them. In the process of trying to untwist her way out, Kasumi's shin-guard collides with another camera stand, causing it to topple right ontop of her. The bounce of the black plastic video recorder off the top of the girl's head is definitely cringeworthy and it even seems to give her a moment's pause as she's probably seeing stars for an instant...

But then she starts right back up as before. Even a sporting fight like this doesn't have time for just sitting around after a bad spill! Now that he had finally gotten the best of her in one of their exchanges, she was that much more eager to escalate the presure on him, to find his limits and practice pushing her own. There can be no rest until one of them can no longer fight! The sole of her sandal might very well be the reason one of the men's noses is bleeding as she launches out of the human pileup with another burst of speed. Surely an accident, right? How she went from being sprawled admist a pileup of staff members to blitzing in Rocks' direction is another one of those difficult to discern transitions without the use of slow motion replay...

But Rock won't have time to finger-brush his hair or enjoy his well executed SLAM for long before the blur of blue is at him again. A soft grunt escapes her lips as she leans low in her sprint toward him, suggesting a possibly low-angled strike incoming... But when she's a meter out, the girl flips forward, entire body tucking into a tight ball as she kicks off with her feet, launching herself into a very small arc...

The issue is that Rock's head and shoulders are right at the apex of that arc and if Kasumi's timing is exactly right, she's about to land on the crimson eyed young man's shoulders in a seated position, her legs against the sides of his head. This position would last only a second before Kasumi would swing her arms up and back, leaning back, pressing her legs together and, by combining all of her strength and motion into one smooth rebound, whip Rock right up off his feet, over the top of the backflipping ninja, and slam his upper back down hard into concrete with crushing force!

It's time to test Rock's defense against thighs!

COMBATSYS: Rock counters Hien Saka Otoshi EX from Kasumi with Joudan Crack Counter.

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Rock             0/-------/--=====|=======\=------\1           Kasumi

H... he totally wasn't stumbling. Rock anticipated this, was forewarned of this, it didn't just drop into his lap. When the youth awoke from a restless sleep, he had a prophetic vision. The angel of SLAM descended from the high heavens, came to him and said, "Look inside yourself, Rock "The Rock" Howard. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of SLAM. After your sternum is crushed in today's event, some popcorn fart is gonna get smacked down... Remember who you are..."-- Fine, fine. He stumbled a bit, a convenient stumble, but the swift recovery deserves /some/ recognition, okay? Okay.

'Kaede' is not the only fighter who possesses sophisticated SLAMs, but finesse will only ever be found in the techniques taught by Geese. Terry focused more on strength. Rock took two vastly different styles of Hakkyokuseiken and created his own hybrid. The Southtown-native is something of a genius, a prodigy, impressive even without comparing him to his father and right now he sends the kunoichi flying in an arc. His lips thin to a line that could be displeasure or a myriad of other emotions. Grim satisfaction, perhaps? That's what happens when you go one on one with the Great One.

She crashes as he intended, the landing looks... awkward. Uncomfortable. Maybe spiking her at the cement would've been kinder. SLAMMING into no less than three technicians, the tangle of limbs is noted, but he espies the runaway shinobi's shin-guard somewhere in the midst of the pile. It knocks over a camera stand and Rock winces when the CRACK of plastic meeting skull rends the air, shoulders jerking upwards in reflex. "Ouch," he actually speaks on the girl's behalf, his sympathy such that... STOP ROCK DON'T YOU DARE GO AND HELP HER, YOU DUMB BLONDE. WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?

In the time it takes for him to venture forwards a single sympathetic step, 'Kaede' launches out from the sprawl like a bat out of hell, leaving them to untangle themselves from cords and each other (that sounds awful.) The teen reels with shock and surprise, his mouth agape. He leeeeeeeeeeans away, "Gnh?" If you say that isn't a word, know your role and shut your mouth! "Whoa?!" The feint is as transparent as clear glass. She springs as though there were a pair of pogo sticks loaded in the balls of her feet.

However, Rock's defense against thighs is paramount. The angel of SLAM decreed it so-- I'll stop, I'll stop.

