SNF 2014.11 - SNF: "Bushido's Blades"

Description: In a tranquil, snowy garden owned by Howard Enterprises, two masters of armed combat -- one a virtuoso with a single blade, the other conducting a symphony of diverse weapons -- duke it out for the sake of sports entertainment. The result is more philosophical than you might imagine! (Winner: Aya) [BURNOUT DM DAMAGED: 2]

He waits, cross-legged, beneath a bare tree. A thin stream burbles over rocks behind him, vanishing into small swell of earth where it is then rerouted back to the top of the flow by a series of buried valves. A small smile rests on the face of Makari Maksimilian as he runs a small cloth down the length of the Damascus steel cavalry saber in his grip, flakes of snow melting upon the beautiful handguard of silver, gold, and platinum.

His weapons are arranged out in front of him - Viktor and Nikita, twin broad-headed battle axes graven with images of a bar and wolf respectively. A chain whip in the wushu style, lying in a loose coil with a red flag on one hand emblazoned with the crossed white and gold sabers of the defunct Maksimilian House. Several daggers of rough worksmanship, the grips wrapped with strips of red leather. Finally, the zweihander, a massive blade straight from the armory of Strolheim itself, etched with Stärke down one side along the quillion.

There is a sharp crack above Makari's head as an icicle breaks off of the tree above him. The placid smile does not leave his face as he leans back, turning the saber in his hand as though examining it. The icicle comes down on the blade and travels straight down until it clinks off the handguard. The two halves slowly fall apart.

"Ahhh... it is peaceful here. It is good to take a few moments to meditate on one's tools!"

The Russian dabs water off of Maksimillian and detaches the weapon's ornate scabbard from his harnesses with an expert tug, placing his sword on his lap and peering inside. He appears unaffected by the cold - but he is also wearing a warm black sweater under his breastplate, and his sturdy pants are clearly winter weight, to say nothing of his heavy grey fur cloak streaming from his shoulders, spread out behind him.

While she has not been having a hard time of it -- indeed, all things considered she's doing fairly well -- Aya Hazuki was not necessarily sad to hear that her match in Saturday Night Fight this week would not be a battle against a random schoolgirl in an urban war zone, or a dip into the wild and frankly terrifying world of pro wrestling. No, when she heard that she would have some one-on-one time with another swordsman in a non-ridiculous setting, Aya was quite pleased. Professional fighting has turned out to be eye-opening in ways she had not expected, and while the experience hasn't been BAD... well, a dip into the more familiar is welcome.

She steps into the garden from the opposite end of the room that Makari is currently resting in. Unlike last week, she's back in her 'costume,' an outfit reminiscent of a kunoichi's garb from Japanese history. It is... ill-suited to a winter climate, at least on the face of it: leggings and a very short kimono skirt don't seem like a good fit. Yet the battousha doesn't seem phased by the chill, for the most part. She walks in with all the lithe grace of a woman accustomed to this sort of situation and, indeed, between her appearance and her demeanor, Aya looks right at home in a traditional Japanese garden.

One hand is at her side, clutched around the lacquered saya of her favored weapon, a katana with a silk-wrapped hilt of autumn leaf orange-red. The other hand comes up in front of her, palm up, and she looks up as gentle snowfall begins.

"Polished and polished / clean in the holy mirror / snow flowers bloom," she intones in her throaty alto, before closing her hand and looking toward Makari with a nod. "A pleasure. My name is Aya Hazuki. I believe I am your opponent for today."

Makari Maksimilian, a European man in the prime of his life, makes a frank appraisal of Aya Hazuki as she enters, clear blue eyes travelling slowly up her legs first, katana second, before finally meeting her eyes. His mouth splits into a wide grin. "Makari Maksimilian of the House of Strolheim," he responds, his accent the unique results of a Russian taught English by a German. He flicks his saber once to clear it of any more snowmelt and whips it into its scabbard with a lightning-fast motion.

This will be good, he considers. He has been having poor dreams. Makari does not like the feeling of something happening in his life outside of his perception. The shadow in the night. "You will be my first opponent since my, eh, graduation? From the House of Strolheim. That word may not be correct, I apologize."

