Kasumi - Guarded - A Vengeful Soul in Need

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Description: Relentlessly, he seeks any who can lead him closer to the Lin Kuei. His unlikely pause in a village not found on any map puts him in the company of one willing to help in his crusade.

His name was Hanzo Hasashi, and he was once a man. Or, he was still a man, but he wasn't the man he used to be. Or, he was still who he was, but he was something worse than a man? It was confusing for the spectre who named himself Scorpion, but he still had the memories of who he once was. And those memories, he clung to.

Right now, he was kneeling just past the torii, in front of the shrine that had been set up here long ago. Incense was lit, and the figure was almost unassuming if not for the striking black and yellow coloring of his uniform, if not for the sword across his back, if not for his face being hidden. Whoever this man was, he was clearly a ninja. And considering the look of him, his specialty clearly wasn't infiltration or seduction.

If one were to get close enough, one would hear muttered Japanese, and they were prayers. He didn't just pray once, but start another immediately after ending one, it seemed whoever the man was, he had a lot to get off of his chest. And some of the prayers were...a bit older than the commonly accepted techniques. But for the recently returned ninja, it couldn't be helped that he was a little out of date in some regards.

The forests around Southtown hold many secrets. Shrines long forgotten, sacred caves filled with artifacts from bygone ages, and even entire villages lost to the ages. It is remarkable how one need only venture a handful of miles into the thick woods of the region to discover such hidden relics. Of course, to some societies, these locations are no secret. For some organizations, enigmas are more than a curiosity, they are a way of life. Even though an exile, Kasumi of the Mugen Tenshin still a mental layout of the lands of the region. Villages not meant to be found were not so lost to her.

Hunted, living a life on the run, over the last several months she has never dwelt in a single location for any major length of time. Every time she starts to get comfortable, a hint of those who will not relent in their pursuit of her will trigger her senses and force her once again to re-locate, always striving to stay one step ahead of one of the most gifted assassins in the world - her very own half-sister.

In recent weeks, the royal exile has inhabited a lone tent in this reclusive village deep within the forest. The villagers were accepting of the comely ninja and while she never told them of her background, those gifted with perception in the remnants of an ancient tribe were able to detect that she was no ordinary lost girl. Helping out with menial tasks was a great way to pass the time as well as pull her weight - sweeping, cleaning, cooking, the strawberry-blonde as eager to do whatever she could to help those kindly giving her shelter. Of course, she knew that this, like every other habitat she had found since fleeing the Tenshin Mugen, would not last. But in the meantime... why not enjoy the dream of a peaceful life?

Pacifists themselves, not trained in anything more dangerous than the ability to hunt game in the surrounding woods, the villagers were not ones to be confrontational or pick a fight. When the mysterious stranger arrived in the garb that clearly identified him as a ninja, none would bar his way. Any who he noticed would have retreated to their tents and huts, wary, suspicious glances cast his way but nothing more.

Still, they wanted to know who he was - what clan did he hail from, what was he doing here, atop their sacred Temple to the Sky? Desiring to avoid direct conflict themselves, a few minutes ago the aged leader of the cloistered tribe approached their own resident ninja to be their face.

Thus it is that Kasumi approaches from behind, her steps soft, but not quite silent - she was hardly trying to ambush the unknown figure after all. The delicate looking exiled princess is dressed in a rich azure yukata - a traditional Japanese robe for women, its fabric embroidered with gorgeous floral patterns, the sleeves draping over her arms, and the obi belt around her waist tied into a large bow behind her back. The clothing is fitted loosely about her figure as to not restrict movement while still serving to conceal her from neck to ankle.

As she passes beneath the torii, she pauses to bow her head per time honored tradition, before looking up again at the back of the hooded, kneeling wanderer.

"Excuse me, stranger..." She glances behind her to notice one of the villagers peeking out of a nearby tent to watch the exchange take place before ducking back inside to hide from sight. Smiling slightly, she looks back toward the one she was asked to investigate, her tone polite.

"May I inquire as to how it is you came across this location... I am afraid the people here... they are not used to visitors." She pauses, studying him for a moment longer, eyes tracing over the weapons of his trade. "Especially... ones so well armed as yourself."

In the sky, the sun was just now close to setting, so it would be appropriate that this figure would appear. His uniform was made of simple yellow cloth with the black of his uniform being made from some sort of treated animal hide dyed black. The yellow fabric quilted and made to provide a little padding against impacts and blades, while the sword on his back was short and compact, designed for quick killing when one was unaware, rather than a larger katana designed for dueling or defense. And attached to the back of his belt, lie a kunai bundled within thin brown rope.

On his hands and feet, the harder yellow shinguards and the black fingerless gauntlets covering his arms looked to be made from a form of wood with leather coverings, but it would only be noticeable if one were to really study the material. His arms were bare and his musculature revealed easily enough, his skin slightly tanned from years spent in the sun.

When the figure stood, he did so swiftly, making no sound and turning all in one swift, clear motion. Here, his head was covered by a modest black hood, and from the bridge of his nose down, his face was covered by a yellow mask. Such a thick material looked like it should make breathing nearly impossible, but the figure seemed to be able to handle such a disguise without any complaint. In fact, was he even breathing? If he was, it was faint. His eyebrows were thick black and severe, seemingly permanently furrowed, and his eyes...his eyes were pure milk white, no pupils or irises anywhere to be found. He seemed to be regarding her, looking the disguised fighter up and down even as he started pacing, walking around her and gradually, slowly, patiently closing the distance.

"If you're asking my intentions for this village, I have none. If you're asking for my word that I will not slaughter it to a man, I give my word. If you're asking of my personal affairs, that is none of your concern, lady."

