Description: A remote hidden dojo serves as the venue for this bout between new rookie fighter Natsu Ayuhara of Gorin High and Kasumi of /no where/. Flips, teleports, and volleyballs abound! Kasumi gets to discover a unique new style she had never expected. Natsu gets a chance to blow off a little steam and maybe even think about what she is there for. [Winner: Kasumi]
Some people use tai chi to focus their emotions, some people use yoga. Natsu practices volleyball. And volleyball practice was cancelled for the day -- possibly the rest of the week -- as a direct response to the sudden and unprovoked attack of the volleyball captain, Miss Kayoko Miyazawa.
The boys of Gorin High learn two things really quick: First, do not mess with Natsu Ayuhara when she's in a bad mood. Second, do not put Natsu Ayuhara into a bad mood. The events from last night, combined with her lack of a daily volleyball fix today... have put Natsu Ayuhara in a -really- bad mood with no end in sight.
The very thought of staying on campus is not one Natsu is willing to entertain tonight. No, there's been only one thing on Natsu's mind... getting stronger. As soon as class let out, she made a quick call... And this is where she was sent: A remote dojo...
Huh. Natsu is still irritated, but it's hard for anyone who'd grown up in Southtown to walk into such a tranquil abode without being at least a little affected. Her tension is not gone, no, but it is... well, it -could- fade. She's dressed in a red-and-white wrestling singlet that a small handful of fans might recognize from her SLAMFEST outing; it'd probably take a close friend to know that she'd be much more comfortable in her volleyball jersey. Walking around the interior of the U-shaped interior, she takes a long look around. Adjusting the strap on her volleyball-filled gym bag, she checks her cellphone just one more time. "... Is this even the right place?" she mumbles to herself.
It would be somewhat shameful to admit that she entered these events for the money... Fighting simply for lucre before her life on the run would have never crossed her mind. Training was for the sake of the clan, fighting was to improve oneself or further the clan. Prize fighting... was never supposed to be part of the life of the second in line to rule the Mugen Tenshin.
But now? Now that she is constantly hungry, getting by living in a run down abandoned temple in the woods? Slipping into Southtown just to cash in on any local exhibitions she can before vanishing back into the forest? The chance for $250 in exchange for some bruises sounds like a bargain. Especially with covered travel and medical exspenses. She can also get by on $50 if she needs to. Signing up, she was hoping for a ticket out of Japan. Spending time outside the nation was good for leaving her trail a bit cold for those who would not relent in their pursuit of her.
So the ride in an old bus for an hour of north of Southtown followed by a long walk was not exactly what she had in mind for 'getting far away from any possible half-sister ambushes', but once she laid eyes on the site, she was happy to be here. Something about the rustic traditional feel of the humble but pristine dojo reminded the kunoichi of her village prompting a blend of nostolgia and regret.
The Exile is already there when the Gorin High student arrives though she might not be seen at first, seated on the elevated wooden floor overlooking the rock garden inside the loop of the building. One leg dangles over, her other bent up at the knee, allowing her to hug her arms around her knee and lean into it as she gazes at the peaceful setting. From behind, it is easy to notice her striking strawberry-blonde hair tied off into a long ponytail worn high by a blue ribbon done up in an ornate bow. Her attire is rich blue and emblazoned on her back is a golden insignia that reads 'Kasumi.'
Seeming to hear Natsu's musing, Kasumi shifts, rising up to her feet to turn around and face her opponent more directly. At only five feet and change, the Volleyball Star towers over her, forcing her copper brown eyes to glance up, accompanied by a smile. "Hello," she offers, her voice gentle and without any sense of impatience. The girl's attire is certainly not one for the shy - a blue wrap dress that leaves her thighs bare on the sides all the way up to her waist but for the high white stockings worn with it, held closed by a light blue wrap around her waist. There's no denying she has a hell of a figure combined with a gentle, beautiful face that hardly seems fitting a fighter. But Natsu's no doubt already learning there's all kinds out there. Her outfit may have been her training clothes back home, hardy appropriate for actual field operations, but as a fighting costume, it certainly gets her noticed... which helps with getting into these things in the first place!