Makari rolls his shoulders back into the cloak, allowing it to come forward over his form as he shifts into a kneel. The fabric covers the array of weaponry aside from the zweihander before him. As he stands, the cloak falling to drape over his body entirely, the weapons are gone, only their ghosts remaining in snowy imprints. "I did not expect a beauty, but do not worry about that stopping me! Ha ha ha! If you carry a blade, to hold back would be an insult, yes?"

Counter to Aya's serene integration into the setting, Makari's armored and cloaked bulk are a perfect anachronism. A red-plated boot slides under the crossguard of the zweihander and flicks upward. The blade rises up into the air and the Russian's hand snatches it by the ricasso, smoothly flipping it into the straps emerging from the cloack on his back.

He stomps his feet a few times, packing the snow under him. Excitement ripples off of him. Finally, finally! A brand new opponent! This is the world!

COMBATSYS: Makari has started a fight here.

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Makari           0/-------/-------|

An eyebrow does go up at 'a beauty,' but a faint smile works its way across the woman's face at that. "The... outfit was a suggestion of my head maid's son," she explains, bringing her free hand down and brushing snow from her skirt somewhat before straightening up and regarding her opponent carefully even as she finishes her story. "I admit, this... showmanship fighting isn't my specialty. He, on the other hand, watches it all religiously. I assumed he'd know what was appropriate. And so I got... this." There's a faint shrug, but she's still smiling. "At least it's easy to move in."

With deliberate care, she brings both hands to her side and unwraps the sageo from her saya; the scabbard-cord, once unlooped from the scabbard itself, is tied tightly to the obi belt of her outside, leaving it much more securely in place than one might imagine. Once the sword is in place, Aya's whole demeanor seems to shift; she adopts a slightly crouched stance, one leg forward, her left hand holding the scabbard and her right hand hovering over the hilt of the sword. For a student of the blade like Makari -- even a non-Japanese one -- the elements of a sword-drawing stance are entirely apparent.

"Thank you for doing me the favor of not holding back just because I'm a woman, though," she says to Makari, the smile becoming a genuine grin. It would be easy to take offense at the Russian's words, but some inner voice is telling her that rather than harm, the impossibly tall man is simply being earnest... a situation that is not exactly known to live in the same space as tact. "I'm looking forward to seeing what a foreign style has to offer."

Straightening, Aya clears her throat, and decides to opt for the one aspect of traditional Japanese duels that she thinks is worthwhile. "Aya Hazuki, Hazuki Ittou-ryuu. Forward."

She decides to test Makari first, stepping forward and making a simple, sweeping forward draw toward him in an arc of silver.

COMBATSYS: Aya has joined the fight here.

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Aya              0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Makari

COMBATSYS: Makari blocks Aya's Medium Strike.

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Aya              0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Makari

Makari's pose shifts perceptibly when he recognizes Aya's stance. Another smile flashes onto his face - the Maksimilian Weaponmaster Style incorporates many elements of an iai style, depending almost entirely on quickly drawing, stowing, and switching between as many weapons as the practitioner can manage at once. He stops bantering for a moment as Aya approaches, the entirety of his regard falling upon her shoulder, keeping the angle of the sword and its scabbard in his peripheral vision.

His face becomes stone. She draws and he moves, hand sweeping out from the confines of the cloak. Metal scrapes on metal. The poorly-crafted dagger resists Aya's blade for a few moments before, with a harsh screech, the metal gives way. The katana draws a line of blood across Makari's hastily turned forearm. "Good strike," he mutters almost to himself, pushing off the packed snow to move past Aya and turn in the air.

The cloak ripples, three more of the daggers streaking out at her as he lands in a large puff of white.

Beat. Makari's focus mask slips aside, his face warming. It's not a fake motion - both are the true man. "Well, I cannot complain too much, I think! Though it is a bit impractical. You must have confidence in your sword arm or your rapid step to trust all of your defense to it." He starts backing off, stamping at the ground again, creating better footing for his substantial weight. Meltwater filters through his short hair and runs down the side of his face, the cold streak giving him something to focus on aside from the burning cut.

COMBATSYS: Aya parries Makari's Red Dagger!

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Aya              0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Makari

One of the most important parts of battou and iai styles isn't just the swiftness of your strike, but how quickly you can make yourself ready to deal with whatever comes your way once the strike has been made. By the time Makari has uttered his compliment, Aya's blade is back in its scabbard, the woman watching her opponent with hawk eyes. He drew that dagger calmly and cleanly in the blink of an eye; even if it was only a partial defense, it was swift and sure. The hallmark of a professional. And that realization alone helps save her.

