Description: Another weekend fighting exhibition becomes a plunge into horror as Kasumi's opponent is slaughtered by the Adjudicator from Beyond. Arriving in the aftermath, the shinobi quickly realizes the executioner is beyond her ability to handle on her own and attempts to escape before suffering the same fate as the unfortunate Amazing Frog Man. [Burnout DM Damage: 5]

Beams of pale sunlight filter down through the snow-laden branches of gnarled old trees; hanging exposed in the air like laser trip wires before vanishing into dense thigh-high fog. The afternoon is very cold, and a light breeze whispers through the dimly lit forest, swirling the fog about the tree trunks and stinging any exposed skin.

The area set aside for Kasumi's match is cordoned off with fluffy white banners, woven artfully around the trunks of trees to mark out a 50 yard circle in one of the more densely packed thickets. Decorative lights have been hung festively from the branches, with subtle cameras anchored to the trees here and there to catch all angles of the designated area. it isn't a clearing, but it is clearly marked.

The reason for the lack of a clearing is pretty obvious. Kasumi is scheduled to be fighting a freestyle MMA fighter who has mixed elements of parkour into a flashy but relatively effective style of brawling. Jeff Babson, self dubbed the amazing frog man, is a mild fight tube sensation. With the right corporate backing he might even go somewhere!

Or, he might have Gone somewhere.

In point of fact, he did go somewhere. he went...everywhere...

The amazing Frog man's body lies scattered throughout the trees in several chunks. Blood is splattered liberally across the snow and trunks of trees, already frozen into a solid red slick of ice. Whatever crew had been stationed in the area has long sense fled.

The only person that remains is a lean figure of average height, standing amidst the carnage with his hands dangling limp at his sides. The figure's eyes are closed, masked head bowed forward so his chin rests against his chest. His loose black outfit is covered in frozen splotches of blood, with more hanging like gory icicles from the gold and carmine trimmed scarves that hang from his wrists and back.

If the blood wasn't enough to point this man out as the killer, the air around him is heavy with a palpable sense of power. The sensation is smothering and oppressive, like having a blanket thrown over your ambitions until they start to suffocate.

Signing up for these events is less a hobby and more a matter of survival, in spite the risk of hitting public venues. With no home to turn to, the exiled kunoichi is forced to survive on her own. And she can't get a normal day job that requires settling down somewhere... her hunter is far too clever for that to last for long. Thus she finds herself in another crazy fight scenario for public consumption. In, fight, collect pay, return to hiding. It's a life, for now.

Which is more than can be said for the unfortunate Frog Man.

Using the fighting persona of 'Kaede' once again, she followed the communicated instructions. A fight outdoors after the bitter blizzard is an interesting challenge, mixing survival and fighting skills into a single exhibition of talent that should prove entertaining for the viewing audience. The frost laden trees should provide an interesting venue for her and her opponent to take advantage of. It promised to be a high flying, action packed match, of hide and seek through the cold November afternoon.

Her fighting attire was chosen for the conditions, both in terms of color and temperature - a white fur-lined wrap dress worn over a white suit and white ninja pants is decorated in places with small splashes of brown lines or splotches. A white cowl covers much of her head, leaving a strawberry blonde pony-tail to drape out the front of it from the side of her neck.

She approaches the cordoned off area from an angle away from the paths and roads nearby. The conditions of the match afforded the participants to try and ambush each other unannounced. And unannounced ambushes are certainly a skillset she has been raised mastering.

Slipping from tree to tree, stump to stump, log to log, rock to rock, she finally enters the forested area. Light steps combined with knowing just where to place her fur-wrapped feet allow her to avoid too much crunching of snow and ice as she closes in with intent to hunt down her opponent and begin another friendly if intense match like the one held against Rock Howard just a week before. It's a living, she thinks to herself, allowing a faint smile behind the wrap of her cowl, brown eyes studying the environment.

The lapse of amusement is allowed to exist for only a moment. Something feels off. Even before she finds visual signs that nothing about this encounter is what she had expected, her instincts are sounding alarm bells. A leap onto another tree limb brings her closer to the sight of the slaughter. It's as she lands, fingers resting lightly against the snow crusted bark as she prowls further away from the tree trunk, that the young ninja finally gets her first sight of frozen crimson and promptly freezes in place.

No stranger to death, even if her own hands have only claimed a single life, the sight of this massacre is unlike anything she had ever seen in the hidden shadow wars of the reclusive ninja clans. Eyes dart over the crystalized blood, noticing that what she first dismissed as forest debris are in fact parts of a human body. Adrenaline races through her veins as she begins considering her next action very, very carefully. Survival instincts say to escape. This isn't some marketing ploy to up the tension for the audience. There is a very real killer here. She starts to push back along the branch, reconsidering staying for a moment longer, when upon glancing up, her eyes fall upon the killer himself and, without realizing it, the nukenin stops breathing.