She is a mere hairsbreadth from knee-contact when he bends over backwards in a bridge, gloveless fingers splayed against concrete, cotton t-shirt inching up to expose his midriff. Women all around the world watching the live feed are instantly converted, composing sonnets and dedicating songs to the teenager's washboard abs. Rock... will live in fear when this is over, but until then... Gritting his teeth, grunting with effort, he kicks up into an ungainly handstand. The female ninja gets punted without actually BEING punted, because he points his toes when his legs collide with the girl's spine, possibly swatting her straight at the ground. Worse, into Zangief's angry portrait

Unable to do anything but carry on like a clumsy oaf completely unsuited to pretty acrobatics, Rock regains his footing and finds her with his scarlet eyes. "Sorry, I..." the young man begins, ruffling his blonde hair and looking anxious, "You're not hurt, are you?" IT DOESN'T MATTER IF SHE'S HURT!

Adjusting his digital camcorder, the SLAMtube videographer chuckles darkly, "Fu fu fu. Yes, that's it. Goooooooood. Such earnest concern. This is /perfect/."-

Once again, his talents are made abundantly clear. One of the risks of such a high wire act as Kasumi attempted is that when it /doesn't/ work out, only one of two things can possibly happen. #1 - land on her feet because Rock got out of the way in time, allowing her to recover quickly and transition into something else. #1 - disaster.

In this case, 'Kaede' is met with disaster, as Rock's reflex response to her attempt to get to his shoulders is defended against by a swiftly, precision time counter kick. The window of opportunity was only a split second, but in that moment, Terry's apprentice pulls it off flawlessly. Kasumi is punted back against the wall, her upper back crushing against the portrait of Zangief before the kunoichi sinks to a seated position on the floor. This time it looks like he's finally put a stop to her relentless pressure tactics as the girl looks a touch dazed both from the kick to her back and the staggering hit against the wall.

It does give Rock time to look worried, which is great footage for the cameras, as the young heart throb just keeps laying it on for the fairer half of the viewing audience no matter how unintentional it might be on his end. His opponent blinks her eyes, pushing up with her feet, using the wall for support as she gets back up quickly, albeit a little staggered. Eyes narrow at Rock for a moment at his expression of concern though the moment passes, as if she were trying to figure out if he was being condescending or that really is just the way he is. Even the way he runs his hand through his soft hair could be interpreted in more than one way. The faint smile at her lips suggests she concluded the latter. He's nothing like the man she connected his style to. He may bear the underworld tyrant's last name and know of his arts, but is that where the connections end?

"That?" She pushes away from the wall. "That was nothing," she replies. She's feeling the aches of her crash into the crew, the bump against her head, and the disorienting landing she just suffered right now, but even combined, those aren't enough to make her pause for more than a moment. Her tone still bears confience unfeigned. Minor setbacks are nothing to get flustered over. There is another pause, an assessing evaluation of Rock, before she continues. "I was wrong to think this would be quick. I'm glad you are not that hurt."

What's this? Is it an expression of concern about Rock's wellbeing that can be cut an edited for the cameras to portray this match however the editing team wishes to finalize the reel?

"It means you still have fight left in you!"

She's on the offense again. He'd be used to the way she's always darting at him, trying to blitz him with sudden bursts of speed, attempting to catch him off balance... Now time for a touch of the SLAM techniques she was educated on just before the corridor ambush! The hall leaves little space for this dangerous manuever as Kasumi springs forward into a cartwheel in the space between them, only to leap out in an attempt to snap her ankles around Rock's next. She would continue to move forward with circular momentum if she got hold, swinging around behind him before twisting her body and pulling hard as she could while still airborn to send Rock flying back toward the wall behind him!

For her own part, provided she has the capacity to do so, she'd easily snap her hands down against the floor and spin her body down into a sliding crouch before coming to a stop again!

COMBATSYS: Kasumi successfully hits Rock with Audacious Slam.

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Rock             1/-------/=======|=======\=------\1           Kasumi

Rock is an honest kid, always has been. Lying and subterfuge do not come naturally to him. Perhaps this is the reason why he was disowned, his sincerity perceived as a weakness by the detestable Geese Howard, or maybe...

Let's explore the rhyme and rationale behind his disinheritance another time. For now, SLAM. SLAM is good. SLAM is great.