A look of concern is cast over the tall student, "Are you all right? You seem troubled," she offers thoughtfully. A sanctuary like this, so far from the cares of the city, is no place to bring one's concerns, she thinks to herself.
Money was never the primary driver for Natsu. It certainly doesn't -hurt-, of course, but with her parents insisting that the young woman save for college, it's hard for her to get too excited about the temporary allure of reward money. Not to mention that, tonight at least, Natsu's not in it for the money. Or the fame. Or the glory.
As Kasumi announces herself, Natsu starts visibly. It's clear that even though her eyes had passed over Kasumi, the Gorin volleyball player hadn't noticed her at all -- so lost in her thoughts was she. "... Hello." answers Natsu, first meeting Kasumi's eyes with her own, then flicking a glance down to the young woman's attire. The glance only lasts a moment, though -- long enough for Natsu to feel just a little self-conscious about her last-minute decision to wear this particular outfit, better suited for a wrestling match than something that's intended to be televised. Indeed, she doesn't even seem like she -should- be fighting, nicks and cuts from the previous night all along her upper arms, and a slight discoloration just over her left eye. Her hands and forearms are bandaged up as well, though this seems to be more of a customary fighting thing than any particular nod to injury, much like the elbow pads and kneepads.
Is she all right? Does she seem troubled? If anyone from Gorin had asked her, the impulse would be to fire back an angry retort. There... she's comfortable, and her occasional hotheaded bursts might be tolerated. But with Kasumi's honest, genuine look of concern, coupled with the fact that she might be giving her opponent too much ammunition, Natsu... finds herself giving a slow, deliberate nod. Her slight frown verifies that, yes, she's troubled, but perhaps not due to anything Kasumi's done or said.
Drawing in a long breath, she wills a smile, despite herself. "I'll be fine. Sorry for the wait," she adds in an afterthought, setting her gym bag down near the bridge. She unzips it -- four volleyballs are at the ready, but she doesn't remove them. Yet.
Turning back to Kasumi, she offers a formal bow. "Natsu Ayuhara, it's a pleasure to meet you." And then her elbows fall low, with her hands even with lowered shoulders. It's not a common stance, but it appears she's ready for the match that's been promised to her by the fight organizers. "I'm still... rather new to this, but please don't hold back on my account." Her eyes focus steadily on the Mugen-Tenshin mistress,
COMBATSYS: Natsu has started a fight here.
COMBATSYS: Natsu focuses on her next action.
"If I had to wait anywhere," the girl muses thoughtfully, "I think here would do nicely. So no need to apologize." She turns then to take a few steps away. She hasn't put back on her blue footwear or shin guards since discarding them earlier. For the smooth wooden floor, her stocking-clad feet will do fine. The air is crisp but not to the point of being cold, the snow from the blizzard of the week before having already melted away, probably contributing to a sligthtly swollen stream outside. Birds chirping in the trees outside can be heard even hear as another cool draft blows through the wooden structure.
If this building hadn't been dedicated to the express purpose of the pursuit of martial arts, it would seem almost sacrilege to fight in this idyllic sanctuary. But to fight is one of its many purposes and it would be remiss to not notice that fixed into the wooden rafters above are a number of cameras and mics. Their conversations are being recorded every bit as much as their actions to come. There seems to be no officals or stage crew on hand though. It seems the League was looking to have a very quiet, remote match between the two participants.
"I understand," she replies when Natsu says she is new to this. Hands press together, palm over fist, as she offers a bow in response to Natsu's. Her mouth curls into a supportive smile. "We all have to start somewhere." There is a certain sentimental edge to her voice, a distance in her eyes, as if the thought of starting one's career as a fighter has brought back certain memories she was unprepared for. "Then let us begin."
The statement is punctuated by a backflip, the girl landing in a ready stance, arms raised, bent at the elbows, feet apart far enough for her to lean forward slightly, giving her an even smaller profile than her shorter stature would suggest. Her expression by the time she comes out of the flip is serious. There is no hostility or aggression to be found there, but a certain intensity resides. Ayuhara is in for a fight no matter what.
"I am Kasumi of-" her voice cuts off and there is that look again. "The pleasure is all mine. Prepare yourself."