An assassin? He could not have been sent by her own clan. For all the antipathy the Mugen Tenshin feel for her dishonoring flight that warm Spring afternoon, they would not call upon a man who would do this. But a rival clan, perhaps? The hills of Japan were filled with secret societies... even living within that world, one was never sure they knew all of the players, or where they stood in relations to one another.

She did not come here expecting to fight for her life. But in this very moment, she fears there is no hope of leaving without doing just that.

Even finding the strength to speak is a challenge, so pervasive is the unknown man's presence. "Why-" Kasumi asks, her voice plaintive but steady, the Frog Man's fate weighing heavily on her mind. "Why would you do this? What do you want?" she calls out from her branch, pushing up slowly to an upright position to balance on her feet.

Throughout 'Kaede's careful approach, and the inspection of Frog Man that follows, the dark-clad figure remains utterly motionless. There might be a slight movement of his chest, or maybe the light breeze is giving a frozen corpse the illusion of breath. Nobody would just stand in the cold covered in frozen blood. Right?

Then again, not many people would rip someone literally limb from limb. The figure doesn't have a blade, and this whole situation seems too messy for one anyway. How would you spray blood half way up the trunk of a tree with a sword slash?

Then, Kaede voices her question.

The young Kunoichi's words seem to breathe life back into the frozen form. it's chest inflates with a slow breath, and by degrees the chin lifts until the cloth-wrapped face is pointed up toward the newcomer's tree.

"We want nothing." Responds the figure in a voice like a crowd. Behind his wrappings the figure's jaw moves to form the words, but it is a legion of voices that answer. An army of men speaking in sink, their various depths and cadences layered one atop the other in a mash of sound no person should be able to make. And as he speaks, his eyes finally open.

The bloody figure stares up at Kaede with featureless eyes that burn a bright, lime green. Beneath the crust of blood splattered across him, gems at his belt, knees, elbows, and forehead also blaze to life, throbbing slowly like a ghostly green heartbeat. Whatever the figure is, he isn't human. or, not one human, at the very least.

"We do what we are told." Continues the murderer in a near toneless chant. "Our orders are to test the fighters of this realm. We are to discover if you are a threat to Shao Kahn's plans." The figure lowers his gaze then, directing his attention down toward the large pool of frozen blood beneath his cloth-wrapped feet. "This one was not."

The motion of the killer's head causes one of the blood spikes hanging from the dangling end of his headband to snap free. The bloodcicle drops to the frozen ground and shatters into a tinkling rain of frozen droplets. The resulting series of tinkling sounds are much too festive for such a gory display.

Getting the figure's attention is a risky proposition. That he is immensely powerful is already proven by the carnage he wrought. Was it raw, brutal strength? What is his fighting style? But she has to ask, has to at least try to understand why this has happened. Was it her fault this man is dead? A casualty of her choices in life? Not knowing would weigh far too heavily on her for the young warrior to leave without trying to understand.

The answer she gets is small comfort - it doesn't seem that the fate of the Frog Man is tied to her. No... his gruesome end seems to have been that he was in the wrong place at th ewrong time. But what miniscule level of relief that could be felt from that comprehension is completely lost in the breath-taking words spoken next. The echoing voice is... a technique she has not heard before. Ninjas able to throw their voice is one thing, but this is something else entirely. He speaks as if a chamber of people were addressing her rather than the one standing alone in the blood crusted snow.

The girl finally takes a breath, vapor escaping through her cowl as she studies the monster with intensity brought on by just how ruthlessly indifferent he is to what he has done. What kind of devil would rend a man asunder as he has? As some kind of test? The rest of his words leave her grasping for meaning. Shao Kahn? Plans? Realm? The girl begins to breath again, her left foot shifting, send a small shower of snowflakes to base of the tree.

None of this is fake, her mind tells her. This is not a set contrivance for a fighting exhibition. Her intended opponent lies in pieces. This dark-clad man is his killer. An emissary for some dark force. She has only participated in one fight to the death before - the moment she took the life of the man who had nearly killed her brother. But here and now, she feels she will be entering her second. Her jaw set, her focus on the killer unrelenting, Kasumi pauses for only a moment longer.

"You..." Her voice is sharp, condemning. Flashes of the dark experiments practiced by a certain corrupt corporation blink through her mind. This fiend is no different. He and his masters must be stopped!

She vanishes from her perch, leaving a small swirl of cherry blossoms. She reappears in the air over the green-eyed horror, dropping toward him feet first. "- will not be allowed to continue your abhorrent tests!"

Her intent is to drive her heels into the top of the Shadow Wraith's head and shoulders, slamming her feet down repeatedly with kicks intent on driving him to the ground if possible - if successful, it would give her a potential advantage over him for a moment and in this encounter, every tiny edge is going to matter!

COMBATSYS: Kasumi has started a fight here.

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Kasumi           0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Ermac has joined the fight here.

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Kasumi           0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0            Ermac

COMBATSYS: Ermac blocks Kasumi's Tenro Kyaku.

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Kasumi           0/-------/-------|==-----\-------\0            Ermac

Ermac's attention is turned down toward the bloody ice beneath his feet when Kasumi teleports, but even as she re-appears he is already tilting his head back to gaze up toward her point of arrival. Can he sense where she is going to appear?