As the daggers come flying her way, Aya's hand flickers back to her blade, starting to glow a barely perceptible blue-white. In three rapid arcs, her sword scythes through the air, sending snowflakes scattering. With three *ting!* sounds, the daggers appear to have been deflected... but Aya doesn't stop to reorient herself before she attacks. In fact, the sword makes one fourth sweep through the air in Makari's direction, even though he's not standing anywhere near her...?

This is when the erratically-shaped ice crystal towers erupt from the ground, describing a line between herself and her opponent, looking to surround Makari in a chilly -- if temporary -- prison of ice. As Aya's sword returns to her scabbard, Makari's daggers drop to the ground at last... each frozen into a block of ice from the buildup of Aya's defense.

"It has its disadvantages. And yet... fighting with only one weapon has certain affordances as well," she says evenly. The man's a professional... seeing how he deals with this should be instructive.

COMBATSYS: Makari blocks Aya's Hyouga EX.

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Aya              0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0           Makari

Strolheim has a particular lesson it drills into its members that do not wield chi themselves - if the opponent does something that makes no sense, hunker down first and worry about looking like an asshole later. At the fourth swing, Makari's hand was already flying up to the hilt over his shoulder, throwing his cloak behind his shoulders to free up his arms. The zweihander, about as long as he is tall, comes sweeping out, slices a half-arc in the snow, and stops in front of him at an angle, the man taking partial cover behind the weapon.

The ice erupts upward, fragments of it scattering into Makari, drawing a grunt. "But a generalist," he responds, "is never out of options." An advantage to coming up in Strolheim... even as a new fighter, Makari has seen a lot of different styles, either fighting against them or watching them from the side.

In response to the pillars of ice, Makari simply charges through them wordlessly, using the bulk of his sword to press through them without killing himself. He sweeps the weapon through the snow again, hurling a cloud of it up into the air, and presses in close.

There is a brief moment where he can't be seen, only felt, almost gingerly guiding the blunt ricasso of the weapon to Aya's neck, right hand - now sheathed in a gauntlet - gripping the sword by its blade. He pushes down, one leg chopping rudely at her knees, trying to twist and plant the woman down on her face.

COMBATSYS: Aya blocks Makari's Quick Throw.

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Aya              0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0           Makari

Had this been earlier in the year, months upon months ago, Aya would have been doomed in this scenario. While she was a trained swordswoman, she had no real practical experience... and more to the point, she came from a tradition that almost entirely eschewed the spiritual aspect of fighting. Yet sometime between then and now, she had a sort of... awakening, for lack of a better word. Notions like a person's 'swordsman spirit,' a metaphorical concept for sensing another's presence nearby in combat or their hostile intent, suddenly stopped being metaphors. And so even though she can't SEE Makari, some part of Aya knows he's there, reacts on instinct.

There's a dull *THUD!* as the weight of Makari's sword suddenly slams into not Aya's neck, but her sudden interposition of her sheathed weapon's scabbard between it and her.

There's a moment of tension as Makari's weight bears down on the comparatively shorter, smaller woman. She can't do anything about the attempt to scythe her legs out from under her, but she can at least prevent it from being an uncontrolled fall. Pushing back up, she both dislodges Makari's blade and sends her upper body moving backwards so that she ends up tumbling back in an ungainly backwards somersault, rather than a faceplant onto the cold ground.

Rising back into stance, Aya glances at Makari carefully. His comment about versatility brings a faint smile to her face. "I would say... the truth is, any fighter is tested best not by showing their strengths, but being forced to adapt by their weaknesses. I imagine we'll both have opportunities for that in this battle."

She means it as a token of respect, at least. Hopefully her intent is clear, but...

In a flurry of movement, Aya's hand is at her waist, and suddenly her scabbard is unbound from her obi. Holding one end of the cord, she attempts to swing the sheathed blade through the air, hooking it around the back of Makari's neck and dragging him in close enough so that she can slam a suddenly raised knee right into his stomach. She has no real hope that it will wind the apparently quite sturdy Makari, but it's worth a shot anyway!

COMBATSYS: Makari endures Aya's Armed Combo.