After speaking, he continued pacing and walking around her in silence, watching her movements and generally regarding her. There was something about the figure that gave off a feeling of unease and tension. This person was not natural, and it was impossible for the aura-sensitive not to feel his immense anger and rage pouring off of him in rage. He spoke again, this time more forcefully.

"You move far too well for a simple village girl. Tell me what you know of the Lin Kuei, kunoichi. Maybe then I will share my reasons for being here."

Somewhere in there was an accusation. And somewhere wrapped up in that accusation was a threat. Which held more weight, and which was there to support the other?

As the ninja drew closer, it would be easy to see one detail, glimmering on his left hand. Even in the dimming light of the sun, it was easy to see the golden glint of a plain band around his ring finger. It almost looked out of place, considering the rest of him, but there it was.

As he turns to face the trusted village representative, he would find the girl's hands folded over each other in front of her lap, having not moved them from when she initially bowed her head a moment ago. Her long hair is done up in into a ponytail anchored at the back top of her head and tied off by a long, broad azure ribbon that matches her yukata. The ponytail rests over her shoulder, having flopped there when she bowed. Her eyes are doe brown, soft, seemingly gentle at first glance, but better perception would detect just how sharp her powers of observation were, taking in every detail of the wanderer.

There are immediate clues that the praying visitor is not natural - it is not unusual for a ninja to move silently, but he seems to be doing so without any concerted effort, as if the world around him was only vaguely aware of his shrouded presence. It takes her a while to realize that the telltale sign of breathing is absent beneath his padded light armor. And then when he turns - it is a human face that greets her, only partially concealed. But those eyes... is he blind? His focus is on her, but it is not unheard of for Masters of Ninjutsu to compensate for the lack of sight and be every bit as dangerous as those who still possess their vision. While he seems to be looking at her, she cannot be for certain that he can actually see.

She remains calm, hands still over each other, head turning to watch him as he paces, his path bringing him closer, little by little. But for as outwardly calm as she may appear to a common person, he would see better - the tension, the readiness just beneath the surface. Her style of dress pegs her as an innocent, a villager unequipped and unskilled in the way of combat - but beneath the surface is a readiness that cannot be ignored, a poise born of a life of difficult, arduous training.

Only when his path takes him beyond her ability to keep him in sight does she move, left foot circling around behind so that she also withdraws a half-step while reorienting herself to face him directly once more as he utters his words. His voice is calm, almost distant in a way, and seems almost detached from the broiling emotions rippling beneath his own composed, outward appearance.

He assures her the village will see no harm and there is a slight nod of acknowledgement, a single blink of her tender eyes to suggest that she accepts his word as an oath not to be broken lightly. "These people are not warriors..." she speaks softly - her voice is controlled, bearing confidence and a certain hint of royal pride. She may be an exile, but she was born a ninja princess, and try as she might to hide it, her background oft times slips through. "We are grateful for your benevolence." There is not even the slightest hint of sarcasm as Kasumi voices the heartfelt wishes for peaceful resolution by those she was asked to represent.

He denies her knowledge of his own motives beyond his assurance of the villagers' safety and Kasumi only blinks once in response, revealing neither frustration nor exactly acceptance at his lack of explanation.

But then he reveals his own keen eye, seeing through her own bluff with those opaque eyes of his, and still she seems not to react, her expression the same warm smile as when he first observed the emissary. But once again, beneath the surface, that prick of tension - he knows she is kunoichi - does he know who she is? Why she is hiding among these people? That her own clan would slay her on sight?

The last rays of sunlight catch the band on his finger, her eyes flicking to it then back to his masked face. "The Forest Demons," she states, translating the Chinese clan name to Japanese. As a potential heir of rule over the Mugen Tenshin prior to her exile, she had been educated until she was well versed in all the clan knowledge about other clans and factions around the world. There were few she would not be able to speak of if inclined.

"It is poor form to demand that I break the code of the shadows and reveal another clan's secrets to a stranger," the young Shinobi in Blue speaks softly, her eyes lowering slightly at the impasse between them. Another art of leadership is diplomacy, she shouldn't shut the subtly demanded inquiry so quickly. "If I understood better what clan would benefit from my knowledge, then... perhaps I could better judge whether I should divulge it." Eyes flick back up, her smile has faded now. There is pride in her posture, her voice - she is not one to take demands lightly.

The whole time he's watching the girl, patiently stalking and appraising this other, taking in her regal bearing and the pride in her voice. But while she had pride and was unwavering, she did not carry the haughty aggressiveness that he'd encountered earlier, in the priestess who had attacked him. This one did not demand answers from him, but rather requested them. And despite the supernatural nature of the figure, his eyes still widened in surprise, when she revealed that what she knew. The surprise only happened for a fraction of an instant, but it would be long enough for the young kunoichi to notice, given how perceptive she seemed to be. He looked around, noticing the faces peeking out of their homes, and turned back to Kasumi, stepping forward in those black tabi shoes of his.

What happened next would be hard to describe, given that the untrained human mind would try to reject the sight: One moment the ninja in yellow was facing the beautiful young girl and stepping toward her. The very next instant he was behind her, close enough to put that sword clean through her back, if he'd so wanted. Lucky for her he only wanted to talk, and he spoke with that deceptively calm voice of his, soft but rigid all at the same time.

"Our words should not be overheard by them. If you wish to speak to me, warrior, we will do so where we won't be disturbed."