The Kunoichi's shout of justice gets no reaction from the outworld enforcer, but at least he is reacting to her kicks like they are a credible threat. Shifting his weight, he sways to the side of the original stomp, taking it high on his left shoulder rather than the top of his head. As the second kick starts to fall, however, Ermac's left hand snaps up in a vague back-handed motion toward the descending girl.

Lime green energy swells out of Ermac's upraised hand with a bone-rattling hum. Simultaneously, a thin layer of green energy briefly flickers across Kasumi's form, accompanied by a full-body tap of invisible force that bumps her away from her murderous target.

The enforcer's dangling wraps sling a spray of bloodcicles out behind him as he whirls about on the spot, green eyes tracking the Kunoichi through the air. Though the energy surrounding his left hand has faded to a dull glow, the bone-deep hum of his powers continues to grow in intensity. Misty green light pours from his body and swirls about him in an ever-thickening cloud. It might be a trick of the foggy forest light, but now and then a face seems to form in the mist, contorted with pain or rage.

Coming out of his spin facing the airborne ninja, Ermac lifts his right hand with the fingers spread in an obvious warding gesture. The light that forms around his limb is the brightest yet, illuminating the frozen forest from below as the humming vibrations shatter the bloody ice beneath Ermac into a mat of sharp-edged shards. An equally bright shell of energy forms around Kasumi, and for a fraction of a second an immense weight is pushing down on her from all directions, holding her suspended in mid air.

The moment seems to stretch, Ermac staring up at Kasumi with vague dispassion.

Then he thrusts his right hand forward and the force holding the Kunoichi hurls her away like the hand of a giant, the green glow fading from her body as she is sent flying aimlessly off through the trees. There's no telling what she might or might not hit. Ermac doesn't really seem to care.

COMBATSYS: Ermac knocks away Kasumi with Surrender.

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Kasumi           0/-------/=======|===----\-------\0            Ermac

Teeth grit as Kasumi slams her foot down. Even encased in fur to stave off the cold, the impact of her heel would reflect the coordinated contraction of powerful muscles all dedicated to the fine art of skull hammering. Her left foot follows as her right foot lifts, intent on driving the blood soaked slayer to the ground before she finds herself subjected to a form of defense nothing in her life of training had prepared her for.

Being brushed away by force unseen is not quite as jarring, her mind reacting instantly to the threat of detatched energy from glimmering eyed killer. It's what happens next as she finds herself suspended in air, arms stretched out at her sides, the ground two meters below her as she is rendered unable to move that she begins to realize that she is up against a technique completely unlike anything she had ever fought before. Breath sucked in, she tries to fight against the sensation of being impossibly suspended in the air. No invisible wires cut into her arms, no cable or rope to explain the circumstance she finds herself in.

Only the grim glow of the murder can be blamed for the helpless state she finds herself in. The force pressing on her forces the air from her lungs after a few seconds and even her clothing compresses tightly against her as bone and muscle strain against incredible pressure being felt from all directions at once. Teeth grit, eyes nearly closed in a pained wince, the kunoichi looks down at Ermac with an expression of sudden fear and confusion. She can't fight this, she can't even move-

The inability to move is solved momentarily when the viridian aura washing over the forest suddenly jettisons the light fighter through the air with incredible force. No amount of twisting, turning, or desperate flailing is enough to slow her velocity. The flight courtesy of Air Ermac comes to a painful, bone jarring end, when the girl smashes through one smaller tree, sending splinters and branches flying everywhere, and then smacks against a second, more sturdy oak with enough force to crack the wide trunk though not quite send it falling over.

Kasumi's world is pain as she slides down the wooden surface, splinters, branches, and fragments of bark raining down all around her. She lands with a gasp in a seated position, slumped forward, hands resting in the snow, her mind reeling at the magnitude of power she was just put through. Her white cowl was lost somewhere mid-flight, drifting to the ground meters away, leaving her face and hair uncovered. She's in way over her head. Was Raidu, her vile uncle turned traitor, this powerful when she faced him in the Dead or Alive tournament? The event is a blur, the girl having attacked in a vengence fueled haze, but even that, she questions, wouldn't compare /this/.

Lifting her face, blood trickling from the corner of her mouth, she presses down with hand and foot, using the trunk at her back for support as she slides back up standing. Only her years of training allow her to combat the tremor that threatens to course through her limbs or collapse from the pain in her right side where she had flown through the now shattered smaller tree. A broken rib perhaps? She can't think about it right now, her mind kicking into fight or flight mode.

Hissing as she sucks in her breath, able to ignore the pain a little bit by virtue of the adrenaline surging through her blood, Kasumi bursts forward again. This time on foot, moving so fast as to nearly fly over the snow, barely leaving any trace of footstep on her collision course with the Herald of Invasion. A cloud of fine powder is kicked up behind her simply by the speed by which she passes over the snow. Given her intial injuries, this intent to strike back must surly be forcing her body past any safe limit - the chance of aggrivating the wound in her bruised side is high - but she must land one hit, must understand better what she faces.