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Aya              0/-------/----===|===----\-------\0           Makari

Makari's eyes flash with bright glee when his sword clicks against the scabbard, preventing him from twisting the curving quillons of his weapon into her flesh. "Good!" he declares as his tree-trunk leg scythes in, watching her smoothly recover, planting his right hand firmly on the ricasso and holding the weapon forward.

His grin flashes even brighter, approaching the legendary Dee Jay levels. "Of course." He's the intense kind of Strolheim follower, one who clings to its ideals of strength without falling too prey to the hubris that can bring. He's the kind of insane that is at least fun at parties for the first few hours. "What is perfect strength but steadily eliminating one's weaknesses?"

Aya does something unusual then. Makari had judged her range and had been beginning to circle just outside of it. There is silence, the trickle-trickle-/clack/ of a sozu, and the Russian's eyes follow the sweeping scabbard as it comes at his neck, the cord looping around and yanking him abruptly off-balance. Makari releases his right hand from the sword, letting it drag behind him as he's pulled sharply in, legs pumping in a couple quick steps, quickly regaining his balance. He can't get away, so...

He strides right into the knee strike, grunting, breath coming out of his lungs in a rush - but Christ, does he have any body fat under that sweater? Weapons clatter from the impact. Makari slips his foot forward, waits for Aya to drop her knee, and hammers the steel pommel of the weapon for her own stomach in a violent mirror of the action. "Mordhau," he wheezes.

He then tries to press the zweihander's entire length against Aya's body, crouching low and trying to pop the lighter woman up onto his shoulder with the weapon. "The Wolf Creeps Through the Brush." One-handed, he would then swing the sword out and down, trying to hurl her away and once again into the snow.

COMBATSYS: Aya fails to interrupt Creeping Wolf from Makari with Tsubame Gaeshi.

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Aya              0/-------/---====|=====--\-------\0           Makari

Well, this went wrong in all the worst ways. Considering how close Makari is, attempting to get out of the way of his followup strike doesn't seem like the best option. She could just take it on the chin, but... really, why not be daring? That's what her inner monologue is telling her, anyway. The man has skill and speed, you can't win by playing it safe. And if you wanted to play it safe, you could have stayed at home in Kyoto with a calligraphy brush and a bottle of Diet Coke.

Thus Aya doesn't appear to do anything at all when it comes to the pommel strike, but rather unfortunately, it connects with a bit more force than she had anticipated. The subsequent slowing of her reaction time from the sharp pain of that strike gives Makari all the opening he needs to perform his rather elaborate but effective technique. At the last second Aya rights herself in midair, landing in a three-point crouch before bringing herself standing. All she'd saved, however, was her dignity; by the time she was up and over Makari's shoulder, the damage had been done.

"Interesting," she says aloud, hand going back to the hilt of her blade. "Wishing I'd spent some of my time developing... what do the Americans call them? 'Washboard abs'?"

Makari does /not/ press his advantage. He steps back, crossing over the narrowest part of the garden's thin stream, putting a small stand of bamboo to his back. His gauntlet slides down the weapon, over the crossguard, back onto the grip. He shifts his weight, lifts the blade over his shoulder, and stands there with it pointing down, completely exposing himself.

He draws a deep breath, recentering. Already things are happening he didn't expect, differences in philosophy coming through in Aya's fighting style with a distinctness he didn't inspect. He relaxes, his ice blue gaze clearing, resuming his careful watch.

His eyebrows flick up. "Some muscle can look good on a woman," he ventures, "though that kind of look is usually a bit too much, ehh... lifting, not enough working, you know? I do not like the look of built muscle over /formed/, I am trying to say." He slaps at his stomach, grinning. "This is more a pile of cinderblocks than a washing board!"

Aya will probably realize that Makari is adept at stalling at that point.

COMBATSYS: Makari gains composure.

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Aya              0/-------/---====|===----\-------\0           Makari

"I believe it's--" Aya begins, then pauses and shakes her head briefly. The absurdity of a Japanese woman explaining the meaning of an American simile to a Russian man speaking English with a German accent seems to hit her all at once, and she just decides to leave it out. "You know? Never mind. Cinder blocks it is."

Makari is... an interesting opponent. While Aya's strength is actually quite deceptive for her frame, she suspects that overwhelming the Strolheim weaponmaster with brute force isn't going to be her best route out of this. The alternative is to focus on her more... 'spiritual' abilities, but deep in her heart, Aya feels less sure with these than with the sword she's known all her life. Working with chi, she has to rely on... well, intuition. Feeling her way through. It's not how the actually quite pragmatic Aya is used to doing things. The adjustment has not been easy.