By the time he spoke his words, he'd already be gone, using agility and speed that was almost frightening when utilized by a man as big as him. It was no surprise that he was heading to the top of the Sky Temple itself, traveling up it with a confidence and a stride that would be tough for a normal person. Since it was clear what she was and where she came from, he clearly didn't expect this to be a difficult journey for the girl at all. If she indeed met him at the top, his arms would be folded, and his back would be facing her as he spoke.

"I think I've been here before. That tree wasn't there before. And that one hadn't been split by lightning."

Was he talking to her? Or musing to himself?

How long has he sought information on the infamous Lin Kuei? Why does this man who moves with all the sound of a ethereal ghost ask after them? He steps forward and she starts to withdraw. She had seen that hint of astonishment at her answer and did not know what to expect as his response. Was he one of the fearsome Lin Kuei, renown for their ruthlessness under contract? Was he tasked with snuffing out the life of any who were even aware that they existed? The young shinobi starts to draw up her hands, no longer keeping them calmly folded over her lap, when he is already behind her.

Kasumi freezes, her hands still just partially raised, her right having already been in the motion of reaching backward for something as if on reflex. There is no piercing steel, no tip pressed against her back in warning, but her mouth is slightly agape - how few in the world could move so fast that she couldn't track them? Briefly paralyzed in surprise, she makes no threatening movement. However, now that he is behind her, he would discover that she had not approached him as unarmed as she had initially appeared. Mostly hidden in the large bow of the wide obi-belt around her waist is a sheathed kodachi of exquisite quality if one were to judge by the visible pommel alone.

His words whispered through that mask, the Mugen Tenshin exile whirls around to find him no longer there, her right hand already at her back, now resting on the handle of her prized weapon. Relaxing slightly, she stands up straight, lowering her hand to her side as she looks to the side to observe his ascent up the tall structure. Quietly, she looks toward the now startled villagers, bringing a faint smile back to her lips as she gives them a slight nod as if to assure them that she will be okay.

Inhaling then exhaling as of to release the tension she was feeling, the shinobi prodigy turns to enter the Sky Temple as well. Her pace is calm, her thoughts whirling. While he had not been hostile in his moment of opportunity, there was no denying the unsettling nature of his presence. While hardly an empath, she couldn't help but feel that beneath his calm exterior a Hellforge of anger burned bright, eager to consume given the slightest provocation.

She is there behind him in due course, hands once again folded over each other beneath her long, cerulean sleeves of expensive fabric. Of course, now he knows she is armed, and he has already deduced that she is hardly a normal villager but rather a wayward warrior out of place amongst such a peaceful society.

She doesn't respond to his words, glancing at the trees referenced by the enigma in black. "I am afraid the history of this place is unfamiliar to me. I am only a traveler myself, hoping to help however I can before my journey takes me elsewhere."

The statement made, Kasumi falls quiet. She keeps her distance, some two meters - close enough to hear and easily be heard, but not so close as to be within melee range. She appears to have a newfound respect for the ability of this visitor's ability to move instantly.

He turned his head slightly, just enough to signify that he was giving her words the respect and consideration that they deserved. After a moment he turned his entire body so that he could turn his direction fully toward her, regarding her with those unblinking orbs of his.

"Someone of your capabilities, living out the rest of her days in a hidden village? Growing old and marrying a woodcutter?" Somehow, just a little hint of humor bled through that frightening exterior, but all too quickly it was snuffed out. "I knew you were a traveler, not destined for a place like this."

He turned and bending stiffly at the waist, he gave her a formal bow. Although, he kept his head up at all times, watching her intently. Of course someone of his profession would never fully trust another, not for anything.

"My name is Hasashi Hanzo, of the Shirai Ryu Clan." The Shirai Ryu, a minor, minor clan that were thought to be extinct. It was certainly beyond bold and possibly approaching ludicrous to claim oneself to be a member, but the seriousness in his voice and behavior hinted that he was not lying. That, and the kunai at his back with the rope attached, that was known to be a signature technique of theirs.

"I am searching for a member of the Lin Kuei dogs. And while I have a great admiration to your honor and your adherance to the code, you will tell me everything you know about them. It is far better to have my gratitude."

Another threat, and this time at the very end his voice cracked just a little, his mask of self control slipping and rage revealing itself at the mere mention of the Lin Kuei. All around them, the sun and moon were now up in the sky at the same time, one sinking while the other rose. From up high, the winds buffeted and blew harder, the clouds billowing. So why did the temperature feel like it was rising?

That mystery might be solved when looking at his hands. His right hand was slowly clenching into a fist, and from between the fingers, it might have been possible to see a dim orange glow, crackling heat even up here. That certainly wasn't a Shirai Ryu technique!

Her countenance bears a soft, persistent smile at his observation that she too was not at home within this peaceful place but she otherwise offers no further information concerning her own background. He would easily surmise that she was no low ranking ninja acolyte before her journey brought her here. Her bearing, and even the idea that she might know something of the Lin Kuei suggest privilege and even leadership within the shadow clans. Her hands stay folded in front of her, presenting an image of passive nonaggression. But isn't that the way of kunoichi interested in dropping the guard of others?

He offers his name; a respectable, traditional Japanese moniker. Few men bearing the name of Hanzo have failed to leave an impression on the history of the land. But when he claims his clan origins, he provokes a blink from the quiet shinobi. The idea is preposterous. The stories of the complete annihilation of the clan are not unknown to the nin-princess steeped in the history of countless rival dark societies. He bore the trademarks though... even the black and yellow is a sign of veracity, the tunic style and color established by the Shinrai Ryu by their leader...