Should she be allowed to get close to Ermac, the kunoichi would speed up in one final burst of alacrity. To cameras, she would seem to slide right past him without contact. Only the fastest of lenses would be able to detect that brief moment of contact, the sweeping of his arm aside to try and expose his ribcage, the crushing elbow that would be driven against him with bone cracking precision, all happening in an instant before the shinobi slides to a stop several meters past, dress, ribbons, and hair coming to rest...

The pause would last only an instant before she would surge forward again, her back to Ermac.

The intent becomes clear - having hopefully dazed him with her strike, Kasumi intends to run!

COMBATSYS: Kasumi successfully hits Ermac with Oboro Gake.

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

The brilliant green glow around Ermac's right hand fades to the same subdued pulse as his left, the bloody warrior lowering both hands to his sides as he idly watches Kasumi vanish in a spray of wood chips and snow. He can feel her there, alive, gathering herself for another push. His green eyes remain locked on the spot she is about to come bursting out of, but he does not fall into any sort of combat stance. Instead he stands erect and impassive. Open.

Perhaps the Amazing Frog Man didn't prepare him for a fighter of Kasumi's caliber.

The strawberry-blond kunoichi explodes out of the swirling debris and hits him in a blur of motion. Before the attack lands she can see him lifting his outside foot, preparing to side step, but he isn't prepared at all for her level of speed. Her hand pushes his elbow up and back, and he is already starting to turn with the blow, trying to drag his ribs away, when her elbow flashes in and strikes him solidly on the right pectoral.

The force of the blow throws Ermac from his feet, icy blood flying from his costume in all directions as he tumbles into a neat shoulder roll. Coming smoothly back up into a crouch with his back to Kasumi's, he waits for her to take off running before he lunges forward in the opposite direction and...vanishes in a swirl of green souls.

A flash of green light from behind a nearby tree is Kasumi's only warning before Ermac's lunge carries him out of cover and toward her left side. Energy continues to bleed off of him, but none of the humming telekinetic force can be felt in the left hook he brings down and around toward her gut, attempting to knock her into a stagger. If he can break her charge he will follow her with a quick series of chain punches, his glowing fists lashing out toward her face in a series of three quick 'RightLeftRight' jabs. His bloody drapings trail smoothly behind him as he attempts to back Kasumi toward one of the many blood-slicked trees.

It might be frightening that the enforcer can teleport. It might also be frightening that he can tear people apart with some sort of unnatural energy.But, perhaps the most unsettling thing of all is, he really doesn't seem to be taking this personally. There is no expression in the bronzed skin just barely visible around his eyes. No anger tightening his shoulders. he was ordered to kill some people. He's killing some people. if he's ordered to mow the lawn he'll probably handle that task with the same impassive efficiency.

COMBATSYS: Ermac successfully hits Kasumi with Rapid Jabs.

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

Rushing through the snow, there is no question Kasumi is in all out escape mode. The crushing elbow was meant to slow the Telekinetic Executioner, not defeat him, and the mad dash through the forest that follows is proof enough that she has already determined that survival rests in fleeing. She has fled her kinsmen before, her sister repeatedly... running to stay alive may strike some as dishonorable, but for the shinobi that stick to the shadows, it is an understood element of survival!

As such, it is with an incredible sinking feeling that she realizes simple speed will not suffice in escaping the emerald-eyed one as the flash of green explodes at her side. Either there is another attacker or, more horrifyingly so, he can teleport just as she can. Her left foot smashes down through the snow, seeking traction, as the white-clad girl attempts to spin out of the incoming path of strikes targeting her, but the surface does not provide enough friction even with her training, and the Outworlder's aim is too true to be avoided with anything shy of the most perfect of conditions.

The first blow to the kunoichi's stomach nearly folds her over his arm, stopping her in her tracks and nearly taking her off her feet in the process, her breath forced clean from her lungs all together. Mouth agape, she already looks nearly ready to crumple from that hit alone, knees buckling. Stunned as she is, the Mugen Tenshin exile still lifts her hands, attempting to block the next strike she senses coming in spite her agonizing level of pain.

But even that attempt fails, the impassive creature's fist slipping past her hastty guard to collide with her nose, driving her head upward with a brain addling impact. Even as she begins to settle back on her feet, the next strike sends her reeling with a blow to the cheek. A hand reaches out to grab hold of anything to control her trajectory on uncertain ground before the third jab smacks into her jaw from the side and finally sends her spinning out of control, her high-speed withdrawl cut short with the brutally effective assault.

Her stagger ends when the kunoichi's back smacks against the base of another tree causing disturbed snow to spill down from the branches above all around the two. Gasping, breathless, her hand lifts to her face where her fingers find blood trickling from her nose. It takes more than just willpower to not collapse then and there - training, preparation, refinement from experience combine with resolve to keep her standing rather than collapsing into panic as she stares back into the eyes of that envoy of the one he called Shao Khan. Who is the tyrant behind such a monster? If the killer is this strong, how powerful then must be the one that commands him?