'Kaede' lurches away from the wall; Rock would call her bluff, if he were so inclined to humiliate her. 'That' certainly didn't seem like nothing, not to him, not with the heavy crunch that followed uncontrolled collision. At least she's quick to regain her bearings, and even offer words which cause the teen to blink rapidly. His back straightens, impossibly so. Arms lock in at his sides. He looks like a wooden toy soldier, pull the cord and he'll march. Just as the cogs and gears in his brain grind into motion, churning out a response, it is robbed from his lips by her confidence and audacity.


Broad shoulders tremble, his svelte frame shaking with mirth. Eventually Rock laughs a good-natured laugh aloud. He relaxes and scratches behind his ear; some of the crew members find the self-conscious gesture endearing. Is it really unintentional? Surely he must have at least vague awareness of his tendency to induce cavities, or swooning.

"All right! You better not regret this!" Or burst into tears. With flourish, he pushes up the sleeves of his jacket and drops to a stance that makes it obvious how much fight he has left in him. Rock bounces from one foot to the next, holding his ground with pride. When 'Kaede' cartwheels and her ankles lock around the slender column that connects his head to his shoulders, being both taller and heavier, he assumes they will be to his advantage. That should the Howard scion resist, he won't be thrown...

He is wrong.

The kunoichi rotates to his back using the axis of his neck. Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap! As he is already leaning in the direction that most benefits her, 'Kaede' hurls him straight for the opposite stretch of brick, his cranium laying waste to the nose of Biff Slamkovich. Rock sees bursts of stars, and blue-clad ninjas kicking those stars. Sometimes they kick /him/. Clapping a gloved hand to his forehead, he tries to shake them off. Debris and dust fall from his fair flaxen hair. "Ugh..." The Southtown-native braces himself, rises by using the wall, his swimming vision possibly indicating a concussion of massive proportions. Damn, that was a SLAM.

He doesn't want to compliment her, but to say, 'You got lucky.' would be an understatement. That wasn't luck, it was skill. Rock knows, she knows, the whole staff present know... He'll not say anything. This is for the best.

Breaking into a run, uncertain what it is he's gonna do once he reaches the runaway shinobi, sudden inspiration strikes. Knees bend, Rock "The Rock" Howard rockets skywards like a... rocket. It's not the People's Elbow, but close enough. Yelling, "SHYAAAAAAAAAAAA!" he descends on the jabroni like a wrathful storm of smackdown. A... RAGING STORM, ha /HA/! She has maybe a split-second, one heartbeat, and then SLAMMED, right on the junction of shoulder and neck. From his back, a blindingly bright wing of amethyst chi sprouts and unfurls, a wicked torrent of energy coiling down the length of his arm to make the drop that much more excruciating.

A technician is caught staring in awe and not filming. "What the hell, man! Do your job!" bellows his supervisor, the burliest hurly-burly ever. He may be a bear cleverly disguised as a human being.

"B..but it's so beautiful..."

COMBATSYS: Kasumi full-parries Rock's Rage Run Dunk!!

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Rock             1/-------/=======|=======\====---\1           Kasumi

This time, it's the Shinobi of Slam that has time to catch her breath after having been SLAMed by Rock two times in a row. Rising up, she whirls around to face where she had flung him, every last muscle of her body having been coordinated into the attack that landed him in the wall. She doesn't pursue for a finishing strike. There has been honor in the way the young man has fought, even if it is somewhat foolish honor. She will extend him the same respect in letting him get to his feet if he should wish to continue for another round of SLAM.

Brown eyes blink once as the Young Wolf manages to get himself to his feet with the help of the wall. Her expression is neutral - neither hostile nor friendly, merely intent, determined, studying every move he makes. He has proven his ability to surprise her, and to best her in some of the direct contests of force that have been exchanged between them. If she wants to come out ahead in this furiously fast exhibition match, she is going to have to execute a finishing combo - a burst of speed and damage the likes of which would overwhelm just about anyone living in the world.

This and more races through her mind as she watches the young man move. He's running and for the first few steps, she can't predict what he is going to do - not knowing that he's still figuring that out as he goes. The azure-clad ninja braces, turning her left shoulder forward, arms raised, hands held with fingers extended in knife-hand positions. Something tells her that after all the exchanges they have, it's going to come down to this moment. It is on that prediction that the rogue ninja stakes it all.