He says he is looking for one of the Lin Kuei before issuing his demand once more. He gets no immediate response - he would detect it in her eyes, the process of thinking through what he had to say, his claim of membership among the ashes of the extinguished clan... the target of his seething animus revealed. "I have heard the stories." And indeed, they would be stories to her - when the bad blood between them ended with the extermination of an entire clan, she was but a child still.

She's tensing up, however, that defensiveness from before starting to slip back into place. "Of the massacre that befell the Shinrai Ryu..." She forces her breaths to stay controlled in spite the escalating anxiousness as she begins to draw conclusions about not who, but /what/ she is conversing with.

"But it is also widely known that the Lin Kuei are not only ruthless, but impeccable in finishing their objective..." She unfolds her hands, the wind whipping at her ponytail and causing her long sleeves to flap against her sides.

"There were no survivors of the Shirai Ryu... there couldn't have been. If even one soul had lived on beyond that day, they would have been hunted to the four corners of the globe until they finally joined their brothers in the grave."

The girl in blue becomes even more defensive. Is that why his eyes are those white, pupilless orbs? "Are you to tell me that you have evaded their reckoning for all these years?" She shakes her head slowly, eyes never leaving him now for even an instant.

"Either you are a fraud, or..." She swallows, attention flicking to the glow in his right fist, sensitive to the building heat between them, contrary to the dwindling sunlight.

"...Hasashi Hanzo... what are you?"

COMBATSYS: Scorpion has started a fight here.

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Scorpion         0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Kasumi has joined the fight here.

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Kasumi           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0         Scorpion

He offered a name, and he offered the truth. She calls what happened to him a -story-, and the ninja slowly straightens from that bow, locking eyes on her and not looking away. His hands were still at his sides, but his fists were firmly clenched as he listened to what this woman had to say to him. She doubts him, she cannot believe it, and while her nonassuming stance and disarming charisma might have been useful in diffusing dangerous situations, her words and the look on her face is having the opposite effect for the yellow and black-clad ninja. He takes half a step toward her, before his knees dropped down and he took a stance. His right hand was poised up top, his left was dropped low, ready to protect whatever she threw at him even as that right hand closed into a fist, ready to strike when he most needed to.

"What I am, is Shirai Ryu. My clan, MY VERY F...my very life was given to those I loved. And now I will not rest until the blood of every last Lin Kuei dog is spilled upon the earth. I will not ask you again, nukenin. What. Do you. Know?!"

There was something deeper underneath his voice, something horrible whispering while the man himself shouted loud enough to be heard over the turbulent night time winds around them. The tone in his voice implied that he was very quickly getting fed up with her lack of helpful information. And while it was clear he held some sort of respect for her, it seemed that would only take her so far. This...could be bad.

She could have perhaps bluffed - denied any knowledge of the infamous Chinese clan of savage assassins. But why presenting herself as something she is not falls within her skillset, the art of the silvery tongue of bold faced verbal deception has never been a strength of hers. Beneath her calm, reserved, and sometimes passive nature resided a pride that made it hard to reduce herself to open dishonesty; a trait that had cost her more than once in her escapades.

But that option is in the past. Now she is faced with denying his fierce demand for information or acquiescing to his command to divulge anything she knows. Again, the pride of her clan makes it hard to identify the most rational, self-preserving approach. While they have rejected her, hunted her as honor dictates, she has never rejected her roots. She is quiet but tense, finally reacting when he moves a step closer. She responds in turn, her arms at her sides lifting, fists closed as her right foot slips forward a little on the surface of the sacred temple.

His words reveal that she has incensed that temper nearly to the breaking point. Her mind races, trying to think of how to diffuse the situation while still saving face. His words - his passion... he can't possibly be lying. Those things WERE taken from him. But that means... is he dead? Perhaps if the Master Ninja, Ryu Hayabusa were here, he could answer that question with a single glance. But her experience with such things is but a shadow by comparison.

Maybe she can give him a little information, perhaps she can frame it in a way as to not hurt her pride - but then he calls her that word and she reacts as if already struck. The pain of nukenin, perhaps magnified because she knows full well that it is true however much she tries to live in belief that such an abhorrent appellation would not apply to her.

"I am Kasumi of the Mugen Tenshin. And we do not answer to the demands of an extinct clan!" she snaps back, thoughts of appeasement slipping away by the moment. There is a certain vehemence there that had not been present before. It seems the last of the Shirai Ryu managed to strike a nerve with the young exile as well. With tempers rising every bit as much as the heat atop the tall structure, Kasumi readies herself.

The lower half of her robe parts as she slides her right foot forward further, revealing that her flowery yukata is not as restrictive of her movements as it might have appeared at first. "Your threats are not welcome here!"

A forward surge of motion as the young shinobi finally plies her incredible speed in battle. It appears she will attack first, provoked perhaps, or fearing that the only resolution to this standoff will be violence.

She springs into a short hop from a meter and a half out, spanning the distance between them in nearly an instant. But if Scorpion were to guard high, he would be mistaken, as the kunoichi drops right back out of her hop without striking, only to land in a low crouch, hands slamming against the wooden surface to sweep her right foot out in a swift strike for his ankles.

There can be no doubt she intends to disable him fast and decisively, but the low sweep does bring with it a risk of retaliation if she is not quick enough to recover such an aggressive strike.

COMBATSYS: Scorpion blocks Kasumi's Medium Kick.

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Kasumi           0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0         Scorpion

Her reaction tells him that his deduction was true. There was a reason that one such as her would even be attempting to run or hide. Her controlled poise, good breeding and her very training, these things were not possessed by assassins or scouts.