Her head unhooded, her complexion is pale except for the crimson hue of her cheeks caused by pain and the blood at her mouth and nose. But her eyes show unyielding resolve as she pushes off from the tree to fight back one more time. She surges forward with a knife-handed strike toward Ermac's throat, attempting to force his guard high. The second knife-handed move toward his stomach is to divide his focus before she spins on her left foot, attempting to crush her right foot into the side of his head with her actual attack.

If able to continue, she would come out of the roundhouse with a lower stance, biting back the pain in her ribs for the crouching posture, before springing into the man, twisting her arms up to backhand smack him with an uppercut-like swing that carries enough momentum that she'll leave the ground in the process of trying to knock him away if successful!

COMBATSYS: Ermac blocks Kasumi's Tenjin, Shinden EX.

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Kasumi           1/---====/=======|=======\-------\1            Ermac

"You have fought well." Ermac comments in his many voices.

The Outworld enforcer gives Kasumi no room to breath. His cloth-wrapped feet do not break the upper crust of the snow as he advances after the Kunoichi through the falling flakes. Her desperate lunge is met with impassive brutality. Rather than retreating into a guard, the conglomeration of souls steps forward toward the first knife hand, his glowing cloth-covered fingers lashing out to smack against hers with numbing force.

When she feints low his left hand is there to meet her, again smacking into her fingers in simple refusal to back down.

And when Kasumi whirls into the true attack, Ermac barges forward, her calf smacking heavily into his left shoulder. Though this is the same shoulder she earlier stomped on, the attack does little more than force the oncoming murderer into a slight lean to bleed off force. It probably hurt like hell, but he is definitely the strong silent type.

The enforcer gives Kasumi no time to pull her leg back and drop into the final part of her combo. His last shove forward has put him right in her face, close enough that if he had bad breath she could probably smell it through his mask.

Fortunately he doesn't have bad breath, and isn't panting, so there is no creepy breathing on her face.

Unfortunately, he is right in her face, and his right hand is coming up, attempting to grab her roughly by the left side of the head. If he can get that grip, the deep humming in the air will grow deeper and more intense, and his hand will start to glow with the intensity that only comes when his powers are active. A sudden crushing weight will start to compress the Kunoichi's skull, baring down on her as if she'd shoved it into the bottom of the ocean. As he squeezes her head telekineticly, the enforcer bares down on her with unreasonable strength for his size, attempting to force her to her knees one-handed. If he can get her there he will stare down at her through the green shell of energy that encases her dome, seeming to be deciding on something..

COMBATSYS: Ermac successfully hits Kasumi with Lucidity.
Grazing Hit

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Kasumi           1/-======/=======|=======\==-----\1            Ermac

He reacts as if he knew where she was going to strike before she even lunged forward from the tree. It would be impossible for the young kunoichi, knowledgeable about the shadows in which the ninja clans lurk, yet knowing so precious little about what forces threaten the world from beyond miasmic barriers, to even guess as to the expertise with which the living reliquary of souls defends against her ninjutsu. The possibility that perhaps, somewhere in that whirlpool of essences, exists an ancestor of the Tenshin Mugen every bit as versed in the attacks the prodigy is executing as she is. Or maybe he can see straight into her soul and feel her intent the very instant it ignites as a thought in her mind...

Whatever the case maybe, she finds her opening strikes defended well and even her roundhouse, typically forceful to smash opponents off their feet, only manages to stagger her attacker slightly in his blitz forward. With the tree at her back, she has no where to retreat - a leap to either side would assuredly leave her too close to actually escape his dark power. Her only chance was to strike clean through him and make her own path; a path that has shrunk significantly as the Messenger from Afar crowds in even closer on her. She can't even plant her foot following the kick fast enough to brace herself before his hand finds itself to the side of her head in a tight grip.

Her breath has returned to her lungs just in time for her to gasp in pain as his presence begins to become even more strongly felt. A roaring sound fills her head as her skull is subjected to unprecidented pressure. For her, it feels as if the atmosphere itself were attempting to crush her beneath its might. Two delicate looking hands clamp over the powerful being's arm in a desperate attempt to pry free of his steel-like grip. As he exherts even greater power, however, the strength in her arms wanes and she starts to fall to her knees, the pain overbearing, the force beyond anything she can imagine.

She seems to be on the verge of collapsing all together beneath the magnitude of Shao Khan's threat from beyond. Is this what her opponent experienced before his gruesome demise? All of the other problems she thought she had in life pale compared to the horror she finds herself succumb.

No. She can't quit now. Sucking in her breath, with a redoubled effort, Kasumi drops, allowing herself to be pushed down by his hold on her head. Yet at the same time, she swings her legs up, kicking them together toward the chin of her assailant, finally breaking free of his hold in in the process.

If able, she'd continue in the motion, her feet connecting against the tree before she kicks off again, flipping back the other way to cartwheel-kick both her feet against the top of his head, every muscle in her body serving in perfect, desperate alignment to deliver a powerful blow. Whether this killer is even vulnerable to the same disabling strikes that a normal human would be is a thought that flicks through her mind even as she makes the attempt... but what choice does the shinobi have but to try!