"You are an interesting opponent, Makari-san," Aya says carefully, circling the tall man with wary steps. Seeming to come to a decision, her footsteps suddenly stop, and she gives a nod to Makari before kicking off the ground to dash forward at him, hand at her side, a cloud of powder snow fountaining into the air as she does so. Drawing within a dangerous distance considering Makari's effective striking range, she suddenly whips her hand around, making a drawing slash with... nothing? Rather, instead of her ACTUAL sword, she lashes out with a sword-shaped blade of green, slicing winds swirling in the path of the strike.

COMBATSYS: Makari blocks Aya's Futsu no Mitama.

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Aya              0/-------/--=====|====---\-------\0           Makari

The honorific makes Makari's eyes squint. He turns it over in his head a few times. "Actually, eh, it is just- dahh!" The chi blade catches him off-guard, too fast for him to pull his zweihander and respond.

Good thing that wasn't the plan.

He twitches his shoulders as his arms come down, interjecting his armored right hand into the arc of energy. The Russian cannot wield chi himself, but he has picked up a few tricks for dealing with it - there is the briefest moment where his fingers close around the blade where it seems like he might be about to manipulate it somehow, but instead there is a splash of blood from his hand and the blade goes on. Makari growls as the cloak finally falls over his body, drops of red appearing on the snow beneath him as he darts to the side, clenching his fist tightly until he's gotten through the pain.

He stops and diverts toward Aya in a rush, a beautiful chime of metal ringing into the snowy night as he pulls the damascus steel cavalry saber from its scabbard. Maksimillian, the heirloom sword of his dead house.

The blade flicks out from the cloak, held upright in a fencing pose for a moment before rolling toward Aya's sword arm, hissing through the air in a swift pattern, a smooth paired X of slashes. He has gone into focus again, gone nearly silent except for one last line: "And you are a good one, Aya Hazuki."

COMBATSYS: Aya parries Makari's Random Strike!

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Aya              0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0           Makari

Sometimes the viewing public really enjoys Saturday Night Fight because it is a good rollicking comedy fighting show. There's gag match setups and pro wrestling theme weeks and sometimes a dunk tank or something like that. It's Sports Entertainment™ at its best. But there's a match every few weeks, sometimes only once a month or so, where the audience gets a sample of something more. Something beyond the flashy potential showmanship, going down to the pure marrow of martial arts.

Today is one of those days.

Makari Maksimillian deploys his weapons with puissant skill. He is calm, focused, competent, but not arrogant. He is the perfect figure of the noble warrior. When his sword slices the air, it is with purpose and clarity. And so Aya cannot, must not, respond with anything other than her best. Setting her jaw, there is a brief, barely perceptible exchange of blows and parries, cutlass and katana meeting with ringing sounds in four swift flashes of silver and gold. It is the sort of show of technique and skill -- on both sides -- that leaves audiences breathless.

But in this exchange, Aya is able to edge ahead JUST enough to gain the advantage.

"If I am, it's only..." Aya begins, before she kicks off the ground a second time and... vanishes?

She's not really invisible; she's merely powering through a perfect dashing line not just *into* Makari, but *past* him, executing a swift drawing strike and -- unless Makari intervenes somehow -- ending up behind him, with her back to him, saying: "'s only to rise to the challenge present."

As if on cue, the path of her dashing strike suddenly erupts with whorls of green wind, a storm created by the force of her passing.

COMBATSYS: Makari fails to counter Kamaitachi EX from Aya with Biting Steel.

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Aya              1/-------/=======|=======\-------\0           Makari

Makari can feel it. He can feel himself being pulled to the limit of his skill. This is what he wants, what he /strives/ for. Most fighters strive for that thrill of victory.

Makari Maksimilian looks for defeat.

The day Makari cannot be defeated is the day he no longer has a road to walk.

The perfection of the wootz steel of Maksimillian chimes musically with each collision of blade on blade. Each one of Aya's parrying blows comes earlier and earlier, the Russian's eyes burning with intensity as he struggles to follow it. The follow-up is coming, his instincts scream at him. It's coming...