Did he regret throwing out that barb? Perhaps once upon a time he'd have refrained. After all, were the Shiray Ryu not founded by similar circumstances? But he didn't have time to play by the old rules of formality and patience, he wanted the throat of his family's killers between his hands, so he could throttle the air from it, he didn't want to stop before his thumbs crushed cartiledge and

And now was not the time for reflecting on the future. Now he had an angry ninja rushing towards him with intent. She leapt into the air, leg lashing out from that strategically altered yukuta. Scorpion did not move, or flinch. His wisdom and experience paid off, as the second she dropped from that short flight his right leg flexed up on it's tippy toes, muscles tensing as that low kick met his hardened shinguard. The impact sent that familiar pang of pain through his nerves, but you'd never know it by looking at his reaction. That voice spoke out again, almost chiding the young kunoichi.

"Mugen Tenshin? A proud clan, they've clearly taught you well!"

He was speaking, and while he hopefully distracted her with his words, his kicked leg would circle around, outside the guard of her other leg(the one she was putting her weight against to power the kick), hopefully hooking behind her ankle. That would mean when he kicked up as if aiming for a soccer goal, it would sweep her right off balance the way she had hoped to do to him.

"Why does the pampered cub flee the safety of her den? What causes her to abandon the safety of her family?"

COMBATSYS: Scorpion successfully hits Kasumi with Sweep.

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Kasumi           0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0         Scorpion

He acknowledges her clan name with a sense of recognition - another clue that his claims of being the last of a society of ghosts may have more merit than she was originally willing to accept. Or he could still be a fraud - a ninja from another family exercising deception, attempting route out information. But that voice... the emotion behind it, resonating with the fervor that burned beneath his concealing garb... it felt so real!

Her right leg crashes against his unyielding shin, thoughts racing through her mind as she tries to weigh the veracity of his claims against the sheer implausibility of them.

But her attention should be on the movements of the hooded stranger as his response is every bit as swift as her attack was, his foot hooking in behind her left shin atop which she is rooted. She realizes the ploy too late to respond, desperately trying to push back up into a backflip that might clear his retaliation in time.

The effort isn't fast enough however, her foot hooked and kicked upward, her foot literally knocked out right from under her before the Shinobi in Blue could escape. "Wha-!"

She crashes on her back with a thud against the roof of the tall structure, landing in a helpless position vulnerable to follow up attacks. But she has survived countless training exercises in martial kombat before to be taken out that easily, planting her hands and feet quickly, pushing back into a roll that brings her into low crouch faster than any potential counter strike could come her way.

Her ribbon-tied ponytail drapes back over her shoulder as she pauses, left leg bent beneath her, right leg out to her side, both hands resting against the ground as she looks back at Scorpion, his words ringing in her ears, lips pressed together tightly in a mildly exasperated countenance. "It was for the good of the clan," she declares concerning her flight from the village she was raised in, the place that SHOULD be her home.

"Someday, they will understand that." A home she hopes to be welcomed back to in the future. A deluded dream or a potential reality? Her cheeks have taken on a bit of a blush as the subject of her own past keeps being prodded at. It seems it's just as touchy a subject to her as his own travails are to him.

"Why did the Lin Kuei target yo-... the Shirai Ryu?" She is not quite ready to fully accept that he is one of them, it seems, though the idea is pushing at the edge of her thoughts even still.

The question is not one offered without reprisal either, the kunoichi bolting out of her crouch, lunging in for the tortured soul. A snap of both hands goes for his arm, attempting to get a tight grip at his wrist before he can properly read the trajectory of her attack. If Kasumi gets a sure enough hold, she would use her forward momentum to swing her body up along the length of his arm, attempting to plant her legs against his chest and yank his arm back against her own chest, trying to pry his hand into her view.

It's possible her momentum will be enough to pull him to the floor in a grounded armbar, but she seems just as comfortable executing the tension hold while he remains standing as well!

COMBATSYS: Kasumi successfully hits Scorpion with Medium Throw.

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Kasumi           0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0         Scorpion

It was rather a good thing that the young ninja princess rolled to that flip, as she just narrowly missed the man stomping the ground where her chest used to be, the impact hard enough to bend the wooden floor for just a moment, a loud complaining creak drifting out into the world. What would that stomp have done to her, if she hadn't gotten out the way?

It wasn't important now, though, as the ninja in black and yellow started walking towards her. Slowly. Patiently. His arms were down and his fists were clenched, listening to the girl's words. His eyes narrowed when she continued her own line of questioning, and his voice had a dangerous edge to it.

"Our own clan was founded by one much like yourself. Our grandmaster rejected the Lin Kuei, and came back to his homeland to create his own clan. The Lin-"

He didn't have time to finish that thought, because the young girl was charging at him with a speed that could not be underestimated. Scorpion anticipated her movement, and at the last moment darted to the side, throwing out a stiff karate punch to rattle her brain and give the teeth in her mouth something to worry about. Unfortunately, he got the intention all wrong, and before he knew it, that arm was whipping around and he was flipped and slammed hard to his back, his arm immediately extended in a way he didn't like. "HNK!"

And it was there she kept him, even as lightning struck a far pillar, a sign that the clouds above were going to do more than just roll harmlessly by. But Hanzo didn't have time to focus on the weather, he was there dealing with her wrenching on his arm, the joint nearly locked tight, the muscles of his shoulder and bicep working hard to prevent his bones to pop out of their socket. His hand was clenched in a fist just under her chin, all that power useless for a moment. But through gritted teeth, he spoke even still.

"The Lin Kuei...have always been our enemies. But there is no justification for their actions...that will save them from me! One by one, I will make them BURN for their crimes!"