When she moves it is with a sprint. She isn't going the fastest she is capable of, but there is no denying the clip. The only clue about the trajectory of her strike is the way she leans forward over her right leg in the last step before attacking, dipping low, drawing her left hand back then stabbing forward, her fingers extended straight, in a knife-handed strike for Natsu's stomach. Her right snaps forward just as fast an instant later, this targeting the base of the girl's throat - right at the top of the sternum. The third hit would come as Kasumi leaned left again, twisting into one final elblow targeting center of mass. "KYA!"
COMBATSYS: Kasumi has joined the fight here.
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Kasumi 0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 Natsu
COMBATSYS: Natsu blocks Kasumi's Medium Punch.
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Kasumi 0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0 Natsu
Natsu can agree with the sentiment that this is a very, -very- nice place to wait. She didn't ever understand why martial artists fought in such tranquil places in the movies -- heck, she'd thought that was all due to budget. But now she can see that movies were mirroring reality here. Something she'll have to consider... later. When the cameras aren't watching, and the microphones aren't recording.
The Gorin athlete does quirk an eyebrow at the curious shift in pitch -- not entirely sure how to take that. Condescension? ... That can't be it, she ponders, but as the volleyball player is starting to acclimate to fighting, there's a whole slew of emotions to fight back. It is just concern, she decides -- a thought verified as she sees Kasumi shift from warm concern to chill intensity. Almost imperceptibly, Natsu's muscles tense -- not unlike the anxiety she feels when her match opponents reaching for the volleyball. The recognition of that similarity brings the slightest of smiles to her face.
Her opponent's self-introduction does give her pause. ... Maybe her opponent is less focused after all? Hard to tell. "Okay, " she says -- not really sure if she -should- be saying anything in rejoinder.
Natsu's increased focus allows her to recognize the tell that Kasumi had given to her intent -- and Ayuhara's able to respond to that, snapping her arms low in a cross formation to dull the impact of the knife-handed strike. Swaying with the movement, she takes a step backward, bringing her sternum just outside of the way of the strike at her throat.
But the elbow that follows... well, Natsu can't read ahead -that- far. Luckily her muscle tone covers for her in some regard -- some good comes from spiking volleyballs for years, after all!
Thus far her opponent hasn't pulled out any knives or blades -- that's a relief. She decides to push back against the onslaught, driving her elbow towards Kasumi, and then stepping forward into a straight, forceful punch, exhaling a shallow breath with each swing. Should she manage that, she'd twist around to deliver a waist-level kick, aimed at clearing some space between her and her opponent. "Haa!"
COMBATSYS: Natsu successfully hits Kasumi with Medium Kick.
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Kasumi 0/-------/------=|=------\-------\0 Natsu
Natsu's defense proves to be firm against the opening attack of the Runaway Kunoichi. Kasumi's hands are swift, precise, but Natsu's reactions are just in time - but for the last hit that slips through, connecting at only a fraction of the intended damage... Then it's her chance to respond in turn. And in this moment, the Gorin High athletic star will discover just what kind of speeds she is up against from this quiet opponent of hers.
The elbow is avoided with a lean which then launches into a flip up and over the straight punch, Kasumi diving back down toward the ground with the intent to land in a hand stand and spring off back into an attack. That's right when Natsu's sweeping kick grazes the girl, however, knocking her back due to her being airborn that exact instant. What might have ended up catastrophy for some is just a minor setback, however, as aside from the soft grunt as her side gets hit by the impact, as the Shinobi in Blue recovers into a one handed cartwheel a meter back from where she had intended, finally landing on her feet in a half crouch. The ache in her side will pass.
"Good," she observes before launching forward again, stocking'd feet moving silently over the wooden floor as if she wasn't making contact with it at all. At first it seems her intent is the same last time, leaning forward, left arm snapping back - is she going to attempt the same combo? To defend low in that instant would be a mistake, however, as Kasumi pushes up with her leading foot and launches that knife-handed strike straight for Natsu's left upper arm, aiming to connect with enough force to delay further defenses. Another strike targets Natsu's right upper arm, possibly with the same intent. "Ya- YA!"