Her body continues to wind up, tensing, seeming ready to twist back on herself and strike into Rock as he leaps. Her eyes follow him. No matter how fast he's moving, no matter the incredible surge of energy coursing through his body, she keeps her focus on his extended hand. She was right - it all comes down to this instant. It looks like he is directly on course and she seems, for the moment, to have been caught flat footed by the angle of his trajectory. She can't possibly escape in time... and could she even hope to weather the impact without being crushed to the ground??

It is in the instant before he connects that she moves, twisting her body back the other way... and is gone.

Rock's hand would surge down to the floor, rendering it the victim of his conduit of chi should he decide to discharge it there, but Kasumi seems to have simply vanished and in her place lingers a small swirl of sakura blossoms, their scent faint in the air.

The next attack comes without warning from a blindside. Should he look right, it is from his left that the elbow strike connects; look left, and it is from the right. There is no chance to see her before she connects with a dashing elbow even faster than the one she had used on him earlier, slashing through the air with her hands as she bolts past. Should he be hit, the impact rocks the hall, the sound echoing off the walls... But she isn't finished. If she has this window of opportunity, she is going to put it to use!
Kaede vanishes again, leaving another whirl of petals, this time she's above him, backflipping over to land on his opposite side, striking out with her shin-guard clad foot to connect with his shoulder on her way down. A second kick with her other leg would snap out into his side the instant her toe touched concreate. She lunges forward, palm out as if to strike again but vanishes mid-attack, leaving a third whirlwind of scented blossoms.
When she appears this time, she is back where she started, already winding her body up, every last muscle answering her call to be prepared to lash out in unison... And then she moves, right elbow aiming for Rock's sternum, left hand slamming into her right hand at the exact right moment, her entire body dedicated to the singular task of delivering one thundering elbow strike to Rock's chest. "HAAAAAH!"
This is Oka Ranman - a finishing blow mastered only by the elite of the Mugen Tenshin shinobi. Wielding it is her birthright. Being struck by it may very well be Rock's curse.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi successfully hits Rock with Oka Ranman EX.

[                           \\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Rock             2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|-------\-------\0           Kasumi

A whirlwind of sakura, 'Kaede' disappears and he is left alone in her wake. Rock crashes hard, with such destructive force that the floor ruptures beneath him, a nasty fissure streaking off down either ends of the corridor. Imagine if it had been the fair kunoichi. The SLAMFEST camera and sound crew cry out in unison. One actually topples, the videographer guest, but he continues to breathlessly narrate his own steamy version of events to the digital camcorder. That's kind of creepy. The Howard scion draws the energy of his cursed bloodline to his hand, seizing his wrist and cutting it off from consuming him. Something stirs, something entirely unbidden and unwelcome. Not today, not with an audience.

"Is she... gone?"

"Only a WIMPY LITTLE WIMP forfeits!"

"/Can/ Kaede forfeit?"

" beautiful."

"Shut up, Aaron, you're not his type."

The hall is filled with voices of confusion, demanding to know the whereabouts of the runaway shinobi, calls to assess the damages. Several hands are sent away with clipboards, others begin the arduous process of winding in cords and tearing down the equipment. No one approaches Rock, who straightens with a grimace. He doesn't move, his keen crimson eyes darting in every direction, even above. This isn't over, he trusts his instincts, the feeling of unease that turns his stomach while the technicians are absorbed in their humdrum routine work.

Tim the Bear acknowledges him so suddenly that the teenage heartthrob jumps, "Guess that means you--"


She returns in a flurry, he looks to the right to meet the first of several distinct blows. It staggers him, Rock hopping, trotting, anything to remain standing as his head is snapped to the very end of his neck. A furious welt makes its presence known, the instantaneous swelling reaching even the lower lid of his eye. "OH NO, HIS FAAAAAAAAAAAACE!!" screeches the legions of female viewers at home, the cameras back on line and filming. Granting no room to recover, the female ninja bolts past and strikes again. His shoulder dislocates, his ribs are pulverized, he's... tasting the coppery tang of blood and sent spilling ass-over-kettle from a reinforced elbow to the sternum. The youth skids to a halt on his front and doesn't move. There is a collective and disappointed groan.