As he spoke, that right fist...opened up, and Kasumi might feel his muscles actually slacking, his body relaxing it's tenseness. She might think that the prime opportunity to render the assassin's arm useless, but she wouldn't have a lot of time to capitalize. Underneath her, the ground would grow hot. And if her reflexes were not fast, just as thunder finally cracked deafeningly in the sky? She might find that kimono(and the rest of her) catching on fire!

COMBATSYS: Scorpion successfully hits Kasumi with Demon Fire.

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

Against the strength of his arm is the kunoichi's own body, arms, and legs. The maneuver seems simple enough, but she executes it with someone who understands the limits of limb and joint motion and exactly how to exploit them for the maximum in pain and, if the resistance against her is too weak, even damage. Teeth grit, her fingers clenching tight as she wrestles against the raw, physical power of the last of a forgotten society. It is in that angle that she notices the golden band that had caught her eye before - with the clouds overhead, it doesn't take the glint of sunlight to be noticed this time.

Possibly a wedding ring? The tradition of wedding rings was not one honored by all men in Japan, but there were many who did. Even in her agitated state, she can't help but stare at the golden symbol of eternity as she continues to strain against his formidable strength. If he is who he claims, the mate that ring referenced... would have been lost in the massacre.

Throughout her wrestle with the ninja, his words are also not missed. He might not have known it, but the question was in fact a test - she knew that the Shirai Ryu were founded by one who parted ways with a clan that no longer felt like home to him... a nukenin just like herself. The real question was whether this powerful individual claiming the Shirai Ryu as his own knew. And it would appear he does.

Is she to believe the rest of his story then?

"How do I know..." she states through grit teeth, "That you are not one of them - the Lin Kuei, searching for those who know too much about them?" Is she /trying/ to incense him with a question like that or is the young exile truly trying to verify his claims for herself?

The lithe martial artist feels his arm relaxing slightly. It didn't feel like someone giving in to exhaustion though but rather deliberate. Why would he do that, when with just another painful wrench, she could potentially dislocate his shoulder or hyperextend his elbow?

Understanding the answer to that question comes too late to escape its consequences. Doe-brown eyes widen as what starts out at as heat becomes all too quickly living flame. He would feel her fingers release their relentless grip, her palms pressing up on his arm in order for her to disengage, attempting to roll backward and away from his side.

But it's too late, and while she does manage to roll away from him, the hapless ninja has already been caught by the fire!

A surprised gasp as flames lick at her back. The flowery robe is hardly the most flame retardant material and once ignited seems liable to burn, scorching the delicate flesh it clothes. Already her shins and forearms are getting burnt by the flames coursing rapidly over her.

Gritting her teeth, the Mugen Tenshin prodigy acts fast, her right hand reaching behind her back to grip the sheath of her heirloom blade and pull it out of the belt it was tucked into. Her left hand reaches for the bow itself, tugging on it hard, undoing the fancy knot in an instant. Spinning on her left foot, the girl sheds the flaming yukata, flinging it off to the left with a flick of her wrist.

She is left wearing a blue dress of the kunoichi. The rich azure fabric is made of the finest materials and represents her royalty - only the ruling family of the Mugen Tenshin were allowed to wear the color. On her back is embroidered the golden emblem of the clan that would see her dead.

Her legs and forearms are bare, lacking the stockings, shin, and wrist guards she would normally wear with the outfit, but she is also now more freely able to move about, less restricted than she was by the now smoldering robe.

Sucking in her breath, Kasumi tucks the sheath of her sword into the cloth belt around her waist and then slips back into her ready stance, cheeks reddened now, perhaps by pain, perhaps by having been forced to reveal that she had secretly been far more dressed for battle than her initial approach would have suggested.

"Fire arts were not a gift of the Shirai Ryu," she declares, leaning forward, approaching slowly at first, sliding one foot in front of the other with each step. "But..." she considers, having realized something else. "...either do they belong to the Lin Kuei..."

Sucking in her breath, she resolves to continue, kicking off into a sprint, a leap into the air like when she had first charged him. Only this time she DOES attack high, her right, bare foot slamming out hard, heel first, for the masked face of Hanzo. If she connects, she would kick forward with her left foot as a secondary attack and means of catching her own fall - of course, that would leave her landing immediately adjacent to him if she doesn't manage to knock him away far enough.

COMBATSYS: Scorpion interrupts Run Shunpu from Kasumi with Torment.

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

It all happened so fast. When Kasumi rolled away, dealing with the problem of tenacious Hellfire, the man in black and yellow slammed both of his elbows hard into the wooden floor, every muscle tensing even as he quickly kipped up to his feet in preparation. Standing there, watching the girl shed her disguise, Hanzo was slow and deliberate even as he quickly checked his right shoulder, rolling it around and satisfied after a moment. His newfound existence brought him many new abilities that he possessed with frightening ifficiency, but his skin, his musculature, his bones seemed to be as human as ever, and subject to the same laws as every other living creature. But before he had long to contemplate this, he listened to the words of the girl before him, and his brows furrowed.

"Had I met you under different circumstances, I would applaud your hesitance to trust one such as us. But I do not have time to play the mental chess games that clans so often participate in. I am not Lin Kuei. I am Shirai Ryu. And-"

Again, he'd have no time to finish his dialogue, as Kasumi's yukuta was flung aside, the hard, cold rain finally started to fall. It was gradual, at first. But it would build, continuously for hours, possibly even days, depending on how much the clouds had stored up within them. When they were close to touching the ninja in black and yellow, however, they would instead sizzle and instantly evaporate, his fists catching fire, and his stance widening as the kunoichi charged.