COMBATSYS: Ermac just-defends Kasumi's Tenshu Kaiten So!

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Kasumi           1/-======/=======|=======\==-----\1            Ermac

Is there a master of Tenshin Mugen buried deep in Ermac's many souls? Perhaps. Only the enforcer himself knows the answer to that question. His costume does seem to suggest he might be inclined toward Ninjitsu, unless those wraps across his face are actually bandages. And if they are bandages, why does he wear them?

Staring down at Kasumi through the green energy gathered about her skull, Ermac seems to arrive at some sort of silent conclusion. The dense mist of souls swirling around his body draw back inside him, causing the bone-deep hum of his power to lose much of its intensity. He does not release his hold on her head, however, nor does the telekinetic pressure decrease.

He is waiting. Waiting to see if she will die quietly, or fight. When it comes time to make that last desperate lunge, will she take it?

She will.

The Kunoichi's delicate fingers dig into the muscle of Ermac's arm, not bulgy or swollen but lean and unyielding beneath her grip. The upward swing of her feet combined with the shove from her hands is enough to jerk her head loose from his fingers, the green glow dissipating from her skull as she does so. She has landed a hit on him before. She knows she can hurt him. If she can only stagger him back, she might be able to turn the tide of the fight.

It isn't enough.

The enforcer's free left hand lifts, and Kasumi's body is frozen in mid kick. Another humming shell of glowing energy has formed around her, holding her suspended with her boots six inches from impacting the warrior's chin.

His left hand waves to the left and down, and the immense force holding the Kunoichi attempts to tear her grip off of his blood-slick right arm and hurl her 3 yards away to slam shoulders-first into the snowy ground. But her ordeal isn't over quite yet. The souls still holding her lift her from the snow, following the command of Ermac's uplifted hand, and launch her spinning through the air over his head. The throw sends her flying back the way she came. Back through the woods, over the bloody chunks of the Amazing Frog Man, and past the cameras at great speed. Unless she can somehow manage to change her trajectory or stop her fall, there's no telling where she'll end up. Ermac doesn't turn to look. Doesn't seem interested in following her this time.

Perhaps Kasumi has passed the test. Or,perhaps she has failed it.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi blocks Ermac's Relinquish.

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Kasumi           2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\==-----\1            Ermac

Relief and despair are closely linked experiences for Kasumi as she both breaks free his hold on her head but finds herself caught in another hold far more supernatural than his powerful grip. Stopped short, her foot extended, she experiences anew the helplessness of being subjected to the phenomenal power of facing untold number of souls.

There have been no words to exchange between the two of them following their initial remarks. Except for his observation of her fighting effort. A compliment? From this killer? Was it meant as a goodbye, a final epithet to end her life's story? Even now, held over the blood speckled snow, she says nothing. What is there to say that her actions have not already communicated? Bleeding, wincing with every breath at the damage to her ribs, the young kunoichi can do nothing beyond brace for what she believes is to come.

An instant later, her hands are pulled free of his arm just before she crashes against the ground, sending a spray of white powder into the air, a pained gasp echoing against the trees. She has only an instant after landing to survey her environment, head turning to look up, eyes flicking over the trees and branches above-

And then the young woman is airborn again, a trail of snow left in her wake. There is only one chance, one opportunity in her careening, out of control, airborn spin. Five meters past Ermac both of the shinobi's hands snap out, arms wrapping tightly around a thicker tree branch, gripping against it as tightly as she can in that instant. The wood itself is no match for the momentum inflicted by the Outworlder's powerful mind, and the limb snaps, wood splinters flying everywhere. It was enough, however, Kasumi releasing her hold on the branch as she and it continue on at a downward angle.

Feet hit the snow before she slides another meter. Knees buckle slightly as the agony of forcing herself to move continues to be felt. But she is still standing. Test or no test, evaluation or not, pass or fail - she cannot fathom the Timeless One's intents or decisions. All she can do is keep moving for as long as she can. Vision blurred by intense pain, she doesn't even notice that he hasn't turned to look, that his interest in whatever she can or cannot due has waned.

All she knows is that this Infernal Examiner represents everything she believes must be fought against. Men or corporations, corrupt with power, unbound by ethics or morality, willing to harm or kill anyone that interefers with their unbridled ambitions...

Her next action comes from both choice and reflex, a conscious decision to try and stop Ermac from accomplishing whatever it is he was sent here to do and a instinctual response to the malevolence power that he represents. Hands snap to her side, just over her painfully bruised and broken ribs, knees bend and brace as every last remaining element of strength is forced into her next action. Standing in the deep troughs created by her sliding feet, Kasumi begins to channel the power needed. Pink energy begins to crackle between her palms as her entire body winds up for the pending technique.

The snow around her is bathed rose colored illumination as a visible sphere of surging energy builds between her hands, its powerful currents already whipping at her hair and clothing, driving more and more of the snow at her feet away as its magnitude builds. A slow cry builds, both from her and from the astounding power that desires nothing more than to be set free.