An interlude, please enjoy this haiku addressed to Rock "The Rock" Howard from 'Kaede':

Once upon a time
Rock thought he would try to SLAM
Oops, I just killed him

Scarlet eyes are blank and open, but unseeing. Their light has faded-- Wait, he spasms, coughing, drawing deep and shuddering breaths, trying to get just one foot underneath his thrashed form. He... manages to prop himself up on a knee, wobbling precariously, threatening collapse. His chest is nothing but pain, his side much the same. The teen grabs at his left arm. It is pushed further out of place before there is a sickening, gut-wrenching POP. Ewwwwwwwww! Terry, why did you teach Rock that?!

He's not going to be beaten, not this way. Firming his jaw, all of his strength is summoned in one final display of raw power. Cerulean chi snakes around him, scythes of amethyst burst through cracks and schisms. The cement craters, Rock in the middle as he sucks in enough oxygen to bellow, "RAGING... /STORM/!!" All at once, the energy is discharged, forced outwards. Tearing through anything in its path, it waylays recording with a blinding flash. Overhead lights flicker, some shriek and panic and hug each other in fear. A rip-roaring wave looms like a terrible beast, then it will layeth the smacketh down. Go, ninja, go! Is the nimble girl quick enough to evade Geese Howard's only son a second time? How was that for a performance from the rookie?

COMBATSYS: Rock keeps on fighting!

[                         \\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Rock             0/-------/<<<<<<<|-------\-------\0           Kasumi

COMBATSYS: Kasumi blocks Rock's Raging Storm EX+.

[                         \\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Rock             0/-------/<<<<<<<|==-----\-------\0           Kasumi

Whether his opponent saw that hand go to his wrist, the active effort of sealing off that amethyst chi of his before he tapped into too much of it is dark lure, is hard to say. No one in the hallway has any idea where she's even gone. And given her appearance, it's not like she could just blend into this crowd any, could she?

Through it all, though, Rock's instincts remain sharp. He's being tested. Will he let down his guard? Soft mumblings about the fight ending abruptly, the sound of cables being dragged across concrete, the scribble of notes as one assessor observes the damage that has been done to a couple of the portraits, the wall, and the floor... All around him, it is as if life has simply started to go on beyond the scope of the battle. His bout with the skilled shinobi seems to be at an end and it's time for SLAMFEST 2014 to move on.

Except when it isn't. Rock was wise to not let his guard down completely even as over a minute passed with no sign of danger. That slightest bit of preparation might very well have made the difference in allowing him to stay standing when the blitz begins. Kasumi is all over him, striking from one side, from above, from his opposite side, finishing with the elbow smash so fast and powerful, a shockwave blasts out from behind Rock's back before he is blasted back away by pure kinetic force.

In the aftermath, Kasumi maintains her pose, hand cupping her fist, elbow extended, brown eyes focused on Rock as he's sent tumbling. Her high pony tail drapes down after a second, her ribbons coming to rest, as she remains perfectly still, watching the Young Wolf's every move. The event staff keep their distance, holding their breath, as sakura blossoms continue to drift and settle against the floor from the places she had teleported from. Now they have actually seen what a Mugen Tenshin ninja is capable of, no one seems to want risk drawing the young woman's attention, no matter how beautiful or delicate she may appear. No one moves an inch.

After a few seconds, she stands up straight, arms lowering against her sides, expression as intense as the moment she first ambushed him in the hall only a few minutes ago. This SEEMS finished. Not many could be expected to endure Oka Ranman and be in any kind of shape to go on fighting afterward...

His eyes open and Kasumi's head cants to the side. And then, little by little, he pulls himself up, pops his shoulder back into place rather than waiting for a trained professional to administer treatment... and then she can tell, the resolve in his expression. He isn't finished. Given the injuries she knows she inflicted in her finishing technique, she can't help but marvel. The girl turns her left shoulder forward, sliding one foot up, raising her hands to the ready.

Neither's need for battle has been sated yet.

She can't predict how he will attack now. In his condition, blitzing her seems less likely than before... but then the hall is flash-illuminated, bathed in light blue as power begins to build around Terry's apprentice. Sucking in her breath, Kasumi brings her hands together... research into the combat capabilities of Geese Howard have given her a clue as to what might be coming next. From the storm about to be unleashed, there will be room to run, no chance to slip around. Her only choice is to survive!