As an aside, in Kasumi's fighting experience, she might or might not have noticed the tendency for the male eye to wander, to linger where they shouldn't, to be distracted by the sight given at just the right time for the young girl to deliver the attack that was needed. Even though Hanzo's eyes were pupiless, there was still a feeling deep within a person's gut, the sensation that this man was watching everything you did. And those eyes...did not wander.

Unfortunately for her, in this case. If he was distracted by the flapping of her powerful royal uniform, he wouldn't do what he did next: When Kasumi's foot very nearly made contact with the masked face of this warrior, suddenly all color and definition would drain from the image before her, as if the being was instead some combination of ash and smoke. And indeed, the kunoichi's foot would pass right through his face before suddenly, out of nowhere, Scorpion appeared right in front of her, flying out of the air, fist pivoting forward in an improvised aerial straight punch, one aimed right for the girl's face! The ninja would drop down to his feet in a crouch, slowly rising as that awesome menacing aura of his intensified. Such an attack tended to be demoralizing, moreso than it was actually 'painful'. Though, it was certainly painful as well.

"Kasumi. I know the pride of your family has left a strong impression on you. And I know you are an honorable woman. This fight does not -need- to continue."

Her right foot flies through space that should be solid flesh and bone instead finding yielding ash that is immediately scattered. She never gets the chance to strike out with her left. Still airborne, on her way down to the lightly dampened rooftop, the Exiled Princess is presented with two immediate problems: problem one, her opponent can clearly teleport, or at the very least, utilize illusions to suggest that he can. Problem two, he's already immediately back, his powerful fist swinging out with bone jarring force for her face.

She at least manages to turn her head at the last second, his knuckles smashing into her cheek rather than flattening her nose, but the effect is only marginally less effective. The impact is solid, flipping Kasumi backward even as her body continues along its original trajectory. She lands against her upper back first, sliding feet forward for a meter before coming to rest sprawled on her back for the second time throughout this conflict.

"Che," she grunts, as rain starts to fall over her, clearly dissatisfied with her ability to predict the abilities and martial prowess of this man. He has outmaneuvered her more than once now, and while he has fought efficiently, he has also not drawn the blade she saw at his back, suggesting that he is not even striking with the full lethality that he is capable of.

Rolling over onto her hands and knees as rain begins to soak her hair, darkening it some in the process, Kasumi looks up at the last of the Shirai Ryu, only then beginning to feel his presence even across the meters that separate them. Panting for breath, she pauses at last, realizing that for as oppressive the aura is radiating out from the man, his attacks have hardly been as devastating as he is clearly capable of.

Breathing in again, she exhales, bowing her head briefly before pressing down with her hands to get back up to her feet. Water pours down her cheeks in rivulets and starts to soak into the azure fabric of her uniform, her arms held at her sides. Another breath in is taken, hands clenching into fists as the girl bows her head.

"I believe you now. I don't know how it came to be that one of the Shirai Ryu still lives to this day. But that doesn't matter now." The rain pattering against the wooden surface and the leaves of the adjacent trees fills the area with a gentle cacophony that will easily keep their conversation between the two of them.

She looks back up toward the hooded ninja, her expression stoic, accepting now of the tale he has shared with her this evening. The bruising on her cheek, evidence of a battle hard fought, will fade with time. "I will speak no more of the tragedy of the Shirai Ryu but to say that I am saddened to encounter one for whom that calamity is not just a story but a personal experience."

She pauses then, paying the rainfall no mind. Countless nights were spent out beneath the open sky when she was first on the run... shelter from the elements became a luxury, not an expectation.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi takes no action.

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

Even as she slides across the ground, the man in black and yellow is walking towards her casually, watching the girl struggle in the rain even as he considers his options going forward. When the girl struggles to a standing base, his right hand drops a little, opening up as it begins reaching behind his back, clearly making sure he could access that rope spear on his belt should he so need it. When instead the princess bows her head, he stays his hand. And when she finally speaks with sincerity, he forgets the weapon altogether and instead, bows back immediately, a show of respect for the woman who had fought so well. And more importantly, for having the wisdom of knowing when to pick her battles. That was an important trait for anyone in their line of work to have.

Hanzo Hasashi keeps walking until he's again in striking distance of her, but he makes no such move. Instead, his hands go up to that black hood, pulling it back to reveal recently shorn black hair, clearly a mess from being hooded for so long. With only the yellow covering his face, that is pulled down as well, to reveal the ninja's full face. He was handsome, or, he could be handsome, if not for the anger written across his face, if not for those horrible unblinking eyes. A modest beard covers his jawline, kept short and well groomed. He nods his head and reaches out suddenly with his hand, clasping her shoulder and speaking. This time there was no animosity. There was still anger buried beneath the surface, and there was still an otherworldly quality that would never leave the fringes of his voice completely, but his words were spoken with no dishonesty in his heart.

"Kasumi-Gozen. Assisting me is no small feat, and is not something I will ever take lightly, or for granted. I am firmly in your debt, and the Shirai Ryu -always- pay their debts. This I swear."

COMBATSYS: Scorpion takes no action.

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

There could be no doubt as she lays eyes on his revealed face that is is in the company of one who has born witness to horror. Whether it was the agony of what the Lin Kuei did to his clansmen that has twisted his form so, or that he bears some other curse that weighs heavily on his being, she is unsure, and is not going to ask. Some questions are best left unanswered.

She held still as he drew near, and continues to remain stationary as his heavy hand comes to rest on her comparatively diminutive shoulder. Her eyes never leave his face now, her attention not one of gawking at someone's visible misfortunes, but rather giving him the respect and dignity to be addressed and acknowledged directly.