It's the elbow that follows toward her stomach she need worry about, however. Or the full bodied twist as Kasumi springs off her left foot, pirouettes into a short hop, then comes landing low, right leg sweeping out toward Natsu's ankles with the intent to take the taller girl clean off her feet. It's a dizzyingly fast combo as the ninja begins to apply escalating pressure. "KYA!"
COMBATSYS: Natsu interrupts Medium Kick from Kasumi with Set and Spike.
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Kasumi 0/-------/---====|===----\-------\0 Natsu
Kasumi's fast, Natsu can tell that much. Of her three attacks, she expected to connect with her kick least of all, but apparently practicing katas she'd gleaned from Sakura's favorite video archive site seems to have paid off. At least... partially. Though Natsu does find herself squinting at Kasumi's numerous cartwheels and flips. Natsu had considered herself agile, but even -watching- Kasumi makes the tall girl feel a little tired.
Ayuhara smiles faintly at the compliment, a slight tinge of red creeping onto her cheeks. "Maybe, but I've still got a long way to go," she concedes, settling into her guarded stance as Kasumi readies for a second assault.
Natsu knows from her numerous volleyball matches that the surest way to setup a spike is to make the opponent -think- you're betraying a slight favor towards one side, when in actuality you're misdirecting their attention, creating an opening for a dramatic shift of focus. So when Kasumi opens with what -seems- to be the same attack, Natsu assumes it's the same kind of conditioning.
And in a sense, plays along anyway. Her sneakers, not quite as silent as Kasumi's stockings, squeak as she steps backwards, causing the knife-handed strikes landing on her upper arms to lack some of their intended force. The elbow... well, Natsu's not -as- ready for that, but she's able to lower her forearm to accept the blow there. But when Kasumi hops, Natsu's made a point of diving to the side, as if returning a hard spike to front court.
When Kasumi's kick completes, though, Natsu's already turned about to face her, the sudden motion announced by a rather -loud- squeal of her sneakers. It won't come as much of a surprise as the followup though, as Natsu drives her palms and fingertips forward at Kasumi. It'd be enough to save a volleyball from bouncing off the floor, and it'll be enough to launch her opponent upwards into the air. "Hup!" Ayuhara follows up, scything downward with an overhanded spike. "Ikeeeeeei!" She may not know about those fancy pressure points or true martial arts techniques, but she knows what works on the court!
There is some surprise when her sweeping foot slices cleaning through the air, the girl not having expected the swift escape on her opponents part. Already committed, she can't figure out the intended counter attack in time to do anything about it. Which is why as she's spinning around out of it, she's easily caught by the fiercely slammed palm press, eyes widening in surprise. "Wha-!" She's airborn an instant later, already turning around in the process, kicking her feet up. The intent is clear in an instant, she plans to land against the rafter above and take control of her trajectory.
Fortunately for Natsu, she's got two strikes lined up for the agile kunoichi and the spike drives her against the wooden floor faster than she can correct for. The landing has her thudding shoulder first against the oak with enough force to cause it to creak. She's scrambling even as the breath is knocked from her, however, sliding up to her feet and fingers before she even comes to a stop. A soft breath escapes her lips, followed by a smile. "I admit, I am unfamiliar with your style." There's always something new to learn in this world, new techniques, new arts, new powers... best she discover them here in the safety of a sanctioned fight than in the field against a deadly foe.
"But whoever is responsible for your skill-"
She becomes a blur of blue and white, surging at Natsu now, from stationary to impossibly fast in an instant.
"You must be making them proud."
The exchange is too fast for even film to capture. A sweep of her hand, a pull of Natsu's arm, and an elbow strike connecting with piston-like force as Kasumi seems to virtually blink right through the volley ball player, coming out into a power slide on the other side, pausing in a low crouch, arms extended for balance.
It might require a second for the girl to even realize she was struck in the exchange - an elbow blow directly into her stomach after her own defense was pulled aside.
Or she might escape it all together, leaving the shinobi to slide to a stop a bit off balance due to failure to connect!
COMBATSYS: Kasumi successfully hits Natsu with Oboro Gake.