Sucking in her breath, she concentrates on her aura, falling back on techniques of her clan utilized to defend against the legacy techniques passed down by the clan leaders - destructive energy attacks of incredible magnitude. Closing her eyes, she is suddenly lost within the tidal surge of chi bursting out with Rock at the epicenter. If not for her training, she would have been blasted away completely and undoubtedly left in critical condition. Even with her preparation and strength of aura, she can barely fight back, feet sliding over the concrete as energy explodes against her. The cherry petals are vaporized by the cascading energy. Her hair ribbon is shaken loose and lost to the maelstrom, leaving her hair to flap freely in the blastwave, and eventually she ends up pressed against the far wall before the powerful emotional release comes to an end.

Anyone looking at her in the aftermath would realize she's already preparing to strike again, however, body wound up, preparing to unleash another burst of speed just like she had in prior times througout the fight. As her hair comes to rest loosely about her shoulders, the kunoichi lifts her face, eyes snapping open, her focus on Rock as she looks at him over her right shoulder.

She winds up just a slight bit further before she moves. Another burst of speed, surging from stationary to a blur in an instant, and, should Rock be caught by the girl's attack, another elbow strike will be smashed into his chest. She really has a thing for elbows, this one!!

COMBATSYS: Kasumi successfully hits Rock with Karyuzan.

[                             \  < >  //////////////                ]
Rock             1/------</<<<<<<<|==-----\-------\0           Kasumi

With great power comes great responsibility, and sacrifice. The single outpouring of blue-purple chi demands everything he has, even a piece of his own soul to hold, but only temporarily. Rays of light radiate out from him as though he were a sun unto his own, the shockwave of kinetic energy flooding the corridor and indiscriminate in its target, forcing many of the crew who remain to choose between their trade or flight. Few cameras survive and just as well; the show must go on as it seems that this will be the thrilling conclusion. Rock is spent, slumping forwards. He could bed down for the evening and sleep for a fortnight, recuperating as he is set adrift in dreams that may or may not include majestic marine life and the song the whales sing of their life and death.

The energy that is his to command and mould to the shape of his desires dissipates, winking out from existence, leaving behind no trace that it had ever been called forth. Were it not for the deep depression in the cement, Rock at its epicentre, it would be hard to guess that the Howard scion was able to mimic another of his father's most famous techniques, executing it with such skill that even Geese would be impressed...

Ha ha, nah. Totes wouldn't happen.

Unable to find room around the maelstrom to maneuver and attempt another miraculous escape, 'Kaede' weathers the onslaught with the hopes that she will survive. It is a success. She has already earned Rock's respect, but that's not to say she is incapable of being rewarded with more of it -- bruised and beaten, panting and trembling, the beautiful kunoichi did just hand him his candy-ass, and that's quite a feat given the teen's years of training and inherent fighting ability.

Hands locate the support of his knees and the boy lumbers to his feet, stumbling inelegantly, swaying a little on the spot. Wrapping an arm protectively around the bone frame of his ribcage, applying pressure to his injuries there so that Rock may ignore the pain long enough, it is to... To...?!

Could he still fight? Is he able? Adrenaline still courses through him, but is it enough?

Rock "The Rock" Howard lurches into a walk that grows more natural and fluid with each step. He ruffles his hair, somehow finding the time to be concerned with appearances or perhaps it is an entirely nervous gesture. The SLAMnobi sees this as plainly as he spies her tensing up to strike again. C'mon, jabroni! She meets him halfway, and he makes no effort to avoid her elbow when it hammers down on the sore spot at the centre of his chest, SLAMMING it for the third time. 'Kaede' treats the handsome teen's sternum like some popcorn fart who owes her money or a button that dispenses gummi bears and rainbows.

A soft grunt ekes out past slightly parted lips. He's pushed back at least two feet, heels scraping across the crevices and other cracks in the floor. Rock gropes at his old injury when it births new pain, gingerly pressing fingers to the valley of his pectoral muscles and... Ouch, no, that hurts. His hand balls into a fist and then that fist is hauled back to his ear, cocked and ready. Red eyes widen to the limit, bright and burning like two vermilion gems in their sockets. It all takes just one second. "ORYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" That is the runaway kunoichi's first and last warning.

Terry's ward and apprentice explodes into counter-attack at close range, unable to continue save for this, skimming the ground as a starburst of crimson and orange chi lets him fly like a bullet discharged from a pistol. Throwing out his fist, he commits himself wholly, completely. Every fibre of his very being is dedicated to burying his knuckles in her abdomen because he couldn't bear to punch such a lovely woman in the face, even if he hated her. Rock's honour may be foolish, but he is proof that chivalry is far from dead and gone.