"The Lin Kuei are a threat to all other clans. They form no alliances and broker no deals. Their honor is available to whoever can pay the highest price for blood. If you are their enemy then we share a common cause." She pauses for a moment. "The Mugen Tenshin has never been in open conflict with them but..." Her eyes are downcast at last, finally breaking from his visage to glance to the side, her demeanor shifting slightly, respect giving way to somber quietude.

"As I am no longer... Mugen Tenshin," the words come hard, almost choked out as she verbalizes a truth known in her heart but still hard to confess to another. She glances back up, reacquiring that eye contact. "I may aid you without my clan being drawn into whatever conflict your path will create."

She exhales softly, quiet for another moment as if considering her next words. "Tracking a specific member of their clan would be difficult. They live as ghosts, their real names shrouded in mystery, using only ever shifting code names and false monikers for identification. However, if you could find one of them, the knowledge you seek could be forcefully extracted." She verbally dances around the subject of torture, even though it is clearly what would be required to glean any secrets from the lips of clansman.

"It is said that only time they make contact with anyone outside of their own is when brokering contracts." Kasumi smiles faintly, the expression more grim than warm considering the topic discussed in the cool, falling rain. Her right hand lifts to brush her drenched bangs back before returning to rest at her side. "The only piece of the puzzle I am not sure of myself is how to reach out to them to start negotiations. Once that is known, the rest of the plan could follow."

The rain was starting to worsen, and now the man before her was not throwing Hellfire around, so he was getting soaked as well. His quilted yellow outer clothing was specially knitted and designed to repel water instead of absorbing it, but his black clothing underneath was getting drenched clean through. But he never shivered or gave indication of discomfort. Even now he gave off a tremendous amount of body heat, as he took his hand off of her shoulder to slowly bring his mask back up, nodding satisfied at the information.

"I am familiar with the tricks of many of the Lin Kuei, but the dog in particular that I seek goes by the name of Sub-Zero, his abilities are as unique as they are fearsome...and his crimes compared to his brothers are many indeed."

The anger was rising, but he beat it down easier, face hidden again even as he brought his hood back up, water pouring down off of the edges of his uniform, the both of the ninja briefly illuminated by another fat streak of lightning, striking a different pillar this time. When he speaks again, it is not of the subject that haunts him.

"Your skills in combat are formidable, and the Mugen Tenshin have taught their sister well, that much is clear. Those skills and lessons are wasted if you do nothing but run, if you fail to take the fight to them or retaliate. Why do you hide here, knowing you will have to leave?"

COMBATSYS: Scorpion has left the fight here.

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

Standing this close, his hand on her shoulder, Kasumi can feel the heat radiating out from the man that should not even exist. That he has the power to command fire is already clearly known to her by experience. But his affinity for the element seems to transcend simple chi manipulation... it almost as if it is a part of his being. But she has already pried into the man's mysteries extensively before finally accepting his claims. She will not press further. Honor for secrets is something she respects well enough when it doesn't directly affect her well being.

He identifies the man of interest as Sub-Zero. One of the Lin Kuei code names, to be certain. There is no flicker of recognition at the name. While she had been educated enough and had heard enough accounts of the ruthless Chinese clan, she had no personal experience with their members and certainly doesn't know of any individuals within their number.

Even though his face is mostly concealed by the mask and his opaque eyes do well to conceal his emotions, the tension around him is palpable as it rises and lowers, his willpower undoubtedly constantly tested not only by the personal nature of the subject but the experiences he must have suffered long before this encounter.

Lightning strikes as Kasumi continues to get drenched. As the discussion continues, she might start consider retreating to shelter after all! But the enigma turns the dialogue around on her, redirecting it to her own past and the exile blinks, caught off guard at his interest. The acknowledgement of her own growth as a ninja softens the inquiry but it does not make the answers any easier to come to.

"No," comes her reply at first, blurting it out, the thought of taking a fight back against her clan unthinkable. "I mean," she continues, her tone softened, "No, I... my fight is not with my own home. They do hunt me, as the code dictates, and I will protect myself, as honor dictates, but they are not my enemy."

She glances to the side, "What I have done... maybe it can't be forgiven. Maybe I can never go home. And now I can never rest. But my fight is against the corporations that rule from the shadows, that have schemed and manipulated my life and the life of my family." She looks back toward the hooded man, closing her eyes in a moment of trusting reflection, "But enough about that. Perhaps... if I help you find success, I will feel justified in asking for the help you offer." Eyes open again, a faint smile provided in reply. She seems insistent on fighting her own battle alone, which might explain the lack of progress thus far to say the least.

After she finishes speaking, there is no response from him at first, just silent staring that isn't even broken by the second crashing of Thunder, constantly chasing after his brother Lightning. Finally, the moment is broken by the ninja speaking again, taking a few steps backward as he does so. That voice of his carries even over the howling wind, and the constant thudding of hard rain slapping against the ground powerfully.

"Such a war will be relentless, but I do wish you luck, Kasumi of the Mugen Tenshin Clan. When you need help, I will be there to assist."

He has moved all the way to the edge of that temple now, absently rolling his right shoulder again. It seemed Kasumi really did do a number on it, earlier.

"And, if anyone asks of his night, or asks about me? My name is Scorpion. Hanzo Hasashi died, long ago."

And just like that, he leapt right off the edge under the cover of moonlight. There would be no point trying to see where he fell. He would be gone.

Log created on 23:16:51 06/24/2016 by Kasumi, and last modified on 19:28:28 06/26/2016.