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Kasumi 0/-------/-======|=======\-------\0 Natsu
Ayuhara has several years of volleyball experience, and just under a month of practical fighting experience. If it weren't due to her friends' coaxing, it's almost certain she wouldn't be here today -- and, as Kasumi acknowledges, it's a testament to her teachers that she'd even managed to lay a hand on the quick kunoichi. Sakura, Hinata, and her... volleyball teachers.
One such mentor, though... -she- is the real reason Natsu's here. And the words of Kasumi resonate a bit more loudly than intended with Natsu, the corners of her lips pulling slightly down, rather than up, at the words. Natsu was selfish -- she didn't come here just to fight. She came to escape, to try and forget.
Self-doubt is powerful, it leads to indecision. And against someone of Kasumi's caliber, indecision can be fatal. That's not to say that indecision was what caused Natsu's guard to fail -- far from it. Natsu had no idea that the Kasumi's intended vector of travel would be -through- her. How could she? She'd expected to turn and meet the Mugen Tenshin mistress, just like she had before -- but without the tell, without the guideposts she'd been following before, Natsu is left with her guard down. And crumples soon thereafter from a sudden blow delivered squarely to the stomach.
Dropping to one knee, Natsu curls one hand around herself. One eye screws shut from the pain, the other barely able to keep focus. She'd been hit hard last night... but not -this- hard, and even then she'd had time to brace herself. This... well. At least it's not cuts.
But the battle's not over, not yet. "You're... too kind," she allows. Natsu dives to the side, rolling closer to her gym bag. Arm still curled about her, it looks like she's simply going to rise to her feet... until her arm snakes into the bag and whips out a volleyball. "If I could move as fast as you..." she starts, leaping not only back to her feet, but a few feet into the air. She hovers for just a moment, fiery chi erupting from her hand as she rears back for a spike, "... I might actually have a chance!"
And with one mighty slam, Natsu connects with the volleyball, waves of chi flames washing over the ball and enveloping it as it hurtles towards Kasumi. It's probably safe to assume that Kasumi's attack seems to have awakened a flame inside Natsu, a call for her to raise the bar. Just a bit.
COMBATSYS: Kasumi full-parries Natsu's Blazing Serve!!
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Kasumi 1/-------/=======|====---\-------\0 Natsu
Recovering from such an incredibely fast dash takes a moment which is why connecting with her signiture technique is so critical. But Kasumi gets that chance, pushing up and spinning around lightly, landing on her feet softly, hands already raised to a ready position to defend herself. After the Athletic Star's promising strikes thus far, the Banished Kunochi isn't about to drop her guard for even an instant against her. That she attacked with her Oboro Gake was the proof that she was giving Natsu her full force now.
"Speed..." Kasumi considers softly. She isn't closing the gap as young Ayuhara goes for the gym bag even if the girl can't possibly guess as to what purpose it is even intended to serve. "Is not the deciding factor for every fighter."
She winds up then, tensing, torso turned to the side, arms following, holding her tensed pose as her brown eyes stay focused on the tall challenger. "Everyone has to find their own strength." she considers. "And pursue it with all their heart."
Her eyes stay focused on the Rising Star of Gorin High's Volley Ball dreams as she produces a volley ball. A blink of realization crosses the ninja's features. So that is the kernal of Natsu's unique style? The heart of an athlete being forged into a new, young fighter, just starting out on her path? A quiet smile comes to Kasumi's lips as she falls quiet and just waits, observing the skill, the expertise with which the girl launches into the air and brings to her call a surge of fiery chi with which to empower the ball. If she had any idea just how advanced that ability of hers is, Kasumi muses... she might better understand her potential.
But that is for another time.
When the ball is spiked with thunderous power, Kasumi unwinds, twisting on herself up onto her left toe-
And finishes untwisting adjacent to Natsu's trajectory amid a swirl of pink cherry blossoms. The empowered volleyball smashes into the oaken floor amid its own cloud of sakura petals that are sent flying as a result.
With such instant movement, such close proximity, Natsu is in peril as Kasumi reaches out with her hands, seeking to get a firm grip on the taller girl. If she manages to get hold, she'll flip up into a series of rapid, small distant stomping kicks up the length of the Volley Ball ace's tall body before Natsu even manages to hit the ground from her incredible spike. "YA, YA, YA!"