A high-speed replay on TV is the only way for the viewers at home to parse what just happened. In the instant before Aya begins her strike, Makari's left hand flickers into his cloak, lightning-fast even for the high-speed, and comes out with the chain whip, wrist rolling. The steel coils expertly around the space where Aya's katana was an /instant/ before, striking sparks against its back. He flicks up, the entire sequence too fast for him to process that he's already failed.

Without the camera, Aya vanishes and Makari's whip is describing a worthless arc above him, drifting back, the snow blowing away from him from the impact of whatever he was about to do.

The whip's top third separates from the rest, spinning gracefully through the air.

A splash of blood springs from Makari's abdomen with the burst of chi, the Russian growling as he drops to a knee, blood trickling from the side of his mouth. He starts pushing up, the sword disappearing into his cloak, sheathing with a ~click~. He shifts back toward Aya... expression abruptly cold.

"Do not understate your own strength. Do you realize the insult this offers to your opponent?" He spits blood to the side, marring the white landscape further.

In the moment while Makari is attempting his reversal, Aya keeps herself calm, back still turned, and gently slides her blade back into the saya with a barely-audible metallic *SHING!* followed by the rather more wooden *CLACK!* of the hilt meeting the top of the scabbard. She turns just in time for Makari to ask his question about insulting one's opponent, and that gets a raised eyebrow from the swordmistress, who seems to give the issue some thought, her mien shifting from battle readiness to contemplation, if only briefly.

"I'll admit," she says carefully, her body easing back into stances as she starts talking, as if -- having come to a conclusion about her response -- she can once again devote her physical and emotional energy to combat, "...the modesty that seems to be built into we Japanese can sound a little irritating if you're not from around here." Here, however, she raises an eyebrow. "I suppose the question I'd ask, though: is 'strength' meaningful on its own?"

Her expression shifts, eyes narrowed slightly, lips parted only a fraction when she's not speaking. It is the tension of a hunting cat waiting for its moment, one a trained fighter like Makari can easily discern. "Whether I'm a 'good' or 'bad' opponent, a 'strong' or a 'weak' one... it's not just me. It's you. It's... us. This moment, a thing which -- even if it comes again -- will never be QUITE the same. I am only as 'good' as the challenge in front of me. But that says as much about you as it does about me."

"So, continue to challenge me..." Aya begins, then launches herself across the distance between the two, sweeping her sword around in a wide but swift arc. It's a test strike, a rap against his guard. "...Makari Maksimillian!"

COMBATSYS: Makari endures Aya's Medium Strike.

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Aya              1/-------/=======|=======\-------\1           Makari

"You ask a man of Strolheim of the meaning of strength? You will get a different answer from each."

This is probably not the answer Aya expected from her test - Makari steps forward, left hand out, cloak parting. Her sword smacks into his palm, sinks through flesh, grinds against bone. The skin of Makari's face tightens and pales in reaction to the pain as he locks his hand, pulling up as his right drifts once more toward Maksimillian's grip.

"This moment is a flame in the forge to strengthen the both of us, but that strength has its own meaning. Strength is what allows one to walk whatever path they wish, no matter who may block their way. It is a currency we spend at the last moments of our lives to reject fate."

Blood flows from his hand, what was once a clean cut made worse and worse by Makari's rash decision. The red soaks into the black sleeve of his sweater, the fabric glistening with a slick, unhealthy sheen. "The 'we' is transient. I can only truly count on 'I', you can only truly count on 'you'. This is the lesson I learned as the House of Maksimilian burned." He lets go of the sword, throwing his arm wide to clear the path of his blade.

The cry of a hunting bird splits the air as Makari flicks his saber out, four cuts even the high-speed camera can't catch annihilating the air - and again as he snaps it back in. It takes a only split-second. The saber clicks back home.

"Humility is a polite lie. You insult your strength with it."

COMBATSYS: Aya blocks Makari's Maksimilian Falcon.