Whether she is struck or blocks, whether she dives from his path or whirls away into another delicate flurry of sakura petals, Rock slows into a clumsy roll, then just... hangs out and lays around. And doesn't do anything like moving because that would be stupid, his vision growing dark around the edges, all consciousness slipping away...

COMBATSYS: Rock can no longer fight.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Kasumi           0/-------/-----==|

COMBATSYS: Kasumi blocks Rock's Shine Knuckle.

[                      \\\\\\\\  <
Kasumi           0/-------/---====|

It would not be wrong for an observer to wonder at the girl's relentless strikes against the poor Young Wolf's sterum. Time and time again, she has targeted him in the same location, using her elbow to apply precision kinetic force without hesitation. But then one might not know the laws of Mugen Tenshin ninjitsu as well as the runaway shinobi...

Find their weakness.
Exploit it.
If there is no weakness to exploit,
create one.

Once she had created that tender, damaged point on his body, the kunoichi had targeted it relentlessly. While out of combat, she could be gentle, there was nothing docile about the arts she had dedicated her young life to mastering for the sake of her clan. To do her father proud - the very man who has dispatched assassins to eliminate her - had been her greatest joy in life until now. Even on the run, she clings to the tenets of her style without reservation or hesitation. And right now, Rock Howard's sternum is paying the price

The crushing blow delivered, 'Kaede' pauses, once again holding her stance, making no unnecessary motions as she waits to see his response. That she has been pressed this fight is beyond any doubt. But she is still hanging strong. Brown eyes study the young man with the same intensity she has possessed since the start. He will strike again. He probably shouldn't, his body pushed as far as it has been... but he will!

The counter strike rivals the kind of speed she was using in attacking him, as he goes from standing, biting back agony that would only slow him down, to make one last ditch effort to make sure she knew she had been properly menaced by his techniques. He had a mentor to do proud, afterall. And, like her, perhaps in the back of his mind, there is also that estranged father figure he might always wonder about satisfying?

His technique is fast, powerful, and without hesitation. But it has one flaw. Her eye had discerned it throughout the fight. The hunter's instinct, honed by training exercises in her childhoold, could pick it out. He was worried about her. Whether born from a general compassion so unlike his real father's, or a deference for the fairer sex, she isn't sure. But she noticed it. And in this final exchange, it saves her.

He would see it in her eyes as she watches him, even though the haze of defeat he was fighting his way through. She doesn't move but digs her feet in, and then, at a speed that suggests she is deliberately slowing down specifically so that he can see her action, she moves her arms over her stomach to guard. She knew she didn't have to guess where he would strike - she had begun to understand a lot about him from their violent exchange...

She already knew Rock Howard would not strike for her face with that chi infused fist of destiny.

The impact is still heavy, the girl grunting, forced backward in the face of his incredible striking power. But she keeps her balance all the same, mouth opening to murmur gently, a soft chiding tone, her words only for his ears in the moment of their final moments close to each other.

"Do you think you are stronger than me?" she poses the question, leaning forward to speak into his ear.

"Until you fight me with your all, you can never beat me."

She pushes back with her arms against his fist, giving him that gentle nudge to finish the task at hand. It won't take any more than that for him to drop to the concrete. Standing up straight, she bruses at her arms. Her armguards definitely spared her some harm there, their azure surfaces cracked and scorched by the power behind Rock's defiant last strike.

The girl glances down at the resting Wolf, right hand lifting up to rest a fist at the base of her neck, "You fight honorably... Howard-san. I hope that it does not lead to your ruin." Honor... is a weak shield amongst the ever warring ninja clans.

Half-closing her eyes, she lifts her head and lowers her hand as she begins to stride back toward the locker rooms. Her work her done, she needs to get off this island fast! The instant that footage aired, no doubt someone moved against her. She pauses some steps away to glance back over her shoulder at Rock, a soft smile at her lips. Then, lifting a hand to wipe at her brow, the girl continues on down the hall to disappear into the shadows.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi has ended the fight here.

Log created on 23:29:04 11/14/2014 by Kasumi, and last modified on 03:45:55 11/21/2014.