Finally she can build it no further, restrain it no longer. Her body twists to the left, bringing her hands forward, one foot snapping into position with a stomp against the now exposed, frozen soil, and with that gesture, unleashes the violent torrent of energy directly toward where Ermac was standing when he sent the shinobi flying. Any stray branches it impacts along the way explode into a swarm of splinters, the snow on the nearby trunks and along the ground melts then vaporizes in almost an instant, as all of Kasumi's strength is poured into that singular assault on the engimatic murderer.

This is Rekkuu Jinpuu Satsu -
The Torn Sky Blast.

The ultimate technique of the Mugen Tenshin Shinobi. To wield it was to be birthright of another; that she can even use it is the byproduct of tragedy. But here and now she attempts to use it for its purpose - to erase monsters like Ermac from this world.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi keeps on fighting!

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

COMBATSYS: Kasumi successfully hits Ermac with #Rekkuu Jinpuu Satsu#.

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

The monster stands, bloody slush dripping from the tattered drapings of his dark costume. It is likely he senses the moment when Kasumi's trajectory changes. Certainly he can hear the snap of the branch; the skidding of her feet through the snow. Surely he feels the powerful energy being summoned behind him, and if he can't, he can no doubt see the forest becoming suffused with a rosy glow.

But the monster simply stands there, blazing green eyes staring down toward the spot where the Kunoichi once knelt.

There is something wrong with his posture. Something that doesn't quite click. In the heat of the moment it could be easily missed, but if Kasumi ever relives this moment, she might wonder what that inconsistency is. What doesn't belong.

When the sky blast is released, such small inconsistencies are erased.

Frozen blood and water explode into superheated steam as the attack tears through the forest, destroying trees, cameras, and decorative lights with impunity. It is likely that some cameras will survive, but they might not be angled in such a way to catch what happens next.

Just before the blast hits Ermac, a flash of green light flares out of him. All 6 gems spaced across his body abruptly lose their glow, while the glow around his hands flares brighter than ever.

Then, the blast slams into his back, and he is gone. The pink energy washes over him, scrubbing his presence out.

Killing him?

When the energy finally fades, there is no sign of the enforcer anywhere. The area where he had been standing is a flat expanse of steaming mud. His crushing presence is gone. There isn't even a scrap of clothing to mark him ever being there.

And suddenly, HE's BACK!

An explosion of psychic energy detonates directly in front of the Kunoichi. The experience isn't unlike a grenade of fear and oppression going off right in the valiant girl's face. There is no physical force behind it, just a brilliant flash of lime green light and a sudden dampening of hope as the enforcer comes charging out of the portal, green eyes burning like twin stars. The unnatural glow of his power has spread past his hands and now covers his entire body, the burnt remains of his costume fused into his scorched flesh. Both flesh and costume hang in smoking tatters, his entire form charred down to the muscle and bone.

He should not be alive.

Perhaps he never was.

The noise that escapes through the creature's dangling shreds of mask could best be described as a snarl. Not an angry snarl, no, but a noise of pure, indomitable will. The sound a man makes when he's hanging half way up a cliff, and can only climb or die. A snarl echoed in the throats of thousands of souls.

Closing the distance quicker than Kasumi can blink, the blazing husk of a warrior leads with a charging right hook aimed for her stomach. If he can double the girl over he will drive a knee hard into her face to stagger her back, then follow her with a brutal series of 'RightLeftRight' punches aimed for her chest and throat. As he punches he advances, attempting to step in close enough to club her across the head with a vicious overhead forearm, then another, then another. Without remorse the warrior attempts to beat her to the ground by main force.

if he manages to get her prone before him, he will fling his wrapped right hand down at her, a massive wave of psychic force rolling off of him as a visible green ball. The Ball leaves his bony palm and arcs down toward the girl, easily enough power to crush her deep into the now steaming mud like the foot of an angry god.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi fails to counter We Win from Ermac with Momiji Otoshi EX.

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  <
Ermac            0/-------/-----<<|

COMBATSYS: Kasumi can no longer fight.

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  <
Ermac            0/-------/-----<<|

The ultimate attack of the Mugen Tenshin shinobi clan unleashed, Kasumi staggers forward. Even if she was not already wounded, even if she had not already been hurled through the forest like a Devil's Toy, even if she wasn't already at the limits of her ability to stand, she would have been exhausted using the ninpo to try and erase all trace of Ermac from the wrold. Given her current state, all she can do is reach out with a hand to dig fingers into cold, unyielding bark of an adjacent tree. Somewhere along the line of being flung about, her hair ribbon was lost, leaving long, coppery toned hair to drape over her shoulders and against her face. In spite the frigid temperatures, perspiration rolls down her cheeks as she gasps for breath, free hand pressing against her side as she tries to bite back another yelp of pain.