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Aya              1/-----==/=======|=======\==-----\1           Makari

That IS unexpected. The lineage of the Hazuki Ittou-ryuu school of swordsmanship goes back to the famous Yagyu Shinkage-ryuu, a school famous for the risky 'mutodori' technique where a skilled fighter could catch a blade in their hands, arresting its momentum instantly at no real risk to them. When Makari's hand comes up, at first Aya thinks that's what he's going to do, and she blinks in surprise. She hadn't expected that from the European weaponmaster, but it would be a--

Nope, okay, he's just going to GRAB THE BLADE. That genuinely seems to shock Aya, who -- despite having a good grip on how physically tough Makari is -- does not feel like this is a wise tactical maneuver. "You--" In a darkly comic way, however, it IS: Aya needs her own blade to defend against Makari's swift bladework, and it's slow coming back fully into her grip. Of the four slashes, the first two bite hard into her non-sword arm, lines of red appearing through sudden gashes in her long kimono sleeves. She manages to repel the final two, but the parries are ragged, slipshod, ungraceful, forcing her back a few steps before she sheathes her own blade.

"I've spent the last 8 years by myself, Makari-san," Aya says carefully, circling her opponent. "It was only recently that I... had a sort of awakening. I think we career warriors maybe value our solitude too much. That's why I'm here, despite spending all of last weekend procuring and then fighting with a crate of metal folding chairs."

Yes... 'awakened' is a good word. She takes a breath, a slow one, and tries... very hard to find the point, somewhere in the center of her being, where that awareness sits, so she can open it up. And when she does so, the effect is... pronounced. She stands taller, straighter; the cast of her features sharpens. To her own perception, colors become brighter, her vision sharper. Everything stands out.

She opens her eyes, and says -- in a voice that almost doesn't seem like the one she's used up until now -- "...I just don't like to be labeled."

With that, she *streaks* across the distance to Makari, her body a blur as she comes in low and then performs a backwards flipping somersault kick, of all things. But if she connects, she doesn't follow all the way through; instead, she locks her ankles around Makari's neck and then finishes her fall, slamming the tall Russian into the snowy ground before rebounding off his body to safety.

COMBATSYS: Makari blocks Aya's Rakurai.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Aya              1/----===/=======|=======\===----\1           Makari

The cornerstone of the Maksimilian Weaponmaster is incredible manual dexterity. Makari's hands only go back behind the cloak for a few seconds, but the next time Aya sees them, he has already wrapped his left hand with a strip of cloth - and sheathed his right in its red gauntlet. "I see that we will not agree." He obliterates the snow behind him as he steps back from Aya's rush, getting himself just /barely/ enough space to reach behind him and seize the tip of his zweihander.

He pulls on it, grunting in exertion with the awkward angle he has on the weight, twisting it out of the straps, snapping the leather and letting the pommel hit the ground. He can't get the weapon around in time to stop her, and instead settles for stepping back and locking one boot on a jutting parierhaken. The tip angles past his side, preventing him from impaling himself as he's bent uncomfortably back.

He does at least remain on his feet. After Aya springs off of him, he brings his other foot behind the crossguard and - in an unexpected feat of acrobatics - spins to the side and pops the sword twisting into the air. He snatches it out of the air and pushes forward, weapon low, grip as wide as he can manage without going past the ricasso. "Your solitude has taught you to seek others. I have been surrounded but alone for most of my life."

He falls silent as he nears, slipping the tip of the zweihander between Aya's ankles, coming much closer than it seems like is a good idea. If Aya hadn't already experienced Makari's ability to wield the massive weapon in close-quarters, this would be surprising. "Alexei Sweeps the Market Road," he intones, taking another large step and pivoting the weapon like a lever to trip the Japanese woman up.

His foot twists on the snow. His gauntleted hand hisses upon metal as he slides it all the way up for a full two-handed grip. Muscles in his left arm spasm with pain, blood already seeping through the binding. "-to-"

He keeps turning on the balls of that foot, crouching to bring himself more in line with his weapon and slowly rising, blade describing a screw in the air. "-Makari Glides Over the Horizon!" He lifts into the air for the last few strikes, moving toward the center of the garden's wide clearing.

"Do not take that as judgement or superiority. The shapes of our strengths will simply never match."

COMBATSYS: Makari knocks away Aya with Alexei's Sweep to Makari's Glide.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Aya              2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=------\-------\0           Makari

Well then.

The bringing out of the zweihander means that Makari is bringing his full strength to bear, and in her heart of hearts Aya knows she wants nothing of it. But perhaps, in her humility, she has found a kernel of arrogance; intending to make no wasted movement, trying to do her best to slip around his movements and find an opening to her advantage. Makari doesn't give her one; in fact, Aya doesn't move *far enough* and in the process she doesn't account for the size of the zweihander and is caught up in the technique.