COMBATSYS: Kasumi successfully hits Natsu with Tenro Kyaku EX.
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Kasumi 1/-----==/=======|=======\=------\1 Natsu
Speed... isn't the answer? Ayuhara can understand what Kasumi is saying, but the fact remains that the gulf between the two is great. Speed is the most obvious difference, by far... but also skill, precision, and power. Natsu doesn't consider herself weak, or slow -- but rather, that Kasumi is demonstrably -better-. And that Natsu is in fact striving to do exactly as Kasumi had suggested, to find her own strength.
Speed... is probably not that strength. Natsu is fleet-footed when it comes to intercepting a volleyball, but reacting after one is launched? That's a different story. Natsu's eyes cross as Kasumi defies Euclidean physics by folding into herself -- a split-second too late, she realizes exactly what that entails as she finds herself gripped by Kasumi and then stomped in rapid succession.
By the time her volleyball -- its fire now snuffed -- hits the floor a second time, Natsu's shoulderblades impact the floor at roughly the same time. Her forehead knits tightly at the hard landing, as she winces visibly and skids for a slight distance, owing to the fine finish on the wooden platform. But it's not long before she rolls onto her side, momentarily turning her back to Kasumi as she presses her palms to the floor, throwing herself back to her feet.
Rather than exhibiting the pain she must surely be feeling, or perhaps disappointment, or exertion... Kasumi is likely to find a certain exhilaration in Natsu's features. "I suppose that's why I'm here, yes!" Renewed focus, and a tight-lipped smile, as if Natsu's decided to stop exhaling and just keep her power welled up inside her until she sees fit to unleash it.
Which would be... right about now, as Natsu dives into a long tumble forward, hoping to make up the ground lost from her fall. She assumes Kasumi will still be there -- which may be a mistake on her part considering Kasumi's speed, but Natsu hopes that her rekindled connection with the ebb and flow of chi may allow her to sense and respond to that which she cannot see.
And, with any luck, plant two hands right into Kasumi's midsection, and treat -her- like the volleyball again. "ATTACKU!"
COMBATSYS: Kasumi instinctively blocks Natsu's Sliding Receive.
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Kasumi 1/----===/=======|=======\==-----\1 Natsu
The faint scent of cherry blossoms linger in the air as the petals settle along the floor. Where they even come from is a mystery for they appear to be quite real. Kasumi backflips from her final stomping kick to drop to the dojo floor softly, arms out at her sides, head bowed for a moment as she catches herself. Her head snaps up, eyes darting over to where Natsu has landed hard and come to a stop, and the Azure-clad Shinobi remains stationary. When the fight is over, it is over. She is no saddist. But she also intends to win and the girl has earned her best for as long as she can continue.
Her own back is to one of the wooden support beams keeping the roof sturdy up above and her focus remains on every move Natsu makes. Until she speaks, her tone having shifted. The kunoichi cannot help but to smile back at such enthusiasm.
"I'm so glad."
The statement bears no sarcasm, no deception, just simple, heartfelt happiness that the Gorin High star has come to that realization now. "You have... phenomenal potential."
Pushing up to her feet next, she is ready. She doesn't move this time, merely lifting her hands, sliding her feet into position, resuming her ready stance from before. She's braced herself for the incoming attack, readying for whatever angle it might take, feet flat against the oaken floor. When the impact comes, it is not felt lightly, but her guard is already there, her knees bent exactly as needed, prepared for the two handed strike as if she knew that was exactly what Natsu was going to do. Has she deciphered her style to that degree, falling back on instincts to lead the way through the common mechanics of martial arts she has been exposed to? Her feet slip along the floor until her lower back hits the support column.
This is a dangerous moment for the athlete, however. Her hands extended, her forward momentum, and Kasumi's back to the very beam she intends to deliver Natsu to an instant later, just as the Exile had planned. Both hands twist from blocking to attempting to grip the wrists of the other girl before pulling her forward hard, arm, leg, back muscles dedicated to the task of hurling Natsu forward off her feet as Kasumi slips around her and attempts to /slam/ her forward against the beam. "HAH!"