Blood trickles down her forehead from a cut beneath her hairline caused by some errant branch or rock as copper-brown eyes settle on the spot where the Executioner from Beyond stood. Each breath pushes a new puff of vapor in front of her mouth and reminds her of the damage done to her body - damage that has her on the verge of trembling even now in the brief moment she believes herself to have succeeded... After killing her own uncle and the haze of vengeance faded from her mind, there had been some remorse. He deserved it, of that there was no doubt, for his crimes against the clan, for his assault on her sister and brother. But even still, he had been family. But this thing... this monster... not even a flicker of remorse washes over her as she starts to fall to one knee.

That brief glimmer of hope that such evil had been removed from the world is evaporated in an instant when that same miasmic green erupts right in front of her. No. "NO!" Her right eye, sealed in blood, remains closed as her left eye widens while she pushes herself back to standing, taking one last defiant stance against the unyielding, unrelenting presence of the Assassin.

The thing that steps into view before her cannot be alive. His flesh burned, his bones exposed to the open air, how can he move, let alone attack? Maybe she just imagined his appearance? It happens too fast for conscious thought, hands snapping up on reflex rather than by choice, attempting to grab hold of the impossibly powerful right hook. With the right hold, she could use her own arm strength to twist free of what was to come, could possibly drive him to the ground to give herself some desparate chance.

The crushing force against her already punched stomach folds her over his hand, mouth opened in a silent gasp, her breath already lost to her cry of fear. The knee sends her staggering back up, already too disoriented to hope to mount any kind of defense. Hands lift, attempting to turtle under his onslaught but she hasn't the strength to keep his strikes at bay, her chest and throat vulnerable targets that leave her stumbling backward. That she is going to fall is without any any doubt, but his overhand chop to her head accelerates the process as she buckles forward from the first one, then crashes down against the moist dirt.

Even still, she attempts to move, operating purely on reflex and instinct honed by an intense desire to survive, even if she has no idea what she's doing. A roll to her side, a hand planted against the dirt, a press as if there were any hope of standing. She gets just far enough to look up, left eye barely making out the extention of his hand as blackness rushes in from the corners of her vision.

It's the last thing she sees, an uncertain image of an outstretched, glowing hand, with two sickening green torches hovering in the air behind it. The detonation presses her further into the ground as earth errupts around the girl and then falls back over her form seconds later. Now the kunoichi lies perfectly still.

There is no pain.

Ermac's wounds are beyond pain. Beyond what a human body could stand. If he were a man, his system would have shut itself down, shocked into stillness by the massive damage Kasumi's ultimate attack dealt him. But he is no man, and so he stands.

Staring down through steam and mist at the uneven lumps of mud that hide the girl from sight, the enforcer slowly allows power to drain back into the gems that have fused themselves into his flesh. The brilliant green glow that had surrounded him for his final assault fades to a steady green pulse, a thin layer of souls stretched taught across his damaged remains. Beneath the unnatural barrier new muscles are creeping over burnt bones, patches of bronze skin appearing over some of the less damaged stretches of muscle. it won't be long now before he has repaired himself. Then, he will need to rest. Regenerating his body is a very taxing procedure.

Still the monster stands with his right hand raised, palm pointed toward the young Kunoichi's buried form. She is not dead. He can sense her. He knows that if he leaves her here, she could be trouble for him in the future.

The enforcer's eyes drift slowly shut as his hand drops to dangle at his side. Testingly, his souls play with the idea of leaving her there. She doesn't need to know he spared her. She likely would think that she is hidden. That she escaped.

Ermac waits.

The inner compulsion to kill the girl does not come. Shao Kahn's orders do not apply here.

When left to his own devices, what will Ermac do? Moral problems can be hard at the best of times. Soul searching can be painful if you only have one soul to search.

So, when left to his own devices. What will Ermac do?


The final blow never falls.

None of the working SNF cameras were able to catch the enforcer's victory. None recorded his moment of indecision. No camera even managed to catch his departure. But the finishing blow never came.

COMBATSYS: Ermac has ended the fight here.

The fallen ninja has no hope of moving before crews, emboldened by no small amount of security reinforcements and local law, move back into the cordoned off thicket of trees. At the very least, there is a murder to investigate, evidence to try and collect. The defeated kunoichi is found and medevac'd to the nearest hospital for care. The crime scene is sealed off, investigators going over every trace of footage that managed to be salvaged from the mostly destroyed array of cameras.

There will be a lot of headscratching, murmurs of ill omens, and no doubt eventually spiritualists and experts in supernatural matters brought in to canvas the woods in pursuit of the mysterious killer. The Amazing Frog Man's memorial will be held the following week, the event raising new questions about the validity about such a violent sport becoming so popular around the world. It isn't the first time the debate has been raised but this controversial event has reignited the anti-fight lobbiests.

For her own part, Kasumi's nightmares in recuperation always end the same: the sense of helplessness, of being suspended, unable to break free, the piercing glare of two emerald balefire eyes judging her as they do the rest of the world, the echo of the name of the one responsible for this horror.

'Shao Khan.'

Log created on 11:56:48 11/23/2014 by Kasumi, and last modified on 16:52:49 11/24/2014.