Like a rose-clad meteor, she impacts the snowy ground a moment later, sending a cloud of snow into the air, briefly obscuring her from view.

When the 'dust' settles, the Hazuki heir is on one knee, her saya perpendicular to the ground, both hands on the hilt of her blade, trying to bring herself standing. "I'd like to think," she says, before coughing, her hand coming away slightly red -- that last technique hit pretty hard -- before she continues, "the world is large enough for both of us."

Bringing herself fully standing, Aya re-ties her saya to her obi, and then slips back into her battou stance, hand hovering of the hilt of her sword. "I have yet to unseal this technique in my time in the public eye. But I believe, in this fight, it would be... appropriate."

There's a stillness in the room, even a moment for Makari to prepare himself, before Aya says in a clear tone, "Hazuki Ittou-ryuu, Hi-ougi..."

And then she's gone.

When she reappears, to the eye of the casual observer (and possibly even to Makari), she's crossed the distance of the room almost instantly, and is bringing up the hilt of her still-sheathed sword to slam into Makari's stomach with surprising force, looking to stagger him enough to finish her final secret art...

COMBATSYS: Aya successfully hits Makari with Sakura Fubuki.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >                                ]
Aya              0/-------/---<<<<|======-\-------\0           Makari

The blow SHOULD have been just to stagger, right?


Aya's arm continues with followuthrough and Makari's body actually soars skyward as the hilt slam becomes an impromptu uppercut. Her sword held high, Aya grabs the hilt at the height of her swing and, spinning, performs an upper drawing slash which causes a cyclone of wind chi to erupt out of the ground around both herself and Makari. Kicking off the ground, the swordwoman actually uses the wind itself as a temporary foothold, leaping from edge to edge of the vortex, her blade -- now rippling with lightning -- slicing through Makari with each pass, until she finally finds herself above him. Kicking off the ceiling, she drives downward, carrying Makari toward the earth with her, shouting: "SAKURA FUBUKI!"

As soon as both fighters hit the ground, the vortex vanishes, becoming a chaotic whirl of rose petals that scatters in every direction before disappearing entirely.

Makari's left hand slips from the grip of the zweihander after he lands, draining a line of blood onto the snow. He turns toward Aya, holding the weapon awkwardly in a single hand. The coldness is fading from his face, replaced by a calm, polite smile. "The world is large enough for now," he agrees, "but it may not be forever."

There is a quick movement when Aya vanishes, a predictive movement.

It does not work.

Makari is carried up into the air by the strike, trailing lines of red from his various wounds, twisting in the cyclone. Daggers are pulled free from the lining of his grey cloak as he is slashed left and right.

The final strike brings them both to the ground - Makari lands with a tremendous impact on both feet, blood dripping from him, breastplate cracked in half. He tightens his right hand on the still-held zweihander and pushes it further into the ground, the tip punching easily through snow and pricking into dirt. The grin returns to his face. "Good! I did not think you could move so quickly from so low to the ground. I will not forget that stepping technique."

The rough-made daggers begin to rain down between them. Slowly, like a conquered tree, he falls backwards to impact heavily in the snow.

COMBATSYS: Makari takes no action.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  <
Aya              0/-------/---<<<<|

COMBATSYS: Makari can no longer fight.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  <
Aya              0/-------/---<<<<|

Only after she has sheathed her sword, and heard Makari fall to the ground, does Aya let the tension drain from her body, the whip-tense flexing of muscles and the mental dancing on the fight-or-flight response's knife edge finally no longer needed. She doesn't have it in her to lay on the ground like Makari's doing -- not in this outfit anyway -- but she does slump forward somewhat, letting the aches and pains and in some cases still-bleeding wounds of the fight work themselves out.

"That 'for now' sounded like a dire portent," she says to Makari, watching him lay in the snow. "But to be honest with you... every time I have a fight like this, I feel like the world gets a little bit bigger."

There's a pause, and Aya pulls herself entirely standing, before performing the waist-only, stiff-armed bow common to her rank and station. "I thank you for the enlightening battle, Makari Maksimillian-san."

With that, she turns to go, leaving Makari to the quiet beauty of the snow.

COMBATSYS: Aya has ended the fight here.

Log created on 20:10:02 11/23/2014 by Aya, and last modified on 04:06:09 11/26/2014.