If she succeeds, she'll finish with a sweeping kick to the back of the much taller girl's ankles, attempting to drop her to the floor for a decisive finish to the match. Or so the plan goes!
COMBATSYS: Kasumi successfully hits Natsu with Kasumi Kyoka.
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Kasumi 1/-======/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2 Natsu
Natsu doesn't expect to emerge into the fighting scene with her potential fully-realized. It didn't happen that way with volleyball, though she definitely had a darn good head start there. But... she feels pleased at the showing she's managing here, if not completely confident that she can win. She doesn't -have- to win, she realizes, so long as she can become attuned to the ebb and flow of battle. It's not something that she can learn from whaling on a practice dummy, or even from her sport of choice -- she can only master true combat talent right here. Right now.
And Natsu always has learned better when she challenged daunting odds. A smile is offered to the honest compliment from Kasumi -- no longer does she harbor any illusions that Kasumi is condescending to her. No, Ayuhara can tell, they're on the same wavelength.
Well, aside from the part where Natsu would liked to have contacted Kasumi, instead of the post. For one brief instant Natsu's face is practically flattened against the post, before the rigid bone of her skull flexes just so, sending her ricocheting backwards. It smarts, a bit moreso than the rest of her upper torso which had met a similar fate, but the honest effort of the fight has pulled the Gorin athlete through the mires of her self-doubt into a much more optimistic mindset. Even as her body aches from said effort.
She doesn't have much time to stage a counterattack, though -- staggering backwards from the sudden intervention of the post, Natsu finds her legs swept out from under her. Knocked to the floor, Ayuhara softens the blow by opting to land on her shoulder instead -- still wounded by cuts and scratches, not to mention Kasumi's earlier knife-handed strikes, it's not the -best- thing she could have done, but it does leave her in the position to draw her knees up to her chest.
And then power kick sideways at Kasumi in a last-ditch attempt to knock Kasumi over, thus returning the favor. Wincing in pain, her arm once more curled about her stomach, Natsu doesn't think she can manage a whole lot more than that -- but she'd be damned if she'd given any less!
COMBATSYS: Natsu can no longer fight.
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COMBATSYS: Kasumi blocks Natsu's Fierce Kick.
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For all her flash, all her flipping around, all her tricks, it might become clear that there is a certain... ruthless efficiency to the shinobi's techniques. All of those movements aren't for showing off, they are for accomplishing specific, necessary goals, each a small step on the path to victory in a fight. Where she stood, where she paused, where she slipped to in the blink of an eye was all part of adept process of reaching the larger goal of victory.
In that moment, when she has her chance, she choses to sweep Natsu's legs because she believes that she has pushed the girl beyond her limits to fight any further. And, to some degree, she's right. But even now, pushed past the point of where she should be no longer able to push her body into action any further, the girl demonstrates guts and tenacy in striking back with a fierce attack.
Still close at her side, Kasumi is forced to go on the defensive, arms raised, the girl turtling the strong kick as best she can - eager to feel the strength of Natsu's resolve one last time this encounter. Feet slip backward before coming to a stop and the girl lowers her arms and begins rubbing her forearms with her hands. There will definitely be some bruises from this exchange!
Glancing up at her fallen opponent, Kasumi nods her head once. "Thank you. Natsu Ayuhara. I will remember our fight together here." A bow of her head is offered, hands dropping to her sides, "I wish I could stay..." She's slipping back toward the porch over the sand garden where she left her sandals and shin guards. With the fight being broadcast live, it would not be wrong to think that someone is already on their way. Fortunately, remote as it is, it will take SOME time to get here, ninja sprinting or no.
"I wish you well." Her hand drops to heft a small backpack she had worn on her trip here - her day clothes better suited for not standing out like, well, a /ninja/. "Good luck in your journey."
She turns toward the sand garden and pauses, copper eyes tracing over it in the last moment of quiet contemplation she allows herself. When she moves again, it is to turn, vanishing in on herself once again in a blend of skill and illusion, a parting wake of sakura petals left to swirl to the dojo floor in her absence.
COMBATSYS: Kasumi has ended the fight here.
Log created on 19:09:40 11/25/2014 by Kasumi, and last modified on 00:35:28 11/26/2014.